Forced Labor at Ford Werke AG during the Second World War
Soviet forced laborers at the Ford Werke labor camp. They are lined up in front of their barracks, in 1942. During the Second World War, about 10 to 12 million citizens of German-occupied countries were rounded up and deported to Germany to work as forced laborers in agriculture and the war industry. The largest single group, numbering about 3 million people, were young Soviet citizens, the majority of them women aged 15 to 20, who were rounded up by German forces in the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union starting in the spring of 1942. Typically, they were crowded on to cargo trains and endured “transports” of up to several weeks duration. Arriving at intermediate camps in Germany, the prisoners were given patches labeled “OST” (East) and were henceforth refered to as “Ostarbeiter.” By law, they were given worse food rations than other forced labor groups.
At the intermediate camps, laborers were picked out for their assignments diretly by representatives of labor-starved companies. Ford Werke in Cologne and Opel in Russelsheim and Brandenburg each employed thousands of such “Ostarbeiter” at their plants.
The women in this picture were kept imprisoned in a separate labor camp for Soviet citizens, known as the “Russian Camp,” and were guarded by company security forces, known as the Werkschutz. They worked an average of 12 hours a day, six days a week.
Other confirmed labor camps at Ford Werke included a camp with relatively better conditions for workers from the occupied countries of the “West,” one for Italian military internees (POWs) after the German occupation of northern Italy in September 1943, and, in 1944, a barracks housing a special squad of 60 laborers from the Buchenwald concentration camp, who were guarded by SS officers.