Generalplan Ost

Generalplan Ost (GPO) was a secret Nazi plan of genocide and ethnic cleansing to be realised in the territories occupied by Germany in Eastern Europe during World War II. The plan, prepared in the years 1939-1940, was part of Adolf Hitler's own Lebensraum plan and a fulfilment of the Drang nach Osten ("Drive towards the East") ideology of the German expansion to the east.

Development and reconstruction of the plan

The body responsible for the drafting of this plan was the Imperial (Reich) Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt - RSHA), the security organ of the SS responsible for fighting all enemies of National Socialism. It was a strictly confidential document, and its contents were known only to those in the topmost level of the Nazi hierarchy.

According the testimony of SS-Standartenführer Dr. Hans Ehlich (one of the witnesses in Case VIII before the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials), the final version of the plan was drafted in 1940. As a high official in the RSHA, Ehlich was the man responsible for the drafting of Generalplan Ost. It had been preceded by the Ostforschung, a number of studies and research projects carried out over several years by various academic centres to provide the necessary facts and figures. The preliminary versions were discussed by the SS head Heinrich Himmler and his most trusted colleagues even before the outbreak of war. This was mentioned by SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski during his evidence as a prosecution witness in the trial of officials of the SS Race and Settlement Main Office (SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt).

Nearly all the wartime documentation on Generalplan Ost was deliberately destroyed shortly before Germany's defeat in May 1945. Thus, no copies of the plan were found after the war among the documents in German archives. Nevertheless, the fact that such a document was created and used by Nazi officials is beyond doubt. Apart from Ehlich's testimony, there are several documents which refer to this plan or are supplements to it. Although no copies of the actual document have survived, much of the essential elements of the plan have been reconstructed from related memos, abstracts and other ancillary documents.

One principal document which made it possible to recreate with a great deal of accuracy the contents of Generalplan Ost is a memo of April 27, 1942 entitled Stellungnahme und Gedanken zum Generalplan Ost des Reichsführers SS ("Opinion and Ideas Regarding the General Plan for the East of the Reichsführer-SS") and written by Dr. Erich Wetzel, the director of the Central Advisory Office on Questions of Racial Policy at the National Socialist Party (Leiter der Hauptstelle Beratungsstelle des Rassenpolitischen Amtes der NSDAP). This memorandum is an elaboration of Generalplan Ost.

Phases of the plan and its implementation

The final version of Generalplan Ost, essentially a grand plan for ethnic cleansing, was divided into two parts; the "Small Plan" (Kleine Planung), which covered actions which were to be taken during the war, and the "Big Plan" (Grosse Planung), which covered actions to be undertaken after the war was won (to be carried into effect gradually over a period of 25-30 years).

GPO envisaged differing percentages of the various conquered nations undergoing Germanisation (for example, 50% of Czechs, 35% of Ukrainians and 25% of Belarusians), extermination, expulsion and other fates, the net effect of which would be to ensure that the conquered territories would be Germanized. In ten years' time, the plan effectively called for the extermination, expulsion, Germanisation or enslavement of most or all East and West Slavs living behind the front lines in Europe. The "Small Plan" was to be put into practice as the Germans conquered the areas to the east of their pre-war borders. In this way the plan for Poland was drawn up at the end of November 1939 and probably is responsible for much of the WWII expulsion of Poles by Germany. After the war, under the "Big Plan", GPO foresaw the eventual expulsion of more than 50 million non-Germanized Slavs of the Eastern Europe through forced migration, as well as some of the Balts (especially almost all of Lithuanians) through "voluntary" migration, beyond the Ural Mountains and into Siberia. In their place, up to 8-10 million Germans would be settled in an extended "living space" (Lebensraum) of the 1000-Year Empire (Tausendjähriges Reich).

In 1941 it was decided to destroy the Polish nation (believed by the Nazis to be Untermenschen, that is "sub-people") completely and the German leadership decided that in 10 to 20 years the Polish state under German occupation was to be fully cleared of any ethnic Poles and settled by German colonists. A majority of them, now deprived of their leaders and most of their intelligentsia (through human losses, destruction of culture, and the ban on education above the absolutely basic level), would have to be deported to regions in the East and scattered over as wide an area of Western Siberia as possible, according to the plan resulting in their assimilation by the local populations which would cause the Poles to vanish as a nation. By 1952, only about 3-4 million non-Germanized Poles (all of them peasants) were supposed to be left residing in the former Poland. Those of them who would still not Germanize were to be forbidden to marry, the existing ban on any medical help to Poles in Germany would be extended, and eventually Poles would cease to exist.

A widely varying policies were envisioned by the creators of GPO and/or employed by Germany in regards to the different Slavic territories and ethnic groups. For example, Einsetzgruppen deaths squads and concentration camps were employed to deal with the Polish elites already by August-September 1939 (Operation Tannenberg, followed by the A-B Aktion in 1940), while the Czech intelligentsia members were to be allowed to emigrate overseas. Parts of Poland were already annexed by Germany early in the war (leaving aside the occupied General Government and the areas perviously annexed by the Soviet Union), while the other territories were officially occupied by or allied to Germany (for example, the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia became a theoretically-independent German puppet state, while the ethnic-Czech part became a "protectorate"). It is unknown in what degree the plan was actually directly connected to the various German war crimes and crimes against humanity in the East, especially in the latter phases of the war (the time the Germans were withdrawing). In any case, majority of Germany's 12 million forced laborers were abducted in the Eastern Europe, mostly in the Soviet territories and Poland (both Slavs and local Jews).

Among charges listed in the indictment presented at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer responsible for transportation part of the Final Solution, one was that he was responsible for the deportation of 500,000 Poles. Eichmann was convicted on this count, too, and the sentence assumed he had been motivated by his intention to destroy the intelligentsia class of Polish society.

See also



  • Götz Aly & Susanne Heim (2003). Architects of Annihilation: Auschwitz and the Logic of Destruction. Phoenix.
  • Helmut Heiber, Der Generalplan Ost, Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Volume 6, 1958.
  • Dietrich Eichholtz, Der `Generalplan Ost' Über eine Ausgeburt imperialistischer Denkart und Politik, Jahrbuch für Geschichte, Volume 26, 1982.
  • Roth, Karl-Heinz "Erster `Generalplan Ost' (April/May 1940) von Konrad Meyer, Dokumentationsstelle zur NS-Sozialpolitik, Mittelungen, Volume 1, 1985.
  • Czesław Madajczyk, Die Okkupationspolitik Nazideutschlands in Polen 1939-1945, Cologne, 1988.
  • Czesław Madajczyk, Generalny Plan Wschodni: Zbiór dokumentów, Główna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce, Warszawa, 1990
  • M. Rössler & S. Scheiermacher (editors), Der `Generalplan Ost' Hauptlinien der nationalsozialistischen Plaungs-und Vernichtungspolitik, Berlin, 1993.
  • Andrzej Leszek Szcześniak, Plan Zagłady Słowian. Generalplan Ost, Polskie Wydawnictwo Encyklopedyczne, Radom, 2001.

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