Thursday, April 24, 2014

Generalplan Ost - what the Pope could not have known

What the pope could not know and did not know.

The General Plan for the East

As the German-led war “in the east” unfolded with ever-increasing severity and brutality the position of the church in north-central and northeastern Europe grew more and more precarious.  We have seen through ADSS volumes 3.1 and 3.2 how the German occupation imposed varying degrees of terror and insecurity on local populations based on the National Socialist bio-political worldview.  Throughout the war years the response of the Catholic Church through its bishops and other religious leasers also varied in response to the level of local terror.  And these responses formed the basis of much of the information that was sent to Rome. 

For many of the persecuted the realities of daily survival precluded the luxury of rationalizing the “why” of Nazi terror.  In fact most of the leaders of the Catholic Church in Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic States were at a loss to understand the murderous hostility shown to the church, even if their religious-cultural histories allowed a measure of “understanding” of German actions against the Jews.

Pope Pius XII was certainly not the only one who did not grasp the extent of the murderous intent of the German plans for Eastern Europe and European Russia.  It was not until after the war that the first information of a systematic plan to reshape Eastern Europe was revealed; firstly at the Nuremburg Trial in the testimony of former SS Standartenführer Hans Elich (1901-1991), one of the planners of what was known as Generalplan Ost (Master Plan for the East).

Generalplan Ost (GPO) grew out of the Nazi concept of lebensraum (living space) an idea that Hitler had spoken of regularly since the 1920s.  In its simplest form, lebensraum was the belief that Germany’s growing population needed more living space.  That “living space” would come from “the East” in general, and Poland and European Russia in particular.  Since in the Nazi Weltanschauung most of the peoples of Eastern Europe were one or other members of different untermenschen (sub-human races) they had no permanent place in the New Order.  Their fate was either a form of servitude for the Germans who would in course settle the new lebensraum or they would be expelled.

Planning the GPO began around January 1940 and continued through a number of revisions until late 1942 when the emerging crisis at Stalingrad brought the planning to an abrupt halt.

The GPO was executed under the supervision of the Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete (Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories) and the RSHA (Reich Main Security Office) with constant reference to the Reichsführer SS, Heinrich Himmler.  A government planning team of this nature would not have met without the explicit approval of Hitler. 

GPO was supposed to work on two actions; movement of desirable people in, and movement of undesirable people out.  Himmler envisioned GPO would take about 30 years to implement but shortly afterwards insisted that the program be completed in 20 years.  It was his hope that by the end of that period the Greater German Reich would not only be territorially huge, but it would be populated by a majority of Aryan Germans and tiny minorities of non-Aryan groups would serve the Herrenvolk (Master Race) with unquestioning obedience.  GPO statistics suggested that an estimated 4.5 million ethnic Germans would be settled in the conquered territories over the lifespan of the plan.

Part one of the GPO was the expulsion of racial undesirables in the newly conquered land (1939-1941) and the settlement of ethnic Germans in their place.  Over the three years the GPO was in operation about 850,000 Germans were settled “in the East”, mostly in Poland and the Baltic States, but some in Ukraine and Crimea.  Ultimately the GPO forecast a future population of about 23 million of which 5.3 million were existing Germans, a residual German population of 5.4 million and 12.4 million German immigrants from the Reich.

The second part of the GPO was the removal of “alien races”.  Czeslaw Madajczyk’s study of GPO, General Plan East: Hitler’s Master Plan for Expansion (1962) sets out the percentages of local populations slated for removal and / or destruction.  The welfare of populations targeted for “resettlement” were not a concern of the architects of the New Order.

An estimated 45 million people were to be removed from Eastern Europe and European Russia:

Jews – 100%
Latgalians (indigenous Latvians) – 100%
Poles – 80-85%
Lithuanians – 85%
Russians – 75%
White Russians – 75%
Ukrainians – 65%
Latvians, Estonians, Czechs – 50%

The remaining 14 million people were to be judged for racial suitability and Germanisation or kept for slave labour for the German settlers.

GPO planners were under no illusions that the scale of expulsions would result in deaths on a previously unimagined scale but incorporated this into their planning. 

Deliberate murder of a population was only used against the Jews after the summer of 1941 and, in that regard, was the only part of the GPO that approached its target goal.  Originally Jews were, like other undesirables, to be expelled into Siberia.

The implementation of the plan stalled in February 1943 after the loss of Stalingrad and the call for Total War before it was “shelved” as Germany faced defeat.  However, if “success” was to be judged by the number of non-German dead in the area proposed for the GPO, then the plan attained some of the goals its authors intended. The total number of deaths in Eastern Europe and European Russia exceeded over 30 million men, women and children.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Paul,

    Looking at your page while I prep a class on the second world war and looking up the Generalplan Ost, its a useful resource but the graphic with the European flag containing a swastika is quite offensive. Especially if one looks at the origins of the European Union out of the calamity of that war.


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