Reichskommissariat (English: Reich Commissariat) is the German designation for a type of administrative entity headed by a government official known as a Reichskommissar (English: Reich Commissioner). Although many different such offices existed primarily throughout the Imperial German and Nazi periods in a number of different fields (ranging from public infrastructure and spatial planning to ethnic cleansing) it is most commonly used to refer to the quasi-colonial administrative-territorial entities established by Nazi Germany in several occupied countries during World War II. While officially located outside the German Reich in a legal sense, these entities were directly controlled by their supreme civil authorities (the Reichskommissars), who ruled their assigned territories as German governors on behalf of and as direct representatives of Adolf Hitler.
The introduction of these territorial administrations served a number of purposes. Those established or planned to be established in Western and Northern Europe were in general envisioned as the transitional phases for the future incorporation of various Germanic countries outside pre-war Germany into an expanded Nazi state. Their eastern counterparts served primarily colonialist and imperialist purposes, as sources of future Lebensraum for German settlement and the exploitation of natural resources.
Another contrast was the level of administrative overhaul implemented in these two types. As in most other territories conquered by the Germans, local administrators and bureaucrats were pressured to continue their regular day-to-day operations (especially at the middle and lower levels) albeit under German oversight. Throughout the war the Reichskommissariate in Western and Northern Europe simply retained the previously existing administrative structure however, while in the eastern ones completely new such structures were introduced.
All of these entities were nonetheless intended for eventual integration into a Greater Germanic Reich (German: Großgermanisches Reich) encompassing the general area of Europe stretching from the North Sea to the Ural mountains, for which Germany was to form the basis.
Western and Northern Europe
- Reichskommissariat Norwegen (German occupation of Norway between 1940 and 1945).
- Reichskommissariat Niederlande (German occupation of Netherlands between 1940 and 1945).
- Reichskommissariat Belgien-Nordfrankreich (German occupation of Belgium and North France, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, in 1944. Retrospectively annexed directly into the Greater German Reich in December 1944 as the new Reichsgaue of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels, although most of the region was no longer under German control.
Formerly Soviet-ruled territories
In summer 1941, German Nazi-ideologist Alfred Rosenberg suggested that to facilitate the break-up of the Soviet Union and Russia as a geographical entity, conquered Soviet territory should be administered in the following five Reichskommissariate:
- Reichskommissariat Ostland (RKO) (The Baltic countries, formerly Soviet-occupied eastern Poland and Soviet Belarus, extended eastward by including some parts of Western Russia) 1941–1944/45.
- Reichskommissariat Ukraine (RKU) (formerly Soviet-occupied eastern Poland, and Soviet Ukraine minus District of Galicia, Romanian Transnistria and the Crimea, and in late May 1941 was extended eastward up to the Volga); 1941–1944.
- Reichskommissariat Don-Wolga (approximately from the Sea of Azov to the Volga German Republic including Rostov, Voronezh, and Saratov; late May 1941 divided between Ukraine and Kaukasus); never established.
- Reichskommissariat Moskowien (RKM) (Moscow metropolitan area and the rest of European Russia minus Karelia and the Kola peninsula, promised to Finland); never fully established. German military advance halted in 1941/42.
- Reichskommissariat Kaukasus (RKK) (Southern Russia and the Caucasus area); never fully established. German military advance halted in 1942/43.
- Reichskommissariat Turkestan (RKT) (Central Asian republics and territories); never established.
At Hitler's request the Turkestan project was shelved by Rosenberg for the immediate future, who was instead ordered to focus on Europe for the time-being. Central Asia was determined to be a future target for German expansion, as soon as its armies would be ready to move further east after the consolidation of present victories in Soviet Russia. The interest in part of the area of Germany's major Axis partner, the Empire of Japan (see Axis power negotiations on the division of Asia during World War II), could have become a topic of discussion regarding their own contemporaneous establishment of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Additional units that were under discussion at different points in time include Reichskommissariat Don-Wolga but, by the second half of May 1941, the number of administrative units that were to be established in the east were limited to four; as well as a Reichskommissariat Ural for the central and southern Ural region.
- Rich, Norman: Hitler's War Aims: The Nazi State and the Course of Expansion, p. 217. W. W. Norton & Company, New York 1974.
- Bohn, Robert: Die deutsche Herrschaft in den "germanischen" Ländern 1940-1945, p. 39. Steiner, 1997.
- Gumkowski, Janusz; Leszczynski, Kazimierz: Poland Under Nazi Occupation. Polonia Pub. House, 1961. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-27. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
- Kay, Alex J: Exploitation, resettlement, Mass Murder: Political and Economic Planning for German Occupation Policy in the Soviet Union, 1940–1941. Berghahn Books, 2006.
- Oversight of the planned territorial organization of the Reichskommissariate Archived 2010-04-17 at the Wayback Machine.
- Dallin, Alexander: German rule in Russia 1941–1945: A Study of Occupation Policies. Westview press, 1981
- Wasser, Bruno: Himmler's Raumplanung in Osten: Der Generalplan Ost in Polen 1940-1945, p. 51. Birkhäuser, 1993.