The „Organisation Todt“: Construction of Infrastructure for War and Genocide

Employees (IfZ):  Dr. Christian Packheiser

Although the paramilitary Organisation Todt was responsible for several million workers across Europe and played a particular role in the warfare conducted by the National Socialist regime, it has yet to be researched adequately. Christian Packheiser’s study focuses, in a transnational comparison, on the organization’s central function in the provision of infrastructure relevant to warfare, on the use of forced labor (e.g. in the context of the Holocaust), and on its participation in the economic exploitation of occupied countries. In doing so, the study extends its scope to the specifics of the German practices of power, and looks into the importance there of informal, personal, and unbureaucratic rule, as well as the interrelations between the state-military administration and the private sector, occupiers and the occupied, collaboration and resistance.

The areas being researched reflect the close integration of the OT with the armaments industry, the military, and others such as the Reich Ministry of Economics, the Reich Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and large parts of the construction industry. The OT, moreover, cooperated with the territorial commanders and other Nazi organizations in the occupied areas. These pragmatic and thematic interrelationships are traced not only at the ministerial level but also in a transnational comparison, viewing subordinate departments from a horizontal, vertical, and diagonal perspective.

The mechanisms of domination and submission are explored here in their interdependency with the development and spatial expansion of transportation networks. This provides an opportunity to provide greater depth to the understanding of National Socialist mechanisms of rule, as reflected in transportation and infrastructure as analytical categories, within and beyond the period between 1933 and 1945. The practical experience gained during the construction of the Autobahn in the 1930s was indeed a prerequisite for the actual foundation of the OT that was connected to the construction of the Siegfried Line – and thus to war efforts across Europe. With regard to the occupied territories, the focus lies here on recruitment practices along with working and living conditions. The arms-related tasks of the OT must also be taken into consideration: the organization’s increasingly deep involvement in the dismantlement, plundering, and subsequent transportation of food and raw materials. The organization’s services are, furthermore, of interest with regard to the Wehrmacht and its direct contribution to the waging and prolongation of the war.



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