Skip to main content

Food and Genocide: Nazi Agrarian Politics in the Occupied Territories of the Soviet Union


This article explores the connection between food politics and genocide in the occupied eastern territories. The examination focuses on Herbert Backe, the ‘second man’ in the agricultural administration during the period of Nazi rule. Backe was in charge of food rationing during the war, and was involved in the planning of the economic exploitation of the Soviet Union after the invasion. Under Backe's directive, food policy turned into ‘starvation policy’ for people in the occupied lands of the Soviet Union. The author uses a range of archival sources, including rarely used personal letters and diaries of Backe and his wife, to understand Backe's role and motivations.

Cet article analyse le lien entre la politique de nutrition et le génocide dans les territoires occupés de l'Est. Au centre de l'analyse se trouve Herbert Backe, le ‘deuxième homme’ dans l'administration agraire. Il était en charge du rationnement durant la guerre et il a pris part à la planification de l'exploitation économique de l'Union Soviétique après l'invasion. Sous ses ordres, la politique de nutrition s'est transformée pour les gens des territoires occupés de l'Union Soviétique en une ‘politique de la faim’. Pour mieux comprendre le rôle et les motivations de Backe, l'auteur s'appuie sur une variété de sources archivistiques qui incluent des documents rarement exploités comme les lettres et journaux personnels de Backe et de sa femme.

Dieser Artikel erforscht die Zusammenhänge zwischen Nahrungsmittelpolitik und Genozid in den östlichen besetzten Gebieten des Deutschen Reiches im Nationalsozialismus. Im Zentrum der Analyse steht Herbert Backe, der ‘zweite Mann’ in der landwirtschaftlichen Verwaltung. Backe war während dem Krieg verantwortlich für Nahrungsrationierung. Dadurch war er an Planungen für die wirtschaftliche Ausbeutung der Sowjetunion nach der Invasion beiteiligt. Unter seinen Befehlen wurde die Nahrungspolitik für die Menschen in den besetzten Gebieten der Sowjetunion zu einer ‘Hungerpolitik’. Um Backes Rolle und Motivation zu ergründen, verwendet der Autor für seine Studie eine Vielzahl von Archivquellen, wie zum Beispiel die selten verwendeten persönlichen Briefe und Tagebücher Backes und seiner Frau.

Hide All

1 See also Müller, Rolf-Dieter, ‘Die Konsequenzen der “Volksgemeinschaft”: Ernährung, Ausbeutung und Vernichtung’, in Michalka, Wolfgang, ed., Der Zweite Weltkrieg. Analysen–Grundzüge–Forschungs bilanz (Weyarn: Seehamer Verlag, 1989, 1997), 240–9, 244.

2 Aly, Götz and Heim, Susanne, Vordenker der Vernichtung. Auschwitz und die deutschen Pläne für eine neue europäische Ordnung, 2nd edn (Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1993); Gerlach, Christian, Krieg, Ernährung, Völkermord. Deutsche Vernichtungspolitik im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Zürich: Pendo Verlag, 2001); and Corni, Gustavo and Gies, Horst, Brot – Butter – Kanonen. Die Ernährungswirtschaft in Deutschland unter der Diktatur Hitlers (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1997).

3 The argument was first made by Aly and Heim, Vordenker der Vernichtung, 383–84, and more recently by Gerlach, Krieg, Ernährung, Völkermord, 154–6, 203.

4 On the economic and political planning for Barbarossa in the year prior to the invasion see most recently Kay, Alex J., Exploitation, Resettlement, Mass Murder: Political and Economic Planning for German Occupation Policy in the Soviet Union, 1940–1941 (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2006).

5 Aly and Heim, Vordenker der Vernichtung, 369–76; Corni and Gies, Brot – Butter – Kanonen, 535.

6 According to his own account, Darré simply wanted to save and protect the German peasantry, while Backe planned on starving millions of people in the eastern occupied territories literally to prepare the soil for German settlers. Bramwell, Anna, Blood and Soil: Richard Walther Darré and Hitler's ‘Green Party’ (Abbotsbrook: Kensal Press, 1985). Newer studies have dismissed the apologetic accounts of Darré. See, e.g., Gerhard, Gesine, ‘Richard Walther Darré – Naturschützer oder “Rassenzüchter”?’, in Radkau, Joachim and Uekötter, Frank, eds., Naturschutz und Nationalsozialismus (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2003), 257–71.

7 Bertold Alleweldt, ‘Herbert Backe – Eine politische Biographie’, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, 2000; Lehmann, Joachim, ‘Herbert Backe – Technokrat und Agrarideologe’, in Smelzer, Ronald, Syring, Enrico and Zitelmann, Rainer, eds., Die Braune Elite II. 21 weitere biographische Skizzen (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1993), 112; Lehmann, Joachim, ‘Faschistische Agrarpolitik im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Zur Konzeption von Herbert Backe’, Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, 10 (1980), 948–56; Heim, Susanne, Kalorien, Kautschuk, Karrieren. Pflanzenzüchtung und Landwirtschaftliche Forschung in Kaiser-Wilhelm-Instituten 1933–1945 (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2003), 2833; and Bramwell, Blood and Soil, 93–100.

8 Bramwell, Blood and Soil.

9 On the polycratic character of the Nazi regime see, for example, Mommsen, Hans, ‘Hitlers Stellung im nationalsozialistischen Herrschaftsstystem’, in Hirschfeld, Gerhard and Kettenacker, Lothar, eds., Der ‘Führerstaat’: Mythos und Realität (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1981), 4372.

10 Backe's personal papers are in the Federal Archives in Koblenz, BAK N 1075. The collection also contains the six volumes of diaries of his wife Ursula, who kept a detailed record of her husband's political and personal life in 1931–48 (BAK N 1075, no. 17–22). The diaries have not been read by many historians, since access is restricted. I am very grateful to the Backe family for allowing me to read their late mother's diaries, especially Albrecht Backe, who arranged for me to meet his siblings, Armgard Henning (née Backe) and Arndt Backe, and has answered many questions regarding the diaries’ content. These conversations, the numerous personal letters and the diaries form an important basis for this essay. I would also like to thank archivist Gregor Pickro for his continuing assistance with the collections, and Gerda Story, who transcribed Ursula Backe's diaries for me.

11 Herbert in a letter to Ursula, 8 April 1945, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

12 See, for example, diary entries, 3 Nov. 1934 or 30 May 1941, BAK N 1075, no 20.

13 Alleweldt, ‘Herbert Backe’, 10–12.

14 ‘Aufzeichnungen von Hortense Backe, datiert Dezember 1968’. Notes written by Herbert Backe's sister Hortense, in Dec. 1968. I would like to thank the Backe family for giving me a copy of the document from their private collection.

15 Herbert Backe, ‘Grosser Bericht’, BAK N 1075, no. 3, 1. A copy of the manuscript is also available in the archives of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte (IfZ), Munich, Ms 577, fos. 1–58.

16 See Backe's ‘Lebenslauf’, hand-written in June 1926, BAK N 1075, No.1.

17 This self-interpretation in the context of the larger historical perspective is characteristic of many Nazi leaders who grew up during the First World War. See Herbert, Ulrich, Best. Biographische Studien über Radikalismus, Weltanschaung und Vernunft, 1903–1989 (Bonn: Dietz, 1996), 4250.

18 Backe, Grosser Bericht, 1.

19 Alleweldt, ‘Herbert Backe’, 12.

20 For his critique of liberalism, see Backe, Herbert, Um die Nahrungsfreiheit Europas. Weltwirtschaft oder Groβraum, 2nd edn (Leipzig: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, 1943) and Herbert Backe, Volk und Wirtschaft im national-sozialistischen Deutschland. Reden des Staatssekretärs im Reichs- und Preussischen Ministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft (Berlin: Reichsnährstandsverlag, no date).

21 Herbert Backe, ‘Die russische Getreidewirtschaft als Grundlage der Land- und Volkswirtschaft Rußlands’, 1941.

23 See Backe, Grosser Bericht, 6, and Alleweldt, ‘Herbert Backe’, 10–17.

24 The papers and account books of the Hornsen state farm are in the archives in Hannover (Niedersächsisches Hauptstaatsarchiv Hannover, NSHA) Dep. 124 Acc. 36/84. The Backe family's lease lasted until 1946; it was renewed until 1949. When the Backes moved to Berlin because of Herbert's work a cousin oversaw the domain. The four Backe children spent the summers as well as the last year of the war on the farm. Conversation with Backe's children, 2 June 2004.

25 Backe, Grosser Bericht, 7. He first heard Hitler speak at a Nazi rally in Braunschweig in 1931.

26 Letter to Ursula Backe, 21 March 1933, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

27 Letter to Ursula, 8 April 1941, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

28 Backe, Grosser Bericht, 8.

29 Ibid., 12.

30 See Herbert's letter to Ursula, 6 Sept. 1933, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

31 Letters to Ursula, 3 May 1932 (probably 1933), and 4 May 1933, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

32 Letters to Ursula, 9 June 1933, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

33 One of Albrecht's middle names is accordingly ‘Walther’. Conversation with Backe's children, 2 June 2004, and Albrecht Backe's letter, 2 Sept. 2004. Ursula Backe cherished the friendship between the two families. See Ursula's diary entries, 27 June 1933, 5 May 1934, 4 Feb. 1935 and 18 Dec. 1934, BAK N 1075, no. 18.

34 Corni, Gustavo, Hitler and the Peasants: Agrarian Policy of the Third Reich, 1930–1939 (New York: Berg, 1990), 66115.

35 On the REG see Grundmann, Friedrich, Agrarpolitik im 3. Reich. Anspruch und Wirklichkeit des Reichserbhofgesetzes (Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, 1979).

36 See Gerhard, Gesine, ‘Breeding Pigs and People for the Third Reich: Richard Walther Darré's Agrarian Ideology’, in Brueggemeier, Franz-Josef, Cioc, Mark and Zeller, Thomas, eds., How Green Were the Nazis? Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2005), 129–46, 135, and Corni, Hitler and the Peasants, 145–8.

37 Letter to Ursula, 14 Oct. 1933, BAK N 1075, no. 1. See also Backe's letter, 30 Sept. 1933, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

38 See Darré's letter to Backe, 27 Dec. 1934, BAK N 1075, no. 10. See also Darré's personal dedication in BAK N 1075, no. 1, and Ursula Backe's diary entry for 5 May 1934, BAK N 1075, no. 17.

39 See, for example, the diary entry for 15 Oct. 1934, BAK N 1075, no. 17. See also Backe's letters to Ursula, 6 Sept. 1933, 16 June 1935 and 4 Sept. 1936, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

40 Letter to Ursula, 6 Sept. 1933, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

41 Letter to Ursula, 5 July 1935, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

42 Letter to Ursula, 4 Sept. 1936, BAK N 1075, no. 1. See also Backe, Grosser Bericht, 21.

43 Letter to Ursula, 5 July 1935, BAK N 1075, no. 1. See also the letter of 20 Aug. 1936, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

44 Darré's diary entry for 2 March 1936. Darré's diaries were edited after the war and can only be used with great caution. A copy of the edited diaries is in the Stadtarchiv Goslar (SAG) N Darré, no. 484 and in BAK N 1094 I, no. 65a.

45 Ursula Backe's diary entry, 30 May 1941, BAK N 1075, no. 20.

46 In a letter of 18 June 1935, Herbert writes, ‘All these little people have no idea and don't see why and for what the Führer, Darré and other leaders are fighting. They have no idea that this is the biggest battle fought in millennia’. See also the letter of 18 Aug. 1943, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

47 See for example his letters to Ursula, 21 Aug. 1942 and 6 April 1941, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

48 Letter to Ursula, 8 April 1941, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

49 See Kay, Exploitation, 16–18.

50 Soon after his appointment, Göring assured Backe that as his Generalrat he was ‘more than a Minister’. Ursula Backe's diary entry, 23 Oct. 1936, BAK N 1075, no. 19.

51 Diary entries, 8 and 25 Nov. 1936, BAK N 1075, no. 19.

52 On the administrative chaos and polycratic character of the Nazi regime see Rebentisch, Dieter, Führerstaat und Verwaltung im Zweiten Weltkrieg: Verfassungsentwicklung und Verwaltungspolitik, 1939–1945 (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1989); Broszat, Martin, Der Staat Hitlers: Grundlegung und Entwicklung seiner inneren Verfassung (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1976) and Mommsen, Hitlers Stellung.

53 Darré's letter, 9 Dec. 1939, BAK R 43 II, no. 356b, fol. 17.

54 Letter, 11 Dec. 1939, BAK R 43 II, no. 356b. See also Darré's diary entry, 5 Feb. 1937, BAK N 1094 I, no. 65a.

55 BA R 3601/371, fol. 10–11.

56 Darré's letter, 25 Aug. 1941, BAK N 1094 II, no. 20.

57 Darré's letter to Göring, 27 June 1941 in BAK N 1094 II, no. 20. See also Alleweldt, ‘Herbert Backe’, 53.

58 Backe's letter to Ursula, 8 April 1941, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

60 Darré's diary entries, 5 Feb. 1940 and 17 Jan. 1941, BAK 1094 I, no. 65 a. Ursula Backe described in her diary entry for 17 Jan. 1941 a friendly meeting between Darré and Backe and noted that the conflict was over. BAK N 1075, no. 20.

61 Darré's letter to Backe, 14 March 1941, BAK N 1075, no. 10. See also Darré's diary entry, 14 March 1941, SAG N Darré, no. 484.

62 Darré's letter to Backe, 14 March 1941, BAK N 1075, no. 10. We cannot be sure that these comments (in red marker) were made by Backe. However, given the fact that the letter was in a folder with other personal letters written by Herbert to Ursula, it is very likely that these are Herbert's comments. See Herbert's letter to Ursula, 8 April 1941, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

63 Diary entries, 22 Sept. 1941 and 14 April 1942, BAK N 1075, no. 20.

64 See memos, May 1942 in BAK R 43 II, no. 1143. See also Ursula's diary entry, 13 May 1942, BAK N 1075, no. 20. See also diary entries, 11 April 1942 and 17 April 1942, BAK N 1075, no. 20. In May 1942 Backe asked Hitler directly to give him full responsibility. See diary entry, 10 May 1942, BAK N 1075, no. 20.

65 See Goebbel's diary entry, 21 May 1942.

66 See Goebbel's diary entry, 19 May 1942.

67 Introduction to the 1941 publication of Backe's dissertation, Die russische Getreidewirtschaft als Grundlage der Land- und Volkswirtschaft Rußlands.

68 Backe, Herbert, Um die Nahrungsfreiheit in Europa. Weltwirtschaft oder Grossraum, 2nd edn (Leipzig: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, 1942).

69 It is difficult to estimate the percentage of food imports from occupied and allied countries. Corni and Gies estimate that in 1938/9 9.8 per cent of all food supplies were imported to Germany. In 1942/3 the figure had risen to 14.8 per cent. In 1943/4 12.9 per cent of the overall food supply came from other countries. Corni and Gies, Brot – Butter – Kanonen, 554. Müller states that in 1933 Germany produced only 80 per cent of its food at home. Müller, ‘Die Konsequenzen der “Volksgemeinschaft”‘, 242.

70 On the rationing system during the war see Corni and Gies, Brot – Butter – Kanonen, 555–82. For other regulations regarding food distribution to prepare Germany for war, see ibid., 413–16.

71 Corni and Gies see agrarian goals and Nazi expansionist policy as inseparable; they do not agree, however, that the war was started for economic reasons. According to these authors, the food planners of the Nazi regime used the ideological war to exploit food resources in the Soviet Union. Ibid., 500, 532.

72 With the preparation for war priority was given to war industries, while resources to increase agricultural production were restricted further. See in detail ibid., chs. 3 and 4.

73 Ibid., 500, 33.

74 See Kay, Exploitation.

75 Ibid., 36.

76 Hitler had said this to the High Commissioner of the League of Nations in Danzig.

Here quoted from ibid., 40.

77 Here quoted from Corni and Gies, Brot – Butter – Kanonen, 451.

78 The meeting between Hitler and Backe took place in late January 1942 and dealt with reductions in food rations. Darré did not agree with such a reduction, but was only told about it after the decision had been made. Ursula Backe's diary entry, 2 Feb. 1942, BAK N 1075, no. 20.

79 See the exchange of letters and memos between Backe, Darré and Moritz in BA R 3601, fos. 7–28.

80 Letter from Herbert Backe to Ursula, 8 April 1941, BAK N 1975, no. 1.

81 Ursula Backe's diary entry, 30 May 1941, BAK N 1075, no. 20.

82 Diary entry, July 1941, BAK N 1075, no. 20.

83 See Kay, Alex J., ‘Germany's Staatssekretäre, Mass Starvation and the Meeting of May 2, 1941’, Journal of Contemporary History, 41, 4 (2006), 685700, 685.

84 ‘Aktennotiz über die Besprechung der Staatssekretäre am 2.5.1941’, partially reprinted in Rürup, Reinhard, ed., Der Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion1941–1945. Eine Dokumentation (Berlin: Argon Verlag, 1991), 44.

85 Kay, ‘Staatssekretäre’, and Kay, Exploitation, 125–6. See also Rürup, Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion, 44.

86 ‘Wirtschaftspolitische Richtlinien des Wirtschaftsstabes Ost, Gruppe Landwirtschaft’. Partially reprinted in Rürup, Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion, 45.

87 Here quoted from Kay, Exploitation, 134.

88 The so-called ‘Green Folder’ or Grüne Mappe. Kay, Exploitation, 164–7.

89 Backe, Die russische Getreidewirtschaft, I–IV.

90 Herbert Backe, ‘12 Gebote für das Verhalten der Deutschen im Osten und die Behandlung der Russen’, 1 June 1941. Reprinted in Alleweldt, ‘Herbert Backe’, 96–100, and Rürup, Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion, 46. Here quoted from Kay, Exploitation, 167.

91 Backe, ‘12 Gebote’.

92 Backe committed suicide in his prison cell just one week after the prosecutors confronted him with the argument that he was the author of the ‘hunger plan’. This, however, can hardly be taken as evidence for the existence of such a plan, as implied in Aly and Heim, Vordenker der Vernichtung, 393. See the protocol of Kempner's interrogation of Backe on 31 March 1947, BAK N 1470, no. 523.

93 Aly and Heim, Vordenker der Vernichtung, 383–4.

94 Ibid., 390–1. The authors acknowledge that they cannot prove this claim.

95 Gerlach, Krieg, 154–6, 203, 229 and 233.

96 Christian Gerlach, ‘Militärische “Versorgungszwänge”, Besatzungspolitik und Massenverbrechen: Die Rolle des Generalquartiermeisters des Heeres und seiner Dienststellen im Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion’, in Frei, Norbert, Steinbacher, Sybille and Wagner, Bernd C., eds., Ausbeutung, Vernichtung Öffentlichkeit. Neue Studien zur Nationalsozialistischen Lagerpolitik, (Munich: K.G. Sauer, 2000), 175208, 195.

97 Gerlach, Christian, ‘Deutsche Wirtschaftsinteressen, Besatzungspolitik und der Mord an den Juden in Weissrussland 1941–1943’, in Herbert, Ulrich, ed., Nationalsozialistische Vernichtungspolitik 1939–1945. Neue Forschungen und Kontroversen (Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1998), 263–91, 289–91.

98 See Browning, Christopher, The Path to Genocide: Essays on Launching the Final Solution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

99 See Ursula Backe's diary entries, 22 Sept. and 5 Nov. 1941, and the numerous entries in May 1942, BAK N 1075, no. 20. See also Herbert Backe's letters to Ursula, 18 Aug. 1942 and 21 Aug. 1942, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

100 See especially Berkhoff, Karel C., Harvest of Despair. Life and Death in Ukraine under Nazi Rule (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004).

101 Streit, Christian, Keine Kameraden. Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941–1945 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1978), 128.

102 Hürter, Johannes, Hitlers Heerführer. Die deutschen Oberbefehlshaber im Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion 1941/42 (Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2006), 370.

103 Aly and Heim, Vordenker der Vernichtung, 388; and Streit, Keine Kameraden, 131.

104 Hürter, Hitlers Heerführer, 496.

105 Historians have debated the degree to which the mass killings had been planned and how involved the army was. See Christian Streit, ‘Sowjetische Kriegsgefangene in deutscher Hand. Ein Forschungsüberblick’, in Müller, Klaus-Dieter, Nikischkin, Konstantin and Wagenlehner, Günther, eds., Die Tragödie der Gefangenschaft in Deutschland und in der Sowjetunion 1941–1956 (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 1998), 281–90. See also Gerlach, Christian, ‘Die Verantwortung der Wehrmachtführung. Vergleichende Betrachtungen am Beispiel der sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen’, in Hartmann, Christian, Huerter, Johannes, and Jureit, Ulrike, eds., Verbrechen der Wehrmacht. Bilanz einer Debatte (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2005), 40–9; Dietrich Eicholtz, ‘Der Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion als Wirtschaftsexpansion und Raubkrieg’, in Hartmann et al., Verbrechen der Wehrmacht, 125–35; Streit, Christian, ‘Sowjetische Kriegsgefangene–Massendeportationen–Zwangsarbeiter’, in Michalka, Wolfgang, ed., Der zweite Weltkrieg. Analysen–Grundzüge–Forschungsbilanz (Weyarn: Seehamer Verlag, 1989, 1997).

106 Arnold, Klaus Jochen, Die Wehrmacht und die Besatzungspolitik in den besetzten Gebieten der Sowjetunion. Kriegsführung und Radikalisierung im ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’ (Berlin: Duncker & Humboldt, 2005), 400 ff. Christian Hartmann, ‘Massensterben oder Massenvernichtung? Sowjetische Kriegsgefangene im Unternehmen Barbarossa’. Aus dem Tagebuch eines deutschen Lagerkommandanten’, Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 49 (2001), 97–158.

107 Backe argued that Russian workers needed normal rations in order to work. He stated that his opinion differed from the agriculture department's official line. Ursula Backe's diary entry, 11 April 1942, BAK N 1075, no. 20.

108 See Eichholtz, Dietrich, ‘Die ‘Krautaktion’. Ruhrindustrie, Ernährungswissenschaft und Zwangsarbeit 1944’, in Herbert, Ulrich, ed., Europa und der ‘Reichseinsatz’. Ausländische Zivilarbeiter, Kriegsgefangene und Kz-Häftlinge in Deutschland 1938–1945 (Essen: Klartext Verlag, 1991), 270–94. See also Heim, Kalorien, Kautschuk, Karrieren, 107–20.

109 Reprinted in Rürup, Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion, 198–200.

110 Ursula Backe's diary entry, 11 April 1942, BAK N 1075, no. 20.

111 Streit, Keine Kameraden, 148.

112 ‘Aufzeichnungen von Hortense Backe’. See also ‘Reisebriefe aus Tiflis 1912 von Onkel Agis’, letters from an uncle who visited the Backe family in the Caucasus. I would like to thank the Backe family for giving me a copy of a transcription of these letters.

113 Backe, Grosser Bericht.

114 Corni and Gies, Brot – Butter – Kanonen, 573, 575–82.

115 Letters to Ursula, 21 Aug. 1942 and 2 Oct. 1944, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

116 Letter to Ursula, 29 Aug. 1944, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

117 Letter to Ursula, 4 Feb. 1945, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

118 See letters, 23 Nov. 1944, 4 Feb. 1945 and 2 Aug. 1943, BAK N 1075, no. 1. See also Ursula Backe's diary entry, 7 Aug. 1944, BAK N 1075, no. 19.

119 Letter to Ursula, 13 Nov. 1944, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

120 See Backe's letter to Ursula, 31 Jan. 1946, 9, BAK N 1075, no. 1.

121 Ibid. He called the letter a ‘draft of a testament’ and explained his political motivations and ideas. See also Backe, Grosser Bericht.

122 Ursula Backe's diaries are very quiet about Herbert's death. She wrote in her diary only sporadically during this time. See BAK NL 1075, no. 21 and 22. The last letter Ursula received from Herbert was written on 28 March 1947. There is no indication that she knew about her husband's suicide plans or his motives. Maybe Backe realised that the Nuremberg judges would condemn his food policies. During the last interrogation before Backe's death, Robert Kempner confronted him with evidence for the ‘hunger plan’ that bore his handwriting. See the notes of the interrogation, BAK N 1470 Robert Kempner, no. 523. According to Backe's children, there were rumours that Backe would be sent to the USSR to be brought to trial there (conversation with Backe's children, 2 June 2004).

123 Conversation with Backe's children, 2 June 2004.

124 Darré had to give up his office in Berlin, and he begged Backe to let him keep at least a secretary. See Darré's letter, 26 Jan. 1943, BAK R 43 II, no. 657.

125 Darré's (edited) diaries have no entries between March 1941 and October 1943. According to his long-time confident Hans Deetjen, who edited the diaries in 1969 and burned the originals, this pause in entries was because of the hardships Darré endured after he was ousted. Deetjen assumes that Darré did not have the strength to keep a diary. See his explanation in the edited diaries, SAG N Darré, no. 484. Deetjen's depiction of Darré is apologetic in nature. He edited Darré's diaries with the intention of freeing Darré from any responsibility for the Nazi crimes. See also Gerhard, ‘Richard Walther Darré’.

126 IfZ ED 110, no. 3 561–70.

127 Wildt, Michael, Generation des Unbedingten: Das Führungskorps des Reichsicherheitshauptamtes (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2003).

128 Herbert, Best.

129 Conversation with Backe's children, 21 December 2007.

130 Gerhard, ‘Breeding Pigs and People’, 129–146.

All translations of quotations from untranslated sources are by the author.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Contemporary European History
  • ISSN: 0960-7773
  • EISSN: 1469-2171
  • URL: /core/journals/contemporary-european-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *

Related content

Powered by UNSILO


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed