“Prodigious archival research....demonstrates conclusively that forced labor by Jews during the Third Reich did not begin, as is often assumed, with the notorious wartime camp system of the SS but was instead initiated by civilian labor authorities in line with the persecutory measures adopted in the wake of the pogrom of November 1938.”
— H. A. Turner, Jr., American Historical Review
“Very few academic books break new ground. Wolf Gruner has done just that in his book on Jewish forced labor, a neglected field that has fallen between the cracks in discussions of property confiscations, ghettos, and killing during the Holocaust. Here he sheds light on the development of compulsory work in the Greater German Reich, from segregated employment for lowered wages to slavery in camps. Gruner is an experienced, disciplined, and meticulous researcher who explores central issues as well as local situations, giving us much information we never had.”
— Raul Hilberg, author of The Destruction of the European Jews
Forced labor was a key feature of Nazi anti-Jewish policy and shaped the daily life of almost every Jewish family in occupied Europe. This book systematically describes the implementation of forced labor for Jews in Germany, Austria, the Protectorate, and the various occupied Polish territories. As early as the end of 1938, compulsory labor for Jews had been introduced in Germany and annexed Austria by the labor administration. Similar programs subsequently were established by civil administrations in the German-occupied Czech and Polish territories. At its maximum extent, more than one million Jewish men and women toiled for private companies and public builders, many of them in hundreds of now often-forgotten special labor camps. This study refutes the widespread thesis that compulsory work was organized only by the SS and that exploitation was only an intermediate tactic on the way to mass murder or, rather, that it was only a facet in the destruction of the Jews.
“Wolf Gruner, a respected German scholar, reveals the close connection between forced labor by victims of Nazi persecution and the economic needs of German industry under the Hitler regime. His careful research traces the slippery slope from persecutory laws to labor camps in Germany and occupied countries and finally to the gas chambers. Extermination of Nazi victims was not haphazard. In the hope of staying alive, Jews were forced to work for the regime that had promised to annihilate them. Those unable to work were either dead or about to die. This important historical volume demonstrates that local German labor offices, industry, police and Wehrmacht, as well as companies large and small, were prepared to exploit slave laborers in cooperation with the SS as long as it served the economic interests of the Reich. It leaves the readers to ponder the unanswered question: ‘How could such things happen in a civilized country like Germany?’”
— Benjamin B. Ferencz, a Prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, author of Less Than Slaves: Jewish Forced Labor and the Quest for Compensation (Indiana University Press, in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). See www.benferencz.org
“This informative book shows why Wolf Gruner is widely recognized as one of the ablest German historians of his generation. Drawing on an unparalleled command of the extant sources, he gives us the first detailed examination of how, why, and to what extent the Nazi system of exploiting Jewish labor metastasized. He also carefully delineates the relationship between this process and the development of the Final Solution. The resulting study significantly refocuses attention on the role of German economic interests and civilian institutions in the persecution of the Jews—and in the remarkable survival of some of them.”
— Peter Hayes, Professor of History and German and Theodore Z. Weiss Professor of Holocaust Studies, Northwestern University
Wolf Gruner currently holds the Shapell-Gurin Chair in Jewish Studies as Professor of History at the University of Southern California. He previously held a position at the Institute for Contemporary History Munich-Branch Berlin, where he served as coeditor of a multivolume collection of primary sources on the persecution and extermination of the European Jews under the Nazis from 1933 to 1945. He is the author of many works on the history of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany and has held a visiting professorship at Webster University, a fellowship at Harvard University, and the 2002–2003 Pearl Resnick Postdoctoral Fellowship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies.