Missing Stories logo

Forced labour in Serbia during the second World War

Project: Forced labour in Serbia – Producers, COnsumers and COnsequences of F|orced Labour 1941-44

During wartime, almost all belligerents commonly used prisoners of war for forced labour. The European countries had already based their own economies on forced labour, particularly in the colonies, long before the20th century. But forced labour becomes typical and necessary especially in totalitarian systems. The Yugoslav authorities used prisoners of war and political enemies as forced labourers, too, until the early 1950s, as modern historiography has clearly shown.

In 1941, the Nazis established their occupation regime in Serbia,one of the principal aims of which was the exploitation of the natural resources and the workforce.

Forced labour and the Holocaust. In 1941, forced labour for Jews was introduced and perpetuated until the start of the physical destruction of the Serbian Jewish population in the autumn of the same year. They were forced to clear Belgrade and other cities of the rubble from the German bombing of April that year, to work in train stations and the river port loading and unloading goods, to repair damaged sewage systems; but also to work for the private needs of the German and quisling officers;

Forced labour and prisoners of war (POW). During the same period, the Serbian prisoners of war were forced to similar work;

Quisling Serbia and forced labour. In March 1942, the Milan Nedić government, hand in hand with the German occupation authorities, introduced the “National Labour Service”, a forced-labour-based service for all men between ages17 and45. By the end of the war, about 40,000 men were recruited and used in many fields of the Serbian quisling economy system.

The copper mines/camp system in Bor. The German exploitation system in Serbia used forced labour mainly in mining. As many as about 30,000 men worked in the Bor mine alone, one of the key copper mines of the Third Reich industry.

Deportations of forced labourers from Serbia to the Third Reich. The Sajmište concentration camp in Belgrade was the main transit point for all forced workers sent into the Third Reich from the Balkans. Many of them never returned.