The evacuation of East Prussia
refers to the evacuation of the German
civilian population and military personnel in East Prussia and the Klaipėda region
between 20 January, and March 1945, as part of the evacuation of German civilians
towards the end of World War II. It is not to be confused with the expulsion
after the war had ended, under Soviet occupation.
The evacuation, which had been delayed for months, was initiated due to fear of the Red Army
advances during the East Prussian Offensive
. Some parts of the evacuation were planned as a military necessity, Operation Hannibal
being the most important military operation involved in the evacuation. However, many refugees took to the roads on their own because of reported Soviet
atrocities against Germans in the areas under Soviet control. Allegations of Soviet atrocities were disseminated not only through the official news and propaganda
outlets of the Third Reich
, but also by rumors that swept through the military and civilian population.
Despite having detailed evacuation plans for some areas, authorities of the Third Reich, including the Gauleiter
of East Prussia, Erich Koch
, delayed action until January 20, when it was too late for an orderly evacuation, and the civil services were eventually overwhelmed by the huge number of those wishing to evacuate. Coupled with the panic caused by the speed of the Soviet advance, civilians caught in the middle of combat, and the bitter winter weather, many thousands of refugees died... Read More