After Germany’s victory over Poland and the annexation of West Prussia and the Warthe Region in early 1940, German officials developed a plan called “Generalplan Ost” (“General Plan East”) that aimed at Germanizing these regions and resettling those parts of the population that they thought could not be integrated, including all Jews. These people were to be resettled into the remaining Polish territories (the General Government).
On 17 July 1941, hence some three weeks after the invasion of the Soviet Union, Chief of the SS Heinrich Himmler charged Odilo Globocnik, at the time head of SS and police in Lublin, with installing SS and police agencies in the “new eastern region,” with the aim of securing more space for the settlement of Germans in the East. To this end, Himmler planned on employing vast numbers of masons and bricklayers – in fact, hundreds of thousands of workers, some of them to be taken from concentration camps and also from PoW camps. He also planned on acquiring huge quantities of construction material for gigantic projects to improve the infrastructure in the conquered eastern territories. In this context, the Majdanek Camp was created, initially meant to house more than 100,000 Soviet PoWs. In late 1942, that camp was ordered to establish “a transit support camp,” which was to supply the various agencies involved in construction projects in the eastern territories.
Parallel to this and with the same background, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp was created, equally initially planned to house more than 100,000 Soviet PoWs, soon to be increased to 200,000. The Stutthof Camp was also integrated into this “Generalplan Ost” as a tool to secure a vast labor force. In total, some 375,000 Soviet PoWs and camp inmates were expected to be deployed for construction work.
Due to the catastrophic conditions at the eastern front, however, most Soviet PoWs never made it west. The focus therefore shifted to the Jews as an alternative labor pool for “Generalplan Ost” in early 1942, as is clear from the protocol of the Wannsee Conference, among other documents. Consistent with this, only Jews fit for labor were initially sent to Auschwitz.
In this context of the shift away from Soviet PoWs to Jews, Globocnik is also said to have been made head of Aktion Reinhardt. The orthodoxy insists that this was an operation with the goal to exterminate without distinction all Jews of occupied Poland. However, if that was so, then Globocnik had been ordered by Himmler to fulfill two contradictory tasks: on the one hand, he had to secure as large a Jewish labor force as possible for huge construction efforts in the East, and on the other hand, he had to mass-murder all the Jews he could lay his hands on. Both cannot be true.
As the war against the Soviet Union went from bad to worse, “Generalplan Ost” was eventually abandoned, and Jews as well as other forced laborers were no longer deployed in infrastructural projects in the East but in war-related industries in and around Germany (production of weapons and ammunition etc.).
A detail analysis of evidence regarding Aktion Reinhardt shows that this operation was about the deportation of Jews, their deployment for forced labor, and the looting of their property and assets – not mass murder.
(For more details on Generalplan Ost, see Graf/Kues/Mattogno 2020, pp. 244-251.)