Background: This is a chapter from a middle school geography textbook published in the midst of the war. It reviews Nazi actions after 1933 and summarizes the Nazi claim that Germany needed more space. This was a major element of Nazi propaganda. Late in the war the Nazis were still planning what to do with the colonies they intended to regain.
The source: Reinhard Müller, Deutschland. Sechster Teil (Munich and Berlin: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1943), pp. 116-130.
In 1816, 24.8 million people lived on the territory of the former Reich. The German population has grown steadily since then. The growth intensified after 1870 as Germany began the process of industrialization that has made it one of the leading industrial powers of the world. The population was 40 million by 1870, rising to 64.9 million by 1910. After the territorial losses of the war, 60.9 million people lived in the Reich, and there in a territory that in 1910 had held only 59.4 million. Between 1910 and 1919, the German population had grown by only 1.5 million. During the same period before the World War, it had grown by 7 to 8 million. The 1925 census counted 62.4 million, that of 1933 65.2 million. In 1870 there were 37.2 births for every 1,000, a figure which declined steadily until 1938 when it was only 19.2. The growth in the population is, therefore, unfortunately not as great is it seems when one compares the simple numbers.
Births in the German Reich
|Births per 1,000||
Despite the great decrease in birth rate, the German people, with a population density of 133.5 per square kilometer, remains a crowded people. Other peoples with a much smaller population density still have large colonial holdings that can accept their surplus population. Although it is true that the Four Year Plan has guaranteed our food supply and raw material needs, we lack the abundance that other nations have because of their colonies. [Here there is a pie chart that shows that England and its colonies are 27% of the earth, Russia 16%, the U.S.A. 7%, and Germany 0.6%.] Since we do not want to be a dying people, our goal is to increase our birth rate. But for a growing population we need space if we do not again want to see large amounts of German blood emigrating to other nations, as was the case before the World War. Each year, a large number of German emigrants left for foreign lands.
Reich German Emigration 1871-1938
|Number of Emigrants||625,968||1,342,423||529,875||279,645||92,161||567,293||137,212|
Regaining our colonies will make it possible to send some of our surplus population to them. The great majority of settlers, however, will join those in the East who have returned to us and will find in the wide areas of the East a new home where German land can be put to German uses.
The growing German population of the last century lead to increasing emigration, which particularly led German emigrants to the United States. In this “promised land for German emigrants,” however, establishing German colonies was impossible. The German scholars and scientists, missionaries and merchants, farmers and craftsmen were working in distant lands under foreign flags for other peoples, among whom they were guests, and they mostly lost their German nature.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, energetic exploration began that above all was directed toward Africa. Among the leaders in the exploration of the “Dark Continent” were brave German explorers who gradually awakened the interest of broad circles in Germany. Among them were Barth, Rohlfs, Nachtigal, and Weißmann.
In contrast to the other great colonial powers that divided the world, Germany began thinking late about gaining colonies. At the last minute, thanks to the intrepid work of Adolf Lüderitz in German Southwest Africa, Gustav Nachtigal in German Togo and German Cameroon, and Carl Peter in German East Africa, we gained colonies. The South Pacific Protectorate followed. All of these colonies were gained legally through treaties, not through theft, as was the case of some of the colonies of other nations.
The German colonies together covered nearly 3 million square kilometers, nearly six times the size of the German Reich before the World War (540,000 square kilometers), and had about 14 million inhabitants. The population was large enough to provide a work force, but small enough to leave sufficient room for white settlers. Thus, the colonies were able to absorb at least some of our emigrants before the war.
In only thirty years, Germany was able to develop our colonies to a significant extent. One measure is the foreign trade of the colonies, which rose from 102 million marks in 1903 to 520 million marks in 1913.
The outbreak of the war put an end to state support of developing the economic infrastructure of our colonies. Only since 1914 have the colonies begun to produce a profit, and would have been a valuable source of raw materials, food, and luxury items for us. They would also have given young Germans a place to turn their gaze. The development of the colonies, however, was stopped by the outbreak of the World War.
Wilson’s 14 Points expressly stated that the Allies would not take control of Germany’s colonies, but rather that Germany needed its colonies as a source of raw materials from the tropics and as areas for surplus population. Point 5 promised “a free, generous, and impartial resolution of all colonial claims.” But Wilson’s 14 Points were so distorted in the Dictates of Versailles that nothing of them was left. Without considering Germany’s claims, its colonies were removed and declared mandates. In order to provide a facade of legality, one invented lies about our colonies, accusing Germany of unfit and incompetent administration, and of military imperialism. The blooming plantations, the great achievements in reducing disease, the many native schools, the good German transportation system and German order clearly refute these lies. After the World War, these charges were laughed at even in the enemy nations. The Daily Newswrote on 9 June 1926: “Little in the Treaty of Versailles was more unscrupulous than the moral excuses used to exclude Germany from the ranks of the colonial powers.” the Manchester Guardianwrote on 15 June 1926: “The seizure of Germany’s colonies and their division among the victorious Allies has a prime position in its foolishness, treachery, and hypocrisy of the Treaty of Versailles.” We must therefore resist those who wish to slander our colonial pioneers and denigrate their achievements. Our entire nation demands a formal apology for these lies about our colonies.
The World War rudely interrupted the development of our colonies and destroyed everything we had built. Our colonial troops put up legendary resistance, though they were not trained against an outside threat. Or colonies were stolen from us after the World War. But Germany has not given up its claim on the colonies. Point 3 of the [Nazi] party program stated: “We demand land and territories (colonies) to feed our people and accept our surplus population.” At the Reich Party Rally of Honor on 9 September 1936, the Führer said in his remarks on the Four Year Plan: “Regardless, however, Germany cannot surrender its colonial demands. The right to life of the German nation is just as great as that of other nations.” Although the American delegation to the peace conference explicitly recognized Germany’s right to colonies, we were robbed of our colonial possessions without a “popular referendum” or the agreement of the natives. German would not have feared a referendum, for the loyalty of the natives to their German protectors was proven by their behavior during the World War. Since the colonies were acquired legally and since the enemy powers have not kept the promises they made before the Armistice, for reasons of simple justice we have a right to the return of the colonies.
We must demand the return of our colonies not only for reasons of honor and equality, but also for economic reasons and to provide space for emigration. Germany today does not have the ability to meet its needs for food and raw materials from its own holdings, as do the major colonial powers. And colonies would be a market for our industrial products and give German colonial pioneers and settlers the opportunity to develop large and yet unused parts of the earth. “Colonies are not an expression of imperialist thinking for the German nation, no outward sign of power and assertion, but rather they are a necessity of life.” Our demands for their return show the way from the Greater German Reich of the present to the larger Germany of the future.
Germany is in the heart of Europe. It is the bridge between the land to the East and the peninsulas and islands to the north, west and south. It is the intermediary between the cultures of the east and the west. The North Sea and the Baltic Seas are the way to the northern lands, the Alpine rivers open the way to sunny Italy. Germany shares the characteristics of all the surrounding land areas. It has always had more or less close relations with the areas around it. Its climate is not uniform. It is influenced both by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream to the west and the great land masses to the east. Its rivers flow into the sea to the north, and therefore provide access to the seas. The Danube provides access to the countries in the southeast of Europe and to the Black Sea. The Mediterranean coast is only 80 kilometers from its southern border.
The German people has always had close cultural and economic relations with its neighbors. Its role as a cultural intermediary is evident from the beginning. Especially during the Middle Ages, the influence extended far into the east. At the invitation of foreign counts, thousands and thousands of Germans moved east, bringing German culture as far as the Volga River. As a result of its central position, Germany also had an influence to the west in the 16th and 17th centuries, and to some degree in the 19th as well. Its central position made Germany the dominant merchant power in Europe during the Hansa period. In this age of transportation, important rail and air routes run through Germany. They connect the east to the west and the north to the south, making Germany one of the most important nations in the modern transportation system. The central position also makes Germany a leader in world commerce.
As a consequence of its central location, Germany has long borders and has more neighbors than any other nation. That also leads to close political contacts with its neighbors. Its back is nowhere free. The danger of encirclement was always great. Many times its western neighbors succeeded in forcing Germany into a two-front war. Since Europe’s important transportation routes pass through Germany, its neighbors have always had an interest in keeping Germany disunited, since that gave them a stronger influence than they would have over a united Germany.
The World War showed how grave a danger Germany’s central position is. Germany was surrounded by enemies. All access to the seas and to neutral countries were blocked, which allowed for a successful hunger blockade. Though the German army fought bravely for four years against a multitude of foes, the lack of food and raw materials finally weakened the homeland and forced the nation to capitulate. However, the enemy’s hopes of a fragmented Reich were not fulfilled.
Surrounded as it is by other nations, Germany cannot lead a comfortable life. We Germans must be constantly alert to deal with the challengers brought about by our central location. Only a strong and united people can do that. The National Socialist government drew the necessary conclusions from Germany’s unfavorable central location, and took the steps necessary to ensure that Germany will never again find itself in a situation similar to that of the end of the World War.
Germany borders on the Baltic and North Seas. The North Sea provides access to the oceans. The North Sea Coast, however, is considerably shorter than the Baltic Coast. The Baltic Sea provides access to all the other countries bordering on it, and it is difficult to interfere with shipping on it. The North Sea, however, can be blockaded by England. This is particularly evident from the English blockade during the World War. To keep Germany from the world’s oceans, England did everything it could to bring the opposing coast in the hands of smaller nations. It brought about the separation of Belgium and the Netherlands into two states, which it could influence since both depended on England to protect their large colonial possessions. This also removed the mouth of the Rhine from German control, and reduced the length of the German coast. The British influence on Norway was just as great, since it needed British help to protect its large merchant fleet. England was thus able to completely block Germany’s access to the seas. The leadership of National Socialist Germany, however, understood how to wage the present war in a way that rendered England’s blockade ineffective, and made it impossible to block Germany’s routes to the seas.
Germany’s access to the seas is weakened by the fact that it is on two almost entirely separated seas, the North and the Baltic Seas. The route between the two is not in German, but in Danish hands. Germany attempted to remedy this by building the Kiel Canal. The canal was placed under international control after the World War, which considerably reduced its value. Here too the National Socialist government broke the chains and freed the canal from foreign influence.
After German soldiers had fought against a host of enemies for four years, Germany had to lay down its arms at the end of 1918. Two German ministers signed the so-called “Peace Treaty of Versailles” on 28 June 1919 n the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. In reality, it was an imposed peace. Hate and envy wanted to weaken and destroy Germany. Without regard to those living there, large parts of Germany were taken from it. Austria, too, lost territory, particularly the Sudetenland, and was prohibited from uniting with Germany. The theft of German blood and territory was intended to weaken the center, Europe’s heart, and destroy Germany as a great power.
At the cost of the Reich, the neighboring countries were given new advantages. The borders were often so senseless that cities lost their surrounding hinterlands. Important railroad stations were taken from the Reich. Roads and train tracks ran alternately through German and foreign territory. Normally river borders run along the middle of the river, but the East Prussian Weisel River border ran along its German bank, with the result that five German villages became Polish territory, with no bridge at all leading to Polish territory. Many such errors in drawing the borders were made.
Beside the loss in blood and territory, Germany also suffered enormous economic losses through the dictates of Versailles. Germany received no compensation for the government possessions it lost (estates, forests, railway tracks, etc.). All merchant ships larger than 1600 tons and half of all those between 1000 and 1600 tons had to be surrendered. Although the English hunger blockade was not lifted, Germany was compelled to deliver large quantities of livestock, and large amounts of coal annually to France, Belgium, and Italy. Germany also had to deliver large amounts of coke, benzene, tar, dyes, medicines, and other chemical products. The enemy powers took over all long-distance cables. With the surrendered territories we lost the iron mines of Lorraine, the potash and oil of Alsace, and numerous coal, zinc, and lead mines in Upper Silesia. Important industrial areas were lost with Lorraine and Upper Silesia. In northwest Schleswig Holstein and the eastern regions we lost important agricultural regions. Their loss reduced our ability to grow sufficient food.
The restrictions the enemy put on our army and navy limited our government’s power, forcing us to national impotence.
After years of struggle, our Führer Adolf Hitler took power on 30 January 1933. The National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) became the political movement of the entire nation. In place of political fragmentation, there came a united front of the entire people. The goal of the Führer’s policies was to eliminate the dictate of Versailles, to restore Germany’s honor, and to strengthen the Reich.
Systematic policies encouraged German agriculture and guaranteed sufficient food supplies. Unemployment was ended through a comprehensive job creation program. Political equality was gained by generous encouraging generous living and working conditions.
The Reich left the League of Nations, freeing itself of foreign ties that hindered its new strength. The united front of its enemies did not dare to resist Germany by hindering the return of the Saar in March 1935. Soon after, the Führer declared the military autonomy of the Reich and introduced universal military service. All available means were used to build the army into a powerful force on which the nation can rely. Under the lead of Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, the Luftwaffe was built up. In the spring of 1936, a year later, German troops could return to the Rhineland. The demilitarized zone along the western border of the Reich no longer existed. Germany could once again protect its borders. On 30 January 1937, the Führer formally withdrew the signature under Paragraph 231 of the dictate of Versailles.
Strong powers stood against the Reich after the Führer’s takeover of power. But a new encirclement was impossible. Italy, which had also been disappointed by the Treaty of Versailles, was Germany’s important partner. The relationship between Italy and Germany improved from year to year, and was deepened by visits by Mussolini and Germany and the Führer in Italy. The common interests of both “young states” over against those of the presumed winners of Versailles strengthened the Berlin-Rome Axis, which shattered the ring of encirclement. The Axis partners supported Nationalist Spain in its struggle for freedom. Germany and Italy recognized General Franco’s government on 18 November 1936. The victory of young Spain relieved the pressure on Germany’s western border.
On 25 November 1936, the German-Japanese Anti-Komintern Treaty brought the young, advancing Japan into the Axis. It too was struggling for its right to life. Italy signed the Anti-Komintern Treaty on 6 November 1937 and followed German’s example by withdrawing from the League of Nations on 11 November. On 27 September 1940, Germany, Italy and Japan signed the Three Power Treaty, and were later joined by Hungary, Rumania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Croatia. The dictate of Versailles was now rendered void. The ring around Germany could no longer be closed.
Until the National Socialist takeover, the German economy followed the principles of economic liberalism, which held that a nation’s economy could develop irrespective of its natural economic foundations. A smoothly functioning world economy would provide nations poor in raw materials with what they needed, industrial nations would receive foodstuffs, and agricultural nations would receive industrial goods. A world empire like Britain’s could in fact do this, because it controlled everything that it needed. It could endure the destruction of its agricultural class in favor of a one-sided industrialization. Germany, however, did not have such resources at its disposal, and became dependent both politically and economically on foreign powers.
Our development into an industrial state dependent on world markets was intensified by the economic losses resulting from the dictates of Versailles. The dependence on world capital, controlled by Jewry, became intolerable. After seeming prosperity, there were 7 million unemployed in 1932. The economy threatened to collapse.
At the moment of greatest need, Adolf Hitler came to power and freed the state and the people step by step from the chains of Versailles. He won the independence of Germany’s economy. The foundations of Germany’s economy are not German labor and German soil. Each worker is in the right place, and German soil and its farmers are fully used. The state and our citizens are free of foreign influence. The final goal is to secure Germany’s food supplies and raw materials, from which German military freedom grows.
If the National Socialist economic plan was to be successful in reviving the German economy, all participants in economic life had to be convinced of National Socialist economic thinking. In the economy too, the guiding principle had to be: “The common good comes before the individual good.” There could no longer be conflict between the various branches and forces of the economy. “All elements of the nation serve a higher goal, the prosperity of the nation and the well-being of the people. That is also true of the economy.” (Robert Ley) All branches of the economy must be cared for. Workers and employers must be treated fairly, the economy must be managed, and the economic enterprises must be distributed around German territory. The “Reich Agricultural Trust” and the “German Workers’ Front” organize all those involved in the economy, both workers and managers. Together they organize the entire factory, realizing one of the cardinal goals of the NSDAP: overcoming class struggle. National Socialist economic thinking condemns profit for the sake of profit. The success of an undertaking is evaluated solely on its contribution to the whole nation. “The goal of any economy must be to strengthen the people’s struggle for existence in its battles with foreign powers and inner conflicts.” (Rosenberg)
The principle of putting the economy in service of the entire people is made possible by a wide-ranging economic plan, as evidenced by the Four Year Plan. This vast plan incorporates all German economic capacities. It aims to guarantee our needs for raw materials and foodstuffs such that they are secure even during emergencies. “In the long run, it is intolerable to be dependent on the success of failure of each year’s harvest.” (Adolf Hitler) Through increasing agricultural production, the plan seeks to ensure food supplies. It seeks to intensify the use of our territory, and expand mining. German scientists created new materials that could replace old raw materials, and new factories use raw materials that formerly could not be used. The Four Year Plan has to a large extent made the German economy free of foreign countries.
The Four Year Plan demanded the full energies of all Germans. The population policies of past decades made the shortage of workers evident. It was necessary to take measures to “maintain the ability of working Germans.” The Office for Popular Health of the German Workers Front and the German medical community helped by inspecting factories and providing medical care for workers. Children in schools and members of the Hitler Youth also received medical examinations, as did small children through the “Mother and Child” organization. In addition, the purity of blood and the health of the German people were encouraged through the “Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor” and the “Law to Prevent Hereditary Illness.” “A higher level of humanity depends not on the state, but on the race that creates that state.” (Adolf Hitler) The state is only a means to an end, and this end is in preserving and advancing the race. The goal of the state is therefore to create a healthy and growing people.
A people with no children is a dying people. The National Socialist government took on the task of maintaining and increasing the German population, and had en educational impact on the whole nation in this regard. Each German must understand that he is nothing, the people everything. Healthy children are the pride of each family. Since every citizen will not have children, each couple must have an average of four children to ensure the continuation of the people. The state supports families with numerous healthy children and gives them every kind of protection. Marriage loans make it easier for young people to marry. Child support, reductions in income tax, reductions in school fees for additional children, and reduced railway ticket prices reduce the burden on families with many children. Building healthy homes and developments at the edge of cities encourage more healthy children. Families with their own home on their own ground — no matter how small it may be — generally have more children than families that live in rented apartments.
Insurance also encourages National Socialist population policies.
By 1938 National Socialist foreign policy had reached the point where the Führer could finally reorganize Central Europe. The Western powers claimed the Mediterranean, and Germany’s alliance with Italy guaranteed its freedom of commerce. Now it was time for the longed-for union with Austria. Early on the morning of 12 March 1938, German troops marched in to Austria, requested by Minister Seiß-Inquart, the only minister remaining in office after the resignation of Schuschnigg’s government. On 13 March, Austrian and German law declared: “Austria is a state of the German Reich.” On 15 March, the Führer declared in Vienna: “The old Eastern Reaches of the German people from now on is the newest bulwark of the German Reich.” That was the geopolitical task of Eastern Reaches in the Greater German Reich.
This union eliminated “one of the great injustices of the Treaties of Versailles and St. Germain.” The development of central Europe took a major step forward. Germany now bordered directly on Italy. The door to southeastern Europe was in German hands. An important pillar of the encirclement plan was broken. The Danube and Alpine regions became an important connection between the Reich and the nations to the southeast. The economic relations between Germany and those nations will become close.
The incorporation of Austria resulted in borders that were a great danger to the Reich, particularly the border with Czechoslovakia, which made itself a lackey of the encirclement policies of the Western Powers. Also, the spiritual, political and economic pressure on the 3 1/2 million Germans grew, becoming over time unbearable.
A solution to the Sudeten German question became increasingly urgent. First, however, it was necessary to protect our western border to keep the Reich safe from attack from that direction. The Führer ordered the building of the West Wall, an insurmountable defensive barrier. This enormous endeavor required huge amounts of material, labor, and money. The German coast was protected by new fortifications and our strong, battle-ready navy.
As the Czech terror against the Germans in the Sudetenland grew, the Führer mobilized the German military. The Führer, Mussolini, Chamberlain, and Daladier met in Munich, with the result that German troops marched into the Sudetenland. The Sudeten area was occupied by German troops at the beginning of October 1938. They were received by the population with jubilation. Again an injustice was eliminated, and a piece of German territory returned to the Reich. There were now over 80 million Germans within its borders.
The Czechoslovakian state did not change its hostile position toward Germany after the return of the Sudetenland, and continued its persecution of Germans remaining in its territory. Its army was a threat to the security of the Reich, particularly with regard to air attacks.
The Führer drew the correct conclusion from this geopolitical situation. The collapse of the Czechoslovakian state made matters easier for him. After Slovakia put itself under the protection of the German Reich, President Hacha also put the fate of the Czech people in the hands of the Führer on 14 March 1939. German troops marched in on 15 March, and on 16 March the Führer announced in Prague the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Both lands had belonged to the German Reich for a millennium. Now they were again a part of it. German culture and German ability gave these lands their nature, and will continue to do so. The Germans living in pockets of the Protectorate became citizens of the German Reich.
Under the pressure of new political conditions, Lithuania voluntarily returned the Memel District to the Greater German Reich in March 1939. This area, too, is free of the foreign rule that its brave inhabitants long endured. On 23 March, German troops entered Memel, and the Führer himself welcomed its citizens back to the Reich.
Peacefully and without bloodshed, the Führer had remedied a large part of the injustice of Versailles. But it proved impossible to work things out peacefully with Poland. Poland felt it had the support of England and France, and was not willing to negotiate a settlement of the Danzig Corridor question. In the war forced upon us, Poland was defeated in an 18-day campaign. It was completely dissolved, after about 60,000 ethnic Germans had fallen victim to Polish incitement and murder. Danzig was freed and returned with West Prussia to the German state. Posen too again became part of the German Reich. It became the Gau Wartheland after the incorporation of neighboring areas with a Germanic population. Germans will here establish order in place of the “Polish economy.” The Führer ordered the resettlement of ethnic Germans from the Baltic areas, the Cholm-Lublin district, and from Wolhynien, Galicia, Buchenland, Bessarabia, Dobrudscha, and Lithuania. These ethnic Germans in the Wartegau and in Danzig-West Prussia will bring the land to new prosperity, and form a living wall to protect the German east. The Poles in these areas were resettled to other remaining Polish districts, and the Russians brought their citizens back from the German districts. As a result, the borders between Germanic and Slavic regions will in the future be clear.
The eastern part of Poland went to the Soviet Union under the border and friendship treaty. Both states had their areas of influence, and agreed to settle all Eastern European questions between themselves. The remainder of Poland was incorporated into the German Reich as the Generalgouvernement. After the war with the Soviet Union began, and large areas were occupied by our troops, Eastern Galacia and Lemberg were also added to the German Reich and made part of the Generalgouvernement.
Germany has now created a new order in the East. Together with Italy, it has also reordered southeastern Europe. Now it is engaged in a decisive battle with England and France and their vassals. Great battles have occurred, great victories won. Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France are in German hands. Alsace and Lorraine have been reincorporated into the German Reich. Since summer 1940 [sic], we have also been fighting Soviet Russia, which in violation of all the treaties threatened Germany. The outcome is not yet clear. Two worlds are facing each other: One is the world of the young rising states, the other the world of the old declining states and Bolshevism. The German people have an unshakable will for victory. Their faith in their Führer Adolf Hitler is also unshakable. A united Germany will win the victory, and finish its fight for a new order in Europe.
We want to be a united people of brothers,
No Danger or Threat will separate us!
—We want to be free, as our fathers were!
Death is better than slavery!
—We place our trust in Almighty God
And fear no human power!”
(Schiller, William Tell)
[Page copyright © 1999 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]