:"This page describes the origins and historical use of the term "Volksdeutsche". For the article about the people this term describes, see "
ethnic Germans") is a historical term which arose in the early 20th century to describe ethnic Germans living outside of the Reich. This is in contrast to Imperial Germans(" Reichsdeutsche"), German citizens living within Germany. The term also contrasts with the modern term Auslandsdeutsche("Germans abroad") which generally denotes German citizens residing in other countries.
This is the loosest meaning of the term, which was used mainly during the
Weimar Republic. In a stricter sense, Volksdeutsch came to mean ethnic Germans living abroad but "without" German citizenship, i.e., the juxtaposition with Reichsdeutsch was sharpened to denote difference in citizenship as well as residence.
Origin of the term
According to Doris Bergen, Hitler himself is reputed to have coined the definition of "Volksdeutsche" that appeared in a 1938 memorandum of the German Reich Chancellery. In that document, the Volksdeutsche were defined as "people whose language and culture had German origins but who did not hold German citizenship. However, for Hitler and other Germans of his time, the term "Volksdeutsche" also carried overtones of blood and race not captured in the common English translation "ethnic Germans". According to German estimates in the 1930s, about 30 million Volksdeutsche and Auslandsdeutsche (= German citizens residing abroad, see McKale 1977: The Swastika outside Germany, p. 4) were living outside the Reich, a significant proportion of them in easteren Europe - Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic states and Romania. The Nazi goal of expansion to the east assigned the Volksdeutsche a special role in German plans for the east as embodied in
Generalplan Ost. [Bergen, Doris. The Nazi Concept of 'Volksdeutsche' and the Exacerbation of Anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, 1939-45 Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Oct., 1994), pp. 569-582]
History of the term
Over the last thousand years, Germans emigrated from traditional German lands in
Central Europeand settled further east in Russia, present day Romaniaand other countries. Many Germans settled in the Baltic and parts of present day Polandin colonies established by the Teutonic Knightsbeginning in the Thirteenth Century. The Knights were also granted rights in Transylvaniaresulting in the settlement of many Germans.
Sixteenth CenturyVasili III invited small numbers of German craftsmen, traders and professionals to settle in Russia so that the empire could exploit their skills. These settlers (many of whom intended to stay only temporarily) were generally confined to the German Quarterin Moscow(which also included Dutch, British and other western or northern European settlers who the Russians came to indiscriminately refer to as "Germans") and gradually in other cities so as to prevent the spread of alien ideas to the general population. In his youth, Peter the Great spent much time in the German quarter and when he became Tsar he brought more German experts (and other foreigners) into Russia and particularly into government service in his attempts to westernize the empire. He also brought in German engineers to supervise the construction of the new city of Saint Petersburg. Catherine the Great, who was herself German, invited German farmers to immigrate and settle in Russian lands along the Volga Riverwhich had recently been conquered from the Ottoman Empire. She guaranteed them the right to retain their language, religion and culture.
Treaty of Versailles
The reconstitution of Poland following the
Treaty of Versaillesleft millions of Germans previously living in a Prussian province of the German Empireoutside a German nation state. The same happened to German inhabitants of most provinces of dissolved Austria-Hungary, most notably Sudeten Germans, Danube Swabiansand Transylvanian Saxonswere now inhabitants of newly established Slavic or Magyarnation states. Tensions between administration and German minority arose in the Polish Corridor.
During the Nazi Era
During Nazi times, the term "Volksdeutsche" referred to foreign-born Germans living in countries occupied by Germany who applied for German citizenship. Prior to
World War II, well above ten million ethnic Germans lived in Central and Eastern Europe. They constituted an important minority far into Russia.
Pre-war relations with the Nazis
In 1931, prior to its rise to power, the Nazi party established the Auslandsorganisation der NSDAP (Foreign Organisation of the Nazi Party), whose task it was to disseminate Nazi propaganda among the German minorities living outside of Germany (Volksdeutsche). In 1936, the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (Ethnic Germans' Welfare Office), commonly known as VoMi, was set up under the jurisdiction of the SS as the liaison bureau for the Volksdeutsche, headed by SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Werner Lorenz.
In 1936 the Nazis set up an office to act as a contact for the Volksdeutsche. According to Lumans Valdiso,
:" [one of Himmler's goals was] centralizing control over the myriad of groups and individuals inside the Reich promoting the Volksdeutsche cause. Himmler did not initiate the process but rather discovered it in progress and directed it to its conclusion and to his advantage. His principal instrument in this effort was an office from outside the SS, a Nazi party organ, the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (VoMi), translated as the Ethnic German Liaison Office." [VALDISO. LUMANS. "Himmler's Auxiliaries: THE VOLKSDEUTSCHE MITTELSTELLE AND THE GERMAN NATIONAL MINORITIES OF EUROPE, 1933-1945" THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS CHAPEL HILL AND LONDON]
Collaboration with the Nazis
Before and during WWII, some Volksdeutsche in some countries like Czechoslovakia, Poland or Yugoslavia, actively supported the Nazis by espionage, sabotage and other services against their countries of origin.
In September 1939 in Poland, an armed self-defence unit called
Selbstschutz(Self-Defence) was created for the Volksdeutsche. At the beginning of 1940, the Selbstschutz was disbanded and its members transferred to various units of the SS and German police.
In Yugoslavia, the "Prinz Eugen" Division of the Waffen-SS was formed, and was conspicuous in its operations against the partisans and among the population. About 300,000 Volksdeutsche from the conquered lands and the satellite countries joined the Waffen-SS. From Hungary alone, some 100,000 ethnic Germans volunteered for service in it. Among the populations in the Nazi-occupied lands, Volksdeutsche became a term of ignominy.
After the Germans occupied Poland in September 1939, they established a central registration bureau, called the German People's List (Deutsche Volksliste, DVL), where they registered Polish citizens of German origin as Volksdeutsche. Poles were greatly encouraged to register themselves, and were sometimes compelled to do so. Those who joined this group were given benefits, including better food, and were accorded a special status.
Among its activities on behalf of the Volksdeutsche, the
Volksdeutsche Mittelstelleorganised large-scale looting of property. The Volksdeutsche were given apartments, workshops, farms, furniture, and clothing that had belonged to Jews and Poles. In turn, hundreds of thousands of the Volksdeutsche joined the German forces, either willingly or under compulsion.
Polandduring World War II, Polish citizens of German ancestry, who often identified themselves with the Polish nation, were confronted with the dilemma of whether to sign the " Deutsche Volksliste", the list of Germans living in Poland. This included ethnic Germans whose families had lived in Poland proper for centuries, and Germans (who became citizens of Poland after 1920) from the part of Germany that had been transferred to Poland after World War I.
Often the choice was either to sign and be regarded as a traitor by the Polish, or not to sign and be treated by the Nazi occupation as a traitor of the Germanic race. After the collapse of
Nazi Germany, some of these people were tried by the Polish authorities for high treason. Even now, in Poland the word "Volksdeutsch" is regarded as an insult, synonymous with the word "traitor".
In some cases, individuals consulted the Polish resistance first, before signing the Volksliste. Volksdeutsche played an important role in intelligence activities of the Polish resistance, and were at times the primary source of information for the Allies. In the eyes of the postwar
Communistgovernment, having aided the non-Communist Polish resistance was not considered a mitigating factor; therefore, many of these double-agent Volksdeutsche were prosecuted.
In occupied Poland, the status of "Volksdeutscher" gave many privileges, but one big disadvantage: Volksdeutsche were subject to conscription into the German army.
The Deutsche Volksliste categorised Poles into one of 4 categories:
* Category I: Persons of German descent who had engaged themselves in favour of the Reich before 1939.
* Category II: Persons of German descent who had remained passive.
* Category III: Persons of German descent who had become partly "polonized", e.g. through marrying a Polish partner or through working relationships (especially
Silesians and Kashubians).
* Category IV: Persons of German ancestry who had become "polonized" but were supportive of "Germanisation".
Volksdeutsche of statuses 1 and 2 in the Polish areas annexed by Germany numbered 1,000,000, and Nos. 3 and 4 numbered 1,700,000. In the
General Governmentthere were 120,000 Volksdeutsche. Volksdeutsche of Polish ethnic origins were treated by the Poles with special contempt, but were also committing high treason according to Polish law.Fact|date=March 2007
The Volga Germans
Volga Germans were granted an autonomous republic after the Russian Revolution of 1917but the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republicwas abolished by Stalinafter the German invasion of the USSR with many of its inhabitants being deported to Siberia.Fact|date=August 2007
Expulsion and exodus from Eastern Europe
Most Volksdeutsche left or were expelled from their countries in the course of the
German exodus from Eastern Europe. Both those who became Volksdeutsche by signing the list and Reichsdeutsche retained German citizenship during the years of Allied military occupation, after the establishment of East Germanyand West Germanyin 1949, and later in the reunified Germany.
Tiny remnants of the ethnic German community remain in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. There is also a small surviving German community in Siebenbürgen (
Transylvania) in Romania.
The Nazis popularized the terms "Volksdeutsche", and also exploited this group for their own purposes. As a result, the term is not much used today - often one uses either
Auslandsdeutsche, or names that more closely associate them with their earlier place of abode such as "Wolgadeutsche" or Volga Germans, the ethnic Germans living in the Volga basin in Russia; and Baltic Germans, those ethnic Germans who generally called themselves Balts and were removed to German-occupied Poland during WW2 by an agreement between Hitlerand Stalin).
*"Nazi Fifth Column Activities: A List of References", Library of Congress, 1943
*"The German fifth column in the Second World War", by L. de Jong
*"The German Fifth Column in Poland", Hutchinson & Co Ltd, London
*Luther, Tammo (2004): "Volkstumspolitik des Deutschen Reiches 1933-1938. Die Auslanddeutschen im Spannungsfeld zwischen Traditionalisten und Nationalsozialisten". Franz Steiner, Stuttgart
Imperial Germans, for a discussion of the different concepts and the shift of meaning between them.
German exodus from Eastern Europe
World War II evacuation and expulsion
Pursuit of Nazi collaborators
Nur für Deutsche
* [http://www.radio.cz/en/article/25511 Hitler's Fifth column in Czechoslovakia]
* [http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-2147235/Mutiny-in-the-Balkans-Croat.html Hitler's Fifth column in Croatia]
* [http://www.serbianna.com/columns/savich/010.html Hitler's Fifth column in Yugoslavia]
* [http://www.feldgrau.com/poland.html Hitler's Fifth column in Poland]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Volksdeutsche — war eine in den Jahren nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg durch die Umorganisation von Staatsgrenzen und Bildung neuer Staaten gebräuchliche Bezeichnung vor allem für und von jenen Menschen deutscher Muttersprache, die in Europa außerhalb von Staaten mit… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Volksdeutsche — Régions de langue allemande d après le recensement officiel de 1910, sans les Germano Baltes, les Allemands de la Volga ni les anciennes colonies d outre mer … Wikipédia en Français
Volksdeutsche — Карта исторического распределения немецкоговорящего населения в Европе по состоянию на 1910 год (без поселений немцев в Прибалтике и на Волге) Фольксдойче (нем. Volksdeutsche) обозначение «этнических германцев», которые жили в диаспоре, то есть… … Википедия
Volksdeutsche — El término Volksdeutsche (literalmente alemán en cuanto al pueblo , perteneciente al pueblo alemán ) fue utilizado durante el III Reich para designar a personas de origen alemán. Por lo general, núcleos de cultura e idioma alemán en diversas… … Wikipedia Español
Volksdeutsche — Vọlks|deut|sche(r) 〈f. 30 (m. 29); bis 1945〉 außerhalb der dt. Reichsgrenzen von 1937 u. Österreichs lebende Person dt. Herkunft * * * Vọlks|deut|sche <vgl. ↑ 1Deutsche (bes. nationalsoz.): außerhalb Deutschlands u. Österreichs lebende… … Universal-Lexikon
Volksdeutsche — (Ethnic germans) Adolf Hitler sought to resettle on the occupied territory in western Poland those ethnic Germans who resided in countries outside the Reich. An important objective of the policy of Lebensraum was the removal of Poles and Jews… … Historical dictionary of the Holocaust
Volksdeutsche — Vọlks|deut|sche, der und die; n, n … Die deutsche Rechtschreibung
Volksdeutsche Bewegung — (Ethnic German Movement) was a Nazi movement in Luxembourg that flourished under German occupation during the Second World War. Formed by Damian Kratzenberg, a University professor with a German background, the movement only emerged after the… … Wikipedia
Volksdeutsche Siedlungsgebiete — Deutscher Sprachraum um 1910 ohne deutsch baltisches, wolgadeutsches Siedlungsgebiet und überseeische Kolonialgebiete. Volksdeutsche war eine in den Jahren nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg durch die Umorganisation von Staatsgrenzen und Bildung neuer… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle — Die nationalsozialistische Parteiorganisation „SS“ entwickelte im Laufe der Diktatur einen aus verschiedenen „Hauptämtern“ und deren Unterabteilungen bestehenden Dachverband und bildete mit ihnen seit spätestens 1942 einen regelrechten Staat im… … Deutsch Wikipedia