Newsroom Veranstaltungen Team & Kontakt

"Forbidden Contact"

Interactions between forced laborers and Germans potentially had disastrous consequences for both parties.

Group picture with four women and three men.
Constant supervision, 1941.
The French prisoners of war Nobile Citerneschi and François Santini worked on the farm belonging to Marie Renner.
Photo: Franz Gabriel / Walter Pakosta
Women, men and children with a Wehrmacht soldier on an ox.
Constant supervision, 1941.
They were guarded by two Wehrmacht soldiers. Because the soldiers were needed at the front, later the farmers had to guard the forced laborers.
Photo: Franz Gabriel
Women, men and children with a Wehrmacht soldier on an ox and a Wehrmacht soldier in front of them.
Photos as forbidden mementos, 1941.
The guards Walter Pakosta and Franz Gabriel were supposed to prevent close contact between Austrian workers and French prisoners of war.
Photo: Franz Gabriel / Walter Pakosta
Women, men and children with a Wehrmacht soldier in front of a cart.
Photos as forbidden mementos, 1941.
However, photographs the guards took raised suspicion of a relationship between Marie Renner und Nobile Citerneschi.
Photo: Franz Gabriel / Walter Pakosta

Strict racial hierarchies characterized the deployment of forced laborers in the German Reich. In accordance with the Nazi ideology, German society viewed the presence of "inferior" workers as a threat to the "racial purity" of the German people. For this reason, the Gestapo and the Labor Administration issued strict regulations pertaining to their presence in the country and their behaviour.

Also minor "offences"—like giving someone a slice of bread with butter or cigarettes or simply talking—were prosecuted by the authorities as "forbidden contact." In such cases, denunciations by the general populace played an important role. Forced Laborers were subject to particularly harsh punishments. For men from Eastern Europe "forbidden contact" bore the threat of the death penalty. German women were often sent to jail or concentration camps.

One example demonstrates the paranoia of the surveilling authorities: One German farm worker, a Wehrmacht soldier, and French prisoners of war all in a single photograph—this fanned the suspicions of the Nazi authorities–especially since Nobile Citerneschi, one of the shown Frenchmen, had received the photograph from Marie Renner, his previous German employer. Citerneschi faced a war tribunal due to the suspicion of having had sexual contact with Marie Renner. This same accusation led to Marie Renner being tried before a special tribunal. After a two-month investigation, Marie Renner's "guilt" was considered negligible. There is no record of the judgement handed down for Nobile Citerneschi.

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