Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia
| Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia|
|Reichsgau of Nazi Germany|
Map of Nazi Germany showing its administrative
subdivisions (Gaue and Reichsgaue).
|•||Establishment||2 November 1939|
|•||German surrender||8 May 1945|
|Today part of|| Poland|
The Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia (German: Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen) was a Nazi German province created on 8 October 1939 from annexed territory of the Free City of Danzig, the Greater Pomeranian Voivodship (Polish Corridor), and the Regierungsbezirk West Prussia of Gau East Prussia. Before 2 November 1939, the Reichsgau was called Reichsgau West Prussia. Though the name resembled the pre-1920 Prussian province of West Prussia, the territory was not identical. In contrast to the former Prussian province, the Reichsgau comprised the Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) region in the South and lacked the Deutsch-Krone (Wałcz) region in the West.
The capital of the province was Danzig (Gdańsk) and its population without the city was 1,487,452 (in 1939). The area of the province was 26,056 km2, 21,237 km2 of which was annexed Danzig and Pomerelian territory. During its short existence Poles and Jews living in this area were subjected by Nazi Germany to extermination as "subhumans".
The Prussian province West Prussia created from Polish territory annexed by Prussia in Partitions of Poland was dissolved in 1920, following the Treaty of Versailles. The bulk of it inhabited by Polish majority became part of the newly established Second Republic of Poland and was administered as Pomeranian Voivodship (Polish Corridor). The eastern remains of German West Prussia were attached to the Province of East Prussia as Regierungsbezirk West Prussia - a Regierungsbezirk ("government region") being a German administrative subunit of a province (Provinz) comprising several counties (Kreise). The western remains of German West Prussia were merged to the German remains of the former Province of Posen and made a new province, Posen-West Prussia.
After the Nazis came to power in Germany, they reformed the administrative system by transforming the former German provinces and states into their Gau system in 1935 as a part of their Gleichschaltung policy.
In 1938, German Posen-West Prussia was dissolved and its former West Prussian territory was attached to the German Pomeranian Gau. Also in 1938, the Polish Pomeranian Voivodship was expanded southward to comprise the Bydgoszcz region. The resulting enlarged Pomeranian voivodship was called Greater Pomeranian Voivodship (Wielkopomorskie).
When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, this Greater Pomeranian voivodship was first made the German military district "West Prussia", and by a decree of Adolf Hitler on 8 October merged with the Free City of Danzig and the East Prussian Regierungsbezirk West Prussia, to form the Reichsgau West Prussia. The western remains remained outside and continued to be administered by the German Pomeranian Gau as Regierungsbezirk Grenzmark Posen-West Prussia according to the 1938 reform, while the Bromberg (Bydogoszcz) region stayed with Reichsgau West Prussia and was not attached to Reichsgau Posen, the later "Warthegau". The designation Reichsgau instead of just Gau indicates that the province primarily consisted of annexed territory. A Gauleiter of a Reichsgau was also titled Reichsstatthalter. Other Reichsgaue were e.g. Reichsgau Wartheland and Reichsgau Sudetenland.
The Reichsgau was very heterogenous, like the territory, which comprised territory of the pre-war Danzig (completely), of Germany (West Prussia Government Region) and of Poland (roughly the Pomeranian Voivodeship), the population amounted to 2,179,000 altogether, with 1,494,000 Polish citizens of mostly Polish ethnicity, 408,000 Danzig citizens of mostly German ethnicity and 277,000 German citizens of mostly German ethnicity. The German occupiers considered the Danzig and Polish citizenships as naught, due to the de facto abolition of these two states. Christian Danzigers and Christian Poles of German ethnicity were granted German citizenship, Jewish Danzigers, and Jewish Poles of which ethnicity so ever were denied the German citizenship. As to Christian Danzigers and Christian Poles of Polish ethnicity the acceptance as citizens was mostly denied, but under certain circumstances granted.
Extermination and expulsion of ethnic Poles and of Jews by Nazi Germany
It was Nazi policy to exterminate the Polish and Jewish population of the region in several phases; the first phase of extermination was in September 1939 The main Nazi responsible for genocide conducted in the Pomeranian Voivodeship was Gauleiter Albert Forster who was involved in mass murder and ethnic cleansing of Jews and ethnic Poles, while enlisting Polish citizens perceived by Nazis as descendants of Germanic settlers as Germans, often under the threat of violence. Forster personally declared that Polish people should be eradicated and stated "We have to exterminate this nation, starting from the cradle".
The Reichsgau was the site of the Stutthof concentration camp and its sub camps where over 85,000 people were executed or died of illness, starvation or mistreatment. Of the 52,000 Jews who were sent to the camp only around 3,000 would survive.
During the Winter of 1939/40 between 12,000 and 16,000 people were murdered at Piaśnica by Einsatzkommando 16, units of the 36th Regiment of SS, and members of the Selbstschutz, a militia force made up of Poles of German ethnicity. The local Selbstschutz, under the command of Ludolf von Alvensleben, numbered 17,667 and before their disbandment in October 1939 had killed 4,247 people.
Jews did not figure prominently among the victims in West Prussia, as the area's Jewish population was small and most had fled before the Germans arrived. However, in places where they were present, they were expelled and murdered in what was classified as "other measures" which simply meant murder. In areas where Jewish families or individuals remained, a "shameful situation" was proclaimed, and Nazi authorities expected the Selbstschutz to remedy it through "direct action". In August 1943 around 500 Jews from a camp in the Pomeranian Voivodeship were sent to Auschwitz, out of which 434 were immediately killed upon arrival
It is estimated, that by the end of the war, up to 60,000 people had been murdered in the region and up to 170,000 expelled. although other estimates place the expulsion figure at around 35,000 people, and Forster himself reported that 87,000 people had been "evacuated" from the region by February 1940.
In 1939 the Free City of Danzig was annexed to Germany. After a brief transitional period, its territory became part of the restored Regierungsbezirk Danzig in the Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen (the restored Prussian Province of West Prussia) and was divided into nine districts (Kreise):
- Berent County
- Danzig-Land (Rural)
- Danzig-Stadt City
- Elbing-Land (Rural)
- Grosses Werder
- Zoppot City County (detached from Neustadt)
- 1940–1943 – Fritz Hermann
- 1943–1945 – Albert Forster
As NSDAP party leader of Danzig, Albert Forster became leader of Civil Administration in Danzig in 1939 and remained the most powerful politician of this area until 1945.
In March 1945, the region was captured by the Red Army, and the Nazi governor, Albert Forster, was later sentenced to death and executed for crimes against humanity. The German population (which included war time settlers, Nazis and military officials) either fled or was expelled.
- Piotr Eberhardt, Jan Owsinski, Ethnic Groups and Population Changes in Twentieth-century Central-Eastern Europe: History, Data, Analysis, M.E. Sharpe, 2003, p.170, ISBN 0-7656-0665-8
- Andreas Toppe, Militär und Kriegsvölkerrecht: Rechtsnorm, Fachdiskurs und Kriegspraxis in Deutschland 1899-1940, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2008, p.398, ISBN 3-486-58206-2
- "Erlaß des Führers und Reichskanzlers über die Gliederung und Verwaltung der Ostgebiete"
- Andreas Toppe, Militär und Kriegsvölkerrecht: Rechtsnorm, Fachdiskurs und Kriegspraxis in Deutschland 1899-1940, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2008, p.399, ISBN 3-486-58206-2
- Stefan Samerski, «Ein aussichtsloses Unternehmen – die „Reaktivierung“ Bischof Eduard Graf O'Rourkes 1939», in: Im Gedächtnis der Kirche neu erwachen: Studien zur Geschichte des Christentums in Mittel- und Osteuropa; Festgabe für Gabriel Adriányi zum 65. Geburtstag, Reimund Haas (ed.), Cologne et al.: Böhlau, 2000, pp. 373–386, here pp. 373seq. ISBN 3-412-04100-9.
- Bogdan Chrzanowski, "Wypędzenia z Pomorza-Etapy Eksterminacji," Biuletyn Instytutu Pamieci Narodowej 2004 nr 5. "Tereny Pomorza już w pierwszych godzinach wojny stały się miejscem egzekucji ludności polskiej. Akcja eksterminacyjna przebiegała tutaj w kilku fazach. Okres pierwszy trwał zasadniczo przez cały wrzesień 1939 r."
- Byłem numerem--: świadectwa z Auschwitz Eugenia Bożena Kłodecka-Kaczyńska, Michał Ziółkowski page 14 Wydawn. Sióstr Loretanek, 1 Jan 2003 -
- Barbara Bojarska (1989), Piaśnica, miejsce martyrologii i pamięci: z badań nad zbrodniami hilerowskimi na Pomorzu. Page 20. "Szczególny niepokój wywołała wśród mieszkańców jego wyraźna zapowiedź akcji zagłady Polaków, streszczająca się choćby w tym jednym zdaniu: Musimy ten naród wytępić od kołyski począwszy".
- Dieter Schenk (2002), Albert Forster: Gdański namiestnik Hitlera : zbrodnie hitlerowskie w Gdańsku i Prusach Zachodnich POLNORD, Gdańsk, page 388.
- Gilbert, M (2012), The Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust, Routledge, p. 252.
- The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy.. By Christopher R. Browning, page 34.
- The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy.. By Christopher R. Browning, page 35.
- Jewish Forced Labor Under the Nazis: Economic Needs and Racial Aims, 1938-1944. - Page 211. Wolf Gruner, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - 2006 - "On August 21, 1943, a transport with 500 Jews from the Pomeranian Autobahn camp pulled into Auschwitz. Only sixty-six men were selected for the camp; the rest were immediately murdered."
- Paweł Kosiński, Barbara Polak: "Nie zamierzam podejmować żadnej polemiki – wywiad z prof. Witoldem Kuleszą." Biuletyn IPN nr 12-1 (35-36), grudzień-styczeń 2003-2004, pages 4-23.
- Bogdan Chrzanowski: "Wypędzenia z Pomorza." Biuletyn IPN nr 5/2004, maj 2004
- Gilbert, M (1989), Second World War, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, p.27.
- Browning, page 33.
- (German) Shoa.de - List of Gaue and Gauleiter
- (German) Die NS Gaue at the Deutsches Historisches Museum website.
- (German) Die Gaue der NSDAP