The Generalplan Ost ( [ɡenəˈʁaːlˌplaːn ˈɔst]; English: Master Plan for the East), abbreviated GPO, was the Nazi German government's plan for the genocide and ethnic cleansing on a vast scale, and colonization of Central and Eastern Europe by Germans. It was to be undertaken in territories occupied by Germany during World War II. The plan was partially realized during the war, resulting indirectly and directly in a very large number of deaths, but its full implementation was not considered practicable during the major military operations, and was prevented by Germany's defeat.
The plan entailed the enslavement, expulsion, and mass murder of most Slavic peoples in Europe along with planned destruction of their nations, whom the 'Aryan' Nazis viewed as racially inferior. The programme operational guidelines were based on the policy of Lebensraum designed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in fulfilment of the Drang nach Osten (drive to the East) ideology of German expansionism. As such, it was intended to be a part of the New Order in Europe.
The master plan was a work in progress. There are four known versions of it, developed as the time went on. After the invasion of Poland, the original blueprint for Generalplan Ost (GPO) was discussed by the RKFDV in mid-1940 during the Nazi–Soviet population transfers. The second known version of GPO was procured by the RSHA from Wetzel in April 1942. The third version was officially dated June 1942. The final settlement master plan for the East came in from the RKFDV on October 29, 1942. However, after the German defeat at Stalingrad planning of the colonization in the East was suspended, and the programme was gradually abandoned.
The body responsible for the drafting of General Plan East was the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) of the SS under Heinrich Himmler, who commissioned the work. The actual document was revised several times between June 1941 and spring 1942 as the war in the east progressed successfully. It was a strictly confidential proposal whose content was known only to those at the top level of the Nazi hierarchy; it was circulated by RSHA to the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories (Ostministerium) in early 1942.
According to testimony of SS-Standartenführer Dr. Hans Ehlich (one of the witnesses before the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials), the original 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 along with Dr. Konrad Meyer, Chief of the Planning Office of Himmler's Reich Commission for the Strengthening of Germandom. 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 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 Race and Settlement Main Office (RuSHA). According to Bach-Zelewski, Himmler stated openly: "It is a question of existence, thus it will be a racial struggle of pitiless severity, in the course of which 20 to 30 million Slavs and Jews will perish through military actions and crises of food supply." A fundamental change in the plan was introduced on June 24, 1941 – two days after the start of Operation Barbarossa – when the 'solution' to the Jewish question ceased to be part of that particular framework gaining a lethal, autonomous priority.
Nearly all the wartime documentation on Generalplan Ost was deliberately destroyed shortly before Germany's defeat in May 1945. Thus, no complete set of originals have ever been found after the war, among the documents stored in German archives. 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 full proposal have survived, most of the plan's essential elements have been reconstructed from related memos, abstracts and other documents.
A principal document which enabled historians to recreate the full content of Generalplan Ost with great deal of accuracy was a policy review released on April 27, 1942, by Dr. Erhard Wetzel, director of the NSDAP Office of Racial Policy, which was titled "Opinion and thoughts on the master plan for the East of the Reichsführer SS" (Stellungnahme und Gedanken zum Generalplan Ost des Reichsführers SS). Wetzel's memorandum was a broad elaboration of the Generalplan Ost proposal. But it came to light only in 1957.
Adolf Hitler, in his attempt to reassure sceptics, have quoted the world's indifference towards the earlier Armenian Genocide as an argument that possible negative consequences for Germany would be minimal in this case. In subsequent years, his declaration from Berghof has been referred to as Hitler's Armenian quote.
The final version of the Generalplan Ost proposal was divided into two parts; the "Small Plan" (Kleine Planung), which covered actions carried out in the course of the war; and the "Big Plan" (Grosse Planung), which described steps to be taken gradually over a period of 25 to 30 years after the war was won. Both plans entailed the policy of ethnic cleansing. As of June 1941, the policy envisaged the deportation of 31 million Slavs to Siberia.
The Generalplan Ost proposal offered various percentages of the conquered or colonized people who were targeted for removal and physical destruction; the net effect of which would be to ensure that the conquered territories would become German. In ten years' time, the plan effectively called for the extermination, expulsion, Germanization or enslavement of most or all East and West Slavs living behind the front lines of East-Central 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 is probably responsible for much of the World War II expulsion of Poles by Germany (first to colonial district of the General Government and, from 1942 also to Polenlager). After the war, under the "Big Plan", Generalplan Ost foresaw the removal of 45 million non-Germanizable people from Central and Eastern Europe, of whom 31 million were "racially undesirable", 100% of Jews, Poles (85%), Belorussians (75%) and Ukrainians (65%), to West Siberia, and about 14 millions were to remain, but were to be treated as slaves. In their place, up to 8-10 million Germans would be settled in an extended "living space" (Lebensraum). Because the number of Germans appeared to be insufficient to populate the vast territories of Central and Eastern Europe, the peoples judged to lie racially between the Germans and the Russians (Mittelschicht), namely, Latvians and even Czechs, were also supposed to be resettled there.
According to Nazi intentions, attempts at Germanization were to be undertaken only in the case of those foreign nationals in Central and Eastern Europe who could be considered a desirable element for the future Reich from the point of view of its racial theories. The Plan stipulated that there were to be different methods of treating particular nations and even particular groups within them. Attempts were even made to establish the basic criteria to be used in determining whether a given group lent itself to Germanization. These criteria were to be applied more liberally in the case of nations whose racial material (rassische Substanz) and level of cultural development made them more suitable than others for Germanization. The Plan considered that there were a large number of such elements among the Baltic nations. Erhard Wetzel felt that thought should be given to a possible Germanization of the whole of the Estonian nation and a sizable proportion of the Latvians. On the other hand, the Lithuanians seemed less desirable since "they contained too great an admixture of Slav blood." Himmler's view was that "almost the whole of the Lithuanian nation would have to be deported to the East".
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were to be deprived of their statehood, while their territories were to be included in the area of German settlement. This meant that Latvia and especially Lithuania would be covered by the deportation plans, though in a somewhat milder form than the expulsion of Slavs to western Siberia. While the Baltic nations like Estonians would be spared from repressions and physical liquidation (that the Jews and the Poles were experiencing), in the long term the Nazi planners did not foresee their existence as independent entitites and they would be deported as well, with eventual denationalisation; initial designs were for Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to be Germanized within 25 years, however Heinrich Himmler revised them to 20 years.
In 1941 it was decided to destroy the Polish nation 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 mass murder, destruction of culture, the ban on education above the absolutely basic level, and kidnapping of children for Germanization), 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 this would result in their assimilation by the local populations, which would cause the Poles to vanish as a nation.
According to plan, by 1952 only about 3–4 million 'non-Germanized' Poles (all of them peasants) were 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. Experiments in mass sterilization in concentration camps may also have been intended for use on the populations. The Wehrbauer, or soldier-peasants, would be settled in a fortified line to prevent civilization reanimating beyond the Ural Mountains and threatening Germany. "Tough peasant races" would serve as a bulwark against attack — however, it was not very far east of the "frontier" that the westernmost reaches within continental Asia of the Third Reich's major Axis partner, Imperial Japan's own Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere would have existed, had a complete defeat of the Soviet Union occurred.
The seizure of food supplies in Ukraine brought about starvation, as it was intended to do to depopulate that region for German settlement. Soldiers were told to steel their hearts against starving women and children, because every bit of food given to them was stolen from the German people, endangering their nourishment.
Widely varying policies were envisioned by the creators of Generalplan Ost, and some of them were actually implemented by Germany in regards to the different Slavic territories and ethnic groups. For example, by August–September 1939 (Operation Tannenberg followed by the A-B Aktion in 1940), Einsatzgruppen death squads and concentration camps had been employed to deal with the Polish elite, while the small number of Czech intelligentsia were allowed to emigrate overseas. Parts of Poland were annexed by Germany early in the war (leaving aside the rump German-controlled General Government and the areas previously 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 puppet state, while the ethnic-Czech parts of the Czech lands (so excluding the Sudetenland) became a "protectorate"). It is unknown to 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. In any case, the majority of Germany's 12 million forced laborers were abducted from Eastern Europe, mostly in the Soviet territories and Poland (both Slavs and local Jews).
One of the charges listed in the indictment presented at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer responsible for the transportation aspects of the Final Solution, was that he was responsible for the deportation of 500,000 Poles. Eichmann was convicted on all 15 counts.
The Soviet Extraordinary State Commission formed in World War II in order to investigate the Nazi crimes, which was tasked also with compensating the state for damages suffered by the USSR, reported 8.2 million Soviet losses, (4.0 million in Ukraine; 2.5 million in Belarus; and 1.7 million in Russia) as the result of German occupation. However, many reports prepared by the Commission are now considered outright fabrications, such as the shifting of blame for the Katyn massacre perpetrated by the Soviet authorities themselves. The commission figures of 2.4 million losses in annexed lands included citizens of prewar Poland trapped along with inhabitants of other states occupied by the Soviet Union. The overall statistics included Russian victims of Stalinist terror as well. The Russian Academy of Sciences in 1995 estimated that the World War II casualties of the Soviet Union totaled 13.7 million civilian dead, 20% of the 68 million persons in the occupied USSR. This included 7.4 million victims of Nazi policies and reprisals; 2.2 million deaths of persons deported to Germany for forced labor; and 4.1 million famine and disease deaths in occupied territory. There were an additional estimated 3 million famine deaths in areas of the USSR not under German occupation. To support these figures, the Russian Academy of Sciences cited sources published in the Soviet era. The losses were for the entire territory of the USSR in 1946 to 1991 borders, including territories occupied by the Red Army in 1939–1940. Russian historian Viktor Zemskov maintains that the Russian Academy of Science estimate for the civilian war dead is overstated because it includes about 7 million deaths resulting from natural causes, based on the mortality rate that prevailed before the war, and that reported civilian deaths in the occupied regions included persons who were evacuated to the rear areas. He submitted an estimate of 4.5 million civilians who were Nazi victims or were killed in the occupied zone and 4 million deaths due to the deterioration in living conditions.