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 3 of 8)

[M. HENRI DELPECH continues]

[Page 50]

3. Labour.

The deportation of labour to Germany and forced labour in Belgium have already been presented to the Tribunal. It seems then unnecessary to stress this point. At the most, we should recall certain consequences unfavourable to the Belgian economy. The measures pertaining to the deportation of labour have caused an economic disorganisation and weakening without precedent.

Furthermore, the departure of workers, and particularly of specialists inadequately replaced by unskilled people, women, adolescents and pensioners, brought about a decrease in production at the same time as an increase in cost prices, which complicated the problem of the financial equilibrium of industrial enterprises.

The levy of labour was the cause of political and social discontent, by reason of the dispersion of families and the inequities consequent to the requisition of workers.

The workers were required to fill levies in spheres of work which were not necessarily their own, with a resultant loss of professional abilities. Personnel were divided and transferred. The closing of artisan workshops brought about changes more or less felt in certain branches of production. The losses thus suffered cannot be measured in terms of money, but are not less in need of submission to your jurisdiction.

I have finished with this subject and will turn to a last chapter, Chapter 5, the acquisition of Belgian investments in foreign industrial enterprises, Page 93.

Since 1940, according to their general policy in all occupied countries of Western Europe, the Germans were concerned with acquiring investments in Belgian financial enterprises abroad.

The official German point of view emerges clearly from a letter dated July 29, 1941, from the Minister of Finance to the Military Commander in Belgium. I have submitted it as Exhibit RF 187.

This conception of the right to acquire investments is certainly very far from the idea as laid down by the Hague Convention in respect to the right of requisition. It clearly shows the German leaders' will to enrichment at the expense of Belgium.

Thus, the Germans, since May 1940 sought to get influence in Belgian holding companies. Not being able to violate directly International Law, particularly Article 46 of the Hague Convention, they strove to influence the members of the executive boards through persuasion rather than by force.

In the course of a conference held on May 3, 1940, at the Reich Ministry of Economics, dealing with those parts of Belgian and Dutch capital which it would be still possible to acquire, it was decided that the Military Commander in Belgium should take all necessary measures to prevent, on the one hand, the

[Page 51]

destruction, transfer, sale and illegal holding of all bonds and stocks of these countries, and, on the other hand, to induce Belgian capitalists to hand over their foreign securities to the Germans.The minutes of this conference are found in the document book and will be submitted as Exhibit RF 187.

To prevent the flight of any capital, an ordinance of June 17, 1940, was promulgated, subjecting to authorisation any sending abroad of securities and any acquisition or disposal of foreign securities.

Since August 2, 1940, the German leaders and the defendant Goering himself took a definite stand on this point. In the course of the general remarks on economic exploitation I have read to you secret directives issued in this respect by the defendant Goering. It is Exhibit RF 105, Page 97.

In spite of the German assurances and in spite of the wish of the occupying power to preserve the appearance of legality, the German desire to absorb certain investments met with serious resistance. The occupation authorities several times had to resort to force to conclude sales, in spite of the rights which they had reserved for themselves in the above cited decree of August 27, 1940. This was particularly the case regarding the investments held by the Belgian Metal Trust, the electrical enterprise of Eastern Silesia, and, still more clearly regarding the stock of the Ostrovic Metal Company, which, at that time, were wanted by the Hermann Goering Werke.

The Belgian ill will increased as the German determination to pillage became more evident. In his report of December 1, 1942, Exhibit RF 191, the German Kommissar with the National Bank vehemently denounces this resistance on the part of the Belgian market. Almost all acquisitions which could have been realised by the Germans were regulated by means of clearing.

The balance of clearing capital credited to Belgium to the sum of 1 billion Belgian francs on August 31, 1944, represents the result of borrowing forced upon Belgium without any legal or logical relation to occupation costs except the Germans' will to hegemony.

Such a practice, contrary to the principles of International Law and to the rules of criminal laws of civilised nations, falls under Article 6B of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal, and constitutes an act of pillage of public or private property such as envisaged in the prementioned text.

Closely allied to the acquisition of investments, and always within the framework of legality, the levies made by the German authorities on foreign enemy property and Jewish property should be presented to the Tribunal.

As to foreign property seized by the Germans, it must be mentioned that this measure was applied to French capital in Belgium in spite of numerous protests by the French Government. As to Jewish property, for the years 1943 and 1944, the figures are presented in Exhibit RF 192.

With this I conclude the presentation of the economic spoliation of Belgium.

The damage caused to Belgian economy in its principal sectors has just been submitted to the Tribunal. The statistical data have been taken either from German reports or from reports of the Belgian Government. The available estimates and figures are not yet sufficiently exact to fix the costs of war, the occupation and the economic spoliation of Belgium; certain losses and certain damages cannot be expressed in money. Among them, first of an, we must mention the privations resulting from German commandeering of a large part of food supplies and from the particular situation of billeting and clothing. This purely material aspect of the question should not let us overlook the consequences of the occupation upon the public health. For lack of statistical data, it is difficult to show precisely the final state of public health resulting from the particular circumstances.

One fact, however, must be remembered: the considerable increase in the number of persons who were eligible for special invalid diets. This number

[Page 52]

rose from 2,000 a month in 1941 to more than 25,000 a month in 1944. It has therefore, increased more than ten times, in spite of rationing measures which became more and more severe.

This increase in nutritional aid given to sick persons deserves the attention of the Tribunal, less for its statistical interest, than because it is an indication of the rise of disease in Belgium. This is itself the result of the undernourishment of the population during the four years of occupation.

This deplorable state of affairs, however, had not escaped the attention of the occupation authorities, as appears from the letter of the Military Commander in Belgium already cited, which is found in the document book as Exhibit RF 187:

"Regarding the food situation in Belgium, neither the minimum of existence for the civilian population is secured nor the minimum amount necessary for feeding heavy workers who are employed solely in the interest of the German war economy."
I shall not dwell on this. This undernourishment of the Belgian population has been the inescapable and the most serious result of the huge levies made by the occupation authorities, who wilfully disregarded the elementary requirements of an occupied country in order to pursue only the war aims of the Reich.

The lowering of the average standard of health and the rise in the death rate in Belgium from 1940 to 1945 may therefore be rightly considered the direct result of the spoliations committed by the Germans in Belgium in transgression of International Law.

I have concluded the presentation on Belgium.

I would like to make a few brief remarks on the economic pillaging of Luxembourg.

Supplementing my presentation on Belgium, it is proper to present to the Tribunal some details on the conduct of the Germans in Luxembourg.

The Government of the Grand Duchy has submitted a general summary of its charges, which has been lodged with the Tribunal as Exhibit UK 77, and in which an extract covering the crimes against property, is in the document book under No. 1.

The Germans shortly after their entry into the Grand Duchy proceeded to annex it in fact. This attitude, exactly similar to that adopted towards the inhabitants of the Departments of Moselle, Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin, requires some remarks.

As was their wont, one of the first measures was in connection with the rate of exchange. This they fixed as ten Luxembourg francs to one mark. It was the subject of the ordinance of August 26, 1940, to be found in the document book under Exhibit RF 195. This rate of exchange did not correspond to the respective purchasing power of the two currencies. It constituted a considerable levy on the wealth of the nationals, and especially insured the Germans a complete seizure of monetary means of payment. It procured for them a way of seizing a considerable part of the reserves of raw materials and manufactured goods of the country. The acquisitions were settled in depreciated marks on the basis of controlled prices imposed by the Germans.

Finally, by the ordinance of January 29, 1941, the Reichsmark was introduced as the only legal tender (ordinance submitted under Exhibit RF 196); the Luxembourg francs and the occupation marks were taken out of circulation, as well as Belgian francs, up to then considered as currency of the Franco-Luxembourg monetary union; all of these became foreign currency, effective from February 5, 1941.

I should like to draw the attention of the Tribunal to the fact that, of all the

[Page 53]

countries occupied by Germany, Luxembourg, Alsace and Lorraine were the only ones totally deprived of their national currency.

Moreover, to procure for the Reich the financial means necessary for the prosecution of the war, the ordinance of August 27, 1940 (Exhibit RF 197) required the forced handing over of gold and foreign currency. In addition, the same ordinance laid down that foreign shares and bonds had to be offered for sale to the Reichsbank at rates and under conditions fixed by the occupying power.

As has already been pointed out, the Germans seized industrial stocks. In this respect, the report dated May 21, 1940, on the economic situation in Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg contains information on the stocks found in the country:

1,600,000,000 tons of iron ore;
125,000 tons of manganese;
10,000 tons of crude iron;
10,000 tons of ferro-manganese;
36,000 tons of laminated products and finished products, and I could continue this enumeration. The German seizure extended from these stocks to industrial production.
According to the memorandum presented by the Reparations Commission of the Luxembourg Government, Exhibit RF 198, the total economic damages amount to 5,800,000,000 Luxembourg francs at 1938 value.

This figure can be broken down as follows:

Industry and commerce...............1,900,000,000
Roads and Highways......................100,000,000
Damage to property in general....1,900,000,000
From the same official source, the total loss in capital represents about 33 per cent of the national wealth of Luxembourg; before the war estimated at approximately 5,000,000,000 Luxembourg francs.

The effect on the financial and monetary situation of the country was a loss exceeding 6,000,000,000 Luxembourg francs.

These damages particularly figure the increase in circulation of money and the total amount of forced investments in Germany - more than 4,800,000,000 Luxembourg francs - as well as additional contributions imposed upon the taxpayers of the Grand Duchy following the introduction of the German fiscal system.

To these burdens must be added the skimming of profits, the fines and the allegedly voluntary gifts of every kind imposed upon Luxembourg.

Corresponding to what was done in other countries, the ordinance of February 21, 1941 (document 199 of the document book concerning Luxembourg) provided that German managers might be appointed in large enterprises, particularly enterprises which - and this is the text of the ordinance - "which refused to militate in favour of Germanism under any circumstances."

The mission of the Commissars was to ensure for the Reich, within the scope of the Four Year Plan, the direction and control of exploitation in the exclusive interest of the German war effort.

Thus, on August 2, 1940, the Reichskommissar for the "Administration of Enemy Property" appointed to the largest metal company in Luxembourg (Arbed), the United Steel Works of Burbach-Eich-Dudelange, three German Kommissars, who secured the total seizure of the company.

Neither did other large companies escape this domination, as can be seen from the documents submitted to the Tribunal under Exhibit RF 200.

The spoliation of Luxembourg and foreign interests in the insurance field,

[Page 54]

one of the most important sectors of Luxembourg business, was complete. With the exception of three Swiss companies and a German company, the Luxembourg companies, whose assets were transferred to German insurance companies - in an official way as regards the national companies and secretly as regards the foreign companies - were prohibited from carrying on any transactions.

The insurance companies of Luxembourg were deprived of the premiums from fire insurance by the introduction of compulsory fire insurance, for which the German companies were given the monopoly.

Introducing in Luxembourg their racial policy, the National Socialists seized and confiscated all Jewish property in the Grand Duchy to the profit of the Verwaltung fur Judenvermoogen (Administration for Jewish Property).

Also in regard to the Umsiedlungspolitik (resettlement policy), 1,500 Luxembourg families (that is, roughly, 7000 persons) were deported. The Germans took possession of their property. A German trust company, incorporated in the German Office for Colonisation and Germanisation was charged with the administration of this property, and, in fact, set about its liquidation. Important assets were thus confiscated and transferred to the Reich.

Tyrolian Germans were, as has already been pointed out, installed in the houses, and in the industrial, commercial and artisan enterprises of the deportees.

That is to say, your Honours, that the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was the victim of economic pillage as systematically organised as that in Belgium.

THE PRESIDENT: M. Delpech, the Tribunal is grateful to you for the way in which you have performed the task which they asked you to perform last night, a task which is not altogether easy, of shortening the address which you had intended to make. As far as they are able to judge, no essential parts of your address have been omitted. It is of great importance that the trial should be conducted, as the Charter indicates, in an expeditious way, and it was for this reason that the Tribunal asked you, if you could, to shorten your address.

M. DELPECH: I thank you, your Honour, for your kindness. (M. Gerthoffer takes the floor)

THE PRESIDENT Yes, M. Gerthoffer.

M. GERTHOFFER Mr. President, your Honours, I come to the sixth section of this presentation, which deals with the economic pillage of France.

When the Germans invaded France, they found there considerable wealth. They set about with ingenuity to seize it and also to subjugate the national economy.

When they failed to attain their ends by mere requisitions, they resorted to devious methods, using simultaneously ruse and violence, striving to cloak their criminal actions with legality.

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