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The Projekt "Forced Laborers of Rügen"


The Documentation Centre Prora has taken upon itself to investigate and document the conditions that the forced laborers of Rügen had to endure during the National Socialist era. With financial support from the European Union, the Documentation Centre Prora managed to build an archive of autobiographical interviews. This was done within the framework of the program “Culture 2000” and the foundation "Erinnerung, Verantwortung, Zukunft". The interviews have been integrated into the main exhibition “MACHT Urlaub”.

Since 2001, interviews have been carried out with former Forced Laborers in Poland and the Czech Republic. In 2006, in cooperation with the Warsaw foundation Stiftung Polnisch-Deutsche Aussöhnung, a questionnaire has been carried out within Poland and the Ukraine. This has been met with positive feedback. A translation and analysis of the gathered data is being undertaken.

Since 2004 the documentation centre also organizes annual “encounter meetings” between former Forced Laborers and students from Rügen. Earlier it was supported solely by the “Union of Former Concentration Camp Prisoners”, however, the foundation Stiftung Polnisch-Deutsche Aussöhnung has begun to support the “encounter meetings”.

By the time of August 1944, 30% of the workforce within the economy was occupied by foreigners who were brought to Germany by force against their will.

The first wave of forced laborers who were sent to Germany were polish Prisoners of War, after the invasion of Poland in 1939. After the occupation of Poland, the civilian workforce was first recruited. As it became apparent that not enough workers were available, raids on Cinemas, street trolleys and shops were carried out in which young people, in most cases women, would be kidnapped and taken to Germany to work. However, in Poland and later in other German occupied territories, the use of forced labor would also be established. 

The transport to Germany would take place via trains, even cattle trains, over long distances without sufficient food and any regards for the weather conditions. During breaks in the trip, the people would be brought to assembly camps where they would be detained without sanitary installations and nourishment for days, prior to reaching their final destination.

The usage of foreigners was according to the aspects of National Socialism a threat to their racial principles. Repressive regulations were therefore issued that prohibited contact between Germans and forced laborers. Barracks for accommodating the Poles became mandatory, they received a lower loan, usually had longer working hours than the Germans and were forbidden from entering public buildings or German Church service. Any sexual relations with German woman would be punished by the death penalty.

The badge “P” would be the external sign of discrimination.

The Soviet war prisoners and the “Eastern Workers”, the civilian laborers from the Soviet Union, would stand even lower in the racial Hierarchy than the Polish workers. They were partially “exterminated by work”; their living and working conditions were so horrendous that they did not survive the forced labor.

Concentration Camp prisoners would eventually also be used. The value of their lives would be evaluated by the National Socialists according to their physical conditions for the remaining weeks of labor.

The number of forced laborers would rise steadily so that by August 1944/45 about 7 millions foreigners would work in Germany.

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