In Nazi German terminology, Volksdeutsche (German pronunciation: [ˈfɔlksˌdɔʏtʃə]) were "Germans in regard to people or race" (Ethnic Germans), regardless of citizenship. The term is the nominalised plural of volksdeutsch, with Volksdeutsche denoting a singular female, and Volksdeutsche(r), a singular male. The words Volk and völkisch conveyed the meanings of "folk". These terms were used by the Nazis to define Germans on the basis of their "race" rather than citizenship and thus included Germans living beyond the borders of the Reich, as long as they were not of Jewish origin.
This is in contrast to Imperial Germans (Reichsdeutsche), German citizens living within Germany. The term Volksdeutsche also contrasted from 1936 with the term Auslandsdeutsche (Germans abroad, German expatriates), which generally denoted German citizens residing in other countries. The difference between "Imperial German" and "Ethnic German" (Volksdeutsche) was that those designated Ethnic-German did not have paperwork proving their legal citizenship to work or vote within Germany, though some were either from Germany or from territories that had been lost by Germany during or after World War I.
Volksdeutsche were further divided into "racial" groups—minorities within a state minority—based on special cultural, social, and historic criteria elaborated by the Nazis.
Volksdeutsche from Łódź greeted German cavalry in 1939.
Volksdeutsche meeting in occupied Warsaw 1940.
According to the historian Doris Bergen, Adolf Hitler reputedly coined the definition of Volksdeutsche which appeared in a 1938 memorandum of the German Reich Chancellery. That document defined Volksdeutsche as "races whose language and culture had German origins but who did not hold German citizenship". After 1945 the Nazi citizenship laws of 1935 (Reichsbürgergesetz) - and the associated regulations that referred to the National Socialist concepts of blood and race in connection with the concept of volksdeutsch - were rescinded in Germany.
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 (German citizens residing abroad) lived 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 in 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 Ottoman occupation and sometimes by disease.
The Nazi goal of expansion assigned the Volksdeutsche a special role in German plans, to bring them back to German citizenship and to elevate them to power over the native populations in those areas. The Nazis detailed such goals in Generalplan Ost. In some areas, such as in Poland, Nazi authorities compiled specific lists and registered people as ethnic Germans in the "Deutsche Volksliste".
In the sixteenth century Vasili III invited small numbers of craftsmen, traders and professionals to settle in Russia from areas that would later become Germany so that Muscovy could exploit their skills. These settlers (many of whom intended to stay only temporarily) were generally confined to the German Quarter in Moscow (which also included Dutch, British and other western or northern European settlers whom the Russians came to indiscriminately refer to as "Germans"). They were only gradually allowed in other cities, so as to prevent the spread of alien ideas to the general population.
In his youth, Peter the Great spent much time in the 'German' quarter. When he became Tsar, he brought more German experts (and other foreigners) into Russia, and particularly into government service, in his attempts to westernise the empire. He also brought in German engineers to supervise the construction of the new city of Saint Petersburg.
Catherine the Great, herself ethnically German, invited Germanic farmers to immigrate and settle in Russian lands along the Volga River. She guaranteed them the right to retain their language, religion and culture. Ethnic Germans were also sent by her in organised colonisation attempts aiming at Germanisation of conquered Polish areas.
Also in other areas with an ethnic German minority people of other than German descent assimilated with the ethnic German culture and formed then a part of the minority. Examples are people of Baltic and Scandinavian descent, who assimilated into the minority of the Baltic Germans. Jews of Posen province, Galicia, Bukovina and Bohemia, with their Yiddish culture derived in part from their German heritage, often mingled into the ethnic German culture, thus forming part of the various ethnic German minorities. But anti-Semitic Nazis later rejected Jewish ethnic Germans and all Jewish German citizens as 'racially' German.
Frederick the Great (reigned 1740–1786) settled around 300,000 colonists in the eastern provinces of Prussia, acquired in the First Partition of Poland of 1772, with the intention of replacing the Polish nobility. He treated the Poles with contempt and likened the "slovenly Polish trash" in newly occupied West Prussia to Iroquois, the historic Native American confederacy based in the state of New York.
Prussia encouraged a second round of colonisation with the goal of Germanisation after 1832. Prussia passed laws to encourage Germanisation of the Prussian Partition including the provinces of Posen and West Prussia in the late 19th century. The Prussian Settlement Commission relocated 154,000 colonists, including locals.
The reconstitution of Poland following the Treaty of Versailles (1919) made ethnic German minorities of some Prussian provinces of the German Empire citizens of the Polish nation state. Ethnic German inhabitants of provinces of the dissolved Austro-Hungarian Empire, such as Bukovina Germans, Danube Swabians, Sudeten Germans and Transylvanian Saxons, became citizens of newly established Slavic or Magyar nation-states and of Romania. Tensions between the new administration and the ethnic German minority arose in the Polish Corridor. The Austrian Germans also found themselves not allowed to join Germany as German Austria was strictly forbidden to join Germany as well as the name "German Austria" was forbidden so the name was changed back to just "Austria" and the First Austrian Republic was created in 1919.
During the Nazi years, the German Nazis used the term "Volksdeutsche", by which they meant racially German since they believed in a German 'race' or 'Volk', to refer to foreign nationals of some German ethnicity living in countries newly occupied by Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Prior to World War II, more than 10 million ethnic Germans lived in Central and Eastern Europe. They constituted an important minority far into Russia. Because of widespread assimilation some people whom the Nazis called Volksdeutsche could no longer speak German and in fact were culturally regionalized as Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, Czechs, Slovaks, etc.
In 1931, prior to its rise to power, the Nazi party established the Auslandsorganisation der NSDAP/AO (Foreign Organisation of the Nazi Party), whose task it was to disseminate Nazi propaganda among the ethnic German minorities viewed as Volksdeutsche in Nazi ideology. In 1936, the government set up the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (Ethnic Germans' Liaison Office), commonly known as VoMi, under the jurisdiction of the SS as the liaison bureau. It was headed by SS-Obergruppenführer Werner Lorenz.
In 1936 the Nazis set up an office to act as a contact for the foreign ethnic Germans. According to the historian Valdis Lumans,
Nazi propaganda used the existence of ethnic Germans who they called Volksdeutsche in foreign lands before and during the war, to help justify the aggression of Nazi Germany. The annexation of Poland was presented as necessary to protect the ethnic German minorities there. Massacres of ethnic Germans, such as Bloody Sunday, or alleged atrocities, were used in such propaganda, and the film Heimkehr drew on such putative events as the rescue of Volksdeutsche by the arrival of German tanks. Heimkehr's introduction explicitly states that hundreds of thousands of Poles of German ethnicity suffered as the characters in the film did.
Menschen im Sturm reprised Heimkehr's effort to justify the invasion of Slavonia, using many of the same atrocities. In The Red Terror, a Baltic German is able to avenge her family's deaths, but commits suicide after, unable to live with meaning in the Soviet Union. Flüchtlinge depicted the sufferings of Volga German refugees in Manchuria, and how a heroic blond leader saved them; it was the first movie to win the state prize. Frisians in Peril depicted the suffering of a village of Volga Germans in the Soviet Union; it also depicted the murder of a young woman for an affair with a Russian—in accordance with Nazi principle of Rassenschande—as an ancient German custom.
Sexual contact between what the Nazis viewed as different 'races' followed by remorse and guilt was also featured in Die goldene Stadt, where the Sudeten German heroine faces not persecution but the allure of the big city; when she succumbs, in defiance of blood and soil, she is seduced and abandoned by a Czech, and such a relationship leads to her drowning herself.
Before and during World War II, some ethnic Germans gathered around local Nazi organizations (sponsored financially by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Third Reich), actively supported the Nazis in countries such as Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia. During the social and economic tensions of the Great Depression, some had begun to feel aggrieved with their minority status. They participated in espionage, sabotage and other Fifth column means in their countries of origin, trained and commanded by Abwehr. In November 1938 Nazi Germany organized German paramilitary units made out German minority members in Polish Pomerania that were to engage in diversion, sabotage as well as political murder and ethnic cleansing upon German invasion of Poland. Reich intelligence was actively recruiting ethnic Germans and the Nazi secret service "SicherheitsDienst" (SD) was forming them as early as October 1938 into armed unit that were to serve Nazi Germany Historian Matthias Fiedler typified ethnic German collaborationists as former "nobodies" whose major occupation was the expropriation of Jewish property. Heinrich Himmler remarked that whatever objections ethnic Germans might have against serving in the Waffen-SS, they would be forced into conscription in any case. According to head of recruitment for the Waffen SS, Gottlob Berger, no one in Germany or elsewhere cared for what happened with the ethnic Germans anyway, making forced recruitment easy to force upon ethnic German communities.
Among the indigenous populations in the Nazi-occupied lands, Volksdeutsche became a term of ignominy.
During the early years of the Second World War (i.e., before the US entered the war), a small number of Americans of German origin returned to Germany; generally they were immigrants or children of immigrants, rather than descendants of migrations more distant in time. Some of these enlisted and fought in the German army.
Ethnic Germans throughout Europe benefited financially during World War II from the Nazi policies of genocide and ethnic cleansing, and profited from the expulsion and murder of their non-German neighbors. throughout Eastern Europe. For example, in Ukrainia the Volksdeutsche directly participated in the Holocaust and were involved in deportation of local farmers and their families; Volksdeutsche figures like Arthur Boss from Odessa (Blobel's right-hand man) or Becker brothers became integral part of Nazi Holocaust machine.
In September 1939 in German occupied Poland, an armed ethnic German militia called Selbstschutz (Self-Defence) was created. It organised the mass murder of Polish elites in Operation Tannenberg. At the beginning of 1940, the Selbstschutz organization was disbanded, and its members transferred to various units of the SS, Gestapo and the German police. Throughout the invasion of Poland, some ethnic German minority groups assisted Nazi Germany in the war effort. They committed sabotage, diverted regular forces and committed numerous atrocities against civilian population.
After Germany occupied western Poland, it established a central registration bureau, called the German People's List (Deutsche Volksliste, DVL), whereby Poles of German ethnicity were registered as Volksdeutsche. The German occupants encouraged such registration, in many cases forcing it or subjecting Poles of German ethnicity to terror assaults if they refused. Those who joined this group were given benefits, including better food as well as a better social status.
The Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle organised large-scale looting of property and redistributed goods to the Volksdeutsche. They were given apartments, workshops, farms, furniture, and clothing confiscated from Jewish Poles and Poles of Polish ethnicity. In turn, hundreds of thousands of the Volksdeutsche joined the German forces, either willingly or under compulsion.
During World War II, the Polish citizens of German ancestry that identified with the Polish nation faced the dilemma whether to register in the Deutsche Volksliste. Many families had lived in Poland for centuries; and more-recent immigrants had arrived over 30 years before the war. They faced the choice of registering and being regarded as traitors by other Poles, or not signing and being treated by the Nazi occupation as traitors to the Germanic "race". Polish Silesian Catholic Church authorities, led by bishop Stanisław Adamski and with agreement from the Polish Government in Exile, advised Poles to sign up to the Volksliste in order to avoid atrocities and mass murder that happened in other parts of the country.
In occupied Poland, Volksdeutscher enjoyed privileges and were subject to conscription into the German army. In occupied Pomerania, the Gauleiter of the Danzig-West Prussia region Albert Forster ordered a list of people considered of German ethnicity to be made in 1941. Due to insignificant voluntary registrations by February 1942, Forster made signing the Volksliste mandatory and empowered local authorities to use force and threats to implement the decree. Consequently, the number of signatories rose to almost a million, or about 55% of the 1944 population.
The special case of Polish Pomerania, where terror against civilians was particularly intense, and where, unlike in rest of occupied Poland, signing of the list was mandatory for many people, was recognised by the Polish Underground State and other anti-Nazi resistance movements, which tried to explain the situation to other Poles in underground publications.
Volksdeutsche of statuses 1 and 2 in the Polish areas annexed by Germany numbered 1,000,000, and Nos. 3 and 4 numbered 1,700,000. In the General Government there were 120,000 Volksdeutsche. Volksdeutsche of Polish ethnic origins were treated by the Poles with special contempt, but were also committing high treason according to Polish law.
|Annexed area||Deutsche Volksliste, early 1944|
|Cat. I||Cat. II||Cat. III||Cat. IV|
|Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia
Note: In Polish Pomerania, unlike in the rest of occupied Poland, signing
of the list was mandatory for a good portion of the population.
|East Upper Silesia||130,000||210,000||875,000||55,000|
|South East Prussia||9,000||22,000||13,000||1,000|
|Total 2.75 million on Volkslisten plus non-German population (Polish) of 6.015 million- Grand Total 8.765 million in annexed territories.|
|Source: Wilhelm Deist, Bernhard R Kroener, Germany (Federal Republic). Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt, Germany and the Second World War, Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 132,133, ISBN 0-19-820873-1, citing Broszat, Nationalsozialistische Polenpolitik, p. 134|
Because of actions by some Volksdeutsche and particularly the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, after the end of the war, the Polish authorities tried many Volksdeutsche for high treason. In the postwar period, many other ethnic Germans were expelled to the west and forced to leave everything. In post-war Poland, the word Volksdeutsche is regarded as an insult, synonymous with "traitor".
In some cases, individuals consulted the Polish resistance first, before signing the Volksliste. There were Volksdeutsche who played important roles in intelligence activities of the Polish resistance, and were at times the primary source of information for the Allies. Particularly in Polish Pomerania and Polish Silesia, many of the people who were forced to sign the Volksliste played crucial roles in the anti-Nazi underground, which was noted in a memo to the Polish Government in Exile which stated "In Wielkopolska there's bitter hatred of the Volksdeutshe while in Silesia and Polish Pomerania it's the opposite, the secret organization depends in large measure on the Volksdeutshe" (the memo referred to those of Category III, not I and II). In the turmoil of the postwar years, the Communist government did not consider this sufficient mitigation. It prosecuted many double-agent Volksdeutsche and sentenced some to death.
The secret protocols of Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact created domestic problems for Hitler. Supporting the Soviet invasion became one of the most ideologically difficult aspects of the countries' relationship. The secret protocols caused Hitler to hurriedly evacuate ethnic German families, who had lived the Baltic countries for centuries and now classified as Volksdeutsche, while officially condoning the invasions. When the three Baltic countries, not knowing about the secret protocols, sent letters protesting the Soviet invasions to Berlin, Ribbentrop returned them.
In August 1940, Soviet Foreign minister Molotov told the Germans that, with the government change, they could close down their Baltic consulates by 1 September. The Soviet annexations in Romania caused further strain. While Germany had given the Soviets Bessarabia in the secret protocols, it had not given them North Bukovina. Germany wanted guarantees of the safety of property of ethnic Germans, security for the 125,000 Volksdeutsche in Bessarabia and North Bukovina, and reassurance that the train tracks carrying Romanian oil would be left alone.
In October 1940, Germany and the Soviet Union negotiated about the Volksdeutsche in Soviet-occupied territories and their property. Instead of permitting full indemnification, the Soviets put restrictions on the wealth that the Volksdeutsche could take with them and limited the totals that the Soviets would apply to the Reich's clearing accounts. The parties discussed total compensation of between 200 million and 350 million Reichsmarks for the Volksdeutsche, while the Soviets requested 50 million Reichsmarks for their property claims in German-occupied territories. The two nations reached general agreement on German shipments of 10.5-cm flak cannons, gold, machinery and other items.
On 10 January 1941, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement to settle all of the open disputes which the Soviets had argued. The agreement covered protected migration to Germany within two and a half months of Volksdeutsche, and similar migration to the Soviet Union of ethnic Russians, Baltic and "White Russian" "nationals" from German-held territories. In many cases, the resulting population transfers resulted in resettlement of Volksdeutsche on land previously held by ethnic Poles or Jews in now German-occupied territories. The agreement formally defined the border between Germany and the Soviet Union areas between the Igorka River and the Baltic Sea.
|Territory of origin||Year||Number of resettled Volksdeutsche|
|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|
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the government granted the Volga Germans an autonomous republic. Joseph Stalin abolished the Volga German ASSR after Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the USSR. Most of Soviet Germans in the USSR were deported to Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia by Decree of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of August 28, 1941, and from the beginning of 1942 those Soviet Germans who were deemed suitable for hard work (men aged from 15 to 55 and women from 16 to 45) were mobilised for forced labour into Working columns where they lived in a prison-like environment, and sometimes, together with regular inmates, were put in prison camps. Hundreds of thousands died or became incapacitated due to the harsh conditions.
A significant portion of Volksdeutsche in Hungary joined the SS, which was a pattern repeated also in Romania (with 54,000 locals serving in the SS by the end of 1943). The majority of 200,000 Volksdeutsche from the area of Danube who served with the SS were from Hungary. As early as 1942, some 18,000 Hungarian Germans joined the SS. In the diaspora, they have been called Danube Swabians. After World War II, approximately 185,000 Volksdeutsche fled or were expelled from the region in 1946–48 by the Soviet-installed communist government of Hungary. They were called 'Svabo' by their Serbian, Hungarian, Croatian, and Romanian neighbors, especially in the area now part of the Vojvodina in Serbia. Other ethnic Germans in Hungary during World War II were Transylvanian Saxons. Today they have virtually all become assimilated or left the region.
After Romania acquired parts of Soviet Ukraine, the Germans there came under the authority of the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle, which deployed SS personnel to several settlements. They eventually contained German mayors, farms, schools and ethnic German paramilitary groups functioning as police called Selbstschutz ("Self-protection"). German colonists and Selbstschutz forces engaged in extensive acts of ethnic cleansing, massacring Jewish and Roma populations.
In the German colony of Shonfeld, Romas were burned in farms. During the winter of 1941/1942, German Selbstschutz units participated in the shooting, together with Ukrainian People's Militia and Romanian gendarmes, of some 18,000 Jews. In the camp of Bogdanovka, tens of thousands of Jews were subject to mass shootings, barn burnings and killing by hand grenades.
In the former Yugoslavia, the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen was formed with about 50,000 ethnic Germans from the Banat region of Serbia. It was conspicuous in its operations against the Yugoslav Partisans and civilian population. About 100,000 ethnic Germans from the Nazi-conquered former Yugoslavia joined the German Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS, the majority conscripted involuntarily as judged by the Nuremberg Trials. Yet "[a]fter the initial rush of Volksdeutsche to join, voluntary enlistments tapered off, and the new unit did not reach division size. Therefore, in August 1941, the SS discarded the voluntary approach, and after a favourable judgement from the SS court in Belgrade, imposed a mandatory military obligation on all Volksdeutsche in Serbia-Banat, the first of its kind for non-Reich Germans." In the former Yugoslavia a majority of ethnic Germans became members of the Schwäbisch-Deutscher Kulturbund (Swabian German Cultural Association), and reprisals on this group by Tito's partisans resulted in many immediate revenge killings in 1944 and incarceration of approximately 150,000 ethnic Germans in 1945.
Most ethnic Germans fled or were expelled from European countries (Czechia, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary) under the Potsdam Agreement from 1945 to 1948 towards the end and after the war. Both those who became ethnic Germans by registering in the Deutsche Volksliste and Reichsdeutsche retained German citizenship during the years of Allied military occupation, after the establishment of East Germany and West Germany in 1949, and later in the reunified Germany. In 1953 the Federal Republic of Germany - by its Federal Expellee Law - naturalised many more East European nationals of German ethnicity, who neither were German citizens nor had enrolled in any 'Volksliste', but had been stranded as refugees in West Germany and fled or were expelled due to their German or alleged German ethnicity.
An estimated 12 million people fled or were expelled from the Soviet Union and non-German-speaking Central Europe, many of them being 'Volksdeutsche'. Most left the Soviet-occupied territories of Central and Eastern Europe; they comprised the largest migration of any European people in modern history. The then three Allies had agreed to the expulsions during negotiations in the midst of war. The western powers hoped to avoid ethnic Germans being an issue again in Central and Eastern Europe. The three Allies at the Conference of Potsdam considered the "transfer" of "German populations" from Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary an effort to be undertaken (see article 12 of the Potsdam Agreement), although they asked a halt because of the inflicted burden for the Allies to feed and house the destitute expellees and to share that burden among the Allies. France, which was not represented in Potsdam, rejected the decision of the Three of Potsdam and did not absorb expellees in its zone of occupation. The three Allies had to accept the reality on the ground, since expulsions of Volksdeutsche and Central and Eastern European nationals of German or alleged German ethnicity who never had enrolled as Volksdeutsche, was going on already.
Local authorities forced most of the remaining ethnic Germans to leave between 1945 and 1950. Remnants of the ethnic German community survive in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. A significant ethnic German community has continued in Siebenbürgen (Transylvania) in Romania and in Oberschlesien (Upper Silesia) but most of it migrated to West Germany throughout the 1980s. There are also remnant German populations near Mukachevo in western Ukraine.
The term is generally avoided today due to its usage by the Nazis.
Instead, ethnic Germans of foreign citizenship living outside of Germany are called "Deutsche Minderheit" (meaning "German minority"), or names more closely associated with their earlier places of residence, such as Wolgadeutsche or Volga Germans, the ethnic Germans living in the Volga basin in Russia; and Baltic Germans, who generally called themselves Balts, and Estländer in Estonia. They were relocated to German-occupied Poland during World War II by an agreement between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, and most were expelled to the West after the war, under an allied accord called the Potsdam Agreement.
It has been estimated that during his reign 300,000 individuals settled in Prussia.... While the Prussian Settlement Commission established in the Bismarck era could in the course of two decades bring no more than 11,957 families to the eastern territories, Frederick settled a total of 57,475.... It increased the German character of the population in the monarchy's provinces to a very significant degree.... in West Prussia where he wished to drive out the Polish nobility and bring as many of their large estates as possible into German hands.
The 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division "Prinz Eugen" (7. SS-Freiwilligen Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen") was a German mountain infantry division of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the German Nazi Party that served alongside but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht during World War II in Yugoslavia. Formed in 1941 from Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) volunteers and conscripts from the Banat, Independent State of Croatia (NDH), Hungary and Romania, it fought a counter-insurgency campaign against communist-led Yugoslav Partisan resistance forces in the occupied Serbia, NDH and Montenegro. It was given the title Prinz Eugen after Prince Eugene of Savoy, an outstanding military leader of the Habsburg Empire who liberated the Banat and Belgrade from the Ottoman Empire in the Austro-Turkish War of 1716–18. It was initially named the SS-Freiwilligen-Division Prinz Eugen (SS-Volunteer Division Prinz Eugen).August Frank memorandum
The August Frank memorandum of 26 September 1942 was a directive from SS Lieutenant General (Obergruppenführer) August Frank of the SS concentration camp administration department (SS-WVHA). The memorandum provides a measure of the detailed planning that Frank and other Nazis put into the carrying out of the Holocaust. It includes instructions as to the disposition of postage stamp collections and underwear of the murdered Jews. It is clear that the Nazis were intent in removing everything of value from their victims.
The memorandum contains an instruction that the yellow stars that the Nazis forced Jews to wear on their clothing were to be removed before the clothing was redistributed to ethnic Germans whom the Nazis were resettling into occupied Poland. This memorandum, when it came to light after the war, played a key role in refuting Frank's claims that he had no knowledge that Jews were being murdered en masse in the extermination camps of Operation Reinhard. It is also notable as an example of the use of the Nazi euphemism "evacuation" of the Jews, which meant their systematic murder.Banat (1941–44)
The Banat was a political entity established in 1941 after the occupation and partition of Yugoslavia by the Axis Powers in the historical Banat region. It was formally under the control of the German puppet Government of National Salvation in Belgrade, which theoretically had limited jurisdiction over all of the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia, but all power within the Banat was in the hands of the local minority of ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche). The regional civilian commissioner and head of the ethnic German minority was Josef Lapp. Following the ousting of Axis forces in 1944, this German-ruled region was dissolved and most of its territory was included into Vojvodina, one of the two autonomous provinces of Serbia within the new SFR Yugoslavia.Crimea Germans
The Crimea Germans (German: Krimdeutsche) were ethnic German settlers who were invited to settle in the Crimea as part of the East Colonization.Damian Kratzenberg
Damian Kratzenberg (November 5, 1878, Clervaux – October 11, 1946, Luxembourg City) was a highschool teacher who became head of the Volksdeutsche Bewegung (Volksdeutsche Movement), a pro-Nazi political group, in Luxembourg during World War II. He was executed after the war for collaboration with the Nazis.
He was the son of the administrator of the castle of Clervaux, a German immigrant. After receiving his baccalaureate at the Diekirch gymnasium, from 1898 to 1902 he studied literature in Luxembourg, Lille, Paris and Berlin. Following this, he taught Greek and German in Diekirch, Echternach, and from 1927 at the Athénée de Luxembourg.From 1927 to 1936, he was a member of the liberal party. From the mid-1930s, he became a supporter of Nazi Germany. From 1935 to 1940, he was the president of GEDELIT, the Luxemburger Gesellschaft für deutsche Literatur und Kunst (Society for German Literature and Art). In 1936, he received the Goethe-Medaille für Kunst und Wissenschaft.He became head of the regional branch of the Volksdeutsche Bewegung in 1940, and was appointed head of the Athénée de Luxembourg in 1941.German National Movement in Liechtenstein
The German National Movement in Liechtenstein (German: Volksdeutsche Bewegung in Liechtenstein, VDBL) was a National Socialist party in Liechtenstein that existed between 1938 and 1945.German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement
The German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement, signed on January 10, 1941, was a broad agreement settling border disputes and continuing raw materials and war machine trade between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The agreement continued the countries' relationship that started in 1939 with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact containing secret protocols dividing Eastern Europe between the Soviet Union and Germany, and the subsequent invasions by Germany and the Soviet Union of that territory. The German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement contained additional secret protocols settling a dispute regarding land in Lithuania previously split between the countries. The agreement continued Nazi–Soviet economic relations that had been expanded by the 1939 German–Soviet Commercial Agreement and the larger 1940 German–Soviet Commercial Agreement.
The agreement proved to be short lived. Just six months after it was signed, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and economic relations between the two countries came to an end. The raw materials imported by Germany from the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1941 played a major role in supporting the German war effort against the Soviet Union after 1941.Gottlob Berger
Gottlob Christian Berger (16 July 1896 – 5 January 1975) was a senior German Nazi official who held the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS (lieutenant general), and was the chief of the SS Main Office responsible for Schutzstaffel (SS) recruiting during World War II. Following the war, he was convicted as a war criminal, spending a total of six-and-a-half years in prison. Serving in the German Army during World War I, he was wounded four times and awarded the Iron Cross First Class. Immediately after the war, he was a leader of the Einwohnerwehr militia in his native North Württemberg. He joined the Nazi Party in 1922, but lost interest in right-wing politics during the 1920s, training and working as a physical education teacher.
In the late 1920s, he rejoined the Nazi Party and became a member of the paramilitary Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1931. He clashed with other leaders of the SA, and joined the Allgemeine-SS in 1936. Initially responsible for physical education in an SS region, he was soon transferred to the staff of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler as head of the sports office. In 1938, he was appointed as head of the recruiting office of the SS Main Office (SS-HA), taking over as chief of the SS-HA the following year. To a significant extent, Berger was the "father" of the Waffen-SS, as he not only implemented recruiting structures and policies that assisted the Waffen-SS to circumvent Wehrmacht controls over conscription, but also extended Waffen-SS recruiting first to "Germanic" volunteers from Scandinavia and western Europe, then Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) outside the Reich, and finally to peoples who in no way reflected Himmler's ideas of "racial purity". He consistently advocated greater ideological training for the Waffen-SS, but did not view SS ideology as a replacement for religion. He also sponsored and protected his friend Oskar Dirlewanger, whom he placed in command of a unit of convicted criminals; the SS-Sonderkommando Dirlewanger subsequently committed many war crimes. Berger often clashed with senior officers of the Wehrmacht and even with senior Waffen-SS officers over his recruiting methods, but he took advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves in order to grow the Waffen-SS to a total of 38 divisions by war's end.
Berger undertook several other roles in the latter stages of the war, while continuing as chief of the SS-HA. He had a key role in the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories from mid-1942, allowing the SS to direct much of the economic activity in the east. In this role he proposed a plan to kidnap and enslave 50,000 Eastern European children between the ages of 10 and 14, under the codename Heuaktion, a plan that was subsequently carried out. In response to the Slovak National Uprising in August 1944, Berger was appointed as Military Commander in Slovakia, and was in charge during the initial failure to suppress the revolt. The following month he was appointed as one of the two chiefs of staff of the Volkssturm militia, and as chief of the prisoner of war camps. In the final months of the war he commanded German forces in the Bavarian Alps, which included remnants of several of the Waffen-SS units he had helped recruit. He surrendered to U.S. troops near Berchtesgaden, and was promptly arrested. He was tried and convicted in the Ministries Trial of the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunals for war crimes, and was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. His sentence was soon reduced to 10 years, and he was released after serving six-and-a-half years. After release he advocated for the rehabilitation of the Waffen-SS and worked in several manufacturing businesses. He died in his hometown in 1975.
Described as blustery, cynical, and "one of Himmler's most competent and trusted war-time lieutenants", Berger was also an ardent anti-Semite and a skilled and unscrupulous bureaucratic manipulator. Due to his organisational and recruiting skills, Berger was kept as the chief of the SS-HA throughout the war.Hegewald (colony)
Hegewald was a short-lived German colony during World War II, situated near Zhytomyr in Reichskommissariat Ukraine. It was repopulated in late 1942 and early 1943 by the ethnically German settlers classified as Volksdeutsche; transferred from occupied territories of Poland, Croatia, Bessarabia, and the Soviet Union to an area earmarked for the projected Germanization of the Ukrainian lands. The plans were prepared months in advance by the SS, RKFDV and VoMi, but major problems with supplies occurred right from the region's initial establishment. Heinrich Himmler's original plans to recruit settlers from Scandinavia and the Netherlands were unsuccessful.Heim ins Reich
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.Hungarian occupation of Yugoslav territories
The Hungarian occupation of Yugoslav territories consisted of the military occupation, then annexation, of the Bačka, Baranja, Međimurje and Prekmurje regions of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by the Kingdom of Hungary during World War II. These territories had all been under Hungarian rule prior to 1920, and had been transferred to Yugoslavia as part of the post-World War I Treaty of Trianon. They now form part of several states: Yugoslav Bačka is now part of Vojvodina, an autonomous province of Serbia, Yugoslav Baranja and Međimurje are part of modern-day Croatia, and Yugoslav Prekmurje is part of modern-day Slovenia. The occupation began on 11 April 1941 when 80,000 Hungarian troops crossed the Yugoslav border in support of the German-led Axis invasion of Yugoslavia that had commenced five days earlier. There was some resistance to the Hungarian forces from Serb Chetnik irregulars, but the defences of the Royal Yugoslav Army had collapsed by this time. The Hungarian forces were indirectly aided by the local Volksdeutsche, the German minority, which had formed a militia and disarmed around 90,000 Yugoslav troops. Despite only sporadic resistance, Hungarian troops killed many civilians during these initial operations, including some Volksdeutsche. The government of the newly formed Axis puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia, subsequently consented to the Hungarian annexation of the Međimurje area, which dismayed the Croat population of the region.
The occupation authorities immediately classified the population of Bačka and Baranja into those that had lived in those regions when they had last been under Hungarian rule in 1920 and the mostly Serb settlers who had arrived since the areas had been part of Yugoslavia. They then began herding thousands of local Serbs into concentration camps and expelled them to the Independent State of Croatia, Italian-occupied Montenegro, and the German-occupied territory of Serbia. Ultimately, tens of thousands of Serbs were deported from the occupied territories. This was followed by the implementation of a policy of "magyarisation" of the political, social and economic life of the occupied territories, which included the re-settlement of Hungarians and Székelys from other parts of Hungary. "Magyarisation" did not impact the Volksdeutsche, who received special status under Hungarian rule, and in Prekmurje the Hungarian authorities were more permissive towards ethnic Slovenes.
Small-scale armed resistance to the Hungarian occupation commenced in the latter half of 1941 and was answered with harsh measures, including summary executions, expulsions and internment. The insurgency was mainly concentrated in the ethnic-Serb area of southern Bačka in the Šajkaška region, where Hungarian forces avenged their losses. In August 1941 a civilian administration took over the government of the "Recovered Southern Territories" (Hungarian: Délvidék), and they were formally annexed to Hungary in December. In January 1942 the Hungarian military conducted raids during which they killed over 3,300 people, mostly Serbs and Jews.
In March 1944, when Hungary realised that it was on the losing side in the war and began to negotiate with the Allies, Germany took control of the country, including the annexed territories, during Operation Margarethe I. This was followed by the collection and transport of the remaining Jews in the occupied territories to extermination camps, resulting in the deaths of 85 per cent of the Jews in the occupied territories. Prior to their withdrawal from the Balkans in the face of the advance of the Soviet Red Army, the Germans evacuated 60,000–70,000 Volksdeutsche from Bačka and Baranja to Austria. Bačka and Baranja were restored to Yugoslav control when the Germans were pushed out of the region by the Red Army in late 1944. Međimurje and Prekmurje remained occupied until the last weeks of the war.Imperial Germans
Reichsdeutsche, literally translated "Germans of the Reich", is an archaic term for those ethnic Germans who resided within the German state that was founded in 1871. In contemporary usage, it referred to German citizens, the word signifying people from the German Reich, i.e., Imperial Germany or Deutsches Reich, which was the official name of Germany between 1871 and 1949.
The opposite of the Reichsdeutsche is, then, depending on context and historical period, Volksdeutsche, Auslandsdeutsche (however, usually meaning German citizens living abroad), or a more specific term denoting the area of settlement, such as Baltic Germans or Volga Germans (Wolgadeutsche).Lobor concentration camp
The Lobor concentration camp or Loborgrad camp (Croatian: Koncentracioni logor Lobor) was a concentration camp established in Lobor, Independent State of Croatia (modern-day Croatia) in the deserted palace of Keglevich family. It was established on 9 August 1941, mostly for Serb and Jewish children and women. The camp was established and operated by Ustaše, with 16 of its guards being members of the local Volksdeutsche community. Its inmates were subjected to systematic torture, robbery and murder of "undisciplined" individuals. All younger female inmates of the Lobor camp were subjected to rapes. More than 2,000 people were inmates of this camp, at least 200 died in it. All survived children and women were transported to Auschwitz concentration camp in August 1942 where they all were killed.Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationhood
The Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationhood (German: Reichskommissar für die Festigung deutschen Volkstums, RKF, RKFDV) was an office in Nazi Germany which was held by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler.Adolf Hitler in his 7 October 1939 order Erlaß des Führers und Reichskanzlers zur Festigung deutschen Volkstums appointed Himmler to carry out the following duties:
Overseeing of the final return to the Reich of the Volksdeutsche and Auslandsdeutsche (Reichsdeutsche who live abroad)
Prevention of "harmful influence" of populations alien to the German Volkstum
Creation of new populated areas settled by Germans, mostly by the returning ones.The commissioner was therefore responsible for repatriation, and settlement of both German citizens and ethnic Germans who lived abroad, into Nazi Germany and German held territories.Trawniki men
Trawniki men (German: Trawnikimänner) were Central and Eastern European collaborators recruited from prisoner-of-war camps set up by Nazi Germany for Soviet Red Army soldiers captured in the border regions during Operation Barbarossa launched in June 1941. Thousands of these volunteers served in the General Government territory of occupied Poland until the end of World War II. Trawnikis belonged to a category of Hiwis (German abbreviation for Hilfswilliger, literally "those willing to help"), Nazi auxiliary forces recruited from native subjects.Already between September 1941 and September 1942, the German SS and police trained 2,500 Trawniki men known as Hiwi Wachmänner (guards) at a special Trawniki training camp; for the total of 5,082 men on active duty before the end of 1944. Trawnikimänner were organized by Streibel into two SS Sonderdienst battalions. Some 1,000 Hiwis are known to have run away during field operations. Although the majority of Trawniki men or Hiwis came from among the prisoners of war, there were also Volksdeutsche from Eastern Europe among them, valued because of their ability to speak Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and other languages of the occupied territories. All the officers at Trawniki camp were Reichsdeutsche, and most of the squad commanders were Volksdeutsche. The conscripted civilians and former Soviet POWs included Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Tatars, Georgians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis. The Trawnikis took a major part in Operation Reinhard, the Nazi plan to exterminate Jews. They also served at extermination camps and played an important role in the annihilation of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (see the Stroop Report) among others.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.Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle
The Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle or VoMi (Coordination Centre for Ethnic Germans) was an NSDAP agency founded to manage the interests of the ethnic Germans (population of German ethnicity living outside the borders of Nazi Germany).
It would later, under Allgemeine-SS administration, become responsible for orchestrating the Nazi ideology of Lebensraum (English: living space) in Eastern Europe.Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz
The Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz ("ethnic Germans' self-protection") was a Selbstschutz paramilitary organization (militia) consisting of ethnic German Volksdeutsche mobilized from among the German minority in Poland. The Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz operated before, and during the opening stages of, World War II in the western half of Poland and were responsible for, and took part in, massacres of ethnic Poles, along with SS Einsatzgruppen.Volksliste
The Deutsche Volksliste (German People's List), a Nazi Party institution, aimed to classify inhabitants of German-occupied territories (1939-1945) into categories of desirability according to criteria systematised by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. The institution originated in occupied western Poland (occupied 1939-1945). Similar schemes subsequently developed in Occupied France (1940-1944) and in the Reichskommissariat Ukraine (1941-1944).
Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) topped the list as a category. They comprised people without German citizenship but of German ancestry living outside Germany (unlike German expatriates). Though Volksdeutsche did not hold German or Austrian citizenship, the strengthening and development of ethnic German communities throughout east-central Europe formed an integral part of the Nazi vision for the creation of Greater Germany (Großdeutschland). In some areas, such as Romania, Croatia, and Yugoslavia/Serbia, ethnic Germans were legally recognised in legislation as privileged groups.