In a Germany-Wins-World War I Scenario, How Successful Will Post-World War I German Colonization ...

… Post-World War I German Colonization in Eastern Europe Be?

This question should be pretty self-explanatory: Let’s say that the French “play along with their own demise” in 1914 in a similar style to what Maurice Gamelin did in 1940 in real life. This leads to a quick German victory in the west in World War I, after which Germany is able to direct almost all of its forces against Russia. Let’s say that Germany still gets greedy in this TL and thus still demands Brest-Litovsk style borders in the east, eventually getting them after some additional fighting and after Russia concludes that it is pointless to continue resisting.

My question here is this–how successful will post-World War I German colonization in Eastern Europe be in this TL? Will Germany successfully manage to convince millions of ethnic Germans to permanently settle in Eastern Europe, such as in the Baltics? If so, then will this result in any eventual large-scale German annexations in the east, such as a German annexation of some or all of the Baltic states?

Thoughts on this?

For the record, I am focusing on Eastern Europe here since if Germany wins World War I in both the east and in the west, then Germany’s post-World War I territorial gains (including its puppet states) will be much larger in the east than they will be in the west.

Germany would probably end up fighting further wars. It would be committed to propping up the Habsburg and Ottoman regimes of its allies against the breakaway nationalist movements in their empires. And it would probably also feel the need to help the Imperial regime in Russia stay in power. So Germany would face a constant drain on its population and resources as it adopted the unofficial role of protector of the status quo in Eastern Europe.

Did the Germans plan on colonizing territory acquired in the East with “millions of ethnic Germans”? I rather doubt it. Poland, for example, had been held by Russia for over a century without any such colonization by Russians; it is not likely that Germany contemplated holding it on the same basis? And the same goes for, e.g., the Baltic states. Plus, of course, there was the example of Austria, which presided over an empire, large parts of which were not dominated by ethnic Germans.

There might have been some population movement from Germany proper to the new territories, and possibly some resettlement of Volga Germans leaving Russia and setting there, but I’m not aware that the Germans had any large-scale movement in mind. Plus, if Germany had won the war, why would significant numbers of the victorious population have felt the need to abandon their settled homes in Germany proper and relocate to comparatively poorer and less developed territories?

I think what the Germans contemplated was client states in Finland, the Ukraine, the Baltics, etc. Only a relatively small part of the newly-acquired territories would be integrated into Germany proper. The client states would have German monarchs (Germany had a seemingly limitless supply of monarchs for export), German “advisers” and a political establishment dominated, in some cases, by ethnic Germans indigenous to the new states.

In the event the Germans couldn’t make this stick. Even before their defeat in the West, the Germans were stretched by the demands of providing a military occupying force in such a large territory, and the client regimes they were trying to erect were almost immediately met with passive and active resistance.

Completely agreed.

Maybe–after all, would a republican Russia genuinely be worse for Germany than a republican France is?

Largely agreed.

I don’t know if exact numbers were agreed upon, but I know that, in real life, the Baltic German nobles (a.k.a. the Baltic Barons) agreed to donate one-third of their total estates for German settlement. Thus, in real life, there do appear to have been some plans for German colonization in the Baltic states after Germany won World War I in the East (and before Germany lost World War I in the West several months later).

Actually, there do appear to have been plans to colonize the Polish Border Strip:

Unlike Poland, though, the Baltic states had (and still have) a very low population density. Thus, unlike Poland, the Baltic states probably had a lot of living space for ethnic Germans to settle in (while still allowing all of the local residents in the Baltic states to continue living at their current locations, obviously).

Actually, ethnic Germans did settle in various parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire:


Agreed–especially if the German government encourages ethnic Germans from Russia to settle in Germany’s newly acquired Eastern European puppet states.

Please see my point above about the Baltic Barons agreeing to donate one-third of their total estates so that these estates can be used for German settlement. :slight_smile:

Well, why exactly did significant numbers of Americans move from the wealthier and more developed East to the poorer and less developed West in the 19th and 20th centuries in real life?

Yes; correct!

Yes–at least initially.

Yes; correct!

That’s the thing, though–in real life, Germany never won World War I in the West. In contrast, in this scenario, Germany wins World War I in the West pretty quickly or at least relatively quickly. Thus, in this scenario, Germany would have much more troops available at its disposal to help pacify Germany’s newly conquered Eastern European puppet states.

Indeed, please notice how the Midwestern and Western parts of the U.S. acquire a much larger population density as time goes on:

Thus, why exactly couldn’t Germany have likewise colonized the sparsely populated Baltic states in the event of a German victory in World War I? After all, Germany’s total population during this time was 10+ times greater than the total population of the entire Baltic states during this time!

Well, this does depend on why the Baltic states had (and apparently still have) a low population density. It may be that the land is relatively unproductive, for example, in which case settling large numbers of incoming Germans on the land might not be such a terribly good idea. And my inner cynic can’t help thinking that the willingness of the Baltic Barons to surrender one-third of their estates for redistribution to ethnic German settlers is entirely consistent with one-third of their estates not being worth very much.

I remain sceptical with respect to the suggestion that German plans for the new territories revolved around resettling “millions of ethnic Germans” there. I suspect there would have been some resettlement - demobilised soldiers who were landless and without a trade might have been attracted by an offer of a farm in the new Eastern provinces of German (though less so by an offer of a farm in Finland or the Ukraine). In much the way, demobilised British soldiers were invited to settle in Australia (also has a very low population density, and for good reason!) in soldier-settler schemes. But the numbers that took up soldier-settler offers were not millions; they were in the low tens of thousands, over a period of seven or eight years. I don’t see the Germans doing anything on a much larger scale.

Frankly, that is something that I myself certainly need to research. Of course, I would also like to point out that the Southwestern U.S. also historically had an extremely low population density before it was settled by millions of American settlers. :slight_smile:

Actually, their nationalism, pressure from the German government and/or from the German military, and/or their newly established loyalty to Germany might have been greater factors in the Baltic Barons’ decision to agree to give up one-third of their total estates/land for German settlement. :slight_smile:

You might be correct in regards to this. However, it is worth noting that I am thinking of a time period of several decades, if not longer, here.

Also, though, didn’t millions, if not tens of millions, of Americans move west in the 19th and 20th centuries?

Also, though, in regards to the Baltic states, it is worth noting that many ethnic Slavs (mostly, but not completely, ethnic Russians) did, in fact, move there between 1940 and 1991, which is when the Baltic states were a part of the Soviet Union. Indeed, I think that both Estonia’s and Latvia’s ethnic Slavic percentage was in the 30% to 40% range in 1989!

Plus, it is worth noting that a million ethnic Russians settled in Kaliningrad Oblast after the ethnic German population was expelled from it after the end of World War II in real life and that millions of ethnic Poles and ethnic Czechs settled in other territories that ethnic Germans were expelled from after the end of World War II. Thus, why exactly couldn’t at least a couple of million ethnic Germans have been willing to settle in the Baltic states in the several decades or so after a German victory in World War I?

Why would germany need to colonise the east? Absorb the german parts of the austro hungarian empire, create friendly client poland and baltic states out of russia: continent dominated.

Really! Were German cities overfilled with folks yearning for the rural life? Were German farmlands full of younger sons yearning to inherit the family farm?

Of course, you need money to set up a farm, even if you get land cheap.

Please keep in mind, though, that Eastern Europe had cities as well.

But remember Russia, Poland etc had been devastated by conflict, their populations already uprooted, homes and factories destroyed, etc, etc. So you have a large population who need homes and livelihoods, and a bunch of empty homes and farms in mostly good condition.

I don’t think anything like the same conditions would prevail in a hypothetically victorious Germany in 1918.

If the question is, “why wouldn’t at least a couple of million ethnic Germans have been willing to settle in the Baltic states in the several decades or so after a German victory in World War I?”, the answer is, “why would they want to leave Germany?” The US territories were largely populated by migrating settlers, but they wanted to migrate; the US itself was largely populated by migration, but there were strong push factors at work there - poverty, famine, oppression etc driving Irish people, Germans, Polish and Russian Jews to try their fortunes in the New World. But the victorious Germans would expect to be able to stay right where they were, in civilised, comfortable, victorious, prosperous Germany, enjoying their bier, wurst and Bismarckian social security. Why would they want to go and take their chances on the undeveloped Ukrainian steppes, surrounded by people who resented their presence and whose language they did not speak? If millions of people didn’t migrate to the German colonies in Africa - and they didn’t - why would they migrate to the German colonies in the Ukraine, Finland or the Baltics?

I think mass migrations are driven by push factors, mainly. And I know that, historically, the acquisition of undeveloped and lightly-populated colonies isn’t automatically followed by mass migration; nor was mass migration normally a part of the colonising strategy, certainly in late C19/early C20.

I think the bottom line is that we don’t really know in much detail what the Germans intended for their new territories and client states; they didn’t hold them for long enough to work it out themselves. My guess is that they would have resettled ex-soldiers, etc, in the territories being incorporated into Germany proper, and perhaps adopted other measures to encourage Germanisation. But as for the client states I doubt they were thinking of much more the political domination and economic opportunity.

Why project Hitlerian Lebensraum fantasies on the Kaiser?

Well, the Ottoman Empire would not have been broken up and they sort of form a barrier don’t then?

I wouldn’t necessarily say “mostly in good condition,” though. After all, some German cities were severely damaged as a result of World War II.

Here is a question for you, though–what exactly attracted native-born East Coast Americans to western territories? Was it the free land? Was it something else? Was it a combination of various factors (and if so, exactly which ones)?

As for Germans migrating to, say, the Baltic states, I was primarily thinking of having them migrate to Baltic cities and perhaps to territories where they could have Baltic land for free or at least for a very cheap price. As for why exactly Germans would want to migrate to the Baltic states, well, there might eventually be a lot of economic opportunities there that Germans might not want to miss out on. After all, if Germany will launch a large-scale industrialization program in the Baltic states, then this could result in much greater prosperity in the Baltic states and in much more economic opportunities for Germans who will immigrate there. Plus, Germany can create a strong, Bismarckian-style social safety net for the ethnic Germans who will live in the Baltic states and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. :slight_smile:

Also, as a side note, it is worth noting that 43% of the population of the city of Riga was ethnically German in 1867. Thus, it’s not like there were no large-scale ethnic German communities in the Baltic states and in Eastern Europe before the start of World War I.

For one, because the Baltic Barons had agreed to donate one-third of their total lands/estates for German colonization. Also, it is worth noting that some parts of Eastern Europe, such as the Baltic states, had (and still have) a very low population density.

The Baltic Germans never made up more than 10% of the population of the Baltic States. Naturally, as an ethnic minority holding more than their proportionate share of land and political power, and with the Bolshevik hordes right next door, they felt deeply insecure, and this might help to explain why they were willing to make financial sacrifices to encourage growth in the ethnic German population.

But it doesn’t do anything to suggest that there were millions of Germans keen to flock to the Baltic states. The very factors that made the Barons keen to promote settlement would make settlers think twice about coming. I’ve raised this already, but you’re still not offering any reason why Germans from Germany proper would want to migrate to the Baltic states in large numbers.

Your OP asks how successful German colonisation will be, and that kind of assumes that Germany would have a colonisation policy involving the migration of millions. But you’ve produced nothing at all to suggest that the German authorities contemplated such a policy, or regarded it as feasible. Nineteenth/twentieth century colonisation polcies generally didn’t involve large population movements from the colonial power to the colonies. If the Germans had contemplated such a thing, they would very much have been buckign the trend (a trend which they themselves had helped to set with their African and Asian colonies). So I think asking how successful the policy would have been is premature. The first question is whether they would have adopted such a policy at all.

This is the big question. Where’s the evidence that Germany was planning a big population move after “victory” in the Great War? Why would Germans want to leave their homes for the steppes? Or for cities where they would be surrounded by resentful natives?