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11-08-2015, 18:51

The German Occupation of Europe

In the spring of 1942, German hegemony extended from the North Sea to Libya, from Finland to the Volga and the Caucasus. No such empire had ever dominated Europe. The haste with which states were annexed and Hitler's ulterior aims made the vast assemblage a hodgepodge of varying constitutional status. The regions which had previously belonged to the Reich were simply fused with it - Eupen and Malmédy, Luxembourg, Alsace-Lorraine (in violation of the Rethondes Armistice), a few Slovak provinces, Danzig, Pomerania, and Upper Silesia. For convenience Danish Sleswig was temporarily excluded. 3 It became illegal to use any language but German. German law was forcibly imposed. Troops were levied, and foreign elements in the population, such as the French-speaking citizens of Lorraine, were deported. Integration with Germanv was completed by relocating populations. Entire villages in Alsace were transplanted across the Rhine. Hitler declared these policies openly, but he took care not to disclose other plans. He seemed certain to reclaim the Reich's former colonies. From time to time he broadcast his interest in Atlantic 'bases', especially in Morocco on which both Spain and Italy also made claims. The 'Mediterranean Zone', which had become Italy's prerogative, remained imprecisely defined. Hitler did not explain how he would reunite colonies of German emigrants, 'the Volkdeutsche\ with their fatherland. The very notion of Yolkdeutsche remained a hazy one. The Flemish, Norwegians, Dutch, Burgundians, and occasionally the Normans were considered Yolkdeutsche in Nazi mythology. Above all, he did not divulge his plans for central and eastern Europe. It was uncertain whether he would preserve a residual state oi Poland, a sort ol Grand Duchy of Warsaw, and whether he would carve Soviet Russia into large vassal states like the Ukraine. In anticipation of victory, the Nazis drafted the conquered states into their war effort as quickly as possible. Military governments were set up in the occupied sectors of Soviet Russia and throughout Western Europe, which was vulnerable to British attack. Norway and Holland were assigned German high commissioners. So was Bohemia, which was simply called a 'protectorate of the Reich'. Around the occupied states revolved satellite nations. They were German allies, ruled by dictators on a Nazi model, including Slovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and to a lesser extent, the Vichy government. Spain also belonged ideologically with the German block. 5 Sweden and Turkey were officially neutral but their economies were dominated by the Germans. No part of Europe was immune to economic exploitation. At first propertv was requisitioned or pillaged. This continued throughout the war in Poland, Yugoslavia, and Soviet Russia, but subtler and more effective methods were eventually applied ill western and central Europe. The mark became the European currency; its exchange rate was inflated to increase its buying power. The cost of maintaining the occupying forces wTas defrayed by the occupied states for their own 'defence'. These costs were incommensurate with the strength of the troops paid for. 6 This system assured unlimited credit to the German treasury, which, after 'corrections' were made, could practically buy the entire European economy. At the same time, trade 'agreements' were made and applied uniliterally. Goods and materials were dispatched to Germany in exchange for promises of future rembursement. German economic policy gradually became clear. The Reich w7ould retain political and economic control of Europe, where unification w7as a leitmotiv of German propaganda. Germany was to retain exclusive control of power through a monopoly on heavy industry and she magni - fied her prestige through a monopoly on culture. The other countries were cast in a colonial role as suppliers ofraw7 materials and food. An immense colonization programme called 'Ostland' was undertaken before the w7ar had ended. German colonies wrere installed in areas populated by Slavs, in Lorraine and in the Ardennes, in an effort to bolster and legitimize the German empire.