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Hunger Plan

Hunger Plan

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The Hunger Plan was an economic
An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other area; the labor, capital and land resources; and the manufacturing, trade, distribution, and consumption of goods and services of that area...

Management in all business and organizational activities is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively...

 scheme that was put in place to ensure that Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 were given priority over food supplies, at the expense of everyone else. This plan was featured as part of the planning phase of the Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 (German Armed Forces) invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 (Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

). Germany itself was running low on food supplies, and the same problem faced the various territories occupied by Germany. The fundamental premise behind the Hunger Plan was that Germany was not self-sufficient in food supplies, and to sustain the war it needed to obtain the food from conquered lands at any cost. It was an engineered famine, planned and implemented as a rational act of policy for the benefit of the German Nation above all others. See also Goering's Green Folder
Goering's Green Folder
In the Nuremberg Trials there was a document referred to as the "Green Folder" ofReichsmarschall Hermann Göring. This was the master policy directive for the economicexploitation of the conquered Soviet Union...

, as identified
in the Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....


Outline of the plan

The architect of the Hunger Plan was Herbert Backe
Herbert Backe
Herbert Backe was a German Nazi politician and Obergruppenführer in the SS.Backe was born in Batumi, Georgia, the son of a trader. He studied at the Tbilisi Gymnasium from 1905 and was interned on the outbreak of World War I as an enemy alien...

. Together with others, such as 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...

, Backe spearheaded the coalition of radicals among the Nazi politicians, dedicated to securing German food supply at any cost. The Hunger Plan may have been made almost as soon as Hitler announced his intention to invade the Soviet Union in December 1940. Certainly by 2 May 1941, it was in advanced stages of planning and was ready for discussion between all the major Nazi state ministries and the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht was part of the command structure of the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II.- Genesis :...

 (OKW) office of economics, headed by General Georg Thomas
Georg Thomas
Georg Thomas was a German general and a resistance fighter in the Third Reich. He was also heavily involved in the planning and carrying out of the economic exploitation of the Soviet Union, including in particular the Hunger Plan.- Career summary :Thomas was born in Forst , Brandenburg...

. The lack of capacity of Russian railways
History of rail transport in Russia
In Russia, the largest country in the world, its geography of N.-S. rivers and E.-W. commerce made it very suited to develop railroads as its basic mode of transportation...

, the inadequacy of road transport and the shortages of fuel, meant that the German Army would have to feed itself by taking food from the farms in Soviet Russia and Ukraine. One of the meetings for the logistical planning for the invasion of the Soviet Union included in its conclusions:

The protocol of the meeting exemplifies German planning of the occupation of the Soviet Union. It camouflages a deliberate decision on the life or death of vast parts of the local population as a logical, almost inevitable development.
Three weeks later on 23 May 1941 the economic-political guidelines for the coming invasion produced by the agricultural section of the Economic Staff East appeared:
The perceived grain riches of Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 were particularly important to the vision of a self-sufficient Germany. Yet Ukraine did not produce enough grain for export to solve Germany's problems. Scooping off the agricultural surplus in Ukraine for the purpose of feeding the Reich called for: 1. annihilation of superfluous population (Jews, the population of Ukrainian big cities such as Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

 which did not receive any supplies at all); 2. extreme reduction of the rations allocated to Ukrainians in the remaining cities; 3. decrease of the food of the farming population.

In the discussion of the plan, Backe noted a 'surplus population' in Russia of about 20–30 million. If that population was cut off from food, that food could be used to feed both the invading German army and the German population itself. Industrialization had created a large urban society in the Soviet Union. The Plan envisioned that this population, numbering in many millions, would be cut off from the food supply thus freeing the food produced in the Soviet Union, now to be at German disposal, to sustain Germans. As a result, great suffering among the native Soviet population would take place, with tens of millions of deaths expected within the first year of German occupation. Starvation
Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death...

 was to be an integral part of the German Army's campaign. It preceded the invasion and was in fact an essential condition of it; the assault on Russia would not succeed without it.

Criticism of the theses

The Hunger Plan theory is controversial. Some historians do not believe that it was part of a contribution to the Nazi extermination policy in the form of targeted killing of the unwanted Slavic population. Instead, they put the needs of the German war economy in the forefront and viewed losses to the Russian population secondary.

Effect of the plan

The Hunger Plan caused the deaths of many, primarily Jews in the Soviet Union whom the Nazis had forced into ghettos, and Soviet prisoners of war, which were most easily controlled by the Germans and thus easily cut off from food supplies. Jews for example were barred from purchasing eggs, butter, milk, meat or fruit. The so-called "ration" for Jews in Minsk and other cities within the control of Army Group Center was no more than 420 calories per day. Tens of thousands of Jews died of hunger and hunger-related causes over the winter of 1941-2.

Between one and two million Soviet POWs died as a result of starvation and poor conditions in just the first year of the war. While large numbers of deaths among the prisoners would have been expected under the terrible conditions of the war, the starvation of these prisoners became a deliberate policy of the Nazi regime and of the Wehrmacht.

While the Hunger Plan was first designed for the Soviet Union, it was soon expanded to include occupied Poland (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...

). Similar to the Soviet Union, the Jewish population in ghettos suffered most heavily, although Poles faced increasing starvation as well. Raul Hilberg
Raul Hilberg
Raul Hilberg was an Austrian-born American political scientist and historian. He was widely considered to be the world's preeminent scholar of the Holocaust, and his three-volume, 1,273-page magnum opus, The Destruction of the European Jews, is regarded as a seminal study of the Nazi Final...

 has estimated that over half a million Polish Jews died in the ghettos due to starvation. For example, in early 1943, Hans Frank
Hans Frank
Hans Michael Frank was a German lawyer who worked for the Nazi party during the 1920s and 1930s and later became a high-ranking official in Nazi Germany...

, German governor of Poland, estimated that three million Poles will be facing starvation as a result of the Plan. In August, the Polish capital 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...

 was completely cut off from grain delivery. Only the above average harvest of 1943, and the collapsing Eastern Front of 1944 saved the Poles from starvation. Western Europe was third on the German list of food re-prioritizing. Food was also shipped to Germany from France and other occupied countries in the West, although the West never suffered genocidal starvation as occurred in the East,

By mid 1941, the German minority in Poland received 2613 calories per day while Poles received 699 and Jews in the ghetto 184. The Jewish ration fulfilled 7.5 percent of their daily needs; Polish rations only 26 percent. Only the ration allocated to Germans fulfilled the full needs of their daily calorie intake.

Nonetheless the Hunger Plan was never fully implemented, but "what one is dealing with here is the blueprint for a programme of mass murder unprecedented in modern history". The Germans lacked the manpower to enforce a 'food blockade' of the Soviet cities; neither could they confiscate all the food for their own purpose. However, the Germans were able to significantly supplement their grain stocks, particularly from the granaries in fertile Ukraine, and cut off the Soviets from them, leading to significant starvation in the Soviet-held territories (most drastically in Leningrad
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg, Russia.Leningrad may also refer to:- Places :* Leningrad Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, around Saint Petersburg* Leningrad, Tajikistan, capital of Muminobod district in Khatlon Province...

, encircled by German forces, where about one million people died
Siege of Leningrad
The Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Leningrad Blockade was a prolonged military operation resulting from the failure of the German Army Group North to capture Leningrad, now known as Saint Petersburg, in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. It started on 8 September 1941, when the last...

). The lack of food also contributed to the starvation of forced labor, prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates in Germany.

In late 1943 the Plan also bore another success for the Germans: German food supplies were stabilized. In autumn 1943, for the first time since the war began, the food rations for German citizens — which had been cut several times before — were increased.

In the years 1942–3, occupied Europe supplied Germany with more than one fifth of its grain, a quarter of its fats and thirty percent of meat.

Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

 wrote in his diaries about the Hunger Plan that its principle was that "before Germany starved, it would be the turn of a number of other people".

The historian Timothy Snyder
Timothy Snyder
Timothy D. Snyder is an American professor of history at Yale University, specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Holocaust...

 estimates: “4,2 million Soviet citizens (largely Russians, Belarusians, an Ukrainians) starved by the German occupiers in 1941-1944.”

See also

  • Extermination of Soviet prisoners of war by Nazi Germany
  • Final Solution
    Final Solution
    The Final Solution was Nazi Germany's plan and execution of the systematic genocide of European Jews during World War II, resulting in the most deadly phase of the Holocaust...

  • Generalplan Ost
    Generalplan Ost
    Generalplan Ost was a secret Nazi German plan for the colonization of Eastern Europe. Implementing it would have necessitated genocide and ethnic cleansing to be undertaken in the Eastern European territories occupied by Germany during World War II...

  • Lebensraum
    was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

  • War crimes of the Wehrmacht
    War crimes of the Wehrmacht
    War crimes of the Wehrmacht were those carried out by the German armed forces during World War II. While the principal perpetrators of the Holocaust amongst German armed forces were the Nazi German 'political' armies , the regular armed forces represented by the Wehrmacht committed war crimes of...

  • Effect of the Siege of Leningrad on the city
    Effect of the Siege of Leningrad on the city
    - 1941 :* June 22: Operation Barbarossa begins.* June 29: Evacuation of children and women from Leningrad starts.* June–July: Over 300 thousand civilian refugees from Pskov and Novgorod manage to escape from the advancing Germans, and come to Leningrad for shelter. The armies of the North-Western...

  • Holodomor
    The Holodomor was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian SSR between 1932 and 1933. During the famine, which is also known as the "terror-famine in Ukraine" and "famine-genocide in Ukraine", millions of Ukrainians died of starvation in a peacetime catastrophe unprecedented in the history of...

  • A-A line
    A-A line
    The Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan line, or A-A line for short, was the military goal of Operation Barbarossa. It is also known as the Volga-Arkhangelsk line, as well as the Volga-Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan line...