Christians and Deportation to
Of all the burdens placed upon young Frenchmen the one that hit hardest was the obligation imposed upon them to work in Germany. The introduction of the Service du Travail Obligatoire (STO) was a direct result of the increasing need by 1942 to conscript more Germans into the Wehrmacht. Germans working in the war factories were required for army service on the eastern front. Nazi propaganda argued that, since Germany was fighting the 'Bolsheviks' to save European civilisation, the occupied countries should make sacrifices by working in the Reich and elsewhere, in relative safety, for the German war machine, whilst its soldiers bore the brunt of the fighting.
In June 1942 Sauckel, a former Gauleiter placed in charge of the recruitment of foreign labour, demanded 350,000 French workers, of whom 150,000 should be skilled. He agreed with Laval to release one prisoner of war for every three such workers recruited. This one-forthree deal constituted the so-called 'Relève', but only 17,000 skilled workers had volunteered. In August therefore Sauckel issued an ordinance, applicable throughout occupied Europe, decreeing liability to call-up of all men and women aged between eighteen and fifty-five. Laval obtained an exemption for France, which was granted on condition that Vichy took other steps to supply the necessary manpower. Hence the law of 4 September 1942, applicable to men aged between eighteen and fifty and single women aged between twenty-one and thirty-five, authorised the government to direct them to employment where, as, and when required. This direction of labour was only gradually enforced.
The final battle for Stalingrad was imminent, and Hitler was on the point of proclaiming total war when Sauckel arrived in Paris on 11 January 1943 with the now more limited objective of recruiting 250,000 men, but still demanding that 150,000 of them should be skilled workers. On 16 February the Vichy government instituted the STO,