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Forced and Slave Labor in Nazi-Dominated Europe

Forced and Slave Labor in Nazi-Dominated Europe
Symposium Presentations

Civilians, including concentration camp prisoners, deportees, foreign nationals, and Jews, as well as prisoners of war were forced into the sprawling forced and slave labor system that encompassed Europe and supported the war efforts of the Nazi regime and Germany’s Axis allies. Forced and slave labor was used in road-building and defense works; the chemical, construction, metal, mining, and munitions industries; in agriculture; at installations working at the highest levels of technology; and to perform menial tasks. Such labor was integral to concentration camps and their subcamps, farms, ghettos, labor battalions, church institutions, prisoner-of-war camps, and private industries in Germany, other Axis countries, and Axis-occupied territories east and west.

The pervasive and in some instances undisguised nature of this system is striking. Forced and slave labor took place not only in closed facilities, such as concentration and prisoner-of-war camps hidden from public eyes, but in many instances was a visible presence in the fabric of daily life: in the countryside on farms; in towns and cities across Europe when members of localized labor battalions assembled in the early morning and returned to their homes at dusk; and in ghettos, where Jews, often segregated only by barbed wire and therefore highly visible to their non-Jewish neighbors, hoped that labor might mean life.