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Albert Forster


In office
August 23 – September 1, 1939
Preceded by Arthur Greiser
Succeeded by position abolished

In office
1935 – 1945
Appointed by Adolf Hitler
Preceded by positions established
Succeeded by positions abolished

Born July 26, 1903
Fürth, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire, now Federal Republic of Germany
Died February 28, 1952 (aged 48)
Warsaw, Republic of Poland
Political party National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP)

Albert Maria Forster (July 26, 1902 – February 28, 1952) was a Nazi German war criminal, guilty of crimes against humanity.

Contents

Life

Forster was born in Fürth, Bavaria and attended the Humanistisches Gymnasium in Fürth from 1912-1920. He became a member of the SA in Fürth in 1923 and observed the high treason process against Erich Ludendorff, Adolf Hitler and the further eight accused, which took place from 26 February to 1 April 1924 in the court of Munich.

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Free City of Danzig

In 1930, Forster became the Nazi Party's Gauleiter of the Free City of Danzig (modern Gdańsk, Poland). In the spring of 1933, Forster spearheaded the Nazi take-over of Danzig. Between 1933-1939, Forster became embroiled in a feud with the Nazi President of the Danzig Senate, Arthur Greiser, who was to remain Forster's life-long nemesis.

Before World War II Forster had tried and failed to gain control over the organisation of the irredentist activities of the minority ethnic German population in Polish Corridor, neighboring Freie Stadt Danzig, created in 1920 by Treaty of Versailles). Rather it was the SS-dominated Volksdeutche Mittelstelle that won control. With Forster and Himmler engaged in a power struggle, this rendered the (ethnic) Germans concerned suspicious to Forster. Upon the annexation of those territories after Invasion of Poland and turning them into Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia, Forster's distrust of the local Nazi leaders led him to deny them political power and fill all significant positions with people from the pre-war Free City of Danzig. The result was, inevitably, great bitterness among the local Germans, which Forster's Germanization policies, which denied them higher status than that of the Poles[1], naturally exacerbated.

In May 1934 Forster, who had been made Honorable Citizen of Fürth and of Danzig, married Gertrud Deetz. Location for the wedding was the Berlin Chancellory, with Hitler and Rudolf Heß as witnesses and wedding guests.

In 1939, following orders from Berlin, Forster led the agitation in Danzig to step up pressure for re-union with Germany. The Danzig issue was one of the pretexts used for the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

World War II

Following Poland's defeat, Greiser became Gauleiter in the Warthegau, annexed to Germany after 1939. Forster became the Gauleiter and Reichstatthalter (governor) of the province Danzig-West Prussia from 1939-1945, thereby concentrating both the State and Nazi Party power in his hands. With the Treaty of Versailles the territory had been split off from Germany between 1920-1939 and under Poland a large number of Polish military and people were brought in, such as at Gdynia, which went from a 1.000 inhabitants in Westprussia before 1920 to 100.000 under Poland by 1939. Adolf Hitler instructed the Gauleiters, namely Forster and his rival Arthur Greiser, in the Warthegau to Germanize the area, promising that "There would be no questions asked" about how this "Germanization" was to be accomplished.[2]

Soon after the German victory Forster gave a speech at the Prusinski Hotel in Wejherowo in which he encouraged local German civilians to kill Poles, by saying "We have to eliminate the lice ridden Poles, starting with those in the cradle… in your hands I give the fate of the Poles, you can do with them what you want". The crowd gathered before the hotel chanted "Kill the Polish dogs!" and "Death to the Poles".[3] As a result, many local Germans joined the paramilitary Selbstschutz battalions and participated in the massacres of Poles at Piaśnica. Forster also helped to organize these massacres in which 12-14 thousands people were murdered, and as a result was sentenced to death for his part after the war.[3]

According to other sources, Forster pursued a policy of assimilation of the population in his area of responsibility.[4 ] Forster was willing to accept any and all Poles who claimed to have "German blood" as Germans.[4 ] In practice, the method of determining whether Poles had any German ancestry or not was to send out Nazi Party workers to interview the local Poles; all Poles who stated that they had German ancestry had their answers taken at face value with no documentation required.[5] Those Poles who claimed not to have German ancestry were, for the most part, expelled to the General Government. Given the alternative between claiming to have German ancestry or being expelled, the majority of the Polish population under Forster's rule chose the former option. Forster ordered the return of property confiscated from Poles as a Germanization measure and compensated them for the loss of income in the interim, once they had been listed as Germans. In pursuing his policy, Forster believed to be following National Socialist ideology to the letter. His theory was that the bulk of the "supposedly" ethnic-Polish population in his Reichsgau were Kashubians rather than Poles, and that the Kashubians were racially German. In the Adolf Hitler School he established in Danzig, racial experts produced a steady stream of pseudo-scholarly works proving the Germanness of the local Poles. He was not alone in this view among the Nazi leadership, but SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, appointed by Hitler as "Reich Commissioner for the Strengthening of Germandom" and, as such, the man assigned to decide the "Germanization" policy in German-occupied territories, took the opposite view.[6] Forster, it would emerge, did not care. On the other hand, he ruthlessly applied Nazi racial practices to the Jewish population, in what could only mean murder or deportation.

This policy with regard to Poles was in direct contrast to what was happening in the Warthegau under Gauleiter Arthur Greiser. Greiser zealously pursued a policy of ethnic cleansing, attempting to expel the entire Polish and Jewish population under his rule. Greiser was outraged by Forster's polices toward the Poles and had complained to Heinrich Himmler that Forster's assimilation policy was against Nazi racial theory. When Himmler approached Forster over this issue, Forster simply ignored him, realizing that Hitler allowed each Gauleiter to run his area as he saw fit. Both Greiser and Himmler complained to Hitler that Forster was allowing thousands of Poles to be classified as Germans, but Hitler merely bounced the problem back to them, telling them to go sort out their problems with Forster on their own. This was a difficult task. Himmler's attempts to cajole Forster to see matters his way met with resentment and contempt. In a discussion with Richard Hildebrandt, HSSPF Vistula, over Germanization in his Reichsgau, Forster scoffed, "if I looked like Himmler, I wouldn't talk about race".

Forster's conflict with the SS also had direct and injurious consequences for ethnic Germans. During the war, hundreds of thousands of ethnic-Germans departed Soviet annexed territories hoping to be resettled in the expanding German Reich. While Greiser did all he could to accommodate them in his Reichsgau, Forster viewed them with hostility, claiming that his region needed young farmers while the refugees were old and urbanized. He initially refused to admit any of them into his Reichsgau. When a ship bearing several thousands of ethnic Germans from the Baltic states arrived at Danzig he initially refused them entry unless Himmler promised that they would not be settled in Danzig-West Prussia but proceed immediately elsewhere, an assurance that Himmler could not provide. It was only following a lengthy telephone consultation with the desperate Himmler that Forster allowed the passengers to disembark on the understanding that their residence in the Reichsgau would be temporary, though most did not, ultimately, leave the region. In time he had to relent and by June 1944 53,258 such refugees had settled in Danzig-West Prussia, a far cry from the 421,780 settled in the Warthegau. Forster's Germanization policies left less free land and housing than Greiser's mass expulsions, although it is evident that Forster's perception of the ethnic German refugees as wards of the SS played its role in determining his attitude.

Despite his relatively mild administration of occupied Polish Territory, Forster was responsible for the expulsion of thousands of Poles to the General Government and to the Stutthof concentration camp. He was also one of those responsible for mass murders at Piaśnica, where approximately 12,000 Poles and Kashub intelligentsia were killed in 1939-1940.

Death

At the end of the war, Forster took refuge in the British Occupation Zone of Germany. The British handed him to communist Poland. Forster was condemned to death by the Polish court for war crimes (the Supreme National Tribunal) and crimes against humanity in 1948. He was held and received pardon, then was moved from Danzig and hanged on February 28, 1952 in Mokotów Prison in Warsaw. His wife, who had not heard of him since 1949, was in 1954 informed of his death.

References

  • Rees, Laurence The Nazis: A Warning From History, foreword by Sir Ian Kershaw, New York: New Press, 1997 ISBN 1-56584-551-X
  • Levine, S. Herbert Local Authority and the SS State: The Conflict Over Population Policy in Danzig-West Prussia, 1939-1945 - Central European History (1973)

Endnotes

  1. ^ The Nazis: A warning from history::The Wild East
  2. ^ Rees, Laurence The Nazis: A Warning From History, New York: New Press, 1997 pages 141
  3. ^ a b Elżbieta Grot, "Ludobójstwo w Piaśnicy z uwzględnieniem losów mieszkańców powiatu wejherowskiego." (Genocide in Piaśnica with a discussion of the fate of the inhabitants of Wejherow county", Public Library of Wejherowo,[1]
  4. ^ a b Rees, Laurence The Nazis: A Warning From History, New York: New Press, 1997 pages 141-142
  5. ^ Rees, Laurence The Nazis: A Warning From History, New York: New Press, 1997 pages 142
  6. ^ Rees, Laurence The Nazis: A Warning From History, New York: New Press, 1997 pages 145-147
Government offices
Preceded by
Arthur Greiser
Danzig Head of State
1939
Succeeded by
position abolished

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