Lists of Ostarbeiters
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Project objectives

Search and publication of documents on the history of forced labor of Soviet citizens

Project description

"Lists of Ostarbeiters" is a site that contains information about several hundred thousand Soviet citizens who were driven to forced labor in Germany during the Great Patriotic War. 

In 1942-1944, Nazis took from 3 to 5 million civilians for forced labor from the occupied territories of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In Germany, they were called “Ostarbeiters” (translated from German as eastern workers), who were sent to hard work - factories and mines, less often to agriculture. Among the millions of forced laborers driven to Germany from all over Europe, the inhabitants of the Soviet Union were inferior. They had only a few more rights than prisoners of war and prisoners of concentration camps.

After their release in 1945, most of the Ostarbeiters returned to the Soviet Union. At home, they were often perceived as accomplices of the Germans. Former Ostarbeiters found it difficult to get a job or go to study. Staying in Germany has become a stigma. They rarely talked about this period of life even to their children.

The situation changed in the 1990s when Germany began paying compensation to victims of forced labor. In a sense, compensation “legitimized” the history of the Ostarbeiters, which until then had been considered something secret or shameful. Fifty years later, those stolen during the war were finally recognized as victims of the Nazi regime. However, so far no attempts have been made to combine materials from different archives in order to provide access to lists of people stolen from the Soviet Union. The Lists of Ostarbeiters project is the beginning of this work.

Project outcomes

The project combines two large sets of documents from the State Archive of the Russian Federation and the International Memorial Archive.

The first set comprises lists from the fund of the Extraordinary State Commission for the Establishment and Investigation of the Crimes of the German Fascist Invaders (ChGK) in 1943-1945 (fund 7021 of the GA of the Russian Federation). As the Soviet territories were liberated, employees of the ChGK compiled lists from eyewitnesses. The number of people included in the lists so far can be estimated only approximately accounting for hundreds of thousands (according to official figures, about 2 million people were taken from the territory of Russia).

Lists are organized by district and community. At the moment, only lists of the settlements of the former RSFSR are published on the website; in the future, the project team is planning to search for lists in Belarus and Ukraine. In addition, work is underway to decrypt published documents and compile a textual database.

The second set of documents includes information from questionnaires and letters sent to the Memorial society by former “Ostarbeiters” in the early 1990s. This array contains information about the fate of over 320 thousand people. Out of the information available, the site selected verified information about places of forced labor in Nazi Germany and the territories it occupied.

All documents are tied to settlements, so anyone can find a stolen relative at their place of residence in the 1940s or at their alleged place of work in the Third Reich. The publication of documents is only the beginning of work in this area. International Memorial is open to wide cooperation and will be grateful for any assistance in identifying, digitizing and adding new data sources to the database, decrypting materials already collected and geocoding databases.

For cooperation or for advice on archival searches, please contact

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