Forced Labour & Survivors of Nazi Persecution
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Wolverhampton
Unit of AssessmentHistory
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
This case study demonstrates the impact of historical research on:
- the third sector (Imperial War Museum, London) Impact: education,
public discourse, public services.
- international organisations (UN Office of the Special Representative
of the Secretary- General for Children and Armed Conflict) Impact:
public discourse, public services.
- public sector agencies (Stowarzyszenie Dzieci Wojny w Polsce / Polish
Association of Children of the War) Impact: policy making.
The case study is based on Johannes-Dieter Steinert's research on `Forced
Labour' and `Survivors of Nazi Persecution' with special emphasis on
displaced persons, British humanitarian assistance in post-war Germany,
and Polish and Soviet child forced labourers.
The research has been carried out by Johannes-Dieter Steinert (Professor
of Modern European History and Migration Studies, who joined the
University of Wolverhampton in 1999), in three research projects:
(a) British humanitarian assistance for Germany after the Second World
War, supported by the British Academy.
The project examined the interrelations between British humanitarian
assistance and British occupation policy. It focused in particular on the
survivors of the Holocaust and on displaced persons in Germany, and the
various national and international attempts to solve some of the main
post-war problems in Europe by humanitarian assistance, repatriation and
migration to third countries. The research was a starting point for
preliminary discussions with the Imperial War Museum, London that were
followed by ongoing collaboration.
(b) Child forced labourers in National Socialist Germany and German
occupied Eastern Europe, 1939-1945, supported by the Gerda Henkel
Stiftung Düsseldorf, the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities
The research project has provided the first
comprehensive study of Polish and Soviet child forced labour by drawing on
a wide range of archival documents and testimonies. It focused on both the
perpetrators, their ideology and policy, and on the young victims'
experiences. The research has identified the political, economic and
ideological background which led to the deportation of children during the
Second World War. It also examined the extent to which the
forced labour of children was linked with National Socialist racist
ideology, the Holocaust and the Germanization programme and it evaluated
the participation of civil authorities, police and military units in the
deportation process. Special consideration has been given to the working
and living conditions of these children, their treatment by employers and
colleagues, and their social contacts with the civil population and other
forced labourers. The research project has led to co-operation which is
ongoing with the UN Office of the Special Representative of the
Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in New York.
(c) Child forced labourers in occupied Poland: Experiences, resilience
and post-war discourses (together with Prof Dariusz Galasiński,
Professor of Discourse and Cultural Studies, and Dr Olga Kozłowska,
post-doctoral researcher), supported by the Stiftung `Erinnerung,
Verantwortung, Zukunft', Berlin.
The ongoing project focuses on Polish children forced to work in German
occupied Poland. Based on interviews and written sources, it examines
children's experiences as forced labourers during the war, their treatment
in post-war Poland until the present day, and the long-term perceived
consequences of forced labour. It analyses how former child forced
labourers look back at the experience of forced labour, transition and
(re-)integration into Polish post-war society, and how they constructed
their lives afterwards. Special consideration is being given to the
location of the forced labour experience in the life-stories of former
child forced labourers, the long-term process of coping with trauma, the
social perceptions of forced labour in their narratives, and their
resilience. Research has involved co-operation with the Polish
`Association of Children of the War', and it began to have an impact on
the political work of this NGO even before initial research results had
References to the research
All publications have been subject to a rigorous peer-review process.
Publications 1-2 were submitted to the RAE 2008, publications 3-5 have
been submitted to this REF.
Research on British humanitarian assistance in Germany (see section 2a
Key research grant: British Academy (2001-2002): £4990.
(1) Johannes-Dieter Steinert, `British Relief Teams in Belsen
Concentration Camp: Emergency Relief and the Perception of Survivors', Holocaust
Studies, vol. 12, 2006, no. 1-2, pp. 62- 78.
(2) Johannes-Dieter Steinert, Nach Holocaust und Zwangsarbeit.
Britische humanitäre Hilfe in Deutschland. Die Helfer, die Befreiten und
die Deutschen, Osnabrück: Secolo 2007.
(3) Johannes-Dieter Steinert, `British Humanitarian Assistance: Wartime
Planning and Postwar Realities', Journal of Contemporary History,
vol. 43, 2008, no. 3, pp. 421-435.
(4) Johannes-Dieter Steinert, `Jewish survivors, DPs and Germans in
British Eyes', in David Cesarani, Suzanne Bardgett, Jessica Reinisch and
Johannes-Dieter Steinert (eds), Survivors of Nazi Persecution in
Europe after the Second World War. Landscapes after Battle, 2 vols.,
London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2010 and 2011, vol. 1, pp. 15-34.
Research on child forced labourers (see section 2b and 2c above)
Key research grants: Gerda Henkel Stiftung Düsseldorf (2007-2009): EUR
10,000. British Academy (2007-2009): £43,481. Stiftung `Erinnerung,
Verantwortung, Zukunft', Berlin (2008-2010): EUR 119,971. AHRC (2012):
(5) Johannes-Dieter Steinert, Deportation und Zwangsarbeit. Polnische
und sowjetische Kinderzwangsarbeiter im nationalsozialistischen
Deutschland und im besetzten Osteuropa, 1939-1945, Essen: Klartext
Details of the impact
Steinert's work has had impact on education, public discourse, public
services and policy making.
(a) Co-operation with the Imperial War Museum, London (education, public
discourse, public services)
Dissemination of the research results on displaced persons and British
humanitarian assistance in Germany led to a co-operation with the Imperial
War Museum, London and the joint organisation of the first international
multidisciplinary conference on `Beyond camps and forced labour: Current
international research on survivors of Nazi persecution', held at the
Imperial War Museum January 2003. Further conferences followed in 2006,
2009 and 2012.
Participation in this conference series has been highly selective, and
the submission of a total of more than 400 proposals for the 2009 and 2012
conferences alone underlines that `Beyond camps' has become the
international platform for communication and collaboration between
academics and third sector agencies engaged in the field. Among the 217
speakers in 2009 and 2012 were delegates from the US Holocaust Memorial
Museum Washington/DC, Yad Vashem Jerusalem, the museums/memorial sites in
Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, and Ravenbrück as well as
representatives of organisations like Memorial (Moscow), KARTA (Warsaw),
Falstadt (Norway), the Association of Jewish Refugees (London), the Former
Internees of Bergen-Belsen Association (France), the Institute of National
Remembrance (Poland), The Centre for Dialogue in Oświęcim (Poland), and
the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. Additionally, both conferences
attracted around 90 other participants, including delegates from
organisations, associations and memorials.
Impact can be seen in the conference series' contribution to
`commemoration, memorialisation and reconciliation' as well as its
influence on the work of the Imperial War Museum. According to Suzanne
Bardgett (Holocaust Exhibition), `Beyond camps' was "an inspiring model"
for the museum, which "will do more conferences with our fresh drive on
(b) Co-operation with the UN Office of the Special Representative of the
Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (public discourse,
Steinert has initiated and - together with colleagues from the
universities of Salzburg and Wolverhampton (Prof Buckley / History and
Prof Galasiński / Cultural Studies) - co-organized two international
multidisciplinary conferences `Children and War: Past and Present', held
in Salzburg in 2010 and 2013.
Shortly after the 2010 conference (with 133 speakers from both academia
and NGOs), the organisers were asked by the UN Office of the Special
Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to
develop a conference series on this particular topic in association with
the Office. According to a `Concept Note' received, the UN regards the
conference as "an opportunity for a closer and continued engagement with a
broad spectrum of researchers". In January 2012 Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy,
the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (2006-2012), wrote to
Steinert that "we must work closely together to develop new ideas and
approaches to enhance the protection of children during armed conflict".
This commitment was reinforced by her successor, Ms Leila Zerrougui, who
underlined during the opening of the 2013 conference that "strengthening
this partnership" was a UN aim. Besides this, Steinert has accepted a
request to contribute his research experience to the deliberations of a UN
Academic Advisory Board that will "contribute guidance, based on academic
research, to the objectives of the Office".
The Call for Papers for both Salzburg conferences attracted a total of
nearly 500 proposals and a final number of 276 speakers, among them
representatives of leading international humanitarian and human rights
organisations (such as Save the Children, Watch List for Children and
Armed Conflict, War Child Holland) as well as field workers engaged in
Africa, Asia and South America. Eamonn Hanson (Global Advocacy
Coordinator, War Child Holland) summarized the feedback received from many
NGO representatives: "It was a great learning experience and a good
platform for us to get feedback on our work."
(c) Co-operation with Stowarzyszenie Dzieci Wojny w Polsce (policy
Most recently, Steinert's research on Child Forced Labour has had impact
on the political work of the `Association of Children of the War', Łódź,
Poland. This organisation advocates the rights of former child forced
labourers, including those who stayed at home while forced to work for
German military or civilian authorities. As both the German and the Polish
government have denied these children any form of compensation and also
the social and economic benefits granted to officially recognized forced
labourers, the Association regards Steinert's research of "great
importance in getting the same national and international rights and
privileges as enjoyed by forced labourers deported to Germany". In 2010,
the Association honoured Steinert, Galasiński and Kozłowska with its
Golden Cross, followed by the highest decoration, the Blue Cross of Merit,
Sources to corroborate the impact
1) E-mail, Dr Suzanne Bardgett, Head of Research, Imperial War Museum,
London, to Steinert, 5 December 2011.
2) E-mails, Laurent Dutordoir, Associate Expert in Political Affairs,
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children
and Armed Conflict for Children and Armed Conflict, to Steinert, 2010
3) Letter, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Under-Secretary-General, Special
Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict,
to Steinert, 6 January 2012.
4) Allocution by Leila Zerrougui, SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict,
Second International Multidisciplinary Conference Children and War: Past
and Present, University of Salzburg 2013.
5) Concept note of the Office of the Special Representative of the
Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict for Children and Armed
Conflict on the establishment of an Academic Advisory Committee, December
6) Email Eamonn Hanson, Global Advocacy Coordinator, War Child Holland to
Steinert, 24 July 2013.
7) Letter, Stowarzyszenie Dzieci Wojny w Polsce to Prof Caroline Gipps,
Vice-Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton, 19 April 2010.