The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

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

Fortieth Day: Tuesday, 22nd January, 1946
(Part 1 of 8)

[Page 41]



M.MOUNTER: The representative of the French prosecution is here. He will appear before the Tribunal and take the floor.

M. HENRI DELPECH: Mr. President, Your Honours: I had the honour yesterday of beginning to explain before the Tribunal the methods of economic spoliation of Belgium by the Germans in the course of their occupation of the country.

Coming back to what was said in the course of the general considerations on economic pillage, and on the behaviour of the Germans in Norway and Denmark and in Holland, I have been able to show that in all places the determination to economic domination of National Socialism had manifested itself. The methods were the same everywhere, at least in their broad outlines. Therefore, in immediate response to the wish expressed yesterday by the Tribunal, and in order to fulfil the mission entrusted to the French prosecution by the Belgian Government to plead its case before your high jurisdiction, I shall confine myself to the main outlines of the development. and I shall take the liberty of referring for the details of the German seizure of Belgian productivity to the text of the report submitted to the Tribunal, and to the numerous documents which are quoted therein.

I have had the honour of calling your attention once before to the existence of the black market in Belgium, its organisation by the occupation troops, and their final decision to suppress this black market. One may, in this regard, conclude, as has already been indicated in the course of the general observations, that, in spite of their claims, it was not in order to avoid inflation in Belgium, that the German authorities led a campaign against the black market.

The day the Germans decided to suppress the black market, they loudly proclaimed their anxiety to spare the Belgian economy and the Belgian population the very serious consequences of the threatening inflation. In reality, the German authorities intervened against the black market, daily increasing in scope, in order to prevent it from further extension to the point where, in the end, it would absorb all the available merchandise and completely strangle the official market. In a word, the survival of the official market, with its lower prices, was finally much more profitable for the army of occupation.

I now come, gentlemen, to Page 46 of my presentation, to the third chapter; the acquisitions, which were regular in appearance, had only one aim, namely the subjugation of Belgian productive power.

Applying their programme of domination of the countries of Western Europe as it had been established even before 1939, the Germans, from the moment they entered Belgium in May 1940, took all the measures which seemed to them appropriate in order to assure the subjugation of Belgian productivity.

No sector of the Belgian economy was to be spared. If the pillaging seems more striking in the economic domain, this is only the consequence of the very marked industrial character of the Belgian economy.

The sectors of agriculture and of transportation were not to escape the German hold, and I propose to discuss first the levies in kind on industry.

The Belgian industry was the first to be attacked. Thus, the military commander in Belgium, in agreement with the various offices of the Reich for raw materials, in agreement with the Office of the Four Year Plan and the Ministry of Economics, established a whole programme whose effect was to convert

[Page 42]

almost the entire Belgian productivity to the bellicose ends of the Reich.

As early as 13 December 1940 he could make known to the higher authorities a series of plans established for iron, coal, textiles, and copper. I submit Exhibit RF 162 in support of this statement.

Also a report by Lt. Col. Helder, entitled "Change in Economic Orientation" points out that from 14 September 1940 the Army Ordinance Branch was sending to its subordinate formations the following instructions to be found in the document book under Exhibit RF 163. I read the last paragraph of Page 41 of the German text:

"I attach the greatest importance to the fact that the factories in the occupied territories, Holland, Belgium, and France, be as much as possible utilised to lighten the burden of the German armament production, and to increase the war potential. Enterprises located in Denmark are also to be employed to an increasing extent as sub-contractors. Hereby the regulations for the execution of the ordinance of the Reich Marshal, as well as the ordinances concerning the economy of raw materials in the occupied territories are to be strictly observed."
All these arrangements soon enabled the Germans to control and to direct Belgium's whole production and distribution facilities towards the German war effort.

The decree of 27 May 1940, V.O.B.E.L No. 2, submitted as Exhibit RF 164, established commodity control offices whose task was - and I quote from the third paragraph -

"to issue, in accordance with Army Group directives, general regulations and special ordinances to enterprises producing, dealing with and consuming controlled commodities, in order to direct production and ensure a just distribution and rational utilisation, whereby working places should, as far as possible, be secured."
Article 4 of the same text indicated in detail the powers of these commodity control offices, and in particular they were given the right:
"to force enterprises to sell their products to given purchasers; and to forbid or require the utilisation of certain raw materials. Every sale or purchase of commodities was subject to their approval."
To better conceal their real objective, the Germans gave these commodity control offices independence, and the status of a corporation. Thus, there were set up 11 commodity control offices which embraced the whole economy except coal, whose direction was left under the Belgian Office of Coal. Exhibit RF 165 gives proof of this.

The execution of the regulations was ensured by a series of texts promulgated by the Belgian authorities in Brussels. They issued in particular, a decree dated 3 September 1940, by virtue of which Belgian organisations took back the offices which the Germans had given up.

The functions of these offices were to have different fates: although originating from the Belgian Ministry of Economics they were closely controlled by the German military command. In this direction, the seizure of Belgian production was completed by the appointment of "Commissioners of Exploitation," under the ordinance of 29 April 1941, submitted as Exhibit RF 166. Article 2 of this text defines the powers of the Commissioners.

" ... The duty of the Commissioner is to make or to keep going the enterprise under his charge, to ensure the fulfilment of orders according to plan, and to take all measures which increase the output of the enterprise."
The decline of the commodity control offices began with an ordinance dated 6 August 1942, establishing the principle providing for the prohibition of manufacturing certain products, or for ordering the use of certain raw materials. This ordinance is to be found in the document book as Exhibit RF 167. Super-

[Page 43]

vision of the commodity control offices was soon organised by the appointment to each of them of a German Commissioner, selected by the competent Reichs-stelle.

From the last months of 1943 on, the Rustungsobmann Office of the Armament Ministry, under Minister Speer, acquired the habit of passing its orders directly, without having recourse to the channel of the commodity control offices.

Even before this date measures had been taken to prevent any initiative that was not in accord with the German war aims. Furthermore, even before the above ordinance of 6 August 1942, it is proper to mention the ordinance of 30 March 1942, making the establishment or extension of commercial enterprises subject to previous authorisation by the military commander.

In the report of the military administration in Belgium that has already been cited, the Chief of the General Staff, Raeder, specifies that for the period of January to March 1943 alone, out of 2,000 iron mills, 400 were closed down for working irrationally or being useless to the war aims. The closing of these factories seems to have been caused less by the concern for a rationalised production than by the vicious desire to obtain cheaply, valuable tools and machines.

In this connection, it is appropriate to point to the establishment of Machine Pool Office. The above quoted report of the military administration in Belgium, in its 11th section, Pages 56 and following, is particularly significant in this respect. Here is an extract from the German text, the last paragraph of Page 56 in the French translation, the last lines of Page 56.

THE PRESIDENT: That passage you read about the defendant Raeder, was that from Exhibit RF 169 or 170?

M. DELPECH: Mr. President, I spoke yesterday of the chief of the administration section, Raeder. He was section chief in Brussels. He has no connection with the defendant here.

THE PRESIDENT: I see, very well.

M. DELPECH: Exhibit RF 171, second paragraph of the French text. The paragraph concerns: the Machine Pool transactions.

"Proof is established by a rapid glance at the pool operations which have been considered and those which have been carried out. Five hundred and sixty-seven demands have been dealt with to a total value of 4.5 million Reichsmark."
Raeder furnished a number of figures.

I shall pass over these and I come to the end of the first paragraph, Page 57 in the German text.

"The legal basis for the requisition of these machines was the Hague Convention of 1907, Articles 52 and 53. The wording of the Hague Convention, which provides for requisitions only for the benefit and the needs of the occupying power, applied to the circumstances of the year 1907, that is, to a time when war actions were contained within narrowly defined areas in practice, and the military front alone had to sustain war operations. In view of the special limitations of war, it was evident that the provisions of the Hague Convention stipulating that requisitions be made solely for the needs of the occupying power were sufficient for the requirements of warfare. Modern war, however, which, by its expansion to total war, no longer has spacial limitations, but rather has become a war of peoples and economic spaces struggling against each other, requires that the regulations of the Hague Convention be maintained and its principles analogously interpreted according to the necessities of modern warfare."
I pass to the end of this quotation:

[Page 44]

"Whenever, in requisitioning, reference was made to the ordinance of the military commander of 6th August 1942, this was done in order to make known to the Belgian population the necessary analogous interpretation of the regulations of the Hague Convention on which the requisition was based."
Such an interpretation may leave jurists wondering, if they have not been trained in the school of National Socialism. It may in any case justify the pillage of industry and the subjugation of Belgian production.

These few considerations show how subtle and varied were the methods employed by the Germans to attain their aims in the economic sphere. In the same way as the preceding statements on clearing operations and the utilisation of occupation costs, they make it possible to specify the methods employed for exacting heavy levies from the Belgian economy.

Whereas in certain sectors, as in agriculture and transportation, it has been possible to assess the extent of economic pillage with a certain exactitude, there are, on the other hand, numerous industrial sectors where assessments cannot yet be made. It is true that a considerable part of the industrial losses corresponds to the clearing operations, notably through requisition of supplies. It will therefore be necessary to confine ourselves to the directives of the policy practised by the Germans.

We may examine briefly the way in which the economic spoliation took place in three sectors: industry, agriculture, and transportation.

First the industrial sector: The statistics of the clearing in the first place furnish indications on the total obligations imposed upon the various industrial branches.

On its part, the report of the military administration in Belgium, to which I shall refer again and again, gives the following details, briefly summarised. From the very beginning of the occupation the Germans required an inventory of supplies on which they were to impose considerable levies, notably textiles and non-ferrous metals.

I shall confine myself to some brief remarks on textiles and non-ferrous metals. The example of the textiles industry is particularly revealing: On the eve of the invasion, the Belgian textile industry, with its 165,000 workers, was the second most important in the country after that of the metal industry. Under the pretext of avoiding the exhaustion of the very important supplies then still available, an ordinance of 27 July 1940 prohibited the textile industry to work at more than thirty percent of its 1938 capacity. For the period from May to December 1940 alone, requisitions were not less than one billion Belgian francs; particularly they notably affected nearly half of the wool stock available in the country on 10 May, 1940, and nearly one- third of the stock of raw cotton.

On the other hand, the forced closing down of factories constituted for the Germans an excellent excuse for taking away, under pretext of rental contracts, unused equipment; or else it was requisitioned at a low price. The ordinance of 7 September 1942, which is to be found in the document book and is Exhibit RF 174, laid down the manner in which factories were to be closed in execution of the right accorded to the occupation authorities; and it also gave the right to dissolve certain business and industrial groups and to order their liquidation. Consolidation of enterprises was the pretext given. In the month of January 1944 sixty-five per cent of the textile factories had been stopped.

I shall not go into the details of this operation, and I pass to Page 58 of the report. The report of the German military administration quoted above gives particularly significant figures as to production. Of a total output of the wool industry of 72,000 tons for the period May 1940 to the end of June 1944, representing a value of 397 million Reichsmark, the division of the deliveries between the German and Belgian markets is the following

[Page 45]

The German market, 64,700 tons - 314 million Reichsmark. Belgian market, 7,700 tons - 83 million Reichsmark.
The whole spoliation of the textile industry is contained in these figures.

The Belgian consumption obviously suffered a great deal from the German policy of directing the textile market. The same report of the military administration furnishes other details, stating that in 1938 the needs in textile products amounted in Belgium to a monthly average of 12 kilos. The respective figures for the occupation years are the following:

1940 to 1941 - 2.1 kilos per head
1941 to 1942 - 1.4
1942 to 1943 - 1.4
1943 to 1944 - 0.7
The exhaustion of Belgian consumption under the Germans is contained in these two figures: 12 kilos per head in 1938; 0.7 kilos at the end of the occupation.

From another angle the Belgian Government gives the following details on the pillage of this production. Compulsory deliveries to Germany during the occupation amounted to:

Cotton thread, about 40 per cent of the production.
Linen, 75 per cent.
Rayon, 15 per cent.
Finally, out of the textile stocks remaining in Belgium, a great percentage was still taken away by the Germans through purchases on the Belgian market, purchases of finished or manufactured products. The equivalent of these forced deliveries can generally be found in the clearing statistics, unless it corresponds to misrepresented occupation costs.

I have finished with textiles. As to the non-ferrous metal industry, Belgium was in 1939 the largest producer in Europe of non-ferrous metals, of copper, lead, zinc, and tin. The statistics included in the report of the military command, which are to be found in Exhibit RF 173, will furnish the evidence for the Tribunal.

On 18 February 1941, in connection with the Four Year Plan, the Reich Metal Office and the Supreme Command of the Army worked out a metal plan which provided for

Belgian consumption;
Carrying out of German orders;
Exports to the Reich.

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