Albert Forster

Albert Forster

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Albert Maria Forster was a Nazi German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 politician. Under his administration as the Gauleiter
Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...

 of Danzig-West Prussia during the Second World War, the local non-German population suffered ethnic cleansing
Ethnic cleansing
Ethnic cleansing is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic orreligious group from certain geographic areas....

, mass murder
Mass murder
Mass murder is the act of murdering a large number of people , typically at the same time or over a relatively short period of time. According to the FBI, mass murder is defined as four or more murders occurring during a particular event with no cooling-off period between the murders...

, and forceful Germanisation
Germanisation
Germanisation is both the spread of the German language, people and culture either by force or assimilation, and the adaptation of a foreign word to the German language in linguistics, much like the Romanisation of many languages which do not use the Latin alphabet...

. Forster was sentenced to death for his crimes after Nazi Germany was defeated.

Life


Forster was born in Fürth
Fürth
The city of Fürth is located in northern Bavaria, Germany in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. It is now contiguous with the larger city of Nuremberg, the centres of the two cities being only 7 km apart....

, Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

, where he attended the Humanistisches Gymnasium
Gymnasium (school)
A gymnasium is a type of school providing secondary education in some parts of Europe, comparable to English grammar schools or sixth form colleges and U.S. college preparatory high schools. The word γυμνάσιον was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual...

 from 1912 to 1920. In 1923, he became a member of the SA
Sturmabteilung
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

 in Fürth and observed the trial for high treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 of Erich Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...

, Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, and eight others, which took place between February 26 and April 1, 1924, in the court of Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

.

Free City of Danzig


In 1930, Forster became the Nazi Party's Gauleiter
Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...

 of the Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig
The Free City of Danzig was a semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig and surrounding areas....

 (now Gdańsk
Gdansk
Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast, at the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay , in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

). In the spring of 1933, Forster spearheaded the Nazi take-over of Danzig. Between 1933-1939, Forster became embroiled in a feud with the Nazi President of the Danzig Senate, Arthur Greiser
Arthur Greiser
Arthur Greiser was a Nazi German politician and SS Obergruppenfuhrer. He was one of the persons primarily responsible for organizing the Holocaust in Poland and numerous other war crimes and crimes against humanity, for which he was tried, convicted and executed by hanging after World War...

, who was to remain Forster's life-long nemesis.

Before World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 Forster had tried and failed to gain control over the organisation of the irredentist activities of the minority ethnic German population in the Polish Corridor
Polish Corridor
The Polish Corridor , also known as Danzig Corridor, Corridor to the Sea or Gdańsk Corridor, was a territory located in the region of Pomerelia , which provided the Second Republic of Poland with access to the Baltic Sea, thus dividing the bulk of Germany from the province of East...

, neighboring Freie Stadt Danzig, which was created in 1920 by Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

), rather it was the SS-dominated Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche - "German in terms of people/folk" -, defined ethnically, is a historical term from the 20th century. The words volk and volkische conveyed in Nazi thinking the meanings of "folk" and "race" while adding the sense of superior civilization and blood...

 Mittelstelle
that won control. With Forster and Himmler engaged in a power struggle, this rendered the (ethnic) Germans concerned suspicious of Forster. When these territories were annexed after the Invasion of Poland and they became Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia, Forster's distrust of the local Nazi leaders led him to deny them political power and he filled all the significant positions with people from the pre-war Free City of Danzig. The result was, inevitably, great bitterness amongst the local Germans, which Forster's Germanization policies, which denied them higher status than that of the Poles, naturally exacerbated.

In May 1934 Forster, who had been made Honorable Citizen of Fürth
Fürth
The city of Fürth is located in northern Bavaria, Germany in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. It is now contiguous with the larger city of Nuremberg, the centres of the two cities being only 7 km apart....

 and of Danzig, married Gertrud Deetz. The wedding took place in the Berlin Chancellory, with Hitler and Rudolf Heß as witnesses and wedding guests.

In 1939, following orders from Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, Forster led the agitation in Danzig to step up pressure for annexation by Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 and proclaimed that in future "Poland will be only a dream". The Danzig issue was one of the pretexts used for the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

. He was hateful of Jews whom he called "dirty and slippery race" and he expressed his desire to control parts of Poland after Poles would be expelled from them.

World War II


Following Poland's defeat, Greiser became Gauleiter in the Warthegau, which became part of Germany after 1939. Forster became the Gauleiter and Reichstatthalter (governor) of the province Danzig-West Prussia from 1939–1945, thereby concentrating both the State and Nazi Party power in his hands. Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 instructed the Gauleiters, namely Forster and his rival Arthur Greiser
Arthur Greiser
Arthur Greiser was a Nazi German politician and SS Obergruppenfuhrer. He was one of the persons primarily responsible for organizing the Holocaust in Poland and numerous other war crimes and crimes against humanity, for which he was tried, convicted and executed by hanging after World War...

, in the Warthegau to Germanize the area, promising that "There would be no questions asked" about how this "Germanization" was to be accomplished. Forster goal was to make the area fully Germanised within ten years

Ethnic cleansing and Polish holocaust


Forster was responsible for ethnic cleansing of Poles to the General Government
General Government
The General Government was an area of Second Republic of Poland under Nazi German rule during World War II; designated as a separate region of the Third Reich between 1939–1945...

, as well as sending them to the Stutthof concentration camp
Stutthof concentration camp
Stutthof was the first Nazi concentration camp built outside of 1937 German borders.Completed on September 2, 1939, it was located in a secluded, wet, and wooded area west of the small town of Sztutowo . The town is located in the former territory of the Free City of Danzig, 34 km east of...

. He was also one of those responsible for Mass murders in Piaśnica
Mass murders in Piaśnica
The mass murders in Piaśnica were a set of mass executions carried out by Germans, during World War II, between the fall of 1939 and spring of 1940 in Piasnica Wielka in the Darzlubska Wilderness near Wejherowo. Standard estimates put the number of victims at between twelve thousand and fourteen...

, where approximately 12,000 Poles and Kashub intelligentsia
Intelligentsia
The intelligentsia is a social class of people engaged in complex, mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them...

 were killed in 1939-1940.
At Forster's disposal in early Nazi occupation of Polish territories were 17.667 members of the paramilitary Selbstschutz, Danzig police units (including Einsatzkommando 16), and a special SD unit Forster announced that West Prussia would become a "blossoming, pure German" province and all Poles will be driven off.

Forster personally encouraged pogroms and violence; in a speech at the Prusinski Hotel in Wejherowo he agitated ethnic Germans to attack Poles by saying "We have to eliminate the lice ridden Poles, starting with those in the cradle… in your hands I give the fate of the Poles, you can do with them what you want". The crowd gathered before the hotel chanted "Kill the Polish dogs!" and "Death to the Poles". The Selbstschutz participated in the early massacres as Piaśnica, and many of their members later joined police and SS formations which continued the massacres until the Fall of 1940.

The total number of victims of what Christopher Browning
Christopher Browning
Christopher Robert Browning is an American historian of the Holocaust.-Education:Browning received his bachelor's degree from Oberlin College in 1968 and his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1975. He taught at Pacific Lutheran University from 1974 to 1999, eventually becoming...

 calls "orgy of murder and deportation" cannot be estimated with precision, Nazi reports from early occupation speak of about 20,000 Poles "destroyed", while additionally Forster reported that 87.000 people had been "evacuated" from the region by February 1940 alone.

It is estimated that till the end of the war up to 60.000 people had been murdered in the region and up to 170.000 ethnically cleansed.
Role in the Jewish Holocaust

Forster at the outbreak of the war declared that "Jews are not humans, and must be eradicated like vermin...mercy towards Jews is reprehensible. Any means of destruction of Jews is desirable. Jews were being arrested, executed and murdered as well as deported to General Gouvernment. By November 1939 Danzig-West Prussia was declared "Judenfrei" It is estimated that up to 30.000 Jews from Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany in Pomerania and attached to Danzig-West Prussia were mass murdered during the war.

Germanization policies


Forster put remaining Poles between alternative-become Germanised or become slaves.

Forster pursued a policy of forced assimilation
Cultural assimilation
Cultural assimilation is a socio-political response to demographic multi-ethnicity that supports or promotes the assimilation of ethnic minorities into the dominant culture. The term assimilation is often used with regard to immigrants and various ethnic groups who have settled in a new land. New...

 of the population in his area of responsibility. Forster was willing to accept any and all Poles who claimed to have "German blood" as Germans. In practice, the method of determining whether Poles had any German ancestry or not was to send out Nazi Party workers to interview the local Poles; all Poles who stated that they had German ancestry had their answers taken at face value with no documentation required. SS
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

, appointed by Hitler as "Reich Commissioner for the Strengthening of Germandom" and, as such, the man assigned to decide the "Germanization" policy in German-occupied territories, took the opposite view. Refusal to become Germanised was punishable by deportation to General Gouvernment or imprisonment in concentration camp.

Forster was at odds with Arthur Greiser
Arthur Greiser
Arthur Greiser was a Nazi German politician and SS Obergruppenfuhrer. He was one of the persons primarily responsible for organizing the Holocaust in Poland and numerous other war crimes and crimes against humanity, for which he was tried, convicted and executed by hanging after World War...

 who had complained to Himmler that Forster's assimilation policy was against Nazi racial theory. When Himmler approached Forster over this issue, Forster simply ignored him, realizing that Hitler allowed each Gauleiter to run his area as he saw fit. Both Greiser and Himmler complained to Hitler that Forster was allowing thousands of Poles to be classified as Germans, but Hitler merely bounced the problem back to them, telling them to go sort out their problems with Forster on their own. This was a difficult task. Himmler's attempts to cajole Forster to see matters his way met with resentment and contempt. In a discussion with Richard Hildebrandt
Richard Hildebrandt
Richard Hermann Hildebrandt was a politician in Nazi Germany and member of the Reichstag, and an SS-Obergruppenführer. From 1943 until his capture in 1945, he led the SS-Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt , the Office of Race and Settlement of the SS...

, HSSPF Vistula, over Germanization in his Reichsgau
Reichsgau
A Reichsgau was an administrative subdivision created in a number of the areas annexed to Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1945...

, Forster scoffed, "if I looked like Himmler, I wouldn't talk about race".

Conflict with SS and colonization policies


Forster's conflict with the SS also had direct and injurious consequences for ethnic German
Ethnic German
Ethnic Germans historically also ), also collectively referred to as the German diaspora, refers to people who are of German ethnicity. Many are not born in Europe or in the modern-day state of Germany or hold German citizenship...

s. During the war, hundreds of thousands of ethnic-Germans were moved by Nazi-Soviet agreement from Soviet Union into Poland and used as colonists in Nazi occupied Poland. While Greiser did all he could to accommodate them in his Reichsgau, Forster viewed them with hostility, claiming that his region needed young farmers while the refugees were old and urbanized. He initially refused to admit any of them into his Reichsgau. When a ship bearing several thousands of ethnic Germans from the Baltic states
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 arrived at Danzig he initially refused them entry unless Himmler promised that they would not be settled in Danzig-West Prussia but proceed immediately elsewhere, an assurance that Himmler could not provide. It was only following a lengthy telephone consultation with the desperate Himmler that Forster allowed the passengers to disembark on the understanding that their residence in the Reichsgau would be temporary, though most did not, ultimately, leave the region. In time he had to relent and by June 1944 53,258 colonists had settled in Danzig-West Prussia, a far cry from the 421,780 settled in the Warthegau. Forster's Germanization policies left less free land and housing than Greiser's mass expulsions, although it is evident that Forster's perception of the ethnic German refugees as wards of the SS played its role in determining his attitude.

Trial and death


At the end of the war, Forster took refuge in the British Occupation Zone of Germany. The British handed him to communist Poland. Forster was condemned to death by the Polish court for war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

s (the Supreme National Tribunal
Supreme National Tribunal
The Supreme National Tribunal was a war crime tribunal active in Poland from 1946 to 1948, with jurisdiction over fascist-hitlerite criminals and traitors to the Polish nation.The tribunal presided over seven high-profile cases ....

) and crimes against humanity in 1948. He was held and had his sentence deferred, but was moved from Danzig and hanged
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

 on February 28, 1952 in Mokotów Prison
Mokotów Prison
Mokotów Prison is a prison in Warsaw's borough of Mokotów, Poland, located at Rakowiecka 37 street. It was built by the Russians in the final years of the foreign Partitions of Poland...

 in Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

. His wife, who had not heard from him since 1949, was in 1954 informed of his death.

Endnotes