The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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National Socialist Germany while exploiting to the fullest
extent for the war effort prisoners of war as well as
workers for occupied territories, against all international
conventions, was at the same time seizing, by every possible
means, the wealth of these countries. German authorities
applied systematic pillage in these countries. By economic
pillage we mean both the taking away of goods of every type
and the exploitation on the spot of the national resources
for the benefit of Germany's war.

This pillage was methodically organised.

The Germans began by making sure that they had in their
possession, in all countries, the necessary means for
payment. Thus, they ensured that they

                                                  [Page 357]

could seize, with the appearance of legality, the wealth
which they coveted. After freezing the existing purchasing
power, they required enormous payments under the pretext of
indemnity for the maintenance of occupation troops.

It should be recalled that according to the terms of The
Hague Convention, occupied countries may be obliged to
assume the burden of the expenses caused by the maintenance
of an army of occupation. But the amounts that were exacted
under this by the Germans were only remotely related to the
actual costs of occupation.

Moreover, they forced the occupied countries to accept a
clearing system which operated almost entirely to the
exclusive profit of Germany. Imports from Germany were
almost non-existent; the goods exported to Germany by the
occupied countries, were subject to no regulation.

In order to maintain for the purchasing balance thus created
a considerable purchasing power, the Germans attempted
everywhere to achieve the stabilisation of prices and
imposed a severe rationing system. This rationing system,
which left the population with a quality of inferior goods,
which was less than the minimum indispensable for their
existence, afforded the additional advantage of preserving
for the benefit of the Germans the greatest possible portion
of the production.

Thus, the Germans seized a considerable part of the stocks
and of the production, as a result of operations which had
the appearance of legality (requisitions, purchases made
with German priority coupons, individual purchase). These
transactions were completed by other operations of a
clandestine character, which were carried out in violation
of the official regulations imposed frequently by the
Germans themselves. Thus, the Germans had created a whole
organisation for black market purchases. For example, one
may read in a report of the German Foreign Ministry of 4th
September, 1942 that the defendant Goering had ordered that
purchases on the black market should henceforth extend to
goods which until then had not been included, such as
household goods, and he prescribed further that all goods
which could be useful to Germany should be collected, even
if as a result certain signs of inflation appeared in the
occupied countries.

While they were transporting to Germany the maximum quantity
of goods, of every description, after requisitioning without
payment, or by paying with bills which they had irregularly
obtained by a simple entry in the clearing account, the Nazi
leaders were at the same time trying to impose the
resumption of activity in industry for the benefit of
Germany's war.

German industrialists had received instructions ordering
them to divide amongst themselves the enterprises in the
occupied areas which had engaged in a production similar to
their own. While having to carry out these orders, these
industrialists were required to place such industries in
occupied countries firmly under their control by means of
different types of financial combinations.

The appearance of monetary legality or contractual legality
could in no way hide the fact that economic looting was
systematically organised contrary to the stipulations of the
International Convention of The Hague. If, according to the
stipulations of this Convention, Germany had the right to
seize whatever was indispensable for the maintenance of the
troops necessary for the occupation, all seizures in excess
of these requirements undoubtedly constitute a War Crime,
which brought about the economic, ruin of the occupied
countries, a long-range weakening of their economic
potential and of their means of subsistence, as well as the
general undernourishment of the populations. Exact estimates
of German transactions in the economic field cannot be
formulated at this time. It would be necessary for this
purpose to study in detail the activities of several
countries over a period of more than four years.

                                                  [Page 358]

Nevertheless, it has been possible to bring out precisely
certain facts, and to give minimum estimates of German
spoliations with respect to the different occupied

In Denmark, which was the first country in Western Europe to
be invaded, the value of German seizures was nearly
9,000,000,000 crowns. In Norway, German spoliations exceed a
total value of 20,000,000,000 crowns.

In the Netherlands, German pillage was effected to such an
extent that although Holland is one of the richest countries
in the world in relation to its population, it is to-day
almost completely ruined, and the financial charges imposed
by the occupant exceed 20,000,000,000 florins.

In Belgium, through various schemes, notably the system of
occupation indemnity and clearing, the Germans seized far
more than 130,000,000,000 Belgian francs of payment
balances. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg also suffered
important losses as a result of the action of the occupying

Finally, in France, the levying of taxes on means of
payments reached a total of 745,000,000,000 francs. In this
sum we have not included the 74,000,000,000 francs, which
represents the maximum figure which Germany could legally
demand for the maintenance of her army of occupation.
(Moreover, the seizure of 9,500,000,000 in gold was
calculated according to the rate of 1939.)

In addition to the goods settled for in the occupied
countries by means of payment extorted from these countries,
enormous quantities of goods of every character were purely
and simply requisitioned without any indemnity, seized
without any explanation, or else stolen. The occupying
authorities took not only all raw materials and manufactured
goods which could be useful to their war efforts, but they
extended their seizures to everything that might help to
procure them a credit balance in neutral countries, such as
movables, jewels, luxury goods and objects of all kinds.
Finally, the art treasures of the countries of Western
Europe were likewise looted in the most shameful manner.

The considerable sums which Germany was able to obtain by
abusing her power contrary to all the principles of
International Law, without providing any compensation,
enabled her to carry out, with the appearance of legality,
the economic looting of France and of the other countries of
Western Europe. The consequence for these countries, from
the economic viewpoint, is a loss of their strength which
will take long to repair.

But the most serious consequences of these practices
affected the population itself. For more than four years,
the people of the occupied countries were exposed to a
regime of slow starvation, which resulted in an increase in
the death rate, a breaking down of the physical stamina of
the population and, above all, an alarming deficiency in the
growth of children and adolescents.

Such practices, perpetrated and consummated systematically
by the German leaders, contrary to International Law and
specifically contrary to The Hague Convention, as well as
contrary to the general principles of criminal law in force
in all civilised nations, constitute War Crimes for which
they must answer before your High Tribunal.

(A recess was taken.)

M. FRANCOIS DE MENTHON: Crimes against the physical person:
arbitrary imprisonment, ill-treatment, deportations, murder
committed by the Germans in the occupied countries, reached
proportions beyond what could be imagined, even in the
course of a world conflict which took the most odious forms.

These crimes spring directly from the Nazi doctrine and
testify to the Reich leaders' absolute disregard for the
human individual, to the abolition of any sense of justice
or even of pity, to a total subordination of any and all
human consideration on the part of the German community.

All these crimes are linked to a policy of terrorism. Such a
policy permits the subjugation of occupied countries,
without involving a large deployment of

                                                  [Page 359]

troops, and their submission to anything that might be
demanded of them. Many of these crimes are moreover tied up
with the will to exterminate.

We shall examine in succession executions of hostages,
police crimes, deportations, crimes involving prisoners of
war, terroristic activities against the Resistance and the
massacre of the civilian population.

The execution of hostages constitutes in all countries the
first act of terrorism on the part of German occupation
troops. From 1940 on, the German Command, notably in France,
carried out numerous executions as reprisals for any crime
against the German Army.

These practices, contrary to Article 50 of The Hague
Convention, which forbids collective sanctions, awaken
everywhere a feeling of horror and frequently produce a
result contrary to the one sought, by arousing the
populations against the occupant.

The occupying authorities then attempted to legalise such
criminal practices, thus seeking to have them recognised by
the populations as "the right of the occupying power."
Veritable "codes for hostages" were promulgated by the
German military authorities.

Following the general order issued by the defendant Keitel
on 16th September, 1941, Stulpnagel published in France his
ordinance of 30th September, 1941. According to the terms of
this ordinance, all Frenchmen held by German authorities for
any reason whatsoever will be considered as hostages, as
well as all Frenchmen who are in the custody of the French
authorities on behalf of German organisations. The ordinance
of Stulpnagel specifies:

   "At the time of the burial of the bodies, burial in a
   common grave of a rather large number of persons in a
   particular cemetery must be avoided, since this would
   create a shrine for pilgrims, which now or later might
   become a centre for the stimulation of anti-German

In the execution of this ordinance the most infamous
executions of hostages were carried out.

Following the murder of two German officers, one in Nantes
on 2nd October, 1941, and the other at Bordeaux a few days
thereafter, the German authorities had 27 hostages shot at
Chateaubriant and 21 at Nantes.

On 15th August, 1942, 96 hostages were shot at Mont-

In September, 1942, following an assault committed against
German soldiers in the Rex moving picture house in Paris,
116 hostages were shot, 46 hostages being taken from the
hostage depot of the Fortress at Romainville and 70 from

In reprisal for the murder of a German official of the
labour front, 50 hostages were shot in Paris at the end of
September, 1943.

Threats of reprisals on the families of the patriots of the
Resistance are related to the same odious policy of
hostages. The Kommandatur (garrison de Q) published the
following notice in the "Pariser-Zeitung" of 16th July,

   "Near male relatives, brothers-in-law and cousins of the
   agitators above the age of 18 years will be shot.
   All female family members of the same degree of
   relationship shall be condemned to forced labour.
   Children less than 18 years of age, of all above-
   mentioned persons, shall be sent to a house of

The execution of hostages continued everywhere until the
liberation, but in the last period they were no more than
one additional feature in the methods of German terrorism,
then grown more sweeping.

Among the crimes against persons of which the civilian
populations of the occupied countries of the West were
victims, those committed by the Nazi police organisations
are of the most revolting.

                                                  [Page 360]

The intervention of the German police who, in spite of
certain appearances, did not belong to the armies of
occupation, is in itself contrary to International Law.

Their crimes, particularly hateful in the complete disregard
for human dignity that they imply, were multiplied during
four years throughout all the territories of the West
occupied by the German forces.

True, no definite order, no detailed directive emanating
directly from one of the defendants or from one of their
immediate subordinates and valid for all the German police
or for the police of the occupied territories of the West,
has been found. But these crimes were committed by a police
that was a direct expression of the National Socialist
ideology and the undeniable instrument of National Socialist
policy for which all the defendants carry the full and
entire responsibility.

Before the considerable mass of acts, their similarity,
their simultaneousness, their generalisation in time and
place, no one would be able to deny that these acts are not
only the individual responsibility of those who committed
them here or there, but constitute as well the execution of
orders from above.

The arrests took place without any of the elementary
guarantees recognised in all civilised countries. On a
simple, unverified denunciation, without previous
investigation, and often on charges brought by persons not
qualified to bring them, masses of arbitrary arrests took
place in every occupied country.

During the first period of the occupation, the Germans
simulated a scrupulous respect for "legality" in the matter
of arrests. This legality was that introduced by Nazism in
the interior of Germany and did not respect any of the
traditional guarantees to which the individuals in civilised
countries are entitled. But, rapidly, even this pseudo-
legality was abandoned and the arrests became absolutely

The worst treatments were applied to arrested persons even
before the guilt of the accused had been examined. The use
of torture in the interrogations was almost a general rule.
The tortures usually applied were beating, whipping,
chaining for several days without a moment of rest for
nourishment or hygienic care, immersion in ice water,
drowning in a bathtub, charging the bathwater with
electricity, electrification of the most sensitive parts of
the body, burns at certain places on the body and the
pulling out of fingernails. But, moreover, those who carried
out these measures had every latitude for unleashing their
instinct of cruelty and of sadism against their victims. All
those facts, which were of public knowledge in the occupied
countries, never led to any punishment whatsoever of their
authors on the part of the responsible authorities. It even
seems that the torture was more severe when an officer was

It is undeniable that the actions of the German police
towards the prisoners were part and parcel of a long
premeditated system of criminality, ordered by the chiefs of
the regime and executed by the most faithful members of the
National Socialist organisations.

Aside from the general use of torture on prisoners, the
German police perpetrated a considerable number of murders.
It is impossible to know the conditions under which many of
these murders were carried out. Nevertheless, we have enough
information to permit us to discover in them a new
expression of the general policy of the National Socialists
in the occupied countries. Often the deaths were only the
result of the tortures inflicted on the prisoners, but often
the murder was deliberately desired and carried out.

The crime which will undoubtedly be remembered as the most
horrible among those committed by the Germans against the
civilian populations of the occupied countries was that of
deportation and internment in the concentration camps of

These deportations had a double aim: to secure additional
labour for the benefit of the German war machine, and to
eliminate from the occupied

                                                  [Page 361]

countries and progressively exterminate the elements most
opposed to Germanism. They served likewise to empty prisons
overcrowded with patriots and to remove the latter for good.

The deportations and the methods employed in the
concentration camps were a stupefying revelation for the
civilised world. Nevertheless, they also are only a natural
consequence of the National Socialist doctrine, according to
which man, of himself, has no value except when he is of
service to the German race.

It is not possible, yet, to give exact figures. It is
probable that one would be making an understatement when
speaking of 250,000 for France; 6,000 for Luxembourg; 5,200
for Denmark; 5,400 for Norway; 120,000 for Holland; and
37,000 for Belgium.

The arrests were founded, now under a pretext of a political
nature, now on a pretext of a racial nature. In the
beginning they were individual; subsequently they took on a
collective character, particularly in France from the end of
1941. Sometimes the deportation did not come until after
long months of prison, but more often the arrest was made
with a direct view to deportation under the system of
"protective custody." Everywhere imprisonment in the country
of origin was accompanied by brutality, often by tortures.
Before being sent to Germany, the deportees were, in
general, concentrated in an assembly camp. The formation of
a convoy was often the first stage of extermination. The
deportees travelled in cattle cars, 80 to 120 per car, no
matter what the season. There were few convoys where no
deaths occurred. In certain transports the proportion of
deaths was more than 25 per cent.

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