NicosiaBusiness - Chapter 04
Most slave labor in Nazi Germany took place under the aegis of German
corporations. Concentration camp prisoners represented only a small
minority of compulsory laborers in Germany's wartime workforce, that
is, "only" about 700,000 at the height of wartime production. In
comparison, millions of prisoners of war and slave laborers conscripted
in the East made up over 25 percent of the German workforce by 1945.
The SS served as a labor lord, to be sure, but it was, to mix
metaphors, the handmaiden of slavery in the German war economy, not its
initiator. It has been widely assumed that the SS sought to use its
captive pool of slave labor in order to increase its influence over
German corporations and, indeed, to "control the German economy." But,
in fact, well-known German companies such as Volkswagen or IG Farben
came to the SS looking for labor. Business partnerships between them
and the SS solidified only at the very end of the Third Reich. The
first tentative projects, involving no more than a few thousand
prisoners, did not begin until 1941, when labor was desperately scarce.
A network of slave labor in SS "satellites" of the major concentration
camps did not really begin to spread throughout Germany until late 1943
and early 1944. After this point, scarcely any German factory of
importance had not applied for concentration camp prisoners.