The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th January to 19th January, 1946

Thirty-sixth Day: Thursday, January 17th, 1946
(Part 5 of 10)


[Page 356]

National Socialist Germany while exploiting to the fullest extent for the war effort prisoners of war as well as workers for occupied territories, against all international conventions, was at the same time seizing, by every possible means, the wealth of these countries. German authorities applied systematic pillage in these countries. By economic pillage we mean both the taking away of goods of every type and the exploitation on the spot of the national resources for the benefit of Germany's war.

This pillage was methodically organised.

The Germans began by making sure that they had in their possession, in all countries, the necessary means for payment. Thus, they ensured that they

[Page 357]

could seize, with the appearance of legality, the wealth which they coveted. After freezing the existing purchasing power, they required enormous payments under the pretext of indemnity for the maintenance of occupation troops.

It should be recalled that according to the terms of The Hague Convention, occupied countries may be obliged to assume the burden of the expenses caused by the maintenance of an army of occupation. But the amounts that were exacted under this by the Germans were only remotely related to the actual costs of occupation.

Moreover, they forced the occupied countries to accept a clearing system which operated almost entirely to the exclusive profit of Germany. Imports from Germany were almost non-existent; the goods exported to Germany by the occupied countries, were subject to no regulation.

In order to maintain for the purchasing balance thus created a considerable purchasing power, the Germans attempted everywhere to achieve the stabilisation of prices and imposed a severe rationing system. This rationing system, which left the population with a quality of inferior goods, which was less than the minimum indispensable for their existence, afforded the additional advantage of preserving for the benefit of the Germans the greatest possible portion of the production.

Thus, the Germans seized a considerable part of the stocks and of the production, as a result of operations which had the appearance of legality (requisitions, purchases made with German priority coupons, individual purchase). These transactions were completed by other operations of a clandestine character, which were carried out in violation of the official regulations imposed frequently by the Germans themselves. Thus, the Germans had created a whole organisation for black market purchases. For example, one may read in a report of the German Foreign Ministry of 4th September, 1942 that the defendant Goering had ordered that purchases on the black market should henceforth extend to goods which until then had not been included, such as household goods, and he prescribed further that all goods which could be useful to Germany should be collected, even if as a result certain signs of inflation appeared in the occupied countries.

While they were transporting to Germany the maximum quantity of goods, of every description, after requisitioning without payment, or by paying with bills which they had irregularly obtained by a simple entry in the clearing account, the Nazi leaders were at the same time trying to impose the resumption of activity in industry for the benefit of Germany's war.

German industrialists had received instructions ordering them to divide amongst themselves the enterprises in the occupied areas which had engaged in a production similar to their own. While having to carry out these orders, these industrialists were required to place such industries in occupied countries firmly under their control by means of different types of financial combinations.

The appearance of monetary legality or contractual legality could in no way hide the fact that economic looting was systematically organised contrary to the stipulations of the International Convention of The Hague. If, according to the stipulations of this Convention, Germany had the right to seize whatever was indispensable for the maintenance of the troops necessary for the occupation, all seizures in excess of these requirements undoubtedly constitute a War Crime, which brought about the economic, ruin of the occupied countries, a long-range weakening of their economic potential and of their means of subsistence, as well as the general undernourishment of the populations. Exact estimates of German transactions in the economic field cannot be formulated at this time. It would be necessary for this purpose to study in detail the activities of several countries over a period of more than four years.

[Page 358]

Nevertheless, it has been possible to bring out precisely certain facts, and to give minimum estimates of German spoliations with respect to the different occupied countries.

In Denmark, which was the first country in Western Europe to be invaded, the value of German seizures was nearly 9,000,000,000 crowns. In Norway, German spoliations exceed a total value of 20,000,000,000 crowns.

In the Netherlands, German pillage was effected to such an extent that although Holland is one of the richest countries in the world in relation to its population, it is to-day almost completely ruined, and the financial charges imposed by the occupant exceed 20,000,000,000 florins.

In Belgium, through various schemes, notably the system of occupation indemnity and clearing, the Germans seized far more than 130,000,000,000 Belgian francs of payment balances. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg also suffered important losses as a result of the action of the occupying power.

Finally, in France, the levying of taxes on means of payments reached a total of 745,000,000,000 francs. In this sum we have not included the 74,000,000,000 francs, which represents the maximum figure which Germany could legally demand for the maintenance of her army of occupation. (Moreover, the seizure of 9,500,000,000 in gold was calculated according to the rate of 1939.)

In addition to the goods settled for in the occupied countries by means of payment extorted from these countries, enormous quantities of goods of every character were purely and simply requisitioned without any indemnity, seized without any explanation, or else stolen. The occupying authorities took not only all raw materials and manufactured goods which could be useful to their war efforts, but they extended their seizures to everything that might help to procure them a credit balance in neutral countries, such as movables, jewels, luxury goods and objects of all kinds. Finally, the art treasures of the countries of Western Europe were likewise looted in the most shameful manner.

The considerable sums which Germany was able to obtain by abusing her power contrary to all the principles of International Law, without providing any compensation, enabled her to carry out, with the appearance of legality, the economic looting of France and of the other countries of Western Europe. The consequence for these countries, from the economic viewpoint, is a loss of their strength which will take long to repair.

But the most serious consequences of these practices affected the population itself. For more than four years, the people of the occupied countries were exposed to a regime of slow starvation, which resulted in an increase in the death rate, a breaking down of the physical stamina of the population and, above all, an alarming deficiency in the growth of children and adolescents.

Such practices, perpetrated and consummated systematically by the German leaders, contrary to International Law and specifically contrary to The Hague Convention, as well as contrary to the general principles of criminal law in force in all civilised nations, constitute War Crimes for which they must answer before your High Tribunal.

(A recess was taken.)

M. FRANCOIS DE MENTHON: Crimes against the physical person: arbitrary imprisonment, ill-treatment, deportations, murder committed by the Germans in the occupied countries, reached proportions beyond what could be imagined, even in the course of a world conflict which took the most odious forms.

These crimes spring directly from the Nazi doctrine and testify to the Reich leaders' absolute disregard for the human individual, to the abolition of any sense of justice or even of pity, to a total subordination of any and all human consideration on the part of the German community.

All these crimes are linked to a policy of terrorism. Such a policy permits the subjugation of occupied countries, without involving a large deployment of

[Page 359]

troops, and their submission to anything that might be demanded of them. Many of these crimes are moreover tied up with the will to exterminate.

We shall examine in succession executions of hostages, police crimes, deportations, crimes involving prisoners of war, terroristic activities against the Resistance and the massacre of the civilian population.

The execution of hostages constitutes in all countries the first act of terrorism on the part of German occupation troops. From 1940 on, the German Command, notably in France, carried out numerous executions as reprisals for any crime against the German Army.

These practices, contrary to Article 50 of The Hague Convention, which forbids collective sanctions, awaken everywhere a feeling of horror and frequently produce a result contrary to the one sought, by arousing the populations against the occupant.

The occupying authorities then attempted to legalise such criminal practices, thus seeking to have them recognised by the populations as "the right of the occupying power." Veritable "codes for hostages" were promulgated by the German military authorities.

Following the general order issued by the defendant Keitel on 16th September, 1941, Stulpnagel published in France his ordinance of 30th September, 1941. According to the terms of this ordinance, all Frenchmen held by German authorities for any reason whatsoever will be considered as hostages, as well as all Frenchmen who are in the custody of the French authorities on behalf of German organisations. The ordinance of Stulpnagel specifies:

"At the time of the burial of the bodies, burial in a common grave of a rather large number of persons in a particular cemetery must be avoided, since this would create a shrine for pilgrims, which now or later might become a centre for the stimulation of anti-German propaganda."
In the execution of this ordinance the most infamous executions of hostages were carried out.

Following the murder of two German officers, one in Nantes on 2nd October, 1941, and the other at Bordeaux a few days thereafter, the German authorities had 27 hostages shot at Chateaubriant and 21 at Nantes.

On 15th August, 1942, 96 hostages were shot at Mont- Valerien.

In September, 1942, following an assault committed against German soldiers in the Rex moving picture house in Paris, 116 hostages were shot, 46 hostages being taken from the hostage depot of the Fortress at Romainville and 70 from Bordeaux.

In reprisal for the murder of a German official of the labour front, 50 hostages were shot in Paris at the end of September, 1943.

Threats of reprisals on the families of the patriots of the Resistance are related to the same odious policy of hostages. The Kommandatur (garrison de Q) published the following notice in the "Pariser-Zeitung" of 16th July, 1942:

"Near male relatives, brothers-in-law and cousins of the agitators above the age of 18 years will be shot.

All female family members of the same degree of relationship shall be condemned to forced labour.

Children less than 18 years of age, of all above- mentioned persons, shall be sent to a house of correction."

The execution of hostages continued everywhere until the liberation, but in the last period they were no more than one additional feature in the methods of German terrorism, then grown more sweeping.

Among the crimes against persons of which the civilian populations of the occupied countries of the West were victims, those committed by the Nazi police organisations are of the most revolting.

[Page 360]

The intervention of the German police who, in spite of certain appearances, did not belong to the armies of occupation, is in itself contrary to International Law.

Their crimes, particularly hateful in the complete disregard for human dignity that they imply, were multiplied during four years throughout all the territories of the West occupied by the German forces.

True, no definite order, no detailed directive emanating directly from one of the defendants or from one of their immediate subordinates and valid for all the German police or for the police of the occupied territories of the West, has been found. But these crimes were committed by a police that was a direct expression of the National Socialist ideology and the undeniable instrument of National Socialist policy for which all the defendants carry the full and entire responsibility.

Before the considerable mass of acts, their similarity, their simultaneousness, their generalisation in time and place, no one would be able to deny that these acts are not only the individual responsibility of those who committed them here or there, but constitute as well the execution of orders from above.

The arrests took place without any of the elementary guarantees recognised in all civilised countries. On a simple, unverified denunciation, without previous investigation, and often on charges brought by persons not qualified to bring them, masses of arbitrary arrests took place in every occupied country.

During the first period of the occupation, the Germans simulated a scrupulous respect for "legality" in the matter of arrests. This legality was that introduced by Nazism in the interior of Germany and did not respect any of the traditional guarantees to which the individuals in civilised countries are entitled. But, rapidly, even this pseudo- legality was abandoned and the arrests became absolutely arbitrary.

The worst treatments were applied to arrested persons even before the guilt of the accused had been examined. The use of torture in the interrogations was almost a general rule. The tortures usually applied were beating, whipping, chaining for several days without a moment of rest for nourishment or hygienic care, immersion in ice water, drowning in a bathtub, charging the bathwater with electricity, electrification of the most sensitive parts of the body, burns at certain places on the body and the pulling out of fingernails. But, moreover, those who carried out these measures had every latitude for unleashing their instinct of cruelty and of sadism against their victims. All those facts, which were of public knowledge in the occupied countries, never led to any punishment whatsoever of their authors on the part of the responsible authorities. It even seems that the torture was more severe when an officer was present.

It is undeniable that the actions of the German police towards the prisoners were part and parcel of a long premeditated system of criminality, ordered by the chiefs of the regime and executed by the most faithful members of the National Socialist organisations.

Aside from the general use of torture on prisoners, the German police perpetrated a considerable number of murders. It is impossible to know the conditions under which many of these murders were carried out. Nevertheless, we have enough information to permit us to discover in them a new expression of the general policy of the National Socialists in the occupied countries. Often the deaths were only the result of the tortures inflicted on the prisoners, but often the murder was deliberately desired and carried out.

The crime which will undoubtedly be remembered as the most horrible among those committed by the Germans against the civilian populations of the occupied countries was that of deportation and internment in the concentration camps of Germany.

These deportations had a double aim: to secure additional labour for the benefit of the German war machine, and to eliminate from the occupied

[Page 361]

countries and progressively exterminate the elements most opposed to Germanism. They served likewise to empty prisons overcrowded with patriots and to remove the latter for good.

The deportations and the methods employed in the concentration camps were a stupefying revelation for the civilised world. Nevertheless, they also are only a natural consequence of the National Socialist doctrine, according to which man, of himself, has no value except when he is of service to the German race.

It is not possible, yet, to give exact figures. It is probable that one would be making an understatement when speaking of 250,000 for France; 6,000 for Luxembourg; 5,200 for Denmark; 5,400 for Norway; 120,000 for Holland; and 37,000 for Belgium.

The arrests were founded, now under a pretext of a political nature, now on a pretext of a racial nature. In the beginning they were individual; subsequently they took on a collective character, particularly in France from the end of 1941. Sometimes the deportation did not come until after long months of prison, but more often the arrest was made with a direct view to deportation under the system of "protective custody." Everywhere imprisonment in the country of origin was accompanied by brutality, often by tortures. Before being sent to Germany, the deportees were, in general, concentrated in an assembly camp. The formation of a convoy was often the first stage of extermination. The deportees travelled in cattle cars, 80 to 120 per car, no matter what the season. There were few convoys where no deaths occurred. In certain transports the proportion of deaths was more than 25 per cent.

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