General Analysis

In cultural history, as the saying goes, one example is an anecdote, two are a trend, and three are proof. There is a certain repetition in the stories that makes it unproductive to tell even more. This was not a handpicked selection of the juiciest, rather a representative cross-section. Three main trends are apparent from the stories.

First, most of the men came from northern Germany and had moved around a bit before going east. Most came from medium-sized cities and below. Many had some prior introduction to the East, which made Poland seem to them a viable career option.

Second, hardly any of the Old Fighters were bureaucrats before 1933, but had made an earnest attempt at a second career. Even 1933 joiners experienced increases in their fortune that suggests their political reliability was already well established. For all involved, the Warthegau was either a place to practice a skilled profession in a challenging environment rife with promotion opportunities, or to become an Amtskommissar. (Or both, in the case of professional mayors.) The latter tended to be Old Fighters or mayors already in the Reich; the former tended to have joined after 1933.

Third, the balance of occupations represented, along with the preponderance of individuals from small cities and below, suggests to me a certain Spiessbürgertum among the civil officials in the Warthegau. I am probably led to the conclusion from my literary travels in the annals of colonialism. Franz Heinrich Bock described a German life in Poddembice that seems the epitome of Spiessertum. Reports by Arbeitsmädel, Kindergärtner, and Ansiedlerbetreuerinnen (also discussed by Elizabeth Harvey) suggest a certain Sauberkeit und Ordnung approach to civilization. It is reminiscent of the British colonial societies described by George Orwell in Burmese Days and E.M. Forster in Passage to India, and captured in Frances Hutchins’ expression of “middle class aristocracy.” (It also explains some of the fascination for Germans visiting Lodz for the streetcar ride through the Lodz Ghetto: coming from small towns, most of them had never seen Jewish people before, and were quite curious.)

January 12, 2008 in History