The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter XIII
Germanization & Spoliation
The Occupied Western Countries
(Part 2 of 9)

B. The Foodstuffs, Raw Materials and Equipment Delivered to Germany were Obtained by Compelling the Nationals of the Conquered Countries to Produce and Distribute in Accordance with German War Requirements, by Seizure and Requisition, and by Purchases Financed with Funds Exacted from the Occupied Countries and Their Nationals.

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(1) Much of the material and equipment removed to Germany was obtained by seizure, requisition, and confiscation of private property. During the first phase of the occupation, the Nazis systematically removed to the Reich almost all available supplies to satisfy the immediate German requirements. This phase, according to the German Military Commander's description of the practice in France, was one of "stripping" occupied areas of "foodstuffs, raw materials and machinery", leaving only enough to secure the "bare subsistence" of the population (EC-614). In the words of the report of the Wi-Rue Staff in France:

"In this period the legal concepts of the Hague Regulations regarding Land Warfare are not yet strictly observed. The main purpose is to get out of France through seizure BeschIagnahme or purchase at infinitesimal prices the materials of use for the German armament." (EC-422)

By order of the German High Command, booty was defined to include not merely public property but "beyond the Hague Regulations on Land Warfare," also "privately owned finished and semi-finished products if they were manufactured in fulfillment of an order of the French armed forces" (EC- 422). At the same time, payments made by the French armed forces on account of war material orders were likewise treated as war booty. Even goods in transit were arbitrarily placed in this category (EC-422). Machinery and equipment affixed to the realty were seized and shipped to Germany in wilful disregard of the limitations of the Hague Regulations authorizing seizure only of chattels. (EC-84)

The "stripping phase" of Nazi spoliation was relatively short-lived. Decision was soon reached to utilize at-least part of the industrial capacity of the occupied areas to relieve the burden on the armament plants in Germany (EC- 620). Throughout the period of occupation, however, the Nazis continued the seizure and requisition of machinery and certain raw materials in short supply in the Reich. From December, 1942, to the end of the occupation, for example, 242 German demands for Belgian machinery were met, of which 110 were fulfilled by requisitions (ECH-10). In 79 instances the requisitioned equipment was shipped to Germany. (ECH-10)

Support for such requisitions was found in an order of the Military Commander of Belgium of 6 August 1942. This order was explained as embodying the "modern" German view that, as "total war is no longer limited in space but has become a struggle of peoples and nations against each other," requisitions under Article 52 of the Hague Regulations should no longer be

[Page 1056]

limited to the "needs of the occupying forces" but may also be used in the "general interest of the German war effort"; and that requisitioned articles may be used not only in the territory in which they were obtained but also "in other territories in the sphere of the occupying power." (ECH-10)

In April 1941, Goering ordered the removal of church bells in France "which represent the most important and last reserve of copper and tin," stressing that "no church bells would be removed in Germany before all bells had been removed in France" (EC-323). In 1943, after the removal of church bells from the other occupied countries and even from the Reich, Hitler ordered their removal from Belgium (ECH- 11). The Belgians protested, invoking the Hague Regulations, and refused an offer to buy; thereupon the Germans requisitioned the bells against receipt. (ECH-11)

By circular letter, dated 23 June 1943, Speer ordered that scientific instruments and apparatus be taken out of the laboratories and research institutes in the occupied Western countries, directing that applications for instruments be made through channels and that the requisitions be made by the Military Government. (ECH-14)

In many cases, representatives of German scientific institutions sought to acquire scientific instruments in order to modernize their own installations, appearing in Army uniforms to give the impression that the requisition was a military measure (ECH-15). The Military Government of Belgium decided that Articles 52 and 56 of the Hague Regulations were inapplicable because the Allies had destroyed a number of German scientific installations in the Reich through bombing, which therefore had to be replaced from the occupied territories, and that "in a total war, no consideration could be given to the cited articles of the Hague Regulations". (ECH-16)

As part of the design to supply the armament industry in Germany with material from the occupied Western territories, a program for the removal of copper and lead from transmission installations of power distribution plants in the occupied Western countries was instituted by a decree of Speer dated 31 May 1943 (EC-101). The plan contemplated from the outset that the transmission of facilities would not be restored (as required by the second paragraph of Article 53 of the Hague Regulations) but that an equivalent amount of metal would be returned after the war. (EC-101)

(2) The Nazis purchased war materials and consumer goods

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in the regular and black markets for shipment to the Reich, all with funds exacted from the occupied countries. Following the initial "stripping" phase of the occupation, the Nazis promptly instituted an extensive "buying-out" program (061-PS) with the object of procuring not merely materials required for the German war effort, but to obtain also consumer goods, including luxury items, for the civilian population of Germany (EC-485).

No limitations, legal or moral, were observed in the execution of this program. Supplies which could not be obtained through normal channels were purchased on the black market. The disastrous effects of competition among various German agents led the central occupational authorities in Belgium, France, and Holland to take over black market operation directly (1765-PS). On 13 June 1942, by order of Goering, Col. Veltjens was appointed to direct black market purchases in all occupied territories and a new agency, the so-called UEWA, was placed at his disposal. (ECH-7)

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