How Germany Turned Forced Labor into an Industry Standard

Heinkel definitely profited as an aviation business from the early use of slave labor and from the subsequent increased productivity of the Oranienburg complex. Slave labor also solved several problems associated with the German workforce. While in early 1942 the firm lost 15 percent of the normal work hours due to authorized leaves, sick leaves, air-raid alarms and absenteeism, the average lost time in 1943 sunk to only 6.9 percent. Higher payment levels in the area around Berlin also motivated Heinkel to increase the number of its slave workers and thus cut expenses on higher-than-average salaries. Furthermore, since no overtime was paid for slave labor, the amount of budget the firm spent on extra hours also decreased drastically.210 At the end of 1942 manager Karl Hayn viewed the massive use of concentration camp inmates as a magic solution to most manpower and productivity problems of the aviation industry and as one possible answer to the challenge posed by the enormous production capacity of the American aircraft industry.211 As Heinkel made its experiments with slave labor, other firms sought to solve the same problems using different strategies. Some of them tried to find the missing extra capacity outside Germany. Focke-Wulf was the leading firm in this regard, but Junkers, Dornier and Messerschmitt also sought to expand their outsourcing and foreign contracting. Even Heinkel outsourced the development and production of its He 274 heavy bomber—a development of the troubled He 177—to the French firm Farman.212 Focke-Wulf initially sought to solve its manpower and capacity shortage by contracting French firms and outsourcing to them some of its parts production, aircraft production and even development work. On the long term this initiative largely failed due to different factors described previously. As a result Focke-Wulf gained little from its 1941–1943 ventures and enterprises in France. Despite relying heavily on outsourcing, Focke-Wulf employed foreigners in increasing numbers in its factories, but it was done in a different way than by Heinkel. By the end of 1942 some 1,395 of the 2,370 workers at the Posen factory were foreigners. They included Italians, Danes, Poles, Frenchmen (including POWs), Spaniards, Russians and Ukrainians. This high percentage of foreigners is easily explainable by the location of this plant on former Polish territory annexed to the Reich. Of the 1,395 foreigners, 1,175 were Poles—mostly locals. The percentage of foreigners in Focke-Wulf’s other plants, located in Germany, wasmuch lower. In its Marienburg plant, for example, only 32 of the 574 workers were foreign ers.213 Therefore the Posen factory can be viewed as sort of an eastwards outsourcing, which provided a solution to the manpower problem by relying on a salaried local Polish workforce. As we saw, Focke-Wulf also turned to Italy in early 1944. This move was a continuation of its business strategy of outsourcing production tasks to firms outside Germany. FockeWulf was therefore persistent with its own way of trying to solve the lack of manpower. Focke-Wulf was one of three firms which had tried repeatedly since late 1943 to recruit Italian workers, particularly skilled, and recruit them for work in its German factories. Focke-Wulf, Arado and Messerschmitt sent their own representatives to Italy in January 1944 to try to solve the problems associated with the recruitment of Italian workers. This initiative formed yet another approach to solving the manpower shortage, which indicates the difficulties encountered with workforce recruitment through other agencies, especially the GBA. Up to that point recruitment of Italian workers had largely failed because the Germans failed to offer local workers an agreed-upon and unified contract, providing them satisfactory payment, housing, and feeding, and regulating other issues affecting their employment conditions. The GBA never bothered to achieve a similar settlement, so the three firms took the initiative and sought to offer their own contracts in order to attract Italian workers.214 It was too late, and few—if any—Italians were recruited in this way. The generally positive experience gained during the early employment of inmates at Heinkel’s factories soon spilled over to other places. Firstly, the use of inmates was constantly expanded within the Heinkel organization; inmates were soon allocated to the ViennaSchwechat branch, and then to the main Rostock plant. The number of slave workers employed in these factories never reached the magnitude of Oranienburg and the “Block Budzyn” complexes, but inmates increasingly replaced German workers—even specialists— on the production lines.215 During 1943 more Heinkel factories, including minor ones, were turned into concentration camp factories. One of them was the Barth factory, not far from Rostock, which manufactured fighter wings under license.216 Towards the end of 1943 the ratio of Germans and foreigners on the production lines tipped decisively towards the foreigners. Even though their number within the entire workforce—around 30.5 percent out of 1,852,000—was relatively low, since many Germans filled clerical, administrative and professional positions, the share of foreigners and inmates on the production lines was significant. As a result, in firms like BMW, foreigners of all sorts formed 85 percent of the productive workforce. In October 1943 Milch brought the series production of the Ju 52 transport plane in Bernburg, which was done by 6 German foremen and around 2,000 foreigners, as an extreme example of this trend.217 Foreigners of 32 different nationalities218 also rapidly replaced Germans in various other functions within the aviation factories. By 1944 foreigners even served as auxiliary firemen with the factories’ fire brigade units. This assignment required the issue of special regulations concerning their status and rewards for this work. The main reward for western foreigners was an exemption from carrying the special badge signifying foreign worker status. The Germans did not trust these foreign firemen and some firm managements recommended that they should not form more than 50 percent of the fire brigade force in any factory. In any case, their supervisors were instructed to closely watch them and to be extremely strict with them.