Organisation Todt

The Todt Organisation (German: Organisation Todt) (OT) was a Third Reich civil and military engineering group in Germany named after its founder, Fritz Todt, an engineer and senior Nazi figure. The organization was responsible for a huge range of engineering projects both in pre-World War II Germany, in Germany itself and occupied territories from France to the Soviet Union during the war. It became notorious for using forced labour. The history of the organisation falls fairly neatly into three phases:

  • A pre-war period from 1933–38 during which Todt's primary office was that of General Inspector of German Roadways (Generalinspektor für das deutsche Straßenwesen) and his primary responsibility the construction of the Autobahn network. The organisation was able to draw on "conscripted" (i.e. compulsory) labour, from within Germany, through the Reich Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst, RAD).
  • The period from 1938, when the OT proper was founded, until February 1942, when Todt died in a plane crash. During this period (1940) Todt was named Minister for Armaments and Munitions (Reichminister für Bewaffnung und Munition) and the projects of the OT became almost exclusively military. The huge increase in the demand for labour created by the various military and paramilitary projects was met by a series of expansions of the laws on compulsory service, which ultimately obligated all Germans to arbitrarily determined (i.e., effectively unlimited) compulsory labour for the state: Zwangsarbeit. From 1938–40, over 1.75 million Germans were conscripted into labour service. From 1940–42, Organization Todt began its reliance on Gastarbeitnehmer (guest workers), Militärinternierte (military internees), Zivilarbeiter (civilian workers), Ostarbeiter (Eastern workers) and Hilfswillige ("volunteer") POW workers.
  • The period from 1942 until the end of the war, when Albert Speer succeeded Todt in office and the OT was absorbed into the (renamed and expanded) Ministry for Armaments and War Production (Reichsministerium für Rüstung und Kriegsproduktion). Approximately 1.4 million labourers were in the service of the Organisation. Overall, 1% were Germans rejected from military service and 1.5% were concentration camp prisoners; the rest were prisoners of war and compulsory labourers from occupied countries. All were effectively treated as slaves and existed in the complete and arbitrary service of a ruthless totalitarian state. Many did not survive the work or the war.

Read more about Organisation Todt:  1933-1938: Autobahn Construction, 1938-1942: Organisation 'Todt', 1942-1945: The OT Under Albert Speer, Organisation Todt Administrative and Working Ranks, Insignia

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