The concept of Lebensraum predated Nazism. As originally formulated
around the time of the unification of the German state (1871),
Lebensraum was the imperial policy of obtaining colonies outside
Europe in emulation of the other major European powers (such as
Britain and France) to serve as the sources of new land and resources
for the expansion of German population. That imperial impulse was
halted with the loss of those colonies after World War I, when Germany
was compelled to give up its foreign possessions. In effect, the
German populace were already convinced of the necessity of territorial
expansion by the time that Nazism arose, but had been frustrated in
the prosecution of that expansionist desire.
Hitler's version of Lebensraum differed from the traditional imperial
model in that the Nazis proposed to pursue a continental empire rather
than a colonial one. Colonial empires required a large navy and the
secure oil reserves to support it. A continental empire required only
a large army, and the resources could be secured through land invasion
and conquest. The Nazi plan was to unify the Germanic peoples, and
then to expand eastward into Russia and the Ukraine, securing large
areas of land and access to the oil and other natural resources that
lay in those areas, thereby creating a base from which further
expansion, including colonization, could be launched. Simply on the
contrast to the failure of the previous policy, the alternative
appeared naturally attractive. Thus, the Germans needed little to
convince them that this was a viable policy.
Hitler himself was the most prolific propagandist for the new
direction of Lebensraum. He had first proposed it in "Mein Kampf" (My
Struggle, 1925), and he continually referred to it afterwards. It was
taken up in the popular press, and supported by others such as Hans
Grimm in his book "Volk ohne Raum" (People without Space, 1926). By
the time that Hitler was elected Chancellor, therefore, Germany was
very familiar with the Nazi redefinition of Lebensraum.
After taking power, the Nazis used all available means to convey their
propaganda, from textbooks to motion pictures. It was not enough to
make the case for expansion, it was also necessary to eliminate all
political opposition, which they did ruthlessly, often by raising the
strawman of Communism.
20th Century History
with Jennifer Rosenberg
"In an era when the earth is gradually being divided up among states,
some of which embrace almost entire continents, we cannot speak of a
world power in connection with a formation whose political mother
country is limited to the absurd area of five hundred thousand square
kilometers. --- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf"
"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. --- Adolf Hitler, Mein
ON NATIONAL SOCIALISM AND WORLD RELATIONS
SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE GERMAN REICHSTAG ON JANUARY 30TH 1937
BY ADOLF HITLER
"During the last hundred years a number of new nations have been
created in Europe which formerly, because of their disunion and
weakness, were of only small economic importance and of no political
importance at all. Through the establishment of these new States new
tensions have naturally arisen. True statesmanship however must face
realities and not shirk them. The Italian nation and the new Italian
State are realities. The German nation and the German Reich are
likewise realities. And for my my own fellow citizens I should like to
state that the Polish nation and the Polish State have also become
realities. Also in the Balkans nations have reawakened and have built
their own States. The people who belong to those States want to live
and they will live. The unreasonable division of the world into
nations that have and nations that have not will not remove or solve
that problem, no more than the internal social problems of the nations
can be simply solved through more or less clever phrases.
For thousands of years the nations asserted their vital claims by the
use of power. If in our time some other institution is to take the
place of this power for the purpose or regulating relations between
the peoples, then it must take account of natural vital claims and
"The German people once built up a colonial Empire without robbing
anyone and without violating any treaty. And they did so without any
war. That colonial Empire was taken away from us. And the grounds on
which it was sought to excuse this act are not tenable."
"Moreover, Germany has never demanded colonies for military purposes,
but exclusively for economic purposes. It is obvious that in times of
general prosperity the value of certain territories may decrease, but
it is just as evident that in times of distress such value increases.
Today Germany lives in a time of difficult struggle for foodstuffs and
raw materials. Sufficient imports are conceivable only if there be a
continued and lasting increase in our exports. Therefore, as a matter
of course, our demand for colonies for our densely populated country
will be put forward again and again."
The Ukraine as a German territory
"At Hitler's side in the German leadership was Goebbels, the Minister
of Propaganda, the man in charge of inculcating the Nazi dream into
the German people. This was a dream of a racially pure people living
in a Greater Germany, a country with broad lebensraum, a wide space in
which to live. One part of this /lebensraum/, an area to the east of
Germany which was, indeed, far larger than Germany itself, had yet to
be conquered and incorporated into the German nation. In 1925, in Mein
Kampf, Hitler had already pointed to the Ukraine as an essential part
of this German living space. The Ukraine and other regions of Eastern
Europe needed to belong to the German nation so that they could be
utilised in a "proper" manner. According to Nazi propaganda, the Nazi
sword would liberate this territory in order to make space forthe
The Nizkor Project
The Trial of German Major War Criminals
"Paul Schmidt, Hitler's interpreter, a witness of great knowledge, has testified:
"The general objectives of National Socialism were known from the
start - namely, the domination of the European continent, to be
achieved first by the incorporation of all German-speaking groups into
the Reich, and secondly, by territorial expansion under the slogan of
That slogan "Lebensraum" - that entirely false idea that the very
existence of the German people depended upon territorial expansion
under the Nazi flag - was from the earliest days an openly avowed part
of the Nazi doctrine - yet any thinking person must have known that it
would lead inevitably to war."
"Totalitarian government brooks no opposition. Any means justifies the
end, and the immediate end was ruthlessly to gain complete control of
the German State and to brutalise and train its people for war. What
stood in the way in January, 1933? Firstly, the members of the other
political parties; secondly, the democratic system of election and of
public assembly, the organization of trade unions; thirdly, the moral
standards of the German people, and the Churches which fostered them.
Accordingly, the Nazis set out, quite deliberately, to eliminate this
opposition firstly, by imprisoning or terrorising their opponents;
secondly, by declaring illegal all elements of tolerance and
liberalism, outlawing trade unions and opposition parties, reducing
the democratic assembly to a farce and controlling elections; thirdly,
by systematic discouragement and persecution of religion, by replacing
the ethics of Christianity with the idolatry of the Fuehrer and the
cult of the blood and by rigidly controlling education and youth.
Youth was systematically prepared for war and taught to hate and
persecute the Jews; the plans for aggression required a nation trained
in brutality, and taught that it was both necessary and heroic to
invade other countries."
"I turn to the third class of opposition, the Churches. Bormann's
memorandum, sent in December, 1941, to all Gauleiter and distributed
to the SS, sums up the Nazi attitude to Christianity:
"National Socialist and Christian concepts are irreconcilable.... If
therefore in the future our youth learn nothing more of this
Christianity whose doctrines are far below ours, Christianity will
disappear by itself ... All influences which might impair or damage
the leadership of the people exercised by the Fuehrer with the aid of
NSDAP must be eliminated. More and more the people must be separated
from the Churches and their organs, the pastors.""
(Answer in two parts - continued.)
Clarification of Answer by
18 Dec 2003 22:09 PST
The Nizkor Project
The Trial of German Major War Criminals
(Questioning of Herr Streicher, editor of "Der Sturmer")
"Q. Did you know that from the beginning in "Mein Kampf" his ultimate
objective was Lebensraum?
A. What I read in "Mein Kampf" is marked in red. The book has been
confiscated. I read only what concerns the Jewish question; I did not
read anything else. However, that we had the objective of acquiring
Lebensraum for our people, that goes without saying. I personally also
had set myself the objective of contributing in some way to providing
a future for the surplus children.
Q. Very well. May I take it that during the years 1922 and 1923, as
editor and owner of "Der Sturmer," and as a Gauleiter from 1925, you
did everything you could to put the Nazi Party into power?
A. Yes: that is to be taken as a matter of course.
Q. And after 1933 did you continuously support and issue propaganda on
behalf of the Nazi Party's policy?
"Q. Let me just read to you an extract from an article which you wrote
in "Der Sturmer" of March, 1938, immediately after the Anschluss with
Austria. I want you to tell me whether or not you are advocating the
Nazi policy in regard to Austria:-
"Our Lord is making provision that the power of the Jews may not
extend to heaven itself. What was only a dream up to a few days ago
has now become reality. The brother nation of Austria has returned
home to the Reich."
And then, a few lines further down:-
"We are entering the glorious times, a Greater Germany without Jews."
Do you say that you are not there issuing propaganda on behalf of the Nazi policy?
A. I did not indulge in propaganda politics, for Austria was already
annexed. I just welcomed the fact. I did not need to make any more
propaganda about it.
Q. Very well. Perhaps you'll tell me what you mean by the "Greater
Germany" that you were approaching. What Greater Germany were you
approaching in March, 1938, a Germany greater than it was after the
Anschluss with Austria?
A. A Greater Germany, a living area (Lebensraum) in which all Germans,
German-speaking people, people of German blood, can live together."
"Q. I put it to you and I'll leave it. I'll put it to you that throughout
the years from 1933 until 1944 or 1945 you were in fact doing everything
you could to support the policy of the Government, both domestically and
in regard to its foreign affairs.
A. As far as possible within my field of activity, yes."
Free Cliff Notes
"Nazi ideology is also illustrated by "Ploughing", by Julius Paul
Junghan; this is more specifically linked to the notion of "blood and
soil". A person who works with the land achieves a spiritual unity
with it, so that they become a part of the natural world and integral
to both the continuances of its fertility and yours. The painting
displays this ancient German ideology that was appropriated and
extended by the Nazis to rationalize the policy of Lebensraum or
"living space" so that the superior Nordic race could control over and
order the land of other inferior nations."
Leni Riefenstahl - Art and Propaganda
"As well as being a useful propaganda tool, film was an important
ideological symbol for Hitler. Although much of the party's rhetoric
anti-modern and seemingly retrograde, on the surface calling for a
return to a pre-industrial agrarian civilisation, as characterised by
the Blut und Boden and Lebensraum policy, the regime simultaneously
embraced technological advances. This Janus-faced approach to
modernity has been described as "reactionary modernism" by Heff;"
"...in "Triumph des Willens". There is a symbiotic relationship
between the two, whereby the racial inferiority of the Jews was
convincing if Germans believed in the racial superiority of the Aryan
race. As analysis has shown, the Aryan myth is not an explicit theme
of the film, but by evoking the notion of Wiedergeburt, intrinsic to
this process, was the ethnic cleansing of German Lebensraum of its
Jewry, removing those who had supposedly caused the turmoil and shame
of the Weimar era."
"Goebbels advocated a more subliminal approach, which he would only
have promoted, had he believed it was the most successful way to
influence a cinema audience. While some point to the film's mix of
artistry and propaganda as a reason that makes it extraordinary, the
artistry originates from turning the National Socialist Tendenz into a
all consuming aesthetic conception; Nazi ideology becomes the film's
ideology. However this process is not unique. The work of many artists
in the Third Reich became simply an outlet for Nazi ideology
propagating a Nazi aesthetic, for example, Albert Speer, whose
monolithic architectural design provided much of the scenery for
"Triumph des Willens"."
The Origins of the Second World War
by Dr Ruth Henig. University of Lancaster
"Historians are now generally in agreement that Nazi foreign policy
cannot be assessed without a clear understanding of the set of beliefs
and strong convictions which shaped it. Historians, such as Professor
Norman Rich (in "Hitler's War Aims") and Professor Gerald Weinberg (in
"The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany"), point to the fact that in
writings, in speeches and in policy pronouncements throughout the
1920s and 1930s, leading Nazis identified a set of concerns relating
to 'race and space' which ran as a consistent thread through their
policies. These concerns centred on the importance of racial purity
and on the need for a nation to be prepared to compete with its
neighbours in a brutal, uncompromising and ceaseless struggle to
survive and to expand."
"More specifically, he wrote that 'when we speak of new land in Europe
today we must principally bear in mind Russia and the border states
subject to her'. These themes, of racial purity and the need for
constant struggle to secure 'living space' or lebensraum in the East
are echoed again and again in speeches to the faithful, at election
meetings, in addresses to specific interest groups and in party
German Propaganda Archive
Excerpts from a Nazi Geography Textbook (1943)
People without Space
People and Living Space
"Despite the great decrease in birth rate, the German people, with a
population density of 133.5 for square kilometer, remain a crowded
people. Other peoples with a much smaller population density still
have large colonial holdings that can accept their surplus population.
Although it is true that the Four Year Plan has guaranteed our food
supply and raw material needs, we lack the abundance that other
nations have because of their colonies."
"The World War showed how grave a danger Germany's central position
is. Germany was surrounded by enemies. All access to the seas and to
neutral countries were blocked, which allowed for a successful hunger
blockade. Though the German army fought bravely for four years against
a multitude of foes, the lack of food and raw materials finally
weakened the homeland and forced the nation to capitulate. However,
the enemy's hopes of a fragmented Reich were not fulfilled.
Surrounded as it is by other nations, Germany cannot lead a
comfortable life. We Germans must be constantly alert to deal with the
challengers brought about by our central location. Only a strong and
united people can do that. The National Socialist government drew the
necessary conclusions from Germany's unfavorable central location, and
took the steps necessary to ensure that Germany will never again find
itself in a situation similar to that of the end of the World War."
"Germany has now created a new order in the East. Together with Italy,
it has also reordered southeastern Europe. Now it is engaged in a
decisive battle with England and France and their vassals. Great
battles have occurred, great victories won. Norway, the Netherlands,
Belgium, Luxembourg and France are in German hands. Alsace and
Lorraine have been reincorporated into the German Reich."