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-Eighth Day: Saturday, January 19th, 1946
(Part 5 of 5)

[M. GERTHOFER continues]

[Page 440]

I shall have the honour of presenting in succession to the Tribunal:
(1) General remarks on the economic looting of the occupied countries of Western Europe;

(2) the special case of Denmark;

(3) that of Norway;

(4) that of Holland.

My colleague, M. Delpech, will present a fifth part covering Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. I shall have the honour of presenting to you the sixth part relating to France, and also the conclusion. Finally, M. Delpech, in a special presentation, will give you specific information on the looting of works of art in the occupied countries of Western Europe.

In the course of the presentation, we shall submit a certain number of documents. We shall quote only the passages which seem to us the most important. When the same document relates to several different questions, we shall quote those excerpts concerning each question when it is presented, indicating each time the reference in the document book, since it is impossible to make known to you all the excerpts at the same time, because of the complexity of facts.

In his speeches and in his writings, Hitler never concealed the economic aims of the aggression of which Germany was to become guilty. The theories of race and living space increased the envy of the Germans at the same time as they stimulated their belligerent instincts.

After having conquered Austria and Czechoslovakia without bloodshed, they turned against Poland, and prepared to attack the countries of Western Europe, where they hoped to find what was lacking to assure their hegemony.

This fact is revealed in particular by Document EC-606, discovered by the United States Army, which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 92. This is the minutes of a conference held by the defendant Goering on 30th January, 1940, with Lieutenant-Colonel Conrath and Director Lange of the Machine Constructing Group attending. The following is the principal passage of the minutes:

"Field Marshal Goering told me at the beginning that he had to inform me of the intentions of the Fuehrer and of the economic measures resulting therefrom.

He stated:

The Fuehrer is firmly convinced that it would be possible to bring the war to a decisive conclusion by making a great attack in the West in 1940. He assumes that Belgium, Holland and Northern France will fall into our possession; he, the Fuehrer, forms his opinion on the calculation that the industrial areas of Douai and Lens, of Luxembourg, of Longwy and Briey might, as far as raw materials are concerned, replace the deliveries from Sweden.

Therefore, the Fuehrer has decided, regardless of the future, to utilise fully our reserves of raw materials, at the expense of possible later years of war. He feels that this decision is justified, since it is supported by the view that the best stocks are not stocks of raw materials but stocks of finished war materials. Moreover, when the aerial war begins, it must be taken into account that our finishing factories may be destroyed. The

[Page 441]

Fuehrer is also of the opinion that the maximum output must be achieved in 1940, and consequently that long- range production programmes should be put aside, in order to accelerate those which can be terminated in 1940."
When the invasion of the countries of Western Europe began there was an abundance of products of every kind; but after four years of the methodical looting and the enslavement of production, these countries were ruined, and their entire population was physically weakened as the result of rigorous restrictions.

To achieve these results, the Germans used every method, particularly violence, trickery and blackmail.

The purpose of the present statement will be to specify the main spoliations ordered by the German leaders in the countries of Western Europe, and to show that they constitute, as far as these countries are concerned, War Crimes which come under the jurisdiction of the International Military Tribunal for Major War Criminals.

It is not possible to draw an exact balance sheet of the German looting and the profit derived by them as a result of the enslavement of production in the occupied countries. On the one hand, we have not enough time. On the other hand, we find ourselves faced with actual impotence, resulting from the secret nature of certain operations and the destruction of archives through acts of war, or deliberate destruction at the time of the German rout.

Nevertheless, the documents now collected and the information gathered make it possible to give a minimum estimate of the extent of spoliation. However, I shall ask the Tribunal's permission to make three preliminary remarks:

(1) The numerous acts of individual looting committed by the Germans will not be referred to in this presentation, since they come under the competence of a different jurisdiction.

(2) We shall only mention for the record the incalculable economic results of German atrocities; for instance, the financial loss experienced by the immediate relatives of breadwinners murdered, or the loss suffered by certain victims of ill-treatment, who are totally or partially, temporarily or permanently incapacitated for work; or the damage resulting from the destruction of localities or buildings for the purpose of vengeance or intimidation.

(3) Finally, gentlemen, we shall not discuss the damage resulting from purely military operations, which cannot be considered as economic results of war crimes. When damage caused by military operations is referred to, some discussion will be necessary.

With the permission of the Tribunal, I shall make a few general remarks on the economic looting of Western Europe. Economic looting is to be understood as the removal of wealth of every kind, as well as the enslavement of the production of the various countries.

To reach such results in countries which were generally highly industrialised, and where numerous stocks of manufactured products and abundant reserves of agricultural products existed, the German project was faced with real difficulties.

At first, although the Germans had used this procedure to its maximum extent, requisitions were not adequate. In fact, they had to find the opportunities for ferreting out all sorts of things, which were sometimes hidden by the inhabitants and, on the other hand, they had to maintain, for their own profit, the economic activity of these countries.

The simplest way of becoming masters of the distribution of existing products and of production was to take possession of almost all means of payment, and, if necessary, to enforce their distribution in exchange for products or services, at the same time combating the rise of prices.

Faced with starvation, the populations were thus, naturally, forced to work, directly or indirectly, for the benefit of Germany.

[Page 442]

The first part of this presentation will be divided into five chapters:

(1)Seizure of currency by the Germans;
(2)Enslavement of the production of the occupied territories;
(3)Individual purchases, which should not be confused with individual acts of looting;
(4)The black market, organised by and for the profit of Germany;
(5)Examination of the question of economic looting from the view point of International Law and in particular of The Hague Convention;

First chapter, seizure of currency by the Germans.

To have at their disposal all means of payment, the Germans used almost identical methods in the various occupied countries. First, they took two principal measures. One was the issue of paper money, by ordinance of 9th May, 1940, published in the "Verordnungsblatt fur die besetzten franzosischen Gebiete," official German gazette, which will subsequently be referred to by its official abbreviation V.O.B.I.F., which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 93; this ordinance concerned Denmark and Norway, and on 19th May, 1940, was rendered applicable to the occupied territories of Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and France. The Germans proceeded to issue bank notes of the Reichskreditkasse, which were legal tender only in the respective occupied countries.

The Germans then took a second measure: the blocking of existing currency within the occupied countries as a result of the ordinance of 10th May, 1940, published in V.O.B.I.F., Page 38, which I submit as Exhibit RF 94. In regard to Holland these ordinances are those of 24th June, 7th August, 16th August and 17th September, 1940, which have been submitted as Exhibits RF 95, 96, 97 and 98; in regard to Belgium, these ordinances are those of 17th June and 2nd July, 1940, submitted as Exhibits RF 99 and 100.

These measures, notably the issuing of paper money, left exclusively to the whim of the Germans, without any possible control on the part of the financial administration of the occupied countries, were to serve, as we shall see, as powerful means of pressure to impose the payment of enormous war tributes under the pretext of maintaining occupation troops, as well as alleged payment agreements known as "clearings," which functioned almost exclusively to the benefit of the Occupying Power.

The latter thus procured for itself, under false pretences, means of payment from which it profited by realising considerable sums for its sole benefit.

All agricultural and industrial products, raw materials, goods of every kind, or services, for which Germany apparently made regular payment by means of either notes of the Reichskreditkasse or by so-called clearing agreements, or by war tributes known as indemnities for the maintenance of occupation troops, were exacted with full knowledge that no consideration would be forthcoming. Thus we can be sure that, as a rule, such regulations were purely fictitious and were the most used fraudulent procedure to effect the economic looting of the occupied countries of Western Europe.

These questions will be examined in a more exact manner later on. I shall limit myself for the moment to pointing out to the Tribunal that, to effect the economic looting of occupied countries with their own money, it was necessary that this money should preserve an appreciable purchasing power. Therefore, the efforts of the Germans were directed toward stabilisation of prices. A severe regulation prohibiting rises in prices was subsequently promulgated by several decrees - V.O.B.I.F., Pages 8, 60 and 535, submitted as Exhibit RF 101. Nevertheless, the application of such measures could not prevent economic laws from acting. The payment of tributes, which were excessive, considering the resources of the invaded countries and the mass purchases made in these countries by the Occupying Power, could not but have as their principal result a continuous rise of prices. The leaders of the Reich

[Page 443]

were perfectly aware of the situation, and watched very attentively this rise in prices, which they were attempting to moderate.

This we know principally from the secret reports of Hemmen, President of the Armistice Commission for German economic questions; which we will discuss when we examine the particular case of France.

Chapter 2, Enslavement of the production of the occupied countries.

When the Germans invaded the countries of Western Europe, great disorder was created as the result. The population fled before the advance of the enemy. Industries were at a standstill. German troops guarded the factories and prevented anyone from entering.

I am not able to give you a list of the factories affected by this situation, since there was almost no exception.

Nevertheless, as an example, we will present to the Tribunal the original of one of the numerous posters exhibited in industrial plants in France. I submit this poster as Exhibit RF 102. It is dated Paris, 28th June, 1940. One text is in German, and the other is in French. Here is the French text:

"By an order of General Field Marshal Goering of 28th June, 1940, the Generalluftzeugmeister took possession of this factory as trustee. Only persons having special permits from the Generalluftzeugmeister, Verbindungsstelle, Paris, may enter."
Hardly had the factories been occupied by the military, when German technicians, at the heel of the troops, proceeded methodically to remove the best machines.

This is revealed by a secret report of Colonel Helder, dated December, 1940, and emanating from the Economic Section of the O.K.W., Pages 77 and 78, that the removal of thousands of machines from the occupied territories was to be organised, in violation of the terms of Article 53 of The Hague Convention.

This document is submitted as Exhibit RF 103.

On the other hand, immediately after the invasion, the working population - their resources being exhausted - naturally gravitated around these factories in the hope of securing a means of subsistence. Problems of an identical nature arose in all the occupied countries: to stop the looting of machinery, which was taking place at an alarming rate, and to keep the workers employed.

The Germans for their part forced the factories to resume work under the pretext of assuring subsistence to the population. The ordinance of 20th May, 1940, published in the V.O.B.I.F., Page 31, which we submit as Exhibit RF 104, applicable to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France, orders that work should be resumed in all stores and industries of food supply or agriculture. The same text provided for the appointment of temporary administrators, in case of absence of the directors or in other cases of emergency.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 21st January, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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