Buchenwald Memorial Mittelbau-Dora Memorial Museum Zwangsarbeit im NS

Forced Labor. The Germans, the Forced Laborers and the War

An international touring exhibition of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation, initiated and sponsored by the Remembrance, Responsibility and Future Foundation (EVZ).

The exhibition has completed its tour. It is scheduled for 2023 as a permanent exhibition in the former Gauforum in Weimar.

Ein deutscher Uniformierter (vermutlich ein SS-Angehöriger) schikaniert einen Juden im besetzten Polen, Herbst 1939. Foto: Stadtarchiv Nürnberg

During World War II, more than twenty million persons from all over Europe were forced to perform labor in the German Reich and the occupied countries. National Socialist Germany had long been planning and preparing for war, which was conducted with the aim of subjugating and exploiting Europe. To this end, the occupied areas were pillaged, and millions of men, women and children were deported to the German Reich.

Forced laborers were put to work everywhere – in armament factories and at construction sites, in agriculture, the trades and private households. Every German – whether a soldier in the occupying army in Poland or a farmer’s wife in Thuringia – encountered them. National Socialism’s racist ideology was reflected in all aspects of relations with forced laborers. Yet there was some scope for discretion. Whether a forced laborer underwent humiliation and abuse or encountered some remnant of humanity depended in part on the behavior of his or her overseer.

The core of the exhibition encompasses over sixty representative case studies, which together serve to make the complex topic of forced labor both vivid and tangible for the visitor. The material for these case studies was meticulously researched and assembled especially for the exhibition from archives across Europe.

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