1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Berlin to Honor Nazi-Era Forced Laborers

DW staff (sac)
July 12, 2005

Berlin will open Germany's first tribute to victims of the Nazi regime's forced labor program in 2006. The memorial will commemorate the hundreds of thousands of people who worked against their will during World War II.

The Nazis closely documented the work of slave laborersImage: AP

The state government of Berlin has bought a Nazi-era former labor camp near the German capital and intends to open a memorial in summer 2006. Berlin Culture Senator Thomas Flierl said that the memorial would be the first in Germany to document the lives of forced laborers under the Nazis.

"It is essential to supplement the actual places of national socialist atrocities in the German capital," said Flierl in a statement.

The city-state said it had paid 1.4 million euros ($1.7 million) for the site, where more than 2,000 foreigners from German-occupied countries were put to work during World War II.

The memorial, in Schöneweide in the east of the capital, will be managed by the Topography of Terror Foundation. It also runs a documentation center in the former Berlin headquarters of the Gestapo secret police.

Securing and deciphering historical traces

The camp was opened in 1943 under the supervision of armaments minister Albert Speer. The complex was closely tied to the nearby industrial region of Oberschöneweide and Niederschöneweide in Johannisthal.

Thomas Flierl
Berlin's Culture Senator Thomas Flierl initiated the concept for the memorialImage: AP

"Now, the historical traces can be secured and deciphered in Schöneweide," said Flierl. The memorial would create a place to come together and come to terms with Nazi-era crimes.

"It will also enter into a close dialogue with similar facilities, mainly in middle and eastern European nations," said Flierl.

The 3.3-hectare (8.2-acre) site features still-intact stone barracks and workshops, many of which were threatened with collapse.

Thousands forced to work under the Nazis

German companies and the Nazi regime operated a massive forced labor program during World War II. They enslaved hundreds of thousands of people to build railroads and air bases, as well as work in factories, military production and concentration camps.

It was instituted to replace a work force that had been recruited for the war effort.

Esfira Hegedues, a former slave laborer, received compensation for her sufferingImage: AP

The German government and industry established a 5.1-billion-euro restitution fund in 2000 after negotiations with victims' groups and the governments of the United States, Israel and several eastern European countries.

Skip next section Explore more