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Martin Bormann’s Minutes of a Meeting at Hitler’s Headquarters (July 16, 1941)

German occupation policy was determined by racial-ideological as well as economic considerations. At the same time that various party and state offices were drawing up plans for a thousand-year reordering of Europe under German hegemony, most territories were being administered by more or less provisional occupation regimes, which supported Germany’s war efforts through the economic exploitation of their respective regions. The chosen method of subjugation and the harshness with which it was applied was directly dependent upon the Nazis’ racial valuation of the resident population – a fact that explains the especially brutal occupation policy in Eastern Europe. Martin Bormann’s minutes of a meeting at the Führer Headquarters on July 16, 1941, include Hitler’s explanation of his general position on the conduct of the war in the East.

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Top Secret
Führer’s Headquarters, July 16, 1941

A conference attended by Reichsleiter Rosenberg, Reich Minister Lammers, Field Marshal Keitel, the Reichsmarschall [Göring], and me was held today by order of the Führer at 3:00 p.m. in his quarters. The conference began at 3.00 p.m. and, including a break for coffee, lasted until about 8.00 p.m.

By way of introduction the Führer emphasized that he wished first of all to make some basic statements. Various measures were now necessary; this was confirmed, among other events, by an assertion made in an impudent Vichy newspaper that the war against the Soviet Union was Europe's war and that therefore it had to be conducted for Europe as a whole. Apparently the Vichy paper meant to say by these hints that it ought not to be the Germans alone who benefited from this war, but that all European states ought to benefit from it.

It was essential that we should not proclaim our aims before the whole world; also, this was not necessary, but the chief thing was that we ourselves should know what we wanted. In no case should our own way be made more difficult by superfluous declarations. Such declarations were superfluous because we could do everything wherever we had the power, and what was beyond our power we would not be able to do anyway.

What we told the world about the motives for our measures ought to be conditioned, therefore, by tactical reasons. We ought to proceed here in exactly the same way as we did in the cases of Norway, Denmark, Holland and Belgium. In these cases too we said nothing about our aims, and if we were clever we would continue in the same way.

We shall then emphasize again that we were forced to occupy, administer and secure a certain area; it was in the interest of the inhabitants that we should provide order, food, traffic, etc., hence our measures. It should not be recognizable that thereby a final settlement is being initiated! We can nevertheless take all necessary measures—shooting, resettling, etc.—and we shall take them.

But we do not want to make any people into enemies prematurely and unnecessarily. Therefore we shall act as though we wanted to exercise a mandate only. It must be clear to us, however, that we shall never withdraw from these areas.

Accordingly we should act:

1. To do nothing which may obstruct the final settlement, but to prepare for it only in secret;
2. To emphasize that we are liberators.

In particular:

The Crimea has to be evacuated by all foreigners and to be settled by Germans only.

In the same way the former Austrian part of Galicia will become Reich territory.

Our relations with Romania are presently good, but one does not know what our relations will be at any future time. This we have to consider and we have to draw our frontiers accordingly. One ought not to be dependent on the good will of other people; we have to arrange our relations with Romania in accordance with this principle.

In principle we have now to face the task of cutting up the giant cake according to our needs, in order to be able: first, to dominate it; second, to administer it; and third, to exploit it.

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