The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th February to 26th February, 1946

Sixty-Fourth Day: Thursday, 21st February, 1946
(Part 8 of 8)


[Page 204]

I would like to draw the attention of the Tribunal to another peculiar circumstance.

In this case, too, the looting was carried out by Rosenberg together with the High Command, and even in the autumn of 1944, "Future Chiefs" of "Staff Rosenberg" were selected. An analysis of all these circumstances permits us to reassert categorically that the destruction and looting of cultural treasures was inspired, directed and executed by one central Organisation, and that this central Organisation was the criminal Hitlerite Government and the High Command, the representatives of which, in the persons of all the defendants in these Trials, should suffer punishment in accordance with Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal.

May it please your Honours, when we deal with a system of wholesale destruction and plunder, it is impossible, and scarcely necessary, to enumerate all the facts, even if these facts are, per se, of great importance.

In the occupied territories of the Soviet Union the Hitlerites carried out precisely such a system of wholesale and manifold destruction and plunder of the cultural treasures of its peoples. At this moment it is not yet possible to draw up an exhaustive balance of the defendants' crimes.

But I shall, with the permission of the Tribunal, quote a document containing data which, although only of a preliminary nature, is absolutely accurate and bears witness to the tremendous damage inflicted by the Hitlerites.

I have before me the Report of the Extraordinary State Commission, submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 35. This document is on Pages 404 and 405 of the document book. From this I will only quote individual excerpts concerning the subject which I am presenting and which have not yet been read into the record.

"Destruction of Cultural-Social Institutions, Communal Organisations and Co-operatives.

The German plunderers destroyed various establishments, clubs, stadiums, rest homes and sanatoria belonging to consumer and industrial co-operatives, trade unions and other public organisations . . . in the occupied territory of the USSR. They destroyed over 87,000 industrial buildings . . . belonging to co-operatives, trade unions and other social organisations; 10,000 residential buildings and 1,839 cultural and social institutions.

They carried off to Germany ... about 8,000,000 books ...

Of the property of the trade unions the German invaders completely destroyed 120 sanatoria and 150 rest homes in which over 3,000,000 workers, engineers, technicians and other workers and employees spent their annual rest leave. Of this, total figure they destroyed, in the Crimea, fifty-nine sanatoria and rest homes . . . in the spas of the Caucasus; thirty-three sanatoria and rest homes in the Leningrad area; eighty-eight sanatoria and rest homes . . . in the Ukraine . . . The German fascist invaders destroyed the buildings of forty-six pioneer camps and children's convalescent institutions belonging to the trade unions. They destroyed 189 clubs and Palaces of Culture."

I omit one paragraph and quote the last paragraph on this page:-
"In the territory of the Soviet Union which was occupied by the Germans, at the beginning of 1941, there were 82,000 elementary and secondary schools with 15,000,000 pupils. All the secondary schools possessed libraries, each

[Page 205]

with from 2,000 to 25,000 volumes; many schools possessed laboratories for physics, chemistry, biology and other subjects . . .

The German fascist invaders burnt, destroyed and plundered these schools with their entire property and equipment . . ."

I omit the end of this paragraph.
"The German fascist invaders entirely or partially destroyed 334 universities at which 233,000 students were studying; they removed to Germany the equipment of the laboratories and lecture rooms together with the exhibits, unique of their kind, from the collections of the universities, institutes and libraries . . .

Great damage was inflicted on the medical colleges .

The occupational authorities destroyed or looted 137 pedagogical institutions and teachers colleges . . . They removed from the special libraries historical archives and ancient manuscripts, and stole or destroyed over 100 million volumes in the public libraries."

I omit the next paragraph.
"They destroyed altogether 605 scientific research institutes."
I omit the end of Page 85 of the report and the first paragraph of Page 86.
"Enormous damage was inflicted by the Germans on the Medical Establishments of the Soviet Union. They destroyed or plundered 6,000 hospitals, 33,000 polyclinics, dispensaries and out-patient departments, 976 sanatoria and 656 rest homes."
I omit the next three paragraphs.
"Destruction of Museums and Historical Monuments.

In the occupied territories the German fascist invaders destroyed 427 out of a total of 992 museums of the Soviet Union."

I omit the end of this page and quote the beginning of Page 87 of the report.
"The Germans also destroyed the museum of the peasant poet S. D. Drozhzhin, in the village of Zavidovo, the museum of the people's poet I. S. Nikitin, in Voronezh, and the museum of the famous Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz, at Novogrudek in the Bielorussian SSR. At Alagir they burned the manuscripts of the Ossetian national singer, Kosta Khetagurov.

The German Fascist invaders destroyed 44,000 theatres, clubs and so-called 'Red Corners.'"

Now with the permission of the Tribunal, I would like to submit a documentary film and a certificate testifying to the documentary character of this film. The film is entitled, "Destruction of Art and Museums of National Culture perpetrated by the Germans on the Territory of the USSR."

This film and the documents testifying to the documentary nature of these reels are submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 98.

In this film, besides documentary photographs taken between 1941-1945, there are also extracts from a film made in 1908, showing "Yasnaya Polyana" and Leo Tolstoy. Subsequent photographs show what the German invaders did to this cultural relic of the Soviet people.

May I proceed with the presentation of the film, your Honour?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, of course.

(The film was shown on the screen in the court room.)

LIEUTENANT- GENERAL RAGINSKY: I must dwell, your Honours, on one more category of crimes committed by the Hitlerites-the spoliation and destruction of churches, convents and other places of, religious worship.

[Page 206]

While destroying monasteries, churches, mosques and synagogues, and robbing their property, the German invaders sadistically mocked the religious feelings of the people.

These blasphemous crimes assumed a general form in all the territories which were under German rule.

Soldiers and officers organised bloody orgies in places of worship, kept horses and dogs in the churches, donned the church vestments and made sleeping bunks out of the icons.

I will not trespass on your time by reading all the numerous documents at the disposal of the Soviet Prosecution and shall merely dwell on some of these, in particular on the documentary photographs, an album of which I present to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 99.

With your permission, I would like to read a few more documents and particularly a short extract from the document, which has already been presented to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 51/3. You can find this extract in your Document Book on the back of Page 391. I quote:-

"Neither do the Hitlerite invaders spare the religious sentiments of the believing section of the Soviet population. They have burnt, looted, blown up and desecrated hundreds of churches on Soviet territory, including several irreplaceable monuments of ancient church architecture."
I omit two paragraphs, and I quote the next one.
"The Reverend Amvrosy Ivanov writes from the village of Jklinskoye, in the Moscow region:
'Before the arrival of the Germans the church was in complete order. A German officer ordered me to take everything out of the church ... The troops arrived at night, occupied the church, brought in their horses ... Then they began to smash and break everything in the church and to build bunks. They threw out everything; the altar, the Holy Gates and Banners, and the Holy Shroud. In a word, the church was turned into a robbers' den.'"
I omit the remaining part of Page 88, and I read Page 89 of the report:-
"In the village of Gosteshevo, the Germans plundered the church, tore up the Holy Banners, threw the books about, robbed the Reverend Mikhail Strakhov and carried him off with them to another district. In the village of Kholm, near Mozhaisk, the Germans robbed and beat up the eighty- two-year-old local priest. In retreating from Mozhaisk, the Germans blew up the Church of the Ascension, the Church of the Holy Trinity and the Cathedral of Nicholas, the Miracle Worker. As a rule, before retreating, the Germans would drive part of the population of the villages destroyed by fire into the churches, lock them up, and then set fire to these churches."
I am now reading into the record a short excerpt from Exhibit USSR 312, submitted to the Tribunal:
"In a north side-chapel of the Znamensky Cathedral, the Germans set up a latrine for the soldiers living in the crypt of the Cathedral.

The Church of the Prophet Elijah on the Slavna was transformed into a stable.

Stables were built in the following Pskov churches: Bogoyavlenie on Zapskovie, Kozma and Demian on the Gremiatchy Hill, Constantine and Helen, and the Church of St. John the Evangelist."

The document which was presented to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 279, describes acts of blasphemous mockery which took place in the town of Gjatsk,

[Page 207]

where the churches were transformed by the Germans into stables and warehouses. In the Church of the Annunciation the Germans set up a slaughter-house.

The document which I am now presenting to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 246 is a report of the Extraordinary State Commission and contains general data relating to the churches, chapels and other buildings of religious worship which have been destroyed or damaged. This document states:-

"The German fascist invaders completely destroyed or partly damaged 1,670 Orthodox Russian churches, 69 chapels, 237 Roman Catholic churches, 4 mosques, 532 synagogues and 254 other buildings for religious worship."
You will find in the document, submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 35, further general data on the subject. I will not burden the Tribunal's attention by reading the document into the record in full, but I should like to quote a few very short excerpts from it. I quote:-
"No material compensation by the Germans can make complete amends or the destruction of ecclesiastical buildings, and of the more ancient historical monuments; the majority of these can never be restored."
Omitting the remainder of the page, as well as the first four paragraphs of page 91 of the report, I read the last paragraph of this page:-
"Many churches, historical monuments of the past, were destroyed by the German invaders in Bielorussia. Thus in the city of Vitebsk, they destroyed the Church of the Nativity, an interesting monument of Bielorussian architecture of the twelfth century. They completely destroyed the wooden Bogoslovskaya and Nikolskaya churches, built in the eighteenth century.

Almost irreparable damage was done to the Voskresenko- Zaruchivsky church, built in the eighteenth century. This church was an interesting example of the Bielorussian classic style of architecture. In the same area, in the city of Vitebsk, the Germans destroyed a Roman Catholic church built in the eighteenth century....

In the town of Disna, of the Polotsk region, the Germans burnt a Roman Catholic church founded in the seventeenth century, after plundering its property.

Timoshal Rudolf, German Garrison Commandant of the town of Rozhnyatov, in the Stanislav region, used three synagogues for barracks and later on destroyed the buildings after plundering the property contained therein."

I omit the next paragraph.
"Before destroying buildings of various religious cults the Germans plundered and destroyed all their furnishings. A great quantity of icons and church plate was removed from ecclesiastical buildings to Germany....

The Yossifo-Volokalamsky monastery was plundered, and the ancient shrouds of the monastery, together with the personal belongings of Joseph Volotsky, founder of the monastery, have disappeared....

In 1941 German soldiers and officers stole from the historical Staritzki Church all the vessels, altar crosses, crowns, mitres and tabernacles.

In the town of Dokshitza, in the Polotzk region, the Germans looted and took away all the property of the local mosque. The same fate was shared by nearly all the churches in the territories occupied by the Germans.

Everywhere the Germans plundered churches, synagogues, mosques and other buildings of religious worship."

The Hitlerite conspirators not only actually plundered, tortured and murdered, but they also strove to humiliate the believers morally, and to rob them of their spiritual treasures.

[Page 208]

Such, your Honours, is the conclusive evidence concerning the crimes against culture, committed by Rosenberg, Frank, Goering, Ribbentrop, Keitel and the other participants in the conspiracy.

The crimes of the defendants against culture are terrible indeed in their consequences.

Even though it be possible, by a tremendous effort, to rebuild the cities and villages destroyed by the Hitlerites; even though it be possible to restore the factories and plants blown up or burnt down by them, mankind has lost for all time the irreplaceable art treasures which the Hitlerites so ruthlessly destroyed, as it has lost forever the millions of human beings sent to their death in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Babi Yar or Kertch.

Having inherited their savage hatred of all mankind from the dim ages of the past, the modern Huns have far surpassed, in cruelty and vandalism, the darkest pages of history.

While arrogantly challenging the future of mankind, they trampled underfoot the finest heritage of mankind's past.

Themselves without faith or ideals, they sacrilegiously destroyed both the churches and the relics of the Saints.

But in this unparalleled struggle between culture and obscurantism, between civilisation and barbarism, culture and civilisation prevailed in the end.

The Hitlerite conspirators who had aspired to world domination, who had dreamt to destroy the culture of the Slavs and of all other nations, now stand in the defendants' dock.

May a just punishment be theirs.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 22nd February, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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