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Model Nazi tells the story of Arthur Greiser, the man who initiated the Final Solution in Nazi-occupied Poland. Between 1939 and 1945, Greiser was the territorial leader of the Warthegau, an area of western Poland annexed to Nazi Germany. In an effort to make the Warthegau "German," Greiser introduced numerous cruel policies. He spearheaded an influx of hundreds of thousan Model Nazi tells the story of Arthur Greiser, the man who initiated the Final Solution in Nazi-occupied Poland. Between 1939 and 1945, Greiser was the territorial leader of the Warthegau, an area of western Poland annexed to Nazi Germany. In an effort to make the Warthegau "German," Greiser introduced numerous cruel policies. He spearheaded an influx of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans. He segregated Germans from Poles, and introduced wide-ranging discriminatory measures against the Polish population. He refashioned the urban and natural landscape to make it "German." And even more chillingly, the first and longest standing ghetto, the largest forced labour program, and the first mass gassings of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe were all initiated under Greiser's jurisdiction. Who was the man behind these dreadful policies? Catherine Epstein gives us a compelling biographical portrait of Greiser the man: his birth in the German-Polish borderlands, his rise to Nazi prominence in Danzig, his actions as party leader in the Warthegau, and his trial and execution in postwar Poland. Drawing on a remarkable array of German and Polish sources, she shows how nationalist obsessions, political jealousies, and personal insecurities shaped the policies of a man who held remarkable power in his Nazi fiefdom. Throughout, Epstein confronts a burning question of our age: why do individuals imagine genocide and ethnic cleansing to be solutions to political problems?


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Model Nazi tells the story of Arthur Greiser, the man who initiated the Final Solution in Nazi-occupied Poland. Between 1939 and 1945, Greiser was the territorial leader of the Warthegau, an area of western Poland annexed to Nazi Germany. In an effort to make the Warthegau "German," Greiser introduced numerous cruel policies. He spearheaded an influx of hundreds of thousan Model Nazi tells the story of Arthur Greiser, the man who initiated the Final Solution in Nazi-occupied Poland. Between 1939 and 1945, Greiser was the territorial leader of the Warthegau, an area of western Poland annexed to Nazi Germany. In an effort to make the Warthegau "German," Greiser introduced numerous cruel policies. He spearheaded an influx of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans. He segregated Germans from Poles, and introduced wide-ranging discriminatory measures against the Polish population. He refashioned the urban and natural landscape to make it "German." And even more chillingly, the first and longest standing ghetto, the largest forced labour program, and the first mass gassings of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe were all initiated under Greiser's jurisdiction. Who was the man behind these dreadful policies? Catherine Epstein gives us a compelling biographical portrait of Greiser the man: his birth in the German-Polish borderlands, his rise to Nazi prominence in Danzig, his actions as party leader in the Warthegau, and his trial and execution in postwar Poland. Drawing on a remarkable array of German and Polish sources, she shows how nationalist obsessions, political jealousies, and personal insecurities shaped the policies of a man who held remarkable power in his Nazi fiefdom. Throughout, Epstein confronts a burning question of our age: why do individuals imagine genocide and ethnic cleansing to be solutions to political problems?

46 review for Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland

  1. 5 out of 5

    Peter Bradley

    Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote - https://www.amazon.com/review/R2W4UX9... This is a biography of a second tier Nazi - or perhaps, third tier, in that he was never close to Hitler. But it is a fascinating portrait in that it shows the elements of success in Nazi Germany well away from Hitler's circles. Catherine Epstein examines the life of Arthur Greiser, who was most infamous for being Gauleiter of the model Nazi Gau of Warthegau, which was the western region of interwar Poland that Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote - https://www.amazon.com/review/R2W4UX9... This is a biography of a second tier Nazi - or perhaps, third tier, in that he was never close to Hitler. But it is a fascinating portrait in that it shows the elements of success in Nazi Germany well away from Hitler's circles. Catherine Epstein examines the life of Arthur Greiser, who was most infamous for being Gauleiter of the model Nazi Gau of Warthegau, which was the western region of interwar Poland that had been part of the pre-war German Reich and then given to Poland. Warthegau was mostly Polish: "More commonly, the area was referred to as the ‘Warthegau.’68 In 1939, it had some 4.9 million inhabitants. These included 4,189,000 Poles, or 85.1 percent of the population, and 325,000 Germans, or 6.6 percent of the population. There were approximately 400,000 Jews, and 23,000 persons belonging to other nationalities (mostly Russians, Czechs, and Ukrainians)." During the interwar years, Poland had engaged in some Polonification of the area; after Germany recovered it, Greiser and the Nazis returned the favor with interest by, inter alia, murdering Polish elites and reducing the Poles to a serf status. Greiser's goal for the Warthegau was to create the "model Nazi Gau" where Nazi principles would fourish. Since the Warthegau - named after the Warta - was outside the limits of the Reich proper, but had been incorporated into the Reich, Greiser was given a fairly free hand to accomplish that end. Greiser's goals were not just racial, but also religious. The Warthegau was infamous for its efforts to expunge Christianity: "August Jäger, Greiser’s deputy Reichsstatthalter (but not deputy Gauleiter), enjoyed considerable influence in Gau politics. A veteran Prussian civil servant born in 1887, Jäger had joined the NSDAP in 1934.102 The son of a minister, Jäger had, according to one author, ‘a pathological case of church hatred;’ he was even nicknamed ‘hunter of churches’ (Kirchen-Jäger), a pun on his last name, the German word for hunter.103 As state commissar for the Lutheran Church in the Prussian Ministry of Culture, Jäger had been a central figure in the 1933–4 Nazi anti-church offensive.104 Among other efforts, he had tried to introduce an oath in which all pastors would have had to swear loyalty to Hitler. Opposition to this was so intense, however, that Jäger lost his job so that Hitler could save face with Protestant leaders.105 Jäger’s placement in the Warthegau may have anticipated anti-church policies in the Gau." And: "Despite the Nazi regime’s openly anti-church stance, Greiser himself didn’t leave the church until long after he had become an important Nazi. As late as August 1937, he still described himself as ‘Protestant’ on official Nazi forms, rather than as ‘believer in God’ (gottgläubig), the official Nazi terminology for those who had left the church.183 Only after becoming Gauleiter did he declare himself ‘believer in God’ and, even then, he still wrote ‘(ev) ggl.’ (the German abbreviations for ‘Protestant’ and ‘believer in God’) on forms, suggesting that he still identified as a nominal Protestant. Nonetheless, from everything that we know about him, he had little personal interest in religion. For Greiser, the persecution of the Catholic church was key to undermining Polish nationalism; it was necessary to destroy the institution that had done so much to uphold Polish national identity. In this context, however, his policies toward German Protestants are all the more startling. As even Greiser acknowledged, the Protestant church had played an important role in upholding the German community in interwar Poland. In a letter to Bormann dated 4 December 1939, Greiser noted that ‘it cannot be doubted that some Protestant clergy proved themselves extraordinarily in the Volkstum struggle.’ He nonetheless assured Bormann that he would follow his and Heydrich’s instructions (he had received similar ones from both men) to eliminate church influence in the Gau.184 Bormann saw organized religion as an alternative locus of loyalty for the German population, and was thus eager to eliminate it from German society." And: "Greiser continued to push forward the anti-church agenda. In July 1940, he apprised Church officials of what became known as the ‘Thirteen Points,’ a set of anti-church measures originating in Bormann’s office. In the Warthegau, Greiser indicated, churches would have the status of private associations. They could not uphold any ties to Reich churches or the Vatican. All youth and other church-affiliated organizations would be disbanded. No religious instruction would be given in the state schools. Poles and Germans would not be allowed to worship together, a proviso that flew in the face of the Catholic church’s universalistic claims. Church property would be limited to actual churches, while all other buildings, houses, fields, and cemeteries would be confiscated. All monasteries and convents would be disbanded, their property confiscated. Individuals could not join a church at birth, but only after they had reached the age of majority. Finally, clergymen would have to come from the Warthegau and, in addition to their clerical duties, carry out another occupation.193 Putting the Thirteen Points into decree form proved no easy matter. Initially, Greiser planned to address church matters through a sweeping decree that would cover all associational life. But because of its far-reaching nature, the draft decree faced objections from many sides, including the Justice Ministry and the Reich Chancellery.194 Instead, Greiser resorted to piece-meal anti-church decrees. In August 1940, he insisted that he be given the right to decide whether or not individual clergymen should be granted transit passes to enter the Gau.195 In September, he issued a decree that all charitable institutions (many of which had been run by the churches) were now controlled by the office of the Gau Self-Administration.196 A year later, on 19 August 1941, deputizing for Greiser, August Jäger promulgated a decree on religious instruction. Limited to German youths aged ten to eighteen, such instruction had to take place inside a church at sharply prescribed hours.197 Finally, on 13 September, without consulting any of the interested ministries, Greiser issued the all-important ‘Decree on Religious Associations and Religion Societies in the Reichsgau Wartheland.’198 (This was yet another radical policy enacted in late summer 1941.) It was a milestone in the Nazis’ anti-church campaign; it suggested how the Nazis would eventually ‘de-church’ German society.199" Greiser also "disestablished" the Protestant church in the Warthegau while savagely attacking the Catholic Church. "If Greiser’s policies were tough toward Protestants, they were downright savage toward Catholics; this reflected his anti-Polish stance. Greiser sharply limited the hours in which mass, religious instruction, and confession could take place. In December 1940, a memorandum noted that ‘on the directive of the Reichsstatthalter,’ 80 percent of the monks in monasteries had been interned; soon thereafter, they were sent to concentration camps in the Old Reich. All Jesuits were deported to the General Government.202 Gau authorities sent many nuns to concentration camps. They closed seminars for priests-in-training and all Catholic elementary and secondary schools.203 They also decimated the ranks of the Catholic clergy. According to an October 1941 report, there had been 828 priests in the Posen Archdiocese (that covered only part of the Warthegau) in 1939. Of these, 451 were now in prisons or concentrations camps, 120 had been deported to the General Government, and seventy-four had been shot or had died in concentration camps. Only thirty-four were serving as priests for Poles, seventeen as priests for Germans. Gau authorities had also closed most Catholic churches. Of 441 churches in the Posen Archdiocese, only thirty were open for Poles, fifteen for Germans. The rest were either sealed shut or being used for other purposes. Of the thirty churches in the city of Posen, two were open for Polish and one for German Catholics. Thirteen were completely shut; six were being used for general storage purposes; four, including the cathedral, were being used to store furniture; and one each was being used as a music school, riding school, book-collection point, and theater-scenery workshop.204" In other words, the "model Gau" was a model for post-war Germany when the Catholic Church would be crushed and Protestantism might survive so long as it was entirely coordinated to Nazi ideology. The Catholic Church recognized this threat at the time: "Besides objecting to Greiser’s anti-church policies per se, church authorities and others feared these measures as precedents. The Vatican, for example, assumed that developments in the Warthegau presaged those in the Old Reich. As the head of the Political Department in the Foreign Ministry, Ernst Woermann, noted in 1942, ‘in the Vatican it is assumed that regulations being tried out in the Warthegau will also be valid later in the Old Reich.’211 In all likelihood the Vatican was right: Greiser’s anti-church measures might well have served as the model for a radical restructuring of church–state relations in a triumphant Third Reich." Greiser was selected to be the Gauleiter of the Warthegau because he had originally come from the area and had a reputation for being able to deal with the Poles. Prior to his Warthegau assignment, Greiser had climbed to the top - or near top - of the greasy pole of Nazi politics in Danzig. Although the Nazi had control of Danzig after 1933, Danzig remained outside of Germany until 1939. Accordingly, Nazis were far more limited and still had to deal with opposition parties, including the Catholic Center until the re-incorporation of Danzig after the start of World War II. Greiser seemed to be a common version of the succesful Nazi. A failure in his private, pre-Nazi life, he made himself into a loyal Nazi and opportunistically rose through the ranks by currying favor of some leaders while undermining those who threatened his ascent to the next level of power. Greiser's regime was, of course, complicit in mass murder and slave labor. Its reason for existence was to "Germanify" the Warthegau, which necessarily meant mass murder and slavery for the Poles of the gau. After the war, Greiser was captured and returned to Poland, where he was tried and executed. There may have been some questions about the "due process" of his trial, but he was clearly guilty. Pope Pius XII, who had no particular reason for interceding for Greiser, other than disinterested Christian charity, asked for mercy for Grieser (something he did not do for the Catholic priest dictator of Slovakia, Joseph Tiso). This was exploited by the Soviets in the opening moves of their "disinformation" campaign against the pope: "Greiser next asked and received permission to appeal to Pope Pius XII, and British politicians Duff Cooper and Anthony Eden.119 His telegrams to Cooper and Eden fell on deaf ears. Not so his plea to the Pope. Greiser had personally met Pius (as Eugenio Pacelli, then cardinal secretary of state) on a visit to Rome in 1938.120 Given his militant persecution of the Catholic church, it’s peculiar that Greiser should have turned to Pius now. Even more surprisingly, Pius urged the Polish government to grant Greiser clemency. (Later, he would do the same for Hans Frank, Albert Forster, and other convicted Nazi war criminals.)121 As Pius wrote: ‘Mr. Arthur Greiser, sentenced to death, beseeched in a message to the Holy Father to grant him his highest protection so that his life should be spared. The abovementioned has been one of the most severe foes of the Church in Warthegau, where he was Governor. Despite this His Holiness, following the divine example of our Lord, who, on the cross, prayed for his executioners, grants the sentenced man’s request and addresses to the proper authorities his paternal request to spare his life.’ The Polish government angrily rejected the Pope’s plea: ‘No Pole will have compassion for the bloody hangman of the Polish nation, Arthur Greiser. No Pole in his conscience will find the slightest shade of justification for the criminal who cold bloodedly depressed and destroyed hundreds of thousands of human lives. The greater is our astonishment at such unexpected intervention by the Vatican but the principle of justice will prevail. Arthur Greiser will be executed.’122 Pius’ intervention for Greiser created a political scandal. Two hours before Greiser’s execution, the Warsaw paper Glos Ludu published an article ‘Pope defends Greiser.’ The article declared, ‘Flirtation continues between the Vatican and conquered Germany … It is evident that the Holy Father defends Germany.’123 Initially, the Vatican denied all knowledge of any papal intervention, but on 22 July (after Greiser had been executed), it confirmed the news reports.124 It now claimed that it would not have made the message public if Russia had not chosen to capitalize on it for anti-Catholic propaganda. As L’Osservatore Romana noted, Radio Moscow had broadcast a story titled ‘Vatican defends Nazi criminals.’ The Vatican insisted that the gesture had no political significance.125 But the intervention was a slap in the face to the Polish communist government, and was greeted with widespread disbelief by Poland’s strongly Catholic population.126 Pius had nothing to gain by taking up Greiser’s cause; he certainly had no special relation with or concern for Greiser. While Pius’ plea for clemency was linked to his religious convictions, it mirrored his generally forgiving attitude toward Nazi crimes." I believe that the Polish government responding to the Pius was the puppet Soviet regime, but I suspect that was a time when almost every Pole would have favored Greiser execution. Epstein is a clear and dependable prose stylist. Her analysis seems fair and balanced. I liked her previous book [[ASIN:1118294785 Nazi Germany: Confronting the Myths (Wiley Short Histories)]] . I would recommend that book for the general reader, and this book for the reader with more of an interest in the nuts and bolts of the Nazi regime and/or the lives of Nazis who were extremely important to the regime but have fallen into obscurity.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Chapter 6 is possibly the most important of this book, for it supports with solid evidence and careful analysis the view (still controversial, though increasingly accepted) that the Nazi genocidal program against the Jews was barely the opening stage of -- a sort of training exercise, to put it bluntly -- a much broader genocidal program that would have seen Central and Eastern Europe largely "Germanised." The Germanisation program, of which Arthur Greiser was, at least during the first three ye Chapter 6 is possibly the most important of this book, for it supports with solid evidence and careful analysis the view (still controversial, though increasingly accepted) that the Nazi genocidal program against the Jews was barely the opening stage of -- a sort of training exercise, to put it bluntly -- a much broader genocidal program that would have seen Central and Eastern Europe largely "Germanised." The Germanisation program, of which Arthur Greiser was, at least during the first three years of the war, a thoroughgoing advocate and executor, involved huge numbers of murders, deportations, and relocations. It showed not only how fanatical Nazis could be in fulfilling what they understood as Hitler's wishes, but also the fanciful nature of many of their projects. From the start, the Germanisation of Central and Eastern Europe was implausible, because, even counting the few millions of ethnic Germans who lived east of the Oder, there were never going to be enough Nazified Germans to replace the Slavic peoples whom Hitler and Himmler imagined doing away with, either by murdering them, by working them to death, or by sending them beyond the Urals. Though the Nazis eventually saw the value in slave labour, it was only a stop-gap measure necessitated by the war. They did not want to be a minority overseeing a huge slave empire -- in this they differed from other slave empires. Professor Epstein is aware of the controversy surrounding efforts to contextualise the Holocaust, and writes about the problem in her Introduction. I expect that once the book becomes more widely read, she will receive a great deal of crank mail and email calling her a self-loathing Jew, a Holocaust denier, a revisionist, an apologist and all manner of passionate, but ill-informed vitriol, most of which doesn't apply in the least to Professor Epstein, but for which she will suffer anyway. For some people any sort of contextualisation of the Holocaust is offensive, for to them the Holocaust stands as a unique event in human history (and the Jews as unique victims of their fellow men) separated from all other events by its inhumanity and monstrosity. Increasingly, however, this view is being chipped away by evidence that shows that the murderousness of the Nazis evolved and expanded from the T4 euthanasia program, to the mass murder of Jews by "efficient" means, to the mass enslavement of Jews, Poles and others and their eventual deaths by exposure, malnutrition, starvation, disease, and other consequences of the appalling conditions in which they were kept. Had the Nazis won the war, it's clear their future plans included replacing the Slavs, Jews, Roma, and others, with Germans. The estimated number of deaths needed for them to achieve this goal is something like 35 million.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Just finished Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland, by Catherine Epstein. Very worthwhile read of a lesser known Nazi figure, and what went on in some important parts of the Reich. Greiser, notably born in the eastern borderlands of Germany, joined the party relatively late, then rose to be #2 in the Free City of Danzig (an autonomous city state during the interwar period), then in 1939 was tagged as Gauleiter to run the region around Posen (Poznan) that was incorporate Just finished Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland, by Catherine Epstein. Very worthwhile read of a lesser known Nazi figure, and what went on in some important parts of the Reich. Greiser, notably born in the eastern borderlands of Germany, joined the party relatively late, then rose to be #2 in the Free City of Danzig (an autonomous city state during the interwar period), then in 1939 was tagged as Gauleiter to run the region around Posen (Poznan) that was incorporated into the Reich, known as Warthegau. He remained there through 1945, was captured in the west, and executed by Polish authorities in 1946. There are many interesting aspects to Greiser, and his balliwick of Warthegau, and all the initiatives that were undertaken there 1939-45. The area was majority Polish, even more so after the Polish uprising in 1918 brought it into the restored Poland. Greiser was tasked to Germanize his Gau, which was a complex project of attracting Germans, resettling a motley assortment of ethnic Germans from other regions of the East, and deporting or killing the Poles, and the relatively small Jewish population. His Gau saw the first mass gassing of Jews in Chelmo, and legally mandated, and extremely strict legal discrimination against Poles akin to Jim Crow. Greiser was a complex figure, while he was often seen to go overboard in devising and implementing extreme policies, he still would often display a certain pragmatism over ideological zeal, for instance slowing deportations of Poles to maintain an adequate workforce to supply food, or marginally improving the conditions of the Jewish ghetto in Lodz to aid in production. Still, in the end, he was an odious and striving Nazi (although only too happy to maintain his personal slush funds), who never took responsibility for his actions.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jack Hurley

    I enjoyed this as a means to gain a knowledge of the nationalistic sentiment of the Danzig German in this period. A decent read for anyone interested in understanding Greiser's determination as a Gauleiter. His early life as an exiled German among the Poles made him a particularly cruel leader as the Nazi's occupied Poland.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lewis

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. An excellent biography of Arthur Greiser, Gauleiter of the Warthegau, the Polish territory annexed by the Nazis in World War II. Catherine Epstein's chronicles Greiser's childhood and service in World War I. She emphasizes that Greiser was a latercomer to the Nazi party and joined it only after his business failed at the onset of the Great Depression. Before being appointed Gauleiter in the city of Posen in 1939 (now known as Poznan), Greiser was Senate President and head of state in the Free Ci An excellent biography of Arthur Greiser, Gauleiter of the Warthegau, the Polish territory annexed by the Nazis in World War II. Catherine Epstein's chronicles Greiser's childhood and service in World War I. She emphasizes that Greiser was a latercomer to the Nazi party and joined it only after his business failed at the onset of the Great Depression. Before being appointed Gauleiter in the city of Posen in 1939 (now known as Poznan), Greiser was Senate President and head of state in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdansk). Ironically, Greiser's boss, Nazi party leader Albert Foster, was considered a hard-core, militant, during the pre-War years but once Greiser was given free reign over his own territory, he became far more militant than his ex-boss. Greiser's 'Germanization' policies led to widespread murders and discrimination against the Polish population as opposed to Forster who in the West Prussia-Danzig region had much more lax policies in regards to the racial classification of the Polish population. Greiser was more interested in using the Jewish population for slave labor than murdering them outright. As a result, the Lodz ghetto was the last to be liquidated, only after Himmler gave Greiser the orders. Epstein further chronicles how the soldiers in the Warthegau were completely unprepared for the Soviet onslaught and were defeated without little resistance as opposed to other areas in the occupied territories. Finally, Greiser's capture, trial and execution are extremely well-documented. Greiser comes off as an evil but complex figure and Epstein must be applauded for her in-depth research which includes obtaining diaries which shed light on Greiser's personal life during World War I and the pre-War years in Danzig.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

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  7. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Mengsu

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  44. 5 out of 5

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  45. 4 out of 5

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  46. 5 out of 5

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