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Forced Jewish Labor
During the Second World War, From the initial stage of the Second World War, the Nazi authorities exploited the residences of occupied territories as a source of slave labor for the Reich. This policy of exploitation was applied mainly towards the population of the Gouvernement-General in Poland. Here was the area where all the Polish Jews, the Jews deported from other European countries and all the "non-Aryan" Poles were concentrated. From October 1939 all the people between the ages of 18 to 60 had to report to the Labor Department of the Gouvernement-General for public labor assignments. The population was occupied in road building, farm works and public works projects.
The Jewish population of the Gouvernement-General territory were given a different and harsher treatment in respect to the slave labor policy. The Jewish forced labor was placed under the supervision of the German Elite Guard Schutzstaffel and the State Police. The period allocated for forced labor was set to two years and could be extended indefinitely. The age for forced labor was set for boys of 14 to men of 60. By a special command of General Frank, Jewish Community Councils - Judenrat, were formed. The committees' main function was the continuous supply of able bodied Jews to the labor camps. They controlled the registration of any male Jew from the age of 12 and assigned capability labels to all potential slave laborers. Non-able bodied people that could not perform in a labor camp environment were assigned less demanding duties according to their capabilities. Failure to register, attempt to escape service or collaboration or assistance with such an act would have resulted in ten years of hard labor (that for all practical purposes meant death).
Almost the entire Jewish population in Poland were drafted for hard labor by April 1941. The obligatory slave labor policy against the Jews enforced by the German occupying forces, were implemented in three different methods. Jews were employed in work shops, were drafted to work battalions or were sent to labor camps.
By the summer of 1941 there were more then 85 Jewish labor camps in Gouverner-General territory. Most of these camps were located along the separation line between the soviet and German forces. The number of Jews held in labor camps swelled to hundreds of thousands within the first year. The Germans considered the inmates to be disposable and used to execute any worker that showed the slightest physical deterioration. Periodically the local Judenrats were requested to keep the flow of new recruits for the dwindling manpower in the labor camps. On top of that the Jewish community councils had to support the workers in the labor camps with pre-determined food quotas. Typically the fund for these food quotas was collected from the Jewish people that were not physically capable of performing hard labor. For the privilege of being released from this duty these people had to pay the Judenrat a sum of money in the form of a tax.
The Gouvernement-General devised a system of forced labor that was financed
entirely by its own victims, the Jews. The Jewish community provided the
workers and covered their expenses. The Germans, who profited from this labor,
rewarded the workers with inhumane treatment and conditions. Many laborers
were murdered in the process and new victims were sent automatically from
the waste pool of Jews in Poland. The whole system was a pre-planned method
of mass murder of Jews while exploiting their physical force to the limit.
Obviously this method of extermination was not fast enough for the Nazis
and as a result the extermination camps were erected. Although the initial
official intent of the Nazis authorities was to use the labor camps workers
for a pre-determined time period2 , any person that came back
from a labor camp duty was very lucky indeed.
1 The sense of security was proven to be unfounded when even the existence of the workshops was decided by the local SS authorities.
2 The decree restricting the hard labor period to two years was changed later to allow indefinite incarceration in labor camps for Jews