Hugo Valentin-centrum

Hugo Valentin-föreläsningen 2012: Professor Ulrich Herbert

“Ten Million Aliens on German Soil”:

The Origins, Dimensions and Impacts of Forced Labour in Nazi Germany

Prof. Ulrich Herbert

Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, School of History, 

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

The 10th Hugo Valentin Lecture will be held by Ulrich Herbert, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (Frias), Freiburg University, Germany. Prof. Herbert is one of Germany's foremost experts on European and German history of the 19th and 20th centuries with particular emphasis on the Nazi period. He has been director of the Frias School of History since 2007. Herbert's hallmark as a scholar is, however, his interest in the German policy with regard to foreigners and labour immigration during different historical periods, which is a recurring theme in his studies of German National Socialism and extermination politics, migration history and history of the Federal Republic. Herbert is also the author of an inventive and acclaimed scholarly biography of the Nazi leader and later German Plenipotentiary in occupied Denmark, Werner Best (1996). In 1999, Herbert received the German Research Association's Leibniz Prize, one of the country's most prestigious scientific awards. His research has resulted in a number of books, including Hitler's Foreign Workers: Enforced Foreign Labour in Germany under the Third Reich (Cambridge, 1997), A History of Foreign Labour in Germany, 1880–1980 (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1990), National-Socialist Extermination Policy: Contemporary German Perspectives and Controversies (New York/Oxford 1999), and Wandlungsprozesse in Westdeutschland: Belastung, Integration, Liberalisierung, 1945–1980 (Göttingen 2002) – with several later printings, editions and translations. Prof. Herbert has successfully led several large scale historical research and documentation projects, and together with fellow historians is a co-editor of the Munich-based Journal for Modern European History. 

In this evening's lecture, Professor Herbert will introduce the history of the more than ten million foreigners who were brought to work in Germany during the Second World War. About six millions of them were civilians, originating from 21 European states, predominantly from the USSR, Poland, and France. Moreover, about three million prisoners of war had to work for the German war economy, and, in the last phase of the war, concentration-camp prisoners and approximately 400,000 Jews were also used as forced labour in the Reich. The labour and living conditions of these people varied greatly, as did their status and fate. Most of the workers were recruited by force, but there were many volunteers among the civilian workers who thereby hoped to find better living conditions in Germany. For the Germans, the use of foreign labour was a necessity from 1940, when the Wehrmacht began to use so many German workers as soldiers that the continued functioning of the German economy was endangered. Hence, the use of foreign labour was initiated, although it was in many ways against the political and racist principles of the Nazi regime. By 1944, more than one third of the labour force in Germany consisted of foreigners: in mines and heavy industry, more than fifty percent, and in some factories up to eighty percent. More than 10,000 camps were built in German cities and in the countryside for the "alien workers" (Fremdarbeiter), as they were called by the German public. While the Nazi regime tried to control the foreigner-workers with harsh measures, by the last two years of the war these measures began to fail and the life of the civilian workers developed its own dynamics.

Per Jegebäck

The lecture takes place on Tuesday 6 March 2012 at 19:15, in the University Main Building’s Lecture Hall X.