1938-1945

The Linz Site of Reichswerke “Hermann Göring,” Berlin, Germany

Southern Harbor Side towards Blast Furnaces

The groundbreaking ceremony for a company named “Reichswerke Aktiengesellschaft für Erzbergbau und Eisenhütten ‘Hermann Göring’” (a subsidiary of the Berlin-based German industrial conglomerate, Reichswerke AG, which had been founded in 1937) takes place on May 13, 1938, in Linz-St. Peter. The roughly 4,500 inhabitants of Linz-St. Peter/Zizlau are relocated to other parts of the city.

In March 1939, Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG (Düsseldorf, Germany) sells 56 percent of its stake in a company named Oesterreichisch-Alpine Montangesellschaft to Reichswerke Hermann Göring following strong political pressure. The same year, Reichswerke Linz is merged with Alpine Montangesellschaft into a new company called “Alpine Montan Aktiengesellschaft ‘Hermann Göring’ Linz.” In 1941, this name is changed to “Reichswerke Aktiengesellschaft Alpine Montanbetriebe ‘Hermann Göring’ Linz.”

Berliner Reichswerke owns five large companies in Linz: the headquarters of Reichswerke Alpine Montan as the parent company of all sites in Austria; Hütte Linz (Linz steelworks); Stahlbau GmbH; Eisenwerke Oberdonau GmbH; as well as the supply operations related to the Linz steelworks.

Eisenwerke Oberdonau GmbH, which was founded on April 25, 1939, launches the production of armored personnel carrier parts in 1940/41. This company is tasked with determining the volume of steel products required, and it eventually becomes the largest German factory for armored personnel carriers. The web of companies based in Linz become operational from 1941. This includes the firing up of the first two blast furnaces and the start-up of the power plant of the Linz steelworks. The war delays the initially planned expansion of the integrated iron and steelworks. Highest priority is given to the construction of Eisenwerke Oberdonau, an armaments factory. This includes building a steel mill; a sheet rolling mill; a steel foundry; a drop forge; and a heat treatment plant. The allied bombing raids on Linz and the industrial site start in the summer of 1944.

Had it not been for the foreign labor, the Linz factories would not have been built and the armaments would not have been produced, because the labor required for this work was not available in the domestic labor markets (Austria and Germany).  This was due, for one, to the sheer size of the intertwined companies, whose labor requirements far surpassed the available labor pool and, for another, to the pronounced lack of workers as a result of the war.

The first civil foreign laborers arrive in Linz in the summer of 1938 to start the construction work. Later on (from 1940/41) forced laborers and prisoners of war are used as well as (from 1942) male concentration camp inmates. The concentration camp inmates are interned in two external camps of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex that had been erected on the factory grounds and are deployed as forced labor in the Linz steelworks as well as in Eisenwerke Oberdonau GmbH and Stahlbau GmbH. Special rules on the treatment and provisioning of prisoners aimed at discriminating against them by nationality based on the racist policies of Nazi ideology underscore the forced nature of the so-called “deployment of labor” since 1940. Even though the recruitment of forced laborers does not enter its acute phase until this period, clear signs of systematic repression in the factories had already made itself felt as early as in 1939.

The number of workers in the Linz factories reaches its apex in 1944. Foreign nationals (excluding prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates) account for about two-thirds of the workforce; in some operations they even account for more than 90 percent (e.g. in the forge). Slightly more than ten percent of the foreign laborers at the Linz site are women.