Dutch term – Dwangarbeider

A dwangarbeider is a forced laborer.

During World War II, many able men from the Netherlands were forced to work in Germany. The German factories and other places of employment needed laborers since so many of their own men were fighting in the army. Local labor offices in the Netherlands coordinated the placement.

Both my grandfathers were required to go to Germany as forced laborers. My paternal grandfather Henk Hoitink went into hiding on my grandmother’s farm (his fiancĂ©e at the time) and did not go. After his father died in 1942, he could come out of hiding since he was exempted from forced labor as the only child of a widow.

My maternal grandfather Jan Marijnissen went to work in Germany, but came back to the Netherlands without permission to be home in time for the birth of his first child. He went into hiding after that.

Finding information about forced laborers in Germany

It is hard to find out where forced laborers were placed. You may find records about them in the archives of the labor offices, which often have been turned over to a municipal or regional archive. If they died while working in Germany, you will find a copy of the death record in the municipality where they lived in the Netherlands, and the Red Cross will have a record too. The archives of the Red Cross are now kept at the National Archives in The Hague and in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The Central Bureau for Genealogy also has German death records from the Red Cross in their digital library (members only).

Labor document of Christian Lenstra. Credits: Historiek

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG® is a board-certified genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for almost 30 years. Her expertise is helping people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.

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