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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th April to 1st May, 1946

One-Hundred-and-Ninth Day: Tuesday, 16th April, 1946
(Part 3 of 10)

[Page 9]

Q. Is that Page 89 of the Document Book?

THE PRESIDENT: What is that? September, 1942?

THE WITNESS: 30 September, 1942.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I have got that. What about the one of October, 1941? Where is that?

THE WITNESS: October, 1941?

[Page 10]

THE PRESIDENT: October, 1941.

THE WITNESS: That is 3 October, 1941.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you know where it is, Dr. Thoma?

DR. THOMA: It is contained in Document 1015-PS, Exhibit USA 85, but it may be that this document is not listed in this particular index. In my document I cannot locate it at the moment, but it belongs to Document 1015-PS and was submitted in its entirety.

THE WITNESS: And the order of the Army High Command of September, 1942, says, under 1:

"Except for special cases, in which the safeguarding of endangered works of culture is urgent, efforts will be made to leave them in their present location for the time being. For this purpose, according to a mutual agreement between the Quartermaster General, Army General Staff, Army High Command, and the Special Purpose Staff of Reich Leader Rosenberg, the following authority has been granted to the latter:

(c) In order to safeguard against damage or destruction in the operational area of the East also such works of culture which do not fall under paragraph b - especially museum pieces - to protect and/or place them in security."

At the end of this directive, it says, under IV:
"Independent of the missions of the Special Purpose Staff of Reich Leader Rosenberg according to Section 1, a, b, c, the troops and all military offices located in the operational area are instructed now as before to preserve valuable art objects if possible and to protect them from destruction or damage."

I feel bound to prove, at least very briefly, that my Special Purpose Staff, as well as the military offices, issued unequivocal directives and orders for the protection, even during these bitter battles, of art treasures of the Russian, Ukrainian, and White Ruthenian people.

Q. Herr Rosenberg, you know that Hitler and Goering diverted some of the art treasures which were confiscated in France. What part did you play in this matter?

A. As a basic principle the Fuehrer specified, as can be seen from information given by the then Field Marshal upon order of the Fuehrer, that he reserved for himself the disposing of these works and any decision relating to them.

I do not wish to dispute in any way that I had the hope that at least a large part of these art treasures would remain in Germany, particularly since, in the course of time, many German cultural works were destroyed by extremely severe bombing attacks in the West. These works of art were to be a sort of security for later negotiations. When Reich Marshal Goering, who by directive of the Fuehrer supported this work of the Special Purpose Staff, earmarked a number of these works of art for his collection, I was, I must say frankly - as the record states - a little uneasy because with this task I had taken on the responsibility in my name for the sum total of the confiscated cultural and art treasures, and I was therefore obliged to catalogue them in their entirety and to keep them available for any negotiations or decisions. Therefore, I directed my deputy to make as complete a list as possible of those things which the Reich Marshal, with the approval of the Fuehrer, was diverting to his collection.

I knew that Reich Marshal Goering intended later to give this collection to the German Reich and not to retain it for himself.

In the interrogation record which was produced and read on this point by the French Prosecution there is also a regrettable error to be found. It says that I had been uneasy because Reich Marshal Goering had misappropriated these works of art. In German, the term "entwendet" means "took illegally" (to embezzle). However, what I said was "verwendet," which means utilised, and gives a different meaning.

[Page 11]

DR. THOMA: Mr. President, I would like to point out in this connection the fact that the French used the word "detourne," which means divert.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)


Q. I now turn to the furniture affair in France, and for that purpose I am showing the defendant Document 001-PS, also Volume 2 of the French Document Book, and I am asking the defendant to state his views with respect to it.

(The document was submitted to the witness.)

A. Document 001-PS contains, at the beginning, information to the effect that, as in the East accommodation conditions were dreadful, I proposed that furniture and equipment of unoccupied Jewish homes in France should be made available to ameliorate these conditions. This suggestion was approved in a decree issued by order of the Fuehrer through the Reich Minister and Chief of the Reich Chancellery on 31 September, 1941.

In the course of the ever-increasing bombardment in Germany I considered that I no longer could take responsibility for this, and so I made a suggestion that this furniture should be placed at the disposal of victims of bombing in Germany - which amounted to more than 100,000 people on certain nights - so that emergency aid would be given to them.

In the report of the French Document Book is stated in the 7th paragraph, how the confiscation was carried out; that these deserted apartments were sealed; that they remained sealed for a lengthy period of time to allow of possible claims, and that, no claims being forthcoming, the contents were then shipped to Germany.

I am aware that this, no doubt, was a serious encroachment on private property, but here again, though fully conscious of the implications of this action, I was influenced to take this course by the fact of the millions of homeless Germans. I want to emphasise in this connection that I had an extensive catalogue made in which were recorded in detail the homes, their owners, and the main contents in the way of furniture, so that there would be a basis for eventual negotiations as regards compensation at a later date.

In Germany the matter was so arranged that those people who suffered damage through bombing paid for these furnishings and household goods which were placed at their disposal, and these deliveries made to them were deducted from the claims which they had against the State. That money was paid into a special fund administered by the Minister of Finance.

The document - 001-PS - contains under No. 2 a suggestion which I myself consider a serious charge against me. This is a suggestion that in view of many murders of Germans in France, not only Frenchmen held as hostages should be shot, but that Jewish citizens also should be called to account. I should like to say that I considered these shootings of hostages, since they were announced publicly, as a permissible measure under special circumstances in war-time. As the Armed Forces were carrying out such measures, I took it for granted that they were the result of proper investigations and were all the more permissible when the murder of Germans were taking place in the territory of a State with which the German Reich had signed an armistice.

Secondly, this happened during a period of excitement, due to the war which had just broken out with the United States of America, and while bearing in mind the report from the Polish Ambassador, Count Potowski, dated 30 January, 1939, which the Tribunal has forbidden to be read.

In spite of everything I must say that I consider this suggestion as a personal injustice. Looking at it from the legal side I would like to point out that in Document 1015- PS, under letter Y, there is a letter from the Reich Minister

[Page 12]

and Chief of the Reich Chancellery, which is dated 31 December, 1941, and in which it says:
"Your memorandum dated 18 December, 1941, has been submitted to the Fuehrer. The Fuehrer has agreed in principle with the suggestion under 1. A copy of that part of the memorandum which deals with the use of Jewish household goods has been transmitted to the Commander-in- Chief of the Armed Forces and the Reich Commissar for the occupied Netherlands together with a letter of which a copy is attached hereto."
In this manner point I was accepted, and tacitly though just as emphatically, point 2, which deals with this suggestion, was turned down. This suggestion therefore had no legal consequences. Later on I never referred to this suggestion, and I must say that I had forgotten all about it until it was again put before me here.

Q. I now turn to the subject "Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories."

The defendant is anxious to express his opinion with regard to Molotov's note that he, the defendant, was a Czarist spy, since this affects his personal character. I therefore ask the defendant whether he at any time had connections with the Czarist police.

A. No.

GENERAL RUDENKO: Mr. President, the Indictment which has been presented to the defendant Rosenberg at no point charges him with having been a Czarist spy. Therefore, we consider that this question is irrelevant.

DR. THOMA: The Molotov Notes have been submitted to the Tribunal, and so have been put in evidence. Consequently, I think that I may be permitted to put that question.

THE PRESIDENT: He has answered in the negative already, so you can pass from it, can't you? It has formed no part of the Indictment.



Q. When did you learn that you were proposed for the position of Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, and for what reason was the task involved given to you?

A. May I state with regard to this that at the very beginning of April - as far as I can remember it was 2 April, 1941 - the Fuehrer summoned me in the morning and explained to me that he regarded a military clash with the Soviet Union as inevitable. The reasons he quoted were twofold: firstly, the military occupation of Roumanian territory - that is to say, Bessarabia and North Bukovina; secondly, the continual reinforcing for a long time and on a great scale of the Red Army along the line of demarcation and in Soviet territory as a whole. These facts were so striking that he had already given the corresponding military and other orders and had decided to make of me a political adviser in a decisive capacity. Thus I was facing an accomplished fact, and an attempt even to discuss the matter was countered by the Fuehrer with the remark that the orders had been given and that scarcely anything could be altered in the matter, so I consequently told the Fuehrer that of course I wished the, best of luck to the German Armed Forces and I was at his disposal for the political advice which he desired.

Immediately afterwards I called a meeting of my closest assistants, since I didn't know whether the military operations would be starting very soon or later on. We made a number of drafts concerning the possible treatment of political problems and possible measures to be taken in the territories to be occupied in the East. These drafts have been submitted here. On 20 April I received a preliminary task, which was to form a central department for the treatment of Eastern questions and to get in touch with the leading departments in the Reich concerned in the matter.

Q. I should like to submit them to the defendant, the instructions which he

[Page 13]

drafted after his appointment. And I have yet another request to the Tribunal. These instructions appear in the photostatic copy crossed out and bearing a variety of remarks; and I request, therefore, that the Tribunal would take personal cognisance of the photostatic copies so that they can see how these instructions have been crossed out. The actual documents have already been submitted to the Tribunal as numbered exhibits.

A. May I refer to these documents - 1017, 1028, 1029 and 1030 -

THE PRESIDENT: They have already been put in evidence?

DR. THOMA: Yes, they have been put in.

Q. May I ask you to state the exhibit numbers?

A. I have just mentioned the exhibit numbers.

Q. What are the USA exhibit numbers?

A. No. 1028 had USA number 273; 1030 has USA number 144. On the others I do not find any USA numbers.

DR. THOMA: Document 1017 is Exhibit USA 142; No. 1028 is Exhibit USA 273; No. 1029 is Exhibit USA 145; No. 1030 is Exhibit USA 144. They are contained in the special document book for the defendant Rosenberg. I state in this connection that these are provisional drafts with notations by the secretary, from the end of April and the beginning of May. These provisional drafts were not released but, as can be seen, were crossed out and supplemented with written remarks in the margin, and in addition they contain viewpoints which later on were not approved by the Fuehrer, for which reason alone, as far as the Ukraine is concerned, they couldn't have been used at all.

The written instructions which went out to the Reich Commissars for the East and the Ukraine, after the Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories had been formed, were unfortunately not found, so that I cannot refer to them.

Q. On June, 1941, that is to say, one day before the outbreak of the war against Russia, did you make a speech to everybody concerned with the Eastern affairs regarding those Eastern problems? The document concerned here is Exhibit USA 147, from which the prosecution quoted the same paragraph several times.

A. This is a fairly long impromptu speech made before those who were concerned with and assigned to Eastern problems, and I state in that connection, that it was my obvious duty to consider which political measures would have to be taken so as to avoid a situation in which the German Reich would have to fight every twenty-five years for its existence in the East, and I should like to emphasise that what I said in this confidential speech does not correspond in any way with the Soviet accusation that I was in favour of a systematic extermination of the Slavic peoples.

I do not wish to occupy the Tribunal's time by reading very much here but nevertheless I would like to read a few paragraphs to justify myself. It says in paragraph 2:

"Originally, Russian history was a purely Continental affair. For 200 years Moscow-Russia lived under the Tartar yoke and its face was predominantly turned to the East. The Russian traders and hunters opened up the East as far as the Urals; some Cossack tribes went to Siberia and the colonisation of Siberia is no doubt one of the great accomplishments of history."
I think that this expresses my attitude of respect towards that historic achievement. The next paragraph states:
"From this it follows that Germany's aim is the freedom of the Ukrainian people. This must be made a point of our political programme. In what form and to what extent a Ukrainian State can be formed later, that is something which one cannot discuss now ... One must proceed cautiously in this direction. Literature dealing with the Ukrainian struggles must be disseminated so that the Ukrainian people's historical

[Page 14]

consciousness can be revived. A university could be founded in Kiev technical colleges should be built. The Ukrainian language should be cultivated, etc."
I have quoted this as documentary evidence of the fact that it was not my intention to destroy the culture of the peoples of the East.

In the following paragraph I pointed out that it was important to acquire in the course of time the voluntary co- operation of the 40 millions of people in the Ukraine.

In the following paragraph I refer to the eventual occupation of the Caucasian territories as follows:

"Here the aim will not be to found a Caucasian National State, but to find a solution on federal lines in association with Germany, which might lead these people to ask Germany to protect their cultural and national existence."
Here, too, there is no question of a desire to exterminate.

Now comes a matter which has been described by the American Prosecution as a particularly serious incriminating factor. It treats with the so-called colonisation of, and the German national property in, the East. This paragraph states as follows:

"Quite apart from all these problems there is a question which is of an equally general nature and which we must all ponder upon: namely, the question of German national property. German people have worked in this immense territory for centuries. The result of that work, among other things, was the acquisition of a great amount of land. The property confiscated in the Baltic countries can be compared in size with East-Prussia; the area of the land in the Black Sea was as great as Wurttemberg, Baden and Alsace put together. In the Black Sea area more land was cultivated than is ploughed in Great Britain. These comparisons of size must make it clear to us that the Germans there did not idly exploit or plunder the people but that they did constructive and creative work. And the outcome of that work is German national property, irrespective of earlier individual owners. Just how we may one day be adequately compensated cannot yet be considered. But a ... legal basis can be created by us."
I wished to quote this so that I can refer to it later on, when we deal with the agrarian problem, particularly in the Reich Commissariat East, where the 700-year-old German property was not restored but handed over to the Esthonians, Latvians and Lithuanians by law, as has been proved.

In a later paragraph it states:

"We must declare in this connection that even now we are not enemies of the Russian people ..."

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