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 result 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 1939). 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 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 fact that for millions of Slavs, Hitler also was planning murder.
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. The naval war is generally considered a side show in World War I. In fact it was a critical part of the war, especially the naval blockade of Germany. The principal impact of the naval war was Britain's ability to use the Royal Navy to blockade Germany. The British when the Germans invaded Belgium (August 1914), had only a small force to send accross the Channel to assit the Belgians and French. The British Expodintinary Force (BEF) was a small but effective force which played an important role as did the Belgian Army, but if the Germans were to be stopped it would have to be done by the French Army. What the British did have was the Royal Navy. The Government ordered the Royal Navy to immediately cut the flow of raw materials and foodstuffs to Germany. The blockade would not effect the German offensive, but it was the launch of a war of attrition which would ultimately play a major role in the Allied victory. The Royal Navy was issued contraband lists. The Royal Navy patrolled the North Sea and intercepted cargo vessels suspected of carrying cargo destined for Germany. The British also layed minefields to sink German ships and force neutrals to comply with the terms of the blockade. The British subsequently declared the North Sea a British 'military area' (November 3, 1914). Neutral shipping thus had to enter British ports for inspection. Ships without contrband were then escorted through the North Sea minefields.The British blockade crippled the German economy. Food shortages in Germany became severe as early as 1916. The German Government never introduced an effective rationing system ensure that the privations were equitably shared. And the conscription program did not take into account the need to maintain agricultural production. Most German civilians by late 1916 were increasingly affected by the War. By the end of the War food shortges were at crisis levels. Mlnutrition affected many and real starvation loomed. Without a surface fleet strong enough to challenge the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet, the Germans at sea were left with only one response--unrestricted submarine warfare. This had the impact of alienting neutrals--most importantly the United States. The Allies continued the blockade even after the Armistice to ensure German compliance and acceptance of the Versailles Peace Treaty.
The issue of food and resources was very much on Hitler's mind even before he seized power, let alone launching the War. His answer to the food problem and other shortages resulting from the Allied naval blockade was to seize and colonize the East with its vast agricultural and other resources. The East to Hitler was a kind of mystical land ghat held the answer to all of Germany's problems. This is reflected in Hitler's focus on the East in Mein Kampf and the concept of Lebensraum. Hitler devoted an entire chapter the the East--Eastern Orientation or East polcy. He begins by dscribing Russia meaning the East as 'the most decisive concern of all german foreign affairs'. Hitler, p. 641.] He writes, "The Natioal Socialist movement must strive to eliminate the disproportion between our populationand our area--viewing this latter as a source of food as well as a basis for power poltics--between our historical past and the hopelessness of our present situation. And in this it must remain aware that we, as guardians of the highest humanity on this earth, are bound by the highest obligation, and the more it strives to bring the German people to racial awarness ..." [Hitler, p. 646.]
Hitler and Stalin agreed to the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact, shiocking the world (August 23, 1939). The Pact included a secret annex partitioning Eastern Europe . Only days later, The Germans launched World War IIthe War with the invasion of Poland (September 1939). Germany armies attacked Poland (September 1) and swept over western Poland. The Germans attacked from the north (East Prussia), east (Germany oproper), and south (occupied Czechoslovakia). The Luftwaffe bombed undefended Polish cities, especilly Warsaw.
The Poles were outnumbered and outgunned and the suitutiion was made worse by the military's decesion to defend everywhere rather than to cobncentate forces at defesible points. An effort to organize adefense of the east was proved impossible when the Soviet Union joined their NAZI ally and invaded from the East (September 17). Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned Poland along predetermined lines.
Germany immediately seized the rich agricultural lands of western Poland and incorporated these provinces into the Reich (October 1939). THese provinces had a mixed Polish, German, Jewish popultion. Historically they were part of the Polish kingdom ad obtained by Prussia in the Polish Partitions (1772-95). The SS moved very quickly to deports Jews to the General Government. The SS also began deporting Poles. This process varied as to the particular priovinces and the priorities of the different gaultiers. Hitler had to order Himmler to slow don the process (late-1940/early-1941) as it was interfering with preparatiions for Babarossa. As aresult few Jews were left in the anndxed areas of western Poland, but there were Poles. We are not sure about the rationing levels. The Poles were assigned much lower rations than the Germans, but we are unsure about the ctual levels. We thinjk that they were higher than in the General Government, but we can not yet confirm that.
The SS as part of annexation process of western Poland, began deporting Poles and Jews to the General Government, the area of central Poland including Warsaw not immediately incorporated into the Reich or Soviet Union. The term was adopted from the German World War I occpation of Poland (1915). It was in part chosen because Hitler was intenton r\erasing Poland from the map. 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. This was not what Hitler expected. He believed that that Barbarossa and seizure of the East would provide Germany the food and resources it lacked in World War I. As it tuned out, the Germans received more food from the East under the terms of the NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact before Brbarossa than after it. Once Hiltler launched Barbarossa the Germans barely obtained enough food to provision the Whermacht. Very little food or oher resources from the East reached the Reich to support the War effort. It would be France and the occuoied countries in the West that would provision Germany during the War. German rationing was not very strict a a result of exploitation of the occupied countries. The British experienced far more severe rationing then the Germans. This changed radically as the War began to go against Germany (1943). And once Poland and France were liberated (fall 1944) the food sitution in the Reich became desperate. And this was further excerbated as the Allies systemically destroyed the German transportatiion network, making it virtually impossible to move food from the counryside into the cities.
The German Hunger Plan (der Hungerplan) also called der Backe-Plan or Starvation Plan was a NAZI World War II food management plan. It is sometine called the Backe Plan because he plaed such an important role in planning and implementing the plan. Herbert Backe was an official in the Ministy of Food and evenually appointed to that post. The Ministry was responsible for the German rationing program. Actually there was no single centrally coordinated plan, but several separate if some times related operations. Germany's World War I experience encouraged the idea of using food as a weapon. Hitler was not the first in this rea. Stalin preceeded him by about a decade with the Ukranian famine (1932-33). We are not sure to what extent NAZI officials were aware of this. The NKVD did an efficent job of preventing details from leaking out to the West. And Western Socialists and Communists, including those in Germany did not want to believe the rumors. The desire to use food as a weapon. This combined with the NAZI regime's rush to acceptance eugenics theories as scientific fact resulted in a genocidal brew of genocidal plicies. NAZI food policies were different than the Allied blockade policies which were designed to win the War. Part of Hitler's war objectives were the murder of millions of people which sometimes were given a priority over the war effort. The Hunger Plan was not a policy designed to help win the War, although sometimes presented as that. Many of the individuals killed were working in war indistries supporting the German war effort. This actually impeeded the war effort as a labor shortage developed in Germany requiring the introduction of forced labor to man German war industries. Rather the killing of millions Jews and Slavs was a primary German war goal. Hitler asked officials in the Ministry of Food, the agency responsible for rationing, to develop a Starvation Plan, sometimes referred to as the Hunger Plan. The Minister was one of the chief advocates for eugenics in the NAZI heirarchy. The largest elements of the Hunger Plan were: 1) Occupation food policies in Poland, 2) Ghetto policies, 3) Starvation of Polish and Soviet POWs, 4) Generalplan Ost. Scholars studying the Hunger Plan provide a somewhat varried list of its elements, lrgely because there was no single, well coordinated NAZI effiort, but rather the work of various officials with similar objectives and values. These include besides Backe, Reicharshall Göring, Reichführer SS Himmler, SS Obergruppenführer Heydrich, and Minister of Food Darré.
The first country where the NAZIs emplemented these poliies was occupied Poland--the General Government (GG). The resuls were disaterous for the Polish people, especially Jews and the urban population. This was of course was precisely what Hitler wanted. Hitler had a special animosity toward Jews, but Poles as aSlavic people were only slightly above Jews in NAZI racial rankings. And the Polish seizure of territory seen as German after World War I created additional animosities. The NAZIs saw Jews and Slavs as subhuman (Untermensch). As a result, the Jews were targeted for elimination as part of the Holocaust. This desire was so strong that Hitler decided to even eliminte Jews that were working in war industries. Plans for the Poles and other Slavs were somewhat different. Himmler's Generalplan Ost as it developed called for the outright murder of mny Slavs, the ensavement of others, and driving others beyond the Urals where most would perish. Himmler set out to impleent these poliies in Poland, but they began to disrupt the preparations for Barbarossa so they were not fully impleented.
Virtually starvation food polices were, however, implemented. Not only was the food produced in the GG inadequate, but a substantial part of it was being seized and shipped to the Reich. [Luzak, p. 201.] Deliberate starvation of targeted populations was part of the Starvatiion Plan. Rations in the General Government at the time of Barbarossa for the Germans were: 2,613 calories per day. Otheer groups received less than was needed to sustain life: Poles (699 calories--26 percent of the caloric in take needed) and Jews (184 calories--7.5 percent of what was needed). [Roland, pp. 99-104.] We think rations were higher in the provinced annexed to the Reich, butwe donntyet have details on this. Poles had options. They could move to the countryside or surepticious obtain food from farmers. Jews who had been ghettoized did not have these options. There was no possibility of growing food in most of the ghettoes and the NAZIs controlled food shipments into the ghettoes. Ghetto policies varied. They were not immdiately closed. It was for a time possible to smuggkle food into the ghettoes, but this became increasingly difficult as NAZI authoritie tightened controls and the ghetto Jews exhausted their meager resources. Only American food aid which was available until Hitler declared war on Ameica kept them alive.
The Polish Government in Exile issued an appeal for emergency food donations (September 25, 1939). At the time the primary concern was the problms created by the German invasion. It was not yet clear the food shortages tha the Germans woud create as a matter of policy. Maurice Pate and Chauncey McCormick helped organize the Commission. [Hoover, p. 4.] Former-president Herbert Hoover ageed to serve as the Chairman. 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 U.S. Food Administration that saved millions od Europeans durng and after World War I. The Commission for Polish Relief (CPR) was also known as the Comporel or Hoover Commission. It ws organized by President Hoover (late-1939). Hoover sought Congressional funding. He testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that around $400-500 million would be needed to feed some 7 million of destitute people in occupied Poland. He asked Congress for at least 25 percent of the needed funds. [Curti, pp. 415–16.] In fact only America was at the time in a position to fund the effort or deliver the food. Hoover was not yet aware that developing NAZI policy was to eliminate millions of people. The Commision obtained funding from Congress, the Polish Government in exile, private charities, and the American Red Cross. Various Polish-American organizations in the United States donated $0.4 million and the Polish Government in Exile ($0.2 million). The Commission eventually collected $6. million. This included $3.1 million
in gold that the Polish Government had deposited in the National Bank of Romania. This proved difficult to withdraw.
Hoover did not fully understandd how the NAZIs were deporting people into te General Goverment or how a substantial part of the food producded there wa being denied the population nd shipped to the Reich. The emergency program to help Poland ended with Hitler's declaration of war on America ended all contacts between the United States and Germany (December 1941).
Even Hitler declared war on America and the emergency food shipments ceased, he had ordered a much more expedient sollution to the preceived 'Jewish Question'--murder. Much less well understood was the fact that for millions of Slavs, Hitler also was planning murder.
Curti, Merle. American philanthropy abroad (Transaction Publishers, 1963).
Hitler, Adolf. Trans. Ralph Manheim. Mein Kampf (Mariner--Houghton Miflin: New York, 1971), 694p.
Hoover, Herbert. An American Epic: The Guns Cease Killing and the Saving of Life from Famine Begins, 1939-1963 (H. Regnery Co: 1984).
Łuczak, Czesław. Polska i Polacy w drugiej wojnie światowej (Uniwersytet im.Adama Mickiewicza: Poznan , 1993).
Roland, Charles G. "Scenes of Hunger and Starvation," Courage Under Siege (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 99–104.
Tooze, Adam. The Wages of Destruction : The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (Penguin Books: London, 2006).
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