Albert Forster

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Albert Forster
As SS-Gruppenführer c. 1939
Gauleiter of the Free City of Danzig
In office
15 October 1930 – 26 October 1939
Preceded byArthur Greiser
Succeeded byposition abolished
Head of State of the Free City of Danzig
In office
23 August 1939 – 1 September 1939
Preceded byArthur Greiser
Succeeded byposition abolished
Reichsstatthalter and Gauleiter of Danzig-West Prussia
In office
26 October 1939 – 27 March 1945
Appointed byAdolf Hitler
Preceded bypositions established
Succeeded bypositions abolished
Personal details
Born26 July 1902
Fürth, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire
Died28 February 1952 (aged 49)
Mokotów Prison, Warsaw, Polish People's Republic
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
Political partyNational Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP)
SpouseGertrud Deetz
Military service

Albert Maria Forster (26 July 1902 – 28 February 1952) was a Nazi German politician, member of the SS and war criminal. Under his administration as the Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter of Danzig-West Prussia (the other German-annexed section of occupied Poland aside from the Warthegau) during the Second World War, the local non-German populations of Poles and Jews were classified as sub-human and subjected to extermination campaigns involving ethnic cleansing, mass murder, and in the case of some Poles with German ancestry, forceful Germanisation. Forster was directly responsible for the extermination of non-Germans and was a strong supporter of Polish genocide, which he had advocated before the war. Forster was tried, convicted and hanged in Warsaw for his crimes, after Germany was defeated.

Early life[edit]

Forster was born in Fürth, where he attended volksschule and the Humanistisches Gymnasium from 1908 to 1920. He then trained in banking for two years and began working at a Fürth bank in 1922. In November 1923, he joined the Nazi Party, becoming the leader of its local branch in Fürth; he also became a member of the SA at that time. In May 1924 he was dismissed from the bank for his National Socialist activities, including anti-Semitic agitation. Following the Beer Hall Putsch when the Nazi Party was outlawed, he became a member of a Nazi front organization, the Greater German People's Community, and served as its local leader. During this time he was befriended by Julius Streicher, the Party leader of northern Bavaria, and became a part-time journalist for Streicher's weekly anti-Semitic paper Der Stürmer.[1] He was an observer at the trial for high treason of Erich Ludendorff, Adolf Hitler and eight others putschists, which took place between 26 February and 1 April 1924 in the court at Munich.

Nazi Party career[edit]


Forster was in attendance in Munich when the Nazi Party was refounded by Hitler on 27 February 1925, and he again became the Ortsgruppenleiter (Local Group Leader) in Fürth. He officially rejoined the Party on 5 April 1925 (membership number 1,924); as an early Party member he was considered an Alter Kämpfer and would later be awarded the Golden Party Badge. He soon became a Parteiredner (Party orator) giving speeches throughout the area. On 12 May 1926, he joined the Schutzstaffel (SS), forming and leading the SS Group "Nurnberg-Fürth" in July 1926. From February 1928, Forster was employed as a payment office official by the German National Association of Commercial Employees (Deutschnationaler Handlungsgehilfen-Verband, DHV), a nationalist and anti-Semitic trade union. Forster unsuccessfully sought a seat in the Reichstag at the 20 May 1928 election. However, that year he advanced to Party Bezirksleiter (District Leader) for Middle Franconia, while also retaining his leadership in Fürth; he would continue to hold these positions through December 1929. At the 14 September 1930 election, Forster was elected to the Reichstag from electoral constituency 26, Franconia, and was made the expert advisor on labor and clerical employee issues to the Nazi Reichstag faction. When elected, he was the youngest deputy in the Reichstag.[2]

Free City of Danzig[edit]

Albert Forster with Arthur Greiser, Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, Heinrich Hacker [de] and Wilhelm Koppe in the late 1930s

On 15 October 1930, Forster became the Nazi Party's Gauleiter of the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland), replacing Arthur Greiser who then became the Deputy Gauleiter. This touched off a feud between them and Greiser was to remain Forster's lifelong nemesis. Many residents resented Forster as an interloper who had replaced Greiser, a native Danziger. Forster immediately embarked on an aggressive propaganda campaign and membership drive. In November 1930, he became the founder and publisher of the Danziger Beobachter (Danzig Observer). From December 1930 to December 1932, he increased the Party member ship from 1,310 to 9,519. The Danzig SA likewise expanded from 150 to 1,500 members.[3]

After the Nazi seizure of power, Forster spearheaded the Nazi take-over of Danzig in the spring of 1933, attaining an absolute majority for the Nazi Party in the Danzig Senate. Hitler rewarded him with the leadership of the DHV on 10 May 1933, making him the head of all clerical employee organizations within the German Labor Front. On 15 September he was appointed to the Prussian State Council and in January 1934, he was made honorary Führer of the 36th SS-Standarte in Danzig. In January 1935, he was named chairman of the Danzig branch of the Nordische Gesellschaft (Nordic Society) that was charged with strengthening German-Nordic cultural and political cooperation. On 23 January 1936, he became a member of the personal staff of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler.[4]

Before World War II, Forster had tried and failed to gain control over the organisation of the irredentist activities of the ethnic German population in the Polish Corridor, neighbouring Freie Stadt Danzig, which was created in 1920 by the Treaty of Versailles; rather it was the SS-dominated Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle that won control. With Forster and Himmler engaged in a power struggle, this rendered the (ethnic) Germans suspicious of Forster. When these territories were annexed after the Invasion of Poland and they became Reichsgau Danzig – West Prussia, Forster's distrust of the local Nazi leaders led him to deny them political power. Forster filled all the significant positions with his allies from the pre-war Free City of Danzig. This snub created a great bitterness among the local Germans in addition to Forster's Germanisation policies, which denied them a higher status than local Poles.[5]

In May 1934 Forster, who had been made an Honorary Citizen of Fürth and of Danzig, married Gertrud Deetz. The wedding took place in the Berlin chancellory, with Hitler and Rudolf Hess as witnesses and wedding guests. However, a 1943-44 report on Hitler titled Analysis of the Personality of Adolph Hitler by psychoanalyst Walter C. Langer asserts that Forster "is known to be a homosexual" and was often addressed as "Bubi," a common term of affection among German homosexuals of the era.[6]

In 1937 Forster boasted about his fight against communists and other "subhumans".[7]

In 1939, following orders from Berlin, Forster led the agitation in Danzig to step up pressure for annexation by Nazi Germany and proclaimed that in future "Poland will be only a dream".[8] On 23 August Forster replaced Greiser as Danzig's head of state. The Danzig issue was one of the pretexts used for the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. He was hateful of Jews whom he called "dirty and slippery race" and he expressed his desire to control parts of Poland after Poles would be expelled from them.[9]

World War II[edit]

Immediately following the German invasion of Poland, Forster on 8 September was appointed Chief of Civil Administration in the military district of Danzig-West Prussia, which subsequently was annexed to the German Reich on 8 October 1939. The military administration ended and he was then appointed Gauleiter of the newly created Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia on 21 October. At the same time, he was also named Reichsstatthalter (Reich Governor) of the new territory, thereby uniting under his control the highest party and governmental offices in his jurisdiction. Additionally, he was appointed Reich Defense Commissioner of the newly established Wehrkreis (Military District) XX, consisting of the new Reichsgau. On 7 July 1940 he was elected to the Reichstag for Danzig-West Prussia and would remain a member until the end of the Nazi regime. A member of the SS since 1926, Forster was promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer on 31 December 1941. In September 1944, he was given command of the Volkssturm forces in hie Reichsgau. He would retain these posts until fleeing Danzig on 27 March 1945 ahead of the invading Soviet forces. [10]

Extermination and ethnic cleansing[edit]

Adolf Hitler instructed the Gauleiters, namely Forster and his rival Arthur Greiser, Gauleiter in the Warthegau, to Germanise the area, promising that "There would be no questions asked" about how this "Germanisation" was to be accomplished.[11] Forster's goal was to make the area fully Germanised within ten years,[12] and he was directly responsible for extermination policy in the region.[13]

Forster was directly responsible for the extermination of non-Germans in Danzig-West Prussia. He personally believed in the need to engage in genocide of Poles and stated that, "We have to exterminate this nation, starting from the cradle"[14][15][16] and declared that Poles and Jews were not human.[17][18]

Around 70 camps were set up for Polish people in Pomerania where they were subjected to murder, torture and, in the case of women and girls, rape before being executed.[19][20] Between the 10th and 15th of September, Forster organised a meeting of top Nazi officials in his region and ordered the immediate removal of all "dangerous" Poles, all Jews, and all Polish clergy.[21] In some cases Forster ordered executions himself.[22] On the 19th of October he reprimanded Nazi officials in the city of Grudziadz for not "spilling enough Polish blood."[23]

The total number of victims of what Christopher Browning calls an "orgy of murder and deportation" cannot be precisely estimated. Forster reported that 87,000 people had been "evacuated" from the region by February 1940.[24]


Mass execution in Piaśnica

Forster was one of those responsible for the mass murders in Piaśnica, where approximately 12,000 to 16,000 Poles, Jews, Czechs, Kashubians and even Germans were killed in the winter of 1939-1940. Forster personally encouraged such violence; in a speech at the Prusinski Hotel in Wejherowo he incited ethnic Germans to attack Poles by saying "We have to eliminate the lice-ridden Poles, starting with those in the cradle. In your hands I give the fate of the Poles; you can do with them what you want". The crowd gathered before the hotel chanted "Kill the Polish dogs!" and "Death to the Poles".[25] The Selbstschutz later participated in the massacres as Piaśnica.[25] In 1946 a Polish National Tribunal in Gdańsk held Forster responsible for the murders at Piasnica.

Role in the Jewish Holocaust[edit]

Forster at the outbreak of the war declared that "Jews are not humans, and must be eradicated like vermin...mercy towards Jews is reprehensible. Any means of destruction of Jews is desirable."[26] Jews were killed locally or deported to the General Government. By November 1939 Danzig-West Prussia was declared "Judenfrei".[27] It is estimated that up to 30,000 Jews from Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany in Pomerania and attached to Danzig-West Prussia were murdered during the war.[28]

Germanisation policies[edit]

The Nazi policy and terror instituted by Forster offered only two possibilities to the Polish population: extermination or Germanisation. Forster pursued a policy of genocide and forced assimilation of the population in his area of responsibility.[29] At the start of the war Forster planned ethnic cleansing of all Poles originating from Congress Poland and all Jews by February 1940 from his Gau, but unforeseen problems with agriculture workers and the inadequate character of German settlers forced him to revise his policies.[30][31] Forster was willing to accept any and all Poles who claimed to have "German blood" as Germans.[29] In practice, the method of determining whether Poles had any German ancestry or not was to send out Nazi Party workers to interview the local Poles; all Poles who stated that they had German ancestry had their answers taken at face value with no documentation required.[32] Refusal to become Germanised was punishable by deportation to the General Government or imprisonment in a concentration camp.[33] In some cases whole settlements were classed as populated by Germans in order to meet quotas Forster laid down.[34] Practical issues like food production could influence Forster's decisions on whom to expel.[35]

Albert Forster making a speech in 1939

Forster was at odds with Arthur Greiser, who had complained to Heinrich Himmler, the 'Reich Commissioner for the Strengthening of Germandom', that Forster's assimilation policy was against Nazi racial theory. When Himmler approached Forster over this issue, Forster simply ignored him, realizing that Hitler allowed each Gauleiter to run his area as he saw fit. Both Greiser and Himmler complained to Hitler that Forster was allowing thousands of Poles to be classified as Germans, but Hitler merely bounced the problem back to them, telling them to go sort out their problems with Forster on their own. This was a difficult task; Himmler's attempts to cajole Forster to see matters his way met with resentment and contempt. In a discussion with Richard Hildebrandt Forster scoffed, "if I looked like Himmler, I wouldn't talk about race".[36]

The outcome of these policies was that two-thirds of the ethnic Polish population of Forster's Gau would be classed as German under the Deutsche Volksliste.[34]

Although far fewer Poles would be removed from Danzig-West Prussia than in the neighbouring Warthegau[37] it is estimated that by the end of the war, up to 60,000 people had been murdered in the region[38] and up to 170,000 expelled.[39] Other estimates place the expulsion figure at around 35,000 people.[40] Forster himself reported that 87,000 people had been "evacuated" from the region by February 1940.[24]

Conflict with SS and colonisation policies[edit]

Forster's conflict with the SS also had direct and injurious consequences for ethnic Germans. During the war, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans were moved by Nazi-Soviet agreement from the Soviet Union into Poland and used as colonists in Nazi occupied Poland. While Greiser did all he could to accommodate them in his Reichsgau, Forster viewed them with hostility, claiming that his region needed young farmers while the refugees were old and urbanised. He initially refused to admit any of them into his Reichsgau. When a ship bearing several thousands of ethnic Germans from the Baltic states arrived at Danzig he initially refused them entry unless Himmler promised that they would not be settled in Danzig-West Prussia but proceed immediately elsewhere, an assurance that Himmler could not provide. It was only following a lengthy telephone consultation with the desperate Himmler that Forster allowed the passengers to disembark, on the understanding that their residence in the Reichsgau would be temporary, though most did not, ultimately, leave the region. In time he had to relent, and by June 1944, 53,258 colonists had settled in Danzig-West Prussia, a far cry from the 421,780 settled in the Warthegau. Forster's Germanization policies left less free land and housing than Greiser's mass expulsions, although it is evident that Forster's perception of the ethnic German refugees as wards of the SS played its role in determining his attitude.[citation needed]

Trial and death[edit]

At the end of the war, Forster took refuge in the British Occupation Zone of Germany. The British handed him over to the People's Republic of Poland.

In 1948, Forster was condemned to death by the Polish court for war crimes (the Supreme National Tribunal) and crimes against humanity. He was held and had his sentence deferred. Polish president August Zaleski denied clemency on 21 February 1952, and Forster was moved from Gdańsk to Mokotów Prison in Warsaw, where he was hanged on 28 February 1952. His wife, who had not heard from him since 1949, was informed of his death in 1954.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Miller & Schulz 2012, p. 184.
  2. ^ Miller & Schulz 2012, pp. 185–186.
  3. ^ Miller & Schulz 2012, pp. 186–187.
  4. ^ Miller & Schulz 2012, pp. 188–192.
  5. ^ The Nazis: A warning from history: The Wild East.
  6. ^ Langer, Walter C. (1943) A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler: His Life and Legend Archived 2015-08-07 at the Wayback Machine Office of Strategic Services, p. 149; name is spelled "Foerster" and he is identified as the "Danzig Gauleiter"
  7. ^ Yad Washem Studies on the European Jewish Catastrophe and Resistance - Issue 5 - Page 162, 1963. "Thus, for example, in 1937, Albert Forster, the Gauleiter of Danzig, told Carl J. Burckhardt, the League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig, how he "fought hard Communists and other Untermenschen ..."
  8. ^ LIFE Magazine 21 August 1939
  9. ^ Richard Hargreaves, Blitzkrieg w Polsce, wrzesien 1939, page 93.
  10. ^ Miller & Schulz 2012, pp. 184, 197–203.
  11. ^ Rees, Laurence (1997), The Nazis: A Warning From History, New York: New Press, pages 141–.
  12. ^ Dieter Schenk: Albert Forster. Gdański namiestnik Hitlera. Gdańsk: Wydawnictwo Oskar, 2002, page 251. ISBN 83-86181-83-4.
  13. ^ Danuta Drywa (2001), Zagłada Żydów w obozie koncentracyjnym Stutthof. Muzeum Stutthof w Sztutowie. "Politykę eksterminacyjną na Pomorzu Gdańskim miał bezpośrednio realizować gauleiter Okręgu Gdańsk-Prusy Albert Forster."
  14. ^ Eugenia Bozena Klodecka-Kaczynska, Michal Ziólkowski (1 Jan 2003), Bylem numerem: swiadectwa z Auschwitz, page 14. Wydawn. Sióstr Loretanek.
  15. ^ Barbara Bojarska (1989), Piasnica, miejsce martyrologii i pamieci: z badan nad zbrodniami hilerowskimi na Pomorzu. Page 20. "Szczególny niepokój wywolala wsród mieszkanców jego wyrazna zapowiedz akcji zaglady Polaków, streszczajaca sie chocby w tym jednym zdaniu: Musimy ten naród wytepic od kolyski poczawszy."
  16. ^ Dieter Schenk (2002), Albert Forster: gdanski namiestnik Hitlera : zbrodnie hitlerowskie w Gdansku i Prusach Zachodnich, POLNORD - Gdansk, page 388.
  17. ^ Danuta Drywa (2001), Zaglada Zydów w obozie koncentracyjnym Stutthof Muzeum Stutthof w Sztutowie. "Polityke eksterminacyjna na Pomorzu Gdanskim mial bezposrednio realizowac gauleiter Okregu Gdansk-Prusy Albert Forster."
  18. ^ Dieter Schenk (2002), Albert Forster: gdanski namiestnik Hitlera, page 221. "...postawe Forstera, który nie poczuwal sie do jakiejkolwiek winy, zwlaszcza w przypadkach, gdy chodzilo - w jego mniemaniu - o „podludzi" w rodzaju prostytutek, Polaków i Zydów, o których zazwyczaj mówiono element".
  19. ^ Maria Wardzynska: Byl rok 1939. Operacja niemieckiej policji bezpieczenstwa w Polsce. Intelligenzaktion. Warszawa: Instytut Pamieci Narodowej, 2009. ISBN 978-83-7629-063-8 page 17
  20. ^ Barbara Bojarska: Eksterminacja inteligencji polskiej na Pomorzu Gdanskim, page 67.
  21. ^ Dieter Schenk (2002): Albert Forster. Gdanski namiestnik Hitlera. Gdansk: Wydawnictwo Oskar. ISBN 83-86181-83-4, pages 212-213.
  22. ^ Dieter Schenk (2002): Albert Forster. Gdanski namiestnik Hitlera. Gdansk: Wydawnictwo Oskar. ISBN 83-86181-83-4, page 215.
  23. ^ Barbara Bojarska: Eksterminacja inteligencji polskiej na Pomorzu Gdanskim, page 66.
  24. ^ a b Browning, page 33.
  25. ^ a b Elżbieta Grot, "Biblioteka Publiczna Gminy Wejherowo im. Aleksandra Labudy w Bolszewie". Archived from the original on 2010-02-09. Retrieved 2010-06-30. "Ludobójstwo w Piaśnicy z uwzględnieniem losów mieszkańców powiatu wejherowskiego."] (Genocide in Piaśnica with a discussion of the fate of the inhabitants of Wejherow county", Public Library of Wejherowo,
  26. ^ Aleksandra Namysło [red.]: Zagłada Żydów na polskich terenach wcielonych do Rzeszy. Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2008, page 117. ISBN 978-83-60464-66-3
  27. ^ Dieter Schenk: Albert Forster. Gdański namiestnik Hitlera. Gdańsk: Wydawnictwo Oskar, 2002, page 312 ISBN 83-86181-83-4.
  28. ^ Aleksandra Namysło [red.]: Zagłada Żydów na polskich terenach wcielonych do Rzeszy. op.cit., page 135
  29. ^ a b Rees, Laurence The Nazis: A Warning From History, New York: New Press, 1997 pages 141-142
  30. ^ Wladze i spoleczenstwo niemieckie na Pomorzu Wschodnim i Kujawach w latach okupacji niemieckiej (1939-1945): materialy XIV sesji popularnonaukowej w Toruniu w dniu 13 listopada 2004 roku Katarzyna Minczykowska, Jan Sziling Fundacja "Archiwum i Muzeum Pomorskie Armii Krajowej oraz Wojskowej Sluzby Polek",page 54, 2005
  31. ^ The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War By Halik Kochansk
  32. ^ Rees, Laurence The Nazis: A Warning From History, New York: New Press, 1997 pages 142
  33. ^ Piotr Semków: "Pobór Polaków z Pomorza do Wehrmachtu." Biuletyn IPN nr 8 – 9 (67 – 68), Sierpień–Wrzesień 2006.
  34. ^ a b Mazower, M (2008) Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe, Penguin Press P197
  35. ^ Kochanski, H (2012), The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War, Harvard University Press, p. 106.
  36. ^ Valdis O. Lumans (2010). Himmler's Auxiliaries: The Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle and the German National Minorities of Europe, 1933-1945. The University of North Carolina Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0807865644.
  37. ^ Mazower, M (2008) Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe, Penguin Press P85
  38. ^ Paweł Kosiński, Barbara Polak: Nie zamierzam podejmować żadnej polemiki – wywiad z prof. Witoldem Kuleszą. Biuletyn IPN nr 12-1 (35-36), grudzień-styczeń 2003-2004, pages 4-23.
  39. ^ Bogdan Chrzanowski: Wypędzenia z Pomorza. Biuletyn IPN nr 5/2004, maj 2004
  40. ^ Gilbert, M (1989) Second World War, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, P27


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