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 7 of 8)

[M. GERTHOFER continues]

[Page 68]

This state of affairs results from the fact that the Germans directed the products in the process of manufacture, in theory reserved for the French population, into finishing industries which had priority, that is to say, whose production was reserved for them.

Finally, through their purchases on the black market, the Germans procured an enormous quantity of textiles, machine tools, leather, perfume, and so forth. The French population was almost completely deprived of textiles during the occupation. That is also true for leather.

Now, I reach Section 4, the removal of industrial tools. I shall not impose on your time; this question has already been treated as far as the other occupied countries are concerned. I would merely point out that in France it was the object of statistical estimates which I submit to you as Exhibit RF 251. These statistical estimates show that the value of the material which was removed from the various French factories under private or public enterprise exceeds the sum of 9,000,000,000 francs.

It was observed that for many of the machines which were removed, the Germans merely indicated the inventory value after reduction due to depreciation, and not the replacement value of the machines.

I now come to Section 5: Securities and Foreign Investments, in document EC 57 which I submitted as Exhibit RF 105 at the beginning of my presentation, [Page 69] I had indicated that the defendant Goering himself had informed you of the aims of the German economic policy, and that he ventured to say that the extension of German influence over foreign enterprises was one of the purposes of that policy.

These directives were to be expressed much more precisely in the document of the 12 August, 1940, which I submit as Exhibit RF 252, and from which I shall read a short extract.

"Since "-as the document says-" the principal economic enterprises are in the form of stock companies, it is first of all indispensable to secure the ownership of securities in France."
Further on it says:
"the exertion of influence by way of directives..."
Then the document indicates all the means to be employed to achieve this, in particular this passage concerning International Law :
"According to Article 46 of the Hague Convention, concerning land warfare, private property cannot be confiscated. Therefore the confiscation of securities is to be avoided in so far as it does not concern securities belonging to the State. According to Article 42 and following of the Hague Convention concerning land warfare, the authority exercising power in the occupied enemy territory must restrict itself in principle to utilising measures which are necessary to re-establish or maintain order and public life; to conform to International Law it is forbidden in principle to eliminate the still existing boards of companies and to replace them by 'Kommissars.' Such a measure would, from the point of view of International Law, probably not be considered as efficacious. Consequently, we must strive to force the various boards of companies to work for the German economy, but not dismiss these persons..."
Further on :
"If these boards refuse to be directed, we must dissolve them and replace them by others of which we can make use."
We will briefly consider the three categories of seizure of financial investments, which were the purpose of German spoliation during the occupation, and first of all the seizure of financial investments in companies whose interests were abroad.

On the 14 August, 1940, an ordinance was published in V.O.B.I.F., Page 67, forbidding any negotiations regarding credits or foreign securities. But mere freezing of securities did not satisfy the occupying power; it was necessary for them to become outwardly the owners of the securities in order to be able if necessary, to negotiate with them in neutral countries.

They had some agents who purchased foreign securities from private citizens who needed money, but above all, they put pressure on the Vichy Government to hand over the principal French investments in foreign countries.

That is why, in particular, after long discussions, in the course of which the German pressure was very great, considerable surrenders of investments were made to the Germans.

It is not possible for me to submit to the Tribunal the numerous documents concerning the surrender of these investments, the minutes, the correspondence, the survey. They would, without exaggeration, take up several cubic metres. I shall merely quote several passages as examples.

Concerning the Bor Mines Company, the copper mines in Yugoslavia, of which the greatest part of the capital was in French hands, the Germans appointed on 26 July 1940, an administrative Commissar for these branches of the company situated in Yugoslavia. I submit this to the Tribunal as

[Page 70]

Exhibit RF 254. The administrative Commissar was Herr Neuhausen the German Consul General for Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.

In the course of the discussions of the Armistice Commission Hemmen declared - and this is found in an extract from the minutes of 27 September 1940 which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 255:

"Germany wishes to acquire the shares of the company, without concern for the juridical objections made by the French. Germany obeys, in fact, the imperative consideration of the economic order. She suspects that the Bor Mines are still delivering copper to England, and she has definitely decided to take possession of these mines... "
I now submit to the Tribunal, as Exhibit RF 256, an extract from the minutes of a meeting held on 4 October, 1940, which Hemmen faced with the refusal of the French delegates, stated,
"I regret to have to transmit such a reply to my Government. See if the French Government cannot reconsider its attitude. If not, our relations will become very difficult. My Government is anxious to bring this matter to a close. If you refuse, the consequences will be extremely grave."
M. de Boisanger, the French Delegate, replied:
"I will therefore put that question once more."
And Hemmen replied:
"I shall expect your reply by to-morrow. If it does not come, I shall transmit the negative reply which you have just given."
Then, in the course of a meeting on 9 January 1941, Hemmen stated - and I submit again an extract from the minutes, which will be Exhibit RF 257:
"I had, from the beginning, been entrusted with this affair at Wiesbaden. Then it was discussed by the Consul General Neuhausen, on behalf of a very high-ranking personage, (Marshal Goering) and it was handled directly in Paris with M. Laval and M. Abetz."
As far as French investments in petroleum companies in Roumania are concerned, the pressure was no less. In the course of the meeting of 10 October 1940, of the Armistice Commission, the same Hemmen stated - and I submit this as Exhibit RF 258, an extract from the minutes of the meeting:
"Moreover, we shall be satisfied with the majority of the shares. We will leave in your hands anything which we do not need for this purpose. Can you accept on this point in principle? The matter is urgent. As for the Bor Mines, we want all."
On 29 of November 1940, Hemmen stated again - and I submit this extract of the minutes of the Armistice Commission meeting as Exhibit RF 259:
"We are still at war and we must exert immediate influence over petroleum production in Roumania. Therefore we cannot wait for the peace treaty."
When the French Delegates asked that the surrender should at least be made in exchange for material compensation, Hemmen replied:
"Impossible. The sums which you are to receive from us will be taken out of the occupation costs. This will save you from using the printing-press. This kind of participation will be generalised on the German side when the collaboration policy has been defined."
We might present quotations of this kind indefinitely, and many even much more serious from the point of view of the violation of the provisions of the Hague Convention.

All these concessions, apparently agreed to by the French, were only accepted under German pressure.

[Page 71]

Scrutiny of the contracts agreed upon shows great losses to those who handed over their property, and enormous profits for those who acquired it, without the latter having furnished any real compensation.The Germans thus obtained French investments in the Roumanian petroleum companies, in the enterprises of Central Europe, Norway and the Balkans, and especially those of the Bor Mines Company which I mentioned. These surrenders, paid by francs coming from occupation costs, rose to rather more than 2 billion francs. The others were paid by the floating of French loans abroad, notably in Holland, and through clearing. Having given you a brief summary of the seizure of French business investments abroad, I shall examine rapidly the German seizure of the registered capital of French industrial companies. Shortly after the Armistice, in conformity with the directives of the defendant Goering, a great number of French industries were the object of proposals on the part of German groups, anxious to acquire all or part of the assets of these companies. Acquisition was facilitated by the fact that the Germans, as I have had the honour of pointing out to you, were, in reality, in control of industry, and had taken over the direction of production, particularly by the system of "Patenfirmen." Long discussions took place between the occupying power and the French Minister of Finance, whose department strove, without success, to limit to 30 per cent the maximum of German investments. It is not possible for me to enter into details of the seizure of these investments. I shall point out, however, that the Finance Minister handed to us a list of the most important ones, which are reproduced in a chart appended to the French document book, and which will be Exhibit RF 260. The result was that the seizure of investments, fictitiously paid through clearing, rose to the sum of 307,436,000 francs; through occupation costs to 160 millions, through foreign stocks, to a sum which we have not been able to determine; and finally, through various or unknown means to 28,718,000 francs. We shall conclude the paragraph of this fifth section by quoting part of the Hemmen report relative to these questions, Page 63 of the original and 142 of the French translation. Here is what Hemmen writes, in Salzburg in January 1944, concerning this subject: "The fifth report upon the activity of the delegation is devoted to the difficulty of future seizures of investments in France, in the face of the strongly accusing attitude of the French Government concerning the surrender of valuable domestic and foreign property. This opposition increased, during the period covered by the report, to such an extent that the French Government was no longer disposed to give any approval to the transfer of investments even if economic compensations were offered." Further on, Page 104 in the second paragraph: "During the four years of the occupation of France the Armistice Delegation transferred stocks representing altogether about RM 121 million from French to German ownership, among them investments in enterprises important to the war in other countries, as well as in Germany and France. Details of this are found in the earlier reports of the activities of the Delegation. For about half of these transfers, the Germans gave economic compensation by delivery of French foreign shares acquired in Holland and in Belgium, while the rest of the amount was paid by way of clearing or occupation costs. The fact of giving payment in French shares in foreign countries caused the differences, as far as the shares were concerned, between the German purchasing price and the French rates, and the result was that the Germans achieved gains of a sum of about seven million Reichsmark, which were delivered to the Reich." [Page 72] One should emphasise that the profit derived by Germany, merely from the financial point of view, is not 7 million Reichsmark, or 140 million francs, according to Hemmen, but much greater. In fact, Germany paid principally for her acquisition by way of occupation costs, and by clearing and French loans issued in Holland or in Belgium, the appropriation of which by Germany amounted to spoliation of these countries and could not constitute a real compensation for France. These surrenders of investments, carried out under the cloak of legality, moved the United Nations to lay down, in their declarations made in London, on 5 January 1943, the principle that such surrenders should be declared null and void, even when carried out with the apparent consent of those who made them. I submit, as Exhibit RF 261, the solemn statement signed in London, on 5 January 1943, which was published in the French Official Journal on 15 August 1944 at the time of the liberation. I might add that all these surrenders are the subject of indictments before the French Courts of "high treason against Frenchman who surrendered their investments to the Germans," even though undeniable pressure was brought to bear upon them. I shall conclude this chapter with one last observation: the German seizure of real estate in France. It is still difficult to give at this time a precise account of this subject, for these operations were nearly always made through an intermediary with an assumed name. The most striking is that of a certain Skolnikoff, who during the occupation was able to invest nearly 2 billion francs in the purchase of real estate. It is true that this individual, of indeterminate nationality, who lived in poverty before the war, enriched himself in a scandalous fashion, thanks to his connection with the Gestapo and his operations on the black market in co-operation with the occupying power. But, whatever may have been the profits he derived from his dishonest activities, he could not personally have acquired almost 2 billions worth of real estate in France. I submit, as Exhibit RF 262, a copy of a police report concerning him. It is not possible for me to read this to the Tribunal in its entirety, but it contains the list of the buildings and real estate companies acquired by him. These are without question choice buildings of great value. It is evident that Skolnikoff, an agent for the Gestapo, was an assumed name for certain Germans whose identity has not been discovered up to the present. Now I shall take up Section 6 - the levy of transportation and communication material. A report from the French administration gives us statistics which are reproduced in a very complete chart, which I shall not read to the Tribunal. I shall merely point out to the Tribunal that most of the locomotives and rolling stock in good shape were removed, and that the total sum of the levies on transportation material reached the figure of 188,450,000,000 francs. I shall now take up levies in the departments of Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin and Moselle. From the beginning of the invasion the Germans incorporated these departments into the Reich. This question will be presented subsequently by the French Prosecution when they discuss the question of Germanisation. From the point of view of economic spoliation it must be stressed that the Germans sought to derive a maximum from these three departments. Though they paid in marks for a certain number of products, they made no settlement whatever for the principal products, especially coal, iron, crude oil, potassium, industrial material, furniture, and agricultural machinery. The information relating to this is given by the French administration in a chart which I shall summarise briefly, and which I submit as Exhibit RF 264. The value of the levies in the three French departments of the East, levies not paid for by the Germans, reached the sum of 27,315,000,000 francs. To conclude the question of the departments in the East, I should like to [Page 73] point out to the Tribunal that my colleague, who will discuss the question of Germanisation, will show how the firm, Herman Goering Werke, in which the defendant Goering had considerable interests, appropriated equipment from the mines of the large French company called the "Petits-Fils de Francois de Wendel et Cie." [ imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-05 ] The Nizkor Project Director: Ken McVay OBC Financial Support October 26, 1999 Internet connectivity courtesy of

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