When families fled from their homes during the Second World War, they were forced to make desperate decisions about what was truly valuable — and what got left behind. Rudi Schlattner was just 13 years old when his family fled Czechoslovakia after WWII, and he had not set foot in his childhood home since. Yet when he returned to the house 70 years later, he discovered something as poignant as it was amazing.
His first home
The man in question was 83-year-old Rudi Schlattner. He and his family had been living in Czechoslovakia during the Second World War and had only been forced to leave after the conflict had ended. Their exit had been a result of the Czech government’s policy to remove all Germans from its country — as well as confiscating their property.
The German expulsion
The expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia was essentially a backlash against the country’s occupation by the Nazis that had extended from as early as 1938 up until 1945. And during that time, a massive and intense hatred of ethnic Germans had built up among the Czech population. In some ways, then, Schlattner was one of the lucky ones.
A "lucky" escape
Thousands of people died during the mass expulsion from Czechoslovakia. Approximately 1.6 million individuals were uprooted to Allied-controlled West Germany. Another 800,000 were exiled to Soviet East Germany. As you can probably imagine, the luckier ones were those who were forced into American-occupied West Germany. And that included Schlattner and his family.
Schlattner later said, "We thought we would one day return and that [we] would find a property there." But, as we know, it was seven decades before Schlattner finally came back to his family home. To do this, he first got in touch with officials from his boyhood village, Libouch – in what is now the Czech Republic – and arranged to visit his old house.