This blog’s future agenda. Updates about forced labour in Berlin during the Second World War.

Lees de Nederlandse vertaling van deze update op de site van Jonge Historici Schrijven Geschiedenis.

Dear audience,

seen my upcoming thesis will be about forced labour in Berlin during World War II – it is useless to keep it a secret that most of the upcoming updates will be about this topic. My following weekly updates will generally be about the circumstances of 20th century slavery in Berlin as reinvented and initiated by Nazi Germany. Towards the end of WWII, there were around the 10 million forced labourers within Germany – of which 400.000 lived in Berlin.

French Propaganda, 1942

French Propaganda, 1942. Text: “You’ve got the key to the camps. French workers. You can liberate the Prisoners (of War) and work in Germany”

In the following updates, one can expect to read about both ‘top-down’ (administrative) facts as ‘bottom-up’ impressions and anecdotes from the labourers. Initially, a serious number of western labourers started to work in Germany without any political pressure. How did the propaganda look like in those days? How were those propaganda techniques? And when did the nazi’s force labourers to work for them? How did the recruitment develop in eastern Europe? When it comes to personal anecdotes, there are a variety of topics. The most labourers were forced to live in a barrack. Where were those camps? And how did they travell to which fabrics? There was a serious epidemic of Wanzen (bedbugs) – how were the sanitory services? How did the western and eastern forced labourers think of each other? Than, there were lucky labourers from western countries who managed to sleep in the bed of a lover in stead of at the barracks – was their jealousy towards them? And how could eastern labourers soothe their suffering? How did Berlin’s population react on forced labours and their camps amidst them and their neighbourhood? In the meanwhile – there were also smaller companies who made use of forced labourers. How much can we reconstruct of those companies? Where were these companies situated – do they even still exist?

Family party. In the background the previous forced labour camp at the Steinstraße (Berlin-Lichtenrade)

From 1943 onwards, the Allied bombs frequently fell on Berlin – causing a general relief among forced labourers. In total, Berlin was attacked by air raids 363 times, of which the biggest one took place on the 3rd of February 1945. Did the forced labourers still consider these actions as a consequence of liberation? More forced labourers decided to flee, mostly in April 1945. The end of their forced labour was the begin of a spooky way back to their home countries. Once they were back, the forced labourers were often mingled with the previous voluntary labourers and were threated as collaborators. Stalin even sended many of them to Siberia, where there was more forced labour to work on. This public and stalinist conviction of forced labourers are different to the post-war law and court. Fritz Sauckel – the main organisor of the slave- and forced labour – was accused for crimes against humanity during the Nuremberg process. Sauckel was sentenced to death in October 1946.

Fritz Sauckel, 1938. ©Stadtmuseum Weimar. Photo by Ella Beyer-Held.

Thematically, I will alter the history of a particular forced labour camp with the history of a particular group of labourers. It is likely that the moment comes that there won’t be recognisable site in Berlin which is connected to the topic. If it’s not avoided, I will try by best to compensate it with a more thrilling site. And although I am motivated to combine my thesis with the blog, I need to avoid diminishing the joy I’ve had in the search for a topic and visiting new places. Therefore, the updates about historical sites like done so far will continue – though in a lesser extent. One could see it that forced labour in Berlin will be the blog’s smain topic for the upcoming six months.

With this update, I hope I’ve informed you well on the blog’s future plans! For any questions further, please leave a comment or write me an email (joepdevisser1989@gmail.com).

Best regards,
Joep

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