Ostbahn (General Government)

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Headquarters of General Government Eastern Railways (Ostbahn) in Kraków at Plac Matejki

Ostbahn (German: for Eastern Railway) in the General Government, were the Nazi German railways in occupied Poland during World War II, subordinated to the General Directorate of Eastern Railways (German: Generaldirektion der Ostbahn, Gedob) in occupied Kraków; a branch of the Deutsche Reichsbahn National Railway of Germany in the newly created Generalgouvernement territory under Hans Frank.[1][2] The trains were used to cleanse and resettle interwar Poland with the German-speaking colonists in the name of "Lebensraum",[3] and played an essential role in the mass deportations of Jews to extermination camps during the Holocaust.[2]


Polish Jews at the Umschlagplatz of the Warsaw Ghetto being loaded onto Holocaust trains run by Ostbahn, 1942. The site is preserved today as the Polish national monument.

Following invasion of Poland in September 1939 Nazi Germany disbanded Polish National Railways (PKP) immediately, and handed over their assets to the Deutsche Reichsbahn in Silesia, Greater Poland and in Pomerania.[4] In November 1939, as soon as the semi-colonial General Government was set up in occupied central Poland, a separate branch of DRB called Generaldirektion der Ostbahn (Kolej Wschodnia in Polish) was established with headquarters called GEDOB in Kraków;[4] all of the DRB branches existed outside Germany proper.[5] The Ostbahn was granted 3,818 kilometres (2,372 mi) of railway lines (nearly doubled by 1941) and 505 km of narrow gauge, initially.[6]

In December 1939, on the request of Hans Frank in Berlin, the Ostbahndirektion was given financial independence after paying back 10 million Reichsmarks to DRB.[7] The removal of all bomb damage was completed in 1940.[8] The Polish management was either executed in mass shooting actions (see: the 1939 Intelligenzaktion and the 1940 German AB-Aktion in Poland) or imprisoned at the Nazi concentration camps.[6] Managerial jobs were staffed with German officials in a wave of some 8,000 instant promotions.[4] The new Eastern Division of DRB acquired 7,192 kilometres (4,469 mi) of new railway lines and 1,052 km of (mostly industrial) narrow gauge in the annexed areas.[6]


  1. ^ Bochen, Antoni; Wiśniewski, Filip (2018). "Occupation 1939-1945". Polish Railways. Quixi Media. Archived from the original on 2020-07-21. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  2. ^ a b Gigliotti, Simone (2009). The Train Journey: Transit, Captivity, and Witnessing in the Holocaust. Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1845459277.
  3. ^ Berghahn, Volker R. (1999). Germans and Poles 1871–1945. Vol. edited by Keith Bullivant, Geoffrey J. Giles, Walter Pape. Rodopi. pp. 32–34. ISBN 9042006889. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help) & Blanke, Richard (1999). When Germans and Poles Lived Together. Rodopi. pp. 50–. ISBN 9042006889. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  4. ^ a b c Wasilewski, Jerzy (2014). "25 September: Absorption of Polish Railways by the German Reichsbahn" [25 września. Wcielenie kolei polskich na Śląsku, w Wielkopolsce i na Pomorzu do niemieckich kolei państwowych Deutsche Reichsbahn]. Polskie Koleje Państwowe PKP. Historia kolei na terenie Polski. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08 – via Archive.is, page missing from Wayback, 8 February 2014.
  5. ^ Gigliotti, Simone (2009). Resettlement. Berghahn Books. pp. 55–. ISBN 978-1845459277. Retrieved 21 September 2015. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  6. ^ a b c Masłowska, Teresa (2 September 2007). "Wojenne Drogi Polskich Kolejarzy" [On the war paths of Polish railwaymen] (PDF). Czy wiesz, że... Kurier PKP NR 35 / 2 WRZEŚNIA 2007: 13. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2014 – via PDF file, direct download (644 KB), archived by Wayback Machine. Magazine Kurier PKP was last published in 2010.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  7. ^ Mierzejewski, Alfred C. (2003). Most Valuable Asset of the Reich: A History of the German National Railway 1933-1945. Univ. of North Carolina Press. pp. 78–80. ISBN 9780807825747. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  8. ^ Pottgiesser, Hans (1975) [1960]. Die Deutsche Reichsbahn im Ostfeldzug 1939 - 1944. Kurt Vowinkel Verlag. pp. 17–18. Excerpts. {{cite book}}: External link in |quote= (help)