Born: 26 July 1902 in Germany.
Died: 28 February 1952 in Warsaw, Poland.
Albert Maria Forster was a German politician. Under his administration as the Gauleiter of Danzig-West Prussia during the Second World War, the local non-German population suffered ethnic cleansing, mass murder, and forceful Germanisation. Forster was sentenced to death for his crimes after Nazi Germany was defeated.
Forster was born in Fürth, Bavaria, where he attended the Humanistisches Gymnasium from 1912 to 1920. In 1923, he became a member of the SA in Fürth and observed the trial for high treason of Erich von Ludendorff, Adolf Hitler, and eight others, which took place between February 26 and April 1, 1924, in the court of Munich.
Free City of Danzig
In 1930, Forster became the National Socialist Party's Gauleiter of the Free City of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland). In the spring of 1933, Forster spearheaded the Nazi take-over of Danzig. Between 1933-1939, Forster became embroiled in a feud with the Nazi President of the Danzig Senate, Arthur Greiser, who was to remain Forster's life-long nemesis.
Before World War II Forster had tried and failed to gain control over the organisation of the irredentist activities of the minority ethnic German population in the Polish Corridor, neighboring Freie Stadt Danzig, which was created in 1920 by Treaty of Versailles), rather it was the SS-dominated Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle that won control. With Forster and Heinrich Himmler engaged in a power struggle, this rendered the (ethnic) Germans concerned suspicious of Forster. When these territories were annexed after the Invasion of Poland they became Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia, Forster's distrust of the local Nazi leaders led him to deny them political power and he filled all the significant positions with people from the pre-war Free City of Danzig. The result was, inevitably, great bitterness amongst the local Germans, which Forster's Germanization policies, which denied them higher status than that of the Poles, naturally exacerbated.
In May 1934 Forster, who had been made Honorable Citizen of Fürth and of Danzig, married Gertrud Deetz. The wedding took place in the Berlin Chancellory, with Adolf Hitler and Rudolf Heß as witnesses and wedding guests.
In 1939, following orders from Berlin, Forster led the agitation in Danzig to step up pressure for annexation by Nazi Germany and proclaimed that in future Poland will be only a dream. The Danzig issue was one of the pretexts used for the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. He was hateful of Jews whom he called dirty and slippery race and he expressed his desire to control parts of Poland after Poles would be expelled from them
World War II
Following Poland's defeat, Greiser became Gauleiter in the Warthegau, which became part of Germany after 1939. Forster became the Gauleiter and Reichstatthalter (governor) of the province Danzig-West Prussia from 1939 to 1945, thereby concentrating both the State and National Socialist Party power in his hands. Adolf Hitler instructed the Gauleiters, namely Forster and his rival Arthur Greiser, in the Warthegau to Germanize the area, promising that There would be no questions asked about how this Germanization was to be accomplished. Forster goal was to make the area fully Germanised within ten years
Ethnic cleansing and Polish holocaust
Forster was responsible for ethnic cleansing of Poles to the General Government, as well as sending them to the Stutthof concentration camp. He was also one of those responsible for Mass murders in Piasnica, where approximately 12,000 Poles and Kashub intelligentsia were killed in 1939-1940. At Forster's disposal in early Nazi occupation of Polish territories were 17.667 members of the paramilitary Selbstschutz, Danzig police units (including Einsatzkommando 16), and a special SD unit Forster announced that West Prussia would become a blossoming, pure German province and all Poles will be driven off.
Forster personally encouraged pogroms and violence in a speech at the Prusinski Hotel in Wejherowo he agitated ethnic Germans to attack Poles by saying We have to eliminate the lice ridden Poles, starting with those in the cradle in your hands I give the fate of the Poles, you can do with them what you want. The crowd gathered before the hotel chanted Kill the Polish dogs! and Death to the Poles The Selbstschutz participated in the early massacres as Piasnica, and many of their members later joined police and SS formations which continued the massacres until the Fall of 1940.
The total number of victims of what Christopher Browning calls orgy of murder and deportation cannot be estimated with precision, Nazi reports from early occupation speak of about 20,000 Poles destroyed, while additionally Forster reported that 87.000 people had been evacuated from the region by February 1940 alone.
It is estimated that till the end of the war up to 60.000 people had been murdered in the region and up to 170.000 ethnically cleansed.
Role in the Jewish HolocaustForster at the outbreak of the war declared that Jews are not humans, and must be eradicated like vermin...mercy towards Jews is reprehensible. Any means of destruction of Jews is desirable. Jews were being arrested, executed and murdered as well as deported to General Government. By November 1939 Danzig-West Prussia was declared Judenfrei It is estimated that up to 30.000 Jews from Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany in Pomerania and attached to Danzig-West Prussia were mass murdered during the war.
Forster put remaining Poles between alternative-become Germanised or become slaves.
Forster pursued a policy of forced assimilation of the population in his area of responsibility. Forster was willing to accept any and all Poles who claimed to have German blood as Germans. In practice, the method of determining whether Poles had any German ancestry or not was to send out National Socialist Party workers to interview the local Poles all Poles who stated that they had German ancestry had their answers taken at face value with no documentation required. SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, appointed by Adolf Hitler as Reich Commissioner for the Strengthening of Germandom and, as such, the man assigned to decide the Germanization policy in German-occupied territories, took the opposite view. Refusal to become Germanised was punishable by deportation to General Government or imprisonment in concentration camp.
Forster was at odds with Arthur Greiser who had complained to Heinrich Himmler that Forster's assimilation policy was against Nazi racial theory. When Heinrich Himmler approached Forster over this issue, Forster simply ignored him, realizing that Adolf Hitler allowed each Gauleiter to run his area as he saw fit. Both Greiser and Heinrich Himmler complained to Adolf Hitler that Forster was allowing thousands of Poles to be classified as Germans, but Adolf Hitler merely bounced the problem back to them, telling them to go sort out their problems with Forster on their own. This was a difficult task. Heinrich Himmler attempts to cajole Forster to see matters his way met with resentment and contempt. In a discussion with Richard Hildebrandt, HSSPF Vistula, over Germanization in his Reichsgau, Forster scoffed, if I looked like Heinrich Himmler, I wouldn't talk about race.
Conflict with SS and colonization policies
Forster's conflict with the SS also had direct and injurious consequences for ethnic Germans. During the war, hundreds of thousands of ethnic-Germans were moved by Nazi-Soviet agreement from Soviet Union into Poland used as colonists in Nazi occupied Poland. While Greiser did all he could to accommodate them in his Reichsgau, Forster viewed them with hostility, claiming that his region needed young farmers while the refugees were old and urbanized. He initially refused to admit any of them into his Reichsgau. When a ship bearing several thousands of ethnic Germans from the Baltic states arrived at Danzig he initially refused them entry unless Heinrich Himmler promised that they would not be settled in Danzig-West Prussia but proceed immediately elsewhere, an assurance that Heinrich Himmler could not provide. It was only following a lengthy telephone consultation with the desperate Heinrich Himmler that Forster allowed the passengers to disembark on the understanding that their residence in the Reichsgau would be temporary, though most did not, ultimately, leave the region. In time he had to relent and by June 1944 53,258 colonists had settled in Danzig-West Prussia, a far cry from the 421,780 settled in the Warthegau. Forster's Germanization policies left less free land housing than Greiser's mass expulsions, although it is evident that Forster's perception of the ethnic German refugees as wards of the SS played its role in determining his attitude.
Trial and death
At the end of the war, Forster took refuge in the British Occupation Zone of Germany. The British handed him to communist Poland. Forster was condemned to death by the Polish court for war crimes (the Supreme National Tribunal) and crimes against humanity in 1948. He was held and had his sentence deferred, but was moved from Danzig and hanged on February 28, 1952 in Mokotów Prison in Warsaw. His wife, who had not heard from him since 1949, was in 1954 informed of his death.
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