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Place of Remembrance of Forced Labor in the Volkswagen Factory

Place of Remembrance of Forced Labor in the Volkswagen Factory
Forced Labor in the Third Reich. An Introduction.
Hans Mommsen

The use of millions of foreign workers as forced laborers was a prominent feature of the National Socialist wartime economy. Far from being an exception in this regard, Volkswagenwerk GmbH in fact relied on involuntary labor to a disproportionate extent. This was primarily a consequence of the company’s inability to build up a regular workforce of its own prior to the beginning of the Second World War. Neither the recruitment of Dutch workers nor extensive advertising campaigns in the less developed peripheral regions of the Reich, such as on the Lower Rhine and in the Lausitz (the area around Cottbus and Gˆrlitz), yielded more than limited success.

In the years 1943 and 1944, when the use of forced labor reached its peak, forced laborers and foreign workers assigned to obligatory service (îDienstverpflichteteî) accounted for more than two thirds of the total workforce and as much as 80 % of all production workers. This put the Volkswagenwerk at the top of the scale in the use of foreign workers, the average use of whom in German armaments factories was only 30 %. Under the pressure of circum stances, Volkswagenwerk GmbH moved into the vanguard of this development and strove from early on to find ways and means to facilitate the use of forced laborers from an organizational point of view.