Jews in the Service of Organisation Todt in the Occupied Soviet Territories, October 1941–March 1942
The German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 was accompanied by many logistical problems, including the lack of an infrastructure suitable for transporting supplies, ammunition and soldiers to the East. Therefore, Organisation Todt, with its extensive construction experience for the Reich, was assigned the task of renovating the Soviet railroad system. It received for this task 350 young Jewish forced-laborers from Organisation Schmelt, Himmler’s autonomous agency for the exploitation of foreign labor. For “moral” reasons, their Jewishness needed to be concealed, and their fair hair and their new uniforms bearing an armband with the inscription OT facilitated this. In the winter of 1941 these young Jews were transported to the Leningrad area, where they moved railway tracks. The terrible cold, scarce food and the brutal labor soon began to take a toll on the prisoners, and due to an epidemic, they were returned to their camps of origin in Silesia. The dispatch and return of these Jews attests to the basic contradictions in Nazi policy regarding the exploitation of Jewish labor.