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 6 of 10)

[Page 23]

THE PRESIDENT: I was only asking for what purpose you were referring to them now. Of course we haven't all the books here. They aren't in your books?

DR. THOMA: No. 161 is in Document Book 3, Page 34. Nothing else is mentioned in the Document Book.


A. (Continuing) The Document 161-PS deals with an order for the bringing back of certain archives from Esthonia and Latvia. The Soviet Prosecution, therefore, has concluded from this that there was a plundering of the cultural treasures in these countries. I would like to state that the instructions which I had read from Document 1015-PS requested in an unequivocal manner that all these cultural objects were to remain in the country. And that took place. I permit myself to refer to the date of that document, which is 23 August, 1944, when warfare had spread over this territory, and when these cultural objects and archives were to be safeguarded from its dangers. It was here a matter of having the archives mentioned sheltered in Esthonian country estates. That is, they were still to remain in the country itself, even in the midst of the war. I believe later some of these archives were brought to Germany and were safeguarded in Schloss Hoechstadt in Bavaria.

Document 076-PS has been used by the prosecution as proof of a plundering of the library treasures in Minsk. We are concerned here with a report which a deputy of the commander of the rear area had issued and which was given to the Ministry for the East. From this report it is evident that a considerable damage had in fact taken place in many libraries, but that that was a consequence of troops having been quartered in the library buildings because the city of Minsk had suffered great destruction and the billeting facilities were limited.

But then under No. 1, and again under other paragraphs, it is expressly shown that posters forbidding destruction and plundering had been put up everywhere, and that these things were put under control and were not to be

[Page 24]

touched after that. It is added that any further removals would have to be considered as plundering.

Under No. 2 I would like to point out that it has been confirmed here that the most valuable part of this library of the Academy of Sciences came from the library of the Polish Prince Georg Radziwill, which the Soviet authorities had taken from the occupied Polish territory to Minsk and had incorporated into the library of the Academy of Sciences long before the Special Purpose Staff or any other German departments were active in that area. There are a number of other documents, i.e., 035-PS and several others, which have been submitted to the Tribunal, which make statements about the removal of cultural objects from the Ukraine. The date on these documents of the year 1943 shows that these cultural objects remained in the country until then, as had been ordered, and that only when fighting made it necessary, were they removed. Document 035-PS says, on Page 3, No. 5:-

"The infantry division concerned attaches great importance to the further evacuation of valuable things, since the Armed Forces can in no way adequately protect them in this area, and bombardment by artillery is to be counted on shortly."
DR. THOMA: I would like to submit this document under Rosenberg 37, it has not yet been submitted.

A. (Continuing) It then adds:

"Wehrmacht equipment, means of transportation, etc., shall be provided as far as possible by the infantry division."
DR. THOMA: May I have the document again? I would like to submit it to the Tribunal.

A. (Continuing) The evacuation then actually took place under artillery bombardment, and hence cultural objects, which had come from Kharkov and other cities, were transferred only then to Germany.

Now I would like to deal with the documents which the Soviet Prosecution has presented regarding the Extraordinary State Commissions for Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I should like, in this connection, to discuss just a few concrete details.

On Page 1 of the Exhibit USSR 39 it states:

"From the beginning of their occupation of the Esthonian Soviet Republic, the Germans and their accomplices destroyed the independence of the Esthonian people and then tried to establish a 'new order' as to culture, art, and science; proceeded to exterminate the civilian population or to deport them as slave labour to Germany, and to lay waste and plunder cities, villages and estates."
I should like to remark in that connection, first of all, that the twenty-year independence after the Soviet attack in 1919 was broken by the marching in of the Red Army in 1940, a standpoint that is ...

GENERAL RUDENKO: Mr. President, it seems to me that the document which is now being looked over by the defendant Rosenberg, naturally gives him a basis for replying to the concrete accusations of his criminal activity while he was Minister of the Eastern Regions. However, I think that that which the defendant Rosenberg has just begun to say consists of plain fascist propaganda and it can be taken for granted that it has no connection whatever with the question discussed, or with the accusations.

DR. THOMA: Mr. President, if the defendant Rosenberg makes a few introductory remarks to his statements on the document from which he wants to quote, I ask that he should not be interrupted right away. We will deal with a few actual statements taken from the document.

A. (Continuing) So far as point 2 is concerned, I would like to remark ...

THE PRESIDENT: Is this document he is dealing with a document that he

[Page 25]

wrote himself or had anything to do with? I have not got the document before me.

DR. THOMA: The document has been submitted by the U.S.S.R. and it contains charges against Rosenberg ... charges of having undertaken demolitions and expropriations in these territories and he is entitled to state his position with regard to this.

THE PRESIDENT: But when you say "his position," can't he say what he did in connection with the document, or the subject of the document? I mean, when you say "state his position," it is such a very wide phrase, it may mean almost anything. If you ask him what he did in connection with the subject of the document it is different, but it is more concrete and special.


Q. What did you do in these occupied areas, contrary to the assertion of the Soviet Prosecution?

A. To refute the assertion that I destroyed culture and art and science in Esthonia, I must establish the fact that one of the first directions of the Eastern Ministry was to establish autonomous administration in these three countries and to have the German administration in principle serve as a supervisory one. The limitations prescribed by war were naturally given in times of war, they applied to spheres of war and armament economy, to the sphere of police security, and naturally to the political attitude in general.

A complete cultural autonomy was enjoyed by Esthonia and Latvia as well as by Lithuania; their art and their theatres were active all through these years, many departments of the university at Dorpat functioned, and so did some departments in Riga. The judicial sovereignty of these countries was under the power of the autonomous administration - national directorates as they were called - with all authoritative departments necessary for the administration. The entire school system remained untouched. I visited these territories twice, and can say only that the commissioners in charge there also did everything to work as closely as possible in accordance with the desires of the autonomous government, which often expressed itself critically regarding the German administration, when we, frankly speaking, could not quite recognise the complete political sovereignty in the midst of war.

On Page 2 of this document it is stated, under corporal punishment for office employees, that the occupying power had prescribed the corporal punishment for Esthonian workers, in accordance with the regulation of the Railway Administration of 20 February, 1942, for neglect of work or coming to work drunk. This regulation of the director of the Railway Administration corresponds with the facts. But when this regulation was made known, of course it aroused indignation in the German Civil Administration. Reich Commissioner Lohse at once annulled it, and we asked the Reich Minister of Transportation to have the official responsible for the regulation removed. This took place immediately, he was dismissed and called home, and the fact that he was recalled was to be made known in the Press. However, I cannot say whether it actually appeared in the Press.

On Page 5 of this document, in paragraph 2, it is set forth that the Germans destroyed historical buildings, that they had searched through and destroyed the Tartua, that is, the Dorpat University which had a glorious history of more than three hundred years, and was one of the oldest seats of higher learning.

Now I would like to add that these buildings dating from the seventeenth and other centuries were constructed by Germans exclusively, and that German troops would certainly not be interested in destroying arbitrarily the buildings of their own people. Secondly, this 300 year old university of Dorpat was a German university, which in actual fact Russia and Germany provided with scholars of European repute.

[Page 26]

THE PRESIDENT: That is quite irrelevant, quite irrelevant. The question is whether it was destroyed.

A. (Continuing) In the year 1942 1 was once in Dorpat. A large part of the city had been destroyed through fighting, but the university buildings were still standing. During this visit I learnt that the Rosenberg Special Staff in the Ukraine had removed ten to twelve thousand volumes belonging to the university of Dorpat and restored them again to their rightful owner.

I consider it out of question that an arbitrary destruction of this old German university could have been carried out by German troops and I can assume only that it was the result of warfare, if destruction actually took place.

As far as the other details of the document are concerned, I cannot define my position. They refer to many shootings by the police and matters clearly connected with fighting, and I cannot make any statement about them, since they are concerned with the time of retreat.

The Exhibit USSR 41 deals with the report of the Extraordinary State Commission on matters in Latvia. I would like to say only that the head-quarters of the Foreign Minister were not at Riga, but that he had his regular office exclusively in Berlin.

In paragraph 5 it says:-

"The Germans confiscated the country of the Latvian peasants for their barons and landowners, and mercilessly exterminated the civilian population - men, women and children."
I would like to state in this connection that not a single peasant farm was given up to the German barons of former times in the period of civilian administration, but the German administration of the country issued a decree, which, in my opinion, was a singularly progressive piece of legislation. For this land, belonging to Germany for seven hundred years, and expropriated by the young Esthonian and Latvian Republics with practically no compensation, could certainly have been returned easily to the Germans again. But I signed a law in March - either 1942 or 1943, I don't know which - the so-called "Restitution law" (Reprivatisierungsgesetz,), which legally guaranteed the Esthonian and Latvian peasants the German property received at that time; and it was handed over with formal documents. With the occupation by the Soviet Union, a collectivisation of this private farm property was introduced, and this collectivisation was made retroactive and, therefore the former owners of 1919 again came into possession of their property; I would like to mention that in explanation of this statement. On Page 2 it is stated:-
"Through more than three years the Germans have made it their task to destroy factories, public businesses, libraries, museums and homes in the Latvian cities."
I myself have been in a Latvian art museum, have seen a great Latvian art exhibition, I have been in the Latvian theatre, in which all presentations were in the Latvian language, with just a few German guest conductors and singers. Factories were not destroyed in these three years of occupation, but their productivity was increased by numerous German machines. Of course this brought many protests from the landowners, because it was accompanied with an insecurity of their role in the economy; but in any event there was no destruction, rather an increase in productive capacity.

And finally, as far as the archives and libraries are concerned, I have already said what is necessary in connection with Exhibit USSR 035.

As regards the extermination of 170,000 civilians, I cannot speak about what transpired in the police camps on grounds of police security. I would like to point out, however, that according to official confirmations of the autonomous administration, more than 40,000 Esthonians in Esthonia and more than 40,000 Latvians in Latvia were deported to Soviet Russia after the Red Army occupied

[Page 27]

these countries; that a large number of Latvians and Esthonians volunteered to fight the Red Army; that at the time of the German withdrawal hundreds of thousands of Esthonians and Latvians asked to be taken to the Reich and many actually went. The entire population of Latvia was about two millions. That the German authorities had 170,000 Latvians shot seems improbable in the highest degree.

However, regarding other destruction which it has been alleged took place during the fighting, I am not able to make any statement.

The third Exhibit, USSR 7, treats with the reports of the Extraordinary Commission on Lithuania. On Page 1, paragraph 2, it states that Reich Minister Rosenberg tried to Germanise the Lithuanian people and to exterminate the national culture. Lithuania "was proclaimed a part of the German Eastern Provinces."

In Lithuania the peasant question was handled in the same way as in Esthonia and Latvia. Of course there was one difference, that Lithuania had a larger number of small German peasant industries which, at the end of 1939, were taken into the German Reich, and when the Germans marched into Lithuania they were returned to their original peasant farms and settled in as concentrated a manner as possible in certain settlement districts. That corresponds to the facts, to the rest I cannot agree.

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