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Since the 1993 ‘discovery’ of the last of more than 700 Berlin camps, a Berlin
History Workshop project team investigates the history of foreign forced labour
in Berlin and Brandenburg during the Second World War. In 1995 a small open-air
exhibition at the Niederschöneweide camp displayed the first research results. Through public
commemorative events, press releases and lobbying activities we managed to
prevent the demolition of the camp and achieved the barracks’ preservation as
a historical monument. Our second aim, however, the setting up of a memorial,
information and documentation centre on the history of forced labour in Nazi
Germany is still being blocked by the authorities.
from these local activities, we collected literature,
cooperated with researchers, with local
initiatives founded in many German cities and with former victims and their
associations, notably in Holland, Poland, the Czech republic and the former
Soviet Union. Dutch survivors gave us their photos and organized commemorative
ceremonies with us.
succeeded in helping the Association of Former Czech Slave Workers in Germany (Svaz
Nucene Nasazenych) to show its well documented and illustrated exhibition in a
German version in Berlin. For the first time, in 1995 the former victims had the
possibility to tell and express their history and experience in Germany
the help of other similar organisations we asked Czech, Polish, Ucrainian and
Belorussian former forced labourers to tell us about their experiences in
war-time Berlin. An unexpected wave of letters - often with photos – reached
us between 1997 and 1999 and showed the survivors’ great interest in our work
and their enormous expectations that are difficult to fulfil for a small
research team. The process of systematisation, analysis and interpretation of
this testimonies is still underway. Some selected letters
have been published. Meanwhile, first approaches and provisional interpretations of these letters and
photos as a historical source have been presented at various conferences; some detailed
analyses of various aspects have also been published.
many former forced labourers want to visit the places of their suffering again.
For some small groups of them, Berlin History Workshop organized programmes of
encounter, commemoration and searching for traces in and around
long-running debate about financial compensation for forced labourers has
triggered growing interest into lists of companies that exploited foreign
workers during World War II. For the American Jewish Committee, we tried to put
up a list of companies. All questions about this list
must be directed to the AJC.
Furthermore, we are intensifying our cooperation
with other groups and initiatives in Berlin and elsewhere to enhance research
and pressure for a faster compensation process.