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"Touring the Berlin Lakes with Serbian Workers"

Touring the lakes with Serbian workers
Kolo, no. 40

As World War II began and Germany faced a labor shortage, the Third Reich both recruited and enslaved foreign laborers from occupied Eastern Europe. Although the majority of these workers came from Poland and the Soviet Union, many also came from other occupied territories. Following the April 1941 invasion of Yugoslavia, more than 250,000 Yugoslavs were forced to work in Germany or German-administered concentration camps. In addition, as many as 100,000 Yugoslav workers voluntarily migrated to Germany from 1939 through 1945.1

The featured article, "Touring the Berlin Lakes with Serbian Workers," published in Kolo—a Serbian weekly journal—offers a depiction of Serbian foreign laborers in Berlin. The magazine supported the German war effort, but it did so without invoking racial ideology or antisemitism. Published in October 1942, the article highlights the promise of economic prosperity in Germany and the possibility for leisure in Berlin: 

Serbian workers have full freedom of movement in Germany, as well as good work conditions, but they are not taking advantage of these opportunities. Partly because they are not informed correctly, and in good part because their understanding is that they are in Germany only to work. It is news to the Serbian worker that Germany organizes leisure activities in free time, apart from providing work and wages.

The photographs alongside the text show Serbian workers drinking beer by a Berlin lake and taking a boat ride on a free Sunday afternoon. The captions project a happy and leisurely existence in Germany. However, these scenes did not entirely capture the experience of foreign workers: Serbian laborers were subject to laws restricting their movement in the country, with many forbidden from leaving the Reich.

For more on foreign laborers in Germany, see Ulrich Herbert, Hitler's Foreign Workers: Enforced Foreign Labor in Germany Under the Third Reich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

German: "Strength through joy." For more, see Shelley Baranowski, Strength Through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

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Touring the Berlin Lakes with Serbian Workers 

One sleeps in on Sundays in Berlin. But there is a lot of activity in a port close to Siemens’s city. Over two hundred Serbian workers decided to spend this Sunday on the water, in the sun and fresh air.

A clock struck eight times somewhere nearby. The clock on the Charlottenburg castle reminded us about the agreed time. Our boat departs the bank and slides slowly on the Spree towards Hafen, the Berlin paradise. 

The boat is filled with members of the Serbian workers’ organization at the German Workers’ Front. There are also several guides in dark grey uniforms, whose hats are adorned by the slogan Kraft durch Freude.1 They are pointing out to workers all the attractions that they are encountering along the way.

German is difficult. Both the guides and our workers get that. Detailed explanations are few. The ice is broken. The mood is improving by the minute. Soon, the boat becomes a diverse [literally, “many-colored”] family. 

The chief of the Serbian workers’ delegation is completely satisfied with his people. They are clean and neatly dressed. The invited guests are pleasantly surprised, and they especially like the spontaneity with which the workers are having fun. 

Mr. Kečić knows the circumstances in Berlin and the Third Reich well, since he has spent many years in Germany.

“I am satisfied with what we have achieved, although we could still do more. Everything depends on the consciousness of the workers and their confidence in us,” he says.

Serbian workers have a full freedom of movement in Germany, as well as good work conditions, but they are not taking advantage of those opportunities. Partly because they are not informed correctly, and in good part because their understanding is that they are in Germany only to work. It is news to the Serbian worker that Germany organizes leisure activities in free time, apart from providing work and wages.

A petite red-haired youth is dominating the discussion at one of the tables. He was the best women’s coiffeur in Belgrade, and worked in well-known Belgrade salons.

"I have no reasons to complain," he says. “I earn in a week as much as I used to earn in Belgrade in a month. Over these nine months, I learned enough German to work, and my mother and sister joined me here, so it feels like home.”

Few Serbian workers have their mothers, sisters or brothers here, and they are not as lucky as the red-haired Popović. They spend a lot of time thinking of those they left behind at home.

Sand, evergreens and lots of water dominate the landscape seen from the plane landing at Tempelhof, the Berlin airport. Six large lakes lie east of Berlin, and ten times as many smaller ones. Serbian workers now understand why the real Berliner likes water. 

The sun has already set behind the tall trees of the Charlottenburg castle when Serbian workers returned from their trip around the Berlin lakes "

CAPTIONS: "Left: Serbian workers drinking beer in their fight against the heat and thirst." "Right: The deck of the boat drew those that prefer looking at the environment to fun and conversation.”

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Kolo, no. 40
Date Created
October 2, 1942
Page(s) 4
Author / Creator
Unknown
Publisher
Kolo
Language(s)
Serbian
Location
Berlin, Germany
Belgrade, Serbia
Document Type Newspaper Article
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