On October 26, 1939 , Hans Frank, Governor of the General Government in occupied Poland, required all Poles from 18-60 years of age to be employed.
That edict, issued by the Labor Department and its leader, Hans Frank, which was called arbeitspflict or “work obligation” is more commonly known as the Forced Labor Decree. It marks the day of the beginning of mass deportation of Polish men and women to Germany to work in the armaments industry, as agricultural laborers or wherever the German authorities dictated how the laborers were to be employed to maintain the German war economy. It began the massive enslavement of Polish men, women and children for involuntary forced labor. Among the almost two million Poles sent to Germany, more than half a million were women with their average age around 20.
By December 14 of that same year the required age for forced labor was changed to that of 14 and it is a known fact that children even younger than that were often forced to work side by side with adults.
By March 7, 1940 Hans Frank noted in his diary: 24,000 Polish women had been sent for agricultural work to the Reich.
By May 10, 1940 Hans Frank writes: “It has now been decreed that compulsion may be exercised.”
The people of Poland were subjected to constant surveillance by the racist bureaucratic and policing apparatus of the Wehrmacht, labor office, SS and Gestapo. They were rounded up on the streets, coming out of church or boarding a bus or train, placed in temporary holding centers and sent to Germany against their will. While in Germany, all Poles were required to wear a patch on their clothes with the letter P.
According to Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Office of the United States Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, Volume I Chapter 10…the basic elements of the Nazi foreign labor policy consisted of mass deportation and mass enslavement. It was a policy of underfeeding and overworking foreign laborers, of subjecting them to every form of degradation and brutality. It was a policy which compelled foreign workers and prisoners of war to manufacture armaments and to engage in other operations of war directed against their own countries. It was, in short, a policy which constituted a flagrant violation of the laws of war and the laws of humanity.
You can read a summary of the activities of Hans Frank at: Trial Brief of Hans Frank. Cornell University Law Library P.13 and 14
Photo of Polish slave laborer and his family liberated by the 1st US Army near Meggan Germany. Photo credit: Still Picture Branch National Archives in College Park, Maryland. More about the issue of forced labor can be found in: Wearing the Letter P: Polish women as Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany 1939-1945 by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab. Hippocrene Books, Inc.
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.