Greek Boys Clothes Chronology: World War II Occupation--Slave and Forced Labor (1941-44)

Figure 1.--

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.

NAZI Slave and Forced Labor Program

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.


One HBC reader questions the use of the term "slave labor". He writes, "One could easily argue that the labor the workers from occupied as well as Axis countries (Bulgaria) provided was not slave labor. The workers from Bulgaria, France (with the exception of Alsace-Lorraine), Belgium and Greece were certainly not deported to Germany but rather coerced to work. The workers were paid and given food. Of course they were not treated as workers are treated today but they were certainly not slaves."

Greek Workers

According to Mazower, who based most of his research on the British, German, Italian, Greek and Red Cross archives, the situation of the Greek workers was very different than that of French etc. Up until 1943 there were almost no Greek workers volunteered to work in Germany unlike France, Belgium etc. In fact the number of workers from Bulgaria who was not even occupied was many times greater than that of Greece. Later on, the German occupation authorities set up an effective propaganda and a few thousant Greeks went to Germany for work. However, still a small number. The Germans deeply regretted having Greeks to work in the factories. According to the German archives they are described as lazy and dangerous. Indeed, most of the didn't want to work for the Germans and actually went there because of the famine. In addition they were trouble makers. They would argue with German workers over politics and the regime and get into fights. There have been reports of angry Greeks beating uniformed Hilter Youths in the streets. In addition many German women developed closed attachments with Greeks much to the horror of the authorites. Mazower concludes that Greek workers were merely lazy (a decade later thousants of Greeks immigrated to Germany for work and earned the reputation of hard working people) but their behavior can be seen as a response to what NAZIs did to Greece. [Mazower]


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


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Created: March 17, 2003
Last updated: March 18, 2003