Germanisation (also spelt Germanization) refers to the spread of the German language, people and culture or policies which introduced these changes. It was a central plank of German conservative thinking in the 19th and 20th centuries, at a period when conservatism and nationalism went hand-in-hand. In linguistics, Germanisation also occurs when a word from the German language is adopted into a foreign language.

Under the policies of states such as Prussia, Austria, the German Empire and Nazi Germany, non-Germans were often banned from use of their language,[1] the state discriminated their traditions and culture, when those measures were not successful in eradicating non-Germans, colonists and settlers were used to upset the population balance. During the Nazi era, Germanisation turned into a policy of ethnic cleansing and later into genocide of non-Germans.


Historically, there are very different forms and degrees of the expansion of the German language and of elements of German culture. There are examples of complete assimilation into German culture, as happened with the pagan Slavs in the Diocese of Bamberg (Franconia) in the 11th century. A perfect example of eclectic adoption of German culture is the field of law in Imperial and present-day Japan, which is organised very much according to the model of the German Empire. Germanisation took place by cultural contact, by political decision of the adopting party (e.g., in the case of Japan), or (especially in the case of Imperial and Nazi Germany) by force.

In Slavic countries, the term Germanisation is often understood solely as the process of acculturation of Slavic- and Baltic-language speakers - after the conquests or by cultural contact in the early Middle Ages - of areas of modern southern Austria and eastern Germany to the line of the Elbe. In East Prussia, forced resettlement of the "Old" or "Baltic" Prussians by the Teutonic Order and the Prussian state, as well as acculturation from immigrants of various European countries (Poles, French, and Germans) contributed to the eventual extinction of the Prussian language in the 17th century. Since the flight and expulsion of Germans from Central and Eastern Europe however, the process of Germanisation has not only been stopped but has even been reversed in most of these territories.

Another form of Germanisation is the forceful imposition of German culture, language and people upon non-German people, Slavs in particular.

Historical Germanisation


Limes Saxoniae west border among Obotrites and Saxons

Early Germanisation went along with the Ostsiedlung during the Middle Ages, e.g., in Hanoverian Wendland, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lusatia, and other areas, formerly inhabited by Slavic tribes - Polabian Slavs such as Obotrites, Veleti and Sorbs. Relations of early forms of Germanisation were described by German monks in manuscripts like Chronicon Slavorum.

Lüchow-Dannenberg is better known as the Wendland, a designation referring to the Slavic Wends from the Slavic tribe Drevani — the Polabian language survived until the beginning of the 19th century in what is now the German state of Lower Saxony.[2]

A complex process of Germanisation took place in Bohemia after the defeat of Bohemian Protestants at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. The German prince and Frederick V, Elector Palatine, elected as king of Bohemia by the Bohemian estates in 1619, was defeated by Catholic forces loyal to the Habsburg Emperor, Ferdinand II. Among the Bohemian lords who were punished and had their lands expropriated after Frederick's defeat in 1620 were German- and Czech-speaking landowners. Thus, this conflict was feudal in nature, not national. Although the Czech language lost its significance as a written language in the aftermath of the events, it is doubtful that this was intended by the Habsburg rulers, whose aims were of a feudal and religious character.

Proto-Slovene language was spoken in a much larger territory than modern Slovene, which included most of the present-day Austrian states of Carinthia and Styria, as well as East Tyrol, the Val Pusteria in South Tyrol, and some areas of Upper and Lower Austria. By the 15th century, most of these areas were gradually Germanised: the northern border of the Slovene-speaking territory stabilised on the line going from north of Klagenfurt to south of Villach and east of Hermagor in Carinthia, while in Styria it closely followed the current Austrian-Slovenian border. This linguistic border remained almost unchanged until the late 19th century, when a second process of Germanisation took place, mostly in Carinthia.

In Tyrol there was a Germanisation of the Ladino-Romantsch of the Venosta Valley (now Italy) promoted by the Austria in the 16th century. There was made for avoiding contact with Protestants of the Graubünden.

Linguistic influences

The rise of nationalism that occurred in the late 18th and 19th centuries in Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Pomerania, Lusatia, and Slovenia led to an increased sense of "pride" in national cultures during this time. However, centuries of cultural dominance of the Germans left a German mark on those societies; for instance, the first modern grammar of the Czech language by Josef Dobrovský (1753–1829) – "Ausführliches Lehrgebäude der böhmischen Sprache" (1809) – was published in German because the Czech language was not used in academic scholarship.

From the high Middle Ages up to the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, in the territory of present-day Slovenia, German had a strong impact on Slovene, and many Germanisms are preserved in contemporary colloquial Slovene.

In the German colonies, the policy of having German as an official language led to the forming of German-based pidgins and German-based creole languages, such as Unserdeutsch.

In the Austrian Empire

Joseph II (1780–90), a leader influenced by the Enlightenment, sought to centralise control of the empire and to rule it as an enlightened despot.[3] He decreed that German replace Latin as the empire's official language.[3]

Hungarians perceived Joseph's language reform as German cultural hegemony, and they reacted by insisting on the right to use their own tongue.[3] As a result, Hungarian lesser nobles sparked a renaissance of the Hungarian language and culture.[3] The lesser nobles questioned the loyalty of the magnates, of whom less than half were ethnic Magyars, and even those had become French- and German-speaking courtiers.[3] The Magyar national revival subsequently triggered similar movements among the Slovak, Romanian, Serbian, and Croatian minorities within the Kingdom of Hungary.[3]

In Prussia

Polish names of Silesian cities in Polish language from Prussian official document published in 1750 during Silesian Wars in Berlin.[4]

Germanisation in Prussia occurred in several stages:

Legislation and government policies in the Kingdom of Prussia sought a degree of linguistic and cultural Germanisation, while in the Imperial Germany a more intense form of cultural Germanisation was pursued, often with the explicit intention of reducing the influence of other cultures or institutions, such as the Catholic Church.

Situation in the 18th century

Following the partitions, the previous Germanisation attempts pursued by Frederick the Great in Silesia were extended to the newly gained Polish territories. The Prussian authorities started the policy of settling German speaking ethnic groups in these areas. Frederick the Great settled around 300,000 colonists in the eastern provinces of Prussia and aimed at a removal of the Polish nobility, which he treated with contempt and described Poles as 'slovenly Polish trash'[5] in newly reconquered West Prussia, similar to the Iroquois.[6] From the beginnings of Prussian rule Poles were subject to a series of measures against their culture; the Polish language was replaced by German as the official language,[7] and most administration was made German as well; the Prussian ruler Frederick the Great despised Poles and hoped to replace them with Germans. Poles were portrayed as 'backward Slavs' by Prussian officials who wanted to spread German language and culture.[7] The land of Polish nobility was confiscated and given to German nobles.[5][7]

Situation in the 19th century

After the Napoleonic Wars, Prussia obtained the Grand Duchy of Posen and Austria remained in possession of Galicia. In May 1815 king Frederick William III issued a manifest to the Poles in Posen:

You also have a Fatherland. [...] You will be incorporated into my monarchy without having to renounce your nationality. [...] You will receive a constitution like the other provinces of my kingdom. Your religion will be upheld. [...] Your language shall be used like the German language in all public affairs and everyone of you with suitable capabilities shall get the opportunity to get an appointment to a public office. [...]

The minister for Education Altenstein stated in 1823:[8]

Concerning the spread of the German language it is most important to get a clear understanding of the aims, whether it should be the aim to promote the understanding of German among Polish-speaking subjects or whether it should be the aim to gradually and slowly Germanise the Poles. According to the judgement of the minister only the first is necessary, advisable and possible, the second is not advisable and not accomplishable. To be good subjects it is desirable for the Poles to understand the language of government. However, it is not necessary for them to give up or postpone their mother language. The possession of two languages shall not be seen as a disadvantage but as a benefit instead because it is usually associated with a higher flexibility of the mind. [..] Religion and language are the highest sanctuaries of a nation and all attitudes and perceptions are founded on them. A government that [...] is indifferent or even hostile against them creates bitterness, debases the nation and generates disloyal subjects.

In the first half of the 19th century, Prussian policy towards Poles was based on discrimination and Germanisation.[9] In 1819 the gradual elimination of Polish language in schools began, with German being introduced in its place.[9] In 1819 the gradual elimination of Polish language in schools began, with German being introduced in its place.[9] In 1825 August Jacob, a politician hostile to Poles, gained power over newly created Provincial Educational Collegium in Poznan.[9] Across the Polish territories Polish teachers were being removed from work, German educational programmes were being introduced, and primary schooling was being replaced by German one that aimed at creation of loyal Prussian citizens.[9]

In 1825 the Teacher’s Seminary in Bydgoszcz was Germanised as well[9] Successive policies aimed at the elimination of non-German languages from public life and from academic settings, such as schools. For example, in the course of the second half of the 19th century, the Dutch language, historically spoken in what is now Cleves, Geldern, Emmerich, was banned from schools, administration and would cease to be spoken in its standardised form at the turn of the century.[10]

Later in the German Empire, Poles were (together with Danes, Alsatians, German Catholics and Socialists) portrayed as "Reichsfeinde" ("foes to the empire").[11] In addition, in 1885, the Prussian Settlement Commission financed from the national government's budget was set up to buy land from non-German hands and distribute it among German farmers.[12] From 1908 the committee was entitled to force the landowners to sell the land. Other means included the Prussian deportations from 1885–1890, in which non-Prussian nationals who had lived in Prussia for substantial time periods (mostly Poles and Jews) were removed and a ban was issued on the building of houses by non-Germans (see Drzymała's van). Germanisation policy in schools also took the form of abuse of Polish children by Prussian officials (see Września). Germanisation unintentionally stimulated resistance, usually in the form of home schooling and tighter unity in the minority groups.

In 1910, Maria Konopnicka responded to the increasing persecution of Polish people by Germans by writing her famous song called Rota that instantly became a national symbol for Poles, with its sentence known to many Poles: The German will not spit in our face, nor will he Germanise our children. Thus, the German efforts to eradicate Polish culture, language, and people met not only with failure, but managed to reinforce the Polish national identity and strengthened efforts of Poles to re-establish a Polish state.[13]

An international meeting of socialists held in Brussels in 1902 condemned the Germanisation of Poles in Prussia, calling it "barbarous".[14]

Prussian Lithuanians

Prussian Lithuanians living in East Prussia experienced similar policies of Germanisation. Although ethnic Lithuanians had constituted a majority in areas of East Prussia during the 15th and 16th centuries (from the early 16th century it was often referred to as Lithuania Minor), the Lithuanian population began to shrink in the 18th century. Plague and subsequent immigration from Germany, notably from Salzburg, were the primary factors in this development. Germanisation policies were tightened during the 19th century, but even into the early 20th century the territories north and south/south-west of the Neman River contained a Lithuanian majority. Kursenieki experienced similar developments, but this ethnic group never had a large population.

Polish coal miners in the Ruhr Valley

Main article: Ruhrpolen

Another form of Germanisation was the relation between the German state and Polish coal miners in the Ruhr area. Due to migration within the German Empire, as many as 350,000 ethnic Poles made their way to the Ruhr in the late 19th century, where they worked in the coal and iron industries. German authorities viewed them as potential danger and a threat and as a "suspected political and national" element. All Polish workers had special cards and were under constant observation by German authorities. Their citizens' rights were also limited by German state.[15]

In response to these policies, the Polish formed their own organisations to maintain their interests and ethnic identity. The Sokol sports clubs and the workers' union Zjednoczenie Zawodowe Polskie (ZZP), Wiarus Polski (press), and Bank Robotnikow were among the best-known such organisations near the Ruhr. At first the Polish workers, ostracised by their German counterparts, had supported the Catholic centre party.[16] During the early 20th century, their support shifted more and more towards the social democrats.[17] In 1905, Polish and German workers organised their first common strike.[17] Under the Namensänderungsgesetz[17] (law of changing surnames), a significant number of "Ruhr-Poles" change their surnames and Christian names to "Germanised" forms, in order to evade ethnic discrimination. As the Prussian authorities suppressed Catholic services in Polish by Polish priests during the Kulturkampf, the Poles had to rely on German Catholic priests. Increasing intermarriage between Germans and Poles contributed much to the Germanisation of ethnic Poles in the Ruhr area.

During the Weimar Republic, Poles were recognised as a minority in Upper Silesia. The peace treaties after the First World War did contain an obligation for Poland to protect its national minorities (Germans, Ukrainians and other), whereas no such clause was introduced by the victors in the Treaty of Versailles with Germany. In 1928, the "Minderheitenschulgesetz" (minorities school act) regulated education of minority children in their native tongue.[18] From 1930 onwards, Poland and Germany agreed to treat their minorities fairly.[19]

Under the Third Reich

Further information: Gleichschaltung, Generalplan Ost, and Umvolkung

During the Nazi period, the lives of certain minorities in Germany were threatened. Germanisation by Nazi Germany was referred to as "Aryanisation".

Eastern Germanisation


The East was intended as the Lebensraum that the Nazis were seeking, to be filled with Germans. Hitler, speaking with generals immediately prior to his chancellorship, declared that people could not be Germanised; only the soil could be.[20]

The policy of Germanisation in the Nazi period carried an explicitly ethno-racial rather than purely nationalist meaning by virtue of culture or linguistics, aiming for the spread of a "biologically superior" Aryan race rather than that of the German nation. Therefore, this did not mean a total extermination of all people there, as Eastern Europe was regarded as having people of Aryan/Nordic descent, particularly among their leaders.[21] Indeed, Himmler also declared that no drop of German blood would be lost or left behind for an alien race.[22] In Nazi documents, even reading the term "German" can be problematic, since it could be used to refer to people classified as "ethnic Germans" who spoke no German.[23]

Inside Germany, propaganda, such the film Heimkehr, depicted these ethnic Germans as deeply persecuted—often with recognisable Nazi tactics—and the invasion and Germanisation as necessary to protect them.[24] Forced labour of ethnic Germans and persecution of them were major themes of the anti-Polish propaganda campaign of 1939, prior to the invasion.[25] Bloody Sunday was widely exploited as depicting the Poles as murderous toward Germans.[26]

In a top-secret memorandum, "The Treatment of Racial Aliens in the East", dated 25 May 1940, Himmler wrote "We need to divide Poland's many different ethnic groups up into as many parts and splinter groups as possible".[27][28] There were two Germanisation actions in occupied Poland realised in this way:

Selection and expulsion

Germanisation began with the classification of people suitable as defined on the Nazi Volksliste, and treated according to their categorisation.[22] The Germans regarded the holding of active leadership roles as an Aryan trait, whereas a tendency to avoid leadership and a perceived fatalism was associated by many Germans with Slavonic peoples.[30] Adults who were selected for but resisted Germanisation were executed. Such execution was carried out on the grounds that German blood should not support non-German nations,[28] and that killing them would deprive foreign nations of superior leaders.[21] The Intelligenzaktion was justified, even though these elites were regarded as likely of German blood, because such blood enabled them to provide leadership for the fatalistic Slavs.[30] Germanising "racially valuable" elements would prevent any increase in the Polish intelligenstia,[28] as the dynamic leadership would have to come from German blood.[31] In 1940, Hitler made it clear that the Czech intelligentsia and the "mongoloid" types of the Czech population were not allowed to be Germanised.[32]

Under Generalplan Ost, a percentage of Slavs in the conquered territories were to be Germanised. Gauleiters Albert Forster and Arthur Greiser reported to Hitler that 10 percent of the Polish population contained "Germanic blood", and were thus suitable for Germanisation.[33] The Reichskommissars in northern and central Russia reported similar figures.[33] Those unfit for Germanisation were to be expelled from the areas marked out for German settlement. In considering the fate of the individual nations, the architects of the Plan decided that it would be possible to Germanise about 50 percent of the Czechs, 35 percent of the Ukrainians and 25 percent of the Belarusians. The remainder would be deported to western Siberia and other regions. In 1941 it was decided that the Polish nation should be completely destroyed; the German leadership decided that in ten to 20 years, the Polish state under German occupation was to be fully cleared of any ethnic Poles and resettled by German colonists.[34]

Origin of German colonisers in annexed Polish territories. Setted in action "Heim ins Reich"

In the Baltic States, after an agreement with Stalin, who suspected they would be loyal to the Nazis,[35] the Nazis set out to encourage the departure of "ethnic Germans" by the use of propaganda. This included using scare tactics about the Soviet Union, and led to tens of thousands leaving.[36] Those who left were not referred to as "refugees", but were rather described as "answering the call of the Führer."[37] German propaganda films such as GPU[38] and Friesennot[39] depicted the Baltic Germans as deeply persecuted in their native lands. Packed into camps for racial evaluation, they were divided into groups: A, Altreich, who were to be settled in Germany and allowed neither farms nor business (to allow for closer watch), S Sonderfall, who were used as forced labour, and O Ost-Falle, the best classification, to be settled in the Eastern Wall—the occupied regions, to protect German from the East—and allowed independence.[40] This last group was often given Polish homes where the families had been evicted so quickly that half-eaten meals were on tables and small children had clearly been taken from unmade beds.[41] Members of Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls were assigned the task of overseeing such evictions to ensure that the Poles left behind most of their belongings for the use of the settlers.[42] The deportation orders required that enough Poles be removed to provide for every settler — that, for instance, if twenty German "master bakers" were sent, twenty Polish bakeries had to have their owners removed.[43]

Settlement and Germanisation

This colonisation incorporated 350,000 such Baltic Germans and 1.7 million Poles deemed Germanisable, including between one and two hundred thousand children who had been taken from their parents (plus about 400,000 German settlers from the "Old Reich").[44] Nazi authorities had great fears of these settlers being tainted by their Polish neighbours and not only warned them to let their "foreign and alien" surroundings to have no impact on their Germanness, but settled them in compact communities, which could be easily monitored by the police.[45] Only families classified as "highly valuable" were kept together.[46]

Czech names erased by Sudeten Germans after German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938

For Poles who did not resist and the resettled ethnic Germans, Germanisation began. Militant party members were sent to teach them to be "true Germans".[47] Hitler Youth and League of German Girls sent young people for "Eastern Service", which entailed (particularly for the girls) assisting in Germanisation efforts.[48] One member of the League recounted afterward that she at first pitied the starving Polish children, but soon realised this was "politically naïve" and to concentrate solely on the Volksdeutsche; her beliefs in the stupidity of Poles were reinforced by the lack of educated Poles, not knowing they had been jailed or deported.[49] This included instruction in the German language, as many spoke only Polish or Russian.[50] They found the new settlers dispirited and put on various entertainments such as songfests to encourage them and ease their transition.[51] Membership in Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls was enforced for the children.[42] Goebbels and other propagandists worked to establish cultural centres and other means to create Volkstum or racial consciousness in the settlers.[52] This was needed to perpetuate their work; only by effective Germanisation could mothers, in particular, create the German home.[53] Goebbels also was the official patron of Deutsches Ordensland or Land of Germanic Order, an organisation to promote Germanisation.[54] This efforts were used in propaganda in Germany itself, as when NS-Frauen-Warte's cover article was on "Germany is building in the East".[55]

Other efforts in Poland were also regarded as Germanisation, as for instance the setting up of the IG-Farben at Auschwitz-Monowitz.[56]

In Yugoslavia and Soviet Union

On 6 April 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis Powers. Part of the Slovene-settled territory was occupied by the Nazi Germany. The Gestapo arrived on 16 April 1941 and were followed three days later by SS leader Heinrich Himmler, who inspected Stari pisker prison in Celje. On 26 April, Adolf Hitler, who encouraged his followers to "make this land German again", visited Maribor and a grand reception was organised by local Germans in the city castle. Although the Slovenes had been deemed racially salvageable by the Nazis, the mainly Austrian rulers of the Carinthian and Styrian regions commenced a brutal campaign to destroy them as a nation.

Adolf Hitler on Stari most bridge in Maribor, Yugoslavia in 1941, now Slovenia

The Nazis started a policy of violent Germanisation on Slovene territory, attempted to either discourage or entirely suppress the Slovene language. Their main task in Slovenia was the removal of part of population and Germanisation of the rest. Two organisations were instrumental for the Germanisation: the Styrian Homeland Union (Steirisches Heimatbund - HS) and the Carinthian People's Union (Kärtner Volksbund - KV). In Styria the action of Germanisation of the Slovenes was controlled by SS-Sturmbannführer Franz Steindl. He favoured the theories about the Germanic origins of the Slovenes. In Carinthia similar policy was conducted by Wilhelm Schick, Gauleiter's close associate. Public use of the Slovene language was prohibited, geographic and topographic names were changed and all Slovene associations were dissolved. Members of all professional and intellectual groups, including many clergymen, were expelled as they were seen as obstacle for Germanisation. As a reaction, a resistance movement developed. The Germans who wanted to proclaim their formal annexation to the "German Reich" on 1 October 1941, postponed it first because of the installation of the new "Gauleiter" and "Reichsstatthalter" of Carinthia and later on they dropped the plan for an undefinite period of time because of Slovene partisans, with which the Germans wanted to deal first. Only Meža valley became part of "Reichsgau Carinthia" at once. In the frame of their plan for the ethnic cleansing of Slovene territory, around 80,000 Slovenes were forcibly deported to Eastern Germany for potential Germanisation or forced labour, the deported Slovenes were taken to several camps in Saxony, where they were forced to work on German farms or in factories run by German industries from 1941–1945. The forced labourers were not always kept in formal concentration camps, but often just vacant buildings where they slept until the next day's labour took them outside these quarters. Nazi Germany also began mass expulsions of Slovenes to Nedić's Serbia and Ustasha Croatia (both Nazi Germany allies), and more than 63,000 Slovenes who refused to make any attempt to have them recognised as the Germans were interned to Nazi concentration camps in Germany. The basis for the recognition of the Slovenes as German nationals was the decision of the Imperial Ministry for Interior from 14 April 1942; it also constituted the basis for drafting the Slovenes for the service in the German armed forces. The numbers of Slovenes forcibly conscripted to the German military and paramilitary formations has been estimated at 150,000 men and women, almost a quarter of them lost their lives on various European battlefields, mostly on the Eastern Front. An unknown number of "stolen children" were taken to Nazi Germany for Germanisation.

Later, Ukraine was also targeted for Germanisation. Thirty special SS squads took over villages where ethnic Germans predominated, and expelled or shot any Jews or Slavs living in them, in a policy of concentration.[57] The colony Hegewald was set up in the Ukraine as well.[58] Ukrainians were forcibly deported, and ethnic Germans forcibly relocated there.[59] Racial assignment was carried out in a confused manner; the Reich rule was three German grandparents, but some asserted that any person who acted like a German and evinced no "racial concerns" should be eligible.[60]

Plans to eliminate Slavs from Soviet territory to allow German settlement included starvation; Nazi leaders expected that millions would die after they removed such supplies as they needed.[59] This was regarded as an actual advantage by Nazi officials.[61] When Hitler received a report of many, well-fed Ukrainian children, he declared the promotion of contraception and abortion was urgently needed, and neither medical care nor education was to be provided.[62] Experiments in mass sterilisation in concentration camps may also have been intended for use on the Slavonic populations.[63]

Eastern workers

When young women from the East were recruited to work as nannies in Germany, they were required to be suitable for Germanisation, both because they would work with German children, and because they might be sexually exploited.[64] The programme was praised for not only allowing more women to have children with their new domestic servants to assist in their labours, but for reclaiming the German blood and giving advantages to the women, who would work in Germany, and might marry there.[65]


Kinder-KZ inside Litzmannstadt Ghetto map signed with number 15; where Polish children were selected.

"Racially acceptable" children were taken from their families in order to be brought up as Germans.[66]

Children were selected for "racially valuable traits" before being shipped to Germany.[28] Many Nazis were astounded at the number of Polish children found to exhibit "Nordic" traits, but assumed that all such children were genuinely German children, who had been Polonised; Hans Frank summoned up such views when he declared, "When we see a blue-eyed child we are surprised that she is speaking Polish."[30] The term used for them was wiedereindeutschungsfähig—meaning capable of being re-Germanised.[67] These might include the children of people executed for resisting Germanisation.[21] If attempts to Germanise them failed, or they were determined to be unfit, they would be killed to eliminate their value to the opponents of the Reich.[28]

In German-occupied Poland, it is estimated that a number ranging from 50,000 to 200,000 children were removed from their families to be Germanised.[68] The Kinder KZ was founded specifically to hold such children. It is estimated that at least 10,000 of them were murdered in the process as they were determined unfit and sent to concentration camps and faced brutal treatment or perished in the harsh conditions during their transport in cattle wagons, and only 10-15% returned to their families after the war.[69] Obligatory Hitlerjugend membership made dialogue between old and young next to impossible, as use of languages other than German was discouraged by officials. Members of minority organisations were either sent to concentration camps by German authorities or executed.

Many children, particularly Polish and Slovenian who were among the first taken, declared on being found by Allied forces that they were German.[70] Russian and Ukrainian children, while not gotten to this stage, still had been taught to hate their native countries and did not want to return.[70]

Western Germanisation

In contemporary German usage the process of Germanisation was referred to as Germanisierung (Germanicisation, i.e., to make something Germanic) rather than Eindeutschung (Germanisation, i.e., to make something German). According to Nazi racial theories, the Germanic peoples of Europe such as the Scandinavians, the Dutch, and the Flemish, were like the Germans themselves a part of the Aryan Master Race, regardless of these peoples' own acknowledgement of their "Aryan" identity.

Germanisation in these conquered countries proceeded more slowly. The Nazis had a need for local cooperation and the local industry with its workers; furthermore, the countries were regarded as more racially acceptable, the assortment of racial categories being boiled down by the average German to mean "East is bad and West is acceptable."[71] The plan was to win the Germanic elements over slowly, through education.[72] Himmler, after a secret tour of Belgium and Holland, happily declared the people would be a racial benefit to Germany.[72] Occupying troops were kept under strict discipline and instructed to be friendly to win the population over, a technique that did not work not only because of their having conquered the countries, but because it was soon clear that being German was far superior to being merely Nordic.[73] Pamphlets, for instance, enjoined all German women to avoid sexual relations with all foreign workers brought to Germany as a danger to their blood.[74]

Various Germanisation plans were implemented. Dutch and Belgian Flemish prisoners of war were sent home quickly, to increase Germanic population, while Belgian Walloon ones were kept as labourers.[73] Lebensborn homes were set up in Norway for Norwegian women impregnated by German soldiers, with adoption by Norwegian parents being forbidden for any child born there.[75] Alsace-Lorraine was annexed; thousands of residents, too loyal to France as well as Jewish, and North Africans, were deported to Vichy France; French was forbidden in schools; intransigent German speakers were deported to Germany for re-Germanisation, just as Poles were.[76] Extensive racial classification was practised in France, for future uses.[77]

Himmler's original plan for the colony of Hegewald was to recruit settlers from Scandinavia and the Netherlands. This was unsuccessful.[78]

Himmler's masseur, Felix Kersten, claimed an even more radical scheme was devised by Himmler which envisioned the near-future resettlement of the entire Dutch nation to agricultural lands in the Vistula and Bug valleys of German-occupied Poland in order to facilitate their immediate Germanisation.[79] 8.5 million people were to be relocated in total, after which all Dutch capital and real estate would be confiscated by the Reich and distributed to reliable SS men, and an SS Province of Holland declared in vacated Dutch territory. However this claim was shown to be a myth by Loe de Jong in his book Two Legends of the Third Reich.[80]

After World War II

In post-1945 Germany and post-1945 Austria, the concept of Germanisation is no longer considered relevant. Since the loss of the former German eastern territories and the Polonisation of these regions, the concept has lost its meaning. Danes, Frisians, and Slavic Sorbs are classified as traditional ethnic minorities and are guaranteed cultural autonomy by both the federal and state governments. Concerning the Danes, there is a treaty between Denmark and Germany from 1955 regulating the status of the German minority in Denmark and vice versa. Concerning the Frisians, the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein has passed a special law aimed at preserving the Frisian language.[81] The cultural autonomy of the Sorbs is enshrined in the constitutions of both Saxony and Brandenburg. Nevertheless, almost all Sorbs are bilingual and the Lower Sorbian language is regarded as endangered, as the number of native speakers is dwindling, even though there are programmes funded by the state to sustain the language.

In post-1945 Austria, in the federal state of Burgenland, Hungarian and Croatian have regional protection by law. In Carinthia, Slovenian-speaking Austrians are also protected by law.

Descendants of Polish migrant workers and miners have intermarried with the local population and are culturally German or of mixed culture. It is different with modern and present-day immigration from Poland to Germany since the fall of the Iron Curtain. These immigrants are usually Polish citizens and live as foreigners in Germany. For many immigrant Poles, Polish ethnicity is not the prime category through which they wish to characterise themselves or want to be evaluated by others,[82] as they believe it could affect their lives in a negative way.

Linguistic Germanisation

In linguistics, Germanisation usually means the change in spelling of loanwords to the rules of the German language — for example the change from the imported word bureau to Büro.


Professor Jürgen Udolph of the University of Leipzig Institute for Slavic Studies contends that 15 million people in modern Germany have Slavic or specifically Polish surnames.[83] He believes the concentration of Slavic names in East Germany is even higher than the national average, accounting for 30% of all surnames in the region.[84][85]

See also


  1. Interdiction of French language accompanied with fines and or jail, and destruction of any representation of France after the occupation of Alsace
  2. Polabian language
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "A Country Study: Hungary – Hungary under the Habsburgs". Federal Research Division. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
  4. "Silesian Digital Library". Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  5. 1 2 "In fact, from Hitler to Hans Frank, we find frequent references to Slavs and Jews as 'Indians.' This, too, was a long standing trope. It can be traced back to Frederick the Great, who likened the 'slovenly Polish trash' in newly' reconquered West Prussia to Iroquois". Localism, Landscape, and the Ambiguities of Place: German-speaking Central Europe, 1860–1930 David Blackbourn, James N. Retallack University of Toronto 2007
  6. Ritter, Gerhard (1974). Frederick the Great: A Historical Profile. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 179–180. ISBN 0-520-02775-2. It has been estimated that during his reign 300,000 individuals settled in Prussia. ... While the commission for colonization established in the Bismarck era could in the course of two decades bring no more than 11,957 families to the eastern territories, Frederick settled a total of 57,475. ... It increased the German character of the population in the monarchy's provinces to a very significant degree. ... in West Prussia where he wished to drive out the Polish nobility and bring as many of their large estates as possible into German hands.
  7. 1 2 3 Andrzej Chwalba, Historia Polski 1795–1918 Wydawnictwo Literackie 2000 Kraków pages 175–184, 307–312
  8. cited in: Richard Cromer: Die Sprachenrechte der Polen in Preußen in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts. Journal Nation und Staat, Vol 6, 1932/33, p. 614, also cited in: Martin Broszat Zweihundert Jahre deutsche Polenpolitik (Two-hundred years or German Poles politics). Suhrkamp 1972, p. 90, ISBN 3-518-36574-6. During the discussions in the Reichstag in January 1875, Altenstein's statement was cited by the opponents of Bismarck's politics.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Jerzy Zdrada - Historia Polski 1795-1918 Warsaw, Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN 2007; pages 268, 273-291
  10. Historism and Cultural Identity in the Rhine-Meuse Region, J. De Maeyer
  11. "Bismarck and the German Empire 1871-1918". Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  12. "Die Germanisirung der polnisch-preußischen Landestheile." In Neueste Mittheilungen, V.Jahrgang, No. 17, 11 February 1886. Berlin: Dr. H. Klee.
  13. Kossert, Andreas."Grenzlandpolitik und Ostforschung an der Grenze des Reiches: Das ostpreußische Masuren." In "Viertelsjahrheft für Zeitgeschichte." Oldenbourg: Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin, April 2003. Pp. 121–123.
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  20. Richard Bessel, Nazism and War, p 36 ISBN 0-679-64094-0
  22. 1 2 Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p543 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
  23. Pierre Aycoberry, The Social History of the Third Reich, 1933-1945, p 2, ISBN 1-56584-549-8
  24. Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema p69-71 ISBN 0-02-570230-0
  25. Robert Edwin Hertzstein, The War That Hitler Won p173 ISBN 0-399-11845-4
  26. Robert Edwin Hertzstein, The War That Hitler Won p289 ISBN 0-399-11845-4
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  30. 1 2 3 Lukas, Richard C. Did the Children Cry?
  31. Richard C. Lukas, Forgotten Holocaust p24 ISBN 0-7818-0528-7
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  33. 1 2 Speer, Albert (1976). Spandau: The Secret Diaries, p. 49. Macmillan Company.
  34. Volker R. Berghahn "Germans and Poles 1871–1945" in "Germany and Eastern Europe: Cultural Identities and Cultural Differences", Rodopi 1999
  35. Lynn H. Nicholas, Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web p. 204 ISBN 0-679-77663-X
  36. Nicholas, p. 207-9
  37. Nicholas, p. 206
  38. Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema p44-5 ISBN 0-02-570230-0
  39. Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema p39-40 ISBN 0-02-570230-0
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  41. Nicholas, p. 213-4
  42. 1 2 Walter S. Zapotoczny , "Rulers of the World: The Hitler Youth"
  43. Michael Sontheimer, "When We Finish, Nobody Is Left Alive" 05/27/2011 Spiegel
  44. Pierre Aycoberry, The Social History of the Third Reich, 1933-1945, p 228, ISBN 1-56584-549-8
  45. Richard C. Lukas, Forgotten Holocaust p20 ISBN 0-7818-0528-7
  46. Pierre Aycoberry, The Social History of the Third Reich, 1933–1945, p 229, ISBN 1-56584-549-8
  47. Pierre Aycoberry, The Social History of the Third Reich, 1933–1945, p 255, ISBN 1-56584-549-8
  48. Nicholas, p. 215
  49. Nicholas, p 217
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  51. Nicholas, p. 218
  52. Robert Edwin Hertzstein, The War That Hitler Won p137 ISBN 0-399-11845-4
  53. Leila J. Rupp, Mobilising Women for War, p 122, ISBN 0-691-04649-2, OCLC 3379930
  54. Robert Edwin Hertzstein, The War That Hitler Won p139 ISBN 0-399-11845-4
  55. "The Frauen Warte: 1935–1945"
  56. Pierre Aycoberry, The Social History of the Third Reich, 1933-1945, p 265, ISBN 1-56584-549-8
  57. Karel C. Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule p44 ISBN 0-674-01313-1
  58. Lynn H. Nicholas, Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web p336, ISBN 0-679-77663-X
  59. 1 2 Karel C. Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule p45 ISBN 0-674-01313-1
  60. Karel C. Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule p211 ISBN 0-674-01313-1
  61. Robert Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi Ideology p199 ISBN 0-396-06577-5
  62. Robert Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi Ideology p207 ISBN 0-396-06577-5
  63. Gerhard L. Weinberg, Visions of Victory: The Hopes of Eight World War II Leaders p 24 ISBN 0-521-85254-4
  64. Lynn H. Nicholas, Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web p255, ISBN 0-679-77663-X
  65. Lynn H. Nicholas, Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web p256, ISBN 0-679-77663-X
  66. Lebensraum, Aryanisation, Germanistion and Judenrein, Judenfrei: concepts in the holocaust or shoah
  67. Milton, Sybil. "Non-Jewish Children in the Camps". Museum of Tolerance, Multimedia Learning Centre Online. Annual 5, Chapter 2. Copyright © 1997, The Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
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  69. "Dzieciństwo zabrała wojna > Newsroom - Roztocze Online - informacje regionalne - Zamość, Biłgoraj, Hrubieszów, Lubaczów,Tomaszów Lubelski, Lubaczów - Roztocze OnLine". Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  70. 1 2 Nicholas, p 479
  71. Lynn H. Nicholas, p. 263
  72. 1 2 Nicholas, p. 273
  73. 1 2 Nicholas, p. 274 ISBN 0-679-77663-X
  74. Leila J. Rupp, Mobilising Women for War, p 124–5, ISBN 0-691-04649-2, OCLC 3379930
  75. Nicholas, p. 275-6
  76. Nicholas, p. 277
  77. Nicholas, p. 278
  78. Lynn H. Nicholas, Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web p330-1, ISBN 0-679-77663-X
  79. Waller, John H. (2002). The devil's doctor: Felix Kersten and the secret plot to turn Himmler against Hitler. Wiley, p. 20
  80. Louis de Jong, 1972, reprinted in German translation: H-H. Wilhelm and L. de Jong. Zwei Legenden aus dem dritten Reich : quellenkritische Studien, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt 1974, pp 79–142.
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