Osterbeiter, Sonderkommando and Harvest of Despair

Nazis believed in myth of Aryan race. The myth was Aryans were a race which was fit to rule others, and then Nazis went one step further and decided who were Aryans and non-Aryans. Jews and Slavs belonged to category of non-Aryans, so it was duty of Nazis to get rid of them to maintain purity of Aryan race and use their money and land for benefit of Germans, called Lebensraum.


Nazis first got rid of Jews, gypsies (Roma), mentally and physically handicapped etc. They were sent to concentration camps and then killed using poisonous gases, later their bodies were burned to hide evidence of killing.

“We saw a mass of naked corpses, men, women and children. We were horror-stricken into an eerie unnatural silence. It took us two days to recover a semblance of normality.”

Nazis used Jewish prisoners to get rid of bodies of victims. Such Jews were called Sonderkommando. Sometimes Sonderkommandos were forced to get rid of bodies of their own family members. Some revolted against Nazis, but were killed. In this revolt they were actively helped by Jewish women who smuggled gun power for revolt. Four of them Ala Gertner, Roza Robota, Estusia Wajcblum, and Regina Safirsztajn were tortured and later hanged.

“We did not spill the blood, the Germans did…They forced us to become Sonderkommandos, the fact that we were forced to do monstrous work does not change the fact that we were the victims, not the monsters.”


A film was made in Hungary on Sonderkommando called “Son of Saul”, the film won Oscar for best foreign language film.

After Nazis and Romas it was turn of Slavs. Ukraine had fertile land which Germans wanted for themselves. Ukrainians was unhappy under Russian rule, so initially Ukrainians welcomed Germans as liberators; some also actively participated in getting rid of Jews.

“The element that settled our cities (Jews)… must disappear completely from our cities. The Jewish problem is already in the process of being solved.”

-Ukrainian newspaper, Volhyn

advt 2 advt 1

But soon they realised that Germans wanted to make Ukraine a colony. Thousands of Ukrainians were sent to Germany to work in factories, farms, work as nannies etc.  Initially they were recruited using attractive advertisements, but once they reached Germany, they were treated like salves and made to wear blue coloured badge with “OST” written in capital letters. They were called Ostarbeiter i.e. Eastern Workers.

ADN-ZB/Archiv Deutschland im II. Weltkrieg 1939/45 Ostland-Arbeiterinnen beim gemeinsamen Mittagessen. Sie waren als billige Arbeitskräfte im Berliner Scherl-Verlag eingesetzt. (Aufnahme: Februar 1943) 800-43 Scherl: Berlin, Einsatz von Ostland-Arbeiterinnen im Scherl-Betrieb. Beim gemeinsamen Mittagessen. Ihnen schmeckt es ausgezeichnet. Phot. Schwahn, 10.2.43 800-43

ost OST 2

“On January 28 the first special train will leave for Germany with hot meals in Kiev, Zdolbunov and Przemyśl”

“Germany calls you! Go to Beautiful Germany! 100,000 Ukrainians are already working in free Germany. What about you?”

-Advt. in newspaper in Kiev, Ukraine

Karel Berkhoff has written book on condition of Ukrainians under Nazi rule called Harvest of Despair.


“If I find a Ukrainian who is worthy of sitting at the same table with me, I must have him shot”

 -Nazi commissar Erich Koch



One thought on “Osterbeiter, Sonderkommando and Harvest of Despair

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s