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 2 of 8)

[M. HENRI DELPECH continues]

[Page 45]

These various measures did not satisfy the occupying authorities, so they ran a certain number of salvage campaigns which were called "special actions" (Sonderaktionen) in accordance with the method they applied in all the territories of Western Europe. I shall not go into the details of these actions, which are described on Page 63 and following of the report; that is the salvage campaign for bells, printing lead, lead and copper. According to the information given by the Belgian Government, - which will be Exhibit RF 146, Page 65 of the report, - in other fields, but without admitting it, the Germans pursued a policy intended to eliminate or to restrict Belgian competition, so that in case of a German victory the economic branches concerned would have had to restrict themselves to the Belgian market, which would then have remained wide open to German business. These attempts at immediate or future suppression of competition were clearly evident in certain industrial sectors casting and smelting, metal ware, textile construction work, car assembling, construction of material for narrow-gauge railroads, and especially the shoe-manufacturing industry, for which reconstruction of destroyed factories was systematically prohibited.

But in addition, in the textile industry as well as in numerous sectors, es-

[Page 46]

pecially in the metal industry, the weakening of the economy cannot be measured only by the size of the compulsory deliveries, but is in relation to the policy practices by the occupier, Belgian industry, especially coal and iron, suffered considerable losses as a result of directives imposed to finance the war needs.

I shall pass over the question of prices of coal. The control of the coal industry was assured by the appointment of a plenipotentiary for coal, and by centralisation of all sales in the hands of a single organ, the "single seller," under Belgian direction but with a German commissioner, I am referring to the Belgian coal office, single seller for a single purchaser, Rheinisch Westphalisches Kohlensyndikat, which ordered deliveries to be made to the Reich, to Alsace- Lorraine and Luxembourg.

According to the same German report, Page 67 for the interpreters, in spite of the rise in the price of coal agreed to on the 20 August, 1940, 1 January 1941, and I January 1943, the coal industry showed in the course of the occupation years considerable losses. In February 1943, the coal office having agreed to an increase of the sales price, the price per ton was higher than on the German domestic market. The German commissioner for the mining industry forced the Belgian industry to pay the difference in rate when exporting to the Reich by means of compensating premiums.

From the figures indicated in Exhibits RF 176 and 178, Page 69, the Tribunal may gather information as to the financial losses caused by exploitation. The report of the military administration gives, in its eleventh section, details regarding the metal industry: it suffered as greatly as had the coal industry during the occupation. In the metal industry, the Thomas works in particular, the losses resulted from the increase in the cost price and from price fluctuations in respect to certain elements pertaining to the manufacture.

In this one sector, according to the memorandum of the Belgian Government, the respective losses may be assessed at three billion Belgian francs. Still according to the same report, out of a total production of 1,400,000 tons, 1,300,000 tons of various products were exported to Germany, not including the metal delivered to Belgian factories working exclusively for Germany.

According to information furnished by the Belgian Government, the Germans removed in bulk and transported to Germany material of very great value: the total industrial spoliation is estimated by the Belgian Government at a sum of two billion Belgian francs, at the 1940 rate, of course.

These removals constitute a real material loss, and from the fragmentary indications given to the Tribunal this sum of two billion francs is the figure of which I ask the Tribunal to take note.

In view of the information available at present it is not easy to estimate the extent of the levies made on industry; it is even more difficult to evaluate it in the agricultural sector, which I shall briefly present.

Apart from the admissible needs of the occupation troops, the German authorities made an effort to obtain a supplement to the food levies in Belgium, for the purpose of increasing the food of the Reich and other territories occupied by its troops. After having employed direct methods of levying, the Germans used the services of unscrupulous agents whose job it was to purchase at any price on the secret markets, and the black market in this field took on such proportions that the occupying authorities became concerned on several occasions and, in the course of 1943, had to suppress it.

Apart from the damage to livestock, the damage to the woods and forests - which play an important role in Belgium, - resulting from abnormal cutting in the forests, brought about an excess in deforestation, and reaching a figure of 2,000,000 tons, the damage to capital caused by this premature cutting can be estimated at about 200 million francs.

The military operations proper caused damage to an extent of one hundred


million Belgian francs, and according to the memorandum of the Belgian Government the total damage caused to forestry reaches a figure of 460 million Belgian francs. Taking into account the damage caused by abnormal cutting in the forests and by the establishment of airfields, the Belgian Government estimates at approximately one billion Belgian francs the losses suffered by its agriculture during the occupation.

It must be noted, without going further into this subject, that these are net losses in capital, constituting a veritable exhaustion of substance, and a consequent reduction and real consumption of the nation's resources. With this I conclude my presentation of agriculture.

Transportation: The conduct of war led the Germans to utilise to the fullest the railroad network and the canal and river system of Belgium; the result was that the railroads and river fleet are included in those sectors of Belgian economy which suffered most from the occupation and the hostilities which took place on Belgian soil. German traffic was at the same time a traffic of personnel as demanded by military operations, and a traffic of merchandise, coal, minerals, woods, food stuffs, not to speak of the considerable quantities of construction material required for the fortification of the coast of the North Sea.

Railroads: The report of the Belgian Government shows that the damage suffered by the railroads consisted of losses in capital as well as in revenue. Losses in capital resulted first and principally from requisitions and removals, to which the Germans proceeded in a wholesale fashion from the moment of their entry into Belgium. Thus, in particular, they immediately drained the stock of locomotives under the pretext of recovering German locomotives surrendered to Belgium after the war of 1914-1918 as a means of reparation.

In addition to seizures of locomotives, the National Society of Railroads was subjected to numerous requisitions of material, sometimes under the form of rental; these requisitions are estimated at four and a half billion francs at the 1940 value.

As against the losses in capital, losses in revenue resulted principally from the free transportation service required by the Wehrmacht, also from the price policy pursued by the occupying power. These levies and these exceptional costs could be borne by the organisations concerned, only by making large drains on the treasury.

Regarding automobiles, I shall say almost nothing (Page 79). The losses amount to about 3,111 million Belgian francs, out of which individuals received as compensation for requisition approximately one billion only.

We come now to river transportation. The carrying out of the plan for economic spoliation of Belgium presented the occupying power with serious transportation problems, to which I have already called attention. In this sphere the German military administration imposed upon Belgian river shipping very heavy burdens.

According to the report of the Belgian Government, the losses suffered by the Belgian river fleet took three forms:

1. Requisitions and removals by the Germans;

2. Partial or total damage through military operations,

3. Excessive deterioration of material.

These three forms of damage amount to half a billion francs, of which only one hundred million are represented in the clearing. Damage to waterways (Page 81), rivers, streams and canals, can be evaluated at between one and a half and two billion francs of 1940 value, especially by reason of requisitions and removals of public or private port material.

Fishing boats were requisitioned for marking the river Scheldt, and then disappeared without leaving any trace. Others suffered damage through requisitions or rental for military manoeuvres.

[Page 48]

Before closing this chapter, concerned with levies in kind, the question of removal of industrial material may briefly be mentioned. (Page 82).

It has already been pointed out that the policy of production and reorganisation in the industrial sphere, as pursued by the military administration, had as a result the closing of numerous enterprises; enabling the Germans, as a counter-measure, to seize a great number of machines under the pretext that they had become useless.

There were no branches of industry which were not despoiled in this way. The metal industry seems to be one of those that suffered most. Though we do not wish to try the patience of the Tribunal, it seems particularly pertinent to draw its attention briefly to the technique used in the organisation of the levies; details of which were decided upon even before the entry of German troops into the territories of Western Europe. There were organisations which introduced military detachments - organisations emanating from the economy bureau of the General Staff of the Army and under the defendant Keitel, as Chief of the OKW.

The existence of these military detachments, veritable pillaging detachments, is proved by various German documents. Under the name of economic detachments, "Wirtschaftstruppen," or special commandos, these pillaging crews carried out nefarious and illegal activities in all the countries of Western Europe.

The secret instructions for the "economic detachment J," stationed at Antwerp are found in the file as Exhibit RF 183. They constitute a very important document, irrefutable for the German intention to pillage and an additional proof of the contempt of the National Socialist leaders for the rules of International Law.

These instructions are dated from the last days of May 1940. I should like to read a few excerpts of these instructions to the Tribunal (Exhibit RF 183, Page 1).

"The economic detachments are formed by the office for economic armament of the High Command of the Wehrmacht. They are placed at the disposal of the High Command of the Army for employment in the countries to be occupied."
I shall skip to the bottom of Page 1 of the German document.
"It is their mission to reconnoitre quickly and completely in their districts the scarce and rationed goods (raw materials, semi-finished products, etc.) and machines of most vital importance for the purposes of national defence; and to make a correct inventory of these stocks.

In the case of machines the requisition will be made effective by a label in the case of scarce and rationed goods, it will be secured both by labelling and by guards.

Furthermore, the economic detachments have the mission to prepare and, by order of the Army Group, to carry out the removal of scarce and rationed goods, of mineral oils and the most important machines. These missions are the exclusive responsibility of the economic detachments.

The economic detachments are to begin their activities in newly occupied territories as early as the battle situation permits."

Machines and raw materials having thus been found and identified, the new organisations went into action to dismantle and to put these machines and raw materials to use in Germany.

The above quoted document, which is Exhibit RF 183, gives precise and very interesting information on the direction and the strength of detachment J at Antwerp. The eight officers are all reserve officers, engineers, wholesale dealers, directors of mines, importers of raw materials, engineering consultants. Their names and their professions are mentioned in the document. These

[Page 49]

men are, therefore, all specialists in commerce and industry. The choice of these technicians cannot be attributed to mere chance.

According to the above instructions, and more especially to the instructions found under date of May 10, 1940, coming from General Hannecke, which will be Exhibit RF 184, once the machines or the stocks have been identified, the offices go to work: the R.O.G.E.S. on the one hand, and the compensation bureaux on the other hand; to whose activities attention has already been called in connection with the pillage of non-ferrous metals of Holland and of the Belgian industry.

Another document, which is likewise presented as Exhibit RF 184, shows that the very composition of the economic detachments emanates from the High Command. Quoting from Page 6:

"The economic detachments already mentioned in Section 1, which are composed of experts in the branches of industry existent in the respective areas, shall reconnoitre and secure stocks of raw materials and special machinery for the production of ammunition and war equipment which are at present important."
THE PRESIDENT: Is that quotation set out in your dossier?

M. DELPECH: The quotation is on Page 84, bis.

THE PRESIDENT : Would this be a convenient time to break off?

(A recess was taken)

M. DELPECH: Besides the economic detachments to which I have just drawn the attention of the Tribunal, detailed to remove and re-distribute machinery, either to factories working in the occupied country on behalf of the occupier, or to factories in Germany, the Machine Pool Office also directed these operations. Such offices were set up in all the occupied territories of Western Europe during the last months of 1942, upon the order of the Minister for Armaments, i.e. the defendant Speer, and the Office of the Four Year Plan, i.e. the defendant Goering.

The Machine Pool Office for Belgium and Northern France was set up upon the decision of the Chief of the Military Economic Section in Brussels under date of February 18th, 1943. Its activity has already been outlined to the Tribunal in connection with the despoiling of non-ferrous metal industries. Its activity did not stop there, it is found in all branches of industry. Exhibit RF 185 can give figures on its activity. This activity continued to the very last days of the occupation. Levies on machinery and instruments were not limited to industry: Exhibits RF 193 and 194 show the extent of levies on scientific instruments.

I have finished with the levies on industrial material.

I shall present briefly in the fourth chapter the question of services, first of all billeting of troops.

1. By an ordinance dated the 17 December, 1940, Page 88, the Germans imposed the costs of billeting their troops upon Belgium. Having done this, the occupation authorities justified themselves by a rather liberal interpretation of Article 52 of the Hague Convention, according to the provisions of which the occupying power may require levies in kind and in services.

The Wetter report - Exhibit RF 186 - wrongly contends that the Convention does not specify by whom the settlement should be made; Article 49 gives the right to make the occupied country defray the expenses.

Therefore Belgium had to undergo expenses to the amount of 5,900,000,000 francs for billeting costs, equipment and furniture. The payments of the Belgian treasury for the billeting is estimated in the report of the Belgian Military Administration at 5,423,000,000 francs.

[Page 50]

It is evident that under the pretext of billeting costs, other expenses were entered to the detriment of the Belgian economy, notably - as in other occupied countries - the purchases of furniture which was to be sent to Germany.

2. Transportation and Communications.

To insure transportation and communications, the Belgian treasury had to advance a total of 8,000,000,000 francs. As already pointed out to the Tribunal the seizure by the occupation authorities covered even the river fleet, to the same extent as the transportation plan restricted the use of rail to the operation troops.

According to Article 53 of the Hague Convention, the occupying army has the right to seize the means of transportation and communications, provided that it returns them and pays indemnity. This army, however, does not possess the right to make the occupied country pay the costs of transportation put at the army's disposal.

But that is what the German Army did in Belgium.

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