|Part of the Politics series on|
|Flag of Nazi Germany|
</table> Template:Audio (German for "living space") was a belief in Germany in the early 20th century that Germany needed new land to expand in, especially toward the east. It became a major motivation for Nazi Germany's territorial aggression after 1937. Lebensraum was a reinterpretation of the by then century-old concept of Drang nach Osten. In his book Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler detailed his belief that the German people needed Lebensraum – for a Großdeutschland, land, and raw materials – and that it should be taken in the East.
The idea of a Germanic people without sufficient space dates back to long before Adolf Hitler brought it to prominence. Through the middle ages, German population pressures led to settlement in Eastern Europe, a practice termed Ostsiedlung. The term Lebensraum in this sense was coined by Friedrich Ratzel in 1901, and was used as a slogan in Germany referring to the unification of the country and the acquisition of colonies, based on the English and French models. Ratzel believed that the development of a people was primarily influenced by their geographical situation and that a people that successfully adapted to one location would proceed naturally to another. These thoughts can be seen in his studies of zoology and the study of adaptation. This expansion to fill available space, he claimed, was a natural and necessary feature of any healthy species.
Ratzel himself emphasized the need for overseas colonies, to which Germans ought to migrate, not for expansion inside Europe. Wanklyn, (1961) argues that Ratzel's theory was designed to advance science, and that politicians distorted it for political goals. Thus Lebensraum was picked up and expanded by publicists of the day, including Karl Haushofer and General Friedrich von Bernhardi. In von Bernhardi's 1912 book Germany and the Next War, he expanded upon Ratzel's hypotheses and, for the first time, explicitly identified Eastern Europe as a source of new space. According to him, war, with the express purpose of achieving Lebensraum, was a distinct "biological necessity." As he explained with regard to the Latin and Slavic races, "Without war, inferior or decaying races would easily choke the growth of healthy budding elements." The quest for Lebensraum was more than just an attempt to resolve potential demographic problems: it was a necessary means of defending the German race against stagnation and degeneration."
'Lebensraum' and 'Konzentrationslager,' ("concentration camp") were coined in the 1900-1910 era regarding German policies in its colony of South-West Africa (now Namibia). During the first decade of the 20th century imperial Germany colonized the land and committed genocide against the local Herero and Nama peoples. Later use of these words suggests an important question: did Wilhelmine colonization and genocide in Namibia influence Nazi plans to conquer and settle Eastern Europe, enslave and murder millions of Slavs, and exterminate Gypsies and Jews? Madley (2005) argues that the German experience in Namibia was a crucial precursor to Nazi colonialism and genocide and that personal connections, literature, and public debates served as conduits for communicating colonialist and genocidal ideas and methods from the colony to Germany.
World War IEdit
In September 1914, when victory in the World War seemed at hand, Berlin introduced a lebensraum plan for postwar peace terms. the concept of Lebensraum was endorsed secretly by the Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg and the rest of the German government as a war aim in World War I. Documents discovered by the German historian Fritz Fischer have suggested that in the event of a German victory, one policy under discussion by the German government as part of its Septemberprogramm was to annex a strip of Poland, and replace the population with Germans to set up a defensive barrier in the east. The popularion policy was never officially adopted nor put into effect. The significance of Fischer's discovery, as the Australian historian John Moses has noted, is that the goal of winning lebensraum was already in German thinking long before 1933 and thus cannot be seen, as some German historians have argued, as solely Adolf Hitler's personal brain-child. The "September plan" was a proposal that was under discussion but was never adopted and no movement of people was ever ordered. As historian Raffael Scheck concluded, "The government, finally, never committed itself to anything. It had ordered the September Program as an informal hearing in order to learn about the opinion of the economic and military elites."
As the British historian A. J. P. Taylor noted in his 1963 foreword "Second Thoughts" to his 1961 book The Origins of the Second World War:
The German Empire planned to annex territory in both Lithuania and Poland for direct colonization by German colonists after forcible removal of Polish and Lithuanian population. As early as April 1915, the Polish Border Strip plan against Poland, which was first suggested by General Erich Ludendorff in 1914, was approved as a German war aim by the Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg. The German historian Andreas Hillgruber argued that the foreign policy of General Ludendorff, with its demand for lebensraum to be seized for Germany in Eastern Europe during World War I, was the prototype for German policy in World War II. Lebensraum almost became a reality in 1918 during World War I. The new Communist regime of Russia concluded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany, ending Russian participation in the war in exchange for the surrender of huge swathes of land, including the Baltic territories, Belarus, Ukraine, and the Caucasus. However, unrest at home and defeat on the Western Front forced Germany to abandon these favorable terms in favor of the Treaty of Versailles, by which the newly acquired eastern territories were agreed to sacrifice the land to Lithuania, Poland, and new nations such as Estonia or Latvia, and a series of short-lived independent states in Ukraine.
The German historian Andreas Hillgruber argued the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was the prototype for Hitler's vision of a great empire for Germany in Eastern Europe. Hillgruber wrote that:
The desire for lebensraum was a key tenet of several nationalist and extremist groups in post-World War I Germany, notably the Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler. As the American historian Gerhard Weinberg noted, German demands for territorial revision went beyond merely regaining land lost under the Treaty of Versailles, and instead embraced calls for the German conquest and colonization of all Eastern Europe, regardless of whether the land in question had belonged to Germany before 1918 or not Likewise, the British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper argued that the goal of overthrowing Versailles was only a prelude to seizing Lebensraum in Eastern Europe for Germany with no regard as to where Germany's 1914 frontiers had been. In Mein Kampf, Hitler was to write:
The official German history of World War II was to conclude that the conquest of Lebensraum was for Hitler and the rest of the National Socialists the most important German foreign policy goal. At his first meeting with all of the leading generals and admirals of the Reich on February 3, 1933, Hitler spoke of "conquest of Lebensraum in the East and its ruthless Germanization" as his ultimate foreign policy objectives. For Hitler, the land which would provide sufficient Lebensraum for Germany was the Soviet Union, which for Hitler was both conveniently a nation that possessed vast and rich agricultural land and was inhabited by what Hitler saw as Slavic untermenschen (sub-humans) ruled over by what he regarded as a gang of blood-thirsty, but grossly incompetent Jewish revolutionaries. In Hitler's view, the idea of restoring the 1914 borders of the Reich was absurd as those borders did not provide sufficient Lebensraum; only a foreign policy that aimed at the conquest of the proper quantity of Lebensraum would justify the necessary sacrifices that war entailed In Hitler’s view, history was dominated by a merciless struggle between different “races” for survival, and “races” that possessed large amounts of territory were innately stronger then those that did not. Eberhard Jäckel has expressed a Primat der Außenpolitik (“primacy of foreign policy”) interpration of German foreign policy as opposed to the Primat der Innenpolitik ("primacy of domestic politics") thesis favored by some left-wing historians such as Timothy Mason. Jäckel wrote that since Hitler regarded the conquest of Lebensraum as his most important project, and since that could only be accomplished through war, domestic policy comprised simply preparing the nation for the inevitable struggle for Lebensraum
There are, however, many historians such as Martin Broszat and Hans Mommsen who dismiss this "intentionalist" approach, and argue that the concept was actually an "ideological metaphor" in the early days of Nazism.
The practical implementation of the Lebensraum concept began in 1939 with Germany's occupation of Poland. Later, the ideology was also a major factor in Hitler's launching of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. The Nazis hoped to turn large areas of Soviet territory into German settlement areas as part of Generalplan Ost. Developing these ideas, Nazi theorist Alfred Rosenberg proposed that the Nazi administrative organization in lands to be conquered from the Soviets be based upon the following Reichskommissariats:
The Reichskommissariat territories would extend up to the European frontier at the Urals. They were to have been early stages in the displacement and dispossession of Russian and other Slav people and their replacement with German settlers, following the Nazi Lebensraum im Osten plans. When German forces entered Soviet territory, they promptly organized occupation regimes in the first two territories—the Reichskomissariats of Ostland and Ukraine. The defeat of the Sixth Army at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942, followed by defeat in the Battle of Kursk in July 1943 and the Allied landings in Sicily put an end to the plans' implementation.
In his book Mein Kampf, Hitler notes that history is an open-ended struggle, and links the concept of Lebensraum with his own brand of racism and social Darwinism. Nevertheless, historians debate whether Hitler's position on Lebensraum was part of a larger program of world domination (the so-called "globalist" position) or a more modest "continentalist" approach, by which Hitler would have sufficed with the conquest of Eastern Europe. Nor are the two positions necessarily contradictory, given the idea of a broader Stufenplan, or "plan in stages," which many such as Klaus Hildebrand and the late Andreas Hillgruber argue lay behind the regime's actions. Historian Ian Kershaw suggests just such a compromise, claiming that while the concept was originally abstract and undeveloped, it took on new meaning with the invasion of the Soviet Union. He goes on to note that even within the Nazi regime, there were differences of opinion about the meaning of Lebensraum, citing Rainer Zitelmann, who distinguishes between the near-mystical fascination with a return to an idyllic agrarian society (for which land was a necessity) as advocated by Darré and Himmler, and an industrial state, envisioned by Hitler, which would be reliant on raw materials and forced labor.
What seems certain is that echoes of lost territorial opportunities in Europe, such as the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, played an important role in the Hitlerian vision for the distant future:
Racism is not a necessary aspect of expansionist politics in general, nor was the original use of the term "Lebensraum". However, under Hitler, the term came to signify a specific, racist kind of expansionism. Karl Haushofer was an acquaintance of Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy. Haushofer had limited influence on Hitler's ideals. "Haushofer primarily provided the academic and scientific support for the expansion of the Third Reich ." Haushofer ideas can be described by the expansion of heavily populated countries having the right to expand and gain land from less populated countries. This was his adaptation of Ratzel's Lebensraum .
Empire of Japan:
cy:Lebensraum da:Lebensraum de:Lebensraum im Osten el:Ζωτικός χώρος es:Lebensraum eu:Lebensraum fr:Lebensraum it:Lebensraum he:מרחב מחיה lt:Gyvybinė erdvė hu:Lebensraum arz:ليبينزراوم nl:Lebensraum ja:生存圏 no:Lebensraum nn:Lebensraum pl:Lebensraum pt:Espaço vital ro:Spaţiu vital ru:Жизненное пространство на Востоке sr:Лебенсраум fi:Lebensraum sv:Lebensraum tr:Lebensraum vi:Lebensraumzh:生存空间