The main reason for the Nazi expansion into its neighboring
western countries was built upon the principle of Lebensraum. Even
though it translates literally to mean only living space, Lebensraum
carried with it the desire for the Nazis to expand into other countries
to provide living space for the growing German race. "Notions
of Lebensraum were supported by those seeking to disperse the high-density
(and often socialist) urban populations into rural settlements, and
by diplomats, who supplied eugenic literature
and material assistance to ethnic German communities in Eastern Communities"
(Burleigh 72) "The German racial community comprised of over
85 million people and, because of their number and the narrow limits
of habitable space in Europe, constituted a tightly packed racial
core such as was not to be met in any other country and such as implied
the right to a greater living space than in the case of other peoples"
The concept of Lebensraum as understood in Nazi ideology included
in it the assumption that war was inevitable. Because the Nazi program
was based on a large-scale territorial expansion, including countries
which Germany could claim neither on the ground of irredenta nor on
the basis of her historical rights, no possibility of a peaceful adjustment
would be possible in the long run. The only question, after the Nazis
seized power was how seriously they would develop sufficient power
to enforce it. the building of particular organizations specialized
in the acquiring and preparing of living space, indicated from the
beginning of Nazi rule that they were serious about their ideological
design, but this fact was overlooked by the states concerned. The
occupation of Czechoslovakia brought foreign states to the realization
that Hitler's territorial claims meant something more than mere adjustment
of boundaries or the correction of the injustices of the Treaty of
Versaille. But by then it was already too late, and there was no power
available to stop his expansion (Hoffmann 18).
"The German people's Lebensraum, Hitler said, was too small;
in certain important aspects, particularly that of food, self-sufficiency
could not be achieved. The German Lebensraum must consequently be
expanded and this was best done in areas immediately contiguous to
the Reich in Europe and not overseas'" (Hoffmann 36). In National
Socialist ideology, to which Hitler's personal contribution was greater
than anyone else's, anti-Semitism enjoyed pride of place alongside
the utopian vision of Lebensraum conquered and settled by racially
pure German Aryans. According to Hitler, the ideal war was one of
conquest, extermination, and subjugation; the ideal area in which
to conduct such a war was in the east, where the German people would
win for itself the Lebensraum, necessary for its moral and racial
purity, as well as for its ultimate emergence as the master race (Burleigh
126). "Only an adequately large space on this earth assures a
nation of freedom of existence" (Hitler 643).
In Hitler's Mein Kampf, he made it known that
he believed that state boundaries are made and changed by man. "Much
as all of us today recognize the necessity of a reckoning with France,
it would remain ineffectual in the long run if it represented the
whole of our aim in foreign policy. It can and will achieve meaning
only if it offers the rear cover for an enlargement of our people's
living space in Europe. For it is not in colonial acquisitions that
we must see the solution of this problem, but exclusively in the acquisition
of a territory for settlement, which will enhance the area of the
mother country, and hence not only keep the new settlers in the most
intimate community with the land of their origin, but secure for the
total area those advantages which lie in its unified magnitude"
During this time, the inferior races who occupied the new Nazi territories,
were stripped of their possessions, jobs, and resettled in ghettos
or concentration camps. This helped break the peoples will,
asserted the strong power of the Nazis, and gave direct benefits to
the Nazi regime. The problem at this time is that Germany's population
consisted of 82 million people (Hoffmann 142). Hitler believed that
battle was the destiny of all creatures, no one could avoid it, and
he who did not fight was condemned to ruin beforehand. There could
therefore be no thought of adapting the size of the population to
its Lebensraum; that was cowardice, weakness, genocide, and ruin.
Instead Lebensraum must be adapted to the size of the population.
When the Nazi Army successfully overtook and conquered the surrounding
lands of France, Alsace-Lorraine, the Reich immediately began its
policy of racial restructuring. The German bureaucracy began by issuing
orders for Jews in a particular town or city to submit an announcement
of their possessions. This property was then gathered and confiscated,
and the money was used directly by the bureaucracy. The Nazis basic
intent was to make survival for the Jews more difficult and to create
a loss of identity for the Jews. For the most part, the Nazis were
successful in accomplishing their two goals as well as devastating
the lives of the four letters stating that their jobs no longer existed
or that their possessions were to be handed over to the German Reich
(Hoffmann 92). The Nazis occupying the towns asserted that the consequence
of dissension was severe punishment or death.
As the Jews were stripped of their belongings, they also were stripped
of their purpose and their identity. By taking their positions at
work, their personal possessions, and their money, the Nazis ensured
a supreme hold on the Jewish population that allowed them to expand
and exploit the Nazis power. Most of the deportees were shipped
to concentration camps throughout Europe for slave labor or to be
put to death. The Nazis maintained their clear purpose of cleansing
Europe of the Jews, Gypsies, criminals, and foreign nationalists,
and they carried these goals into the occupied territories for implementation.
Through the goals of Lebensraum and resettlement, the Nazis tried
to restructure the racial content of Europe and deeply scarred the
lives of many Jews living in the occupied regions. The Nazis stripped
away their lives and their identities in an effort to expand their
own race at the expense and exploitation of the Jewish race.
Burleigh, Michael. Confronting the Nazi Past: New Debates on Modern
German History. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Trans. Ralph Manheim. Boston: Houghton
Hoffmann, Peter. The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945.
Trans. Richard Barry. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1979.
Snyder, Louis L. Hitler's Third Reich: A Documentary History.
Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1981.
Hildebrandt, Klaus. The Third Reich. Trans. P.S. Falla. New
York: Routledge, 1984.