Cord Pagenstecher
"We were treated like slaves." Remembering forced labor for Nazi Germany, in: Gesa Mackenthun, Raphael Hörmann (Hrsg.), Human Bondage in the Cultural Contact Zone. Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Slavery and Its Discourses, Münster 2010, S. 275 - 291
> "Wir wurden wie Sklaven behandelt" Erinnern an die Zwangsarbeit für das nationalsozialistische Deutschland



National Socialist Germany created one of the largest systems of bonded labor in history. Over 12 million people from over 20 European countries were forced to work for Germany during the Second World War.
Has Nazi forced labor been slavery? This paper does not strive for a systematic comparison between different historical phenomena. Instead it studies the use of the term “slavery” within the discourse about Nazi forced labor. It asks how verdicts of post-war trials, debates about compensation and – not the least – individual memories of former forced laborers themselves spoke of “slave work” or adopted corresponding argumentations.
Whereas a very broad concept of “slave labor” was one of the main issues in the Nuremberg trials, Nazi forced labor was hardly remembered neither in Germany nor in other European countries during the Cold War. The distinction between “slave labor” and “forced labor” became, however, a focal point of the compensation debates at the end of the 20th century. The survivors themselves talk about their “slavery” in specific contexts indicating the influence of public history debates on their individual interpretation patterns.

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