The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Slave Labour Policy
(Part 2 of 2)

[Page 58]

The defendant Sauckel frequently asserted that the workers belonging to foreign nations were treated humanely, and that the conditions in which they lived were good. But whatever the intention of Sauckel may have been, and however much he may have desired that foreign laborers should be treated humanely, the evidence before the Tribunal establishes the fact that the conscription of labor was accomplished in many cases by drastic and violent methods. The "mistakes and blunders" were on a very great scale. Man-hunts took place in the streets, at motion picture houses, even at churches and at night in private houses. Houses were sometimes burnt down, and the families taken as hostages, practices which were described by the defendant Rosenberg as having their origin "in the blackest periods of the slave trade" The methods used in obtaining forced labor from the Ukraine appear from an order issued to SD officers which stated:

"It will not be possible always to refrain from using force .... When searching villages, especially when it has been necessary to burn down a village, the whole population will be put at the disposal of the Commissioner by force .... As a rule no more children will be shot. If we limit harsh measures through the above orders for the time being, it is only done for the following reason .... The most important thing is the recruitment of workers."

[Page 59]

The resources and needs of the occupied countries were completely disregarded in carrying out this policy. The treatment of the laborers was governed by Sauckel's instructions of the 20th April, 1942, to the effect that:

"All the men must be fed, sheltered and treated in such a way as to exploit them to the highest possible extent, at the lowest conceivable degree of expenditure."

The evidence showed that workers destined for the Reich were sent under guard to Germany, often packed in trains without adequate heat, food, clothing, or sanitary facilities. The evidence further showed that the treatment of the laborers in Germany in many cases was brutal and degrading. The evidence relating to the Krupp Works at Essen showed that punishments of the most cruel kind were inflicted on the workers. Theoretically at least the workers were paid, housed, and fed by the DAF, and even permitted to transfer their savings and to send mail and parcels back to their native country; but restrictive regulations took a proportion of the pay; the camps in which they were housed were unsanitary, and the food was very often less than the minimum necessary to give the workers strength to do their jobs. In the case of Poles employed on farms in Germany, the employers were given authority to inflict corporal punishment and were ordered, if possible, to house them in stables, not in their own homes. They were subject to constant supervision by the Gestapo and the SS, and if they attempted to leave their jobs they were sent to correction camps or concentration camps. The concentration camps were also used to increase the supply of labor. Concentration camp commanders were ordered to work their prisoners to the limits of their physical power. During the latter stages of the war the concentration camps were so productive in certain types of work that the Gestapo was actually instructed to arrest certain classes of laborers so that they could be used in this way. Allied prisoners of war were also regarded as a possible source of labor. Pressure was exercised on non-commissioned officers to force them to consent to work, by transferring to disciplinary camps those who did not consent. Many of the prisoners of war were assigned to work directly related to military operations, in violation of Article 31 of the Geneva Convention. They were put to work in munition factories and even made to load bombers, to carry ammunition and to dig trenches, often under the most hazardous conditions. This condition applied particularly to the Soviet prisoners of war. On the 16th February, 1943, at a meeting of the Central Planning Board, at which the Defendants Sauckel and Speer were present, Milch said:

"We have made a request for an order that a certain percentage of men in the Ack-Ack artillery must be Russians, 50,000 will be taken altogether. Thirty thousand are already employed as gunners. This is an amusing thing, that Russians must work the guns."

And on the 4th October, 1943, at Posen, Himmler, speaking of the Russian prisoners, captured in the early days of the war, said:

"As that time we did not value the mass of humanity as we value it today, as raw material, as labor. What, after all, thinking in terms of generations, is not to be regretted, but is now deplorable by reason of the loss of labor, is that the prisoners died in tens and hundreds of thousands of exhaustion and hunger."

The general policy underlying the mobilization of slave labor was stated by Sauckel on the 20th April, 1942. He said:

"The aim of this new gigantic labor mobilization is to use all the rich and tremendous sources conquered and secured for us by our

[Page 60]

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 her allies ...All prisoners of war from the territories of the West, as well as the East, actually in Germany, must be completely incorporated into the German armament and nutrition industries Consequently it is an immediate necessity to use the human reserves of the conquered Soviet territory to the fullest extent. Should we not succeed in obtaining the necessary amount of labor on a voluntary basis, we must immediately institute conscription or forced labor. ...The complete employment of all prisoners of war, as well as the use of a gigantic number of new foreign civilian workers, men and women, has become an indisputable necessity for the solution of the mobilization of the labor program in this war."

Reference should also be made to the policy which was in existence in Germany by the summer of 1940, under which all aged, insane, and incurable people, "useless eaters," were transferred to special institutions where they were killed, and their relatives informed that they had died from natural causes. The victims were not confined to German citizens, but included foreign laborers, who were no longer able to work, and were therefore useless to the German war machine. It has been estimated that at least some 275,000 people were killed in this manner in nursing homes, hospitals and asylums, which were under the jurisdiction of the defendant Frick, in his capacity as Minister of the Interior. How many foreign workers ;were included in this total it has been quite impossible to determine.

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