German life in the regions covered here is now largely confined to the past. In 1918, the multi-ethnic empires were dissolved and new countries were established in their place. They saw themselves as nation states, bound to the principle of ethnic homogeneity. The rights of minorities were guaranteed only to a limited extent. Ethnic Germans were among those affected by this situation. The Germans of the Soviet Union additionally had to adapt to Communism.

After the National Socialists seized power in the German Empire in 1933, the Germans living in central and eastern Europe found themselves caught up in the Nazi policy of expansion. Between 1939 and 1941, German minorities living in the 'Soviet sphere of influence' were collectively removed by the German authorities and resettled, mostly in German-occupied Poland. After Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, the Soviet leadership ordered that Germans living in the European parts of the USSR be deported to regions east of the Ural Mountains.

In 1945, during the last months of the Second World War, masses of Germans fled from the Red Army and its allies. Many Germans who remained in the countries concerned were expelled soon after the end of the war, as were those in Germany's former eastern provinces. This affected ethnic Germans native to Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia and, to a certain extent, Hungary. Romania did not expel the German minority, but deported many of its members to work in the Soviet Union. Some of the Germans who had managed to stay in their homelands emigrated to Germany in the 1950s. Now, in the 21st century, only tiny German minorities are left in their former centres – in many cases, only individuals.

The refugees, expellees and post-war emigrants have returned to where their forefathers set out from, up to 800 years ago. They have brought with them dialects and customs, family traditions and artefacts, as well as an understanding of the countries from which they came, thus enriching the cultural heritage of all Germans.

The impressive legacy of towns and villages, buildings and works of art left by ethnic Germans in central and eastern Europe, along with their contributions to language and material culture, are all part of a shared European heritage. The responsibility of caring for it in a united Europe falls equally on the shoulders of the Germans and those who live in these countries today.


11th cent.     German settlers arrive in Hungary under the rule of King Stephen I
11th cent.     Influx of German merchants, clerics and nobles to Prague
1098     The Cistercian Order is founded
12th cent.     German miners and farmers are invited to live in the Zips area
1143     German settlers arrive in Transylvania at the invitation of the King of Hungary
1176     Duke Sobeslav II issues the 'Prague charter', granting rights to the city's Germans
13th cent.     Polish towns and cities have a considerable proportion of German citizens
1200     The bishopric of Riga is founded by the nephew of the Archbishop of Bremen
1202     German crusaders in Riga found the Livonian Brothers of the Sword
1224     King Andreas II of Hungary grants special rights to the Siebenbürger Saxons in the 'Golden Charter'
1242     Mongol invasion: settlements in Hungary and Transylvania, including German ones, are destroyed
1321     'Staple right', which regulates trading, is granted to Leutschau in the Zips region
1330     Germans begin to settle in the Gottschee under the auspices of the Counts von Ortenburg
1348     Founding of Charles University in Prague, the oldest German-language university
15th cent.     German farmers arrive in Lithuania at the invitation of local landowners
1484     Sculptor Veit Stoss from Nuremberg completes the high altar of St Mary's Basilica in Kraków
16th cent.     Germans live in Russia as traders, doctors and civil servants
1542     The Reformation spreads through Transylvania, starting in the town of Kronstadt
1561     The Teutonic Order's state of Old Livonia is dissolved into the provinces of Estonia, Livonia, Ösel and Courland
1632     King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden founds the University of Dorpat
1683     The Turks besiege Vienna
1683     The first German colony in North America is founded: Germantown in Pennsylvania
1689     Emperor Leopold I issues a 'Patent of impopulation' for German settlers in Hungary
1716     Austria begins enlarging the fortress of Temeschwar
1718     Austria establishes the Banat region on its border with the Ottoman Empire
1722     Start of the first large migration of Swabians to the Banat under Emperor Karl VI
1734     The Landler, a Protestant community, are forcibly resettled in Siebenbürgen
1762     The world's first academy of mining is founded in Schemnitz in the western Carpathians
1763     Start of the second large migration of Swabians to Banat under Empress Maria Theresia
1763     Catherine the Great of Russia recruits German settlers for the Middle Volga region
1772     Galicia falls to Austria in the first partition of Poland
1775     Bukovina is purchased by Austria from the Ottoman Empire
1781     Start of the third large migration of Swabians to the Banat under Emperor Joseph II
1801     The University of Dorpat is refounded
1812     Tsar Alexander I invites German settlers to come to Bessarabia
1817     Friedrich Schlösser establishes central Poland's first textile factory in Ozorków
1817     Pietists from Swabia emigrate to Georgia
1819     Helenendorf, the first German settlement in Azerbaijan, is founded
1822     The German colony of Sarata is established in Bessarabia
1828     Ferdinand Friedrich, Duke of Anhalt-Köthen, founds Askania Nova in southern Russia
1830     German settlers begin going to Volhynia in large numbers
1840     Beginning of German migration to Dobruja
1851     German engineers and navvies work on building the Warsaw–St Petersburg railway
1854     Carl Scheibler founds a textile business in Lódz, which grows into the largest in Europe
1861     Serfdom is abolished in Russia
1875     The Franz-Josef University is founded in Czernowitz; it is the easternmost German-language university in Europe
1896     Pastor Theodor Zöckler founds charitable institutions, the Zöckler'sche Anstalten, in Stanislau, East Galicia
1900     Germans contribute to flourishing wine production in the Caucasus
1902     German Mennonites from southern Russia found a colony in western Siberia
1914     Beginning of the First World War

Population Statistics for German Inhabitants, Past and Present

The figures given here are based on the results of official censuses, where available. Scientists and the representatives of special interest groups have pointed out that the real figures are often higher, because not all members of minorities identify themselves as such.

After 1945, in particular, political pressure led many Germans who had remained in their countries of origin to assimilate by adopting the language, local spelling of their names, marriage customs and national identity of the majority population.

In many places, any comparison between past and present has been rendered difficult or impossible by the redrawing of borders and by internal migration. Historically defined regions have been apportioned among successor states and can no longer be treated as statistical units. Nor can statistics be obtained for migration within national borders.

Bohemia, Moravia, Austria-Silesia
- 3,252,000 Germans (1910)
- 38,321 Germans in the Czech Republic recently (2001)

Baltic region
- 18,319 Germans in Estonia (1922)
- 70,964 Germans in Latvia (1925) 

Siebenbürgen /Transylvania
- approx. 300,000 Germans in Transylvania
including Sathmar Swabians (1930)
- approx. 15,000 Germans recently (2007)

- 12,500 Germans in the Gottschee (1940)
- 1,628 Germans in the whole of Slovenia recently (2002) 

- 139,902 Germans in Slovakia (1921)
- 5,405 Germans in Slovakia recently (2001)

Middle Danube region (Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia)
- approx. 1,500,000 Germans (1918)
- approx. 25,000 Banat Swabians in Romania recently (2007)
- 62,233 Germans in Hungary recently (2001)
- 3,901 Germans in Serbia recently (2002)
- 2,902 Germans in Croatia recently (2001)
- 247 'Austrians' in Croatia recently (2001) 

Central Poland, Volhynia
- approx. 400,000 Germans in 'Congress Poland' (1897)
- 325 Germans in the Łódź voivodeship recently (2002)
- 1,013 Germans in the Greater Poland voivodeship recently (2002)
- approx. 197,000 Germans in Volhynia (1897)
- no recent information available for Germans in the northern Ukraine  

- approx. 25,000 Germans in Lithuania (1941)
- fewer than 1,000 Germans in Lithuania recently (2009) 

- approx. 80,000 Germans in Galicia (1900)
- 261 Germans in the Lesser Poland voivodeship recently (2002)
- 116 Germans in the Subcarpathian voivodeship recently (2002)
- no recent information available for Germans in the northern Ukraine  

- German-speakers (1910):
96,000 Jews
72,000 Christians
- fewer than 100 Germans in the region recently (2009) 

- approx. 2,400,000 Germans in the whole empire (1914)
- approx. 1,400,000 Germans in the European part of Russia, excluding
the Baltic, 'Congress Poland', Volhynia and Bessarabia (1914)
- more than 200,000 Germans in Siberia and the Caucasus (1914)
- 597,212 Germans in the Russian Federation recently,
of whom approx. 350,000 are in Siberia (2002)
- approx. 40,000 Germans in the Ukraine recently (1992)
- approx. 300,000 Germans in Kazakhstan recently (2003)
- approx. 24,000 Germans in Uzbekistan recently (2001)
- approx. 20,000 Germans in Kyrgyzstan recently (2009)