The artistic framework of the exposition of places and conditions of forced labor among Shostka locals in the Third Reich was created on the basis of photographs of camps and production facilities. The exhibit features materials from 40 former Ostarbeiters, prisoners of concentration camps and prisoners of war from Shostka and its region.
Ostarbeiters were kept in special camps under strict guard. At production facilities, they were isolated from the Germans and other foreign workers and were paid half or even a third of the salary the German workers were paid. Ostarbeiters’ nutritional rations were the lowest among all other categories of foreign workers in the Reich. But punishments were very severe: from corporal punishment to several weeks’ imprisonment in a penal or a concentration camp.
Throughout the war, laws regarding Eastern workers changed several times, but up to the very end of the war, Eastern workers remained the most powerless and oppressed category of foreigners in the Third Reich. Their chances of survival depended on where the worker was sent to: a state-owned enterprise or a farm where it was easier to find food. One third of Ostarbeiters worked in agriculture, 45% worked in industry. Ostarbeiters from the East contained the highest percentage of women (51%) and the highest number of minors (almost 41% male and 60% female).
The highest percentage of injuries and mortality from infectious diseases and exhaustion was also observed among the Ostarbeiters. Most people died from tuberculosis, cardiovascular deficiency, tabes, industrial injuries, and typhoid.