The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Murder And Ill-Treatment
Of Civilian Population
(Part 4 of 4)

[Page 55]

In many of the occupied countries of the East and the West, the authorities maintained the pretense of paying for all the property which they seized. This elaborate pretense of payment merely disguised the fact that the goods sent to Germany from these occupied countries were paid for by the occupied countries themselves, either by the device of excessive occupation costs or by forced loans in return for a credit balance on a "clearing account" which was an account merely in name.

In most of the occupied countries of the East even this pretense of legality was not maintained; economic exploitation became deliberate plunder. This policy was first put into effect in the administration of the Government General in Poland. The main exploitation of the raw materials in the East was centered on agricultural products and very large amounts of food were shipped from the Government General to Germany.

The evidence of the widespread starvation among the Polish people in the Government General indicates the ruthlessness and the severity with which the policy of exploitation was carried out.

The occupation of the territories of the U.S.S.R. was characterized by premeditated and systematic looting. Before the attack on the U.S.S.R. an economic staff -- Oldenburg - - was organized to ensure the most efficient exploitation of Soviet territories. The German Armies were to be fed out of Soviet territory, even if "many millions of people will be starved to death." An OKW directive issued before the attack said:

"To obtain the greatest possible quantity of food and crude oil for Germany -- that is the main economic purpose of the campaign."

Similarly, a declaration by the defendant Rosenberg of the 20th June, 1941, had advocated the use of the produce from Southern Russia and of the Northern Caucasus to feed the German People, saying:

"We see absolutely no reason for any obligation on our part to feed also the Russian People with the products of that surplus territory. We know that this is a harsh necessity, bare of any feelings."

When the Soviet territory was occupied, this policy was put into effect; there was a large scale confiscation of agricultural supplies, with complete disregard of the needs of the inhabitants of the occupied territory.

In addition to the seizure of raw materials and manufactured articles, a wholesale seizure was made of art treasures, furniture, textiles, and similar articles in all the invaded countries.

The defendant Rosenberg was designated by Hitler on the 29th January, 1940, Head of the Center for National Socialist Ideological and Educational Research, and thereafter the organisation known as the "Einsatzstab Rosenberg" conducted its operations on a very great scale. Originally designed for the establishment of a research library, it developed into a project for the seizure of cultural treasures. On the 1st March, 1942, Hitler issued a further decree, authorising Rosenberg to search libraries, lodges, and cultural establishments, to seize material from these establishments, as well as cultural treasures owned by Jews. Similar directions were given where the ownership could not be clearly established. The decree directed the co-operation of the Wehrmacht High Command, and indicated that Rosenberg's activities in the West were to be conducted in his capacity as Reichsleiter, and in the East in his capacity as Reichsminister. Thereafter, Rosenberg's activities were extended to the occupied countries. The report of Robert Scholz, Chief of the special staff for Pictorial Art stated:

[Page 56]

"During the period from March, 1941 to July, 1944, the special staff for Pictorial Art brought into the Reich 29 large shipments including 137 freight cars with 4,174 cases of art works."

The report of Scholz refers to 25 portfolios of pictures of the most valuable works of the art collection seized in the West, which portfolios were presented to the Fuehrer. Thirty- nine volumes, prepared by the Einsatzstab, contained photographs of paintings, textiles furniture, candelabra, and numerous other objects of art, and illustrated the value and magnitude of the collection which had been made. In many of the occupied countries private collections were robbed, libraries were plundered, and private houses were pillaged.

Museums, palaces, and libraries in the occupied territories of the U.S.S.R. were systematically looted. Rosenberg's Einsatzstab, Ribbentrop's special "Battalion" the Reichscommissars and representatives of the Military Command seized objects of cultural and historical value belonging to the People of the Soviet Union, which were sent to Germany. Thus the Reichscommissar of the Ukraine removed paintings and objects of art from Kiev and Kharkov and sent them to East Prussia. Rare volumes and objects of art from the palaces of Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo, and Pavlovsk were shipped to Germany. In his letter to Rosenberg of 3rd October, 1941, Reichscommissar Kube stated that the value of the objects of art taken from Byelorussia ran into millions of rubles. The scale of this plundering can also be seen in the letter sent from Rosenberg s department to von Milde- Schreden in which it is stated that during the month of October, 1943 alone, about 40 box-cars loaded with objects of cultural value were transported to the Reich.

With regard to the suggestion that the purpose of the seizure of art treasures was protective and meant for their preservation, it is necessary to say a few words. On 1st December, 1939 Himmler, as the Reich Commissioner for the "strengthening of Germanism" issued a decree to the regional officers of the secret police in the annexed eastern territories, and to the commanders of the security service in Radom, Warsaw, and Lublin. This decree contained administrative directions for carrying out the art seizure program, and in Clause 1 it is stated:

"To strengthen Germanism in the defense of the Reich, all articles mentioned in Section 2 of this decree are hereby confiscated .... They are confiscated for the benefit of the German Reich, and are at the disposal of the Reich Commissioner for the strengthening of Germanism."

The intention to enrich Germany by the seizures, rather than to protect the seized objects, is indicated in an undated report by Dr. Hans Posse, director of the Dresden State Picture Gallery:

"I was able to gain some knowledge on the public and private collections, as well as clerical property, in Cracow and Warsaw. It is true that we cannot hope too much to enrich ourselves from the acquisition of great art works of paintings and sculptures, with the exception of the Veit-Stoss altar, and the plates of Hans von Kulnback in the Church of Maria in Cracow .... and several other works from the National Museum in Warsaw."

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