The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
21st January to 1st February, 1946

Thirty-Ninth Day: Monday, 21st January, 1946
(Part 1 of 9)

[Page 1]



M. GERTHOFFER: Mr. President, Your Honours: At the end of the last session I had the honour of beginning the account of the French prosecution on the economic pillage. In the first chapter I had indicated to you succinctly, how the Germans had become masters of the means of payment in the occupied countries, by imposing war tributes under the pretext of maintaining their Army of Occupation, and by imposing so-called clearing accords, functioning to their benefit almost exclusively.

In a second chapter, entitled "Subjection of Productivity in the Occupied Territories," I had the honour of expounding to you that, after the invasion, the factories were under military guard and that German technicians proceeded to transfer the best machinery to the Reich; that the working population, having come to the end of their resources, grouped themselves around the factories to ask for subsidies; and, finally, that the Germans had ordered the resumption of work and had reserved for themselves the right to designate provisional administrators to direct the enterprises.

At the same time, the Germans exercised pressure over the rulers of the occupied countries and over the industrialists, to bring the factories back to productivity.

In certain cases they themselves placed provisional German administrators in charge, and insinuated that the factories would be utilised for the needs of the occupied populations.

On the whole, to avoid unemployment and to maintain their means of production, the industrialists, little by little, resumed their work; trying to specialise in the manufacture of objects destined for the civilian population.

Resorting to various means of pressure, the Germans imposed the manufacture of defensive and then, progressively, of offensive armaments. They requisitioned certain enterprises, shut down those which they did not consider essential, themselves distributed raw materials and placed controllers in the factories.

The German control and seizure continually expanded in conformity with secret directives given by the defendant Goering himself, as can be seen in a document dated 2 August 1940, discovered by the Army of the United States, which bears the number EC-137 and which I place before the Tribunal under Exhibit RF 105. This is the essential passage of the document:

"The extension of the German influence over foreign enterprises is an objective of German political economy. It is not yet possible to determine whether and to what extent the, Peace Treaty will effect the yielding of shares. It is essential, however, to exploit at once every opportunity to allow German economy, in time of war, to obtain access to interesting objectives of the economy of occupied territories, and to prevent any movement of capital which might hinder the realisation of the above-mentioned objective."
After becoming acquainted with such a document, no further doubt is possible as to the intentions of the German rulers. The proof of the putting

[Page 2]

into execution of such a plan is clear from a German document, which will be read when the particular case of France is called upon in the course of this expose.

The Tribunal will be able to study Michel, the Chief of the Administrative General Staff on Economic Questions, connected with the German military command in France, who exposes the extent of the dictatorship of the Reich over the occupied countries in economic matters. The control of the enterprises in occupied countries was assured by civil or military officials who were on the spot, and also, later, by similar German enterprises which had become their Paten- Firma or home establishment.

To give an example of this economic domination here are the orders received by an important French company. This is the Thomson-Houston house, and I present a letter to the Tribunal under Number 106 in the French documentation, which is addressed to this establishment. It is dated Paris, 8 October 1943, to Societe des Procedes Thomson-Houston, 173 Boulevard Haussmann:

"You are fully responsible for the punctual execution and carrying out of the German orders which are passed to you, as well as towards the person giving the orders in my office, which is the establishment responsible for all orders given to France.

To facilitate for you the execution of your obligations, the firm: Allgemeine Elektricitaets Gesellschaft, Berlin, NW40, Friederich Karl Ufer 2-4, is designated by me as the Paten-Firma. I attach the greatest importance to your working in a close comradeship on the technical level with the above-mentioned firm. The Paten-Firma will have the following functions:

1. To cooperate in the establishment of your production plan, and to utilise your capacities.

2. To keep itself at your disposal for all technical advice which you might need, and to exchange information with you.

3. To serve as an intermediary when there is a case for negotiations with German services.

4. To keep me informed as to anything that might occur that might prevent or limit the accomplishment of your obligations.

In order to ensure these tasks, the Paten-Firma is authorised to delegate a Firmenbeauftragter to your firm and, when necessary, technical engineers from other German firms who may have handed you important orders.

In order to permit the Paten-Firma to accomplish its task it will be necessary to give the firm, or its Firmenbeauftragter, the necessary authorisation on everything that relates to the German orders and to their execution:

1. By placing at its disposal your correspondence with your supply houses and with your subcontractors;

2. By informing it of the manner in which the capacities of your factories are being utilised, and permitting it to check on the production;

3. By informing it of your connections and communicating to it your correspondence with the German services.

It is your duty to inform the Paten-Firma or their Firmenbeauftragter to any orders which you may receive."
This is the end of the quotation.

Almost all the important enterprises were thus placed under the control of German firms in the occupied territories, with the double aim of favouring the Reich war effort and of achieving by progressive absorption an economic preponderance in Europe, even in case of a peace by compromise.

In the agricultural domain the Germans used similar means of pressure. They made wholesale requisitions of produce, leaving the population only grossly insufficient quantities to assure their subsistence.

[Page 3]

I now take up the third chapter, devoted to individual purchases by the German military or civilian forces in the occupied countries.

If this presentation cannot take up individual acts of pillage or the numerous thefts committed in the occupied countries, it is important nevertheless to mention the individual purchases, these having been organised methodically by the German rulers to the benefit of their own nationals.

At the beginning of the occupation the soldiers or civilians effected purchases by means of vouchers of doubtful authenticity which had been handed to them by their superiors; but presently the Germans had at their disposal a quantity of money sufficient to allow them to purchase without any kind of rationing or by means of special vouchers considerable quantities of agricultural produce or of goods of all kinds, notably textiles, shoes, furs, leather goods, etc. It was thus, for instance, that certain shoe establishments were obliged every week to sell, in exchange for special German vouchers, 300 pairs of shoes for city use, for men, women and children.

This is indicated in an important report of the French economic control, which I will have occasion to refer to several times in the course of this presentation and which I submit to the Tribunal under Number 197.

The individual purchases which constitute a form of economic pillage were, I repeat, not only authorised but organised by the German rulers. In fact, when the Germans returned to their country they were encumbered by voluminous baggage. A package-sending postal service had been created by the Germans for the benefit of Germans living in the occupied countries. The objects were wrapped in a special kind of paper and provided with seals that granted them a customs franchise, before their entry into Germany.

In order to get an idea of the volume of the individual purchases, it is important to refer to the declaration of one Murdrel, ex-director of the Reichskreditkasse actually detained in Paris, who was heard before an examining Magistrate of the Court de Justice de la Seine on the 29th of October, 1945. This is the declaration made by Murdrel on the subject of individual purchases. The Judge asked him the following questions:

"What were the needs of the army of occupation? What purchases did you have to make on its account?"
This will be Exhibit RF 108, Mr. President, the testimony of Murdel.

THE PRESIDENT: What are you doing about 107? Are you quoting from 107?

M. GERTHOFFER: Exhibit 107 is a report of the Economic Control -

THE PRESIDENT: You are asking the Tribunal to take judicial notice of that, are you?

M. GERTHOFFER: I submit it to the Tribunal, and I shall make readings from it from time to time in the course of my declaration.

THE PRESIDENT: And now you are going to read 108?

M. GERTHOFFER: Yes, I shall make readings from 108, on Page 9.

The judge asked Murdel the following questions:

"What were the needs of the Army of occupation? What purchases did you have to make on its account?"

The answer: "It is impossible for me to answer the first part of the question. I had tried during the occupation to inform myself on this point, but it was objected that this was a military secret which I had no right to know. What I can tell you is that we settled the pay of the troops, and that a private earned from 50 to 60 Marks, a non-commissioned officer 50 per cent more, and an officer considerably more. Naturally, I have no idea of the forces that the occupation army may have included, as these forces were extremely variable."

I omit a few lines to make this shorter. Murdel adds:
"Aside from this, every soldier on leave returning from Germany had

[Page 4]

the right to bring back with him a certain number of marks-50. The same held good for any German soldier who was stationed for the first time in France. We made the exchange of marks for French francs. I calculate that the total amount that we paid over each month in this way was 5 billion francs.
That is the end of the quotation.

One may thus calculate that a sum of about 250 billion francs, at least, was spent individually in France by the Germans, of which the greater portion was employed for the purchase of products and objects sent to Germany, to the detriment of the French population.

To assess the importance of this amount, I would say that about 5 billion francs a month, in other words 60 billion francs a year, is greater than the budgetary receipts of the French budget in 1938, since this was only 54 billion francs per year.

After having studied the individual purchases, I shall launch upon a fourth chapter, devoted to the organisation of the black market by the Germans in the occupied territories. The population of the occupied countries had been subjected to a severe rationing of products of all kinds. They had been left only grossly insufficient quantities for their own vital needs. This left free a large quantity of the stock and of the production which the Germans seized by means of operations that were, to all appearances, regular, (requisitions, purchases by official services, individual purchases or in exchange for vouchers of German priority). We have just seen that these purchases represented, for France only, an average of five billion francs per month.

But such a regulation had, as its corollary, a concealment of merchandise and of products, the purpose being to keep them from the Germans. This state of things gave birth, in the occupied countries, to what was called the "black market," that is to say, secret purchases made in violation of rationing regulations.

The Germans themselves were not slow in buying in the black market, to an even greater extent, usually through agents and sub-agents, recruited amongst the most doubtful elements of the population, who were charged with finding where these products could be picked up.

These agents, compromised by reason of their violations of the rationing legislation, benefited by a total immunity; but they were constantly under the threat of denunciations on the part of their German employers in case they should slow up or stop their activity. Often these agents also fulfilled functions for the Gestapo and were paid for the services by commissions, which they obtained on the black market.

The different German organisations in the occupied countries got into the habit of making secret purchases that became increasingly important in volume. Indeed they began to compete amongst themselves for this merchandise, and the chief result of this competition was a rise in prices, which threatened to bring about inflation. The Germans, of course, while they continued to profit by the secret purchases, were anxious that the money which they utilised should maintain as high a value as possible.

To obviate such a situation, the rulers of the Reich decided in June 1942 to organise purchases on the black market methodically. Thus the defendant Goering, the "Plenipotentiary of the Four-Year Plan," on the 13th June, 1942, gave Colonel J. Veltjens, the task of centralising the structure of the black market in the occupied countries.

This fact is proved from a document discovered by the Army of the United States, which I submit to you as Exhibit RF 109. This includes three documents, one of them being the nomination of Colonel Veltjens signed by the defendant Goering. I do not want to waste the time of the Tribunal by giving a complete reading of these documents. I do not think they can be contested,

[Page 5]

but should they be so, later, I should reserve for myself the privilege of reading them then, unless the Tribunal would prefer I do so now.

THE PRESIDENT: I am afraid we must adhere to our ruling that those documents of which we cannot take judicial notice must be read if they are to be put in evidence. You need only read the portions of the document which you require to put in evidence, not necessarily the formal parts, but the substantial parts which you require for the purpose of your proof.

M. GERTHOFFER: This is the letter of the 13th of June, 1942, signed by the defendant Goering:

"The purchases of merchandise affected simultaneously by the different organisations of the Wehrmacht and by other organisations have, in some of the occupied territories, created on the so-called black market, a situation which disturbs the methodical exploitation of these countries for the needs of the German war economy and is also harmful to the prestige indispensable to any military or civilian administration. This deplorable state of things can no longer be tolerated. I therefore charge you to regularise these commercial transactions in accordance with the services that are involved and, particularly, with the Chiefs of the Administration of the occupied territories. In principle, commercial transactions in the occupied territories that are affected outside the framework of the normal provisioning, or constitute a violation of price regulations, must be limited to special cases, and carried out only if your assent has been given. I approve your proposal to use the units controlled by the Reich and, above all, among these, the R.O.G.E.S., for the removal of merchandise.

I beg you to submit, at the earliest possible date, a plan of work for putting into effect your activity in Holland, in Belgium, in France and Serbia. (In Serbia it is Consul General Neuhausen who is to be in charge). This plan must involve, in addition to the seizure of port installations, the utilisation of enterprises whose closing may be envisaged in occupied territories. As to the results of your activity, I beg you to submit a report to me every month, through my representative. The first of such reports is to be submitted to me on July 1st, 1942.

If necessary, it will be the "Central Service of the Plan" to make decisions concerning the distribution of merchandise thus purchased.

(Signed) Goering."

Thereupon, on September 4th, 1942, the defendant Goering gave orders for the complete gathering together of all the merchandise that could be utilised, even if this should result in signs of inflation in the occupied territories. This is brought out by a report signed "Wiehl," referring to the utilisation of funds derived from occupation expenses. I submit this to the Tribunal, as Exhibit RF 110.

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