> Adler­wer­ke His­to­ri­cal Site (Foy­er)
> Geschichts­ort Adler­wer­ke (Foy­er)

> A crime that beca­me a part of ever­y­day life
> Zwangs­ar­beit – ein Ver­bre­chen mit­ten im Alltag

> The for­ced labour system
> Sys­tem Zwangsarbeit

> The con­cen­tra­ti­on camp in the factory
> Das Kon­zen­tra­ti­ons­la­ger in der Fabrik

> Clearan­ce and death march
> Räu­mung und Todesmarsch

> Con­flicts over labour, remem­bran­ce, compensation
> Kon­flik­te um Arbeit, Erin­ne­rung, Entschädigung

 The for­ced labor system 

The­re was a shor­ta­ge of man­power for the arma­ments indus­try in the Ger­man Reich. Workers were brought to Ger­ma­ny from all over Euro­pe. The government agen­cy respon­si­ble was the office of the “Gene­ral Ple­ni­po­ten­tia­ry for Labour Deployment”.

The Minis­try of Arma­ment and Muni­ti­ons orga­ni­zed pro­duc­tion for the war. The­se agen­ci­es were hea­ded by espe­cial­ly dedi­ca­ted Natio­nal Socia­lists. The­re was no such thing as con­cern for the per­sons depor­ted to ser­ve as manpower.

Respon­si­ble for Reich deployment 

Many per­sons on many levels par­ti­ci­pa­ted in the for­ced labour sys­tem. In addi­ti­on to the poli­ti­cal lea­ders­hip in Ber­lin and the occu­p­ied are­as, count­less busi­nes­ses, government agen­ci­es, offices, and orga­niz­a­ti­ons were involved.

Albert Speer

Albert Speer (1905–1981) joi­ned the Natio­nal Socia­list Ger­man Workers’ Par­ty NSDAP in 1931 and began working for the Nazi government in 1933.

In 1942 Speer was appoin­ted “Reich Minis­ter of Arma­ment and Muni­ti­ons”. Alt­hough aeri­al attacks des­troy­ed many fac­to­ries and trans­port rou­tes, arma­ments pro­duc­tion was ram­ped up con­ti­nu­al­ly until 1944. This was only pos­si­ble through the explo­ita­ti­on of for­ced labou­rers and con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inma­tes. Speer coope­ra­ted clo­se­ly with the SS and the Gesta­po. In 1942 he was invol­ved in drawing up the reso­lu­ti­on to set up sub­camps on fac­to­ry premises.

On 1 Octo­ber 1946, the Inter­na­tio­nal Mili­ta­ry Tri­bu­nal sen­ten­ced Speer to 20 years impr­i­son­ment. He was released on 30 Sep­tem­ber 1966.

Albert Speer (right) and August Eigru­ber, the Gau lea­der of the Upper Danu­be regi­on, with con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inma­tes in the Maut­hau­sen con­cen­tra­ti­on camp, June 1944
Maut­hau­sen Memo­ri­al, pho­to archi­ve P/13/14/1, pho­to­gra­pher: Hanns Hubmann

Fritz Sau­ckel

Fritz Sau­ckel (1894–1946), a mem­ber of the Nazi par­ty from 1923 onwards, held the rank of Ober­grup­pen­füh­rer of the SA and the SS. In 1932 he beca­me a minis­ter and the Reich gover­nor of Thuringia.

In 1942 Sau­ckel was appoin­ted “Gene­ral Ple­ni­po­ten­tia­ry for Labour Deploy­ment”. Under his aut­ho­ri­ty, workers were pro­cu­red from all over Euro­pe for the Ger­man Reich. This pro­cess was achie­ved with incre­a­singly overt vio­lence. Wehr­macht sol­di­ers and poli­ce depor­ted hund­reds of thousands of per­sons to the Ger­man Reich from Eas­tern Europe.

On 1 Octo­ber 1946, the Inter­na­tio­nal Mili­ta­ry Tri­bu­nal in Nur­em­berg sen­ten­ced Sau­ckel to death by han­ging. The exe­cu­ti­on was car­ri­ed out on 16 October.

Fritz Sau­ckel on a visit to Kiev, June 1942
Yad Vas­hem, no. 132EO8

Employ­ment office 

The employ­ment office play­ed a key role in the dis­tri­bu­ti­on and pla­ce­ment of workers in Frank­furt. For employ­ers wis­hing to enga­ge for­eign civi­li­an workers or pri­so­ners of war, the first step was to app­ly to the employ­ment office.

After exami­ning the app­li­ca­ti­on, the employ­ment office assi­gned the app­li­cant for­eign civi­li­an workers or—in coor­di­na­ti­on with the respon­si­ble POW camp – pri­so­ners of war. In the POW camp, the employ­ment office had a branch office which assem­bled the work crews hired out to the applicants.

The employ­ment office had the aut­ho­ri­ty to impo­se com­pul­so­ry ser­vice. This pre­ven­ted the for­eign civi­li­an workers from being able to return to their home­lands at the end of their employ­ment con­tract. Per­sons who had ori­gi­nal­ly come to Ger­ma­ny vol­un­ta­ri­ly thus beca­me for­ced labourers.

Social security 

For­eign civi­li­an workers were also requi­red to make social secu­ri­ty con­tri­bu­ti­ons (inclu­ding unem­ploy­ment insuran­ce) from their wages. Howe­ver, they did not recei­ve social secu­ri­ty bene­fits. This was espe­cial­ly true of civi­li­an workers from Poland and the Soviet Uni­on. In hos­pi­tals they were trea­ted as second- and third-class pati­ents. If they had health pro­blems, they could be trans­fer­red to other camps with poor medi­cal care or sent home.

Many were mur­de­red in sta­te sana­to­ria and Nazi kil­ling facilities.


The Wehr­macht (the Ger­man army) was respon­si­ble for the pri­so­ners of war. It kept them under guard and estab­lis­hed and ope­ra­ted the POW camps. The Wehr­macht employ­ed many civi­li­an for­ced labou­rers as well.

The Bad Orb POW camp 

After the begin­ning of World War II, the Sta­lag IX B camp was estab­lis­hed at the cross­road in Bad Orb. It con­sis­ted of 20 woo­den bar­racks for pri­so­ners of war assi­gned to labour duty. Along with Sta­lags IX A Zie­gen­hain (Schwalm­stadt­/E­der-Trutz­hain) and IX C (Mei­nin­gen) it was one of three POW camps in the Kas­sel mili­ta­ry district. Pri­so­ners of war were sent from the camp to various loca­ti­ons to work.

The Bad Orb POW camp
Sta­lag Bad Orb
Aeri­al pho­to­graph, 1945
Repro: Archiv Zeigler

The regio­nal employ­ment office 

In the sum­mer of 1943, the 26 sta­te employ­ment offices were con­ver­ted into altog­e­ther 40 “Gau” (regio­nal) employ­ment offices. The Rhi­ne-Main regio­nal employ­ment office based in Frankfurt’s Sach­sen­hau­sen district over­saw 12 bran­ches, inclu­ding tho­se in Darm­stadt, Gies­sen, Mainz, Hanau, Offen­bach, and Wetz­lar. It coor­di­na­ted the assign­ment of for­eign civi­li­an workers in the regi­on. It also ran a “tran­sit camp” in Kels­ter­bach, and – along with the Kur­hes­sen regio­nal employ­ment office – a “sick camp” in Pfaf­fen­wald near Hersfeld.

This aut­ho­ri­ty sent Eas­tern workers aff­lic­ted with tuber­cu­lo­sis or clas­si­fied as mental­ly ill to Hada­mar. About 700 for­ced labou­rers in all were mur­de­red in Hadamar.

The Kels­ter­bach tran­sit camp

The Rhi­ne-Main sta­te – and later regio­nal – employ­ment office ope­ra­ted a tran­sit camp for for­ced labou­rers in Kels­ter­bach. The camp was sur­roun­ded by a fence and guar­ded. Its 25 bar­racks pro­vi­ded space for 2,000 per­sons. From here the camp inma­tes – pres­um­a­b­ly several tens of thousands over the cour­se of the camp’s exis­tence – were sent out to their workplaces.

Sick Eas­tern workers were taken from the Kels­ter­bach camp to the Hada­mar Nazi kil­ling faci­li­ty or the sta­te sana­to­ri­um in Eich­berg. The­re was also an auxi­li­a­ry hos­pi­tal whe­re abor­ti­ons were car­ri­ed out on fema­le Eas­tern workers living in Frank­furt and envi­rons – in part against their will.

Kels­ter­bach tran­sit camp
Frank­fur­ter Volks­blatt of 10 May 1942
Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te Frank­furt am Main, S6b/93 A

Pfaf­fen­wald camp

The Pfaf­fen­wald tran­sit camp near Bad Hers­feld ser­ved the pur­po­se of dis­tri­bu­ting for­ced workers in Nort­hern Hes­se. It was run by the regio­nal employ­ment office of Kur­hes­sen, which, along with the Rhi­ne-Main regio­nal employ­ment office, also used it as a camp for the sick. Polish and Soviet labou­rers no lon­ger fit for work were sent the­re. Many of them died in Pfaf­fen­wald or were trans­fer­red to the Nazi kil­ling faci­li­ty in Hadamar.

For­eign workers


The Gesta­po (Secret Sta­te Poli­ce) were respon­si­ble for the sur­veil­lan­ce and punish­ment of all civi­li­an for­ced labou­rers and the Soviet pri­so­ners of war. Whe­re­as the SS over­saw the con­cen­tra­ti­on camps, the “work edu­ca­ti­on” camps were mana­ged by the Gesta­po. During World War II, the­se puni­ti­ve camps were inten­ded pri­ma­ri­ly for for­eign civi­li­an workers. Grounds for com­mit­tal inclu­ded lazi­ness at the work­place, refu­sal to work, lea­ving the work­place, escape, or vio­la­ting the pro­hi­bi­ti­on on con­ta­ct. The Gesta­po also kept watch over the pri­va­te house­holds employ­ing for­eign civi­li­an workers as domestic aids.

The Hed­dern­heim “work edu­ca­ti­on” camp

A so-cal­led work edu­ca­ti­on camp (“Arbeits­er­zie­hungs­la­ger”; AEL) went into ope­ra­ti­on in the Hed­dern­heim district of Frank­furt on 1 April 1942. It con­sis­ted of three bar­racks, several sheds, and a guard room in the clay pit of a brick fac­to­ry. The­re was also a detenti­on cell buil­ding, cal­led a “bun­ker”, for pena­liz­a­ti­on. Alt­hough the camp was desi­gned for 200 per­sons, the­re were more than 400 detai­ned the­re at times—Germans as well as for­eign civi­li­an workers. Altog­e­ther 10,000 per­sons were held here over the cour­se of the camp’s existence.

The camp regu­la­ti­ons spel­led out the pur­po­se of the AEL in une­qui­vo­cal terms: “Pri­so­ners must be made to work hard in order to impress upon them their beha­viour that is harm­ful to the [Ger­man] peop­le, to train them to per­form well-regu­la­ted work, and to set a deter­rent and warning examp­le to others.”

The inma­tes were hired out to various com­pa­nies as well as the City of Frank­furt as man­power. “Eas­tern workers” were regu­lar­ly sub­jec­ted to shack­ling and flog­ging. The sources also docu­ment several shoo­ting exe­cu­ti­ons for “loo­ting” and “refu­sal to work”.

The tax authority 

Not only the employ­ers pro­fi­ted from the for­ced labour sys­tem. It was also finan­cial­ly bene­fi­cial to the sta­te. The employ­ers were requi­red to pay inco­me tax to the reve­nue office. For Polish civi­li­an workers they were char­ged an addi­tio­nal 15 per cent “social com­pen­sa­ti­on tax”. Eas­tern workers had to pay an even hig­her “Eas­tern worker tax”.

DAF – Ger­man Labour Front 

The “Reichs­nähr­stand” (“Reich Food Socie­ty”) was respon­si­ble for the “care” of the for­eign workers assi­gned to work in agri­cul­tu­re. For all other are­as of the eco­no­my, the “Deut­sche Arbeits­front” (DAF; “Ger­man Labour Front”) ful­fil­led this func­tion. After labour uni­ons were ban­ned, the DAF Hes­sen-Nas­sau took over the Frank­furt uni­on buil­ding. The­re the cen­tral labour deploy­ment office coor­di­na­ted the manage­ment of the camps for for­eign civi­li­an workers in Frank­furt am Main. It over­saw the camps and was in char­ge of “leisu­re time acti­vi­ties” in them.

Muni­ci­pal administration 

The muni­ci­pal admi­nis­tra­ti­on was invol­ved in the for­ced labour sys­tem in a varie­ty of ways. It bene­fi­ted by explo­i­t­ing the man­power of pri­so­ners of war and for­eign civi­li­an workers for its own pur­po­ses. A ran­ge of admi­nis­tra­ti­on offices were invol­ved in many of the system’s mecha­nisms – for examp­le the estab­lish­ment of camps (buil­ding depart­ment, tra­de super­vi­so­ry board) and the pro­vi­si­on of rati­ons (nut­ri­ti­on depart­ment). The muni­ci­pal health depart­ment, the board of edu­ca­ti­on, and the ceme­te­ries depart­ment like­wi­se hel­ped orga­ni­ze various aspects of for­ced labour.

Local police 

All resi­dents of Frank­furt were regis­tered with the local poli­ce – inclu­ding the for­ced labou­rers. The poli­ce kept watch over the for­ced labou­rers in the urban space, made arrests, and tur­ned the arres­ted per­sons over to the Gesta­po. They also over­saw the camps loca­ted on pri­va­te com­pa­ny pre­mi­ses, in some cases at the behest of the health department.