Reichskommissar (rendered as "Commissioner of the Empire", "Reich Commissioner" or "Imperial Commissioner"), in German history, was an official gubernatorial title used for various public offices during the period of the German Empire and the Third Reich.
In the unified German Empire (after 1871), Reichskommissars were appointed to oversee special tasks. For instance, there was a Reichskommisar for emigration (Reichskommissar für das Auswanderungswesen) in Hamburg.
Presumably the same title is rendered as "German Imperial Commissioner" in the case of Heligoland, a strategically located once-Danish island in the North Sea, formally handed over to Germany by the UK on 9 August 1890 (under the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty) and on 15 December 1890 formally annexed to Germany (after 18 February 1891 part of the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein): 9 August 1890 - 1891 Adolf Wermuth (b. 1855 - d. 1927)
The title of Reichskommissar was given by Adolf Hitler to a number of Nazi governors, mainly in several occupied countries during World War II, but also before the war to reintegrate former Prussian territory regained on France, as well as various other regions inhabited by ethnic Germans. Depending on circumstances they could be severely dictatorial and repressive, most notably Erich Koch in Ukraine.
A plebiscite was held in the Territory of the Saar Basin (presently Saarland) on 13 January 1935: 90.3% of those voting wished to join Germany rather than join France. Josef Bürckel (b. 1895 - d. 1944) was appointed on 1 March 1935 as Reichskommissar für die Rückgliederung des Saarlandes, then changed his style from 17 June 1936 to Reichskommissar für das Saarland, and from 8 April 1940 to Reichskommissar für die Saarpfalz; finally from 11 March 1941, he was made Reichsstatthalter in der "Westmark" (the region's new name, meaning "Western March or Border"), until his death on 28 September 1944 when he was succeeded by Willi Stöhr (b. 1903 also NSDAP), who remained in office until 21 March 1945.
After the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia was annexed by Germany on 1 October 1938, it was under a Military governor (Wilhelm Keitel; 1 October 1938 - 20 October 1938), until Konrad Henlein was appointed Reichskommissar of the territories on 21 October 1938. On 1 May 1939 a regular 'domestic' Reichsgau Sudetenland was created; Henlein stayed on as Reichsstatthalter until the region was re-incorporated into Czechoslovakia on 4 May 1945.
1 May 1939 - 1 April 1940 Josef Bürckel (b. 1895 - d. 1944) NSDAP, in fact the maintained last Austrian Premier of 15 October 1938 constituted metropolitan capital city-entity Gross-Wien (Great Vienna), is in transitional office, then the same is made the first of two Reichsstatthalter (he till 10 August 1940), equivalent to a Gauleiter in Germany proper.
After the Norwegian king and his government fled during the German invasion of the country and the failure of a coup d'état by the fascist politician Vidkun Quisling, Hitler appointed a Reichskommissar für die besetzten Norwegischen Gebiete (Reich Commissioner for the occupied Norwegian territories) on 24 April 1940. The office had two consecutive Reichskommissars with extensive authority:
There was one Reichskommissar für die besetzten niederländischen Gebiete (Reich Commissioner for the occupied Dutch territories):
Belgium was initially placed under a Militärverwaltung, headed by military governors. The country was joined administratively to "North France", i.e. the adjacent French départements Nord and Pas-de-Calais. This was done both for security reasons, as the area was to be used as a staging ground in an expected invasion of Britain, as well as to "re-claim" French Flanders as a historic part of Germanic Flanders. The Military Administration in Belgium and Northern France had two successive governors:
This situation continued until July 1944, when a Reichskommissar für Belgien-Nordfrankreich was appointed:
In December 1944, when the allies had already liberated virtually all of Belgium, its territory was split up into three Gau-type entities as integral ("Germanic") parts of the Reich: the bi-cultural Belgian capital Brussels (Brüssel in German, Brussel in Dutch and Bruxelles in French) remained directly under the German Reichskommissar as a Brussels District, but the bulk of the country was divided ethno-linguistically and placed under collaborating Belgian fascist party leaders (on paper) as Gauleiters and with Führer-imitating titles in their national languages:
Gauleiter of Reichsgau Flandern (Flanders, Vlaanderen in Dutch; supposedly including French Flanders in North France) and National leader of the Flemish People (Landsleider van het Vlaamsche Volk) as well as "Head of the Flemish Liberation Committee" (Hoofd van het Vlaamsche Bevrijdingscomité):
Before the beginning of Operation Barbarossa (the eastern front campaign against the Soviet Union) on 22 June 1941, the Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg suggested the administrative division of conquered Soviet territory in the following Reichskommissariats, only the first two of which would become reality through military success:
This suggested an intention to destroy Russia as a political entity, as the Nazis organised the areas adjacent to Greater Germany's eastern provinces in accordance with the geopolitical Lebensraum idea (Drang nach Osten), to benefit future "Aryan" generations. When German forces entered Soviet territory, they immediately implemented this administrative plan instating the Reichskommissariat of "Ostland" in the Baltic lands and "Ukraine" in Ukraine, headed by Hinrich Lohse and Erich Koch respectively. These administrators put in practice the intended measures during the whole of their administrative period, until 1943-44, when the Germans after the Battle of Kursk were gradually driven out by force.
On 17 July 1941, the Reichskommissariat Ostland ("Eastland") was established, soon uniting German-occupied Lithuania, Latvia (from 1 September 1941) and Estonia (from 5 December 1941) and Belarus. Ostland was organized into four General Districts (Generalbezirke); only the (Latvian) capital city of Riga (Gebiet Riga Stadt) was directly administered by the Reichskommissar für das Ostland. The incumbents were:
The territory in Ukraine occupied by Germany since 25 June 1941 initially fell under a military governor:
The Reichskommissariat Ukraine was established on 20 August 1941, under a Reichskommissar für die Ukraine. The incumbents were:
The Caucasus was never brought under sufficient German control to permit its transfer to civilian administration, but a designated Reichskommissar für die Kaukasus was appointed on 17 July 1941: