|Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia|
|Reichsgau of Nazi Germany|
Map of Nazi Germany showing its administrative
subdivisions ( Gaue and Reichsgaue )
|8 October 1939|
|8 May 1945|
|Today part of|| Poland |
Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia (German : Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreußen) was an administrative division of Nazi Germany 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 that of the pre-1920 Prussian province of West Prussia, the territory was not identical. Unlike the former Prussian province, the Reichsgau included the Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) region in the south and lacked the Deutsch-Krone (Wałcz) region in the west.
The province's capital was Danzig (Gdańsk), and its population without the city was (in 1939) 1,487,452. The province's area was 26,056 km2, 21,237 km2 of which was annexed Danzig and Pomerelian territory. During the Reichsgau's short existence, Poles and Jews in that 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 Free City of Danzig comprised the Nazi Party's Gau Danzig which had been established in March 1926. The Gauleiters of Gau Danzig were:
Hans Albert Hohnfeldt (March 1926 - June 1928)
Walter Maass, Acting (August 1928 - March 1929)
Erich Koch, Acting (March 1929 - September 1930)
Arthur Greiser, Acting (October 1930), and
Albert Forster (from 15 October 1930)
On 1 September 1939 at the start of the war, Germany immediately annexed the Free City of Danzig. Following the establishment of the new Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia on 8 October, Forster was named Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter of the expanded territory on 26 October.
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.
Nazi German policy aimed at extermination of Jewish and Polish population. Mass-murder sites in the region include:
Nazi policy to exterminate the Polish and Jewish populations was conducted in several phases; the first stage occurred in September 1939.The main Nazi responsible for genocide conducted in the Pomeranian Voivodeship was Gauleiter Albert Forster, who was involved in the mass murder and ethnic cleansing of Jews and ethnic Poles and enlisted to his program, often under threat of violence, Polish citizens—descendants of Germanic settlers—whom the Nazis saw as Germans. Forster declared that Poles must be eradicated: "We must 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.
Commander of the Selbstschutz Ludolf von Alvensleben told his men on 16 October 1939:
You are now the master race here. Nothing was yet built up through softness and weakness... That’s why I expect, just as our Führer Adolf Hitler expects from you, that you are disciplined, but stand together hard as Krupp steel. Don’t be soft, be merciless, and clear out everything that is not German and could hinder us in the work of construction.
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 war's end, up to 60,000 people had been murdered in the region,and up to 170,000 expelled. though other estimates place the figure at around 35,000. Forster himself reported that, by February 1940, 87,000 people had been "evacuated" from the region.
Danzig-West Prussia was divided into three government regions (Regierungsbezirk), with the name-giving capital cities of Bromberg, Danzig and Marienwerder.
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):
Regierungsbezirk Danzig Governing Presidents/Regierungspräsidenten:
The NSDAP gauleiter of Danzig, Albert Forster, became leader of Civil Administration in Danzig in 1939, as well as Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter of the Reichsgau. He remained the most powerful politician throughout the war, until the area was overrun by the Soviet forces in March 1945.
The Wehrmacht established there the Wehrkreis XX, based at Danzig, under the command of
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 (including wartime settlers, Nazis, and military officials) either fled or was expelled.
Following the Invasion of Poland at the beginning of World War II, nearly a quarter of the entire territory of the Second Polish Republic was annexed by Nazi Germany and placed directly under the German civil administration. The rest of Nazi-occupied Poland was renamed as the General Government district. The annexation was part of the "fourth partition of Poland" by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, outlined months before the invasion, in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
The Reichsgau Wartheland was a Nazi German Reichsgau formed from parts of Polish territory annexed in 1939 during World War II. It comprised the region of Greater Poland and adjacent areas. Parts of Warthegau matched the similarly named pre-Versailles Prussian province of Posen. The name was initially derived from the capital city, Posen (Poznań), and later from the main river, Warthe (Warta).
Wejherowo is a city in Gdańsk Pomerania, northern Poland, with 50,310 inhabitants (2012). It has been the capital of Wejherowo County in Pomeranian Voivodeship since 1999; previously, it was a city in Gdańsk Voivodeship (1975–1998).
The Bromberg district was a Prussian district that existed from 1772 to 1807 and then from 1815 to 1920. It initially belonged to the Netze District and from 1815 it was part of Regierungsbezirk Bromberg in the Grand Duchy of Posen and from 1848, the Prussian Province of Posen. The city of Bromberg was detached from the district and formed its own urban district since 1875. Today, the territory of the district is part of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship in Poland.
Arthur Karl Greiser was a Nazi German politician, SS-Obergruppenführer, Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter of the German-occupied territory of Wartheland. He was one of the persons primarily responsible for organizing the Holocaust in occupied Poland and numerous other crimes against humanity. He was arrested by the Americans in 1945, and was tried, convicted and executed by hanging in Poland in 1946.
The Province of Posen was a province of Prussia from 1848 to 1920. Posen was established as a province of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1848 after the Greater Poland Uprising, converted from the Grand Duchy of Posen annexed by Prussia in the Polish partitions of 1815, and became part of the German Empire in 1871. After World War I, Posen was briefly part of the Free State of Prussia within Weimar Germany, but was dissolved in 1920 when most of its territory was ceded to the Second Polish Republic by the Treaty of Versailles, and the remaining German territory was later re-organized into Posen-West Prussia in 1922.
The Province of West Prussia was a province of Prussia from 1773 to 1829 and 1878 to 1922. West Prussia was established as a province of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1773, formed from Royal Prussia of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth annexed in the First Partition of Poland. West Prussia was dissolved in 1829 and merged with East Prussia to form the Province of Prussia, but was re-established in 1878 when the merger was reversed and became part of the German Empire. From 1918, West Prussia was a province of the Free State of Prussia within Weimar Germany, losing most of its territory to the Second Polish Republic and the Free City of Danzig in the Treaty of Versailles. West Prussia was dissolved in 1922, and its remaining western territory was merged with Posen to form Posen-West Prussia, and its eastern territory merged with East Prussia as the Region of West Prussia district.
The history of Pomerania starts shortly before 1000 AD with ongoing conquests by newly arrived Polans rulers. Before that the area was recorded nearly 2000 years ago as Germania, and in modern-day times Pomerania is split between Germany and Poland. The name Pomerania comes from the Slavic po more, which means Land at the Sea.
Erich Koch was a Gauleiter of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in East Prussia from 1 October 1928 until 1945. Between 1941 and 1945 he was Chief of Civil Administration of Bezirk Bialystok. During this period, he was also the Reichskommissar in Reichskommissariat Ukraine from September 1941 until August 1944 and in Reichskommissariat Ostland from September 1944. After the Second World War, Koch stood trial in Poland and was convicted in 1959 of war crimes and sentenced to death. The sentence was never carried out and Koch died of natural causes in his cell at the Barczewo prison on the 12 November 1986.
A Reichsgau was an administrative subdivision created in a number of areas annexed by Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1945.
Albert Maria Forster was a Nazi German politician, member of the SS and war criminal. Under his administration as the Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter of Danzig-West Prussia during the Second World War, the local non-German population of Poles and Jews was classified as sub-human and subjected to extermination campaign involving ethnic cleansing, mass murder, and in case of some Poles with German ancestry, forceful Germanisation. Forster was directly responsible for the extermination of non-Germans and was a strong supporter of Polish genocide, which he had advocated for before the war. Forster was tried, convicted and hanged in Warsaw for his crimes, after Germany was defeated.
Selbstschutz is the name given to different iterations of ethnic-German self-protection units formed both after the First World War and in the lead-up to the Second World War.
The Province of Pomerania was a province of Prussia from 1815 to 1945. Pomerania was established as a province of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1815, an expansion of the older Brandenburg-Prussia province of Pomerania, and then became part of the German Empire in 1871. From 1918, Pomerania was a province of the Free State of Prussia until it was dissolved in 1945 following World War II, and its territory divided between Poland and Allied-occupied Germany.
The territorial changes of Germany include all changes in the borders and territory of Germany from its formation in 1871 to the present. Modern Germany was formed in 1871 when Otto von Bismarck unified most of the German states, with the notable exception of Austria, into the German Empire. After the First World War, Germany lost about 10% of its territory to its neighbours and the Weimar Republic was formed. This republic included territories to the east of today's German borders.
The Gauliga Danzig-Westpreußen was the highest football league in the former Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia, a Nazi administrative unit established partly from German and partly from annexed territory.
History of Pomerania between 1933 and 1945 covers the period of one decade of the long history of Pomerania, lasting from the Adolf Hitler's rise to power until the end of World War II in Europe. In 1933, the German Province of Pomerania like all of Germany came under control of the Nazi regime. During the following years, the Nazis led by Gauleiter Franz Schwede-Coburg manifested their power through the process known as Gleichschaltung and repressed their opponents. Meanwhile, the Pomeranian Voivodeship was part of the Second Polish Republic, led by Józef Piłsudski. With respect to Polish Pomerania, Nazi diplomacy – as part of their initial attempts to subordinate Poland into Anti-Comintern Pact – aimed at incorporation of the Free City of Danzig into the Third Reich and an extra-territorial transit route through Polish territory, which was rejected by the Polish government, that feared economic blackmail by Nazi Germany, and reduction to puppet status.
The massacres in Piaśnica were a set of mass executions carried out by Nazi Germany during World War II, between the fall of 1939 and spring of 1940 in Piaśnica Wielka in the Darzlubska Wilderness near Wejherowo. The exact number of people murdered is unknown, but estimates range between 12,000 and 14,000 victims. Most of them were Polish intellectuals from Gdańsk Pomerania, but Poles, Jews, Czechs and German inmates from mental hospitals from the General Government and the Third Reich were also murdered. After the Stutthof concentration camp, Piaśnica was the largest site of killings of Polish civilians in Pomerania by the Germans, and for this reason, is sometimes referred to as the "second" or "Pomeranian" Katyn. It was the first large scale Nazi atrocity in occupied Poland.
The Intelligenzaktion Pommern was a Nazi German operation aimed at the eradication of the Polish intelligentsia in Pomeranian Voivodeship and the surrounding areas at the beginning of World War II. It was part of a larger genocidal Intelligenzaktion, that took place across most of Nazi-occupied western Poland in the course of Operation Tannenberg, purposed to install Nazi officials from Sipo, Kripo, Gestapo and SD at the helm of a new administrative machine.
The Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz was an ethnic German self-protection militia, a paramilitary organization consisting of ethnic German (Volksdeutsche) mobilized from among the German minority in Poland. The Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz operated before, and during the opening stages of, World War II in the western half of Poland and were responsible for, and took part in, massacres of Poles, along with SS Einsatzgruppen. Selbstschutz counted circa 100,000 members, who formed greater part of German minority members "fit for action".
Chief of Civil Administration was an office introduced in Nazi Germany, operational during World War II. Its task was to administer civil issues according to occupation law, with the primary purpose being the support of the military command in the operational areas of the German Army. CdZ would pass his authority to a corresponding civil government after the territory in question became in the rear of the operating armed forces.