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Polish Forced Labour (Zwangsarbeiter/Fremdarbeiter) collection

Article about: by A.J. Zawadzki Hi Stefan, yes, very perceptive of you. Definitely the efforts of a left leaning group. You'll quickly spot the less-than-subtle hammer and scythe imagery on the cover: Atta

  1. #1

    Exclamation Polish Forced Labour (Zwangsarbeiter/Fremdarbeiter) collection

    Hi,

    Not sure if this counts as militaria but I am collecting Polish forced labour photographs, Polish "P" patches, `documents and I.D. badges of Poles forced to work in German factories and work camps. This is an often overlooked aspect of the Polish experience of WWII. Anyone else collecting these materials?

    Some of my collection (and always looking for more)

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    Last edited by Gary J; 12-03-2010 at 06:42 AM.

  2. #2
    ?

    Default re: Polish Forced Labour (Zwangsarbeiter/Fremdarbeiter) collection

    Only Item I have is a forced labour card from the "General Government" Area.

    Gary J.
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    Default re: Polish Forced Labour (Zwangsarbeiter/Fremdarbeiter) collection

    Quote by Gary J View Post
    Only Item I have is a forced labour card from the "General Government" Area.

    Gary J.
    Thanks Gary, pity the photo was removed at some point.

    I also have I.D. card (post-liberation) and number patches for former prisoner no. 47568 (in 1943) at Ravensbrück concentration camp.

    My grandmother was Ravensbrück prisoner no. 5953 (deported from Warsaw 1941) more than 40,000 prisoners earlier. 40,000 more prisoners in two years—quite staggering really.
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    Default re: Polish Forced Labour (Zwangsarbeiter/Fremdarbeiter) collection

    A topic of interest for me as well. My father was deported from Poland to Germany in 1941. He was required to report at 9am March 15th 1941 to the Kielce Arbeitsamt (labour office) with “documents, work clothes, strong shoes, food for two days” as per the document posted below. On the train journey he was involved in an altercation with a German official who was belittling him as a Pole. My father did not take kindly to this and chose to shoot some insults back, for which he was struck across the head. The facial swelling is visible in his ID photo that was taken upon arrival in Germany. And so began several years of slave labour where he experienced some terrible things culminating in barely surviving the winter of 1944/45 on a hard labour detail for refusing conscription into the German army. To this day he has a bitter dislike for Germans “for what they did to us”.

    Also posted is one other surviving and strange photo of his time in Germany. The date on the photo August 23, 1942 and he is pictured along with another Polish labourer identified as Jan Ujazda. My father no longer recalls the circumstances of the photo. You can see the “P” on his jacket, which had trimmed in an odd way. The “P” patch below is one of the ones issued to him that he kept.

    My father eventually made his way to Italy in early 1945 to join the Polish 2nd Corps where he served until demobilization in 1947. He currently collects a pension from Germany for his close to four years of forced labour.

    Regards,
    Tony
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  5. #5
    ccj
    ccj is offline
    ?

    Default re: Polish Forced Labour (Zwangsarbeiter/Fremdarbeiter) collection

    Wow, very interesting. I've never known anyone who suffered through imprisonment or forced labor.
    How and when would they take photos and how did the laborers get hold of these photos?

  6. #6

    Default re: Polish Forced Labour (Zwangsarbeiter/Fremdarbeiter) collection

    Yes, that’s one of the strange things. As I mentioned, my father doesn’t recall the specific circumstances of the photo. He was moved around to different farms to work for different farmers. Conditions varied from farm to farm, and although freedoms were very limited, their ultimate extent was governed by the owner he worked for. He does recall that some owners were far better than others. Some would treat the labour force very much as beast of burden. His sleeping and eating quarters were with the other farm animals – year round. Based on the dour expression of my dad (on the left) and his colleague my thought was that this was possibly a picture taken for the farm owner to keep as a ‘record’ of his workers. Perhaps they were on their way to reassignment to another farm - ?

    Tony

  7. #7

    Default re: Polish Forced Labour (Zwangsarbeiter/Fremdarbeiter) collection

    Thanks Tony, for posting your father's photos and documents.

    Quote by A.J. Zawadzki View Post
    A topic of interest for me as well. My father was deported from Poland to Germany in 1941.
    My late father was also deported (August 1942) to work in Germany as a young teenager from Warsaw. He was sent to Nürnberg to work first in a garage and then to MUNA-Feucht a munnitions factory just outside the city in the forest. As well as standard munnitions MUNA-Feucht facility also produced the munnitions for Hitller's last vengeance weapon the V-3 Hochdruckpumpe super-gun designed to send up to 10 rocket assisted shells a minute at London. There were hundreds of Poles, Russians and Ukranians working at the factory site, they were barracked near the Nürnberg-Langwasser POW camp complex and were marched to several kilometers to the Muna factories each day. With the help of the Memorial organisation in Russia I tracked down several Ukranian women who worked at MUNA-Feucht and they described that conditions were harsh and that several Poles who had tried to escape were found and executed onsite to teach the prisoners a lesson. The Ukranians and Russians jobs were to carry sacks of chemicals from the trains to the factories and to clean the brass shell casings before assembly. I also learnt from the Feucht town archives that the 'owner' of MUNA-Feucht was murdered shortly after the war by persons unknown.

    Quote by A.J. Zawadzki View Post
    My father eventually made his way to Italy in early 1945 to join the Polish 2nd Corps where he served until demobilization in 1947.
    This also mirrors my father's experience. Do you know how your father made it to Italy? I am interested to know how liberated Poles came to hear of Anders' Army in Italy and if there was any organised transports from Germany down to Itlay or did Poles just make their own way in small groups?

    I think ID photo of your father's brusing and the shape his "P" patch shows his rebelious Polish spirit!

    I guess I must have several hundred photos of Polish forced workers and it was not uncommon for some of them have 'studio' portrait photos taken—it was totally dependent on the circumstamces of their forced labour. Some were allowed into town on Sundays as long as the "P" badge was worn so could send reassuring photos home. Forced workers had to pay out of their meagre wages four such "P" patches from the Germans.

    Here is a selection of my photos:
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    Default re: Polish Forced Labour (Zwangsarbeiter/Fremdarbeiter) collection

    Hello again 4th Scorpion,

    First off, thank you for the additional details of your father’s time in Germany. Well done to have researched your father’s background via the Memorial Organization in Russia. As my father is till alive I am able to just talk to him when I need information, so I suppose that is why I have yet to do any deep research on his past.

    Sorry for my slow reply. One reason is lack of time due to Christmas functions, and secondly was that I wanted to speak with my dad re one of your questions. He was over for wigilia dinner last night, and fortunately was in a reflective and talkative mood. At 87 he can be unpredictable as to his sharpness of mind and willingness to talk about the past, but yesterday he was in fine form and his recall of events was clear. I even learned a few new things.

    Quote by 4thskorpion View Post
    I think ID photo of your father's brusing and the shape his "P" patch shows his rebelious Polish spirit!
    Yes, he is a feisty fellow – even now at 87. Both of his parents died when he was a young boy growing up dirt poor in a farming community outside Kielce. As the youngest of seven children he was raised by his older siblings. Obtaining the basic necessities of life was a constant struggle and he had to get by largely by using his wits. This difficult upbringing no doubt honed his survival skills, which would come in handy during his years in Germany. But that same independent (and rebellious) streak also landed him in considerable trouble in Germany where he ran afoul of the authorities on several occasions.

    My dad recognizes that he did not have it nearly as bad as many of his fellow Poles or those of other nations who were forced to work in Germany. But he did endure some harsh experiences. In one case his close friend, another Polish labourer, was executed for a crime he was innocent of. My father was forced to watch from close range as he was hung in front of him. In another incident a local German girl claimed she was raped by one of the Polish labourers. My father was accused. An investigation was undertaken and during this process he was held in some sort of underground bunker in virtually complete darkness for over four weeks. He was awaiting execution if found guilty. Eventually the girl confessed that the guilty man was German and my father was freed. (Fortunately for me!) But the experience left him shaken and with some mental scars.

    Another interesting incident happened during his work as a farm slave. One of his jobs was the spreading of fertilizer. Often this fertilizer was simply sacks of grey ash. Once when spreading this fertilizer ash he found some sort of metal dental appliance with remnants of what were real or false teeth. He kept it and gave it to the farm owner. At this time he was working in the region immediately outside Munich, not far from the Dachau concentration camp. Although I‘ve not researched this yet, what he describes sounds eerily like a possible byproduct of the activities at Dachau. The manner in which my father relates this account leaves me no reason to doubt its veracity.

    He also vividly remembers working in the fields outside Munich and watching Allied planes flying overhead on bombing raids of the city.

    Quote by 4thskorpion View Post
    Do you know how your father made it to Italy? I am interested to know how liberated Poles came to hear of Anders' Army in Italy and if there was any organised transports from Germany down to Itlay or did Poles just make their own way in small groups?
    This is what I wanted to discuss with my dad before replying.

    As mentioned previously, in late 1944 he refused conscription into the Wehrmacht and as a result was transported east to Austria to dig anti-tank trenches amongst other hard labour. Last night he recalled the name of the area which I determined from his pronunciation and after a google search to be Steirmark, Austria. It’s the first time he’s mentioned the name of the place where he survived difficult conditions over the winter of 1944/45.

    During the confusion and disarray as the Russians were overrunning German held positions he was able to gain his freedom. Around this time he encountered some Poles who told him of the situation in Poland and the Soviet occupation. He was told of the poor treatment of any Poles that harboured ideas of independence so he decided against returning home to Poland and instead to head west. He was able to board a train and in May 1945 found himself back in Germany near Memmingen. Nearby was POW camp Stalag VIIB. The prisoners had been freed about three weeks earlier. My father was able to obtain a pre-war Polish wz.36 tunic from one of the freed POW’s and he can be seen wearing this tunic along with a wz.37 field rogatywka cap in a photo dated on the reverse May 20, 1945 (posted below). I sure wish he kept these items!

    Nearby was a recruitment center for the Polish 2nd Corps. Freed Polish POW’s were joining the 2nd Corps. Without a moments hesitation he decided to enlist and also convinced two reluctant friends join up as well. They boarded trains which took them to Italy. So as far as my father’s experience the recruitment was definitely organized. Posted below is a portrait taken in Italy shortly after enlisting.

    Regards,
    Tony
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  9. #9

    Default re: Polish Forced Labour (Zwangsarbeiter/Fremdarbeiter) collection

    Thanks for sharing further details of your father's experiences. I learnt something new about post-liberation recruitment into Anders forces. I am very interested by these stories of Polish forced labour as it is still one of the least well recorded aspects of the Polish experience of WWII. Much has already been lost with the passing of so many of that generation so it is historically invalubale to hear from those such your father when they are willing to talk about their experiences.

  10. #10

    Default re: Polish Forced Labour (Zwangsarbeiter/Fremdarbeiter) collection

    Just acquired a pair of 'new' shoes/clogs made by and for forced-workers recently found in an old factory outhouse in Austria.

    Obvioulsy these are haute couture wear for the forced-worker since the uppers are stitched rather than plain rivetted to the hand-shaped wooden soles which have been blackened to make the overall appearence more shoe-like than clog-like.
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