The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-06/tgmwc-06-52.01

Archive/File: imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-06-52.01
Last-Modified: 1998/04/19

           The Trial OF German Major War Criminals
                       Proceedings Of
             The International Military Tribunal
                    Sitting at Nuremberg
        Under the Authority of H.M. Attorney-General
             By His Majesty's Stationery Office
                        London: 1946
                      FIFTY-SECOND DAY
                WEDNESDAY, 6TH FEBRUARY, 1946
                                                  [Page 100]
M. FAURE: If it please the Tribunal, M. Gerthoffer will now
present the brief concerning the pillage of works of art.

M. GERTHOFFER: The Economic Section of the French Delegation
had prepared a report on the pillage of works of art in the
occupied countries of Western Europe.

We had thought, at the session of 22nd January, of waiving
the presentation of this statement in order to expedite the
proceedings, while holding ourselves the disposal of the
Tribunal should they consider the presentation necessary.
However, since then, on 31st January, the American
prosecutor was good enough to inform us that the defendant
Rosenberg intended to maintain that the artistic treasures
were collected only in order to be "protected."

We consider, from the documents which we are holding at the
disposal of the Court, that this cannot be a question of
protection only, but of genuine spoliation, and I am at the
Tribunal's disposal to prove this, in a statement which I
shall make as brief as possible, while offering in evidence
the documents which we had already collected. If the
Tribunal wishes, I can make this very brief statement. In
any case, I am at the disposal of the Tribunal.

Mr. President, Gentlemen: The pillage of works of art has a
cultural significance, to which I shall not refer again,
since it was the subject of a statement presented by Colonel
Storey on 18th December, 1945. I shall examine the subject
only from the economic point of view, in order to complete
the report on the general spoliation of the Western European

As the Tribunal will realise, the leaders of the Reich
primarily and systematically seized works of art belonging
to private individuals, mostly under the pretext that these
individuals were Jews, thus procuring for themselves very
valuable means of exchange. In Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg
and France, picture galleries, public as well as private
collections, antique furniture, china and jewelry were

It was not a question of individual looting, of pillaging by
soldiers, such as is encountered in all wars and of which we
still find examples; this campaign of plunder was carried
out in a systematic and disciplined manner. The methods
introduced varied in character. Personal judgment and
personal initiative could be exercised only in so far as
they contributed to the execution of plans already
elaborated by the National Socialist leaders before the
month of June, 1940.

The official organisation for pillaging was primarily
Minister Rosenberg's Special Staff for the Occupied
Territories of Western Europe and the Netherlands. If this
organisation was not the sole agent, it was the most
important one. Colonel Storey has already drawn the
attention of the Tribunal to this criminal behavior.

The urge to seize works of art, as well as material wealth,
underlies the policy of National Socialist expansion. The
behavior in Poland of the defendant Frank has already given
sufficient proof of this. The idea of seizing this valuable
booty arose at the time of the invasion of Western Europe.
From the very beginning, in their haste and their desire to
seize as much as they could,

                                                  [Page 101]
several parallel authorities would carry out the
confiscations; first the military authorities, either
indirectly, as in Holland, through the special services of
the "Devisenschutzkommando," or directly, as in France,
through the "Department for the Protection of Works of Art."
Further, the same mission was entrusted simultaneously to
the civil authorities, whether represented -- in Paris -- by
the German Embassy, or -- in Holland -- by the Office of
Enemy Property under the auspices of the Reich Commissioner.
This plurality of control, moreover, did not end with the
establishment of the "Stab Rosenberg."

This is the first phase in the pillage of works of art.
According to official correspondence, as well as to the
statements of Otto Abetz; the initiative may be attributed
to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, beginning with the
defendant Ribbentrop.

The first phase lasted from the entrance of the Germans into
the countries of Western Europe until October, 1940.

The second phase opened with the arrival of "Einsatzstab
Rosenberg," which appeared on the scene under the aegis of
the defendant Goering. From now on this "Einsatzstab" must
be considered primarily responsible for the organised

Towards July, 1942, a third phase opens in the history of
the "Special Staff." The person primarily responsible is the
defendant Alfred Rosenberg. The activities of this staff did
not cease in Europe until the liberation. One part of the
archives of the Rosenberg services fell into the hands of
the French armies; another part, which had been sent to
Fuessen, was seized by the American Army, which also picked
up the personal files of the defendant Rosenberg. This is
the origin of the "PS" documents submitted to the Tribunal.

The seizure of works of art began with the entry of the
German troops into Holland, Belgium, and France. In Paris,
as from the month of June, there was an Embassy service
directed by von Kunsberg and Dr. Dirksen similar to a
specialized service of the Military Governor directed by
Count Wolff Metternich. This order of seizure, in defiance
of the Hague Convention, applied to public as well as to
private property. The defendant Keitel, on 30th June, 1940,
issued an order to the Governor of Paris, General von
Bockelberg. I submit a copy of this order as Exhibit 1301.
Here it is:

     "The Fuehrer, on receiving the report of the Reich
     Minister for Foreign Affairs, has issued an order to
     safeguard for the time being, in addition to objects of
     art belonging to the French State, also such works of
     art and antiques which are private property --
     especially Jewish private property -- against removal
     or concealment, by storing them with the occupation
     Power, after previously marking them with the names of
     their present owners.
     This is not to be considered as an appropriation, but
     as a transfer into our custody, to serve as a pawn in
     the peace negotiations."

Identical measures were soon taken in Holland, Belgium, and

THE PRESIDENT: That was 1301, was it not?

M. GERTHOFFER: 1301, yes, Mr. President, the first document.


M. GERTHOFFER: Exhibit  RF 1302, which is a document
discovered by the Army of the United States and which was
registered under Number 137-PS, a copy of which I submit,
was drawn up by defendant Keitel on 5th July, 1940:

     "Reichsleiter Rosenberg has suggested the following to
     the Fuehrer:
     (1) State libraries and archives to be searched for
     documents of value to Germany.
     (2) The Chancelleries and High Authorities of the
     Church, as well as the Masonic lodges, to be searched
     for proofs of political activities
                                                  [Page 102]
     directed against us and the proofs in question to be
     seized. The Fuehrer has ordered that this suggestion be
     carried out and that the Gestapo, assisted by the
     Special Keepers of the Archives of Reichsleiter
     Rosenberg, be placed in charge of the search. The Chief
     of the Security Police, SS Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich, has
     been informed. He is to contact the Military Commander
     competent to deal with the execution of these orders.
     These measures to be executed in all regions of the
     Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France which are
     occupied by us. It is requested that subordinate
     offices be informed.
                            The Chief of the High Command of
                                           the Armed Forces,
                                           (Signed) Keitel."
As Exhibit RF 1303 I offer in evidence a copy of Document PS-
139, drawn up for Holland and in approximately the same
terms, and as Exhibit RF 1304 I submit a copy of Document
140-PS which is an analogous order for Belgium.

At the same time, by a decree of 15th July, 1940, in
execution of Keitel's orders, a decree for the protection of
works of art was issued in the occupied territories. This
decree appeared in the German Official Bulletin VOBIF No. 3,
Page 49 and following pages. I submit a copy of this decree
as Exhibit  RF 1305 and I request the permission of the
Tribunal to quote the two following paragraphs:

First paragraph: Section 1:

     "Moveable works of art will not be taken from the place
     where they are at present or modified in any way
     whatsoever without the written authorisation of a
     superior commander of the Military Government."
Section 3:

     "Moveable works of art whose value exceeds 100,000
     francs must be declared by their owners or custodians
     in writing, prior to 15th August, 1940, to the
     competent `Feldkommandantur' or some other authority
     indicated by him."
If the Tribunal will kindly recall the explanation which I
had the honour of presenting some weeks ago, it will
remember that the Germans had, at the same time, issued
similar decrees for freezing or immobilising private
property, currency, and other assets.

In this decree, made known to the population of the occupied
territories, the question of safe-keeping and confiscation
had not yet arisen; the decree merely dealt with
immobilisation and declaration -- preparatory measures,
these, for future spoliation, and an indication of bad faith
to be remembered.

Beginning with that period, seizures were carried out of the
most famous French-Jewish art collections, seizures made
under such conditions that they provoked numerous protests
which were submitted to the Armistice Commission at

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.