|Forced Labour and the Right to Work in Austria, 1918-1938. Meanings of Work in Correctional Houses, Voluntary Labour Service, and Productive Unemployment Relief|
|Facilities such as “Zwangsarbeitsanstalten” and “Arbeitshäuser” (correctional houses), ”Freiwilliger Arbeitsdienst“ (voluntary labour service for young people) and ”Produktive Arbeitslosenfürsorge“ (productive unemployment relief) were established for people without work (or without “honest” work). They were intended to provide work for them.
The aims involved were manifold, ranging from correction, education, and punishment to helping them to earn a living or locking them away. At least on a programmatic level, the objective of providing work was explained differently in the various facilities. In the “Freiwilliger Arbeitsdienst” (or FAD) and the “Produktive Arbeitslosenfürsorge” (or PAF), helping to earn a living and education were emphasized whereas in “Arbeitshäusern” and “Zwangsarbeitsanstalten” correction was stressed. In addition, people’s lack of work before entering these different types of organization was – at least on the programmatic level – explained differently. Participants in the PAF and FAD were more often described as victims of an economic crisis while inmates of the “Arbeitshäuser” and “Zwangsarbeitsanstalten” were frequently described as “workshy”.
However, the division thus constituted seems to be blurred in various ways. The meanings of work and worker differed greatly within the range of groups concerned (inmates, relatives, employees, experts, and so forth). One must also take into account divergences in the inmates’ physical abilities, their socio-demographic characteristics, and their willingness to adapt to the programme imposed. For example: workers in the FAD asserted that they were forced to work there on account of the impoverishment and hunger resulting from unemployment.
In this paper, I will explore the meanings of work and the workers (inmates/participants) in these different facilities. The following questions will be addressed: Which differences were established between inmates (participants, respectively) in these different facilities? What were the meanings of work in the various contexts? And which meanings did work have for the different people involved (inmates, relatives, employees, experts, and so forth)?|