Hitler after the victory in Poland assigned Himmler the task of expelling to the east more than 8 million non-Germans (meaning primarily Jews and Poles) from NAZI annexed western Poland. Ethnic Germans were to be moved westward out of the Baltic states that the Soviet Union would occupy in 1940 to replace the expelled Poles. By November 1939 the railway ststem in the affected areas was reserved for the resettlement process. Whole trainloads of these unfortunate people were moved east to the Government General in winter weather with no provision as to caring for them. Large numbers perished of exposure or starvation. NAZI head of the General Government, Hans Frank, publically decalred, "What a pleasure, finally to be able to tackle the Jewish race physically. The more that die, the better." [Rhodes] The SS began these expulsions in October 1939, concentrating on Poles and Jews in the Wartheland and the Danzig corridor. The SS by the end of 1940, the SS had succeeded in expelling 325,000 people without warning and stealing their property. Many elderly people and children died en route or in makeshift transit camps such as those in the towns of Potulice, Smukal, and Torun. Other areas were also cleared, but by 1941 the Germans were beginning to focus more on preparations for the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union and the pase of the expulsions slowed, but did not stop. There were also such actions within the Government general. It was children and the elderly that were most vulnerable in these expulsions and many died. In some cases children were taken from their parents ans screened for the Lebensborn Program. [U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum]
The Warthegau and the Danzig corridor (West Prussia) were annexed to the Reich. It was here that the SS focused its efforts to expell Poles. The Poles expelled were to be deported to the Government General which was not annexed. This was area of central Poland. The NAZIs took to calling it a "trash bin" for the Poles and other undesirables (Jews and Gypsys). There were lesser actions in the Government General. Poles in the Government General were not expelled, but there land and property was subject to seizure.
The NAZI objective was to create a racially pure Reich. The annexation of Polish territiry meant that there were large numbers of Poles and Jews in the Reich. Thus a program of ethnic cleansing was initiated to Germanize the annexed areas.
Hitler after the victory in Poland assigned Himmler the task of expelling to the east more than 8 million non-Germans (meaning primarily Jews and Poles) from NAZI annexed western Poland.
Hitler gave only vague instructions to his three eastern gauliters. He gave them 10 years to complete the Germanization process. He made it clear that there would be "no questions asked" about the methods they used. They were given a free hand as to how to proceed, including the use of extra-legal measures.
They could choose who was racially pure enough to be awatded Aryan status. And who receive the the seized property. As a result there were different policies and procedures in the annexed areas.
The Germinization process required ethnic Germans to colonize the annexed areas. Reich Germans were not all that anxious to move east. Thus the NAZIs conceived the idea of using ethnic Germans already in the East. These ethnic Germans were to be moved westward out of the Baltic states that the Soviet Union would occupy in 1940 to replace the expelled Poles. Hitler launched a program in the Baltic states, ordering the ethnic Germans "Home to the Reich". This was largely accomplished before Stalin invaded ans seized the Baltic republics (1940). The Germans that came hime to the Reich were in many cases families that had lived in the Baltics for centuries. Some had Balt and Slavic ancestors. There were thus questions about their racial purity. They had to have their ethnic status approved, but unlike Reich Germans, it was impossible to research their ancestry as the documents and records were in Soviet hands. An estimated 750,000 ethnic Germans moved into the annexed Polish territory, most were the Baltic Germans. All were given farms, shops, and business that were sized from Poles.
There was a German minority in pre-War Poland. These were Germans living in the areas of Western Poland that had been part of the German Empire before World War I. We do not know much about these Germans. We do not jnow how they were treated by the Poles after World War I. Nor do we know how they reacted to the NAZI occupation. We do not know to what extent they took advantage of te situation and seized the property of their Polish neigghbors. After the War, the Polish Government forcibly expelled them.
There were also Poles in the Reich. These were largely Poles that had lived in the eastern regions of the German Empire and moved west to seek jobs in the western indistrial cities. Here workers were needed in the coal mines and industrial plants. Many of these Poles had become Germanized. While the NAZIs took brutal actions against the Poles in the annexed areas, they never moved against the Poles with German citizenship in the Reich proper.
Before the annexed areas could be Germanized, the Poles living there had to be dealt with. Here in true NAZI fashion, they set out to classify people. Before any resettlement could be done, the Poles had to be classified into groups. Some Poles were reclassified as Aryans. Here the process varied in the different areas because the procedure was overseen by different Gaulietrs without guidance from Berlin. This was a racial determination. There were a range of determinations about the individuals who retained Polish identity. This involved residency. Some of the Poles had been subjects of the German Empire before World War I. NAZI authorities sought out the intelligentsia for arrest or deportation. They also attempted to identify potential dissidents, neutral Poles, and Poles who would submisively labor for the Reich. After individuals hd been classified, the Germinization process could begin. This involved the seizure of property and other assetts so it could be turned over to Germans in the annex areas or German colonists. The NAZIs then began expelling Poles in large number to the Government General.
The SS expulsions of the Poles in the annexed areas, as might be expected, were hardly civilized operations. They were military operations, commonly involving the use of force and executed without warning. German soldiers would move into a village or area at night. They would then proceed to burst into homes with weapons drawn. Orders were yell out in German. People who did not move fast enough were beaten. Any one who resistee was shot. Some Poles were loaded into trucks to be driven away. Ohers were forced to walk to rail heads under military guard where they could be transported to the Government General. The soldiers often robed the families of their valuables before the property was turned over to German families. Franz Jagemann, a German soldier serving as an interpreter on these actions testified, "The worst thing for me was to see an elderly couple; they were over 70 and clearly did not understand what was going on. They were beaten up and thrown on a truck." The railway ststem in the affected areas was reserved for the resettlement process (November 1939). Whole trainloads of these unfortunate people were moved east to the Government General in winter weather with no provision as to caring for them. Large numbers perished of exposure or starvation. NAZI head of the General Government, Hans Frank, publically decalred, "What a pleasure, finally to be able to tackle the Jewish race physically. The more that die, the better." [Rhodes]
The primary destination of the Poles evicted from the annexed areas was the Government General (GG). The GG oe central Poland was used by the Germas as dumping ground for Jews and deported Poles. This was to be a temporary measure. Eventually the GG in turn would also be Germanized. A substantial number of younger, healthy Poles were transported to concentration camps in the Reich where they were used for slave labor. One estimarte that the slave laborors deported to the Reich totaled 0.2 million Poles in 1939.
The Germans used Poland as kind of a testing ground for Generalplan Ost. This was the German master plan for eliminating large numbers of unwanted people, mostly the Slavs, but also the Balts. The idea was to kill about a third of the population in the East, expel another thirs beyond the Urals (where most would perish, and reduce a third to Helot-like slave labor. Soviet industry and cities would be leveled. The East would then be Germanized into a vast agricultural colony and the raw materialized, especially oil developed to supply the Gereater German Reich. Only the inability of the Whermacht to destoy the Red Army prevented the Germans from activating GeneralPlan Ost. Aspects of it were implemented in the brutal German occupation of Bylorussia and the Ukraine. In the long run this worked against the Germans. Unlike the Poles, large numbers of Soviet citizens, especially the Ukranians would have joined the Germans to fight Stalin and thevSoviet Union.
The SS began expelling Poles immediately after the German invasion (October 1939). They at first concentrated on Poles and Jews in the Wartheland and the Danzig corridor. Himmler was very anxious to get on with the process of Germanization as quickly as possible. Almost all of the Jews were quickly and ruthlessly deported. We note varying estimates of the number of other Poles deported. One source suggests that the SS deported 1.5 million Poles to the General Government and an additional 0.2 million to the Reich for slave labor in 1939. Another source gives a much lower estimate of 325,000 people (end of 1940). The pace of the expulsions began to slow in 1941 as the Wehrmacht began to gear up for the upcoming Barbarossa invasion of the Soviet Union. The deportations proved disruptive for the war effort and preparations for Barbarossa. For one thing, the Germans did not have sufficient ethnic Germans to replace the deported Poles. Many of the ethnic Germans who had followed Hitler's orders and came home to the Reich were not farmers and the German authorities were conducting lengthy screening programs to make sure the people involved were not only racially acceptable ethnic Germans, but also reliable National Socialists. Relatively few Reich Germans volunteered to move east into these new territories. Thus farm productivity declined. As a result, German authorities slowed the expulsions, but they did not cease. Some were conducted in the dreadful winter of 1939-40 with dreadful consequences for the people expelled from their homes. The Germans who did settle in these territories would meet a terrible fate when the Red Army reentered Poland (1944).
It was children and the elderly that were most vulnerable in these expulsions and many died en route or in transit camps quickly thrown up without proper facilities or supplies. Transit camps were established at Potulice, Smukal, and Torun. Many elderly people and children died. Mortalities were especially severe in the winter. In some cases children were taken from their parents ans screened for the Lebensborn Program. [U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum]
Rhodes, Richard. Masters of Death (Knopf, 2002).
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. "Poles: Victims of the Nazi Era".
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main NAZI occupation of Poland page]
[Return to Main World War II displaced children page]
[Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[POWs] [Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main war essay page]