Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation – Race and Lebensraum

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Albert Speer
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The Großgermanisches Reich (Greater Germanic Reich), fully styled the Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation (Greater Germanic Reich of the German Nation), is the official name of the political entity that Germany had established in Europe from 1939-1945.
Albert Speer stated in his memoirs that Hitler also referred to the envisioned state as the Teutonic Reich of the German Nation, although it is unclear whether Speer was using the now seldom used “Teutonic” as an English synonym for “Germanic”.

‘Mein Kampf’
Hitler also mentions a future Germanischer Staat Deutscher Nation (Germanic State of the German Nation) in ‘Mein Kampf‘.
The territorial claims for the Greater Germanic Reich varied over time, for instance during and for a short time after German-Soviet negotiations for the partition of Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union took place, Hitler did not include territorial designs on the Soviet Union within the Greater Germanic Reich from 1939 to 1941, and instead was focusing on uniting the Germanic peoples of Scandinavia and the Low Countries into the Reich.
This pan-Germanic Empire was expected to assimilate practically all of Germanic Europe into an enormously expanded Reich.

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complete with commentaries and biographical information

Territorially speaking, this encompassed the already-enlarged German Reich itself (consisting of pre-1938 Germany proper, Austria,Bohemia, Moravia, Alsace-Lorraine, Eupen-Malmedy, Memel, Lower Styria, Upper Carniola, Southern Carinthia and German-occupied Poland), the Netherlands, the Flemish part of Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, at least the German-speaking parts of Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

Europe – Die neue Ordnung

The most notable exception was the predominantly Anglo-Saxon United Kingdom, which was not projected as having to be reduced to a German province, but to instead become an allied seafaring partner of Germany.

Another exception was German-populated territory in South Tyrol that was part of Italy.
In addition, its western frontiers with France were to be reverted to those of the earlier Holy Roman Empire, which would have meant the complete annexation of all of Wallonia, French Switzerland, and large areas of northern and eastern France.
The policy of lebensraum planned mass expansion of Germany eastwards to the Ural Mountains.
Hitler planned for the surplus Russian population, living west of the Urals, to be deported to the east of the Urals.

Neu-ordnung Europas

The Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation was also referred to as the Neu-ordnung Europas.
The establishment of the New Order was publicly proclaimed by Adolf Hitler in 1941:
The year 1941 will be, I am convinced, the historical year of a great European New Order.
Among other things, it entailed the creation of a pan-German racial state, structured according to National Socialist ideology to ensure the supremacy of an Aryan-Nordic herrenvolk (master race), massive territorial expansion into Eastern Europe through its colonization with German settlers, the physical removal of the Jews, and the expulsion of most of the Slavic peoples and others regarded as “racially inferior”.
Historians are still divided as to its ultimate goals, some believing that it was to be limited to Nazi German domination of Europe, while others maintain that it was a springboard for eventual world conquest and the establishment of a world government under German control.

The Führer gave expression to his unshakable conviction that the Reich will be the master of all Europe. We shall yet have to engage in many fights, but these will undoubtedly lead to most wonderful victories. From there on the way to world domination is practically certain. Whoever dominates Europe will thereby assume the leadership of the world.

Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda – 8 May 1943

Racial Theory

Aryan Race
National Socialist racial ideology regarded the Germanic peoples of Europe as belonging to a racially superior Nordic subset of the larger Aryan race, who were regarded as the only true culture-bearers of civilized society.

Ancient Romans
Racial Ancestors of the Germans
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These peoples were viewed as either “true Germanic peoples” that had “lost their sense of racial pride“, or as close racial relatives of the Germans.
Adolf Hitler also believed that the Ancient Greeks and Romans were the racial ancestors of the Germans, and the first torch-bearers of “Nordic–Greek” art and culture.
He particularly expressed his admiration for Ancient Sparta, declaring it to have been the purest racial state:

The First Racial State
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The subjugation of 350,000 Helots by 6,000 Spartans was only possible because of the racial superiority of the Spartans.”
The Spartans had created “the first racial state.”
Furthermore, Hitler’s concept of “Germanic” did not simply refer to an ethnic, cultural, or linguistic group, but also to a distinctly biological one, the superior “Germanic blood” that he wanted to salvage from the control of the enemies of the Aryan race.
He stated that Germany possessed more of these “Germanic elements” than any other country in the world, which he estimated as “four fifths of our people“.

Wherever Germanic blood is to be found anywhere in the world, we will take what is good for ourselves. With what the others have left, they will be unable to oppose the Germanic Empire‘.

Adolf Hitler

According to National Socialists, in addition to the Germanic peoples, individuals of seemingly non-Germanic nationality such as French, Polish, Walloon, Czechand so on might actually possess valuable Germanic blood, especially if they were of aristocratic or peasant stock.

Heim ins Reich
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In order to “recover” these “missing” Germanic elements, they had to be made conscious of their Germanic ancestry through the process of Germanization (the term used for this process was Umvolkung, “restoration to the race“).

An example of this type of Germanization is the taking to germany of “racially valuable” Eastern European children.

The Heim ins Reich (Home into the Empire; or Back to the Reich), was a foreign policy pursued by Adolf Hitler beginning in 1938. The aim of his initiative was to convince all of the ethnically German people who were living outside of the Third Reich (e.g. in Austria and the western districts of Poland etc) that they should strive to bring these regions “home” into Greater Germany. It included areas ceded after the Treaty of Versailles, as well as other areas containing significant German populations such as the Sudetenland. The policy was managed by VOMI (Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle) (English: Main Welfare Office for Ethnic Germans). As a state agency of the NSDAP, it handled all Volksdeutsch issues. By 1941, the VOMI was under the control of the SS.

On the very first page of ‘Mein Kampf‘, Hitler openly declared his belief that “common blood belongs in a common Reich“, elucidating the notion that the innate quality of race (as the National Socialist movement perceived it) should hold precedence over artificial concepts such as national identity (including regional German identities such as Prussian and Bavarian) as the deciding factor for which people were worthy of being assimilated into a Greater German racial state (Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer).
Part of the strategic methods which Hitler chose to ensure the present and future supremacy of the Aryan race (which was, according to Hitler, “gradually approaching extinction“) was to do away with what he described as the “small state rubbish” (Kleinstaatengerümpel, compare Kleinstaaterei) in Europe in order to unite all these Nordic countries into one unified racial community.
From 1921 onward he advocated the creation of a “Germanic Reich of the German Nation“.

‘It was the continent which brought civilization to England, and in turn enabled her to colonize large areas in the rest of the world.
America is unthinkable without Europe.
Why would we not have the necessary power to become one of the world’s centres of attraction ?
A hundred-and-twenty million people of Germanic origin – if they have consolidated their position this will be a power against which no-one in the world could stand up to.
The countries which form the Germanic world have only to gain from this.
I can see that in my own case.
My birth country is one of the most beautiful regions in the Reich, but what could it do if were left to its own devices ?
There is no possibility to develop one’s talents in countries like Austria or Saxony, Denmark or Switzerland.
There is no foundation.
That is why it is fortunate that potential new spaces are again opened for the Germanic peoples.’
Adolf Hitler, 1942
Heiliges Römisches Reich
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The chosen name for the projected empire was a deliberate reference to the Heiliges Römisches Reich (Holy Roman Empire) (of the German Nation) that existed in mediaeval times, known as the First Reich in National Socialist historiography.
Krone des Heiligen Römischen Reiches

Heiliges Römisches Reich (Latin: Imperium Romanum Sacrum, was a multi-ethnic and complex union of territories in Central Europe existing from 962 to 1806. The territories making up the Empire lay predominantly in Central Europe. At its peak in 1050, under Emperor Henry III, it included the Kingdom of Germany, the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Italy, and the Kingdom of Burgundy. The last Holy Roman Emperor was Francis II, who abdicated and dissolved the Empire in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars.

Different aspects of the legacy of this medieval empire in German history were both celebrated and derided by the Third Reich.
The Frankish Emperor Charlemagne was admired by Hitler for his “cultural creativity“, his powers of organization, and his renunciation of the rights of the individual.
He criticized the Holy Roman Emperors however for not pursuing an Ostpolitik (Eastern Policy) resembling his own, while being politically focused exclusively on the south.


After the Anschluss, Hitler ordered the old imperial regalia (the Imperial Crown, Imperial Sword, Cross of Lothair, the Holy Lance [Spear of Destiny] and other items) residing in Vienna to be transferred to Nürnberg, where they were kept between 1424 and 1796.

Nürnberg, in addition of being the former unofficial capital of the Heiliges Römisches Reich, was also the place of the Reichsparteitag.
The transfer of the regalia was thus done to both legitimize Hitler’s Germany as the successor of the “Old Reich“, but also weaken Vienna, the former imperial residence.
Katherine Kirche – Nürnberg

Nürnberg is a city in the German state of Bavaria. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about 170 kilometres (110 mi) north of Munich.

It is the second-largest city in Bavaria (after Munich), and is the largest in Franconia.
Composed of prosperous artisans, the guilds of the Meistersingers flourished here. Richard Wagner made their most famous member, Hans Sachs, the hero of his opera ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’. 

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Große Wappen der
Protektorats Böhmen und Mähren

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After the 1939 German occupation of Bohemia, Hitler declared that the Heiliges Römisches Reich had been “resurrected“.

Unlike the “uncomfortably internationalist Catholic empire of Barbarossa“, the Germanic Reich of the German Nation would be racial and nationalist.
Rather than a return to the values of the Middle Ages, its establishment was to be “a push forward to a new golden age, in which the best aspects of the past would be combined with modern racial and nationalist thinking“.
The historical borders of the Holy Empire were also used as grounds for territorial revisionism by the National Socialists, laying claim to modern territories and states that were once part of it. 

Der Westfälische Frieden

Even before the war, Hitler had dreamed of reversing the ‘Westfälische Frieden’ (Peace of Westphalia), which had given the territories of the Empire almost complete sovereignty.

On November 17, 1939, Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary that the “total liquidation” of this historic treaty was the “great goal” of the National Socialist regime, and that since it had been signed in Münster, it would also be officially repealed in the same city.
The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic.
The Peace of Westphalia treaties involved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, of the House of Habsburg, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of France, the Swedish Empire, the Dutch Republic, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and sovereigns of the free imperial cities and can be denoted by two major events.

Pan-Germanism versus Pan-Germanicism
Despite intending to accord the other “Germanics” of Europe a racially superior status alongside the Germans themselves, in an anticipated post-war racio-political order, the National Socialists did not however consider granting the subject populations of these countries any national rights of their own.
The other Germanic countries were seen as mere extensions of Germany, rather than individual units in any way, and the Germans were unequivocally intended to remain the empire’s “most powerful source of strength, from both an ideological as well as military standpoint“.

Heinrich Himmler

Even Heinrich Himmler, who among the senior National Socialists most staunchly supported the concept, could not shake off the idea of a hierarchical distinction between German Volk and Germanic Völker (German Peoples).

The SS’s official newspaper, ‘Das Schwarze Korps’, never succeeded in reconciling the contradiction between Germanic ‘brotherhood’ and German superiority.
Members of National Socialistic parties in Germanic countries were also forbidden to attend public meetings of the NSDAP when they visited Germany.
Although Hitler himself and Himmler’s SS advocated for a pan-Germanic Empire, the objective was not universally held in the National Socialist regime.
Goebbels and the Reich Foreign Ministry under Joachim von Ribbentrop inclined more towards an idea of a continental bloc under German rule, as represented by the Anti-Comintern Pact
Ribbentrop’s “European Confederation” project and the earlier Mitteleuropa concept.
Germanic Mysticism
There were also disagreements within the National Socialist leadership on the spiritual implications of cultivating a ‘Germanic history‘ in their ideological program.
Hitler was somewhat critical of Himmler’s esoteric völkisch interpretation of the ‘Germanic mission‘.
When Himmler denounced Charlemagne in a speech as “the butcher of the Saxons“, Hitler stated that this was not a ‘historical crime‘ but in fact a good thing, for the subjugation of Widukind had brought Western culture into what eventually became Germany.

Alfred Rosenberg
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He also disapproved of some of the archaeological projects which Himmler organized through his Ahnenerbe organization, such as excavations of pre-historic Germanic sites:

In an attempt to eventually supplant Christianity with a new religion more amenable to Nazi ideology Himmler, together with Alfred Rosenberg, sought to replace it with Germanic paganism, such as renewed worship of the deity Wotan.
For this purpose they had ordered the construction of sites for the worship of Germanic cults in order to exchange Christian rituals for ‘Nordic‘ consecration ceremonies, which included different marriage and burial rites.
Hitler, however, did not entirely approve of some aspects of this project, particularly with regard to the renewed worship of the Wotan
Establishment Strategy
Adolf Hitler
1937 Reichsparteitag

The goal was first proclaimed publicly in the 1937 Reichsparteitag.

Hitler’s last speech at this event ended with the words:
The German nation has after all acquired its Germanic Reich“,
which elicited speculation in political circles of a ‘new era’ in Germany’s foreign policy.
Several days before the event Hitler took Albert Speer aside when both were on their way to the former’s Munich apartment with an entourage, and declared to him that:
We will create a great empire. All the Germanic peoples will be included in it. It will begin in Norway and extend to northern Italy.”
On April 9, 1940, as Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in Operation Weserübung, Hitler announced the establishment of the Germanic Reich:

Otto Eduard Leopold Fürst von Bismarck
Herzog von Lauenburg
Austrian Anschluß – 1938

‘Just as the Bismarck Empire arose from the year 1866, so too will the Greater Germanic Empire arise from this day.’
The establishment of the empire was to follow the model of the Austrian Anschluß of 1938, just carried out on a greater scale.

Dr Paul Josef Goebbels

Goebbels emphasized in April 1940 that the annexed Germanic countries would have to undergo a similar “national revolution” as Germany herself did after the Machtergreifung, with an enforced rapid social and political Gleichschaltung (co-ordination) in accordance with National Socialist principles and ideology.

The ultimate goal of the Gleichschaltung policy pursued in these parts of occupied Europe was to eliminate the very concepts of individual states and nationalities, just as the concept of a separate Austrian state and national identity was repressed after the Anschluss through the establishment of new state and party districts.
The new empire was to no longer be a nation-state of the type that had emerged in the 19th century, but instead a “racially pure community“.
It is for this reason that the National Socialist occupiers had no interest in transferring real power to the various right-wing nationalistic movements present in the occupied countries (such as Nasjonal Samling, the NSB, etc.) except for temporary reasons of Realpolitik, and instead actively supported radical collaborators who favoured pan-Germanic unity (i.e. total integration to Germany) over provincial nationalism (for example DeVlag).

Wappen Reichsgau Sudetenland
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Unlike Austria and the Sudetenland, however, the process was to take considerably longer.

Eventually these nationalities were to be merged with the Germans into a single ruling race, but Hitler stated that this prospect lay “many years” in the future.
During this interim period it was intended that the Neue Europa (New Europe) would by run by Germans alone.
According to Speer, while Himmler intended to eventually Germanize these peoples completely, Hitler intended not to “infringe on their individuality” (that is, their native languages), so that in the future they would “add to the diversity and dynamism” of his empire.
The German language would be its lingua franca however, likening it to the status of English in the British Empire.
A primary agent used in stifling the local extreme nationalist elements was the Germanic SS, which initially merely consisted of local respective branches of the Allgemeine-SS in Belgium, Netherlands and Norway.
These groups were at first under the authority of their respective national commanders (Quisling, Mussert and De Clercq), and were intended to function within their own national territories only.

SS Emblem
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During the course of 1942, however, the Germanic SS was further transformed into a tool used by Himmler against the influence of the less extreme collaborating parties and their SA-style organizations, such as the Hird in Norway and the Weerbaarheidsafdeling in the Netherlands.

In the post-war Germanic Empire, these men were to form the new leadership cadre of their respective national territories.
To emphasize their pan-Germanic ideology, the Norges SS was now renamed the Germanske SS Norge, the Nederlandsche SS the Germaansche SS in Nederland and the Algemeene-SS Vlaanderen the Germaansche SS in Vlaanderen.
The men of these groups no longer swore allegiance to their respective national leaders, but to the germanischer Führer (“Germanic Führer”), Adolf Hitler:
I swear to you, Adolf Hitler, as Germanic Führer loyalty and bravery. I pledge you and the superiors which you appointed obedience until death. So help me God.’
This title was assumed by Hitler on 23 June 1941, at the suggestion of Himmler.

Anton Mussert

On 12 December 1941 the Dutch fascist Anton Mussert also addressed him in this fashion when he proclaimed his allegiance to Hitler during a visit to the Reich Chancellery in Berlin.

He had wanted to address Hitler as Führer aller Germanen (“Führer of all Germanics”), but Hitler personally decreed the former style.
The difference between the two is that Führer aller Germanen implied a position separate from Hitler’s role as Führer und Reichskanzler des Grossdeutschen Reiches (“Führer and Reich Chancellor of the Greater German Reich”), while germanischer Führer served more as an attribute of that main function.
As late as 1944 occasional propaganda publications continued to refer to him by this unofficial title as well however.


The Hakenkreuzfahne (Swastika Flag) was to be used as a symbol to represent not only the National Socialist movement, but also the unity of the Nordic-Germanic peoples into a single state.

Welthauptstadt Germania
Hitler had long intended to architecturally reconstruct the German capital Berlin into a new imperial metropolis, which he decided in 1942 to rename ‘Germania‘ upon its scheduled completion in 1950.
The name was specifically chosen to make it the clear central point of the envisioned Germanic empire, and to re-enforce the notion of a united Germanic-Nordic state upon the Germanic peoples of Europe.
Just as the Bavarians and the Prussians had to be impressed by Bismarck of the German idea, so too must the Germanic peoples of continental Europe be programmatically steered towards the Germanic concept.
Große Halle – Germania – Albert Speer

Welthauptstadt Germania refers to the projected renewal of the German capital Berlin during the Third Reich, part of Adolf Hitler’s vision for the future of Germany after the planned victory in World War II. Albert Speer, the “first architect of the Third Reich“, produced many of the plans for the rebuilt city in his capacity as overseer of the project, only a small portion of which was realized between the years 1937–1943 when construction took place.
Some projects, such as the creation of a great East-West city axis, which included broadening Charlottenburger Chaussee (today Straße des 17. Juni) and placing the Berlin victory column in the centre, far away from the Reichstag, where it originally stood, were successfully completed. Others, however, such as the creation of the Große Halle (Great Hall), had to be shelved owing to the beginning of war. A great number of the old buildings in many of the planned construction areas were, however, demolished before the war and eventually defeat stopped the plans.

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Role of Britain
United Kingdom

The one country that was not included in the Pan-Germanic unification aim was the United Kingdom, in spite of its near-universal acceptance by the National Socialist government as being part of the Germanic world.

Leading Nordic ideologist Hans F. K. Günther theorized that the Anglo-Saxons had been more successful than the Germans in maintaining racial purity, and that the coastal and island areas of Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall and Wales had received additional Nordic blood through Norse raids and colonization during the Viking Age, and the Anglo-Saxons of Eastern and Northern England had been under Danish rule in the 9th and 10th centuries.
Royal Arms of England
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Günther referred to this historical process as Aufnordung (“additional nordification”), which finally culminated in the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

Britain was thus a nation created by struggle and the survival of the fittest among the various Aryan peoples of the isles, and was able to pursue global conquest and empire-building because of its superior racial heredity born through this development.
Hitler professed an admiration for the imperial might of the British Empire in ‘Zweites Buch’ as proof of the racial superiority of the Aryan race, hoping that Germany would emulate British “ruthlessness” in establishing its own colonial empire in Eastern Europe.
One of his primary foreign policy aims throughout the 1930s was to establish a military alliance with both the English (Hitler conflated England with Britain and the United Kingdom in his writings and speeches) as well as the Italians, to neutralize France as a strategic threat to German security for eastward expansion.
When it became apparent to the Nazi leadership that the United Kingdom was not interested in a military alliance, anti-British policies were adopted to ensure the attainment of Germany’s war aims.
Even during the war however, hope remained that Britain would in time yet become a reliable German ally.

British Empire

Hitler preferred to see the British Empire preserved as a world power, because its break-up would benefit other countries far more than it would Germany, particularly the United States and Japan.

In fact, Hitler’s strategy during 1935-1937 for winning Britain over was based on a German guarantee of defence of the British Empire.
Ulrich Joachim von Ribbentrop

After the war, Ribbentrop testified that in 1935 Hitler had promised to deliver twelve German divisions to the disposal of Britain for maintaining the integrity of her colonial possessions.

The continued military actions against Britain after the fall of France had the strategic goal of making Britain ‘see the light‘ and conduct an armistice with the Axis powers, with July 1, 1940, being named by the Germans as the “probable date” for the cessation of hostilities.

Generaloberst Franz Halder
On May 21, 1940, Franz Halder, the head of the Army General Staff, after a consultation with Hitler concerning the aims envisaged by the Führer during the present war, wrote in his diary: “We are seeking contact with Britain on the basis of partitioning the world“.
One of Hitler’s sub-goals for the invasion of Russia was to win over Britain to the German side. 
He believed that after the military collapse of the USSR, “within a few weeks” Britain would be forced either into a surrender or else come to join Germany as a “junior partner” in the Axis.
Britain’s role in this alliance was reserved to support German naval and aerial military actions against the USA in a fight for world supremacy conducted from the Axis power bases of Europe, Africa and the Atlantic.
On August 8, 1941, Hitler stated that he looked forward to the eventual day when “England and Germany [march] together against America” and on January 7, 1942, he suggested that it was “not impossible” for Britain to quit the war and join the Axis side, leading to a situation where “it will be a German-British army that will chase the Americans from Iceland“.

Alfred Rosenberg

Alfred Rosenberg hoped that after the victorious conclusion of the war against the USSR, Englishmen, along with other Germanic nationalities, would join the German settlers in colonizing the conquered eastern territories.

Wappen des Kaisertums Österreich
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From a historical perspective Britain’s situation was likened to that which the Austrian Empire found itself in after it was defeated by the Kingdom of Prussia in the Battle of Königgratz in 1866.
As Austria was thereafter formally excluded from German affairs, so too would Britain be excluded from continental affairs in the event of a German victory.
Yet afterwards, Austria-Hungary became a loyal ally of the German Empire in the pre-World War I power alignments in Europe, and it was hoped that Britain would come to fulfil this same role.
Channel Islands
British Channel Islands
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The British Channel Islands were to be permanently integrated into the Germanic Empire.

On July 22, 1940, Hitler stated that after the war, the islands were to be given to the control of Robert Ley’s German Labour Front, and transferred into ‘Strength Through Joy’ holiday resorts.
It was suggested that the German occupiers should appeal to the islanders’ Norman heritage and treat the islands as “Germanic micro-states“, whose union with Britain was only an accident of history.
He likened the preferred policy concerning the islands similar to the one pursued by the British in Malta, where the Maltese language had been “artificially” supported against the Italian language.

Northern Italy
Fascist Kingdom of Italy
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Hitler emphasized the role of Germanic influence in Northern Italy, such as stating that the art of Northern Italy was “nothing but pure German“, and it was viewed that the Ladin and Friulian minorities of Northern Italy were racially, historically and culturally a part of the Germanic world.

Wappen der Südtirol
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The region of South Tyrol had been a place of contending claims and conflict between German nationalism and Italian nationalism.
One of the leading founders of Italian nationalism, Giuseppe Mazzini, along with Ettore Tolomei, claimed that the German-speaking South Tyrolian population were in fact a Germanicized population of Roman origin who needed to be “liberated and returned to their rightful culture“.
With the defeat of Austria-Hungary in World War I, the peace treaty designated to Italy the South Tyrol, with its border with Austria along the Brenner Pass.
The Italian Fascist regime pursued Italianization of South Tyrol, by restricting use of the German language while promoting the Italian language; promoting mass migration of Italians into the region, encouraged mainly through industralization; and resettlement of the German-speaking population.

Benito Mussolini

After Mussolini had made clear in 1922 that he would never give up the region of South Tyrol from being in Italy, Hitler adopted this position.

Hitler, in ‘Mein Kampf’ had declared that concerns over the rights of Germans in South Tyrol under Italian sovereignty was a non-issue considering the advantages that would be gained from a German-Italian alliance with Mussolini’s Fascist regime.
In ‘Mein Kampf’ Hitler also made clear that he was opposed to having a war with Italy for the sake of obtaining South Tyrol.
This position by Hitler of abandoning German land claims to South Tyrol produced aggravation amongst some NSDAP members who up to the late 1920s found it difficult to accept the position.

Hitler and Mussolini – Rome

On 7 May 1938, Hitler during a public visit to Rome declared his commitment to the existing border between Germany (that included Austria upon the Anschluss) and Italy at the Brenner Pass.

In 1939, Hitler and Mussolini resolved the problem of self-determination of Germans and maintaining the Brenner Pass frontier by an agreement in which German South Tyroleans were given the choice of either assimilation into Italian culture, or leave South Tyrol for Germany; most opted to leave for Germany.

Re Vittorio Emanuele III d’Italia

After King Victor Emmanuel III of the Kingdom of Italy removed Mussolini from power, Hitler on 28 July 1943 was preparing for the expected abandonment of the Axis for the Allies by the Kingdom of Italy’s new government, and was preparing to exact retribution for the expected betrayal by planning to partition Italy.

In particular Hitler was considering the creation of a “Lombard State” in northern Italy that would be incorporated into the Greater Germanic Reich, while South Tyrol and Venice would be annexed directly into Germany.
In the aftermath of the Kingdom of Italy’s abandonment of the Axis on 8 September 1943, Germany seized and de facto incorporated Italian territories into its direct control.

The Axis powers, were the nations that fought in the Second World War against the Allied forces. The Axis promoted the alliance as a part of a revolutionary process aimed at breaking the hegemony of plutocratic-capitalist Western powers and defending civilization from communism.
The Axis grew out of the Anti-Comintern Pact, an anti-communist treaty signed by Germany and Japan in 1936. Italy joined the Pact in 1937. The “Rome–Berlin Axis” became a military alliance in 1939 under the Pact of Steel, with the Tripartite Pact of 1940 leading to the integration of the military aims of Germany and its two treaty-bound allies.

La Repubblica Sociale Italiana
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After the rescue of Mussolini and the establishment of  La Repubblica Sociale Italiana (Repubblica di Salò – Italian Social Republic – RSI), in spite of urging by local German officials, Hitler refused to officially annex South Tyrol, instead he decided that the RSI should hold official sovereignty over these territories, and forbade all measures that would give the impression of official annexation of South Tyrol, however, in practice the territory of South Tyrol within the boundaries defined by Germany as Operationszone Alpenvorland that included Trent, Bolzano, and Belluno, were de facto incorporated into Germany’s Reichsgau Tirol-Vorarlberg, and administered by its Gauleiter Franz Hofer.

While the region identified by Germany as Operationszone Adriatische Kustenland that includedUdine, Gorizia, Trieste, Pola, Fiume (Rijeka), and Ljubljana were de facto incorporated into Reichsgau Kärnten and administered by its Gauleiter Friedrich Rainer.
After the Kingdom of Italy capitulated to the Allies in September 1943, according to Goebbels in his personal diary on 29 September 1943, wrote that Hitler had expressed that the Italian-German border should extend to those of the region of Veneto.
Veneto was to be included into the Reich in an “autonomous form”, and to benefit from the post-war influx of German tourists.
Expected participation in the colonization of Eastern Europe
Despite the pursued aim of pan-Germanic unification, the primary goal of Nazi Germany’s territorial expansionism was to acquire sufficient Lebensraum (living space) in Eastern Europe for the Germanic Aryan master race.
The primary objective of this aim was to transform Germany into a complete economic autarky, the end-result of which would be a state of continent-wide German hegemony over Europe.
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic systems. The latter are called closed economies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance or international trade. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky would be a state that could defend itself without help from another country. Autarky can be said to be the policy of a state or other entity when it seeks to be self-sufficient as a whole, but also can be limited to a narrow field such as possession of a key raw material.
This was to be accomplished through the enlargement of the territorial base of the German state and the expansion of the German population.
Because of their perceived racial worth, the Nazi leadership was enthusiastic at the prospect of “recruiting” people from the Germanic countries to also settle these territories after the Slavic inhabitants would have been driven out.
The racial planners were partly motivated in this because studies indicated that Germany would likely not be able to recruit enough colonial settlers for the eastern territories from its own country, and other Germanic groups would therefore be required.
Hitler insisted however that German settlers would have to dominate the newly colonized areas.
SS Adolf Hitler
Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler

Gradually the ‘Greater Germanic Empire’ gave way to a concept of a Neu-ordnung Europas of self-governing states, unified by German hegemony and the common enemy of Bolshevism.

The Waffen-SS was to be the eventual nucleus of a common europäischen Armee, where each state would be represented by a national contingent.
Heinrich Himmler himself, held on to his Pan-Germanic vision, and in a speech given on April 1943 to the officers of SS divisions ‘Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler’, ‘Das Reich’ and ‘Totenkopf’ he stated:
We do not expect you to renounce your nation. … We do not expect you to become German out of opportunism. We do expect you to subordinate your national ideal to a greater racial and historical ideal, to the Germanic Reich‘.

Hitler’s Real Views on die Großgermanischen Reich der deutschen Nation

In the beginning of the Kampfzeit (time of struggle) Hitler had only been concerned with National Socialism in Germany and Austria, and the reclaiming of territory lost through the Treaty of Versailles.
The concept of a ‘Große Reich’ (Greater Reich) was a late development, and the idea of Weltherrschaft (world domination) was the result of Hitler’s involvement with Major General Karl Ernst Haushofer, and his theories of Geopolitik (Geo-politics).
Karl Ernst Haushofer

Karl Ernst Haushofer (August 27, 1869 – March 10, 1946) was a German general, geographer and geopolitician. Through his student Rudolf Hess, Haushofer’s ideas may have influenced the development of Adolf Hitler’s expansionist strategies. Haushofer developed Geopolitik from widely varied sources, including the writings of Oswald Spengler, Alexander Humboldt, Karl Ritter, and  Friedrich Ratzel.

Geopolitik contributed to the foreign policy of the Third Reich, chiefly in the strategy and justifications for lebensraum. The theories contributed five ideas to German foreign policy in the inter-war period:, the organic state, lebensraum, autarky, pan-regions, land power/sea power dichotomy.
Rudolf Heß

Hitler and Haushofer first came together through the offices of Rudolf Heß, during Hitler’s imprisonment at Festung Landsberg, after the 1923 Munich Putsch.

The evidence of Hausofer’s influence can clearly be seen in the second half of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf‘.
Geopolitics was very popular in Germany at the time that ‘Mein Kampf‘ was published, and it is quite reasonable to suppose that Hitler included geopolitical chapters in ‘Mein Kampf‘ in order to make it appear ‘modern’ and ‘in tune’ with current political and academic developments.
One cannot conclude, however, that Hitler seriously believed in the fundamental principles of Haushofer’s geopolitical theories, as much of the contents of the remainder of ‘Mein Kampf‘ is disingenuous to say the very least.
We should remember that while Hitler had no objection to extending the influence and power of the Third Reich beyond its previous racially demarcated borders, much of the speculation indulged in the National Socialist hierarchy about ‘Weltherrschaft’ is simply that – speculation.

Heinrich Himmler and
haj Amin al-Husseini
For example, overtures to the Arab and Muslim world (haj Amin al-Husseini) were as disingenuous as many other aspects of the foreign policy of the Third Reich.
As far as Hitler was concerned, Arabs were Semites, and therefore little different, in racial terms, from the Jews.
Any statements made by Hitler and Himmler et al, were, therefore, simply the means to obtain temporary wartime support from these groups.
As for Africa, South America and other non-European areas, these were matters that would be settled, probably by diplomacy and treaties, when the conflict in Europe came to an end.

Hitler’s primary concern, from the very beginning, was to create a settled, racially pure ‘living-space’ where Himmler’s SS could undertake the biological breeding programs that would produce Die Herrenrasse.

Die Herrenrasse

Die Herrenrasse is a concept in Nazi ideology in which the Nordic race -a branch of the Aryan race – represented an ideal and pure race. The Nordic race was the purest example of the original racial stock of those who were then called the Proto-Aryans, who prehistorically dwelt on the North German Plain, ultimately originated from the lost continent of Atlantis. The Nordics (Germanic peoples), were the true Aryans because they were less racially mixed with “non-native” Indo-European peoples than other Aryan peoples, such as the Slavic peoples, the Romance peoples and the Indo-Iranian peoples. Based on this claim that the Nordic peoples were superior to all other races, and were entitled to expand territorially.This concept is known as Nordicism.


This, however, was only the first stage of the process that Hitler envisaged.

Hitler explained the process of creating the Nietzschean übermensch in the following manner:
The real destiny of Man is something that ordinary men could not conceive and would be unable to comprehend, even if given a glimpse of it.
Our revolution is a final stage in an evolution that will end by abolishing history.
der Übermensch

It is my ultimate aim to perform an act of creation, a divine operation, the goal of a biological mutation which will result in an unprecedented exaltation of the human race and the appearance of a new race of heroes, demi-gods and god-men.

My party comrades have no conception of the dreams that haunt my mind, or of the grandiose edifice of which the foundations, at least, will have been laid before I die. 
The world has reached a turning point, and will undergo an upheaval which the uninitiated cannot understand.’
Once the ‘divine operation‘ had been achieved there would be no further need for economic, politics, or strategies.
The ‘unprecedented exaltation of the human race‘ would produce “the ‘Man-God’, when Man will be the measure and centre of the world.
The ‘Man-God‘, that splendid Being, will be an object of worship …
But there are other stages about which I am not permitted to speak ...”

Adolf Hitler

And so, in the final analysis, ‘die Großgermanischen Reich der deutschen Nation’ would simply be the ‘seed bed’ for the greater creation, which would go beyond all national and political considerations, and into the realm of ‘pure metaphysics’.

Die Anschluss Österreichs

The Anschluß also known as the Anschluss Österreichs was the union of the German Republic Austria with the Third Reich in 1938.

The German Republic Austria was united with the German Third Reich on 12 March 1938.
There had been several years of pressure by supporters from both Austria and Germany (by both Nazis and non-Nazis) for the “Heim ins Reich” movement.

The Heim ins Reich (Home into the Empire; or Back to the Reich), was a foreign policy pursued by Adolf Hitler beginning in 1938.
The aim of his initiative was to convince all of the ethnically German people who were living outside of the Third Reich (i.e. in foreign countries such as Austria and the western districts of Poland) that they should strive to bring these regions “home” into Greater Germany. It included areas ceded after the Treaty of Versailles, as well as other areas containing significant German populations such as the Sudetenland. The policy was managed by VOMI (Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle) (Main Welfare Office for Ethnic Germans). As a state agency of the NSDAP, it handled all Volksdeutsch issues. By 1941, the VOMI was under the control of the SS.

Earlier, Nazi Germany had provided support for the Austrian National Socialist Party (Austrian Nazi Party) in its bid to seize power from Austria’s Austrofascist leadership.
Devoted to remaining independent but under considerable pressure from both Austrian and German Nazis, Austria’s Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg tried to hold a referendum for a vote on the issue.

Although Schuschnigg (see right) expected Austria to vote in favour of maintaining autonomy, a well-planned coup d’état by the Austrian Nazi Party of Austria’s state institutions in Vienna took place on 11 March, prior to the referendum, which they canceled.
They transferred power to German Empire, and Wehrmacht troops entered Austria to enforce the Anschluss (see left).

The German Government held a plebiscite within the following month (see left), asking the people to ratify the Anschluss.

The German Government claimed to have received 99.73% of the vote in favor.
Although the Allies were committed to upholding the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and St. Germain, which specifically prohibited the union of Austria and the German Empire, their reaction was only verbal and moderate.
No military confrontation took place and even the strongest voices against the annexation, particularly Fascist Italy, France and the United Kingdom (the “Stresa Front”) remained at peace.

The Anschluss was among the first major steps of Adolf Hitler’s creation of a Grossdeutsches Reich – (Greater German Reich) (see left and right) which was to include all of the ethnic German and lands and territories which German Empire had lost after World War I, although Austria had never been a part of (in 20th-century terms) Germany.
Prior to the 1938 annexation, the German Empire had remilitarized the Rhineland, and the Saar region was returned to Germany after 15 years of occupation through a plebiscite.

After the Anschluss, Hitler targeted Czechoslovakia, provoking an international crisis which led to the Munich Agreement in September 1938, giving the Third Reich control of the industrial Sudetenland (see left), which had a predominantly ethnic German population.

In March 1939, Hitler then annexed truncated Czechoslovakia and made the rest of the nation a protectorate.
That same year, Memelland was returned from Lithuania.

The idea of grouping all ethnic Germans into one unified country (as a nation-state) had been the subject of inconclusive debate since the end of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation (see right) in 1806.

At the same time, the 18th century was a period when thousands of Germans emigrated to other areas, sometimes at the invitation of governments who wanted to resettle areas depopulated by war and the plague, or to improve farming.
Often promised special rights and the ability to keep their language and religion, the Germans settled in communities along the Danube (territory that is mostly now present-day Serbia), in Poland, Russia, and across the Atlantic to North America before the American Revolutionary War.
The system of spheres of influence in Europe, developed at Vienna in 1815, depended upon the fragmentation of the German and Italian states, not their consolidation.
Consequently, a German nation united under one banner presented significant questions (and answers): Who were the Germans? (German-speaking people.) Where was Germany? (The German-speaking land in middle Europa.) But also, Who was in charge?, and, importantly, Who could best defend “Germany”, whoever, whatever, and wherever it was?
Different groups offered different solutions to this.
In the Kleindeutschland (little, or “lesser,” Germany) solution, the German states would be united under the leadership of Prussia; in the Großdeutsche Lösung (Greater Germany) solution, the German states would be united under the leadership of the Germans (Habsburg) in Austrian state (see left).
This controversy, called dualism, dominated Prusso-Austrian diplomacy and the politics of the German states, for the next 20 years.
In a series of diplomatic and military moves during the late 19th century, the Chancellor of Prussia Otto von Bismarck (see right) increasingly isolated Austria from its traditional position of influence in broader German affairs.

Prussia’s defeat of Austria in the Austro-Prussian War eliminated Austrian influence north of its border, allowed for the creation of the North German Confederation and consolidated the German states through Prussia, enabling the creation of a German Empire (see left) in 1871.
When the German-Hungarian Empire, called “Austria-Hungary”, broke up in 1918, many German Austrians hoped to join with German Empire in the realignment of Europe.
On 12 November 1918, German Austria was officially declared a republic.
The provisional national assembly drafted a provisional constitution that stated that “German Austria is a democratic republic” (Article 1) and “German Austria is a component of the German Republic” (Article 2).
Later plebiscites in the German border provinces of Tyrol and Salzburg yielded majorities of 98 and 99% in favor for a unification with the German Republic.

The Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of Saint-Germain (both signed in 1919) explicitly prohibited the inclusion of Austria to politically join the German state.

This measure was criticized by Hugo Preuss (see left), the drafter of the German Weimar Constitution, who saw the prohibition as a contradiction of the Wilsonian principle of self-determination of peoples, intended to help bring peace to Europe.
Following the destruction of World War I, however, both France and Britain feared the power of a larger Germany, and had begun to dis-empower the current one.
Austrian particularism, especially among the nobility, also played a role in the decisions; Austria was Roman Catholic, while Germany was dominated by Protestants, especially in government (the Prussian nobility, for example, was Lutheran).
The constitutions of the Weimar Republic and the First Austrian Republic included the political goal of unification, which was widely supported by democratic parties.
In the early 1930s, popular support in Austria for union with German Empire remained overwhelming, and the Austrian government looked to a possible customs union with German Republic in 1931.
The rise of Hitler and the Nazis to power in German Empire initially caused the Austrian government to withdraw from such economic ties.

By the same token Hitler, an Austrian German by birth, had picked up German nationalism ideas after WWI and advocated the idea of a Greater Germany, in accordance to this one of the Nazis ideologies was to re-unite all ethnic Germans living outside of the Reich.
From the early beginning of his leadership in the Nazi Party he had publicly stated in his 1924 auto-biography (‘Mein Kampf’ – see right) that he would create a union between Austria and Germany by any means possible.
Austria shared the economic turbulence of the Depression, with a high unemployment rate and unstable commerce and industry.
These economic problems made the young democracy vulnerable to social unrest.
The First Republic, dominated from the late 1920s by the Catholic nationalist Christian Social Party (CS), gradually disintegrated from 1933 (dissolution of parliament and ban of the Austrian National Socialists) to 1934 (Austrian Civil War in February and ban of all remaining parties except the CS).

Osterreich Uber Alles
Dolfus Poster

The government evolved into a pseudo-fascist, corporatist model of one-party government, which combined the CS and the paramilitary Heimwehr with absolute state domination of labour relations and no freedom of the press (see Austrofascism and Patriotic Front).

Power was centralized in the office of the chancellor, who was empowered to rule by decree. The predominance of the Christian Social Party (whose economic policies were based on the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum) was an Austrian phenomenon.
Austria’s national identity had strong Catholic elements that were incorporated into the movement, by way of clerical authoritarian tendencies not found in Nazism.

Both Engelbert Dollfuss (see left) and his successor, Kurt Schuschnigg, turned to Austria’s other fascist neighbour, Italy, for inspiration and support.
The statist corporatism often referred to as Austrofascism bore much more resemblance to Italian Fascism than German National Socialism.
Benito Mussolini (see right) supported the independence of Austria until his need for German support in Ethiopia (see Second Italo-Abyssinian War) led him into a client relationship with Berlin that began with the 1937 Berlin–Rome Axis.
On 25 July 1934, Chancellor Dollfuss was assassinated by Austrian Nazis in a failed coup.
The second civil war followed, lasting until August 1934.
Afterward leading Austrian Nazis fled to Germany but they continued to push for unification from there.

The remaining Austrian Nazis started to make use of terrorist attacks against Austrian governmental institutions, causing a death toll of more than 800 between 1934 and 1938.

Following Dollfuss’ assassination, his successor was Schuschnigg, who followed a similar political course.
In 1935 Schuschnigg (see right) used the police to suppress the Nazi supporters in Austria.
Police actions under Schuschnigg included gathering Nazis (and Social Democrats) and holding them in internment camps, however, the support from the powerful and increasingly popular Nazi German state to the north was impossible to prevent.
Eventually Schuschnigg gave up his anti-Nazi program, and in July 1936 he signed the Austro-German Agreement, which, among other concessions, allowed the release of Nazis imprisoned in Austria and the inclusion of National Socialists in his Cabinet.
This did not satisfy Hitler and the pro-Germany Austrian Nazi’s grew in strength.
Following increasing violence and demands from Hitler that Austria agree to a union, Schuschnigg met with Hitler on 12 February at Berchtesgaden in an attempt to avoid the take-over of Austria.
Hitler presented Schuschnigg with a set of demands which included appointing known Austria Nazi sympathizers to positions of great power in the Austrian government.
The key appointment was: Seyss-Inquart would take over as Minister of Public Security, with full and unlimited control of the police forces in Austria.
In return Hitler would publicly reaffirm the treaty of 11 July 1936 and reaffirm his support for Austria’s national sovereignty.
Schuschnigg accepted Hitler’s “deal”, returned to Vienna and made the changes to his government.
One week later, Hitler made a speech saying
The German Reich is no longer willing to tolerate the suppression of ten million Germans across its borders.”
Wilhelm Frass – Die Ostmark

This was clearly directed at Austria and Czechoslovakia.

Hitler sent an ultimatum to Schuschnigg on 11 March, demanding that he hand over all power to the Austrian National Socialists.
The ultimatum was set to expire at noon, but was extended by two hours.
Schuschnigg desperately sought support for Austrian independence in the hours following the ultimatum.
Realizing that neither France nor Britain was willing to take steps, he resigned as chancellor that evening.
In the radio broadcast in which he announced his resignation, he argued that he accepted the changes and allowed the Nazis to take over the government ‘to avoid the shedding of fraternal blood [Bruderblut]’.
On the morning of 12 March, the 8th Army of the German Wehrmacht crossed the border to Austria.
The troops were greeted by cheering German-Austrians with Hitler salutes, Nazi flags and flowers.
Because of this, the Anschluß is also called the ‘Blumenkrieg’ (war of flowers), but its official name was ‘Unternehmen Otto’.

For the Wehrmacht, the Anschluß was the first big test of its machinery.

Hitler’s car crossed the border in the afternoon at Braunau (see left), his birthplace.
In the evening, he arrived at Linz and was given an enthusiastic welcome in the city hall.
Hitler’s travel through Austria became a triumphal tour that climaxed in Vienna, (see right) on 2 April 1938, when around 200,000 German-Austrians gathered on the Heldenplatz to hear Hitler proclaim the Austrian Anschluß .
Hitler later commented:
I have in the course of my political struggle won much love from my people, but when I crossed the former frontier (into Austria) there met me such a stream of love as I have never experienced. Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators.”
The Anschluss was given immediate effect by legislative act on 13 March, subject to ratification by a plebiscite.
Austria became the province of the Ostmark, and Seyss-Inquart was appointed governor.
The plebiscite was held on 10 April and officially recorded a support of 99.73% of the voters.


Tragedy of the Sudetenland

Expelled German Ethnic Minorities

While still generally unheard of by the general public outside of Germany, it is a matter of little contention among historians that some 12 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Eastern Europe after World War Two.
Some of these areas had been part of Germany, while in others, Germans had lived as ethnic minorities for generations.
While the actual death toll that resulted from the expulsion remains uncertain and controversial, conservative figures suggest over 1 million.
The German victims of these expulsions seem to have been banished to the same place as the victims of the Dresden ‘terror-bombing’ and the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The mean-spirited logic seems to be that the victims of these various events should not be mourned and for that matter no sympathy should be expressed because they were ‘enemies’ of the victorious Allies.
The controversy of the German expellees received press earlier this year when the governing German coalition parties, the Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union and the Free Democratic Party proposed a memorial day for the expellees. Almost immediately Jewish groups denounced the idea. Stephen Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany called the proposal “a kind of retaliation” against the victims of German war crimes. A group of historians actually condemned the proposal as “revisionist.” Others called the proposal a mockery and disgraceful.

The Sudetenland


Sudetenland is the German name for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia located within Czechoslovakia.

The name is derived from the Sudetes mountains, though the Sudetenland extended beyond these mountains which run along the border to Silesia and contemporary Poland.
Sudeti montes was already used on Ptolemaios’ map of the 2nd century.
The German inhabitants were called Sudetendeutsche (Sudeten Germans).
The German minority in Slovakia, the Carpathian Germans, is not included in this ethnic category.

3,273,000 people were driven out of Sudetenland as well as Bohemia and Moravia, of which 273,000 lost their lives on the way.

In these areas there once lived 3,474,000 Sudeten Germans in 674 settlements.


Major cities:

Reichenberg, Aussig, Brünn, Brüx, Eger, Gablonz, Karlsbad,
Leitmeritz, Marienbad, Olmütz, Teplitz-Schönau, Tetschen,
Trautenau, Troppau and Znaim
The Sudetenland with the Bohemian Forest and South Moravia was greater than Hessen and Saarland together.
The German Bohemia, part of the Habsburg Empire, by its German-speaking majority played a leading role within the total population.
From 1918 to 1938, after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, more than 3.5 million ethnic Germans were living in the Czech part of the newly created state of Czechoslovakia.

Sudeten German pro-Nazi leader Konrad Henlein founded Sudetendeutsche Partei (German Party – SdP) that served as the branch of the Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei for the Sudetenland.
By 1935, the SdP was the second largest political party in Czechoslovakia.


Heim ins Reich

‘Volksdeutsche’ – German for people/folk -, defined ethnically, is a historical term from the 20th century.

The Heim ins Reich (Home into the Empire or Back to the Reich), was a foreign policy pursued by Führer und Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler. beginning in 1938. The aim of his initiative was to convince all of the ethnically German people who were living outside of the Third Reich (i.e. in foreign countries such as Austria and the western districts of Poland) that they should strive to bring these regions “home” into the ‘Gross Deutsches Reich’ (Greater Germany). It included areas ceded after the Treaty of Versailles, as well as other areas containing significant German populations such as the Sudetenland. The policy was managed by VOMI (Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle) (Main Welfare Office for Ethnic Germans). As a state agency of the NSDAP, it handled all Volksdeutsch issues.

The words ‘volk’ and ‘volkische’ conveyed in Nationalist thinking the meanings of “folk” and “race”, while adding the sense of superior civilization and blood.
These terms were used by the Third Reich to define people in terms of their ethnicity rather than citizenship and thus included Germans living beyond the borders of the German Reich.
This is in contrast to Imperial Germans (Reichsdeutsche), German citizens living within Germany.
The term also contrasts with the usage of the term Auslandsdeutsche (Germans abroad) since 1936, which generally denotes German citizens residing in other countries.
Volksdeutsche were further divided into Volksgruppen — a minority within a minority in a state — with a special cultural, social and historic development.

Adolf Hitler

Volksdeutsche were defined by Adolf Hitler as “people whose language and culture had German origins but who did not hold German citizenship.
For Hitler and the other ethnic Germans of his time, the term “Volksdeutsche” also carried overtones of blood and race not captured in the common English translation “ethnic Germans”.
According to German estimates in the 1930s, about 30 million Volksdeutsche and Auslandsdeutsche, were living outside the Reich.
A significant proportion of them were in Central Europe: Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic states, and Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia, where many were located in villages along the Danube, and Russia.
Many of their ancestors had migrated to non-German-speaking European countries in the 18th century, invited by governments that wanted to repopulate areas decimated by the Ottoman Empire occupation and sometimes by disease.
The National Socialist goal of expansion assigned the Volksdeutsche a special role in German plans, to bring them back to German citizenship and elevate them to power over the native populations in those areas.

Shortly after the Anschluß of Austria with Germany, Henlein met with Führer und Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler in Berlin on 28 March 1938, where he was instructed to present demands to the Czechoslovak government led by president Edvard Beneš.
On 24 April, the SdP issued a series of demands upon the government of Czechoslovakia, that were known as the ‘Carlsbad Program’.

Stadtwappen  München

Führerbau – Munich Agreement 1938

Among the demands, Heinlein demanded full equality of Germans with Czechs and autonomy for Germans living in Czechoslovakia.
The Czechoslovakian government responded by saying that it was willing to provide minority rights to the German minority but it refused to grant them autonomy.

This situation was not acceptable by the Germans in Bohemia and Moravia and they called for annexation to German Austria.
However, the Allies rejected this aspiration.

It was followed by the Sudeten crisis, the Munich Agreement.

The Sudetenland was relegated to Germany between October 1 and October 10, 1938.

The Munich Agreement

The Munich Agreement was a settlement permitting annexation of Czechoslovakia’s areas along the country’s borders mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans known as the Sudetenland by the Third Reich.
The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without the presence of Czechoslovakia.
The agreement was signed in the early hours of 30 September 1938 (but dated 29 September).
The purpose of the conference was to discuss the future of the Sudetenland in the face of territorial demands made by Führer und Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler.
The agreement was signed by the great powers – Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy.

Wappen des Protektorats
Böhmen und Mähren

Adolf Hitler – der Prager Burg

The Czech part of Czechoslovakia was subsequently invaded by Germany in March 1939, with a portion being annexed and the remainder turned into the ‘Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia’.

The Slovak part declared its independence from Czechoslovakia, becoming the Slovak Republic (Slovak State), an ally of the Third Reich.
The Sudetenland was initially put under military administration, with General Wilhelm Keitel as military governor.
On 21 October 1938, the annexed territories were divided, with the southern parts being incorporated into the neighbouring Reichsgaue Oberdonau and Niederdonau.

Wappen Reichgau Sudetenland

The northern and western parts were reorganized as the Reichsgau Sudetenland, with the city of Reichenberg established as its capital.

Konrad Henlein administered the district first as Reichskommissar (until 1 May 1939) and then as Reichsstatthalter (1 May 1939 – 4 May 1945).

Konrad Ernst Eduard Henlein

Konrad Ernst Eduard Henlein (6 May 1898 – 10 May 1945) was a leading Sudeten German politician in Czechoslovakia. Upon the German occupation he joined the Nazi Party as well as the SS and was appointed Reichsstatthalter of the Sudetenland in 1939. He attended business school in Gablonz. Henlein entered military service as a Kriegsfreiwilliger. In May, 1916, he attended Offiziersschule and then was assigned to k.u.k. Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 27 (Base-Graz). He saw frontline service in the Dolomites at Monte Forno, Mont Sief, and Monte Maletta from May, 1916 to 17 November 1917. Henlein was severely wounded, then captured by Italian troops, and spent the remainder of the war as a POW held in Italian captivity at Asinara Island. There Henlein spent his time studying the history of the German Turner (gymnastics) movement of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn. He returned home after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1919. Influenced by the German national movement, Henlein became a gym teacher of the gymnastics club in Asch (Aš) in 1925, which, similar to the Czech Sokol movement, took an active part in Sudeten German communal life.

Sudetenland consisted of three political districts: Eger (with Karlsbad as capital), Aussig (Aussig) and Troppau (Troppau).
Stadtwappen Potsdam

Potsdam Conference – 1945 

After the end of World War II, the Potsdam Conference in 1945 determined that Sudeten Germans would have to leave Czechoslovakia.

Immediately after the occupation by the troops of the Red Army there began the massacre and forced expulsion of the German population which was accompanied by looting, violence and lynching.

History of the Sudetenland

Settlement by Germanic tribes, Marbod’s Kingdom, reduction of the population during the great migrations.
By the 6th century
Settlement by Eastern tribes.
Campaign by Charles the Great against Bohemia.
Otakar I obtained the hereditary kingship in Bohemia and suzerainty over Moravia.
12th century
A large number of German monks enter the country, founded monasteries and managed large estates.
Battle of the March Field and expansion of the Habsburg power in Bohemia and Moravia.
Emperor Charles IV makes in 1346 the “golden” Prague to German capital, in 1348 he founded the first German university and the imperial regalia was kept in the Karlstein Castle near Prague.
1618-1648 Hussite Wars
The Defenestration of Prague in 1618 starts the Thirty Years’ War.
Congress of Vienna. The Sudetenland stays until 1914 in Austria-Hungary.
Initial planning of “Czechoslovakia” in Allied circles, with territorial claims against Austria, Bavaria, Silesia, Brandenburg and Saxony.
Disintegration of the Habsburg monarchy and the founding of Czechoslovakia. The Sudeten Germans want the annexation to German Austria.
The Czech military occupied the Sudetenland. Dissolution of the German-Bohemian regional government, oppression of the Sudeten Germans.
Four-power conference with inclusion of the Sudetenland into the German Reich.
Flight and expulsion of 3,000,000 Germans from their homeland.

Flight and Expulsion

Expulsion of Volksdeutsche
from the Sudetenland
Expulsion of Volksdeutsche
from the Sudetenland

Immediately after the arrival of the Red Army in Bohemia and Moravia there began the brutal displacement of the German population.

Thus, the victorious Allied Powers were to be provided with a fait accompli.
The expulsion was accompanied by lynchings, mass executions, brutish violence and rape by both the Soviet occupation army as well as the Czech population. Full horror and hatred were the Czechs to the defenseless Germans.
In the so-called Brünn death march about 26,000 women, children and elderly had to walk to the Austrian border. Hundreds died of exhaustion and dehydration.
The able-bodied German men were sent to camps and forced into hard labor.
A quarter million Germans didn’t survive the violence and atrocities, the labor camps.
Over 3 million Sudeten Germans lost their home forever.

From London and Moscow, Czech and Slovak political agents in exile followed an advancing Soviet army pursuing German forces westward, to reach the territory of the first former Czechoslovak Republic. Beneš proclaimed the programme of the newly appointed Czechoslovak government on April 5, 1945, in the north-eastern city of Košice, which included oppression and persecution of the non-Czech and non-Slovak populations of the partially restored Czechoslovak Republic. After the proclamation of the Košice program, the German and Hungarian population living in the reborn Czechoslovak state were subjected to various forms of court procedures, citizenship revocations, property confiscation, condemnation to forced labour camps, and appointment of government managers to German and Hungarian owned businesses and farms, referred to euphemistically as “reslovakization.
Between 1945 and 1948, a series of presidential decrees, edicts, laws and statutes were proclaimed by the president of the republic, the Prague-based Czechoslovak Parliament, the Slovak National Council (Parliament) in Bratislava and by the Board of Slovak Commissioners (an appendage of the Czechoslovak government in Bratislava).
Decrees 5, 12, 33, 108/1945 ordered the removal of citizenship from people of German ethnic origin who were treated collectively as collaborators. This was then used to confiscate their property and expel around 90% of the ethnic German population of Czechoslovakia. These people were collectively accused of supporting the Nazis (through the Sudetendeutsche Partei (SdP), the political party led by Konrad Henlein) and the Third Reich’s annexation of the Czech borderland in 1938. 


In the summer of 1945 there were localised massacres of the German population. 
June 18–19, 1945, in the Přerov incident, 71 men, 120 women and 74 children (265 Germans) who were Slovak Germans from Dobšiná were passing through Horní Moštěnice near Přerov railway station. Here they were taken out of the train, taken outside the city to a hill named “Švédské šance”, where they were forced to dig their own graves and all were shot. They were all murdered while being transported back to Slovakia by soldiers of the 17th Bratislava Foot Regiment.
20,000 Germans were forced to leave Brno for camps in Austria. Z. Beneš reported 800 deaths.
Estimates of those killed in the Ústí massacre range from 30–50 to 600–700 civilians.
763 people were shot dead in Postoloprty and the immediate vicinity. In September 1947 a Czechoslovak parliamentary commission investigated reports of mass graves scattered around the north Bohemian town of Postoloprty. In all, the investigation unearthed 763 German bodies, victims of a zealous Czechoslovak army detachment carrying out orders to “cleanse” the region of Germans in late May 1945. Expellees who survived the massacre estimated the number of their murdered neighbours to be over 800.

Internment Camps

Some Germans were sent to “concentration camps”. A 1964 report by the German Red Cross stated that 1,215 “internment camps” were established, as well as 846 forced labour and “disciplinary centres”, and 215 prisons, on Czechoslovak territory. Special Courts sentenced 21,469 persons to prison and 713 were executed for crimes committed during the Nazi occupation. They made rough estimate claiming 350,000 Germans in Czechoslovakia passed through one or more of these institutions and 100,000 perished. 
The civilian internees who survived to be expelled recorded the horrors of months and years of slow starvation and maltreatment in many thousands of affidavits. 
Conditions in the internment camp near Kolín, in which internees were raped and beaten and two of them were killed were investigated by the Czechoslovak parliament. According to a rough estimate approximately 10,000 people died in Czech camps and prisons from 1945 to 1948. The causes of death included epidemics, undernourishment, overall exhaustion and old age, but also ill-treatment and executions.


Expulsion of Sudeten Germans

Germans living in the border regions of Czechoslovakia were expelled from the country in late 1945. The joint German and Czech commission of historians estimated that there were about 15,000 violent deaths. Czech records report 15-16,000 deaths not including an additional 6,667 unexplained cases or suicides during the expulsion, and others died from hunger and illness in Germany as a consequence. In 1946, an estimated 1.3 million ethnic Germans were deported to the American zone of what would become West Germany. An estimated 800,000 were deported to the Soviet zone (in what would become East Germany).