Jews in a Hungarian forced labor battalion
Forced labor service was implemented in Hungary in the 1930s when Jews were enlisted in these battalions after their military service. This took place simultaneously with the introduction of discriminatory laws against the Jews, particularly in the economic sphere. For instance, they were prohibited from engaging in the free professions. The process of discrimination reached its peak in 1941, with the passage of racial laws similar to the Nuremberg Laws.
The Jews in the labor battalions did not receive weapons, and later on did not even receive soldiers’ uniforms. They served in separate units, in battalions and divisions under non-Jewish command. They worked primarily in varied labor for the army, such as laying railroad track and fixing broken track, digging defensive ditches and anti-tank trenches and the like. The Jews were discriminated against and publicly humiliated, and in many cases the commanders’ intentions were that the Jews not return from the battlefront. The most chilling example of this is when Jews were forced to clear minefields with their bare hands and no protection.
The Jews worked in these battalions both within Hungary and beyond her borders, on the Ukrainian and Serbian fronts, until the Germans conquered Hungary in March 1944. Approx. 42,000 Jews died in these units.
Yad Vashem Photo Archives 4613/1167