Beginning of Lebensraum, theNazi German expulsion of Poles from central Poland, 1939
Foreign Affairs From The Anthology: The World at War
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Hitler's Transfers of Population in Eastern Europe [Excerpt]

FRESH from his conquest of Poland, Hitler on October 6, 1939, announced to the Reichstag that there would be "a new order of ethnographical conditions, that is to say, a resettlement of nationalities in such a manner that the process ultimately results in the obtaining of better dividing lines." A day later he signed a decree transferring to the Reich all Germans who are "threatened with de-Germanization," and he entrusted to Heinrich Himmler, chief of the Gestapo, the duty of carrying out the resettlement program as Commissioner for the Strengthening of Germandom. So well did Himmler work that by March 1941 all German settlers beyond the Reich's new northeastern border and beyond the Carpathian Mountains, which are considered to be the Reich's strategical southeastern frontier, had been transferred to Germany.

Was this transfer of Germans to the Reich really based on a plan for new ethnographical divisions? The program was a tacit part of the Italo-German Pact of May 22, 1939. Mussolini was eager to clear the provinces of Venezia Tridentina (Bolzano and Trento) of their German-speaking people. He had been unable to Italianize them in the course of 16 years, and the region's industrial capacity and position near the frontier of his new but dreaded ally meant that it was one of vital strategic importance to Italy. The program also figured tacitly in the Russo-German Pact of August 23, 1939. Stalin was glad to free his future border zone of a population which might be disloyal in case of war with Germany. Hitler had always assumed the rôle of "protector" over the German-speaking citizens of the smaller countries in Eastern Europe. As long as he hoped to acquire the territories on which they lived without having to wage a war against the Western Powers, he proclaimed the inseparability of blood and soil. But by April 1939, when he began to realize that Britain might really fight for Poland, he was ready to sacrifice the German outposts in Italy and in future Russian territory in order to gain Italian coöperation and Russian neutrality. Hitler held back from the resettlement plan as long as the German minority in Poland was needed to undermine that country. Then, after Poland's defeat, he announced it, not as a change of policy enforced upon him by circumstances, but as a "new order" for the benefit of all Europe. . . .

. . . While western Poland was serving as the goal of the German westward migration, central, southern and eastern Poland were selected as the area towards which Europe's outcasts were to be directed.

How far these regions have been depleted by the three great eastward migrations cannot be said, for these movements were hidden by the Russian censorship. More than a million Polish soldiers and civilians, including 300,000 to 500,000 Jews, must have fled eastward and southward from the German onslaught in 1939. The Russians deported 2,000,000 Polish citizens to Asiatic Russia and Siberia after their occupation of eastern Poland. How many Poles, White Russians, Ukrainians and Jews were among them ? Nobody, probably, knows. The number of people who fled from the Russian-occupied areas and from western Russia when the Russian armies were retreating in 1941 is also unknown.

The largest group deported to the Gouvernement General by the Nazis was made up of 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 Poles from the German-annexed areas. Second in number were the Jews. There were 200,000 Jews left in Germany, Sudetenland and Austria by the time Germany declared war on the United States.[xii] The Bohemian-Moravian Protectorate then contained at least 84,000. At the time of the annexation, 545,000[xiii] were in the annexed parts of Poland, most of them in the province of Lodz. Besides, there are approximately 6,900,000 Jews under German domination in the east.[xiv] How many of these were killed by the war, by starvation or by organized Nazi terror, and how many were able to flee into Russia or Turkey, or even into Italy, cannot be stated exactly.

In Germany and her five southeastern dependencies, where local anti-Jewish policy has been fully coördinated with the German, Jews are now concentrated in huts outside the cities or sent to labor or concentration camps. Many are deported to the Lublin "Reservation," in the Gouvernement General, or to the neighborhood of Pinsk. More recently they also have been sent to the ghettos of Kaunas and Minsk. Those in the camps and near Lublin and Pinsk have to work on roads and canals or on rivercontrol and swamp-draining projects. The rest live in ghettos isolated from the outside world.

Reports indicate that most of the Jews from the annexed parts of Poland have been deported to the Lublin Reservation, with the exception of 160,000 to 200,000 who are concentrated in the ghetto of Lodz. The number of Jews deported to the Gouvernement General or Ostland from old Germany, Austria, Sudetenland and the Protectorate is not under 40,000, by a very conservative estimate. In addition, Hungary deported at least 18,500 Jews to Galicia in 1941; 54,000 were dumped into the Ukraine from Rumania last fall; and this spring Slovakia seems to have begun sending her 70,000 Jews to Poland. But when no trains are available for deportation, or when Germany needs hands, this policy is shrewdly and coldly interrupted. Recently, Jewish artisans from the Ukraine have been sent into Germany proper.

It should be noted, however, that deportation to the Gouvernement General is not restricted to Jews. At least 30,000 Slovenes from Croatia have been sent there, as have Rumanians from Northern Transylvania. Recalcitrant Frenchmen from the occupied zone are among the latest arrivals.

The deportations do not represent merely a policy of racial and political hatred. Cheap labor is needed, particularly for vast canal-building and swamp-draining projects. Workers in Germany and the countries allied with the Reich would probably rebel if they were put at this work. In the "Annex" (Nebenland), as the Germans call the Gouvernement General, public morale is of no importance.

In contrast to the policy followed in the Protectorate, the Volksdeutsche in the Gouvernement General have not been made German citizens. In the hierarchical order established by the conqueror they form the second class, under the Reich Germans who govern the country. Third in rank are the Poles. Ukrainians, Ruthenians and even White Russians can be elevated above the rank of a Pole if their respective bureaus in Berlin agree. Volksdeutsche who have been convicted of committing hostile acts against the Reich after the 1939 campaign are degraded to the lowest rank, that of the Jews. The natives of the Baltic countries are treated slightly better than the Poles, because their police are needed to help guard the rear of the German army. [Full Article]

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