Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

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Viktor.S
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Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Viktor.S » 06 Apr 2020 17:03

Hello everyone,

I have three questions relating to the manpower used in shipyards in Axis-occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands. I'm hoping someone can answer them.

- I am aware of the Germans relocating forced labour from other countries to work in German industries (for example, German shipbuilding firm Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft). Did they also relocate forced labourers to shipyards in these three countries? If so, what were common countries of origin for imported shipyard labour in France, Belgium, and Netherlands?

- Was there much relocation of German shipyard workers (particularly those with specific technical expertise) to shipyards in these three countries? If so, was it done at all levels, or primarily at a certain occupation (for example, high-level managers or maritime architects)?

- Regarding the contribution of local labour, is there any evidence of French, Belgian, or Dutch shipyard workers resisting their contribution to the Axis war effort (for example through acts of sabotage, informing the resistance of shipyard projects, deliberately slowing production, etc.)?

Thanks.

(minor edit to break up paragraphs, no content change)
Last edited by Viktor.S on 06 Apr 2020 19:57, edited 2 times in total.

JKernwerk
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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by JKernwerk » 06 Apr 2020 18:02

I do not know any numbers but we can assume that they did but you must understand that in the Dutch harbours/shipyards mostly worked for the Germans.
These were repairing and building ships needed for the German wareffort.
In the later stages of the war a lot of these ships in repair or in process of building were transferred to Germany to be repaired or to be built, It could well be that that specialists like designers, planners but also welders etc wer transferred to the shipyards.
Watch it, I assume, I have never found any info about the labourers.
JK

Viktor.S
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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Viktor.S » 06 Apr 2020 19:56

JKernwerk wrote:
06 Apr 2020 18:02
I do not know any numbers but we can assume that they did but you must understand that in the Dutch harbours/shipyards mostly worked for the Germans.
These were repairing and building ships needed for the German wareffort.
In the later stages of the war a lot of these ships in repair or in process of building were transferred to Germany to be repaired or to be built, It could well be that that specialists like designers, planners but also welders etc wer transferred to the shipyards.
Watch it, I assume, I have never found any info about the labourers.
JK
It would be interesting to know details. Hopefully someone can help. Shipbuilding/repair was a major strategic asset for all maritime countries in WW2, so the manpower used to carry out this process is one factor to consider, especially since these shipyards were in occupied territories, rather than the German homeland where a more loyal/dependable pro-Nazi workforce existed...

Stephan
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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Stephan » 07 Apr 2020 21:36

Viktor.S wrote:
06 Apr 2020 19:56
JKernwerk wrote:
06 Apr 2020 18:02
I do not know any numbers but we can assume that they did but you must understand that in the Dutch harbours/shipyards mostly worked for the Germans.
These were repairing and building ships needed for the German wareffort.
In the later stages of the war a lot of these ships in repair or in process of building were transferred to Germany to be repaired or to be built, It could well be that that specialists like designers, planners but also welders etc wer transferred to the shipyards.
Watch it, I assume, I have never found any info about the labourers.
JK
It would be interesting to know details. Hopefully someone can help. Shipbuilding/repair was a major strategic asset for all maritime countries in WW2, so the manpower used to carry out this process is one factor to consider, especially since these shipyards were in occupied territories, rather than the German homeland where a more loyal/dependable pro-Nazi workforce existed...
Exactly this may be the reason why not much is known about it: A hush-hush situation. Ie they got well paid and worked on... Without knowing much for sure, this would be my guess. Lets say for the sake of discussion, with some supervising from germans for the decorum "ah, but we were forced to!"

Im rather sure this were in some degree the situation in Norway. Officially they were anti nazi - girls whom were friends with germans got major flak after the war, not even to mention the children resulting... A dark shadow in the history of Norway, with much hush hush around these children.

They norses did had a some resistance, especielly as the king and his government was leading the fight from England.

But the norwegian workers and industry did worked happily and full time for the germans, as they got well paid, better than they would get paid otherwise... Probably as well as the german workers themselves had. And no, they dont talk loudly about this, but its no big secret either.

Viktor.S
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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Viktor.S » 07 Apr 2020 22:53

Stephan wrote:
07 Apr 2020 21:36
But the norwegian workers and industry did worked happily and full time for the germans, as they got well paid, better than they would get paid otherwise... Probably as well as the german workers themselves had. And no, they dont talk loudly about this, but its no big secret either.
This is one of the reasons I posed this question. When discussing occupied countries like France during WW2, the common topics concerning locals are either the "heroic" resistance or "traitorous" collaborationist soldiers/militias/informers. It seems like we sometimes forget about the average Joes (or Jeans) who may not have been part of either armed group in the conflict, but still worked in the industries that were critical to allowing those armed groups to kill each other...

I'm curious to know how "loyal" local French, Belgian, and Dutch labour in the shipbuilding industry was to their new German bosses, and whether the Germans depended solely on the local workforce, or mixed in imported Germans or forced labourers from countries like Poland or Russia (which they already did in Germany itself).

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Polar bear
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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Polar bear » 08 Apr 2020 18:13

hi,
Viktor.S wrote:
07 Apr 2020 22:53
I'm curious to know how "loyal" local French, Belgian, and Dutch labour in the shipbuilding industry was to their new German bosses,
I kow of some examples where the repair and maintenance work on E-boats in the Rotterdam shipyards (Wilton, Gusto) was praised als "very well done".

greetings, the pb
Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War
(John Milton, the poet, in a letter to the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652)

Viktor.S
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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Viktor.S » 08 Apr 2020 18:26

Polar bear wrote:
08 Apr 2020 18:13
hi,

I kow of some examples where the repair and maintenance work on E-boats in the Rotterdam shipyards (Wilton, Gusto) was praised als "very well done".

greetings, the pb
Thanks, do you know if the workers and managers at these shipyards were all Dutch? Was there any German contribution or management of the production?

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 09 Apr 2020 10:08

Hi Viktor,

Good question! And obviously not widely researched before.

In Richard Overy’s “The Bombing War” there is a short section which covers French protests to UK of impact of British (and later US) bombing of French ports. He references a book by Hein Klemann, Sergei Kudryashov “Occupied Economies: An Economic History of Nazi-Occupied Europe, 1939-1945”.

Sorry I can’t find anything more detailed at the moment.

Regards

Tom

Viktor.S
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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Viktor.S » 09 Apr 2020 10:40

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
09 Apr 2020 10:08
In Richard Overy’s “The Bombing War” there is a short section which covers French protests to UK of impact of British (and later US) bombing of French ports. He references a book by Hein Klemann, Sergei Kudryashov “Occupied Economies: An Economic History of Nazi-Occupied Europe, 1939-1945”.
In relation to this, wikipedia article on Lorient claims that "... after the Allies failed to damage the U-boat bunkers the bombing shifted to the city [of Lorient] itself in order to deny the Germans workers and other resources. Before these bombings, thousands of leaflets were dropped on the population instructing the inhabitants to evacuate."

The source cited is a memoir by a former Uboat crewman, so I don't know how much we can rely on his testimony alone, but if this was indeed one of the objectives of the Allied bombing then it might indicate that the Lorient shipyards were heavily dependant on local French labour.

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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Knouterer » 18 Apr 2020 07:10

Polar bear wrote:
08 Apr 2020 18:13
hi,
Viktor.S wrote:
07 Apr 2020 22:53
I'm curious to know how "loyal" local French, Belgian, and Dutch labour in the shipbuilding industry was to their new German bosses,
I kow of some examples where the repair and maintenance work on E-boats in the Rotterdam shipyards (Wilton, Gusto) was praised als "very well done".

greetings, the pb
The Dutch shipyards (like Belgian, French and Norwegian yards) had the advantage that they still had (almost) all their skilled workers, while in Germany many had been called up. In 1940 Dutch yards at Rotterdam converted many hundreds of river/canal barges to landing craft for the planned invasion of Britain (Operation Sealion). The Germans were surprised at the speed and efficiency with which this work was done.

After the war, the owners and managers of these yards were called to account and their defense was that they knew an invasion could not possibly succeed, so they were happy to take the money and provide employment while not endangering Britain in any way.

Dutch yards did a lot of work for the Kriegsmarine all through the war, and would have done more but for the lack of materials. The workers can't really be blamed I think, as the alternative was sitting at home and watching their children starve. They might even have been accused of sabotaging the war effort if they had quit.

In the Netherlands, many jobs depended on overseas trade which was almost completely cut off, so people had to survive any way they could, as in other occupied countries.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Andy H » 18 Apr 2020 13:08

Viktor.S wrote:
09 Apr 2020 10:40
Tom from Cornwall wrote:
09 Apr 2020 10:08
In Richard Overy’s “The Bombing War” there is a short section which covers French protests to UK of impact of British (and later US) bombing of French ports. He references a book by Hein Klemann, Sergei Kudryashov “Occupied Economies: An Economic History of Nazi-Occupied Europe, 1939-1945”.
In relation to this, wikipedia article on Lorient claims that "... after the Allies failed to damage the U-boat bunkers the bombing shifted to the city [of Lorient] itself in order to deny the Germans workers and other resources. Before these bombings, thousands of leaflets were dropped on the population instructing the inhabitants to evacuate."

The source cited is a memoir by a former Uboat crewman, so I don't know how much we can rely on his testimony alone, but if this was indeed one of the objectives of the Allied bombing then it might indicate that the Lorient shipyards were heavily dependant on local French labour.
Hi Viktor

There's some useful info in Hitler's Gateway to the Atlantic (German Naval Bases in France 1940-45) b Lars Hellwinkell and in Chapter 5 (Life under German Occupation) he references the above actions at Lorient. He also goes on to describe
'before the Germans arrived workers at the national shipyards had been discharged....it remained uncertain how many workers would be needed and what building projects would proceed. Against this background and no alternatives available for the skilled workers of the shipbuilding industry in Brittany, many workers answered the call of the occupying power to report back to their places of work. It was therefore primarily anxiety for their families which led these men voluntarily to serve the occupying Germans'
In Brest, like Lorient the popn left the town when the bombing began, though many men stayed behind to work others either cycled to work from surrounding areas or took the train. He mentions the deep ties between local businesses and thier German occupiers, citing companies such as Renvoise who'd been working for the KM since August 1940.
In Lorient some 4300 Frenchmen worked in the KM yard alongside 4000 German shipyard workers. In Brest 2500 Frenchmen worked in the KM yard their, with only 450 Germans.

Regards

Andy H

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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Viktor.S » 18 Apr 2020 14:39

Andy H wrote:
18 Apr 2020 13:08
Hi Viktor

There's some useful info in Hitler's Gateway to the Atlantic (German Naval Bases in France 1940-45) b Lars Hellwinkell and in Chapter 5 (Life under German Occupation) he references the above actions at Lorient. He also goes on to describe
'before the Germans arrived workers at the national shipyards had been discharged....it remained uncertain how many workers would be needed and what building projects would proceed. Against this background and no alternatives available for the skilled workers of the shipbuilding industry in Brittany, many workers answered the call of the occupying power to report back to their places of work. It was therefore primarily anxiety for their families which led these men voluntarily to serve the occupying Germans'
In Brest, like Lorient the popn left the town when the bombing began, though many men stayed behind to work others either cycled to work from surrounding areas or took the train. He mentions the deep ties between local businesses and thier German occupiers, citing companies such as Renvoise who'd been working for the KM since August 1940.
In Lorient some 4300 Frenchmen worked in the KM yard alongside 4000 German shipyard workers. In Brest 2500 Frenchmen worked in the KM yard their, with only 450 Germans.

Regards

Andy H
Thank you Andy H, that's just the sort of information I was looking for.

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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Viktor.S » 18 Apr 2020 14:41

Knouterer wrote:
18 Apr 2020 07:10
The Dutch shipyards (like Belgian, French and Norwegian yards) had the advantage that they still had (almost) all their skilled workers, while in Germany many had been called up.
So does this mean that there was a comparative minimum of imported German or other workers in the Dutch shipbuilding industry?
Knouterer wrote:
18 Apr 2020 07:10
They might even have been accused of sabotaging the war effort if they had quit.
Did the Dutch resistance have any connections in the local shipbuilding industry? And did workers in the shipbuilding industry participate in events like the February 1941 strike?

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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 18 Apr 2020 15:29

Viktor.S wrote:
18 Apr 2020 14:41
...

Did the Dutch resistance have any connections in the local shipbuilding industry? And did workers in the shipbuilding industry participate in events like the February 1941 strike?
The short answer is yes. However this was the peak time when the Germans had infiltrated and taken control of the British SOE operation in Netherlands and parts of Belgium. Active members were often arrested, communications with London run by German counter intelligence, and operations heavily interdicted. There were two smaller operations run directly by the Dutch government. One was a intelligence/communication operation connecting the government in London with select leaders in Netherlands. That seems to have been invisible to or not much interdicted by the Germans. The other operation Ive seen referred to as for military intelligence gathering.

The British SOE leadership did not accept that their operation had been hijacked by the Germans until early 1942. They tried some damage control, but never developed any new confidence in Dutch operations. The infiltration or cracking of the AT3 communications link between London and Washington is attributed to the same LtCol Giske who was running German intel & counter intel operations in the region, & who is credited with wrecking the SOE operation in Netherlands.

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Re: Shipyard labour in occupied France, Belgium, and Netherlands

Post by Viktor.S » 22 May 2020 15:57

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
18 Apr 2020 15:29
Thank you. In your research have you come across any information on how the Dutch shipbuilding industry was linked with these resistance networks, i.e. what roles members of this industry undertook for the resistance?

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