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Ostarbeiter was a Nazi German designation for foreign slave workers gathered from occupied Central and Eastern Europe to perform forced labor in Germany during World War II. The Germans started deporting civilians at the beginning of the war and began doing so at unprecedented levels following Operation Barbarossa in 1941. They apprehended Ostarbeiter from the newly-formed German districts of Reichskommissariat Ukraine, Distrikt Galizien (itself attached to the General Government), and Reichskommissariat Ostland. These areas comprised German-occupied Poland and the conquered territories of the Soviet Union. According to Pavel Polian, over 50% of Ostarbeiters were formerly Soviet subjects originating from the territory of modern-day Ukraine, followed by Polish women workers (approaching 30% of the total).Eastern workers included ethnic Ukrainians, Poles, Belarusians, Russians, Tatars, and others. Estimates of the number of Ostarbeiter range between 3 million and 5.5 million.
By 1944, most new workers were very young and under the age of 16 because those older were usually conscripted for service in Germany; 30% were as young as 12ñ14 years of age when taken from their homes. The age limit reduced to 10 in November 1943.Since about half of the adolescents were female, Ostarbeiter were often the victims of rape, and tens of thousands of pregnancies due to rape occurred.
Ostarbeiter often received starvation rations and were forced to live in guarded camps. Many died from starvation, overwork, bombing (they were frequently denied access to bomb shelters), abuse, and execution carried out by their German overseers. Ostarbeiter were often denied wages; when they did get paid, they received payment in a special currency which could only be used to buy specific products at the camps where they lived.