Remembering Events and Topics
In the interviews, the witnesses tell their personal experiences of important historical events of the 20th century.
They talk about their different experiences of forced labor and describe the history of the 20th century from various perspectives. Excerpts of the life story interviews in the online archive “Forced Labor 1939 – 1945” commemorate important historical dates and illustrate various aspects of the history of forced labor.
Sinti und Roma: Beginning of the Persecution
In the following video, Reinhard F. recounts how exclusion, forced labor and persecution of the Sinti and Roma gradually intensified in the 1930s.
September 1, 1939: Invasion of Poland
Three witnesses report how they experienced the beginning of the Second World War on September 1, 1939. The following video shows excerpts from life story interviews with former forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners, two men from Lodz and a woman from eastern Poland. For them, as for many Polish witnesses in the online archive “Forced Labor 1939-1945”, September 1, 1939 was the beginning of deportation, persecution and forced labor. The video is in English and Polish with German subtitles.
February 20, 1942: The "Ostarbeiter"-decrees
On February 20, 1942, Heinrich Himmler issued the "Eastern Workers' Decrees." They subjected over three million civilian workers deported from the Soviet Union to a discriminatory special law. In the following audio interview excerpt , a witness tells how she was treated as an "Eastern worker" during forced labor in Chemnitz. The interview is in Ukrainian with German subtitles.
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.
Police and Forced Labor
The German police had an important role in the organization of forced labor. This was illustrated by the exhibition "Order and Extermination" at the German Historical Museum in Berlin, that incorporated excerpts of interviews with former forced laborers. In the following video, three contemporary witnesses talk about how they experienced the behavior of German police officers and members of the Werkschutz.
"Slave Labor": Was Nazi Forced Labor Slavery?
On October 1, 1946, the main Nuremberg war crimes trial ended, which condemned "slave labor" as a central war crime of the National Socialists. In the following video, three former forced laborers talk about forced labor as slavery. They use the term "slave" in different meanings.
January 27, 1945. Auschwitz: Liberation and Death March
January 27, 1945: The liberation day of the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz is now an international Holocaust memorial day. Most prisoners experienced the liberation of the death march. In the following video three witnesses report how they experienced the death march from Auschwitz to the west and what the memorial day January 27 means to them. The video is in English, German and Italian with German subtitles.
April 15, 1945: Liberation of the Concentration Camp Bergen-Belsen
A witness reports about the liberation of the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945. Being liberated from the camps in early 1945 was one of the most impacting experiences of the witnesses in the online archive “Forced Labor 1939-1945”. In many cases the survivors had lost basically everything. Especially German Jews had no idea where they should go. In the following video a Breslauer Jew reports about her liberation from the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen and the difficult situation afterward. The video is in English with German subtitles.
Testifying in Nazi Trials
On December 20, 1963, the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial began. In the following video, Jewish Auschwitz survivor and artist Yehuda B. talks about his experiences as a witness in the Eichmann trial and two years later in the Auschwitz trial.
The Memories of Germans and of Forced Laborers
September 27, 2010: 65 years after the war a major exhibition at the Jewish Museum Berlin remembered forced laborers. On this occasion we show three excerpts from interviews with former forced laborers talking about the German culture of remembrance and how they themselves remember their forced labor. The video is in Polish and Russian with German subtitles.
Good Germans, bad Germans
Nearly three million women, men and children from Poland had to perform forced labor in Germany during World War II. The encounters with Germans decisively shaped their memories of this. In the following video, a female and a male witness talk about their experiences with individual Germans. The video is in Polish with German subtitles.
Liberation: Between Joy and Despair
The end of World War II brought liberation to millions of enslaved people threatened with death. In fact, however, it was a long process that began before May 8, 1945, and did not end there. The freedom gained was not infrequently accompanied by a painful new beginning. In the following film, three witnesses report how they experienced the liberation differently. The video is in Polish, Russian and English with German subtitles.
March 8, 1940: Polish Decrees
The Poland Decrees, introduced on March 8, 1940, were aimed at the racist discrimination and exploitation of Polish forced laborers. In the following audio play, three contemporary witnesses tell how the Poland Decrees affected their lives as Polish forced laborers. Kazimierz B. worked at the Henschel aircraft factory in Berlin, Janina Halina G. at AEG in Hennigsdorf, Karol S. in a market garden in Upper Silesia.