The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 113
(Part 4 of 6)

Judge Halevi: To which count are you referring?

Attorney General: To the seventh count, which says: ."..the Accused, together with others, caused the plunder of the property of millions of Jews who were resident in these countries, by means of inhuman coercion, robbery, terror, and torture." Then there follow the details.

I know that in some of the Nuremberg judgments there arose doubts concerning the plunder of property, when it stood by itself and was not linked to crimes against humanity. For example, if Nazi Germany promulgated an order confiscating property, confiscating assets, however hard and cruel, or if the SS gangs broke in and looted property just as an act of looting - then it may be said: Demand the return of the property, try them for robbery. But when the robbery is linked to murder - then there was no longer any doubt. There was no doubt in the Nuremberg Trials either that taking out gold teeth, cutting of hair, that this was plunder linked to murder, and that it was therefore a crime against humanity.

In Trial No. 11, the trial of the German Ministry of Finance, the case of Schwerin von Krosigk, the former Minister of Finance, was discussed, as the Court will see in Volume 12, at the bottom of page 48, and he was accused, inter alia, of having signed orders, together with Stuckart, which deprived the Jews in Germany of their property, permitted the police to punish them, and dealt with the confiscation of Jewish assets.

The court, in a majority opinion, found him guilty of this as well. In order to understand the conviction, it may be best first to consider the minority opinion of Judge Powers, who did not join the majority. It can be found in Volume 14, on page 930, and reads as follows:

"But disregarding all such considerations, the most that can be claimed is that he participated in depriving Jews of property. This cannot be a war crime, because the victims were German nationals. It cannot be a crime against humanity, because merely depriving people of their property is not such a crime. There must be some mistreatment of the person, as previously pointed out. Schwerin von Krosigk is not shown to have participated in any such mistreatment of the person of Jews or anybody else."
According to Powers' ruling also, if the offence had been committed concurrently with persecution of the individual whose property was being confiscated, it would have been a crime against humanity. But the majority decision, which the Court will find in the same volume on page 675 ff., went further, and on pages 679-680 the man was convicted of these offences as well:
"The defendant was co-signer with Frick, Minister of the Interior; Bormann, Chief of the Party Chancellery; and Thierack, Minister of Justice - of the 13th Regulation under the Reich Citizenship Law. By its provisions, criminal acts by Jews were to be punished by the police and not by judgment of the courts; the provisions of the public penal law were no longer applicable to Jews; on death, the property of a Jew was confiscated to the Reich, and only his non-Jewish heirs residing in Germany became entitled to compensation for the loss of their inheritance; the Minister of the Interior, with the concurrence of the higher authorities of the Reich, was empowered to issue the necessary administrative and enforcement regulations, and to determine to what extent those provisions should apply to Jewish nationals in foreign countries, and finally the regulation was made applicable to Bohemia- Moravia and to all Jewish citizens of the Protectorate. This regulation was enacted in the midst of the extermination program, and by it the bare shadow of legal form was thrown over the confiscation of property of Jews who were done to death in the East.

"The defendant asserts that his only part in the program was to take possession and keep a record of the property thus acquired; that Himmler told him that the process had been in existence for some months and that he, Schwerin von Krosigk, thought there was nothing he could do, and he `was convinced that the official promulgation would guarantee greater protection under the law than if the police, as heretofore, had handled it anonymously.'

"This is an explanation which does not explain, and a justification which does not justify. It is difficult to say what comfort it would be to a Jew who was about to be murdered, or to his heirs who were about to be disinherited, to know that he was being robbed according to a tidy governmental regulation, and that the receipts of the robbery were to go to the credit of the Reich rather than into the hands and pockets of the executioners."

This is all the more true in our case, where all the measures against the Jews were taken with the clear double aim: to kill and also to take possession.* {*1 Kings 21, 19}

We have described a small part of these activities under the seventh count, and in the Polish Report about Auschwitz the Court will also find official confirmation of the horrifying description of the remnants left behind, which they no longer managed to remove from the huge "Canada Warehouses": 348,820 men's suits, 836,255 women's outfits, men's shoes, children's shoes, children's coats. The Court will find this in exhibit T/1358.

But I go further, I shall say more: When they expelled the Jews from Slovakia, from Bulgaria, and from Hungary, causing those states to inherit the Jewish property, they are guilty of that plundering, they are partners to it, even if the looted property remained in the hands of others. The Court will remember the ingenious idea of the "territorial principle," whereby the satellite countries were to be induced to hand over their Jews to them. Give us the Jews, said the Germans, their money will remain with you, the Slovaks, the Romanians, the Hungarians. He who did that - was a partner to the looting. I shall go still further: Even the confiscation of the Weiss-Manfred Works in Budapest - which Eichmann did apparently not want confiscated because he wanted to get hold of the Weiss family - which was carried out because of the conditions he had created, because of the laws and the orders and the decrees for which he was responsible - for this, too, he bears responsibility.

Presiding Judge: You could also mention the payment which was demanded for every deported Jew.

Attorney General: I am coming to that now. In Slovakia, the Germans also collected money from the Slovak Government for having expelled the Jews.

Presiding Judge: Not only there, also in Romania and in Greece.

Attorney General: Payments were made in Greece, money was extorted from the Jews. There was Account "W." The Jews had to finance their own deportation. In the Protectorate there was an emigration fund, out of which the Jew had to finance his own expulsion and deportation to the extermination camp. The Court will remember Eichmann's "clever device" when the Jews were needed for fortification work in Vienna because Blaschke wanted to build fortifications there. So Eichmann goes to Kasztner and says: "I am saving these Jews, therefore you have to pay me one hundred dollars per person." Not only did he send them to forced labour, not only did he place them in inhuman living conditions - he still demanded, and received, money from the Jews of Hungary. And when I asked him about this he said: "If it is written in some reliable document, it must be true, I do not remember." Sure enough, this is described in the Kasztner Report, and Hansi Brand gave evidence about it in Session No. 58.

Judge Halevi: Mr. Attorney General, there is a legal question here. In Section 1(b) of the law, under "war crimes," there is specific mention of "plunder of public or private property," but under "crimes against humanity" this is not mentioned.

Attorney General: I am aware of that.

Judge Halevi: This is one observation. As for the indictment, as far as I see just now, "war crimes" appears only in the eighth count, and that does not relate to plunder of property.

Attorney General: It relates to ill-treatment, deportation and murder.

Judge Halevi: These are words which must certainly also appear in the definition of "war crimes," except for plunder of public property, so that it is not possible to apply the eighth count to the plunder of property.

Attorney General: That is correct, Your Honour.

Judge Halevi: And plunder of property, with which you are dealing at this moment, in the present chapter, appears in the indictment only under "crimes against humanity," although in the law it appears expressly as a war crime - at any rate not explicitly. This is what I wanted to point out.

Attorney General: I can explain this. With the permission of the Court, in connection with the seventh count of the indictment - "plunder of the property of Jews and the restriction of this offence as defined to war crimes" - I should like to answer the question of the Court on this point:

"War crimes" does not go beyond its simple meaning, as defined in international law. There is no war crime against a local population. If we wanted to include "plunder of property" under "war crimes," we would have to absolve Eichmann of the plunder of the Jews in Germany and in the Reich, because against them he did not commit war crimes. The plunder of Jewish communities, the "W" account, taking over public and private property in the Reich itself - all these could not be included under war crimes. But we wanted the indictment to reflect this nefarious activity, as it was carried out. They plundered Jewish property, not because it was property in occupied territory, they plundered it because it was Jewish property. And this is why we are dealing specifically with this subject in the total framework, because such was its true nature.

The Court is of course free to change matters as it sees fit on the basis of the evidence, but I maintain also now that the plunder of Jewish property was not carried out because Germany seized control of other countries and peoples, and committed offences against international law, but because it committed crimes against the Jewish People and against humanity. In this way the plunder is seen to be connected with other crimes. It is true that there were confiscations of property in the countries of occupation, houses, flats and movable property were harmed, but this was not done against the inhabitants because they had a special character.

Only the Jews were harmed as Jews, and this is why we worded the seventh count as we did, because only thus is the total picture reflected. For them there was no difference whether it was a German, a French, a Belgian, or a Norwegian Jew. And if we were to differentiate between the Jews of Germany, and were to say: "there it was a crime against humanity," and the Jews in the occupied Polish, French, or any other territory, on the basis that "there it was a war crime," then, I think, we would distort the Nazi reality and the indictment would not reflect their decisions.

Judge Halevi: But is there not a danger that, by listing "plunder of public or private property" in the definition of "war crimes," and the absence of "plunder of property" from the definition of "crimes against humanity," it will be possible to interpret "crimes against humanity" as excluding "plunder?"

Attorney General: No, Your Honour, with all due respect. I maintain that every "inhumane act against any civilian population" - which forms part of the definition of "crimes against humanity" - includes plunder of property in connection with hunting-down, expulsion and deportation, and thus the definition as contained in Section 1(b) of the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law is wide enough to cover the plunder of property.

Furthermore, I maintain that plunder of property, which is intended from the very beginning to injure only one specific sector of the population, was carried out from the beginning of Eichmann's operation in Vienna, already before the War - and he admitted this. Every Jew whom he caused to leave Austria had his property automatically confiscated for the benefit of the Reich - and he admitted this fully during his interrogation - and thus every such case is plunder in connection with "inhuman acts against the civilian population."

Accordingly, I do not think that this plunder falls between the various sections only because we did not explicitly call it "war crimes." We did not depart from the straightforward meaning of the words. True, everything that Eichmann did, everything that the Nazis did to the Jews, was also a war crime as defined by the law. It was ill- treatment, deportation and murder of a civilian population.

And, therefore, this section is also included in the indictment. But the usurpation of the property of the Jews was twin-brother to the usurpation of his body, the two went together, you will find them both in all the manifestations of everything they perpetrated - if I may use the paraphrase of Justice Silberg in the judgment I have already quoted - the two were Siamese twins, in a manner of speaking, they constitute a unique act, which is defined in the law.

This is perhaps the place for another comment, so that there may be no misunderstandings: The Court will no doubt remember that, when the war criminals were tried in Nuremberg, there arose the question of the wording of the law, of their "Charter." As you know, they defined, they formulized, the offence. And because of the differences in wording - the comma and the full stop, as against the full stop and the comma - they decided that for a crime against humanity, even if it was committed before the outbreak of the War, they could only convict, if it was committed after 1 September 1939. The Israeli legislator was careful to avoid this mistake.

In our law, the reference is to the entire period of Nazi rule, and this covers the period before 1 September 1939 as well. Accordingly, what Eichmann did - beginning with his activities in Vienna and later in Berlin, plundering Jewish private and public property, both inside Germany and outside - was all done for the same purpose: to get rid of the Jews and get hold of their property. And that is a crime against humanity.

Therefore, all confiscations which Becher carried out in Hungary, the homes and the furniture which the Jews handed over in Budapest, the suitcases full of money in Krumey's evidence, all the blackmail and extortion of Jewish property handed over because of false promises of salvation and misrepresentations - all this is included in this wide framework. They are also responsible for what the Hungarians took, because without them this property would not have been plundered. They are equally responsible for what the Slovaks took, and what others took; they created the Territorialprinzip (the territorial principle).

The Court will remember that Eichmann was the man who called for this initiative, which led to a decision in Germany to leave the stolen Jewish property in its place. The Hungarians permitted the property of the Hungarian Jews to be transferred, and in return the Germans agreed magnanimously to give up their claim to the property of their nationals in those countries - who were also sent to the furnaces, together with their brethren.

The Reinhardt Operation is mentioned in this count, and although I already spoke about it this morning, I should like to say a few more words now, because here it is mentioned explicitly. Aktion Reinhardt is the code name for the extermination of the Jews of the Generalgouvernement, an operation which began before the murder of Heydrich, but they decided to honour his memory and to perpetuate his name by calling the operation after him.

Aktion Reinhardt did not begin in June or July 1942, when Heydrich breathed his last after the attack on him by a Czech underground fighter. It had started before that, long before that. Eichmann had sent Jews from the West to Globocnik in the Generalgouvernement prior to that, and therefore the name of the operation should not mislead us, as if it had begun only on the day of Heydrich's death. We remember - and I shall say only one sentence about this because I have already spoken about it - that Eichmann's instructions and guidelines about the deportations from the West were directed, among others, to Schoengarth, the Commander of the Security Police in Cracow, i.e., the representative of the Head Office for Reich Security.

We remember what the commander of the Security Police is, he belongs to the Head Office for Reich Security, as we know from the organization and operations chart, which also shows Globocnik, the man under whom, or rather in whose district, the death camps are located. That was the meaning of the transports to Cholm, and Schoengarth, the man from the Head Office for Reich Security, was one of the participants in the Wannsee Conference. The letters for which Globocnik asked Eichmann - according to his own statement - did not all date to Heydrich's time. The Court will remember that I examined him about this, and he said that at least one of the letters for which Globocnik asked was from the time after the murder of Heydrich - which goes to show that the Operation was continued by the same method and with the same continuity throughout all that time, until the end.

Furthermore, when Globocnik finally reports about the conclusion of the Operation, in T/1389 - this is the document which begins with the words "Die Aussiedlung ist erledigt und abgeschlossen" (the Resettlement is completed and finished), and Eichmann admits that these words mean: All the Jews have been deported to the camps, and he says that he transferred the camps to Pohl, starting from the second half of 1943.

The transfer began in August 1943; only then was the Trawniki camp transferred, and only in October 1943 the camps of Lublin, Poniatowa, Plaszow and Lemberg. In other words, these camps were not under the Economic-Administrative Head Office until that date. And when the monster, the Nazi monster, was about to retreat, it gave the order, contained in T/1418, to make sure that the prisoners and detainees did not fall alive into the hands of the advancing Red Army. The BdS (Commander of the Security Police), who belongs to the Head Office for Reich Security, gives this order.

I shall now pass on to the fourth count, which speaks about measures, the purpose of which was to prevent childbearing among Jews. They intended to efface the memory of the Jewish People from off the face of the earth, so that not a drop of Jewish blood would remain in human veins in future generations. And whoever did not deserve death on account of his being Jewish deserved sterilization, lest he bring offspring into the world, and thus, in the coming generations, there would no longer be anyone descended indirectly, however remotely, from the Jewish People.

The law speaks about determination of ways and means, and I assume that when he promulgated the law, the legislator knew, of course, what happened and what his intentions were, for, after all, this law was issued post factum, and after he already knew what had happened; he did not legislate in a void, or in anticipation of future contingencies. This law was retroactive, and therefore it speaks about determining ways and means, although for some of the persons concerned these had a very concrete meaning, e.g., for the two witnesses who appeared before you incognito, in closed session. The means used condemned them to permanent sterility. And Dr. Beilin also testified before you about those handsome young Jewish men from Greece, on whose bodies he saw the sterilization experiments.

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