The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Hjalmar Schacht

(Part 4 of 13)

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(2) The New Plan. The conspirators' grandiose armament plans obviously required huge quantities of raw materials. Schacht was a proponent of the view that as much of the requisite raw materials as possible should be produced within Germany. At the same time, however, he recognized that large imports of raw materials were indispensable to the success of the conspirators' gigantic armament program. To that end, he fashioned an intricate system of controls and devices which he called the "New Plan" (Reichsgesetzblatt, 1934, I, pp. 816, 829, 864; Reichsgesetzblatt, 1935, I, p. 10).

There were three main features of the "New Plan" as devised by Schacht: (1) restriction of the demand for such foreign exchange as would be used for purposes unrelated to the conspirators' rearmament program; (2) increase of the supply of foreign exchange, as a means of paying for essential imports which could not otherwise be acquired; and (3) clearing agreements and other devices obviating the need for foreign exchange. Under the

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"New Plan", economic transactions between Germany and the outside world were no longer governed by the autonomous price mechanism; they were determined by a number of Government agencies whose primary aim was to satisfy the needs of the conspirators' military economy (EC-437).

Schacht accomplished the negative task of restricting the demand for foreign exchange

"by various measures suspending the service on Germanys foreign indebtedness, by freezing other claims of foreigners on Germany, by a stringent system of export controls and by eliminating foreign travel and other unessential foreign expenditures." (EC-437).

In order to increase the available supply of foreign exchange

"Schacht repeatedly requisitioned all existing foreign ex. change reserves of German residents, required all foreign exchange arising out of current exports and other transactions to be sold to the Reichsbank, and by developing new export markets. Exports were encouraged by direct subsidies and by accepting partial payment in German foreign bonds or in restricted Marks which could be acquired by foreign importers at a substantial discount." (EC-437).

A vast network of organizations was erected to effectuate these various measures. Suffice it for the present purposes to mention merely one of these organizations: the supervisory agencies (Ueberwachungsstellen). These agencies, which were under Schacht's control as Minister of Economics, decided whether given imports and exports were desirable; whether the quantities, prices, credit terms, and countries involved were satisfactory; and in short, whether any particular transaction advanced the conspirators' armament program. The overriding military purpose of the series of controls instituted under the "New Plan" is plainly shown in Schacht's letter of 5 August 1937 to Goering, wherein he said:

"*** The very necessity of bringing our armament up to a certain level as rapidly as possible must place in the foreground the idea of as large returns as possible in foreign exchange and therewith the greatest possible assurance of raw material supplies, through exporting." (EC-497)

There remains for consideration that aspect of the "New Plan" which involved extensive use of clearing agreements and other arrangements made by Schacht to obtain materials from abroad through the expenditure of foreign exchange. The principle of the clearing system is as follows: The importer makes a deposit

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of the purchase price in his own currency at the national clearing agency of his country, which places the same amount to the credit of the clearing agency of the exporting country. The latter institution then pays the exporter in his own currency. Thus, if trade between two countries is unequal, the clearing agency of one acquires a claim against the agency of the other. That claim, however, is satisfied only when a shift in the balance of trade gives rise to an offsetting claim.

This device was used by Schacht as a means of exploiting Germany's position as Europe's largest consumer in order to acquire essential raw materials from countries which, because of the world wide economic depression, were dependent upon the German market as an outlet for their surplus products. Speaking of his system of obtaining materials abroad without the use of foreign exchange, Schacht has stated:

"It has been shown that, in contrast to everything which classical national economy has hitherto taught, not the producer but the consumer is the ruling factor in economic life. And this thesis is somewhat connected with general social and political observations, because it establishes the fact that the number of consumers is considerably larger than the number of producers, a fact which exercises a not inconsiderable social and political pressure." (EC-611)

Schacht's clearing agreements were particularly effective in Southeastern Europe, where agricultural exports had been considerably curtailed by competition from the more extensive and efficient overseas agriculture. The success of Schacht's ruthless use of Germany's bargaining position is indicated by the fact that by August 1937, there had been imported into Germany approximately one half billion Reichsmarks of goods in excess of the amount delivered under the clearing arrangements. In his letter to Goering dated 5 August 1937, Schacht stated:

"*** in clearing transactions with countries furnishing raw materials and food products we have bought in excess of the goods we were able to deliver to these countries (namely, Southeastern Europe and Turkey) roughly one half billion RM ***." (EC-497)

Thus, through this device, Schacht was able to extract huge loans from foreign countries which Germany could not have obtained through ordinary channels. The device as developed by Schacht was subsequently used during the war as a means of systematically exploiting the occupied countries of Western Europe.

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In addition to the clearing agreements, Schacht devised the system which came to be known as the "aski" accounts. This scheme likewise obviated the need for free currency (i.e. Reichsmarks freely convertible into foreign currency at the official rate-U. S. dollars, pounds sterling, etc). The system worked as follows: The German foreign exchange control administration would authorize imports of goods in specified quantities and categories on the condition that the foreign sellers agreed to accept -payment in the form of Mark credits to accounts of a special type held in German banks. These accounts were called "aski", an abbreviation of Auslander Sonderkonten fuer Inlandszahlungen (foreigners' special accounts for inland payments). The so-called "aski" Marks in such an account could be used to purchase German goods only for export to the country of the holder of the account; they could not be converted into foreign currency at the official rates of exchange. Each group of "aski" accounts formed a separate "island of exchange" in which the German authorities, under Schacht's leadership, could apply their control as the country's bargaining position in each case seemed to warrant.

Schacht's ingenious devices were eminently successful. They admirably served the conspirators' need of obtaining materials which were necessary to create and maintain their war machine. On this point, Schacht has stated:

"The success of the New Plan can be proved by means of a few figures. Calculated according to quantity, the import of finished products was throttled by 63 percent between 1934 and 1937. On the other hand, the import of ores was increased by 132 percent, of petroleum by 116, of grain by 12 and of rubber by 71 percent."

"These figures show how much the New Plan contributed to the execution of the armament program as well as to the securing of our food." (EC-611 )

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