little about the lives of prisoners


Around 13 million men and women from countries occupied or dependent on Germany were forced to perform slave labour for the German wartime economy during the Second World war either in the German- occupied territories or in side the Reich. This enslavement had severe psychological, social, economical and cultural consequences for many of them. Not only did they have to cope with  being deported from their accustomed surrounding and their homes. All this despite the fact that the German government would not have been able to keep its wartime economy going without their labour.

The factory Walther-Werke

Its metal werke Neuengamme is was constructed on the premises of  Neuengamme concentration camp between 1942 and 1944. 1000 prisoners were working. Work here was much sought after because it offered shelter from all weathers and there were seldom few beatings. Then 1945 this former of factory, today the complex serves as storage space for Hamburg’s museums.


All that time the SS asked the professionals  from the factory to train the prisoners. But after works these professionals had to leave the camp because the inmates knew already how to do the work on their own. 

 During the last three years of the Second World War, all companies in Hamburg from armament manufacturers to companies responsible for covering the local population’s basic needs had to rely on labourers from outside Germany. While the workers from Western Europe generally received pay comparable to that of German workers, “eastern workers” were subject to the extremely high “Russians tax”. The remaining pay they received was so small that they were not even able to buy the most basic at the factory or camp canteens. Most of the slave labourers from outside Germany were still very young –many of them had still attended school before their deportation. They did not understand German and were neither trained no physically strong enough for the tasks they were forced to carry out.

In contrast to workers from Western European countries POWs and slave labourers from Poland and the Soviet Union did not receive food stamps and could not buy food or other  items at shops or eat at inns. For these slave  labourers, entering a public house was a punishable offence. Workers from  Western European were entitled to rations roughly equivalent to those given to German workers. By contrast, the lives of the so-called “eastern workers”, who were considered  “inferior” human beings by the German authorities, were marked by malnutrition and hunger. The absence of fat and animal protein in their diets and the severe lack of vitamins in combination with the extremely hard physical labour often led to a general physical decline in the prisoners and to the appearance of symptoms such as oedemas. The rapid decline of the prisoner’s immune system often led to diseases such as pulmonary tuberculosis.

Pay slip

Belgian slave labourers Edmond de Winter’s pay slip issued by the Deutchen  Werft shipyard in may 1943.

For a total of 93 hours of work over 12 days, his a total of 69,75 Reich mark. From his salary was do next deductions:

– Social security

– Income tax

– Church tax 

– fuel advance

– dues for the German Labour Front

– board and lodging

– rent, lighting and electricity

After the deductions, he was left with 36,10 Reich mark

This accrual pocket money, salary which I was very interested. As a banker I want to note that this is just a „robbery“. For example take the first point, social insurance. This means pocket money, salary deduct funds for social security. A worker from The East would never have a chance to get money from the Social Insurance Organisation. SS not only physically destroyed prisoners, but also morally oppressed their spirits.

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