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Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany

At the beginning of World War II, nearly a quarter[1] of the pre-war Polish areas were annexed by Nazi Germany and placed directly under German civil administration, while the rest of Nazi occupied Poland was named as General Government. The annexation was part of the "fourth" partition of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, outlined months before the invasion, in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Some smaller territories were incorporated directly into the already existing Gaue East Prussia and Silesia, while the bulk of the land was used to create new Reichsgaue Danzig-West Prussia and Wartheland. Of those, Reichsgau Wartheland was the largest and the only one comprising solely the annexed territory.[2]

The official term used by the Nazi authorities for these areas was the "incorporated Eastern territories" (German: Eingegliederte Ostgebiete).[3] They planned for a complete Germanization of the annexed territories, considering them part of their lebensraum.[4] The local Jewish population was forced to live in ghettos, and was gradually deported to concentration and extermination camps, the most infamous of which, Auschwitz, was located in annexed East Upper Silesia. The local Polish population was to be gradually replaced by German settlers. The Polish elite especially became subject to mass murder,[5] and an estimated 780,000 Poles were subject to expulsion, either to the General Government or to the Altreich for forced labour. The remaining Polish population was strictly segregated from the German population and subject to a variety of repressive measures. These included forced labour and their exclusion from all political and many cultural aspects of society. At the same time, the local German minority was granted several privileges, and their number was steadily raised by the settlement of ethnic Germans, including those displaced by the Nazi-Soviet population transfers.

After Vistula-Oder offensive in early 1945, the Soviet Union took control over the territories. The ethnic German population either fled the Red Army or were later expelled and the territories became part of the People's Republic of Poland.


  • Background 1
  • Administration 2
    • Military and early civil administration, September 1939 2.1
    • Hitler's annexation decree, October 1939 2.2
    • Administrative changes following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, June 1941 2.3
    • Planned extension of annexation plans 2.4
    • Administrative divisions 2.5
  • Demographics 3
    • Demography in 1939 3.1
    • Nazi Germanization Plans 3.2
    • Expulsion and genocide of Poles and Jews 3.3
    • German colonization and settlement 3.4
  • Ethnic segregation 4
  • Repressions against Polish and Jewish population 5
    • Economic discrimination 5.1
    • Slave labour 5.2
    • Reducing biological growth of Polish population 5.3
    • Discrimination against the Polish language 5.4
    • Discrimination in education 5.5
    • Religion 5.6
    • Judicial system 5.7
    • Kidnapping and murder of Polish children 5.8
    • Consequences 5.9
  • Status of German minority 6
    • Case study-Mława district 6.1
  • Post-war changes 7
  • See also 8
  • Footnotes 9
  • External links 10


Already in the fall of 1933 Adolf Hitler revealed to his closest associates his intentions to annex western Poland into an envisioned Greater Germany.[6] After the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Third Reich, in October annexed an area of 92,500 km²[1] (23.7%[1] of pre-war Poland) with a population of about 10,000,000 people (30%[1] of the pre-war Polish population).[7][8] The remainder of the Polish territory was either annexed by the Soviet Union (201,000 km²[1] or 51.6%[1] of pre-war Poland as per the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) or made into the German-controlled General Government occupation zone (95,500 km²[1] or 24.5%[1] of pre-war Poland). A tiny portion of pre-war Poland (700 km²[1]) was annexed by Nazi Slovakia.

Since 1935, Nazi Germany was divided into provinces (Gaue) which had replaced the former German states and Prussian provinces. Of the territories annexed, some were attached to the already existing Gaue East Prussia and Silesia (later Upper Silesia), while from others new Reichsgaue Danzig-West Prussia and Wartheland were constituted. Wartheland was the only Gau constituted solely from annexed territory,[2] Danzig-West Prussia comprised also former German areas and the former Free City of Danzig. The occupied General Government remained outside the Third Reich.

The annexation violated international law (in particular, the Hague Convention IV 1907).[9][10] Nazi Germany's officials discussed the convention and tried to circumvent it by declaring the war against Poland over prior to the annexation, which in their view made the convention non-applicable.[10]


Map of Nazi Germany showing its administrative subdivisions, the Gaue and Reichsgaue and annexed areas in 1944
Arthur Greiser in German occupied Poznań, 2 October 1939

Military and early civil administration, September 1939

On 8 and 13 September 1939, the German military districts of "Posen" (Poznan), commanded by general Alfred von Vollard-Bockelberg, and "Westpreußen" (West Prussia), commanded by general Walter Heitz, were established in conquered Greater Poland and Pomerelia, respectively.[11] Based on laws of 21 May 1935 and 1 June 1938, the German military, Wehrmacht, delegated civilian administrative powers to"Chiefs of Civil Administration" (Chefs der Zivilverwaltung, CdZ).[12] Hitler appointed Arthur Greiser to become the CdZ of the Posen military district, and Danzig's Gauleiter Albert Forster to become the CdZ of the West Prussian military district.[11] On 3 October 1939, the military districts "Lodz" (Łódź) and "Krakau" (Kraków) were set up under command of major generals Gerd von Rundstedt and Wilhelm List, and Hitler appointed Hans Frank and Arthur Seyß-Inquart as civil heads, respectively.[11] Frank was at the same time appointed "supreme chief administrator" for all occupied territories.[11]

Hitler's annexation decree, October 1939

A decree[13] issued by Hitler on 8 October 1939 provided for the annexation of former western Polish areas and the former Free City of Danzig, and a separate by-law stipulated the inclusion of the area around Suwalki (the Suwalki triangle).[8][14]

The first two paragraphs of the decree established "Reichsgau Posen" in Greater Poland with the government regions (Regierungsbezirk) Hohensalza, Posen, and Kalisch, as well as "Reichsgau West Prussia" (German: Westpreußen) in Pomerelia with the government regions Bromberg, Danzig, and Marienwerder.[8] These government regions were named after the German language names of their chief cities: Hohensalza (Inowrocław), Posen (Poznań), Kalisch (Kalisz), Bromberg (Bydgoszcz), Danzig (Gdańsk), and Marienwerder (Kwidzyn). The annexed territories were twice as large as former Prussian conquests in the Partitions of Poland, also contained twice as many people. Compared to 1914, the border of Reich was extended eastwards by some 150–200 km on average.[15] Despite this fact, Germany used old Prussian propaganda of creating a "German living wall" in Polish territories.[16] On 29 January 1940, Reichsgau Posen was renamed "Reichsgau Wartheland" (Warthegau).[8] Reichsgau West Prussia was renamed "Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia".

The remaining annexed areas were not made separate provinces but included in the existing provinces of East Prussia and Upper Silesia per §4 of Hitler's decree.[8] Arthur Greiser was made Gauleiter of Reichsgau Posen, and Albert Forster of Reichsgau West Prussia.[8]

Administrative changes following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, June 1941

After the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the district of Białystok, which included the Białystok, Bielsk Podlaski, Grajewo, Łomża, Sokółka, Volkovysk, and Grodno Counties, was attached to (not incorporated into) East Prussia.[17][18] Other Polish territories, first annexed by Soviet Union and then by Germany, was incorporated into Reichskommissariat Ostland (in the north), Reichskommissariat Ukraine (in the south) and the General Government (Distrikt Galizien in the utmost south).

Planned extension of annexation plans

The Nazi government intended to continue its incorporation of pre-war Polish territory into the Third Reich. The rump General Government region of occupied Poland already under complete German civil control was merely seen as a transitional form of government, before the area's complete future integration into the Greater German Reich (Grossdeutsches Reich).[19] The German bureaucrats subsequently discussed various proposals for the dismemberment of the remaining territories.

Hans Frank advocated for the transformation of some or all of his province into a "Vandalengau", in honor of the East Germanic Vandal tribes who in Ancient Times had dwelt in the Vistula river basin before the Barbarian migrations.[19] In late 1939 a sixteen-man commission was also active to chart the boundaries of a projected Reichsgau Beskidenland (named after the Beskid mountain range), which would have encompassed the areas lying west of Kraków up to the San river to the east of it.[20]

Nazi Party Secretary Martin Bormann on the other hand proposed that the General Government would in the near future be turned into 3–5 Reichsgaue or Reichsobergaue, including the Galician district.[21][22] Leaving such discussions open for the conclusion of the war, Hitler never officially adopted or implemented any of these suggestions, instead retaining the status quo of using the areas as a labor reservoir.[21]

Administrative divisions

Nazi German administrative units Annexed administrative units
(government region)
Polish voivodeship/
Reichsgau Wartheland
initially Reichsgau Posen[23]
Poznań all counties
Łódź most counties
Pomeranian five counties
Warsaw one county
Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia1
initially Reichsgau West Prussia
Greater Pomeranian most counties
Free City of Danzig
East Prussia1
southernmost part2
Warsaw Ciechanów, Działdowo, Maków, Mława,
Płock, Płońsk, Przasnysz, Sierpc;
parts of Łomża, Ostrołęka, Pułtusk,
Sochaczew, Warsaw
Białystok Suwałki and part of Augustów
Bezirk Białystok
(attached in 1941)6
Białystok Białystok, Bielsk Podlaski, Grajewo, Łomża,
Sokółka, Volkovysk, Grodno
(Upper) Silesia1,3
easternmost part4
Kielce Będzin, Olkusz, Sosnowiec, Zawiercie
Kraków Chrzanów, Oświęcim, Żywiec[24]
1 Gau or Regierungsbezirk only partially comprised annexed territory

2 the annexed parts are also referred to as "South East Prussia" (German: Südostpreußen)
3 Gau Upper Silesia was created in 1941, before it was part of Gau Silesia
4 the annexed parts are also referred to as "East Upper Silesia" (German: Ostoberschlesien)
5 named after the chief city, Polish: Łódź. This area was joined into the Warthegau on 9 November 1939;[25] on 12 April 1940 Łódź's name was rendered Litzmannstadt, thus the Regierungsbezirk's name was changed accordingly.[25]
6 not incorporated into, but administered by Gau East Prussia, attached after the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union, 1941

"The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland", by the Polish government-in-exile addressed to the wartime allies of the then-United Nations, 1942


Demography in 1939

Before the Nazi German invasion in September 1939 and the subsequent annexation in October, the territories held up to 10,568,000 people or some 30% of pre-1939 Poland's population.[8][23] Due to flights, war losses, natural migration and the lack of contemporary reliable data, demographics especially in the border regions can only be estimated.[26]

Area and population data in 1939 of Nazi German Gaue that included annexed territory: Estimates according to Nazi German Bureau for Racial Policies, 25 November 1939[27]
Gau/Reichsgau East Prussia Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia Reichsgau Wartheland Province of Silesia Total of the four provinces Only annexed parts of these provinces
Area (km2) 52,099 25,705 40,309 46,908 165,021 86,295
Total population 3,113,000 2,156,000 4,203,000 7,258,000 16,729,000 9,082,000
Persons per km2 61 84 104 155 101 105
Germans 2,004,768 817,474 309,002 3,813,930 8,145,174 597,784
% Germans 71% 38% 7% 66% 49% 7%
Jews 79,198 23,302 322,947 123,202 548,649 494,913
% Jews 3% 1% 8% 2% 3% 5%
Poles 810,834 1,310,099 3,558,489 2,184,329 7,863,751 7,817,377
% Poles 26% 61% 85% 30% 47% 86%
Other 17,773 4,666 11,984 136,578 171,001 171,001

Heinemann (2003) gives identical numbers for Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia[28] and Warthegau.[29] For East Upper Silesia, Heinemann gives numbers based on the Nazi census of December 1939, that claimed they were 2.43 million people, of whom ~1.08 million were ethnic Germans, ~930,000 Poles, and ~90,000 Jews.[30] Heinemann and Encyclopaedia Judaica also give a higher estimate regarding the Jewish population, whose number they put between 560,000 and 586,628 people.[31][32] Eberhardt (2006) confirms the number given by the Bureau for Racial Policy by saying about 600,000 people were Germans.[33]

Waszak (1970) cited slightly differing estimates, first published in 1947:

Area and population data in 1939 of Nazi German Gaue that included annexed territory: Estimates of 1947[34] as cited by Stanisław Waszak, Demographic Picture of the German Occupation (1970)[26]
Gau Total population Poles Germans Jews Ukrainians Others
Wartheland 4.933.600 4.220.200 324.600 384.500 4.300
Upper Silesia 2.632.630 2.404.670 98.204 124.877 1.202 3.677
Danzig-West Prussia 1.571.215 1.393.717 158.377 14.458 1.648 3.020
East Prussia 1.001.560 886.061 18.400 79.098 8.0099 9.902
Total 10.139.005 8.904.648 599.576 602.953 10.949 20.899

Census data was compiled by the Nazi Germany in Danzig-West Prussia on 3 December,[35] and in Warthegau and Upper Silesia on 17 December.[36] A number of Poles tried to present themselves as Germans (Volksdeutsche) hoping to avoid the anti-Polish atrocities[37] or were classified as Germans to meet quotas.[38]

Nazi Germanization Plans

Nazis assemble in Posen (Poznań) on 4 November 1939
Photo from Nazi-occupied Łódź just after its renaming for "Litzmannstadt" (1940). A board announcing a new name for a city.

On October 7, 1939, Hitler appointed

  • Map of Poland under German and Soviet occupation
  • The expulstion of the Germans

External links

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Maly Rocznik Statystyczny (wrzesien 1939 – czerwiec 1941), Ministerstwo Informacji i Documentacji, London 1941, p.5, as cited in Piotr Eberhardt, Political Migrations in Poland, 1939–1948, Warsaw 2006, p.4 [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Czesław Łuczak, "Położenie ludności polskiej w Kraju Warty 1939–1945. Dokumenty niemieckie", Poznań 1987, pages V-XIII
  3. ^ The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume 1 Chapter XIII – Germanization and Spoliation. Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library. Avalon Project : Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression – Volume 1 Chapter XIII – Germanization and Spoliation
  4. ^ "Poles: Victims of the Nazi Era"
  5. ^ a b Richard C. Lukas, Did the Children Cry? Hitler's War against Jewish and Polish Children, 1939–1945. Hippocrene Books, New York, 2001.
  6. ^ "Non-Germans" under the Third Reich Diemut Majer page 188 The Johns Hopkins University Press 2003
  7. ^ a b c Nowa Encyklopedia Powszechna PWN Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe Warszawa 2004 page 149 volume 6
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Andreas Toppe, Militär und Kriegsvölkerrecht: Rechtsnorm, Fachdiskurs und Kriegspraxis in Deutschland 1899–1940, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2008, p.399, ISBN 978-3-486-58206-2
  10. ^ a b Andreas Toppe, Militär und Kriegsvölkerrecht: Rechtsnorm, Fachdiskurs und Kriegspraxis in Deutschland 1899–1940, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2008, p.409, ISBN 978-3-486-58206-2
  11. ^ a b c d Andreas Toppe, Militär und Kriegsvölkerrecht: Rechtsnorm, Fachdiskurs und Kriegspraxis in Deutschland 1899–1940, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2008, p.398, ISBN 978-3-486-58206-2
  12. ^ Andreas Toppe, Militär und Kriegsvölkerrecht: Rechtsnorm, Fachdiskurs und Kriegspraxis in Deutschland 1899–1940, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2008, p.397, ISBN 978-3-486-58206-2
  13. ^ "Erlaß des Führers und Reichskanzlers über die Gliederung und Verwaltung der Ostgebiete"
  14. ^ Piotr Eberhardt, Political Migrations in Poland, 1939–1948, Warsaw 2006, p.4 [2]
  15. ^ Czesław Madajczyk. Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce pages 19–73 volume 1, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa, 1970
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  17. ^ Leni Yahil, Ina Friedman, Ḥayah Galai, The Holocaust: the fate of European Jewry, 1932–1945, Oxford University Press US, 1991, p.261, ISBN 978-0-19-504523-9: confirms reaching Białystok in June 1941 and subsequent annexation of Białystok and the surrounding area, but does not detail the counties
  18. ^ Bruno Wasser, Himmlers Raumplanung im Osten: Der Generalplan Ost in Polen, 1940–1944, Birkhäuser, 1993, p.20, ISBN 978-3-7643-2852-8: confirming that B was attached, but not incorporated ("von Ostpreußen aus verwaltet")
  19. ^ a b Rich, Norman (1974). Hitler's War Aims: The Establishment of the New Order. W.W. Norton & Company, p. 89.
  20. ^ Burleigh, Michael (1988). Germany turns eastwards: a study of Ostforschung in the Third Reich. Cambridge University Press, p. 159. [3]
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  22. ^ Madajczyk, Czesław; Puchert, Berthold (1987). Die Okkupationspolitik Nazideutschlands in Polen 1939–1945. Akademie-Verlag, p. 102.[5] (in German)
  23. ^ a b c d Piotr Eberhardt, Political Migrations in Poland, 1939–1948, Warsaw 2006, [6]: 10,568,000 people
  24. ^ Ryszard Kaczmarek Górnoślązacy i górnośląscy gauleiterzy Biuletyn IPN NR 6–7 (41–42) 2004 page 46
  25. ^ a b Bruno Wasser, Himmlers Raumplanung im Osten: Der Generalplan Ost in Polen, 1940–1944, Birkhäuser, 1993, p.20, ISBN 978-3-7643-2852-8
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Czesław Madajczyk. Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce pages 234–286 volume 1, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa, 1970
  27. ^ E. Wetzel, G. Hecht, Memorandum: Die Frage der Behandlung der Bevölkerung der ehemaligen polnischen Gebiete nach rassenpolitischen Gesichtspunkten. Hrsg. von der Reichsleitung, Rassenpoltisches Amt, Berlin 25.11. 1939, cited in this paper including a reference to Bundesarchiv R 49/75, page 10
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  31. ^ a b Encyclopaedia Judaica, Polish Jewry, Chapter 6 at Zaglembie
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  85. ^ a b c
  86. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Czesław Madajczyk. Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce pages 177–212 volume 2, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa, 1970
  87. ^ a b c Olgierd Kiec, Die evangelischen Kirchen in der Wojewodschaft Poznań 1918–1939 [=Kościoły ewangelickie w Wielkopolsce wobec kwestii narodowościowej w latach 1918–1939, Warszawa: Upowszechnianie Nauki Oświata, 1995, ISBN 83-85618-21-X; German], Siegfried Schmidt (trl.), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1998, (Quellen und Studien / Deutsches Historisches Institut Warschau / Niemiecki Instytut Historyczny w Warszawie; vol. 8), p. 222. ISBN 3-447-04030-0.
  88. ^ Olgierd Kiec, Die evangelischen Kirchen in der Wojewodschaft Poznań 1918–1939, [=Kościoły ewangelickie w Wielkopolsce wobec kwestii narodowościowej w latach 1918–1939, Warszawa: Upowszechnianie Nauki Oświata, 1995, ISBN 83-85618-21-X; German], Siegfried Schmidt (trl.), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1998, (Quellen und Studien / Deutsches Historisches Institut Warschau / Niemiecki Instytut Historyczny w Warszawie; vol. 8), p. 211. ISBN 3-447-04030-0.
  89. ^ Claus Wagener, "Nationalsozialistische Kirchenpolitik und protestantische Kirchen nach 1933", in: Kirchenkampf in Berlin 1932–1945: 42 Stadtgeschichten, Olaf Kühl-Freudenstein, Peter Noss and Claus Wagener (eds.), Berlin: Institut Kirche und Judentum, 1999, (=Studien zu Kirche und Judentum; vol. 18), pp. 76–96, here p. 95. ISBN 3-923095-61-9.
  90. ^ Barbara Krüger and Peter Noss, "Die Strukturen in der Evangelischen Kirche 1933–1945", in: Kirchenkampf in Berlin 1932–1945: 42 Stadtgeschichten, Olaf Kühl-Freudenstein, Peter Noss and Claus Wagener (eds.), Berlin: Institut Kirche und Judentum, 1999, (=Studien zu Kirche und Judentum; vol. 18), pp. 149–171, here p. 167. ISBN 3-923095-61-9.
  91. ^ a b c d e f g Czesław Madajczyk. Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce pages 235–259 volume 2, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa, 1970
  92. ^ a b c d e f g h Czesław Madajczyk. Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce pages 485–506 volume 1, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa, 1970
  93. ^ Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p543 ISBN 978-0-393-02030-4
  94. ^ Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p544 ISBN 978-0-393-02030-4
  95. ^ Lynn H. Nicholas, Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web p 247 ISBN 978-0-679-77663-5
  96. ^ "Biologists under Hitler" Ute Deichmann, Thomas Dunlap Harvard University Press, 1999
  97. ^ "The German dictatorship: the origins, structure, and effects of national socialism" page 272 Karl Dietrich Bracher, Jean Steinberg – 1970 Praeger Publishers, 1970
  98. ^ The Origins of the Final Solution Christopher R. Browning, Jürgen Matthäus page 49 University of Nebraska Press, 2007


See also

None of the Nazi-ordered territorial changes were recognized by the Allies of World War II, and the annexed territories became the center of the Peoples' Republic of Poland after World War II. Germans living in the formerly annexed territories fled or were expelled to post-war Germany. In post-war communist Poland, some captured German Nazis and collaborators were put on trial. West Germany did not extradite people charged in Communist Poland.

Post-war changes

A case study of relationship of Germans towards Poles was conducted by Polish Home Army unit in Mława. From the start of the war till spring 1942 Polish Underground performed a thorough analysis of 1,100 Germans and their actions and behaviour towards Polish population. Out of those, 9 Germans engaged in friendly relationship with Poles or tried to help them (among those were 3 craftsmen, 3 policeman, 1 camp guard, 1 administration official). The group who took supported Nazis and engaged in despicable acts was much larger.[92]

Case study-Mława district

Polish diaries and memoirs from the era remember Volksdeutsche as particularly brutal and ruthless group.[92] Pomerania was noted as a region with very strong pro-Nazi German society by Polish observers as well as Łódź. Support for German nationalism was especially evident in regards to young part of the population, which was strongly influenced by Nazis ideology. The mass conscription of young Germans in military by 1942 was greeted with relief by the Polish population. When trains with wounded and crippled German soldiers started returning from Eastern Front they were welcomed alongside train tracks by groups of celebrating Polish population.[92] Local Germans were rewarded for their support in genocide of Jews and Poles and invasion of Poland by high positions in administration and increased their wealth by confiscations of Polish and Jewish property.[92] The German colonists were of wide origin and their image varied. The ones from Bessarabia were considered the worst. In all however was noted an infinite support for Hitler and belief in German state's supremacy, Many were thankful for material benefits provided by German state. In time their attitude towards local Poles grew in harshness and ruthlessness. While some initially talked to Poles, in time as they soaked up Nazi ideology, this stopped, and some turned to violence against Poles.[92] On farms the Poles were treated by Germans as farm animals, and some Germans treated their dogs more humanely than Polish slave labourers.[92] Only 529 cases of friendly contacts between Poles and Germans were reported by German police in 1941[92] out of 786,000 Germans located in Wartheland. O

Nazi Germany put the Germans in a position to economically exploit the Polish society, and provided them with privileges and a comparably high standard of living at the expense of the Poles, to ensure their loyalty.[2] While certain conditions under Nazi rule were limiting the freedoms of Germans, such as the dissolution of various German religious and political associations, the Nazi regime provided for political, cultural, and material benefits.[2] Germans received executive positions from which people classified as "Untermenschen" were removed.[2] German was made the only official language.[16] Germans received the right to enter any Polish home at will to perform revision and identification of people living there at any time, and could acquire possessions from Poles and Jews with little effort and mostly without payment or at a low price. For example, a German could easily request a Polish house or apartment from the government, even if Poles were still living there.[2] As the overwhelming majority of Germans in annexed authorities supported Nazi authorities and their policies, this gave the Nazi politicians a degree of self-confidence based on popular support.[2] In Warthegau alone out of 309,002 Germans, 180,000 served in various organizations that provided assistance and were vital to Nazi plans against Poles and Jews.[2] They provided invaluable due to their knowledge of local conditions and society. Motives for cooperation ranged from ideological support for Nazism to material opportunism.[2]

Numerous cultural events were organized for German community. A network of public schools engaging in various forms of education was set up across the territories. Selbstschutz paramilitia units engaged in arresting Jews and Poles, the oversight of their expulsions, and murder.[98]

This began with the Volksliste, the classification of people deemed of German blood into those Germans who had collaborated before the war; those still regarding themselves as German, but who had been neutral; partially Polonized but Germanizable; and those Germans who had been absorbed into Polish nationality.[94] Any person classified as German who resisted was to be deported to a concentration camp.[5] Himmler himself oversaw cases of obstinate Germans, and gave orders for concentration camps, or separation of families, or forced labor, in efforts to break down resistance.[95]

In accordance with Nazi racial theory, the Nazis set out to cull German blood out of the mixed population, if necessary by force.[81] Heinrich Himmler declared that no drop of German blood would be lost or left behind for an alien race.[93]

Status of German minority

The repressive system unified Polish reaction to German occupation, which went above political and ideological differences.[16] The German actions of forced resettlement and deportations in territories annexed by Third Reich in the end brought disadvantageous consequences for the German population. The precedent they created was used as justification in the later relocation of the German population[23]


As the war continued the attitude of Poles changed from hostility to hatred towards the Germans, and while already animosity existed due to German oppression of Poles in the 19th century, the racist and genocidal actions of German state during Second World War heightened this conflict to another level.[92]

Polish children were kidnapped for Germanization, forced labour and medical experiments.[7] in annexed territories. They were forbidden to enter playgrounds for German children and their healthcare was lowered resulting in rising deaths among the young.[77]

Kidnapping and murder of Polish children

The harshness of German law was demonstrated by such cases, as 5 months of penal camp for a woman who smiled to English POW's in Ostrów Wielkopolski.[77] A 15-year-old girl who gave a cigarette to a POW was sentenced for 3 months imprisonment in concentration camp.[77] In order to intimidate Polish population a law was passed that ordered obligatory participation in mass executions.[77]

In judicial system the proceedings against Poles were shortened. In court Poles had no legal protection.[16] Public whipping, beatings of Poles were allowed by German authorities. Public beatings of Poles by Germans were accepted by law as long as the beating did not "lower the productivity of a Pole".[2] German criminal law was introduced on Polish territories annexed to Reich on 6 VI 1940.[91] It contained several parts based solely on racial and ethnic category of the person subject to trial. Special courts were established which were granted right to pass death sentences in quick and easy way. The idea that Poles and Jews just like Germans could stand before the same court was unacceptable to German authorities.[91] The base idea of the law was to put as many as possible violations against German occupation under penalty. Prison as punishment was considered unsuitable and death sentence and whipping preferred in designed projects of the law.[91] Additionally hard labour and very hard labour were introduced as methods of punishment. The core ideology of the law and its motivation was based on racist ideology.[91] As the German Interior Ministry explained the foundation of the law was "Polish guilt which can’t be washed away, and that proves Poles are not worthy of Europe" and that the atrocious nature of Poles is the starting point of the German penal law.[91] The new law gave almost unlimited right to pass death sentences against Poles and imprisonment in concentration camps.[91] For example in Katowice a special German court passed in 40% of cases deportation to Auschwitz as punishment, and in 60% of cases death penalty. In Białystok in proceedings under the supervision of Alfred Konig, 80% of accused were sentenced to death and 15% – to concentration camps.[91]

Judicial system

Location of the church diocese Number of priests in 1939 Number of priests who perished Number of priests who perished (percentage) Number of priests murdered Number of priests who died in prisons and concentration camps
Chełmno 634 303 47,8 230 73
Katowice 489 43 8,7 6 37
Kielce 357 13 3,6 2 11
Kraków 680 30 4,4 3 27
Łomża 292 48 16,4 12 36
Łódź 347 126 36,8 9 119
Gniezno 369 180 48,8 17 163
Płock 382 109 28,5 4 105
Poznań 681 212 31,1 1 211
Włocławek 433 213 49,2 32 181
Warszawa 657 82 12,4 32 50
Number of Catholic Polish priests killed within the territories annexed to the German Reich according to Czesław Madajczyk (1970):[86]

Many Catholic Polish priests were arrested and put into concentration camps or prisons[16] or murdered in executions.[85] Historic churches were destroyed, and in several cases Germans defiled icons or religious items symbolic for Polish people.[16] Poles were forbidden to attend funerals of other Poles unless they were direct and close family of the person which died.[16] Several Catholic Polish churches were closed down. Selected Catholic Polish religious songs banned, while books containing them were confiscated and destroyed. Polish religious organisations were dissolved. In many places objects of religious worship of significance to Poles were destroyed or defiled.[16]

Eventually Germans abandoned any public justification or explanations regarding arrests and expulsions.[86] From 2,500 Catholic priests in the Warthegau region 752 perished and 1/3 survived the war in prisons and concentration camps.[86] In Poznań out of 800 Catholic Polish priests in 1939, only 34 remained in 1943.[86] In Upper Silesia the Bishop of Katowice, Stanisław Adamski, ordered Poles to pray in German and identify as Germans. Throughout the war Adamski encouraged this with acceptance of Polish Government in Exile, in order to save the local population from German genocide.[86] In monasteries he brought Germans who would represent them to German officials. Nevertheless at least 60 were closed. To avoid accusations of personal interests, after issuing this call he publicly declared himself Polish.[86] Despite Adamski's actions the Upper Silesian Polish Catholic church was also subject of repression – 43 priests were murdered in concentration camps and prisons, 2 died in executions for their collaboration with Polish resistance, 13 were expelled to General Government (including 2 bishops), several were stripped of their function.[86]

In 1940 Hanns Kerrl, the Reich's minister of church affairs, tried to usurp competence over congregations in Danzig-West Prussia and the Wartheland. While he succeeded in Danzig-West Prussia, Greiser – with the help of Hitler – repelled Kerrl's attempt in the Wartheland.[90] The United Evangelical Church in Poland congregations in the Pomeranian Voivodeship could receive the status as statutory corporations – although in a dictatorship this meant little. However, therefore the church body split, its Pomerellian congregations merged in the new old-Prussian rather provisional Ecclesiastical Region of Danzig-West Prussia in 1940. The remaining United Evangelical Church in Poland had to rename into the United Evangelical Church in the Wartheland. While all Jewish clerics, and most Catholic and Lutheran clerics of Polish native language had been removed from their functions, often even killed or enjailed, pastors of the United Evangelical Church were tolerated as long they were not convicted for speaking up against the crimes in the Wartheland.

The sparse Lutheran congregations of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, e.g. in Bydgoszcz and Poznań, mostly comprising congregants from former Russian Poland, were expelled by the German occupants. Also the situation of the United Evangelical Church in Poland, mostly comprising Poles of German language, deteriorated.[88] While its congregants, if considered by the Nazi occupants to be of good breed for their Germanisation plans in the Wartheland, were treated in a way to win them for the Nazi politics, their church body and confessors of faith underlay the same anticlerical regulations by Arthur Greiser as the Catholics. While the Polish authorities had always protracted their confirmation of the United Evangelical Church in Poland as religious statutory corporation, Greiser had done away with that status for all religious bodies in the Wartheland. Greiser pressed the United Evangelical Church in Poland down to a mere civic association.[89] Greiser's orders as to civic associations allowed only inhabitants who had been living before 1 September 1939 in the area of the Wartheland, and new immigrants – usually of German native language – from Soviet-annexed states (eastern Poland, Baltic states) to join these associations and only if they were not German citizens.[87] Thus even General Superintendent Paul Blau, spiritual leader of the United Evangelical Church, who had been tolerated by the Polish authorities, although no Polish citizen, was declared a non-member of his own church body downgraded to an association, because he bore the German citizenship.[87]

. Up to 80% of Catholic Polish priests were to be expelled, and massive arrests followed. łapanka Access to masses was hindered, and often Germans subjected Polish worshippers leaving the church to [86] Most of religious monuments, rural crosses, small chapels were eradicated from the region as well.[86] In Wartheland the occupants decided against using Catholic German priests for Germanisation. The Catholic Polish church was to disappear completely. On 13 September 1941

[86] Albert Forster praised Splett's work for Germany.[86] Besides banning Polish language, Splett ordered removal of Polish signs and names in graveyards from monuments and graves and in all churches under his jurisdiction.[86] accepted his explanation.Vatican Eventually [86] After this argument he tried to claim that confessions in Polish are used for "nationalistic means".[86] Not only did Splett defend his ban, he argued it was to "protect" people making the confessions.[86] from December 1939 on. Under his reign Polish priesthood was oppressed, and prayers and masses under his direction praised Hitler. He also issued a ban against use of Polish language in churches. When he banned confessions in Polish in May 1940 the Vatican intervened and ordered that the ban be lifted.diocesan administrator Splett cooperated with Forster and introduced 200 Catholic German priests into Chełmno diocese where he had been appointed as [86]. Monasteries were closed, their collection of arts and books stolen or destroyed by Germans.Stutthof and Dachau Those who were arrested ended in concentration camps of [86] where almost every Catholic Polish church was closed down, robbed and turned ever into some kind of warehouse, stable or depot. Catholic Polish priests faced three waves of arrests after initial massacres.Pomeranian Voivodeship The earliest victim was the [86] Their work was helped by the fact that as German terror grew and became widely known many high-ranking members of Catholic Polish clergy sought refuge abroad to save themselves (Germans were murdering elites of Polish nation as part of their plans) and their deputies were prevented from taking office.[86] With the position of the Catholic Church in Germany threatened itself since 1933 Bertram called for freedom of faith.[86] The main contact point for the Nazis in those plans was

In time, as the war continued the growing split between German Catholics and the persecuted Polish church facing destruction worried the Vatican and the Pope himself.[86] The annexed parts of Poland covered the dioceses located in Gniezno, Poznań, Chełmno, Katowice, Włocławek, most of Łódź and Płock as well parts of the Warsaw diocese, Łomża, Częstochowa and Kielce.[86] The German authorities in line with the policy of total Germanisation aimed to completely destroy Catholic Polish church in those locations and replace it with Catholic German priests and structures. Catholic Polish priests were to be either expelled or exterminated.[86]

Already in the 19th century Catholic Germans of Polish ethnicity and the German state clashed in a struggle for the unadulterated Roman Catholic faith in events like the Kulturkampf of the 19th century.[85] In those regions of Germany with a considerable population of Polish ethnicity Catholic Church mobilised Polish resistance during the Prussian partitions of Poland and served as a stronghold of Polish identity. Due to this Nazis targeted it in the newlly annexed territories. In the General Government the attitude of Nazis was different as it was to serve as temporary work camp and reservation for Poles and they wanted Church's religion to serve as tool to control Poles (this also meant extermination and terror against priests as well opposing Nazi plans) existence.[85] The Nazi fight against Polish parts of Catholic Church was also a problem for the Catholic Church in Germany, where many priests supported nationalist claims during the war and were faced with a split of the Church itself as Polish Catholics were persecuted.[86] Overall the German hierarchy silently accepted (and in some cases supported or encouraged) the discrimination and treatment of Poles as Untermenschen, with notable individual exceptions who either protested or tried to help their fellow church members of non-German ethnicity.[86]

The German state's fight during the war to destroy the Polish nation covered religious life of Poles as well. Jewish Poles were hit the worst since those who had survived the first murderous actions against them in the course of the invasion were all expelled from German-annexed Poland to German-occupied Poland. Especially outspoken advocates of Judaism and rabbis were highly endangered to be murdered by the German occupants. All synagogues have been expropriated, diverted and misused or destroyed. The same fate hit many Jewish cemeteries.


In 1939 Polish teachers created underground education in occupied Poland. Thousands of its members were arrested and killed by the Germans. It is estimated that about 15% of Polish teachers[83] or 8,000[84] died during the occupation period. Extermination of teachers and scientists was part of a Nazi plan to eliminate all Polish intelligentia during action Intelligenzaktion.

In Poznań, Germans collected all Polish books and burned them.[77]

The Polish population was banned from performing or creating any type of music and from owning radio receivers. Distribution of Polish books was forbidden and persecuted by the German police; at the same time, Polish libraries were closed and many of their possessions destroyed.[16] Millions of books were lost in this manner.[82] Lending Polish books was a punishable offense for which one could be sentenced to concentration camps.[16] Additionally, education that would enable Poles possessing skills needed in manufacturing and trade was forbidden. Poles were banned from undertaking any exams for craftsmen.[16] Throughout the whole occupation, this law was strictly observed.[16]

Writing and reading were not taught. Even so, such schools covered a small number of Polish children, for example in Łódź only one-tenth of children between 9 and 13 attended them.[16] Often under the cover of education, the Germans organised child labour, sending the children to perform hard physical work.[16]

For the non-German population of the East there can be no type of school above the four-grade rudimentary school. The job of these schools should be confined to the teaching of counting (no higher than up to 500), the writing of one's name, and the teaching that God's commandment means obedience to the Germans, honesty, industry and politeness. Reading I do not consider essential.

In some regions, schools for children were established where according to directives of Himmler:[79]

Education standards for Poles were significantly lowered, so that future Poles would become slaves to Germans.[79] All Polish schools and cultural institutions were closed.[81] Teaching of history, literature and geography to Poles was prohibited.[79] Further education for "racially valuable" children was to be provided by removing the child to Germany for Germanization.[79]

Discrimination in education

A particular form of oppression was a law ordering the Poles to use German in all contacts with officials under penalty of imprisonment.[16] Poles who did not know German had to hire a translator; however, such jobs were restricted by German authorities, and Poles with knowledge of German who helped their countrymen for free were imprisoned.[16] This law covered all contacts between Poles and Germans and made it difficult, if not impossible, for Poles to pay obligatory taxes (which were higher for Poles) and various state-imposed donations for German society by Poles.[16] A total ban on Polish language was proposed during the war, but as the areas still contained a large number of Poles, it was determined to be impractical at the time of the proposal.[16] A particular form of harassment was a law requiring imprisoned Poles to communicate with their families solely in German. In practice, this meant that many families received no information on their relatives as correspondence in Polish was confiscated.[16]

A ban on the use of the Polish language was implemented in all institutions and offices in annexed territories, as well in certain public places like public transport in the cities.

Discrimination against the Polish language

The Nazis fell into a trap of perception—the seemingly high birth rate of Poles was one of consequences of expelling all Poles from higher classes into General Government—as such the Poles who remained were the ones with high birth rate, while those with few kids were no longer present.[26] Stripping Poles of all cultural activity by the Germans and leaving them to spend all time outside of work in homes, led to conditions favourable to sex and the rising birth rate. One practice that had terrible effects on Polish women was the refusal for female slave workers to travel home for birth. Pregnancies by Polish women-workers were subject to abortion, and in case of birth, the children were taken by SS Lebensborn. Polish slave labourers naturally were forbidden to engage in marriage.[26] The harsh nature of the German occupation however reduced the birth rate. In Poznań, at the end of the war, the birth rate was near zero; in Łódź and Innowrocław, the birth rate was negative-they were more deaths then births.[26] In comparison, the birth rate of Germans rose until the end of the war.[26] From 1939's birth rate survival of 850 live births per 1000 births, the rate fell to 680 per 1000 births in 1944.[26]

To further reduce the Polish population, a German official Krumey from occupied SD performed its own study on the problem. Among the things it concluded was the fact that the number of Poles was wrongly estimated in initial years; however, both the birth rate and survival of German children was higher than that of the Poles.[26] The proposed solution to Polish problem was mass sterilization of lower classes (named "primitives" by the report), sending married Poles to slave labour in Reich. An original idea was proposed by Karl Zieger, who believed those measures to be futile. Instead, he postulated that whole Polish villages should be moved and scattered into the Reich itself.[26]

Within Germany, OST-Arbeiters could be aborted, even against their will and contrary to the usual Nazi law against abortions.[79] Only if the parents appeared to be of "good blood" was the child to be born, and if deemed satisfactory, was removed to a Lebensborn institution.[79] Children who failed were sent to the Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte, where they routinely died within a few months for lack of food.[80]

To reduce the biological growth of the Polish people, a partial ban of marriage was introduced; Polish women were allowed to marry only at the age of 25 and men at the age of 28.[77] Married couples were separated when subjected to forced labour in Germany, and calorie intake was lowered for Poles. The forced labour working hours for both parents often meant that a child or infant was left without care and incidents and infant deaths soared.[77] The supply of dairy and fat products for Polish children were just one-fifth of that for German children.[77] Likewise, the winter brought many deaths, as Germans limited the available heating supplies to 1/4 of that available to Germans.[77] A strict ban on collecting coal left by trucks and supply wagons on the streets by non-Germans was introduced.[77]

Reducing biological growth of Polish population

Number of Poles sent to slave labour from annexed territories according to Nazi German estimates as cited by Madajczyk (1970)[26]
Time period Number of Poles from annexed territories subjected to slave labour
13 VII 1942 827.000
20 XI 1942 896.000
15 II 1943 934.000
31 VIII 1943 1.066.000
30 VI 1944 1.033.000
7 VII 1944
15 VIII 1944 1.015.000
30 IX 1944 1.053.000

While in General Government all Poles from age of 14 to 65 were subject to forced labour on behalf of Nazi German state, in annexed territories children had to work from the age of 9 (and in rural areas from the age of 7–8), additionally the duty to perform slave labour for Germans was extended to the age of 70 for men in annexed territories.[78] A network of outposts overseeing gathering of labour force was established by German authortities that coordinated forced labour together with German police units.[7]

Slave labour

Many Polish owned buildings and enterprises were confiscated, and all jewelry, furniture, money, clothing were subject to forced confiscation.[16] All executive positions which were formerly occupied by Poles and Jews were given to Germans.[2] Poles were forbidden to own rural and industrial enterprises, transport firms, building firms, workshops. The Nazis seized tens of thousands of Polish enterprises, from large industrial firms to small shops, without payment to the owners. Higher taxes and obligatory contributions were enforced on Polish population. Polish workers were stripped from any right to holidays or leave from work. Payment for overtime hours in work was abolished in general, only after working 61 hours in week were Poles allowed to receive a 10% higher compensation in pay (Germans were paid 100%). All employed Poles were given the lowest possible pay for their work.[16] Overall the German policy was to create lowly educated slaves out of Poles for basic work.[16]

Economic discrimination

The German administration classified people based on political and racial criteria with Poles and Jews being considered "untermenschen" (subhumans) as opposed to Germans who according to the Nazi racial ideology were the ubermenschen "herrenvolk" (master race). This classification had not only ideological meaning but was expressed in all aspects of practical daily life and treatment of the population.[16] Three main goals were formulated by German authorities in regards to Polish population: Gradual biological eradication of Polish nation, expulsion out of the annexed areas and use of Poles as forced labour, and changing remaining Poles into obedient low-skilled workers by draconian means.[16]

Because the Nazi Germany envisioned a near-term complete Germanization of the annexed territories, measures there differed from those implemented in the General Government. Germans and the remaining Poles and Jews were strictly segregated. In case of the Jews, this was achieved by ghettoization.

Repressions against Polish and Jewish population

Part of the population was classified as Volksdeutsche, mostly German ethnic minority. Some Poles were classified as such as well, either by their own free will or by force which included death threats.

Nazi Germany viewed Poles as subhuman, and such views were spread in the media. For example, in October 1939, Nazi propaganda was issued instructing Germans to view Poles, Jews and Gypsies as subhumans.[75] Occasionally, signs were posted in public places reading: "Entrance is forbidden to Poles, Jews, and dogs".[76] When Germans wanted to silence Poles and Jews, they used such expressions, as "stop barking" or "shut your snouts".[77]

"Access to a variety of cinemas, theatres, museums, hotels, cafes, restaurants, parks, playgrounds,[2] public transport such as first and second class train departments and best city trolleys, public bathhouses, beaches, public phones[2] and public benches was granted only to Germans, while forbidden by law for Poles and Jews.[2] Poles were not allowed to attend German-held masses.[16] Attending cultural activities or events for non-Germans was punishable, for example in Poznań, four young Polish women who attended an opera were sentenced by German court for 4 months of penal work camp[16] Other laws made it obligatory for Poles to give way to Germans in every occasion on sidewalks, and all Poles were to bow down to Germans as form of greeting.[16] Support for Nazi policies was high among the German minority in the annexed territories[16] Nevertheless as part of their racial policies the German officials forbid friendly or supportive contacts by Germans to Poles and Jews were dealt with quickly and harshly by the authorities by imprisonment in concentration camps, confiscation of property or death sentences.[2] After the Polish decrees became enforced, sexual relations between Germans and Poles were forbidden as Rassenschande (race defilement), a Polish women caught in an affair with a German man were arrested and in some cases forced into a brothel."[16]

Łuczak described the segregation:

The segregation of Germans and Poles was achieved by a variety of measures limiting their social interaction.

German Wehrmacht soldiers remove Polish signs in Gdynia, renamed Gotenhafen, September 1939.
Nur für Deutsche ("Only for Germans") on the tram number 8 in occupied Kraków.
German warning in occupied Poland 1939 – sign "No entrance for Poles!"

Ethnic segregation

Only those Germans deemed "racially valuable" were allowed to settle. People were "evaluated" and classified in the Durchschleusung process in which they were assigned to the categories RuS I ("most valuable") to IV ("not valuable").[71] Only RuS I to III were allowed to settle, those who found themselves in RuSIV were either classified as "A"-cases and brought to the Altreich for "non-selfdetermined work and re-education", or classified as "S"-cases who were either sent back to their original Eastern European homelands or "evacuated" to the General Government.[72] Initially, people classified as RuS III were to be deported to the Altreich for forced labour, yet since January 1940 were allowed to settle on smaller farms (20 hectare compared to 50 hectare farms for RuS I and II).[72] This change was based on a personal order by Himmler and led to a more restrictive categorization by the classifying officials.[72] About a million ethnic Germans had been subjected to Durchschleusung by the end of 1944.[73] RuS I and II were assigned to between 60% and 70% of the Baltic Germans and 44% of the Volhynian Germans, while many ethnic Germans from the Soviet Union were put in the lower categories.[74]

An official assigns a house in Warthegau to Baltic German resettlers

The increase of German population was most visible in the towns: in Poznań, the German population increased from ~6,000 in 1939 to 93,589 in 1944; in Łódź, from ~60,000 to 140,721; and in Inowrocław, from 956 to 10,713.[69] In Warthegau, where most Germans were settled, the share of the German population increased from 6.6% in 1939 to 21.2% in 1943.[70]

Number of German colonists settled as per Piotr Eberhardt, Political Migrations in Poland, 1939–1948, Warsaw 2006[68]
Area Number of German colonists
Warthegau 536,951
Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia 50,204
East Upper Silesia 36,870
Regierungsbezirk Zichenau 7,460

Duiker and Spielvogel note that up to two million Germans had been settled in pre-war Poland by 1942.[67] Eberhardt gives a total of two million Germans present in the area of all pre-war Poland by the end of the war, 1.3 million of whom moved in during the war, adding to a pre-war population of 700,000.[66]

Additionally some 400,000 German officials, technical staff, and clerks were sent to those areas in order to administer them, according to "Atlas Ziem Polski" citing a joint Polish-German scholarly publication on the aspect of population changes during the war[65] Eberhardt estimates that the total influx from the Altreich was about 500,000 people.[66]

Eberhardt cites estimates for the ethnic German influx provided by Szobak, Łuczak, and a collective report, ranging from 404,612 (Szobak) to 631,500 (Łuczak).[64] Anna Bramwell says 591,000 ethnic Germans moved into the annexed territories,[61] and details the areas of colonists' origin as follows: 93,000[61] were from Bessarabia, 21,000[61] from Dobruja, 98,000[61] from Bukovina, 68,000[61] from Volhynia, 58,000[61] from Galicia, 130,000[61] from the Baltic states, 38,000[61] from eastern Poland, 72,000[61] from Sudetenland, and 13,000[61] from Slovenia.[61]/

Arthur Greiser welcoming millionth Volksdeutcher resettled during "Heim ins Reich" action from the East Europe to occupied Poland – March 1944
"Baltenlager" (transit camp for Baltic Germans), Poznań 1940

Throughout the war, the annexed Polish territories were subject to German colonization. The goal of Germany was to assimilate the territories politically, culturally, socially, and economically into the German Reich. According to Esch, because of the lack of settlers from the Altreich, the colonists were primarily ethnic Germans from areas further East.[46][61] These ethnic Germans were resettled during colonisation action "Heim ins Reich" in homes from which the Poles had been expelled, often so abruptly that they found half-eaten meals on tables and unmade beds where small children had been sleeping at the time of expulsion.[62] Members of Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls were assigned the task of overseeing such evictions to ensure that the Poles left behind most of their belongings for the use of the settlers.[63]

1939 propaganda map showing the "most generous resettlement in world history" during "Heim ins Reich" action.

German colonization and settlement

Poles due be deported to the General Government were first put in camps where they were subject to racial evaluation (Durchschleusung) by the UWZ similar to the Durchschleusung of ethnic Germans (see below).[57] Those deemed "capable of re-Germanization" (wiedereindeutschungsfähig) were not deported to the General Government, but instead to the Altreich.[57] Those that resisted Germanization were to be put in concentration camps, or executed; their children might be taken for Germanization and adoption.[58] A total of 1.5 million people was expelled or deported, including those deported for slave labor in Germany or concentration and extermination camps.[59] Eberhardt says a total of 1.053 million people were deported for forced labour from the annexed territories.[60]

Heinemann and Łuczak ak as cited by Eberhardt detail the expulsions as follows: 81,000 Poles were displaced from their homes in East Upper Silesia,[30][54] 22,000 of whom were deported to the General Government.[30] They were replaced with 38,000 ethnic Germans primarily from Bukovina.[30] From the Zichenau and Suwałki areas of South East Prussia, 25,000[28] to 28,000[54] Poles were "evacuated", an additional 25,000[54] to 28,000[28] from the Bialystock area attached in 1941. In Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia, 123,000[28] to 124,000[54] were displaced until the end of 1942, 53,000 of whom were deported to the General Government,[28] the others were forced into camps where they were "racially evaluated".[28] In the Warthegau, 630,000 were displaced between 1939 and 1944.[54][56] Additionally, Łuczak estimates that between 30,000 and 40,000 were subject to "wild" expulsions primarily in Pomerelia.[54]

Ghettoization of Jews, Litzmannstadt 1941

Eberhardt cites numbers provided by Jastrzębski, 1968, who says that according to RKF documents, 365,000 were deported between 1939 and 1944.[54] Jastrzębski notes that adding the numbers retrieved from documents of local authorities yields a higher total of 414,820 deported, and estimates a total of about 450,000 including unplanned and undocumented expulsions.[54] Eberhardt notes that on top of these numbers, many had fled, and cites numbers provided by Czesław Łuczak (1979), who estimates that between 918,000 and 928,000 were deported or evicted from the annexed territories between 1939 and 1944.[54] A similar estimate (923,000) is also given by the Institute of National Remembrance.[55]

Heinemann further says that an additional 110,000 Jews were deported to the General Government.[52] Another more than 400,000 Jews were later deported to Auschwitz, Treblinka or Chelmno (Kulmhof) concentration camps,[53] and thousands had died in the ghettos.[53] Of the deported Jews, more than 300,000 were from Warthegau, 2,000 from Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia, 85,000 from East Upper Silesia, 30,000 from the Zichenau district and 200,000 from the Białystok district both in South East Prussia.[53]

According to Heinemann, about 780,000 ethnic Poles in the annexed territories lost their homes between 1939 and 1944.[52] Of these, at least 250,000 were deported to the General Government, 310,000 were displaced or forced into Polenlager camps within the respective Gau, and the others were subject to forced labour either within the annexed territories or in the Altreich. Heinemann says that according to Madajczyk, 987,217 were displaced in the annexed territories and the Zamość region, including Jews.[52] People were sometimes arrested from the street in so-called łapanki.

The Jewish and Polish population was subject to mass murder and expulsions already during the September invasion, triggering mass flight.[23][31] The Jewish population was to be resettled but when that proved impossible exterminated.[51] Nazi Concentration camps and extermination camps were set up within the annexed territories including Auschwitz (consisting of several subcamps), Chelmno (Kulmhof), Potulice (Potulitz) and Soldau.

Expulsion and genocide of Poles and Jews

In addition, other Germanic settlers such as Dutch, Danes and Swedes were envisioned to settle these lands. A small Dutch artisan colony was already established in Poznań in 1941.[50]

. Germanization and subjected to [49] prior to the Soviet Union's take-over,to leave the Baltic States About 350,000 ethnic Germans were settled in Poland after Nazi propaganda persuaded them [48] Plans for a resettlement of Germans from the Third Reich were upheld in the [46] In practice, the war-time population shift in the annexed territories did not take on its planned extent, either in regard to the number of expelled Poles and the resettled Germans, or in regard to the origin of the settled Germans which was the Soviet Union.

This directive was superseded by another RKF-directive of early 1940,[41] ordering the immediate expulsion of the remaining Jews and the replacement of 3.4 million Poles with Germans settlers in the long run.[32] This RKF scenario envisioned, as a first step, the settlement of 100,000 German families within the next three years. In this early stage, planners believed the settlers would be relocated from the Altreich.[32] "Racially valuable" Poles were to be exempted from deportation and "racially valuable" ethnic Germans were also to be settled.[42] Himmler said he wanted to "create a blonde province here".[43] Responsible for "racial evaluation" were 'Central Bureau for Immigration' (Einwandererzentralstelle, EWZ) and 'Central Bureau for Resettlement' (Umwandererzentralstelle, UWZ) of the SS' RuSHA.[42] The annexed territories were to be Germanised in rural areas within 5 years and in urban areas within 10 years,[44] the General Government in 15 years[45]


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