University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
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CHGS

  • Slave Labor

    Slave Labor

    The women were forced to work at many kinds of slave labor, from heavy outdoor jobs to building V-2 rocket parts for the Siemens Electric Company.

    Click on image to enlarge

    camp life"The Waltz" by Felicie Mertens

    The major private firm that used slave labor at Ravensbrück was the Siemens Electric Company, today the second largest electric company in the world. In a separate camp adjoining the main one, Siemens "employed" the women to make electrical components for V-1 and V-2 rockets.

    Ravensbrück was one of the Nazi's main depositories for confiscated clothing and furs, and had an SS-owned factory for remodeling leather and textiles, a subsidiary of Dachau Enterprises, There was also a tailor shop that made the prisoners' striped uniforms and uniforms for the SS, and fur coats for the Waffen-SS and the Wehrmacht, In another shop the prisoners wove carpets from reeds. Women also did outside work, such as construction of buildings and roads. They were used like animals, with twelve to fourteen of them pulling a huge roller to pave the streets,

    Some of the women worked in camp administration and some worked outside the camp, for example, in the nearby town of Fürstenberg. Those too old or disabled to perform other duties knitted for the army or cleaned the barracks and latrines, The women usually worked for twelve hours a day, under conditions of extreme exploitation.

    The work day began at 7AM until 7PM, while the night shift worked from 7PM to 7AM. Some jobs required working on Sunday. The rolls calls (APPEL) were extremely tiring, long and difficult in winter because of the cold. After  a half-day of work, women weal and exhausted had a short break to literally "grab" something to eat. Everything was done is a rush with guards close by and screaming orders. After midday meal, counting of prisoners began again until the 7PM end of work. Women worked at some of the most difficult tasks, including construction.

    Women prisoners who could not work outside were employed at knitting for the army. This kind of work was created for women "rabbits" who had been used as guinea pigs after medical experimentation had been performed on them.

    giant roller

    Giant roller pulled by slave laborers. Photo courtesy of MGR/SBG. SS propaganda photos of slave laborers at Ravensbrück, 1940-1941. Archive of MGR/SBG.

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