NO COMPREHENSIVE BLUEPRINT for the New Order was ever drawn up, but it is clear from the captured documents and from what took place that Hitler knew very well what he wanted it to be: a Nazi-ruled Europe whose resources would be exploited for the profit of Germany, whose people would be made the slaves of the German master race and whose “undesirable elements”—above all, the Jews, but also many Slavs in the East, especially the intelligentsia among them—would be exterminated.
The Jews and the Slavic peoples were the Untermenschen—subhumans. To Hitler they had no right to live, except as some of them, among the Slavs, might be needed to toil in the fields and the mines as slaves of their German masters. Not only were the great cities of the East, Moscow,Leningrad and Warsaw, to be permanently erased* but the culture of the Russians and Poles and other Slavs was to be stamped out and formal education denied them. Their thriving industries were to be dismantled and shipped to Germany and the people themselves confined to the pursuits of agriculture so that they could grow food for Germans, being allowed to keep for themselves just enough to subsist on. Europe itself, as the Nazi leaders put it, must be made “Jew-free.”
“What happens to a Russian, to a Czech, does not interest me in the slightest,” declared Heinrich Himmler on October 4, 1943, in a confidential address to his S.S. officers at Posen. By this time Himmler, as chief of the S.S. and the entire police apparatus of the Third Reich, was next to Hitler in importance, holding the power of life and death not only over eighty million Germans but over twice that many conquered people.
What the nations [Himmler continued] can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take, if necessary by kidnaping their children and raising them here with us. Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death like cattle interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves to our Kultur; otherwise it is of no interest to me.
Whether 10,000 Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an antitank ditch interests me only in so far as the antitank ditch for Germany is finished …1
Long before Himmler’s Posen speech in 1943 (to which we shall return, for it covers other aspects of the New Order) the Nazi chiefs had laid down their thoughts and plans for enslaving the people of the East.
By October 15, 1940, Hitler had decided on the future of the Czechs, the first Slavic people he had conquered. One half of them were to be “assimilated,” mostly by shipping them as slave labor to Germany. The other half, “particularly” the intellectuals, were simply to be, in the words of a secret report on the subject, “eliminated.”2
A fortnight before, on October 2, the Fuehrer had clarified his thoughts about the fate of the Poles, the second of the Slavic peoples to be conquered. His faithful secretary, Martin Bormann, has left a long memorandum on the Nazi plans, which Hitler outlined to Hans Frank, the Governor General of rump Poland, and to other officials.3
The Poles [Hitler “emphasized”] are especially born for low labor … There can be no question of improvement for them. It is necessary to keep the standard of life low in Poland and it must not be permitted to rise … The Poles are lazy and it is necessary to use compulsion to make them work … The Government General [of Poland] should be used by us merely as a source of unskilled labor … Every year the laborers needed by the Reich could be procured from there.
As for the Polish priests,
they will preach what we want them to preach. If any priest acts differently, we shall make short work of him. The task of the priest is to keep the Poles quiet, stupid and dull-witted.
There were two other classes of Poles to be dealt with and the Nazi dictator did not neglect mention of them.
It is indispensable to bear in mind that the Polish gentry must cease to exist; however cruel this may sound, they must be exterminated wherever they are …
There should be one master only for the Poles, the German. Two masters, side by side, cannot and must not exist. Therefore, all representatives of the Polish intelligentsia are to be exterminated. This sounds cruel, but such is the law of life.
This obsession of the Germans with the idea that they were the master race and that the Slavic peoples must be their slaves was especially virulent in regard to Russia. Erich Koch, the roughneck Reich Commissar for the Ukraine, expressed it in a speech at Kiev on March 5, 1943.
We are the Master Race and must govern hard but just … I will draw the very last out of this country. I did not come to spread bliss … The population must work, work, and work again … We definitely did not come here to give out manna. We have come here to create the basis for victory.
We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here.4
Nearly a year before, on July 23, 1942, when the German armies in Russia were nearing the Volga and the oil fields of the Caucasus, Martin Bormann, Hitler’s party secretary and, by now, right-hand man, wrote a long letter to Rosenberg reiterating the Fuehrer’s views on the subject. The letter was summed up by an official in Rosenberg’s ministry:
The Slavs are to work for us. In so far as we don’t need them, they may die. Therefore compulsory vaccination and German health services are superfluous. The fertility of the Slavs is undesirable. They may use contraceptives or practice abortion—the more the better. Education is dangerous. It is enough if they can count up to 100…. Every educated person is a future enemy. Religion we leave to them as a means of diversion. As for food they won’t get any more than is absolutely necessary. We are the masters. We come first.5
When the German troops first entered Russia they were in many places hailed as liberators by a population long ground down and terrorized by Stalin’s tyranny. There were, in the beginning, wholesale desertions among the Russian soldiers. Especially in the Baltic, which had been under Soviet occupation but a short time, and in the Ukraine, where an incipient independence movement had never been quite stamped out, many were happy to be freed from the Soviet yoke—even by the Germans.
There were a few in Berlin who believed that if Hitler played his cards shrewdly, treating the population with consideration and promising relief from Bolshevik practices (by granting religious and economic freedom and making true co-operatives out of the collectivized farms) and eventual self-government, the Russian people could be won over. They might then not only co-operate with the Germans in the occupied regions but in the unoccupied ones strive for liberation from Stalin’s harsh rule. If this were done, it was argued, the Bolshevik regime itself might collapse and the Red Army disintegrate, as the Czarist armies had done in 1917.
But the savagery of the Nazi occupation and the obvious aims of the German conquerors, often publicly proclaimed, to plunder the Russian lands, enslave their peoples and colonize the East with Germans soon destroyed any possibility of such a development.
No one summed up this disastrous policy and all the opportunities it destroyed better than a German himself, Dr. Otto Bräutigam, a career diplomat and the deputy leader of the Political Department of Rosenberg’s newly created Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories. In a bitter confidential report to his superiors on October 25, 1942, Bräutigam dared to pinpoint the Nazi mistakes in Russia.
In the Soviet Union we found on our arrival a population weary of Bolshevism, which waited longingly for new slogans holding out the prospect of a better future for them. It was Germany’s duty to find such slogans, but they remained unuttered. The population greeted us with joy as liberators and placed themselves at our disposal.
Actually, there was a slogan but the Russian people soon saw through it.
With the inherent instinct of the Eastern peoples [Bräutigam continued], the primitive man soon found out that for Germany the slogan “Liberation from Bolshevism” was only a pretext to enslave the Eastern peoples according to her own methods … The worker and peasant soon perceived that Germany did not regard them as partners of equal rights but considered them only as the objective of her political and economic aims … With unequaled presumption, we put aside all political knowledge and … treat the peoples of the occupied Eastern territories as “Second-Class Whites” to whom Providence has merely assigned the task of serving as slaves for Germany …
There were two other developments, Bräutigam declared, which had turned the Russians against the Germans: the barbaric treatment of Soviet prisoners of war and the shanghaiing of Russian men and women for slave labor.
It is no longer a secret from friend or foe that hundreds of thousands of Russian prisoners of war have died of hunger or cold in our camps … We now experience the grotesque picture of having to recruit millions of laborers from the occupied Eastern territories after prisoners of war have died of hunger like flies …
In the prevailing limitless abuse of the Slavic humanity, “recruiting” methods were used which probably have their origin only in the blackest periods of the slave traffic. A regular man hunt was inaugurated. Without consideration of health or age the people were shipped to Germany …*
German policy and practice in Russia had “brought about the enormous resistance of the Eastern peoples,” this official concluded.
Our policy has forced both Bolshevists and Russian nationalists into a common front against us. The Russian fights today with exceptional bravery and self-sacrifice for nothing more or less than recognition of his human dignity.
Closing his thirteen-page memorandum on a positive note Dr. Bräutigam asked for a complete change of policy. “The Russian people,” he argued, “must be told something concrete about their future.”6
But this was a voice in the Nazi wilderness. Hitler, as we have seen, already had laid down, before the attack began, his directives on what would be done with Russia and the Russians* and he was not a man who could be persuaded by any living German to change them by one iota.
On July 16, 1941, less than a month after the commencement of the Russian campaign but when it was already evident from the initial German successes that a large slice of the Soviet Union would soon be within grasp, Hitler convoked Goering, Keitel, Rosenberg, Bormann and Lammers (the last, head of the Reich Chancellery) to his headquarters in East Prussia to remind them of his aims in the newly conquered land. At last his goal so clearly stated in Mein Kampf of securing a vast German Lebensraum in Russia was in sight and it is clear from the confidential memorandum of the meeting drawn up by Bormann (which showed up at Nuremberg)7 that he wanted his chief lieutenants to understand well what he intended to do with it. His intentions, he admonished, must however not be “publicized.”
There is no need for that [Hitler said] but the main thing is that we ourselves know what we want … Nobody must be able to recognize that it initiates a final settlement. This need not prevent our taking all necessary measures—shooting, resettling, etc.—and we shall take them.
In principle, Hitler continued,
we now have to face the task of cutting up the cake according to our needs in order to be able:
first, to dominate it;
second, to administer it;
third, to exploit it.
He did not mind, he said, that the Russians had ordered partisan warfare behind the German lines; “it enables us to eradicate everyone who opposes us.”
In general, Hitler explained, Germany would dominate the Russian territory up to the Urals. None but Germans would be permitted to carry weapons in that vast space. Then Hitler went over specifically what would be done with various slices of the Russian cake.
The entire Baltic country will have to be incorporated into Germany … The Crimea has to be evacuated by all foreigners and settled by Germans only, [becoming] Reich territory … The Kola Peninsula will be taken by Germany because of the large nickel mines there. The annexation of Finland as a federated state should be prepared with caution … The Fuehrer will raze Leningrad to the ground and then hand it over to the Finns.
The Baku oil fields, Hitler ordered, would become a “German concession” and the German colonies on the Volga would be annexed outright. When it came to a discussion as to which Nazi leaders would administer the new territory a violent quarrel broke out.
Rosenberg states he intends to use Captain von Petersdorff, owing to his special merits; general consternation; general rejections. The Fuehrer and the Reich Marshal [Goering] both emphasize there was no doubt that Von Petersdorff was insane.
There was also an argument on the best methods of policing the conquered Russian people. Hitler suggested the German police be equipped with armored cars. Goering doubted that they would be necessary. His planes could “drop bombs in case of riots,” he said.
Naturally [Goering added] this giant area would have to be pacified as quickly as possible. The best solution would be to shoot anybody who looked sideways.*
Goering, as head of the Four-Year Plan, was also put in charge of the economic exploitation of Russia.† “Plunder” would be a better word, as Goering made clear in a speech to the Nazi commissioners for the occupied territories on August 6, 1942. “It used to be called plundering,” he said. “But today things have become more humane. In spite of that, I intend to plunder and to do it thoroughly.”8 On this, at least, he was as good as his word, not only in Russia but throughout Nazi-conquered Europe. It was all part of the New Order.