NAZI Language Policy: Occupied Countries

NAZI revolution children
Figure 1.--

German language policy with the invasion of Czechozlovakia (March 1939) and then with the subsequent stunning military successes during the early phase of World War II beame an element of German occupation policy, imposed upon subject peoples. Here the policies varied with the countries occupied and the people caught up in the NAZI malestorm. With the NAZI invasion and implementation of an occuparion regime, German became the official language. The toleration of other languages varied widely within the NAZI empire. With territiories inciorporated within the Reich there was essentially no other language tolerated. Policies in other occupied areas varied. Here there were major differences between the East and West. German language policy varied. The Germans did not attempt to suppress national languages in the West. An exception is the areas they annexed to the Reich.

General Policies

German authorities in occupied countries established German as the official language of the occupation. Official proclamations establishing curfews, hostage lists, and other actions were usually published and distributed in bilingual versions.

Individual Countries

Language policies varied substantially depending on just whwre one lived.


Eastern Belgium ws annexed to the Reich. This was a German speaking area.


I don't think the Germans attempted to suppress Czech, except in the annexed Sudetenland. Of course Slovakia broke away and became a NAZI ally. So Slovak was not suppressed.



The Germans were especually strict in Alsace-Loraine which was annexed to the Reich. Authorities moved to stamp out the use of French. Peoples names were Germanized. Indicivuals who used French, even in private, were reported to the Gestapo. The lanuage of instruction in the schools became German. While the Germns made no effort to restrict the use of French in Vichy or the occupied zone, it is likely that had the Germans won the War thazt they would have moved to balkanize France, divide it into several small regionl countries. There were still regions in France that had destinct cultures and languages, such as Britanty. Presumably as part of the division of France that NAZI policy sould have been to promote the regionl languages.





A Dutch reader who was in school at the time tells us that the Germans made no attemp during the War to interfere with the school system or to restruict vthe use of Dutch. It is likely, however, that had the NAZIs won the War that the Netherlands woukld have been incorporated into the Greater Reich. And presumabkly at that time authorities woukld haveintriduced a German language policy.


The Germans suppress not just Polish, but Poles. Polish libraries throught the country were looted. Many of the books were destroyed, some shipped back to the Reich. Occupied Poland was divided divided into the General Government (Généralgouvernement) and several different administrative districts which were annexed to the Reich. The General Government had a measure of autonomy, or at least the MAZI officials such as Hans Frank who administered it had a level of autonomy. Poles were not involved in the administration. I think publishing in Polish ceased. Libraries were closed. Universities and I think secondary schools were closed down. I am less sure about primary schools. The other regions were annexed into the Greater Reich and subjected to a Germinization process. All publishing and instruction in Polish ceased and the Germans set out to deport all Poles into the Government General. There was some differences in tghe various ares as to who was classified as Germans and Poles. The Polish language was barred from public use in administration, education and entertainment. German became the only official language. [Dobroszycki, xxiii- xxiv.] City names were changed. Lodz became Litzmannstadt.

Soviet Union

With Barbarossa large areas of the western Soviet Union were occupied (June 1941). As far as I know the three Baltic languages were not suppressed or the schools closed. Many in the Baltics saw the Soviets as liberators. In Western Russia, Bylorussia, and the Ukraine the language policy was similar to Poland, but I do not have much information. One German official did not even want the warning signs at railroad crossings to be in Ukranian. Education was just be for a few primary years and just enough to make the population economically useful to the Germans.


German was also imposed in Slovenia, part of which was annedxed to the Reich. (I think the Italians did the sane in their zone of Slovenis, but perhaps not so definitively.)


Dobroszycki, Lucjan. (Ed.), The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto 1941-44 (Yale University Press: New Haven, 1984).


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Created: 7:45 PM 7/10/2010
Last updated: 7:45 PM 7/10/2010