The unforgettable tragedy of the Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany during World War II resulted in the deaths of more than 12 million people in Europe, but Hitler and his party had greater ambitions for an even larger genocide called Generalplan Ost.
10 Generalplan Ost Facts
- Generalplan Ost means “masterplan of the east” and was the Nazi plan for the resettlement of Eastern Europe with German citizens after their victory in World War II, which they presumed was imminent in 1941 when they developed the plan.
- The territories they were prepared to take over and occupy were Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and parts of Russia and Ukraine. The Nazis believed people from these territories were racially inferior and required extermination in order to make room for the Aryan Germans.
- To exterminate the unwanted people in Eastern Europe, Generalplan Ost called for mass starvation or moving those they wanted to get rid of farther east. Nazi policy in relation to the Generalplan Ost stated: “many tens of millions of people in this territory will become superfluous and will have to die or migrate to Siberia.”
- Heinrich Himmler was in charge of coordinating Generalplan Ost, as he had been appointed Reich Commissar for the Strengthening of German Ethnic Stock, which allowed him to decide the fates of people in Eastern Europe. Himmler had Oberfuhrer SS Professor Meyer-Hetling from the Berlin University prepare the plan.
- The plan called for the extermination or deportation of 31 million people in Eastern Europe, where about 45 million people were residing at the time. Professor Meyer-Hetling’s plan called for the immediate removal of 80-85 percent of Poland’s population and 50 percent of the Czech Republic’s population, as well as the later deportation of 85 percent of Lithuania’s population, 75 percent of Belarus’ population, 65 percent of western Ukraine’s population and 50 percent of Latvia and Estonia’s populations.
- How people were to be “removed” according to Generalplan Ost was based on a racial hierarchy crafted by the Nazis. Those of Slavic origin were “undesirable” and were to be moved into Siberia. The Jews were to be “totally removed,” meaning killed. The rest of the people in Eastern Europe were to be enslaved, “Germanized” or killed.
- Special German einzatsgruppen (“task forces”) led operations to kill Eastern Europeans from the end of 1941 to the end of 1942. They killed over 300,000 civilians in Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states alone.
- Hitler argued that he wanted to acquire Eastern Europe for the resettlement of Germans to the territory in order to give Germans “Lebensraum” (living space). The term was coined by the German geographer Friedrich Ratzel in 1901; he believed a country needed enough resources and territory to be self-sufficient and to protect itself from external enemies.
- Hitler was not the first to insinuate racist views towards the Jews, Slavs, and other people of eastern Europe. Multiple early 20th century scholars argued that the resources of the eastern European states were wasted on the “racially inferior” Slavs and Jews.
- Part of Hitler’s inspiration for Generalplan Ost and Lebensraum came from the United States’ westward expansion. Hitler believed Germany’s “manifest destiny” lay in the east.
Thankfully, Generalplan Ost never came fully to fruition. It is hard to imagine that there could have been an even greater genocide than what occurred in the Holocaust. Sadly, genocides continue to occur in the world today. Foreign states must act to stop genocides and prevent them from happening, for if foreign states had not intervened in World War II, Generalplan Ost and the Nazi regime could have succeeded.
– Mary Kate Luft