Newsroom Veranstaltungen Team & Kontakt

Terror through Execution

For male forced laborers from Poland and the Soviet Union, interactions with German women could potentially have fatal consequences.

A group of men stand in front of a gallows in a wooded area. Some of the men are wearing civilian clothes, others Nazi uniforms, others are wearing the striped clothes of concentration camp prisoners.
Execution of Julian Majka, a Polish forced laborer, Michelsneukirchen (Bavaria), 18 April 1941.
The execution was carried out by SS men from the Flossenbürg concentration camp and the executioner Johann Reichhart. Prisoners from Flossenbürg concentration camp had to assist the executioners in their work. The SS man who led the firing squad probably photographed the execution. When Flossenbürg was liberated, an American soldier found the photos.

The security authorities placed special focus on penalizing contact between forced laborers and Germans. It was considered essential to prevent this at all costs, in order to not endanger the much-touted ethnic "purity" of the so-called people's community. Sexual relations, termed "forbidden contact" (verbotener Umgang) were strictly prohibited. Announcements publicizing the execution of forced laborers warned: "Whoever violates the German laws of war and custom shall be hanged!"

The full force of racism made itself felt in the punishment of sexual relations. Western prisoners of war were threatened with imprisonment; forced laborers and prisoners of war from Poland and the Soviet Union risked execution. Participating German women were often humiliated, and many were sent to concentration camps. German men faced less drastic punishment for "forbidden contact" with women from occupied areas. Usually they were not prosecuted.

Just one example among hundreds: On April 18, 1941, the Polish forced laborer Julian Majka was executed in Michelsneukirchen in Franconia. The execution was carried out by members of the SS from the Flossenbürg concentration camp, among others. Inmates of the concentration camp were forced to assist. After Majka was hung, Polish forced laborers working in the region were summoned to the execution site. A member of the Gestapo then threatened them with the same fate, if they did not obey the racial regulations.

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