IMT Judgment on Nazi Slave Labor Policy

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IMT Judgment on Nazi Slave Labor Policy

Post by David Thompson » 13 May 2008 05:24

Here are the International Military Tribunal's findings of fact in regard to this particular war crime, taken from the IMT judgment in vol. 22 of the IMT proceedings:
Slave Labor Policy

Article 6 (b) of the Charter provides that the "ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose, of civilian population of or in occupied territory" shall be a War Crime. The laws relating to forced labor by the inhabitants of occupied territories are found in Article 52 of the Hague Convention, which provides:
"Requisition in kind and services shall not be demanded from municipalities or inhabitants except for the needs of the army of occupation. They shall be in proportion to the resources of the country, and of such a nature as not to involve the inhabitants in the obligation of taking part in military operations against their own country."
The policy of the German occupation authorities was in flagrant violation of the terms of this convention. Some idea of this policy may be gathered from the statement made by Hitler in a speech on 9 November 1941:
"The territory which now works for us contains more than 250,000,000 men, but the territory which works indirectly for us now includes more than 350,000,000. In the measure in which it concerns German territory, the domain which we have taken under our administration, it is not doubtful that we shall succeed in harnessing the very last man to this work."

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The actual results achieved were not so complete as this, but the German occupation authorities did succeed in forcing many of the inhabitants of the occupied territories to work for the German war effort, and in deporting at least 5,000,000 persons to Germany to serve German industry and agriculture.

In the early stages of the war, manpower in the occupied territories was under the control of various occupation authorities, and the procedure varied from country to country. In all the occupied territories compulsory labor service was promptly instituted. Inhabitants of the occupied countries were conscripted and compelled to work in local occupations to assist the German war economy. In many cases they were forced to work on German fortifications and military installations. As local supplies of raw materials and local industrial capacity became inadequate to meet the German requirements, the system of deporting laborers to Germany was put into force. By the middle of April 1940 compulsory deportation of laborers to Germany had been ordered in the Government General; and a similar procedure was followed in other eastern territories as they were occupied. A description of this compulsory deportation from Poland was given by Himmler. In an address to SS officers he recalled how in weather 40 degrees below zero they had to "haul away thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands." On a later occasion Himmler stated:
"Whether 10,000 Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interests me only insofar as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished.... We must realize that we have 6 or 7 million foreigners in Germany ... They are none of them dangerous so long as we take severe measures at the merest trifles."
During the first 2 years of the German occupation of France, Belgium, Holland, and Norway, however, an attempt was made to obtain the necessary workers on a voluntary basis. How unsuccessful this was may be seen from the report of the meeting of the Central Planning Board on 1 March 1944. The representative of the Defendant Speer, one Kehrl, speaking of the situation in France, said: "During all this time a great number of Frenchmen were recruited, and voluntarily went to Germany."

He was interrupted by the Defendant Sauckel: "Not only voluntarily, some were recruited forcibly."

To which Kehrl replied: "The calling up started after the recruitment no longer yielded enough results."

To which the Defendant Sauckel replied: "Out of the five million workers who arrived in Germany, not even 200,000 came voluntarily."


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And Kehrl rejoined: "Let us forget for the moment whether or not some slight pressure was used. Formally, at least, they were volunteers."

Committees were set up to encourage recruiting, and a vigorous propaganda campaign was begun to induce workers to volunteer for service in Germany. This propaganda campaign included, for example, the promise that a prisoner of war would be returned for every laborer who volunteered to go to Germany. In some cases it was supplemented by withdrawing the ration cards of laborers who refused to go to Germany, or by discharging them from their jobs and denying them unemployment benefit or an opportunity to work elsewhere. In some cases workers and their families were threatened with reprisals by the Police if they refused to go to Germany. It was on 21 March 1942 that the Defendant Sauckel was appointed Plenipotentiary General for the Allocation of Labor, with authority over "all available manpower, including that of workers recruited abroad, and of prisoners of war."

The Defendant Sauckel was directly under the Defendant Göring as Delegate of the Four Year Plan, and a Göring decree of 27 March 1942 transferred all his authority over manpower to Sauckel. Sauckel's instructions, too, were that foreign labor should be recruited on a voluntary basis, but also provided that "where, however, in the occupied territories, the appeal for volunteers does not suffice, obligatory service and drafting must under all circumstances be resorted to." Rules requiring labor service in Germany were published in all the occupied territories. The number of laborers to be supplied was fixed by Sauckel, and the local authorities were instructed to meet these requirements by conscription if necessary. That conscription was the rule rather than the exception is shown by the statement of Sauckel, already quoted, on 1 March 1944.

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. Manhunts 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


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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."
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 20 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 heating, 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 insanitary; 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


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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 16 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. 30,000 are already employed as gunners. This is an amusing thing, that Russians must work the guns."
And on 4 October 1943, at Posen, Himmler, speaking of the Russian prisoners captured in the early days of the war, said:
"At 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 20 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 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


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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.

Interested readers can find the documentary evidence pertaining to slave labor in the Krupp firm at:

Slave labor in the Krupp industrial combine

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