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»Leaving your place of residence is strictly prohibited.«

The Obligations of Civilian Laborers of Polish Nationality during their Stay in the Reich, 1941.

Source: Niederösterreichisches Landesarchiv

»All social interaction with the German population … is prohibited.«

The Obligations of Civilian Laborers of Polish Nationality during their Stay in the Reich, 1941.

Source: Niederösterreichisches Landesarchiv

»As a basic principle, foreigners were brought to the Reich territory for work and not for pleasure, and they shall submit to the restrictions brought about by the war. Excursions and travel for visits or recreation are not permitted

Source: Directive by the Munich Chief of Police of 24 Apr. 1944, Staatsarchiv München, Archiv OPD München, quoted in Andreas Heusler, “Ausländereinsatz. Zwangsarbeit für die Münchner Kriegswirtschaft 1939–1945,” Munich 1996, p. 260

»If it is possible to reach their destination by foot, foreign workers are required to go by foot.«

Letter by the Security Service of the Reich Leader of the SS to all Security Service offices and headquarters, regarding travel by foreign workers, Koblenz 1943.

Source: Landesarchiv Koblenz

»The use of public transportation … is permitted only with the special approval of local police authorities

The Obligations of Civilian Laborers of Polish Nationality during their Stay in the Reich, 1941.

Source: Niederösterreichisches Landesarchiv

»At a busy station, German passengers have priority for transportation; however, for security reasons, removing passengers from the train while it is en route in order to permit Germans to embark is not permitted

Source: Announcement by the Rheinischen Bahngesellschaft No. 88, quoted in Clemens von Looz-Corswarem (ed.), Zwangsarbeit in Düsseldorf. Ausländereinsatz während des Zweiten Weltkrieges in einer rheinischen Großstadt, Essen 2002, p. 393

»Following the issuance of a special decree, we must remind you that these civilians are to vacate their seats immediately if German national comrades are standing

Source: Announcement by the Rheinischen Bahngesellschaft No. 88, quoted in Clemens von Looz-Corswarem (ed.), Zwangsarbeit in Düsseldorf. Ausländereinsatz während des Zweiten Weltkrieges in einer rheinischen Großstadt, Essen 2001, p. 391

Regulations for Forced Laborers

The National Socialists feared that foreigners in the German Reich would undermine the security and “racial purity” of the German population. To contain these supposed threats, the Nazi security apparatus and labor authorities issued stringent regulations on the freedom of movement and behavior of foreign workers. These included the “Polish decrees” of February 1940, which already included key measures that were later tightened in the 1942 “decrees on Eastern Workers.” With these regulations, racial ideology was transformed into concrete practice.

An immense number of regulations soon came to govern every aspect of life for forced laborers. In accordance with National Socialist racial ideology, different regulations applied to different nationalities of forced laborers. The harshest regulations applied to forced laborers from Poland and the Soviet Union.

The exhibition “Forced Labor” publicity will display several regulations that restricted freedom of movement for forced laborers at sites where they would have been in effect in everyday life under National Socialism – for example, in the Berlin subway.

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.”