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-Seventh Day: Friday, January 18th, 1946
(Part 6 of 9)

[M. HERZOG continues]

[Page 405]

I refer especially to his letters of 3rd March, 1942, and 15th May, 1942, which constitute Exhibits RF 39 and 40. I read first to the Tribunal the letter of 15th May, which is RF 40:
"Paris, 15th May, 1942.

Purpose: The Recruiting of French Labour for Germany.

As the result of the conversations of 24th January, 1942, and after repeated appeals, the first draft of declarations of the French Government concerning recruiting was presented on the 27th; on the German side it was accepted with slight modifications and in written form on 3rd March, on the condition that attention should be directed, at the time of its transmission to the organisational committees, to the fact that the French Government approved expressly the acceptance of labour in Germany.

On 19th March it was recalled that a draft for a memorandum to the organisation committees should be submitted. The draft was afterwards submitted on 27th March. On the 30th March a proposal for modification was delivered to M. Terray, who should take it up with M. Bichelonne."

I omit the two following paragraphs, and I will read the last paragraph:
"Although no reason appears which explains the unaccustomed and incomprehensible delay, the draft was not presented until this day. More than two months having passed since the first request for the presentation

[Page 406]

of the memorandum, it is requested that this document be edited anew and presented on 19th May.

For the Military Commandant, Chief of the Administrative Staff.

Signed: Michel."

The Tribunal undoubtedly has observed that Dr. Michel demanded not only the circulation of a public declaration, but also required that the text of this statement be officially transmitted to the organisational committees. The pressure which occupation authorities put upon French industrial enterprises, to stimulate them to facilitate the departure of their workers to Germany, was brought about in fact through the medium of the organisational committees. The German offices for labour acted directly upon the organisational committees. They ordered conferences, in the course of which they dictated their will to the leaders of these committees. They also required that the organisational committees be informed of all the measures which the French authorities were led to take.

The committees might then be associated with these measures in the interests of German policy. The correspondence of Dr. Michel offers numerous examples of the constant efforts of the German authorities to act upon the organisational committees.

I have just offered an example of this to the Tribunal in the document which I read. I now offer another one. In 1941 the Germans requested especially that circulars, especially the directive of 29th March, 1942, addressed to the Prefects, regarding the recruiting of labourers for Germany, should be officially transmitted to the organisational committees. The occupation authorities obtained satisfaction through a circular of 25th April, which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 41.

But the terms of this circular did not receive the approval of the German authorities, and on 28th May, 1941, Dr. Michel protested in violent terms to the General Delegate for Franco-German Economic Relations. This protest constitutes Document 522 in the French Archives. I submit it to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 42, and I shall read:

"Paris, 28th May, 1941.
Purpose: Recruiting of Workers for Germany.
Reference: Your letter No. 192 of 29th April, 1941.

From your explanations I gather that even before my letter of the 23rd April was received, a circular for the organisational committees had been drafted and sent on 25th April.

This circular, nevertheless, does not seem to me adequate to support, in an efficacious manner, the recruiting of workers carried out by Germany. That is why I consider that it is necessary that, in another directive, attention may be drawn to the points which were particularly mentioned by me on 23rd April, and request that you submit to me as soon as possible the appropriate draft.

On the German side an impressive contribution toward the creating of a favourable atmosphere has been made by means of the intended release of an additional large number of prisoners of war, which was considered by you at the time of our conversation of 24th May as a necessary condition for the success of a reinforced recruiting of workers for Germany.

I therefore am probably not wrong in expecting that you will send to the economic organisations a communication so designed that the attitude of waiting, maintained by French economy up to now, will develop also, in the field of the release of labour, into a constructive co- operation. I then expect that you will submit to me your proposals with all possible promptness."

[Page 407]

And, finally, the German Services placed direct pressure upon the workers themselves.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you reading from the document now?

M. HERZOG: No. I am resuming the text of the brief.

Moral pressure at first, the "operation de la releve" (prisoner exchange plan), tried in France in the Spring of 1942, is characteristic. The occupation authorities promised to compensate for the sending of French workers to Germany by a liberation of prisoners of war. The return of a prisoner was to take place upon the departure of a worker. This promise was fallacious, and reality was quite different.

I quote in this connection the report on compulsory labour and the deportation of workers, which I submitted this morning to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 42.

I quote Page 51, both in the French original and in the German translation. In the French original it is the third paragraph of Page 51 and in the German translation the first paragraph:

"If the Press, inspired by the occupying power, pretends in its commentaries to applaud the replacement plan of one prisoner for one worker, it is undoubtedly done upon order and based on calculation. Also this is the case, it seems, because until 20th June, 1942, two days before the speech cited before" - it was a speech of the chief of the de facto government of France - "it was indeed this proportion which the Germans Michel and Ritter had pretended to accept in their reports to the French administrative services.

The proportion, in fact, of one to five, appears to have been a last minute surprise of which the Press never spoke."

Here I end my quotation.

The pressure of which foreign workers were the victims was also a material pressure. I said that the fiction of voluntary enrolment could not hold water in view of the arrests. I wish to submit a document to the Tribunal which furnished a characteristic example of the German mentality and of the methods utilised by the National Socialist administrations. This is a document which in the French Archives is No. 527, which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 43. This is a letter from the delegate of the Reich Labour Minister in the French department of Pas de Calais. This official enjoins a young French workman to depart for Germany as a free agent, under threat of unfavourable consequences. I read the document; this is Exhibit RF 43, third page:


The 26th of March last, in Marquise, I ordered, you to go to work in Germany in your profession. You were to leave with the convoy of the 1st of April for Germany. You took no notice of this summons. I warn you that you must present yourself, furnished with your baggage, next Monday, 28th April, before 19.00 hours, at 51, Rue de la Pomme d'Or in Calais. I call your attention to the fact that you leave for Germany as a free worker, that you will work there under the same conditions, and that you will earn there the same wages as German workers.

In the event of your not presenting yourself, I must tell you that unfavourable consequences may very well follow.

Delegate for the Labour Ministry of the Reich:

Signed: Hannerann."

The proof of the constraint which the German authorities exercised on the workers of the occupied territories, to bring about their allegedly voluntary enrolment, may be continued. The National Socialist authorities did not merely impose labour contracts tainted with violence on foreign workers. They themselves deliberately failed to honour these contracts.

[Page 408]

I find proof of this in the fact that they unilaterally prolonged the duration of the enrolments made by foreign workers. This proof is based on several documents. Some ordinances were issued by the defendant Goering in his capacity as Delegate for the Four Year Plan, others by the defendant Sauckel.

I now call the attention of the Tribunal to an order of Sauckel's, dated 22nd March, 1943, which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 44. It is an extract from the volume of decrees, Vol. V, Page 203:

"Extension of work contracts, fixed for a period of time, of foreign workers, who during the time of their contract have absented themselves from their work without proper excuse.

The General Plenipotentiary for Employment of Labour decrees: 'The regular carrying out of the clauses of a contract for a fixed period of time, concluded by a foreign worker, necessitates that the worker should put all his energy at the disposal of the enterprise for the whole duration of the contract.

Nevertheless, it happens that foreign workers, as the result of slackness, delay in their return to work from visits to their homes' - and I draw the Tribunal's attention to the following words - 'serving of prison terms, internment in a camp of correction ..."

THE PRESIDENT: Will you read that again?


"The regular carrying out of the clauses of a contract for a fixed period of time concluded by a foreign worker, necessitates that the worker should put all his energy at the disposal of the enterprise for the whole duration of the contract. Nevertheless, it happens that foreign workers as a result of idleness, delay in their return to work from visits to their homes, serving of prison terms, internment in a camp of correction, or for other reasons, remain absent from their work without just cause, for a longer or shorter period of time. In such cases the foreign workers cannot be authorised to return to their country when the period of time, for which they agreed to work voluntarily in Germany, has elapsed.

Such a procedure would not correspond to the spirit of a work contract for a fixed period of time, whose object is not only the presence of the foreign worker, but also the work accomplished by him."

Kept by force in the German factories which they had entered under force, the foreign workers were neither voluntary nor free workers. The expose of the methods of German recruiting will suffice to show the Tribunal the fictitious character of the voluntary enrolment, on which it was supposed to be based. The foreign workers who agreed to work in the factories of the National Socialist war industry did not act through free will. Their number, however, remained limited. The workers of the occupied territories had the physical courage, the ethical courage, to resist German pressure. This is proved in an admission of the defendant Sauckel, which I take from the minutes of the meeting of 3rd March, 1944, of the conference of the Four Year Plan.

This is from an extract which has already been read by my American colleague, Mr. Dodd, so I will not read it again to the Tribunal. I merely wish to recall that the defendant Sauckel admitted that, out of five million foreign workers who came to Germany, there were not even two hundred thousand who came voluntarily. The resistance of the foreign workers surprised the defendant Sauckel as much as it irritated him. One day he expressed his surprise to a German general, who replied:

"Our difficulties come from the fact that you address yourself to patriots who do not share our ideals."
Indeed, only force could constrain the patriots of the occupied territories to work on behalf of the enemy. The National Socialist authorities resorted to force.

[Page 409]

The Germans had, from the first, the possibility of imposing their policy of force on that kind of labour whose particular status guaranteed recruitment and apparent submission: the prisoners of war.

From 1940 on, the German military authorities organised labour Commandos in prison camps. They constantly increased the importance of these Commandos, who were put at the disposal of agricultural economy and the war industry.

The importance of the work required from war prisoners is substantiated by the Report on Forced Labour and the Deportation of Workers which I have filed with the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 22. We find on Page 68 of the French and German texts the following estimates:

There were, at the end of 1942, 1,036,319 French prisoners of war in Germany, 987,687 had been assigned to the work Commandos. Only the surplus, that is, 48,632 prisoners, remained unemployed.

The utilisation of prisoners of war in German factories does not constitute a distinct phenomenon which can be disassociated from the general plan for the recruiting of foreign workers; it is, on the contrary, an integral part of this plan.

The National Socialists have always considered that the obligation to work applied as much to war prisoners as to the civilian workers of the occupied territories. They have on many occasions expressed such a belief. I refer especially to two documents.

The first is the decree of the appointment of the defendant Sauckel, which I have filed with the Tribunal at the beginning of my explanatory remarks.

The second document to which I wish to draw the attention of the Tribunal is the tenth decree of Sauckel, which I submitted sometime ago as Exhibit RF 17. This decree formulates the principle of the obligation to work and applies to war prisoners, according to the terms of its Article 8.

Finally, Sauckel had, in another document, affirmed that the prisoners of war were to be subject to work to the same degree as civilian workers. This is found in the letter which he wrote to the defendant Rosenberg on 24th April, 1942, some days after his appointment, to explain his project to the latter. This is Document 016-PS, which my American colleague, Mr. Dodd, has already submitted to the Tribunal. I present it as Exhibit RF 45. I shall not read from it, but I call to mind that on Page 11 of the German text the problem of compulsory labour is treated in the general heading, entitled: "Prisoners of War and Foreign Workers."

These documents bring a double proof to the Tribunal. First of all, they reveal the willingness of the National Socialists to force prisoners to work on behalf of the German war economy, within the general frame of their recruiting policy. In the second place, these documents establish that the utilisation of prisoners of war was not undertaken only by military authorities; this utilisation was ordered and systematised by a civilian organisation, that of the Arbeitseinsatz. As well as the responsibility of the defendants Sauckel and Keitel, it entails also that of the German leaders who conducted the labour policy: the defendant Sauckel, the defendant Speer, and the defendant Goering.

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