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Journal of the History of Sexuality 11.1 and 2 (2002) 201-222

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Forbidden Company:
Romantic Relationships between Germans and Foreigners, 1939 to 1945

Birthe Kundrus
Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg

By August 1944, over 7 million foreigners were living in the "Greater German Reich." The majority, which included 1.9 million prisoners of war and 5.7 million forced laborers, had been brought to Germany against their will. Among these foreigners were 1.3 million French citizens, 2.8 million Soviet citizens, and 1.7 million Poles. Women made up half of the Polish and Soviet citizenry in the Reich and roughly one third of the foreign laborers overall. On average, these women were under twenty years of age. Though no statistics exist regarding the age of male foreigners in the Reich, the majority of male prisoners of war and foreign laborers were probably between thirty and forty years of age. Though the Nazi regime had "imported" the foreign laborers to work in the agricultural economy and the war industries, their "deployment" was deemed to constitute a serious danger to the "preservation of the German Volk's purity of blood." 1 Consequently, in 1940, the Office of Racial Policy (Rassenpolitsches Amt) warned:

There can be little doubt that racial policy considerations demand that we combat with all available means the extraordinary threat of contamination and pollution this concentration of foreign workers [End Page 201] poses . . . to our Germanic lineage. This alien population was until recently our most bitter enemy, and inwardly remains so today, and we can and may not stand idly by while they invade the vital essence of our Volk, impregnate women of German blood, and corrupt our youth. 2

The ever-increasing number of foreign laborers in Germany made lasting changes in the composition of civil society. In many regions, casual contacts, friendships, and romantic relationships developed between the German population and prisoners of war or foreign laborers. In response, the Nazi regime issued a series of complex regulations and directives governing the living and working conditions of the various classes of foreigners. Soviet prisoners of war, for example, were supposed to be kept under constant military supervision and remain in camps when not at work. French and Belgian military internees, in contrast, benefited from such special privileges as greater freedom of movement, since the German authorities deemed them to constitute a lesser security risk. However, maintaining this "racial" regulatory hierarchy was not always practicable; for example, prisoner-of-war camps were frequently short of military guards, and local authorities often failed to keep pace with the regime's "regulatory frenzy." 3 The regulations themselves were often vague and open to interpretation. On a few occasions, those governing certain classes of foreigners were reversed entirely, as happened in the case of Ukrainians and Italians during [End Page 202] the course of the war. 4 Such situations served to confirm the misgivings of the organization in charge of National Socialist racial policy, the Head Security Office of the Reich (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, RSHA). In 1942 the Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst, SD) of the SS complained that "the conscription of many millions of men into military service, the lack of a universal prohibition against sexual relations for foreigners, and the incorporation of additional foreign workers, all have increased the threat of infiltration of the blood of the German Volk." 5

The regime's prohibition of contacts between German men and women and forced laborers and prisoners of war must first be sited within the context of National Socialist racial policy, an aspect correctly emphasized by Ulrich Herbert's path-breaking work and, more recently, by a series of local studies. 6 As these studies have made clear, the Nazi regime's treatment of foreign laborers was shaped by ideological factors as well as economic considerations. The daily lives of the various categories of foreigners were governed by a harsh and meticulously detailed set of regulations that differentiated by nationality and race. In the hierarchy of these categories, the forced laborers from Eastern Europe occupied the lowest...


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pp. 201-222
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