The history of Forced Labour under the National Socialism


People from all over Europe fell victim to the system of forced labour established under National Socialism. Between 1939 and 1945, more than 12 million people, the majority of them from Poland, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, had to work in the German Reich and in German occupied regions. They toiled under inhuman conditions in armaments factories and in agriculture in order to satisfy the steep rise in the labour demand of the German war economy. Forced labourers were also employed in all areas of society.


The majority of the German population approved of the system of forced labour. It took almost 60 years before German society was willing to address this issue.


In the preamble to the Foundation Law, the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” was given a mandate to keep alive the remembrance of National Socialist injustice for future generations. Accordingly, the Foundation supports a wide spectrum of projects that explore the history of forced labour under National Socialism and raise awareness of this theme among the general public. Use the navigation bar to access more information on publications, internet sites and exhibitions on the history of forced labour under National Socialism.


Publication of documents


Within the framework of the payments process, applicants presented various forms of documentation as evidence of their fate as forced labourers. The documents supplied by former forced labourers in various countries range from imprisonment release certificates, workbooks, repatriation certificates and filtration files through to archive materials and eyewitness reports. In addition, photographs, postcards and personal descriptions, some of which contain impressive sketches of various locations, have been supplied to give credence to their accounts. The Federal Foundation plans several publications based on these materials.


The final report of the Foundation on the activities of the payments programmes has already been published. This appeared under the title Gemeinsame Verantwortung und moralische Pflicht (joint responsibility and a moral duty) in June 2007 and is now on sale in bookshops.




Archives containing application documents


The Foundation EVZ and its partners made payments to former forced labourers on the basis of applications received. Around 2.2 million people submitted applications for symbolic compensation. In agreement with its partners, the Foundation took pains to ensure the procedure was as unbureaucratic as possible. The deadline for the submission of applications was 31 December 2001.


During the process, the applicants provided a vast number of documents and descriptions as evidence of their suffering. The partner organisations handed over some of the application documents to national archives, to which restricted access is available. Below is a list of archives and the conditions of access.



The files compiled at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on compensation for forced labour and on restitution for property loss are kept at the German federal archives (Bundesarchiv). The use of this information is subject to the legal provisions on securing and using the archive materials of the Federal Government (Bundesarchivgesetz – Federal archive law) of 6 January 1988 (Federal Law Gazette I p. 62), most recently amended through § 13 Para. 2 of the Informationsfreiheitsgesetz (Federal freedom of information law) of 5 September 2005 (Federal Law Gazette I p. 2722).Applications for access - stating theme and purpose of use - may be addressed to the Bundesarchiv.



Potsdamer Str. 1

56075 Koblenz


Russian Federation

The documents were handed over to the state archive. They will not be available for use until the processing activities have been completed there.

State Archive of the Russian Federation ul.

Bolschaja Pirogovskaja 17

119817 Moscow Russia



The documents are kept at the Belarusian Republic foundation “Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation”

Belarusian Republic foundation “Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation”

vul.Ja. Kolasa 39a

220013 Minsk Belarus


Czech Republic 

Restricted access to the application documents is possible for research purposes . The documents are kept at the Czech national archive. Researchers wishing to use the archive require permission from the German-Czech Future Fund.


Czech National Archive

Archivní 4/2257

CZ 149 00 Prague 4 – Chodovec

Czech Republic


German-Czech Future Fund

Na Kazance 634/7

171 000 Praha 7 – Troja

Czech Republic



The central state archive provides information on the documents. Researchers attached to institutions may apply to inspect the documents. A written request must be submitted by the organisation on whose behalf the research is being carried out.


Central State Archive of Ukraine

ul. Solomenskaja 24

03110 Kiev Ukraine



The Polish-German Reconciliation Foundation is planning to post information on the conditions of use on its website.


Polish-German Reconciliation Foundation

ul. Krucza 36

00-921 Warsaw Poland