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The Greater Germanic Reich (German: Großgermanisches Reich), fully styled the Greater Germanic Reich of the German Nation (German: Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation) is the official state name of the political entity that Nazi Germany tried to establish in Europe during World War II.[1] Albert Speer stated in his memoirs that Hitler also referred to the envisioned state as the Teutonic Reich of the German Nation.[2]

This Pan-Germanic empire was expected to absorb practically all of Germanic Europe into a greatly expanded Reich, initially including the Netherlands, at least the Flemish parts of Belgium and France, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Iceland[3], and at least the German-speaking parts of Switzerland as well as the already enlarged Germany itself.[4] The sole exception to this rule was England and its British Empire which was never projected as being reduced to a German province, but to instead become an allied sea-faring partner of the Germans.[5]

In addition its western frontiers with France were to be reverted to those of the earlier Holy Roman Empire, which would have meant the complete annexation of all of Wallonia, French Switzerland, and large areas of northern and eastern France.[6] Massive territorial expansion into Eastern Europe under German leadership was also to take place, in which the peoples of the Germanic countries were to be encouraged as settlers (see Lebensraum).


Ideological background

Nazi racial ideology regarded the Germanic peoples of Europe as belonging to a racially superior Nordic subset of a supposed Aryan race, who were regarded as the only true culture-bearers of civilized society.[7] Part of German dictator Adolf Hitler's methods to ensure the present and future supremacy of the Aryan race was to do away with what he described as the "small state rubbish" (kleinstaatengerümpel, see also kleinstaaterei) in Europe in order to unite all these Nordic countries into one unified nation.[8] However, despite according these peoples a racially superior status in an anticipated Nazi racial-political order alongside the Germans, the Nazis did not consider granting the subject populations of these countries any national rights of their own.[7] The other Germanic countries were seen as mere extensions of Germany itself rather than individual units in any way, and the Germans were unequivocably intended to be the empire's most powerful and leading component.[4][7]

Although Hitler himself and Himmler's SS advocated for a Pan-Germanic Empire, the objective was not universally held in the Nazi regime.[9] Goebbels and the Reich Foreign Ministry under Ribbentrop inclined more towards an idea of a continental bloc under German rule, as represented by the Anti-Comintern Pact and the earlier Mitteleuropa concept.[9]

On April 9, 1940 as Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in Operation Weserübung, Hitler stated:[10]

Just as the Bismarck Empire arose from the year 1866, so too will the Greater Germanic Empire arise from this day.

Holy Roman Empire

The chosen name was a deliberate reference to the Holy Roman Empire (of the German Nation) that existed in mediaeval times, known as the First Reich in Nazi historiography.[11] Even before the war, Hitler had dreamed of reversing the Peace of Westphalia, which had given the territories of the Empire almost complete sovereignty.[10] On November 17, 1939, Goebbels wrote in his diary that the "total liquidation" of this historic treaty was the "great goal" of the Nazi regime.[10]

After the German victory over France, the regime took the initial steps for the "restitution" of the Holy Roman Empire's western border from the time of Charles V. The Reich Interior Ministry produced an initial memo for the planned annexation of a strip of eastern France from the mouth of the Somme to Lake Geneva already in June 1940,[12] and on July 10, 1940 Himmler toured the region to inspect its Germanization potential.[10] According to documents produced in December 1940, the annexed territory would consist of nine French departments, and the Germanization action would require the settlement of a million Germans of "peasant families".[10] Himmler decided that South Tyrolean emigrants would be used as settlers, and the towns of the region would receive South Tyrolean place-names such as Bozen, Brixen, Meran, and so on.[13] By 1942 Hitler had, however, decided that the South Tyroleans would be instead used to settle the Crimea, and Himmler regretfully noted "For Burgundy, we will just have to find another [Germanic] ethnic group."[14]

Establishment strategy

The establishment of the Greater Germanic Reich was to follow the model of the Austrian Anschluss of 1938, just on a greater scale.[15] Goebbels emphasized in April 1940 that the annexed Germanic countries would have to undergo a similar "national revolution" as Germany herself did after the Machtergreifung, with a rapid enforced social and political "co-ordination" in accordance with Nazi principles and ideology (Gleichschaltung).[15]

The Swastika Flag was to be used as a symbol to represent not only the National Socialist movement, but also the unity of the Nordic-Germanic peoples into a single state.[16] Using the Unification of Germany as an analogy, it was held that since the flag of the Kingdom of Prussia could not have been imposed on the other German states that would together form the new German Empire of 1871, so too could the German national flag (Imperial tricolour) not be imposed on the other Germanic countries of Europe.[16]


Low countries

The German plans of annexation were more advanced for the Low Countries than for the Scandinavian states, due in part because of their closer geographical proximity as well as cultural and ethnic ties to Germany. Luxembourg and Belgium were formally annexed into the Nazi state during World War II, in 1942 and 1944 respectively, the latter as the new Reichsgaue of Flandern and Wallonien. Hitler already stated in 1940 that he "no longer considers the Netherlands a foreign country", while repeating his intention on April 5 and May 30, 1942 that the Low Countries and Norway would be included whole into the Reich at which point the Greater German Reich would be reformed into the Greater Germanic Reich to signify this change. Himmler even contemplated resettling the entire Dutch population, some 8 million people in total at the time, to agricultural lands in the Vistula and Bug river valleys of German-occupied Poland as the most efficient way of facilitating their immediate Germanization.[17] In this eventuality he further hoped to establish an SS Province of Holland in vacated Dutch territory, and to distribute all confiscated Dutch property and real estate among reliable SS-men.[18]

For him [Hitler] it is only natural that Belgium, with its Germanic provinces of Flanders and Brabant, should become German Reichsgaue [Nazi provinces]. The Netherlands will also not be allowed its own political life, in spite of what Anton Mussert, the leader of the Dutch NS, may feel about it.

Joseph Goebbels

Smaller areas straddling the traditional Germanic-Romance language border in Western Europe that were considered for inclusion included the small Lëtzebuergesh-speaking area centred around Arlon[19], as well as the Low Dietsch-speaking region west of Eupen (the so-called Platdietse Streek) around the city of Limbourg, historical capital of the Duchy of Limburg.[20]

Nordic countries

Hitler favored annexing Denmark as a German province, possibly under the name Gau Nordmark[21], due to its small size and relative closeness to Germany[22], while Himmler hoped of expanding the project to include Iceland as well among the group of Germanic countries which would have to be gradually incorporated into the Reich.[3]

Sweden's future subordination into the Nazi 'New Order' was considered by the regime.[23] Himmler stated that the Swedes were the "epitome of the Nordic spirit and the Nordic man", and looked forward to incorporating central and southern Sweden to the Germanic Empire,[23] while Northern Sweden, with its Finnish minority, was to be given to Finland.[24] Felix Kersten, Himmler's personal masseur, claimed that Himmler had expressed regret that Germany had not occupied Sweden during Operation Weserübung, but was certain that this error was to be rectified after the war.[25] In 1940, Hermann Göring suggested that Sweden's future position in the Reich was similar to that of Bavaria in the German Empire.[23]

Despite its people being of Finno-Ugric origin, Finland was given the status of being an “honorary Nordic nation” by Hitler as reward for its military importance in the ongoing conflict against the Soviet Union.[26] This did not mean however that it was to be absorbed into the Germanic Empire, but instead become the guardian of Germany’s northern flank against the hostile remnants of a conquered USSR.[26]

Northern Italy

Initially intending to use the Germans of South Tyrol as settlers for Generalplan Ost, the Italian surrender made it possible for Hitler to occupy much of Italy, and re-arrange the provinces of Trentino and Alto Adige into the military district Alpenvorland and the provinces of Friuli, Gorizia, Trieste and Lubiana into the district Adriatisches Küstenland.[27] Both districts were to be eventually annexed into the Germanic Reich, in spite of Hitler's admiration and respect for Mussolini.[27] Hitler had stated that the art of Northern Italy was "nothing but pure German"[28], and Nazi scholars viewed that the Romansh, Ladin and Friulian minorities of the two districts were racially, historically and culturally a part of the Germanic world.[29]

Further extension of the Germanic Reich's southern border was considered. According to Goebbels, Hitler had expressed that the border should extend to those of the region of Veneto.[27] Veneto was to be included into the Reich in an "autonomous form", and to benefit from the post-war influx of German tourists.[27]

Role of Britain in the Germanic order

The one country that wasn’t included in the Pan-Germanic unification aim was the United Kingdom[30], in spite of its near-universal acceptance by the Nazi government as being part of the Germanic world.[31] Leading Nordic ideologist Hans F. K. Günther theorized that the Anglo-Saxons had been more successful than the Germans in maintaining racial purity, thanks to Britain's island nature, with interbreeding between the Germanic conquerors and the subjugated Celtic nations being only marginal in effect.[32] Furthermore, the coastal and island areas of Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall and Wales had received additional Nordic blood through Norse raids and colonization during the Viking Age, and the Anglo-Saxons of Eastern and Northern England had been under Danish rule in the 9th and 10th centuries. [32] Günther referred to this historical process as Aufnordung ("additional nordification"), which finally culminated in the Norman conquest of England in 1066.[32] Britain was thus a nation created by struggle and the survival of the fittest among the various Aryan peoples of the isles, and was able to pursue global conquest and empire-building because of its superior racial heredity born through this development.[33]

Hitler professed an admiration for the imperial might of the British Empire in Zweites Buch as proof of the racial superiority of the Aryan race[34], hoping that Germany would emulate British "ruthlessness" and "absence of moral scruples" in establishing its own colonial empire in Eastern Europe.[35] One of his primary foreign policy aims throughout the 1930s was to establish a military alliance with both the English (Hitler conflated England with the United Kingdom in his writings and speeches) as well as the Italians to neutralize France as a strategic threat to German security for eastward expansion. In this arrangement the two "kindred folks" were to divide the world between each other with Germany dominating continental Europe, while England would reign supreme over the world’s oceans.

When it became apparent to the Nazi leadership that the United Kingdom was not interested in a military alliance, anti-British policies were adopted to ensure the attainment of Germany’s war aims. Even during the war however, hope remained that Britain would in time yet become a reliable German ally.[36] Hitler preferred to see the British Empire preserved as a world power, because its break-up would benefit other countries far more than it would Germany, particularly the United States and Japan.[36] In fact, Hitler's strategy during 1935-1937 for winning Britain over was based on a German guarantee of defense of the British Empire.[37] After the war, Ribbentrop testified that in 1935 Hitler had promised to deliver twelve German divisions to the disposal of Britain for maintaining the integrity of her colonial possessions.[38]

The continued military actions against Britain after the fall of France had the strategic goal of making Britain 'see the light' and conduct an armstice with the Axis powers, with July 1, 1940 being named by the Germans as the "probable date" for the cessation of hostilities.[39] On May 21, 1940, Franz Halder, the head of the Army General Staff, after a consultation with Hitler concerning the aims envisaged by the Führer during the present war, wrote in his diary: "We are seeking contact with Britain on the basis of partitioning the world".[40]

One of Hitler's sub-goals for the invasion of Russia was to win over Britain to the German side. He believed that after the military collapse of the USSR, "within a few weeks" Britain would be forced either into a surrender or else come to join Germany as a "junior partner" in the Axis.[41] Britain's role in this alliance was reserved to support German naval and aerial military actions against the USA in a fight for world supremacy conducted from the Axis power bases of Europe, Africa and the Atlantic.[42] On August 8, 1941, Hitler stated that he looked forward to the eventual day when "England and Germany [march] together against America" and on January 7, 1942 he daydreamed that it was "not impossible" for Britain to quit the war and join the Axis side, leading to a situation where "it will be a German-British army that will chase the Americans from Iceland".[43]

From a historial perspective Britain’s situation was likened to that which the Austrian Empire found itself in after it was defeated by the Kingdom of Prussia in the Battle of Königgratz in 1866.[36] As Austria was thereafter formally excluded from German affairs, so too would Britain be excluded from continental affairs in the event of a German victory. Yet afterwards, Austria-Hungary became a loyal ally of the German Empire in the pre-WWI power alignments in Europe, and it was hoped that Britain would come to fulfill this same role.[36]

Channel Islands

The British Channel Islands were to be permanently integrated into the Germanic Empire.[44] On July 22, 1940 Hitler stated that after the war, the islands were to be given to the control of Robert Ley's German Labour Front, and transferred into Strength Through Joy holiday resorts.[45] Nazi scholar Karl Heinz Pfeffer toured the islands in 1941, and recommended that the German occupiers should should appeal to the islanders Norman heritage and treat the islands as "Germanic micro-states", whose union with Britain was only an accident of history.[46] He likened the preferred policy concerning the islands similar to the one pursued by the British in Malta, where the Maltese language had been "artificially" supported against the Italian language.[46]

Later development

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Hitler's preoccupation with the Pan-Germanic plan began to fade, although the concept was never abandoned. As the foreign volunteers of the Waffen-SS were increasingly of non-Germanic origin, especially after the battle of Stalingrad, among the organization's leadership (e.g. Felix Steiner) the proposition for a Greater Germanic Empire gave way to a concept of a European union of self-governing states, unified by German hegemony and the common enemy of Bolshevism.[47] The Waffen-SS was to be the eventual nucleus of a common European army, where each state would be represented by a national contingent.[47] Himmler himself, however, gave no concession to these views, and hold on to his Pan-Germanic vision in a speech given on April 1943 to the officers of SS divisions LSAH, Das Reich and Totenkopf:[47]

We do not expect you to renounce your nation. ... We do not expect you to become German out of opportunism. We do expect you to subordinate your national ideal to a greater racial and historical ideal, to the Germanic Reich.

See also


  1. ^ Elvert, Jürgen: Mitteleuropa!: deutsche Pläne zur europäischen Neuordnung (1918-1945), page 325. Verlag Wiesbaden GmbH, 1999. [1] (in German)
  2. ^ Albert Speer (1970). Inside the Third Reich. Macmillian Company, p. 260.
  3. ^ a b Rothwell (2005), p. 37.
  4. ^ a b Rich, Norman: Hitler's War Aims: The Establishment of the New Order. W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1974.
  5. ^ Strobl, Gerwin: The Germanic Isle: Nazi Perceptions of Britain. Cambridge University Press, 2000. [2]
  6. ^ Williams, John Frank (2005). Corporal Hitler and the Great War 1914-1918: the List Regiment. Frank Cass, p. 209. [3]
  7. ^ a b c Bohn, Robert: Die deutsche Herrschaft in den "germanischen" Ländern 1940-1945. Steiner, 1997. [4] (in German)
  8. ^ Fink, Jürg: Die Schweiz aus der Sicht des Dritten Reiches, 1933-1945. , 1985. [5]
  9. ^ a b Lipgens, Walter (1985). Documents on the history of European integration: Continental plans for European Union 1939-1945. Walter de Gruyter. p. 41. ISBN 3110097249. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Winkler, Heinrich August; Sager, Alexander (2007). Germany: the long road west. 1933-1990. Oxford University Press. p. 74. ISBN 0199265984. 
  11. ^ Blamires, Cyprian; Jackson, Paul: World Fascism: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1, page 321. ABC-CLIO Inc., 2006. [6]
  12. ^ Schöttler, Peter (2003). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "'Eine Art „Generalplan West“: Die Stuckart-Denkschrift vom 14. Juni 1940 und die Planungen für eine neue deutsch-französische Grenze im Zweiten Weltkrieg."] (in ger). Sozial.Geschichte 18 (3): 83–131. 
  13. ^ Steininger, Rolf (2003). South Tyrol: a minority conflict of the twentieth century. Transaction Publishers. p. 67. ISBN 0765808005. 
  14. ^ Rich (1974), p. 384
  15. ^ a b Welch, David (1983). Nazi propaganda: the power and the limitations. Taylor & Francis. p. 145. ISBN 0389204005. 
  16. ^ a b Rich (1974), p. 26
  17. ^ Waller, John H. (2002). The devil's doctor: Felix Kersten and the secret plot to turn Himmler against Hitler. Wiley, p. 20 [7]
  18. ^ Kersten, Felix (1947). The Memoirs of Doctor Felix Kersten. Doubleday & Company, inc., p. 84-85 [8]
  19. ^ Gildea, Tekijät Robert; Wieviorka, Olivier; Warring, Anette (2006). Surviving Hitler and Mussolini: daily life in occupied Europe. Berg, page 130. [9]
  20. ^ Werner Hamacher,Neil Hertz,Thomas Keenan: Responses: on Paul de Man's Wartime journalism. U of Nebraska Press, 1989, p. 444 [10]
  21. ^ Kieler, Jørgen (2007). Resistance fighter: a personal history of the Danish resistance movement, 1940-1945. Gefen Publishing House Ltd. p. 43. ISBN 9652293970. 
  22. ^ Rothwell, Victor: War Aims in the Second World War: the War Aims of the Major Belligerents, page 32. Edinburgh University Press, 2005. [11]
  23. ^ a b c Leitz, Christian (2000). Nazi Germany and neutral Europe during the second world war. Manchester University Press. p. 52. ISBN 0719050693. 
  24. ^ Ackermann, Josef (1970). Heinrich Himmler als Ideologe. Musterschmidt. p. 191. 
  25. ^ Rich (1974), p. 500
  26. ^ a b Rich (1974), p. 401.
  27. ^ a b c d Petacco, Arrigo (2005). A tragedy revealed: the story of the Italian population of Istria, Dalmatia, and Venezia Giulia, 1943-1956. University of Toronto Press. pp. 50. ISBN 0802039219. 
  28. ^ Rich (1974), p. 317
  29. ^ Haar, Ingo; Fahlbusch, Michael (2006). German scholars and ethnic cleansing, 1919-1945. Berghahn Books. pp. 113, 122-123. ISBN 9781845450489. 
  30. ^ Rich (1974), p. 398
  31. ^ Strobl (2000), pp. 36-60
  32. ^ a b c Strobl (2000), p. 84
  33. ^ Strobl (2000), p. 85
  34. ^ Gerhard L. Weinberg (editor) Hitler's Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf. Enigma Books: New York, 2003. [12] ISBN 1-929631-16-2
  35. ^ Strobl (2000), p.61
  36. ^ a b c d Rich (1974): 396
  37. ^ Nicosia, Francis R. (2000). The Third Reich and the Palestine question. Transaction Publishers. p. 73. ISBN 076580624X. 
  38. ^ Nicosia (2000), p. 73
  39. ^ Hildebrand, Klaus (1973). The foreign policy of the Third Reich. University of California Press. p. 99. ISBN 0520025288. 
  40. ^ Hildebrand (1973), p. 96
  41. ^ Hildebrand (1973), p. 105
  42. ^ Hildebrand (1973), pp. 100-105
  43. ^ Pinkus, Oscar (2005). The war aims and strategies of Adolf Hitler. McFarland. p. 259. ISBN 0786420545. 
  44. ^ Rich (1974), p. 421
  45. ^ Sanders, Paul (2005). The British Channel Islands under German occupation, 1940-1945. Paul Sanders. p. xxiv. ISBN 0953885836. 
  46. ^ a b Sanders (2005), p. 188
  47. ^ a b c Stein, George H. (1984). The Waffen SS: Hitler's elite guard at war, 1939-1945. Cornell University Press. pp. 145–148. ISBN 0801492750. 

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