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Research on Forced Labor in Leipzig

Five researchers from the Association for the Memorial for Forced Labor in Leipzig searched through the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) for interesting documents for their work, in late November 2011. "We want to update the permanent exhibition at the site of the former arms factory HASAG and fill the gaps in our files," says Deputy Chairwoman Josephine Ulbricht.

The permanent exhibition of the Memorial describes forced labor in the Leipzig region during the Nazi era. The Memorial site is a contact point for former forced laborers, a sponsor for organized public events, and a body that conducts research and engages in educational projects. For a solid, scientific update of the subject of forced labour, the supporters of the Memorial have now set up a working group of researchers. The aim was first to sift through the existing collection of the Memorial and create a comprehensive data base. “Now we are at the point where we are going to obtain an overview of the documents located in various archives. Then we want to work out a new exhibition concept,” explains Ulbricht. 

The main beneficiary of the forced labor in and around Leipzig, the arms company Hugo and Alfred Schneider AG (HASAG), had several production sites. The memorial is on the grounds of the main work place, of which only the old administration building is still standing. From 1938 forced laborers were brought in from all over Europe for this work, and from 1944 part of the production also ran as a sub-camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp with predominantly female, Jewish prisoners. And there were sub-camps of the concentration camp Ravensbruck in the area. "On the one hand, we want to reconstruct the fate of the former prisoners. On the other hand, this historical research is a prerequisite for the development of exhibitions, providing information, and for educational work,” says Ulbricht.

In addition to numerous transfer lists of prisoners between main and sub-camps, the research group of the ITS also found special, as yet unknown data. "Among these were, for example, documents on marriages of Polish forced laborers in HASAG in Leipzig, or a site plan drawn by four Jews of the concentration sub-camp of HASAG in Taucha," outlines the 30-year-old researcher.

So far, there is very little information available about HASAG as a profiteer of forced labor, explains the historian and member of the Supporters, Martin Clemens Winter. "An overall examination is still pending." The HASAG was regarded as a so-called "Nazi model operation" (NS-Musterbetrieb). “We want to bring out the contrast of the good working conditions for the German employees and the exploitation of forced labor,” says Ulbricht. For the coming year, further research in the city archives of Leipzig and in the archives of the Buchenwald Memorial is planned.