World War II NAZI Occupied Poland: Government General

NAZI occupied Poland
Figure 1.--This photograph was taken by a German in occupied Poland, meaning the Government General during World war II. It looks to have been taken in 1942 or 43. The image is not real clear, but I believe the Germans are not soldiers, but probably members of a security force. It is not clear if they are buying a paper or checking the boy's documents. News papers may have been published in German, we are unsure about that. The NAZIs deported Jews and Poles from the annexed areas of western Poland to the Government General where they were killed as pasrt of Operation Reinhard (1941-42).

Hitler was insistent that Poland should be wiped off the map. After seizing Poland (September 1939), the Nazis created the so-called Generalgouvernement (General Government). This was NAZI occupied Poland. The term Generalgouvernement was selected as it was the term the Germans used for the administration they set up in the Polish territory seized from the Russians during World War I (1915). The General Government was divided into four districts: Krakow, Warsaw, Radom, and Lublin. The Governor-General, Frank, was located in Krakow. It was an autonomous part of "Greater Germany", similar to the status of occupied Czechoslovakia (Bohemia and Moravia). The NAZI General Government was central Poland. Western Poland (the Polish Corridor, Lodz and Polish Silesia were annexed into the German Reich. Eastern Poland was seized by the Soviets. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler by decree ordered the Polish voivodeships of Eastern Galicia (with a largely Ukrainian population) were added to the Government General as Galicia District. The NAZIs administed the Government General differently than other areas, in part because they could not find ny suitable Polish Quislings. It was not administered as a pupper state like Slovakia and Bohemia-Moravia. The NAZIs were not really interested in finding Poles to collaborate with. The NAZIs avoided even using the term Poland. The purpose of the occupation was to destroy Poland and much of the population that could not be aranized. There were no Polish puppet offucials. The Government was administered by Germans. Hitler appointed Hans Frank Governor-General (October 26, 1939). Frank served in that post until the Red Army approached Krakow in early 1945. He was known for his brutality. As Govenor General he oversaw one of the most brutal occupation regimes in history. An estimated 6.5 million Poles perished during the War, about a quarter of the population.

World War I

The term Generalgouvernement was selected as it was the term the Germans used for the administration they set up in the Polish territory seized from the Russians during World War I (1915). The purpose was, however very different. The World War I General Government was the nucleus of a Polish state the Ksaiser's Germans planned to create to win the Poles over to supporting the German war effort. Hitler planned just the opposite. The NAZI Generral Government was to replace the Polish state as was a temprary entity to be used during the War until Poland could be fully Germanized.

Eliminating Poland

Hitler was insistent that Poland should be wiped off the map. After seizing Poland (September 1939), the Nazis created the so-called Generalgouvernement (General Government-GG). This was NAZI occupied Poland. It was an autonomous part of "Greater Germany", similar to the status of occupied Czechoslovakia (Bohemia and Moravia). The purpose of the General Government was to: 1) serve as atemprary repositary for Jews concentrated in ghettoes and 2) subdue the Polish population and exploit resources to support the German War effort. After the War, the General Government as part of Generalplanost would be Germanized. The Poles would be expelled and replaced with ethnic German settlers. The timing of this caused a rift between SS Reichführer Himmler and Governor-General Frank.

Administrative Divisions

The NAZI General Government was central Poland. The General Government (GG) was divided into four districts: Krakow, Warsaw, Radom, and Lublin. SS Reichführer Heinrich Himmler had a special interest in the Lublin area where despite's Frank's disaprpoval, he proceeded to expel Poles and move in German colonists. To assust in this peration he installed disgraced Vienna gauliter Odilo Globocnik as SS police chief. The capital and headquarters of the Governor-General, Frank, was located in Krakow. Western Poland (the Polish Corridor, Lodz and Polish Silesia were annexed into the German Reich. Eastern Poland was seized by the Soviets. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler by decree ordered the Polish voivodeships of Eastern Galicia (with a largely Ukrainian population) were added to the Government General as Galicia District. This was one of several signals to the Ukranians that the NAZIs were not liberators prepared to establish an independent Ukranian state.

Hans Frank

The GG Government was administered by Germans. Hitler appointed Hans Frank Governor-General (October 26, 1939). Frank was born in Karlsrule, Germany (1900). During World War I he joined the German Army when he reached conscription age (1917). After the War like other young men with right-wing politics, he joined the Freikorps. He thus participated in the suppression of the Communist uprising in Munich. Soon afterwads he joined te NAZI Party. He was with Hitler in the Beer Hall Putsch (1924) Like Hitler he was not severely punished and studied law. He then became a legal adviser to Adolf Hitler and the NAZI Party. NAZI Party fortunes changed with the Depression (1929). Frank was one of the many NAZI deputies elected (1930). After Hitler was appointed Chancellor, he appointed Frank Minister of Justice in Bavaria (1933). Frank oversaw the brutal NAZI occupation of Poland. It is unclear why Hitler chose him for the job, but his virulent anti-Semitism is certainly one of the reasons. He considered himself as a kind of King of Poland. He was known for his brutality and corruption. As Govenor General he oversaw one of the most brutal occupation regimes in history. An estimated 6.5 million Poles perished during the War, about a quarter of the population. After the War He denied responsibility for the mass killings of Jews. It is true that he did not oversee the death camps. He was, however, part of the administraive machinery which set up the ghettos and benefitted from robbing the Jews. (His wife was known to "shop" in the ghettos.) And he helped organized the deportations to the death camps. Frank served in that post until the Red Army approached Krakow in early 1945. He did, unlike some other NAZI leaders express remorse for what he did in Poland. Many including his son Niklas doubt his sincerity.

Administration

The NAZIs administed the GG differently than other areas, in part because they could not find any suitable Polish Quislings. It was not administered as a pupper state like Slovakia and Bohemia-Moravia. The NAZIs made somer tebntative steps, but were not really interested in finding Poles to collaborate with. The NAZIs avoided even using the term Poland. The purpose of the occupation was to destroy Poland and much of the population that could not be Aryanized. There were no Polish puppet officials. This was in part because of Polish nationalist opposdition to the NAZIs, but in fact the NAZIs made in very clear from the beginning thsat there would be no room for Poles in their New Order.

Views

The world press was excluded from the Government General. Even so we have have many views of the Government General. Poles managed to take some photographs. But we have many images taken by the German occupation forces. Poland had cities like Western Europe, but much of the rural area was very backword. To the German soldiers which came from modern cities or tidy rural villages, Poland was like visiting another world. They were like tourist able to step back in time. Many soldier took photographs of what they saw and created scrapbooks or sent them home to their parents. These are not propaganda images, but photographs German soldiers took of scenes that they found interesting. Many of these photographs come from 1939-41 before the Wehrmacht began their fateful drive east into the Soviet Union.

Security Services

I am not entirely sure what security services operated in the GG. The SS of course operated the concentration camps. I do not recognize the uniforms the men here are wearing (figure 1).

Himmler-Frank Rivalry


Deportations


Forced Labor

Poland was the second country occupied by the NAZIs. The first was Czechoslovakia (March 1939). At the same time they also seized Memel, a Lituanian city. Under the the Generalgouvernement, the German occupation authorities required all Jewish and Polish males to perform forced labor. The German authorities soon after the occupation required required Polish Jews to live in ghettos and deployed them at forced slave labor, much of it manual. This evolved into a policy of "annihilation through work" and when Jews did not die fast enough to please the NAZIs, outright murder. The policy toward Christian Poles was more varied. Poles were expected to support the war effort. If they did not have jobs supporting the German war effort, they could be concripted for force labor. The NAZI slave and forced labor system included concentration camps and their subcamps, farms, ghettos, labor battalions, religious institutions, prisoner-of-war camps, and industries (in Germany and other Axis countries). Poles were affected by forced labor in a number of ways. Some but not all were confined to camps as well as deported to the Reich. It is believed that German occupation authorities deported about 1.5 million Poles to the Reich for forced or skave labor. Somes estimates are even higher. The vast proportion were deforted against their will. Most were were teenaged boys and girls or youths who did not have jobs supporting the war effort. The NAZIs obtained forced abnd slave labor from other occupied countries as well. The treatment of these people was affected by their national origins and race. Poles were among the non-Jewish people that were most harsly treated. The Poles were Slavs and part of the NAZI war effort was to substantially reduce the Slavic population of Eastern Europe to make room for German colonists. This and the general view that Eastern Europeans were inferior resulted in especially harsh treatment. Poles were required to wear an identifying purple "P" badge on their clothes. They were subjected to a curfew and not permittedv to use public transportation. The treatment afforded Poles varied widely depending on their work assignments. Here the variation depended largely on the humanity of the supervisor in charge. Poles were employed in both factories and on farms. They were often forced to work especially long hours. The Poles not employed as slave labor received lower wages than Western workers. Poles employed in larger groups in major cities were commonly housed in segregated barracks behind barbed wire.

Food

Part of the reason that Germany lost World War I was the Allied naval blockde and the resulting food shortages that undermined civilian norale on the homefront. As a resukt this issue was very much on Hitler's mind even before he seized power, let alone launching the War. His answer to this was seizing the East with its vast agriculturl resources. This is reflected in Hitler's focus on the East in Mein Kampf and the concept of Lebensraum. The Germans and their Soviet ally launched the War with the invasion of Poland (september 1941). Germany and the Soviet Uniion partitioned POland along preestablished lines. Germany immediately seized the rich agricultural lands of western Poland and incorporated these provinces into the Reich (October 1939). As part of this process, the SS began deporting Poles and Jews to the General Government, the area of central Poland including Poland not immediately incorporated into the Reich. The General Government was not capable of feeding the pre-War population. [Tooze, p. 544.] The trasport of Jews and Poles into the General Giovernment created a serious food shortage. As the War developed, Germany defeated and occupied France (June 1940). This made available the rich agricultural production of France to exploit as well as other occupied countries. The World War I experience, however, encouraged the idea of using food as a weapon. This combined as with the regime's acceptance of eugenics theories resulted in a genocidal brew of NAZI policies. NAZI food policies were different thn the Allied blockade policies which were desigbned t win the War. Part of Hitler's war objectives were the murder of millions of people. Hitler asked officials in the Ministry of Food, the agency responsible for rationing, to develop a starvation plan. The Minister was one of the chief advocates for eugenics in the NAZI heirarchy. The first country where the NAZIs emplemented these poliies was Poland with disaterous results for the Polish people, especially Jews. This was of course precisekly what Hitler wanted. The worst impact was at first ameliorated by emergency American food aid. The program was adminisered by former-President Herbert Hoover who had run the food programs that save millions od Europeans durng and after World War I. The emergency program to help Poland ended with Hitler's declaration of war on America (December 1941). Even before this, however, ordered a much more expedient sollution to the preceived 'Jewish Question'--murder. Much less well understood was the favt that for millions of Slavs, Hitler also was planning murder.

The Holocaust

The Germans nenamed central Poland the Government General, a World War I term. This was the area of occupied Poland the Germans did not immediateky plan to annex and aranize. The Government General ait was originally constituted included four districts: Warsaw, Lublin, Radom, and Cracow. When a fifth district was added (Galicia) after Barbarossa (1941), the Jewish population reached 2.1 million people. Jews in the Government General as Jewsh elsewhere in Poland were subject to unpreductable acts of terror from both German soldiers and security police as well as Polish civilans. The Germans transferred administrative authority from the military to civilian authorities (late-October 1939). This had little impact on the harsh conditions established for Jews by military authorities. Only now the unpredictable terror slowly turned into legalized, coordinated actions. General Governor Hans Frank first decree stated "there will be no room in the General Government for Jewish exploiters." (October 26, 1939). That was the beginning of a flood of anti-Semetiv measures designed to first strips Polish Jews of their possessions and livlihood and force them into ghettos. Personal rights were severly restricted and eventually done away entirely. All areas of f private and social life were affected, Jews lost any freedom of movement. They were prohibited from disposing ofvtheir property as NAZI authorities planned how to most efficently seize it. They were not allowed to practice their professions. Nor were they allowed to receive any benefit from their labor. Any social and medical insurance they had was cancelled. Nor were they allowed tocollect any personal or proprrty insure they might have. Jewish religious observance (including ritual slaughter and public worship was prohibited. Jews were expelled from all schools still functioning. All Jewish social organizations and institutions were disbanded and properties seized. Jews could no longer associate freely and any gathering invited arrests and violence. Jewish institutions were replaced with the NAZI controlled Judenrat, theoretically a representative body, but actually an administrative authority tompass NAZI decress on to the Jewish population. As Jews in other areas were lsrgely deported to the Government General, it became occupied Poland for mostbPolish Jews.

NAZI Newspapers

There were numerous newspapers and other material published within the borders of pre-War Poland during the NAZI occupation. There was no single mass publication, but rather smaller publications which targeted in accordance with NAZI policy, specificic ethnic groups. There was a German-language press for the Volksdeutsche in the western annexed areas and the GG. There was a Ukranian-language press for the Ukranian minority. In contrast to NAZI policies in the Ukraine intself, the NAZIs were relatively favorable to the Ukranians in the GG as it was a way of wakening the Poles. There was some limited publishing in Polish within the GG. We do not have much information on these papers. The NAZIs permitted ghettos publications in Polish. After the NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union. the NAZIs permitted newspapers in Byelorussian and Lithuanian in the eastern areas of pre-War Poland. The publications were either controlled or closely monitored by the NAZIs. The primary purpose was NAZI control, but there were differences depending on the specific target audience. [Dobroszycki] I think the boy here is selling a newspaper named Ruch which sound German more than Polish. In German the word means smell and also some sort of a crow (bird). We have been unable to find any information on the newspaper during the occupation. We note, however, that Ruch is in modern Poland a huge publishing house and disyributor of newspapers and magazines. Note the boy is selling newspapers from a leather satchel. I think perhaps this was his school satchell before the War and he no longer goes to school.

Clandestine Newspapers


Sources

Dobroszycki, Lucjan. Reptile Journalism: The Official Polish-Language Press under the NAZIs, 1939-45.

Tooze, Adam. The Wages of Destruction : The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (Penguin Books: London, 2006).





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Created: 11:59 PM 8/7/2008
Last updated: 12:19 AM 6/26/2014