“Forbidden Contact”

Constant supervision, 1941.

The French prisoners of war Nobile Citerneschi and François Santini worked on the farm belonging to Marie Renner.

Photo: Franz Gabriel; source: Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv

Constant supervision, 1941.

They were guarded by two Wehrmacht soldiers. Because the soldiers were needed at the front, later the farmers had to guard the forced laborers.

Photo: Franz Gabriel; source: Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv

Photos as forbidden mementos, 1941.

The guards Walter Pakosta and Franz Gabriel were supposed to prevent close contact between Austrian workers and French prisoners of war.

Photo: Franz Gabriel / Walter Pakosta; source: Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv

Photos as forbidden mementos, 1941.

However, photographs the guards took raised suspicion of a relationship between Marie Renner und Nobile Citerneschi.

Photo: Franz Gabriel / Walter Pakosta; source: Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv

The “History of the Crime,” 7 May 1941.

After a report was made to the police, the Atzenbrugg (Lower Austria) police investigated the Marie Renner case. After a two-month investigation, they concluded that Marie Renner’s “guilt” was minimal.

Source: Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv

Official description of the photos, 1941.

The subjects in the photographs were listed individually for the proceedings against Marie Renner. A total of six photos were seized from Nobile Citerneschi. There is no record of the verdict against him before a military tribunal.

Source: Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv

Communication

Contact between Germans and foreigners was to be kept to a minimum. The picture dictionaries provided translations for the most important words and phrases for work and daily life. The dictionaries for “Eastern Workers” were revised by the authorities, with their vocabulary reflecting the desired form of interaction between Germans and Soviet laborers.

Source: International MEMORIAL Society Moscow

Duties of Polish forced laborers, 1940.

Eastern European forced laborers had no legal rights. They received verbal instructions regarding their duties. In many cases, the foreigners had to sign a paper confirming that they had been instructed of their duties.

Source: Niederösterreichisches Landesarchiv

“Forbidden Contact”

Native farm workers, a German soldier and a French POW together in a photograph – the sight aroused the suspicion of the NS authorities, particularly since the Frenchman Nobile Citerneschi had received the photos in 1941 from his former female employer. Citerneschi was tried before a war tribunal; a special court pressed charges against the woman.

Here it was the suspicion of a sexual relationship that triggered the investigation. But even such minor “offenses” as giving a forced laborer a piece of bread or a cigarette or just talking were classified as “forbidden contact”, and subject to prosecution. Denunciation from members of the public played an important role. The forced laborers suffered the consequences, frequently having to face the severest punishments.

Hierarchy and Regulations

The forced laborers in the German Reich were subjected to a racist hierarchical structure. At the top were the “Aryan” Germans as members of the “master race,” followed by Northern and Western Europeans. At the bottom were the Poles, Soviet workers (“Ostarbeiter”, “Eastern workers”), and finally Jews, Sinti and Roma. Rigid regulations were passed to prevent close contact between Germans and forced laborers. Poles, “Eastern workers” and Jews had to wear identifying badges on their clothing. They could not move around freely, and were threatened with draconian punishments.

The Reich Security Main Office issued endless series of decrees. From its perspective, the strong presence of foreigners represented above all “folk-political” dangers to the German “blood community.”

Audio

François Armand Aimé Caux about the loneliness on the farm.

Video interview 2001 (voice over, 02:00 min.)

Source: Private archive Hornung / Langthaler / Schweitzer

Antoni Bryliński on the behavior of the Germans.

Written reminiscences 1976 (voice over, 01:45 min.)

Source: Antoni Bryliński, Rehfelde, in Z Literą „P“, Poznań 1976, pp. 68–78

Helene Pawlik about her rebelling against the farmer.

Video interview 2001 (voice over, 01:15 min.)

Source: Private archive Hornung / Langthaler / Schweitzer