Forced labor in the German coal mining (ZIB)

Research Project

Forced labour in the German coal mining (ZIB)

Hard coal was the most important raw material basis of the German war economy between 1939 and 1945. To secure the huge coal needs of the armaments industry, chemical industry, power industry, the railways, private households and of many other consumers, more than hundreds of thousands of foreign civilian workers and prisoners of war were employed under increasing constraints in the coal mines in the 1940s,. The coal industry rapidly developed into one of the most important field of application for forced labourers in the Nazi war economy.

Due to the final settlement of compensation for former slave labourers at the turn of the millennium, the RAG AG, one of the founding members of the compensation fund of the German economy, asked the Library of the Ruhr Foundation to examine the particular conditions of the use of forced labour in the coal mines. The Institute for Social Movements was given the research task, which the RAG has made possible by a generous donation. A group of researches, supported by a scientific advisory board and the mining archive Bochum, began its work on the basis of a detailed reaearch plan in September 2000. The research programme was not only aimed at a thorough reappraisal of the employment of forced labour in all German hard coal mining areas, but also included a systematic study of its employment mining regions in Poland, France, Belgium, Holland, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union occupied by the German Reich. in . In addition, the research project also took into account the employment of forced labourers in the brown coal and hard coal mining industries during the First World War.

Up to 20 scientists were occupied with the implementation of the research programme in smaller or larger individual projects until the end of the project in August 2005. Numerous results are now available in scientific publications, for example in the first issue of the journal "Geschichte und Gesellschaft" "labour or forced labour in occupied Europe in 2005. about" The main outcomes will be published in a separate series of the Institute of Social Movements about "employment of (forced) labourin the mining industry", which is set to ten volumes. These volumes have already been published: one anthology edited by Klaus Tenfelde and Hans-Christoph Seidel providing an overview, a scientifically annotated anthology with sources, a thesis by Kai Rawe aboutthe employment of forced labour in the Ruhr mining industry during the First World War, another thesis by Thomas Urban about the central German brown coal in the Second World War and an anthology, whose contributions document the final conference of the project. As a next step, books about the Ruhr mining industry during the Second World War, the northern French and Belgian coal fields, the Ukrainian Donets coalfield, the Slovenian and Serbian Upper Silesian mining and the coal industry are planned from spring 2007 onwards.


Concept of the project as in 2001

"Zwangsarbeit im deutschen Kohlenbergbau (ZIB)".   (30.1 kB)



Final report, 2006

"Zwangsarbeit im deutschen Kohlenbergbau (ZIB)".   (122.4 kB)


For further information please contact:
PD Dr. Hans-Christoph Seidel