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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd May to 13th May, 1946

One Hundred Ninteenth Day: Thursday, 2nd May, 1946
(Part 2 of 12)

[DR. DIX continues his direct examination of Hjalmar Schacht]

[Page 5]

Q. Did you take part in similar conferences which were preparatory to attacks, for instance, the meeting of November, 1940, in which the attack on Russia was discussed? Please understand, I ask you not to misunderstand me, the Speer document, which you spoke of yesterday, discusses an attack which, according to Hitler, was threatened by Russia. I am speaking now of discussions in which the subject was an attack on Russia.

A. The fear of an attack from Russia dates back to the fall of 1936, and therefore has as yet nothing to do with the war. I never took part in any conference which indicated intentions of war, consequently not in the conference on the intended attack on Russia, and I never heard anything about it.

Q. Does that also apply to the meeting of May, 1941?

A. At the moment, I do not know which meeting that is, but I did not in any way take part in any meeting in May, 1941, as, during the entire period when I was Minister without portfolio, I never took part in any official conference.

Q. Then you also did not get any information about the conferences which the Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka had in Berlin?

A. I did not have the slightest knowledge of the Matsuoka conference, except what may perhaps, have been said on the radio or in the Press.

Q. Mention has been made in some way that you at one time had made available 200,000 marks for Nazi propaganda in Austria. Is there any truth in this?

A. I have not the slightest knowledge of that.

Q. Now we come to your dismissal as President of the Reichsbank. As you have heard, the prosecution asserts that you finally brought about your own dismissal in order to evade the financial responsibility. I ask you to reply to that accusation and to tell the Tribunal briefly, but exhaustively, the reasons for and the tactical deliberations leading to your dismissal, and that of your assistants. They appear here in the memorandum of the Reichsbank Directorate which has been under consideration several times.

A. I should like to divide the question into two parts: The first question is whether I tried to rid myself of my office as President of the Reichsbank. My answer to that question is a most emphatic yes. Since the middle of 1938, we in the Reichsbank always considered that if there were no change in policy, we in no event wanted to continue in office, because - and that brings me to the second part of the question - we did not want to assume the responsibility which we were then expected to bear.

For everything which we did previously, and for a defensive rearmament in order to achieve equal rights for Germany in international politics, we gladly assumed responsibility, and we assume it before history and this Tribunal. But

[Page 6]

the responsibility for continuing rearmament which possibly in itself constituted a serious potential danger of war, or which would ever aim at war intentionally, that responsibility none of us wanted to assume. Consequently, when it became clear that Hitler was working toward a further increase in rearmament - and I spoke about that yesterday in connection with the conversation of the 2nd of January, 1939 - when we became aware of that, we wrote the memorandum which has been quoted here and is in the hands of this Tribunal as an exhibit. It indicates clearly that we opposed every further increase of State expenditure and would not assume responsibility for it. From that, Hitler gathered that he would in no event be able to use the Reichsbank with its present directorate and president for any future financial purposes. Therefore, there remained only one alternative; to change the directorate, because without the Reichsbank he could not go on. And he had to take a second step; he had to change the Reichsbank Law. That is to say, an end had to be put to the independence of the Reichsbank from governmental decrees. At first he did that in a secret law - we had such things - of 19th or 20th January, 1939. That law was published only about six months later. That law abolished the independence of the Reichsbank, and the president of the Reichsbank became a mere bank teller for the credit demands of the Reich or, that is to say, of Hitler.

The Reichsbank directorate did not want to continue along this line of development. Therefore on the 2oth of January, the Reichsbank president, the vice-president, and the chief financial expert, Reichsbank Director Huelse were dismissed; three other members of the directorate of the Reichsbank, Geheimrat Vocke, Director Erhardt, and Director Blessing pressed insistently for their resignation from the Reichsbank until it was also granted. Two other members of the Reichsbank directorate, Director Puhl, whose name has been mentioned here, and an eighth director, Director Hotschmann, remained in the directorate under the new conditions. They were both Party members, the only ones in the directorate, and therefore they could not easily withdraw.

Q. That is one accusation which is made by the Prosecution concerning your reasons for writing the memorandum, that is to say, to evade the financial responsibility. The second accusation is that not a word of this memorandum expressly mentions limitation of armaments, but that it essentially treats only matters of currency, technical questions of finance, and economic considerations and that, therefore, it was not as an opponent of rearmament, but as a bank president worried about the currency, that you drew up the memorandum. It is necessary that as co-author of the memorandum, as its main author, you state your position with regard to this incriminating interpretation of the memorandum.

A. I have already explained here that every objection which I made and had to make to Hitler - and that applies not only to myself but to all Ministers - could only be made with arguments arising out of the particular department administered. Had I said to Hitler: "I shall not give you any more money because you intend to wage war," I should not have had the pleasure of conducting this animated conversation here with you. I would then have had a conversation with my priest, and later would have lain silently in my tomb, and the priest would have delivered a monologue.

Q. This memorandum is certainly very important, and therefore we have to delay here for a moment. In summarising - and please check me - I believe I can express your views in this way: This memorandum at the end contained demands for further raising of funds by increase of taxation or by making use of the stock market, both impossible. Taxation could not be increased any more. The stock market had just unsuccessfully attempted a loan. Now, these demands being impossible, there was an assurance that further funds could not be raised this way for an unhealthy rearmament programme. This success was not to be expected, rather you could expect your dismissal. Did my brief but comprehensive summary of this matter express your views correctly?

[Page 7]

A. That entire memorandum was composed in such a way that there were only two possible answers to it: either an alteration of financial policy - and that meant a stop in rearmament, which would have amounted to a complete change of Hitler's policy - or else the dismissal of the Reichsbankpresident: and that happened. We expected it, because at that time I no longer believed that Hitler would completely change his policy.

Q. Therefore, the Prosecution is right in saying that your mission ended with your dismissal.

A. Hitler certainly confirmed that himself and in the letter of dismissal to me said it expressly. We heard from the testimony of Herr Lammers in this Court that Hitler with his own hand wrote that addition into the letter, that my name would remain connected with the first stage of rearmament. The second stage of rearmament I rejected, and Hitler understood that very clearly, because when he received that letter from the Reichsbank he said to those who were present: "This is mutiny."

Q. How do you know that?

A. The witness, Vocke, who will, I hope, appear in this Court, will testify to that.

Q. Furthermore, the prosecution asserted that your exit from the political stage could not be attributed to your policy of opposition to a war, but to disputes with Hermann Goering over power and rank. As such, that accusation seems to me to have been refuted already by statements which Goering and Lammers have made up to now. We do not wish to recapitulate. I merely want to ask you whether you have anything to add to the statements made on this subject by Goering and Lammers, or whether you disagree with them?

A. In his oral presentation, the Prosecutor said that throughout the entire material which he had studied he could not find one piece of evidence for my opposition to a policy of war. I can only reply: if someone on account of his short- sightness does not see a tree on a level plain, there is surely no proof that the tree is not there.

Q. You have heard from the prosecution that you are accused of having remained a member of the Cabinet as a Reich Minister without portfolio. That was the cause for the misunderstanding of yesterday. I merely wanted to express yesterday that you had resigned as an active minister and head of a department, that you resigned as Minister of Economics and his Lordship correctly pointed out that, of course, you remained a Minister without portfolio, that is without your own sphere of activity until January, 1943. Of that you are accused by the Prosecution. What caused you to remain Reich Minister without portfolio? Why did you do that? Did you have any particular financial reasons? Excuse my mentioning the latter, but the trial brief, on Page 5, charges you with that motive.

A. I have already repeatedly explained here that my release from office as Minister of Economics was surrounded with very great difficulties, and you have also submitted several affidavits confirming the fact. Hitler did not, under any circumstances, want it to be known that a break, or even so much as a difference of opinion had occurred between one of his assistants and himself. When he finally approved my release, he attached the condition that, nominally, I should remain Minister without portfolio.

As regards the second accusation, it is as unworthy as it is wrong. There was a law in Germany that if a person held two public offices he could be paid only for one. Since I was in addition President of the Reichsbank I continuously received my income from the Reichsbank, at first my salary and later my pension; therefore as a Minister I drew no salary whatever.

Q. Did you then, during the entire period of your position as Reich Minister without portfolio, have any other function to fulfil in that capacity? Did you take any part in important decisions of the Cabinet, did you participate in discussions - in brief, was the Minister without portfolio just a fancy dress major or was the position one of substance?

[Page 8]

A. I have already emphasized again and again in this Court - and I can only repeat it again - that after I left the Reichsbank I had not a single official discussion; I did not take part in a single ministerial or official conference and that, unfortunately, it was not possible for me to bring up any subject for discussion; for I had no factual basis or pretext for such a possibility, for the very reason that I had no particular field to administer. I believe that I was not the only Minister without portfolio - there were also a few others - who were not active in any way at all. As far as I know, Seyss-Inquart was undoubtedly Minister without portfolio, he had his administration in Holland. Frank was Minister without portfolio and had his administration in Poland. Schirach - I do not know whether he was Minister without portfolio; I think it has been mentioned once, but I do not know if it is correct - he had his Austrian administration in Vienna. I had nothing further at all to do with the State administration or in any other way with the State or the Party.

Q. What about the ordinary course of affairs? Were there perhaps some circulars sent out by Lammers on which you acted?

A. On the whole - and I think it is understandable after what I have stated here - I watched carefully for every possibility of intervening again in some way, but I remember, and state with absolute certainty, that during the entire time until the collapse I received only three official memoranda. The numerous invitations to State funerals and similar social State functions really need not be mentioned here as official communications. I did not participate in these ceremonies either. However, these three instances are interesting. The first time it was a letter from Hitler, pardon, from Himmler, a circular or request or a bill proposed by Himmler, who intended to transfer court jurisdiction over the so-called anti-Social elements of the population to the police or the Gestapo; that is to say, an administrative principle....

Q. Well, that is known, Dr. Schacht. You can assume that is known.

A. In regard to this question, I supported Reichminister Frank, who, in a letter he sent me, emphasized that the suggested Bill was a violation of the basic principles of justice, and the Bill was not made law. It would indeed have been extremely regrettable, because I am firmly convinced that I myself was a definite anti-Social element in Himmler's opinion.

The second instance was a letter concerning some discussions about State property in Yugoslavia after we had occupied Yugoslavia. I answered that since I had not taken part in the preliminary discussions on the draft of the law I should not be counted upon to assist in this matter.

Finally, the third incident, and this is the most important, occurred in November, 1942. Apparently by mistake there came into circulation the draft for a law of the Reich Minister for Air, which contained the proposal for taking 15 and 16- year old students away from the high school and putting them into the anti-aircraft defence force, the so-called Flack Service. I answered this letter because it was a welcome opportunity for me to state my opinion on the military situation in a long, detailed reply which I sent to Goering.

Q. On the 3rd of November?

A. It is a letter of the 30th of November, which on the 2nd of December, I believe, was given personally by my secretary to the adjutant of Goering in a closed envelope, with the request that he himself open it.

DR. DIX: One moment, Dr. Schacht. That letter has already been submitted under Document 3700-PS by the prosecution, but it is also in our Document Book under Exhibit No. 23, Page 66 of the English text and Page 59 of the German text. If we were not so pressed for time, it would have been especially gratifying for me to read this letter here in full. It is a very fine letter. However, I want to take time into consideration and I merely ask you, Dr. Schacht, to state briefly your opinion of its content.

[Page 9]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will read the letter. It isn't necessary for you to read it now, is it?

DR. DIX: All right. Well, witness, do you wish to say anything further?

THE WITNESS: Yes. I would like to say in this connection if it is permitted, that to my knowledge this letter has already been read here by the American Chief Prosecutor, that is -


Q. Read?

A. Or mentioned, or at least the most important points were read. I believe it is sufficient if you submit the letter to the Tribunal in evidence.

Q. Yes, that has been done. Now, that constituted your entire activity as Reich Minister without portfolio?

A. Yes.

Q. So, therefore, if one wanted to define the position in a word, one would really say, just a 'Charactermajor.' (Fancy- dress major).

A. I don't know what a 'Charactermajor' is, at any rate, I was never a Major, but I have always had character.

Q. But, Dr. Schacht, that is an historical remark made by Kaiser Wilhelm the First about the authority he had as German Emperor to Bismarck.

THE PRESIDENT: I think this is a convenient time to break off.

(A recess was taken).

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