Upper East

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Upper East
Staff of the Upper East. In the center of the foreground Paul von Hindenburg, to the left of him with a walking stick Erich Ludendorff (photo taken before August 20, 1915)

The area of ​​the Commander-in-Chief East , abbreviated ( Land ) Ober Ost or Ob. Ost , was the German occupation area on the Eastern Front of the First World War administered by the General Staff of the Commander-in-Chief from November 1915 to July 1918 . It extended with an area of ​​around 108,808  km² over Courland ( Latvian Kurzeme ), a historical area of ​​today's Latvia , some then predominantly Lithuanian , now Polish districts such as Augustow and Suwalki and the western districts of Belarus .

Commander in Chief East

In November 1914, Paul von Hindenburg and his Chief of Staff Erich Ludendorff were given supreme command of all German troops on the Eastern Front . However, this did not include the Mackensen Army Group , which was set up in the spring of 1915 and was nominally subordinate to the Austro-Hungarian Army Command . When Hindenburg and Ludendorff took over the Supreme Command on August 29, 1916 , Prince Leopold of Bavaria was appointed Commander in Chief East . The actually determining person was the chief of staff Max Hoffmann .

Administrative structure

Administrative map of Upper East, 1917

By the late summer of 1915, German and Austro-Hungarian troops succeeded in pushing back the Russian army from Poland , almost all of Courland and Lithuania (" Great Retreat "). The Central Powers in Poland formed an Austro-Hungarian Generalgouvernement Lublin and a German Generalgouvernement Warsaw , each placed under civil administration, while the Upper East territory formed northeast of it came under the military administration of a German commander-in-chief.

The administration of this newly conquered area with a population of about three million people of ethnic and religious diversity proved difficult. In addition, there were hardly any concrete plans for the occupation on the German side. It was not until the administrative regulations issued in 1916 that Ober Ost was divided into six administrative districts. The ethnographic boundaries of the ethnic groups living there were not taken into account. Here, too, the purely military character of the occupation became apparent. That is why one also finds the designation military state Upper East. Almost all employees in the administration belonged to the military.

6 administrative districts:

  • Courland
  • Kovno Lithuania
  • Suwalki
  • Vilna
  • Bialystok
  • Grodno

From March 1917:

  • Courland
  • Lithuania
  • Bialystok-Grodno

Occupation policy

Reverse 1 kopeck coin, value sides 3, 2 and 1 kopeck in iron, issued in the occupation zone in 1916
Postage stamp of the post area of ​​the Commander in Chief East , canceled in Vilnius (today's Vilnius )

The military administration pursued a threefold strategy within the framework of the German border state policy : First, the area was to be forced to have its own German rules and order. Then Ludendorff planned to exploit the land and the population through forced labor . The third and last stage should be the taking over and resettlement of the land according to a plan by Erich Keup .

The administration of the occupying power comprehensively controlled trade and commerce , large estates and finances. It therefore quickly became an important economic factor with considerable industrial capital and corresponding independence. One of their main goals was the intensive economic exploitation of the land, but also of human resources. Forced requisitions of crop yields and livestock , but also the forced recruitment of workers for forced labor in German industry, in mines and in agriculture were common. A central administration set up in Kovno (Kaunas) ensured that the interests of the army preceded those of politics in the military state of Upper East .

With the reconstruction of the transport infrastructure , especially the railway network, which had been destroyed during the Russian withdrawal , the military administration tried to gain control over and record all flows of goods and people . In the end, the ambitions of transport policy were so illusory that failure was inevitable. This was also due to the fact that the administration was pursuing conflicting goals. Total military security (or control ) and an attempt to stimulate the economy faced each other. Ultimately, neither of the two goals was achieved.

Despite the scarce resources during the war, Ober Ost pursued extensive cultural work . This aimed to discipline and manipulate the population groups. German soldiers and officers in the country played the role of organizers. The locals should only be the executors of the so-called German work . The publication of newspapers under strict censorship , school policy , theater and exhibitions on archeology , history and religion were the main focuses of German efforts. A separate currency, the East Mark or Upper East Mark and the East Ruble (which survived the end of the war) as well as its own overprint stamps, were issued and used for the Upper East area . 1, 2 and 3 kopeck pieces made of iron with the year 1916 were minted as coins. The currency designation on the value side was written in Russian in an iron cross, the other side in German with the words "Territory of the Supreme Commander East".

The Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty in 1918 led to a reorganization of the Baltic region.

From "Upper East" to "General Plan East"

In his book War Land on the Eastern Front (2000), the US-American historian Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius focuses on the war in the East , which historiography had barely noticed until then. In a review of Liulevicius, Bert Hoppe emphasizes that “he succeeds in analyzing the causes of the change in the image that the Germans had of the East and the lines connecting the ideas of the military administration of Upper East and those of the later Nazi Trace elite. In this way he manages the foundation lies in the experiences during the First World War for during the Second World War , the General Plan East 'show culminating plans that, in the discussion about the role of the historian as a pioneer of destruction' were hardly mentioned ".

According to Liulevicius and Peter Hoeres, there was a clear hierarchy in the perception of opponents of the war by Austrians and Germans. Slavs were considered dull, dirty, dependent, and lazy, while the British and French, despite their supposed degeneration, were seen as equals. With the invasion of Russia, the soldiers of the Central Powers found the image of the poor, neglected and cultureless East that prevailed before the war began . Central experiences were dirt, boundless space and a confusing mixture of ethnicities . Promoted by the German military administration, the idea spread to protect one's own population from perceived chaos with a bulwark and at the same time to missionize the East culturally. Hoeres emphasizes, of course, that the Slav and Eastern perception of the First World War can hardly be compared with the war of annihilation in the East since 1939, since the threat from Bolshevism , the notion of subhumanism and radical anti-Semitism now played a decisive role.

After the First World War, Rüdiger von der Goltz went on a lecture tour on “Finland, the Baltic Campaign and Eastern Issues”. In Munich, Heinrich Himmler was one of the listeners as a student of agronomy and wrote in his diary on November 21, 1921: “I know that more clearly now than ever, when there is another campaign in the East, I'll go with you. The east is the most important thing for us. The west dies easily. In the east we have to fight and settle. "

In his secret decree of October 7, 1939, Hitler used the term “Upper East” for the occupied Polish territories to “consolidate German nationality”. Section II states: “In the formerly occupied Polish territories, the Ober-Ost administration chief carries out the tasks assigned to the Reichsführer SS in accordance with his general instructions. The head of administration Ober-Ost and the subordinate heads of administration of the military districts are responsible for the implementation. ”On July 21, 1940, the Upper East staff was converted into that of the“ Military Commander in General Government ”(MiG).

Hinrich Lohse , who was Reichskommissar for the Reichskommissariat Ostland , had the information material of "Ober Ost" used in his headquarters in Riga to compile atlases and statistics. Some of his employees had already worked there during the First World War or after its end and ensured personnel continuity.

See also


  • Gentlemen for the emperor: "Upper East" - the forgotten colony . Documentation, Germany 2016, 52 min., Book: Hartmut Kasper , directors: Jonas Niewianda and André Schäfer.


  • The country of Upper East. German work in the administrative areas of Courland, Lithuania and Bialystok-Grodno . Ed. on behalf of the Commander in Chief East. Edited by the press department Ober Ost. Stuttgart-Berlin: German publishing company 1917.
  • Hans-Michael Körner , Ingrid Körner (Ed.): Leopold Prince of Bavaria 1846–1930 - From the memoirs . Verlag Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg 1983, ISBN 3-7917-0872-4 , pp. 302-312.
  • Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius : Land of War in the East. Conquest, colonization and military rule in the First World War 1914–1918. Hamburg 2002. Reviewed for H-Soz-Kult by Steffen Bruendel .
  • Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius: Ober Ost , in: Gerhard Hirschfeld (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War , Zurich 2003, pp. 762–763.
  • Abba Strazhas: German Ostpolitik in the First World War. The case of Ober Ost 1915-1917 , Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 1993, ISBN 3-447-03293-6 .
  • Christian Westerhoff: Forced Labor in the First World War. German labor policy in occupied Poland and Lithuania 1914–1918 , studies on historical migration research, Volume 25, Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn / Munich / Vienna / Zurich 2012, ISBN 978-3-506-77335-7 .

Web links

Commons : Ober Ost  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Gerhard Hirschfeld , Gerd Krumeich , Irina Renz (eds.), Encyclopedia First World War , 2nd edition, Paderborn 2004, p. 379; Contribution by Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius.
  2. Ludger Heid : First World War: Im Reich Ober Ost , Die Zeit , February 20, 2014.
  3. Jens Thiel, Christian Westerhoff: Forced Labor International Encyclopedia of the First World War, October 8, 2014 (English)
  4. Edmund Męclewski: The Polish western territories. A demographic study ed. from the central training center Otto Nuschke in connection with the party leadership of the Christian-Democratic Union , booklets from Burgscheidungen 15, 1959, p. 13 f.
  5. ^ Jürgen Lewerenz: Banks in the Baltic States. Yesterday Today Tomorrow. With reason and decency out of necessity to inner balance and to successful cooperation between East and West. Role models from Baltic history as a guide for rebuilding a bourgeois order. Fritz Knapp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-7819-0590-X , p. 70.
  6. Listed in every Michel Germany special catalog, keyword German occupation issues 1914–1918 (postal area Ob. Ost)
  7. Arnold / Küthmann / Steinhilber, Large German Coin Catalog from 1800 to Today, No. 950–952
  8. Herbert Becker: The Baltic States (Courland, Livonia, Estonia, Lithuania) and the peace negotiations in Brest-Litowsk 1917/18. A contribution to the founding history of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania , 1988.
  9. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius: The Eastern Front: The Poisoned Victory , Der Spiegel , March 30, 2004.
  10. ^ Berthold Seewald: The Forgotten Front in the East , Die Welt , May 27, 2011.
  11. ^ Bert Hoppe: Ludendorff and the German Leitkultur in the First World War ( online ).
  12. ^ Hagen Schulze : Der Oststaat-Plan 1919 , Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 1970, pp. 123-163.
  13. ^ Bernhard Chiari: Conference Report: The Forgotten Front - The East 1914/15: Event, Effect, Aftermath , Berlin, 24.-27. May 2004, in: H-Soz-Kult , August 25, 2004.
  14. Josef Ackermann: Heinrich Himmler as an ideologist. Göttingen-Zurich-Frankfurt am Main 1970, p. 198.
  15. See materials for the “Generalplan Ost” .
  16. See Federal Archives: Army Groups / Commander-in-Chief. ( Memento from February 15, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  17. ^ Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius: Land of War in the East. Conquest, colonization and military rule in the First World War. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-930908-81-6 , p. 329 f.