Forced labour huts near Fuhlsbüttel airport
The war economy of the ‘Third Reich’ depended largely on the use of foreign labourers. While these workers were initially recruited voluntarily, the Nazis soon introduced a policy of abduction and deportation instead. In the late summer of 1944, a total of over six million forced labourers, two million prisoners of war and 400,000 concentration camp prisoners were working in construction, agriculture and the armaments industry.
The racism of the National Socialists was reflected in their treatment of different groups of labourers. Unlike the workers from Western and Northern Europe, the Ostarbeiter or ‘Eastern workers’ who had been deported from the Soviet Union were always housed in guarded camps. In 1943, huts were constructed for the Kowahl & Bruns company to house 144 forced labourers mainly from the Netherlands, France and Italy. Kowahl & Bruns was a landscape gardening firm that had been commissioned by the Office for Activities Important to the War Effort (Amt für kriegswichtigen Einsatz)to camouflage the airport and other military facilities to protect them from air raids. In the last year of the war, the company additionally used prisoners from the Sasel satellite camp for women.
Preservation of the remains of forced labour camp
After the war, dormitory huts and parts of a sanitary facility hut from the forced labour camp remained standing near the airport in Fuhlsbüttel (now Hamburg Airport). One of the huts was renovated inside and used for accommodation until 1997. A local history group known as the Willi-Bredel-Gesellschaft successfully campaigned to save the two huts from demolition. With public support, the organisation was able to restore the buildings and preserve other traces of the former camp. The two huts are now listed as historic monuments and are used by the Willi-Bredel-Gesellschaft to display original artefacts and research findings of victims and perpetrators in permanent exhibitions: ‘Forced Labour in Northern Hamburg 1943-1945’, ‘Suffering and Assertion: Matla Rozenberg’ and 'Emil Bruhns - war criminal and war gainer".