Reichsgau Wartheland

The Reichsgau Wartheland (initially Reichsgau Posen, also: Warthegau) 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).

Reichsgau Wartheland
Reichsgau of Nazi Germany
Coat of arms

Map of Nazi conquest showing administrative subdivisions (Gaue and Reichsgaue) with Warthegau area (bright yellow, right).

Reichsgau Wartheland (burgundy) on the map of occupied Poland
Arthur Greiser
2 November 1939
8 May 1945
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Second Polish Republic
Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland
Today part of Poland

During the Partitions of Poland from 1793, the bulk of the area had been annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia until 1807 as South Prussia. From 1815 to 1849, the territory was within the autonomous Grand Duchy of Posen, which was the Province of Posen until Poland was re-established in 1918–1919 following World War I. The area is currently the Greater Poland Voivodeship.

Invasion and occupation of Poland

After the invasion of Poland, the conquered territory of Greater Poland was split between four Reichsgaue and the General Government area (further east). The Militärbezirk Posen was created in September 1939, and on 8 October 1939 annexed by Germany, as the Reichsgau Posen, with SS Obergruppenfuhrer Arthur Greiser as the only Gauleiter. The name Reichsgau Wartheland was introduced on 29 January 1940.

The Wehrmacht established there the Wehrkreis XXI, based at Poznań, under the command of General der Artillerie Walter Petsel. Its primary operational unit was the 48th Panzer Korps, covering so-called Militärische Unterregion-Hauptsitze including Posen (Poznań), Lissa (Leszno), Hohensalza (Inowrocław), Leslau (Włocławek), Kalisch (Kalisz), and Litzmannstadt (Łódź). It maintained training areas at Sieradz and Biedrusko. The territory was inhabited predominantly by the ethnic Poles with a German minority of 16.7% in 1921, and the Polish Jews, most of whom were imprisoned at the Łódź Ghetto eventually, and exterminated at Chełmno extermination camp (Vernichtungslager Kulmhof) within the next two years.[1]


The Governor of Reichsgau Wartheland, native-born Arthur Greiser,[2] embarked on a program of complete removal of the formerly Polish citizenry upon his nomination by Heinrich Himmler.[3] The plan also entailed the re-settling of ethnic Germans from the Baltic and other regions into farms and homes formerly owned by Poles and Jews.[4] He also authorized the clandestine operation of exterminating 100,000 Polish Jews (about one-third of the total Jewish population of Wartheland),[5] in the process of the region's complete "Germanization".[6] In the first year of World War II, some 630,000 Poles and Jews were forcibly removed from Wartheland and transported to the occupied General Government (more than 70,000 from Poznań alone) in a series of operations called the Kleine Planung covering most Polish territories annexed by Germany at about the same time. Both Poles and Jews had their property confiscated.[7]

By the end of 1940, some 325,000 Poles and Jews from the Wartheland and the Polish Corridor were expelled to General Government, often forced to abandon most of their belongings.[8] Fatalities were numerous. In 1941, the Nazis expelled a further 45,000 people, and from autumn of that year they began killing Jews by shooting and in gas vans, at first spasmodically and experimentally.[9] Reichsgau Wartheland had the population: 4,693,700 by 1941. Greiser wrote in November 1942: "I myself do not believe that the Führer needs to be asked again in this matter, especially since at our last discussion with regard to the Jews he told me that I could proceed with these according to my own judgement."[10]

End of war

By 1945 nearly half a million Germanic Volksdeutsche had been resettled in the Warthegau alone among the areas annexed by Nazi Germany while the Soviet forces began to push the retreating Nazi forces back through the Polish lands. Most German residents along with over a million colonists fled westward. Some did not, due to restrictions by Germany's own government and the quickly advancing Red Army. An estimated 50,000 refugees died from the severe winter conditions, others as war atrocities committed by Soviet military. The remaining ethnically German population was expelled to new Germany after the war ended.[12]

See also


  1. "ninety-seven thousand have been processed, using three vans, without any defects showing up in the vehicles." Postwar testimony Obersturmbannführer August Becker, the gas van inspector. See: Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, Volker Riess (1991). The gas-vans: A new and better method of killing had to be found. The Good Old Days: The Holocaust As Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders. Konecky Konecky. pp. 69–70. ISBN 1568521332.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) Also in: Christopher Browning (2000), Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution with archives of the RSHA.
  2. Ian Kershaw (2013). Hitler 1936-1945. Penguin UK. pp. vi. ISBN 0141909595.
  3. "Poles: Victims of the Nazi Era". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  4. Lynn H. Nicholas, Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web pp. 207-9, ISBN 0-679-77663-X.
  5. "Special treatment" (Sonderbehandlung)". The Holocaust History Project. Archived from the original on 2013-05-28.
  6. Main Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, German Crimes in Poland (Warsaw: 1946, 1947); Archive of Jewish Gombin Genealogy, with introduction by Leon Zamosc. Note: The Main (or Central) Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland (Polish: Główna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Niemieckich w Polsce, GKBZNwP) founded in 1945 was the predecessor of the Institute of National Remembrance (see also the "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 12, 1997. Retrieved 1997-02-12. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)). Quote: "The creation of the Main Commission... was preceded by work done in London since 1943 by the Polish Government in Exile."
  7. Agency for the East that oversaw the registration, administration and eventual sale of all property confiscated from Poles and Jews (virtually all Polish and Jewish property was confiscated)Heimat, Region, and Empire: Spatial Identities under National Socialism Claus-Christian W. Szejnmann, Maiken Umbach
  8. Lynn H. Nicholas, Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web pp. 213-214, ISBN 0-679-77663-X.
  9. Max Hastings, "The Most Evil Emperor," NYRB October 23, 2008, p. 48.
  10. Ian Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution (Yale University Press, 2008), p. 75.
  11. R. M. Douglas (2012). Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War. Yale University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0300183763. In a keynote address to the Reichstag to mark the end of the 'Polish campaign', on October 6, 1939, Hitler announced the Heim ins Reich (Back to the Reich) program. The prospect of being uprooted from their homes to face an uncertain future not even in Germany proper, but in the considerably less salubrious environment of western Poland, was greeted with a deep sense of betrayal.
  12. Norman M. Naimark, The Russians in Germany. p. 75. ISBN 0674784057.

Further reading


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