When the city of Berlin surrendered to the Red Army on May 2nd 1945, around 370.00 forced labourers were present in the city zone. POWs, concentration camp prisoners, and so called civil forced labourers. At the end of the war, most of them where still assigned to their work places or waiting inside the camps. The weeks of April and May 1945 were shaped by famine, despair, fear, resistance, and hope.
Many former forced labourers from western and southern European countries were able to return home already in summer 1945, alone or by allied repatriation transports. Other liberated forced labourers were trying to resist repatriation attempts. Particularly in the Soviet Union, returnees from Germany were suspected of treason and collaboration with the Germans.
To this day, the history of the liberation of Nazi internment camps in Berlin is not extensively researched. We use the 75. anniversary in memory of the end of the war as an opportunity to focus on the stories of former forced labourers. How did they experience the last weeks of the war? How did their first contact to allied troops turn out? What happened to the internment camps after liberation?
On our project's website we will document temporary witness accounts, extracts from diaries, letters, and memories from the Berlin area.