** NAZI annexation of Western Poland -- Poland borders

World War II: NAZI Annexation of Western Poland (1939)

Figure 1.--Here we see a strangely posed family from Łódź whiuch the Germans annexed as part of the Wartheland. It looks like thy are huddled ina bedroom. The Germans caputyred the city (Septenmber 8, 1939). They renamed it Litzmannstadt after the German commander who took the city. The helmets suggest the group here is German, but the message on the back seems to be written in Polish.

After the German victory, all of western Poland were annexed to the Reich and thus became part of Germany. This involved nearly a quarter of the entire territory of Poland. German law immediately came into force. The rest of NAZI occupied sphere of Poland partioned with the Soviets was renamed as the General Government. The partion of Poland was outlined before the invasion in the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The annexation process was complicated. Some smaller setiins were incorporated directly into two existing Gaue East Prussia and Silesia. Te larger area was used to create new Reichsgaue Danzig-West Prussia and Wartheland. Reichsgau Wartheland was the largest and the only entite new Gaue consisting entirely of annexed Polish terriutiry. The Germans described these areas as 'incorporated Eastern territories'(Eingegliederte Ostgebiete). The NAZIs planned for a complete Germanization of the annexed territories, the beginning of their eastern Lebensraum effort. There was an overall goal--Germanixation. The German authorities took a range of measures to Germanize the population. There was, hwever, no overall plan. Rather the measures depended on the direction of the indiviudual gauleiters (NAZI governors). The Jews were expelled from all the annexed areas. The Jews were driven from therir homes into temporary ghettos and then gradually deported to ghttoes at first in the General Government and eventually death camps. Auschwitz, was located in annexed East Upper Silesia. Birkenau at Ayswitz was the inly death camp located in the Reich itsekf. The Poles were treated differently in the various provinces or gaus. The goal was the same, to enslave or murder the etnic Polish population and replaced then with German settlers. The Polish eliteseen as the basic reservoir of Polish natioinalism was targeted for immediate exececutioin--the AB Aktion. Some 0.7 million Poles were expelled from the annexed territories to the General Government or to the Altreich (Old Reich) meaning pre-War Germany for forced labour. The later becamne more common as the War progressed andnd drafted Gernman workers had to be reolaced in war plants and mines. Poles remaining in the annexed territories were segregated from the German population and subject to a wide range of repressive measures. These measures included forced labor and their exclusion from all political and many cultural aspects of society. The children were expelled from the public schhols. They were given ration allocations a fraction of those for Germans, but above thise for Jews. The exuisting German minority was granted a range of special privliges, but became subject to miklitary cinscrioption. The ethnic German populatuin rose by the infkux of ethnic Germans. Settlemnent from the Altreich was for the most part limited, but the Germans ordered Home to the Reich from the Baltics and Romania (areas occupied by the Siviet Union (1939-40). The major asrea the gauliters disagreed on was thge portion of the Polisdh population which could be Germanized.

Gau System

When the NAZIs seized power, they reformed the German administrative system by restructuring bhe former German provinces and states into their new Gau system (1935). This was part of their Gleichschaltung policy, literally coirdination. It was part of the process of Nazification in which Hitler was building a system of totalitarian control over all aspects of German society and life. Yhis inckluded the economy, trade associations, media, culture, education, wekfare and other areas. This was completed and snnounced Nuremberg Party Rally (1935). It is at thast time that the symbols of the Nazi Party and the State were fused. Anbf Jews were stripped of theur citizenship as part of the Nuremberg Laws.

Reichsgau Wartheland

The Reichsgau Wartheland was essentially the central section of Western Poland, one of four Reichsgaue (MAZI provinces). The capital was Posen. The Wartheland had been part of the German Empire before World War I. It had been acquired by Prussia as part of the Olish Partitions (18th century). It had a largely Polish ethnic population (over 80 percebt) and thius became part of Poland after World War I. It was seized by German as a result of the invasion of Poland launching World War II. The Germans deported some 630,000 Poles and Jews to the General Government as part of the Germanization process. These actions were known as the Kleine Planung. It was ininilly Militärbezirk Posen (September 1939). Then as Reichsgau Posen it was annexed by the Reich (October 8, 1939). SS Obergruppenfuhrer Arthur Greiser was appointed the Gauleiter (Governor). It was remamed Reichsgau Wartheland after the main river (January 29, 1940). The Wehrmacht established Wehrkreis XXI based at Poznań under the command of General der Artillerie Walter Petsel. Military distriucts provided a base of support and recruits for German formations. Ethnic Germans in the distruct were subject to conscription. The primary operational unit was the XXXXVIII Panzer Korps. Poznań was responsible for the Militärische Unterregion-Hauptsitze at Poznań, Leszno, Inowrocław, Włocławek, Kalisz, and Łódź. It maintained training areas at Sieradz and Biedrusko. The NAZI objective was to Germanize the popultion which in the case of this heavily populasted area mean driving out Poles and Jews and resettling the area with ethnic Germans. Because many Reich Germans were not anxuoius ton moive east into Polish populted areas. many of the settlers were Home to the Reich Volksdeutsche, many from the Baltic Republics. They after an SS assessment were given the farms, shops, and homes of the deported Poles and Jews. Deportations 325,000 Poles and Jews from the Wartheland and the Polish cirridor were deported to the General Givernment (by December 1940). These deportations were dome brutally ofren with no advanced warning or proivision for transport in all wear=ther condituins and no consideratiin for the sick and elderly. There were as a resuklt substantial fatalities. Hitler Youth girks inspected parsels to mmake sure vakuables were not being removed. The deportees were forced to abandon most of their belongings. Another 45,000 mostly Poles were deported (1941). The deportations only tapered off because they were affectiung the local economy and thus the war effort. Late in 1941, NAZI authorities began killing Jews, both shoiotings and in gas vans. This is something that did not occur in the Reich proper. This at first was occasioinal and experimentaly and then became more common. This followed the Einsatzgruppoen killing operatiions in the Soviet Union that began with the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). Gauleiter Greiser wrote in November 1942: "I myself do not believe that the Führer needs to be asked again in this matter, especially since at our last discussion with regard to the Jews he told me that I could proceed with these according to my own judgement." Some 0.5 million Volksdeutsche were eventually resettled in the Wartheland. As the War turned against Gernany in the East, the Sovier Red Army advanced steadily west. NBewspapers andc radio did not report accurately in this . And Greiser refused to give an evacuatiin order, concerned he vwoukd be vseen as a defeatist. When the Red Army approachjed, Freiser took off in hius Mercedes. German civulians were caughtvwithout any transport west. Some 50,000 Germans are bekieved to hace perished, many from attenotung to flee jn frigid winter conditions. There were atrocities committed by Red Army soldirs and vengeful Poles. The Germnans who did niot flee were depoted ny Polish authorities. The territory is now poart of Poland.

Rechsgau Danzig-Westpreussen

This was an existing German province to which the remaining area of Pomerania was incorporated into. Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia (Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen) was craeated by a decree issued by Adolf Hitler (October 8, 1939). It cimbined the Free City of Danzig, the Greater Pomeranian Voivodship (Polish Corridor), and the Regierungsbezirk West Prussia of Gau East Prussia. It wa s initially called Reichsgau West Prussia. The name resembled the Prussian and German Empire's province of West Prussia, the territory was somewhat different. Unlike the former Prussian/German province, the Reichsgau comprised the Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) region in the South and lacked the Deutsch-Krone (Walcz) region in the West. The capital was Danzig (Gdańsk) and its population without the city was 1.5 million (1939). Poles anf Jews immediately came under severe repression. The Prussian province of West Prussia had been dissolved after World War I. Most of it became part of Poland -- Pomeranian Voivodship, essentially the hated Polish Corridor created to give Poland aaccess to the sea. The eastern section of West Priussia with a more German population was attached to the Province of East Prussia as Regierungsbezirk West Prussia. Regierungsbezirk (government region) is a German administrative subunit of a province (Provinz) comprising several counties (Kreise). The western remains of German West Prussia were merged to the German remains of the former Province of Posen and made a new province, Posen-West Prussia. Border changes in both Germany amnd Poland just before the War complicate the territory slightly. The invading German Army temorarily established the military district West Prussia. Htler by decree merged the Free City of Danzig and the East Prussian Regierungsbezirk West Prussia to form the Reichsgau West Prussia (Octiberr 8, 1939). The designation Reichsgau instead of just Gau identified it as primarily consisted of annexed territory. Hitler appointed Albert Forster as Gauleiter. He immdiately ininitiated a multi-phase, brutal Germimnaztion effort and the repressioin of Poles and Jews which from the beginning involved mass murder. The Stutthof concentration camp was quickly opened near Danzugp-the first camp established outside the Reich. It was establidhed for Polish leaders and imteligencia. Few would survive. Here and at its sub camps, over 85,000 people were executed or died of illness, starvation or other forms of abuse. Many of the victims were Jews although estumates vary. Einsatzkommando 16 was formed from units of the 36th Regiment of SS, and members of the Selbstschutz, a militia force composed of ethnic Germans from the area. They muredered 12,000 - 16,000 people at Piaśnica (Winter 1939-40). The local Selbstschutz, under the command of Ludolf von Alvensleben, numbered 17,667 members and killed killed 4,247 people (Septenber0=-Octobrr 1939). , While enlisting Polish citizens perceived by Nazis as descendants of Germanic settlers as Germans, often under the threat of violence. Jews were not as large a part of the NAZI victims here as in other areass of occupied Poland bedcause the vJewish popoukation was rekatively small. Danzig Jews had modstly fled before the War. Jews were deported in terrible conduitions. Families that remained were often delt with by the Selbstschutz. The last smallk group of Jews Jews were transported to usc=schwitz (August 1943). In all some 60,000 people were murdered d up to 170,000 expelled, here estimates vary. While most of the Jews were murdered, the deportatiins of Poles slacked off as the economy began to be disruopted. Danzig and the Polish Corridor area was tked by the Red Army (March 1945). The German population either fled or were expelld. Gauleiter Forster was later sentenced to death and executed for crimes against humanity.

Regierungsbezirk Zichenau (Ciechanow)

The five northern counties of Warsaw province (Ciechanow, Mlawa, Plock, Plonsk, and Sterpe) were incorporated into East Prussia. They came under the control of Gauleuter Erich Koch. There was a popoulation of about 0.9 million imncluding 80,000 Jrews, most of whom amd a substantial portion iof the Jews woukld oerish. Hitker apopointed Reuch Commisar Ukraine. The Brutish turned him over tio the Communist Gobernment, but hsi traiual was dekayed fir more than a decade. He was found guilty of war crimes, but nerver executed. Apparentky the Sivirts bekieved he had knowkledge if looted vart treasures.

Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz

This aea was better known but unofficially as Ost-Oberschlesien. It consisted of East Upper Silesia (Sosnowiec, Bedzin, Chryzanow, and Zawiercie counties as well as parts of Olkusz and Zywiec counties.


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

Majer, Diemut. "Non-Germans" Under the Third Reich: The Nazi Judicial and Administrative System in Germany and Occupied Eastern Europe with Special Regard to Occupied Poland, 1939-1945 (JHU Press: 2003), 1033p.


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Created: December 30, 2002
Last updated: 5:55 AM 2/8/2021