Minister President of the Federal State Thuringia Bodo Ramelow

Quelle: Thüringer Staatskanzlei

Dear contemporary witnesses, dear relatives,
ladies and gentlemen,

For many decades, forced labour was trivialised in Germany as a side effect of the Second World War. The National Socialists abducted more than 20 million people from their homes in attacked or occupied countries, forced them into the most severe forced labour conditions and exploited them to the point of total exhaustion. The slave labour in industry and in agriculture took place under the eyes of the German population, who for the most part saw nothing reprehensible in the merciless exploitation of these children, women and men.

After the war, the suffering of the former forced labourers in both parts of Germany was played down and suppressed, and the involvement of German companies in the exploitation to the point of death was concealed. Neither a legal reappraisal nor, with a few exceptions, punishment of the perpetrators or financial compensation for the victims was carried out. The forgotten fate of the forced labourers still confounds us today. We can therefore empathise with the fact that not only the period of forced labour but also the much too late recognition of their rights, inflicted deep wounds on the victims and their relatives.

On the Walpersberg near Kahla, one of the largest places where civilian forced labourers were deployed in Thuringia, we remember the victims of the REIMAHG every year on the anniversary of the liberation from war and National Socialism. This year, we can only virtually commemorate the 12,000 children, women and men from many European countries who were forced to work here under catastrophic conditions for the German armaments industry. Already exhausted at the beginning of the day, half-starved and marked by diseases, they had to endure exploitation, violence and mistreatment. Death was their constant companion.

Dear contemporary witnesses and your relatives, we ask you as the next generation for forgiveness for the deportation, for the hard forced labour and the inhumane living and working conditions, for the violence and unlawful detention. And we ask for forgiveness for the death of the two thousand people who died directly or indirectly from the consequences of the deportation and the merciless exploitation in the REIMAHG camps near Kahla. We will not stop naming the victims and telling their stories.

We are unendingly grateful to you for reaching out to us for reconciliation at this place of enslavement and humiliation. With your contributions and photos on this website, you encourage us to conserve the memory of the forced labourers of REIMAHG, and to remind future generations of their fate. We see your personal memories as a call to keep our minds and hearts open and to fight against new inhumanity, so that racist contempt for other nations can never again spread in our society.

I hope that we can soon join hands again in friendship and understanding on the Walpersberg near Kahla, and wish you all the best until then. Stay safe!

Bodo Ramelow
Minister President of the Federal State Thuringia

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