Herbert Backe (May 1st, 1896 – April 6th, 1947) was a German Nazi politician and Obergruppenführer in the SS.
Backe was born in Batumi, Georgia, the son of a retired Prussian lieutenant turned trader. His mother was a Caucasus German, whose family had emigrated from Württemberg to Russia in the early 19th century. He studied at the Tbilisi Gymnasium (grammar school) from 1905 and was interned on the outbreak of World War I as an enemy alien because he was a citizen of Prussia. This experience of being imprisoned for being German and witnessing the beginning of the Soviet revolution made Backe an anti-communist. He moved to Germany during the Russian Civil War with the help of the Swedish Red Cross. In Germany, he initially worked as a labourer, and enrolled to study agronomy at the University of Göttingen in 1920. After completing his degree he briefly worked in agriculture and then became an assistant lecturer on agricultural geography at Hanover Technical University. In 1926, he submitted his doctoral dissertation, titled The Russian Cereals Economy as the Basis of Russian Agriculture and the Russian Economy (German: Die russische Getreidewirtschaft als Grundlage der Land- und Volkswirtschaft Russlands), to the University of Göttingen, but it was not accepted. Later, after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Backe self-published his dissertation with a print of 10 000 copies.
Backe was an SA member from 1922. He joined the Nazi Party in February 1925. Finally, he joined the SS in October 1933.
He undertook various duties in the administration of Nazi Germany, succeeding Richard Walther Darré as Minister of Food in May 1942 and becoming Minister of Agriculture in April 1944. Hunger plan
Backe was personally nominated by the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, Alfred Rosenberg, as the Secretary of State (Staatssekretär) of the Reichskommissariat Ukraine where he could implement his strategic policy, the Hunger Plan (Der Hungerplan also Der Backe-Plan). The objective of the Hunger Plan was to inflict deliberate mass starvation on the Slavic civilian populations under German occupation by directing all food supplies to the German home population and the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. According to the historian Timothy Snyder, as a result of Backe's plan, “4.2 million Soviet citizens (largely Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians) were starved by the German occupiers in 1941–1944.”
Backe was a prominent member of the younger generation of Nazi technocrats who occupied second-tier administrative positions in the Nazi system such as Reinhard Heydrich, Werner Best, and Wilhelm Stuckart. Like Stuckart, who held the real power in the Interior Ministry (officially led by Wilhelm Frick) and Wilhelm Ohnesorge in the Reichspostministry (officially led by the conservative Paul Freiherr von Eltz-Rübenach), Backe was the de facto Minister of Agriculture under Richard Walther Darré, even before his promotion to that post.
From April to May 1945, Backe continued as Minister of Food in the short-lived post-Hitler Flensburg Government led by Grossadmiral Karl Dönitz. On 23 May 1945 he was arrested by British forces along with other members of the Flensburg government, including Dönitz and Albert Speer.
Backe was held in American custody and was due to be tried for war crimes at Nuremberg in the Ministries Trial. However, he committed suicide by hanging himself in his prison cell on 6 April 1947.