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Reichskommissariat Ostland
Reich Commission for the Ostland (Eastern Territory)
Colony of Nazi Germany

Flag Coat of arms
Capital Riga
Language(s) German, Russian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Latvian, Polish
Government Civil administration
Historical era World War II
 - Established 1941
 - Disestablished 1944

Reichskommissariat Ostland was the German name for the Nazi civil administration of part of the occupied Eastern territories of the Third Reich, occupied during World War II. Ostland was the name given to the German occupied territories of the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), eastern parts of Poland, and western parts of Belarus.

Ostland should not be confused with Ober Ost, which had a similar role as Ostland as an occupation authority of Baltic territories by the German Empire in World War I.


Civil organisation

Ostland was one of the Reichskommissariats established, by a Decree of the Führer dated 17 July 1941, as administrative units of the "Großdeutsches Reich" (Greater Germany). They were subject to Reichsleiter Alfred Rosenberg[citation needed], Reichsminister für die besetzten Ostgebiete (Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories). The structure of the Reichskommissariate was defined by the same decree.

An instruction for the administrators (the Allgemeine Instruktion für alle Reichskommissare in den besetzten Ostgebieten) of the territories was prepared by Reichsleiter Alfred Rosenberg[citation needed].


The Eastern Territories were divided into Reichskommissariate. The local administrator was Der Reichskommissar für das Ostland Hinrich Lohse, Oberpräsident and Gauleiter of Schleswig-Holstein.

The Reichskommissariat Ostland was sub-divided into four "General Regions" (Generalbezirke). Estland, Lettland and Litauen were divided into Districts (Kreisgebiete) which were grouped into Main Districts (Hauptgebiete) with local administration based in Riga".

Generalbezirk Estland (Estonia)

Capital Reval (Tallinn), Gebietskommissariate in Arensburg (Kuressaare), Dorpat (Tartu), Pernau (Pärnu), Petschur (Pechory), and Wesenberg (Rakvere). This generlbezirk was effectively independent since Estonia remained part of the Wehrmacht's rear area even after its transfer to the civil administration. By playing both sides against the middle general commissar Litzmann was able to govern it much as he saw fit

Generalbezirk Lettland (Latvia)

Capital Riga, Gebietskommissariate in Dünaburg (Daugavpils), Libau (Liepāja), Mitau (Jelgava), Riga and Wolmar (Valmiera).

Generalbezirk Litauen (Lithuania)

Capital Kauen (Kaunas), Gebietskommissariate in Kauen (Kaunas), Ponewesch (Panevėžys), Schaulen (Šiauliai) and Wilna (Vilnius).

Generalbezirk Weißruthenien (Belarus)

Capital Minsk, subdivided into Hauptgebieten:

  • Hauptgebiete der Minsk (Minsk)
  • Hauptgebiete der Mogilew (Mogilev)
  • Hauptgebiete der Witebsk (Vitebsk)
  • Hauptgebiete der Smolensk (Smolensk)

Gebietskommissariate in Baranowitsche (Baranovichi), Ganzewitchi (Hantsavichy), Lida, Glubokoye (Hlybokaye), Minsk, Nowogródek (Navahrudak), Slonim, Sluzk (Slutsk) and Wilejka (Vileyka).

At first, Generalbezirk Weißruthenien included Nowogródek, Polesia (in southern Belarus) and Smolensk (in Russia), as well as all Belarus[citation needed]. In 1942, German civil authority was extended to Minsk, Sluzk and Borisov, leaving the rest of Belarus under military control.


Local administration in the Reichskommissariats was to be organized under a "National Director" (Reichskomissar) in Estonia, a "General Director" in Latvia and a "General Adviser" in Lithuania. The local administration of the Reichskommissariat Ostland was under Reichskomissar Hinrich Lohse. Below him there was an administrative hierarchy: a Generalkomissar led each Generalbezirke, Gebietskomissars and Hauptkommissars administered Kreigsbietes and Hauptgenbietes, respectively.

Rosenberg's ministerial authority was, in practice, severely limited. The first reason was that many of the practicalities were commanded elsewhere: the Wehrmacht and the SS managed the military and security aspects, Fritz Sauckel (Reich Director of Labour) had control over manpower and working areas, Hermann Göring and Albert Speer had total management of economic aspects in the territories and the Reich postal service administered the East territories' postal services. These German central government interventions in the affairs of Ostland, overriding the appropriate ministries were known as "Sonderverwaltungen" (special administration). Later, from September 1941, the civil administration that had been decreed in the previous July was actually set up. Lohse and, for that matter, Koch would not bow to his authority seeking to administer their territories with the independence and authority of gauleiters. on 1 April 1942 an arbeitsbereich (lit. "working sphere", a name for the party cadre organisation outside the reich proper) was established in the civil administration part of the occupied Soviet territories, whereupon Koch and Lohse gradually ceased communication with him preferring to deal directly with Hitler through Martin Bormann and the party chancellery. In the process they also displaced all other actors including notably the SS, except in central Belarus where HSSPF 'Erich von dem Bach-Zelewsky had a special command encompassing both military and civil administration territories and engaged in "anti-partisan" atrocities.

In July 1941 a civil administration was declared in much of the occupied Soviet territories before one had materialised in the field. A power vacuum emerged which the SS filled with its SS and Police Leadership Structure, exercising unlimited power over security and policing which it gave up only grudgingly in the autumn when civil administration came into being; indeed Himmler would use various tactics until as late as 1943 in unsuccessful efforts to regain this power. This partly explains the strained relations between the SS and the civil administration. In the Ostland, matters were further complicated by the personality of the local HSSPF Friedrich Jeckeln, attacked by the SS's opponents for his alleged corruption, brutality and mindless foolhardiness.

During the occupation, the Germans published a "local" German-language newspaper, the Deutsche Zeitung im Ostland.

State property

Upon taking control, Hinrich Lohse proclaimed the official decree "Verkündungsblatt für das Ostland" on November 15, 1941, whereby all Soviet State and Party properties in the Baltic area and Belarus were confiscated and transferred to the German administration.

In Ostland, the administration returned lands confiscated by the Soviets to the former peasant owners. In towns and cities, small workshops, industries and businesses were returned to their former owners, subject to promises to pay taxes and quotas to the authorities. Jewish properties were confiscated. In Belarus, a state enterprise was established to manage all former Soviet government properties. One of the German administrators was General commissar Wilhelm Kube.

Ostgesellschaften (state monopolies) and so-called Patenfirmen, private industrial companies linked to the German government, were quickly appointed to manage confiscated enterprises. The Hermann Göring Workshops, Mannesmann, IG Farben and Siemens assumed control of all former Soviet state enterprises in Ostland and Ukraine. An example of this was the takeover, by Daimler-Benz and Vomag, of heavy repair workshops, in Riga and Kiev, for the maintenance of all captured Russian T-34 and KV-1 tanks, linked with their repair workshops in Germany.

In Belarus, the German authorities lamented the "Jewish-Bolshevik" extremist policies that had denied the people knowledge of the basic concepts of private property, ownership, or personal initiative. Unlike the Baltic area, where the authorities saw that "during the war and the occupation's first stages, the population gave examples of sincere collaboration, a way for possibly giving some liberty to autonomous administration".


According to Schwerin von Krosigk, the Reich Minister of Finances[citation needed], until February 1944, Reich Government receiving in concept of occupation costs and taxes (in million of RM) 753,6 RM. The German Ministry of East Affairs required Lohse and the Reichskommissar in the Ukraine to deliver immediately slave labour from the occupied territories to Germany: 380,000 farm workers and 247,000 industrial workers.[citation needed]

The Germans viewed Slavs as a pool of slave work labour for use by the German Reich; if necessary they could be worked to death.

German settlement

The political objectives, as defined by Alfred Rosenberg, were the removal of the Großrussische (Great Russian) threat to the Reich for the next centuries. The long-term plans for Ostland differed from those for Ukraine, Caucasus or Moscow region. The Baltic lands were to be organised as one "Germanised" Protectorate, prior to union with Germany. Rosenberg said that these lands had a "European" character, resulting from 700 years of history and should provide "Lebensraum". There was also a need to establish a buffer against Bolshevik ideology. This could be achieved by the racial assimilation of the Baltic population and White Ruthenia (Belarus) into a unified population.

The regime planned to encourage post-war settlement of Germans to the region, seeing it as a region traditionally inhabited by Germans (see the Teutonic Order) that had been overrun. In Pskov province ethnic Germans were resettled from Romania with some Dutch. The settlement of Dutch settlers was encouraged by the "Nederlandsche Oost-Compagnie", a Dutch-German organisation.

Conquered territories further to the east were under military control for the entirety of the war.


Map titled "Jewish Executions Carried Out by Einsatzgruppe A" from the Stahlecker's report. Marked "Secret Reich Matter", the map shows the number of Jews shot in Ostland, and reads at the bottom: "the estimated number of Jews still on hand is 128,000". Estonia is marked as judenfrei.

At the time of the German invasion, in June 1941, there were significant Jewish minorities in Ostland, nearly 480,000 people. To these were added deportees from Austria, Germany and elsewhere.

Jews were confined to ghettos in Riga and Kauen, which rapidly became overcrowded and squalid. From these they were taken to execution sites.

The Soviet Red Army, reported the discovery, at Vilna and Kauen, of extermination centres, apparently part of the Nazi Final Solution. The extermination of the resident Jews began almost immediately after the invasion and was later extended to the deportees.

In autumn, 1943, the ghettos were "liquidated", and the remaining occupants were moved to camps at Kaiserwald and Stutthof near Danzig or, if not capable of work, killed.


German and local security authorities were kept busy by Soviet partisan activities in Belarus. They noted that "infected zones" of partisan action included an area of 500 or 600 km², around Minsk, Pinsk, Gomel, Briansk, Smolensk and Vitebsk, including the principal roads and railways in these areas.

See also

Soviet operations 19 August to 31 December 1944.

German political leaders related with Baltic cause

Baltic political leaders

Estonian political leaders

Latvian political leaders

Lithuanian political leaders

Belarusian nationalist and political leaders


  • Arnold Toynbee, Veronica Toynbee, et al.,"Hitler's Europe" (Spanish tr."La Europa de Hitler", Ed Vergara, Barcelona, Esp, 1958), Section VI "Occupied lands and Satellite Countries in East Europe", Chapter II:Ostland, P.253-259.
  • Ostland Footnotes: P.253-259.
  • Ostland - Verwaltungskarte. Herg. vom Reichskommissar f. d. Ostland, Abt. II Raum. Stand der Grenzen vom 1. Nov. 1942 (Map)

See also

External links

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