The Holocaust: Forced Labor

Figure 1.--This undated photograph was taken in the Ukraine. The writing on the sign (left side on the picture) is in ukrainian russian. In latin letters it says "IDAINA" and means "broad or big meadow". Due to russian language peculiarities the inscription on the photo has 7 letters but translated in latin letters there are only six. For the pronunciation of the russian word there is an "h" to prolong the vocal "a" at the end. So obviously the picture must be from the Ukraine. I do not know which place exactly but at least we know the country. The photograph almost certainly was taken during 1941. This is because the NAZI actions against the Jews were so horific in Russia, that there was only limited time to organize labor gangs. The Jews here do not look like they are dressed for mannual labor. Based on the perspective, we suspect that the photograph was taken by a German soldier in a military vehicle. Notice that both a boy and a woman are involved in the work group. This tells us that the forced labor was not yet well organized. Most images of NAZI forced labor we have noted separated men and women. Notice the little girl at the right who seems horrified. We are not sure if she is a Jewish girl or not. Image used with kind permission of Cinetext/JudaicaSammlungRichter."

Jews in countries under NAZI occupation or NAZI influence sunjected Jews to various kinds of forced labor. Laws were passed prohibiting Jews from a wide range of occupations making it very difficult for Jews to make a living. Jew were fired from the civil service and schools. They were also barred from professions like the law and medicine. Jews were forced to close retail shops and other businesses. The specifics varied from country to country. In Germany the process took several years. Once World War II began, the process was excelerated in the occupied countries. Here the process took a variety of forms. The once country where forcedlabor was not employed was Germany, except behind the barbed wire of concentration camps. I am unsure just why this was, but presumably because such public mistreatment of Jews would have been distateful to many Germans. In some cases forced labor was designed to humiliate Jews. In other instances it was designed to accomplish a range of tasks desired by the occupation forces. Forced labor was commonly organized before the Jews were arresested and forced into concentration camps. With the invasion of the Soviet Union the process varied. SS killing units simply killed Jews in large numbers right behind the German front lines. In some areas labor groups were organized. In some cases the Jews volunteered for labor as rations were associated with workers. The labor groups were for youth and adults. Children sometimes attempted to participate because of the rarions involved. This varies as to the conditions under which the work was conducted, especially the brutality of the guards. This became increasingly brutal as the Holcaust evolved. Many of these camps organized Jews into labor groups. Some camps were designed to function as death camps. Forced labor became a mainstay of the NAZI war industry. Even with the critical need for labor in Germany, however, killing Jews was usually given priority.


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Created: 8:02 PM 3/23/2006
Last updated: 10:07 PM 3/23/2006