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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wehrbauer (German pronunciation: [ˈveːɐ̯ˌbaʊ.ɐ], defensive peasant), plural Wehrbauern, is a German term for settlers living on the borders of a realm, who were tasked with holding back foreign invaders until the arrival of proper military reinforcements. In turn they were granted special liberties. Wehrbauern were mainly used on the eastern fringes of the Holy Roman Empire and later Austria-Hungary in order to slow down attacks by the Ottoman Empire. This historic term was disinterred and used by the Nazis in WWII.


The deployment of "Wehrbauern" is first recorded by the Byzantine Empire which in the 7th century sought to defend itself with local settlers, then called Stratioti (soldiers) against eastern and southern attacks.

The Habsburg use of "Wehrbauern" was the Military Frontier established by Ferdinand I in the 16th century which was placed under the jurisdiction of the Croatian Sabor and Croatian Ban since it was carved out of Croatian territory. It acted as a Cordon sanitaire against Ottoman incursions. By the 19h century it was rendered obsolete by with the establishment of standing armies and was subsequently dissolved.

When, during the 30 Years War, battles and raids were common all throughout its land, the Holy Roman Empire had to make greater use of Wehrbauern in other regions of the empire as well.

In the 20th century, the term re-emerged and was used by the Nazi SS to refer to soldiers designated as settlers for the lands conquered during the German invasions of Poland and the Soviet Union.

The SS Wehrbauern


The concept of Wehrbauern predated the Nazis, with the Artaman League (founded in 1923) sending urban German children to the countryside not only for the experience, but as a core of Wehrbauern.[1][need quotation to verify]

The Nazis intended to colonize the conquered Eastern European lands in accordance with  Hitler's Lebensraum ideology through these soldier peasants. Plans envisaged them acting both as colonists and as soldiers, defending the new German colonies from the surrounding Slavic population in the event of  insurgency. Wehrbauern would have the task, not of extending civilization, but of preventing it from arising outside Wehrbauer settlements. Any such civilization, as a non-German phenomenon, would pose a challenge to Germany.[2] A historical comparison was drawn[by whom?] to the Ordensburgen of the medieval German  military orders, which  Northern Crusaders established to fortify territory such as Terra Mariana against pagan  Baltic natives.

Beginning in 1938 the SS intensified the ideological indoctrination of the Hitler Youth Land Service (HJ-Landdienst). It[which?] promulgated its ideal of the German Wehrbauer. Special high-schools were created[by whom?] under SS control to form a Nazi agrarian elite trained according to the principle of "blood and soil."[3]

The SS plan for genocide and colonization of the territories of eastern  Poland and of the Soviet Union was titled Generalplan Ost (English: General Plan East). This plan projected the settlement of 10 million racially valuable  "Germanics" (Germans, Dutch,  Flemish, Scandinavians and  English) in these territories over a span of 30 years, displacing circa 30 million Slavs and Balts - either assimilated or forcefully transferred to Siberia to make room for the newcomers. Volksdeutsche, such as the Volga Germans, would also be transplanted.[2][need quotation to verify] The German Foreign Ministry, however, suggested the alternative of moving the racially unwanted population to Madagascar and Central Africa as soon as Germany had recovered its colonies lost in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.[4]

It's the greatest piece of colonization the world will ever have seen linked with a noble and essential task, the  protection of the Western world against an eruption from Asia. When he has accomplished that, the name of Adolf Hitler will be the greatest in Germanic history — and he has commissioned me to carry out the task.

From a historical perspective, the SS Wehrbauer concept deliberately referenced the model of the Military Frontier held by the Habsburg Empire against the incursions of the Osman Turks.[6][need quotation to verify] Also, Himmler believed that during the early migration period and the German eastward expansion of the Middle Ages, the conquering Germanic peasant-farmer had, in addition to farming, defended his land with arms; the Wehrbauer model aimed to revive this custom.[7]

Settlement division

In the General Government (composed entirely of pre-war Polish territory) plans envisaged setting up a number of "settlement areas" (German: Siedlungsgebiete), centered on the six Teilräume ("spatial regions") of Cracow, Warsaw, Lublin,  Lviv/Lwów (German: Lemberg), Bialystok, and Litzmannstadt (Polish: Lódz).[8] The colonization of the former territories of the USSR would take place through forming three major "settlement marches" (German: Siedlungsmarken), alternatively also called Reichsmarken ("marches of the Reich"). Smaller "settlement points" (German: Siedlungsstützpunkte).,[4] as well as a number of "settlement strings" (German: Siedlungsperlen, literally meaning "settlement pearls") were also envisaged in the east.[9]


The settlement marches were to be separated from the civil administration of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories and Reichskommissariats and given to the custody of the Reichsführer-SS, who was to name an SS and Police Leader (German: SS- und Polizeiführer) for the region and also to distribute temporary and inheritable fiefs and even permanent land-ownership for the settlers.[4]

In a time-span of 25 years the populations of Ingria (German: Ingermanland), the  Memel-Narew region (i.e. the district of Bialystok and Western Lithuania), and the southern Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula (to be renamed Gotengau after the former  Germanic tribe) were to become at least 50% German.[4]


In addition to the settlement marches, the SS planned to establish 36 settlement points.[4] The population of these points was to be circa 20–30% German.[4] Marking the center of each point, a planned German city of c. 20,000 inhabitants would be surrounded by closely-located German villages in a 5–10 km radius.[4] The villages would secure the German control of all major road and railroad nodes.[4]


The planned Breitspurbahn rail network, with three proposed eastward railheads deep within Russian territory
The planned Breitspurbahn rail network, with three proposed eastward railheads deep within Russian territory

The settlement strings would follow the routes Cracow-Lviv-Zhitomir-Kiev, Leningrad-Mogilev-Kiev, and Zhitomir-Vinnitsa-Odessa (note however that Odessa  came under the administration of  Romania in the course of Operation Barbarossa in 1941).[9][10] A major autobahn system would connect the settlement strings, with new German cities planned for construction along the roadbeds of roughly every 100 kilometres. Further extensions run in the direction of the Don and the Volga, and eventually towards the Ural mountains.[9] Plans for the extreme broad-gauge Breitspurbahn railway network proposed by the Nazis envisioned these railways having extensions running as far east as Kazan, Stalingrad and Baku as possible railheads. Railways could provide another conceivable set of "strings" along which to place settlements.

The planned peasant-soldier community

The soldier-peasants would mainly be front-line veterans of the SS and members of the Allgemeine-SS, who were to be supplied[by whom?] with weaponry for the armed defense of their respective communities.[4] In October 1939 Himmler stated that the German settlements in Poland would be divided between different German cultural and linguistic sub-groups such as Swabians, Franconians,  Westphalians and Lower Saxons.[11]

The compulsory savings of the individual SS men would fund the foundation of the settlements.[12] Each settlement was to be planned[by whom?] in advance (Soviet villages emptied of their previous inhabitants were to be destroyed[13]) and would comprise 30 to 40 farms, each of 121.5 hectares (300 acres); a NSDAP party headquarters; a manor house for the SS or  party leader; an agricultural instruction center; a house for a community nurse; and a cinema.[14] The houses of the settlement were to be built "as in the old days" - two or three stone courses thick.[12] Baths and showers were to be available in every house.[12]

The SS calculated the exact amount of weaponry for delivery to each individual soldier-peasant.[14] An SS or NSDAP leader of merit, chosen[by whom?] for his qualities as a man and a soldier, would occupy the manor; this individual would become the Leader (German: Leiter) of the settlement, acting on the administrative side as a Burgomeister and on the Party side as the  political leader of the local group, effectively combining the jurisdictions of the Party and the State.[15] He would also act as the military commander of a  company-sized force consisting of the community's peasants, their sons and laborers.[15]

The plans for the Wehrbauer communities did not include provision for any churches - unlike Medieval farming villages.[16] Himmler stated that if the clergy were to acquire money to construct churches on their own in these settlements, the SS would later take the buildings over and transform them into " "Germanic holy places".[16]

During one of his many  private-dinner monologues, Hitler presented his vision of the soldier-peasant.[17] After twelve years of military service, soldiers from peasant families would receive completely-equipped farms located in the conquered East.[17] The last two years of their military service would focus on agricultural education.[17] The soldier was not to be allowed to marry a townswoman, but only a peasant woman who, if possible, had not begun to live in a town with him.[17] This would enable the settlers to live out the blood and soil principles of Nazi Germany.[18] Also, it would encourage large families.[19] Thus, Hitler stated, "we shall again find in the countryside the blessing of numerous families. Whereas the present law of rural inheritance dispossesses the younger sons, in future every peasant's son will be sure of having his patch of ground."[17] Hitler also believed that former non-commissioned officers would make ideal teachers for the primary schools of these Utopian communities.[17] Although Himmler wanted the settlements to be totally agrarian, Hitler planned to introduce certain types of small-scale industry to them.[16] At the time of his 54th birthday in April 1943, the Führer had a discussion with Albert Speer and Karl-Otto Saur on a design he had personally drawn up for a six-person bunker that was to be used in the Atlantic Wall, featuring machine guns, an anti-tank gun, and flame throwers[20] — this design was also to be used for defense purposes on Germany's "ultimate eastern border deep within Russia"[20] where the easternmost Wehrbauer "settlement-pearl" villages would likely have grown up — if the  Axis had completely defeated the Soviets, there might have existed the possibility either of remnant Soviet forces, or of troops of the northwestern Siberian extremities of Imperial Japan's Co-Prosperity Sphere territories on the eastern side of such a frontier.


See also


  1. ^  Heather Pringle, The Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust, p39 ISBN 0-7868-6886-4.
  2. ^ a b Robert Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi Ideology p190 ISBN 0-396-06577-5, 1972.
  3. ^ Peter R. Hartmann, "Faschistische Agrarideologie und Kriegsvorbereitung", Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Universität Rostock: Gesellschafts- und Sprachwissenschaftliche Reihe (1972) Vol. 21 Issue 1, pp 143–147.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hitlerin Saksa ja sen vapaaehtoisliikkeet, p. 35, Mauno Jokipii, 2002, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura ISBN 951-746-335-9 [1] (in Finnish).
  5. ^ Kersten, Felix (1957). The Kersten Memoirs, 1940–1945. Hutchinson. p. 133. LCCN 56058163.
  6. ^ Kersten (1957), p. 258.
  7. ^ Gathercole, P. W.; Lowenthal, David (1990). The Politics of the past. Routledge. p. 84. ISBN 0-04-445018-4. From the investigation of early Germanic settlement patterns, Himmler anticipated practical political advantages. Previously a farmer himself, he saw Germanic peasant stock as the basis of most that was good in Germannentum [...]. Since the early German peasant farmer had, he thought, both farmed the land and defended it with his arms, the need for Lebensraum in the East encouraged Himmler to revive this practice. Emulating their forefathers both in the early migration period and during German eastward expansion in the Middle Ages, Wehrbauer were to be settled in areas cleared of their Slavic population.
  8. ^ Rössler, Mechtild; Schleiermacher, Sabine; Tollmien, Cordula (1993). Der "Generalplan Ost": Hauptlinien der nationalsozialistischen Planungs- und Vernichtungspolitik. Akademie Verlag. [2] (in German)
  9. ^ a b c Heineman, Isabel (2003). "Rasse, Siedlung, deutsches Blut": Das Rasse- & Siedlungshauptamt der SS und die rassenpolitische Neuordnung Europas. Wallstein, p. 418. [3] (in German)
  10. ^ Rich, Norman (1974). Hitler's War Aims: the Establishment of the New Order. W. W. Norton & Company Inc., p. 356.
  11. ^ Longerich 2008, p. 439.
  12. ^ a b c Longerich, P. (2008), Heinrich Himmler, p, 443–445, ISBN 0-19-161989-2
  13. ^ Hitler, Adolf (2000). Bormann, Martin (ed.). Hitler's Table Talk 1941–1944. trans. Cameron, Norman; Stevens, R.H. (3rd ed.). Enigma Books. pp. 68–69. ISBN 1-929631-05-7.
  14. ^ a b Phillips, Walter Alfred Peter (1969). The tragedy of Nazi Germany. Taylor & Francis. p. 133. ISBN 0-7100-6496-9.
  15. ^ a b Kersten (1957), p. 134-135.
  16. ^ a b c Kersten (1957), p. 136
  17. ^ a b c d e f Hitler (2000), p. 16
  18. ^ Pierre Aycoberry The Nazi Question, p. 8, Pantheon Books New York 1981
  19. ^ Gerhard L. Weinberg, Visions of Victory: The Hopes of Eight World War II Leaders p 23 ISBN 0-521-85254-4
  20. ^ a b Speer, Albert (1976). Spandau: The Secret Diaries Macmillan Company, p. 58.
This page was last edited on 30 September 2021, at 17:04
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