Initiative NS forced labour

Around 26 million people had to perform forced labour during the Nazi era. Their ruthless exploitation guaranteed the continued existence of the armaments industry and the supply of the German population during the Second World War. Forced labour was used in all areas of the German economy: Mining and the armaments industry as well as municipal businesses, agriculture and forestry or small bakeries and private households. The forced labourers were subjected to a radically racist system that shaped their everyday lives and living conditions. The town of Schwenningen, which was badly affected by the global economic crisis and heavily in debt, benefited from the German economy's switch to war production: the Schwenningen watch industry produced detonators for bombs, among other things. Forced labourers played a key role in their manufacture. Their exploitation led to an economic boom in Schwenningen, from which local industry continued to benefit after the war.

Since 2023, there has been an initiative in Schwenningen to come to terms with Nazi forced labour. It was founded as an appeal for donations for the former forced labourer Volodomyr Shcherbina (deceased 2023), who performed forced labour in Schwenningen as a 17-year-old Ukrainian and lived in the embattled city of Mikolayiv in Ukraine.The initiative is planning various public events and excursions on the topic for 2024. A historical exhibition in the Clock Industry Museum and an elaborate publication on forced labour in Schwenningen are being prepared for 2026.

Previous events:

27 January 2024: "The whole of Europe was here" (kick-off event)
On the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of National Socialism, historians provided insights into the topic. Dr Annemarie Conradt-Mach, Lisa Schank and Dr Valery Cherniavskij gave talks and showed current references to remembrance work. The aim of the evening was to publicise the initiative and invite people to join in.

23 March 2024: Joint trip to the Hotel Silber memorial site in Stuttgart
Visit to the exhibition with a guided tour by the managing director of the Initiative Lern- und Gedenkort Hotel Silber e.V. Followed by a discussion with representatives of the initiative's forced labour working group, participants in the citizen research project "The Third Reich and Us" in St. Georgen, and Cornelius Kückelhaus from the memorial work department of the Baden-Württemberg State Centre for Political Education.

Exkursionsbericht Hotel Silber (in German)

11 May 2024: Nazi forced labour in Schwenningen. Presentation and status of a project
Presentation as part of the Schwenningen local history association's history week. With Dr Valery Cherniavskij and Florian Kemmelmeier

Pressemitteilung (in German)


July 2024: Workshop with pupils from the Gymnasium am Deutenberg grammar school
July 2024: Next meeting of the initiative


Do you have documents, memories or family biographical stories about Nazi forced labour? Or would you like to take an active interest in the topic in Schwenningen? Please get in touch.

Lisa Schank is your contact person: