The Nazi Hunger Plan for Occupied Soviet Territories

Reference materials on Soviet history, WWII in the Soviet Union, and the Holocaust in the Soviet Union

The Nazi Hunger Plan for Occupied Soviet Territories

Joined: July 21st, 2009, 5:44 am

March 28th, 2012, 7:51 am #1

Documents on German Occupation and Starvation Policies in the USSR, transcribed from the catalogue of the exhibition Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941-1945 Dimensionen des Vernichtungskrieges

Protocol of a meeting of the secretaries of state on 2.5.1941

Source: International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg 1948, Volume 31, page 84

[…]1.) Der Krieg ist nur weiterzuführen, wenn die gesamte Wehrmacht im 3. Kriegsjahr aus Rußland ernährt wird.

2.) Hierbei werden zweifellos zig Millionen Menschen verhungern, wenn von uns das für uns Notwendige aus dem Lande herausgeholt wird.

3.) Am wichtigsten ist die Bergung und Abtransport von Ölsaaten, Ölkuchen, dann erst Getreide. Das vorhandene Fett und Fleisch wird voraussichtlich die Truppe verbrauchen. […]

My translation:

[…]1.) The war can only be continued if the whole Wehrmacht is fed out of Russia in the 3rd war year.

2.) Due to this umpteen million people will doubtlessly starve to death when we take what is necessary for us out of the land.

3.) Most important is the collection and shipment of oil seeds and oil cake, only thereafter of grain. The available fat and meat will presumably be consumed by the troops.[…]

"Wirtschaftspolitische Richtlinien für die Wirtschaftsorganisation Ost vom 23.5.1941, erarbeitet von der Gruppe Landwirtschaft" (Guidelines of Economic Policy for the Economic Organization East, prepared by the Agriculture Group)

Source: Bundesarchiv/Militrarchiv, RW 31/144


Damit ist das wesentlichste des Problems gekennzeichnet. Die Überschüsse Rußlands an Getreide
werden entscheidend nicht durch die Höhe der Ernte, sondern durch die Höhe des Selbstverbrauchs bestimmt. Selbst eine geringe Herabsetzung um 30 kg je Kopf der Bevölkerung (220 kg statt 250 kg) und eine Herabsetzung der Pferderation um 25 % erzeugen einen Exportüberschuß, der fast an die Friedenshöhe heranreicht. […]

b) Da Deutschland bzw. Europa unter allen Umständen Überschüsse braucht, muß also der Konsum entsprechend herabgedrückt werden. Wie groß durch Drosselung des Verbrauchs die Überschußmengen werden können, zeigen die obigen Beispiele.

c) Dieses Herabdrücken des Konsums ist im Gegensatz zu den bisherigen besetzten Gebieten auch durchführbar deshalb, weil das Hauptüberschußgebiet räumlich scharf getrennt ist.

[…]Die Überschußgebiete liegen im Schwarzerdegebiet (also im Süden, Südosten) und im Kaukasus. Die Zuschußgebiete liegen im wesentlichen in der Waldzone des Nordens (Podsolböden). Daraus folgt: Eine Abriegelung der Schwarzerdegebiete muß unter allen Umständen mehr oder weniger hohe Überschüsse in diesen Gebieten für uns greifbar machen. Die Konsequenz ist die Nichtbelieferung der gesamten Waldzone einschließlich der Industriezentren und Petersburg. […]

1.         Aufgabe der gesamten Industrie im Zuschußgebiet, im wesentlichen der Verarbeitungsindustrie im Moskauer und Petersburger Industriegebiet, desgleichen des Industriegebiets im Ural. Man kann wohl annehmen, daß diese Gebiete heute einen Zuschuß aus der Produktionszone von 5-10 Mill.t [Getreide] beziehen. […]

2.         […]

3.         Jede weitere Ausnahme zwecks Erhaltung dieses oder jenes Industriebezirks oder Industrieunternehmens in der Zuschußzone muß abgelehnt werden.

4.         Erhalten werden kann die Industie nur, soweit sie im Überschußgebiet liegt. […]

Aus dieser Lage, die die Billigung der höchsten Stellen erfahren hat, […] ergeben sich folgende Konsequenzen:

I.          für die Waldzone: […]

b) Ein deutsches Interesse an der Erhaltung der Erzeugungskraft dieser Gebiete ist, auch hinsichtlich der Versorgung der dort stehenden Truppen, nicht vorhanden. […] Die Bevölkerung dieser Gebiete, insbesondere die Bevölkerung der Städte, wird größter Hungersnot entgegensehen müssen. Es wird darauf ankommen, die Bevölkerung in die sibirischen Räume abzulenken. Da Eisenbahntransport nicht in Frage kommt, wird auch dieses Problem ein äußerst schwieriges sein. […]

Aus all dem folgt, daß die deutsche Verwaltung in diesem Gebiet wohl bestrebt sein kann, die Folgen der zweifellos eintretenden Hungersnot zu mildern und den Naturalisierungsprozeß zu beschleunigen. Man kann bestrebt sein, diese Gebiete´intensiver zu bewirtschaften im Sinne einer Ausdehnung der Kartoffelanbaufläche und anderer für den Konsum wichtiger, hohe Erträge gebender Früchte. Die Hungersnot ist dadurch nicht zu bannen. Viele 10 Millionen Menschen werden in diesem Gebiet überflüssig und werden sterben oder nach Sibirien auswandern müssen. Versuche, die Bevölkerung dort vor dem Hungertode dadurch zu retten, daß man aus der Schwarzerdezone Überschüsse heranzieht, können nur auf Kosten der Versorgung Europas gehen. Sie unterbinden die Durchhaltefähigkeit Deutschlands im Kriege, sie unterbinden die Blockadefestigkeit Deutschlands und
Europas. Darüber muß absolute Klarheit herrschen. […]

I.          Armeeversorgung. Die Ernährungslage Deutschlands in dritten Kriegsjahr erfordert gebieterisch, daß die Wehrmacht in ihrer Gesamtverpflegung nicht aus dem großdeutschen Raum bzw. angegliederten oder befreundeten Gebieten, die diesen Raum durch Ausfuhren versorgen, lebt.
Dieses Minimalziel, die Versorgung der Wehrmacht aus Feindesland im dritten und evtl. weiteren Kriegsjahren, muß unter allen Umständen erreicht werden.

II.         Versorgung der deutschen Zivilbevölkerung

1)         Erst nach der Abdeckung dieses Heeresbedarfs, der unter allen Umständen aus den Osträumen bereitgestellt werden muß, haben Lieferungen nach Deutschland zur Deckung des Zivilbedarfs einzusetzen. Hierbei ist jede Verzettelung auf Nebengebiete unter allen Umständen zu unterlassen. Im Vordergrund steht der Transport von Ölsaaten – insbesondere Sonnenblumenkerne, aber auch Leinsaat, Baumwollsaat, Sojabohnen – nach Deutschland, um die Fettbilanz zu verbessern. […]

2)         Erst nach der Bewältigung des Transports der Ölsaaten kann eine Getreideausfuhr stattfinden, die selbstverständlich außerordentlich erwünscht ist, da ja Großdeutschland in steigendem Maße die besetzten Gebiete beliefern muß und auch selbst für die Zukunft seiner Reserven nach der schlechten Ernte 1940 und der bestenfalls zu erwartenden mittleren Ernte in diesem Jahr auffüllen muß. […]

3)         Wie bereits die Rationskürzungen in Deutschland jetzt gezeigt hat, ist der schwächste Punkt in der deutschen Ernährung die Fleischversorgung. […] Es wird daher erforderlich sein, auch für das Reich Fleischmengen aus dem Osten zur Verfügung zu stellen.

Während jedoch die Versorgung des Heeres aus allen Gebieten im Osten stattfinden muß (je nach den in den einzelnen Gebieten vorhandenen Truppen), und während die Ausfuhr von Ölsaaten und Getreide im wesentlichen aus der Schwarzerdezone stattfinden wird, wird die Bereitstellung von Fleisch für deutsche Zwecke, ja sogar auch für Zwecke des laufenden Bedarfs der Wehrmacht aus der Waldzone stattfinden müssen, und hier wiederum insbesondere aus den weißrussischen und den Zentralindustriegebieten um Moskau herum. […] Die Rinderbestände massieren sich mehr in den natürlichen Waldgebieten, das sind die Gebiete nördlich Moskaus, abgesehen vom Baltikum, bis hinüber nach Sibirien und die Steppengebiete im Südosten. Die Schweinefleischkammern liegen im nordwestlichen Waldgebiet bis nach Moskau hinüber. Diese Gebiete werden durch die Unterbrechung der Getreidezufuhren aus der Schwarzerdezone in Zukunft unter allen Umständen ihre Viehbestände, namentlich ihre Schweinebestände, ganz erheblich senken müssen. […]

Es kommt also darauf an, nicht nur vorbereitend Viehbestände für 1 Jahr für 2/3 der Wehrmacht bereitzustellen, es kommt weiter nicht nur darauf an, lebend Vieh insbesondere aus dem Nordwesten und den Zentralgebieten an die Ostseehäfen zu verfrachten, um sie über die Getreideschlachthöfe im Norden Deutschlands für die deutsche Zivilversorgung nutzbar zu machen, sondern es kommt entscheidend darauf an, auch für die weitere Zukunft Fleischbestände, soweit irgend möglich, zu
sichern. Das Problem der Konservierung von Fleisch wird also gerade in den Nordgebieten von entscheidender Bedeutung sein. […]

V. Diese
Ausführungen zeigen, worauf es ankommt. Das Minimalziel muß sein, Deutschland im 3. Kriegsjahr völlig von der Versorgung der eigenen Wehrmacht zu befreien, um der deutschen Ernährungswirtschaft die Möglichkeit zu geben, einerseits die bisherigen Rationen beizubehalten, andererseits gewisse Reserven für die Zukunft anzulegen. Außerdem wird es notwendig sein, auf den drei entscheidenden Lebensmittelgebieten – Ölsaaten, Getreide und Fleisch – Zufuhren in einem
größtmöglichen Umfang für Deutschland freizumachen, um die Ernährung nicht nur Deutschlands, sondern auch der besetzten Gebiete im Norden und Westen zu gewährleisten.
[…]

Abschließend sei nochmals auf das Grundsätzliche hingewiesen. Rußland hat sich unter dem bolschewistischen System aus reinen Machtgründen aus Europa zurückgezogen und so das europäische arbeitsteilige Gleichgewicht gestört. Unsere Aufgabe, Rußland wieder arbeitsteilig in Europa einzubeziehen, bedeutet zwangsläufig die Zerreißung des jetzigen wirtschaftlichen Gleichgewichts der UdSSR. Es kommt also unter keinen Umständen auf eine Erhaltung des Bisherigen an, sondern auf bewußte Abkehr vom Gewordenen und Einbeziehung der Ernährungswirtschaft Rußlands in den europäischen Rahmen. Daraus folgt zwangsläufig ein Absterben sowohl der Industrie wie eines großen Teils der Menschen in den bisherigen Zuschußgebieten.

Diese Alternative kann nicht hart und scharf genug herausgestellt werden.

My translation:

Thus the essence of the problem has been outlined. The grain excesses of Russia are primarily determined not by the quantities harvested but by the amounts they consume themselves. Even a small reduction of 30 kg per head of the population (220 kg instead of 250 kg) and a reduction of the horse ration by 25 % will create an export excess almost reaching peacetime levels. […]

b) As Germany and Europe need excesses under any circumstances, consuming must be reduced accordingly. How large the excess amounts resulting from a restriction of consuming may become is shown by the above examples.

c) Contrary to the situation in the hitherto occupied areas this reduction of consuming is feasible also because there is a clear geographical separation of the main excess region.

[…]The excess regions are located in the black earth region (i.e. in the south and southeast) and in the Caucasus. The food importing regions are mainly located in the northern forest zone (podsol soil). This means that sealing off the black earth regions must under any circumstances make more or less high excesses available to us in these areas. The consequence is the non-supply of the entire forest zone including the industrial centers and Petersburg.
[…]

1. We will give up all industry in the food importing region, mainly the manufacturing industry in the Moscow and Petersburg industrial area and the Ural industrial region. It can be assumed that these regions are currently importing an excess from the production zone in the amount of 5-10 million tons of grain. […]

2. […]

3. Any further exception for maintaining this or that industrial district or enterprise in the importing area must be rejected.

4. Industry can be maintained only insofar as located in the excess region. […]

From this situation, which has been approved by the highest entities, [...] there result the following consequences:

II. for the forest zone: […]

b) There is no German interest in maintaining the productive capacity of these regions, also in what concerns the supplies of the troops stationed there. […] The population of these regions, especially the population of the cities, will have to anticipate a famine of the greatest dimensions. The issue will be to redirect the population to the Siberian areas. As railway transportation is out of the question, this problem will also be an extremely difficult one. […]

From all this there follows that the German administration in these regions may well attempt to attenuate the consequences of the famine that will doubtlessly occur and accelerate the naturalization process. It can be attempted to cultivate these areas more extensively in the sense of an extension of the area for cultivating potatoes and other high yield fruits important for consuming.
This will not stop the famine, however. Many tens of millions of people will become superfluous in this area and will die or have to emigrate to Siberia. Attempts to save the population from starvation death by using excesses from the black earth zone can only be made at the expense of the supply of Europe. They hinder Germany’s capacity to hold out in the war, they hinder the blockade resistance of Germany
and Europe. This must be absolutely clear.[...]

III. Army food supplies. The food situation of Germany in the third year of the war makes it mandatory that the Wehrmacht does not take its food supply out of the greater German area or the annexed or allied areas supplying this area through exports. This minimal goal, the supply of the Wehrmacht out of enemy territory in the third and eventually further years of the war, must be achieved under any circumstances.

IV. Food supplies for the German civilian population

1) Only after covering the army’s needs, which under any circumstance must occur out of the eastern areas, may there be shipments to Germany to cover civilian needs. Deviations to secondary areas are to be avoided under any circumstances. Priority is to be given to the shipment of oil seeds especially
sunflower seeds, but also linen seed, cotton seed and soy beans to Germany in order to improve the fats balance. […]

2) Only after the transport of the oil seeds has been handled can there be shipments of grain, which of course are extremely desirable as Greater Germany must increasingly supply the occupied areas and also stock up its own reserves after the bad harvest of 1940 and the at best average harvest to be expected this year. […]

3) […]

V. These considerations show what the key issues are. The minimal goal must be to completely free Germany from the feeding of its own Wehrmacht in the 3rd year of the war in order to give German food economy the possibility of on the one hand keeping the rations so far issued and on the other to create certain reserves for the future. It will further be necessary to make available supplies for Germany to the greatest extent possible in the three key fields of nourishment – oil seeds, grain and meat – in order to guarantee the feeding not only of Germany, but also of the occupied areas in the north and west. […]

Finally the basics must be again pointed out. Russia under the Bolshevik system has withdrawn from Europe for pure reasons of power and thus disturbed the European work-sharing balance. Our task of reintegrating Russia into this balance necessarily implies tearing apart the present-day economic balance of the USSR. There is no question of maintaining what is there, but we are consciously moving away from it and integrating the food economy of Russia in the European area. This will necessarily lead both the industry and a great part of the people in the hitherto food importing areas to die off.

This alternative cannot be pointed out clearly and harshly enough.

File note on a meeting about economic policies and organization of the economy in the newly occupied territories with Hermann Göring on 8.11.1941
Bundesarchiv/Militrarchiv, WI ID/1222

[…]Hinsichtlich der Ernährung bemerkte er [Göring], daß die Truppe ihren Bedarf an Konserven
wesentlich einschränken müsse. Der Wehrmacht machte er den Vorwurf, daß sich im Gebiet um Minsk in den Wäldern noch große Viehherden herumtreiben, die aber wegen der Partisanen nicht geborgen werden können. Einsatz von Truppen sei unbedingt notwendig.

Das Schicksal der Grosstädte insbesondere Leningrads sei ihm völlig schleierhaft. In diesem Kriege werde das größte Sterben seit dem dreißigjährigen Krieg sein.

Wenn das Getreide nicht abbefördert werden kann, soll dieses zur Schweinezucht verwandt werden. Ab 1943 verlange er eine Höchstausnutzung der Ukraine. Die Versorgung ganz Europas müsse dann sichergestellt sein.[…]

My translation:

[…] In regard to food matters he [Göring] remarked that the troops must significantly reduce their consuming of conserves. To the Wehrmacht he addressed the reproach that in the area around Minsk
there are still huge herds of cattle running around in the woods which cannot be collected due to the partisans. The deployment of troops was absolutely necessary.

The fate of the major cities, especially Leningrad, was completely indifferent to him. [Translator’s note: the German term "schleierhaft" literally means "veilful" and may also be translated as "unexplainable".
Translating the term as "indifferent" (in the sense of "I don’t know what will happen to them, and I couldn’t care less") was considered to better fit the context, however] This war would see the greatest dying since the Thirty Years War.

If the grain could not be shipped off it should be used for raising pigs. From 1943 onward he required a maximum exploitation of the Ukraine. The food supply of the whole of Europe must then be guaranteed. […]

Top level meeting at Orsha on 13.11.1941
Source: State Archive Nuremberg, NOKW-1535

[…]Bemerkungen des Generalquartiermeisters [Wagner] nach dem Abendessen

[…]Die Frage der Ernährung der Zivilbevölkerung ist katastrophal. Um überhaupt zu einem Ergebnis zu kommen, mußte man zu einer Klassifizierung schreiten. Es ist klar, daß innerhalb dieser Klassifizierung an oberster Stelle die Truppe und ihre Bedürfnisse stehen müssen. Der Bevölkerung kann nur ein Existenzminimum zugebilligt werden. Dabei wird das flache Land noch einigermaßen erträglich dastehen. Unlösbar dagegen ist die Frage der Ernährung der Großstädte. Es kann keinem Zweifel unterliegen, daß insbesondere Leningrad verhungern muß, denn es ist unmöglich, diese Stadt zu ernähren. Aufgabe der Führung kann es nur sein, die Truppe hiervon und von damit verbundenen Erscheinungen fern zu halten.
My translation:
[…]Remarks of the General Quarter Master [Wagner] after dinner

[…]The issue of feeding the civilian population is catastrophic. In order to achieve a result at all there must be made a classification. It is clear that within this classification the troops and their needs occupy the uppermost rank. The population can only be granted an existence minimum. The situation in the countryside will still be fairly bearable. The feeding of the great cities can however not be solved. There can be no doubt that especially Leningrad must starve to death, because it is impossible to feed this city. The task of the leadership can thus only be to keep the troops away from this and from the phenomena related hereto.[...]

Points to note from the top level meeting at Orsha on 13.11.1941, General Quarter Master Eduard Wagner
Source: State Archive Nuremberg, NOKW-1535

[…]Nichtarbeitende Kriegsgefangene in den Gefangenenlagern haben zu verhungern.

Arbeitende Kriegsgefangene können im Einzelfalle auch aus Heeresbeständen ernährt warden. Generell kann auch das angesichts der allgemeinen Ernährungslage leider nicht befohlen werden.

Die Lage im Verpflegungsnachschub bei der Heeresgruppe Mitte ist z. Zt. So, daß eine sofortige Hilfe nicht einsetzen kann […]

My translation:

[…]Non-working prisoners of war in the prisoner camps are to starve to death.

Working prisoners of war can in individual cases also be fed out of army supplies. Given the general food situation this cannot be generally ordered, however.

The food supply situation at Army Group Center is currently such that immediate help cannot be provided.[…]

Last edited by Roberto on April 19th, 2018, 11:46 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Joined: July 21st, 2009, 5:44 am

March 28th, 2012, 7:53 am #2

Excerpt from: Christian Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, pages 51 and following.

[…]Die von Hitler genehmigte Vernichtungspolitik durch Hunger richtete sich gegen zwei Bevölkerungsgruppen: einerseits gegen die Menschen in der „Waldzone“ in Mittel-, Nordrußland und Weißrußland, und andererseits gegen die städtische Bevölkerung der Sowjetunion allgemein. Zwar enthielt dieser Plan, den im Juni 1941 sogar noch die Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung der Deutschen Reichsbank überprüfte und grundsätzlich guthieß, einige grundlegende Schwächen, die ihre Urheber übersahen. Zum Beispiel waren Überschuß- und Zuschußgebiete in der Sowjetunion keineswegs klar getrennt, und vor allem war die Ukraine gar nicht das wichtigste sogenannte Überschußgebiet, sondern
versprach, selbst wenn man den Verbrauch der Bevölkerung gewaltsam herabdrückte, nur relative geringe „Überschüsse“. So mußte die Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung der IG Farben am 26. November 1941 feststellen, daß die bisher eroberten „Gebiete zusammen – unter der Voraussetzung normaler
Ernährung – Zuschußgebiete für Brotgetreide“ seien, die theoretisch Lieferungen aus dem Wolga-Ural-Gebiet benötigt hätten. Vor allem aber scheint niemand eine genaue Vorstellung gehabt zu haben, wie das Verhungern eigentlich in einem Gebiet, wo mindestens zum Teil deutsche Truppen stehen sollten, genau vor sich gehen sollte.

Trotzdem wurde das Vorhaben, Millionen Menschen in den besetzten sowjetischen Gebieten verhungern oder anders umkommen zu lassen, zur Leitlinie fur viele Entscheidungsträger. Dabei spielte oft die ominöse Zahl 30 Millionen – um die die Bevölkerung nach den Vorstellungen Backes zu vermindern war – eine Rolle. Die Tatsache, daß viele entsprechende Äußerungen von Akteuren aus dem Bereich Weißrußland und „Rußland-Mitte“ stammen, ist kein Zufall, sondern dürfte mit dessen
Zugehörigkeit zur „Waldzone“ zu erklären sein.

So hielt der Reichsführer-SS und Chef der Deutschen Polizei, Heinrich Himmler, „Anfang 1941, vor Beginn des Rußlandfeldzuges auf der Wewelsburg, [eine Rede], wo er davon sprach, daß der Zweck des Rußlandfeldzuges die Dezimierung der slawischen Bevölkerung um dreißig Millionen sein sollte“, wie der ehemalige Höhere SS- und Polizeiführer von dem Bach-Zelewski 1946 in Nürnberg aussagte. Schriftliche Befehle habe es für diese Slawenvernichtung nicht gegeben. Bei der Rede sollen etwa zwölf Gruppenführer anwesend gewesen sein. Tatsächlich fand die fragliche Tagung der SS-Gruppenführer auf der Wewelsburg mit Himmler erst zwischen dem 12. und 15. Juni statt. Nach späterer Aussage des Chefs des Persönlichen Stabs Reichsführer-SS, Karl Wolff, sagte Himmler auf der Wewelsburg, daß der Tod dieser Millionen Menschen nicht das Ziel, sondern vielmehr Folge des Krieges gegen die UdSSR sein würde. Bach-Zelewski ergänzte hierzu im Strafverfahren gegen Wolff, Himmler habe damals prognostiziert, Kriegshandlungen und Ernährungsschwierigkeiten würden zu dieser hohen Zahl von Opfern führen. Himmlers Eröffnung kam allerdings ziemlich spät und sehr ungenau, wie eben auch das Projekt der Ernährungsplaner vieles offenließ. Zufall oder nicht: zwei Tage vor dem Treffen auf der Wewelsburg hatte Himmler mit Backe über die Landwirtschaft der zu besetzenden sowjetischen Gebiete gesprochen.

Für sich genommen hätte man von dem Bach-Zelewski’s Verlautbarungen vielleicht als bloßen Entlastungsversuch erklären können, da er sich auf einen höheren Befehl berief. Sie wird aber gestützt von einer Aussage des ehemaligen HSSPF Ostland Friedrich Jeckeln kurz zuvor im Januar 1946 in Riga:

„Herf sagte mir, daß von dem Bach-Zelewski ihm erzählt hätte, er – von dem Bach – habe von Himmler den Befehl zur Vernichtung von 20 Millionen Sowjetbürger[n] auf dem Territorium Weißrußlands und anderer Gebiete östlich von Weißrußland, gleich dem Vormarsch der deutschen Armee nach dem Osten folgend, erhalten.“

Dabei ist zu beachten, daß; Bach-Zelewskis territoriales Aufgabengebiet „Rußland Mitte“ mit Sitz in Moskau werden sollte. Er selbst schrieb sogar einmal, es werde vor allem östlich von Moskau bis zum Ural liegen. Ein Großteil der sogenannten Waldzone wäre damit in seine Kompetenz gefallen, was erklären kann, warum ihm die Aufgabe zufiel, einen so großen Teil jener 30 Millionen Menschen zu
vernichten, eine Tatsache, die er in Nürnberg „vergaß“. Das in Mittelrußland vorgesehene Inferno sollte so furchtbar werden, daß sogar Erich Koch, einer der brutalsten NS-Politiker überhaupt, im Juni 1941 den Posten des Reichskommissars in Moskau mit der Begründung ablehnte, es handle sich um eine „gänzlich negative Tätigkeit“.

In seinen Memoiren berichtet der ehemalige Abwehroffizier der Heeresgruppe Mitte, Rudolf-Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff, über einen Besuch des Leiters des Vorkommandos Moskau der Einsatzgruppe B, Professor Franz Six, der ihm kurz nach dem Umzug des Stabsquartiers nach Borissow, also vermutlich im Juli 1941, von dem Plan erzählte:

„Dabei berichtete er, Hitler beabsichtige, die Ostgrenze des Reiches bis zur Linie Baku-Stalingrad-Moskau vorzuschieben. Ostwärts von dieser Linie werde bis zum Ural ein ‚Brandstreifen’ entstehen, in dessen Bereich alles Leben ausgelöscht werden würde. Man wolle die in diesem Streifen lebenden etwa dreißig Millionen Russen durch Hunger dezimieren, indem man alle Nahrungsmittel aus dem riesigen Gebiet entfernte. Allen an dieser Aktion Beteiligten werde bei Todesstrafe verboten werden, einem Russen auch  nur ein Stück Brot zu geben. Die großen Städte von Leningrad bis Moskau sollten dem Erdboden gleichgemacht werden; der SS-Führer von dem Bach-Zelewski werde für die Durchführung dieser Maßnahmen verantwortlich sein.[...]

Eine geringfügig abweichende Version des gleichen Vorgangs gibt Wilfried Strik-Strikfeldt. Danach besuchten „ein Sonderbeauftragter des Ostministeriums Rosenberg in Begleitung eines hohen Parteifunktionärs die HG [Heeresgruppe] Mitte in Borissow.” Nach Wiedergabe des Oberbefehlshabers der Heeresgruppe, Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock, hätten sie mit von Bock beim Essen von der
Kolonisierung Rußlands bis möglicherweise östlich von Moskau gesprochen. Eine Quintessenz sei dabei gewesen: „Vierzig Millionen Russen zuviel! Sie müssen ‚umkommen’!“ Damit sei verhungern gemeint gewesen. Von ihm, Strik, darauf angesprochen, habe Rosenberg erwidert, das seien „Hirngespinste“ der SS und einiger anderer ohne Bedeutung. Von Bock habe das Gehörte gar nicht glauben mögen. Doch der Generalfeldmarschall hatte sich schon am 5 Juni 1941 mit Himmler getroffen und von ihm informieren lassen, „Ziel des Feldzuges im Osten [sei] die Zertrümmerung Rußlands in kleine Einzelstaaten und Ausdehnung der deutschen Interessensphäre weit über den Ural hinaus.“ Am 6 Juli notierte er: „Das Gebiet ist Hungerland. Seine Erträge werden kaum reichen [...], so daß; ich nicht weiß, wie man die Frage der Ernährung der Bevölkerung lösen will.“ Gar so fremd waren von Bock diese Gedanken also keineswegs. Als ihn Himmler am 24. Oktober in Smolensk besuchte, bedankte er sich zumindest nach Aussage Bach-Zelewskis bei ihm für die Ermordung der Juden, diese „unsaubere Arbeit“, die man so nicht selbst tun müsse.

Zurück zu Six. Die von ihm vorgetragenen Vorstellungen beruhen offensichtlich auf dem Backe-Plan und zeigen auch merkliche Übereinstimmungen mit dem von Jeckeln Ausgesagten. Bezüglich der Durchführung blieben die Vorstellungen von Six wie auch in den „Wirtschaftspolitischen Richtlinien“ aber naiv und unklar. So einfach ließ sich das Vorhaben zum Glück nicht umsetzen.

Der Hungerplan tauchte auch noch bei anderen Gelegenheiten auf. Für Göring war er geradezu ein Lieblingsthema. Im November 1941 sagte er dem italienischen Außenminister Graf Ciano, innerhalb eines Jahres würden 20 bis 30 Millionen Menschen in Rußland verhungern. Vielleicht sei das gut so, denn bestimmte Völker müßten reduziert werden. Hitler sprach von einer „Volkskatastrophe“ für das „Moskowitertum“ und erklärte, wegen fehlender oder zerstörter Nahrungsmittel in den besetzten sowjetischen Gebieten „müßten Millionen sterben“. Die deutsche Führung erklärte laut Goebbels „in aller Öffentlichkeit, daß; Rußland nichts von uns zu erwarten habe und wir es verhungern lassen werden.“ Der Generalbevollmächtigte für den Arbeitseinsatz, Frizt Sauckel, sagte am 4. August 1942 bei einem Besuch in den besetzten sowjetischen Gebieten, als er im Herbst 1941 dort gewesen sei, hätten „alle deutschen Dienststellen auf der Überzeugung bestanden, daß im kommenden, also im
vergangenen Winter, mindestens zehn bis zwanzig Millionen dieser Leute einfach verhungern würden.“ Zumindest einige Besatzungsbehörden an Ort und Stelle vertraten also durchaus die Richtlinien, wie sie ähnlich wiederholt gegeben wurden: „Wir können nicht das ganze Land verwalten. Die Intelligenz ist
totgeschlagen, die Kommissare sind weg. Große Gebiete werden sich selbst überlassen bleiben (verhungern).“ Auch der Ostminister Rosenberg äußerte mehrfach, der Hungertod von Millionen Menschen sei „eine harte Notwendigkeit, die außerhalb jeden Gefühls steht.“ Hans Tesmer, der Chef der Abteilung Kriegsverwaltung beim Befehlshaber rückwärtiges Heeresgebiet Mitte (1941-1942) und bei der Heeresgruppe Mitte (1942-1944) erinnerte sich mißbilligend: „Es kamen Parolen auf, daß in Rußland ruhig einige Millionen verhungern könnten, daß die Russen verdummen sollten und ähnliche Ansichten mehr.“[...]

My translation:

[…]The policy of annihilation by hunger approved by Hitler was directed against two population groups: on the one hand against the people in the "forest zone" of central and northern Russia and Belorussia, on the other against the urban population of the Soviet Union in general. It is true that this plan, which in June 1941 was even checked and in principle approved by the Macroeconomic Department of the German Reichsbank, contained some basic flaws overlooked by its authors. For instance the surplus
and deficit regions in the Soviet Union were by no means clearly separated, and especially Ukraine
was not the most important surplus region, for it promised only relatively little "surpluses" even if the population’s food consumption was forcibly reduced. Thus the Macroeconomic Department of IG Farben had to conclude on 26 November 1941 that, "under the assumption of normal nourishment", the territories conquered so far were "all together deficit regions in regard to bread grain", which theoretically would have required supplies from the Volga-Urals region. The main flaw, however, was that no one seems to have thought how the starvation was to occur in an area which at least partially contained German troops.

Nevertheless the intention of letting millions of people in the occupied Soviet territories starve or otherwise perish became the guideline for many decision-makers. In this respect the ominous number of 30 million, by which [State Secretary at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture] Backe considered that
the population would have to be reduced, played a part. The fact that many corresponding statements were made by acting figurers from the areas of Belorussia and "Central Russia" is no coincidence, but likely to be related to the fact that these regions were part of the "forest zone".

Thus the Reichsführer-SS and Head of the German Police, Heinrich Himmler, "at the beginning of
1941, before the start of the campaign against Russia, held [a speech] on the Wewelsburg, in which he stated that the purpose of the Russian campaign was the decimation of the Slav population by thirty million", as the former Head of SS and Police von dem Bach-Zelewski testified in 1946 at Nuremberg. Written orders for this annihilation of Slavs had not existed. At the speech twelve Gruppenführer (higher SS officers) were said to have been present. In fact the mentioned conference of the SS-Gruppenführer on the Wewelsburg with Himmler took place only between 12 and 15 June. According to a later deposition of the Head of the Personal Staff Reichsführer-SS, Karl Wolff, what Himmler had said on the Wewelsburg was that the death of these millions of people was not the goal, but would be the consequence of the war against the USSR. To this Bach-Zelewski, at the criminal trial against Wolff, added that Himmler had back then predicted that military actions and crises of food supply would lead to this high number of victims. Himmler’s announcement, however, came very late and was very vague, just like the food planners’ project left many things open. Coincidence or not, two days before the meeting on the Wewelsburg Himmler had talked with Backe about the agriculture of the Soviet regions to be occupied.

All by themselves Bach-Zelewski’s utterances might be explained as a mere attempt to exonerate himself, as he was invoking a higher order. They are supported, however, by a deposition that the former Head of SS and Police for the Eastern Territories, Friedrich Jeckeln, made shortly before in January 1946 at Riga:

"Herf [Eberhard Herf, commander of the Order Police Minsk from about January to March 1942 and August 1943 to January 1944, Head of the Staff of the Anti-partisan Units Reichsführer SS (Bach-Zelewski) for one month in July/August 1943] told me that von dem Bach-Zelewski had told him that he (von dem Bach) had been given by Himmler the order to destroy 20 million Soviet citizens on the territory of Belorussia and other regions east of Belorussia, immediately upon the heels of the advancing German Army."

In this respect it must be taken into account that Bach-Zelewski’s territorial area of action was to be "Central Russia" with head-office in Moscow. He himself even wrote once that it was to lie principally to the east of Moscow up to the Urals. A great part of the so-called forest zone would thus have fallen under his jurisdiction, which could explain why he was given the task to destroy so large a part of those 30 million people, a fact that he "forgot" at Nuremberg. The inferno foreseen for Central Russia was to be so terrible that even Erich Koch, one of the most brutal NS politicians, rejected the place of Reich Commissar in Moscow with the justification that this was "a wholly negative activity".

In his memoirs the former counterespionage officer of Army Group Center, Rudolf-Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff, wrote about a visit by the head of the Advance Detachment Moscow of Einsatzgruppe B, Professor Franz Six, who shortly after the moving of the staff quarters to Borissow, i.e. presumably in July 1941, told him about the plan:

"He reported that Hitler had the intention to push the eastern border of the Reich up to the line Baku-Stalingrad-Moscow. To the east of this line there would be created a fire strip in the area of which all life was to be wiped out. It was intended to decimate the about thirty million Russians living in this area by hunger through the removal or all food from this gigantic area. All taking part in this action would be forbidden under punishment of death to even give a piece of bread to a Russian. The big cities from Leningrad to Moscow were to be leveled to the ground; Head of SS von dem Bach-Zelewski would be
responsible for the execution of these measures.[...]

A slightly different version of the same event is given by Wilfried Strik-Strikfeldt. According hereto "a special envoy of Rosenberg’s Eastern Ministry, in the company of a high-ranking party officials, visited the Army Group at Borissow." As recalled by the Supreme Commander of Army Group Center,
General Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, they had spoken with Bock at the meal about the colonization of Russia until possibly east of Moscow. A quintessence in this respect had been the following: "Forty million Russians too many! They must perish!" This meant starving to death. Asked about this by him, Strik, Rosenberg had answered that these were "fantasies" of the SS and some others without significance. Von Bock is supposed to have refused to believe what he heard. Yet the General Field Marshal had met Himmler already on 5 June 1941 and been informed by him that the "goal of the campaign in the East was the splitting of Russia into small single states and the extension of the German sphere of interest far beyond the Urals." On 6 July he noted the following: "The region is a
hunger region. Its products will hardly be sufficient [...], so that I don’t know how one is to solve the problem of feeding the population." Thus von Bock was by no means that much a stranger to these thoughts. When Himmler visited him on 24 October in Smolensk, he at least according to Bach Zelewski’s testimony thanked him for the murder of the Jews, this "dirty work" which he thus would not have to do himself.

Back to Six. The considerations exposed by him are obviously based on the Backe Plan and also show notable coincidence with Jeckeln’s deposition. In what concerns the execution his vision remained nave and unclear, like in the "Guidelines of Economic Policy". Fortunately the project could not be
put into practice that easily.

The Hunger Plan also appeared on other occasions. For Göring it was a favorite subject. In November 1941 he told the Italian foreign minister Count Ciano that within a year 20 to 30 million people would starve to death in Russia. Maybe this was a good thing, for certain peoples needed to be reduced. Hitler spoke of a "population catastrophe" of the "Muscovites" and declared that due to lack or destruction of food "millions would have to die". According to Goebbels, the German leadership declared "publicly that Russia has nothing to expect from us and that we will let it starve to death."
The General Plenipotentiary for Labor Employment, Fritz Sauckel, stated on 4 August 1942, during a visit in the occupied Soviet territories, that when he had been there in the autumn of 1941 "all German authorities had persisted in the conviction that in the following, i.e. in the past winter, at least ten
to twenty million of these people would simply starve to death." At least some occupation authorities on site thus stuck to the guidelines as they were repeatedly stated similar to this: "We cannot feed the whole land. The intelligence has been killed, the commissars are gone. Huge areas will be left to themselves (starve to death)." Also the Eastern Minister Rosenberg repeatedly stated that the starvation death of millions was "a harsh necessity that stands outside any sentiment." Hans Tesmer, head of the Department War Administration at the Commander of the rear area of Army Group Center
(1941-1942) and of Army Group Center (1942-1944), disapprovingly remembered the following: "Slogans came up that in Russia several million might well starve to death, that the Russians were to be kept dumb and other similar views of this sort."[...]

Last edited by Roberto on April 19th, 2018, 11:43 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Denial of generally known historical facts should not be punishable. For those who maintain, for instance, that Germany did not take part in World War I or
that Adenauer fought at Issus in 333, their own stupidity is punishment enough. The same should apply to the denial of the horrors and crimes of the recent
German past.
~ A German jurist by the name of Baumann in the German juridical magazine NJW, quoted in: Bailer-Galanda/Benz/Neugebauer (ed.), Die
Auschwitzleugner
, Berlin 1996, page 261 (my translation).
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March 28th, 2012, 7:54 am #3

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“The Annihilation of Superfluous Eaters”: Nazi Plans for and Uses of Famine in Eastern Europe

by Steven R. Welch


The deliberate use of famine was an integral part of Nazi plans and policies regarding Eastern
Europe during World War II. The following essay will examine three key examples: first, the so-called General Plan for the East (Generalplan Ost; hereafter GPO); second, the “hunger strategy” carried out by the Germans in the occupied regions of the Soviet Union following the invasion of June 1941, which
included the starvation of Soviet POWs and Soviet civilians; and third, the Nazi ghettoization policies from 1940 to 1942 which created famine conditions in which hundreds of thousands of Jews died of hunger and hunger-related diseases.

I. The General Plan for the East

The General Plan for the East, the first draft of which was presented to Heinrich Himmler in July 1941, embodied the Nazi vision for a complete and ruthless demographic revolution in Eastern Europe.  The GPO was premised on the belief that the Wehrmacht would quickly and decisively vanquish the Soviet Union and thus bring a vast new territorial empire under Nazi control. Hitler and other leading Nazis conceived of the newly conquered areas as a German “India” over which they would wield absolute power and within whose boundaries they could realize their plans for a sweeping racially-based reorganisation of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.  The GPO was to
provide the blueprint for this new colonial empire.  It called for all of Poland, Czechoslovakia and large parts of the Soviet Union to be transformed into gigantic German settlement areas.  This would entail “resettling” or killing between 30 to 50 million of the present inhabitants of those areas: 80-85 per cent of the Polish, 75 per cent of the Belorussian and 65 per cent of the Ukrainian populations would be affected. The GPO implicitly factored into its grisly calculations that many millions of the victims would die as a result of famine and disease brought on by malnutrition and overwork. After the massive
liquidation of much of the Slavic population of Eastern Europe the remaining fourteen million people were to be reduced to the status of slave laborers for the ruling Germans who would control all property and monopolize positions of skilled labor. The territory vacated by the millions of deported or liquidated
Slavs was to be settled by some 4.5 million Germans drawn from the Reich, from overseas Germans and other Germanic groups (such as Norwegians and Danes) in Europe. The entire process was originally scheduled to be completed within thirty years. Himmler later insisted that the pace be accelerated so that the program of Germanization would be accomplished within no more than twenty years.

The first draft of the GPO included a provision for the forced resettlement of five to six million Jews as part of the Germanization project. By the time a revised version was prepared the following year this provision had disappeared. By then the mass murder of European Jewry in specially designed extermination camps was already well underway. As an official from Alfred Rosenberg’s Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories noted in April 1942, the Eastern Jews did not need to be included
in the revised version of the GPO since they “would already be eliminated before evacuation [to the East].”

Thanks to the defeat of the German army by Soviet forces the provisions of the GPO remained for the most part unfulfilled. Himmler did attempt one large-scale resettlement project in November 1942 in the area of Zamosc in the General Government. Thousands of Polish farmers were forced out of their homes to make room for 27,000 ethnic Germans. From the German perspective the action ended as a dismal failure: throughout the region security worsened, produce deliveries declined and Polish resistance escalated. The deteriorating war situation from 1943 on prevented any further experiments in mass resettlement. After the disastrous defeat at Stalingrad Hitler ordered that further work on the GPO be suspended. Had Hitler’s forces been successful in the East, however, there can be no doubt
that under the auspices of the GPO tens of millions of Slavs would have been subjected to a program of mass killing in which deliberately imposed famine would have been a major component.

II. The “Hunger Strategy” of 1941-42

In spring 1941 the Reich Food Ministry and the Armed Forces High Command (OKW) developed what Rolf-Dieter Müller has termed a “hunger strategy” devised to deprive millions of Soviet citizens of food in order to provide surpluses which would feed the German army in Russia as well as allow foodstuffs to be sent back to the Reich from the occupied territories in the East. This hunger strategy, as Müller has convincingly demonstrated, was not an unintended or unavoidable outcome of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union but was deliberately planned in advance and must be regarded as a “consciously implemented policy of extermination.” 

Plans for the economic exploitation of the occupied territories had been considered in some detail by German civilian and military experts in advance of the invasion. A statement of goals for the upcoming campaign from early May 1941 succinctly noted: “1. The war can only be continued if all armed forces are fed by Russia in the third year of war. 2. There is no doubt that as a result many millions of people will be starved to death if we take out of the country the things necessary for us.”  A much more detailed document prepared by the ‘Economic Staff East, Agricultural Group’ on 23 May 1941, painted an even grimmer picture of the mass starvation and deindustrialization planned for some Soviet regions. The planners commented dispassionately that “the population of these areas, in particular the urban population, will have to face most serious distress from famine.”  The document went on to state with brutal frankness that the policy being enunciated would result in mass death for the population of the occupied regions:
It follows from all that has been said that the German administration in these territories may well attempt to mitigate the consequences of the famine which undoubtedly will take place, and to accelerate the return to primitive agricultural conditions. An attempt might be made to intensify cultivation in these areas by expanding the acreage under potatoes or other important food crops giving a high yield. However, these measures will not avert famine. Many tens of millions of people in this area will become redundant and will either die or have to emigrate to Siberia. Any attempt to save the population there from death by starvation by importing surpluses from the black soil zone would be at the expense of supplies to Europe. It would reduce Germany’s and Europe’s power to resist the blockade. This must be clearly and absolutely understood.
Within the context of the racial ideology of Nazism, which posited the supremacy of the Ayran master race over the inferior Slavs and Jews, the murder of “many tens of millions of people” by means of deliberate starvation was accepted as perfectly legitimate and indeed desirable. The utter disregard of humane values by the German planners provides very striking evidence of what Hans Mommsen has
referred to as the “deformation of public and private morality” during the Third Reich.  The hunger strategy which the economic experts in the Wehrmacht and the state ministries formulated was a clear violation of international law which required that occupying forces insure an adequate food supply for the indigenous population. The economic planners cynically choose to ignore their obligations under international law and endorsed a policy guaranteed to condemn millions to starvation. In comments
made on the eve of the invasion of the Soviet Union, Alfred Rosenberg explicitly rejected the notion that Germany had any obligation toward the peoples it was about to subjugate; German interests alone were paramount: “the job of feeding the German people stands, this year, without a doubt, at the top
of the list of Germany’s claims on the East…We see absolutely no reason for any obligation on our part to feed also the Russian people with the products of that surplus-territory. We know that this is a harsh necessity, bare of any feelings.” 

Rosenberg was articulating a view which was shared by all members of the top Nazi leadership. Three weeks into Operation Barbarossa Hermann Goering spelled out German priorities when it came to the
distribution of food supplies: “It is clear that a graduated scale of food allocations is needed. First in line are the combat troops, then the remainder of the troops in enemy territory, and then those troops stationed at home. The rates are adjusted accordingly. The supply of the German non-military
population follows and only then comes the population of the occupied territories.”  He went on to note, “In the occupied territories on principle only those people are to be supplied with an adequate amount of food who work for us. Even if one wanted to feed all the other inhabitants, one could not do it in the newly-occupied Eastern areas. It is, therefore, wrong to funnel off food supplies for this purpose, if it is
done at the expense of the army and necessitates increased supplies from home.”  The economic welfare and indeed the survival of the subject populations was to be callously and criminally disregarded; all that mattered was what benefit Germany could derive from the occupied territories.           
Hitler of course was in full agreement with a policy of maximum exploitation and minimum concern for the population of the occupied territories: “Our guiding principle must be that these people have but one justification for existence—to be of use to us economically. We must concentrate on extracting from these territories everything that it is possible to extract.”  It can come as no surprise that the hunger strategy could count on Hitler’s complete support. On 8 July 1941 General Franz Halder, Chief of the Army General Staff, noted that the Führer had indicated that it was his “firm decision to level Moscow
and Leningrad, and make them uninhabitable, so as to relieve us of the necessity of having to feed the populations through the winter.” 
All the evidence amply justifies Theo J. Schulte’s judgement that “the economic and military leadership of the Third Reich…advocated a radical policy of exploitation that did not merely allow for but, rather, was based on the need for the extermination of millions of people.”

The hunger strategy had a devastating impact on the Soviet population in the occupied regions. One of the most remarkable and brutally frank assessments of the consequences of the strategy was provided in a report from the Armaments Inspector for the Ukraine, Major General Hans Leykauf, dated 2 December 1941. Leykauf’s report is noteworthy for its matter-of-fact acknowledgment of the scale and scope of mass killing being carried out by German forces in the East:
When we shoot the Jews to death, allow the POWs to die, expose considerable portions of the urban population to starvation and in the upcoming year also lose a part of the rural population to hunger, the question remains to be answered: who is actually supposed to produce economic values? 
Leykauf’s attention, of course, was focused not on the lethal human consequences of the hunger strategy and the other atrocities committed against the Soviet population but solely on the effects such a strategy might have on the productivity of the occupied regions. As he made clear, his own views were based not on humane “sentiment” but on “sober economic calculations.”  These calculations undoubtedly informed his suggestions for a continuation of the hunger strategy:

Scooping off the agricultural surplus in the Ukraine for the purpose of feeding the Reich is therefore only feasible if traffic in the interior of the Ukraine is diminished to a minimum. The attempt will be made to achieve this
1. by annihilation of superfluous eaters (Jews, population of the Ukrainian big cities, which like Kiev do not receive any supplies at all);
2. by extreme reduction of the rations allocated to the Ukrainians in the remaining cities;
3. by decrease of the food of the farming population.
As military reports from 1942 indicate, the German insistence on the “annihilation of superfluous eaters” helped to foster famine conditions which afflicted large numbers of the Soviet population.  A rear army group reported in May 1942: “the population is afflicted by hunger and is therefore under
pressure to wander around the countryside to barter for foodstuffs. The fact that the German Wehrmacht has done nothing to guarantee the nourishment of the civilian population has influenced opinion and made the population distrustful towards the victorious German forces.”

The 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war who fell into the hands of the Wehrmacht during 1941 were even more disastrously affected than civilians by the deliberate hunger strategy of the Germans. Christian Streit has estimated that approximately two million of these Soviet POWs died or were executed.  Streit’s pioneering research into the treatment of Soviet POWs by the German forces demonstrated that in the run-up to the invasion of the Soviet Union the German military leadership made virtually no preparations for dealing with the massive number of prisoners of war expected to come under German control during Operation Barbarossa. “In full knowledge of the consequences, the provision of food for the prisoners was totally subordinated to the goal of exploiting the food resources of the East in order to raise the rations of the German population.”  Predictably, the results were catastrophic. Major General Wagner, the army’s Quartermaster General in charge of the POWs, declared at a conference on 13 November 1941, “Those non-working prisoners of war in the prison camps are to starve. Working prisoners of war can in individual cases be fed from army provisions. But unfortunately this cannot be ordered on a general basis, given the overall food situation.”  This policy guaranteed that the death toll among the prisoners would be extraordinarily high. Major General Leykauf, in his notorious December 1941 report on the fate of “superfluous eaters” cited above, commented directly on the plight of the Soviet POWs: “Billeting, food, clothing and health of the prisoners of war is bad, mortality very high. The loss of tens of thousands even hundreds of thousands during this winter is to be expected.”  Only in the aftermath of the failure of Operation Barbarossa and in the knowledge that a lengthy conflict with the Soviet Union would require the utilization of all possible productive forces did the German military authorities alter their hunger policy toward the Soviet POWs with the intention of preserving and exploiting their labor power.

Rolf-Dieter Müller has delivered an appropriate overall verdict on the hunger strategy adopted by the Nazi regime in 1941-42:

The victims of this plan were not unavoidable casualties of war but martyrs of a deliberate policy on the part of the occupational authorities, who set about implementing the first phase of their plan to colonize and germanize the lands of the Soviet Union. It was the beginning of a premeditated genocide on a colossal scale. The population was divided into racial categories, with ‘undesirable’ elements or ‘superfluous mouths’ being left to starve or simply murdered.
 
III. Famine in the Jewish Ghettos 1940-42

The final example of Nazi use of famine is provided by the ghettoization policies adopted in the period 1940-42. As Christopher Browning has pointed out, ghettoization policy emerged from the initiatives of local authorities and within the context of debates between two groups of officials whom he labels as “productionists” (those who favored allowing Jews to work in order to feed themselves) and “attritionists” (those who endorsed a harsh policy of allowing Jews to starve to death as a means of extracting all the assets which the ghettoized Jews allegedly were hoarding).  In late 1940 and early 1941 the attritionists held the upper hand among the German authorities in Warsaw and as a result they succeeded in deliberately imposing a starvation policy on the ghetto there with disastrous consequences for the Jewish inhabitants. As the commissar of the Warsaw ghetto, Heinz Auerswald, noted, “A quantum leap in deaths for May of this year [1941] showed that the food shortage had already grown into a famine.” 

In spring 1941—at the same time that the hunger strategy toward the Soviet Union was being formulated—German authorities in the General Government adopted a fundamental change in German
policy toward the Jews in the Lodz and Warsaw ghettos, endorsing the position of the “productionists” who insisted that the ghetto inhabitants were not to be allowed to starve to death but should be provided with enough food to transform the ghetto into a productive entity.  This change in German policy slowed down but did not halt the hunger and attrition in the ghettos. “In 1941 and 1942,” Israel Gutman has written, “112,463 persons died in the two ghettos [Lodz and Warsaw] of starvation and disease, which means that 20 percent of the population perished in the space of two years.”  Despite the temporary ascendancy of the productionists, starvation still remained one of the chief weapons in the Nazis’ anti-Jewish armoury. In August 1942, Hans Frank, Governor-General of Poland, declared: “Clearly we are sentencing 1.2 million Jews [i.e., the Jewish population of the General Government] to death by starvation; and if they do not die from hunger, we will have to adopt other anti-Jewish measures.”

At the same time in 1941 that local German authorities were debating how to deal with the Jews confined to ghettos, Reinhard Heydrich, Head of the Reich Main Security Office, was busy formulating
more far-reaching and deadly plans concerning European Jewry, plans which also incorporated famine as a deliberate tool of extermination. Götz Aly has argued that in March 1941 Heydrich developed a plan which called for Jews to be deported first to the eastern periphery of the General Government and then, following the anticipated quick military victory over the Soviet Union, to the swamp areas of the Pripyat region.  Those Jews who survived these ordeals would then be deported further into Siberia. In Aly’s words, “the [Jewish] deportees would die a ‘natural’ death, in part starving and freezing to death in ghettos and camps, in part working themselves to death under a barbaric police regimen.”  Famine thus played an integral part in the initial plans which eventually culminated in the ‘Final Solution’.

IV. Conclusion

The three examples which have been briefly outlined above provide clear evidence that famine was a central component of Nazi plans for occupied Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Although the ambitious and lethal demographic reorganization envisaged in the General Plan for the East never advanced far beyond the initial planning stages, the actual hunger strategy implemented in conjunction with Operation Barbarossa, as well as the inhumane conditions created in the ghettos of Eastern Europe, had catastrophic consequences for the Slavic and Jewish populations of the region. Raul Hilberg has estimated that over half a million Polish Jews died in the ghettos.  Approximately 7.5 million
non-Jewish Ukrainian, White Russian and Polish civilians died as result of German occupation.  In addition, some 3.3 million Soviet POWs perished through hunger, disease or shooting at the hands
of the Germans on the Eastern front over the course of the war.  These horrific figures underscore the
magnitude of the death and suffering produced by the calculated starvation strategies applied by the Nazi regime. Along with numerous other methods of death and destruction, the deliberate use of famine must be rated as one of the favored Nazi means of exterminating the regime’s racial and ideological enemies.
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Denial of generally known historical facts should not be punishable. For those who maintain, for instance, that Germany did not take part in World War I or
that Adenauer fought at Issus in 333, their own stupidity is punishment enough. The same should apply to the denial of the horrors and crimes of the recent
German past.
~ A German jurist by the name of Baumann in the German juridical magazine NJW, quoted in: Bailer-Galanda/Benz/Neugebauer (ed.), Die
Auschwitzleugner
, Berlin 1996, page 261 (my translation).
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