Baudienst - Formation and Activities

Formation and Activities

The Baudienst service was formed 1 December 1940, originally in the Kraków District of the General Government, but it eventually expanded to all districts of that region, excepting the Warsaw District. The goal of Baudienst was to provide the Third Reich with a large pool of labour force.

Baudienst laborers were entitled to housing, food rations, working clothes, medical care and a wage of 1 złoty per day (a wage that was never changed, despite increasing inflation). Over time, conditions of work deteriorated, as laborers inhabited poor quality barracks (never a priority), and food and clothing rations were slashed.

Baudienst was to build and maintain infrastructure (construction and repair of roads and canals), and aid with agricultural tasks. The overall objective was not to build infrastructure for the Poles, but for the Germans (with the aim of increasing West-East transport capacity in preparation for German invasion of Russia, and later, to improve the efficiency of German logistics). In some infamous cases, members of Baudienst were used to prepare graves for victims of German mass executions (of Poles, Jews and other victims of the Third Reich).

In the General Government, working was obligatory for any male Pole from 18 to 60 years old; later in the occupation this range extended to children from 14 years old. Baudienst service itself was an obligatory service for Poles aged 21 – 22. Germans were aiming to have as may as 150,000 Baudienst members, in fact due to constant lack of volunteers and increasing desertions, Baudienst at its height reached less than a third of that number (about 45,000 people).

Baudienst workers (some volunteers, but most were conscripted) were under a contract to work at least initially 3 months, increased up to 6–7 months of work during the spring-summer period and eventually a minimum of a year.

In addition to the Polish Baudienst, Germans created similar Heimatdienst (lit. "homeland service", Ukrains'ka Sluzhba Bat'kivschyni, USB) for the Ukrainians, and a similar one for the Goralenvolk. Volksdeutsche were immune from the service (but could volunteer, and some did for the higher-ranking positions such as foreman), and Polish Jews were already forced to labor in the ghettos and labor-concentration camps.

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