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-Tenth Day: Wednesday, 17th April, 1946
(Part 11 of 13)

[Dr. Thoma continues his direct examination of Hans Joachim Riecke]

[Page 87]

Q. What offices were established for administration in the occupied Eastern Territories?

A. In addition to the Foreign Ministry there existed a number of special offices: a special Goering office for agriculture, Himmler office for police, and Sauckel office for the recruitment of manpower.

Q. Whom was agriculture under?

A. Agriculture, and also the entire economy, was under Goering. He gave his instructions directly, or through State Secretaries Koerner and Backe.

Q. Were the figures for delivery, the quota in agriculture, higher than those imposed under the Soviet administration?

A. The figures imposed for delivery were adjusted to the former Russian figures. During the first year the actual quantities delivered were lower than during the Russian era. In the next year, as far as crops were concerned, they were lower; as far as livestock was concerned, higher.

Q. Were the actual deliveries according to Goering's directives?

A. No, Goering had expected considerably higher figures.

Q. Did Germany ship agricultural machinery, scythes and so on, into the Eastern Territories, and in what quantities?

A. A large-scale agricultural programme, under the name of Eastern Acreage Programme (Ost-Acker-Programm) was established in Germany, whereby large amounts of agricultural machinery and equipment for war needs were shipped into the occupied Russian Territories.

The reason for that was the removal and large-scale destruction of agricultural machinery and equipment by the Russians during their retreat.

Q. On 5 February, 1942, an agricultural decree was issued. What were the reasons for that?

A. The main purpose of that agricultural decree was to get the population to co-operate voluntarily. First it was intended to maintain the collective economy. That proved to be impossible because, as has been mentioned, part of the heavy machinery, such as tractors, was no longer available. On the other hand, it was not possible to resort to individual farming as some of the population wished, because smaller machinery was also lacking. Therefore a compromise solution was reached by so-called agricultural co- operatives, whereby the Russian peasants got a share of the land to work but a part of the labour was still carried on communally.

Q. What was the result?

A. The result of the agricultural decree was generally favourable. The extent and quantity of the planting increased. A particularly good example of the consequences was the conditions in the so-called Kharkov Basin, where, in the spring of 1942, the farms which had been changed into agricultural co-operatives had already achieved more than 70 per cent. of the spring planting, whereas the unconverted collective farms only achieved about 30 per cent.

Q. On 3 June, 1943, the so-called private property declaration was issued. What was the basis for that?

A. The basic purpose of the private property declaration was to turn over to the Russian peasants as personal property the shares of land which were assigned to them by the agricultural decree.

[Page 88]

Q. How was the vegetable supply of large cities handled, for example, in the Ukraine?

A. Around the large cities considerable areas of allotments were turned over to the working population.

Q. Now some questions about Latvia.

Did the German Administration in Latvia confiscate the land of the Latvian peasants?

A. No, on the contrary. The nationalisation measures taken by the Russians during their occupation were abrogated. The land which had been separated from farms for purposes of settlement was returned to the peasants. To say it in one sentence, the conditions existing before the Russian occupation were re-established.

COLONEL POKROVSKY: I beg to be excused, but I cannot understand, with the best of wishes, what all these questions, even in the remotest way, have to do with the affair of the defendant Rosenberg. It seems to me that further questions of the defence counsel, if they are along these same lines, should not be allowed.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Thoma, you ought to show that what the witness is testifying about is connected in some way with the defendant Rosenberg.

DR. THOMA: With this question I want first to refute the Soviet assertion that after the occupation the Barons had their land returned to them. I refer to the Soviet Prosecution's document, Exhibit USSR-3951, which I submitted to the Tribunal yesterday. Secondly, I want to prove with it that that area was administered in an orderly way and in such a manner that the population co-operated voluntarily. Thirdly, I want to prove that, because the agricultural work was well organised, during the entire German occupation not one Ukrainian nor one citizen of the Soviet Union starved.

But I can only demonstrate this by the statements of an expert. I believe that I have only a few more questions, and then I shall have finished with this subject of evidence.

THE PRESIDENT: Go on, Dr. Thoma.


Q. Did the German Administration in Latvia confiscate the land of the Latvian peasants?

A. I have answered that question already. On the contrary, socialisation was revoked and the land separated for settlement was returned to the Latvian peasants. In one word, conditions were restored as had existed before the Russian occupation.

Q. Were former large German estates restored?

A. No. On the contrary, Latvian peasants' property - which, after 1919 was created at the expense of large German estates - was left in their hands. It remained their property.

Q. What were the ideas behind the so-called return to private ownership?

A. It was intended to give the Latvian peasants the feeling of security derived from working their own property.

Q. Did this law also apply to Esthonia and Lithuania?

A. The law applied in a similar manner also to Esthonia and Lithuania.

Q. Do you know about a statement of Darre's to the effect that the local freeholding farmers should be separated from the land they owned, and proletarianised?

[Page 89]

A. I do not remember any such statement.

Q. Do you know about the Society for the Administration of the Eastern Territory (Gesellschaft fuer die Bewirtschaftung des Ostlandes)?

A. There were two societies by that name. I assume that the one you are referring to was the one founded in order to take care of the State-owned property and the plants which were erected during the occupation in the East Baltic provinces, and which still remained State property after the return to private ownership. In the old Russian Territories of the so-called Reich Commissariat the M.T.S. organisation also took care of these areas.

Q. What was the attitude of Rosenberg toward the various measures, such as labour recruitment, delivery of foodstuffs, etc.?

A. Rosenberg could not do anything against the orders of the Fuehrer. Yet he always advocated that these measures be carried out without force against the population, and that they be co-ordinated with each other.

Q. Who took care of the Eastern workers in the Reich?

A. To my knowledge the labour administration, through its labour offices.

Q. How were the Eastern workers quartered in the Reich? Do you know anything about it?

A. The provisioning and quartering of the Eastern workers in the Reich were satisfactory as a whole. I received reports directly by way of the Reich nutritional offices.

Q. Can you tell us something about Rosenberg's general attitude toward the Eastern people?

A. As I have said before, Rosenberg personally wanted to get the Eastern people to co-operate. This was true especially in the matter of cultivating and maintaining their cultural life. For instance, Rosenberg, as far as I know, always intervened for re-opening of the colleges and special schools.

Q. Did Rosenberg have any restrictions in this sphere? Did he have to oppose other points of view to reach his goal?

A. Strong forces were at work counteracting Rosenberg's efforts, and especially at the Fuehrer's headquarters, where there were Bormann and Himmler, whose opinions were strongly supported by Reich Commissar Koch, who in turn was supported by Bormann and Himmler in his opposition to Rosenberg. That led to the fact that a large proportion of the measures which Rosenberg had planned, especially in the Ukraine, were sabotaged by Koch.

Q. Now one last question: Did you know about the concentration camps and about the treatment of the inmates in protective custody?

A. I, of course, knew of the existence of concentration camps, but not their number and what happened in them. During the years of 1933 and 1934 various representations were made about individual cases of maltreatment. Later, persons who visited concentration camps sent in definitely positive reports. In the last days of April of last year, near Berlin, I met inmates of concentration camps being marched to the rear. Their condition was so terrible that I immediately saw Himmler and asked him not to let these people go on marching but to turn them over to the enemy. The discussion of this took place in the presence of Field Marshal Keitel. Himmler unfortunately gave only an evasive answer.

Q. There is one more question that just came to my mind. In addition to providing food for the armed forces, were measures taken in the occupied Eastern Territories to get foodstuffs for the German people?

A. About two thirds of the supplies of foodstuffs from the Eastern Territories

[Page 90]

went directly to the armed forces. The remaining third was shipped to Germany, and we always considered it as compensatory for the feeding of the foreign workers, whose number was mounting continuously.

DR. THOMA: I have no more questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the defendants' counsel wish to ask any questions?

BY DR. SEIDL (Counsel for the defendant Frank):

Q. Witness, you were State Secretary in the Reich Ministry for Food and Agriculture, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it correct that the chief of the main department for Food and Agriculture in the Government General was frequently in Berlin in order to try to fix quotas there which would be bearable to the population?

A. As far as I remember, he several times expressed that opinion during the regular negotiations which took place with the Government General.

Q. According to your own observations, what was the nutritional situation of the population of the Government General?

A. According to my own observations and the reports which I received, the rations' allowance was a good deal lower than in the Reich, but could be considerably supplemented through the black market and the open market.

Q. Is it correct that every effort was made by the administration of the Government General to increase agricultural production?

A. Strenuous efforts were made by the Government General to promote agriculture, and one can safely say that the entire remaining resources, in so far as they were not used for armaments, were put to the service of supplying food. Besides, fertiliser was shipped from the Reich, even if only in limited quantities; also machinery and equipment, in accordance with the programme for the Eastern Territory.

Q. What percentage of the entire German requirement of foodstuffs did the occupied countries deliver?

A. According to the calculations which were made independently of our ministry, the deliveries from occupied territories in 1942 and 1943 amounted to about 15 per cent. of the total food requirement of Germany; during the other years around 10 per cent., usually less.

Q. Now one last question: The Soviet Prosecution has submitted Exhibit USSR 170. It deals with a meeting of the chiefs of the German offices in the occupied territories, which took place on 6 August, 1942, under the chairmanship of the Reich Marshal. I will have this document handed to you, and I want you to tell me whether the description given in that document characterises the relationship between Germany and the occupied territories correctly. You were present at that meeting yourself.

A. The document represents the minutes of the meeting in which I took part. First I have to say that the document - that is to say, the minutes - principally contains the speech of the Reich Marshal, and does not actually deal with the relations between Germany and the occupied territories in the matter of nutrition. The demands which Goering made at this meeting were so high that they could not even be taken seriously. In the matter of nutrition it was clear to us that we could not achieve anything by force in the long run. The additional demands which Goering made at that meeting were actually never fulfilled, I don't think that Goering himself believed that these quotas could be supplied. As far as I know, Goering's additional demands were never submitted

[Page 91]

to France. Belgium, in spite of a prohibition, received grain; and Czechoslovakia got fats in spite of another prohibition.

On the day before that meeting, there had been a conference of the Gauleiter, which, as far as I remember, was concerned with the increasing air attacks in the West, and the increasing difficulties, especially for the population, resulting therefrom. The Western Gauleiter were of the opinion that the food supply for Germany was becoming insufficient in view of the increasing difficulties for the population, but that, on the other hand, a large part of the occupied territories was still enjoying a surplus. The Reich Ministry for Food and the representatives of the occupied territories themselves were in a certain sense accused of not demanding and delivering enough from the occupied territories. Goering followed up these demands and, due to his disposition and his temperament, this led to the exaggerations contained in the minutes and in this document.

DR. SEIDL: I have no more questions.

BY DR. SERVATIUS (Counsel for the defendant Sauckel):

Q. Witness, how were foreign workers fed in Germany?

A. All groups of foreign workers, with the exception of the Eastern workers, received the same rations as the German population.

Q. And what about the Eastern workers?

A. The Eastern workers received in certain categories lower, but in the case of bread and potatoes, higher rations.

Q. Was the food supply such that the state of health of the workers was endangered?

A. That question cannot be answered in a clear cut fashion. It must be considered in connection with the kind of work that these people were doing. For normal work these rations must have been entirely sufficient.

Q. Did Sauckel intervene especially for better nutrition of these workers?

A. As far as I know, Sauckel appealed several times to my Minister on behalf of a better supply of food, whereupon Backe always answered with the counter-demand that no additional workers should be brought to Germany. Backe repeatedly suggested that the number of workers be limited and that they be supplied with better food instead.

DR. SERVATIUS: I have no more questions.

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