Service du travail obligatoire

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In Paris, French men and women being chosen for work in Germany

The Service du travail obligatoire (English: Compulsory Work Service; STO) was the forced enlistment and deportation of hundreds of thousands of French workers to Nazi Germany in order to work as forced labour for the German war effort during World War II.

The STO was created under laws and regulations of Vichy France,[1] but it was used by Nazi Germany to compensate for its loss of manpower as it enlisted more and more soldiers for the Eastern Front. The German government promised that for every three French workers sent over it would release one French prisoner of war. Those requisitioned under the STO were accommodated in work camps on German soil.


On 22 June 1942, Pierre Laval, Prime Minister in the Vichy regime, announced the institution of the relève, whereby French workers were encouraged to volunteer to work in Germany to secure the release of French prisoners of war.[2]

The law of 4 September 1942, signed by Philippe Pétain, Marshal of France and Chief of State of Vichy France, as well as by Laval, was entitled "loi du 4 septembre 1942 relative à l'utilisation et à l'orientation de la main-d'œuvre" or "Law of 4 September 1942 on the use and guidance of the workforce." It required all able-bodied men aged 18 to 50 and single women aged 21 to 35 to "be subject to do any work that the Government deems necessary."

The law of 16 February 1943, signed by Prime Minister Laval for Joseph Barthélemy, the Minister of Justice, deemed it necessary that all males over 20 be subject to the service du travail obligatoire, which was to be regulated. Regulations were issued the same day and immediately subjected males born between 1920 and 1922, roughly all males between 20 and 23, to the service.

List of former STO workers[edit]


  1. ^ The Law of 4 September 1942 (loi du 4 septembre 1942 relative à l'utilisation et à l'orientation de la main-d'œuvre) and the Law of 16 February 1943 with its associated regulations.
  2. ^ Vinen, Richard (2006). The Unfree French: Life Under the Occupation. Yale University Press. p. 197. ISBN 978-0-300-12132-2. 


  • (French) La déportation des travailleurs français dans le IIIe Reich, Jacques Evrard, Fayard, Les grandes études contemporaines, Paris, 1972.
  • (French) La Main-d'œuvre française exploitée par le IIIe Reich, proceedings of an international colloqium at Caen (November 2001), Centre de Recherche d’Histoire quantitative, Caen, 2001, texts gathered by B. Garnier, J. Quellien and F. Passera
  • (French) Jeannot chez les nazis - Journal d'un Déporté du Travail 1943-45, Jean Pasquiers, library of Alexandrie Online
  • (French) La reconnaissance juridique des requis du STO, Christophe Chastanet, mémoire de DEA (2002), Limoges, 147 p.

External links[edit]