The first country where the NAZIs emplemented their genocidal food poliies was occupied Poland--the General Government (GG). The results were disaterous for the Polish people, especially Jews and the urban population. This was of course was precisely what Hitler wanted. Hitler had a special animosity toward Jews, but Poles as a Slavic people were only slightly above Jews in NAZI racial rankings. And the Polish seizure of territory seen as German after World War I created additional animosities. The NAZIs saw Jews and Slavs as subhuman (Untermensch). As a result, the Jews were targeted for elimination as part of the Holocaust. This desire was so strong that Hitler decided to even eliminte Jews that were working in war industries. Plans for the Poles and other Slavs were somewhat different. Himmler's Generalplan Ost as it developed called for the outright murder of mny Slavs, the ensavement of others, and driving others beyond the Urals where most would perish. Himmler set out to impleent these poliies in Poland, but they began to disrupt the preparations for Barbarossa so they were not fully implemented.
Virtually starvation food polices were, however, implemented. Not only was the food produced in the GG inadequate, but a substantial part of it was being seized and shipped to the Reich. [Luzak, p. 201.] Deliberate starvation of targeted populations was part of the Starvatiion Plan. Rations in the General Government at the time of Barbarossa for the Germans were: 2,613 calories per day. Other groups received less than was needed to sustain life: Poles (699 calories--26 percent of the caloric in take needed) and Jews (184 calories--7.5 percent of what was needed). [Roland, pp. 99-104.] We think rations were higher in the provinced annexed to the Reich, but we do not yet have details on this. Poles had options. They could move to the countryside or surepticious obtain food from farmers. Jews who had been ghettoized did not have these options. There was no possibility of growing food in most of the ghettoes and the NAZIs controlled food shipments into the ghettoes. Ghetto policies varied. They were not immdiately closed. It was for a time possible to smuggkle food into the ghettoes, but this became increasingly difficult as NAZI authoritie tightened controls and the ghetto Jews exhausted their meager resources. Only American food aid which was available until Hitler declared war on Ameica kept them alive.
The first country where the NAZIs emplemented these poliies was occupied Poland--the General Government (GG).
Hitler had a special animosity toward Jews, but Poles as a Slavic people were only slightly above Jews in NAZI racial rankings. And the Polish seizure of territory seen as German after World War I created additional animosities. The NAZIs saw Jews and Slavs as subhuman (Untermensch). As a result, the Jews were targeted for elimination as part of the Holocaust.
This desire was so strong that Hitler decided to even eliminte Jews that were working in war industries.
Plans for the Poles and other Slavs were somewhat different. Himmler's Generalplan Ost as it developed called for the outright murder of mny Slavs, the ensavement of others, and driving others beyond the Urals where most would perish. Himmler set out to impleent these poliies in Poland, but they began to disrupt the preparations for Barbarossa so they were not fully implemented.
Virtually starvation food polices were, however, implemented.
Poland before World War II was a much larger country than is the case today and not as extensively industrialized. Western Poland was a rich agricultural area with many small prioductive farms. The Polish Government had carried out land reforms that boke up many large estates, in many cases owned by Germans. The agriculturral harvest ws used for the local population and to supply other German markets. It wa thus not availble to help feed NAZI occupied Poland (the General Government. Eastern Poland (modern Bylorussia) was mnuch more primitive. The farms were not as productive as in western Polan, but the area produced a huge agricvultural surplus which helped feed the country's urban poplation with sunstantial quantities left over for export. THis surplus was, however, unavailble for NAZI-occupied Poland because it was in Soviet hands. Before the War, the area of centralPoland that the NAZIs turned into the General Government did not produce enough food to feed Warsaw and the other cities. It relied on the other ares of Poland for its food needs, areas that were ow in NAZI and Soviet hand and thus no longer availavle to supply food. Polish per capita grain consumption before the War was about 246 kg. per capita. Farmers in the GG produced only about 203 kg. per capita. [Gross, pp. 92-93.] And if this was not bad enough, NAZI authorities seized nearly 30 percent of agricultural agricultural production in the GG and shipped it to the Reichfor civilian consumption. [Gross, p. 99 and Luzak p. 201.]
The food situation in the General Government was significatly worsened by the German expulsion of some 923,000 Polish citizens from the areas of western Polish annexed to the Reich. [Piotrowski, p. 299.] This included both Jewish and Christian Poles. These were forced expulsions, often conducted at short notice. They were limited in what they could take with them. In some cases BDM girls helped ensure that the deportees took nothing of value with them. The Germans simply forced these peoples out of their homes and farms. They were proded on forced marches east to the GG, including the elderly, sick, and children. The farm families were not allowed to take livestock which might have pulled cafts. These expulsions continued even after the weather turned cold resuting in opeople freesing to death or perisjhing in the
open from hunger abnd disease. some of these unfortunate people were cramed into rail baggage cars. The Germans made no provision for caring for these people. The Germans did not care where te depoertees went as long as it was in the GG and made no efforts to care for them once they arrived. They were depedant entirely on Polish welfare services which because of the War we in no poition to provide the level of aid created by the humanitarian crisis the Germans engineered. [Gross, p. 72.]
Rations in the General Government at the time of Barbarossa (June 1941) for the Germans were: 2,613 calories per day. Other groups received less than was needed to sustain life: Poles (699 calories--26 percent of the caloric in take needed) and Jews (184 calories--7.5 percent of what was needed). [Roland, pp. 99-104.] These ration levels change over time. The assuigned ratiions were a little different in December 1941, but not significatly so (table 1). Notice the differece between the Poles and Ukranians. NAZI authoruities used the histioric tensions between these two groups as par tof their governing strategy. We think rations may have been higher in the provinces annexed to the Reich, but we do not yet have details on this. We do have some information on rationing in the Reich itself.
Deliberate starvation of targeted populations was part of the NAZI Hunger or Starvation Plan. The German Hunger Plan (der Hungerplan) also called der Backe-Plan or Starvation Plan was a NAZI World War II food management plan. It is sometine called the Backe Plan because he plaed such an important role in planning and implementing the plan. Herbert Backe was an official in the Ministy of Food and evenually appointed to that post. The Ministry was responsible for the German rationing program. Actually there was no single centrally coordinated plan, but several separate if some times related operations. Germany's World War I experience encouraged the idea of using food as a weapon. Hitler was not the first in this rea. Stalin preceeded him by about a decade with the Ukranian famine (1932-33). We are not sure to what extent NAZI officials were aware of this. The NKVD did an efficent job of preventing details from leaking out to the West. And Western Socialists and Communists, including those in Germany did not want to believe the rumors. The desire to use food as a weapon. This combined with the NAZI regime's rush to acceptance eugenics theories as scientific fact resulted in a genocidal brew of genocidal policies. NAZI food policies were different than the Allied blockade policies which were designed to win the War. Part of Hitler's war objectives were the murder of millions of people which sometimes were given a priority over the war effort. The Hunger Plan was not a policy designed to help win the War, although sometimes presented as that. Many of the individuals killed were working in war indistries supporting the German war effort. This actually impeeded the war effort as a labor shortage developed in Germany requiring the introduction of forced labor to man German war industries. Rather the killing of millions Jews and Slavs was a primary German war goal. Hitler asked officials in the Ministry of Food, the agency responsible for rationing, to develop a Starvation Plan, sometimes referred to as the Hunger Plan. The Minister was one of the chief advocates for eugenics in the NAZI heirarchy. The largest elements of the Hunger Plan were: 1) Occupation policies in Poland, 2) Ghetto policies, 3) Starvation of Polish and Soviet POWs, 4) Generalplan Ost. Scholars studying the Hunger Plan provide a somewhat varried list of its elements, lrgely because there was no single, well coordinated NAZI effiort, but rather the work of various officials with similar objectives and values. These include besides Backe, Reicharshall Göring, Reichführer SS Himmler, SS Obergruppenführer Heydrich, and Minister of Food Darré.
Poles had options, most Jews did not. Poles got somewhat higher rations. And urban Poles could move to the countryside or surepticious obtain food from farmers. One hitorian writes, "To be sure, the Poles would have starved to death if they had to depend on the food rationed to them." [Lukas, p. 31.] Poles to supplement their starvation rations (table 1)
could buy food on the black marjket if they could for it. The black market meant the dfference betweenlife and death for mny Poles. One author clims that 80 percent of the population's food requirement was met by the black market. [Gross, p. 109.] And the Germans were on both ends of it. They arrested black marketeers and benefitted from the sale of food and other itms in high demand. Official poliy was to supress the black market, but many NAZI officials profitted by engagin in it. Officials might steal some of the meagr rations assigned to non-Germans and sell it on the black market. The Gestapo was often aware of these operations, but only against against important officials if they crossed Heydrich and Himmler.
POles were a dffent matter. For them it was very dangerous. Poles participating in the black market “risked arrest, deportation to a concentration camp, and even death”. The German occupation authorities had a large security operation stamp out the black market. [Lukas, p. 31.] Unlike the rest of the NAZI empire, they were not locally recruited. The NAZIs did not organize auppet government in Poland or recruit aPolish police force or miita. Jews who had been ghettoized did not have the same options. There was no possibility of growing food in most of the ghettoes and the NAZIs controlled food shipments into the ghettoes. The black market existed, but as the Germnans largely controlled it, the items sold were even more expensive than outside the ghetto. Ghetto policies varied. They were not immdiately closed. It was for a time possible to smuggle food into the ghettoes, but this became increasingly difficult as NAZI authoritie tightened controls and the ghetto Jews exhausted their meager resources. Only American food aid which was available until Hitler declared war on Ameica kept them alive. As tghe war turned against Germany, the Germans began recruiting Poles for work in Geman war industruies and farms. [Gross, pp. 78-79.] Germany was forced to reverse its genocidal policies, at least temporarily, because of a labor shortage they had created. More and more Germans of military age were drafted and disptchd to the mny far-flung fronts. Most who volunteered reported
low wages and humiliating, often brutal treatment, but they did receive somwhat hgher food rations.
The results were disaterous for the Polish people, especially Jews and the urban population. This was of course was precisely what Hitler wanted. Te result was a humanitarian crisis, especially in the urban areas where foof became increasingy difficult for Poles to obtain ans almot impossibe for ghettoized Jews. Children were especially at risk, especially children ho had been separated from thir parents or whiose parens were killd. This was especially the case for many Jewish chidren. One report reveals that some 20-25 percent of the GG's population which was increased by NAZI deportatiions from western Poland after the NAZI occupation was left dependent on foreign food aid (1940). [Gross, p. 100.]
As a result of the poor nutrition there was an apauling increase in infectious diseases. This ws even more serious in the ghettoes because of the even mre disaterous nutritional level and the adding problems of over croding and inadequate sanitation. Tthe tuberculosis rate among Poles (not including Jews who were being forced in ghettoes) was 420 per 100,000 compared to only 136 per 100,000 before the War. [Gross, p. 102.]
Even before the Germans launched Aktion Reinhard, the project to murder Polish Jesery, NAZI food policies had a devestating impact on the Jewish community. Even before the death camps began operating (mid-1942), some 0.5-06 million Polish Jews had perished in theghettoes and genocidal labor camops. [Hilberg, p. 173.] Not all NAZI labor camps wre genocidal, but the ones for Jews were which means that were usually temoprary. The NAZIs in addition to the Jewish Holocaust killed some 2.3 non-Jewish Poles outright. An additional 0.5 million no-Jewish Poles perished because of malnutrition and other harsh treatmet. [Szarota and Materski, p. 30.]
Gross, Jan Tomasz. Polish Society Under German Occupation (Princeton University Press: 1979).
Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews (Franklin Watts, 1973).
Łuczak, Czesław. Polska i Polacy w drugiej wojnie światowej (Uniwersytet im.Adama Mickiewicza: Poznan, 1993).
Lukas, Richard C. Forgotten Holocaust: Poles Under German Occupation, 1939-44 (Hippocrene Books, 2001)
Madajczyk, Czesław Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce Vol. II (Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa 1970).
Piotrowski, Tadeusz. Poland's Holocaust (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2007).
Roland, Charles G. "Scenes of Hunger and Starvation," Courage Under Siege (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 99–104.
Szarota Tomasz and Wojciech Materski. Polska 1939–1945: Straty osobowe i ofiary represji pod dwiema okupacjami (Institute of National Remembrance (IPN): Warszawa, 2009). The annual breakdon is: 1940/41 (42,000), 1941/42 (71,000),
1942-43 (142,000); and 1943/44 (218,000). The escalting death tolls reflcted the deteriorating conditiions and health of the Polish people.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main NAI General Government food policies]
[Return to Main NAZI Government General Page]
[Return to Main NAZI World War II occupation of Poland ]
[Return to Main World War II country page]
[Return to Main Polish page]
[Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main war essay page]