Plant of Berlin-Marienfelde, production of aircraft engines, 1939.
The most important line of business was truck production, whilst passenger-car manufacture – already limited to military requirements since the beginning of the war – was in decline and virtually came to a standstill by the end of 1942. The company was now focusing on the manufacture and assembly of military components for the army, navy and air force.
Spare parts production and the repair of military vehicles and engines were also growing in importance. New staff were needed to handle the increased armament production because many workers were fighting on the front line.
Initially, the company recruited women in order to cope with the required unit volumes. However, as staff numbers were still too low, Daimler-Benz also used forced labourers. These prisoners of war, abducted civilians and detainees from concentration camps were housed close to the plants. Forced labourers from western Europe lived in guest houses, private accommodation or schools.
Workers from eastern Europe and prisoners of war were interned in barrack camps with poor, prison-like conditions. Concentration camp detainees were monitored by the SS under inhumane conditions. They were “loaned out” to companies in exchange for money. In 1944, almost half of Daimler Benz’s 63,610 Daimler Benz employees were civilian forced labourers, prisoners of war or concentration camp detainees.