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Hitler's war in the east

"Ethnic Cleansing" in the 20th Century

In the middle of the First World War there was an act of destruction of human life that was unique in human history. The nationalist Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire murdered an entire population group in their country between 1915 and 1917: the Armenians.

Systematic persecution, organized massacres and kidnappings fell victim to around 1.5 million people. It was not Islamically motivated hatred of Christians, but the racist ideal of a nation-state that drove the Young Turkish reform movement to genocide.

The rest of the world was too involved in World War I to notice, let alone oppose it. To date, Turkey has neither admitted to nor dealt with the murder of the Armenian people.

The National Socialist Race War

Almost 25 years later, in August 1939, Adolf Hitler presented his plans for the Germanization of Eastern Europe to the German generals. The "F├╝hrer" spoke of population shifts that would characterize the Eastern campaigns in the future. Hitler countered the scruples of his military with the question: "Who is still talking about the extermination of the Armenians today?"

The phrase used in SS rhetoric of "ethnic land consolidation" was the cynical formula for an ethnic war that was unique in history: the Wehrmacht's systematic extermination campaign in the east.

In these wars of conquest, the National Socialists were not concerned with defeating a nation. Rather, it was about the total prostration, exploitation and physical extermination of the so-called "Slavic subhuman" in the sense of the National Socialist racial doctrine.

The "novel, historically unheard-of (...) that broke into the European world with Hitler cannot be compared with any epoch in human history," said the historian and publicist Joachim Fest. The Second World War, unleashed by Hitler, was a war of ideologies, a war of annihilation with no historical parallel in history.

The racial madness, the erroneous doctrine of the German master man, the genocide of the Jews, the genocides in the Polish and Russian campaigns were the cornerstones of the National Socialist ideological war.

Hitler's "Germanization" of the East

When the Second World War began on September 1, 1939 with the German invasion of Poland, Hitler set about reorganizing the European map. The ethnic war of the Nazi state began with the brutal expulsion of the Poles, who had to give way to the "ethnic Germans".

After the annexation of Austria and the annexation of Czechoslovakia, Germany then forcibly incorporated western Poland, thereby straightening its territorial borders. The Eastern European peoples were systematically murdered, persecuted and deported. More space should be created for German-speaking minorities in Eastern Europe.

SS leader Heinrich Himmler personally watched over the Germanization of the East as "Reichskommissar" and was responsible for the settlement with "Volksdeutsche" and "Reichsdeutsche" military farmers. The Nazi leaders wanted to draw the borders of the new Germania as far as the Urals. The expansion provided for a so-called "loss quota" of 32 million Russians.

War of extermination in the east

Half a million Poles were deported from the former West Prussia and Posen corridor to southeastern Poland, the so-called General Government, and two million Polish slave laborers were deported to the German Reich.

On June 22, 1941, German armed forces attacked the Soviet Union without a declaration of war. According to the decree of General Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau, three million soldiers with 3,600 tanks and 600,000 soldiers from allied countries were supposed to bring about the "complete smashing of the means of power and the eradication of Asian influence in the European cultural area" in the spirit of the "Weltanschauung".

Eight million Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Balts had to flee or were driven out by the Wehrmacht. The Nazis deported a total of 5.5 million Eastern Europeans to the German Reich as forced laborers.

When the Red Army accepted the German surrender three years after the German attack on the Soviet Union in Berlin, ten to 14 million Soviet soldiers had died fighting the German Reich and probably just as many Soviet civilians perished in the German war of annihilation. To date, the number of deaths cannot even be put to the nearest million.