University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • Prisoners under forced labor

    Prisoners under forced labor

    Male and female prisoners under forced labor

    Request by Sofia P. to release her daughter committed to the Merxhausen mental hospital, 22nd January 1944

    During World War II, more than ten million of war-prisoners and people under forced labor were deported to the German Reich and committed above all to war economy and to branches where manpower was lacking. Those incapable of working because of disease, or pregnant women under forced labor, had to be sent to their home-countries. Many of them died from malnutrition in the so-called "repatriates' collecting camps". The Hessian camp "Pfaffenwald" near Bad Hersfeld was one of those institutions. There, forced abortions were also executed.

    Since autumn 1942, some individual transports of sick persons, especially from Poland and Russia, went to "euthanasia institutions" where they were killed. The T-4 "Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft Heil- and Pflegeanstalten" (Reich working group of sanatoriums and nursing homes) in Berlin was responsible for the "transfer" of mentally ill individuals, who were first committed to mental hospitals. During the war, all Hessian mental hospitals had both physically and mentally ill forced laborers as inmates. Many of these people suffered from the humiliating treatment by their German employers, from poor nutrition and from homesickness.

    Note regarding the transfer of Anna P on 10th January 1944 from the Merxhausen mental hospital, 29th March 1944

    Listing of the collection places for the deportation of mentally ill laborers from the USSR and Poland, 6th September 1944 Circular letter of the Reich Minister of the Interior

    Since September 1944, both the Public Health Administrations and the Labor Office as well as the industrial physicians sent mentally ill people under forced labour directly to "collecting points": Hadamar was responsible for the provinces Electoral Hesse and Nassau as well as (or the state of Hesse. The mental hospital was one of the institutions that were both "collecting points" and killing institutions. Between July 1944 and March 1945,583 males and females under forced labor coming from Poland and Russia and 15 people from western European countries were assassinated here under the "euthanasia operation". Among them were numerous cases of tuberculosis.

    Request to transport mentally ill East-European workers from the Marburg mental hospital to the collecting place Hadamar, 1st June 1944

    In Hadamar, the people that were ill and transported to this location were poisoned by medicine the same evening in a special ward used for that purpose - included among them were also small children.

    transport requests
    (click for a larger image)

    Alexandra G., 1944

    Alexandra G., 21-year-old Russian worker under forced labor, was committed to the Marburg home hospital after an attempted suicide on 13th January 1944. On 23rd January the same year she died. The mentioned cause of death was; "Schizophrenia combined with heavy excitation, cordial weakness". She was spared the transportation to Hadamar. The body was given to the Marburg dissecting department.

    alexandra g