The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation has published documents on the ruthless exploitation of children from the USSR at the enterprises of Nazi Germany during the Great Patriotic War. According to historians, German entrepreneurs treated children as expendables. The actions of German business bore signs of ethnic cleansing.

"There was no moral code"

At the end of 1941 - the beginning of 1942, the leaders of Nazi Germany developed a program based on the idea of using slave labor of the so-called Ostarbeiters ("workers from the East") and prisoners of concentration camps. A huge number of Soviet citizens from the occupied territories of the USSR were taken to Germany. Their labor was used, including in enterprises owned by private individuals. A significant proportion of these workers were children, whose forced labor was a flagrant violation of the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly of the League of Nations in 1924.

According to the program of the Gauleiter General for the Use of Manpower, Fritz Sauckel, people from the age of 15 were initially sent to forced labor in Germany. However, in the future, the age threshold decreased, and the Nazis began to use even the labor of children 10-12 years old. They were transported to the territory of the Third Reich in cold wagons. Not all of them made it to their destination. Exhausted from hunger and beatings, sick and dying children, the Nazis left to fend for themselves at stations along the route of trains.

The surviving little Ostarbeiters were sent to camps organized at factories, or given into slavery to private individuals. Special identification marks were attached to their clothes, and instead of names, they were assigned serial numbers. Children, along with adults, worked 12-14 hours a day in mines, sawmills and military factories, including night shifts.

  • Children in a work camp in the Third Reich
  • © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Among the largest industrial associations that worked for the Nazi regime was the Krupp concern (Friedrich Krupp AG), which supplied Hitler's troops with military equipment throughout the war. Even before the war, Gustav Krupp provided material support to the Nazi movement. He was president of the Adolf Hitler Foundation. His son Alfried joined the SS and the NSDAP in the 1930s. When Gustav was unable to perform his duties at the head of the concern during the war years for health reasons, Alfried replaced his father. The Third Reich at the state level provided support to the Krupp concern. The enterprises of the Krupp family actively exploited the labor of concentration camp prisoners and children taken out of the USSR.

"The attitude of the Nazis, including the industrialists who collaborated with Hitler, towards children from the occupied territories stemmed from their racial theory. In their opinion, there were nations of masters and nations of slaves. There was no moral code for slave nations. The atrocities were not limited to forced labor. Children were used as blood donors, they were subjected to medical experiments, "said Maxim Sinitsyn, a graduate student at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an interview with RT.

  • Adolf Hitler and Gustav Krupp
  • © Bettmann

'Ethnic cleansing'

Documents on the use of slave labor of Soviet children by the Krupp concern have been preserved in the Central Archive of the FSB of the Russian Federation.

Sixteen-year-old Olga Kravchenko in 1942 was hijacked by the Germans to Germany and sent to the Krupp plant "Gruzonwerk" in the city of Magdeburg.

On August 26, 1945, she told Smersh employees: "Once, when I was hungry, I wanted to pick potatoes, the German policemen caught me, beat me and put me in solitary confinement for two weeks. Sitting in the punishment cell, I was deprived of a ration of bread and soup-burda from rutabagas.

According to her, the girls who were in the camp at the plant were subjected to bullying and beatings, transferred to penal and concentration camps.

"The police camps had dogs that were poisoned on girls for leaving the camp without asking or approaching the camp fence. One girl, I don't remember the name, once went to the fence of the camp, a policeman set a dog on fire, which bit her badly, "Olga told the Soviet special services.

Pavel Kuznetsov, who worked at the same Krupp plant, testifying to Soviet law enforcement agencies, noted that there were many teenagers among the company's employees. Even ten-year-old Russian children worked at the plant.

  • Protocol of interrogation of a witness
  • © DSP FSB

"In terms of food, in the morning they didn't give us anything, at lunch 1 liter of soup without bread, the soup was made from one carrot or rutabagas. In the evening, they gave the same soup that was given at lunch and a loaf of bread for 6-7 people, 15-12 grams of fat, "Kuznetsov described the food of the company's employees.

According to him, for the slightest offense, people working at the plant were beaten with rubber hoses, thrown into a punishment cell or sent to a concentration camp.

  • Alfried Krupp
  • © Jacoby/ullstein bild

On August 25, 1945, witness I. Shcherbakov testified to the Soviet investigation that mostly teenagers aged 13-18 worked at the Krupp enterprises near the city of Bad Langensalz. Along with adults, they loaded and unloaded wagons, carried exorbitant weights and stood behind the machines for days.

"In our factory, master Gasel (now arrested) chained teenagers to the machine, and when they fell off their feet, he poured cold water on them with a hose, brought them to their senses and forced them to work again," Shcherbakov said.

  • Protocol of interrogation of a witness
  • © DSP FSB

According to him, people who worked for 10-12 hours received 250 grams of bread mixed with rutabaga and 2.5 liters of balanda per shift.

"Krupp had its own camps, its own staff of police and administrations. He was not accountable to anyone for the state of these camps and for the arbitrariness that was happening in these camps," Shcherbakov stressed.

  • A shipyard belonging to the Krupp concern
  • Legion-Media
  • © United Archives

After the end of the war, Gustav Krupp was exempted from criminal liability for health reasons and due to old age. Alfried Krupp was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but three years later he was amnestied and even regained part of the family business.

As Dmitry Surzhik, a senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with RT, the Nazis looked at the use of Ostarbeiter labor extremely cynically. As the need for labor grew, they drove young people into slavery first, and then children and adolescents. The historian clarifies that minors made up a significant part of the Soviet people who fell into slavery in the territory of the Third Reich, but there are no exact data on their number.

  • Testimony of a witness
  • © DSP FSB

"Teenagers were used in the most difficult jobs - in metal processing, in agriculture. They were severely punished: beaten, mocked. The system was aimed at pumping the maximum economic benefit out of children. The Nazi masters did not even hide the fact that children were expendable for them, and no one helped them survive. They were savagely exploited to death," said Dmitry Surzhik.

Another aspect of the Nazi policy towards Soviet children, the historian believes, is the desire of the Nazis to destroy the future of the people of the USSR.

"The Nazi practice of ruthlessly exploiting Soviet children in forced labor can be seen as ethnic cleansing. Hitler, who raved about the colonies, transferred the colonial practices of the European powers to Eastern European soil and transferred them to a different scale, "summed up Dmitry Surzhik.