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The Heim ins Reich initiative (German: literally Home into the Empire, meaning Back to Reich, see Reich)[1] was a policy pursued by Adolf Hitler starting in 1938 and was one of the factors leading to World War II. The initiative attempted to convince people of German descent living outside of Germany that they should strive to bring these regions "home" into a greater Germany. This includes both areas ceded after the Treaty of Versailles and areas having been part of Germany earlier such as Sudetenland.



Concurrent with this were the beginnings of attempts to ethnically cleanse non-Germans both from Germany and from the areas intended to be part of a "Greater Germany". Alternately, Hitler also made attempts to Germanize those who were considered ethnically or racially close enough to Germans to be "worth keeping" as part of a future German nation, such as the population of Luxembourg (officially, Germany considered these populations to actually be German, but not part of the greater German Reich, and were thus the targets of propaganda promoting this view in order to integrate them). These attempts were largely unpopular with the targets of the Germanization, and the citizens of Luxembourg voted in a referendum 98% against becoming citizens of Germany.

Other uses

The same motto (Heim ins Reich) was also applied to a different, but somewhat related policy: the uprooting and relocation of ethnically German communities from some Eastern European countries (Volksdeutsche), which had been there for hundreds of years. The Nazi government determined which of these communities were not "viable", started propaganda among the local population, and then made arrangements and organized their transport. This included Germans from Bukovina, Bessarabia, Dobruja and Yugoslavia. For example, after the Soviets had assumed control of this territory, about 45,000 ethnic Germans had left Northern Bukovina by November 1940. [2] Despite the wording that suggested resettlement in Germany, most of the people ended up in the Warthegau, which had been part of Poland. They were housed in farms left vacant by expulsion of the local Poles. They were harassed by Polish partisans (Armia Krajowa) during the war. As Nazi Germany lost the war, they were expelled to remaining Germany.

Heim ins Reich in Nazi terminology and propaganda also referred to former territories of the German Empire. Joseph Goebbels described in his diary that Belgium and Holland were Heim im Reich in 1940. Belgium was lost to Germany in 1794 and Holland in 1648. Other such territories that were occupied and annexed by Germany during the 1940s were Luxembourg, Alsace-Lorraine (German: Elsass-Lothringen), Slovenia, Bohemia, Moravia, and parts of Poland. The policy for German Expansion was planned in Generalplan Ost to continue farther eastwards into Poland, the Baltic states and the Soviet Union, thus creating a Greater Germany from the North Sea to the Urals.


  1. ^ A less literal translation might be "Return to the Nation".
  2. ^ Leonid Ryaboshapko. Pravove stanovishche nationalinyh mensyn v Ukraini (1917-2000) - P. 259 (in Ukrainian)

See also

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