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June 22, 1941: German invasion of the Sowjet Union

Three witnesses report how they experienced June 22, 1941 and the consequences of the German invasion.

For the Soviet witnesses from the online archive "Forced Labor 1939-1945", the German attack on the Soviet Union meant the beginning of violence, occupation and forced labor. Many can still remember that morning clearly.

The video is in Russian language with German subtitles.

22. Juni 1941: Überfall auf die Sowjetunion. Ausschnitte aus den Video-Interviews mit den sowjetischen Zwangsarbeiterinnen und Zwangsarbeitern Taissa T., Alexandra G. und Iossif A., Archiv "Zwangsarbeit 1939-1945", Dauer 8:46 Minuten, Schnitt: Alexandra Neumann, Tobias Kilgus, © Freie Universität Berlin 2011

June 22, 1941: Invasion of the Soviet Union

The German invasion of the Soviet Union began unexpectedly for Moscow in the early morning of June 22, 1941. The Wehrmacht invaded the country on a broad front with nearly 3 million soldiers. With this, Nazi Germany began a racist war of extermination against the population: mass shootings were the order of the day; millions of Soviet prisoners of war died in the custody of the Wehrmacht. The civilian population was systematically plundered.

In addition to raw materials, the occupiers primarily sought labor as booty: around 2.1 million people from the Soviet Union were deported to Germany as "Ostarbeiter" (Eastern workers). There, they had to wear the discriminatory badge OST on their clothing and suffered more than other forced laborers from hunger, cold and beatings.

After liberation, the former "Ostarbeiter" were often suspected of collaborating with the Germans. In "filtration camps" they had to endure interrogations by the Soviet secret service; often they were discriminated against for decades after the war. Several had to perform forced labor in Soviet labor camps as alleged collaborators.

Biographical data

Taissa T., forced laborer from Ukraine

  • 1924: Birth in Henichesk near Kherson, Ukraine
  • 1942: Deported to Germany for forced labor
  • 1942-1945: Work in the armaments industry at Gebrüder Thiel Seebach GmbH in Seebach, Thuringia
  • 1945: Liberation by the American Army
  • 1946-1951: Studies at the Pedagogical Institute of Simferopol, afterwards work as a teacher
  • 1953: marriage, 2 years later birth of a daughter
  • Interview za314 »
  • Duration: 5:17 hours, Date: 28.7.2005, Language: Russian

Alexandra Nikolayevna G., former "Eastern worker" at AEG in Berlin

  • 1925: born near Kursk, grew up in Kharkov (Soviet Union)
  • 1941: German occupation of Kharkov.
  • April 1942: deportation to Berlin. Forced labor at AEG Kabelwerk Oberspree.
  • 1944: Escape from the bombed camp in Berlin-Köpenick, work as a maid
  • 1945: Employment in rubble clearing, liberation by Soviet troops, immediate return home.
  • 1946: Marriage to a soldier of the Red Army whom she had met in Berlin, birth of a daughter
  • 1959: birth of a son
  • Work as a checker, typist, cashier, accountant and at the Ukrainian foundation "Understanding and Reconciliation".
  • Interview za471 »
  • Duration: 2:19 hours, Date: 8.12.2005, Language: Russian

Iossif A., deported as a Jew to Auschwitz and Buchenwald

  • 1922: Born into a Jewish family in Grodno, eastern Poland
  • 1939: Occupation of Grodno by Soviet troops (according to the Hitler-Stalin Pact)
  • 1941: Bombing of Grodno, separation and resettlement of the family in two ghettos, deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau
  • 1945: Death march to Buchenwald concentration camp, liberation by American troops,
  • 1945: Filtration by the Soviet secret service, forced labor in a mine in Donbass
  • 1948: release, move to Minsk, finish school
  • 1950: first marriage, becomes father of a daughter and a son

  • until 1999: work as a tailor
  • Interview za283  »

  • Duration: 4:10 hours, Date: 18.6.2005, Language: Russian