The Heuaktion (German: literally: harvesting of hay, or hay operation) was a Nazi German World War II operation, whereas 40,000 to 50,000 Polish children aged 10 to 14 were kidnapped by the German occupational forces and transported to Germany proper as slave labourers. The term "heuaktion" was an acronym for homeless, parent-less and unhoused (heimatlos, elternlos, unterkunftslos, i.e. "HEU", or the hay action). After arriving in Germany, the children were handed over to Organisation Todt and the Junkers aircraft works. The intention of the mass abduction was to pressure the adult populations of the occupied territories to register as workers in the Reich, and to weaken the “biological strength” of the areas of the Soviet republics which Germany had invaded.
Alfred Rosenberg, head of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, originally feared that targeting children aged 10 to 14 would be seen as simple abduction, and proposed instead kidnapping older children aged 15 to 17. However, the actions of the German 9th Army induced him to consent to the kidnapping of younger children.
The children were transferred to special camps for children called Kindererziehungslager, where the Germans selected children whose racial traits made them suitable for Germanization. Children considered racially unsuitable were sent either to forced labour or to concentration camps, including Auschwitz, after the destruction of their birth certificates.
The operation reached its peak in 1944, but due to the outcome of the war the kidnappings were not fully carried out.
- Forced labour under German rule during World War II
- Generalplan Ost
- Kidnapping of Eastern European children by Nazi Germany
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