• Germany's news in English

Project recounts ordeal of Nazi forced labourers

AFP · 22 Jan 2009, 20:22

Published: 22 Jan 2009 20:22 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The project is an offshoot of a compensation fund founded by the German government and major companies in 2001 for survivors of a programme that saw 12 million people rounded up and conscripted to work during World War II. The 341 men and 249 women featured in the videos tell of working in concentration camps or munitions plants under gruelling conditions for little or no pay, miserable living conditions and exposure to hunger and disease.

"Their suffering should not be forgotten," the head of the "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future" foundation managing the €4.4-billion ($5.7-billion) fund, Günther Saathoff, told reporters.

Some 1.66 million people from nearly 100 countries received compensation from the German fund between 2001 and 2007. Saathoff said the online video project was launched because the former forced labourers were seeking more than reparations.

"The victims did not want only money that was owed to them - they also wanted to tell about things that no one wanted to hear about for decades," he said.

In one account, a Hungarian Jew in his 80s who has lived in Atlanta since the war's end, Henry Friedmann, explains that he was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. Friedmann told of being beaten and while he was forced to work at a huge arms factory in Budapest in 1944, before he was assigned to transports for German troops fighting the Russians in the countryside.

"We were taken by the Germans to a German outpost, and we were given orders that every day we would assemble at 3 am and would climb the mountain and would be over there from between three till five, six the next morning," he said. "At that time, in the mountains, it was maybe 40 below zero. No clothing, not the right clothing... When we finished supplying the hot food, we brought down on stretchers the wounded or dead Germans to the base of the mountains. That would be our job."

He said Jews suffered particularly brutal treatment among the workers.

"In case someone gets hurt, don't even ask for any kind of bandage or anything because you're a Jew - you're not entitled to - which meant that if you're lost or hurt, you have to freeze to death or bleed to death," he said.

Story continues below…

The €2.5-million documentary project began in 2005. Survivors ranging in age from 65 to 98 were recorded on video primarily in Eastern Europe but also in the United States, Israel and South Africa. One-third of them were so-called "slave labourers", often Jews or Roma who were forced to work in concentration camps in particularly degrading and frequently life-threatening conditions.

A former slave labourer at the news conference, Felix Kolmer, said the online archive would make increasingly rare personal accounts of the Nazi programme available to researchers, teachers and students.

"Victims will finally get the public recognition and attention for which they have often waited in vain over the last decades," said Kolmer, who is also vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee, a Holocaust survivors group.

The project can be viewed at: www.zwangsarbeit-archiv.de

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for internet giants to make public their closely-guarded algorithms, claiming that they are not giving people diverse enough information.

Pegida leader 'paid court costs with group's money'
Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann. Photo: DPA.

The leader of the anti-Islam movement reportedly used money from Pegida's coffers to pay for two personal court cases, German media reported this week.

Anger as Berlin scraps Turkey concert on Armenia genocide
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra. Photo: DPA

Germany's foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian "genocide" in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.

10 ways German completely messes up your English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd