Forced labor was a cornerstone of the Nazi state, especially important to the war effort after the German manpower supply began to shrink. More than 12 million people were brought to Germany as forced laborers during WWII. In 1944, half the nation’s farm workers and a quarter of other workers and employees were forced laborers. Their story is told at the Nazi Forced Labor Documentation Center, housed in a camp still standing in suburban Berlin.
The Zwangsarbeit (forced labor) documentation center opens to rows of barracks.
General Building Inspector (GBI) Camp 75/76 contained 13 stone housing barracks and an administration building for more than 2,100 forced laborers, mostly Italians. The camp is still behind barbed wire.
GBI was a special agency headed by Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, who became minister for armaments and war production. Speer is credited with enabling the Reich to prosecute the war for an extra year. After the war, Speer served 20 years in Spandau prison, mainly for his use of forced labor.
The laborers worked in armaments factories, on farms during harvest, in rubbish collection, in the trades and as maids in private homes. The camps were all over Germany “on every corner, in the middle of towns and villages,” the documentation says.
The exhibition documents “every day life” for forced laborers.
Part of one barracks has been converted into a central space for delivering educational programs.
Laborers lived in stone barracks with 10-12 rooms off narrow corridors.
Barracks were long and low. This one now features exhibits on parts of the laborers daily lives.
During the war, the laborers worked in nearby factories, including the notorious Pertrix battery plant. After the war, East German authorities housed a vaccine-production facility here in rooms like this. It was in use right up to the late 1980s, when the Wall fell.