Most reference works implicitly or explicitly portray forced labour as a male question: young men and family men were coerced to leave family and fatherland to go and work for the enemy. For historians and the collective memory, women labour in German is considered exceptional and concerns mostly volunteers. In addition, the chronological scope is mainly limited to the Second World War – and more specifically 1942-1944.
With this symposium we are determined to open up the research on foreign labour in Germany during both World Wars. We want to do so on three levels.
First of all chronologically, by studying the question from the First World War covering the whole of the Second World War including the long-term repercussions of the war experience on societies in their legal, cultural and societal dimensions.
Secondly, thematically, by approaching the question from a gender perspective. On this continuous thread, other little studied aspects of foreign labour in Germany (the question of underage workers, pregnancies,…) will attach themselves. Time and again the dichotomy voluntary/forced proved inadequate to look at the reality in all its complexity.
Finally, geographically, by looking at the employment in Germany of Belgian, French, Dutch and East European men and women, and by giving attention to the German facets.
The symposium will take place in the SOMA-CEGES conference room (Square de l'Aviation 29 - 1070 Brussels, Belgium). Participants are requested to register in advance and transfer the amount of 15 € (10 € for students) into the SOMA-CEGES bank account 679-2004500-92 (IBAN: BE12 6792 0045 0092, BIC PCHQBEBB) with mention of “Foreign Labour” + participant’s surname before 5 December. No lunch included.
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