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 9 of 9)

[Page 35]

THE PRESIDENT: Do you not think you might omit further references to these articles as we have already had them fully covered by your colleague?

M. DELPECH: As a consequence, the Germans exacted a monthly indemnity of 1,000,000,000 Belgian francs up to August 1941. On that date the indemnity was increased to 1,500,000,000 Belgian francs per month. By 20th August 1944, the payments under that designation totalled 67,000,000,000 Belgian francs. This number cannot be contested by the defence, seeing that in the report quoted, Pages 103 and following, M. Wetter wrote in June 1944: The total sum of Belgian francs paid for the army of occupation was 64,181,000,000. (This is deposed under Exhibit RF 147).

This sum of 64,000,000,000 was completely disproportionate to the needs of the occupying army. This is notably manifest in the report of Wetter, in a passage that I submit as Exhibit RF 148. On Page 245 of this report it is said that on 17 January 1941 the general who was commander in chief in Belgium had asked the High Command of the Army if the indemnity covered only the expenses of occupation. This point of view was not accepted by the commanding general, who, by decree of the 21 October 1941, specified that

[Page 36]

the indemnity of occupation was to be used not only for the needs of the occupying army but also for those of the operating armies. Moreover, on Page 11 of the original German text of the same report it is written - and I shall read to the Tribunal an excerpt which will be found in the book of documents, and will be Exhibit RF 149, the second paragraph :
"The increase in the expenses of the Wehrmacht made it clear that it would be impossible to make ends meet. The military administration demanded that the calculation of the occupation costs be straightened out by cancelling all expenses foreign to the occupation itself, from this account. This concerned especially the larger purchases of all kinds which the military services made in Belgium, such as horses, motor vehicles, equipment, all of which was designated for other territories, and were written off as occupation costs.

By decree of the Delegate of the Four Year Plan, dated the 11th of June 1941, the financing of the expenses other than occupation costs was to be met by the clearing. To comply with this decree, beginning in June 1941, the administration of the military commander ordered a monthly report to be rendered of all expenses other than those required for the occupation, but which had been paid under the account of occupation costs, in order to have these expenses refunded through the clearing.

Thanks to this, large sums could be recovered and put to the account of occupation costs."

Before concluding the examination of this point concerning war tribute, called "occupation costs," it is necessary to point out that the Germans had already demanded, by the order of 17 December, 1940, submitted as Exhibit RF 150, that the costs of billeting their troops should be charged to Belgium. Owing to this, the country had to meet expenses totalling 5,900,000,000 francs, which went for billeting German troops, costs of installation, and furniture.

In his report, Wetter writes an Page 104, - an excerpt submitted as Exhibit RF 147 - that at the end of June, 1944, the Belgian payments for billeting troops totalled 5,423,000,000 francs.

We now come to the third element of German plundering, the clearing. The issuance of occupation marks and the war tribute, called occupation costs, were not sufficient for Germany. Her leaders created a system of clearing which enabled them to procure improperly, the means of payment totalling 62,200,000,000 Belgian francs.

As soon as they arrived in Belgium, by the decrees of 10 July, 7 August and 7 December, 1940, which will be Exhibits RF 151, 152 and 153, the Germans promulgated:

(1) That all payments on debts of people living in Belgium to their creditors in Germany had to be paid into an account called the "Deutsche Verrechnungskasse, Berlin," an open account on the books of the National Bank of Belgium in Brussels, an account carried in belgas due to the prohibition re devices of 17 June 1940, the prohibition to which I have already referred concerning the blocking of the means of payment in the country.

By decision of 4 August 1940, it was moreover prescribed that the carrying out of the clearing would be henceforth entrusted no longer to the National Bank of Belgium but to the Bank of Issue in Brussels, which, as I have already had the honour of pointing out, had been established by, and was under the absolute control of, the occupant.

(2) The Germans laid down a second measure whereby all debtors living in the Reich should pay their Belgian creditors, by means of the open account in the Bank of Issue in Brussels, at the following rate of exchange, one hundred belgas to 40 marks, that is to say one mark for 12.50 Belgian francs.

These decrees moreover were extended to the countries occupied by Germany,

[Page 37]

with a view to facilitating their operations in these countries; they were even extended to certain neutral countries by various analogous decrees appearing in the Book of Ordinances.

The mission of the Bank of Issue in Brussels consisted, therefore, on the one hand of receiving payments from all persons or agencies established in Belgium, which carried on foreign transactions, and on the other hand, to pay those persons or agencies established in Belgium, which had foreign credit.

In other words, every time an exporter delivered goods to an importer of another country, a member of the clearing, it was the Bank of Issue which settled the invoice and which inscribed as equivalent, in the ledgers, a corresponding credit on the "Deutsche Verrechnungskasse in Berlin," the German Clearing Institute in Berlin. Imports were handled by the same procedures inversely.

In fact, under the German direction, this system functioned to the detriment of the Belgian community which, at the moment of the liberation, was creditor in the clearing to the extent of 62,665,000,000 Belgian francs.

It was the National Bank of Belgium which had been forced to make advances to the Bank of Issue to balance the account of the German Clearing Institute.

A large number of operations made through the clearing had no commercial character whatever, but were purely and simply military and political expenses.

From information given by the Belgian Government, the clearing operations could be resumed in the following manner - and I draw my conclusions from a report of the Belgian Government previously cited, which has been presented as Exhibit RF 146 - of the total transactions, 93 per cent. corresponds to Belgo-German clearing; merchandise exchanges amounted to 93 per cent., and service 91 per cent.

If one considers the part taken respectively by merchandise, services or capital, one arrives at, as a balance, two quite significant tables: the entire clearing of Belgium with foreign countries, totalled on 2 September 1944, the sum of 61,636,000,000 Belgian francs of which 57,298,000,000 were for Belgo-German operations; 4 billion only with France; 1 billion with the Netherlands, and 929,000,000 with other countries.

It is only in the sector of goods and services that the unbalance is apparent, an unbalance due in large measure, to requisitions of property and services made by Germany for her own account.

It is known that the so-called exports affected especially metals and metal products, machines and textile products, nine tenths of which were seized by the Reich, which made itself, thereby, guilty of real spoliation.

Concerning the transfer of capital, which, during the first period of the occupation, was in an active state of flux, it is a question of the forced realisation of the participation of Belgian capital in foreign countries, as well as the forced cession to German groups of Belgian assets blocked in Germany. No effective compensation was given in exchange.

The transfer pertaining to services belonged primarily to the payments made for the use of the Belgian labour in foreign countries.

The creditors' balance of these services on 2 September 1944 is as follows: in millions of Belgian francs: Total clearing dealing with services - 20,016,000,000, that is to say, for paying labour, 73 per cent of the total; for Germany alone, 18,227,000,000, that is to say, 72 per cent of the total amount for France only 1,600,000 Belgian francs, that is to say, a very small part.

Not content with requisitioning workers for forced labour in Germany or in the occupied territories, the Germans compelled Belgium to bear the financial burden, and imposed it either through the liquidation of the transferred sums in the clearing, or by the remittance of Belgian notes to the Directorate of the Reich Bank in Berlin, for payment of workers in national currency.

[Page 38]

THE PRESIDENT: Do you think it is necessary to go into these clearing operations again? In each case of the various countries which have been dealt with, the same clearing operations have taken place, have they not? Then perhaps it is really unnecessary to do it over again for Belgium.

M. DELPECH: Very well, I will continue without insisting on this.

At all events, the Germans recognised the fact, and the figures taken from the reports previously cited can only support the conclusions of our statement.

Before ending this chapter concerning the seizure of all the means of payment, it is fitting that the attention of the Tribunal be brought to the Germans' order of 22 July 1940, by which the rate of the Belgian franc was fixed at 8 Reichspfennig, that is to say, 12.50 francs per mark; and in the formentioned report, Wetter writes concerning this matter, on Pages 37 and 38 - a passage which I ask the Tribunal's permission to read, and which is in the document book as Exhibit RF 158.

"The de facto maintenance of the pre-war parity was of considerable political importance, because a large group of the population would have had the impression that a sharp devaluation or a repeated change of parity was a manoeuvre of exploitation."
The following observation in connection with this conception must be made the occupants had no need in Belgium to decree, with the view of promoting their economic exploitation, that the Belgian franc should have a lesser value when, as a matter of fact, contrary to what occurred in France, they had, at the moment they entered Belgium, instituted new currency over which they had the control.

Lastly, let us just mention that Germany forced the Vichy Government to deliver 221,730 kilos of gold, amounting at the 1939 valuation to 9,500,000,000 francs; but as France had restored this gold to the Bank of Belgium, this question will be treated under the economic exploitation of France.

To sum up, the means of payment seized by the army of occupation, amounted to the following figures:

Occupation marks.....................................................................................3,567,000,000
Various bills and accounts on the books of the Reich Credit Bank....656,000,000
War tribute under the pretext of occupation costs.............................67,000,000,000

To which may be added the credit balance of clearing................... 62,665,000,000

Total (in Belgian francs).......................................................................133,888,000,000

The Germans seized no less than 130,000,000,000 Belgian francs, which they used for outwardly regular purchases, for payment of their requisitions, and to make clandestine purchases on the black market.

These so-called purchases and requisitions will be treated in the following chapters.

CHAPTER II: Clandestine Purchases, Black Market. As in all the other occupied territories, the Germans organised a black market in Belgium as early as October 1941.

According to a secret report on the black market, called "Final Report of the Office of the Supervisor" of the military governor in Belgium and in the North of France, concerning the legal abolishment of the black market in Belgium and in the North of France, a report covering the period from the 13 March 1942 to the 31 May 1943, Exhibit RF 159 in the book of documents, the reasons given by the Germans for this organisation of the black market are three:

(1) To check competition on the black market between various German buyers.

[Page 39]

(2) To make the best use of the Belgian resources for the economic goals of the German war.

(3) To do away with the pressure exercised on the general standard of prices, and by this to avoid all danger of inflation which would end up by endangering the German currency.

This same report tells us, Pages 3 and following, that an actual administrative organisation was set up by the Germans for carrying out this policy.

The bookkeeping was assured by the Clearing Institute of the Wehrmacht, which centralised all operations in its books.

The direction of the purchases was assured by a central organisation, the name of which changed in the course of the years, and which had a certain number of organisations subordinate to it, notably a whole series of purchasing offices.

The central organisation was set up in accordance with the decree of the Military Governor of Belgium, of 20 February 1942. It was formed on the 13th of the following March, and as soon as it was created it received special directives from the delegate of the Reich Marshal, defendant Goering. This delegate was Lt. Col. Veltjens, of whom we spoke this morning.

This organisation was only established to co-ordinate the legalisation and direction of the black market, as had been determined upon and planned, following conferences of the General Intendant and the Military Governor of Belgium with the chief of the Armament Inspection. According to the terms of that agreement under date of the 16th of February 1942, coming from the Reich Minister for Economics, the aim was to drain the black market, and to do so in accordance with directives, in a legal form; with the idea of complying with the supply requirements of the German Reich.

This organisation had its offices in Brussels. The purchases themselves were secured by a certain number of specialised offices, the list of which is given on Page 5 of the forementioned report.

These organisations received their orders from the 'Rohstoffhandelsgesellschaft,' which has been already mentioned in the beginning of the statement on the economic exploitation of Western Europe.

The role of the R 0 G E S was very important in the organisation of the black market. In effect it was fourfold:

(1) The purchasing directives, once the authorisation had been given by the central office in Brussels, were transmitted by the R O G E S to the proper purchasing office.

(2) The delivery of goods bought and marked for the Reich were made through the R O G E S, which took charge of their distribution in Germany.

(3) The R O G E S financed the operations.

(4) It was the R O G E S which was entrusted with paying the difference between the rate of purchase, generally very high because of the black market rate, and the fixed official rate of sale on the German domestic market. The difference was covered by an equalising fund, supplied from the occupation costs' account, on which the Reich Minister of Finance put sums at the disposal of the R O G E S through the channel of the Ministry of Economics.

The aforementioned report furnishes a complete series of interesting particulars on the functioning of even the central organisation. It is interesting to note that the central office in Brussels was instructed by order of the Military Governor of Belgium, dated 3 November 1942, to have a branch at Lille set up for the North of France. At the same time, the Brussels office was authorised to instruct its branch office at Lille. In the book of documents under Exhibit RF 160 is mentioned a final report of the Lille office. This report, made out 20 May, 1943, gives a whole series of interesting particulars on the functioning of this organisation.

[Page 40]

THE PRESIDENT: It is 5 o'clock now. Perhaps, M. Delpech, I think it would be the wish of the Tribunal, if it were possible for you to omit any parts of this document which are on precisely the same principles with those which have already been submitted to us in connection with the other countries. If you could, I think that would be for the convenience of the Tribunal. Of course, if there are any essential differences in the treatment of Belgium then, no doubt, you would draw our attention to them.

M. DELPECH: Certainly, your Honour.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 22 January 1946, at 1000 hours).

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