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Jewish Slave Labour and its Relationship to the ‘Final Solution’

  • Donald Bloxham
Chapter

Abstract

Nazi slave labour is a subject of some contemporary political importance. With marked regularity, evidence — long known about in historical circles — has appeared in the news media of the complicity of several household names in inhuman system of exploitation during the war years. As this article was written, representatives of the victims and the heirs of some of the perpetrators were working to establish guidelines for financial compensation in a deal brokered and contributed to by the German government. The ‘Foundation Initiative’ of a group of German enterprises, officially entitled ‘Remembrance, Responsibility and Future’, will administer the funds contributed by the subscribing firms. (The final sum of money, established after extensive and often acrimonious debate, is in the region of $5.2m.2)

Keywords

Final Solution Jewish Community Concentration Camp Slave Labour German Industry 
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Notes

  1. 4.
    Benjamin Ferencz, Less than Slaves: Jewish Forced Labour and the Quest for Compensation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979).Google Scholar
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    Hermann Langbein, ‘Arbeit in KZ-System’, in Dachauer Hefte 2: Sklavenarbeit im KZ, (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1986), 3–12 on the ‘life-chances’ of workers; also Franciszek Piper, Arbeitseinsatz der Häftlinge aus dem KL Auschwitz, (Oswiecim: Auschwitz, State Museum), p.333.Google Scholar
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    Ulrich Herbert, ‘Labor as Spoils of Conquest 1933–1945’, in David Crew (ed.), Nazism and German Society 1933–1945, (London: Routledge, 1994), 219–273, p.219.Google Scholar
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    Walter Naasner, Neue Machtzentren in der deutschen Kriegswirtschaft 1942–1945 (Bopp.ard/Rhein: Harald Boldt, 1994), p.445. It is only really in the use of slave labour that the WVHA can be considered a genuinely important power centre.Google Scholar
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    Ulrich Herbert, ‘Arbeit und Vernichtung’ in Dan Diner (ed.), Ist der Nationalsozialismus Geschichte? (Frankfurt/M: Fischer, 1987), 198–237; and his ‘Labour as Spoils of Conquest’, for an expansion of this point. On the ‘racial’ hierarchy.Google Scholar
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    Much of this section is taken from Christopher Browning, The Path to Genocide: Essays on Launching the Final Solution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp.28–56. For a different analysis of ghetto administration on economic-rational lines, see Götz Aly and Suzanne Heim, ‘Menschenvernichtung und wirtschaftliche Neuordnung’, in Sozialpolitik und Judenvernichtung, 11–90, pp.67–79 on the economics of ghetto management.Google Scholar
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    The population shifts were allowed for in the so-called ‘Generalplan Ost’, a vast scheme of ‘racial’ reordering of Eastern Europe. The history of the Durchgangstrasse IV is drawn in the main from Thomas Sandkühler, ‘Endlösung’in Galizien (Bonn: JHW Dietz, 1996), pp.146–159.Google Scholar
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    Sandkühler estimates that Heydrich’s talk of using slave labour for road construction projects as a means of decimating the hardier Jews may well have been influenced by the events in Galicia. See also Hermann Kaienburg, ‘Jüdischer Arbeit an der “Strasse der SS”’, 1999. Zeitschrift für Sozialgeschichte des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts, vol. 11 (1996), 13–39. See Martin Broszat, ‘Hitler and the Genesis of the Final Solution’, Yad Vashem Studies, vol.13 (1979); andGoogle Scholar
  30. Hans Mommsen, ‘The Realisation of the Unthinkable: the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” in the Third Reich’, in Gerhard Hirschfeld (ed.), The Policies of Genocide, (London: German Historical Institute, 1986). Both Pohl and Sandkühler argue however (in contrast to the classic ‘functionalists’) that the radicalisation of Jewish policy in Galicia derived from both local initiative and direct murderous impulses from the centre of the Nazi power structure.Google Scholar
  31. 49.
    Peter Longerich, Politik der Vernichtung: eine Gesamtdarstellung der nationalsozialistischen Judenverfolgung (Munich: Piper, 1998); see also the works of Pohl and Sandkühler.Google Scholar
  32. 55.
    Helmut Krausnick et al, Anatomie des SS-Staates, 2 vols. (Freiburg im Bresgau: Walker, 1965), vol.2, p.132, describes the WVHA’s incorporation of the IKL as an ‘expression of the change in the role of the camps’. It was only a partial change however, as we shall see.Google Scholar
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    See Eberhard Jäckel, ‘On the Purpose of the Wannsee Conference’, in James Pacy and Alan Wertheimer (eds.), Perspectives on the Holocaust: Essays in Honor of Raul Hilberg (Oxford: Westview, 1995), 39–9 on Heydrich using the conference to establish his authority. See Browning, Fateful Months both for a statement of his hitherto influential position and for an overview of the historiography of the development of the ‘final solution’.Google Scholar
  34. 62.
    See the introductory paragraphs of section III above. Also see the introductory essay to Christopher Browning, The Final Solution and the German Foreign Office (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1978), for one of the best available summaries of competing power interests in the development of Jewish policy. More generally on the ‘semi-feudal’ structure of the Reich administration.Google Scholar
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    Ludolf Herbst, Der Totale Krieg und die Ordnung der Wirtschaft (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1982).Google Scholar
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    On statistics of slave labour use in aircraft production, see Lutz Budrass, Flugzeugindustrie und Luftrüstung in Deutschland 1918–1945 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1998).Google Scholar
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    Dan Van der Vat, The Good Nazi (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1997), p.176.Google Scholar
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    In addition, Jews, assigned the most arduous tasks in the post-construction phase of the complex, were deported for murder either to Auschwitz or Mauthausen if they could not keep up with the debilitating demands made of them. See Yehoshua Büchler and Shmuel Krakowski, ‘Dora-Mittelbau’, in Israel Gutman (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, 4 vols., (New York: Macmillan, 1990), vol.1, 398–400.Google Scholar
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    See for example Irena Strzelecka and Tadeusz Szymanski, ‘Die Nebenlager Tschechowitz’, Hefte von Auschwitz, vol.18 (1990), 189–224, pp.196–197; see also Zofka, ‘Allach — Sklaven für BMW’, p.72.Google Scholar
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    See Overy, War and Economy, pp. 141–142 (in an analysis similar to that of Herbert in ‘Von Auschwitz nach Essen’). Also Herbert, A History of Foreign Labor in Germany, 1880–1980: Seasonal Workers/Forced Labourers/ Guest Workers (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990). Browning, Ordinary Men, pp.2, 159–163.Google Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Donald Bloxham

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