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-Fifth Day: Friday, 22nd February, 1946
(Part 4 of 8)

[Page 222]


Q. Witness, will you tell us, please, what position you occupied?

[Witness JOSEPH ABGAROVITCH ORBELI] I was Director of the State Hermitage Museum.

Q. What is your scientific title?

A. I am a member of the Academy of Science of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics; an active member of the Academy of Architecture of the U.S.S.R.; an active member and president of the Armenian Academy of Science; an

[Page 223]

Honorary member of the Iranian Academy of Science; member of the Society of Antiquarians in London; and a Consultant Member of the American Institute of Art and Archaeology.

Q. Were you in Leningrad at the time of the German blockade?

A. Yes, I was.

Q: Do you know about the destruction of monuments of culture and art in Leningrad?

A. Yes.

Q. Can you tell us in your own words facts that are known to you?

A. Besides general observations which I was able to make after the cessation of hostilities around Leningrad, I was also an eye-witness of the measures undertaken by the enemy for the destruction of the Hermitage Museum, and the building of the Hermitage and the Winter Palace, where the exhibits from the Hermitage Museum were displayed. During many long months these buildings were under systematic air bombardment and artillery shelling. Two aerial bombs and about thirty artillery shells hit the Hermitage. The shells caused considerable damage to the building, and the aerial bombs destroyed the drainage system and water conduit system of the Hermitage.

While observing the damage done to the Hermitage I could also see, across the river, the buildings of the Academy of Science, namely, the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, the Zoological Museum, and next to it the Naval Museum, in the building of the former Stock Exchange. All these buildings were under especially heavy bombardment with incendiary bombs. I saw the effect of these hits from a window in the Winter Palace.

Artillery shells caused considerable damage to the Hermitage. I shall mention the most important. One shell shattered the portico of the main building of the Hermitage, facing the Millionaya Street, and damaged the piece of sculpture "Atlanta".

The other shell went through the ceiling of one of the most sumptuous halls in the Winter Palace and caused considerable damage there. The former stabling of the Winter Palace was hit by two shells. Among Court carriages of the seventeenth and eighteenth century that were there displayed, four from the eighteenth century of high artistic value, and one nineteenth century gilt carriage, were shattered to pieces by one of these shells. Furthermore, one shell went through the ceiling of the Numismatic Hall, the Hall of Columns of the main building of the Hermitage, and a balcony of this hall was destroyed by it.

At the same time, an annexe of the Hermitage Museum in Solyanoy Lane, the former Stieglitz Museum, was hit by a bomb from the air which caused great damage to the building. The building was quite unfit for use, and a large part of the exhibits in this building suffered damage.

Q. Please tell me, witness, do I understand you correctly? You have mentioned the destruction of the Hermitage and you mentioned the Winter Palace. Is that only one building? Where was the Hermitage Museum located, the one that you mentioned?

A. Before the October Revolution, the Hermitage occupied a special building of its own facing Millionaya Street, and the other side facing the Palace Quay of the Neva. After the Revolution, the Little Hermitage was made a part of the Great Hermitage and also the building of the Hermitage Theatre, the building which separated the Hermitage proper from the Winter Palace, and later even the entire Winter Palace.

Therefore, at the present moment the series of buildings comprising the Hermitage consist of the Winter Palace, the Little Hermitage, and the Great Hermitage, which was occupied by the museum prior to the Revolution, and also the building of the Hermitage Theatre, which was built during the reign of Catherine II by the architect Kvarengi, and which was hit by the incendiary bomb which I mentioned.

[Page 224]

Q. Besides the destruction of the Winter Palace and the Hermitage, do you know any other facts about the destruction of other cultural monuments?

A. Yes, I observed a series of monuments in Leningrad which suffered damage from artillery shelling and bombing from the air. Among them damage was caused to the Kazan Cathedral, which was built in 1814 by Architect Veronikhin, and the Isaakiy Cathedral, whose pillars still bear the traces of damage pitted in the stone. Within the city limits considerable damage was done to the Rastrelli Wing near the Smolniy Cathedral, which was built by Rastrelli. The middle part of the gallery was blown up. Furthermore, considerable damage by artillery fire was done to the surface of the walls of the Fortress of Peter and Paul, which cannot now be considered a military objective.

Q. Besides Leningrad proper do you know anything at all about the destruction and devastation of the suburbs of Leningrad?

A. I had the chance to acquaint myself in detail with the condition of the monuments of Peterhof, Tzarskoe-Selo and Pavlovsk; in all those three towns I saw traces of the monstrous damage to those monuments done by the Germans. And all the damage which I saw, which is very hard to describe in full, because it is too great, all of it showed traces of premeditation.

To prove, for instance, that the shelling of the Winter Palace was premeditated, I could mention that thirty shells....

THE PRESIDENT: Professor, when you see the yellow light, you will know that you speak too fast.

A. In Peterhof, besides the damage caused to the Great Palace by fire which completely destroyed this monument, I also saw gold sheetings torn from the roofs of the Great Palace, the dome of Peterhof Cathedral, and the building at the opposite end of this enormous Palace. It was obvious that the gold sheetings could not fly off because of fire, but were intentionally torn off.

In Monplaisir Palace, the oldest palace of Peterhof, built by Peter the Great, the damage showed also signs of prolonged ravage, and was not the result of a catastrophe. The precious oak carvings covering the walls were torn off. The antique Dutch stoves, of the time of Peter the Great, disappeared without trace, and temporary, roughly built stoves put in their place. The Great Palace, built by Rastrelli in Tzarskoe Selo, was certainly wrecked intentionally. For example, the parquet floors in numerous halls were cut out and carried away, while the building itself was destroyed by fire. In Catherine's Palace, an auxiliary munition plant was installed, and the precious carved 18th-century fireplace was used as a furnace and was rendered absolutely worthless.

Pavlovsky Palace, which was also destroyed by fire, showed many signs that the valuable property that once could be found in its halls was carried out before the Palace had been set on fire.

Q. Tell me, please, you said that the Winter Palace as well as the other cultural monuments were intentionally destroyed. Upon what facts do you base that statement? A. The fact that the shelling of the Hermitage by artillery fire during the siege was premeditated was quite clear to me and to all my colleagues, because damage was caused not only by artillery shelling during one or two raids, but systematically, during the methodical shelling of the city, which we witnessed for many months. The first shells did not hit the Hermitage or the Winter Palace - they passed near by; they were finding the range of the Palace and after this they would fire in the same direction, with just a little deviation from the straight line. Not more than one or two shells during one particular shelling would actually hit the Palace. Of course, it could not be accidental in character.

GENERAL RAGINSKY: I have no more questions for the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the other prosecuting counsel want to ask any questions? Do any of the defence counsel want to ask any questions?

[Page 225]

CROSS -EXAMINATION BY D . LATERNSER (Counsel for General Staff and O.K.W.)

Q. Witness, you have just said that through artillery shelling and also through aerial bombs, the Hermitage, the Winter Palace, and also the Peterhof Palace were destroyed. I would be very interested to know where these buildings are located; that is, as seen from Leningrad.

A. The Winter Palace and the Hermitage, which stands next to it, are in the centre of Leningrad on the banks of the Neva on the Palace Quay, not far from the Palace Bridge, which during all the shelling, was hit only once. On the other side, facing the Neva - next to the Winter Palace and the Hermitage, there are the Palace Square and Halturin Street. Did I answer your question?

Q. I meant the question a little differently. In what part of Leningrad were these buildings - in the south, the north, the southwest or southeast section? Will you inform me on that?

A. The Winter Palace and the Hermitage are right in the centre of Leningrad on the banks of the Neva, as I have already mentioned before.

Q. And where is the Peterhof?

A. The Peterhof is on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, southwest of the Hermitage, if you consider the Hermitage as the starting point.

Q. Can you tell me whether near the Hermitage Palace and Winter Palace there are any industries, particularly armament industries?

A. So far as I know, in the vicinity of the Hermitage, there are no military enterprises. If the question meant the building of the General Staff, that is located on the other side of the Palace Square, and it suffered much less from shelling than the Winter Palace. The General Staff building, which is on the other side of the Palace Square was, so far as I know, hit only by two shells.

Q. Do you know whether there were artillery batteries, perhaps, near the buildings which you mentioned?

A. On the whole square around the Winter Palace and the Hermitage there was not a single artillery battery, because from the very beginning steps were taken to prevent any unnecessary vibration near the buildings where such precious museum pieces were.

Q. Did the factories, the armament factories, continue production during the siege?

A. I do not understand the question. What factories are you talking about - the factories of Leningrad in general?

Q. The Leningrad armament factories: Did they continue production during the siege?

A. On the grounds of the Hermitage, the Winter Palace, and in the immediate neighbourhood, there were no military concerns. They never were there and during the blockade no factories were built there. But I know that in Leningrad munitions were being made, and were successfully used.

DR. LATERNSER: I have no further questions.

BY DR. SERVATIUS (Counsel for Leadership Corps).

Q. Witness, the Winter Palace is on the Neva River. How far from the Winter Palace is the nearest bridge across the Neva River?

A. The nearest bridge, the Palace Bridge, is about fifty metres from the Palace, at a distance of the breadth of the quay, but, as I have already said, only one shell hit the bridge during the shellings; that is why I am sure that the Winter Palace was deliberately shelled. I cannot admit that while shelling the bridge, only one shell hit the bridge and thirty hit the near-by building. The other bridge, the Stock Exchange Bridge, between the Vasilievsky Island and Petrogradskaya Storona, is on the opposite bank of the Great Neva. Only a few incendiary bombs were dropped from planes on this bridge. The fires which broke out on the Stock Exchange Bridge were extinguished.

[Page 226]

Q. Witness, those are conclusions that you are drawing. Have you any knowledge whatever of artillery from which you can judge whether the target was the Palace or the bridge beside it?

A. I never was an artilleryman, but I suppose that if German artillery was aiming only at the bridge then it could not possibly hit the bridge only once and hit the Palace, which is across the way, with thirty shells. Within these limits I am an artilleryman.

(Commotion in the Court.)

Q. That is your conviction as a non-artilleryman. I have another question. The Neva River was used by the Fleet. How far from the Winter Palace were the ships of the Red Fleet?

A. In that part of the Neva River there were no battleships which were firing or were used for such kind of service. The ships were anchored on the other part of the Neva, far from the Winter Palace.

Q. One last question. Were you in Leningrad during the entire period of the siege?

A. I was in Leningrad from the first day of the war until 31 March, 1942. Then I returned to Leningrad when the German troops were driven out of the suburbs of Leningrad, and had a chance to inspect the Peterhof, Tzarskoe-Selo and Pavlovsk.

DR. SERVATIUS: Thank you. I have no more questions.

THE PRESIDENT: General, do you want to ask the witness any questions in re-examination?

GENERAL RAGINSKY: We have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can retire. (The witness leaves.)

MAJOR GENERAL ZORYA: May it please your Honours, I want to begin to submit documentary evidence on the part of the Soviet Prosecution with regard to the employment of compulsory slave labour practised by the Hitlerite conspirators on an enormous scale.

Fascism, with its plan for world domination, with its denial of law, ethics, mercy and humane considerations, foresaw the enslavement of the peaceful population of the temporarily occupied territories, the deportation of millions of people to fascist Germany, and the utilisation in a compulsory manner of their labour power.

Fascism and slavery - these two concepts are inseparable from each other. I will begin, your Honours, with the presentation of the documents relating to this Count with the Report of the Yugoslav Republic, which has already been submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 36. I shall ask you to look at page 40 of the report, which is on page 41 of the document book at the disposal of the Tribunal. I read into the record extracts from the Report of the Yugoslav Republic, which is entitled, "Forced Labour of Civilians". I quote:

"The Nazi policy of the wholesale exploitation of the occupied territories has also been applied in Yugoslavia

Immediately after the occupation, the Reich Government and the O.K.W. introduced forced labour for the population of the occupied territory. The exploitation of the manpower in Yugoslavia has been carried out within the framework of the general German plan. The defendant Goering, as the leader of the German Economic Plan, issued directives to his subordinates concerning the systematic exploitation of the manpower of the occupied territories.

In a report from Berlin, which was written by the Head of the Administration Service of the German Kommandantur in Belgrade, named Ranze, instructions by Goering are communicated, according to which the economic regulations in the occupied territories do not aim at the protection of the local population, but at the maximum exploitation of the manpower of the occupied countries for the benefit of the German war economy.

Immediately after the occupation of Yugoslavia, the Germans established offices for enlisting workers for 'voluntary' labour in Germany. To their own organisation the Germans immediately added the organisations which already existed in Yugoslavia for employment of the workers and labour registration, and began to carry out their own plans through these organisations. Thus, for example, in Serbia they immediately incorporated into their own organisation the main and central office for labour registration, as well as the labour exchange. Through these organisations, until the end of February, 1943, and from the territory of Serbia alone, the Germans sent 47,500 workers to Germany to work there. Later on this number considerably increased but, however, the data in this respect have not yet been fully examined. These workers have been employed in agriculture and various industries in Germany, regularly performing the heaviest types of work."

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.