General Government

General Government

Generalgouvernement  (German)
Generalne Gubernatorstwo  (Polish)
The General Government in 1942.
The General Government in 1942.
StatusAdministratively autonomous component
of Germany[1]
CapitalLitzmannstadt (12 Oct – 4 Nov 1939)
Krakau (4 Nov 1939 – 1945)
Common languagesGerman (official)
GovernmentCivil administration
• 1939–1945
Hans Frank
Secretary for State 
• 1939–1941
Arthur Seyss-Inquart
• 1941–1945
Josef Bühler
Historical eraOccupation of Poland in World War II
1st September 1939
February 2 1945
193995,000 km2 (37,000 sq mi)
1941142,000 km2 (55,000 sq mi)
• 1941
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Military Administration in Poland
Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland
Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
Today part of Poland

The General Government (German: Generalgouvernement, Polish: Generalne Gubernatorstwo, Ukrainian: Генеральна губернія), also referred to as the General Governorate, was a German zone of occupation established after the joint invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 at the onset of World War II. The newly occupied Second Polish Republic was split into three zones: the General Government in its centre, Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany in the west, and Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union in the east. The territory was expanded substantially in 1941 to include the new District of Galicia.[2]

The basis for the formation of General Government was a German-Soviet claim of the total collapse of the Polish state, announced by Adolf Hitler on October 8, 1939 through the so-called Annexation Decree on the Administration of the Occupied Polish Territories. This rationale was utilized by the German Supreme Court to reassign the identity of all Polish nationals as stateless subjects, with exception of the ethnic Germans of interwar Poland, named the only rightful citizens of the Third Reich in disregard of international law.[2]

The General Government was run by Nazi Germany as a separate administrative unit for logistical purposes. When the Wehrmacht forces attacked the Soviet positions in Kresy in June 1941 during its initially successful Operation Barbarossa, the area of the General Government was enlarged by the inclusion of the regions of Poland occupied by the Red Army since 1939.[3] Within days, East Galicia was overrun and renamed Distrikt Galizien. Until 1945 the General Government comprised much of central, southern, and southeastern Poland within its prewar borders (and of modern-day Western Ukraine), including the major Polish cities of Warsaw, Kraków, Lwów (now Lviv, renamed Lemberg), Lublin (see Lublin Reservation), Tarnopol (see history of Tarnopol Ghetto), Stanisławów (now Ivano-Frankivsk, renamed Stanislau; see Stanisławów Ghetto), Drohobycz, and Sambor (see Drohobycz and Sambor Ghettos) and others. Geographical locations were renamed in German.[2]

The administration of the General Government was composed entirely of the German officials with the intent that the area was to be colonized by Germanic settlers who would reduce the local Polish population to the level of serfs before their eventual biological extermination.[4] The Nazi German rulers of the Generalgouvernement had no intention of sharing power with the locals throughout the war, regardless of their ethnicity and political orientation. The authorities rarely mentioned the name "Poland" in legal correspondence. The only exception to this was the General Government's Bank of Issue in Poland (Polish: Bank Emisyjny w Polsce, German: Emissionbank in Polen).[5][6]


The full title of the regime in Germany until July 1940 was the Generalgouvernement für die besetzten polnischen Gebiete, a name that is usually translated as "General Government for the Occupied Polish Territories". On 31 July 1940 governor Hans Frank, on Hitler's authority, shortened the name to just Generalgouvernement.[7]

An accurate English translation of Generalgouvernement, which is a borrowing from French, is "General Governorate", as the correct translation of the term gouvernement is not "government", but "governorate", which is a type of administrative division or territory.

The German designation of Generalgouvernement was chosen in reference to Generalgouvernement Warschau, a civil entity created in the area by the German Empire during World War I. This district existed from 1914 to 1918 together with an Austro-Hungarian-controlled Military Government of Lublin alongside the short-lived Kingdom of Poland of 1916–1918, a similar rump state formed out of the then-Russian-controlled parts of Poland.[8]

The area was also known colloquially as the Restpolen ("Remainder of Poland").

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