Forced Labour in a Socialist State: Ethnic Germans from Kazakhstan and Central Asia in the Labour Army: 1941-1957
Pathways into Colonial (and Postcolonial?) Coercion: The Creation and Evolution of Forced Labour in Sub-Saharan Africa under Colonial Rule, 1890-1975.
Ho, Ghana 21-24 January 2014.
J. Otto Pohl
University of Ghana, Legon
During World War II the Stalin regime made extensive use of forced labour in a variety of industries including logging, mining, and industrial construction. Although the conscription of civilians for industrial labour was common in the USSR during this time, one particular component of this labour went far beyond the mere militarization of factories and definitely crossed over into the category of forced labour. The NKO (People’s Commissariat of Defense) conscripted about 400,000 Soviet citizens belonging to “enemy” and “unreliable” nationalities and handed them over to the NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs) as a labour force in the Urals, Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia and other areas of the USSR. Ethnic Germans formed the largest contingent of these forced labourers with 316,000 men and women mobilized during the war. This particular institution of forced labour became known as the labour army (trudarmiia). This labour consisted of civilians and discharged military personnel mobilized into labour columns to work in corrective labour camps (GULag) and civilian commissariats under police (NKVD-MVD) supervision. A full 220,000 conscripts into the labour army worked in corrective labour camps and 180,000 for civilian commissariats. The percentage of Soviet citizens of German ethnicity to do their labour army service in labour camps was even greater. Over 182,000 ethnic Germans with Soviet citizenship inducted into the labour army worked in corrective labour camps while more than 133,000 worked for civilian commissariats.  A very large number of these conscripts came either from ethnic Germans deported to Kazakhstan or ethnic Germans who had resided in Kazakhstan and Central Asia prior to the Second World War. From Kazakhstan alone the Soviet government mobilized a recorded 103,733 ethnic Germans for work in the labour army. These territories had been colonized by Tsarist Russia and converted from colonies to semi-colonies under Soviet rule. This paper will examine the role of the labour army as a political instrument of ethnic/racial repression against ethnic Germans in the USSR.
Keywords: Forced Labour, Germans, GULag, Labour Army, USSR
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