The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd February to 13th February, 1946

Fiftieth Day: Monday, 4nd February, 1946
(Part 4 of 8)

I shall now ask the Tribunal to take the file entitled "Belgium." I point out immediately to the Tribunal that this file does not include any document book. This statement, which deals with very general facts, will be supported as being evidence by the report of the Belgian Government, which has already been submitted by my colleagues as Exhibit RF 394. The section which I now take up is a general section concerning military administration in Belgium and France, and I shall begin with the file concerning Belgium.

In Belgium the usurpations of national sovereignty by the occupying Power can be imputed to the military command which committed them either by

[Page 37]

Concerning the setting up of this apparatus of usurpation I shall read out to the Tribunal two paragraphs of the Belgian report, Chapter 4, concerning Germanisation and Nazification. Page 3, paragraph 3:
"The legal Government of Belgium having withdrawn to France, then to London, it was the Secretaries General of the Ministries, that is to say, the highest officials in the hierarchic order, who, by virtue of Article 5 of the law of 10th May, 1940, exercised within the framework of their professional activity and in cases of urgency, all the powers of the highest authority."
In other words, these high officials, animated, at least during the first months of the occupation, by the desire to keep the occupying authorities as far removed as possible from the administration of the country, took upon themselves governmental and administrative powers. At the order of the Germans this administrative power after a time became a real legislative power.

This regime of the Secretaries General pleased the Germans, who adopted it. In appointing to these posts Belgians who were in their pay they could introduce into Belgium, under the appearance of legality, absolutely radical reforms, which would make of this country a National Socialist vassal State.

It is interesting to note at this point that in order to strengthen their hold on the public life through the local authorities, the Germans did not hesitate, by a decree of 14th May, 1942, which is referred to in the official report, to suppress the jurisdictional control of the legality of the orders of the Secretaries General, which was a violation of Article 107 of the Belgian Constitution. The Belgian report states in the following paragraphs where the responsibility lies in this matter of breaches of public order, and I shall quote here the actual terms of this report on Page 4, paragraph 3:

"In conclusion, whether the transformation of the legal institutions be the consequence of German decrees or that of orders emanating from the Secretaries General makes no diFlerence. It is the Germans who bear the responsibility for these, the Secretaries General being, in relation to them, only faithful agents for carrying out their instructions."
I think that it will likewise be interesting to read the three following paragraphs of the report, for they reveal characteristic facts as to German methods in their seizure of sovereignty.
"If it is necessary to furnish a new argument to support this thesis further, it is sufficient to recall that the occupying Power employed all means to introduce into the structure which was to be transformed, from top to bottom, devoted National Socialist agents. This was real termites' work.

The decree of 7th March, 1941, under the pretext of bringing younger men into the administration, provided for the removal of a great number of officials. They would naturally be replaced by Germanophiles.

Finally, the Germans set up, at the head of the Ministry of the Interior, one of their most devoted agents, who arrogated to himself, as we shall see subsequently, the right to designate aldermen, permanent deputies, burgomasters, etc., and used his powers in the case of certain appointments of district commissioners, for instance by putting into office tools of the enemy."

The Belgian report then analyses in a remarkably clear manner the violations by the Germans of Belgian public order, classifying these under two headings. The first is entitled "Modifications made in the original constitutional structure."

Under this heading we find particular mention of the decree of 18th July, 1940, which immediately abolished all public activity; then a series of decrees by which

[Page 38]

the Germans suppressed the election of aldermen and decided that these aldermen would henceforth be designated by the central authority. This meant the overthrow of the traditional democratic order of communal administration.

In the same way the Germans, in violation of Article 3 of the Belgian Constitution, ordered by the decree of 26th January, 1943, the absorption of numerous communes into great urban areas.

The report then mentions here the fiscal exemptions granted, in violation of the Constitution, to persons engaged in the service of the German Army or the Waffen S.S. We find here a fresh example of the German criminal and general methods of military recruitment in the occupied countries.

The second heading of the report reads: "Introduction into Belgian public life of new institutions inspired by National Socialism and the idea of the State." Such institutions were, in fact, created by the German authorities. The most remarkable are the National Agricultural and Food Corporation and the Central Merchandise Offices. The report analyses the characteristics of these institutions and proves that they aimed at destroying traditional liberties. They were organs of totalitarian inspiration in which the "Fuehrer Prinzip" was applied, as we have seen was the case in similar institutions in the Netherlands..

I should like now to read the brief but revealing conclusion of the Belgian report on Germanisation. We think that it has been sufficiently established by the preceding statement that the Belgian Constitution and laws were deliberately violated by the German occupying Power, and this with the purpose, not of assuring its own security, which is obvious, but with the skilfully pre-meditated intention of making of Belgium a National Socialist State, and, consequently, capable of being annexed, seeing that two nationalist States that are neighbours must necessarily exclude each other, the stronger absorbing the weaker.

This policy was carried out in violation of International Law and customs, of the Declaration of Brussels of 1874, and of The Hague Regulations of 1899.

I shall not give detailed indications concerning other applications of the usurpation in connection with Belgium, because many indications have been furnished to the Tribunal already, notably in the economic statement and likewise in M. Dubost's presentation, and because the regime in Belgium was closely bound up with the regime in France. The indications which I shall give in the two other sections of my brief will relate particularly to these two countries, France and Belgium.

However, before concluding the presentation which I am now making, I should like to mention the abuses committed by the Germans against the universities of Belgium. We find here again the same phenomenon of hostility - very understandable of course - on the part of the doctrinaires and Nazi leaders against the centres of culture, and this hostility showed itself especially. in regard to the four great Belgian universities, which have such a fine tradition of spiritual life. I must point out to the Tribunal that the observations which I intend to present on this point have been taken from the appendices to the Belgian report, of which I read some extracts. I must point out that these appendices have not been submitted as documents, although they are attached to one of these originals, which marks their authenticity. I shall have these appendices translated and submitted later and I shall ask the Tribunal, therefore, to consider the indications which I shall give it as affirmations, the proof of which will be furnished, on the one hand, by the deposit of documents, and, on the other hand, by oral evidence, since I have called a witness on the subject of these questions. If this method satisfies the Tribunal, and I beg to be excused for the fact that the appendices have not been actually presented with the document, I shall continue my statement on this point.

THE PRESIDENT: M. Faure, what are the appendices to which you are referring?

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M. FAURE: They are documents which are in the appendix to the Belgian report.

The subject-matter of this report is to be found in the Belgian report itself, which has already been submitted. On the other hand, another copy of the same section has been established as the original with a series of appendices For this reason the appendices were not translated and submitted at the same, time as the main report, of which they, were only a part. They are appended notes which trace events that occurred in university life. But, as I indicated to the Tribunal, I propose to prove these points by the hearing of a witness. I thought, therefore, that I could make a statement which would constitute an affirmation of the Prosecution, and on which I would produce oral evidence. On the other hand, I shall submit the appendices as soon as they have been translated into German, which has not yet been done.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. The Tribunal is satisfied with the course which you propose, M. Faure.

M. FAURE: I shall mention first that in the University of Ghent the Germans undertook special propaganda among the students, with a view to Germanising them. They utilised, for this purpose, an organisation called, "Gentsch Studenten Verband," but their efforts to develop this did not achieve the success they had hoped. They set up in this University and in others a real espionage system under the cover of an ingenious formula, namely, that of "invited professors," German professors who were supposed to have been invited and who were observers and spies.

The report of one of these "invited professors" has been found in Belgium. This report shows the procedure adopted as well as the complete failure of the German efforts to exert influence.

In all the universities, the Germans made arrests and deported professors and students, and this action was resorted to particularly when the students refused - and rightly so - to obey the illegal German orders which compelled them to enter the labour service.

As regards the University of Brussels, it should be pointed out that this University had been, from the beginning, provided with a German Kommissar, and that fourteen professors had been irregularly dismissed. Later, the University of Brussels was obliged to discontinue its courses, and this as a result of a characteristic incident:

On the occasion of the vacancy of three chairs at the University, the Germans refused to accept the nomination of the candidates proposed in the usual way. and decided that they would appoint professors whose views suited them. This clearly shows the generally applied German method of interfering in everything and putting into office everywhere agents under their influence.

On 22nd November, 1941, the German military administration notified the President of the University of this decision. Therefore, the University decided to go on strike, and, in spite of all the efforts of the Germans this strike of the University of Brussels lasted until the liberation.

On this question of the Belgian universities, I should like now to read something to the Tribunal. This concerns the University of Louvain. Before reading this, I must indicate to the Tribunal the circumstances.

The Germans had in this University, as in the others, imposed upon the students compulsory labour. This we already know. But what I am going to read has to do with an additional requirement which is utterly shocking.

The Germans wished to force the Rector of the University, Mgr. van Wayenberg, to give them a complete list with the addresses of those students who were liable to compulsory service and who evaded it. They wished, therefore, to impose upon the Rector an act whereby he would become an informer, and this under threat of very severe penalties. The Cardinal Archbishop of Malines intervened on this occasion, and on 4th June, 1943, addressed

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a letter to General von Falkenhausen, Military Commander in Belgium. I should like to read this letter to the Tribunal. The letter is to be found in a book which I have here and which is published in Belgium, which is entitled "Cardinal van Roey and the German Occupation in Belgium." I do not submit this letter as a document. I ask the Tribunal to consider it as a quotation from a publication. This is what Cardinal van Roey writes:
"By an oral communication, of which I have asked in vain for the confirmation in writing, the Chief of the Militaerverwaltung, Reeder, has informed me that in case the Rector of the Catholic University of Louvain should persist in refusing to furnish the list with the addresses of the first year students, the occupying authority will take the following measures: close down the University; forbid the students to enrol in another University; subject all the students to forced labour in Germany and, should they evade this measure, take reprisals against their families.

This communication is all the more surprising, as a few days previously, following a note addressed to your Excellency by Monseigneur the Rector, the latter received from the Kreiskommandant of Louvain a notification that the academic authority would have no further trouble with regard to the lists. It is true that the Chief of Military Administration, Reeder, informed me that this answer was due to a misunderstanding.

As President of the Board of the University of Louvain, I have informed the Belgian bishops who make up this board of the serious nature of the communication which I have received, and I have the duty to inform you, in the name of all the bishops, that it is impossible for us to advise Monseigneur the Rector to hand over the lists of his students, and that we approve the passive attitude which he has observed up to now. To furnish the iists would, in effect, imply positive co-operation in measures which the Belgian bishops have condemned in the pastoral letter of 15th March, 1943, as being contrary to International Law, to natural rights, and to Christian morality.

If the University of Louvain were subjected to sanctions because it refuses this co-operation, we consider that it would be punished for carrying out its duty, and that however hard and painful the difficulties it would have to undergo temporarily, its honour at least would not be sullied. We believe, with the famous Bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose, that honour is above everything - 'Nihil praeferandum honestati.'

Moreover, your Excellency cannot be ignorant of the fact that the Catholic University of Louvain is a dependency of the Holy See. Canonically established by the Papacy, it is under the authority and the control of the Roman Congregation of Seminaries and Universities, and it is the Holy See which approved the appointment of Mgr. van Wayenberg as Rector Magnifique of the University. If the measures announced were to be carried out, it would constitute a violent attack on the rights of the Holy See. Consequently His Holiness the Pope will be informed of the extreme dangers which threaten our Catholic University."

I shall end here the quotation of the letter, but I must point out to the Tribunal that in spite of this protest, and any considerations of simple practical interest which the Germans might have had in maintaining correct attitude in this matter, the Rector Magnifique was arrested on 5th June, 1943, and was condemned by the German military court to eighteen months' imprisonment.

Having recalled the painful facts which the Tribunal has just heard, I should like to observe that they might almost give us the impression that such an event as the arrest and sentence of a prelate, rector of a university, for a wrongful reason, was, since there were no tragic consequences - of relatively secondary importance. But I think we should not subordinate our intellectual judgment

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to the direct test of our sensibility, now grown so accustomed to horrors, and if we reflect upon it we must conclude that such an outrage is in itself very characteristic, and the fact that such treatment should have been considered by the Germans as the expression of justice is truly characteristic of the plan of Germanisation with its repercussions on the world.

(A recess was taken until 14.00 hours.)

MARSHAL OF THE COURT: May it please the Court, I desire to announce that the defendant Kaltenbrunner will be absent from this afternoon's session on account of illness.

M. FAURE: May it please the Tribunal, I should like to call the witness van der Essen.


(M. VAN DER ESSEN took the stand.)


Q. What is your name?

A. Van der Essen.

Q. Do you swear to speak without hate or fear, to speak the truth, all the truth, and only the truth?

Raise your right hand and say "I swear."

A. I swear.

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit, if you wish.


Q. M. van der Essen, you are a professor of history of the Faculty of Letters at the University of Louvain?

A. Yes.

Q. You are the General Secretary of the University of Louvain?

A. Yes.

Q. You have stayed in Belgium during the whole period of the occupation?

A. To the end, from the end of July, 1940, I scarcely left Belgium.

Q. Can you give any information on the destruction of the Library of Louvain?

A. It will be remembered that in 1914 this library - which was certainly one of the best university libraries in Europe, containing many early printed books, manuscripts and books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries - was systematically destroyed by means of incendiary materials by the German soldiers of the Ninth Reserve Corps, commanded by General von Ston. This time, in 1940, the same thing happened again. This library was systematically destroyed by the German Army, and in order that you tray understand I must first say that the fire began, according to all the witnesses, during the night of 16th-17th May, 1940, at about 13.00 hours. It was on the 17th at dawn that the English Army made the necessary withdrawal manceuvre to leave the Q.W. line of defence. On the other hand, it is absolutely certain that the first German troops entered only on the morning of the 17th, about 8 o'clock. This interval between the departure of the British troops on the one hand, and the arrival of the Germans on the other, enabled the latter to make it appear as if the library had been systematically destroyed by the British troops. I must here categorically give the lie to such a version: The library of the University of Louvain was systematically destroyed by German gunfire.

Two batteries were posted, one in the village of Corbek and the other in the village of Lovengule. These two batteries, on each side, systematically directed their fire on the library, and nothing but the library. The best proof of this is that all the shells fell on the library; only one house near the library received a chance hit. The tower was hit eleven times, four times by the battery which fired from Lovengule and seven times by the battery which fired from Corbek.

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