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Investigating forced labor in Frankenhausen

Three agricultural science and sociology students from the University of Kassel and historian Jochen Ebert visited the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen at the beginning of June because of a project seminar. Their research focused on forced labor in the Hessian State Domain Frankenhausen during the Second World War. “With the ITS´s support we were able to determine a number of names and learn more details about so-called civilian workers,” reported Ebert.

The Hessian State Domain Frankenhausen was rented by the University of Kassel in 1998 for experimental and teaching purposes. At the same time interest in the property´s history was increasing, and Ebert´s dissertation tackles this topic. “We are organizing a separate project seminar for the agricultural science and sociology departments on the topic of forced labor in North Hessian agriculture, with Frankenhausen as an example, so as not to overstep the bounds of my PhD.”

Three dedicated students have spent two semesters in archives and memorials researching the fates of forced laborers at the former estate. “We viewed numerous documents at the Breitenau memorial, and now we can see the digital originals at the ITS,” said student Hannah Fritsch. The visitors were especially interested in management records of the Frankenhausen estate and lists from Hofgeismar county. “We found 60 additional names from public health insurance company lists. This was possible because the Frankenhausen estate was listed as an employer,” reported Ebert.

According to Nazi terminology, foreign civilian workers were laborers from countries under German occupation who were recruited from their homelands under pressure and put to work as forced laborers under mostly inhumane conditions. The workers in Frankenhausen were mainly from Poland, Ukraine and Russia. They were housed near the estate in camps.

“We are currently in the process of collecting information,” explained the historian. “We could imagine different ways of publishing our research results. There will be a farmers´ festival in Frankenhausen at the end of June 2009 where we plan to present our first results. Document scans from the ITS will be extremely useful to us there.”