[W]ithout consideration of "traditions" and prejudices, it [Germany] must find the courage to gather our people and their strength for an advance along the road that will lead this people from its present restricted living space to new land and soil, and hence also free it from the danger of vanishing from the earth or of serving others as a slave nation.
--- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf 1
The geopolitical concept of Lebensraum ("living space") was proffered by others in Germany decades before Adolf Hitler came to power. In 1871, for example, Lebensraum was a popular political slogan during the establishment of a united Germany. At this time, Lebensraum usually meant finding additional "living space" by adding colonies, following the examples of the British and French empires.
In an era when the earth is gradually being divided up among states, some of which embrace almost entire continents, we cannot speak of a world power in connection with a formation whose political mother country is limited to the absurd area of five hundred thousand square kilometers.
--- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf 2
Adding living space was believed to strengthen Germany by helping solve internal problems, make it militarily stronger, and help make Germany become economically self-sufficient by adding food an other raw material sources.
The concept of Lebensraum was discussed and developed during the following decades by scholars Karl Haushofer, Sir Halford Mackinder, and Friedrich Ratzel. In 1926, Hans Grimm's book Volk ohne Raum ("A People without Space") was published. This book became a classic on Germany's need for space and the book's title soon became a popular National Socialist slogan.
Hitler changed the concept of Lebensraum. Rather than adding colonies to make Germany larger, Hitler wanted to enlarge Germany within Europe.
For it is not in colonial acquisitions that we must see the solution of this problem, but exclusively in the acquisition of a territory for settlement, which will enhance the area of the mother country, and hence not only keep the new settlers in the most intimate community with the land of their origin, but secure for the total area those advantages which lie in its unified magnitude.
--- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf 3
Hitler looked east for Germany's expansion in Europe. It was in this view that Hitler added a racist element to Lebensraum. By stating that the Soviet Union was run by Jews, then Hitler concluded Germany had a right to take Russian land.
For centuries Russia drew nourishment from this Germanic nucleus of its upper leading strata. Today it can be regarded as almost totally exterminated and extinguished. It has been replaced by the Jew. Impossible as it is for the Russian by himself to shake off the yoke of the Jew by his own resources, it is equally impossible for the Jew to maintain the mighty empire forever. He himself is no element of organization, but a ferment of decomposition. The Persian empire in the east is ripe for collapse. And the end of Jewish rule in Russia will also be the end of Russia as a state.
--- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf 4
Thus, in Nazi ideology, Lebensraum meant the expansion of Germany to the east in search of a unity between the German Volk and the land (the Nazi concept of Blood and Soil). The Nazi modified theory of Lebensraum became Germany's foreign policy during the Third Reich.
1. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971) 646.
2. Hitler, Mein Kampf 644.
3. Hitler, Mein Kampf 653.
4. Hitler, Mein Kampf 655.
Bankier, David. "Lebensraum." Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Israel Gutman (ed.) New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1990.
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971.
Zentner, Christian and Friedmann Bedürftig (eds.). The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. New York: Da Capo Press, 1991.