|Rare Book & Manuscript Library|
At a Glance
Scope and Contents
This folder contains mainly Abschriften (copies) of administrative laws and military regulations utilized by the Oberbefehlshaber der gesamten Deutschen Streitkräfte im Osten (Ober Ost) [trans. Supreme Commander of All German Forces in the East] to control the Eastern front during the First World War.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This item is located on-site.
This collection has no restrictions.
In General Manuscripts Collection. Box 72, Folder 9
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); General Manuscripts Collection; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public in summer 2018 as part of the Hidden Collections initiative.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Ober Ost was established in 1915 by Gen. Erich von Falkenhayn (1861-1922). Gen. Falkenhayn was followed by Gen. Paul von Hindenberg (1847-1934) in 1916. Gen. Erich Ludendorff (1865-1937), Hindenberg's second in command, designed and led a large administrative command structure to manage the large area under Ober Ost's jurisdiction. This structure consisted of ten staff members, who each directed a specialty, for example, finance, agriculture and forestry. Ober Ost, in turn, was divided into three districts: Courland, Lithuania and Bialystok-Gordno. These districts were led by a district commander.
Through this administrative structure, Ober Ost attempted to implement its two main policy aims - a movement policy and a culture program. First, the movement policy (Verkehrspolitik) was designed to place a strict grid of control over the territory and its native inhabitants. As the Abschriften indicate, the movement policy utilized surveillance, registration, and documentation to mobilize the area's human and material resources. (See, for example, documents nos. 9 and 10.) These draconian methods doomed the movement policy to failure as it created great resentments within the occupied populations. Second, Ober Ost's cultural program attempted to manipulate the identities of the population through cultural mentoring. The culture program also proved disastrous as the various ethnic populations championed their own values in response to their occupiers. Finally, in late 1918, due to reversals on the Western front, the Germans started to withdraw from Ober-Ost. In the power vacuum left upon their retreat, a series of conflicts arose among the various ethnic groups as they tried to create their own nation states.