2023 | Documentary | 3 x 45′, 52′

Working for the Enemy
Forced Labour in the Third Reich


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.

Bettina Offermann
Christine Baron

Executive Producer
Regina Bouchehri
Gunnar Dedio

A co-production by

In cooperation with

Writer & Director
Matthias Schmidt

Creative Producer
Martin Philipp Graf

Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung
Deutsch-Tschechischer Zukunftsfond