World War II: NAZI Plans for the Occupied East

Figure 1.--This is one of the most evocative photgraphs of World War II. The NAZIs did not just kill Jews. The NAZI goal in the East was to Germanize it. One of their methods was to simply kill the people already there. Those who remained were to be a subject slave population for the German Reich. This photograph was taken by Dimitri Baltermans. The Germans would round up civilians that they deemed "uncooperative" and simply shoot them. Not overt act was needed to be seized by the Germans. Here Russian women are searching for their men from a village on the Kerch Peminsula in the Crimea. The Germans had shot all the men in the village. The Germans were particularly brutal in the Ukraine and Crimea because of their desore to seize the rsources and safeguard transportation lines to the oil fields of the Caucauses. Ironically, the population of the Ukraine was strongly anti-Soviet and many would have the joined the Germans had it not been for their genocidal racial policies.

The NAZI program for Lebensraum in the east was not just to acquire territory. The plans for that territory was monsterous beyond belief. NAZI policies in the East were not carefully planned. This is because Hitler did not create a clear administrative structure. There were competing ministeries and officials as well as the SS involved. These agencies had often different attitudes toward policies in the East. As a result, the barbarities that occurred were no the result of a carefully executed plan. While other agencies were involved, the real power lay with the SS. The plan was to reduce the population of Poles and Russians in these territories through outright murder and forced expulsions. Some would remain to serve as slave laborers. Many would be killed outright. Millions more would be expelled or "evacuated" with the understanding that large numbers would die in the process. The goal was to make the east ethnically German. Here Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler had the responsibility for persuing this effort. He appears to have assigned his deputy Reinhard Heydrich to coordinate this effort and essentially the SS's entire eastern operations.

NAZI Plans

Hitler's plans for the occupied East are difficult to describe because the Red Army liberated the East before any coherent German plan coud be agreed on and implemented. The German occupation of Poland provides the besr example of just what Hitler had in mind. Major figures and institutions in the NAZi regime had their own often very different ideas about the appropriate Ostpolitik. Goebbels, Göring, Himmler, Heydrich, Ribbentrop, Rosenberg as well as the Wehrmacht all had ideas about the appropriate course in the East. And Hitler's leadership style generate such competition. There were advocates of a moderate approach in the East. One scholar sets the general prameters of NAZI policy. Hecquotes a German interpreter who thought that the Russians should be treated properly so that"many a poor devil will become a hard-working and kindly helper". [Dallin, p. 72.] The other extreme was expressed by the Kreisleiter who proclaimed thsat any Russian in his area who "show signs of intelligence will be shot". [Dallin, p. 149.] Many historians believe that a moderate occupation policy might have attracted considerable support to help fight the Bolshevicks, especially in the Ukraoine. The moderate policies, however, were never attemted. From the onset the German policy was extrondinaraliy brutal and explotative. This probably results from both the the growing influence of the SS and a reflection of what Hitler himself desired. The most severe policies were routinely supported by Hitler whose bliefs about the East are clearly expained in Mein Kampf. Hitler saw the vast sweep of the Eastern steep as an area to be cleared of most of its Slavic population which he saw as threatening Aryan people. The East would become a vast NAZI empire to be settled and reshaped by German colonists commanding a much reduced class of uneducated, mannual workers. And he saw no need to temporaize in 1941 or even 1942 by appealing to the Ukranians and others to make a joint effort against the Bolsheviks.

NAZI Administrative Structure

NAZI policies in the East were not carefully planned other than Hitler instructed the generals at the onset thst it would be a campaign of annialation sand conducted differently from the campaigns in the West. The East was gto provide the raw materials the Reich so desperately needed to conduct the war. And thus an administrative structure was needed to exploit those resources. Hitler as was often the case, however, did not create a clear administrative structure. There was an Ostministerium (East Ministry), but in fact it was more of a beaureacratic fiction. There were competing ministeries and officials as well as the Wehrmacht and the SS involved in a eastern muddle. These agencies often had different attitudes toward policies in the East. And the policies changed as the military campaign shifted from what looked like another swift Bkitzkrieg victory to a desperate struggle for survival. As a result, the barbarities that occurred were not the result of a carefully executed master plan. In the end, however, kit was the SS who had Hitler's blessing and the force to execute its plans.

NAZI Occupation Policies in Specific Countries

We have collected the following information on German occupation policies in specific countries. There were significant differences in the level of oppression in the many different countries occupied by the NAZIs before and during World War II.


Hitler remiliatized the Rhineland (1935) and conducted the Anschluss bringing Austria into the Reich (April 1938). Hitler's next target was the Sudetenland. The Czechs were prepared to fight. The British and French were not. British Primeminister Nevil Chamberlin delivered the Sudetenland to Hitler at the Munich Conferece (October 1938). The Sudetenland was incorporated into the Reich. Slovakia suceeded and a pro-NAZI regime seized power. Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to seize the rest of the country (March 1939). Here Hitler step over another milestone, for the first time he seized control of non-Germans. NAZI policies varied depending on the area of Czecheslovakia (the Sudetenland, Bohemia and Moravia, and Slovakia). We note that some Czechs were forcibly removed from the Sudentenland, but we have few details at this time. NAZI policies in Bohemia and Moravia were much more begin that later implemented in Pland, but vecame more secere as the occupation progressed, especially after the appointment of Teynhard Heydrich as Governor. The Czechs as the first occupied country, were the first to be drafted for forced labor in Germany. The Czech arms industry played an importan role in the German war effirt. Hitler convinced that the Czeches were being treated to lightly, appointed Reinhard Heydrich to replace the first NAZI governor. His assasination by British-trained patriots ere the cause of horendous reprisals by the SS.


Hitler did not view Poland as a legitimate nation. He saw it as a creation of the hated Versailles Treaty ending World War I. Poland had split Germany through the Polish Corridor. He was determined that Poland would never again threaten Germany or limit Germany's drive for lebensraum. The NAZI plan was simple. First they plan to eliminate the Polish inteligencia. Second they would expel Poles and colonize the former Polish areas with Germans. The was given orders to kill Polish prominent civilians and indiviaduals such as government officials, the nobility, teachers, and priests throughout Poland, any would which could promote Polish nationalism or offer leadership. [Gilbert, p. 265.] Today their are countless memorial stones and plaques througout Poland where these executions took place. And it was not just men, women and children were also killed. The Army Chief of Staff, Genderal Halder discussed the Führer's orders with his senior officers. One a Colonel Eduard Wagner wrote in his diary, "It is the Führer's and Goering's intentions to destroy and exterminate the Polish nation. More than that cannot even be hinted at in writing." [Gilbert, p. 269.] The instructions were secret. Some SS men carrying these instructions were arrested by the Wehremacht accussed of brutality. [Gilbert, p. 278.] Admiral Canaris, the head of the Abwehr, German military intelligence, visited the Polish front on September 10 and was horrified. He went to Hitler's headquarters planning to protest which he told General Keitel, the Chief of the Armed Forces High Command. Keitel advised him, "If I were you I would not get mixed up in this business. This 'thing' has been decided by the Führer himself." Keitel explained that that each army command would have a NAZI civilian chief attached to its military commander. He would have the responsibility for the "racial extermination" effort. [Gilbert, p. 271.] Hitler on October 4, even before the fighting was over, declared an amnesty for the arressted SS men. There were no further arressts of SS men by the Wehremact in Hitler's future campaigns. The invasion of Poland brough a much larger area an numbers of foreigners under German control (September 1939). Himmler had asigned the Main Office for the Consolidation of German Nationhood (SS-RKF) the task of preparing a plan for Germanizing Poland. The Chief of SS-RKF Department II (Planning) SS-Oberführer Professor Dr. Konrad Meyer was responsible for preparing the plans. [Padfield, p. 363.]

The Soviet Union

The NAZIs invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Radipdly the Baltic Republics (occupied by the Soviets in 1940) and large areas came under NAZI control. The NAZIs employed the same ruthless tactics developed in Poland, but on a far larger scale. Heydrich in 1941 ordered the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) (SS Security Service) in 1941 to begin the necessary planning for the Germinization of occupied territories in the Soviet Union. The Reichs-Sicherheitsdienst (RSHA) (Reich Security Head Office). The initial report submitted in November 1941 by the RDHA estimated that 31 million peole should be "evacuated". The SS-RKF was ordered to extend its planning for the Germinization to the occupied area of the Soviet Union. [Padfield, p. 363.] There were differences of opinion within the SS and between the SS and Alfred Rosenberg's Ostministerium (Ministry for the Occupied East) over how to claim the East. There was agreement that large numers of Slavs had to be removed to Siberia. There were differences as to the extent to which forcible evictions should take place. Given the scale of movement involved, such discussions probably were not relistic. [Padfield, p. 363.] The NAZIs looked on the people of the Soviet Union in starkly racial terms. They were willing to work with the native Baltic population and some in the Baltics were willing to work with the NAZIs. The NAZIs were determined that the Slav population in Russia proper and the Ukraine would have to be substantially reduced. Some Slavs would be kept, at least for a while to serve as a slave population to do mannual labor, at least until the region could be Germanized.


ReichsKommissar Kube in Belorussia quickly quarled with the SS. Kube had no problem with the use of fore to rule Belorussia. His problen with the SS was irrationality of the SS. He complained to Berlin about SS actions. He in particular objected to shooting Slavs that were performing useful work for the occupation authorities. Kube had no way of controlling the SS units in his area.

The Ukraine

The Ukraine was the agricultural breadbasket of the Soviet Union. It also had important natural resources and an expanding industrial base. It was for Hitler perhaps the great prise of World War II with enormous Lebensraum for the German people. The agricultural idea appealed to the NAZIs--especially to Himmler. The Ukraine was populated primarily with Ukraians along with important Russian, Polish, and Jewish minorities. The Ukranians were Eastern Slavs cloesly related to the Great Russians. For the NAXZIs this meant a population to eliminated or deported or enslaved to make room for German settlers. Stalin had brutalized the Ukranians creating wide-spread anti-Soviet sentiment. Had the NAZIs not been committed to genocide against the Slavs, large numbers of Ukranians would have received the NAZIs as linerators. The Ukraine was placed in the hands of ReichsKommissar Koch who believed in ruling with an iron fist.

Baltic states

ReichsKommissar Lohse had in NAZI terms beign concept of ruling, at least in comparison with his counterparts in Belorussia and the Ukraine. Lohse essentially agreed with Rosenberg that there was no sence in gratuitous violence toward the Balts as long as they fell in line with the new NAZI order. Here of course there are racial factors. The Balt were not Slavs and Hitler was willing to accept a place for them in the New Order. The place for the Balts may not sound very promsing to modern readers, but it was better than the place Stalin was offering them in the Soviet Union. Questions of morality aside, the question arises as to which approach yielded the maximum benedit to the Reich. As far as we can determine, the relatively small Baltic states comtributed more to the German war effort than the much larger areas of Belorussia and the Ukraine. This gives rise to question that hangs over the war in the East. What would have happened if the NAZIs had persued the same approach in the Ukraine that they did in the Baltics, enlisting the local population as brothers in the struggle against Bolshevism,

Eindeutschung ( Germanisation )

A key elment in the Germanization of the east was finding Germans to populate it with. An important part of this process was to "reclaim" Aryan stock from the occupied territories and turning them into Germans. This process was termed Eindeutschung. The SS section responsible for Eindeutschung was Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt--RuSHA (Race and Settlement Head Office). Here the SS's authority also overlapped with Alfred Rosenberg's Ostministerium (Ministry for the Occupied East). While there were differences within the SS, there was agreement that the most of the population of the occupied East was not suitable for Eindeutschung and would have to be expelled to Siberia. The differences within the SS was the extent to which force should be used to bring about the emmigration to Siberia. [Padfield, p. 363.]


An essential apect of the Germanization process was making room for an expnded German population. The best studied aspect of this is the genocide of the Jews--the Holocaust. Actually the Holocaust was just the beginning of NAZI plans to remake the ethnic mao of Europe through genocide. NAZI plans were much more expansive than the Holocaust. They also targeted the Slavs. Had the NAZIs succeeded in their war in the East, the result would have been a genocide that would have dwarfed the Holocaust. NAZI planners were planning to kill outright about 30 million of the 90 million Soviet Slavs. The mechanics of this were not worked out, but there is no reason that hey would have been different than tthose employed in the Holocaust. Another 30 million Slavs were to be reduced to uneducated slave laborers. The remaining 30 million were to be deported beyond the Urals. Given conditions at the time, it was undrstood that many of these people would have perished as a result.


The German conquest of Western and Eastern Europe occurred so rapidly that a well prepared and coordinated program did not exist on how to administer the occupied East. While there was considerable agreement in some areas such as the need to Germanize the East, there were diferences as to how to achieve this. There were elements in the SS who looked upon the Spartan city state of ancient Greece as to how the East should be administered. SS-Hauptstrumführer who attended coordinating meetings with the Ostministerium as the junior RKF representative expressed Himmiler's and Heydrich's view that the German occupation of the East was similat to Spartan control of the Peloponnesus Peninsula. He explined that the Germans would carry out the role of the Germans. The Lithuanians, Estonians, and "the like" would be the Perioeci and the Russians the helots. [Padfield, pp. 363-364.]

Economic Exploitaion


One task of historians is to judge the Germans who carried out German occupation policies in the East. The enormity of the brutlity and barbarity make it difficult to understand how it could have been conducted by a civilized people. This of course is particularly true od the SS Einsatzgruppen that followed in the wake of the Wehrmacht. But that was just the initinal phase of NAZI barbarity. One historian writes, "Many of the men who carried out the Ostpolitik were neither fanatically or diadiabolically predisposed. Yet they slid into the abyss and too often wallowed in its mud. A dichotomy of private and public morals obtained, and in an era dominated by Hittlerism they bared unwittingly 'the Hitler in theselves'." [Dallin, p. 673.]


There is of course no question about immorality of NAZI policies in the East. Another question is were thry effective? Did they cobntribute to the Germnan war effort. Here the assessment has to be aken country by country. Germnan occupation policies in Czechoslovakia seemn to have been on the whole successful. The Czechs were cowed by the use of violence. The Slovaks even supported Germany politucally and militarily. The Czech Skoda arms complex was an important part of the German war economy. The situation in Poland is less clear to us. The Poles were not cowed like the Czechs, but paid a terrible price. The loss of life in Poland was per capita one of the highesl in the war. The Poles even rose up in 1944. Polish units that eascaped east made important bsattlefiekd contributions both in the East and Italy. The Poles made other contributions to the war effort, bith in code breaking and in reopoting on the German rocket proigram. We are mot sure yet about the effectiveness of the German economic exploitation of Poland. The Germans arguavly made the biggesT mistake of the War in not persuoing a moderate occupation policy in the Soviet Union to aobrain the support of anyi-Bolshevicks. We do not yet have enough information to assess the effectivebness of economic policies in the Soviet Union. Of course factors here are the shorter period of occupation and the Soviet scoirched earth policies.


Dallin, Alexander. German Rule in Russia 1941-1945: A study in Occupation Policies (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1957), 677p. The documents and informatin collected by Professor Dallin make this one of the most important studies of German occupation policies in the East.

Gilbert, Martin. A History of the Twentieth Century Vol. 2 1933-54 (William Morrow and Company, Inc.: New York, 1998), 1050p.

Padfield, Peter. Himmler: Reichsführer-SS (Henry Holt: New York, 1991), 656p.


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Created: 2:13 AM 10/19/2008
Last updated: 12:24 AM 11/6/2011