Walter Kuhn (27 September 1903 – 5 August 1983), was a was a Nazi party member, nationalist historian and Ostforschung researcher interested in linguistics and German minorities outside Germany, particularly in the area of Ukraine. During the war he was involved with Nazi re-settlement policies aimed at Jews, Poles and Germans. As a historian he was intoxicated with the idea of politically engaged scholarship and bereft of any criticism, while demonstrating anti-Polish prejudices. He worked together with Theodor Schieder, another Nazi researcher who developed ethnic cleansing plans regarding Poland and its Polish and Jewish population. Kuhn continued to work post-war in West Germany.
Kuhn was born in 1903 in the town of Bielitz (Bielsko). According to Kuhn's own statements, his father was a supporter of political movement led by Georg Ritter von Schönerer; Schönerer's ideas featured elements of violent anti-Semitism, anti-Slavism, anti-Catholicism, authoritarianism, popular solidarism, nationalism, and Pan-Germanism. Young Walter Kuhn was distributing flowers to German youths fighting Poles already at the age of eleven While he initially studied electrical engineering in Graz till 1927, he later attended universities in Vienna and Tübingen
Pre-war collaboration with Nazi and German nationalists
In 1926 Kuhn went to Ukraine where he studied German communities and praised "the strength and beauty of German volkstum". Kuhn wandered the Ukraine dressed in Wandervogel costume trying to instil in the offspring of Ukrainian peasants-who despite often speaking Polish and being poor were seen as biologically superior-a sense of ethnic nationalism, even if his listeners were more interested in just improving their living conditions. In his work Kuhn tried to determine "biological strength" of German peasants and pointed out the "weakness" of "intermarrying with Slavs" which could lead to "de-Germanisation". Kuhn viewed himself and his colleagues as "bearers of civilization" and his goal as "to transform the instinctive feeling of superiority and pride towards the surrounding peoples(...)into a true national consciousness". He also published works regarding Poland which were aimed at presenting its western territories as German
Kuhn's work was later supported by Nord und Ostdeutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft(NODGF), a Nazi research organisation from which he received money In 1934, as Nazis gained power in Germany, Kuhn remarked optimistically that while Germans in Poland lacked leadership, things were "changing". He became a professor in Nazi Germany in 1936, and reviewed very positively a series called "Rasse, Volk, Erbgut in Schlesien"(Race, Ethnicity and Heritage in Silesia) In 1939 he was involved in preparing German diversion attempts in Poland. as well as espionage operations In 1940 Kuhn joined the Nazi party.
Second World War and involvement in Nazi operations
With the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1939 Kuhn returned to German communities in Ukraine to assist in determining their "racial qualities" connected to Nazi plans of resettlement. Kuhn's reports were taken into account by SS as it assessed which Germans were fit to be repatriated into Nazi Germany He also worked for German-Soviet commission, where he listed places in Poland to be annexed by Nazi Germany along with their alleged ethnic composition He belonged to a group of Nazi German historians assisting Nazi civilian and military institutions in their work as well as training them
On October 11, 1939 Nazi Germany authorities published in secret a publication called "Eindeutschung Posens and Westpreusens" by German historians including Hermann Aubin, Albert Brackmann, Theodor Schieder, Ludwig Petry, Werner Trillmilch as well as Walter Kuhn himself. The mentioned historians advised to remove 2,9 million Poles and Jews from the area of Greater Poland, and proposed introduction of German settlers who would lead the "national fight against Poles". Several Polish cities were presented as ancient German possessions and the authors proposed a state settlement policy to ensure continued control over "German Lebensraum". Christopher Hale remarks that in 1939–1940 Kuhn "exchanged his Wandervogel outfit of SS black" and became responsible for resettlement policy in Nazi occupied parts of Ukraine. During his work there he advised to break up villages that showed "spiritual sickness". In 1940 Kuhn joined NSDAP In the winter of 1940 he was busy assisting in settlement Volhynia Germans into homes of Poles who had been ethnically cleansed by Nazis. In 1943 he was conscripted into the Wehrmacht and later captured by the British.
Postwar career in West Germany
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- Rodowód Piastów śląskich:Piastowie wrocławscy, legnicko-brzescy, świdniccy, ziębiccy, głogowscy, żagańscy, oleśniccy, opolscy, cieszyńscy i oświęcimscy Kazimierz Jasiński, Tomasz Jurek, page 15, Wydawnictwo Avalon, 2007
- Inventing Eastern Europe The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment, page 336 Larry Wolff Stanford University Press. 1994
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- Inventing Eastern Europe..., page 336
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- Eduard Mühle: Für Volk und deutschen Osten. Der Historiker Hermann Aubin und die deutsche Ostforschung. Düsseldorf 2005, page 265.
- The State of Germany: the national idea in the making, unmaking, and remaking of a modern nation-state, John Breuilly Longman,page 138, 1992
- Handbuch der völkischen Wissenschaften... page 352
- German scholars and ethnic cleansing, 1919–1945, Ingo Haar, Michael Fahlbusch, page 88,Berghahn Books 2006