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Forced Labor in Ludwigshafen and Oppau

After the beginning of the Second World War (1939), the shortage in the workforce becomes a problem for the German economy. This is caused by the growing number of German workers called up to war. Beginning in 1940, they are replaced by foreign workers in growing numbers – initially on a voluntary basis, but soon through the recruitment of forced labor in the areas occupied by the Wehrmacht. After 1941, many of the workers were from Poland or the Soviet Union (“eastern workers”). Beginning in 1942, civilian workers are increasingly replaced by concentration camp prisoners, as well as war prisoners and convicted felons.

Forced laborers are even employed at I.G. Farben factories – including the factories in Ludwigshafen and Oppau. These factories employ prisoners of war and foreign civilians. Concentration camp prisoners are not assigned to the factories in Ludwigshafen and Oppau. 500 Belgian prisoners of war arrive as the first forced laborers in June 1940. A few weeks later, they are followed by the first foreign civilian employees. In April 1943, forced labor reaches its absolute and relative high point at the factories in Ludwigshafen and Oppau: 13,727 forced laborers represent more than one third of the entire workforce. The majority of them come from Poland, the Soviet Union, Italy, France, and Spain as well as Belgium, the Netherlands, Croatia, and Slovakia.

Wages, working conditions, and food rations for forced laborers are not only considerably different from those of German workers, but also within the various groups. A large number of laws and regulations regulates every detail for every question concerning their employment and result, for example, in the ideologically motivated discrimination of “eastern workers.” This is even true at the factories in Ludwigshafen and Oppau.