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 and Twenty-Second Day: Monday, 6th May, 1946
(Part 3 of 10)

[Page 121]

Q. I now turn to a different point raised by the prosecution. You are accused of having, as Reich Minister of Economics, committed punishable acts in connection

[Page 122]

with the criminal plan to persecute the Jews and to eliminate them from economic life. These are the happenings of November, 1938. Will you, therefore, now describe your activity in this respect.

A. May I ask the Tribunal to give me time for a rather detailed account of this matter. Then the points which we will deal with later, can be dealt with much more briefly. This is the charge of the prosecution which really affects me gravely.

When I took over the Ministry of Economics in February, 1938, I very soon received demands from the Party, and especially from Goebbels and Ley, to eliminate the Jews from economic life, as they could not be tolerated. I was told that people were still buying in Jewish stores, and that the Party could not permit its members to buy in such stores; the Party also took offence at the fact that some high State officials, and in particular their wives, were still shopping in such stores. The sectional managers of the Labour Front refused to work with Jewish managers. There were constant clashes, I was told, and there would be no peace if the measures, which had already been introduced here and there, were not extended gradually to eliminate the Jews completely from economic life.

The Law for the Organization of National Labour, which was decreed under my predecessors, and which was also carried through by them in agreement with the German Labour Front, had assigned political and Party functions also to domestic economy. The sectional manager was also responsible to the Party and above all to the State.

Some Jewish managers readily succumbed to the pressure and sold their businesses and enterprises to people, and at prices of which we did not approve at all. I had made private agreements with individual Jewish leading men in banking, heavy industry and the big stores, and had thus brought about their withdrawal from positions in economic life. There was no peace, and we had to try, within a certain time and in line with certain legal decrees, to force back and gradually eliminate Jewish influence from economic life. In this connection, I personally always represented the view that, first of all the process, should be carried out slowly, at intervals of time; secondly, that the Jews should be given adequate compensation, and thirdly, that one might leave certain economic interests in their hands, especially their security holdings; and I particularly emphasized this in the meeting with Goering which has been mentioned here so frequently.

Now, while these developments were taking shape, the terrible happenings of the night of 9th-10th November, 1938, originating in Munich, burst upon us, and affected me personally very deeply. When I drove to my Ministry on the morning of 10th November, I saw, on the streets and in the windows of the stores, the devastation which had taken place, and I heard further details from my officials in the Ministry. I tried to get into touch with Goering, Goebbels, and I think Himmler, but all were still travelling from Munich. Finally, I succeeded in contacting Goebbels. I told him that this outrage was an affront against me personally, that through it, valuable goods which could not be replaced had been destroyed, and that our relations with foreign countries, upon which we were particularly dependent at this time, would now be disturbed noticeably.

Goebbels told me that I, personally, was responsible for this state of affairs, that I should have eliminated the Jews from economic life long age, and that the Fuehrer would issue an order to Reichsmarshal Goering, according to which, the Jews would have to be completely eliminated from economic life; I would receive further details from the Reichsmarshal. This telephone conversation with Goebbels. was confirmed by him later, and witnesses will verify this.

The next day, 11th November, I was informed that there was to be a meeting on the 12th, with Goering in his capacity as Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan, for the purpose of settling the Jewish problem. The Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan had given instructions to the Ministry to prepare a draft for a decree which was to be the basis of laws for the elimination of the Jews from economic life.

[Page 123]

On the 12th, this meeting, which has been discussed here frequently, took place. There was a discussion with the Reichsmarshal in the morning at which the gauleiters were present. The Reichsmarshal was highly excited, he said that he would not tolerate this outrage, and that he would hold the various gauleiters responsible for what had happened in their gaus.

After this meeting, I was, therefore, comparatively relieved, but at the meeting, of which the record has been read here several times, Goebbels very soon produced his very radical demands, and thereby dominated the whole of the proceedings.

The Reichsmarshal became increasingly angry, and in this mood he made the statements noted in the record. Incidentally, the record has many gaps and is very incomplete. After this meeting, it was clear to me that now, indeed, the Jews would have to be eliminated from economic life, and that in order to protect the Jews from complete loss of their rights, from further outrageous attacks and exploitation, legal measures would have to be decreed. I made provisions, and so did the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Interior, the Minister of Justice, and so on for the execution of the original decree of the Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan, in which the transfer of Jewish businesses and Jewish shares to trustees was stipulated. The Jews were compensated by three per cent bonds, and I always saw to it that as far as the Ministry of Economics was involved in this, this decision was carried out faithfully and according to the law, and that the Jews did not suffer further injustice. There was at that time certainly no talk of an extermination of the Jews. However, a plan for the organized emigration of the Jews was briefly discussed at that meeting. I, personally, did not participate in any way in the terroristic, violent measures against Jews. I regretted them profoundly, and sharply condemned them. But I had to authorize the measures for the execution of those laws in order to protect the Jews against a complete loss of rights, and to carry through in an orderly manner the legal stipulations which were made at that time.

THE PRESIDENT: We had better adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)

Q. Witness, before the adjournment, we spoke of your activity concerning the decrees for the exclusion of Jews from economic life, and you told us about the minutes of the session with Goering on 12th November, 1938. That is, Document 1816-PS.

You have already mentioned that the minutes of that conference were poorly edited, and are full of omissions, but we can see from these minutes that you openly and definitely exerted a restraining influence, and that you tried to save one thing or another for the Jews. I see, for instance, from the minutes, that during the conference, you repeatedly maintained that the Jewish stores should be reopened again speedily. Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. You also pleaded, according to the minutes, that the Jews should be allowed to keep their shares and interests. That is shown in a question which you put. Is that correct?

A. I have already said that I had thought, up to the time of that conference, that the Jews could keep their securities, and in the course of the conference, I said that it was quite new to me that the Jews should also surrender the securities they possessed. Ultimately, they got three per cent. government bonds in settlement, but they had to hand over all their shares and other interests.

I was also against a ruling of that kind, because the government would then take over a huge number of securities, and the conversion of such securities was, of course, difficult.

Q. From the minutes it also appears that Heydrich was in favour of placing the Jews in ghettoes, and you recall that the prosecution has already mentioned that here. What was your attitude to Heydrich's proposal?

[Page 124]

A. I was against Ghettoes, for the simple reason that I considered a Ghetto a terrible thing. I did not know any Ghettoes, but I said that three million Jews can surely live among 70 million Germans without Ghettoes.

Of course, I said that the Jews would have to live together more closely, and one would have to stand by the other, for it was clear to me, and I also said so during the conference, that the individual Jew could not exist under the conditions which were now being created for him.

Q. In that connection, Mr. President, may I be permitted to point out two affidavits which I included in the Funk Document Book under No. 16 and No. 3, and may I ask you to take official notice of their complete contents as evidence?

Affidavit No. 3 in the Document Book, on Page 12 of the text, is one of the defendant's wife, signed by her about the beginning of the trial, on 5th November, 1945. From that affidavit, of which I shall read the essential passages, we can see that at the time of the excesses against the Jews in November, 1938, the defendant, together with his wife and his niece, was in Berlin, and therefore not in Munich, where the so-called "Old Fighters" were assembled and where Minister Dr. Goebbels quite suddenly and to the surprise of everyone, gave the order for these Jewish pogroms.

Frau Funk confirms in her affidavit that her husband, as soon as he heard of these excesses, called Dr. Goebbels over the telephone in great excitement and asked him:

"Have you gone crazy, Goebbels, to commit such outrages? It makes one ashamed to be a German. Our whole prestige abroad is being jeopardised. I am trying day and night to preserve the national patrimony, and you throw it recklessly away, discard it. If this beastly business does not stop immediately, I will relinquish everything."
And that literally was the telephone conversation which at that time the defendant conducted from Berlin with Dr. Goebbels. And the remaining contents of that affidavit are concerned with intercessions which the defendant made for individual Jewish acquaintances. And, gentlemen, there is a similar vein in the affidavit by Heinz Kallus, who was Ministerial Counsellor in the Ministry of Economics under the defendant Funk.

I have submitted this affidavit as No. 15 of the Funk Document Book. It is dated 9th December, 1945, and this witness also confirms that Funk was of course, extremely surprised by these excesses, and that he thereupon immediately got in touch with the competent authorities in order to prevent further outrages.

Thus, these affidavits largely confirm the account which the defendant Funk himself has given. In connection with this affair concerning the Jews, I should like to return to Document 3498-PS; I repeat, Document 3498-PS, which can be found on Page 19 of the trial brief against Funk. That is a circular letter by Funk of 6th February, 1939, published in the official gazette of the Reich Ministry of Economics, and from it I quote:-

"To what extent and rate the authority of the Four-Year Plan is to be used depends on instructions given by me in accordance with the directives of the Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan."
I quote this because, here again, in an official publication of that time, the defendant Funk expresses clearly that, also in this field, he bad merely to obey and to execute the directives of the Four-Year Plan. Is that correct, Dr. Funk?

A. Yes.

Q. Dr. Funk, you said earlier that, in keeping with your entire past and your basic principles, and in keeping with your entire philosophy, you considered as particularly severe the charge concerning the elimination of Jews from economic life. And in this connection I want to put it to you that, during an interrogation in Nuremberg on 22nd October, 1945, you finally broke into tears and told the interrogating officer: "At that time I should have resigned. I am guilty." And this was quoted literally on one occasion in the course of the proceedings. Perhaps you can tell us how that breakdown on your part arose, and that remark which I read from the record.

[Page 125]

A. I had just been brought from hospital into prison.

Q. Dr. Funk, one question ...

A. I did not know before that I had been accused of being a murderer and a thief, and I do not know what else. I was sick for nine or ten weeks, and from the hospital bed I was brought here during the night. During those days my interrogations here started immediately. I must admit that the American officer who interrogated me, Colonel Murrey Gurfein, conducted the interrogation with extreme consideration and forbearance, and again and again called a halt when I was unable to go on. And when I was confronted with these measures of terror and violence against the Jews, I suffered a spiritual breakdown, because at that moment it came to my mind with all clearness that the catastrophe took its course from here on down to the horrible and dreadful things of which we have heard here and of which I knew, in part at least, from the time of my captivity. I felt a deep sense of shame and of personal guilt at that moment, and I feel it also today. But that I issued directives for the execution of the basic orders and laws which were made, that is no crime against humanity. In this matter I placed the will of the State before my conscience and my inner sense of duty because, after all, I was the servant of the State. I also considered myself obliged to act according to the will of the Fuehrer, the supreme head of the State, especially since these measures were necessary for the protection of the Jews, in order to save them from absolute lack of legal protection, from further arbitrary acts and violence. Besides, they were compensated, and, as can be seen from the circular letter which you have just quoted, I gave strict instructions to my officials to carry out these legal directives in a correct and just way.

It is terribly tragic indeed that I have been charged with these things. I have said already, that I took no part in these excesses against the Jews. From the first moment I disapproved and condemned them very strongly, and they affected me personally very profoundly. I did everything, as much as was within my power, to continue helping the Jews. I never thought of an extermination of the Jews, and I did not participate in these things in any way.

Q. Dr. Funk, as you are just speaking of the fact that you did not think of an extermination, an annihilation of the Jews, I want to refer to a document which has been quoted before, Document 354S-PS; it was submitted by the prosecution. As you may recall, this is the photostat of the Frankfurter Zeitung of 17th November, 1938, an issue which appeared only a few days after the incidents with which we are now concerned. In that issue of the Frankfurter Zeitung, a speech of yours was published in which you dealt with the legal measures for the exclusion of Jews from German economic life, and you will recall that the Prosecutor, in his speech of 11th January, 1946, charged you, and I quote:

" ... that the programme of economic persecution of the Jews was only part of a larger programme for their extermination."
And that is in conformity with a phrase in your trial brief, which says that it was merely a part of, literally, "a larger programme for the extermination of the Jews." Now, in all the statements which you made during that time, I nowhere find an indication that you favoured an extermination, an annihilation of the Jews, or that you had demanded it. What can you say about that view of the prosecution?

A. Never in all my life, orally or in writing, have I demanded an extermination or annihilation of the Jews, or made any statement to that effect. Apparently this is an expression of the Prosecutor, which, in my opinion, is based only on imagination or the state of mind in which he has viewed the things from the beginning. I, myself, have never advocated the extermination of the Jews, and I did not know anything of the terrible happenings which have been described here. I did not know anything. I had nothing to do with them; and afterwards as far as I recall, I never took part in any measures against the Jews, as these matters were no longer dealt with in my departments. With the exception of these legal measures, these executive orders, I do not believe that within my departments I ever again authorized anything further connected with Jewish affairs.

[Page 126]

Q. Is it correct, Dr. Funk, that in connection with the carrying out of these directives which you had to issue, you yourself intervened on behalf of a large number of individuals who had to suffer under these directives, and who approached you personally for aid, and that you did this in order to modify the effect of these decrees?

A. I saw to it that these directives were carried out in a fair way and according to the laws. However, the carrying out of these decrees was the responsibility not of the Ministry, but of the District President, and of the offices dependent on the Gauleiter in the Reich. Many complaints reached me about the manner in which aryanization was carried out, and my assistants will confirm that I intervened in every case when I was informed of such abuses. I even dismissed an official of that department when I heard of incorrect behaviour; later I also dismissed the departmental head.

Q. Why?

A. Because these abuses had occurred. Just as previously I had done everything in my power to aid the Jews to emigrate by making foreign currency available to them, so now, in carrying out these directives, I did everything in my power within the scope of possibility to make things bearable for the Jews.

DR. SAUTER: Mr. President, this question as to what Funk's attitude was in practice toward the carrying out of these decrees which he himself as an official had to issue - this question I also dealt with in an interrogatory approved by you and submitted to the former State Secretary Landfried. That interrogatory was returned some time ago, but it was discovered that a wrong interrogatory had been sent out by the office, and the correct answer was received only on Saturday. It is now being. translated, and I assume that this correct answer, this testimony of State Secretary Landfried, will be submitted to you in the course of the day, and that it can then be entered in the appendix as Document No. 16. I presume, nevertheless, that there will no be objection to my reading the short answer of the witness Landfried in connection with this matter. Landfried was from 1939 to 1943, State Secretary -

THE PRESIDENT: Has the prosecution seen the document?

DR. SAUTER: Yes, the prosecution has the document.

MR. DODD: We have not seen this document. We have seen the German text. I do not read German, and I have not had an opportunity to read it. It has not been translated.

THE PRESIDENT: The document can be submitted after the prosecution has seen it. You need not submit it at this moment. Have you any other witnesses or not?

DR. SAUTER: Not in connection with this matter.

[ 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.