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10-08-2015, 17:06

The New Order in Europe

After the German victories in Europe, Nazi propagandists created glowing images of a new European order based on the equality of all nations in an integrated economic community. The reality was rather different. Hitler saw the Europe he had conquered simply as subject to German domination. Only the Germans, he once said, “can really organize Europe.” The Nazi empire, which at its greatest extent stretched across continental Europe from the English Channel in the west to the outskirts of Moscow in the east, was organized in two different ways. Some areas, such as western Poland, were annexed and transformed into German provinces. Most of occupied Europe, however, was administered indirectly by German officials with the assistance of collaborationist regimes. Racial considerations played an important role in how conquered peoples were treated. German civil administrations were established in Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands because the Nazis considered their peoples to be Aryan, or racially akin to the Germans, and hence worthy of more lenient treatment. Latin peoples, such as the occupied French, were given military administrations. All the occupied territories were ruthlessly exploited for material goods and manpower for Germany’s labor needs. Because the conquered lands in the east contained the living space for German expansion and were populated in Nazi eyes by racially inferior Slavic peoples, Nazi administration there was considerably more ruthless. Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS, was put in charge of German resettlement plans in the region. His task was to replace the indigenous population with Germans, a policy first applied to the new German provinces created in western Poland. One million Poles were uprooted and dumped in southern Poland. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans (descendants of Germans who had migrated years earlier from Germany to different parts of southern and eastern Europe) were encouraged to colonize designated areas in Poland. By 1942, two million ethnic Germans had been settled in Poland. The invasion of the Soviet Union inflated Nazi visions of German colonization in the east. Hitler spoke to his intimate circle of a colossal project of social engineering after the war, in which Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians would become slave labor while German peasants settled on the abandoned lands and Germanized them. Nazis involved in this kind of planning were well aware of the human costs. Himmler told a gathering of SS officers that the destruction of thirty million Slavs was a prerequisite for German plans in the east. “Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only insofar as we need them as slaves for our culture. Otherwise it is of no interest.” 3 Labor shortages in Germany led to a policy of ruthless mobilization of foreign labor. After the invasion of the Soviet Union, the four million Russian prisoners of war captured by the Germans, along with more than two million workers conscripted in France, became a major source of heavy labor. In 1942, a special office was created to recruit labor for German farms and industries. By the summer of 1944, seven million foreign workers were laboring in Germany, constituting 20 percent of Germany’s labor force. At the same time, another seven million workers were supplying forced labor in their own countries on farms, in industries, and even in military camps. The brutal character of Germany’s recruitment policies often led more and more people to resist the Nazi occupation forces.