The storks were already migrating as the first Germans began to flee East Prussia. This was in the late summer of 1944. By the following January, with the temperature twenty degrees below zero, more than three million refugees and their animals were trudging westwards to escape the vengeance of the Red Army. For mile after mile they shuffled through the snows, clogging the roads while the retreating German troops tried to force their way through. The last civilian trains were crowded with "huddled shapes, rigid with cold, barely able to stand up any more and climb out; thin clothing, mostly in tatters, a few blankets over bowed shoulders, gray, hollow faces'. As the front came closer, the concentration camps were emptied as well, and their surviving inmates were marched deeper into the Reich; their guards shot the stragglers and left their bodies by the roadside.
- From Hitler's Empire by Mark Mazower