The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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The Tribunal knows that International Law regulates the
conditions under which prisoners of war may be forced to
work. The Hague Conventions formulated rules which were
clarified by the Geneva Convention in Articles 27, 31 and

   "ARTICLE 27:- Belligerents may use as workers healthy
   war prisoners, according to their rank and their
   attitudes, with the exception of officers and
   assimilated ranks. Nevertheless, if officers, or those
   of assimilated rank, ask for suitable work, it will be
   procured for them as far as possible. The non-
   commissioned officers who are war prisoners can be
   forced to

                                                  [Page 410]
   work as supervisors only if they expressly request a
   remunerative occupation.
   ARTICLE 31:- The work furnished by the prisoners of war

THE PRESIDENT: I think we will take judicial notice of these

M. HERZOG: These rules of International Law determine
positively the legal powers of the nation having prisoners
of war in its custody. It is legal to force prisoners of war
to work during the duration of their captivity, but this
includes three legal limits:

   (1) It is forbidden to require non-commissioned
   officers, who are prisoners, to work, unless they have
   expressly requested to do so.
   (2) War prisoners must not be used for work which is
   (3) Prisoners must not be associated with the enemy war

The National Socialist authorities systematically neglected
these imperative provisions; they have exercised violent
constraint on non-commissioned officers held in captivity,
to force them to join labour crews. They have integrated war
prisoners as workers in their factories and in the work
yards, without considering the nature of the work imposed
upon them. The utilisation of war prisoners by National
Socialist Germany took place under illegal and criminal
conditions. This I declare, and I wish to prove this to the

THE PRESIDENT: We will take a recess for 10 minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

M. HERZOG: Mr. President, your Honours.

Dating from 1941, the Germans exercised direct pressure on
officers to force them to engage in productive work for the
Reich war economy. This pressure, after the failure of
propaganda methods, took the form of reprisals. Non-
commissioned officers who refused were the object of ill-
treatment; they were sent to special camps, such as
Coberczyn where they were subject to a disciplinary regime.
Some incurred penal sentences because of their refusal to
work. I file, as proof, the report of the Ministry of
Prisoners, Deportees, and Refugees of the French Government,
Document UK-78-2, which is, in my document book, RF 46. The
document is in a white file. I shall read from Page 18 of
the French original, Page 10 of the German translation, Page
18, at the bottom of the page:

"Work of the Non-Commissioned Officers.

On this subject the Geneva Convention was explicit: non-
commissioned officers who are war prisoners cannot be
subjected to work as supervisors, unless they make an
express request for a remunerative occupation.

In conformity with this article a certain number of non-
commissioned officers refused to work from the beginning of
their captivity. The strength of imprisoned non-commissioned
officers was, at the end of 1940, about 130,000, and
represented later a very important source of labour for the
Reich. The German authorities tried, therefore, by every
means, to induce to work the greatest possible number of
those refusing. To this effect, during the last months of
1941, the non-commissioned officers who did not volunteer
for the work were, in most camps, subjected to an
alternating regime. For a few days they were subjected to
punishments such as the diminution of food rations, doing
without beds, the obligation to undergo physical exercises
for a number of hours, and particularly the 'pelote'
(punishment drill). During another period they were promised
work, in conformity with their wishes, and other material
advantages, for example, special regulations of insurance,
extra letter provisions and higher wages. These methods led
a certain number of non-commissioned officers to accept
work. The non-commissioned officers who persisted in their
refusal to work, were subjected to a very severe
disciplinary regime and to arduous physical exercises."

                                                  [Page 411]

The National Socialist military authorities utilised the
prisoners of war for dangerous work. The French, British,
Belgian and Dutch prisoners were used to transport
munitions, to load bombs or planes, to repair aviation
camps, and to construct fortifications. The proof of the use
of prisoners of war for the transportation of munitions and
for the loading of bombs on planes, is furnished by the
affidavits of repatriated French prisoners of war. These
affidavits have been assembled in the report of the Ministry
of Prisoners, which I have just quoted, and which I shall
quote again.

I now quote Page 27 of the French document, Page 14 of the
German translation. It is the same document from which I
have just quoted, Exhibit RF 46, Page 27:

   "(b) The requisition of prisoners for the construction
   of fortifications and for the transport of munitions,
   occurs very often in the close vicinity of the line of
   The war prisoners, Command 274 of Stalag 2-B,
   complained, December, 1944, of being employed on Sundays
   in the construction of anti-tank trenches.
   On 2nd February, 1945, the prisoners of Stalag 2-B,
   evacuated before the advance of the Russian Army,
   worked, as soon as they arrived at Sassnity, at
   fortification works and anti-tank works, in particular
   around the city.
   After falling back from Stalag 3-B, the war prisoners
   were engaged, to the end of April, in doing ditch work,
   digging trenches, and in transporting aviation bombs.
   Kommando 553 at Lebus was obliged to carry out work in
   the front lines under the fire of Russian artillery.
   Numerous comrades, drawn back at Furstenwalde, were
   employed in loading bombs on German bombers.
   In spite of their protests to the International
   Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva and to the colonel
   commanding Stalag 3-B, about billeting in barns, very
   bad hygiene and insufficient food, the latter answered
   that he was obeying superior orders of the O.K.W.,
   ordering the prisoners to dig trenches."

The National Socialist leaders, for that matter, admitted
that they used French and British prisoners of war for
military work on aerodromes exposed to allied bombardment.

I offer in proof two notes, the first addressed by the
O.K.H. to the War Prisoners Section of the Wehrmacht, and
the second by Wilhelmstrasse to the German representative at
the Wiesbaden Armistice Commission.

The memorandum of the O.K.H., dated 7th October, 1940,
constitutes Document 549. I submit it to the Tribunal as
Exhibit RF 47, and I read it in full:

   "The protest of the French delegation shall be
   considered unfounded. The lodging of war prisoners in
   camps situated in the vicinity of aviation fields is not
   in contradiction to the rules of the rights of nations.
   According to Articles 9 and 4 of the Convention on the
   Treatment of War Prisoners - of 27th July, 1929 - no
   prisoners of war shall be exposed to the fire of a
   combat zone. Combat zones in this sense must be
   understood as the space in which normally a battle
   between two armies is carried on, thus extending to a
   distance of about 20 kilometres from the advance line.
   On the other hand it is possible that the areas exposed
   to aerial attacks do not belong to combat zones. At this
   period of air war there no longer exists any sure
   shelter. The fact of using war prisoners for the
   construction of a camp and for the repairing of
   destroyed runways does not seem to lend itself to any
   According to Article 31 of the Convention quoted here
   above, war prisoners must not be used in works directly
   related to war activity. The construction of shelters,
   houses, and camps is not directly a war act. It is
   recognised that war prisoners may be employed in the
   construction of roads. Accordingly their utilisation for
   the reconstruction of aviation camps that have been
   destroyed is permissible: on the roads, trucks, tanks,
   ammunition cars, etc. are driven, and on the aviation
   fields there are planes. It is all the same.
   On the other hand, it would be illegal to use war
   prisoners in loading bombs, munitions, etc. on bombers.
   Here a work directly related to war activity would be
   By reason of the juridical situation expounded here
   above, the O.K.H. has rejected the idea of withdrawing
   French prisoners of war employed in work in the aviation

I draw the attention of the Tribunal to this document. It
emphasises the ill faith of the leaders of National
Socialist Germany, which was two-fold: In the first place,
the note of 7th October, 1940, which I have read,
acknowledges that it is forbidden by International Law to
use prisoners of war for the loading of bombs and ammunition
on bombers. But I have just brought proof to the Tribunal
that the French prisoners of war were used for this purpose.
In the second place, the note of the O.K.H. contests the
dangerous character of the work carried out on the aviation

Now, the note of Wilhelmstrasse, to which I shall now refer,
and which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 48 - this
note recognises, on the contrary, that prisoners submitted
to work on an aviation field incur grave danger because of
the military purpose of this work.

I will read to the Tribunal a note of the German Foreign
Office dated 14th February, 1941, Exhibit RF 48:

   "Article 87 of the Agreement of 1929 on Prisoners of War
   provides that, in case of difference of opinion on the
   subject of the interpretation of the Agreement, the
   protecting powers shall offer their services to settle
   the dispute. To accomplish this, any protecting power
   may propose a meeting of representatives of the
   belligerent powers. In the relation between Germany and
   France, protecting powers no longer exist. France
   herself assumes the responsibilities of a protecting
   power in questions on prisoners of war."

I shall pass on from this quotation to Page 2 of the same

   "As to the point in dispute, it is well to call
   attention to the following:
   The French conception, according to which prisoners of
   war may not be quartered near air fields and may not be
   employed in repairing plane runways, cannot be based on
   the exact content of Articles 9 and 31; but, on the
   other hand, it is certain that French prisoners of war
   quartered and employed under these conditions are in a
   particularly dangerous situation, because the air fields
   in occupied territories are used exclusively for German
   military purposes and thus constitute a special
   objective for enemy aerial attacks.
   The American Embassy in Berlin has likewise made a
   protest against a similar use of British prisoners of
   war in Germany. Thus far no answer has been made,
   because a rejection of this protest might result in
   German prisoners being employed in similar work in

The utilisation of war prisoners for the construction of
fortifications is substantiated by Document 828-PS, which I
file with the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 49. It is a letter of
29th September, 1944, addressed by the Chief of the First
Army Corps to the O.K.W., to give an account of work on
fortifications accomplished by eighty Belgian prisoners of
war. I quote:

                                                  [Page 413]

   "According to the teletype referred to, it is reported
   that in the  territory of Stalag 1-A, Stablack,
   Einsatzbereich 2-213, Tilsit-Loten, near Ragnitz, there
   are forty Belgian prisoners of war, and in Lindbach,
   near Neusiedel, forty Belgian prisoners of war who were
   employed in fortification labour."

There remains the task of proving that Allied prisoners,
forced to work in Reich armament factories, were associated
with the enemy war effort. To this end I first offer
Document 1206-PS. This document is a memorandum dated 11th
November, 1941. It is a resum6 of a report made 7th
November, 1941, to the Aviation Minister by the
Reichsmarshal. The document, consequently, establishes the
direct responsibility of the defendant Goering. The use of
Russian war prisoners is treated in a general way in this
document, but it deals also with the use of war prisoners of
Western European countries. I submit this document to the
Tribunal as Exhibit RF 50, and I read:

   "Berlin, 11th November, 1941.
   Notes on statements made by the Reichsmarshal in a
   meeting of 7th November, 1941, in the Reich Ministry of
   Subject: Employment of Russian labour in the war

THE PRESIDENT: Has that already been put in by the United


THE PRESIDENT: Then perhaps you could summarise it.

M. HERZOG: I think, Mr. President, that it was presented by
the United States Prosecution. I shall, therefore, simply
quote an extract, the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the
first page, concerning the employment of French and Belgian
war prisoners as individuals in the economy of armament.
This use of war prisoners in the Reich munitions factories
corresponded to a common plan. It is the result of a
systematic policy. The administrative offices for labour
deliberately assigned to armament factories all war
prisoners who seemed capable of carrying out specialised
work. I quote, in this connection, Document 3005-PS. It is a
directive addressed, in 1941, by the Ministry of Labour to
the Directors of Personnel Procurement concerning the
respective use of French and Russian prisoners of war. The
document has been submitted and commented upon by my
American colleague, Mr. Dodd, shall, therefore, not read it.
I simply point out that this circular deals with the
employment of all French war prisoners in the armament
factories of the Reich.

After the capitulation of Italy, Italian soldiers who had
fallen into the hands of the Germans - they were not called
prisoners of war, but rather "military internees" - were
forced to work. I offer in this connection a directive of
the defendant Bormann, of 28th September, 1943, Document 657-
PS, which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RV 52.

The Italian military internees are placed in three
categories: some ask to continue the struggle on the side of
the German Army; others desire to keep a neutral attitude;
others have turned their arms against their former allies.
The military internees of the second and third categories
must, in the terms of the circular, be forced to work. I

   "Circular No. 55/43 G.R.S., Top secret. Concerns the
   treatment and putting to work of Italian military
   The O.K.W., in connection with the General
   Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labour, has
   regulated the treatment and the putting to work of
   Italian military internees. The most important general
   lines of the ordinances of the O.K.W. are the

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