The Reichsgau Wartheland ( Polish okręg Rzeszy Kraj Warty ) or shortened Warthegau (Polish okręg Warcki ) consisted of the Association of the German Empire from 1939 to 1945. The territory came after the German occupation of Poland as a result of international right illegal annexation to the German Reich. It got its name from the Warta , which it flowed through from the southeast to the northwest. By area, the Reichsgau Wartheland covered the landscape essentially Wielkopolska . With a population of 4.5 million (including 327,000 Germans) the area of the Reichsgau was 45,000 km².
Wielkopolska, which had been the core of Poland for centuries , fell to Prussia in 1793 with the Second Partition of Poland and formed the province of South Prussia until the Peace of Tilsit in 1807 . Until 1815 part of the Duchy of Warsaw , the western part was added to the Kingdom of Prussia as the province of Posen at the Congress of Vienna . The eastern part came to the newly created Congress Poland , as part of the Russian Empire . In 1916, under the rule of the Central Powers , the territory was declared the Regency Kingdom of Poland . From 1918 Wielkopolska belonged to the newly founded Republic of Poland and in 1939 came under German rule again with the start of the Second World War in Europe.
Annexation of Polish territory
Even before the end of the attack on Poland in September 1939, the German military district of Posen was established in western Poland . This included all or part of the western voivodeships of Poland. In the north-west, west and south-west it bordered the previous German imperial border from 1937/39 (Prussian provinces of Pomerania , Brandenburg and Silesia ) and essentially followed the course of the Netze and the central Vistula in the north . In the east, the demarcation from the Vistula ran west past Łódź to the Silesian border. The former President of the Danzig Senate and NSDAP partisan Arthur Greiser was appointed head of the civil administration in Poznań (Polish: Poznań ) .
On October 26, 1939, the military district of Posen was incorporated into the German Reich , not as a new province in the State of Prussia, but within its previous boundaries as the new Reichsgau Posen with administrative headquarters in Posen. The previous head of civil administration, Greiser, was appointed Reich Governor.
The initially unclear border to the new General Government for the occupied Polish territories was moved to the east on November 9, 1939 through the incorporation of the industrial area of Łódź , now called "Lodsch", and finally rounded off and established on November 20, 1939. Efforts to move this border even further to the east were postponed for the duration of the war and thus no longer came into play.
Since January 29, 1940, the Reichsgau was called Wartheland . From November 1, 1939, the East German observer served as the "organ of the National Socialist German Workers' Party and the proclamation sheet of the Reichsstatthalters in Reichsgau Wartheland and his authorities" .
Forced Germanization and the Holocaust
In the western part (province of Posen), German native speakers made up around 37% of the total population at the time of the Prussian census of 1910. After this province was incorporated into Poland (1919) as part of the Versailles Treaty , numerous Germans left the area and at the beginning of the Second World War they made up less than 15% of the total population. At the same time, an industrialization policy was initiated (particularly in the Poznan and Bydgoszcz area) with the aim of attracting as many Poles as possible.
In the eastern part of the Wartheland, which had not belonged to German territory even before 1919, there were only a few German-speaking scattered settlements founded in the 18th century ( Hauländereien ); also a German minority in the Łódź area who settled there during the textile industry boom ("Manchester of the East") around 1850. Overall, however, Germans or Poles who see themselves as Germans made up no more than three percent of the total population in this area of the Wartheland in 1939. The aim of Nazi policy in Wartheland was to “ Germanize ” this area as quickly as possible .
In the western part of the country, efforts were initially made to restore the ethnic conditions from the time before the Poznan uprising (1918-1919) . The restitution (return) of agricultural property expropriated under Polish administration was not only resorted to for German resettlers, with the simultaneous expulsion of Poles who immigrated after 1919; attempts were also made to establish a German majority by resettling more Germans - the term coined for this was resettlers .
- Volksliste I: "Confessing Germans " who campaigned for "German Volkstum" before the war ( Volksdeutsche )
- Volksliste II: People of German origin whose families had clung to the German language and culture
- People's list III: in the sense of Nazi policy on revocation "people capable of Germanization" (Germanized)
- People's list IV: according to "Rassegutachten" after re-education in the "Old Reich", "protection members" ( re -Germanized) capable of Germanization
- Volksliste V: Not capable of Germanization
Persons classified as “not capable of Germanization” (especially persons of Jewish faith) were deported by the SS from the Warthegau to the Generalgouvernement .
The head of the Reich Security Main Office Heinrich Himmler was responsible for the implementation of this policy . On October 7, Himmler was appointed Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Volkstum by Hitler . As early as October 30, 1939, Himmler ordered the Germanization of the area. To this end, several plans were drawn up in stages.
- The so-called first local plan was implemented by December 17, 1939 and included the deportation of 87,883 people (so-called ethnic Poles and Jews) to the Generalgouvernement.
- As part of the interim plan, a total of 40,128 people were deported from February 10 to March 15, 1940.
- The largest deportations took place as part of the second local plan and affected a total of 121,594 people. The second local plan was realized from May 1940 to January 20, 1941.
In addition, by March 15, 1941, another 19,226 people had been brought to the Generalgouvernement. These figures add up to a total of 280,606 deportees. Some historians even assume a higher estimated number of deportees, up to a maximum of 650,000 people.
The deportations took place under the supervision of the SD and with the support of the gendarmerie , protection police , ethnic German self-protection as well as SA and SS units. The deportees first came to specially set up interim camps , the largest of which was set up in Poznan 's Glówna district . The living conditions in these camps were poor - the internees often suffered from hunger, cold, disease and poor sanitary conditions. From the transit camps, the deportees were transported to other camps in the General Government of Poland. This mostly happened with freight cars. For many Polish Jews, this chain of transport ended in the German extermination camps . The deportees were usually only given between one and 24 hours to pack their belongings. In most cases, only warm clothing, blankets, drinking and eating vessels, food for a few days, a small amount of money (from December 1940: Poles 50 Reichsmarks , Jews 25 Reichsmarks) and documents were allowed. A total weight of initially 12 kilograms, later 25 or 30 kilograms per adult was not allowed to be exceeded (half for children). Resistance to the deportations was broken by force of arms.
In addition to the deportation of Polish and Jewish people from the Wartheland, several Jewish ghettos were established in the Wartheland as part of the Holocaust . The largest ghetto was the Lodsch / Litzmannstadt ghetto, established in February 1940 . In the Jewish ghetto of Lodsch (renamed Litzmannstadt from 1939 to 1945), a total of 160,000 Jews had to live there under inhumane conditions. The ghetto was dissolved in 1944 and most of the inmates were deported to forced labor in the Reich or to extermination camps , initially mainly to the Kulmhof extermination camp located in the Reichsgau region , and later to Auschwitz-Birkenau .
The Kulmhof extermination camp was set up in December 1941 by the head of the task force, Herbert Lange , and from 1942 it was led by Hans Bothmann . Before the camp was opened, the Lange Sonderkommando had already murdered thousands of mentally ill people with the help of gas vans . After the temporary closure in 1943, the camp was reactivated in 1944 to “liquidate” the Litzmannstadt ghetto. It is estimated that between 1941 and 1944 a total of 150,000 people were murdered in the Kulmhof extermination camp.
"Poland evacuation" or "resettlement": Poles on their way to the train station, Schwarzenau near Gnesen in 1939
"Poland camp" at the distribution point Gelsendorf (Sahirne, Ukraine), 1939
“Resettlement” of Poland, Błonie 1939
“Resettlement” of Poland, Radungen 1939
Settlement of ethnic Germans
As part of the German-Soviet border and friendship treaty , National Socialist Germany and the Soviet Union agreed in 1939 to relocate people of German origin from Soviet areas or areas considered to belong to the Soviet Union. This mainly affected the Baltic states . The people affected had the option of choosing between leaving or staying, but most of them chose to leave because of the threat of annexation to Estonia , Latvia and Lithuania . There was a similar development in south-east Europe , which was granted to the Soviet Union as an area of interest in the secret additional protocol of the Hitler-Stalin Pact . The difference, however, was that the Soviet Union had annexed Bessarabia and parts of Bukovina at the end of June 1940 . Even after March 1941, Nazi policy increasingly focused on the settlement of the German population in the Wartheland. For this purpose, a large number of ethnic Germans from conquered areas of the Soviet Union were settled. From 1941 onwards, the Bessarabia Germans , the Bukowina Germans and the Dobrudscha Germans were mostly resettled in the Wartheland. This relocation was often chaotic and disorganized. Before that, the resettlers were housed in hundreds of camps run by the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (VoMi) for months or years . In the settlement area, agencies of the German occupying power took their farms from the Polish owners under threat of violence and transferred them to the German settlers.
Occupation by the Red Army
The end of the Reichsgau Wartheland came with the major offensive of the Red Army in January 1945. After the eastern front had been quiet for several months, the Soviet troops started their Vistula-Oder operation on January 12th . In the first few days, the German front was completely smashed and the Soviet troops advanced to the Oder in just two weeks without any militarily relevant resistance.
On January 16, the Red Army crossed the border of the Reichsgau and the next day, “Litzmannstadt” ( Łódź ), the largest city in the Wartheland, was taken. Almost the entire Gau area was conquered in just one week, including the larger cities of Leslau and Hohensalza on January 20th, Gnesen on January 21st and finally Kalisch on January 23rd.
On January 22nd, the Red Army attackers reached the administrative capital of Poznan , which a few days earlier had been declared a fortress. The fortress commander Colonel Ernst Gonell commanded a crew of 30,000 to 60,000 soldiers there, made up of units of the armed forces flowing back and all other combat units available. Although the Red Army had long since reached the Oder and the military situation was hopeless, a bloody battle with terrible house-to-house fighting raged in the area of the encircled Posen fortress for another month . Only with the capitulation of the last German units in the core of the old Prussian fortress on February 23, 1945 at 6:00 a.m. was the entire Wartheland finally under Soviet control.
Flight and expulsion of the German population
Since the force of the Red Army's winter offensive in January 1945 and the Gauleitung's own military strength were completely wrongly assessed, the evacuation of the German population from the Wartheland took place very late and under chaotic conditions. When the first Soviet units advanced into the Gau area on January 16, the population was urged to rest and on January 19 the local German-language newspapers said that the Gau would remain German forever. Only on the following day, January 20, did the Gauleitung give in to the pressure of the Wehrmacht and the commander of the Wehrmacht XXI Posen, General Walter Petzel , to evacuate the German population of the Wartheland. On the same day, Gauleiter Greiser left for Berlin with most of the party leadership; his deputy Kurt Schmalz was entrusted with leading the Gau.
The so-called evacuation of the German civilian population took place in the following days, largely in disorderly flight, so that the extremely cold winter and the rapidly advancing units of the Red Army claimed great civilian casualties. The remaining German-born population, especially older people and people who could not escape in time, were expropriated and expelled by the newly appointed Polish authorities in the following months.
The country team Weichsel-Warthe has acted as an interest group for the expellees from the Wartheland since 1949 and is committed to preserving the cultural heritage of the region and promoting German-Polish understanding.
The imperial governor had his residence in the expanded Poznan Castle .
The Wartheland was divided into three administrative districts with the corresponding number of urban and rural districts. While the boundaries of the administrative districts were completely redefined, the old Polish demarcations were essentially retained with regard to the districts.
After the final determination of the eastern border east of the city of Lodsch (Łódz), the district president in Kalisch moved his seat to Lodsch on April 1, 1940. On April 11, 1940, this town was renamed " Litzmannstadt " in honor of the German General Karl Litzmann , who had fought there successfully as commander of the 3rd Guard Infantry Division in World War I.
On February 15, 1941, the name of the administrative district Kalisch in Litzmannstadt also changed.
The Reichsgau Wartheland had a special position insofar as it was still separated from the old Reich territory by a police border (with a mandatory pass). This was supposed to ensure that there was no uncontrolled fluctuation of the population in the Altreich.
In addition, all state special administrations were subordinate to the Reichsstatthalter in Posen, with the exception of the Reichspost and the Reichsbahn. This was particularly true of the judiciary. The Reichsgau should be able to be used as an "experimental field".
Role of the SS
On October 26, 1939, the later SS-Obergruppenführer and General of the Waffen-SS Wilhelm Koppe was appointed Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPF) in the Warthegau, based in Poznan. As such he was the representative of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler in Reichsgau Wartheland. The SS was responsible for the expulsion of 100,000 Jews and 200,000 Poles into the Generalgouvernement to make way for German settlers, especially Baltic Germans . Koppe was also the organizer of the deportations of Jews to the Litzmannstadt ghetto and the Kulmhof extermination camp . The first mass murders of prisoners by means of gas vans were also carried out under the orders of the SS and through cooperation with the administration in the Warthegau under Arthur Greiser . Although the personal sovereignty of the security forces deployed lay with Wilhelm Koppe, the administrative administration under Greiser was responsible for the solution of the regional final solution.
On January 1, 1940, the cities that were already outside of a district association under Polish law were recognized as urban districts under German law. At the same time, they were awarded the German municipal code, which provided for the implementation of the “ Führer principle ” at the municipal level. On April 1, 1940, administration was introduced in all other municipalities by German official commissioners , who were later replaced by mayors in most of the larger cities after the introduction of the German municipal code. The first district town, which was awarded the German Municipal Code was Kempen (1 April 1941) in the same circle , the last Zirke district Birnbaum (Wartheland) April 1, 1944th
The districts were administered in accordance with the Sudetengaugesetz of April 14, 1939. After that they were both state administrative authorities and local government bodies. The district administrator , who was mostly also district leader of the NSDAP, led the entire state administration in the district level. This was to prevent special authorities from having a life of their own.
By unpublished decree of December 1939, the German place names valid until 1918 were provisionally valid with regard to the previously Polish place names. This global renaming was possible because the entire German map series for the areas ceded to Poland in 1920 (also) continued to use the earlier German place names. For the Polish areas east of the imperial border from 1918, the previous Polish names continued to apply.
In the course of the next few years place names were sometimes wildly Germanised, mostly at district level. From May 18, 1943, the Reich Governor, with the consent of the Reich Minister of the Interior , finally laid down all the names of places with postal services, train stations, stops and goods loading points in a German form. The prepared renaming of the remaining places was no longer given.
The area of the (party) district Wartheland of the NSDAP (also known as Warthegau for short ) was congruent with the area of the state Reichsgau . In retrospect, he also gave the state district its name, which was initially called Reichsgau Posen .
The Gau Wartheland was divided according to the state division into circles of the NSDAP, headed by district leaders . Because of the small German population, some districts of the NSDAP included the territory of several state districts.
The Wartheland was included in the defense organization of the German Reich and formed the military district XXI there.
At larger training areas for the Wehrmacht , there was the Warthelager military training area northwest of Posen, which was laid out during the imperial era, and the Schieratz military training area in the district of the same name in the areas that were Polish until 1939 . This was so large that several divisions could practice there at the same time. In addition, the Wehrmacht used three smaller military training areas: Waldowsee , Schrimm and Welun .
The status of a corporation under public law was withdrawn from the churches in Reichsgau Wartheland , and they were treated only as associations under private law. Organizational membership in “groups outside the Gau” was banned and it was also decreed that Germans and Poles could no longer be together in one church (nationality principle). The activity in the welfare work was forbidden in order to protect the monopoly status of the NS-Volkswohlfahrt . Foundations and monasteries were dissolved "because they did not correspond to German morality and population policy", and the profession of clergy could no longer be practiced on a full-time basis. The churches were also prohibited from owning property (with the exception of the “cult room”) and from accepting donations that exceeded the membership fee.
Economy and Infrastructure
In the Wartheland there was a Chamber of Commerce in Poznan for the control and monitoring of economic life , and a Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a Chamber of Crafts were set up for self-administration of the economy . As part of the commitment to total war , from January 1, 1943, these institutions were combined in a Gau Chamber of Commerce in Poznan.
In the Wartheland there was a corresponding number of employment offices available for the labor administration and the guidance and control of the National Socialist “labor deployment” under the direction of the Reich Governor in Posen. As part of the “commitment for total war”, Gau labor offices were set up in every Reich defense district , to which the tasks of the previous state labor offices and the Reich trustee were assigned. This created the corresponding district labor office Wartheland in Posen , which began operations on September 1, 1943.
The Wartheland formed the higher regional court district of Posen. There were also the regional courts Gnesen, Hohensalza, Kalisch, Leslau (since January 1, 1941), Lissa, Litzmannstadt, Ostrowo and Posen with the corresponding number of local courts. Due to the lack of personnel due to the war, the tasks of the Ostrowo Regional Court were taken over by the Kalisch Regional Court from April 1, 1944.
As in the German Reich, there were also special courts in Hohensalza, Kalisch, Leslau, Litzmannstadt and Posen.
The post and telecommunications system was taken care of since September 13, 1939 by the "Deutsche Dienstpost Osten". Its management was initially carried out by the postal officers at the military commanders in Posen and Łódź and by the officers at the Reich Postal Directorates in Wroclaw and Frankfurt (Oder). After the incorporation into the German Reich, only the building staff of the Reichspostdirektion in Posen was responsible. On December 1, 1939, the Reichspostdirektion in Posen went into full operation, and from April 1940, postal operations in the entire area of the Wartheland were ensured to the extent that the Deutsche Dienstpost Osten could be canceled. Now the Reichspost was solely responsible.
Since October 1943, the Wartheland was integrated into the Reich German system of postcodes . Postcode 6 was valid for the entire area .
As part of the organization of the National Socialist Reichsnährstand , the Wartheland farming community was established for the Reichsgau area.
At the authority of the Reich Governor in Poznan, a state forestry office was set up with the corresponding number of forestry offices for the administration of private and state forests.
In the course of the advance of the Wehrmacht during the attack on Poland, the railway directorates in Poznan and Lodsch were founded to secure and restore the Polish railway network, which were later merged to form the new Reichsbahndirektion in Poznan on December 1, 1939. The railway network covered the entire Reichsgau.
Since October 1940, the "Otto" program has restored and expanded the larger west-east railway lines through the Generalgouvernement after war damage, so that their transport capacity multiplied, in particular the railway line Lodsch via Radom and Demblin to Lublin.
The distinctive features of road transport providers authorized Wartheland motor vehicles was P .
Administrative division (1945)
Administrative region of Hohensalza
- Old Burgundy
- Dietfurt (Wartheland)
- Hermannsbad (seat: Weichselstädt )
- Kempen (Wartheland)
- Lask (seat: Pabianitz )
- Lentschütz (seat: Brunnstadt )
- Pear tree (Wartheland)
- Graetz (Wartheland)
- Kolmar (Wartheland)
- Costs (Wartheland)
- Lissa (Wartheland)
- Scharnikau (Wartheland)
- Michael Alberti: The persecution and extermination of the Jews in the Reichsgau Wartheland 1939–1945. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-447-05167-1 .
- Lars Bosse: Volksdeutsche resettlers in the "Reichsgau Wartheland" using the example of Germans from the Baltic States . Master thesis. Christian Albrechts University, Kiel 1992.
- Hilarius Breitinger: As a German pastor in Posen and in the Warthegau. 1934-1945. Memories. (= Publications of the Commission for Contemporary History. A / 36 ). 3. Edition. Matthias-Grünewald, Mainz 1991, ISBN 3-7867-1142-9 .
- Anetta Głowacka-Penczyńska, Tomasz Kawski, Witold Mędykowski, Tuvia Horev (Eds.): The First to be Destroyed: The Jewish Community of Kleczew and the Beginning of the Final Solution. Academic Studies Press, Boston 2015, ISBN 978-1-61811-284-2 .
- Paul Gürtler: National Socialism and Protestant Churches in the Warthegau: Separation of State and Church in the National Socialist Weltanschauung state. (= Work on the history of the church struggle. Volume 2). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1958.
- Georg Hansen: Ethnic school policy in occupied Poland: the model district Wartheland. Brandenburg: Brandenburg State Center for Political Education 1995, ISBN 3-89325-300-9 .
- Eduard Kneifel : The Evangelical Church in Wartheland-Ost (Lodz), its structure and its confrontation with National Socialism 1939-1945. E. Kneifel, self-published, Vierkirchen b. Munich 1976, ISBN 3-9800045-0-3 .
- Erik Thomson : My 960 days in the “Reichsgau Wartheland” . Lueneburg 1985.
- Joachim Rogall, Ludwig Petry Institute Mainz (ed.): The evacuation of the "Reichsgau Wartheland": from January 16 to 26, 1945 in the mirror of official reports. Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1993, ISBN 3-7995-6560-4 .
- Maria Rutowska: Wysiedlenia ludnosci polskiej z Kraju Warty do Generalnego Gubernatorstwa 1939–1941. (= Prace Instytutu Zachodniego. No. 71). Instytut Zachodni, Poznań [Posen] 2003, ISBN 83-87688-42-8 . (Polish)
German summary: German-Polish Academic Society: Dr. Maria Rutowska, The expulsion of the Polish population from the Reichsgau Wartheland in the Generalgouvernement 1939–1941. dp-ag.org ; Lecture from November 17, 2004.
- Kazimierz Smigiel: The Catholic Church in Reichsgau Wartheland: 1939-1945. Research Center East Central Europe, Dortmund 1984, ISBN 3-923293-06-2 .
- Markus Leniger: National Socialist “Volkstumsarbeit” and resettlement policy 1933–1945: From looking after minorities to selecting settlers . Frank & Timme, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-86596-082-0 .
- Wilfried Schlau: The Baltic Germans. (= Series of study books of the "Ostdeutscher Kulturrat Foundation". Volume 6). Langen Müller, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-7844-2524-0 .
- Ortfried Kotzian: The resettlers. The Germans from Bessarabia, Bukovina, Dobruja, Galicia, Carpathian Ukraine and West Volhynia . (= Series of study books of the "Ostdeutscher Kulturrat Foundation". Volume 11). Langen Müller, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-7844-2860-6 .
- Reichsgau Wartheland, Territorial history 1939–1945 (private website)
- Daniel J. Lemmen: Reichsgau Wartheland. In: Online encyclopedia on the culture and history of Germans in Eastern Europe. 2014. As of June 16, 2015. http://ome-lexikon.uni-oldenburg.de/p32578 (accessed on January 13, 2016).
- Martin Broszat : National Socialist Poland Policy 1939–1945 . Fischer Bücherei, Frankfurt am Main / Hamburg 1965, p. 38.
- Miriam Y. Arani: Photographic self- and external images of Germans and Poles in Reichsgau Wartheland 1939–45. Publishing house Dr. Kovač, Diss., 2008, p. 339.
- The text on the card is difficult to read. There it says: “After the campaign of 18 days [In Rolf Bathe's book 'The campaign of 18 days - Chronicle of Polish Drama', which was published in 1939 by G. Stalling (Oldenburg), the attack on Poland is described as a campaign of the 18 days.] Began the most generous resettlement campaign in world history. The Fiihrer called all ethnic groups who had fulfilled their duties outside to the homeland of their fathers. You are now helping with the expansion and consolidation of the Greater German Empire. Their colonizing abilities will be particularly effective in the development of the Warthegau. ”The two cities of Posen and Litzmannstadt are shown in the dark-colored area of the Wartheland and Danzig-West Prussia . The arrows read from north to south: “ Balten , Narew -Deutsche, Wolhynien-Deutsche , Cholmer u. Lublin , Galicia-Germans , Beech countries , Bessarabia-Germans , Dobrutscha-Germans ”. The “ South Tyroleans ” are marked on the border with Italy - but no arrow goes out from there.
- Four sections of the People's List
- Representation of the fighting in the Wartheland after Heinz Csallner: Between the Vistula and the Warta. Fog, 2000.
- After Werner Haupt : The End in the East 1945. Dörfler Verlag o. J.
- "Ordinance on the restriction of travel with parts of the territory of the Greater German Reich and with the Generalgouvernement" of July 20, 1940, Paragraph 1, Paragraph 1 Number b) .
- Ordinance of March 14, 1940 by Pg. Greiser, printed in: Heiko A. Oberman (Hrsg.): Church and Theology History in Sources: a work book. Volume IV: Modern Times. 3. Edition. Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1989, p. 151.