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Fritz Sauckel (Ernst Friedrich Christoph Sauckel) (October 27, 1894 - October 16, 1946) was a Nazi war criminal, who organized the systematic enslavement of millions of men and boys from lands occupied by Nazi Germany. He was General Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labour from 1942 until the end of the war.
He was born in Hassfurt (Lower Franconia), the only child of a postman and a seamstress. Sauckel 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, later on a Schwedish and later on 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 and went on to be a father of 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 Nazi seizure of power in 1933, he was promoted to Reich Regent of Thüringia and Reichstag member. He was also given a honorary rank of Obergruppenführer in the SA and the SS in 1934.
During World War II he was Reich defense commissioner for the Kassel district (Reichsverteidigungskommissar Wehrkreis IX) before being appointed General Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labour (Generalbevollmächtigter für den Arbeitseinsatz) on March 21, 1942, on the recommendation of Albert Speer. He worked directly under Hitler through the Four-Year Plan Office, directing and controlling German labour. In response to increased demands, 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 denied that it was slave labour or that it was common to deliberately work people to death (extermination by labour) or to mistreat them.
He was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and together with a number of colleagues, he was hanged on October 16, 1946. His last words were recorded as "Ich sterbe unschuldig, mein Urteil ist ungerecht. Gott beschütze Deutschland!" (I'm dying innocently, my sentence is not just. God protect Germany!).
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