• Working for the Enemy – Forced Labour in the Third Reich

    Working for the Enemy – Forced Labour in the Third Reich

    series in three parts

Working for the Enemy – Forced Labour in the Third Reich

series in three parts

a film by Matthias Schmidt, Vit Polacek

Working for the Enemy – Forced Labour in the Third Reich

Germany | 2023 | 156:00 min

Original Title:

Content Categories

Documentary Series
Europe, 1930s: the Jewish Hertzberger family were living happily in Rotterdam. Just a few hundred kilometres away, young German Wilhelm Frank hoped for the resurgence of the German nation and became Hitler’s supporter. Ellis Hertzberger and Wilhelm Frank represent the polar opposites that set the underlying tone for Lost Youth (Ep1). From numerous international perspectives, the award-winning writing duo of Matthias Schmidt and Vít Poláček tells the story of both, the victims and the perpetrators, in conversations with their children and grandchildren. A story of reconciliation in modern Europe.

In the name of Hitler, more than 13 million Europeans – in many cases mere children – were taken from their homes and forced to work for the enemy, Nazi Germany. This phenomenon was not confined to concentration camps: there was no German town, no German village that did not have forced labourers. From numerous international perspectives, this series traces the story of both, the victims and the perpetrators. And it discusses why the reappraisal of this history continues to be political dynamite for European politics and the global economy.
8 May 1945: World War II comes to an end in Europe. But for many Europeans, this does not end their suffering. They may be free, but they are uprooted and traumatised: between 1938 and 1945, more than 13 million people were deported from their homes and send to Nazi Germany to work as forced labourers. Many of them were forcibly deported, many interned, all of them exploited. Marked with letters on their clothing and forced to work for the enemy. More than six million of them are still in the Third Reich when it falls in 1945. But they quickly disappear from the consciousness of the German and international public. And yet everyone knew who they were and what they did: in every town, in every village, on every farm – forced labourers were ever-present.
This mini-series uncovers the forgotten life stories of millions of mostly young adults and children.
Through diaries, photographs, letters and other personal documents, the stories of these people who have since died are brought to life. The focus however is on the generations that followed: in conversations with the children and grandchildren of the victims and perpetrators, the series tells a story of reconciliation in modern Europe.
The award-winning German-Czech journalist duo of Matthias Schmidt and Vít Poláček innovatively follows selected individual stories, told in a horizontal structure, which encompass all the dimensions of the Nazi programme of forced labour. They also pursue the central questions surrounding how the phenomenon of forced labour was dealt with after the war.
The transnational and multi-perspective approach to forced labour opens up this phenomenon in all its complexity. In this way, the series paints a multifaceted picture of all those who were forced to work for the enemy – young women, men and children from many different countries – and of those who profited from them. To this day, their fate defines the lives of their descendants, the political and economic face of Germany and thus also the numerous narratives of guilt and reconciliation in modern Europe.
3x43min German version
3x52min OV Dutch, German, Czech, French, Polish, Ukrainian
Cast and Crew
  • Director Matthias Schmidt, Vit Polacek (co-director)
Original Languages







Production Company
Brandenburger Straße 28, 04347 Leipzig
Links / Reference
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