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 7 of 10)


[Page 365]

As a consequence of such a doctrine, the upsetting of the human status appears to be not only a means to which one has recourse in the presence of temporary opportunities, such as those arising from war, but also an aim both necessary and desirable. The Nazis propose to classify mankind in three main categories: that of their adversaries, or persons whom they consider inadaptable to their peculiar constructions - this category can be bullied in all sorts of ways and even destroyed; that of higher man, which they claim is distinguishable by his blood or by some arbitrary means; that of inferior man, which does not deserve destruction and whose vital power should be used in a regime of slavery for the well-being of the "overlords," the masters.

The Nazi leaders proposed to apply this conception wherever they could, in territories more and more extended, to populations ever more numerous, and, in addition, they demonstrated a frightful ambition to succeed in imposing it on intelligent people, to convince their victims and to demand from them, in addition to so many sacrifices, an act of faith. The Nazi war is a war of fanatic religion in which one can exterminate infidels and equally as well impose conversion upon them. It should further be noted that the Nazis aggravated the excesses of those horrible times, for in a religious war converted adversaries were received like brothers, whereas the Nazis never gave their pitiable victims the chance of saving themselves, even by the most complete recantation.

It is by virtue of these conceptions that the Germans undertook the Germanisation of occupied territories, and had, without doubt, the intention

[Page 366]

of undertaking to Germanise the whole world. This Germanisation can be distinguished from the ancient theories of Pan-Germanism in so far as it is both a Nazification and an actual return to barbarism.

Racialism classifies occupied nations into two main categories; Germanisation means for some a National Socialist assimilation, and for others disappearance or slavery. For human beings of the so-called "higher race," the most favoured condition assigned to them comprises the falling-in with the new concepts of the Germanic community. For human beings of the so-called "inferior race" it was proposed either to abolish all rights while waiting or preparing their physical destruction, or to assign them to servitude. For both, racialism means acceptance of the Nazi myths.

This twofold programme of absolute Germanisation was not carried out in its entirety nor in all the occupied countries. The Germans had conceived it as a lengthy piece of work which they intended to carry out gradually, by a series of successive measures. This progressive approach is always characteristic of the Nazi method. It fits in apparently, both with the variety of obstacles encountered, with the hypocritical desire of sparing public opinion, and with a horrid lust for experimenting and scientific ostentation.

When the countries were liberated, the state of the Germanisation varied a great deal according to the different countries, and in each country according to such and such category of the population. At times the method was driven on to its extreme consequences; elsewhere, one only discovers signs of preparatory arrangements. But it is easy to note everywhere the trend of the same evil, interrupted at different moments in its development, but everywhere directed by the same inexorable movement.

As regards national status, the Germans proceeded to an annexation pure and simple in Luxembourg, in the Belgian cantons of Eupen and of Malmedy, and in the French departments of Alsace and of Lorraine. Here the criminal undertaking consisted both in the abolition of the sovereignty of the State, natural protector of its nationals, and in the abolition for those nationals of the status they had as citizens of this State, a status recognised by domestic and International Law.

The inhabitants of these territories thereby lost their original nationality, ceasing to be Luxembourgers, Belgians or French. They did not acquire, however, full German nationality; they were admitted only gradually to this singular favour, on the further condition that they furnish certain justifications therefor.

The Germans sought to efface in them even the memory of their former country. In Alsace and in Moselle the French language was banned; names of places and of people were Germanised.

New citizens or mere subjects were equally subjected to the obligations, relating to the Nazi regime: to forced labour, as a matter of course, and soon to military conscription. In case of resistance to these unjust and abominable orders - since it was a matter of arming the French against their allies and in reality against their own country - sanctions were brought to bear, not only against the parties concerned, but even against the members of their families, following the theses of Nazi law, which brushes aside the fundamental principles of law against repression.

Persons who appeared recalcitrant to Nazification, or even those who seemed of little use to Nazi enterprises, became victims of large-scale expulsions, driven from their homes in a few short hours with the scantiest of baggage, and despoiled of their property.

Yet this inhuman evacuation of entire populations, which will remain one of the horrors of our century, appears as favourable treatment when compared to the deportations which were to fill the concentration camps, in particular the Stuthoff camp in Alsace.

[Page 367]

At the same time that they oppressed the population by force and in contravention of all law, the Nazis undertook, according to their method, to convince the people of the excellence of their regime. The young people especially were to be educated in the spirit of National Socialism.

The Germans did not proceed to the annexation, properly speaking, of other areas than those we have named; it is beyond doubt, however, and confirmed by numerous indications, that they proposed to annex territories much more important by applying to them the same regime, if the war had ended in a German victory. But everywhere they prepared for the abolition or the weakening of the national status by debarring or damaging the sovereignty of the State involved, and by forcing the destruction of patriotic feelings.

In all the occupied countries, whether or not there existed an apparent governmental authority, the Germans systematically disregarded the laws of occupation. They legislated, regulated, administered. Besides the territories annexed outright, the other occupied territories also were in a state that might be defined as a state of pre- annexation.

This leads to a second aspect, which is the attack on spiritual security. Everywhere, although with variation in time and space, the Germans applied themselves to abolishing the public freedoms, notably the freedom of association, the freedom of the Press; and they endeavoured to trammel the essential freedoms of the spirit.

The German authorities subordinated the Press to the strictest censorship, even in matters devoid of military character, a Press, many of whose representatives, moreover, were inspired by them. Manifold restrictions were imposed on industry and on the moving picture business. Numerous works altogether without political character were banned, even textbooks: Religious authorities, themselves, saw their clerical realm invaded, and words of truth could not be heard.

After having curtailed freedom of expression even beyond the degree that a state of war and occupation have justified, the Germans developed their National Socialist propaganda systematically through the Press, radio, film, meetings, books and posters.

All these efforts achieved so little result that one might attempt to-day to minimise their importance. Nevertheless, the propaganda conducted by means most contrary to the respect due to human intelligence, and on behalf of a criminal doctrine, must go down in history as one of the disgraces of the National Socialist regime.

No less did the Germanisation programme compromise human rights in the other broad aspects that we have defined: right of the family, right of professional and economic activity, juridical guarantees. These rights were attacked, these guarantees were curtailed.

The forced labour and the deportations infringed the rights of the family, as well as the rights of labour. The arbitrary arrests suppressed the most elementary legal guarantees. In addition, the Germans tried to impose their own methods on the administrative authorities of the occupied countries and sometimes, unfortunately, succeeded in their attempts.

It is also known that racial discriminations were provoked against citizens of the occupied countries who were catalogued as Jews, measures particularly hateful, damaging to their personal rights and to their human dignity.

All these criminal acts were committed in violation of the rules of international Law and, in particular, of The Hague Convention, which limits the rights of armies occupying a territory.

The fight of the Nazis against the human status completes the tragic and monstrous totality of war criminality of Nazi Germany, by placing her under the banner of the abasement of man, deliberately brought about by the National

[Page 368]

Socialist doctrine. This gives it its true character of a systematic undertaking of a return to barbarism.

Such are the crimes which National Socialist Germany committed while waging the war of aggression that she launched. The martyred peoples appeal to the justice of civilised nations and request your High Tribunal to condemn the National Socialist Reich in the person of its surviving chiefs.

Let the defendants not be astonished at the charges brought against them, and let them not dispute at all this principle of retroactivity, the permanence of which was guaranteed, against their wishes, by democratic legislation. War crimes are defined by International Law and by the national law of all modern civilisations. The defendants knew that acts of violence against the persons and property and human status of enemy nationals were crimes for which they would have to answer before international justice.

The Governments of the United Nations have addressed many a warning to them since the beginning of the hostilities.

On 25th October, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, announced that the war criminals would not escape just punishment:

"The massacres of France," said Churchill, "are an example of what Hitler's Nazis are doing in many other countries under their yoke. The atrocities committed in Poland, Yugoslavia, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and particularly behind the German front in Russia, exceed anything that has been known since the darkest and most bestial ages of humanity. The punishment of these crimes should now be counted among the major goals of the war."
During the autumn of 1941, the representatives of the governments of the occupied countries met in London upon the initiative of the Polish and Czech Governments. They worked out an Inter-Allied declaration which was signed on 13th January, 1942. May I remind the Tribunal of its terms:
"The undersigned, representing the Governments of Belgium, of Czechoslovakia, the National Committee of Free France, the Governments of Greece, of Luxembourg, of the Netherlands, of Poland and of Yugoslavia;

Whereas Germany, from the beginning of the present conflict, which was provoked by her policy of aggression, set up in the occupied countries a regime of terror characterised, among other things, by imprisonment, mass expulsions, massacres, and execution of hostages;

Whereas these acts of violence are committed equally by the allies and associates of the Reich, and in certain countries by citizens collaborating with the occupying power;

Whereas international solidarity is necessary in order to prevent these deeds of violence from giving rise to acts of individual or collective violence, and finally in order to satisfy the spirit of justice in the civilised world;

Recalling to mind that International Law and, in particular, The Hague Convention signed in 1907,conceming the laws and customs of land warfare, do not permit belligerents to commit acts of violence against civilians in occupied countries, or to violate laws which are in force or to overthrow national institutions;

Affirming that acts of violence thus committed against civilian populations have nothing in common with the conceptions of an act of war or a political crime as this is understood by civilised nations;

Taking note of the declarations made in this respect on 25th October, 1941, by the President of the United States of America and the British Prime Minister;

Placing among their chief war aims, the punishment by means of organised justice of those guilty of, or responsible for, these crimes, whether they ordered, perpetrated, or shared in them;

[Page 369]

Having decided to see to it in a spirit of international solidarity that:

(a) those guilty or responsible, whatever their responsibility, shall be sought out, brought to justice, and be judged;
(b) that the sentences pronounced shall be executed;

In faith of which, the undersigned, being duly authorised, to this effect have signed this declaration."

The leaders of National Socialist Germany received other warnings. I refer to the speech of General de Gaulle of 13th January, 1942; that of Churchill on 8th September, 1942; the note of M. Molotov, Commissar of the People for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, of 14th October, 1942; and the second Inter-Allied declaration of 17th December, 1942. The latter was made simultaneously in London, Moscow and Washington after receipt of information according to which the German authorities were engaged in exterminating the Jewish minorities in Europe. In this declaration, the Governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and the French National Committee, which represented the continuation of France, solemnly reaffirmed their will to punish the war criminals who are responsible for this extermination.

(A recess was taken.)

M. DE MENTHON: The premises for a just punishment arc thus fulfilled. The defendants, at the time when they committed their crimes, knew the will of the United Nations to bring about their punishment. The warnings which were given to them contain a definition which precedes the punishment.

The defendants, moreover, could not be ignorant of the criminal nature of their activities. The warnings of these Allied Governments in effect translated in a political form the fundamental principles of International Law and of national law which permit the punishment of war criminals to be established on positive precedents and positive rules.

The creators of International Law had a presentiment of the concept of war crime, particularly Grotius who elucidated the criminal character of needless acts of war. The Hague Conventions, after the lapse of several centuries, established the first generally binding standards for laws of war. They regulated the conduct of hostilities and occupation procedures; they formulated positive rules in order to limit recourse to force and to bring the necessities of war into agreement with the requirements of human conscience. War Crimes thus received the first definition under which they may be considered; they became a violation of laws and customs of war as codified by The Hague Convention.

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