Danzig-West Prussia

Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreußen
Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia
Reichsgau of Nazi Germany

 

 

 

1939–1945
Flag Coat of arms
Reichsgaue).
Capital Danzig
Gauleiter
 -  1939–1945 Albert Forster
History
 -  Establishment 2 November 1939
 -  German surrender 8 May 1945

The Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia (German: Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen) was a Nazi German province created on 8 October 1939 from annexed territory of the Free City of Danzig, the Greater Pomeranian Voivodship (Polish Corridor), and the Regierungsbezirk West Prussia of Gau East Prussia. Before 2 November 1939, the Reichsgau was called Reichsgau West Prussia.[1] Though the name resembled the pre-1920 Prussian province of West Prussia, the territory was not identical. In contrast to the former Prussian province, the Reichsgau comprised the Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) region in the South and lacked the Deutsch-Krone (Walcz) region in the West.

The capital of the province was Danzig (Gdańsk) and its population without the city was 1,487,452 (in 1939). The area of the province was 26,056 km2, 21,237 km2 of which was annexed Danzig and Pomerelian territory.[1]During its short existence Poles and Jews living in this area were subjected by Nazi Germany to extermination as "subhumans".

History

The Prussian province West Prussia was dissolved in 1920, following the Treaty of Versailles. The bulk of it became part of the newly established Second Republic of Poland and was administered as Pomeranian Voivodship (Polish Corridor). The eastern remains of German West Prussia were attached to the Province of East Prussia as Regierungsbezirk West Prussia - a Regierungsbezirk ("government region") being a German administrative subunit of a province (Provinz) comprising several counties (Kreise). The western remains of German West Prussia were merged to the German remains of the former Province of Posen and made a new province, Posen-West Prussia.

After the Nazis came to power in Germany, they reformed the administrative system by transforming the former German provinces and states into their Gau system in 1935 as a part of their Gleichschaltung policy.

In 1938, German Posen-West Prussia was dissolved and its former West Prussian territory was attached to the German Pomeranian Gau. Also in 1938, the Polish Pomeranian Voivodship was expanded southward to comprise the Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) region. This region (former Netze District) had during Prussian times been administered as Regierungsbezirk Bromberg of the Province of Posen. The resulting enlarged Pomeranian voivodship was called Greater Pomeranian Voivodship (Wielkopomorskie).

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, this Greater Pomeranian voivodship was first made the German military district "West Prussia",[2] and by a decree[3] of Adolf Hitler on 8 October merged with the Free City of Danzig and the East Prussian Regierungsbezirk West Prussia, to form the Reichsgau West Prussia.[4] The western remains remained outside and continued to be administered by the German Pomeranian Gau as Regierungsbezirk Grenzmark Posen-West Prussia according to the 1938 reform, while the Bromberg (Bydogoszcz) region stayed with Reichsgau West Prussia and was not attached to Reichsgau Posen, the later "Warthegau". The designation Reichsgau instead of just Gau indicates that the province primarily consisted of annexed territory. A Gauleiter of a Reichsgau was also titled Reichsstatthalter. Other Reichsgaue were e.g. Reichsgau Wartheland and Reichsgau Sudetenland.

In March 1945, the region was captured by the Red Army, and the Nazi governor, Albert Forster, was later sentenced to death and executed for crimes against humanity. The German population either fled or was expelled.


Extermination and expulsion of Poles and Jews by Nazi Germany

Main articles: Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany and Holocaust

It was Nazi policy to exterminate the Polish and Jewish population of the region in several phases; the first phase of extermination was in September 1939 [5] The main Nazi responsible for genocide conducted in Pomerania was Gauleiter Albert Forster who was involved in mass murder and ethnic cleansing of ethnic Poles and Jews, while enlisting Polish citizens perceived by Nazis as descendants of Germanic settlers as Germans, often under the threat of violence.

The Gau was the site of the Stutthof concentration camp and its sub camps where over 85,000 people were executed or died of illness, starvation or mistreatment. Of the 52,000 Jews who were sent to the camp only around 3,000 would survive.[6]

During the Winter of 1939/40 between 12,000 and 16,000 people were murdered at Piaśnica by Einsatzkommando 16, units of the 36th Regiment of SS, and members of the Selbstschutz, a militia force made up of ethnic Germans. The local Selbstschutz, under the command of Ludolf von Alvensleben, numbered 17,667 and before their disbandment in October 1939 had killed 4,247 people.

Jews did not figure prominently among the victims in West Prussia, as the area's Jewish population was small and most had fled before the Germans arrived. However in places where they were present, they were expelled and murdered in what was classified as "other measures" which simply meant murder[7]. In areas where Jewish families or individuals remained, a "shameful situation" was proclaimed, and Nazi authorities expected the Selbstschutz to remedy it through "direct action"[8]. In August 1943 around 500 Jews from a camp in Pomerania were sent to Auschwitz, out of which 434 were immediately killed upon arrival [9]

It is estimated, that by the end of the war, up to 60,000 people had been murdered in the region[10] and up to 170,000 expelled.[11] although other estimates place the expulsion figure at around 35,000 people[12], and Forster himself reported that 87,000 people had been "evacuated" from the region by February 1940.[13]


Administration


Danzig-West Prussia was divided into three government regions (Regierungsbezirk), with the name-giving capital cities of Bromberg, Danzig and Marienwerder.[4]

In 1939 the Free City of Danzig was annexed to Germany. After a brief transitional period, its territory became part of the restored Regierungsbezirk Danzig in the Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen (the restored Prussian Province of West Prussia) and was divided into nine counties (Kreise):

  • Berent County
  • Danzig-Land (Rural) County
  • Danzig-Stadt City County
  • Dirschau County
  • Elbing-Land (Rural) County
  • Grosses Werder County
  • Karthaus County
  • Neustadt County
  • Zoppot City County (detached from Neustadt County)

Governing Presidents/Regierungspräsidenten:

As NSDAP party leader of Danzig, Albert Forster became leader of Civil Administration in Danzig in 1939 and remained the most powerful politician of this area until 1945.


See also

References

Sources

  • (German) Shoa.de - List of Gaue and Gauleiter
  • (German) Deutsches Historisches Museum website.
  • (German) Die Gaue der NSDAP
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