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 3 of 9)

[M. GERTHOFER continues]

[Page 9]

I cite a passage of the report of the French Economic Control which I have just put into evidence as Exhibit RF 107 and which gives an idea of the disorder [Page 10] that was created by the German actions and which shows the reasons why the Reich authorities officially suspended the black market (page 21 of the French text):
"There was the period when the champagne, the cognac and the benedictine were handled by lots of 10 to 50,000 bottles and the pate de fois gras by the ton.

From the beginning the general corruption had gained the support of a great number of Wehrmacht officers, who were tempted by the good life which surrounded them. Indeed it so thoroughly extended to the German military groups that, from mess sergeants to high ranking officers, all had dealings with the worst types of operators, and expected commissions from every market. A clandestine sale of wool thread took place, at one time, in the presence of a general of the Air Force.

Around them congregated all the bad elements of France, the industrial adventurers and others who had already served their terms. Then came a horde of commercial operators, dressmakers, unofficial agents without special employment, general intermediaries or associates of slight consequence." (Page 22 of the French Document 107).

"We understand that in such an environment, composed of unknown people and those one cannot lay one's hands on, black market business, which was transacted in cash, and without bills or receipts, except those of the German offices, can today no longer be appraised or evaluated.

Originating in the course of the year 1941, the commercial activity of these Parisian purchasing bureaus continued in this manner for about twenty months. But after having reached its zenith at the end of 1942, this activity had to come to an abrupt end in March 1943; a victim of its own excesses.

In effect, during the entire occupation, production prices were strictly limited by the French services, and even more so by the German economic services, which were systematically opposed to any rise in critical prices, anxious above all to maintain large purchasing power in the French capital at their disposal.

But, since the stipulated merchandise for the enemy's uses was being paid for at prices hardly better than the legal prices, the clandestine purchasing agencies accepted at the same time rates several times higher for the same products.

In production, the slipping of the merchandise toward the German black market thus occurred more frequently while, at the same time, the secret production increased. The disorder grew so rapidly that in certain branches of industry, deliveries according to contract could not be assured, except with great delay, in spite of the menacing protests of the Germans.

Completely swamped, the French Ministry of Industrial Production had to inform the German authorities that the national production would soon no longer be able to meet its obligations.

This irremediable situation, together with the necessity of putting an end to the incredible corruption provoked by the black market in the Wehrmacht, led the Reich Government, if not to suppress the black market altogether, at least to envisage a closing of the Paris purchasing bureaus.

This measure was made effective on the 13th March 1943, following the agreement Bichelonne-General Michel.

However - and this is very significant - the German economic services did not fail to request in compensation a considerable rise in quotas according to the agreements. Thus, for the Kehrl Plan alone, this rise amounted to 60,000 tons of textiles.

[Page 11]

Only few bureaus were able to retain some of their activities until the Liberation, either by trying to deal with the R.O.G.E.S. (d'Humieres, Economic Union, etc.) or with military services buying quartermaster supplies or with the bureaus of the German Air Force or Navy."
THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken).

M. GERTHOFFER: In the course of my explanations I shall come back to the case of every particular country, in connection with black market operations, so as to be able to give a measure of their extent. But I think that it is established by the Veltjens report as well as by the passages from the French Economic Control Report, which I had the honour to read to the Tribunal, that the black market was organised by the leaders of the Reich, and notably by the defendant Goering.

To finish the general observation concerning the economic looting, I shall ask the Tribunal's permission to give a few explanations from the judicial point of view. They are treated in chapter five of the first part.

From a juridical point of view, it is not contestable that organised looting of the countries invaded by Germany is prohibited by the International Hague Convention, signed by Germany but deliberately violated by her, even though her leaders never failed to invoke this Convention every time they tried to benefit by it.

Section three of the Hague Convention - "The Military Authority over the Territory of the Enemy Government" - relates to the economic questions. These clauses are very clear and do not have to be discussed; if the Tribunal will allow me to recall them. Here is section three of the Hague Convention, which I put into the book of documents as Number 114, and which is called "The Military Authority over the Territory of the Enemy Government.":

Article 42: The territory is considered as being occupied when it is placed in effect under the authority of the hostile army. This occupation extends only to territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.

Article 43: The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter ...

THE PRESIDENT: I think we can take judicial notice of these articles from the Convention.

M. GERTHOFFER: I shall, then, not read this article, since the Tribunal knows the Convention, and shall simply limit myself to certain juridical remarks. These articles of the Hague Convention show in a very clear way that the Germans could commandeer in occupied territories only what was necessary for the maintenance of such troops as were indispensable. All items which were levied beyond these limits were so levied in violation of the articles which you know, and consequently, were "looted " items.

Counsel for the defence may contend that all these prohibitions must be put aside, because Germany had given herself the aim of concluding the war against Britain and then against the USSR and the United States of America. Defence may pretend that, because of this, Germany was in a very needy state which had to checkmate the prohibitions of the Hague Convention and try to incorporate Article 23-G, which allows one to destroy or to seize even private property.

I shall immediately answer that this article does not lay down rules relating to the conduct of the occupant in enemy territory - these last rules are contained, I repeat, in Articles 42 to 56-they are relevant to the conduct which the belligerents must maintain in the course of the war.

The word "seizure" in the expression "No seizure of enemy property except in cases where these seizures are absolutely ordered by military necessity"

[Page 12]

- and no discussion as to translation can be referred to because actually the French text is binding - the word "seizure" means, not to appropriate a thing, but to put it under the protection of justice with a view to leaving it unused, in the same condition, and to keep it for its true owner or for any person who can show a right to it.

Such a seizure permits the military authority, during hostilities, to prevent the owner from using the property against the troops, but it does not authorise the military authority, under any circumstances, to appropriate it for itself.

The facts of economic looting are all contrary to the principle of International Law and are formally provided for by Article 68 of the Charter of the United Nations of the 8th of August 1945.

These constant violations of the Hague Convention did, as a consequence, enrich Germany and permitted her to continue the war against Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States, while they ruined the invaded countries, the populations of which, subjected to a regime of slow famine, were actually physically weakened and, without the victory of the Allies, would be on the road to progressive extermination.

This inhuman conduct constitutes, therefore, War Crimes which come within the competency of this International Military Tribunal, as far as the leaders of the Reich are concerned.

Before finishing this rapid summary of juridical questions, the Tribunal will permit me to refute in advance an argument which will certainly be presented by the defence, notably so far as economic plundering is concerned. They will pretend that juridical jurisdiction did not exist, that the International Penal Law had not yet been formulated in any text at the time when the defendants perpetrated the acts which they were actually charged with, and that therefore by virtue of the principle of non-retroactivity of penal laws, they could not be condemned to any sentence whatsoever.

Why, gentlemen, is this principle adopted by modern legislation? It is indisputably in order that any person whatsoever, who is conscious of never having violated any prescribed law, could not be condemned because of acts which were committed in such conditions. For example, somebody issues a check without funds before his country had adopted a penalty against such an offence.

In this case the facts are quite different. The defendants cannot pretend that they were not conscious of having violated legislation of any kind. First of all, they violated international conventions: the Hague Convention of 1907, and the Briand-Kellogg Pact of the 27th of August 1938; then they violated the penal laws of all the invaded countries.

How shall, in this legislation, the economic looting be qualified - theft, swindling, blackmail, and even, I will add, murder - since, in order to attain their aims, the Germans have premeditated and committed numerous murders which enabled them to intimidate the population in order better to plunder them?

According to domestic law, these acts. certainly fall under the application of Article 295 and the following articles of the French Penal Law, and notably of Article 303, which stipulates as guilty of murder all offenders, of whatever category, who, to execute crimes, resorted to torture or perpetrated barbarous acts. I will add that the defendants violated even the German Penal Law, notably Articles 249 and following.

Counsel for the defence will certainly stress that certain of the leaders of the invaded countries were in agreement with the Reich Government as to the economic collaboration, and that consequently these governments cannot be charged with acts which derive from these agreements.

Such arguments must be refuted:

I. If, in all the invaded countries, patriots resisted with more or less courage,

[Page 13]

it is certain that some of them out of inertia, fear, or disinterest turned traitor to their country. They have been or will be condemned. But the crimes committed by certain of them cannot be exonerating or even extenuating circumstances in favour of the defendants, especially since the latter had very often put these traitors in to manage the occupied countries. On the contrary, the fact of having brought people to turn traitor to their country only aggravates the heavy charges against the defendants.

II. These so-called agreements had all been obtained by pressure or by threat. The concluding contracts show that these contracts are solely in favour of Germany, who also, as a matter of fact, never brought any compensation, but merely illusory benefits. More often the burdensome contract resulted from the mere reading of these contracts, as I will have the honour to show in certain particular cases.

With these explanations my general observations on the economic pillaging are concluded, and if the Tribunal is willing we can examine the particular case of Denmark.

When the Germans, contrary to all the precepts of the Law of Nations and to their engagements, invaded Denmark they were not certain of rapidly dominating Western Europe. At first they laid down the principle of not taking anything from the country. After their success of May 1940, their attitude changed. As a matter of fact, little by little they treated Denmark more or less like the other occupied countries.

Nevertheless, they sought to arrive at an annexation pure and simple, and took rigorous measures against the population only in the course of 1942, when they saw that they would not be able to win Denmark over. From the economic point of view, and to assure their domination, they tried to obtain control of most of the Danish means of payment, and they used, to this effect, two methods which to a great extent were used by them in other countries:

1. The levying of a veritable tribute of war, under the pretext of maintaining their army of occupation.

2. The functioning of the so-called clearing agreement to their almost exclusive benefit. These two methods should be studied in chapter one of this statement.


1. Expenses of occupation.

Article 49 of the Hague Convention stipulated that, if the occupant levies a contribution, this money will only be for the army of occupation or for the administration of the country.

The occupant can therefore levy a contribution for the maintenance of the army, but this contribution must not exceed the sum strictly necessary for the needs of the army of occupation without expense to armament and equipment, that is: merely the expenses for board and lodging and the pay of the soldiers - I mean normal expenses, from which, of course, luxury expenses are excluded.

Article 52 authorises the occupying power to exact requisitions in, kind and service from the communes of the inhabitants for the needs of the army, with the express condition that they should be proportionate to the resources of the country, and it amounts to this: that they should not force the population to take part in operations against their own country.

The same Article 52 stipulates that levies in kind shall be paid so far as possible in cash; otherwise they will have to be established in receipts and the paying in of sums as soon as possible.

In other words, the Hague Convention allows the occupying army to levy

[Page 14]

in occupied territories, as much as is necessary for the maintenance of the troops, but under two conditions, apart from contributions in kind.
(a) That the levies and the service should be proportionate to the resources of the country, that is to say, that cash should be left over for the inhabitants, at least enough to enable them to live.

(b) That the levies be paid as soon as possible.

This does not mean a fictitious payment made with the funds extorted from occupied countries, but real payments, which imply furnishing of effective compensation.

Article 53 of the Convention of the Hague permits the occupying powers to seize everything which could be used against them - and, in particular, cash, funds, securities of all kinds belonging to the State of the occupied country - but does not authorise the occupying power to appropriate them.

According to information furnished by the Danish Government, when the Germans entered Denmark they declared that they would not demand anything from the country, but that the German Army would be supplied by convoys coming from the Reich.

Nevertheless, instead of buying Danish crowns to permit their troops to spend money in Denmark, as early as 9 May 1940 they imposed the circulation of notes of the Reichskreditkasse - which is shown in Number 26 of the Vobid, which I have already submitted as Exhibit RF 93.

Upon the protest of the National Danish Bank against the issuing of foreign paper money, the Germans withdrew those notes from circulation, but demanded the opening of an account at the National Bank, promising to draw upon it solely for sums which were indispensable for the maintenance of the Army in Denmark and for these sums only.

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