What were the Germans intentions in Russia?
It turns out – the Nazis planned an even grimmer fate for the Russians than they initially reserved for the Jews.*
After conquering Russia (at the very least as far as the Urals), the Nazi idea was to abolish higher education in the new Russian territories, stopping school at Grade 4 (ten years old). In a speech to the police, Himmler outlined Nazi policy.
I can only repeat what the Führer has asked. It is enough if, firstly, the children are taught the traffic signs at school so that they won’t run under our cars; secondly, they learn to count to twenty-five; and thirdly, they can write their names as well. No more is necessary.
The goal was that the local inhabitants be bereft of any leadership and made effectively slaves for a new German ruling class. Not only were Russian and Ukrainians not to have their own schools, they were not to have German schools either.
Of course all of this was to be preceded by a campaign of mass executions of the political and cultural elite. In addition, a policy of institutional kidnapping of the many children fathered by the three million German soldiers on Russian and Ukrainian territory.
At the end of June 1941, Hitler thought Moscow would fall into his hands imminently. He planned to eliminate the city altogether and create a lake in its place!
In a few weeks we’ll be in Moscow. Then I’ll raze it to the ground and build a reservoir there. The name Moscow must be expunged.
Fortunately Moscow never fell into Nazi hands and survived – Moscow which is like a third Rome after Constantinople. The destruction of Moscow would have ranked as an historical and cultural loss with the destruction of Carthage and Constantinople itself. Sadly, Stalinism itself has wreaked havoc with the original unique village/church/countryside style of Moscow and has left Moscow a flawed and strange beauty. Very few of the old quarters of town with their stately mansions and soft wintery streets remain intact.
The same destruction was planned for Petersburg (Leningrad) – the Venice of the North. Martin Bormann writes on 16 July 1941:
The Leningrad area is being claimed by the Finns. The Führer wants to raze Leningrad to the ground – then he’ll give it to the Finns.
Instead of giving the land back to the peasants (which would have brought the Nazis eternal loyalty from the Ukrainians and the Cossacks, still reeling from collectivisation in the early thirties), the Nazis planned to continue to exploit the huge state farms with virtually slave labour.
On 23 September 1941, Hitler told his commanders over dinner of plans to liquidate the Slavs up to and beyond the Urals.
The frontier between Europe and Asia is not the Ural Mountains but there where the settlements of Germanically inclined people end and unadulterated Slav settlements begin. It is our task to push this frontier as far east as possible, and if need be far beyond the Urals. It is the eternal law of nature that gives Germany as the stronger power the right before history to subjugate these peoples of inferior race, to dominate them and to coerce them into performing useful labours.
Given the brutality of Stalinism, I had always wondered why the Russians and Ukrainians resisted the Nazis so determinedly. Wouldn’t it have been better to live in comparative prosperity under National Socialism (i.e. occupied France) than under the misery of Stalinism. In the end, I ascribed it as a propaganda victory.
But in fact, the Nazis own conduct is almost wholly responsible for Soviet patriotism and partisan activity. After a year under the Nazi whip, the Russians and Ukrainians understood they were fighting for their very existence against the Nazis. It was that knowledge which made them capable of the tremendous sacrifices necessary to defeat the Nazi armies.
Next to the Nazis, Stalin seems almost benevolent. His plans for Germany in the case of victory were to take and use the German intellgentsia both immediately in a practical sense as engineers and workers to strengthen Bolshevism. In the long run, apparently Stalin intended to mix Russian and German blood to improve the Russian population. Albeit after much bloodshed, Stalin did allow the Poles a country and even left his old foes Rumania and Bulgaria and Hungary more or less intact.
To learn of German intentions for Russia is a real shock for me. Russian culture is the midnight flower of the world. A culture of deep despair and grand emotions and overwhelming hope, Russian art offers more emotional and philosophical depth than any other on this earth. In music, in literature, in ballet, in visual arts, Russians are the great tragic geniuses of this world.
The Russian language is the deepest and most flexible and most beautiful language I have ever heard. Russian poetry is the most sonorous and powerful ever written. Next to Russian, German is a nasty, broken tongue, emotionless and flat, with nothing to recommend it apart from a certain useful precision for the issuing of detailed instructions.
And this fopling and wretched painter aspired to annihilate Russian culture and language from this world while razing the two citadels of Russian culture and architecture?
Both Germans and the Austrians cooperated and prosecuted this project with abandon. What were they thinking about?
With this knowledge, I feel very strange living in Austria now.
A Germanic ruling class existed in Russia for centuries, before the Nazis ever showed up. They pretty much were the overlords of Russia until the overthrow of the Czar. In fact, many of the Czars, and Czarinas, were Germanic in origin, and many of their courtiers were as well (correction; there was no Germany, per se, at the time. It was called the Holy Roman Empire or Heiliges Römisches Reich for a time and the German Empire, or Deutsches Reich, for a time as well, both of which encompassed a much larger area than present day Germany). The House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov (aka the Romanov dynasty) stemmed from the House of Oldenburg which was one of the most powerful Royal Houses in Europe, originating in northern Germany. In addition to Czars of Russia, the House also produced Kings of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Greece, and Dukes of Holstein, Schleswig, Lauenburg, and Gottorp. In consequence, many of the Russian Czars encouraged German settlers to migrate to Russia and granted them special privileges within the country; exempting them from taxes, military service, and the like. It wasn’t until the advent of Nationalism, and ultimately the October Revolution, that the German settlers were forced to enter Russian schools, pay taxes, and join the military. Much of the aristocracy and wealthy land owners were German and they were negatively affected by both World War I, in which they were suspected of having German sympathies and sent to Siberia, and the Russian Civil War, in which much of their wealth and property was stripped away from them by the communists (even though many of the poorer Russian-Germans fought alongside the Bolsheviks).