Reichskommissariat (English: Reich Commissariat) is the German designation for a type of administrative entity headed by a government official known as a Reichskommissar (English: Reich Commissioner). Although many different such offices existed primarily throughout the Imperial German and Nazi periods in a number of different fields (ranging from public infrastructure and spatial planning to ethnic cleansing) it is most commonly used to refer to the quasi-colonial administrative territorial entity established by Nazi Germany in several occupied countries during World War II. While officially located outside the German Reich in a legal sense, these entities were directly controlled by their supreme civil authorities (the Reichskommissars), who ruled their assigned territories as German governors on behalf of and as direct representatives of Adolf Hitler.
The introduction of these territorial administrations served a number of purposes. Those established or planned to be established in Western and Northern Europe were in general envisioned as the transitional phases for the future incorporation of various Germanic countries outside pre-war Germany into an expanded Nazi state. Their eastern counterparts served primarily colonialist and imperialist purposes, as sources of future Lebensraum for German settlement and the exploitation of natural resources.
Another contrast was the level of administrative overhaul implemented in these two types. As in most other territories conquered by the Germans, local administrators and bureaucrats were pressured to continue their regular day-to-day operations (especially at the middle and lower levels) albeit under German oversight. Throughout the war the Reichskommissariate in Western and Northern Europe simply retained the previously existing administrative structure however, while in the eastern ones completely new such structures were introduced.
All of these entities were nonetheless intended for eventual integration into a Greater Germanic Reich (German: Großgermanisches Reich) encompassing the general area of Europe stretching from the North Sea to the Ural Mountains, for which Germany was to form the basis.
In summer 1941, German Nazi-ideologist Alfred Rosenberg suggested that to facilitate the break-up of the Soviet Union and Russia as a geographical entity, conquered Soviet territory should be administered in the following five Reichskommissariate:
At Hitler's request the Turkestan project was shelved by Rosenberg for the immediate future, who was instead ordered to focus on Europe for the time-being.Central Asia was determined to be a future target for German expansion, as soon as its armies would be ready to move further east after the consolidation of present victories in Soviet Russia. The interest in part of the area of Germany's major Axis partner, the Empire of Japan (see Axis power negotiations on the division of Asia during World War II), could have become a topic of discussion regarding their own contemporaneous establishment of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Additional units that were under discussion at different points in time include Reichskommissariat Don-Wolga but, by the second half of May 1941, the number of administrative units that were to be established in the east were limited to four; as well as a Reichskommissariat Ural for the central and southern Ural region.