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 July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Fourth Day: Tuesday, 23rd July, 1946
(Part 6 of 12)

[Page 255]

DR. FLAECHSER, Continued:

In order apparently to characterise the relationship between Speer and Sauckel, the prosecution has finally submitted a file note by General Thomas, the Director of the War Economy and Armament Division in the OKW, regarding a discussion which took place on 24th March, 1942, between the defendant Speer on the one hand, and himself aid the directors of the Armament Offices of the three branches of the Wehrmacht on the other hand, in which Thomas states that the Fuehrer considered Speer as his main authority and his agent for all economic spheres. This note can only be understood in connection with the report of the account given by General Thomas of his activity as Director of the War Economy and Armament Office, and which has been presented to the. Tribunal in excerpt form in Document 2353-PS. Prior to Speer's appointment as Minister for Armament, Thomas had to try to bring about an expansion of the position of General Plenipotentiary for Economy, as it has been provided in the Reich Defence Law, so that it should become an office which would control the whole war economy. When the armament economy was confronted with heavy demands in connection with the first winter campaign in Russia and the losses which had been sustained there, and Hitler, after the death of Dr. Todt, appointed Speer to be his successor in the Ministry for Armaments and Munitions, Thomas thought he would find in Speer a personality who would receive the authority which he had striven to obtain for the General Plenipotentiary for Economy. This, however, did not occur. As has been shown from the evidence, Speer was only entrusted with the equipment of the Army and construction tasks. The control of the new office

[Page 256]

of the General Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labour by his Ministry, for which the defendant Speer was striving, was not sanctioned by Hitler. Speer's rights as Minister for Armament are stated in the decree. The expectations which General Thomas held as regards the Appointment of Speer were therefore not fulfilled in any way. Speer only received increased authority when, in the year 1943, he took over industrial production from the Ministry of Economics. But even then he was still far from having the complete field of tasks which General Thomas had expected he would obtain. Relying on his expectations, General Thomas thought that he had found in the person of Speer the man appointed by Hitler who would be decisive for all economic questions. In the file note of General Thomas, which confines itself merely to generalities, it is a matter of an expression of opinion which was not justified by the actual state of affairs. It offers no grounds on which to answer the question as to how we must distribute responsibility for the policy of the labour commitment to which the prosecution objects.

In summarising it must be stated to this count of the Indictment:

Speer is not responsible for the means employed for the procurement of foreign workers, nor for their removal to Germany. He is at the most responsible for the utilization of part of this manpower in Germany.

As a further count of the Indictment it has been stated that the defendant employed prisoners of war in the economic sector which was under his direction, and that he thereby violated Article 32 of the Geneva Convention of July, 1929, regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. The defendant never denied that he employed prisoners of war in plants under his control. This, however, cannot be regarded simply as a violation of Articles 31 and 32 of the previously mentioned agreement. The expression "armament economy" and/or "armament plant" has not the same meaning as "plant" and/or "economy", the task of which is the manufacture of arms and of direct war requirements.

The term "armament plant" can only be understood from its development. When, at the beginning of rearmament, there began to be a limitation of raw materials, plants which were working for rearmament were given preference in obtaining raw materials. These plants were controlled by the armament inspectors of the Wehrmacht, and were called "armament plants". In addition to all other plants, those used for manufacturing iron, steel and metals, as well as those plants which manufactured machine-boilers and vehicles and appliance, also those used for the entire manufacture of raw steel, the first stage of processing to the finished product (foundries, rolling works, forges), as well as the whole remaining subsidiary supply industry, came under the term "armament plants", for example, electro-technical plants, plants which produced optical instruments, plants which manufactured ball-bearings, cog-wheels, etc. This is shown by the testimony of the witness Schieber. (Question 9, Document Book, Page 114.)

Only 30-35 per cent roughly of the whole iron production was used for the production of armaments to the extent previously described, and 60 per cent for the maintenance of production for other consumers (Reich Railways, the construction of merchant vessels, agricultural machines, export goods, appliances for the chemical industry, etc.). We refer to the testimony of the witness Kehrl, which has been submitted under Exhibit Speer 36, and particularly to his answer to question 5.

Since the iron quota assigned to the armament industry also includes the production of raw steel and the different stages of manufacture, it can be safely presumed that of all the plants which were combined in the armament inspections, only approximately 20-30 per cent manufactured armament products in the sense implied in the Geneva Convention. These details had to be examined in order to gain an idea as to what extent Article 31 of the Geneva Convention could be violated by the employment of prisoners of war.

[Page 257]

The prosecution has presented an affidavit of the American economic statistician Deuss under Document 2520-PS, in order to prove thereby how many prisoners of war and foreign workers were employed in the armament industry. This compilation, which is principally supported by figures taken from the documents in the possession of the defendant Speer, does not, however, state in which branches of the armament industry the individual prisoners of war worked. A big enterprise, which, because it falls under one of the above- listed categories, and as a result thereof was considered an armament plant in its entirety, needed only to manufacture a fraction of, or perhaps even no weapons or equipment at all, which stand in direct relationship to war activities. If prisoners of war are employed in it, then their occupation does not represent a violation of Article 31 of the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Convention. Such a plant, however, appears in its entirety in Deuss's affidavit. The affidavit thereby loses its value as evidence as to what extent Article 31 of the Geneva Convention was violated. Thus we have no proof of whether and to what extent Article 31 was violated by the employment of prisoners of war in the armament industry.

The French prosecution has taken the point of view that the employment of French civilian workers, who had been released from confinement as prisoners of war and who were employed in the armament industry, was also to be considered a violation of Article 31. This is not applicable. From the time of their release the former prisoners of war were free people who were unlimited in their freedom of movement, and who were restricted only by the obligations embodied in their labour contracts. In addition to this, no French prisoner of war could be forced to agree to his release under the obligation of putting himself as a worker at the disposal of German industry. It was his own free decision if he preferred circumstances, the advantages apparently appeared far greater than the protection which they enjoyed as prisoners of war. If they did so, then their occupation, even in work which in itself is prohibited for prisoners of war in accordance with Article 31, cannot be considered a violation of this article.

The employment of prisoners of war in the industry of the country which is holding them prisoner is not prohibited by the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Convention. Only that work is prohibited which is directly connected with military operations, for example, the use of prisoners of war for fortification works for a combat unit. The defendant Speer cannot be accused of anything of that kind. It is also prohibited for them to manufacture and transport weapons of all kinds, as well as to transport war material for combat units. In the armament economy under the control of the defendant Speer, the only thing which could be considered as a violation of the aforementioned rule is the manufacture of weapons and munitions of all kinds. Such a violation, however, has so far not been proved by the prosecution at all.

It must furthermore be examined how the assignment of prisoners of war to plants took place. According to the testimony of the defendant Sauckel, this was done by the War Economy Officers with the Military District Commanders, who submitted the number of prisoners of war available for work to the Gau Employment Office, and the transfer of the prisoners of war to the plants then took place in the same manner as with ordinary labour.

The only difference was that the camp officers - the prisoners of war were billeted in so-called enlisted men's camp (Stammlager) - were responsible for seeing that the directives issued by the OKW for the employment and treatment of prisoners of war were complied with. It was the responsibility of these camp officers to prevent, in the employment of prisoners of war, violations of Article 31

[Page 258]

of the Prisoner-of-War Convention. The Commitment Officers (Einsatzoffiziere) appointed by the camp commanders had constantly to control and examine the working conditions and the nature of the occupation of prisoners of war in armament plants, and they had to watch and see that no prohibited work was imposed on the prisoners of war. The defendant Keitel has given an exact description of the manner in which the control of prisoners of war in the home area was carried out. Documents have also been submitted which give information about the treatment of prisoners of war.

The prisoners of war who were confined in assembly camps were constantly 3 being examined by Camp Commitment Officers to see that their employment was in accordance with Articles 31 and 32 of the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Convention. As far as French prisoners of war were concerned, a special authority existed for them in the person of Ambassador Scapini, who had to forward to the OKW any complaints which were made against the use of prisoners of war for labour in a way which violated International Law.

Complaints of this kind by Ambassador Scapini were immediately investigated, and if they were found to be justified, improvements were made. It is, of course, possible that mistakes sometimes occurred in view of the vast organization necessitated by the large number of French prisoners of war. Measures for the correction of mistakes of this kind, are, after all, provided by the Geneva Prisoner- of-War Convention itself in its regulations. These regulations were also effective in the last war. The representatives of the protecting powers intervened against bad conditions which had been brought to their attention through complaints, and they also demanded and achieved their abolition. If such mistakes were recognized and reported, they were then immediately remedied. It would be wrong to try to conclude from individual occurrences that there was a pre-meditated system. The protection which prisoners of war found in the Labour Commitment Offices even laid defendant Speer open to criticism by individual plant directors as being too extensive.

In this respect, as far as the defendant Speer's position in law is concerned, we must first examine whether the employment of prisoners of war in the armament industry is to be fundamentally regarded as a violation of the rules of International Law. After the previous statements as to the character of the plants which were combined in the armament industry, this must be answered in the negative. Only in so far as prisoners of war were actually employed in the production of arms and in the production of urgent war materials could there be any suggestion of a violation of Article 31. That this regulation may have been violated in individual cases we will not deny. If, for example, as the photographs submitted by the American prosecution show, prisoners of war were used near the front lines to unload munition trains, then this undoubtedly represents a violation of the regulations of Article 31. The defendant Speer, however, cannot be accused of such incidents, as they do not fall under his competence. To conclude from this fact of the employment of some prisoners of war in the armament industry that a violation on a large scale of the regulations of the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Convention did take place, is not justified.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

M. LANOIRE: Mr. President, I would request the permission of the Tribunal, to make a very short statement in the name of the French prosecution. Even though it is not the custom that the prosecution should intervene in the course of the discussion, the counsel for Speer gave a few opinions which it seems to me I must underline, and also request the Tribunal to put them aside.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal does not think it is appropriate that the speeches of the defendants' counsel should be interrupted by counsel for the -

[Page 259]

prosecution. Counsel for the prosecution are going to speak afterwards, and they will then have a full opportunity of answering the speeches that have been made on behalf of the defendants.

M. LANOIRE: Certainly, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Flaechsner, if you will wait one moment, I have an announcement to make. The Tribunal refers to its Order of 23rd February, 1946, paragraph 8 of that Order, which is on the subject of the statements which the defendants may make, under Article 24 of the Charter.

In view of the full statements already made by the defendants and their counsel, the Tribunal assumes that if it is the defendants' desire to make any further statements, it will be only to deal with matters previously omitted. The defendants will not be permitted to make further speeches or to repeat what has already been said by themselves or their counsel, but will be limited to short statements of a few minutes each to cover matters not already covered by their testimony or the arguments of counsel.

That is all.

DR. FLAECHSNER (for the defendant Speer): Mr. President, your Honours, I now continue my speech. A further charge of the prosecution refers to the violation of Article 32 of the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Agreement, according to which prisoners of war were employed in unhealthy work, in so far as prisoners of war had been employed in mines. For this reference is made to the minutes of a Central Planning meeting where the employment of Russian prisoners of war in mines is discussed. The employment of Russian prisoners of war in mines is not to be considered as forbidden in itself, and it has been practised in all industrial nations. The employment of Russian prisoners of war in mines is, therefore, not to be objected to, in so far as the prisoners concerned were in a physical condition that enabled them to do heavy mining work. It has not been established and proved by the prosecution that these prisoners of war were not physically fit for the work given them. From the fact that the employment of prisoners of war in mines was discussed and approved, it cannot be concluded that Article 32 of the Prisoner-of-War Agreement was violated. The treatment of prisoners of war has to be examined legally from various points of view. The German Government has taken the point of view that Soviet prisoners of war should be treated on a different legal basis from the subjects of the Western States, who were all parties to the treaty of the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Convention of 1929, whereas the Soviet Union did not sign this agreement.

The Soviet Prosecution has presented Document EC-338, Exhibit USSR 356, an investigation according to International Law of the Foreign Counter-Intelligence Office (Amt Ausland/Abwehr) in the High Command of the Wehrmacht, concerning the legality of the regulations issued on the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war, and levelled sharp criticism at the latter. The essential point is that in this report the view is expressed that, as a matter of fundamental principle, Soviet prisoners of war cannot be treated according to the rules of the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Agreement because the Soviet Union did not participate in this. Moreover, this report refers to the decree of the Soviet Union of 1st July, 1941, concerning the treatment of prisoners of war, regarding which the opinion of the Military Intelligence of the Wehrmacht confirms that on essential points it agrees with the rules of the Geneva Prisoner-of-War Agreement. It is, however, characteristic that in this decree it is ordered that non- commissioned officers and enlisted men taken as prisoners of war may be put to work for industry and agriculture inside the camp or outside, and that the only restriction is that the use of prisoner-of-war labour is forbidden:

(a) in the combat area,

[Page 260]

(b) for personal needs of the administration as well as the needs of other prisoners of war. (So-called "orderly service"; see Page 12-13 of the document book.)

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