Fritz Sauckel

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Fritz Sauckel was an early Nazi who rose to become, in 1942, Plenipotentiary General for the Utilization of Labor, with authority for the "the utilization of all available manpower including that of workers recruited abroad and of prisoners of war."[1] In one of the more controversial decisions, he was hanged by order of the Trial of the Major War Criminals of the International Military Tribunal. Airey Neave, one of the prosecutors, suggests that both Albert Speer and Hermann Goering were more guilty of the title of "the greatest slaver of all time", and comments that Sauckel appears to have tried to obtain humane treatment for workers. [2]

Sauckel was not responsible for labor provided by concentration camp inmates, that being under Heinrich Himmler's SS and specifically the WVHA of Oswald Pohl. The Tribunal concluded he was aware of bad conditions, "does not appear that he advocated brutality for its own sake, or was an advocate of any program such as Himmler's plan for extermination through

work." Nevertheless, it was involuntary and could be inhumane.

All the men must be fed, sheltered and treated in such a way as to exploit them to the highest possible extent at the lowest conceivable degree of expenditure.[1]

Early Nazi career

Sauckel joined the Nazi Party in 1923, and became Gauleiter of Thuringia in 1927. He was a member of the Thuringian legislature from 1927 to 1933, was appointed Reichsstatthalter for Thuringia in 1932, and Thuringian Minister of the Interior and head of the Thuringian State Ministry in May, 1933. He became a member of the Reichstag in 1933. He held the formal rank of Obergruppenfuehrer in both the SA and the SS.

Economic role


In mid-March 1942, Albert Speer found that industrial plants were underutilized due both to labor shortages and peak-hour demands on the electrical supply. Speer remonstrated with Hitler not to build more factories that could not be operated. He had only partial success, but he said he did make available several hundred thousand construction workers, who could be transferred to armaments work.

When he tried to have these transfers made, a director in Goering's office said he lacked authority to transfer workers from Gau to Gau, which the Gauleiters considered an infringement of their authority. Speer concluded he needed Hitler to name a special executive from among the Gauleiters, authorized to make the transfers. Hitler agreed in principle.

Speer wanted his friend, Karl Hanke assigned to the job. Hanke, Gauleiter of Lower Silesia, was rejected by Martin Bormann, a bureaucratic rival of both Speer and Goering. Bormann nominated Sauckel, whom Hitler appointed directly. This was a slap at Goering, who logically should have made the appointment, as the economic chief. Indeed, Bormann tried to have Sauckel report directly to him, although Bormann had nothing to do with production.[3]

Sauckel's assignment

Hitler's decree directed Sauckel to operate within the scope of Goering's Four Year Plan for the German economy. On 27 March, 1942 Goering issued a decree as Commissioner for the Four Year Plan transferring his manpower sections to Sauckel. Hitler, in a supplemental decree of 30th September 1942, gave Sauckel authority to appoint Commissioners in the various occupied territories, and "to take all necessary measures for the enforcement" of his original decree.

Sauckel, a former merchant saior, described his role as "I was like a seamen's agency — if I supply hands for a ship, I am not responsible for any cruelty that may be exercised aboard ship without my knowledge."[4]

Under the authority which he obtained by these decrees. Sauckel set up a program for the mobilization of the labor resources available to the Reich. One of the important parts of this mobilization was the systematic exploitation, by force, of the labor resources of the occupied territories. Shortly after Sauckel had taken office, he had the governing authorities in the various occupied territories issue decrees, establishing compulsory labor service in Germany. Under the authority of these decrees Sauckel's commissioners, backed up by the police authorities of the occupied territories, obtained and sent to Germany the laborers which were necessary to fill the quotas given them by Sauckel.

He described so-called "voluntary" recruiting by a whole batch of male and female agents just as was done in the olden times for shanghaiing". That real voluntary recruiting was the exception rather than the rule is shown by Sauckel's statement on 1st March, 1944, that "out of five million foreign workers who arrived in Germany not even 200,000 came voluntarily". [1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Judgment of the International Military Tribunal For The Trial of German Major War Criminals: SAUCKEL
  2. Airey Neave (1978), On Trial at Nuremberg, Little, Brown, pp. 134-135
  3. Albert Speer (1970), Inside the Third Reich, Macmillan, pp. 217-221
  4. Neave, p. 135