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Research about prisoners for "Germanization"

Susanne Urban and Beate Welter

Dr. Beate Welter, director of the Memorial SS-Sonderlager/KZ Hinzert, came to Bad Arolsen in late October 2012 to discuss a project about the so-called "Eindeutschungs-Polen" (Germanization of Polish labourers) that the memorial is carrying out in cooperation with the International Tracing Service (ITS). "More than 900 names, with the letter 'E' for Eindeutschungshäftling (prisoner capable of Germanization) in their records, have been researched in the past year in the ITS database," says Welter. "The documents and correspondence in the ITS archives help immensely to learn about this forgotten group of victims that were in Hinzert, and to study the policies that were in place there."

The Nazis categorized those Polish forced laborers as "Germanization prioners" who had had affairs with German women and were not punished with death, as usual, but after 1942, were transferred to Hinzert to review their “capability to become a German/Eindeutschungsfähigkeit". In addition to the physical "appearance" that was measured according to racial criteria of the National Socialists, the "character" and the immediate families of the men were checked as well. If in the eyes of the Nazi regime, the prisoners were deemed as "safe and sound," after a certain time in Hinzert they were usually sent back to their employer, and were then obligated to marry the women they had been with.

Often, children that resulted from these relationships were born in the meantime. "To deter other forced labourers from also having affairs, the young families had to leave as soon as possible," says the head of Memorial Organization. "But there are not too many ‘good’ stories out there. Most of the prisoners were sent to other camps, notably the Natzweiler concentration camp, where they were murdered."

According to the historian, in recent years, increasing numbers of inquiries from family members at the Memorial Organization have been received, asking to clarify the fate of their loved ones. "Together with the research department at the ITS, we therefore started with the systematic investigation of this topic in late 2011. Firstly, the issue is thoroughly explored, and secondly, by and by, the relatives will be given more complete information. But this topic is also of great interest for educational work."

Dr. Susanne Urban, Head of Research and Education at the ITS, encourages this approach. "Young people can immediately understand emotionally what it can mean when a love must be lived in secret. It is also clear that the past is not over for the living children of this forbidden relationship. They search for their roots, an anchor, their family. They too carry the burden of this persecution."