Nazi forced labor in the Münsterland

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The Nazi forced labor in Munster and the surrounding area is a long neglected chapter of the History of Münster in the era of National Socialism . The specific local living conditions of the forced laborers in the time of National Socialism and the injustice that befell them are only now increasingly being scientifically researched. In doing so, city archives and contemporary witnesses who are still alive are often used .

Origin, abduction and number of forced laborers

Forced laborers in the Münster area came from all of the German-occupied countries: Poland, France, the Benelux countries, Scandinavia, but above all, after 1941, from Russia and other areas in the east occupied by the Wehrmacht. Thousands of them were transported to the German Reich, some as prisoners of war, some were recruited as cheap labor and then interned, and some were abducted as war victims. They often included minors, including many girls and young women. In Greven alone 1,700 forced laborers worked during the Nazi era.


They were used in agriculture and industry, in craft, trade and commerce, in city administration, on construction sites or on the Reichsbahn. The city of Münster used them for municipal work or gave them to private households and companies. Most of the time, they had to replace industrial failures caused by the war. Typical jobs were:

  • Barn work (e.g. mucking out, feeding), field work (e.g. hoeing), loading hay and straw
  • Street cleaning
  • Winter services, e.g. B. Chop ice
  • Threshing grain
  • Construction of air raid shelters and cellars
  • Clear away debris
  • Recovery of corpses
  • work on lathes
  • Extinguish fires
  • Dispose of rubbish

The Münster City Archives also chronologically mentions the following companies and locations in which forced laborers were used: Parquet flooring factory Theissing, Willbrand wood dealership, Armaments factory Winkhaus, construction work on the town hall, railway in Hiltrup, Rincklake, Geringhoff carpentry, Ludwig Hansen aircraft factory (with at least 800 forced laborers for the underground aircraft production in an RB tunnel near Wuppertal), Stadtwerke Münster (road clearance, garbage disposal), outsourcing of the city administration, city vehicle fleet, colonial goods wholesaler in Aegidiistraße, at the stallion licensing on Albersloher Weg, post office, Reichsbahn, removal of files and furniture from the city archive, Building trade, repair work on the town wine house, street paving, machine factory Gebr. Hagedorn & Co. u. a.

From the summer of 1944, 4,078 “foreign” civilian forced laborers were employed in the Münster employment office, 2,869 of them women and 1,209 men. 3,397 forced laborers worked in the Münster industry, 2,993 of them in brickworks and in the building trade and 202 in the iron and steel industry.

The working conditions were - especially for the so-called Eastern workers - very harsh: You were not trained and usually had to do hard physical labor for around 10 hours a day, even at night and on weekends. From September 1944, working hours were increased again for everyone, including women and children. The low wages did not matter, as some of the accommodation had to be paid for. In the case of insufficient care at the same time, accidents at work and deaths were therefore predetermined and the order of the day.

Accommodation and supplies

Forced laborers were rarely housed in private quarters, but mostly in camps set up for this purpose. These were mostly fenced in with barbed wire and were closely guarded. Barracks, restaurant halls, schools, company barracks and prisons also served as emergency shelters. These mass quarters were often overcrowded and inhumane.

So far, more than 180 accommodation facilities have been identified in and around Münster. Details about the occupancy rate of an accommodation, its equipment and the allocation of the occupants are available in a database of the city of Münster.

Camp in Handorf (January 1940)

Community camp Kaldenhofer Weg 92 (from 1939 to 1945)

  • Loddenheide Air Base (January 1940)
  • Hornheide Air Base (January 1940)
  • DAF camp Angelmodde (January 1940)
  • DAF warehouse in Mecklenbeck (January 1940)
  • DAF camp Waldfrieden Hiltrup (January 1940)
  • Camp for French prisoners of war in Kinderhaus (from September 1940, from January 1942 relocation to the lock of the Dortmund-Ems Canal, shortly afterwards relocation to the camp of the Turnerbad Building Department)
  • Oflag VI D on Hohen Heckenweg (officers' prison camp for French)
  • Camp for Soviet prisoners of war at Halle Münsterland (January 1942)
  • Camp in Angelmodde for Soviet POWs (January 1942)
  • Camp at the Dortmund-Ems Canal Lock for Soviet Prisoners of War (January 1942)
  • Camp in Handorf-Dorbaum for Soviet prisoners of war (January 1943)
  • Central maternity and abortion camp for Eastern workers and Polish women in Waltrop
  • The Zwinger - a medieval prison tower - becomes a prison for around 200 foreign prisoners. It is used for interrogation, execution and as a starting point for deportation to concentration camps. (from October 1943)
  • The main camp VI F Bocholt is relocated to Münster (Hoher Heckenweg) due to the approaching Allies with approx. 5,000 Soviet prisoners of war (September to November 1944)


The racial ideology of the National Socialists forbade contact between Germans and foreigners. “Eastern workers” in particular were considered “Slavic subhumans”. In order to isolate and shield them, a dense network of discriminatory controls and penalties was created. In the cities of the Münsterland, posters warned against the " foreign people ". Only the Gestapo and police were allowed to enter the camps. Germans were forbidden to interact with Poles and Russians, and sexual intercourse was punished particularly severely.

From March 8, 1940, the Poles had to wear a clearly visible "P" mark on their clothing, the Soviet prisoners had to wear an "OST" mark from 1942. Soviet prisoners of war wore the sewed letters "SU" on the back of their uniform jackets. Their freedom of movement was severely restricted: after 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. there was a strict ban on going out. They were only allowed to use public transport in exceptional cases with the written permission of the local police and were not allowed to visit cultural, social or church events or restaurants. Contact should also be kept to a minimum during work. Infringements were to be reported immediately.

Controls and penalties

Gestapo and the police punished misconduct or escape with drastic penalties: beatings, deprivation of food, arrest, transfer to a concentration camp or, from the end of 1940, temporary admission to "labor education camps" (AEL), the concentration camps of the regional Gestapo.

Forced laborers in particular were frequently exposed to sexual harassment by German workers in the factories. If there was a dispute, only the foreigners involved were punished. Prison and beatings often left the victims with permanent psychological and physical damage. In Münster, for example, the Russian Alexandra Teslenko remembered the treatment of a Serb who wanted to protect her and who came back broken after three months in prison.

On January 24, 1945, the Gestapo headquarters in Münster issued the order to act with particular severity against misconduct by forced laborers. A circular was issued on March 24, 1945 calling for the isolation of all foreign workers.


Executions of forced laborers could already be carried out on the basis of unchecked allegations, for example through denunciation . Such executions took place publicly at the Zwinger in Münster, but also non-publicly in the Münsterland. As an example of two individual fates, the executions in the Bockholter Mountains near Greven are mentioned: on August 14, 1942, the Polish slave laborers Franciszek Banaś (born June 7, 1914) from Ujsoły and Wacław Ceglewski (born February 13, 1921) were named here. from Ciechocinek hanged by the Gestapo for "prohibited contact" with German women.

This so-called special treatment was ordered by the Gestapo headquarters in Westphalia, Westphalia. There were no legal proceedings. Polish forced laborers were led past the bodies on site as a means of intimidation. Young people were among those terrorized in this way.

Evidence of executions in the Münster police prison can be found from October 1943 onwards. So far, only the following case has been investigated: From March 28 to 29, 1945, 16 forced laborers and one female forced laborer from the Maikotten Russian camp were brought to the police prison by the Gestapo for reasons unknown . On March 29, 1945, they were shot dead by five Gestapo officers. Their papers were burned and the bodies buried in a bomb crater.

Police prisons
  • Police Prison, Syndicate Square; (until autumn 1943)
  • Barracks barracks, Hoher Heckenweg (after the air raid on October 10, 1943 )
  • Relocation to the Zwinger (from March / April 1944 to February 1945)
  • Wing A of the prison, Gartenstrasse (from February / March 1945)

Situation of the Soviet forced laborers after the war

On August 12, 1945, the repatriation of all Soviet forced laborers began in Münster . A new, uncertain fate awaited them, as many were suspected of being collaborators in their homeland , were often arrested again and many were executed. It wasn't until 1956 that most of them were pardoned, but it wasn't until 1992 that they were fully rehabilitated.

From 1993 the federal government ruled out individual claims for damages by the forced laborers. A reparation and foundation agreement should regulate the compensation between states. In 2000, the Bundestag decided to set up the “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” foundation .

Prosecution of the perpetrators after 1945

There is no information about the perpetrators and their possible punishment after 1945. From 1967, the Münster public prosecutor's office began proceedings against former Gestapo officers at the Münster control center for the murder of forced laborers, but these were discontinued in 1969.

See also


  • Marcus Weidner: Only graves as traces. The life and death of prisoners of war and "foreign workers" in Münster during the war 1939-1945 , Westfälisches Dampfboot Münster, 1984, ISBN 3-924550-02-6 .


  • Jakobi, Franz-Josef / Kenkmann, Alfons (eds.): Forced labor in Münster and the surrounding area 1939 to 1945. Perceptions - encounters - behavior , Münster 2003.
  • Flemnitz, Gaby / Reddemann, Karl: Exploited for the national community. Forced labor in the Münsterland during the "Third Reich" . DVD with booklet, ed. on behalf of the Westphalian State Media Center and the historical site Villa ten Hompel, Münster 2004.
  • Christoph Leclaire: The execution of Franciszek Banas and Waclaw Ceglewski in the Bockholter mountains. Persecution stories of forced laborers in Greven , in: Grevener Geschichtsblätter 7 (2012/2013), pp. 39–56.
  • Murdered in the Bockholter Mountains , Westfälische Nachrichten (Greven) August 9, 2014. ( Online version from August 8, 2014)
  • Das Verbrechen von Bockholt , Grevener Zeitung August 9, 2014. ( Online version from August 14, 2014)

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