19Labour Office

Kurze Straße 6
(Spangenbergstraße 31)

Labour card of a Belarusian forced labourer
Labour card issued by the Nordhausen Labour Office for an underage Belarusian forced labourer, 18 January 1944 (KZ-Gedenkstätte Mittelbau-Dora)

The labour offices were the central institution for the militarisation and forced control of the labour market under National Socialism. With the beginning of the Second World War, the Nordhausen Labour Office became the main player in the organisation of forced labour in the region.

The Nordhausen Labour Office was initially subordinate to the Central German Regional Labour Office and, from 1943, to the Thuringian Regional Labour Office. After the November pogrom of 1938, the Nordhausen Labour Office obliged unemployed Jews from the town and district to take part in so-called "collective labour assignments", including the construction of dams in the Harz Mountains.

After the war began, companies had to request their workforce from the labour office. In cooperation with the Ministry of Armaments and the Wehrmacht, this office checked whether the companies were essential to the war effort and then allocated the appropriate number of forced labourers. At the end of 1944, at least 20,000 men, women and children from European countries occupied by the Wehrmacht had to perform forced labour in factories, on construction sites and in agriculture in what is today the district of Nordhausen - not including the approximately 40,000 inmates of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

A particularly dreadful fate was suffered by around 420 Italian soldiers who had become German captives after the end of the German-Italian alliance in September 1943 and were requested by the Nordhausen Labour Office in autumn 1943 as forced labourers for the expansion of the tunnel system in the Kohnstein. The SS housed them in the tunnels with the concentration camp inmates and made them do exhausting construction work. More than 100 of the Italian soldiers died within six months. It is not known how many of the others survived the end of the war.