The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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DR. THOMA, Continued:

Number of Pieces
  Plough tractors, 40-50 HP                    about 7,000
  Thrashing machines                           about 5,000
  Agricultural tools                                about
  Gas generators for German and Russian tractors
  about 24,000
  Reaping machines                             about 35,000
  Total cost:                             about 180,000,000

I do not think one can say that these deliveries were made
with a view to exploitation. So, in this, too, Rosenberg
accomplished a piece of constructive work that was really a

In the following, I will first treat the question of
Rosenberg's automatic responsibility as Minister for the
Eastern Territories, that is the question of his criminal
liability on the grounds of his official position.

On 17th July, 1941, Rosenberg was appointed Reich Minister
for the Occupied Eastern Territories. Two Reich
commissariats were set up as supreme territorial
authorities: " Ostland " (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and
White Ruthenia) -under the Reich Commissioner Lohse, and "
Ukraine " under Reich Commissioner Koch. The Reich
commissariats were divided into general districts and
regions. Right from the beginning, the Eastern Ministry was
not conceived as an administrative authority built on a
large scale, but as a central office, a supreme authority
which was to confine itself to overall instructions and
fundamental directives, and in addition was to ensure the
supply of material and personnel. The actual governing was
the duty of the Reich Commissioner: he was the sovereign in
his territory.

Moreover, it is of special importance that Rosenberg, as
Minister for the East, was not at the head of the whole
Eastern administration, but that several supreme authorities
existed at the same time. Goering who was Plenipotentiary
for the Four-Year Plan, was responsible for the control of
the economy in all occupied territories, and in this respect
had authority over the Ministry for the East, for Rosenberg
could only issue economic decrees with Goering's agreement.
The chief of the German police, Himmler, was solely and
exclusively competent for police security in the Occupied
Eastern Territories; there was no police division at all in
the Ministry for the East, nor in the Reich commissariats.
Rosenberg's competence was furthermore undermined by Himmler
as "Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German
Nationality", and by Speer, on behalf of whom a Fuehrer
decree detached all technical matters from the Eastern
administration. It was further weakened by Goebbels, who
claimed for himself the control of propaganda in the
Occupied Eastern Territories as well. Later on I shall come
to the important question of labour mobilization which was
put under the authority of Sauckel.

                                                  [Page 246]

Nevertheless, Rosenberg was the minister responsible for the
Occupied Eastern Territories. In view of this, the following
must be emphasized:

In this trial Rosenberg is not made responsible from the
political standpoint, since the High Tribunal is no
parliament; neither is he made responsible from the point of
view of Constitutional Law, for the High Tribunal is not a
Supreme Court of Justice. The liability of the defendant
with respect to civil law is not in question either, but
only his criminal liability, his responsibility for his own
alleged crimes and for the crimes of others. I do not need
to outline in more detail the fact that to establish
criminal liability and condemn it, it must be proved that
the defendant illegally committed acts punishable by law,
and that he may only be punished for non-action, i.e., an
omission, if he had the legal duty to act and if it was due
to his inaction that the criminal result occurred, i.e., if
the actual possibility existed of his preventing the
criminal result.

The fact seems to me of decisive importance that Rosenberg
was a minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, but not
a supreme ruler. Supreme rulers were the Reich Commissioners
of the gigantic territories "Ostland" and "Ukraine". The
lines along which these territories were to be
constitutionally remodelled were not visible yet, but one
thing was certain: The Reich Commissioner was the highest
authority. For instance, it was he who, in the most
important measures - like the shooting of inhabitants of a
region for acts of sabotage - had the right to make the
ultimate decision. I should like to insert that in practice,
in these cases, the police had exclusive competence. The
Reich had the right to make fundamental legislation and give
overall supervision. To slightly change the well-known
remark of Benjamin Constant, the French professor of
Constitutional Law: "Le roi regne, mais il ne gouverne pas,"
one may define in the following way Rosenberg's position as
Minister for the Occupied Territories of the East: "Le
minastre gouverne, mais il ne regne pas." As in certain
dominions of the British Empire, there existed a sovereignty
of the Reich Commissioner with a central overall supervision
by the Minister for the East. Today nobody would think of
summoning the competent English minister before a tribunal
because a governor in India had allowed a native village to
be bombed and burned down.

And so I come to my conclusion that in Rosenberg's case
there exists no automatic criminal responsibility for the
non-prevention of crimes in the East, if only because,
although he had the authority of supervision, he was not
sovereign; the two Reich Commissioners had the supreme

The question must furthermore be asked and briefly examined
whether the defendant is individually guilty of the criminal
exploitation and enslavement of the nations of the East and
maybe of further crimes. What was his attitude, what were
the general lines and general trends of his policy, what did
he do positively and what did he prevent or at least try to

In the Baltic countries, national administrations
(directorates) were installed under German supervision. The
German administration was instructed by the Reich Minister
for the Occupied Territories of the East to show great
understanding for all desires which could be fulfilled and
strive for good relations with the Baltic countries; the
Baltic countries had a free legal, educational and cultural
system and were only limited with respect to questions
concerning politics, economy and the police. After the war
of 1914-1918 agrarian reform in the Baltic States was
carried out almost exclusively at the expense of the 700-
year-old German holding; Nevertheless Rosenberg, as Minister
for the East, made a law giving back to private owners the
farms which had already been made collective by the Soviet
Union since 1940, and in this restitution of the soil which
had once been taken away from German proprietors, showed the
greatest possible good will of the German Reich. This, as
well as the above-mentioned agrarian programme, has been
expressly confirmed by witness Riecke.

In the general district of White Ruthenia, independent
administration was initiated under Reich Commissioner Kube.
The "White Ruthenian Central Committee" was set up, as well
as a White Ruthenian relief system and a White

                                                  [Page 247]

Ruthenian youth organization. When a White Ruthenian youth
delegation returned from a visit to Germany, Kube said that
he would continue to act as a father to the White Ruthenian
youth; the following night he was murdered, but his policy
was not changed.

I should like to observe here in passing that the actual
Russian territories between Narva and Leningrad and around
Smolensk remained all the time under military
administration. Likewise the districts around Kharkov and
the Crimea.

As far as the Ukraine is concerned, Rosenberg intended to
give it extensive central self-administrative sovereignty as
soon as possible, similar to the directorates in the Baltic
States, and pledged to a definite advancement of the
cultural and educational needs of the people. After
Rosenberg had originally believed that he could assume that
Hitler agreed with this idea, another conception came to
prevail, namely that all forces should be directed towards
the war economy. Rosenberg only managed to achieve and carry
through one thing: the new agrarian programme of 15th
February, 1942, which provided for a transition from the
collective economy of the Soviet Union to private enterprise
and then to ownership by the farmers. On 23rd June, 1943,
the property decree was issued as a complement to this. At
first, it was not possible to carry it out because of Reich
Commissioner Koch's opposition, but then military events
brought everything to an end. A further fundamental decree
was based on a general adjustment of the school system which
Rosenberg had ordered to be worked out, because the Reich
Commissioner of the Ukraine declined to do it himself.
Rosenberg provided for elementary schools and higher
technical schools; the Reich Commissioner protested against
this. On account of the conflict which became more and more
acute between Rosenberg and Reich Commissioner Koch, Hitler,
in June, 1943, issued the following written instruction: The
Reich Commissioner had no right to make any obstructions,
but the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories
should confine himself to essential questions, and when
issuing any orders should make it possible for the Reich
Commissioner of the Ukraine to express his opinion
beforehand, which practically meant Koch's co-ordination
along with Rosenberg.

During his examination of 8th April, 1946, the witness
Lammers described Rosenberg's peculiar constitutional
position as Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern
Territories and his political position, which became
constantly weaker. I would like to emphasize the following
striking and especially important declarations made by the
witness: the authority of the Reich Minister for the
Occupied Eastern Territories was undermined by the
Wehrmacht, by Goering as Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year
Plan, by Himmler as Chief of the German Police, by Himmler
as Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German
Nationality (resettlement measures), by Sauckel as General
Plenipotentiary for Labour Mobilization, by Speer in the
field of armaments and technique and finally, through
differences of opinion, by Propaganda Minister Goebbels.

Furthermore, Rosenberg was limited by the fact that two
Reich Commissioners, Lohse and Koch, were appointed for the
Occupied Eastern Territories. The Higher SS and Police
Leader was "personally and directly" subordinated to the
Reich Commissioner, but, as Lammers has declared, in
technical respects he could not receive any orders from
Rosenberg or from the Reich Commissioner but only from

Lammers said furthermore: Rosenberg always wished to pursue
a moderate policy in the East; he was without any doubt
against a " policy of extermination " and against a " policy
of deportation ", which was widely advocated in other
quarters. He made efforts to rebuild agriculture through the
agrarian programme, to put the educational system, Church
affairs, the universities and schools in order. Rosenberg
had great difficulty in succeeding; in particular the Reich
Commissioner for the Ukraine simply did not follow
Rosenberg's orders. Rosenberg favoured setting up a certain
degree of independence in the Eastern nations; he
particularly had at heart the cultural interests of the
latter. The differences of opinion between Koch and
Rosenberg, says Lammers, could have filled volumes of files.

                                                  [Page 248]

called Rosenberg and Koch to him and decided that they
should meet each month in order to consult each other.

The witness Lammers said, quite rightly, that for Rosenberg
as the superior minister it was unendurable to have to come
to an agreement in each case with his subordinate the Reich
Commissioner. Subsequently it was shown that in spite of the
meetings they came to no agreement, and finally it was Herr
Koch who was right in the eyes of the Fuehrer. As Lammers
says, it was about the end of 1943 that Rosenberg was
received for the last time by the Fuehrer, and even before
that time he had always had great difficulties in reaching
him. There had been no more Reich Cabinet sessions since

Hitler's ideas tended more and more in the direction of
Bormann-Himmler. The East became the ground for experiment.

To this group (as is quite clear today for the first time)
it seemed hopeless to look for an understanding on the part
of Rosenberg for the development of the Reich as they wished
it. Rosenberg had no idea of the extent of the fight put up
against him. His argument with Reich Commissioner Koch, the
exponent of Himmler and Bormann, is a proof of this
ignorance, but it is also a complete proof of Rosenberg's

On 14th December, 1942, Rosenberg issued a set of
instructions to the Reich Commissioner of the Ukraine (19-
PS); his other instructions have unfortunately not been
found. In this, Rosenberg requests the administrative chiefs
to preserve decent attitudes and views; he demands justice
and human understanding for the population, which had always
seen in Germany the support of legal order (194-PS); the war
had brought terrible hardships, but every offence should be
fairly examined and judged and should not be punished too
severely. It is also inadmissible that German authorities
meet the population with expressions of contempt. One can
only show one is the master through correct attitude and
actions, not by overbearing behaviour; one's own attitude
must bring others to respect the Germans; those
administrative chiefs who have shown themselves unworthy of
their tasks, who have misused the authority they were given
and who by their pernicious behaviours have shown themselves
to be unworthy of our uniform, must be treated accordingly,
summoned before a court or removed to Germany.

Koch's reaction to such degrees is shown in his memorandum
of 16th March, 1943 (192-PS). He writes that it is an
alienating thought that not only a correct attitude must be
displayed toward the Ukrainians, but that one must even be
amiable to them and always ready to help. Furthermore,
Rosenberg demands esteem for the highly developed national
pride of the Ukrainian people and, according to Rosenberg, a
high degree of cultural self-administration is desirable for
the Ukraine; countries as big as the Ukraine cannot be kept
in permanent dependence, the Eastern campaign is a political
campaign and not an economic raid. Here Koch is speaking to
Rosenberg in a cynical manner about the climax reached in
the relations of his organization with Ukrainian emigration.

There are other decrees of Rosenberg's which are criticized
by Koch. One of these is the decree of 18th June, 1942,
concerning the acquisition by Rosenberg of Ukrainian
schoolbooks for a total of 2.3 million Reichsmarks to be
charged to the budget of the Reich Commissariat without his
previously even getting in touch with Koch. 1 million
primers, 1 million spelling charts, 200,000 school books,
300,000 language books, 200,000 arithmetic books, were to be
provided at a time when there was hardly even the most
necessary paper for German schoolchildren.

Koch goes on to say:

  "It is not necessary to point out repeatedly in the
  decrees issued by your Ministry and in long-distance
  telephonic remonstrances that any coercion in recruiting
  labourers has to cease and that the Eastern Ministry even
  demands to be informed of every instance in which
  compulsion has been used."

In a subsequent decree, Koch says he is blamed for having
caused the closing of vocational schools, and states that
Rosenberg ordered the General Commissioners to adopt a
different school policy, thereby overstepping his authority
as a Reich

                                                  [Page 249]

Commissioner. Koch then concludes with a veiled threat that
to him, a veteran Gauleiter, the way to the Fuehrer could
not be barred.

So much challenging criticism of Rosenberg, so much
unintentional praise and so much proof of the absolute
decency of his behaviour and the far-sighted and
statesmanlike direction of his office as Chief of the
Eastern Administration.

One last document in the fight of Rosenberg against Koch is
the report regarding Reich Commissioner Koch and the timber
region of Zuman of 2nd April, 1943 (Document 032-PS),
regarding which Rosenberg gave exhaustive information as a
witness. In this very matter Rosenberg displayed his
conscientiousness particularly clearly.

And now we have again to unroll another scene before our
eyes, because the prosecution attached specific importance
to it: In July, 1942, Bormann wrote a letter to Rosenberg,
Rosenberg replied, and a third party, Dr. Markull, an
associate of Rosenberg in his Ministry, wrote a commentary
regarding it. According to Dr. Markull's representation, the
content of Bormann's letter, the original of which is not
extant, was the following: the Slavs should work for us; if
of no use to us, they should die; health provisions were
superfluous; the fertility of the Slavs was undesirable,
their education dangerous; it would do if they could count
up to one hundred. Every educated person is a potential
enemy. We could leave them their religion as an outlet. AS
sustenance they should receive only the barest necessities;
we are the masters and we come first.

To that letter by the closest collaborator of Hitler there
could be only one reply by Rosenberg; feigned consent and
feigned compliance. In the inner circle of the Eastern
Ministry there arose considerable apprehensions regarding
this significant change in the attitude of its chief,
apprehensions which were expressed in Dr. Markull's
memorandum of 5th September, 1942. Rosenberg as a witness
has stated that he agreed only for the sake of pacifying
Hitler and Bormann, and there cannot exist any doubt of this
when that document is read impartially. Rosenberg wanted to
insure himself against the attack from the Fuehrer's
Headquarters which he anticipated with certainty, because he
allegedly did more for the Eastern population than for the
German people, because he required more physicians than
there were available for sick Germans, etc.

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