Herbert Backe's Hunger Plan

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Max Payload
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Herbert Backe's Hunger Plan

Post by Max Payload » 12 Aug 2016 11:20

[Split from "Germany's war aims"]
Boby wrote:
Max Payload wrote:There is an admittedly perverse but nonetheless logical 'aim' to a war of annihilation; it is to eliminate a potential adversary (and in Hitler's fevered imagination an international Jewish/Bolshevik conspiracy) once and for all. Whether or not Operation Barbarossa was a preemptive strike has been extensively debated in another thread - I for one would not describe it as such. Rather it was an operation to destroy the Soviet Union as a political entity and to create a largely autarkic Greater Reich in which large tracts of Eastern Europe could be settled by new Aryan communities. Those were essentially the war aims in the East by the spring of 1941, in consequence of which those members of the indigenous population in the occupied regions that were not immediately required to meet those aims, were to be eliminated (killed or left to starve - Backe's so-called Hunger Plan was approved by Hitler in February 1941).
There is no hard evidence of any such "Hunger plan".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunger_Plan
Boby wrote: As for war aims, we have to distinguish between short/medium/long term goals.

Short term was a strategical neccesity to Force the UK to give up.

Medium was no destroy the SU as a potential enemy.

Long was indeed ideological: to create an aryan "Garden of Eden" in the East and integrate the Soviet Economy in the European "Grossraumwirtschaft".
What you cite as the short term goal was dependent on achieving what you cite as the medium term goal. That at least was what Hitler told senior Wehrmacht personnel at the of July '40 as his justification for an attack on the SU.
Guaporense wrote:Didn't Stalin offer peace terms in early 1943?
Unsubstantiated rumour, much of it based on unreliable memoirs from long-dead authors. The Germans had a motive for the spreading of such rumours - to try to split the Allies. Even IF the Soviets had initiated low level contact in Sweden (for which there is no hard evidence and which in any case would be a far cry from Stalin offering peace terms) their motivation may simply have been to goad the Western Allies into a greater military effort in Western Europe.

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Re: Germany's war aims

Post by Boby » 12 Aug 2016 12:04

A link to Wikipedia is no proof of any "Hunger plan". I know the sources very well.

The German plan of 1941 was to exploit the agricultural resources. In this scenario they calculated (imho completely wrong) an x amount of deaths "if we take it". Maxium priority was for the Wehrmacht.

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Re: Germany's war aims

Post by Max Payload » 12 Aug 2016 16:06

Boby wrote:A link to Wikipedia is no proof of any "Hunger plan". I know the sources very well.
Then you will no doubt be familiar with Rolf-Dieter Mueller’s “Das Scheitern der wirtschaftlichen ‘Blitzkreigstrategie’” in Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, vol 4, 898-1022, in which he defines a Nazi “hunger strategy” that was a “consciously implemented policy of extermination”; and also with “Economic Policy Directives for Economic Organisation, East, Agricultural Group” dated 23 May 1941 (available from the Office of United States Chief of Council for Prosecution of Axis Criminality, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, vol 7, doc no EC-126, 298) which states that, “… the population of the [occupied] areas, in particular the urban areas, will have to face the most serious distress from famine.”

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Re: Germany's war aims

Post by Boby » 12 Aug 2016 17:36

Yes, I'm familiar. You have to read the Entire guidelines of 23 May as well the "Green folder" of June 1941, not just isolated quotes.

As for Müller, that is his opinion. Recent historians (Arnold, Hürter, Lübbers) gives a different picture on this issue.

Kind regards

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Re: Germany's war aims

Post by Max Payload » 13 Aug 2016 10:02

Boby wrote:Yes, I'm familiar. You have to read the Entire guidelines of 23 May as well the "Green folder" of June 1941, not just isolated quotes
Yes, and I fail to see which part of the Agricultural Group Directives negates the quote that I used.
Boby wrote:As for Müller, that is his opinion.
An opinion deemed to have been supported by sufficient evidence for the MGFA (or ZMSBw to keep designations up to date) to include it in its definitive '... der Zweite Weltkrieg' history.
Boby wrote:Recent historians (Arnold, Hürter, Lübbers) gives a different picture on this issue.
Please forgive my ignorance, but I have not read Hürter, have never heard of Lübbers, and, if you are referring to Joerg Arnold, I am unaware of anything relevant to this topic that he has published. Did they have access to relevant information that Müller did not, or is this simply, and not for the first time, a difference of opinions among historians? Because in 2001 Steven Welch found Müller to have "convincingly demonstrated" a hunger strategy.

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Re: Germany's war aims

Post by Boby » 13 Aug 2016 11:35

Is Klaus-Jochen Arnold study published in 2005, Hürter "Hitlers Heerführer (2006) and Lübbers Ph.D. Diss.

There was no "Hunger Plan" (i.e, a deliberate strategy to starve civilians), only a food exploitation plan, the predicted result of implementing it was million of deaths because the Wehrmacht was to feed "off the land".

The yearly figure to extract was something about 3-4,5 million according to pre-invasion sources. Remember that in the economic agreement of january 1941 the SU would deliver 2,5 mill. tons of grain before 1 August 1942.

The germans also overlooked the effects of war in the production: in the occupied zones, the harvest was 11,7 mill. in 1942, compared to 23,2 mill. pre-war. Russian scorched-earth strategy contributed greatly to this.

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Re: Germany's war aims

Post by Max Payload » 13 Aug 2016 12:05

Boby wrote: There was no "Hunger Plan" ... only a food exploitation plan, the predicted result of implementing it was million of deaths ...
Maybe it's just me, but I find the distinction between setting out to starve millions to death for the sole purpose of starving millions to death, and setting out to starve millions to death as a deliberate consequence of a 'food exploitation plan', to be somewhat tenuous.

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Re: Germany's war aims

Post by Boby » 13 Aug 2016 12:19

That was a prediction, later shown to be completely exaggerated. The agricultural experts were surprised in 1942 that the expected mega-famine didn't happened.

Max Payload
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Re: Germany's war aims

Post by Max Payload » 13 Aug 2016 15:37

Yes, prediction can be a tricky old game.

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Re: Herbert Backe's Hunger Plan

Post by David Thompson » 14 Aug 2016 01:56

For the Nazi plan to create an artificial famine in the USSR by plunder, see the exchanges in the "Life in Occupied Russia" thread beginning at
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 968#589968. See also:

Generalplan Ost
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=20050
German Plans to Seize Food from the Soviet Union
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=11976
Generalplan Ost revisited
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=96574
The "artificial" famine in the German-occupied USSR
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=203766
Nazi occupation policies for the USSR
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=61454
Hitler's plans for Ostland -- Fuehrer Conference 16 Jul 1941
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=60772

Max Payload
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Re: Herbert Backe's Hunger Plan

Post by Max Payload » 16 Aug 2016 09:40

David,
A huge amount of information in these threads, some grim reading and a great deal of interesting discussion. Thanks for posting the links.
I hadn't realised, though I should perhaps have anticipated, that this topic had already been extensively discussed (with some admirably cogent argument from yourself and Roberto).

michael mills
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Re: Herbert Backe's Hunger Plan

Post by michael mills » 08 Sep 2016 14:13

Boby is correct. The so-called "Hunger Plan" is a post-war construct, based on a prejudicial interpretation of a detailed plan for extracting food from occupied Soviet territory, written most probably by Herbert Backe in May 1941.

If one reads the entire paper, one sees that it is analysis of the amounts of food produced in various parts of the Soviet Union and the quantities available for use by Germany. The single reference to the starvation of "tens of millions" occurs in a throwaway line, and is presented by Backe as a likely result of the diversion of surplus Soviet food production to Germany and its sphere of influence in Europe. There is however nothing in the paper to support the thesis that the purpose of the food-extraction plan was to exterminate a part of the Soviet population through starvation.

An English translation of the entire paper can be found in this publication:

Karl Brandt and others, "Germany's Agricultural and Food Policies in World War II: Vol 2, Management of Agriculture and Food in the German-Occupied and other Areas of Fortress Europe : A Study in Military Government", published by Stanford University Press 1953.

The plan presented by Backe in May 1941 based largely on his theory that European Russia was divided into two distinct zones, a food-surplus area (essentially Ukraine and the North Caucasus) and a food-deficit area (mainly Belarus and Northern Russia), and that there was a flow of food from the former area to the latter. He postulated that if the two zones could be sealed off from each other, the flow of food from the food-surplus area could be diverted to Germany. The side-effect of such a diversion would be a large-scale food shortage in the food-deficit area, which would probably lead to mass starvation unless a large part of the population of that area moved to Siberia (which was in fact a food-surplus area).

The problem with Backe's theory is that there was not a neat division of the German-occupied territory into food-surplus and food-deficit areas, and the proposed sealing-off of the two areas from each other could not work in practice. The historical fact is that there was not a massive famine in the Soviet territories that came under German occupation. What did occur was a large-scale movement of population from the cities to the countryside where food and work were available; the city population consisted to a large extent of peasants who had moved to the cities in the 1920s and 30s, so it was relatively easy for them to move back to the countryside.

The authors of the above book, in the section on German food policies in the occupied Soviet territories, point out that the amount of food extracted by Germany from those territories during the period of occupation was less than the amount that had been exported from them in the last years before the war, suggesting that the German extractions would not have led to food shortages of sufficient magnitude to cause mass starvation among the local population, unless there was a massive decline in production. That is probably the reason why the huge famine predicted by Backe did not occur, at least not on the scale he had thought possible.

As has been pointed out by Gerlach and other historians who have studied German food policies in occupied Soviet territories, when the predicted famine did not occur, and there was no mass mortality of the civilian population from starvation during the winter of 1941-42, the German authorities did not resort to alternative ways of exterminating the population under their control (except in the case of the Jews). That in itself suggests that extermination of the Soviet population by starvation was not an aim of Backe's food-extraction plan, rather that the predicted famine was a side-effect.

There was in fact a considerable mortality from starvation in the non-occupied parts of the Soviet Union, for example in Central Asia. That starvation had two major causes:

1. Some of the major food-producing areas, eg Ukraine and to a lesser extent the North Caucasus, were under German occupation and their food surpluses were not available to the non-occupied part of the Soviet Union.

2. A large part of the population of the territory that came under German occupation, particularly the urban population, had been hastily evacuated to the East, to the Southern Ural region and central Asia, where there were insufficient food supplies for them.

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wm
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Re: Herbert Backe's Hunger Plan

Post by wm » 12 Sep 2016 23:35

michael mills wrote:The authors of the above book, in the section on German food policies in the occupied Soviet territories, point out that the amount of food extracted by Germany from those territories during the period of occupation was less than the amount that had been exported from them in the last years before the war, suggesting that the German extractions would not have led to food shortages of sufficient magnitude to cause mass starvation among the local population, unless there was a massive decline in production.
This maybe true but only for a single reason, before the war the Soviets were exporting food produced by the entire country and their strategic food reserve - simply because it was extremely profitable, the Germans were paying very well for it.
During the war the Germans were only extracting food from a part of Russia.

It's known why the famine didn't occur, after two lean years there were bumper harvests in 1942 and 1943 - in Russia and in Poland.

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Re: Herbert Backe's Hunger Plan

Post by michael mills » 13 Sep 2016 01:21

During the war the Germans were only extracting food from a part of Russia.
Exactly, but what the authors of the book I referred to say is that pre-war food exports from the Soviet territory occupied by the Germans exceeded the amount that the Germans planned to extract from that territory.

They were not comparing German food-extraction plans with pre-war food exports from the whole of the Soviet Union.

In any case, pre-war Soviet food exports came mainly from the territory that came under German occupation, primarily Ukraine, and the North Caucasus for a shorter period.
It's known why the famine didn't occur, after two lean years there were bumper harvests in 1942 and 1943 - in Russia and in Poland.
That proves my point. The German aim was to extract the food it needed to feed its own population and that of Fortress Europe, not to exterminate the Soviet population by starvation.

If the Soviet territory under German occupation produced enough of a food surplus to provide for both the German requirements and the needs of the local population, the German occupiers were not going to extract more food than they actually needed themselves solely for the purpose of imposing starvation on the local population.

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Sergey Romanov
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Re: Herbert Backe's Hunger Plan

Post by Sergey Romanov » 15 Sep 2016 08:58

So basically not different from what Stalin did in the beginning of the 1930s, treating millions of lives as disposable, even if not expressing a clear intent to murder them for the sake of getting rid of them.

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