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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.

20. Februar 1942: Die "Ostarbeiter-Erlasse". Audio-Slideshow mit Ausschnitten aus dem Audio-Interview und Fotos der sowjetischen Zwangsarbeiterin Hanna Fedoriwna H., Archiv "Zwangsarbeit 1939-1945". Aktuelle Fotos der Diamant-Werke: Udo Thierfelder, Dauer 4:59 Minuten, Schnitt: Tobias Kilgus, Gerda Klingenböck, Cord Pagenstecher © Freie Universität Berlin 2012

February 20, 1942: The "Eastern Worker Decrees"
The National Socialists regarded the labor force from the occupied Soviet Union as inferior and politically dangerous people whose use of labor in the German war economy was, however, necessary. Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer SS and Chief of the German Police, issued the "General Regulations on the Recruitment and Use of Labor from the East" for this purpose:

"During the stay of laborers from the old Soviet territory in the Reich, they are to be strictly segregated from the German population, foreign civilian workers, and all prisoners of war [...], to be housed in closed camps (barracks) with [...] fencing, if possible, with barbed wire. [During their stay in the Reich, they shall always wear visibly on the right breast side of each garment an identification mark firmly attached to it. [...] Cases of illicit sexual intercourse [...] are [...] to be punished by state police measures, and pregnant female workers are to be deported to the East if possible."

The "Eastern Workers' Decrees" of February 20, 1942, were one of the most important National Socialist decrees. For more than two million "Eastern workers" they meant exploitation, exclusion and humiliation.

Biographical Data and Sources

Hanna H., forced laborer from Ukraine

  • 1923: Birth in Meleni near Schytomyr, Ukraine
  • 1942: Deported to Germany for forced labor
  • 1942-1945: Work for the Elite-Diamant-Werke in Siegmar-Schönau near Chemnitz / Saxony
  • 1945: Liberation and return to home village, with a child adopted in the camp
  • 1946-1947: Employment for forestry work
  • 1952-1963: housekeeping manager of the children's home of Meleni
  • 1964-1989: saleswoman in a household goods store
  • 1989: Retirement. One son, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
  • Interview za477 
  • Duration: 2:44 hours, Date: 14.8.2005, Language: Ukrainian

Photos and documents used

  • Hanna H. in her kitchen on the day of the interview, 2005 (Archive "Forced Labor 1939-1945," za477)
  • Registration photo and postcard of Hanna Fedoriwna H. from Siegmar-Schönau, 1943 (Archive "Forced Labor 1939-1945", za477)
  • Patch with the OST badge, ca. 1942 (Archive "Forced Labor 1939-1945", za352)
  • "Ostarbeiterinnen" with badge, ca. 1943 (Archive "Forced Labor 1939-1945," za493)
  • Portrait of Hanna H., 1949 (Archive "Forced Labor 1939-1945," za477)
  • The former Diamant-Werke Siegmar-Schönau near Chemnitz, front view 2011 (Udo Thierfelder)
  • The former Diamant-Werke Siegmar-Schönau near Chemnitz, rear view 2011 (Udo Thierfelder)
  • The former Diamant-Werke Siegmar-Schönau near Chemnitz, interior view 2011 (Udo Thierfelder)
  • Group photo of "Diamant" forced laborers in Sunday clothes without OST insignia, 1942 (Archive "Forced Labor 1939-1945", za477)
  • Portrait of Hanna H., 1943 (Archive "Forced Labor 1939-1945," za477)
  • Hanna H. in her garden on the day of the interview, 2005 (Archive "Forced Labor 1939-1945", za477)