As the Second World War turned against Germany, the Nazis exploited more and more foreign workers for the war effort. At the end of 1943, there were more than seven million foreign civilian workers and prisoners of war in the Third Reich. Most foreign workers came from Poland and the Soviet Union. Anyone suspected of sabotage or escape faced brutal police punishment, often in concentration camps. Victor C., born in 1927 in Bryansk (Russia), had been deported to Germany for hard labour. Following his escape from a mine, he was sent to Dachau, where thousands of Soviet youths like him were held. Interviewed in 2006, he described his suffering and his hopes for the future.
[…] I simply ran away to escape the unbearably hard work in Germany. That was all. I was fleeing from that. Precisely. Afterwards they interrogated me three times and beat me up too. […]
So that’s how I landed in Dachau concentration camp. Exactly. I was taken to Block 17, given a number and a red tr… a red triangle like a political prisoner and the letter “R” for Russian, I mean they [the SS] drew that on it, and a number: 67674. Like that. And then I was put in hut 17 and there … well … Each hut was split into four sections and each part, each section had 300 people. And I was … I had the … our room was four – there were young people, children from 10 years upward, even a child of eight, I think, up to sixteen to eighteen-year-olds. There were 200 boys like us. […] Where did the young people come from? You know, I can’t really tell you that now. Somehow we … all … what do you call it … were in the same category. They were all from the USSR, from Russia or from Byelorussia, Belarus. […] I also came there from Russia. […]
There were 200 boys like us
My wish for the next generation, as someone who lived through the difficulties of wartime and was in a concentration camp, my wish for the next generation is that they never have to experience the terrors and deprivation I have had to endure in my life. I wish that wars may cease, no more death camps, no more ghettos and that nobody else – you understand what I’m saying – has to go through such hell. I wish people would remember that and never give anyone an … an excuse to create certain sorts of organizations. These neo-fascist organizations are getting so popular again, you see. I wish such things were not allowed at all and people did all they could to stop them getting started, for the consequence when such hatred is stoked between nations is that all sorts of conflicts develop and those who suffer the most, of course the adults, but young people even more … as a result of it all. Yes, That’s it. That’s what I’d wish for.
Source: www.zwangsarbeit-archiv.de, za150
Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes