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General Government (Poland)

German occupation 1939-1944

Last modified: 2017-11-11 by andrew weeks
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General government (1939-1944)

Does anyone know if the Nazis used a distinctive flag or coat-of-arms for German-occupied Poland (aka the "General Government") during WWII?
Such a coat of arms was mentioned by Niklaus Frank (son of Hans Frank, the Governor General of Poland who was executed as a war criminal at the end of WWII) in his book "In The Shadow of the Reich." Frank states that his father, in a mocking attempt to curry favor with the Polish population, allowed forced laborers to wear the coat-of-arms of the General Government on their clothes in place of the violet "P" which Poles previously had to wear. Assuming the younger Frank has his information right, what might this COA look like? A Polish friend of mine recently showed me the labor permits which the Germans issued to his grandparents while they worked in an arms factory in the General Government. The only state symbol visible on the documents is the coat of arms of the Third Reich itself - the stylized eagle above an encircled swastika.
Jeremy March, 1 Dec 2002

There wasn't any distinctive flag nor Coat of Arms. Only German swastika symbols were officialy in use. General Government was meant as a temporary entity only, to be incorporated into "Third Reich" later, so even unofficial proposals are very unlikely. I only know of one case where other symbols were "officialy" in use: General Government coins were minted of pre-WWII Polish dies, so they featured Polish eagles of 1919 and 1927.
Mariusz Borkowski, 2 Dec 2002

Late in 1940 Dr.Neubecker submitted a proposal of the Arms and flag for GG but because of the temporary nature of the territory, as Mr.Borkowski explained earlier, the Nazi authorities never considered adopting them. (Hans Frank reportedly was in favor of them.). The Arms were in the form of shield with the black cross of the Teutonic Knights on white field with the sword superimpossed on it. The black handle of the silver cross was outlined with gold ornamentation for contrast and effect.
The flag was representation of the arms and was reported by Jaume Ollé some time ago.
I don't have access to my old files right now, but if requested, I will be happy to post those Arms soon.
Chrystian Kretowicz, 3 Dec 2002

Mr Borkowski and Mr Kretowicz are quite right: there was no distintctive national symbols for General Government (GG) due to the reasons they mentioned. I have seen many original photographs featuring flags used by Nazi authorities in GG and taken during the war in major Polish cities in GG (Warsaw, Cracow and Lwów): they always displayed the swastika flag of the III Reich (use of Polish flag was strictly forbidden and punished by death).
The best proof of symbols used for GG during the war are the post stamps of GG: they always bore arms of the III Reich. There are 3 stamps of GG: one issued in 1940 (Nazi eagle: overprint on Polish stamps from 1938 for use in GG) and 2 from 1943 (Nazi eagle above the Royal Castle in Cracow which was the seat of German administration of GG and Hans Frank himself, and another stamp featuring the Town Hall in Lwów - renamed “Lemberg” by German authorities - with the Nazi eagle).
The interesting thing here is how the name of this new entity evolved: in 1939 it was just “Generalgouvernment”, then later “Deutsches Reich” was added to it always in bigger characters, and finally that was not enough for the Nazis, so they added “Grossdeutsches Reich” above “Generalgouvernment” always printed in smaller characters.
General Government resembled in many ways another German occupied central European country, i.e. the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (formerly part of Czechoslovakia). But there were some very important differences:
-Bohemia-Moravia had its puppet Czech government with president Hacha while in Poland (GG) Germans didn’t even bother to create one.
-Bohemia-Moravia had its own national symbols (flag/Coat of Arms) while GG did not.
-GG coins mentioned by Mr Borkowski (minted by the Polish govt before the war and taken over by the Germans in 1939) bearing Polish eagle were used in GG for reasons of cutting down the cost of minting an entirely new currency, which was not the case in Bohemia-Moravia, where Germans replaced Czechoslovakian crown with Bohemia-Moravia crown after they occupied the country in March 1939. In that way the image of Polish White Eagle - strictly banned by the Nazis - was officially displayed on all GG coins during WW2. What an ironic twist!
Mariusz Pazdziora, 28 Nov 2006