Newsroom Veranstaltungen Team & Kontakt

Massacre at the war's end

Towards the end of the war, lethal violence against forced laborers escalated—and civilians also took part in the crimes of the SS and the Wehrmacht.

On March 26, 1945, an SS unit shot 81 women and six men from a work camp at the edge of the village of Hirzenhain (Hesse). The forced laborers primarily originated from Poland and the Soviet Union. They were in the way of an SS commando from Wiesbaden that was fleeing Allied forces and wanted to occupy the camp. The SS then decided to murder them.

Six days before members of the SS, soldiers of the Wehrmacht, and civilians had murdered 35 men, 21 women, and one child in a forest near Warstein (Westfalen). Those killed were among some two thousand forced laborers from the Soviet Union who were being driven eastwards due to the approaching front. The massacre was the beginning of three days of murders in the region, which took the lives of 200 victims.

These two examples among hundreds of other cases demonstrate how violence against forced laborers escalated in the last weeks of the war despite or precisely because of Germanys impending defeat.

Some Germans certainly treated forced laborers better than before in expectation of the war ending and out of fear of revenge. However, armed groups like the Gestapo, the SS, and the Wehrmacht went on sprees of murderous violence. They feared the revenge of those liberated or wanted to take as many of the people they viewed as enemies down with them. The Hitler Youth, the last vestiges of the so-called "Volkssturm," and civilians also took part in these murders. After the end of the war, the Allies counted hundreds of massacres, which took the lives of thousands of people.

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