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Postcards of Ukrainian forced labor workers from Nazi Germany
Published by Primary Source Microfilm
From the holdings of the Kiev Regional Archive
In spring 1942, Germany began to draft occupied populations as forced laborers. SS General Sauckel, leader of the bureau in charge of this forced labor group, had visited Ukraine many times in order to establish a continuous flow of Eastern workers (Ostarbeiters) of both sexes between the ages of 15 and 60 years old. In total there were 20,000 forced labor camps spread across the Reich. The marketplaces for the sale of forced laborers (arbeitsamt) were set up in Germany, where workers from eastern countries were sold legally to the businessmen and farmers. The German authorities introduced a special brand-sign "OST" ("East") for "eastern workers," which they had to wear on the right side of the chest.
Collection R-4826, entitled "Letters from Soviet citizens deported to Nazi Germany for forced labor to their relatives in Kyiv oblast," has been in storage since 1945. During their period of residence in the Reich, Ostarbeiters were permitted to write their relatives in the Ukraine. Their letters, however, never reached their intended destinations. Instead they were directed into a secret archive and kept "under arrest" until the early 1990s, when the entire collection was finally declassified.
The collection of postcards contains the testimonies of Ukrainian, most of whom had been forcibly removed to Germany. The letters were typically written on special postcards that consisted of two parts. The first part had the address in Ukraine where it was being sent along with the Ostarbeiter's letter. The second part contains the return address filled in and was intended for a reply letter from Ukraine. There are also ordinary postcards without the additional reply card and ordinary letters on paper. Local authorities restricted the number of letters sent from Germany to two or three per month. The correspondence usually got past the German censors, even though it vividly describes the conditions in Germany, the kind of work, way of life, spare time, treatment of Ostarbeiters by the Germans, and relations with representatives of other nations (Frenchmen, Poles, Belgians, and others). Many letters are highly emotional as the writers express their longing to return home and concern about relatives and friends.
The collection's documents are organized by geographic district and settlement.
Scope: 75 reels
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LOCATION: SML, Microform (Non-Circulating)
CALL NUMBER: Film B18935