Terrorizing through Executions

Participants in the execution of Julian Majka, a Polish forced laborer, Michelsneukirchen (Bavaria), 18 April 1941.

Julian Majka was executed on 18 April 1941 for having a a relationship with a German woman. Senior officials from the Security Police, a representative from the local government and an SS doctor were present for the execution. An official from the Gestapo was in charge of the execution.

Source: Collection Vernon Schmidt, veteran of the 90th Inf. Div., U.S. Army

Execution of the Polish forced laborer Julian Majka, Michelsneukirchen (Bavaria), 18 April 1941.

Prisoners from the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp had to assist the executioner Johann Reichhart and the SS officers with the execution. It is likely that the SS officer in charge of the execution commando photographed the execution. A US soldier found the photographs following the liberation of Flossenbürg.

Source: Collection Vernon Schmidt, veteran of the 90th Inf. Div., U.S. Army

Forced laborers are ordered to walk past the gallows after the execution, Michelsneukirchen (Bavaria), 18 April 1941.

The men and women from Poland who worked as forced laborers in the area were ordered to assemble at the execution site. A Gestapo official stood before the assembled crowd and instructed them not to violate the German regulations.

Source: Collection Vernon Schmidt, veteran of the 90th Inf. Div., U.S. Army

Gestapo report on the public mood (draft), 18 July 1941.

Reports on the reaction of the German population and of forced laborers were assessed by the RSHA to judge the effect of executions.

Source: Landesarchiv Nordrhein-Westfalen Abteilung Rheinland

Eisenach, 15 November 1940

Hedwig H. and Polish forced laborer Eduard P. are forced to carry posters at the market square reading “I have had relations with a Pole” and “I am a race defiler.”

Source: Stadtarchiv Eisenach

Terrorizing through Executions

In the early years of the war, on orders from the Reich Security Main Office, the Regensburg Gestapo had more than twenty Poles executed not far from their workplaces on charges of intimate contact with German women or other “offenses.” Polish compatriots performing forced labor in the surrounding area were led past the hanged bodies as a means of determent.

The investigations and proceedings involving “forbidden contact” with German women were strongly racist: Western prisoners of war faced prison sentences, forced laborers from Poland and the Soviet Union execution. The German women involved were publicly humiliated and frequently committed to concentration camps. The punishments for German men charged with “forbidden contact” were minor.

The Reich Security Main Office and “Defense against Threats in the Deployment of Foreigners”

The Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) – the headquarters of the National Socialist persecution and extermination system – was responsible for controlling the forced laborers in the GermanReich. It had been formed in September 1939 by uniting the SS Security Service (SD) and the Security Police (Criminal Police and Gestapo).

Of decisive importance for the control and prosecution of foreign workers were the security police, particularly the Gestapo. Over the course of the war, the judicial authorities increasingly gave them free rein. From 1943 onward, offenses committed by Poles and “Eastern workers” fell into the exclusive domain of the Gestapo, the offenders were punished without trial.

During the war, the Gestapo spent a lot of its resources on investigations involving forced laborers. In the cities, the Schutzpolizei, a section of the regular police, assisted them in these efforts, while the Gendarmerie provided assistance in smaller communities.


Excerpt from a speech by Walter Groß, head of the Racial Policy Office of the National Socialist Party, in Linz, 14 March 1940.

Groß demanded the strict separation of Germans and foreign laborers and harsh punishments for violations of these boundaries. Excerpt (02:00 min.)

Source: Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv

Statement by the Pole Marian Barzak regarding a hanging in Bavaria, 1953.

“We all had to pass by the Polish civilian laborer, who had been hanged.” Voice over (01:30 min.)

Source: Staatsarchiv Amberg