Sabotage by forced labour

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Rob Howarth
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Sabotage by forced labour

Post by Rob Howarth » 26 Mar 2011 11:37

Hi all,

My first post (after lurking for a while)

I've just started getting back into studying 20th century history after a break of 30 years.

A couple of things I have read recently have pricked my interest.

Firstly, in Kershaw's biography of Hitler he mentions, in passing, the high rate of failure of German tanks deployed to the Russian front.

And, Secondly, that Hitler and co tested out suicide pills on Blondie prior to their own suicide. This was done in the fear the pills would not work.

I'm wondering if anyone has any source material or insight re: quality control in factories/workshops deploying forced labour and/or levels of resistance leading to the sabotaging of Germany's war effort.

regards,
rob

mods - this maybe in the wrong section. Please move the topic if this is the case.

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timkoningskelp
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Re: Sabotage by forced labour

Post by timkoningskelp » 26 Mar 2011 13:28

Firstly, only a relatively small portion of the German workforce was comprised of foreign workers and concentrationcamp inmates. However, this number did increase during the later half of the war.
Secondly, those who were interned in a POW camp or concentrationcamp were often happy to be able to work in a German factory, since this meant their foodallowances were increased. They would not sabotage the equipment they were producing if they wanted to keep their job.
Thirtly it was nearly impossible to sabotage their work. Ofcourse there was strickt quality controll, but besides that most of the time the people forced to work were performing unskilled labor. Hence the nature of their work was such there was nothing they could do wrong (or sabotage).
Fouthly the only effective means of sabotaging the German war effort as a forced worker was working as slow as possible, but this the Germans countered by assigning German workers to do the same job the forced workers had to do. In this way it would clearly show if one was working much slower than a properly motivated collegue doing the exact same thing.
And last but not least, the people being interned in POW- or concentrationcamps had no way of knowing how the war was developing, especially if they had been there for some time. All they know was what German propaganda told them, and this was ofcourse that the Germans were winning. So as far as they knew the German armies were on the doorstep of the Kremlin and London was being bombed to ruins by the V-weapons. Why would they risk their lives if the war would end in just a few months with a clear German victory anyway?

scruffy
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Re: Sabotage by forced labour

Post by scruffy » 26 Mar 2011 21:33

the percentage of slave labor was much higher than most people think ,..especially in the armament business ,...accounting for many 'duds' and under powered ammunition loaded in a wide range of calibers , from pistol rounds to V2 rockets - it is well known that some late war polish radoms were sabotaged ,.. even though it meant certain death to the saboteur ,...if discovered

RandJS
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Re: Sabotage by forced labour

Post by RandJS » 27 Mar 2011 11:51

Hi,
There are several accounts of sabatoge by forced labor (as well as spying) during the construction of the Atlantik wall defenses. Cement was poured too thin, forms were not nailed together sufficiently allowing blow outs and leaks. But of course, this could be very dangerous to the saboteurs themselves!
Rand

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Svetlana Karlin
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Re: Sabotage by forced labour

Post by Svetlana Karlin » 27 Mar 2011 19:45

Hi,

I've been researching forced labor (Ostarbeit, Zwangsarbeit but not KZ or POW) in Berlin for my novel. One of my protagonists is an Ostarbeiterin who worked at Rheinmetall-Borsig in Berlin-Tegel. Here are some of my findings.

"Berlin at War" by Roger Moorhouse states that:
For all their fears and antipathy, foreign labourers were to become the very cornerstone of the German wartime economy. They served almost every business in Berlin, from the largest industrial concerns - such as Daimler-Benz, AEG and Bosch - down to the smallest independent tradesman or shopkeeper. In the summer of 1943, the number of foreign and forced labourers in Berlin topped 400,000, comprising one in five of the capital's total workforce. Siemens, for instance, employed nearly 15,000 foreign labourers in the capital, housed in over 100 camps. German Railways employed a further 13,000, Speer's Berlin Building Inspectorate 10,000 and AEG, 9,000.
From the same book:
As the French former labourer Francois Cavanna recalled:
At that time, Berlin was covered with wooden barracks. In even the tiniest space in the capital, there were rows of brown, wooden blocks, covered in roofing felt. Greater Berlin resembled a single camp, which had been scattered between the sturdy buildings, the monuments, the office blocks, the rail stations and the factories
From the information I have collected on forced labor at Rheinmetall-Borsig it appears that the low-level sabotage was fairly common at that factory. One of my best sources is the book, Arbeiten für den Krieg. Deutsche und Ausländer in der Rüstungsproduktion bei Rheinmetall-Borsig 1943-1945 by Barbara Kasper, Lothar Schuster and Christof Watkinson. It is a collection of personal accounts of former workers at Rheinmetall-Borsig, both hired Germans and forced laborers from the Netherlands, Poland and the Soviet Union.

Although sabotage was very dangerous (as a German worker put it, it would be a suicide), it was present nevertheless. A Russian former labourer from Kiew recounted his work in the construction team at Borsig. When they poured in a concrete foundation for heavy equipment, they would make a weak concrete mix. The foundation would then deteriorate faster from the vibration and shocks when the machinery was in operation. His opinion was that the low-key sabotage was common among the forced laborers.

There was also a German Resistance group at the factory which disseminated leaflets with information from foreign broadcasts. With the help of forced laborers, the leaflets were translated into French and Russian for distribution in the barracks. The Russian respondent was one of the translators. He was caught with leaflets in his pockets and arrested.

A Dutch former laborer, who was a university student prior to coming to Borsig, stated that the productivity among his fellow Dutch students was 20%-30% lower than of German workers. But they got away with it for a long time because they were considered "amateurs" and the management didn't expect much of them, although the work hours and conditions were grueling. There were some tricks like dropping a precision part so it would deform a tiny bit and malfunction down the line. In the end the Dutch worker was transferred to a quality control post because his work performance at the machine was not improving. At the quality control post the supervisor told him to watch out for sabotage because it was all too common. In the end, the Dutch worker himself got arrested and sent to KZ Sachsenhausen, a mere few weeks before it was liberated by the Soviet Army.

Another personal account of a Russian former Ostarbeiterin here http://lito.ru/text/9322 describes how some Russian young women laborers sabotaged work at Borsig. She worked on a lathe which required the cutting tool to be positioned precisely. Although she had had experience operating machinery at her pre-war factory job in the Soviet Union, she intentionally mispositioned the tool. It would get damaged when the equipment was in operation, and she would have to sit and wait for a replacement. With the supervisors she played dumb, pretending to be unable to understand the process. The usual punishment was being left without her food ration for the day. In the barracks, the Russian girls pooled their rations to share with friends left without food because of their poor work performance.

In this account http://www.iremember.ru/grazhdanskie/be ... movna.html a Russian woman recalled how she stuffed paper in artillery shells at a munitions factory in Germany. Then she and a few more Russian girls ran away from the factory, got caught and sent to a concentration camp.
Last edited by Svetlana Karlin on 28 Mar 2011 18:42, edited 1 time in total.
Scorched earth, scorched lives: http://svetlanakarlin.wordpress.com/

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Rob Howarth
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Re: Sabotage by forced labour

Post by Rob Howarth » 28 Mar 2011 10:55

Thanks to all who have responded to this topic.

I know that it would be very difficult to quantify this, but I suspect that sabotage of Germany's war effort by forced labour was endemic. Both overt cases - such as delibrately tampering with equipment and armament - and passive sabotage - such as going slow, etc.

Contrast this with a highly motivated and patriotic workforce in allied nations, and it would tend to reveal yet another failing of the NSADP ideology.

cheers,

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Panz
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Re: Sabotage by forced labour

Post by Panz » 27 Oct 2012 11:42

Hi Rob,

We just posted an item on Forced labour with some small, but confirmed, sabotage done by the victims.
p.s. if you guys know what; “Gessh.=3:LAIII”, stands for it would be a great help.

Here is hte story;
http://www.ww2-landmarkscout.com/2012/1 ... .html#more

cheers Panz (Patrick)
www.landmarkscout.com

http://www.facebook.com/WW2.LandmarkScout

Wolfgang ski
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Re: Sabotage by forced labour

Post by Wolfgang ski » 10 Nov 2012 01:06

I can tell you what my grandmother told me. She was a 17 year old Polish girl taken by German soldiers in Poland and sent as slave labor to work in the Reich at a armaments factory. She told me they routinely tinkered with everything possible so it wouldn't function properly. Especially artillery shells for 88 mm. She said the older workers knew how to sabotage munitions so they passed inspections but would not function in the field properly. There are many accounts of German soldiers, especially on the Eastern front of equipment failure.

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wm
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Re: Sabotage by forced labour

Post by wm » 10 Nov 2012 10:21

After all it was a German factory:
I heard nothing, the planes flew so high, that only white traces was visible. It dawned on me that it was an air raid - I heard the anti-aircraft guns firing.
I was 16 years old and was a forced laborer in the Telefunken. During that holiday I was on a 24 hours civil defense duty. Shortly after the guns, incendiary bombs rained on the factory.
A Volksdeutsche forced us, Poles, into the attic, because one of the bombs landed there. They called it a bomb but it was an aluminium stick, a meter long and a few centimeters wide. It was disintegrating gradually, leaking out self igniting tar. So I took a large board, and hiding behind it, moved the stick a few times with my fire hook - to the left and to the right.
It was burning better that way.

Paulvis
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Re: Sabotage by forced labour

Post by Paulvis » 22 Oct 2013 15:17

I am doing research for a current novel. My question is did Jewish workers ever have the opportunity to sabotage shells i.e. mortar shells or would they be restricted from this type of manufacturing?

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wm
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Re: Sabotage by forced labour

Post by wm » 24 Oct 2013 11:59

According to Nechama Tec's Resistance: Jews and Christians Who Defied the Nazi Terror Jewish prisoners were employed in various parts of the Union-Werke munitions factory in Monowice, especially in the final stages of the high explosives manufacturing process.
And despite being closely monitored they were able to engage in sabotage activities.

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