The Generalplan Ost (German pronunciation: [ɡenəˈʁaːlˌplaːn ˈɔst]; English: General Plan East), abbreviated GPO, was the Nazi German government's plan for the colonization of Central and Eastern Europe. Implementation of the plan necessitated genocide and ethnic cleansing on a vast scale to be undertaken in territories occupied by Germany during World War II. Some of the plan was partially implemented during the war, resulting indirectly and directly in a very large number of deaths, but full implementation was not considered practicable during the ongoing war effort and was prevented by Germany's defeat.
The plan entailed the enslavement, expulsion, and partial destruction of most Slavic peoples in Europe, whom the Nazis viewed as racially inferior and non-Aryan. The programme operational guidelines, prepared in the years 1939–1942, were based on the policy of Lebensraum designed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement, as well as being a fulfillment of the Drang nach Osten (English: Drive towards the East) ideology of German expansion to the east. As such, it was intended to be a part of the New Order in Europe.
Development and reconstruction of the plan
The body responsible for the drafting of this plan was the Reich Main Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt - RSHA), the security organization of the SS responsible for fighting all enemies of Nazism. It was a strictly confidential document, and its contents were known only to those at the topmost level of the Nazi hierarchy.
According to the testimony of SS-Standartenführer Dr. Hans Ehlich (one of the witnesses in Case VIII before the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials), the final version of the plan was drafted in 1940. As a high official in the RSHA, Ehlich was the man responsible for the drafting of Generalplan Ost along with Dr. Konrad Meyer, Chief of the Planning Office of Himmler's Reichskommissariat for the Strengthening of German Nationhood. It had been preceded by the Ostforschung, a number of studies and research projects carried out over several years by various academic centres to provide the necessary facts and figures. The preliminary versions were discussed by the SS head Heinrich Himmler and his most trusted colleagues even before the outbreak of war. This was mentioned by SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski during his evidence as a prosecution witness in the trial of officials of the SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt (RuSHA) (SS Office of Race and Settlement). According to Bach-Zelewski, Himmler stated openly: "It is a question of existence, thus it will be a racial struggle of pitiless severity, in the course of which 20 to 30 million Slavs and Jews will perish through military actions and crises of food supply."
Nearly all the wartime documentation on Generalplan Ost was deliberately destroyed shortly before Germany's defeat in May 1945. Thus, no copies of the plan have ever been found after the war among the documents in German archives. Apart from Ehlich's testimony, there are several documents which refer to this plan or are supplements to it. Although no copies of the actual document have survived, most of the plan's essential elements have been reconstructed from related memos, abstracts and other ancillary documents.
One principal document which made it possible to recreate with a great deal of accuracy the contents of Generalplan Ost is a memo of April 27, 1942 entitled Stellungnahme und Gedanken zum Generalplan Ost des Reichsführers SS ("Opinion and Ideas Regarding the General Plan for the East of the Reichsführer-SS") and written by Dr. Erhard Wetzel, the director of the Central Advisory Office on Questions of Racial Policy of the Nazi Party (Leiter der Hauptstelle Beratungsstelle des Rassenpolitischen Amtes der NSDAP). This memorandum is an elaboration of Generalplan Ost.
Adolf Hitler, in his attempt to reassure skeptics, used the world's indifference towards the previous Armenian Genocide as an argument that possible negative consequences would be avoided in this case too. This has subsequently been referred to as Hitler's Armenian quote ("Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians").
Phases of the plan and its implementation
The final version of Generalplan Ost, essentially a grand plan for ethnic cleansing, was divided into two parts; the "Small Plan" (Kleine Planung), which covered actions which were to be taken during the war, and the "Big Plan" (Grosse Planung), which covered actions to be undertaken after the war was won, and to be implemented gradually over a period of 25 to 30 years.
|Ethnic group||Percentage subject to removal|
|Russians||50–60% to be physically eliminated and another 15% to be sent to Western Siberia|
Generalplan Ost envisaged differing percentages of the various conquered nations undergoing Germanization, destruction, expulsion and other fates, the net effect of which would be to ensure that the conquered territories would be Germanized. In ten years' time, the plan effectively called for the extermination, expulsion, Germanization or enslavement of most or all East and West Slavs living behind the front lines in Europe. The "Small Plan" was to be put into practice as the Germans conquered the areas to the east of their pre-war borders. In this way the plan for Poland was drawn up at the end of November 1939 and is probably responsible for much of the World War II expulsion of Poles by Germany (first to colonial district of the General Government and, from 1942 also to Polenlager). After the war, under the "Big Plan", Generalplan Ost foresaw the removal of 45 million non-Germanizable people from Central and Eastern Europe, of whom 31 million were "racially undesirable", 100% of Jews, Poles (85%), Belorussians (75%) and Ukrainians (65%), to West Siberia, and about 14 millions were to remain, but were to be treated as slaves. In their place, up to 8-10 million Germans would be settled in an extended "living space" (Lebensraum). Because the number of Germans appeared to be insufficient to populate the vast territories of Central and Eastern Europe, the peoples judged to lie racially between the Germans and the Russians (Mittelschicht), namely, Latvians and even Czechs, were also supposed to be resettled there.
According to Nazi intentions, attempts at Germanization were to be undertaken only in the case of those foreign nationals in Central and Eastern Europe who could be considered a desirable element for the future Reich from the point of view of its racial theories. The Plan stipulated that there were to be different methods of treating particular nations and even particular groups within them. Attempts were even made to establish the basic criteria to be used in determining whether a given group lent itself to Germanization. These criteria were to be applied more liberally in the case of nations whose racial material (rassische Substanz) and level of cultural development made them more suitable than others for Germanization. The Plan considered that there were a large number of such elements among the Baltic nations. Erhard Wetzel felt that thought should be given to a possible Germanization of the whole of the Estonian nation and a sizable proportion of the Latvians. On the other hand, the Lithuanians seemed less desirable since "they contained too great an admixture of Slav blood." Himmler's view was that "almost the whole of the Lithuanian nation would have to be deported to the East".
Whatever happened, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were to be deprived of their statehood, while their territories were to be included in the eastern area of German settlement. This meant that Latvia and especially Lithuania would be covered by the deportation plans, though in a somewhat milder form than the Slav—"voluntary" emigration to western Siberia. While the Baltic nations like Estonians would be spared from repressions and physical liquidation that Jews or Poles were experiencing, in the long term the Nazi planners did not foresee their existence as independent entitites and they would be deported as well, with eventual denationalisation; initial designs were for Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to be Germanized within 25 years, however Heinrich Himmler revised them to 20 years.
In 1941 it was decided to destroy the Polish nation completely and the German leadership decided that in 10 to 20 years the Polish state under German occupation was to be fully cleared of any ethnic Poles and settled by German colonists. A majority of them, now deprived of their leaders and most of their intelligentsia (through human losses, destruction of culture, the ban on education above the absolutely basic level, and kidnapping of children for Germanization), would have to be deported to regions in the East and scattered over as wide an area of Western Siberia as possible. According to the plan this would result in their assimilation by the local populations, which would cause the Poles to vanish as a nation. By 1952, only about 3–4 million non-Germanized Poles (all of them peasants) were to be left residing in the former Poland. Those of them who would still not Germanize were to be forbidden to marry, the existing ban on any medical help to Poles in Germany would be extended, and eventually Poles would cease to exist. Experiments in mass sterilization in concentration camps may also have been intended for use on the populations. The Wehrbauer, or soldier-peasants, would be settled in a fortified line to prevent civilization reanimating beyond the Ural Mountains and threatening Germany. "Tough peasant races" would serve as a bulwark against attack — however, it was not very far east of the "frontier" that the westernmost reaches within continental Asia of the Third Reich's major Axis partner, Imperial Japan's own Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere would have existed, had a complete defeat of the Soviet Union occurred.
The seizure of food supplies in Ukraine brought about starvation, as it was intended to do to depopulate that region for German settlement. Soldiers were told to steel their hearts against starving women and children, because every bit of food given to them was stolen from the German people, endangering their nourishment.
Widely varying policies were envisioned by the creators of Generalplan Ost, and some of them were actually implemented by Germany in regards to the different Slavic territories and ethnic groups. For example, by August–September 1939 (Operation Tannenberg followed by the A-B Aktion in 1940), Einsatzgruppen death squads and concentration camps had been employed to deal with the Polish elite, while the small number of Czech intelligentsia were allowed to emigrate overseas. Parts of Poland were annexed by Germany early in the war (leaving aside the rump German-controlled General Government and the areas previously annexed by the Soviet Union), while the other territories were officially occupied by or allied to Germany (for example, the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia became a theoretically independent puppet state, while the ethnic-Czech parts of the Czech lands (so excluding the Sudetenland) became a "protectorate"). It is unknown to what degree the plan was actually directly connected to the various German war crimes and crimes against humanity in the East, especially in the latter phases of the war. In any case, the majority of Germany's 12 million forced laborers were abducted from Eastern Europe, mostly in the Soviet territories and Poland (both Slavs and local Jews).
One of the charges listed in the indictment presented at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer responsible for the transportation aspects of the Final Solution, was that he was responsible for the deportation of 500,000 Poles. Eichmann was convicted on all 15 counts.
Civilian death toll in the Soviet Union
The Russian Academy of Sciences in 1995 reported civilian victims in the USSR at German hands totaled 13.7 million dead, 20% of the 68 million persons in the occupied USSR. This included 7.4 million victims of Nazi genocide and reprisals; 2.2 million deaths of persons deported to Germany for forced labor; and 4.1 million famine and disease deaths in occupied territory. There were an additional estimated 3.0 million famine deaths in areas of the USSR not under German occupation. These losses are for the entire territory of the USSR in 1946 to 1991 borders, including territories occupied in 1939–40. The deaths of 8.2 million Soviet civilians were documented by the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission.
- A-A line
- Areas annexed by Nazi Germany
- Expulsion of Poles by Nazi Germany
- Holocaust victims
- Hunger Plan
- Nazi crimes against ethnic Poles
- Nazi crimes against Soviet POWs
- Nazism and race
- New Order
- Occupation of Poland (1939–1945)
- Pabst Plan
- Racial policy of Nazi Germany
- Wannsee Conference
- World War II evacuation and expulsion
- Forced labour under German rule during World War II
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