Austrian Jewish Forced Labor in Germany
Introduction by Peter Landé
Much has been written about forced labor in Nazi Germany, including the use of non-German Jews as forced laborers. However, the first use of non-German Jewish inside Germany, while relatively small, has largely been ignored. Shortly after Anschluss in March 1938, public construction authorities near Germany’s northwest coast and various localities near Hannover expressed interest in the possibility of obtaining able-bodied Austrian Jews to support existing domestic forced labor projects. Such requests fit nicely into the agenda of German authorities in Vienna, where there were large numbers of unemployed Jews who had been unsuccessful in leaving Austria despite German efforts to push emigration.
Beginning in late 1938, but mostly in 1939, about 2,000 Austrian Jews were sent to 17 sites in Germany (see list below) for periods of a few months up to several years. Most were males utilized in construction projects, but there were also several hundred women sent for factory work. Neither the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), the International Tracing Service (ITS) nor the Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes (DOEW) appear to have “transport” lists, and, indeed, workers were apparently not sent in separate trains but rather included in unrelated commercial transports.
Many of the forced labor projects had to be abandoned due to lack of housing and the physical inability of urban Jews to handle manual labor under extremely difficult conditions. As a result, many workers were simply returned to Vienna. In the early years, returnees were simply released. Some of them managed to leave Austria, others were sent to forced labor camps within Austria while many were caught up in later deportations to death camps in Eastern Europe. ITS and DOEW records of these deportations vary somewhat. Both are identified in the database, with an X indicating the absence of information.
As noted above, it has proven very difficult to identify most of the Austrian Jews sent to Germany. However, fortunately for those of us interested in identifying individuals, all Jews resident in Germany in May 1939 were included in the 1939 census. Searching the census by location I have been able to identify 286 Austrian Jews who were held in German forced labor installations at that time. There appears to be no way of identifying the much larger number who arrived later. For the 286, utilizing ITS, USHMM and DOEW material I then tried to determine their ultimate fate(s) to the extent known. The resulting database is available at the USHMM and DOEW. As one can see, I was able to identify a few survivors, and, not surprisingly, many of the returnees were later caught up in 1942-1945 deportations from Austria. For the roughly half of the deportees where I could not determine their fate, I can only hope that they emigrated/survived in some way. But, realistically, most probably perished within Austria, given the poor conditions there.
For anyone interested in a more comprehensive overview of Austrian Jewish forced labor both inside and outside Austria, I heartily recommend consulting Wolf Gruner’s Zwangsarbeit und Verfolgung Österreichische Juden in NS-Staat 1938-1945.
German Camps Utilizing Austrian Jewish Forced Labor
The database contains 285 Austrian forced laborers. The fields for this database are as follows:
The information contained in this database was indexed from the files of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM RG-36.003M). This information is accessible to you today thanks to the efforts of Peter Landé, a volunteer at the USHMM.
In addition, thanks to JewishGen, Inc. for providing the website and database expertise to make this database accessible, especially to Nolan Altman, VP Data Acquisition and coordinator of Holocaust files.
Searching the Database
This database is searchable via JewishGen's Holocaust Database.
Last Update: 31 Dec 2015 by MFK