* war and social upheaval: World War II -- refugees countries Europe

World War II Refugees: European Country Trends

Figure 1.-- It was Germany which set Europe in motion after Hitler sized power in Germany (1933). The first refugeees were German Jews and anti-NAZIs. Then other countries were affected, first Austria and Czechoslovakia. And then when Hitler and Stalin launched the War in Poland (1939) every country in Europe would be affected. Ultimately all of Europe was awash with refugees and displaced persons. And by the end of the War, Germany itself was awash with refuges and the German people themselves experienced one of the most harrowing rfugee crisis of any nation. Here German refugees and displaced persons crowd aboard every square inch of a train leaving Berlin after the horrific battle for the city (1945).

World War II created the greatest refugee crisis in European history. It began 6 years before the War with Hitler's appoitment as Chancellor (1933). Large numbers of Jews fearing the worse fled Germany. As the ininital ant-emeric measures were not as bad as anticipated, this flow slowed for a while. When the NZIs began arresting anti-NAZIs, Communists, and critics, there was also a flow of political refugees. Jewish refugees increased again after the imposition of the Nuremberg Race Law (1935) and Kristallnacht (1938). Until Kristallnacht, NAZI policy was to drive ut the Jews after stealing their property. Beginning with Kristallnacht, leaving Germany became increasingly difficult. At the same time Germany's aggressive policies set in motion refugee flows in other countries, beginning with Austria and Czechoslovakia. And then with war and occupation not only we see millions of refugees fleeing repression, front line combat and bombing, cities being evacuated, ethnics cleansings, roundups, mass murder, and workers drawn or forced into the Reich to solve the labor shortage as workers were conscripted for the front. Millions more desceded into poverty and want because of the War. Others found themselves homeless because of the war. The War sent Europe in motion. People were in motion throughout the War. People had to leave burned out towns. Parents sought safety for their children. For some there wre welfare agencies set up to help. For others they were in their own, especually Jews and Slavs in the occupied East. Here the killing was a najor German war goal. And as the War went against Germany, the Germans themselves became refugees. And at the end of the War millions of released POWs and foced laborers added to the refugee flow and the great mass of hungry people wandering the continent. One estimate suggests that a total of about 60 million Europeans became refugees during the World War II era. And even 5 years after the War there were more than a million people who were still in DP camps.


With the Anscluss (1937), Austria became part of the Reich and the persecution of Jews began immediately. Jews who could fled the country. Those who could not were evetually deported to ghettoes and death camps in the East. Very few of these Jews survved the War. After the War, DP camps were set up in ocupied Germany and Austria to care for the slave labor brought into the Reich durng the War. In addition, large numbers of ethnic Germansflooded into Grmany nd Austria after the War driven from the countries of Eastern Europe. We are unsure how many of these refugees stayed in Austriaas opposed to Germany.


NAZI oppression drove Jews and other targets into neighboring states. Thus Belgium had a refugee problem befire the War. Belgians when the Germans struck (May 10, 1940) began fleeing the Germans by heading south by rail, car, and on foot toward France as they did in World War I. Most assumed that as in World War I that the French Army would hold. Within days, the German Panzers slashed through the Ardennes and across northern France and reached the Channel. That made the further movement of Belgian refugees to France impossible. There were, however, large numbers of Belgians on the road fleeing west. They were soon overun by the Germans who allowed them to return home. As a result, there were far fewer Belgian refugees in World War II than in World War I. And this gime the French army did not hold. Within weeks France itself was defeated by the Germans and the country surrendered. Most of the Belgians who had made it to France, retuned to their occupied country. Thus except for a handfull of Belgians who made it to Britain, almost the entire Belgian population was trapped in the country during the German occupation. The one exceotion was the small Belgian population in the country's African colonies, the largest being the mineral rich Congo. Belgian was liberated by the Allies (September 1944). There was relatively limited fighting. The German garrisin surprised by the speed of the Allied advance in France, quickly evacuated most of the country without any serius fighting. More refugees were, however, created when Hitler launched another Ardennes campaign in the closing months of the War leading to the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944). Again civilians fled the Germans, creating a refugee problem. The Ardennes was, however, thinly populated. The cold winter weather and speed of the initial German advance prevented any large scale movenmnt. Rail movement was not possible and few civilians had cars or fuel. Thus time the Germans led by Waffen-SS units and angered by Belgian support for the Allies and the Resistance committed terrible attrocities aganst both Belgian civilans and Allied POWs.


Bulgaria was one of the Central Powers in World War I and played an important role in the Balkans fighting, cusing a refugee crisis in Serbia. After the War there was a serious refugee crisis in Bulgaria. When Hitler and Stalin launched World War II, Bulgaria attempted to remain neutral. Hitler through a process of intimidation and territotrial rewards forced Bulgaria and Romania into the Axis. Bulgaria played only a minor military role in the War, but it did occupy parts of Greece and Yugoslavia and commit war crimes in both countries. The Bulgarian Army expelled more than 30,000 Serbs from Bulgarian-occupied Yugoslavia (Macedonia and south-eastern Serbia). They also helped round up and deport Jews in the occupied areas, but not in Bulgaria itself. As far as we know, there was no significant refugee problem in Bulgaria itself. Unlike Romania, Bulgaria refused to particupate in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.


After the NAZI take over in Germany (January 1933) refugees began fleeing the country, both anti-NAZIs and Jews. Britain unlike France and the other countries bordering the Reich allowed few refugees into the country. The Kindertransport was a rare exception. With the outbreak of the War, the British interred Germans, Austrians, and Itlaians to investigate their loyalties. This included Jews and anti-NAZIs who were often interred wih pro-NAZIs. The largest numbers of refugees were the children, eldlerly, and those in hospitals who were evacuated from the cities that the Luftwaffe would and did target. Adults were expected to remain in the cities at their jobs, but the children were evacuated. A few children were evacuayed overseas. Even after the Blitz there were further ecavuations as the Germans began the V-1 and V-2 attacks. Relatively small number of European refugees were able to get to Britain. Just a the Channel stopped the Panzers, but also made it difficult for refugees to get to safety Britain. The British did attempt to assist the refugees at the end of the War. The effort to help the Dutch trapped beyond the Rhine under German control was a major effort.


Czechoslovakia was a democratic state, but with strong under currents of anti-Semitism, especially among Catholic parties and the German population in the Sudetenland. This was to a substantial degree held into check by the democratic laws enacted. With the NAZI seizure of power in Germany (1933), Jews began to flee to neigboring countries, including Czechoslovkia. This varied over time as NAZI anti-Semetic campaigns varied. Some Jews believed thst there was still hope to coexust with the NAZIs. This changed when the Nuremberg Decrees stripped Jews of their citizenship. We are not sure to what extent the Czech Government permitted Jews to enter the country. We do not know if there were quotas or to what extentJews crossed the border illegally. This was presumably dangerous if they were caught by NAZI authorities. It was also difficult for families with children or eldely parents. We know of no Czech program to assist refugees, although our information is limited. Not all the refugees were Jewish, there were also political refugees. The largest number by fr, hower, were Jews. Czech Jewish organizations made an effort to assist the refugees. Even more Jewish refugees flowed into Czechoslovakia after the Austrian Anschluss (April 1938). Austrian Jews had few options as the Hungarian, Italian, and Swiss borders were basically closed. Some were refused entry, but we do not yet have a good fix on the actual numbers or Czech immigration poliy. And this substantially increased the length of the border with NAZI Germany. We donnot yet have an accurate count of the total numbers of refugees. The refugee problem increased after Munich and the German seizure of the Sudetenlnd (November 1938). This brought another 15,000�20,000 Jewish refugees into Czechoslovakia. (There were also 140,000 Czech and German refugees.) The German pressure did not stop at the Sudetenland. The Germans forced Czechoslovakia to cede southern Slovakia which was climed by Hungary (November 1938). Slovak officials ordered all foreign and poor Jews from the Slovak side of the new border to move to the area ceded to Hungary. The Hungarians refused to allow some to enter. everal hundred ended up in camps set up on border, Eventually Slovak citizens were allowed to return. Czechoslovak anti-Semitism was fueled by the NAZI actions and the break diwn of the democratic legal system, especially in Slovakia. This was to a degree moderated by British�French financial grant offered as a sop after deserting Czecoslovakia at Munich. Some of the funds were to be used to assist the Jewish refugees. The final wave of refugees came with Kristallnacht (November 1938), but by this time it was becoming very difficult to leave the Reich.


Denmark after World War I adopted very restrictive emigration laws. As a result, few German anti-NAZI refugees and Jews were able to seek refuge in Denmark. It was virtually impossible for Jews to get entry visas, although afew crissed the border illegally and hid out in Denmark. The Danish Government was with the rise of the NAZIs anxious not to give offense to Hitler. The Danes took in some Finnish refugee children after Stalin launched the winter War against Finland. Six months after launching the War in Poland, Hitler ordered the invasion of Denmark and Norway (April 1940). The Danes offered little reistance. There was virtually no resistance and few refugees. The NAZI occupation of Denmark was at first relatively light. Unique to NAZI occupied Europe, even the Jews wee nt targeted with anbti-Semitic refulations. Here racial reasons and the desire not to disrupt the ecoinomy which could be exploited were factors. Gradually the occupation became more onerous, both because of the Germans increasingly exploited the economy and began daling with increasing anti-German feeling. Finallky the Germans launched aound-up operation of Denmark;s small Jewsih population. The Danes suceeded, however, in getting most safely to neighboring Sweden. As the War increasingly went against the Axis, German civilians began eeking safety in Denmark. At the end of the War, the Danes wanted the Germans out, but Bitish officials convinced them not to expel them because of the terrible conditions in Germany.



The NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was essentially the cyical partition of Eastern and Central Europe by Hitler and Stalin(August 1939). And it sent in motion a series of terrutorial changes, refgugees, and evacution begun with the Winter war, one of several naked aggressions ordered by Stalin (November 1939). After Hitler and Stalin launched World War II by invading Poland (September 1939). Finland like most of Eastern Europe attempted to remain neutral. Stalin had other ideas, including designs on neighboring Finland. This sent in motion a series of evictions and deportations affecting the Finnish people as well as as the Russians. Finland was different in that the country resisted the Red Army and fought back. And the country was never totally overwealmed and was able to protect and assist the refugees. Finland was a small country and totally outclased by the Soviet behoumouth and massive Army. As a result, Stalin forced theFinns into the hands of the Germans. Finland refused, however, to join the Axis, but to regain its lost terrutory became a co-bligerant after Hitler launched Operation Barbrossa (June 1941).


With the rise of the NAZIs in Germany France did not dare confront Germany alone (1933). France was forced to follow Britain's strategy of appeasement. And the desire to avoid another war meant that was domestic support for this approch. Hitler's racist NAZI police state caused people to flee the country. Many but not all were Jews. Many sought safety in France. The outbrek of the Spanish Civil War (1936) resulted in a refugee flow from the south. The NAZI Kristallnacht pogrom created a flood of more desperate Jewish refugees. France did not have the resourcs to take care of foreign refugees. The Brtish who still clung on to the idea of appeasing Hitler, accepted almost no refugees. The only exceotion was the Kindertansport children. Mot wnt to Britain because the Ntherlands, Belgium, and France were lready iverflowing with refugeees. The Germns and Soviets invaded Poland, launching World War II (September 1939). Britain and France declared war on Germany. The French moved people out of likely battle areas in the north. Strassburg was evacuated. When the Germans launched their Western offensive (May 1940), people in Belgium and northern France as in World war I flooded the roads heading south. This time the Germans moved faster and had a different tactical doctrine. After the Allied Dunkirk evacuation, the Germans turned south. Refugees streamed out of Paris. And the French asked for an Armitice and formed a new goverment in Vichy (June 1940). Most of the Belgian refugees trickeled back to Belgium. France had large numbers of refugees inclusing anti-NAZI Germand. The Germans demanded a provision in the Armistice that the French turn over anti-NAZI Germans to the German occupation authorities. Anti-Semetic laws sought to isolate and concentrte the Jews and Vichy crassly cooperated. when the NAZI and Vichy roundups began, the ews wh=o had no already done so went underground (1942). At about the same time, the Germans bgan conscripting French workers for war work in the Reich. This caused many young men to also go into hideing, many joining the Resistance. The principal objective of the Resistance was to help prepare for the Allied cross Channel invasion. The Allies D-Day invasion occurred in Normandy (June 1944). For 2 months, the Germanss bottled up the allies in Normandy. Fighting there was intensse and there was enormous damage. Refugees fleed the combat area. After the breakout, France was very quickly liberated. The Germans were primarily interested in getting back to the Reich and protection of the West Wall. Significant fighting did not occur until the Allies neared the Reich in the north. And here refugees again appeared as civikians fled the fighting (September 1944).


The first German refugees were anti-NAZI Germans and Jews, seeking sanctuary in neighboring countries. Another wave of refugees came with the War. Ethnic Germans after the signing of the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact (August 1939) in the Baltics and Romanian wre ordered home to the Reich. Camps were set up in occupied Poland for them. The Germans created tremendous refugee problems, first for Reich Jews, but then in occupied cojuntries. As the War progressed, the German began to experience some of the problems that they had created for other countries. The fiest refugees wwee created by the Allied strategic bombing campaign. Later refugees from the East begn straming into the Reich as the Red Army drove west. Various groups, imcluding the Hitler Youth were organized to aid the refugees. The NAZIs brought in millions of people durng the War to work in the German war economy. After the War, these people needed help to get home. For some, home was not an option. In the final months of the War, German refuges with the Red Army approaching began to stream into the Reich. Now the Germans who created millions of refugees, now became refugees themselves. Germany had a trrible refugee problem. In addition to those duisplaced internally, ethnic Germans in the East fled the Red Army and those that did not were deported to Germany after the War. While the refugee flow at the end of the War was mostly back to Germany from the East, but there wre two exceptions. Some Germans in the north headed north to escape bombing, ground fighting and the advancing Red Army. They found sanctuary in occupied Germany as well as Sweden. After the German surrender, the Danes wanted the German refugees to go back to Grmany.Because of conditions in Germany asked Danish officilas not to immediately deport the German refuf=gees.




The first Italian refugees were anti-Fascists. Mussolini's Fascist regime was, however, not as repressive or murderos as Hitler's NAZIs. So the the numner of political refugees were relatively small. The Jews were at first untouhed. As Mussolini and Hitler forged an alliance, Hitler pressured his ally to take repressive actions against Italian Jews. Mussolini obedently complied (1939). Mussolini joined the War (1940), but redisted deporting Italian Jews to the NAZI death camps. The war did not go well for Mussolini's Fascist armies. After a sea-saw campaign in North Africa the Italy lost itsLibyan colony and Axis armies surrenders in Tunisia (May 1943). The allies began bombing Italy. Naples wth its important port was the main target. The bombing was not nearly as intense as that directed at the Germans. As a result, there were relatively few refugees. Most of the people who lost their homes were cared for by family. Two months later the Allies landed in Sicily (July 1943). . With the gighting shifted to land combat, here were civikian refugees. The first refugee/displaved persons (DP) camps were set up by the Allies. After losing Sicily, the Fascist Grand Council removed Missolini from power. Next the Allies landed on the mainland (September 1943). The Italians switched sides and the Germans seized contol of most of the country. As a result of the fighting large numbrs of refugees fled the fighting or found themselves without food and water. The Allies would evetually set up 25 DP camps in Italy to care for refugees. American food relief was provided to Italian Government welfare organizations. This enabled large numbrs of Italians to survive without becoming refugees. The Germans and Fascists alo setup camps, but these were to repress anti-NAZI Italians and not to aid refugees. They also began roundig up and deporting Jews. The ground fighting would proceed slowly up the Italian Peninsula causing immnsedestruction and creating a huge number of rfugees.


The Soviet drive into the Baltics led to a mass of Latvians turned into refugees and fled West. There is no exact accounting, but probably some 0.2 million fled west toward the Reich. That was about 10 percent of the pre-War population of aboutb2 millionnpeople. The population was also reduced by NAZI killing programs and Soviet arrests and deportations. Having experienced Soviet occupation once (1940-41), Latvians had a good idea what would happen when the Red Arny returned. A lot of the refugees were educated middle-class people. But there were also Latvian peasants, many of whom pwbed land that left. The NKVD not only targeted groups like middle-class and land owners, but had orders to furthr reduce the Latvian ethnic population. Latvians were afraid of were afraid of further repressions. They had no reason to think that Soviet begaviir had changed for the better. There were Latvians that cooperated with the Germans, but it was not all a matter of having worked with the NAZIs that drive the refugees to the Reich. The problem as there was no where else to go. Most of the refugees fled by sea. The German ships landed the refugess and wounded German soldiers in Danzig. Thus after the War, many Latvians were located in the displaced person (DP) camps. This included Lativians that the NAZIs had rounded up for war work. Most did not want to return to a Communist Latvia. As it turned out, the NKVD looked susoiously at any who dis returrn, The Soviets did not trust the Latvians and other Balts so during the Sovier era, Russian emigratiin was encouraged. The Soviets were especially distrustful of Latvians who had fled to Western countries. They were seen as anti-Communists hich was basically true. As a result, there were strict limitations and contacts with relatives in the West were closely monitored.




The Netherlnds was a have for anti-NAZIs and Jews before the advent of World war II. The Dutch language is similar to German and Dutch authorities did not turn over refugees who crossed the borderly illegally. As a result, large bumber of German Jews sought refuge in the Netherlands. With the outbreak of the war 34,000 refugees souugtvsafety in the neutral Netherlands. Many were still there when the Germans invaded (May 10). Tragically the people who had not moved on were trpped. As the Germans also invaded Belgium, there was no where to flee, there were few Dutch refugees. A few Dutch citizens were able to get to Britain by boat, including the Queen, but not very many. The Dutch were surounded and hemmed in by the Reich, German occupied Belgium, and the North Sea. The Dutch surrendered after only 3 days of fighting. The only way out was by boat and because of the nature of the North Sea a very substantial boat was needed. This mean that the German authorities could prevent the escape of any substantial number of people. The flat Dutch countryside and absence of any wilderness area meant that there were few places to hide inside the country. Rather than escape, the Dutch had to hide--the onderduikers (under-divers). The people included anti-NAZIs, Jews, resistanbce fighters, labor conscripts, and eventually downded Allied airmen. The Allies after D-Day finally reached the Dutch (September 1944). The only refugees at first were the Germans and their Dutch collaborators headed toward he Reich. The Allies were, howevr stopped at the Rhine and the Northern Netherlands remained in German hands untill the end of the war. Hitler punished the Dutch with the Unger winter starvtiuin program. Some of the Dutch may have escaped the Germans, but the Rhine was not wasy to cross. Conditions were difficult even in the liberated areas of the country. We note the British taking in Dutch refugee childtren (March 1945).


A number of Norwegians managed to make their way to Britain during the War. Some made their way through the Soviet Union, but this became virtually impossible after Hitler launched the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). (Finland was a co-beligerant with the Germans and the Baltic became a virtual German lake.) Thus the only practical route was the North Sea. This was much more difficult than crossing to Sweden. A substantial vessel was needed because of the rough conditions of the North Sea. And it was much easier for the Germans to control the ports and ships than seal the long Swedish border. Many Norwegian refugees in Britain were centered in the Shetland Islands. This was where the refugees from Norway headed. The Shetlands off northeaster Scotland were the cloest point in Britain to Norway. The British and Norwegian forces launched commando attacks on German-occupied Norway from the Shetlands. It was in Britain that the Norwegian government-in exile under King Haakon was formed. King Haakon led the armed resistance to the NAZIs for 2 months and then escaping by land and boat to England to continue resistance operations there. And those Norwegisns of military age formed units that fought with the British. Some Norwegians were brought to Britain as a result of several British raids. Among the Norwegians in Britain were a few children. We notice a school was set up for them. We are unsure where it was located, but it may have been the Shetlands.


World War II began in Poland with invasions by the NAZIs from the west and Soviets from the east Large numbers pf Polish children were displaced as a result of those invasions and subsequent occupation by two brutal totalitarian regimes. Poland was devestated by World War II. Poland along with Yugoslavia were the two countries most heavily damaged by the War. About a quater of the Polish population perished at the hands of both the NAZIs and Soviets. And children were among the groups most affected. Polish children were caught up in both the fighting and in forced poulation transfer carried out by NAZI and Soviet authorities. There were several resons for this and our information is incomplete. Substantial numbers of Polish children were displaced by the initial NAZI and Soviet occupations. The Germans began deporting Poles from western Poland to the Government General (1939). Ethnic Germans, many from the Baltics, were moved into these provinces. Jewish children along with their parents were interned in ghettos set up in the major cities. In the process there wee also killings. Children left orphaned were mong the most vulnerable. And when the mass killing began, the NAZIs especially targeted children. The Soviet occupation was only somewhat more brutal as far as non-Jewish Poles were concerned (1939-41). The Soviets deported large numbers of Polish families to Central Asia. Large numbers of Poles died in the process. The NAZIs targeted more Polish children in the Lebensborn profram (1939-44). More Polish children were dis placed, first in the NAZI anti-partisan campaigns (1943-44) and subsequently in the fishing as the Red Army reentered Poland (1944-45). The final tragedy was after War when the Soviet Govrnment fircibly removed Poles living east of the new boundary imposed upon Poland.


Stlin seized areas of northeastern Romania (1940). Germans and Romanians fled the area before the Red Army seized control. Just about all theGermans complying with Hitler's Home to Reich instructions left. We are not sure how many Romnians left.

Soviet Union

The Soviet Union signed the NAZI-Sovier Non-Aggression Pact (August 1939) and a result began the War as a NAZI ally. After invaduing Poland with the NAZIs (September 1939), the Soviets invaded Finland (November 1939) seized control of the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), and annexed areas of Romania. These actions set large scale population movements in motion. The NKVD arested, shot, and deported large numbers of people in these countries and movd in Russians to Russify the new areas. The German invasion of the Soviet Union at even larger numbers of people in motion as Russians surged east to escape the Germans. Some of these people were aided by the Sovies as part of the effort to move arms plants east and set them up beyonf the Urals. After the German occuption, the NAZIs seized large numbers of Soviet citizens for war work in the Reich. The NKVD were orderd to deport large numbers of people in supect groups (Germans, Chechans, Crimean Trtars, and others). After the War, large numbers of Soviets had to get home from the Reich. Stalin was suspicious of these people as well as POWs held by the Germans. Many wound up in the Gulag.


The European refugee crisis began in Germany with the rise of the NAZIs and the flight of the ciuntry's Jews. The first major non-Jewish group was the Spanish. Many refugees were created with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (936). At first this was internal dispacements as people fled into the areas controlled by the side they supported. In the fnal months of the conflict as the Republic began to fall, Republican fled into France. Some 140,000 Spanish Republicans trecked across the Pyranees to safety in France (1937-39). Smaller numbers, mostly children, were evacuated to Britain, Belgium, Mexico, and the Soviet Union. Another 40,000 - 50,000 fled to North Africa. [Simpson, pp. 58�63.] This of course occurred before the outbrek of World War II, but played a factor in the War. The Falangist Government that Franco installed is often called Fascist and there were some Fascist features. There were, however, also some important differences. And Franco angered Hitler by not allowing the Wehrrmact to enter Spain and take Gibraltar (1940). He also refused to join Hitler's anti-Communist crusade in the East. Spain served as a way of escaping NAZI-occupied Europe, bioth for Jews and non-Jews.


Sweden with the rise of NAZIism in Germany was not receptive to refugees that began flowing out of the country, especially Jews. Anti-Semitism was prevalent in Sweden and most Jewish refugees were rejected. Jewish woman nuclear scientist Lise Meitne was a rare exception. Once Hitler and Stalin launched the War (September 1939), Swedish attitudes began to change, especially after the Soviets invaded Finland (November 1939) and the Germans invaded Denmark and Norway (April 1940). At first there was some reluctance to accept foreigners like the Poles, but as the war shifted to Scandanvia, attitutes changed. The Finish evacuee children were welcomed with open arms. And the Norwegian and Danish reugees were aided. A major concern was not offending the Germans beause there was concern that the Germans might invade Sweden as well. But Hitler's focus was on the East and Sweden was safe for the time as long as they supplied the all important iron ore needed by the German war industries. Thus the refugees were not only accepted but were even welcomed despite the deteriorating economy as a result of the War. The Swedes even had hange of hear about Jews. Many refugees were helped to get to Britain or the merica aoard Swedush-flag vessels. Those refugees who styed in Sweden were not intened in camps, but allowed to work in factories, farms, and logging to replace the Swedish workers who were drafted for military service. Sweden remained neutral throughout the War, but built up a substantial miitary establishment. While the largest numbrs of war refugees in Sweden were from the neigboring countries (Finland, Norway, and Denmark, there were others from many different countries that arrived over the the 5 years of war. In the final year of the War, substantial numbers of refugees arrived from the Baltic Republics (especially Estonia). The Balts were fleeing the Soviets. Other refugees arrived from Germany, and the German concentration camps as the Reich collapsed.


The Swiss by the time of World War II had a long history of offering sanctuary to religious and political refugees. The largest such group which found refuge in Switzerland were the French Huguenots (16th and 17th centuries). A diverse range of liberals, socialists and anarchists sought refuge in Switzerland from all over Europe (19th century). Many liberals found refuge in Switzerland after the failed liberal revolutions (1848-49). The repressive anti-Semeric policies of NAZI Germany before World War II created a fefugee problem unlike any that Switzerland had ever fsced before. The number of refugees was enormoos, both Jews and political refuges. And this only increased after the War begun, especially after the fall of France and Switzeland found itself surounded by Axis powers and NAZI-controlled Vichy. The Swiss with a population of 4 million people had only a limited ability to accomomodate refugees. There are costs to sheltering refugeess and food became a major problem during the War. The Swiss did take in refugees, both Jews and anti-MAZI intelectuals. The Swiss took in about 2,000 German refugees through 1937. The character of NAZI persecultions changed in 1938 with both the Anchluss (March 1938) and Kristallnachy (November 1938). Jews desperately tried to escape and Switzerland bordered on both Germany and Austria. The Swiss report having 10,000 refugees by the time the War broke out (September 1939). By the end of the War the Swiss has over 55,000 refugees in addition to over 103,000 sodiers, mostly Allied Polish and French soldiers seeking refuge from the German armies invading France (June 1940). There were also smaller numbers of Allied airmen as well as German troops. Many of the French soldiers returned to Vichy (southern) France (1940-41) and liberated Frane (1944-45). As a result, by the end of the War, the number of interned soldiers had declined to about 60,000 men. The Swiss also has a program to give children from neighboring countries a few weeks or months of convalescence where they received good food and fresh air. Nearly 60,000 children particupated in the program. Refugees also used Switzerland aa a transit point to escape the NAZIs. More than 66,000 refugees reached safety through Switzerland. [Chronik, p. 544.] The Swiss did turn over thousands of Jews fleeing the NAZIs that sought refuge in Switzerland and closed their border to thousands more. Estimates range from about 20,000-25,000 people. The Swiss can argue with some validity that they had to placate the NAZIs because of the danger of a German invasion. And in fairness, American critics seldom point out that as a percentage of population, the Swiss took in more refugees than the Americans. But it is also true that when the Swiss turned back Jews at the border or repatriated Jews to the NAZIs and Vichy authorities, they did so with the full knowledge or a very good idea of what there fate would be. The possibility of a NAZI invasion began to decline, however, by 1942 after the MAZI disasters in Russia. And the number of Jews tuned over to the NAZIs were not so large that they threatened the Swiss food supply. The really klarge number oif Jews in the East had no way of reaching Switzerland. Some othere threatened neutrals (Spain and Sweden) did stand up to the NAZIs as well as Finland which fought with them for 3 years. I'm not sure when the Swiss changed their policy toward repatriating Jewish refugees. We note a German boy, Peter Feigl who esccaped from German occupied France (May 1944). He was lucky enough to have been baptised and was taken in by a business associate of hid father.



Simpson, John H. Refugees: A Review of the Situation Since September 1938 (London and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1939).


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Created: 8:54 PM 11/4/2016
Last updated: 12:27 AM 3/12/2020