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 7 of 9)

[M. HERZOG continues]

[Page 409]

The Tribunal knows that International Law regulates the conditions under which prisoners of war may be forced to work. The Hague Conventions formulated rules which were clarified by the Geneva Convention in Articles 27, 31 and 32:
"ARTICLE 27:- Belligerents may use as workers healthy war prisoners, according to their rank and their attitudes, with the exception of officers and assimilated ranks. Nevertheless, if officers, or those of assimilated rank, ask for suitable work, it will be procured for them as far as possible. The non- commissioned officers who are war prisoners can be forced to

[Page 410]

work as supervisors only if they expressly request a remunerative occupation. ARTICLE 31:- The work furnished by the prisoners of war -"
THE PRESIDENT: I think we will take judicial notice of these Articles.

M. HERZOG: These rules of International Law determine positively the legal powers of the nation having prisoners of war in its custody. It is legal to force prisoners of war to work during the duration of their captivity, but this includes three legal limits:

(1) It is forbidden to require non-commissioned officers, who are prisoners, to work, unless they have expressly requested to do so.

(2) War prisoners must not be used for work which is dangerous.

(3) Prisoners must not be associated with the enemy war effort.

The National Socialist authorities systematically neglected these imperative provisions; they have exercised violent constraint on non-commissioned officers held in captivity, to force them to join labour crews. They have integrated war prisoners as workers in their factories and in the work yards, without considering the nature of the work imposed upon them. The utilisation of war prisoners by National Socialist Germany took place under illegal and criminal conditions. This I declare, and I wish to prove this to the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: We will take a recess for 10 minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

M. HERZOG: Mr. President, your Honours.

Dating from 1941, the Germans exercised direct pressure on non-commissioned officers to force them to engage in productive work for the Reich war economy. This pressure, after the failure of propaganda methods, took the form of reprisals. Non- commissioned officers who refused were the object of ill- treatment; they were sent to special camps, such as Coberczyn where they were subject to a disciplinary regime. Some incurred penal sentences because of their refusal to work. I file, as proof, the report of the Ministry of Prisoners, Deportees, and Refugees of the French Government, Document UK-78-2, which is, in my document book, RF 46. The document is in a white file. I shall read from Page 18 of the French original, Page 10 of the German translation, Page 18, at the bottom of the page:

"Work of the Non-Commissioned Officers.

On this subject the Geneva Convention was explicit: non- commissioned officers who are war prisoners cannot be subjected to work as supervisors, unless they make an express request for a remunerative occupation.

In conformity with this article a certain number of non- commissioned officers refused to work from the beginning of their captivity. The strength of imprisoned non-commissioned officers was, at the end of 1940, about 130,000, and represented later a very important source of labour for the Reich. The German authorities tried, therefore, by every means, to induce to work the greatest possible number of those refusing. To this effect, during the last months of 1941, the non-commissioned officers who did not volunteer for the work were, in most camps, subjected to an alternating regime. For a few days they were subjected to punishments such as the diminution of food rations, doing without beds, the obligation to undergo physical exercises for a number of hours, and particularly the 'pelote' (punishment drill). During another period they were promised work, in conformity with their wishes, and other material advantages, for example, special regulations of insurance, extra letter provisions and higher wages. These methods led a certain number of non-commissioned officers to accept work. The non-commissioned officers who persisted in their refusal to work, were subjected to a very severe disciplinary regime and to arduous physical exercises."

[Page 411]

The National Socialist military authorities utilised the prisoners of war for dangerous work. The French, British, Belgian and Dutch prisoners were used to transport munitions, to load bombs or planes, to repair aviation camps, and to construct fortifications. The proof of the use of prisoners of war for the transportation of munitions and for the loading of bombs on planes, is furnished by the affidavits of repatriated French prisoners of war. These affidavits have been assembled in the report of the Ministry of Prisoners, which I have just quoted, and which I shall quote again.

I now quote Page 27 of the French document, Page 14 of the German translation. It is the same document from which I have just quoted, Exhibit RF 46, Page 27:

"(b) The requisition of prisoners for the construction of fortifications and for the transport of munitions, occurs very often in the close vicinity of the line of fire.

The war prisoners, Command 274 of Stalag 2-B, complained, December, 1944, of being employed on Sundays in the construction of anti-tank trenches.

On 2nd February, 1945, the prisoners of Stalag 2-B, evacuated before the advance of the Russian Army, worked, as soon as they arrived at Sassnity, at fortification works and anti-tank works, in particular around the city.

After falling back from Stalag 3-B, the war prisoners were engaged, to the end of April, in doing ditch work, digging trenches, and in transporting aviation bombs.

Kommando 553 at Lebus was obliged to carry out work in the front lines under the fire of Russian artillery.

Numerous comrades, drawn back at Furstenwalde, were employed in loading bombs on German bombers.

In spite of their protests to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva and to the colonel commanding Stalag 3-B, about billeting in barns, very bad hygiene and insufficient food, the latter answered that he was obeying superior orders of the O.K.W., ordering the prisoners to dig trenches."

The National Socialist leaders, for that matter, admitted that they used French and British prisoners of war for military work on aerodromes exposed to allied bombardment.

I offer in proof two notes, the first addressed by the O.K.H. to the War Prisoners Section of the Wehrmacht, and the second by Wilhelmstrasse to the German representative at the Wiesbaden Armistice Commission.

The memorandum of the O.K.H., dated 7th October, 1940, constitutes Document 549. I submit it to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 47, and I read it in full:

"The protest of the French delegation shall be considered unfounded. The lodging of war prisoners in camps situated in the vicinity of aviation fields is not in contradiction to the rules of the rights of nations.

According to Articles 9 and 4 of the Convention on the Treatment of War Prisoners - of 27th July, 1929 - no prisoners of war shall be exposed to the fire of a combat zone. Combat zones in this sense must be understood as the space in which normally a battle between two armies is carried on, thus extending to a distance of about 20 kilometres from the advance line. On the other hand it is possible that the areas exposed to aerial attacks do not belong to combat zones. At this period of air war there no longer exists any sure shelter. The fact of using war prisoners for the construction of a camp and for the repairing of destroyed runways does not seem to lend itself to any controversy.

According to Article 31 of the Convention quoted here above, war prisoners must not be used in works directly related to war activity. The construction of shelters, houses, and camps is not directly a war act. It is recognised that war prisoners may be employed in the construction of roads. Accordingly their utilisation for the reconstruction of aviation camps that have been destroyed is permissible: on the roads, trucks, tanks, ammunition cars, etc. are driven, and on the aviation fields there are planes. It is all the same.

On the other hand, it would be illegal to use war prisoners in loading bombs, munitions, etc. on bombers. Here a work directly related to war activity would be involved.

By reason of the juridical situation expounded here above, the O.K.H. has rejected the idea of withdrawing French prisoners of war employed in work in the aviation camps."

I draw the attention of the Tribunal to this document. It emphasises the ill faith of the leaders of National Socialist Germany, which was two-fold: In the first place, the note of 7th October, 1940, which I have read, acknowledges that it is forbidden by International Law to use prisoners of war for the loading of bombs and ammunition on bombers. But I have just brought proof to the Tribunal that the French prisoners of war were used for this purpose. In the second place, the note of the O.K.H. contests the dangerous character of the work carried out on the aviation fields.

Now, the note of Wilhelmstrasse, to which I shall now refer, and which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 48 - this note recognises, on the contrary, that prisoners submitted to work on an aviation field incur grave danger because of the military purpose of this work.

I will read to the Tribunal a note of the German Foreign Office dated 14th February, 1941, Exhibit RF 48:

"Article 87 of the Agreement of 1929 on Prisoners of War provides that, in case of difference of opinion on the subject of the interpretation of the Agreement, the protecting powers shall offer their services to settle the dispute. To accomplish this, any protecting power may propose a meeting of representatives of the belligerent powers. In the relation between Germany and France, protecting powers no longer exist. France herself assumes the responsibilities of a protecting power in questions on prisoners of war."
I shall pass on from this quotation to Page 2 of the same document:
"As to the point in dispute, it is well to call attention to the following:

The French conception, according to which prisoners of war may not be quartered near air fields and may not be employed in repairing plane runways, cannot be based on the exact content of Articles 9 and 31; but, on the other hand, it is certain that French prisoners of war quartered and employed under these conditions are in a particularly dangerous situation, because the air fields in occupied territories are used exclusively for German military purposes and thus constitute a special objective for enemy aerial attacks.

The American Embassy in Berlin has likewise made a protest against a similar use of British prisoners of war in Germany. Thus far no answer has been made, because a rejection of this protest might result in German prisoners being employed in similar work in England."

The utilisation of war prisoners for the construction of fortifications is substantiated by Document 828-PS, which I file with the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 49. It is a letter of 29th September, 1944, addressed by the Chief of the First Army Corps to the O.K.W., to give an account of work on fortifications accomplished by eighty Belgian prisoners of war. I quote:

[Page 413]

"According to the teletype referred to, it is reported that in the territory of Stalag 1-A, Stablack, Einsatzbereich 2-213, Tilsit-Loten, near Ragnitz, there are forty Belgian prisoners of war, and in Lindbach, near Neusiedel, forty Belgian prisoners of war who were employed in fortification labour."
There remains the task of proving that Allied prisoners, forced to work in Reich armament factories, were associated with the enemy war effort. To this end I first offer Document 1206-PS. This document is a memorandum dated 11th November, 1941. It is a resum6 of a report made 7th November, 1941, to the Aviation Minister by the Reichsmarshal. The document, consequently, establishes the direct responsibility of the defendant Goering. The use of Russian war prisoners is treated in a general way in this document, but it deals also with the use of war prisoners of Western European countries. I submit this document to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 50, and I read:
"Berlin, 11th November, 1941.

Notes on statements made by the Reichsmarshal in a meeting of 7th November, 1941, in the Reich Ministry of Air.

Subject: Employment of Russian labour in the war economy."

THE PRESIDENT: Has that already been put in by the United States?


THE PRESIDENT: Then perhaps you could summarise it.

M. HERZOG: I think, Mr. President, that it was presented by the United States Prosecution. I shall, therefore, simply quote an extract, the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the first page, concerning the employment of French and Belgian war prisoners as individuals in the economy of armament. This use of war prisoners in the Reich munitions factories corresponded to a common plan. It is the result of a systematic policy. The administrative offices for labour deliberately assigned to armament factories all war prisoners who seemed capable of carrying out specialised work. I quote, in this connection, Document 3005-PS. It is a directive addressed, in 1941, by the Ministry of Labour to the Directors of Personnel Procurement concerning the respective use of French and Russian prisoners of war. The document has been submitted and commented upon by my American colleague, Mr. Dodd, shall, therefore, not read it. I simply point out that this circular deals with the employment of all French war prisoners in the armament factories of the Reich.

After the capitulation of Italy, Italian soldiers who had fallen into the hands of the Germans - they were not called prisoners of war, but rather "military internees" - were forced to work. I offer in this connection a directive of the defendant Bormann, of 28th September, 1943, Document 657- PS, which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RV 52.

The Italian military internees are placed in three categories: some ask to continue the struggle on the side of the German Army; others desire to keep a neutral attitude; others have turned their arms against their former allies. The military internees of the second and third categories must, in the terms of the circular, be forced to work. I read:

"Circular No. 55/43 G.R.S., Top secret. Concerns the treatment and putting to work of Italian military internees.

The O.K.W., in connection with the General Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labour, has regulated the treatment and the putting to work of Italian military internees. The most important general lines of the ordinances of the O.K.W. are the following."

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