Places of forced labour

ID: 241
Control and exploitation of the Jewish community as the process of its extermination. Vague hope or an opportunity to save yourself and your family by forced labour. 

This story elaborates on the theme Holocaust Topography, that was prepared as a part of the program The Complicated Pages of Common History: Telling About World War II in Lviv.

One method of committing the Holocaust was the labour exploitation of the Jewish population. According to Nazi estimates, before the war, 90% of Eastern Galician artisans were Jews, and at least half of Lviv's Jews could work, and half of this group could be used for forced labour. Therefore, according to a report by SS Police Major General Fritz Katzman, it was stated that Jews should not be abandoned as a labour force, as this would have a negative impact on the military industry of the Third Reich. De jure, from August 7, 1941, all Jewish men between the ages of 14 and 60 were required to work. Provision of jobs and control was to be performed by the Labour Exchange (Arbeitsamt), which in the District of Galicia was headed by Dr. Richard Nitsche. The Lviv branch was located on ul. Zamknięta 5 (now vul. Zamknena). De facto, the Labour Exchange sent Jews to forced labour from July 11, 1941. Especially for the Jewish community, the Exchange had a department for providing Jews with jobs (Judeninsatzstellen). In Lviv, this department changed its location several times: at first it was located on ul. Sakramencka (now vul. Tuhan-Baranovskoho), then on ul. Zamknięta (now vul. Zamknena) and later on pl. Misjonarski (now vul. Pid Dubom), in the premises of the former Mikołaj Rej common school for women. The department was headed by Heinz Weber. In the first month of the department's work (until September 20), a card index of Jews was created there according to their professions. During October 1-15, 1941, the Jews "fit for work" were registered. In Lviv alone, more than 50,000 men over the age of 12 were registered, as well as women who were recognized as able-bodied. The next registration was announced on March 13, 1942, on the eve of the first deportation to Bełżec.

The existence of places of forced labour was seen by Jews as an opportunity to escape the Holocaust in Lviv, demonstrating their importance to the regime. Forced labour places became places that extended the lives of the Jews. It was possible to receive a salary (although it was soon stopped being paid), additional food, which according to Nazi documents was to include breakfast, dinner and day-time meals. Many people tried to get a job at a factory to be given a certificate indicating the place of work. Often such a certificate could save lives. On the other hand, places of forced labour were only an illusion of rescue as Jews could be killed for any violation even there, "clean" identity cards ignored completely.

Following common practice, the SS command took over the management of the ghetto in Lviv in September 1942. According to the order, all Jews who were "free" workers at various enterprises were to move to the ghetto, from there to the Janowska hybrid camp, and then again, with additional funds from the business, to be distributed to various industries.

From November 1, 1942, Jews were no longer paid for their work in cash. However, the employers had to transfer funds to the SS Command and the District of Galicia Police in the amount of 5.00 zlotys for every man and 4.00 zlotys for every woman per calendar day or per shift. According to an explanation letter from SS Major General Fritz Katzman, it was stated that taxes and social security contributions should not be deducted from these salaries, though food and administrative expenses should be deducted. The amount of deductions should not exceed 1.60 zlotys of the daily rate. The SS police could check the money turnover if necessary. To control payments, the money for the workers had to be transferred to the operating account of the SS and Police Commander at the Lviv Issuing Bank by the third day of the month following the account, copies of daily estimates sent to the SS Headquarters and the Main Police Department at Siegfriedstrasse 102 (now vul. Henerala Chuprynky).

Places of forced labour are mentioned in memoirs and official Nazi documents. After the ghetto (a place of isolation of the Jews) was transformed into the Julag (Jewish labour camp), all the barracks where the Jews lived were named after the factories where their inhabitants worked.

Among the places of forced labour we know the following enterprises:

1. Schwartz & Co. Lemberg. A Factory for sewing army uniforms and repairing clothes; the factory workshops were located on ul. Św. Marcina. It was founded in January 1942 as a branch of an enterprise operating in the ghetto of Łódź. After the liquidation of the ghetto, the factory was transferred to the Janowska camp.

2. The DAW (Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke) industrial empire, which included factories and workshops belonging to the Goering concern. Later they became known as Hermann Goering Werke. The leader of this empire was Haupshturmführer Gebauer, the founder of the Janowska camp. Most of the prisoners in the camp worked for the DAW.
3. VIB (Vereinigte Industrie Betriebe) — the Association of Industrial Enterprises. The company worked for the Wehrmacht and was located on vul. Zamarstynivska. The factory produced cutlery for the front. The warehouses of this factory were located on one of the side streets of vul. Zamarstynivska.
4. Textilia Lemberg company. The Lviv Textilhandelsgesellschaft m.b.H was a branch of the Krakow firm Zob. T. Berenstein.
5. Hobag Holzbau A.G. Breslau Zweigstelle in Lemberg. The company was engaged in wood processing.
6. Metrawatt AG Feinmechanische und Optische Werke Nuremberg — Lemberg Branch. This firm was a branch of a company located in Nuremberg. The company had its own workshops in the Lychakiv suburb, where optical devices for aviation were produced.
7. City Workshops enterprise, Lviv (Ausbildungswerkstätten A.W. Lemberg). It was established in April 1942 on the model of a Jewish craft cooperative operating in Bochnia. To some extent, the workshops were controlled by the Jewish community and the Jewish social self-aid organization. In July 1942, there were four workshops on ul. Kazimierzowska, which provided jobs for approximately 3,500 mostly elderly Jews. The workshops were liquidated in late 1942. The equipment and some of the surviving workers were transported to the Janowska camp.

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Deutscheausrüstungswerke (DAW)

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1. David Cessarani, Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949 (New York, St. Martin Press, 2016)
2. Lili Chuwis-Thau, A jeśli cię zapomnię (Warszawa, Żydowski Instytut Historyczny, 2002).
3. Філіп Фрідман, Винищення львівських євреїв. (Видання Центральної Єврейської Історичної Комісії при Центральному Комітеті Польських Євреїв № 4)
4. Friedrich Katzmann, Rozwiązanie kwestii żydowskiej w Dystrykcie Galicja (Warszawa, Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2001).
5. Wolf Gruner, Jewish Forced Labor under the Nazis: Economic Needs and Racial Aims, 1938–1944 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006), 230-275.

Cover photo: Tunnel reconstruction on the railway line to Stryi, November 1941. Author: Girwert. Source: Polish National Digital Archive (NAC, 2-7567)
Olena Andronatiy
Translated by Andriy Masliukh