Opening Address for the United States
This document was retrieved from the archives of Nizkor. Source: Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression, Volume I, Chapter VII, Office of the United States Chief Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1946.
CRIMES IN THE CONDUCT OF WAR
Even the most warlike of peoples have recognized in the name of humanity some limitations on the savagery of warfare. Rules to that end have been embodied in international conventions to which Germany became a party. This code had prescribed certain restraints as to the treatment of belligerents. The enemy was entitled to surrender and to receive quarter and good treatment as a prisoner of war. We will show by German documents that these rights were denied, that prisoners of war were given brutal treatment and often murdered. This was particularly true in the case of captured airmen, often my countrymen.
It was ordered that captured English and American airmen should no longer be granted the status of prisoners of war. They were to be treated as criminals and the Army was ordered to refrain from protecting them against lynching by the populace (R-118). The Nazi Government, through its police and propaganda agencies, took pains to incite the civilian population to attack and kill airmen who crash- landed. The order, given by the Reichsfuehrer SS, Himmler, on August 10th, 1943, directed that,
"It is not the task of the police to interfere in clashes between German and English and American fliers who have bailed out."
This order was transmitted on the same day by SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Brand of Himmler's Personal Staff to all Senior Executive SS and Police officers, with these directions:
"I am sending you the enclosed order with the request that the Chief of the Regular Police and of the Security Police be informed. They are to make this instruction known to their subordinate officers verbally." (R-110).
Similarly, we will show Hitler's top secret order, dated October 18th, 1942, that commandos, regardless of condition, were "to be slaughtered to the last man" after capture (498- PS). We will show the circulation of secret orders, one of which was signed by
Hess, to be passed orally to civilians, that enemy fliers or parachutists were to be arrested or liquidated (062-PS). By such means were murders incited and directed.
This Nazi campaign of ruthless treatment of enemy forces assumed its greatest proportions in the fight against Russia. Eventually all prisoners of war were taken out of control of the Army and put in the hands of Himmler and the SS (058-PS). In the East, the German fury spent itself. Russian prisoners were ordered to be branded. They were starved. I shall quote passages from a letter written February 28th, 1942 by defendant Rosenberg to defendant Keitel:
"The fate of the Soviet prisoners of war in Germany is on the contrary a tragedy of the greatest extent. Of 3.6 millions of prisoners of war, only several hundred thousand are still able to work fully. A large part of them has starved, or died, because of the hazards of the weather. Thousands also died from spotted fever.
The camp commanders have forbidden the civilian population to put food at the disposal of the prisoners, and they have rather let them starve to death.
In many cases, when prisoners of war could no longer keep up on the march because of hunger and exhaustion, they were shot before the eyes of the horrified civilian population, and the corpses
In numerous camps, no shelter for the prisoners of war was provided at all. They lay under the open sky during rain or snow. Even tools were not made available to dig holes or caves.
Finally, the shooting of prisoners of war must be mentioned. For instance, in various camps, all the 'Asiatics' were shot." (081-PS).
Civilized usage and conventions to which Germany was a party had prescribed certain immunities for civilian populations unfortunate enough to dwell in lands overrun by hostile armies. The German occupation forces, controlled or commanded by men on trial before you, committed a long series of outrages against the habitants of occupied territory that would be incredible except for captured orders and the captured reports showing the fidelity with which these orders were executed.
We deal here with a phase of common criminality designed by the conspirators as part of the common plan. We can appreciate why these crimes against their European enemies were not of a
casual character but were planned and disciplined crimes when we get at the reason for them. Hitler told his officers on August 22nd, 1939 that "The main objective in Poland is the destruction of the enemy and not the reaching of a certain geographical line." (1014-PS). The project of deporting promising youth from occupied territories was approved by Rosenberg on the theory that "a desired weakening of the biological force of the conquered people is being achieved." (031-PS). To Germanize or to destroy was the program. Himmler announced, "Either we win over any good blood that we can use for ourselves and give it a place in our people or, gentlemen -- you may call this cruel, but nature is cruel -- we destroy this blood." As to "racially good types" Himmler further advised, "Therefore, I think that it is our duty to take their children with us to remove them from their environment if necessary by robbing or stealing them." (L-70). He urged deportation of Slavic children to deprive potential enemies of future soldiers.
The Nazi purpose was to leave Germany's neighbors so weakened that even if she should eventually lose the war, she would still be the most powerful nation in Europe. Against this background, we must view the plan for ruthless warfare, which means a plan for the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Hostages in large numbers were demanded and killed. Mass punishments were inflicted, so savage that whole communities were extinguished. Rosenberg was advised of the annihilation of three unidentified villages in Slovakia. In May of 1943, another village of about 40 farms and 220 inhabitants was ordered wiped out. The entire population was ordered shot, the cattle and property impounded, and the order required that "the village will be destroyed totally by fire." A secret report from Rosenberg's Reich Ministry of Eastern territory reveals that:
"Food rations allowed the Russian population are so low that they fail to secure their existence and provide only for minimum subsistence of limited duration. The population does not know if they will still live tomorrow. They are faced with death by starvation.
"The roads are clogged by hundreds of thousands of people, sometime as many as one million according to the estimate of experts, who wander around in search of nourishment.
"Sauckel's action has caused great unrest among the civilians. Russian girls were deloused by men, nude photos in
forced positions were taken, women doctors were locked into freight cars for the pleasure of the transport commanders, women in night shirts were fettered and forced through the Russian towns to the railroad station, etc. All this material has been sent to the OKH."
Perhaps. the deportation to slave labor was the most horrible and extensive slaving operation in history. On few other subjects is our evidence so abundant or so damaging. In a speech made on January 25th, 1944, the defendant Frank, Governor General of Poland, boasted, "I have sent 1,300,000 Polish workers into the Reich." The defendant Sauckel reported that "out of the five million foreign workers who arrived in Germany not even 200,000 came voluntarily." This fact was reported to the Fuehrer and defendants Speer, Goering, and Keitel (R-124). Children of 10 to 14 years were impressed into service by telegraphic order of Rosenberg's Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories:
"The Command is further charged with the transferring of worthwhile Russian youth between 10-14 years of age, to the Reich. The authority is not affected by the changes connected with the evacuation and transportation to the reception camps of Pialystok, Krajewo, and Olitei. The Fuehrer wishes that this activity be increased even more." (200-PS).
When enough labor was not forthcoming, prisoners of war were forced in war work in flagrant violation of international conventions (016-PS). Slave labor came from France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and the East. Methods of recruitment were violent (R-124, 018-PS, 204-PS). The treatment of these slave laborers wa stated in general terms, not difficult to translate into concrete deprivations, in a letter to the defendant Rosenberg from the defendant Sauckel, which stated:
"All prisoners of war, from the territories of the West as well of the East, actually in Germany, must be completely incorporated into the German armament and munition industries. Their production must be brought to the highest possible level."
"The complete employment of all prisoners of war as well as the use of a gigantic number of new foreign civilian workers, men and women, has become an undisputable necessity for the solution of the mobilization of labor program in this war.
"All the men must be fed, sheltered and treated in such
a way as to exploit them to the highest possible extent at the lowest conceivable degrees of expenditure." (016- PS).
In pursuance of the Nazi plan permanently to reduce the living standards of their neighbors and to weaken them physically and economically, a long series of crimes were committed. There was extensive destruction, serving no military purpose, of the property of civilians. Dikes were thrown open in Holland almost at the close of the war not to achieve military ends but to destroy the resources and retard-the economy of the thrifty Netherlanders.
There was carefully planned economic syphoning off of the assets of occupied countries. An example of the planning is shown by a report on France dated December 7th, 1942 made by the Economic Research Department of the Reichsbank. The question arose whether French occupation costs should be increased from 15 million Reichsmarks per day to 25 million Reichsmarks per day. The Reichsbank analyzed French economy to determine whether it could bear the burden. It pointed out that the armistice had burdened France to that date to the extent of 18 1/2 billion Reichsmarks, equalling 370 billion Francs. It pointed out that the burden of these payments within two and a half years equalled the aggregate French national income in the year 1940, and that the amount of payments handed over to Germany in the first six months of 1942 corresponded to the estimate for the total French revenue for that whole year. The report concluded, "In any case, the conclusion is inescapable that relatively heavier tributes have been imposed on France since - the armistice in June, 1940 than upon Germany after the World War. In this connection, it must be noted that the economic powers of France never equalled those of the German Reich and that vanquished France could not draw on foreign economic and financial resources in the same degree as Germany after the last World War."
The defendant Funk was the Reichs Minister of Economics and President of the Reichsbank; the defendant Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister; the defendant Goering was Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan, and all of them participated in the exchange of views of which this captured document is a part (219-PS). Notwithstanding this analysis by the Reichsbank, they proceeded to increase the imposition on France from 15 million Reichsmarks daily to 25 million daily.
It is small wonder that the bottom has been knocked out of French economy. The plan and purpose of the thing appears in
a letter from General Stulpnagle, head of the German Armistice Commission to the defendant Jodl as early as September 14th, 1940 when he wrote, "The slogan 'Systematic weakening of France' has already been surpassed by far in reality."
Not only was there a purpose to debilitate and demoralize the economy of Germany's neighbors for the purpose of destroying their competitive position, but there was looting and pilfering on an unprecedented scale. We need not be hypocritical about this business of looting. I recognize that no army moves through occupied territory without some pilfering as it goes. Usually the amount of pilfering increases as discipline wanes. If the evidence in this case showed no looting except of that sort, I certainly would ask no conviction of these defendants for it.
But we will show you that looting was not due to the lack of discipline or to the ordinary weaknesses of human nature. The German organized plundering, planned it, disciplined it, and made it official just as he organized everything else, and then he compiled the most meticulous records to show that he had done the best job of looting that was possible under the circumstances. And we have those records.
The defendant Rosenberg was put in charge of a systematic plundering of the art objects of Europe by direct order of Hitler dated January 29th, 1940 (136-PS). On April 16th, 1943 Rosenberg reported that up to the 7th of April, 92; railway cars with 2,775 cases containing art objects had been sent to Germany; and that 53 pieces of art had been shipped to Hitler direct, and 594 to the defendant Goering. The report mentioned something like 20,000 pieces of seized art and the main locations where they were stored (015-PS).
Moreover, this looting was glorified by Rosenberg. Here we have 39 leather-bound tabulated volumes of his inventory, which in due time we will offer in evidence. One cannot but admire the artistry of this Rosenberg report. The Nazi taste was cosmopolitan. Of the 9,455 articles inventoried, there were included 5,255 paintings, 297 sculptures, 1,372 pieces of antique furniture, 307 textiles, and 2,224 small objects of art. Rosenberg observed that there were approximately 10,000 more objects still to be inventoried (015-PS). Rosenberg himself estimated that the values involved would come close to a billion dollars (090-PS).
I shall not go into further details of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Nazi gangster ring whose leaders are before you. It is not the purpose in my part of this case to deal with the in-
dividual crimes. I am dealing with e common plan or design for crime and will not dwell upon individual offenses. My task is only to show the scale on which these crimes occurred, and to show that these are the men who were in the responsible positions and who conceived the plan and design which renders them answerable, regardless of the fact that the plan was actually executed by others.
At length, this reckless and lawless course outraged the world. It recovered from the demoralization of surprise attack, assembled its forces, and stopped these men in their tracks. Once success deserted their banners, one by one the Nazi satellites fell away. Sawdust Caesar collapsed. Resistance forces in every occupied country arose to harry the invader. Even at home, Germans saw that Germany was being led to ruin by these mad men, and the attempt on July 20th, 1944 to assassinate Hitler, an attempt fostered by men of highest station, was a desperate effort by internal forces to stop short of ruin. Quarrels broke out among the failing conspirators, and the decline of the Nazi power was more swift than its ascendancy. German armed forces surrendered, its government disintegrated, its leaders committed suicide by the dozen, and by the fortunes of war these defendants fell into our hands. Although they are not by any means all the guilty ones, they are survivors among the most responsible. Their names appear over and over in the documents and their faces grace the photographic evidence. We have here the surviving top politicians, militarists, financiers, diplomats, administrators, and propagandists of the Nazi movement. Who was responsible for these crimes if they were not?
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