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„Die Arbeitskraft sämtlicher Kriegsgefangenen ist rücksichtslos auszunutzen.“ Die Zwangsarbeit sowjetischer Kriegsgefangener für die Wehrmacht im Osten

Karsten Linne
Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas
Neue Folge, Bd. 54, H. 2 (2006), pp. 190-206
Published by: Franz Steiner Verlag
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41051646
Page Count: 17
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„Die Arbeitskraft sämtlicher Kriegsgefangenen ist rücksichtslos auszunutzen.“ Die Zwangsarbeit sowjetischer Kriegsgefangener für die Wehrmacht im Osten
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Abstract

Recent studies have largely excluded one aspect of the German campaign against the Soviet Union: forced labour of Soviet prisoners of war for the Wehrmacht. The German command at first categorically barred Soviet prisoners of war from working for the Reich's industry. The Wehrmacht, however, planned to use prisoners of war for their interests from the beginning; contrary to the conventions of international law, the prisoners of war had to fulfil military tasks in the danger zone of the Front. They could replace German soldiers who were urgently needed in combat. This is why the exploitation of the prisoners' manpower irrespective of status or health was postulated, thereafter acquiring features of “extermination through labour”. The treatment of the prisoners of war slowly changed as they were transported into the Reich areas. Military developments decreased the number of prisoners, so the responsible military authorities decided to provide them with better nourishment and accommodations. These measures were pursued - in terms of strict selection criteria -at the expense of the prisoners incapable of working, many of whom subsequently died. Thus better conditions came far too late for many, as mass deaths had already decreased the number of prisoners by half. The detailed description of forced labour of prisoners of war in the city of Minsk with a population of over a million inhabitants gives an example how labour and death worked. The Wehrmacht's act against the international law illustrates the character of the campaign against the Soviet Union - it was not only a war of extermination, but also a war of exploitation and a colonial war.

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