Move the mouse pointer over a red word in the main text, to view the glossary entry for this word.

Ban on Contact between Forced Laborers and Germans

The Nazi regime was concerned with preventing, as far as possible, contacts between foreigners and Germans. In the workplace, contacts were tolerated, but outside working hours foreigners and Germans were supposed to lead strictly separate lives. In many cases, however, this ban on contact could not be enforced. Particularly in agriculture, forced  laborers often lived in close quarters with the German families. The latter usually provided material assistance to the undernourished, poorly clad forced laborers, especially those from the East, and some Germans occasionally even went beyond that, for example, by passing on information about the politics of the day and events of the war. Here, however, these were in most cases the actions of isolated individuals, although convictions for “forbidden dealings with foreigners and prisoners of war” did increase considerably between 1940 and 1942. Friendly contact with foreigners was punished with up to eight months in prison. Helping forced laborers in large firms was more difficult: the management of the firm was mostly indifferent to their fate, and the frequent existence of a tight network of mutual surveillance inside the company increased the danger of denuciation. But German colleagues also helped the foreigners survive, by sharing food with them despite the draconian penalties and thus expressing their solidarity.


Civilian workers from Western Europe were innately in a better situation. Sometimes they could even spend their free time jointly with Germans in cultural facilities, at the movies, theater, or swimming pool. Laborers from the Soviet Union and Poland, by contrast, were forbidden even to attend religious services, to prevent too close an association with the German population.


The authorities and the population devoted special attention to “crimes of intercourse,” or GV-Verbrechen (Geschlechtsverkehr-Verbrechen). Sexual contacts between Jewish and “Aryan” persons had been termed “blood desecration,” or Blutschande, and punished severelyever since the passage of the Nuremberg Racial Laws by the Reichstag in 1935; sexual contact between Germans and foreigners, too, was generally forbidden and punished in accordance with the Nazis’ hierarchy of race. Penalties ranging from a warning to confinement in a concentration camp were possible for German men and women who had sexual relations with foreigners. Until December 1942, the foreign women were sent to a concentration camp or forced to work in brothels, and the male forced laborers also were punished severely. After that date, the regulations were relaxed slightly. In addition to prosecution by the state, there were forms of public discrimination, such as making the couples stand in a pillory, exposed to public scorn.

(SP/BG; transl. KL)


Herbert, Ulrich: Hitler’s Foreign Workers: Enforced Foreign Labor in Germany under the Third Reich. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge UP, 1997.

Spoerer, Mark: Zwangsarbeit unter dem Hakenkreuz. Stuttgart/Munich: DVA, 2001.