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 5 of 8)

[M. GERTHOFER continues]

[Page 59]

From another teletype message, which was seized in the same manner and which I submit as Exhibit RF 221, I read the following:
"It is clear that there was no agreement at all with the French as to what should be understood by 'costs for maintenance of occupation troops' in France. If among ourselves we are in agreement on the fact that at the present moment we must, for practical reasons, avoid all discussion, then on the other hand, discussions with the French must leave no doubt that we have the right to interpret the term 'maintenance' in the broadest possible sense."
Further on in the same teletype, Page 24, paragraph 2 there is the following:
"In any case, the concessions demanded by the French on the question of specifying the amount of occupation costs and of the utilisation of the francs thus delivered must be rejected:
And finally the following paragraph:
"The utilisation of sums paid in francs:

Concerning the utilisation of the francs paid, and the fact that their use does not correspond to the costs really involved in the maintenance of occupation troops in France, this is a question that must be not discussed with the French authorities."

The French then attempted, in vain, to obtain a reduction in the occupation costs and also a modification in the rate of the Mark, but the Germans refused all discussion.

At the beginning of the year 1941 negotiations were resumed (Page 42). In view of the intransigence of the Germans, the French Government suspended payments in the month of May, 1941. Then, at the insistence of the occupying power they resumed it, but paid only 300 million francs a day. This is found in the document submitted as Exhibit RF 222.

On the 15 September, 1942, after the invasion of French territory, Germany

[Page 60]

demanded that the daily payment of 300 million francs be raised to 500 million.

The sums paid for the occupation troops increased to a total of 631 866,000,000 francs, or, on the imposed rate, 31,593,300,000 Mark. This amount can be calculated not only from the information given by the French administration but can also be verified by German documents, in particular the report of Hemmen.

Hemmen, director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin, had been designated President of the German economic delegation of the Armistice Commission, and he was acting, in fact, under the direct orders of his Minister, von Ribbentrop, as a veritable dictator in economic questions. His chief assistant in Paris was Doctor Michel, of whom we have already spoken.

While maintaining his functions as chief of the economic delegation of the Armistice Commission of Wiesbaden, the same Hemmen was to be appointed by a decision of Hitler, under date of 19 December 1942, delegate of the Government of the Reich for economic questions, attached to the French Government. This is verified in the Exhibit RF 223.

Hemmen periodically sent secret economic reports to his minister. These documents were discovered by the United States Army. They are of a fundamental importance in this part of the trial, since, as you will see, they contain Germany's admission of economic pillaging.

These voluminous reports are submitted under Exhibits RF 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, and 229 of the French documentation. It is not possible for me, important though they are, to read them in their entirety to the Tribunal. I shall confine myself to quoting a few brief extracts in the course of my presentation. As an example of their importance, here is the translation of the last volume of the Hemmen reports.

In this last report, printed in Salzburg on 15 December 1944, on Page 26, Hemmen recognises that France has paid by way of indemnity for the maintenance of occupation troops 31,593,300,000 Mark, that is ....

THE PRESIDENT: M. Gerthoffer, these documents are in German, are they not?

M. GERTHOFFER: Yes, Mr. President, they are in German. I have only been able to have the last one translated into French; because of their length it has not been possible for me to have all the translations made, but it is from the last volume, which is translated into French, that I will make certain very brief quotations.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, well then are you confining yourself to the last document, and to certain passages in the last document?

M. GERTHOFFER: I shall limit myself to this.

THE PRESIDENT: And then, as these are not documents of which we can take judicial notice, only the parts which you read will be regarded as part of the record, and be treated as in evidence.

M. GERTHOFFER: This enormous sum imposed was much greater than that which Germany was entitled to demand. In spite of the enormous sums which the Germans may have spent in France during the first two years, they could not use even half of the amount of their credit.

This is brought out in the Hemmen report, where on Page 27, (Page 59 of the French translation) he gives a summary of the French payments made as occupational indemnity, and the German expenses in millions of Mark corresponding to these expenses. This summary is very short. I shall read it to the Tribunal. It will constitute a German proof in support of my presentation.

[Page 61]

Year .......................... French Payment.......................... German
.................................... in millions of...............................expenditure millions of Mark


The figures contained in this table unquestionably constitute the German admission of the exorbitance of the indemnity for the maintenance of occupation troops, since Germany was not able to utilise the credit at its disposal, especially as most of this served to finance expenses relative to armament, operation troops, and feeding of Germany. This is shown by Document EC 232, which I submit as Exhibit RF 230 of the French documentation.

According to the calculation of the Economic Analysis Institute, the maximum sum of the indemnity which could be exacted amounted to 74,531,800,000 francs; taking as a basis the medium daily costs of upkeep per troop unit in the course of the entire Allied occupation of the Rhineland in 1919, namely the sum of seventeen francs increased to twenty- one francs, and taking into account the billeting, which was at that time provided by the German Government. According to the report of the average indices of living cost of 3.14, the sum of 21 francs should correspond to 66 francs at the 1939 value, when applying the co-efficient of depreciation of the franc during the occupation, that is 2.10 per cent, or a daily average cost of 199 francs per day.

Granting that the real costs of the occupation army were half of these calculated by Hemmen, that is to say, 27,032,079,120 Mark, this sum is still lower than the 74,531,800,000 calculated by the Economic Analysis Institute.

Even accepting the calculation most favourable to the accused, one can estimate that the indemnity imposed without justification amounted to 631, 866,000,000 less 74,531,800,000 or 557,334,200,000 francs.

In his final report, Page 19, at Page 22 of the French translation, Hemmen writes, -

"during the four years which have passed since conclusion of the Armistice, there has been paid in occupation and billeting costs, thirty-four million Reichsmark or six-hundred and eighty million francs."
France thus contributed approximately forty per cent of the total cost of occupation and war contributions raised in all the occupied and Allied countries. This represents a charge of eight hundred and thirty Reichsmark, or sixteen-thousand six hundred francs per head of the population.

In the second part of this chapter we shall examine briefly the question of Clearing. The Tribunal is acquainted with the function of the Clearing device; we shall not revert to this. I shall indicate under what conditions the French Government at the time was made to sign agreements which were imposed upon it.

Parallel to the discussions relative to the indemnity for the maintenance of occupation troops, discussions were entered into concerning the Clearing Agreement.

On 24 July 1940, the German Delegation announced that it would shortly submit a project. On 8 August 1940, Hemmen submitted to the French Delegation a project of Franco- German arrangement for payment of compensation. This project, which I submit as Exhibit RF 231 of the French documentation, contained drastic rules, which could not be voluntarily accepted.

First is provided financial transfers from France to Germany without any equivalent in financial transfers from Germany to France.

Then it fixed the rate of exchange of twenty francs for one Reichsmark by

[Page 62]

a unilateral and clearly arbitrary decision, whereas the rate on the Berlin exchange was approximately 17.65 and the real parity of the two currencies, taking into account their respective purchasing power on both markets, was approximately ten francs for one Mark.

I shall go on to Page 34. The French Delegation of the Armistice Commission submitted unsuccessfully on 20 August 1940, a counter project, and attempted to obtain a modification of the most unfavourable clauses. I submit this project as Exhibit RF 232 of the French documentation.

On 21 August 1940, at the Armistice Commission, the French Delegation brought up in detail the question of the Franc- Reichsmark parity, and it called attention to the fact of the prohibition of the financial transfer from Germany to France creating a gross inequality, whereas the transfer in the other direction was organised, and pointed out that this meant, that the French Government had to give its agreement to a veritable dispossession of French creditors. An extract from this report is presented and submitted as Exhibit RF 232.

In a letter of 31 August, General Huntziger again took up in vain the argument as to the Franc-Reichsmark rate of exchange. I submit this letter as Exhibit RF 234.

On 6 September 1940, the French Delegation made a new attempt to obtain a modification of the most unfavourable clauses of the Clearing Agreement, but it met with a flat refusal. The German Delegation meant to impose, under the cloak of a bilateral agreement, a project elaborated by it alone.

I quote a passage from the minutes of the Armistice Delegation. Herr Schone, the German delegate, stated:

"I cannot reopen the discussion on this question. I can make no concession."
Concerning the Franc-Reichsmark rate of exchange on 4 October 1940, Hemmen notified the French Delegation that the rate of twenty francs must be considered as definite and, according to his own words, "this is no longer to be discussed." He added that if the French for their part refused to conclude a payment agreement, that is to say the drastic contract imposed by Germany, he would advise the Fuehrer of this, and that all facilities with regard to the demarcation line would be stopped.

I submit this extract from the minutes as Exhibit RF 236.

Finally, in the course of the negotiations which followed on 10 October 1940, the French Delegation attempted for the last time to obtain an alleviation of the drastic conditions which were imposed upon it, but the Germans remained intransigent and Hemmen declared in particular...

THE PRESIDENT: M. Gerthoffer, do these negotiations lead up to a conclusion, because if they do, would it not be sufficient for your purpose to give us the conclusion without giving all the negotiations which lead up to it?

M. GERTHOFFER: Mr. President, I am just finishing the statement with the last quotation, in which the Tribunal may see what pressure - what threats were made upon the French, who were then in contact with the Germans. I shall have concluded the discussion of the Clearing with this quotation, if the Tribunal will allow it; it will be a short one and it will then be finished.

It was at the last meeting of 10 October 1940, in the course of which Hemmen declared the following: I submit this as Exhibit RF 237:

"You are attempting to make the rate of the Mark fictitious. I beg you to warn your government that we shall break off negotiations. I certainly foresaw that you would be unable to prevent the prices from rising, but now you are systematically causing them to rise for export purposes. We shall find other means of achieving our aims. We shall go and take the bauxite." This is the end of the quotation.

[Page 63]

If the Tribunal will allow me a very brief comment. At the Armistice Commission all kinds of economic questions were discussed, and to the very end the French delegates resisted, for Germany wanted to seize immediately the bauxite resources, which were in the unoccupied zone. This last sentence is the threat: if you do not accept our Clearing Agreement, we shall seize the bauxite. That is to say, we shall occupy the free zone by force of arms.

The so-called compensation agreement worked only to Germany's advantage. The results of the agreement are the following (Page 116):

At the moment of liberation the total transfer from France to Germany amounted to 221,114,000,000 francs, while the total transfer from Germany to France amounted to 50,474,000,000 francs. The difference, that is, 170,640,000,000 francs credit balance on the French account, represents the means of payment which Germany improperly obtained through the functioning of the Clearing which it had imposed.

I now come to the third part of this chapter, which will be very brief. This is the seizure of goods and collective fines.

Besides the transactions which were outwardly legal, the Germans proceeded to make seizures and to impose collective fines, in violation of the principles of International Law.

Firstly: a contribution of one billion francs was imposed upon the French Jews on 17 December 1941, without any pretext. This is evidenced by the documents submitted as Exhibit RF 239, and cannot be contested.

Secondly: a certain number of collective fines were imposed. The amount made known by the Finance Ministry amounted to 412,636,550 francs.

Thirdly; the Germans proceeded to make immediate seizure of gold stocks, and even Hemmen admits in his last secret report, on Pages 33 and 34, Page 72 of the French translation, that on 24 September 1940, the Germans seized 257 kilograms of gold from the port of Bayonne, which represented at the 1939 rate 12,336,000 francs, and in July 1940 they seized a certain number of silver coins, amounting to 35 millions.

Still following the secret report of Hemmen for the period between January 1 and 30 June 1942, Germany had seized in France 221,730 kilograms of gold belonging to the Belgian National Bank, which represents, at the 1939 rate, the sum of nine billion five hundred million francs.

It is not possible for me to present in detail the conditions under which the Belgian gold was delivered to the Germans. This question in itself would involve me in an explanation which would take up several sessions. The fact is undeniable since it is admitted by Hemmen.

I shall simply indicate that, as early as the month of September 1940 in violation of International Law, Hemmen had insisted on the delivery of this gold, which had, in May 1940, been entrusted by the National Bank of Belgium to the Bank of France. Moreover these facts are part of the accusations made against the ex-minister of the Vichy Government before the High Court of Justice in Paris.

The sequels to this procedure were long and frequent discussions that took place at the Armistice Commission, and an agreement was concluded on 29 October 1940, but was not in fact carried out, because of difficulties raised by the French and Belgians.

According to the former Assistant Director of the Bank of France the German pressure became stronger and stronger. Laval, who was then determined to pay any price for the authorisation to go to Berlin, where he boasted that he would be able to achieve a large scale liberation of prisoners, the reduction of the occupation costs, as well as the elimination of the demarcation line, yielded to the German demands.

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