The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/10/14

DR. KUBUSCHOK, Continued: 

In order apparently to characterise the relationship between
Speer and Sauckel, the prosecution has finally submitted a
file note by General Thomas, the Director of the War Economy
and Armament Division in the OKW, regarding a discussion
which took place on 24th March, 1942, between the defendant
Speer on the one hand, and himself aid the directors of the
Armament Offices of the three branches of the Wehrmacht on
the other hand, in which Thomas states that the Fuehrer
considered Speer as his main authority and his agent for all
economic spheres. This note can only be understood in
connection with the report of the account given by General
Thomas of his activity as Director of the War Economy and
Armament Office, and which has been presented to the.
Tribunal in excerpt form in Document 2353-PS. Prior to
Speer's appointment as Minister for Armament, Thomas had to
try to bring about an expansion of the position of General
Plenipotentiary for Economy, as it has been provided in the
Reich Defence Law, so that it should become an office which
would control the whole war economy. When the armament
economy was confronted with heavy demands in connection with
the first winter campaign in Russia and the losses which had
been sustained there, and Hitler, after the death of Dr.
Todt, appointed Speer to be his successor in the Ministry
for Armaments and Munitions, Thomas thought he would find in
Speer a personality who would receive the authority which he
had striven to obtain for the General Plenipotentiary for
Economy. This, however, did not occur. As has been shown
from the evidence, Speer was only entrusted with the
equipment of the Army and construction tasks. The control of
the new office

                                                  [Page 256]

of the General Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labour
by his Ministry, for which the defendant Speer was striving,
was not sanctioned by Hitler. Speer's rights as Minister for
Armament are stated in the decree. The expectations which
General Thomas held as regards the Appointment of Speer were
therefore not fulfilled in any way. Speer only received
increased authority when, in the year 1943, he took over
industrial production from the Ministry of Economics. But
even then he was still far from having the complete field of
tasks which General Thomas had expected he would obtain.
Relying on his expectations, General Thomas thought that he
had found in the person of Speer the man appointed by Hitler
who would be decisive for all economic questions. In the
file note of General Thomas, which confines itself merely to
generalities, it is a matter of an expression of opinion
which was not justified by the actual state of affairs. It
offers no grounds on which to answer the question as to how
we must distribute responsibility for the policy of the
labour commitment to which the prosecution objects.

In summarising it must be stated to this count of the

Speer is not responsible for the means employed for the
procurement of foreign workers, nor for their removal to
Germany. He is at the most responsible for the utilization
of part of this manpower in Germany.

As a further count of the Indictment it has been stated that
the defendant employed prisoners of war in the economic
sector which was under his direction, and that he thereby
violated Article 32 of the Geneva Convention of July, 1929,
regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. The defendant
never denied that he employed prisoners of war in plants
under his control. This, however, cannot be regarded simply
as a violation of Articles 31 and 32 of the previously
mentioned agreement. The expression "armament economy"
and/or "armament plant" has not the same meaning as "plant"
and/or "economy", the task of which is the manufacture of
arms and of direct war requirements.

The term "armament plant" can only be understood from its
development. When, at the beginning of rearmament, there
began to be a limitation of raw materials, plants which were
working for rearmament were given preference in obtaining
raw materials. These plants were controlled by the armament
inspectors of the Wehrmacht, and were called "armament
plants". In addition to all other plants, those used for
manufacturing iron, steel and metals, as well as those
plants which manufactured machine-boilers and vehicles and
appliance, also those used for the entire manufacture of raw
steel, the first stage of processing to the finished product
(foundries, rolling works, forges), as well as the whole
remaining subsidiary supply industry, came under the term
"armament plants", for example, electro-technical plants,
plants which produced optical instruments, plants which
manufactured ball-bearings, cog-wheels, etc. This is shown
by the testimony of the witness Schieber. (Question 9,
Document Book, Page 114.)

Only 30-35 per cent roughly of the whole iron production was
used for the production of armaments to the extent
previously described, and 60 per cent for the maintenance of
production for other consumers (Reich Railways, the
construction of merchant vessels, agricultural machines,
export goods, appliances for the chemical industry, etc.).
We refer to the testimony of the witness Kehrl, which has
been submitted under Exhibit Speer 36, and particularly to
his answer to question 5.

Since the iron quota assigned to the armament industry also
includes the production of raw steel and the different
stages of manufacture, it can be safely presumed that of all
the plants which were combined in the armament inspections,
only approximately 20-30 per cent manufactured armament
products in the sense implied in the Geneva Convention.
These details had to be examined in order to gain an idea as
to what extent Article 31 of the Geneva Convention could be
violated by the employment of prisoners of war.

                                                  [Page 257]

The prosecution has presented an affidavit of the American
economic statistician Deuss under Document 2520-PS, in order
to prove thereby how many prisoners of war and foreign
workers were employed in the armament industry. This
compilation, which is principally supported by figures taken
from the documents in the possession of the defendant Speer,
does not, however, state in which branches of the armament
industry the individual prisoners of war worked. A big
enterprise, which, because it falls under one of the above-
listed categories, and as a result thereof was considered an
armament plant in its entirety, needed only to manufacture a
fraction of, or perhaps even no weapons or equipment at all,
which stand in direct relationship to war activities. If
prisoners of war are employed in it, then their occupation
does not represent a violation of Article 31 of the Geneva
Prisoner-of-War Convention. Such a plant, however, appears
in its entirety in Deuss's affidavit. The affidavit thereby
loses its value as evidence as to what extent Article 31 of
the Geneva Convention was violated. Thus we have no proof of
whether and to what extent Article 31 was violated by the
employment of prisoners of war in the armament industry.

The French prosecution has taken the point of view that the
employment of French civilian workers, who had been released
from confinement as prisoners of war and who were employed
in the armament industry, was also to be considered a
violation of Article 31. This is not applicable. From the
time of their release the former prisoners of war were free
people who were unlimited in their freedom of movement, and
who were restricted only by the obligations embodied in
their labour contracts. In addition to this, no French
prisoner of war could be forced to agree to his release
under the obligation of putting himself as a worker at the
disposal of German industry. It was his own free decision if
he preferred
 circumstances, the advantages apparently appeared far
greater than the protection which they enjoyed as prisoners
of war. If they did so, then their occupation, even in work
which in itself is prohibited for prisoners of war in
accordance with Article 31, cannot be considered a violation
of this article.

The employment of prisoners of war in the industry of the
country which is holding them prisoner is not prohibited by
the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Convention. Only that work is
prohibited which is directly connected with military
operations, for example, the use of prisoners of war for
fortification works for a combat unit. The defendant Speer
cannot be accused of anything of that kind. It is also
prohibited for them to manufacture and transport weapons of
all kinds, as well as to transport war material for combat
units. In the armament economy under the control of the
defendant Speer, the only thing which could be considered as
a violation of the aforementioned rule is the manufacture of
weapons and munitions of all kinds. Such a violation,
however, has so far not been proved by the prosecution at

It must furthermore be examined how the assignment of
prisoners of war to plants took place. According to the
testimony of the defendant Sauckel, this was done by the War
Economy Officers with the Military District Commanders, who
submitted the number of prisoners of war available for work
to the Gau Employment Office, and the transfer of the
prisoners of war to the plants then took place in the same
manner as with ordinary labour.

The only difference was that the camp officers - the
prisoners of war were billeted in so-called enlisted men's
camp (Stammlager) - were responsible for seeing that the
directives issued by the OKW for the employment and
treatment of prisoners of war were complied with. It was the
responsibility of these camp officers to prevent, in the
employment of prisoners of war, violations of Article 31

                                                  [Page 258]

of the Prisoner-of-War Convention. The Commitment Officers
(Einsatzoffiziere) appointed by the camp commanders had
constantly to control and examine the working conditions and
the nature of the occupation of prisoners of war in armament
plants, and they had to watch and see that no prohibited
work was imposed on the prisoners of war. The defendant
Keitel has given an exact description of the manner in which
the control of prisoners of war in the home area was carried
out. Documents have also been submitted which give
information about the treatment of prisoners of war.

The prisoners of war who were confined in assembly camps
were constantly 3 being examined by Camp Commitment Officers
to see that their employment was in accordance with Articles
31 and 32 of the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Convention. As far
as French prisoners of war were concerned, a special
authority existed for them in the person of Ambassador
Scapini, who had to forward to the OKW any complaints which
were made against the use of prisoners of war for labour in
a way which violated International Law.

Complaints of this kind by Ambassador Scapini were
immediately investigated, and if they were found to be
justified, improvements were made. It is, of course,
possible that mistakes sometimes occurred in view of the
vast organization necessitated by the large number of French
prisoners of war. Measures for the correction of mistakes of
this kind, are, after all, provided by the Geneva Prisoner-
of-War Convention itself in its regulations. These
regulations were also effective in the last war. The
representatives of the protecting powers intervened against
bad conditions which had been brought to their attention
through complaints, and they also demanded and achieved
their abolition. If such mistakes were recognized and
reported, they were then immediately remedied. It would be
wrong to try to conclude from individual occurrences that
there was a pre-meditated system. The protection which
prisoners of war found in the Labour Commitment Offices even
laid defendant Speer open to criticism by individual plant
directors as being too extensive.

In this respect, as far as the defendant Speer's position in
law is concerned, we must first examine whether the
employment of prisoners of war in the armament industry is
to be fundamentally regarded as a violation of the rules of
International Law. After the previous statements as to the
character of the plants which were combined in the armament
industry, this must be answered in the negative. Only in so
far as prisoners of war were actually employed in the
production of arms and in the production of urgent war
materials could there be any suggestion of a violation of
Article 31. That this regulation may have been violated in
individual cases we will not deny. If, for example, as the
photographs submitted by the American prosecution show,
prisoners of war were used near the front lines to unload
munition trains, then this undoubtedly represents a
violation of the regulations of Article 31. The defendant
Speer, however, cannot be accused of such incidents, as they
do not fall under his competence. To conclude from this fact
of the employment of some prisoners of war in the armament
industry that a violation on a large scale of the
regulations of the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Convention did
take place, is not justified.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

M. LANOIRE: Mr. President, I would request the permission of
the Tribunal, to make a very short statement in the name of
the French prosecution. Even though it is not the custom
that the prosecution should intervene in the course of the
discussion, the counsel for Speer gave a few opinions which
it seems to me I must underline, and also request the
Tribunal to put them aside.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal does not think it is appropriate
that the speeches of the defendants' counsel should be
interrupted by counsel for the -

                                                  [Page 259]

prosecution. Counsel for the prosecution are going to speak
afterwards, and they will then have a full opportunity of
answering the speeches that have been made on behalf of the

M. LANOIRE: Certainly, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Flaechsner, if you will wait one moment,
I have an announcement to make. The Tribunal refers to its
Order of 23rd February, 1946, paragraph 8 of that Order,
which is on the subject of the statements which the
defendants may make, under Article 24 of the Charter.

In view of the full statements already made by the
defendants and their counsel, the Tribunal assumes that if
it is the defendants' desire to make any further statements,
it will be only to deal with matters previously omitted. The
defendants will not be permitted to make further speeches or
to repeat what has already been said by themselves or their
counsel, but will be limited to short statements of a few
minutes each to cover matters not already covered by their
testimony or the arguments of counsel.

That is all.

DR. FLAECHSNER (for the defendant Speer): Mr. President,
your Honours, I now continue my speech. A further charge of
the prosecution refers to the violation of Article 32 of the
Geneva Prisoner-of-War Agreement, according to which
prisoners of war were employed in unhealthy work, in so far
as prisoners of war had been employed in mines. For this
reference is made to the minutes of a Central Planning
meeting where the employment of Russian prisoners of war in
mines is discussed. The employment of Russian prisoners of
war in mines is not to be considered as forbidden in itself,
and it has been practised in all industrial nations. The
employment of Russian prisoners of war in mines is,
therefore, not to be objected to, in so far as the prisoners
concerned were in a physical condition that enabled them to
do heavy mining work. It has not been established and proved
by the prosecution that these prisoners of war were not
physically fit for the work given them. From the fact that
the employment of prisoners of war in mines was discussed
and approved, it cannot be concluded that Article 32 of the
Prisoner-of-War Agreement was violated. The treatment of
prisoners of war has to be examined legally from various
points of view. The German Government has taken the point of
view that Soviet prisoners of war should be treated on a
different legal basis from the subjects of the Western
States, who were all parties to the treaty of the Geneva
Prisoner-of-War Convention of 1929, whereas the Soviet Union
did not sign this agreement. 

The Soviet Prosecution has
presented Document EC-338, Exhibit USSR 356, an
investigation according to International Law of the Foreign
Counter-Intelligence Office (Amt Ausland/Abwehr) in the High
Command of the Wehrmacht, concerning the legality of the
regulations issued on the treatment of Soviet prisoners of
war, and levelled sharp criticism at the latter. The
essential point is that in this report the view is expressed
that, as a matter of fundamental principle, Soviet prisoners
of war cannot be treated according to the rules of the
Geneva Prisoner-of-War Agreement because the Soviet Union
did not participate in this. Moreover, this report refers to
the decree of the Soviet Union of 1st July, 1941, concerning
the treatment of prisoners of war, regarding which the
opinion of the Military Intelligence of the Wehrmacht
confirms that on essential points it agrees with the rules
of the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Agreement. It is, however,
characteristic that in this decree it is ordered that non-
commissioned officers and enlisted men taken as prisoners of
war may be put to work for industry and agriculture inside
the camp or outside, and that the only restriction is that
the use of prisoner-of-war labour is forbidden:

  (a) in the combat area,

                                                  [Page 260]

  (b) for personal needs of the administration as well as
  the needs of other prisoners of war. (So-called "orderly
  service"; see Page 12-13 of the document book.)

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