The Heim ins Reich (German pronunciation: [ˈhaɪm ɪns ˈʁaɪç] (listen); meaning "back home to the Reich") was a foreign policy pursued by Adolf Hitler during World War II, beginning in 1938. The aim of Hitler's initiative was to convince all Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) who were living outside Nazi Germany (e.g. in Austria, Czechoslovakia and the western districts of Poland) that they should strive to bring these regions "home" into Greater Germany, but also relocate from territories that were not under German control, following the conquest of Poland in accordance with the Nazi-Soviet pact. The Heim ins Reich manifesto targeted areas ceded in Versailles to the newly reborn nation of Poland, as well as other areas that were inhabited by significant German populations such as the Sudetenland, Danzig, and the south-eastern and north-eastern regions of Europe after October 6, 1939.
Implementation of the policy was managed by VOMI (Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle or "Main Welfare Office for Ethnic Germans"). As a state agency of the NSDAP, it handled all Volksdeutsche issues. By 1941, the VOMI was under the control of the SS.
|Heim ins Reich|
|Back home to the Reich|
Exhibition "Planung und Aufbau im Osten" with places of origin and numbers of German colonists brought to occupied Poland between 1939 and 1941.
|Location||Territories controlled by Nazi Germany|
|Type||Ethnic cleansing and population transfer|
|Cause||Lebensraum, Generalplan Ost|
The end of World War I in Europe led to the emergence of the new ‘minority problems’ in the areas of collapsing German and Austro-Hungarian empires. Over 9 million ethnic Germans found themselves living in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia; as a result of Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Unlike the new sovereign states, Germany was not required to sign the Minority Treaties. Prior to the Anschluss, a powerful radio transmitter in Munich bombarded Austria with propaganda of what Hitler had already done for Germany, and what he could do for his native home country Austria. The annexation of Austria was presented by the press as the march of the German armed forces into purported German land: "as representatives of a general German will to unity, to establish brotherhood with the German people and soldiers there." In a similar manner, the 1939 German ultimatum to Lithuania leading to annexation of Memel from the Republic has been glorified as Hitler's "latest stage in the progress of history."
Concurrent with annexations were the beginnings of attempts to ethnically cleanse non-Germans both from Germany and from the areas intended to be part of a "Greater Germany". Alternately, Hitler also made attempts to Germanize those who were considered ethnically or racially close enough to Germans to be "worth keeping" as part of a future German nation, such as the population of Luxembourg (officially, Germany considered these populations to actually be German, but not part of the Greater German Reich, and were thus the targets of propaganda promoting this view in order to integrate them). These attempts were largely unpopular with the targets of the Germanization, and the citizens of Luxembourg voted in a 1941 referendum up to 97% against becoming citizens of Nazi Germany.
Propaganda was also directed to Germans outside Nazi Germany to return as regions, or as individuals from other regions. Hitler hoped to make full use of the "German Diaspora." As part of an effort to lure ethnic Germans back to Germany, folksy Heimatbriefe or "letters from the homeland" were sent to German immigrants to the United States. The reaction to these was on the whole negative, particularly as they picked up. Goebbels also hoped to use German-Americans to keep America neutral during the war, but this actually produced great hostility to Nazi propagandists. Newspapers in occupied Ukraine printed articles about antecedents of German rule over Ukraine, such as Catherine the Great and the Goths.
Heim ins Reich in Nazi terminology and propaganda also referred to former territories of the Holy Roman Empire. Joseph Goebbels described in his diary that Belgium and the Netherlands were subject to Heim im Reich policy in 1940. Belgium was supposedly lost to France by the Austrian Empire in 1794. The policy for German expansion was planned as part of Generalplan Ost to continue further eastwards into Poland, the Baltic states and the Soviet Union, thus creating a Greater Germany from the North Sea to the Urals.
The same motto (Heim ins Reich ) was also applied to a second, closely related policy initiative which entailed the uprooting and relocation of ethnically German communities (Volksdeutsche ) from Central and Eastern European countries in the Soviet "sphere of influence", which settled there during the Ostsiedlung of earlier centuries. The Nazi government determined which of these communities were not "viable", started propaganda among the local population, and then made arrangements and organized their transport. The use of scare tactics about the Soviet Union led to tens of thousands leaving. This included Germans from Bukovina, Bessarabia, Dobruja and Yugoslavia. For example, after the Soviets had assumed control of this territory, about 45,000 ethnic Germans had left Northern Bukovina by November 1940. (Stalin permitted this out of fear they would be loyal to Germany.)
|Territory of origin||Year||Number of resettled |
|South Tyrol (see South Tyrol Option Agreement)||1939–1940||83,000|
|Latvia and Estonia||1939–1941||69,000|
|Volhynia, Galicia, Nerewdeutschland||1939–1940||128,000|
|North Bukovina and Bessarabia||1940||137,000|
|Romania (South Bukovina and North Dobruja)||1940||77,000|
|USSR (pre-1939 borders)||1939–1944||250,000|
In the Greater Poland (Wielkopolska ) region (joined together with the Łódź district and dubbed "Wartheland" by the Germans), the Nazis' goal was the complete "Germanization", or political, cultural, social, and economic assimilation of the territory into the German Reich. In pursuit of this goal, the installed bureaucracy renamed streets and cities and seized tens of thousands of Polish enterprises, from large industrial firms to small shops, without payment to the owners. This area incorporated 350,000 such "ethnic Germans" and 1.7 million Poles deemed Germanizable, including between one and two hundred thousand children who had been taken from their parents (plus about 400,000 German settlers from the "Old Reich"). They were housed in farms left vacant by expulsion of the local Poles. Militant party members were sent to teach them to be "true Germans". Hitler Youth and League of German Girls sent young people for "Eastern Service", which entailed (particularly for the girls) assisting in Germanization efforts. They were harassed by Polish partisans (Armia Krajowa) during the war. As Nazi Germany lost the war, they were expelled to remaining Germany.
Eberhardt cites estimates for the ethnic German influx provided by Szobak, Łuczak, and a collective report, ranging from 404,612 (Szobak) to 631,500 (Łuczak). Anna Bramwell says 591,000 ethnic Germans moved into the annexed territories, and details the areas of colonists' origin as follows: 93,000 were from Bessarabia, 21,000 from Dobruja, 98,000 from Bukovina, 68,000 from Volhynia, 58,000 from Galicia, 130,000 from the Baltic states, 38,000 from eastern Poland, 72,000 from the Sudetenland, and 13,000 from Slovenia. During "Heim ins Reich" Germans were settled in the homes of expelled Poles.
Additionally some 400,000 German officials, technical staff, and clerks were sent to those areas in order to administer them, according to "Atlas Ziem Polski" citing a joint Polish–German scholarly publication on the aspect of population changes during the war Eberhardt estimates that the total influx from the Altreich was about 500,000 people. Duiker and Spielvogel note that up to two million Germans had been settled in pre-war Poland by 1942. Eberhardt gives a total of two million Germans present in the area of all pre-war Poland by the end of the war, 1.3 million of whom moved in during the war, adding to a pre-war population of 700,000.
|Territory (region)||Number of German colonists|
|Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia||50,204|
|East Upper Silesia||36,870|
|Piotr Eberhardt. Political Migrations in Poland, 1939–1948. Warsaw. 2006.|
The increase of German population was most visible in the urban centres: in Poznań, the German population increased from ~6,000 in 1939 to 93,589 in 1944; in Łódź, from ~60,000 to 140,721; and in Inowrocław, from 956 to 10,713. In Warthegau, where most Germans were settled, the share of the German population increased from 6.6% in 1939 to 21.2% in 1943.
Heim ins Reich, with approximately 600,000 Germans (Volksdeutsche) moving into designated areas [was approved by Hitler, in] a bevy of population exchange agreements in 1938-40 [including] in a 6 October 1939 Reichstag speech.
In a keynote address to the Reichstag to mark the end of the 'Polish campaign', Hitler announced on October 6, 1939 ... the Heim ins Reich (Back to the Reich) program. The prospect horrified many ethnic Germans, much of whose enthusiasm for Nazism had been predicated on the expectation that the boundaries of the Reich would, as in the cases of Austria, the Sudetenland, and Danzig, extend to embrace them. The prospect of being uprooted from their homes to face an uncertain future not even in Germany proper, but in the considerably less salubrious environment of western Poland, was much less attractive. So far from rallying enthusiastically to the Führer's call, therefore, many Volksdeutsche greeted the declaration of the Heim in Reich initiative with a deep sense of betrayal.
Action Saybusch (German: Aktion Saybusch, Polish: Akcja Żywiec) was the mass expulsion of some 18,000–20,000 ethnic Poles from the territory of Żywiec County in Polish Silesia, conducted by the Wehrmacht and German police during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. The main purpose of the forcible displacement of Polish nationals was to create space for ethnically German colonists from across Eastern Europe, after the annexation of western Poland into the Third Reich in 1939.The Action was part of the Adolf Hitler's plan known as Lebensraum which involved Germanization of all Polish areas west of the territory allocated to the General Government. The name of the Action came from the German name of the city of Żywiec – Saybusch. Displacements of the Poles from Żywiec and surrounding villages and towns was led by the occupation authorities under SS-Obersturmbannführer Fritz Arlt, who replaced Bruno Müller from RKF.Aktion Saybusch lasted from September to December 1940, with some 3,200 Volksdeutsche brought in Heim ins Reich (Home into the Empire) from Romanian Bukovina. The process of expulsions continued thereafter. In total, between 1940 and 1944, around 50,000 Poles were forcibly removed from the region and replaced with about 4,000 settlers from Eastern Galicia and Volhynia who were given new latifundia. Before the German attack on the Soviet Union, their transfer was agreed upon by both invaders at the Gestapo–NKVD Conferences. The expulsions from eastern Silesia were the direct responsibility of the SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, who was also responsible for instigating them.Bruckenthal
Bruckenthal (Ukrainian: Брукента́ль) was a village (a colony) located in what is now Sokal Raion, Lviv Oblast, of Western Ukraine.
The village was established in the course of the Josephine colonization by German Catholic settlers in 1786.In the interwar period the village belonged to Poland, and was a seat of gmina (a municipality) including several other villages. In January 1940 the majority of the inhabitants moved out (Heim ins Reich). The empty houses were taken over mostly by local Poles. In the late March 1944 the village was razed by Ukrainian Auxiliary Police and Ukrainian Insurgent Army, killing over 200 people.Civil Administration Area of Luxembourg
The Civil Administration Area of Luxembourg was a German civil administration in German-occupied Luxembourg that existed from 29 July 1940 to 30 August 1942, when Luxembourg was annexed into Gau Moselland.Galician Germans
The Galician Germans (German: Galiziendeutsche) were ethnic German population living in the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria in the Austrian Empire, established in 1772 as a result of the First Partition of Poland, and after World War I in the four voivodeships of interwar Poland: Kraków, Lwów, Tarnopol and Stanisławów. During the World War II part of the Galician Germans was moved out in January 1940 in the course of Heim ins Reich, the majority of the rest of them fled later in the years 1944–1945.Gostilya
Gostilya (Bulgarian: Гостиля; also transliterated Gostilja) is a village in central northern Bulgaria, located in Dolna Mitropoliya municipality, Pleven Province. It was founded in 1890 by 133 families of Roman Catholic Banat Bulgarians from Stár Bišnov (Dudeștii Vechi) and Ivanovo in what was then Austria-Hungary. It was later also settled by Banat Swabians (see Germans in Bulgaria), Eastern Orthodox Bulgarians and Aromanians from Macedonia, as well as Banat Bulgarians from other villages. A school was built in 1893, the Roman Catholic church was opened in 1904 and the local community centre (chitalishte) was founded in 1926. Gostilya was once the poorest of the Banat Bulgarian villages in Bulgaria because it had a limited common. In 1939, the local Roman Catholic community numbered 1,091. 33 Banat Swabians left Gostilya in 1943 due to Nazi Germany's Heim ins Reich policy.
As of 2008, Gostilya has a population of 289 and the mayor is Mariana Romanova. The village lies at 43°34′N 24°14′E, 51 metres above mean sea level.Kalyniv
Kalyniv (Ukrainian: Калинів, Russian: Калинов, German: Kaisersdorf, Polish: Kalinów) is a village (selo) in Sambir Raion, Lviv Oblast, in south-west Ukraine.
The village was established in the course of Josephine colonization by German Roman Catholic settlers in 1783. In the planning process the village was to have a Catholic church built, which, however, did not happen.From 1918 to 1939 the village was in Lwów Voivodeship in Poland. In 1940 the local German population was moved out (Heim ins Reich), later replaced by Ukrainians.Military Administration of Luxembourg
The Military Administration of Luxembourg was a German military administration in German-occupied Luxembourg that existed from 11 May 1940 to 29 July 1940, when the military administration was replaced with the Civil Administration Area of Luxembourg.National Socialist Bloc
National Socialist Bloc (in Swedish: Nationalsocialistiska Blocket) was a Swedish national socialist political party formed in the end of 1933 by the merger of Nationalsocialistiska Samlingspartiet, Nationalsocialistiska Förbundet and local National Socialist units connected to the advocate Sven Hallström in Umeå. Later Svensk Nationalsocialistisk Samling merged into NSB.
The leader of the party was Colonel Martin Ekström. The party maintained several publications, Landet Fritt (Gothenburg), Vår Kamp (Gothenburg), Vår Front (Umeå), Nasisten (Malmö) and Riksposten.
NSB differentiated itself from other Swedish National Socialist groups due to its liaisons with the Swedish upper class. NSB was clearly smaller than the two main National Socialist parties in Sweden at the time, SNSP and NSAP. Gradually the party vanished.National Socialist Flyers Corps
The National Socialist Flyers Corps (German: Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps; NSFK) was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party that was founded 15 April 1937 as a successor to the German Air Sports Association; the latter had been active during the years when a German air force was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. The NSFK organization was based closely on the para-military organization of the Sturmabteilung (SA). A similar group was the National Socialist Motor Corps (NSKK).
During the early years of its existence, the NSFK conducted military aviation training in gliders and private airplanes. Friedrich Christiansen, originally a Generalleutnant then later a Luftwaffe General der Flieger, was NSFK Korpsführer from 15 April 1937 until 26 June 1943, followed by Generaloberst Alfred Keller until 8 May 1945.National Unity Party (Canada)
The Parti National Social Chrétien (English: National Social Christian Party) was a Canadian political party formed by Adrien Arcand in February 1934. The party identified with antisemitism, and German leader Adolf Hitler's Nazism. The party was later known, in English, as the Canadian National Socialist Unity Party or National Unity Party.Nove Selo, Drohobych Raion
Nove Selo (Ukrainian: Нове Село, German: Neudorf, Polish: Polminowice) is a village (selo) in Drohobych Raion, Lviv Oblast, in west Ukraine.
The village was established in the course of Josephine colonization by German Roman Catholic and Lutheran settlers (see Galician Germans) in 1783.From 1918 to 1939 the village was in Lwów Voivodeship in Poland. On 17 November 1938 the name was changed from Neudorf to Polminowice. In January 1940 the local German population was moved out (Heim ins Reich), later replaced by Ukrainians.Pan-Germanism
Pan-Germanism (German: Pangermanismus or Alldeutsche Bewegung), also occasionally known as Pan-Germanicism, is a pan-nationalist political idea. Pan-Germanists originally sought to unify all the German and possibly also Germanic-speaking peoples in a single nation-state known as Großdeutschland.
Pan-Germanism was highly influential in German politics in the 19th century during the unification of Germany when the German Empire was proclaimed as a nation-state in 1871 but without Austria (Kleindeutsche Lösung/Lesser Germany), and the first half of the 20th century in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German Empire. From the late 19th century, many Pan-Germanist thinkers, since 1891 organized in the Pan-German League, had adopted openly ethnocentric and racist ideologies, and ultimately gave rise to the foreign policy Heim ins Reich pursued by Nazi Germany under Austrian-born Adolf Hitler from 1938, one of the primary factors leading to the outbreak of World War II.
As a result of the disaster of World War II, Pan-Germanism was mostly seen as a taboo ideology in the postwar period in both West and East Germany. Today, Pan-Germanism is mainly limited to some nationalist groups in Germany and Austria.Regat Germans
Regat Germans or Old Kingdom Germans (German: Regatsdeutsche or Altreichsdeutsche) are an ethnic German group of the eastern and southern parts of Romania. The Regat is land that was part of Romania before the First World War. This territory includes Moldavia, Dobruja, Muntenia, and Oltenia.
The Regat Germans, like all other German groups in Romania, are represented in politics by the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (DFDR).Rivne, Lviv Oblast
Riwne (Ukrainian: Рівне, German: Königsau, Polish: Równe) is a village (selo) in Drohobych Raion, Lviv Oblast, in south-west Ukraine.
The village was established in the course of Josephine colonization by German Roman Catholic settlers in 1783. It was arranged in an unusual manner, within a pentagon, the only such colony in Galicia. In the planning process the village was to have a Catholic church built, which, however, did not happen until 1846.From 1918 to 1939 the village was in Lwów Voivodeship in Poland. In 1936 the name of the municipality was changed to Równe. In January 1940 the local German population was moved out (Heim ins Reich), later replaced by Ukrainians.Rozheve
Rozheve (Ukrainian: Рожеве, German: Rozenburg or Rosenburg, Polish: Rożewo) is a village (selo) in Staryi Sambir Raion, Lviv Oblast, in west Ukraine.
The village was established in the course of Josephine colonization by German Roman Catholic settlers in 1783.From 1918 to 1939 the village was in Poland. In January 1940 the local German population was moved out (Heim ins Reich), later replaced by Ukrainians.Tsarev Brod
Tsarev Brod (Bulgarian: Царев брод; also transliterated Carev Brod, Tzarev Brod, Zarev Brod, "royal ford") is a village in northeastern Bulgaria, part of Shumen municipality, Shumen Province. As of 2008, it has a population of 1,344 and the mayor is Stefan Zhivkov. The village lies at 43°20′N 27°01′E, 224 metres above mean sea level in the eastern stretches of the Danubian Plain. Until 1934, its name was Endzhe or Enidzhe (from Turkish: Yenice).
In the 1920s, Tsarev Brod had a diverse, even cosmopolitan population, including 50 German families, Bulgarians (with some Banat Bulgarians and some refugees from Macedonia), Tatars, Turks, Russians, Hungarians, Albanians and Armenians.
The Germans had come from what are today Ukraine (Molotschna/Halbstadt, Stepove/Karlsruhe), Romania (Valilej, Ianova/Margitfalva, Voiteg/Wojteg), Serbia (Ravni Topolovac/Katalinfalva, Novi Sad) and Hungary (Fegyvernek) beginning in the late 19th century, buying lots from Turks who were moving back to the Ottoman Empire. The Germans built a Roman Catholic church (1910), founded a Benedictine nunnery and a German-Bulgarian junior high school (1914). In the 1940s, the German community consisted of 74 families; however, the bulk of them were resettled to Germany according to Nazi Germany's Heim ins Reich policy. Only a few remained, such as the Hummel family residing in Shumen, as well as one or two nuns. The nunnery exists to this day, populated by a dozen nuns from Bulgaria, Germany, the Philippines, South Korea, Brazil, Poland and Namibia.
The only medieval Cuman stone figures discovered in Bulgaria were found near Tsarev Brod; they most likely date to the 12th century.Volksdeutsche Bewegung
Volksdeutsche Bewegung (German; literally "Ethnic German Movement") was a Nazi movement in Luxembourg that flourished under the German-occupied Luxembourg during World War II.
Formed by Damian Kratzenberg, a university professor with a German background, the movement only emerged after the invasion and was declared the only legal political movement in Luxembourg by the Nazis. Using the slogan Heim ins Reich (Home to the Reich), their declared aim was the full incorporation of Luxembourg into Nazi Germany. The policy was supported by Nazis who used the Bewegung as means towards this end. The aim was accomplished in August 1942, although the VDB continued to operate and peaked at 84,000 members. Many of these joined when it became clear that membership was necessary to retain employment. A number of leading members also held dual membership of the National Socialist German Workers Party after incorporation. The movement disappeared after the war, and Kratzenberg was executed in 1946.Vypuchki
Vypuchki (Ukrainian: Випучки, German: Ugartsberg, Polish: Wypuczki or Wypuczko) is an abandoned village in Drohobych Raion, Lviv Oblast, in west Ukraine.
The village was established in the course of the Josephine colonization by German Calvinist settlers in 1785. It was arranged on cross plan and named Ugartsberg (Ugart's Mountain), after Alois Ugarte, Vice-Governor of Galicia. In the interwar period it was located in Lwów Voivodeship in Poland. In the late 1930s the German name of the municipality was changed to Polish Wypuczko. In January 1940 the local German population was moved out (Heim ins Reich) and afterwards the village remained abandoned.Zelenyi Yar
Zelenyi Yar (Ukrainian: Зелений Яр, German: Landestreu) is a village (selo) in Kalush Raion, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, in west Ukraine.
The village was established in the course of Josephine colonization by Lutheran settlers in 1783. In 1789 it had 42 families. The local filial Lutheran church belonged to the parish of Ugartsthal. In the late 1930s the name was changed to Mazurówka.
In January 1940 the local German population was moved out (Heim ins Reich), later replaced by Ukrainians.