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Empire and Weimar Republic

Foreign Work Force under National Socialism

After the War: Displaced and Repatriated Persons

New Manpower from "Greater Germany"

When the Four-Your-Plan based on extensive government orders in the defence industry led to a booming economy from 1936 onwards, the unemployment rate sank to a minimum. Manpower requirements could, however, less and less be met with natives, particularly as no-one dared to seriously push the employment of females throughout the Third Reich. Hence the number of foreign workers in agriculture and industry was growing tremendously from 1936. They came primarily from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands.


The annexation of Austria in 1938 brought a recovery on the German job market by indicating a foreign-exchange-conserving way of hiring new people. But after a short while the manpower shortage causing a stagnation of specific sectors became obvious again.


Großansicht des Bildes

Czech workers in a rolling mill of the Siemens-Werke in August 1943

Source: Federal Archives, Bild 183-R46088

Neues Fenster: Großansicht des Bildes

Consequently, the annexation of the Sudetenland, mainly the Czech part of Czechoslovakia as well as the establishment of the protectorate Bohemia and Moravia were primarily associated with the intention of recruiting new manpower for the German defence industry and agriculture. The Czechs were the first foreigners (Austrians were not considered to be foreigners) who were directly subjected to the National Socialist regime and the first who tasted the legal sanctions of the imminent system of National Socialist forced labour. Neither the balance of foreign currency nor foreign policy considerations had to be observed any longer with respect to the treatment of those belonging to the protectorates. With an enactment of the Secret State Police (Gestapo) dated 26 June 1939 a special right for foreign manpower was put into effect. According to that, those belonging to the protectorates could be taken into protective detention for things like "refusal to work", political activity or "any other subversive attitude". Until then the advertising committees of the Ministry of Labour of the Reich had been able to find 52,000 Czechs for the territory of the Reich. In the summer of the same year initial compulsory measures began, following a decline in the number of volunteers by imposing Czech workers who wanted to return to their home country with a need to obtain the approval from the regulatory authorities. The legal provisions even interfered into things of utmost privacy like having sex with Germans. Forced job performance under discriminating circumstances had become part of the German legal order system.