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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hitler Plans For Living Space, November 5, 1937

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Today in 1937, Adolf Hitler first laid out his detailed plan for the expansion of Greater Germany. This political idea was called Lebensraum, meaning “habitat” or “living space.” It was this component of Nazi ideology that was used to justify the German domination of Europe during the early years of the Second World War, especially the invasion of the Soviet Union in June, 1941.

Many societies have developed expansionist policies. For example, advocates of the westward expansion of the United States during the 19th century used the term Manifest Destiny. Simply put, Manifest Destiny was the belief that it was America’s mission to expand the country to the Pacific Ocean. The same attitude towards national expansion had existed in Germany well before Hitler came to power, but the Nazi Party sought to make Lebensraum one of the central focuses of any future war.

Anyone who had read “Mein Kampf”, Hitler’s political biography first published in 1925, could have predicted that Lebensraum would be a central theme of Nazi rule. According to the book, it was not enough for Germany to merely colonize other lands. Instead, any land gained by the nation through treaty or war would become part of the motherland.

German territorial expansion was one of main reasons for the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The Nazi regime in Berlin was so confident of victory against the Soviets that they drew up detailed plans describing how all of eastern Europe to the Ural Mountains would be divided and administered. The area was to be split into four territories , each with a separate administrative government. The occupiers’ first order of business was to be the forced displacement of Russian and Slav civilians living in the new Greater Germany. Where these millions of people would go was of little concern to the Nazis, since they viewed anyone not of Aryan blood as inferior. Any non-German civilians left in the occupied areas would be exterminated by starvation. Then, German citizens would be allowed to move in.

After pushing to the suburbs of Moscow, the German Army began to suffer defeats at the hands of the Soviet Red Army. After losing at Stalingrad in 1942 and Kursk in July, 1943, further plans for Lebensraum were put on hold.

After the war, reports began to surface concerning children missing from area formerly occupied by Germany. As these disappearances were investigated, it became clear that the expansion of Greater Germany was not just about land and natural resources---it also provided the Nazis with a source of “racially pure” children who were kidnapped and sent to live with German families. Unfortunately, many of the units involved with the kidnappings either kept no written records of their acts or destroyed them as the end of the war drew near. As a result, many adopted children in Germany (now in their 60’s and 70’s) have never been able to determine their true origin, as their adoptive parents were often told nothing about the child’s birthplace.

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