The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/10/14

DR. KUBUSCHOK, Continued: 

An order restricting the use of prisoner-of-war labour
according to Articles 31 and 32 of the Geneva Prisoner-of-
War Agreement is not to be understood from the above-
mentioned command. It now remains to investigate whether the
stipulations of Articles 31 and 32 of the Geneva Prisoner-of-
War Agreement are based on general rules of International
Law which should be observed even if there were no special
ruling by treaty, such as the Geneva Prisoner-of-War
Agreement represents. This cannot generally be affirmed. The
above-mentioned treaty regulations cannot be regarded as the
prescription by treaty of generally valid legal concepts if
so important a member of the family of International Law as
the Soviet Union does not accept a ruling of this sort.

Proceeding from this idea, the employment of Soviet
prisoners of war in work forbidden by Article 31 of the PW
Agreement is not to be objected to. The Italian military
personnel interned in Germany after Italy's fall do not come
under the regulations of the Geneva Prisoner-of-War
Agreement since no state of war existed between Germany and
Italy. Moreover, these military internees did not come under
the restrictions of Article 31 in their employment as
manpower. It must, however, be pointed out that these
military internees are comprised in the enumeration by Mr.
Deuss of prisoners of war occupied in the armament industry.

In conclusion, the following is to be said on this point:

The procurement of prisoners of war for the factories was
effected exclusively through the offices of the General
Plenipotentiary for Labour Commitment. The control of the
proper allocation in accordance with the Prisoner-of-War
Agreement depended on the Labour Commitment Officer of the
Stalag, who in return was himself finally responsible to the
General for Prisoner-of-War Matters  at the Army High
Command. It was not possible for the defendant Speer to have
any influence on the distribution of prisoners of war and
their occupation. The prosecution has not been in a position
to produce any evidence from which the participation of the
defendant Speer in unlawful employment of prisoners of war
might be deduced. This assertion of the prosecution has
remained unproved.

The prosecution has now further brought against the
defendant the charge that the Todt Organization, at the head
of which Speer was placed in February, 1942, after Dr.
Todt's death, used native workers to build fortifications in
the French coastal areas. As far as the Todt Organization is
concerned, it was a purely civilian institution of the
General Construction Inspector for road maintenance. It
worked on a private economic basis, that is, it allocated
the construction work that it intended to carry out to
private firms, also to foreign  firms, which were
established in the respective countries, and it merely
supervised the execution of the constructions. The private
firms could undertake the procurement of the necessary
materials and labour themselves. For the very reason that
native construction enterprises were used, it was possible
to eliminate the difficulties which otherwise would have
obstructed the execution of the work. The workyards of the
Todt Organization enjoyed a certain favour with the natives
because the workmen had the assurance that they could not be
compelled to go to Germany to work in industry there because
these tasks of construction of the Organization Todt were
considered as urgently important. The workers went
voluntarily to the firms which were working for the Todt
Organization to obtain this security. The example quoted by
the defendant Speer during cross-examination, of 50,000 Todt
Organization workers who were once taken from France to
Germany to repair damages caused to two West German valley
dams by air attacks, made such a bad impression on the
workers employed in other Todd Organization construction
sites that there was nothing else left to be done but to

                                                  [Page 261]

send these 50,000 workers back to France. In the meantime,
many workmen of the Todt Organization construction sites in
France disappeared, because they feared they would be taken
to Germany sooner or later against their will, while up to
then they had regarded employment in enterprises which
worked for the Todt Organization as insurance against an
eventual transfer to Germany. Only the return of the above-
mentioned 50,000 workers to France, which was brought about
by the defendant Speer when these unfavourable consequences
developed, restored the hitherto existing state of
confidence.

Here, too, the fact should be emphasized that as a result of
the event described the Todt Organization workers were free
to go where they wished, in France in any case, and that no
coercion was used against them. The consequences of this
were that when the protected plants (Sperrbetriebe) were
established in France, all enterprises working for the Todt
Organization were declared protected plants and therewith
removed from the possibility of being employed on other
work. This instance shows that the view of the prosecution
that the workers of the Todt Organization were forced into
the Todt Organization plants against their will is wrong.

As it is established that the French Government agreed to
the use of French workers in construction sites under
administration of the Todt Organization, as well as in any
other armament industries in Germany and the occupied
territories, every illegality is excluded. It should not be
left unmentioned here that after the conclusion of the
Armistice Agreement with France the latter had no more part
in military hostilities. The Armistice Treaty certainly did
not mean an agreement for a truce but, de facto, a final
stopping of hostilities, and was to serve as a preparation
for the conclusion of peace; it was a peace situation but
did not yet mean the definite return to peace-time
conditions regulated by treaty. A resumption of hostilities
was, however, according to both partners to the Armistice,
completely out of the question. The Armistice was
exclusively to regulate the situation until the definite
conclusion of peace. Prescriptions of the Hague Convention,
as well as of the Prisoner-of-War Agreement, concerning the
restriction that performance of services cannot be allowed
to violate the loyalty towards one's own country which is
still fighting, do not apply because the country was no
longer at war. After a general armistice, the production of
arms and munitions can no longer be directed against the
party which has retired from hostilities, but only against
other partners still in the field. The aforementioned
principle of respecting the loyalty to one's own country can
no longer be applied in such cases.

It must, moreover, be pointed out that the Todt Organization
was in no way a para-military organization as has been
falsely asserted. Apparently this false assumption has been
strengthened by the fact that the German members of the
administration of the Todt Organization abroad wore a
uniform. These people were considered as Wehrmacht
followers, but on the other hand the labour engaged by the
firms and the construction workers of the firms as well as
the technical personnel were in no such relation. The charge
cannot be made, therefore, that these native workers were
indirectly incorporated into a Wehrmacht organization.

A further charge against the defendant Speer consists in the
fact that prisoners from concentration camps were employed
in the economic sector controlled by him. The defendant has
admitted this. A penal responsibility because of this fact
does not, however, stand the test of legal examination. The
employment of convicts for work of an economic nature has
always been a practice in Germany. It could be carried out
in various ways, partly by employment within the convict
prison itself, partly outside. Owing to the lack of labour
due to the aggravation of the economic war, it was necessary
to draw upon the labour available in the concentration
camps.

                                                  [Page 262]

The prosecution has submitted documents from which can be
seen how much trouble was taken by the offices subordinate
to the Reich Minister Himmler to use the reserves of labour
contained in the concentration camps for the construction of
their own SS plants, and the defendant Speer has supplied
information during his hearing before the Tribunal on 20th -
21st June regarding the efforts of Himmler towards building
up a separate armament industry of his own, and subordinate
to him only, which would have had the result that any
control over the production of arms in these intended SS
plants would have become impossible, so that the SS could
have provided themselves with weapons without the Army or
any other offices being able to control them.

The defendant Speer successfully fought against this. It was
agreed that Himmler would release a part of the inmates of
the concentration camps to be employed in the armament
industry. Hereby the inmates of the concentration camps
gained an improvement of their situation, since in the first
place they obtained the higher food rations provided for
workmen or for those doing long shifts or heavy work, as has
been attested by witness Riecke; moreover, they left the
large concentration camps and were no more under SS control
during working-hours, but were subject to the control of
foremen and skilled workmen appointed by the plants
themselves.

It is true that to avoid transportation and marching
difficulties special camps were erected near the plants or
working-places where they were employed, and these were not
accessible to the control of the plant managers nor to the
control of the offices of the defendant Speer, but stood
exclusively under the control of the offices in charge of
the administration of the concentration camps. For the
conditions prevailing in such camps neither the plant
manager nor the offices of the defendant Speer can be held
responsible if abuses occurred there. In general, as
attested by the letter of the department chief Schieber of
7th May, 1944, to the defendant Speer (Document Book II,
Page 88), the inmates preferred work in such plants to work
under the administration of the concentration camp itself.
And Schieber quite clearly states in his letter that for
these reasons more scope should be given to the employment
of concentration camp inmates in order to improve their lot.
But he further states that the number of concentration camp
inmates employed in the armament industry amounted to 36,000
and that this figure was decreasing. Against this, the
defendant's assertion at his interrogation that the total
number of concentration camp workers employed in the
armament industry amounted to one per cent of the total
number of workmen employed in the whole armament industry is
calculated too high. Of 49 million workmen engaged in the
final processing of armaments, the figure of 36,000
represents only seven per thousand. The number of
concentration camp inmates employed in the armament industry
represents a very small part of the total labour employed in
the final processing of armaments, that is of the total
labour employed in the plants manufacturing finished
products.

These figures show how misleading the assumption of the
prosecution is, that the employment of such prisoners in the
armament industry had resulted in an increased demand for
such labour and that this increased demand was satisfied by
the sending into concentration camps of persons who under
normal conditions would never have been sent there. The
opinion that the fact of the employment of prisoners from
concentration camps in the armament industry led to an
increase in the number of concentration camp inmates is
disproved by the letter of Schieber already mentioned
(Exhibit No. 6, Page 88), and by his testimony, also
submitted as Exhibit No. 37, Document Book No. 51. According
to this the employment of concentration camp inmates in the
armament industry occurred for the first time in the autumn
of 1943, and the number of prisoners employed there reached
its peak with the maximum figure of 36,000 in March, 1944,
and from that time on not only did not increase, but, on the
contrary, decreased.

                                                  [Page 263]

Therefore the conclusions of the prosecution in no way bear
examination. Not even proof has been brought forward that
Speer had attempted to have people sent to concentration
camps.

At his interrogation, the defendant admitted that everywhere
in Germany people were afraid of being sent to a
concentration camp. The population's dread of concentration
camps was quite justified, for it depended only on the
judgement of the police authorities, led by Himmler, whether
a person was sent to a concentration camp or not; further,
because there was no legal authority which might have made
it possible to check the charges resulting in a transfer to
a concentration camp, and finally, and this is the main
reason, because it was left entirely to the discretion of
the concentration camp authorities to decide for how long
one was to be held in a concentration camp.

The prosecution has further asserted that Speer went on
having concentration camp inmates work in the armament
industry after he had obtained knowledge of conditions
prevailing in the Mauthausen camp from a visit he made
there. That this was not the case is proved by the evidence
of the defendant on this point. As it was only a hurried
visit, the purpose of which was merely to instruct the camp
administration to desist from tasks undertaken in defiance
of the prohibition, and which served purely peace-time
purposes, and instead of this to place labour at the
disposal of the armament industry, the defendant Speer could
only obtain a superficial impression of the living
conditions in the camp. Up to this point, his evidence may
be referred to.

Moreover, through witnesses for the prosecution, detailed
reference has been made to the fact that during such visits
to concentration camps by personalities of high standing,
the camps were shown from the best side only, and that any
signs of atrocities, etc., were carefully removed so that
the visitor should not get a bad impression of the camp -
see the statement of the witness Blaha on 1st January, 1946.

In connection with this question, we will deal with the
further charge of the prosecution, which asserts that Speer
had approved of the use of Hungarian Jews as labour for the
construction of the bomb-proof aircraft factories ordered by
Hitler. On this point, reference must be made to the
evidence of the witness Milch and that of the witness Frank.
Milch stated that Speer, who was ill at the time, strongly
opposed these constructions, but that Hitler, who demanded
the undertaking of the work, gave the commission directly to
Dorsch, the leader of the Todt Organization, to carry them
out. So that the controversy between Hitler and Speer should
not become known to outsiders, Dorsch officially remained
subordinate to Speer, but in this matter he had to deal
directly with Hitler alone, and was immediately subordinate
to him. In his evidence Milch further stated that the
proposed constructions were never carried out. I have
submitted Hitler's order to Speer of gist April, 1944, as
Exhibit 34, Page 52, in my document book. This order clearly
shows that Hitler designated Dorsch as being directly
responsible to him, since the appointment of Speer, who was
given the duty of adjusting these building tasks to the
building plans under him, was of a purely formal nature. The
evidence given by Field-Marshal Milch is thus confirmed by
this letter.

To support the opinion of the prosecution that the defendant
Speer had contributed to sending people to concentration
camps, a statement is quoted which was made by Speer at a
sitting of the Central Planning Board of 30th October, 1942,
on the question of shirkers. In this connection, one must
look at the evidence of the defendant Speer in the witness
box, in which he declared that upon this statement no steps
to stop this evil were taken with the General
Plenipotentiary for Labour Commitment either by the Central
Planning Board or by himself. Actually, nothing was done
about it at that time. It was only in November, 1943, that
Sauckel issued a decree against shirkers. The term "shirker"
is applied to those workers who, in order to evade the
fulfilment of

                                                  [Page 264]

their working obligations, simulate illness or stay away
from work under the pretext of reasons that do not stand the
test of examination, or even without any reason at all.

It may incidentally be mentioned here that economic warfare
did not neglect even this question. Efforts were made in
every imaginable way to undermine the willingness to work of
the working people. By dropping leaflets and through other
channels of information, advice was given to the workers as
to how they could report sick; what means they were to use
in order to succeed in feigning illness at medical
examinations; they were invited to work slowly, etc. At
first this propaganda succeeded only in isolated cases. As,
however, such isolated cases very easily have an
unfavourable influence on the working discipline of the
personnel as a whole, the defendant Speer discussed the
possibility of police intervention. Speer did not, however,
take any initiative of any kind which would have led to
practical action on the part of the police. It was not until
a year later that a decree was issued by the General
Plenipotentiary for Labour Commitment, first making it an
obligation for the employer to use disciplinary penalties.
In particularly grave cases, the trustees for production
could ask for punishment by a court. Based on this decree
sentences could be pronounced providing for transfer to a
workers' training camp for a term of 56 days. Only in
exceptionally grave cases of infractions of the labour laws
did the decree of the General Plenipotentiary for Labour
Commitment provide for transfer to a concentration camp.

It must be mentioned here that this decree was applicable
both to native and foreign workers in the same way, for in
no case were native workers to be treated differently. In
the cross-examination of defendant Sauckel, the French
prosecution produced the document relative to a meeting of
Sauckel's labour authorities at the Wartburg. At this
meeting Dr. Sturm, the specialist on questions of labour law
with the General Plenipotentiary for Labour Commitment, gave
a lecture on the punishment of workmen, and it was thereby
established that only an infinitesimal percentage of workers
had to be sentenced to penal punishment.

But from this it is again evident that the prosecution has
brought forward no proof for the assertion that, as a
consequence of Sauckel's decree concerning shirkers, the
concentration camps were filled; so that conclusive proof is
lacking that Sauckel, or respectively, the defendant Speer,
contributed by any measures they took to the filling of
concentration camps.

In his statement before the Central Planning Board of 22nd
May, 1944 (P. 49 in my document book), Speer pointed out
that the escaped prisoners of war who were apprehended by
the police had to be brought straight back to their work.
From this remark we see the basic attitude of the defendant
Speer, who did not want to see the escaped prisoners of war
thrown into concentration camps but demanded that they be
immediately incorporated into industry. So far the
prosecution has not been able to bring forward any reliable
proof for the assertion that Speer had the concentration
camps filled in order to obtain labour from them.


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