The plans to expel and resettle the large groups of population were an integral policy of Nazi ideology and geopolitics. A Hitlers doctrine, expressed in idea of "Blut and Boden", basically stated that all the territories, were Germans live and lived throughout of history, constitute a "German space". Carpathian basin was considered to one of such territories and Nazi government gave a great attention to the German ethnic communities living in this territory. One of the German communities living in the Carpathian basin (in German parlance called Volksgruppen) was also the German minority in Slovakia.1 The broadly conceived resettlement plans were contemplated by the Nazi authorities during the period 1941-1942. However, in 1943 a change in military situation occurred. States of anti-Hitler coalition gained initiative and inflicted upon the Nazi armies heavy defeats. It was increasingly clear that Germany will lose the war. In this situation all attention of Nazi leadership was devoted to the front. The changes were evident also in Slovakia. The influence of the Hlinkas Peoples Slovak Party (HPSP) diminished. A distance between political leadership and broad public was growing. There was evident rise of apathy to the political activities organized by HPSP. The changes were noticeable not only in the attitudes of population but also in the political perspective.2
During the 1944 fronts were approaching to the Slovak territory from east and from the south. The Germans in Slovakia were expecting the coming of the front with great worries. In connection with the changes on battlefields of World War II, Berlin started to contemplate resettlement of population again. This time it were no plans of resettlements arranged as a outcome after victory, but resettlements caused by the negative development on fronts. The issues of possible evacuation of Germans from Southeastern Europe were Nazi authorities evaluating already in April of 1944. The Slovak Germans were considered to be a part of Germans of Southeastern Europe and the planned resettlements were prepared in coordination with the another countries - Rumania, Croatia, Serbia and Hungary. However, the transfer of the Germans from these territories was subordinated to strategic necessities. In May 1944, the Berlin based office Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (VoMi) - The Office for Foreign Germans, contemplated the plan of evacuation of Germans from several villages in Spiš in connection with the building of fortification in Carpathians. The change of strategic plans in summer 1944 rendered these intentions worthless.3 The plans to resettle the German population were discussed also among the representatives of Deutsche Partei (DP). DP was a political party which organized a majority of Germans in its ranks. DP had privileged status as the only representative of the German minority in Slovakia. It controlled various associations integrating members of the German minority, trade union of German workers and had an influence upon publishing of all the periodicals published in German language. The goal of the party chairman F. Karmasin, according to his numerous declarations, was to use each German in Slovakia in struggle of Nazi Germany to gain world dominance. DP, which had no intention to formulate its independent political program, functioned as a branch of German National Socialist Labor Party. DP considered Slovak Germans to be an organic part of German nation and was directly managed from Berlin. Consequently, during the year 1944 DP did not realized an independent policy which would protect interests of Slovak Germans, but acted as an agent of Nazi Germany. It fulfilled the orders of H. Himler and VoMi. After year 1939 the leadership of DP subjugated the German minority to the Nazis to such a degree, that in 1944 it was impossible to divest the interests of Slovak German from aims of Nazi Germany.
The close connection of the ethnic Germans with the Nazi Germany manifested an agreement contracted between Slovak State and Germany in June 1944, which obliged the members of German minority to serve military units SS. The agreement supposed to "enable to citizens of Slovak State of German nationality to fulfill their military duty in frame of German military - Waffen SS, and to citizens of Slovak State in the Slovak army".4 According to third clause of cited agreement, the members of German nationality were persons who, during the census from 1940, were "counted" as Germans. Persons who at this census reported themselves as Slovaks were considered to by of Slovak nationality.5 F. Karmasin illustrated this agreement as a further step on the road to the equalization of Slovak Germans with the Germans in Germany. It was also intended as a message to Slovak public, which should ceased to make distinction between German in Slovakia and Germans in Germany. The Slovak Germans, who were serving in the German army, obtained dual citizenship. As a consequence of developments in Slovakia at the end of 1944, when Slovak National Uprising erupted, the evacuation of ethnic Germans out of Slovakia became again actual. On the eve of SNU - 27 August 1944 a German ambassador H. E. Ludin hosted a meeting on which also the issue of evacuation of the German population out of Slovakia was discussed. Ludin, in the telegram send next day to Berlin, informed that in the case of need the gradual transport of women and children out of eastern and central Slovakia is secured - partly to Bratislava, partly to Germany. However, he opined, evacuation of ethnic Germans was premature. He took a negative stand to its execution at that time.6
The eruption of SNU changed the situation. Already on 24 august 1944 H. E. Ludin judged as a necessary to consider evacuation of German population out of Tatras and Horný Spiš via Zakopane to Krakov and out Dolný Spiš via Medzev into Košice7, with the aim to protect evacuees from a possible violence inflicted by the guerrilla fighters. The evacuation was actual for the German population of Spiš, which was located on the verge of guerrilla territory. To transfer the Germans out of Hauerland territory (a German enclave in the middle Slovakia), which was in the center of the guerrilla territory, was technically impossible. The evacuation began more or less spontaneously under the leadership of F. Karmasin, who asked Berlin for approval. On 5 September he send a telegram to VoMi and specified the situation in regard to destination of women and children on one side and men on the another. Women and children should be transported to Germany, men should be shipped to Bratislava, where they should be included into units of militia - Heimatschutz. F. Karmasin informed VoMi that region of Hauerland is cut of from the rest of territory controlled by German troops and large number of men escaped into forests. The authorities in Berlin contemplated the evacuation of the German population of Spiš to Bratislava. The quest went on also for another alternatives which would caused a minimal burden upon the German resources and enable to utilize manpower of Spiš Germans against SNU. In the end VoMi came to the conclusion that there is no urgent need to evacuate Spiš Germans and if the military situation will made the evacuation necessary, Spiš Germans will be evacuated via northern direction. The southern direction via Košice was considered to be unsuitable. VoMi planned evacuation only of those Germans who could not be used for fight and for protection of the "Volskgruppe". The evacuation in the direction of Bratislava was judged to be desirable.8 Because the cited VoMi conclusions were different than decision adopted a day before, it is probable that final decisions were concluded after negotiations with the German military, and military in the final stage decided that the Spiš Germans should not be evacuated.9
The evacuation plans, however, were not strictly upheld.. After the eruption of SNU many Germans left their homes. So, evacuation actually went without approval of VoMi. The members of the German minority who were living in the eastern Slovakia were looking for protection from the guerrillas in the General Gouvernment and in the Hungary.10 The Budapest decided to empower the Hungarian Consulate in Košice to award necessary help to German population. Till the beginning of September 1944 a several hundred persons arrived to Košice. Similarly, the representatives of General Gouvernment in Krakov reported that they are ready to accept German population from Slovakia. A several hundred persons were evacuated also in this direction.11 After the suppression of SNU evacuees returned to their homes. The constantly accentuated loyalty of German population of Slovakia to the A. Hitler and to the Nazism had a negative impact on this ethnic group during the SNU. In Slovak mountains a growing number of Russian partisans became during year 1944 increasingly active. The activities of groups of Russian partisans clearly indicated that besides aim to change the existing regime, also the "pacification" of German population was in store. The leadership of partisans held conviction that the members of German minority as a whole carry the responsibility for the crimes of Nazism. On the base of their ethnicity, the Germans were stigmatized as the fascists and became subjects of hatred. Under the slogan of fight against fascism a number of violent acts was committed against German population. The developments in connection with the SNU and progress of the Red Army toward the Slovak frontier caused fear and panic among the Germans living in localities which were not affected directly by SNU. The report of the county representative located in city of Modra, dated 6 of September 1944, informed that "the last events have an influence upon the ethnic communities, especially on the German ethnic group. Our Germans are showing a certain worry to by attacked Slovaks. Some Germans are so afraid that they do not sleep in their homes."12
From the middle of September 1944 the development of situation made the need of evacuation again actual. This time it was the SNU but the approach of the Red Army. The leadership of Deutsche Partei concentrated its attention upon the resolution of the practical problems connected with the possible total evacuation from the territory which the approach of the front threatened the most - from the Spiš. The destination of evacuation was continually changed. Initially F. Karmasin negotiated with the representatives of Slovak government in reason to exchange the populations between the Spiš and Záhorie (territory in the western Slowakia) so this way would be Slovak Germans protected by German military. Slovak site refused this suggestion. F. Karmasin also insisted that the homes left empty after evacuation will be not occupied by Slovaks. This request became actual after 21 September 1944, when evacuation of regions Šariš and Zemplín commenced. F. Karmasin requested from Slovak authorities also the financial backing of evacuation. The Slovak government released 140000 million Slovak Krones, however in September 1944 only two million were spend. Sudeten and Austria were chosen to be an evacuation destination point.13 The idea of evacuation of Slovak Germans to the region of "Záhorie" supported also the German ambassador H. E. Ludin. The Slovak president J.Tiso however this suggestion refused. The first evacuees were school children who left together with their teachers. Because they were leaving without their parents, many of them were after the end of the war placed in camps in individual occupation zones in Germany and authorities endeavored to locate their parents or relatives.
First transports of motor vehicles left city of Kežmarok on 14 September 1944. Transports were going to Zakopane and Krakov, then via Katovice and Bohumin to Bratislava and Austria. From city of Poprad were dispatched school children on 23 September in direction of Zakopane to Austria and to other locations. From the end of September, in dependence on transport possibilities, remaining members of German community were evacuated, mainly children, women and men over sixty years of age. Gradual evacuation of the Dolný Spiš was commenced - localities of Nálepkovo, Švedlar, Mníšek nad Hnilcom, Gelnica, Smolník and Smolnícka Huta. Till beginning of October 1944 approximately 3200 women and children were evacuated from the region of Dolný Spiš and approximately 4000 persons from region of Upper Spis. The ethnic Germans from Štós, Dolný and Horný Medzev were planned to evacuated via Hungary.14 The evacuees were allowed to take with them 30 kilos of possessions per person, remaining property should be left in place. The evacuation was secured by units of the Heimatschutz under the supervision of military patrols. The process of evacuation was burdened by heartbreaking scenes and occasional violence. The mood of evacuees was somber, people were uneasy, had difficulties to cope with the situation, but majority of them passively carry out orders. Besides people, also transport of industrial goods and agricultural products was planned. The Security Committee of Ministry of Interior (MI) of Slovak Republic issued on 18 October 1944 an order No. 1078/1944 in which informed all boundary customs outposts, informing "that in agreement with the participating German and Slovak authorities and authorities of the Deutsche Partei, German nationals and Slovak citizens and members of German minority in Slovakia are allowed, due to endangerment of certain parts of Slovakia by military operations, to evacuate from Slovakia to Germany".15 The order of MI and earlier mentioned order to commence a partial evacuation issued by F. Karmasin, were, however, not accepted by German inhabitants of Spiš unanimously. A negative attitude to evacuation took also armed forces, because a lack of transportation capacities. In the middle of October H.E.Ludin reported to the Foreign Ministry in Germany that the situation in Slovakia is unstable. At the same time Ludin informed that F.Karmasin started to organize an evacuation.
The approach of the front terminated the vacillations, postponements and compromises in regard to evacuation. The reality was unforgiving. On October 26 1944 the leader of SS, H. Himmler, visited Slovakia. The reason for visit was a need to personally became familiar with the existing situation. H. Himmiler decided to order a total evacuation of German population of Spiš. The intention was to transfer the German inhabitants of Horný and Dolný Spiš to western Slovakia. The order was issued on 27 October 1944 and delivered directly to F.Karmasin without consulting Slovak authorities. F. Karmasin was empowered to secure the course of evacuation and had full responsibility for its successful realization. Officially the evacuation fall under authority of VoMi, however, an actual realization carried out DP using its military units - Heimatschutz. In his telegram dated 31 of October 1944, H. Himmler emphasized, that Slovak Germans should not to be transported to Germany, because the lack of lodging facilities. Meantime Germans were leaving Slovakia in motor lories via Poland and after securing railway transport they progressed toward to Bohumin. The ethnic Germans, who were postponing their departure to the very last moment, were leaving with their own wagons via Liptov toward to city of Žilina and Morava. The majority of the Slovak Germans was placed in boundary regions of northern Czechland from Opava up to Karlove Vary where they survived the coming of the Red Army. Some of the Germans remained in the western Slovakia, others went to Austria.16 The evacuation was planned as a temporary measure with the aim to protect the German population in Slovakia before the progressing Red Army. However, the degree of permanency depended on the outcome of he war, the fact of which the Slovak Germans were fully aware. Consequently, there was a resentment against it and the evacuation, despite the clearly defined orders, had unwieldy course and did not progressed according to the plan. The General Security Office in Berlin informed about negative attitude of many Slovak Germans. The report elaborated by J. Witiska on 21 November 1944 informed that German inhabitants of Spiš think that "evacuation actually is not necessary and is ordered only with intention to evict the Spiš Germans from their land and this way to secure for the German army horses, cattle, wagons etc."17
The Action Group H in its report dispatched to Berlin on 28 of November 1944 called attention to the fact that the evacuation is beset by several difficulties. The Spiš Germans only reluctantly left their lands. There were several reasons for resistance to evacuation. The mix marriages were one of the reasons for complications. So was the strong regionalism. As a potential source of recalcitrance was also mentioned an influence of enemy propaganda and weak German national awareness. The authors of the report explained this by fact of separate historical development of Spiš Germans. Two localities were listed - Handlová and Medzev, where the German population showed openly hostile attitude toward the evacuation.18 However not everybody was negative. The member of city council of Kežmarok after war testified during the court proceedings at the National Court that at that time "everybody was convinced that Germany has a possession of secret weapons and we believed in victory."19 F. Karmasin reported to VoMi, that due to war conditions and short time schedule, it is impossible to realize a broadly based evacuation. On the beginning of November an intelligence officer of SS, J. Witiska reported that the evacuation of Horný a Dolný Spiš is proceeding. According to his information approximately 30000 evacuees should have been lodged in the protected zone of city of Malacky. The German men, however, should stay at home and serve in the German militia. F. Karmasin intended to evacuate yet around 25000 persons from region of Spiš.20 A number of difficulties occurred in the connection with the placement of evacuees in the region of western Slovakia. The VoMi analyzed the situation and after the approval of Himmler modified the plan of the evacuation. The Germans from Spiš, who could not be evacuated to western Slovakia, should be placed in Sudeten region. In following days a majority of evacuated Germans was transported to the western Czechland.
On the beginning of 1944 the front approached so close to Spiš, that the last Germans were hastily evacuated. The archive documents are giving testimony about the course of evacuation. An illustrative case of evacuation can be the departure of inhabitants of town of Toporec in county of Kežmarok. The somewhat longer citation of archive documents is giving fitting description of the situation. According to this report, at the end of year 1944 in Topores the coming of front "strongly impacted the German inhabitants of the village. Many of them, who till that time refused to evacuate to Germany, due to change in situation decided to evacuate. Only a small group still refused. There were also people who went to Slovak villages in reason to avoid compulsory evacuation to Germany."21 The first column, consisting of children and several women, left Toporec on 16 of September 1944. Second group, formed of children, women and men over 60 years of age, departed on 27 of September 1944. Dramatic climax of evacuation is reported in cited document: "On 19 of December rest of the German women from village came on line. Approximately 30 motor vehicles came to the village. A military escort took away also persons who refused to evacuate. Some women who resisted were violently attacked. Women were leaving Toporec with heavy heart and crying."22 The lories transported evacuees to the Podolinec to the railway station. Each person was allowed to take only the most needed personal belongings. In village remained only adult men and eight older women. Again citation: "The men sadly, with hanging heads, were aimlessly walking throughout the streets. The farmers were selling the cattle. there was no interest in work. Some of them were the whole day sitting in the village inn and waiting for the transport."23 According to the cited report, during night 20/21 of January 1945 "a night drumbeat awakened inhabitants of Toporec. The German adult men were requested to immediately come to village inn for instruction in regard to morning departure. Each man should have horses and wagon ready. In the morning 21 of January, when Slovak inhabitants of village were going to church (it was a Sunday), a column of German evacuees moved out of village. The broken men were leaving their homes."24 The final citation of this document: "Behold, that far got these people due to doomed Hitlers politics, due to political ravings. Deprived of their home, property and in the cruel winter, they must to run into unknown."25
At the end of year 1944, the whole operation of evacuation began to be supervised by VoMi based in Bratislava. The reports about the course of the evacuation from all the regions of Slovakia where Germans were living, were coming to this office. Till the end of January 1945 left the region of Spiš practically all Slovak Germans. The last transport departed on 23 of January 1945. These last evacuees were leaving with their own means of transportation (wagons with horses). The periodical Národná obroda published on 4 of February 1945 an article, in which informed that the Spiš region was left practically without its German inhabitants, who were taken by the German army.26 The official report of VoMi stated that out of Horný Spiš some 97% of Germans were evacuated. The more complicate situation persisted in the Dolný Spiš were ethnic Germans resisted to be evacuated and an interference of military was needed. In spite of endeavors of German authorities, some of inhabitants escaped to the forests. In November 1944 Germans were allowed to evacuate city of Bratislava with surrounding environs and Žitný ostrov. Initially, only a few families utilized this possibility. Report dated 5 of February 1945 informed that only 1500 Germans left Bratislava. 25000 German inhabitants of Bratislava were still waiting to be evacuated. During February/March 1945 left Bratislava and Žitný ostrov a majority of Germans. The last report dated 27 of March 1945 informed that Germans were leaving Bratislava by various means, most frequently just crossing locality Karlová Ves to Austria. On April 1945 the Bratislava office of VoMi was closed.27
In November 1944 Germans living in the region of Hauerland could evacuate. The order to evacuate this region was issued on January 1945, in connection with development of the military situation. Due to rapid progress of the Red Army, the evacuation of Hauerlad was realized in much quicker tempo as evacuation of Spiš. The inhabitants of Hauerland indifferently obeyed the orders, because there was no other option available to them. The report from the county of Kremnica stated, that almost all inhabitants of German villages left to Germany and Czechland before coming of the Red Army. The exception were the German participants of SNU and members of the Communist Party.28 Similarly, Germans from county of Prievidza "predominantly evacuated. Only few persons remained, who found shelter in Slovak villages... Germans who evacuated went from one third voluntarily and from two thirds under pressure from German authorities."29 The report from spring of 1945 informed about 938 Germans who remained in Slovakia.30 Not all the members of the German minority were evacuated under supervision of DP. Many of them, namely Germans from Bratislava, were leaving voluntarily and found shelter in Austria.31 The question of lodging and providing of other necessities for evacuees was in many cases not clear. F. Karmasin proclaimed that he as a leader of the Slovak Germans have not special requirements in regard to evacuees in Germany, with exception that evacuated persons should stay together.32 Also leadership of DP should be situated in Berlin. F. Karamasin remained loyal to the A. Hitler to the last moment. On the eve of coming of Red Army, 25 March 1945, in front of units of Heimatschutz gathered in Bratislava, he swore loyalty to the A. Hitler.
The whole course of evacuation of Germans from Slovakia was beset by a dilemma - on one site it was a necessity to run before the Red Army, on the other site the reluctance to leave homes. So evacuation was realized only with difficulties, on occasion chaotically and could not be fully controlled by F. Karmasin and Nazi authorities. Its actual course was often haphazard, went not as planned and in the last moment. To determinate precise number of German evacuees who left Slovakia at the end of 1944 and on the beginning of 1945, is impossible because differing reports. According to data elaborated by DP and German authorities, 120000 ethnic Germans left Slovakia before coming of the front.33 If this information is correct, considering number of Germans from last census and allowing for Slovak Germans who were killed in war, or become prisoners, it possible to estimate that at the end of the war, approximately 20000 ethnic German remained in Slovakia. However, other sources indicate that out Slovak territory evacuated more that 100 000 Germans.34 Still other sources reports number of Germans who remained in Slovakia at 6265335, what would mean that approximately seventy thousand members of German minority evacuated.
Postupujúce vojenské operácie východného frontu druhej svetovej vojny sa v druhej polovici roku 1944 dostali k slovenským hraniciam. Nemecká menšina na Slovensku očakávala príchod fronty s veľkými obavami. Počet nemeckého obyvateľstva, ktoré sa na slovenskom území usídľovalo postupne už od 13. storočia, v dobe blížiaceho sa konca druhej svetovej vojny, odhadovali približne na 120000 osôb. Najvyššie orgány Nemeckej ríše o možnej evakuácii príslušníkov nemeckej menšiny z Chorvátska, Rumunska, Maďarska, Srbska a Slovenska jednali už na jar 1944. Situáciu na Slovensku vyostrilo Slovenské národné povstanie. Začiatkom septembra opustilo na Spiši svoje domovy niekoľko stoviek Nemcov, ktorí odchádzali najmä do Maďarska, Generálneho gubernátu. Evakuovať Nemcov nachádzajúcich sa v centre povstaleckého územia na strednom Slovensku, v oblasti Hauerlandu, nebolo technicky možné a Nemci usadení na západnom Slovensku, v Bratislave a jej okolí, sa necítili byť povstaním ohrození. Spišskí Nemci sa po ústupe povstalcov vracali späť do svojich domovov.
Koncom septembra nemeckú menšinu neohrozovali už povstalecké jednotky, ale nezadržateľne sa približujúca Červená armáda. Vedenie Deutsche Partei sústredilo pozornosť na riešenie praktických problémov spojených s prípravou evakuácie z územia, na ktorom bolo postupom frontu nemecké obyvateľstvo najskôr ohrozené - zo Spiša. Ako prvé boli od polovice septembra evakuované deti školopovinného veku v sprievode učiteľov. Od konca septembra 1944 odchádzali podľa dopravných možností a poskytnutých prostriedkov ostatní príslušníci nemeckej menšiny, hlavne deti, ženy a chlapi nad 60 rokov. Evakuáciu riadili domáce oddiely Heimatschutzu pod dozorom vojenských hliadok. Evakuovaná osoba si mohla so sebou vziať 30 kg batožiny, ostatný majetok mal zostať na mieste. Nariadenie o čiastočnej evakuácii vydané F. Karmasinom sa nestretlo medzi spišskými Nemcami s očakávaným porozumením. Postup frontu však ukončil nerozhodnosť a váhavosť. 26. októbra 1944 navštívil H. Himmler Slovensko, aby sa presvedčil o konkrétnej situácii. Na mieste vydal rozkaz o totálnej evakuácii Nemcov zo Spiša, ktorý bol zverejnený na druhý deň. Evakuáciu formálne riadila VOMI (Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle), ale realizovala ju Deutsche Partei za pomoci svojich ozbrojených zložiek - Heimatschutzu. Väčšina spišských Nemcov sa dostala do českých severných pohraničných okresov od Opavy až po Karlove Vary. V novembri mohli evakuovať Nemci aj z Hauerlandu, z Bratislavy a okolia. Nie všetci príslušníci nemeckej menšiny boli evakuovaní organizovane prostredníctvom Deutsche Partei. Mnohí odchádzali dobrovoľne, hlavne z Bratislavy a okolia. Útočište nachádzali väčšinou v Rakúsku. Celý priebeh evakuácie nemeckého obyvateľstva zo Slovenska bol podmienený len ťažko riešiteľnou dilemou. Na jednej strane, celkom prirodzene, existoval strach pred postupujúcou Červenou armádou, ktorý jednoznačne diktoval odísť, a na strane druhej pripútanosť a láska k svojim domovom, ktorá Nemcom odchodu bránila. Evakuácia bola preto komplikovaná, niekde až chaotická a vymkla sa z riadenia a kontroly nielen F. Karmasinovi a Heimatschutzu, ale aj ríšskym orgánom. V konečnom dôsledku prebehla, ale nie podľa plánu a často v poslednej chvíli.
Stanoviť celkový presný počet Nemcov, ktorých zo Slovenska evakuovali koncom roka 1944 a začiatkom roka 1945, je obtiažne, informácie sú rôzne. Pohybujú sa v rozpätí od 70000 do 120000 osôb. Aj keď sa mnohí z evakuovaných Nemcov v lete 1945 vrátili do svojich domovov na Slovensko, v roku 1946 boli na základe výsledkov Postupimskej konferencie vysídlení, a tentokrát už natrvalo.