Fritz Sauckel, General Plenipotentiary for Deployment of Labour, Gauleiter NSDAP Gau Thuringia, Reichsstatthalter Thuringia and member of the Reichstag
21 March 1942 – 8 May 1945
30 September 1927 – 8 May 1945
5 May 1933 – 8 May 1945
26 August 1932 – 8 May 1933
29 November 1935 – 19 April 1937
|Wilhelm Friedrich Loeper
29 November 1935 – 19 April 1937
|27 October 1894
Haßfurt, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire
|16 October 1946 (aged 51)
Nuremberg Prison, Nuremberg, Allied-occupied Germany
|Elisabeth "Lisa" Wetzel (b. 1898)
|10 (among them Erich Adolf Sauckel)
Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Christoph Sauckel (b. 27 October 1894; d. 16 October 1946) was a German politician, who organized the systematic work of workers from lands occupied by National Socialist Germany. He was, among other things, member of the Reichstag from 1933 to 1945 and General Plenipotentiary for Labour Deployment (Generalbevollmächtigter für den Arbeitseinsatz) from 1942 until the end of the war, after which he was tried by an allied kangaroo court and executed.
Revisionists have argued that he signed a self-incriminating statement at the IMT and "confessed" about National Socialist Germany and forced labor only after being told that his wife and ten children would otherwise be handed over to the Soviet Union.
Sauckel was born in Haßfurt (Kingdom of Bavaria), the only child of the postman and a seamstress Oberpostassistent Georg Adolf Sauckel (1868–1938) and his wife Magdalene, née Dette (b. 1865). He was educated at local schools and left early when his mother fell ill. He joined the merchant marine of Norway and Sweden 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, with whom he had 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 31 July 1932 election, the NSDAP captured 42.5 % of the votes and 26 seats, and Sauckel became the new Leading Minister of State (equivalent to Minister-President) as well as the interior minister from which portfolio he controlled all the State police and security apparatus. Following the National Socialist 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 21 March 1942, on the recommendation of Martin Bormann. He worked directly under Hitler through the Four-Year Plan Office, directing and controlling German labour. In response to increased demands and with the help of Rudi Peuckert and others, 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.
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 refused the absurd charges, that it was slave labour or that it was common to deliberately work people to death (extermination by labour) or to mistreat them. In the opposite, foreign workers were rather satisfied with work conditions and wages, they could even support their familieas abroad, and they never-ever revolted, that they would certainly have done, if the conditions were unbearable.
- Gentlemen of the Tribunal: I have been shaken to the very depths of my soul by the atrocities revealed in this Trial. In all humility and reverence, I bow before the victims and the fallen of all nations, and before the misfortune and suffering of my own people, with whom alone I must measure my fate. I come from a social level completely different from that of my comrades accused with me. In my nature and thinking I remained a sailor and a worker. After the First World War, the course of my life was determined through my own experience of the sorrows and needs of the masses of my people who were struggling for their existence. Inner conflicts forced me into politics. I could be nothing else but a Socialist but I could not embrace the Communist manifesto. I was never anti-religious or even irreligious, but quite the contrary. I fought a hard struggle with myself before I turned to politics. And so I finally dedicated myself to socialist love and justice toward those whose only wealth is their labor and, at the same time, to the destiny of my nation. In this I saw the only possible connection between socialist thinking and true love of one's country. This belief alone determined my life and my actions. I saw here no contradiction to the laws of humanity. I recognized no arbitrary dictatorship or tyranny in the principle of leaders and loyal foIlowers. My error was perhaps the excess of my feelings and my confidence in, as well as my great veneration of Hitler. I knew him only as the champion of the German people's rights to existence and saw him as the man who was kind to workers, women and children and who promoted the vital interests of Germany. The Hitler of this Trial I could not recognize. Perhaps my loneliness and submersion in the world of my imagination and my work was a further defect. I hardly ever had social contact with the occupants of high positions in the Reich; what little spare time I had belonged to my family. I was and am happy that my wife is the daughter of a worker, who himself was and remained a Socialdemocrat. In this, my last word, I solemnly assure you that I was completely surprised by all foreign political events and the beginning of all military actions. Under no circumstances would I have co-operated as a German worker - and for German workers - to help plan the madness of unleashing a war of aggression. I only became a National Socialist because I condemned class struggle, expropriation and civil war, and because I firmly believed in Hitler's absolute desire for peace and understanding with the rest of the world and in his work of reconstruction. Because I was a worker, I always did everything possible in my own field of activity to prevent excesses, arbitrary acts, and brutality of any kind. I was sufficiently naive, against the opposition of Himmler and Goebbels, to put through my manifesto and many other decrees for the employment of labor, which prescribed humane and correct treatment of foreign workers as compulsory for all offices. I never would have been able to bear the knowledge of these terrible secrets and crimes without protest nor, with such knowledge, would I have been able to face my people or my 10 innocent children. I had no part in any conspiracy against peace or against humanity, nor did I tolerate murders or mistreatment. During the war itself I had to do my duty. I received the position of Plenipotentiary General for the Allocation of Labor in 1942, at a time of grave military crisis and it came as a complete surprise to me. I was bound by the existing labor laws, the orders of the Führer and the decrees of the Reichsverteidigungsrat. I do not know why it was just I who received this task. In my own Gau, I had particularly gained the confidence of the workers, farmers and artisans, and even before 1933, that is, before Hitler assumed power, I had been elected by a large majority in free parliamentary elections as the chief of the state government there. I believe that Providence endowed me with a good talent for organization and practical work, as well as with a capacity for enthusiasm. Perhaps that was the reason why I received my task. It was a heavy burden for me. The soil of Berlin was completely alien to me. Because I am a worker, I never thought of making slaves of foreign human beings. My requirement that people be managed economically does not in any way mean their inhuman exploitation, but rather their economic, rational, and correct employment in labor. It was never my intention to commit crimes against international law, the laws of war or the laws of humanity. Not for a single moment did I doubt the legality and admissibility of my task, for I thought it completely out of the question that the German Government would break international law. If however, you tell me that, in spite of that, German labor laws could not be applied in the occupied territories, then I beg to reply that even high-ranking Frenchmen, Belgians, Poles, and also Russians have told me that they were supporting Germany with labor in order to protect Europe against a threatening Communist system and in order to prevent unemployment and mass suffering during the war. However, not only did I work for the fulfilment of my task with the greatest zeal, but at the same time I tried with all my might and with all possible means, immediately upon assuming office, to eliminate the critical conditions in the organization and care of foreign laborers, which had developed through the winter catastrophe of 1941 to 1942 and to do away with all shortcomings and abuses. I also believed, as my documents prove, that we could win the foreign workers over to our German cause by giving them the proper treatment I demanded. Perhaps in the eyes of Himmler and Goebbels I was a hopeless Utopian, they were my foes. But I honestly fought to have the foreign workers receive the same rights and conditions as the German workers. This is also attested to by the numerous documents of my defense counsel and has been confirmed by all the statements of the witnesses before this Tribunal. If my work was incomplete nobody can regret it more deeply and painfully than myself. Unfortunately that was only partly in my power, as my counsel has proved. The evidence has shown that things happened in the occupied territories on which I and the labor employment office, which was civilian-controlled, could exercise no influence whatsoever. However, all German enterprises and agencies requiring labor complained to me that I was always delivering too few workers for the war effort and that it would be my fault if the war economy and food economy were threatened by dangerous crises. These heavy responsibilities and worries dominated me so much that I found and had no time at all for other developments. This I regret. I assume responsibility for my decrees and for my employees. I never saw the records of the Central Planning Board before this Trial; otherwise I would have corrected false or unclear passages, as, for instance, the passage with reference to the impossible figure of only 200,000 volunteer workers. This also applies to a number of other statements which were incorrectly taken down by third parties and never actually put into practice. Because I am a worker and have personally served on foreign ships, I am grateful to the foreign workers who were in Germany, for they helped us greatly and they worked well. This, perhaps, is proof of the fact that on the whole they were treated decently and humanely. I myself often visited them. Because I was a working man, I spent the Christmas celebrations of 1943 and 1944 with foreign workers in order to show my attitude towards them. My own children worked among foreign workers, under the same working conditions. Could I, or German workers and the German people, consider that as slavery? The necessity for this was our emergency. The German people and the German workers would never have tolerated conditions comparable to slavery around them. My defense counsel has presented the complete truth about my case with extreme objectivity. I thank him for this from the bottom of my heart. For his own part, he was strict and correct in investigating my case. My intentions and conscience are clean. The shortcomings and the necessities of the war, the frightful conditions it produced, have touched my heart deeply. I myself am prepared to meet any fate which Providence has in store for me, just like my son, who was killed in the war (⚔). The Gauleiter whom I employed as plenipotentiaries for the allocation of labor had the sole task of providing for the proper treatment and care of the German and foreign workers. God protect my people, whom I love above all else, and may the Lord God again bless the labor of German workers, to whom my entire life and effort were devoted, and may He give peace to the world.
After a defense led by Robert Servatius, Sauckel was found "guilty" of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity", and together with a number of colleagues was hanged on 16 October 1946. His last words were recorded as
- "Ich sterbe unschuldig, mein Urteil ist ungerecht. Gott schütze Deutschland!"
- I die an innocent man, my sentence is unjust. God save Germany!
Promotions (honorary ranks)
- SA-Gruppenführer: 9 November 1933
- SS-Gruppenführer: 9 September 1934
- SA-Obergruppenführer: 9 November 1937
- SS-Obergruppenführer: 30 January 1942 (SS-Ehrenrang)
Awards, decorations and honours
- Coburg Badge (Koburger Ehrenzeichen) in October 1932
- Traditions-Gauabzeichen für Thuringen
- SA-Sportabzeichen in Bronze
- Goldenes Parteiabzeichen der NSDAP
- Ehrennadel der Deutschen Arbeitsfront (DAF) in Gold
- Honour Chevron for the Old Guard (Ehrenwinkel der Alten Kämpfer)
- NSDAP Long Service Award (Dienstauszeichnung der NSDAP) in Gold
- Honorary citizen of Jena
- Kampf und Sieg in Thüringen, 1934
- Kampfreden – Dokumente aus der Zeit der Wende und des Aufbaus. Ausgewählt und herausgegeben von Fritz Fink, Fink, Weimar 1934
- Die Wilhelm-Gustloff-Stiftung – Ein Tatsachen- und Rechenschaftsbericht über Sozialismus der Gesinnung und der Tat in einem nationalsozialistischen Musterbetrieb des Gaues Thüringen der NSDAP, Weimar, 30. Januar 1938, herausgegeben vom Stiftungsführer Fritz Sauckel, Weber, Leipzig/Berlin 1938
- Bekenntnis zum Kinderreichtum der Tüchtigen – Rede des Gauleiters und Reichsstatthalters Fritz Sauckel am 26. Juni 1938 in Weimar, Gauorganisationsamt der NSDAP, Weimar 1938
Portrayal in popular culture
Fritz Sauckel has been portrayed by the following actors in film, television and theater productions;
- Ken Kramer in the 2000 Canadian/U.S. T.V. production Nuremberg
- Oliver Stern in the 2005 German docudrama Speer und Er
- Paul Brennen in the 2006 British television docudrama Nuremberg: National Socialists on Trial
- Steffen Raßloff: Fritz Sauckel. Hitler "Muster-Gauleiter" (Thüringen. Blätter zur Landeskunde 36). Erfurt 2004. (PDF) (translation into English)
- 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)
- Testimony of Sauckel at Nuremberg (page 72 onwards)
- Sauckel's "Exploitation" Speech
- NOT GUILTY AT NUREMBERG: The German Defense Case - detailed descriptions and criticisms of the alleged evidence against each of the accused at the IMT
- Holocaust Handbooks, Volume 15: Germar Rudolf: Lectures on the Holocaust—Controversial Issues Cross Examined 2nd, revised and corrected edition. http://holocausthandbooks.com/index.php?page_id=15
- Final statement Fritz Sauckel
- Nuremberg (2000) (TV). IMDb.com. Retrieved on May 20, 2008.
- Nuremberg: National Socialists on Trial (2006) (TV). IMDb.com. Retrieved on May 20, 2008.