Ernst Friedrich Christoph "Fritz" Sauckel
– October 16
) was a Nazi war criminal
, who organized the systematic enslavement
of millions from lands occupied by Nazi Germany
. He was General Plenipotentiary for Labour Deployment from 1942 until the end of the war.
He was born in Haßfurt
(Kingdom of Bavaria
), the only child of a postman and a seamstress. Sauckel was educated at local schools and left early when his mother fell ill. He joined the merchant marine
at age fifteen, first on a Norwegian three-masted schooner
, and later on Swedish and German vessels. He went on to sail throughout the world, rising to the rank of Vollmatrose
. At the outbreak of World War I
, he was on a German vessel en route to Australia
when the vessel was captured. He was subsequently interned
in France from August 1914 until November 1919.
He returned to Germany, found factory work in Schweinfurt, and studied engineering in Ilmenau from 1922 to 1923. He joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in 1923 (member 1,395). In 1924 he married Elisabeth Wetzel and went on to be a father of ten children. He remained a party member over its dissolution and publicly rejoined in 1925. Sauckel was appointed party Gauleiter of Thüringia in 1927 and became a member of the regional government in 1929. Following the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, he was promoted to Reich Regent of Thüringia and Reichstag member. He was also given an honorary rank of Obergruppenführer in the SA and the SS in 1934.
World War II
During World War II
he was Reich defence commissioner for the Kassel
district (Reichsverteidigungskommissar Wehrkreis IX
) before being appointed General Plenipotentiary for Labour Deployment (Generalbevollmächtigter für den Arbeitseinsatz
) on March 21, 1942, on the recommendation of Albert Speer
. He worked directly under Hitler through the Four-Year Plan Office, directing and controlling German labour. In response to increased demands, he met the requirement for manpower with people from the occupied territories. Voluntary numbers were insufficient and forced recruitment was introduced within a few months. Of the 5 million workers brought to Germany, around 200,000 came voluntarily. The majority of the acquired workers originated from the Eastern territories, where the methods used to gain workers were reportedly very harsh.
Trial and execution
He was a defendant at the Nuremberg trials
accused of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression; war crimes and crimes against humanity. He defended the Arbeitseinsatz
as "nothing to do with exploitation. It is an economic process for supplying labour". He denied that it was slave labour or that it was common to deliberately work people to death (extermination by labour) or to mistreat them.
He was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and together with a number of colleagues, he was hanged on October 16, 1946. His last words were recorded as "Ich sterbe unschuldig, mein Urteil ist ungerecht. Gott beschütze Deutschland!" (I die innocent, my sentence is unjust. God protect Germany!).
His sentence remains controversial to date, since his superior, Albert Speer, was only given a 20 years prison term.
Portrayal in popular culture
Fritz Sauckel has been portrayed by the following actors in film, television and theater productions;
- Steffen Raßloff: Fritz Sauckel. Hitler "Muster-Gauleiter" (Thüringen. Blätter zur Landeskunde 36). Erfurt 2004. (Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Thüringen) (PDF)
- Steffen Raßloff: Fritz Sauckel. Hitlers "Muster-Gauleiter" und "Sklavenhalter" (Schriften der Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Thüringen. Bd. 29). 3. Auflage, Erfurt 2008. ISBN 978-3-937967-18-9 (PDF)