By Thomas Childers, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union in 1941 had ideological and geopolitical objectives. It was the crusade against Judeo-Bolshevism and, indeed, the war in the east had already become something else besides a military campaign. It was the onset of a racial war. It was a war against the Jews.
Hitler had made a statement on January 30, 1939, on the sixth anniversary of his seizure of power. Here is a part of the statement:
During my struggle for power, the Jews primarily received with laughter my prophecies that I would someday assume the leadership of the State, and thereby of the entire volk, and then, among other things, achieve a solution to the Jewish problem. Today I will be a prophet again. If international financed Jewry within Europe and abroad should succeed once more in plunging the peoples into a world war, then the consequence will be, not be the Bolshevization of the world, and therefore victory of Jewry, but on the contrary, the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe!
The Change in Nazi Policy
The invasion of Poland in 1939, and the Soviet Union two years later, of course, put Germany in control of Europe’s largest Jewish communities.
In October 1939, Heinrich Himmler was named Reich commissar for the strengthening of German volkdom, a new title that gave him responsibility for National Socialist racial policy in the occupied territories.
Himmler delegated that authority to Reinhard Heydrich in a so-called Reich Security Central Office, where SS specialists were already at work on finding a solution to the so-called “Jewish question.” Immigration, the policy of prewar Germany, would now become expulsion.
This is a transcript from the video series A History of Hitler’s Empire, 2nd Edition. Watch it now, on Wondrium.
The Reorganization of One Greater German Reich
In a memorandum drafted on September 19,1939, entitled The Jewish Question in the Occupied Territories, Heydrich laid out the foundations of National Socialist policy. The territories that were annexed to Germany—the areas of old Czechoslovakia or Poland—would become part of the Gross Deutsche Reich, one greater German Reich.
All non-Germans were to be expelled; those territories would be cleansed of the so-called non-Aryan elements, in preparation for future settlement by Germans. This meant evacuating all Slavs and Jews to a new state, created on October 12, 1939. This was the so-called Government General of Poland. Moreover, all Jews were to be rounded up and concentrated in a few selected urban areas in this Government General.
The Nazi Idea of Jewish Reservation
The September 19 memorandum suggests that this ghettoization was not the final aim. These concentration centers, or ghettos, were to be located near major rail centers, hinting that further transport was being considered.
It was at this time as well that the idea of a Jewish reservation—somewhere in the Lublin district or perhaps farther east—was openly discussed as a possible solution. There had been some discussion about using the concentration camps within Germany itself—Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and so on—but that was rejected.
The large Jewish population was in eastern Europe; the Nazis did not want to be moving Jews from eastern Europe into the heartland of Germany. It would be too public, too visible, and logistically more difficult. So that had been rejected.
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The Deportation of the Jews
The reservation idea was a possibility. Responsibility for executing this policy was placed in the hands of special SS units, the Einsatzgruppen, who had been developed for the invasion of Poland. These were men with special training, indoctrination of Nazi racial policy; they numbered about 3,000.
It is estimated that approximately 1 million people were rounded up and forced into the ghettos in the Government General in 1939 into 1940. In fact, by October 1939, the SS began the deportation of Jews from Austria and Czechoslovakia to the Government General and, in a signal of radical National Socialist racial thinking, so-called Aryan children were selected for resettlement in Germany.
The Program of the Aryans
A program involving Aryan children would be developed and kept in place all the way through the war. Children who had so-called Aryan features—blond-headed, blue-eyed, tall, slender—were to be taken away from their parents, also young women, and brought back to Germany, where they were to be raised in special SS homes, or bred with SS men, in the case of the young women.
What one sees already in this action is a very important distinction, and one worth underscoring. Certainly, the Nazis had played on popular anti-Semitism in their rise to power, and anti-Semitism was still the driving force within National Socialism. But, in fact, Nazi racism was far broader than anti-Semitism.
The term that Germans use for Germans is deutsche; the Nazis would often use germanen; and of course, arierin for Aryans. These three things were not the same. In the kind of never-never land of SS thinking, Aryans were to be found in all of the different populations of Europe.
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The Nazi Plan of Creating a Master Race
These were the special racial elements that had to be selected out wherever they found them in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia, so that they could be part of the creation of what was called a master race, a herrenvolk.
It wasn’t the Germans, die deutsche, who were that master race, though this is what the Nazis implied in all of their propaganda to the German population. Rather, the Germans were, the SS believed, the last, best racial hope of humanity, the least spoiled, the least contaminated. But it was their job to find these specimens of racial purity wherever German troops went.
A Problem for the Nazis
As the war continued in 1940 and went into the West, Hans Frank, the Nazi official in charge of the Government General, complained bitterly that the Government General was, in fact, being reduced to little more than a dumping ground for all of Europe’s Jews and undesirables.
It was going to become a hotbed of disease. If more and more people were being transported into this small area of prewar Poland, he wasn’t going to be able to master the situation.
A little later, the Nazis constructed the Auschwitz concentration camp to tackle this problem.
Common Questions about the Nazi Crusade Against Judeo-Bolshevism
The Nazis considered herrenvolk a master race of humanity.
Approximately, 1 million people were rounded up and forced into the ghettos in the Government General in 1939 into 1940 by the Nazis.
Hans Frank had complained that the Government General had been reduced to little more than a dumping ground for all of Europe’s Jews and undesirables. It was going to become a hotbed of disease.