International traveling exhibition
In World War II, forced labourers were exploited in a vast number of firms as well as on building sites and farms in Germany and in the occupied countries. As "Fremdarbeiter" (foreign workers), prisoners of war or concentration camp inmates, over 20 million men, women and even children from throughout Europe suffered this fate. Most of them had been forcibly taken from their homes. But forced labour did not only serve an economic purpose. It was also designed to humiliate and, as it became increasingly radical, to bring about the physical destruction of the victims. In fulfilling its mandate to document the history of forced labour under National Socialism and to anchor this history in the European memory, the Foundation EVZ initiated and supported the international travelling exhibition, which for the first time tells the whole story of this largely forgotten crime.
A racist social order
From the outset, forced labour was an integral part of the racist social order of the National Socialist state. The exhibition presents artefacts, film documentation and photographs that trace the relationship between the Germans and people who did not belong in the self-styled Aryan community. As case studies show, the fate of the forced labourers – whether they were denigrated and mishandled or treated with a modicum of humanity – also depended on the behaviour of the individual. Forced labour was not only an instrument of marginalisation and persecution, but also an important part of the German war machine. It was anchored in the system of total exploitation of the occupied countries. After 1945, it was decades before the scale of this injustice – which affected the whole of Europe – was acknowledged as such and the German people admitted their responsibility.
Partners and exhibition locations
The exhibition was put together by the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorial Sites Foundation with the support of the Foundation EVZ, which provided funding of EUR 4 million for this purpose. German President Christian Wulff is exhibition patron. The exhibition was on view at the Jewish Museum in Berlin from 28 September 2010 until 30 January 2011 and will now be presented to an international public in various cities abroad. On 22 June 2011, the 70th anniversary of the German attack on the Soviet Union, the exhibition open at the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow. Since 18 March 2012, the exhibition has been shown at Westphalian State Museum of Industrial Heritage (LWL Industriemuseum) - The Zollern Colliery in Dortmund and will run until 14 October 2012.