World War II: German Slave and Forced Labor (1939-45)


Figure 1.--

Nuremberg procecutor Thomas Dodd declared, "The NAZI foreign labor policy was a policy of mass deportation and mass enslavement ... of underfeeding and overworking foreign laborers, of sibjecting to every form of degradation, brutality, and inhumanity ... a policy which constituted a flagarant violation of the laws of war and the laws of humanity." The NAZIs during World War II implemented a slave and forced labor program to supply needed labor to the German war industry. This program was approved by Hitler months before the 1939 invasion of Poland. The German program as it evolved during the War had two purposes, The primary purpose was two provide workers for German factories and farms as German manpower was to be directed into the armed forces. This was especially important as NAZI idelopgy resisted imploying married women in factories. Allied countries dealt with this problem by bring women into the work force, the proverable Rosie the Rivetor in America. (British and Soviet women were even more significantly brought into the workforce.) NAZI idelogy was involved here. The German Housefrau, however, was to stay home amd produce Aryan babies for future German armies. The other factor was the phenomenal German success at the beginning of the War which left the impression that there was no needed for women to enter the workforce. The secondary purpose was mass deportation and mass enslavement combined with underfeeding and overworking foreign laborers could be used to reduce populations of countries which posed a threat to NAZI Germany, Not only could the labors of these workers be used against their country, but the mistreatment could help reduce both the population of other countries and other ethnic groups, especially the slavs of Eastern Europe.

Major Problem

Hitler planned a short war, a series of guick campaigns and decisive victories. Once Europe was NAZIfied, the soldiers could be demobilized and rturn to the factories, mines, and farms. This looked to be working until the Wehrmacht launched Barbarossa (June 1941), it proved to be one border too far. Despite stunning victories, the Red Army held and Hitler was forced with the unattractive choice of using Germany's fully mobilized manpower to fight the War or to produce the implements of war. He of course could not do both. And given the huge losses in the East, Hitler need to conscript more and more German workers for the front. And as German women were already heavily involved in the economy and Hitler did not want married women in the factories, there was only one other option to maintain production levels -- Ausländer-Einsatz (briging in foreign workers). This began with ant-NAZI Germans at Dachau and continued at other concentration camps. In the Reich. There were, however, not enough anti-NAZI Germans to begin to fill the labor needs of the Gernan War Economy. The Germans began this process of rounding up foreign workers from the ealiest point of the War, brginning in Polnd. This was the oppoite of the demographic shift he and Himmler desired. They wanted to reduce the Slavic and other Eastern ppopilations and drive the survivirs east--not bring them into the Reich. Hitler saw this as a distasteful, temporary war measure. After the War was won, however, the foreign workers could delt with as part of Generalplan Ost.

German Slave and Forced Labor Program

Nuremberg procecutor Thomas Dodd declared, "The NAZI foreign labor policy was a policy of mass deportation and mass enslavement ... of underfeeding and overworking foreign laborers, of sibjecting to every form of degradation, brutality, and inhumanity ... a policy which constituted a flagarant violation of the laws of war and the laws of humanity." The NAZIs during World War II implemented a slave and forced labor program to supply needed labor to the German war industry. Hitler was planning a war that involved Poland, Grance, Britain, the British Empire, the Soviet Union, eventually America, and numerous smaller countries. The population and resources of these countries far outweighed that of Germany, even the expanded German Reich included Austria obtained through the Anchluss and Czecheslovakia, in part obtained through the Munich Agreement.

Planning

This program was approved by Hitler months before the 1939 invasion of Poland. From the very begining Hitler planned to use the workers of Poland and other coquered nations in German war industies. This was at the time a contravention of international law. The working condictions conveived for the workers was a viliation of the most basic concepts of morality and human rights. Hitler on May 23, 1939, five months begore the War began, held a a meeting in his study at the Reichs Chancellery. Goering, Raeder, and Keitel were present. Hitler stated that he intended to attack Poland at the first suitable opportunity. He further stated: "If fate brings us into contact with the West, the possession of extensive areas in the East will be advantageous. We shall be able to rely upon record harvests, even less in time of war than in peace. "The population of non-German areas will perform no military service, and will be available as a source of labor". [L-79]

Purposes

The German program as it evolved during the War had two purposes, one to supply workers for the German War effort and two to weaken other countries and erhnic groups. The conscription of large mumbers of healthy workers was conceoved of denying other countries the sector of the population most willong to resist the NAZIs. This was especially true of the etnic grou[s deemed inferior by the NAZI reacial idealogies and in in particular the Slavs. Many NAZI offocials from Himler on down commented on this. Sauckel's Labor Mobilization Program was sent to to Rosenberg on April 20, 1942. In it Sauckel declared, "The aim of this new, gigantic labor mobilization is to use all the rich and tremendous sources, conquered and secured for us by our fighting Armed Forces under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, for the armament of -the Armed Forces and also for the nutrition of the Homeland. The raw materials as well as the fertility of the conquered territories and their human labor power are to be used completely and conscientiously to the profit of Germany and their allies." [016-PS] The NAZIs in their internal documents made no effort to hide their racialmassessments of occupied peole and their committment to the princples of the "master race" which so affected their labor policies. Erich Koch, Reichskommissar for the Ukraine, at a meeting of the National Socialist Party on March 5, 1943 in Kiev wrote, "We are the master race and must govern hard but just. I will draw the very last out of this country. I did not come to spread bliss. I have come to help the Fuehrer. The population must work, work, and work again ... for some people are getting excited, that the population may not get enough to eat. The population cannot demand that, one has only to remember what our heroes were deprived of in Stalingrad. .... We definitely did not come here to give out manna. We have come here to create the basis for victory. .... We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here". [1130-PS].

Supply workers

The primary purpose was two provide workers for German factories and farms as German manpower was to be directed into the armed forces. This was especially important as NAZI idelopgy resisted imploying married women in factories. NAZI idelogy was involved here. The German Housefrau, however, was to stay home amd produce Aryan babies for future German armies. The other factor was the phenomenal German success at the beginning of the War which left the impression that there was no needed for women to enter the workforce.

Weaken other countries

The secondary purpose was mass deportation and mass enslavement combined with underfeeding and overworking foreign laborers could be used to reduce populations of countries which posed a threat to NAZI Germany, Not only could the labors of these workers be used against their country, but the mistreatment could help reduce both the population of other countries and other ethnic groups, especially the slavs of Eastern Europe. This was part of the overall NAZI plans for the Occupied East.

Ausländer-Einsatz

The NAZI World War II Ausländer-Einsatz (deployment of foreigners) was one of the two largest mass utilization of forced labor since the abolition of slavery in the 19th century. The other of course being the Soviet Gulag. (The Soviet slave lavor program was different in that it was primarily fueld by Soviet citizens and not foreigners.) And this was only the beginning of what the NAZIs would have done had they won the War. The NAZIs as a result of the success of Allied weakness, diplomacy, and most importantly their Blizkrieg tactics tactics between March 1938 and December 1941 occupied or otherwise dominated almost all of Europe. The NAZIs in many ways ineficiently used the occupied territories. With the adult male population conscripted for military service and an ideological reluctance to draft women for waer work, the NAZIs turned to the vast labot pool it had access to--foreign workers. NAZI occupation authorities deported more than 10 million people for forced labor in the Reich. One report estimates that as of August 1944, there were 7.8 million foreign workers and prisoners of war assigned to the Arbeitseinsatz (labor deployment) in Germany. There were also about 0.5 million foreign concentration camp inmates. And these workers were not just used for menial jobs. One source estimates that 30 percent of the white-color workers and laborers in the Reich were foreigners almost all of which were foribly deported from their countrues.

The Occupied East

The NAZI program for Lebensraum in the east was not just to acquire territory. The plans for that territory was monsterous beyond belief. The plan was to reduce the population of Poles and Russians in these territories through outright murder and forced expulsions. Some would remain to serve as slave laborers. Many would be killed outright. Millions more would be expelled or "evacuated" with the understanding that large numbers would die in the process. The goal was to make the east German. Here Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler had the responsibility for persuing this effort. He appears to have assigned his deputy Reinhard Heydrich appears to have coordinated this effort and essentially he SS's entire eastern operations.

Categories of Workers

There were many different catehories of slave and forced workers.

Jews

The Jews were targeted for death. The first step in Poland was to concentrate them in gettoes. There they were conscripted for slave labor. Once the death camps were construted by mid-1942, industrial scale murder coild begin. At the death camps children and the elderly were immideatly murdered. SS doctors, however, estimated the length of time that healthy youth and adults might survive as useful laborers in the brutal conditions of the camps.

POWs

Prisonors of Wars were also used as workers, but this varied depending on their country. The first POWs were Czechs. I'm not sure how the Czechs were treated. Next came large numbers of Poles. The Poles were treated brutally as virtual slaves. The NAZIs did not inutially have camps to handel the Polish POWs. The men were therefore housed in barracks, stables, sheds, and what evere else could be found. There were curfews prohibiting them from being on the street after dark. They worked 6 days a week from dawn to dusk. They were subject to beatings with whips or cudgels at the whim of their guards. German employers could be procecuted for attempting to treat them humanely or provide extra food. [Conot, pp. 243-244.] French, British, ans American POWs were treated differently with some attempt at following the Geneva Convention. The Soviet POWs were treated savegely. The Germans took about 3.9 Soviet POWs, many of them in 1941 and to a lesser extent 1942. Hitler proclaimed that not a single Russian POW was to be brought into the Reich and contaminate the German peoople. When the War had turned against the Germans after El Alemain (October 1942) and Stalingrad (January 1943) the German swere forced to reconsider this. But the brutality of their treatment had resulted in the death of about 2.8 million of these POWs and only a fraction of the others were sufficently healthy to be productive workers. [Conot, p. 244.]

Conscript Workers

Workers in all of the occupied countries were conscripted for forced labor, both locally and within the Reich. Some workers volunteered, in part because of food shortages in the occupied country and the belief that they would be adequately fed as workers in Germany. We have little information on the condiions of these workers. Workers who did not report after being conscripted were treated more harshly than the concripts that reported as ordered.

Prisioners

Prisioners of different status were also used as slave labor. These included both criminals, political prisionors, suspevted resistance fighters, homosexuals, Jehova Whitnesses, and others. Many of these individuals who survived the brutal camp conditions were eventually executed.

Women

Fritz Sauchel was the NAZI Plenipotentiary General for Manpower. He tried to convince Hitler and Göring to significantly expand the use of women in the work force as was being done in Britain. Goering had argued that women be more fully employed. Hitler was, however, adamently refussed to using large number of married women in factories, even after the War began. "German workers and girls must, under any circumstances be protected from moral and mental harm". He insisted that they were not to be involved in "jobs unsuitable for women, namely endangering their health, the birth rate of our nation, and family and national life". [Conot, p. 244.] Hitler also refused to rationalize the use of youths involved in the workforce. Large numbers of German girls were employed as servants in the homes of MAZI officials. Hitler refused to restrict this, unlike Britain where wealthy family had to go without servants. Hitler saw that working in the homes of NAZI officials hekped to make the girls more relaiable politically. [Conot, p. 244.] The NAZI attitude toward women often obsures the labor situation in Germany. Much larger numbers of German women were active in the economy thn either America or Britain. They were not working in factories but un Germany's highly inefficent peasant agiculture, small unmechanized family farms. In fact more than a third of the German work force was female in 1939 and about half of Germn women (age 16-60 years) were ecinomically active. [Tooze, p. 238.] Peasant agriculture was not all of the femle lavor picture. Large numbers of of Germwn women worked in mjor cities like Berlin. [Tooze, p. 359.]

Allied Labor Policies

Allied countries dealt with this problem by bring women into the work force, the proverable Rosie the Riviter in America. British and Soviet women were even more significantly brought into the workforce. In American the work force was also expanded by opening jobs in the war (generally called defense) industries to minorities.

Administrators

Reichmarshal Hermann Goering was Plenipotentiary General for the Four Year Plan played a major role in the slave labor program, especially the early phases before the SS was more dorectly involved. Alfred Rosenberg as Reichsminister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, Hans Frank a Governor General of the Government- General of Poland, Artur Seyss-Inquart as Reichskommissar for the Occupied Netherlands, and Wilhelm Keitel as chief of the OKW all shared major responsibility for the conscription by force and terror and for the deportation to Germany of the citizens of the occupied countrries seized by the Wehrmacht. Two other important individuals connected with the administration of the slave labor program were Fritz Sauckel and Albert Speer. Sauckel was the Nazi Plenipotentiary General for Manpower. He directed the recruitment, deportation, and allocation of foreign civilian labor. He sanctioned and in fact directed the use of force to recruitment and consscript foreign workers. He was thus responsible for the mistreatment of the enslaved millions. Speer became the Reichsminister for Armaments and Munitions, Director of the Organization Todt, and member of the Central Planning Board. He achieved the posts after the eay NAZI victories were achieved. As the War began to turn gainst the NAZIs his job was to expand the profiction of armaments. It was an impossible task. Not only did he face the combined productive potential of Britain, the Soviet Union, and America, but he had to deal with the increasingly destructive air campaign against Germany. He did, however, an amazingly effecive job. Speer was responsibile for determining the numbers of foreign slaves required by the German war machine. He shared responsibliity for the decision to recruit by force, the brutal treatment of foreign civilians and prisoners of war in the manufacture of armaments and munitions, in the construction of fortifications, and in active military operations.

The Holocaust


Children

Labor concerns were partly involced in the Lebensporn program, but the primary concern was racial. Himmler in a speech to SS Generals who must have been becoming increasingly unwasy about the coirse of the War, declared on October 4, 1943 at Posen, "What happens to a Russian, to a Czech, does not interest me in the slightest. What the nations can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take, if necessary by kidnapping their children and raising them here with us. Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our Kultur: otherwise, it is of no interest to me. Whether 10,000 Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interests me only in so far as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished ." [1919-PS] The NAZIs also conceived of kidnapping children primarily yto use as laborers. Rosenberg approved a Top Secret memorandum prepared for the Ministry of the occupied Eastern Territories on June 2, 1944, as the Red Army was moving through Poland and just days before D-Day. "The Army Group 'Center' has the intention to apprehend 40-5,000 youths at the ages of 10 to 14 who are in the Army territory-and to transport them to the Reich." He explanined, "It is intended to allot these juveniles primarily to the German trades as apprentices to be used as skilled workers after 2 years' training. This is to be arranged through the Organization Todt which is especially equipped for such a task through its technical and other set-ups. This action is being greatly welcomed by the German trade since it represents a decisive measure for the alleviation of the shortage of apprentices." [031-PS]

Individual Countries

German labor policies varies from country to country. This depended on the politics of the country and the ethnic make up. We have not yet developed detailed information for every country. In many countries, the conscription of workers was a major factor driving yoing men into hiding and working with the Resistance.

Belgium


France


Greece

Large numbers of Greeks were deported to Germany to work as slave and forced laborers. The Germans had a desperate need to labor to keep their war industry running. Most able bodied German workers were concscripted for military service. The NAZIs refused to use married women in factories as was done in America, Britain, and Europe. As a result, they began conscrioting potential workers in the occupied countrues. Usually these were younger adults without children. I do not yet have details on the deportations to Germany of Greek slave laborers.

(The) Netherlands

German occupation authorities in 1943 ordered all 300,000 formerly drafted military personnel to register. Most of them ignored the order and many went underground. The Germans sent 11,000 Dutch men were sent to Stammlagers (Stalags) in Germany. They had to work in the German war industry. A Dutch reader who was a boy at the time writes, "I know that in the street where my family lived several young men were forced to work in Germany. A good friend of mine who was a baker went to work in a bakery in the Baltic city of Stettin. He was a few years older than me (I was too young to register for work in Germany). My friend was treated well in that bakery. He even managed the whole business. The baker himself was drafted into the Wehrmacht and died on the Russian front. His widow and children kept contact with my friend for many years afterwards. They were expelled in 1945 when Stettin became Polish with the new name Szczechin. A colleague of mine had to work in the Siemens plant in Berlin. Although he had to work under much rougher conditions than the baker he told me that he and his frends could go out in Berlin many times until the air raids and the Russians finally put an end to it all. Not all foreign workers were treated badly and I know that also many Polish, Ukrainian and Yugoslavian POWs who had to work on the farms sometimes lived with the families and were treated well. It was amazing that these farm workers got American-made clothes through the International Red Cross (blue cotton shirts and blue corduroy pants). They of course were much better off than the people who were sent to concentration camps." I do not believe that the Dutch workers were paid, but our information is still limited.

Poland

Poland was the second country occupied by the NAZIs. The first was Czechoslovakia (March 1939). At the same time they also seized Memel, a Lituanian city. Under the the Generalgouvernement, the German occupation authorities required all Jewish and Polish males to perform forced labor. The German authorities soon after the occupation required required Polish Jews to live in ghettos and deployed them at forced slave labor, much of it manual. This evolved into a policy of "annihilation through work" and when Jews did not die fast enough to please the NAZIs, outright murder. The policy toward Christian Poles was more varied. Poles were expected to support the war effort. If they did not have jobs supporting the German war effort, they could be concripted for force labor. The NAZI slave and forced labor system included concentration camps and their subcamps, farms, ghettos, labor battalions, religious institutions, prisoner-of-war camps, and industries (in Germany and other Axis countries). Poles were affected by forced labor in a number of ways. Some but not all were confined to camps as well as deported to the Reich. It is believed that German occupation authorities deported about 1.5 million Poles to the Reich for forced or skave labor. Somes estimates are even higher. The vast proportion were deforted against their will. Most were were teenaged boys and girls or youths who did not have jobs supporting the war effort. The NAZIs obtained forced abnd slave labor from other occupied countries as well. The treatment of these people was affected by their national origins and race. Poles were among the non-Jewish people that were most harsly treated. The Poles were Slavs and part of the NAZI war effort was to substantially reduce the Slavic population of Eastern Europe to make room for German colonists. This and the general view that Eastern Europeans were inferior resulted in especially harsh treatment. Poles were required to wear an identifying purple "P" badge on their clothes. They were subjected to a curfew and not permittedv to use public transportation. The treatment afforded Poles varied widely depending on their work assignments. Here the variation depended largely on the humanity of the supervisor in charge. Poles were employed in both factories and on farms. They were often forced to work especially long hours. The Poles not employed as slave labor received lower wages than Western workers. Poles employed in larger groups in major cities were commonly housed in segregated barracks behind barbed wire.

Soviet Union

Although Hitler had intially railed against bringing Soviet POWs into the Reich, as the War began to go against Germany and worker shortages developed, orders were given to conscript large numbers of Soviet workers. Hitler personally ordered the importation 0.4-0.5 million German women 15-35 years of age to work as domestic workers. In addition a kind of white slave trade developed on the part of NAZI officials and Wehrmacht officers bring attractive girls back to work as domestics. Hitler had no objection as long as the girls had Aryan features. Hitler ordered that 0.3 million Soviet workers be brought to the Reich. NAZI officials were sent East, but failed to recruit large numbers of workers. Instead they had to turn to brutal cionscription tactics, seizing people in theaters, churches, weddings, villages, and anywhere where groups of peopke could be found. Eventually 1.7 million workers were transported to the Reich from Germany, slightly over half were women. Workers were used without regard to their education and training. Even engineer and technicians were used for mannual labor. This included even those whi had volunteered and been promised pkacement in their professions. One Russian worker described the food: 3/4 liter of tea at 4:00 am and at 6:00 in the evening 3/4 liter of soup 0.25 kg of bread. Few had winter clothing or shoes, other than woden shoes which caused sores as there were usually long marches to and from the work sites. Under clothes were not issued. Sanitary and living conditins were frightful. [Conot, 244-247.]

Spain

NAZI Germany's dealings with the Spanish was somewhat different than those with the occupied countries. Hitler and Mussolini had helped put Franco in power by supporting him during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). The regime had strong Fascist sympathies. Franco refused, however, to declare war on France and Britain. The Germans never invaded Spain because the Spanish in many ways cooperated with the NAZIs, although the refused to turn over Jews. Franco also refused to allow German troops to transit Soain to attack Gibralar. Franco in other ways supported the German war effort, even dispatching a division of volunteers to fight in the Soviet Union. Spain also shipped vital war materials, especially metal ores to Germany. Here Franco demanded and got payment, unlike the sitiation in occupied countries and other German allies (Hungary and Romania). Spanish workers also worked in Germany. I do not have a great deal of information on this. I believe they were all volunteers and received wages. I think that the NAZIs also had to make payments to the Spanish Government..

Compensation

Numerous efforts are currently inderway for obtaining conmpensation for the surviving workers ensalved by the NAZIs.

Sources

Conot, Robert E. Judgement at Nuremberg (Carroll & Graf: New York, 1983), 593p.

Mazower, Mark. Inside Hitler's Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-1944 (Yale University Press, 1993), 437p.

Tooze, Adam. The Wages if Destruction: The Making and Breaking of th Nai Economy (Penguin Group: New York, 2007), 800p.

Nurrembeurg documents: 031-PS, 1130-PS, 1919-PS, and L-79.







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