Use of Slave Labor in German War Industries (Part 2 of 2)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter X

After a demand for concentration camp labor had been created, and a mechanism set up by Speer for exploiting this labor in armament factories, measures were evolved for increasing the supply of victims for extermination through work. A steady flow was assured by the agreement between Himmler and the Minister of Justice mentioned above. This was implemented by such programs as the following, expressed in Sauckel's letter of 126 January 1942 to Presidents of Landes Employment Offices regarding the program for the evacuation of Poles from the Lublin district: [Page 918] "The Poles who are to be evacuated as a result of this measure will be put into concentration camps and put to work where they are criminal or asocial elements." (L-61) General measures were supplemented by special drives far persons who would not otherwise have been sent to concentration camps. For example, for "reasons of war necessity" Himmler ordered on 17 December 1942 that at least 35,000 prisoners qualified for work should be transferred immediately to concentration camps, (106-D-PS).

The order provided that: "For reasons of war necessity not to be discussed further here, the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police on 114 February 1942 has ordered that until the end of January 1943, at least 35,000 prisoners qualified for work, are to be sent to the concentration camps. In order to reach this number, the following measures are required: "1. As of now (so far until 1 February 1943) all eastern workers or such foreign workers who have been fugitives, or who have broken contracts, and who do not belong to allied, friendly or neutral States are to be brought by the quickest means to the nearest concentration camps ***. "2. The commanders and the commandants of the security police and the security service, and the chiefs of the State Police Headquarters will check immediately on the basis of a close and strict ruling a. the prisons b. the labor reformatory camps "All prisoners qualified for work, if it is essentially and humanly possible, will be committed at once to the nearest concentration camp, according to the following instructions, for instance also if penal procedures were to be established in the near future. Only such prisoners who in the interest of investigation procedures are to remain absolutely in solitary confinement can be left there. "Every single laborer counts!" (1063-D-PS)

Measures were also adopted to insure that extermination through work was practiced with maximum efficiency. Subsidiary concentration camps were established near important war plants. Speer has admitted that he personally toured Upper Austria and selected sites for concentration camps near various munitions factories in the area. This admission appears in the transcript of an interrogation of Speer under oath on 18 October 1945, in which Speer stated: "The fact that we were anxious to use workers from concentration camps in factories and to establish small concentration camps near the factories in order to use the manpower that was available there was a general fact. But it did not only come up in connection with this trip." [i.e. Speer's trip to Austria]. (3720-PS) Goering endorsed this use of concentration camp labor and asked for more. In a teletype which Goering sent to Himmler on 14 February 1944, he stated: "At the same time I ask you to put at my disposal as great a number of concentration camp (KZ) convicts as possible for air armament, as this kind of manpower proved to be very useful according to previous experience. The situation of the air war makes subterranean transfer of industry necessary. For work of this kind concentration camp (KZ) convicts can be especially well concentrated at work and in the camp." (1584-I-PS)

Speer subsequently assumed responsibility for this program, and Hitler promised Speer that if the necessary labor for the program could not be obtained, a hundred thousand Hungarian Jews would be brought in by the SS. Speer's record of conferences with Hitler on 6 April 1944 and 7 April 1944, contain the following quotation: "*** Suggested to the Fuehrer that, due to lack of builders and equipment, the second big building project should not be set up in German territory, but in close vicinity to the border on suitable soil (preferable on gravel base and with transport facilities) on French, Belgian or Dutch territory. The Fuehrer agrees to this suggestion if the works could be set up behind a fortified zone. For the suggestion of setting this plant up in French territory speaks mainly the fact that it would be much easier to procure the necessary workers. Nevertheless, the Fuehrer asks an attempt be made to set up the second works in a safer area, namely in the Protectorate. If it should prove impossible there, too, to get hold of the necessary workers, the Fuehrer himself will contact the Reichsfuehrer SS and will give an order that the required 100,000 men are to be made available by bringing in Jews from Hungary.

Stressing the fact that the building organization of the Industriegemeinschaft Schlesien Silesia was a failure, the Fuehrer demands that these works must be built by the O.T. exclusively and that the workers should be made available by the Reichsfuehrer SS. He wants to hold a meeting shortly in order to discuss details with all the men concerned." (R-124) [Page 920] The character of the treatment inflicted on Allied nationals and other victims of concentration camp while they were being worked to death is described in an official report prepared by a US Congressional Committee which inspected the liberated camps at the request of General Eisenhower (159). The report states in part: "*** The treatment accorded to these prisoners in the concentration camps was generally as follows: They were herded together in some wooden barracks not large enough for one-tenth of their number. They were forced to sleep on wooden frames covered with wooden boards in tiers of two, three and even four, sometimes with no covering, sometimes with a bundle of dirty rags serving both as pallet and coverlet.

"Their food consisted generally of about one-half of a pound of black bread per day and a bowl of watery soup for noon and night, and not always that. Owing to the great numbers crowded into a small space and to the lack of adequate sustenance, lice and vermin multiplied, disease became rampant, and those who did not soon die of disease or torture began the long, slow process of starvation. Notwithstanding the deliberate starvation program inflicted upon these prisoners by lack of adequate food, we found no evidence that the people of Germany as a whole were suffering from any lack of sufficient food or clothing. The contrast was so striking that the only conclusion which we could reach was that the starvation of the inmates of these camps was deliberate. "Upon entrance into these camps, newcomers were forced to work either at an adjoining war factory or were placed 'in commando' on various jobs in the vicinity, being returned each night to their stall in the barracks. Generally a German criminal was placed in charge of each 'block' or shed in which the prisoners slept. Periodically he would choose the one prisoner of his block who seemed the most alert or intelligent or showed the most leadership qualities.

These would report to the guards' room and would never be heard from again. The generally-accepted belief of the prisoners was that these were shot or gassed or hanged and then cremated. A refusal to work or an infraction of the rules usually meant flogging and other types of torture, such as having the fingernails pulled out, and in each case usually ended in death after extensive suffering. The policies herein described con- [Page 921] stituted a calculated and diabolical program of planned torture and extermination on the part of those who were in control of the German Government ***." "On the whole, we found this camp to have been operated and administered much in the same manner as Buchenwald had been operated and managed. When the efficiency of the workers decreased as a result of the conditions under which they were required to live, their rations were decreased as punishment. This brought about a vicious circle in which the weak became weaker and were ultimately exterminated." (159) Such was the cycle of work, torture, starvation and death for concentration camp labor -- labor which Goering, while requesting that more of it be placed at his disposal, said had proved very useful; labor which Speer was "anxious" to use in the factories under his control.

Previous | Documents index |

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 2005.

Timeline People Arts Activities Resources