Approximately 1,385 forced laborers worked at oil refineries and petrochemical plants owned and operated by the Royal/Dutch Shell Group during the Second World War. These workers, largely civilians from Eastern Europe and the Low Countries of Western Europe, were compelled to work on the grounds of Shell's German and Austrian subsidiaries, Rhenania GmbH and Shell Austria AG, respectively. At these locations, the forced laborers toiled long hours under the watchful (and often brutal) guard of Hitler's S.S. men. Deported from their home countries by force, these workers were housed in filthy barracks, and were denied freedom of movement and proper nutrition. For their work, which was contracted from the S.S., the laborers received no pay from Shell or the German Government.
Shell's ties with the Third Reich, however, were not limited to the use of forced labor. It was also a founding partner in Deutsche Gasoline (25%), the national German petroleum company explicitly crafted to give the Reich greater control over domestic gasoline production - for both military and civilian purposes. Shell additionally held the dubious distinction not only of having collaborated with the Nazi Regime to bring Deutsche Gasoline into fruition, but also of sharing control over the company with I.G. Farben Industrie - the infamous producer of Zyklon B poison gas.
Despite its enormous wealth - as quantified by annual sales in excess of $93 billion - Shell has failed to compensate any of the men and women who worked on its grounds between 1943 and 1945.
Detailed information follows on the history of Shell's German and Austrian subsidiaries, which aided the Nazi effort during WWII, and of the forced labor that was utilized in their operations.:
Benzinwerke Rhenania, G.m.b.H
Slave Labor Information:
In 1902, the Royal Dutch Oil Company established the Benzinwerke Rhenania, G.m.b.H (Rhenania), as its "daughter company." Rhenania, which operated oil refineries in and around Hamburg, produced gasoline for consumption in Germany and the Netherlands. In 1924, it entered the gas station business and by 1929 it operated 149 such stations. During WWII, Rhenania produced fuel for the German army, for the air force, and for civilian consumption - until much of its production capacity was destroyed by Allied bombing. Following WWII, the firm's name was changed to Deutsche-Shell, which is now one of Germany's largest oil refining corporations (in addition to its interests in chemical synthesis).
Additional locations which housed Rhenania forced laborers: Civilian Work Camp, Homberg, 420 persons; Civilian Work Camp, Hamburg, 175 persons; Concentration Camp, Schwelm, 380 persons.Sources:
Shell Austria, AG
Slave Labor Information:
Shell Austria has been a full subsidiary of the Royal Dutch/Shell group since its inception in 1923. Its business has consisted chiefly of refining crude oil to produce gasoline, petrochemical products and fuel oil. It also runs a chain of retail gasoline stations.
Aggregate Shell Statistics: