The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Hjalmar Schacht

(Part 6 of 13)

[Page 748]

(4) Plans and Preparations for Economic Controls During War. Pursuant to the unpublished Reich Defense Law secretly enacted on 21 May 1935, Schacht was appointed General Plenipotentiary for War Economy by Hitler. Under this law, Schacht was placed in complete charge of economic planning and preparation for war in peacetime, except for the direct production of armaments which was entrusted to the Ministry of War; and upon the outbreak of war, Schacht was to be the virtual economic dictator of Germany. His task was "to put all economic forces in

[Page 749]

the service of carrying on the war and to secure the life of the German people economically". In order to facilitate his task, the Ministers of Economy, Food and Agriculture, Labor, and Forestry were subordinated to him, and he was authorized "within realm of responsibility, to issue legal regulations which may deviate from existing regulations". The necessity for absolute secrecy was stressed (2261-PS).

Schacht appointed Wohlthat as his deputy General Plenipotentiary for War Economy and organized a staff to carry out his directives. Schacht has admitted that he must accept full responsibility for the actions of these subordinates (3729-PS).

Before his resignation in late 1937, Schacht had worked out in amazing detail his plans and preparations for the German economy in the forthcoming war. Recognizing that wartime controls, to be effective, must be based on adequate information, Schacht had directed the completion of comprehensive surveys of 180,000 industrial plants in Germany and had compiled statistics concerning

."*** the composition of the labor force as to sex, age, and training, the consumption of raw and auxiliary material, fuels, power, the productive capacity, the domestic and foreign trade as well as the supply of material and products in the beginning and at the end of the year." (EC-258)

On the basis of the statistical data thus collected, plans had been formulated by the end of 1937 wherein

"*** the needs of the Armed Forces and the civilian minimum needs in wartime are compared with the covering thereof by supplies and production." (EC-258)

The supervisory boards, which were briefly described above in connection with the import and export controls, were charged with "preparing their orders for the regulation of war contracts and fees", and were instructed to coordinate with various Reich manpower authorities to secure "their indispensable personnel" (EC-258).

Special measures were taken under Schacht's direction, to maintain "mobilization stocks" of coal and to assure their distribution in accordance with the wartime needs of armament factories and large consumers. Large "gasoline storage places" were constructed for use of the Wehrmacht and "gasoline stations and gasoline stores" were designated "for the first equipment of the troops in case of mobilization". Careful plans were also made for the allocation of power during war, and practice maneuvers were held

[Page 750]

in order to determine "what measures have to be taken in case places of power generation should be eliminated" (EC- 258).

Evacuation plans for the removal of war materials, agricultural products, skilled workers, and animals from military zones were worked out by the Office of the Plenipotentiary for War Economy with characteristic thoroughness. Thus, "the supplies and skilled workers in the evacuation zones" were "registered, earmarked for transportation into certain salvage areas and registered with the Wehrkreiskommandos by the field offices of evacuation and salvaging plans" (EC-25) .

Detailed plans for a system of rationing to become effective immediately upon mobilization had already been made by the end of 1937:

"The 80 million ration cards necessary for this purpose have already been printed and deposited with the Landrats, Chief Mayors, and corresponding authorities. The further distribution of the ration cards to the individual households is prepared by these authorities to take place within 24 hours after mobilization has been ordered." (EC-258)

Trusted persons whose reliability had been attested to by the Secret State Police were installed in important enterprises and charged with the execution of "measures which guarantee the maintenance of production of their enterprises in the event of mobilization". Their functions likewise extended, among other matters, to applying "for exemptions from military service" of "employees who are indispensable to their enterprise", and seeking immunity from requisition by the Wehrmacht- of all motor trucks which were needed in the enterprises to which they were assigned (EC-258).

Pursuant to directives issued by Schacht as Plenipotentiary, labor authorities of the Government ascertained "the available amount of manpower, the wartime requirements of manpower and measures for the covering of the wartime needs". The wartime needs were to be met in part "by using reserve manpower (manpower theretofore used in non-essential enterprises, women, etc.)", and by making "every change of working place and every hiring of workers dependent upon the consent of the Labor Office" (EC-258).,

The foregoing measures, it should be noted, are merely representative; they are not exhaustive. But enough appears to make it abundantly clear that Schacht's contribution, by any standard was an extraordinarily important one. Enough appears, moreover, to give particular emphasis to the following observations of

[Page 751]

the Honorable George S. Messersmith, United States Consul General in Berlin from 1930 to 1934:

"It was his [Schacht's] financial ability that enabled the Nazi regime in the early days to find the financial basis for the tremendous armament program and which made it possible to carry it through. If it had not been for his efforts, and this is not a personal observation of mine only but I believe was shared and is shared by every observer at the time, the Nazi regime would have been unable to maintain itself in power and to establish its control over Germany, much less to create the enormous war machine which was necessary for its objectives in Europe and later throughout the world.

"The increased industrial activity in Germany incident to rearmament made great imports of raw materials necessary while at the same time exports were decreasing. Yet by Schacht's resourcefulness, his complete financial ruthlessness, and his absolute cynicism, Schacht was able to maintain and to establish the situation for the Nazis. Unquestionably without this complete lending of his capacities to the Nazi Government and all of its ambitions, it would have been impossible for Hitler and the Nazis to develop an Armed Force sufficient to permit Germany to launch an aggressive war." (EC-451).

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