Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

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Jon G.
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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by Jon G. » 11 May 2008 18:55

michael mills wrote:
...and of course the amount of available food was affected by transfers to Germany.
The use of the term "transfers" conveys an impression of seizures or forced deliveries, which did not occur. A more accurate term would be "exports" which were paid for...
Yes. Instead of outright acquisitions, the German occupiers had issued themselves with what effectively amounted to an unlimited credit for purchasing French goods. That amounts to the same thing; you're adding a voluntary element to the German occupation of France which wasn't there.

As for the cost/benefit balance when assessing the German occupation of France, this post by David Thompson is very instructive http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=62936
The occupation costs paid by France, and the artificially low exchange rate imposed by Germany (artificially low by comparison with the pre-war values of the Reichsmark and the franc expressed in dollars) did give German importers enormous purchasing power in France, more than they otherwise would have had. But the point I was making that food acquired by Germans in France, including purchases on the black market, was paid for, which was a decisive consideration for French food producers...
I posted an excerpt of the IMT indictment upthread. I don't mind posting it again for your benefit:
...Removal of Agricultural Produce.

Total: 126,655,852,000 francs, i. e., for the principal products.

Wheat 2,947,337 tons
Oats 2,354,080 tons
Milk 790,000 hectolitres
Milk (concentrated and in powder) 460,000 "
Butter 76,000 tons
Cheese 49,000 "
Potatoes 725,975 "
Various vegetables 575,000 "
Wine 7,647,000 hectoliteres
Champagne 87,000,000 bottles
Beer 3,821,520 hectolitres
Various kinds of alcohol 1,830,000 "...From this website
michael mills wrote:From the point of view of a French peasant, it did not matter whether the agricultural produce purchased from him was shipped to Germany to be consumed by Germans or remained in France to be consumed by his fellow countrymen. What mattered to him was whether his produce was paid for at market prices, and not simply seized or compulsorily acquired at a fixed low price. Thus, for French food producers, the time of the German occupation was still a "happy time" in many ways. If there was a flow of food from France to Germany, it was because French producers were willing to sell it to German purchasers for hard cash, not because the German occupiers forced the producers to hand it over.
Obviously, payment for goods was not an issue for the German occupiers, who had practically unlimited credit and the mentioned highly favourable exchange rate to boot.
A reduction in the total amount of food available in wartime France was more probably due on the one hand to a fall in the productivity of French agriculture, which was had a very inefficient structure consisting mainly of small peasant farms, and on the other to the Allied blockade which restricted imports, particularly after the invasion of French North Africa.
That, and also the fact that metropolitan France was cut off from oil imports (French fuel stocks were taken as war booty), imports of farming machinery and spares for farming machinery were curtailed, imports of fertilizers were cut off, horses and motor vehicles (which were also requisitioned as war booty) were in short supply and, above all, the crippling shortage of labour, particularly in the non-occupied zone.
As for the difference between an armistice and a peace treaty, it was Jon G who initially ignored that difference by claiming that the provisions of the Franco-German armistice of 1940 were based on those of the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Any comparison of the two sets of provisions show that the armistice was not as punitive as the Versailles Treaty.
Either you're taking the comparison too far, or you are building a straw man. My original point was simply to falsify ThomasG's erroneous claim that the armistice contained no punitive measures.

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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by David Thompson » 11 May 2008 22:56

Michael -- You asked (about the 25 June 1940 Armistice):
Perhaps Jon G could tell us the clauses in the Framco-German armistice agreement of June 1940 which required France to:
. . .
4. To agree to hand over parts of its territory to other countries.
Are you forgetting about the de facto annexation of most of Alsace-Lorraine into the Reich, which, while not required by the terms of the armistice, nonetheless happened shortly afterwards, in 1940?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alsace-Lorraine

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Ranke
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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by Ranke » 12 May 2008 00:48

I stumbled across this book announcement:

Simon Kitson, The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France, U of Chicago Press, 2008.
www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/438931.html

It has a long excerpt which I didn't want to copy here that surveys the armistice and occupation before moving on to espionage.

Readers should also check out Julian Jackson, The Dark Years. Simply brilliant.

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Patzinak
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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by Patzinak » 12 May 2008 03:20

michael mills wrote:It is important to realise that the German occupation of France, initially over part of the country, from the end of 1942 over all of it, was always only a military occupation, never a political one.
A very interesting statement. Supporting sources?
michael mills wrote:The German Military Administration that was then set up had no political power in France; its sole purpose was to manage the German armed forces stationed in the country, and its police powers were limited to measures to ensure the security of the German armed forces. That is to say, the German Military Administration could take police action against French citizens or other persons in France who attacked or otherwise posed a threat to the security of the German armed forces, but otherwise it had no governmental power over French citizens.
Curiouser and curiouser. The German military administration also included an administrative staff, with an economics division, headed by Elmar Michel, a career civil servant. This division was tasked, among other things, with overseeing currency, credit, and insurance; monitoring the French Finance Ministry, French banks (including Banque de France) and insurance companies (Aly, p145). Supervising the Banque de France seems to me a rather strange form of "no political power".

Moreover, "it is important to realise" that the devil is in the details. France was divided in 5 zones -- Alsace-Lorraine, incorporated informally in the Reich; departments Nord and Pas-de-Calais, administered from Brussels; a small Italian occupation zone; and the other two already discussed. Were all these zones treated uniformly? Was the experience of the local population uniform over these 5 zones? I suspect a negative answer (cf Lynne Taylor's "Between Resistance and Collaboration…").
michael mills wrote:Of course, the German Government, via the Armistice Commission in Wiesbaden and its Embassy in Paris, exerted enormous pressure on the French Government at Vichy to provide economic support for its war effort. Probably the major contribution which the French Government made to the German war effort was in the form of occupation costs […]
Incomplete. France was also forced to provide financing for export to Germany (clearing advances), and French firms were forced to sell for (worthless) RKK certificates. To paraphrase Arnoult, most of what the Germans took from France wasn't taken by force; it was purchased -- with money taken from the French.

These moneys included the profits from manipulating the exchange rate, as well as sundry other little robberies -- eg, Wehrmacht-imposed special fines on selected cities (FF10 mil in Nantes, FF6 mil in Cherbourg, FF2 mil in Bordeaux), or the RM5 mil in savings confiscated from French citizens expelled from Alsace-Lorraine. (It's all detailed in Aly, pp144-152.) And then there was the stuff confiscated directly -- such as, by mid-1941, 188,000 tons of non-ferrous metals and some 10,000 of the latest imported (US-made) machine tools (Radke-Delacor, p108).

Happy days in Paris, indeed -- but not for the French.

Sources:
  • Aly, G (2007) Hitler's beneficiaries : plunder, racial war, and the Nazi welfare state. New York: Metropolitan Books. ISBN 0805079262.

    Radtke-Delacor, A (2001) Produire pour le Reich. Les commandes allemandes à l'industrie française (1940–1944). Vingtième Siècle (70): 99–115.
--Patzinak

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Ranke
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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by Ranke » 12 May 2008 03:40

Oh Oh, Patzinak is at it again. Not only is he quoting "obscure English language sources," he's now quoting obscure French language sources.

Sorry, I couldn't resist...

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Patzinak
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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by Patzinak » 12 May 2008 05:21

michael mills wrote:[…] From the point of view of a French peasant, it did not matter whether the agricultural produce purchased from him was shipped to Germany to be consumed by Germans or remained in France to be consumed by his fellow countrymen. What mattered to him was whether his produce was paid for at market prices, and not simply seized or compulsorily acquired at a fixed low price. Thus, for French food producers, the time of the German occupation was still a "happy time" in many ways.
(That brings to mind an old quip in the spirit of Wittgenstein -- how do you, who are/were not a French peasant, know what mattered to the French peasant? Wovon man nicht sprechen kann… Oh well.)

It seems to me that the topic was "Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?". I'm willing to go out on a limb here and wager that there weren't all that many peasants tilling the Champs Elysées, were there?

As to the matter of the "happiness" of the French peasant under occupation, I see a few problems (other than the lack of supporting references, that is).

(1) The "French peasant" under Occupation is treated as a uniform entity. But Occupation wasn't uniform -- it wasn't the same in Pas-de-Calais as in the Gironde. Nor was the "French peasant" a socio-economically undifferentiated mass. Roughly half of French farms were small (1–10 ha), and one quarter medium (10–50 ha). Was the Occupation felt in the same way, irrespective of farm size? Moreover, farm distribution was not uniform -- eg, most farms in the Beauce were medium and large (>50 ha), whereas in Aveyron most were <10 ha. Did the peasants in the Beauce feel the same way as those in Aveyron?

(2) Does the available data support the notion of a "happy time" for "French food producers"? It seems to me that relative to pre-war, overall production fell significantly (18%, wheat; 40%, potatoes; 30%, milk). That doesn't look like "happy times" -- even if one doesn't consider the 15% of production which was shipped directly to the Reich. Inflation hit hard; according to data cited by Dutton (p406), in Puy-de-Dôme, while official prices for the principal farm products rose in 1939–43 by 217%, the price of agricultural inputs rose by 308%. In Puy-de-Dôme, at least, that doesn't sound like "happy times" -- despite Vichy's effort to improve the situation by unprecedented spending on welfare schemes targeted (for ideological reasons) at the peasantry (Dutton, pp406–407).

(3) Then there is the issue of forced labour and POWs. Spoerer and Fleischhacker distinguish four categories of labour in the Reich: privileged, forced, slave, and less-than-slave. By and large, French labourers in Germany fall in the second category, as do French POWs (pp173–5). In total, they find over 1 mil French civilian labourers, plus over 1.2 mil French POWs (Tables 4 and 5). How did these numbers affect the "French peasant"? How many of these men were peasants, whose families had to struggle on somehow, without them?

(4) And what about the meaning of "happiness"? It seems to me the grossest kind of economic determinism -- the kind that would shame even an unregenerate Marxist -- to equate happiness with the price of agricultural products. Income, no doubt, plays a major part -- but is that the only determinant of happiness? Had the "French peasant" no feeling whatever of patriotism? Was he utterly indifferent to his country's humiliating defeat and subsequent events?

Sources:
  • Dutton, PV (2000) An Overlooked Source of Social Reform: Family Policy in French Agriculture, 1936–1945. J Mod Hist 72(2): 375–412.

    Spoerer, M; Fleischhacker, J (2002) Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany: Categories, Numbers, and Survivors. J Interdiscipl Hist 33(2): 169–204.
--Patzinak

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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by Historykid » 12 May 2008 12:30

Hello everybody,

I need help with my history extension project, and I would really appreciate it if some of you could help me.

My question is, "To what extent did Vichy France 'collaborate' with the Nazis in the implementation of the 'Final Solution'?"

I need some help with the historians I am to choose. It's a 2500 word paper, and I really want to get it right because I'm a high school student and the mark I score with this would really help.

I need to choose historians who are of different background and are of opposing views. A historian who is strongly of the belief that Vichy willingly collaborated would be Robert O. Paxton. I need some historians who stand middle ground (Kitson? Kedward?) and those who believe that Vichy participated in the Holocaust only to a small extent (Sweets? Burrin?)

If you could help me, that would be very gladly appreciated. :D

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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by michael mills » 12 May 2008 13:40

Curiouser and curiouser. The German military administration also included an administrative staff, with an economics division, headed by Elmar Michel, a career civil servant. This division was tasked, among other things, with overseeing currency, credit, and insurance; monitoring the French Finance Ministry, French banks (including Banque de France) and insurance companies (Aly, p145). Supervising the Banque de France seems to me a rather strange form of "no political power".
A book I have recently read, Alan Milward's "The New Order and the French Economy" (Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1970) has quite a bit to say about Michel and economic staff attached to the German Military Administration. Milward's interpretation of Michel's role appears to be different from that taken by Aly; he presents that role as being one of negotiating with French officials in the economic ministries, not one of giving orders to them. If the German Government wanted the French Government to carry out a particular economic action, it presented its demands at the Armistice Commission, backed up by threats of force in case of French resistance. According to Milward, after 1941 the role of the Armistice Commission declined in importance, in favour of direct communication and cooperation between german and French ministires, in particular between Speer and Bichelonne. However, French ministers did not take orders from German officials, but were responsible to Petain and the French Prime Minister of the day. Keeping an eye on what French Government agencies were doing is a far cry from giving them orders.
(2) Does the available data support the notion of a "happy time" for "French food producers"? It seems to me that relative to pre-war, overall production fell significantly (18%, wheat; 40%, potatoes; 30%, milk). That doesn't look like "happy times" -- even if one doesn't consider the 15% of production which was shipped directly to the Reich. Inflation hit hard; according to data cited by Dutton (p406), in Puy-de-Dôme, while official prices for the principal farm products rose in 1939–43 by 217%, the price of agricultural inputs rose by 308%. In Puy-de-Dôme, at least, that doesn't sound like "happy times" -- despite Vichy's effort to improve the situation by unprecedented spending on welfare schemes targeted (for ideological reasons) at the peasantry (Dutton, pp406–407).
Obviously the economic situation of France during the war was worse than it was during peace time. But it is necessary to distinguish between those developments that were a result of German actions, and those that were a result of the general war situation. Times were tough in Britain too, even though it was not occupied. Bringing about a reduction in French food production certainly was not German Government policy, rather the reverse.

As for 15% of food production being "shipped directly to the Reich", that statement needs clarification. Is it claimed that 15% of French food production was seized by the German occupiers? Or is that the proportion of total food production that was exported to Germany in return for payment?

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Patzinak
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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by Patzinak » 12 May 2008 17:16

michael mills wrote:[…] Milward's interpretation of Michel's role appears to be different from that taken by Aly […]
Could that be explained by the 30-plus years difference between the two? Anyway, I asked for sources. Is Milward your authority for believing that "The German Military Administration […] had no political power in France"? (Btw, does that include the SS and Abetz, or just Stülpnagel?) And does it include German involvement in such purely political matters as the release of Laval and Déat or the formation of RNP?
michael mills wrote:[…] According to Milward, after 1941 the role of the Armistice Commission declined in importance, in favour of direct communication and cooperation between german and French ministires, in particular between Speer and Bichelonne.[…]
But:
Milward wrote:As far as Speer was concerned the biggest contribution the French economy could make was the manufacture of consumer goods. […]

Speer was not able to offer [Bichelonne] a complete halt to the labour draft. Between themselves, however, the two Ministers agreed that in all industries covered by the new production agreements the plant should be covered by a special classification, "S-Betrieb", which would guarantee protection from the draft. […]

The agreements […] were ratified by Hitler on 1 October [1943]. […]

There were many reasons for the failure of the Speer-Bichelonne agreements. […]

Sauckel rejected [Speer's] new policy from the outset […] In November [1943] Sauckel first broached his plans fro transporting one million workers from France to Germany in 1944. […] Within two months this […] had become official [German] policy.

On 23 November Sauckel announced his plans to the French government. At the same time as the increase in industrial employment was taking place in that country 80,000 workers a month would be transferred to Germany. The level of wages in France would be brought back to its 1939 level to provide greater incentive for the workers to leave. […]

There was not the slightest chance that 80,000 workers a month would be obtained from the French economy. In spite of the most violent methods less than 20,000 were obtained in the first four months of the year. Nor was there the slightest chance that the Speer-Bichelonne agreements could succeed in such circumstances. In the three months of their relatively secure existence they had permitted great increases in the value of German orders for consumer goods in France. Orders to the value of 53 million Reichsmarks were placed for cosmetics and to the value of 23 million Reichsmarks for shoes. But the increase in iron and steel production and in coal output failed to materialize. In fact in October 1943 coal output actually fell. The Speer-Bichelonne agreements had not lived up to expectations before Hitler's decision of 4 January. Nevertheless, after that decision there was no hope for either policy. […]
(The stress is mine.)
michael mills wrote:[…] But it is necessary to distinguish between those developments that were a result of German actions, and those that were a result of the general war situation. […]
Why? The issue is "happy days", not why those days weren't happy. If you agree that "Paris Under the Nazis" did not mean "Happy Days" either for Parisians, or for the "French peasant", fine. Then we can argue why those days weren't happy -- a different topic for a different thread.

Source:
  • Milward, AS (1970) French Labour and the German Economy, 1942–1945: An Essay on the Nature of the Fascist New Order. Econ Hist Rev 23(2): 336–51.
--Patzinak

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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by David Thompson » 12 May 2008 17:51

For an overview of some of the unhappy economic aspects of the German occupation of France, "that were a result of German actions," see this newly-added thread in the H&WC section of the forum:

Economic War Crimes: Plundering France
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=139115

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Patzinak
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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by Patzinak » 12 May 2008 18:54

Ranke wrote:Oh Oh, Patzinak is at it again. […] he's now quoting obscure French language sources.
Vive le bilinguisme, parbleu!

--Patzinak

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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by michael mills » 13 May 2008 02:18

Why? The issue is "happy days", not why those days weren't happy. If you agree that "Paris Under the Nazis" did not mean "Happy Days" either for Parisians, or for the "French peasant", fine. Then we can argue why those days weren't happy -- a different topic for a different thread.
The essential point being made by the person who started this thread was that the German occupation of France was relatively humane.

My messages on this thread have addressed the question of whether the German occupation authorities inflicted great suffering on the French people, either through political rule or by economic measures such as confiscation of their possessions. My view is that they did not, apart from the small number who, by agreement with the French Government, were subjected to extraordinary rendition. The standard of living of most of the French population was lower during the war than it had been up to 1940, but that outcome was due primarily to general wartime conditions, including cessation of most overseas trade caused by the Allied blockade, rather than to specific measures imposed by the German occupiers.

Certain occurrences during the period of occupation have been adduced by some cotributors to this thread as indicators of suffering inflicted on the French population by the German occupiers, one being the transfer of labour to Germany, both voluntary and conscripted. However, the war and the French defeat had led to widespread unemployment in France, caused by a fall in economic activity. Both the transfer of workers to Germany and their recruitment to work in France to produce for export to Germany helped to relieve a lot of that unemployment. French workers in Germany were paid higher wages than in France, and provided a benefit to the French economy through their remittances to their relatives at home.

The main reason why the German government eventually decided to give priority to the transfer of French labour to Germany rather than employing them in France on production for Germany was because their productivity in German factories was higher than in France. Initially, the movement of French labour to Germany was voluntary, rather like the movement of Mexican labour to the United States, but by late 1943 French workers had become very reluctant to go to work in Germany, mainly because work in German factories had become very hazardous due to the fact that those factories were constantly being bombed, much more so than factories in France. That is why Germany resorted to the draft, which however it could not impose unilaterally on France, but only introduce with the agreement of the French Government. Bichelonne, as Minister for Industrial Production, was one of the main movers in the introduction of the Service du Travail Obligatoire.

One of the most important points made by Milward in his book (of which the article quoted by Patzinak is largely an abstract) is that the post-war economic cooperation between France and Germany which formed the basis of the Common Market and eventually the European Union, had its origin in the close economic ties that developed between France and Germany during the war (albeit on more equal terms post-war). Whereas before the war Germany's main economic partners had been East European countries such as Hungary and Romania, during the war France became Germany's main trading partner and its trade with East European countries declined significantly; that situation continued in the post-war period.

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Peter H
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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by Peter H » 13 May 2008 02:33

Devaluation of franc imposed by Germany:

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=83242

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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by David Thompson » 13 May 2008 03:25

Michael Mills wrote:

(1)
The standard of living of most of the French population was lower during the war than it had been up to 1940, but that outcome was due primarily to general wartime conditions, including cessation of most overseas trade caused by the Allied blockade, rather than to specific measures imposed by the German occupiers.
This is demonstrably false, as I have already pointed out. The drastically lower standard of living in Nazi-occupied France, compared to that of pre-war years, was due to systemic looting by German occupation authorities:

Economic War Crimes: Plundering France
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=139115

(2)
However, the war and the French defeat had led to widespread unemployment in France, caused by a fall in economic activity. Both the transfer of workers to Germany and their recruitment to work in France to produce for export to Germany helped to relieve a lot of that unemployment. French workers in Germany were paid higher wages than in France, and provided a benefit to the French economy through their remittances to their relatives at home.

The main reason why the German government eventually decided to give priority to the transfer of French labour to Germany rather than employing them in France on production for Germany was because their productivity in German factories was higher than in France. Initially, the movement of French labour to Germany was voluntary, rather like the movement of Mexican labour to the United States, but by late 1943 French workers had become very reluctant to go to work in Germany, mainly because work in German factories had become very hazardous due to the fact that those factories were constantly being bombed, much more so than factories in France. That is why Germany resorted to the draft, which however it could not impose unilaterally on France, but only introduce with the agreement of the French Government. Bichelonne, as Minister for Industrial Production, was one of the main movers in the introduction of the Service du Travail Obligatoire.
This is also false, and will be the subject of my next thread in the H&WC section, where war crimes are discussed. Until that thread is posted, I'll leave our readers with this portion of the International Military Tribunal's judgment, from vol. 22 of the IMT proceedings:
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."

487

30 Sept. 46

And Kehrl rejoined: "Let us forget for the moment whether or not some slight pressure was used. Formally, at least, they were volunteers."
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/09-30-46.htm

The section of the IMT judgment dealing with Nazi slave labor projects generally, which includes those in France and western Europe, is posted at http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=139129

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Re: Paris Under the Nazis: Happy Days?

Post by David Thompson » 13 May 2008 17:18

See also:

Forced Labor in Nazi-Occupied France
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=139132

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