The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th January to 19th January, 1946

Thirty-sixth Day: Thursday, January 17th, 1946
(Part 4 of 10)


[Page 352]

Recourse to war implies preparation and decision; it would be futile to prohibit it, if one intended to inflict no chastisement upon those who knowingly took recourse to it, though they had the power of choosing a different path. They must, indeed, be considered the direct instigators of the acts qualified as crimes.

It seems to us that it is evident from all this that the statute of 8th August only established a jurisdiction to judge what was already an international crime, not only before the conscience of humanity but also according to International Law, even before the Tribunal was established.

If it is not contested that a crime has really been committed, is it possible to contest the competence of the International Tribunal to judge it?

There can, indeed, be no doubt that the States bound by the treaty of 1928 had assumed international responsibilities towards the co-signatories, should they act in a way contrary to the agreements undertaken.

International responsibility normally involves the collective State as such, without in principle exposing the individuals who have been the perpetrators of an illegal act. It is within the framework of the State, with which an international responsibility rests, that as a general rule the conduct of the men who are responsible for this violation of International Law may be appraised. They are subject, as the case may be, to political responsibility or to penal responsibility before the assemblies or the competent jurisdictions.

The reason for this is that normally the framework of the State comprises the nationals: the order of the State assumes the exercise of justice over a given territory and with regard to the individuals whom it includes, and the failure of the State in the exercise of this essential mission is followed by the reaction and the protests of third Powers, notably when their own nationals are involved.

But in the present situation there is no German State.

Since the surrender declaration of 5th June, 1945, and until the day when a Government shall have been established by the agreement of the Four Occupying Powers, there will be no organ representing the German State. Under these conditions, it cannot be considered that there exists a German State juridical order, capable of bringing the consequences, arising from a recognition of the responsibility of the Reich for the violation of the Briand-Kellogg Pact, to bear upon those individuals who are, in fact, the perpetrators of this violation in their capacity as organs of the Reich.

To-day supreme authority is being exercised over the whole German territory, in regard to the entire German population, by the Four Powers acting jointly. It must, therefore, be allowed that the States which exercise supreme authority over the territory and population of Germany can submit this guilt to a Court's jurisdiction. Otherwise, the proclamation that Germany has violated the solemn convenant, which it has undertaken, becomes meaningless.

There is involved a penal responsibility incurred for a series of acts, qualified as crimes which were committed against subjects of the United Nations. These acts, which are not juridicially acts of war but which have been committed as such upon the instigation of those who bear the responsibility for the launching of the so-called war, who have committed aggression upon the lives and the

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property of subjects of the United Nations, may, by virtue of the territorial principle, as we have shown above, be brought before a jurisdiction constituted to this effect by the United Nations, even as war crimes, properly speaking, are now being brought before the tribunals of each country whose nationals have been victims thereof.

Crimes committed by the Nazis in the course of the war, like the war of aggression itself, will be, as Mr. Justice Jackson has demonstrated to you, the manifestation of a concerted and methodically executed plan.

These crimes flow directly, like the war itself, from the National Socialist doctrine. This doctrine is indifferent to the moral choice of means to attain a final success, and for this doctrine the aim of war is pillage, destruction and extermination.

To-day war, totalitarian war in its methods and its aims, is dictated by the primacy of the German race and the negation of any other value. The Nazi conception maintains selection as a natural principle. The man who does not belong to the superior race counts for nothing. Human life and liberty, personality, the dignity of man, have no importance when an adversary of the German community is involved. It is truly "the return to barbarism" with all its consequences. Logically consistent, National Socialism goes to the length of assuming the right, either to exterminate totally races judged hostile or decadent, or to subjugate or put to use individuals and groups capable of resistance in these races. Does not the idea of totalitarian war imply the annihilation of any eventual resistance? All those who in any way may be capable of opposing the New Order and the German hegemony will be liquidated. It thus becomes possible to assure an absolute domination over a neighbouring people that has been reduced to impotence and to utilise, for the benefit of the Reich, the resources and the human material of these people reduced to slavery.

All the moral conceptions which tended to make war more humane are obviously outdated, and still more so all international conventions which bad undertaken to bring some extenuation of the evils of war.

The conquered peoples must concur willingly or by force in the German victory, by their material resources, as well as by their labour potential. Means will be found to subject them.

The treatment to which the occupied countries will be subjected is likewise related to this war aim. As one could read in "Deutsche Volkskraft " of 13th June,1935:

"The totalitarian war will end in a totalitarian victory. 'Totalitarian' signifies the entire destruction of the conquered nation and its complete and final disappearance from the historic scene."
Among the conquered peoples distinctions can be made according to whether or not the National Socialists consider them as belonging to the Master Race. For the former, an effort is made to integrate them into the German Reich against their will. For the latter, there is applied a policy of weakening them and bringing about their extinction by every means, from that of appropriation of their property to extermination of their persons. In regard to both groups, the Nazi rulers assault not only property and physical persons, but also the spirits and souls. They seek to align the populations according to the Nazi dogma and behaviour, when they wish to integrate them in the German community; they apply themselves at least to rooting out whatever conceptions are irreconcilable with the Nazi universe; they aim to reduce to the mentality and status of slaves, those men whose nationality they wish to eradicate for the benefit of the German race.

Inspired by these general conceptions as to the conduct to be observed in occupied countries, the defendants gave special orders or general directives, or deliberately identified themselves with such. Their responsibility is that of

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perpetrators, co-perpetrators or accomplices in the War Crimes systematically committed between 1st September, 1939, and 8th May, 1945, by Germany at war. They deliberately willed, premeditated and ordered these crimes, or knowingly associated themselves with this policy of organised criminality.

We shall expose the various aspects of this policy of criminality as it was pursued in the occupied countries of Western Europe, by dealing successively with Forced Labour, Economic Looting, Crimes against Persons, and Crimes against Mankind.

The conception of total war, which gave rise to all the crimes which were to be perpetrated by the Nazi Germans in the occupied countries, was the basis for the Forced Labour Service. Through this institution, Germany proposed to utilise to the maximum the labour potential of the enslaved populations, in order to maintain the German war production at the necessary level. Moreover, there can be no doubt that this institution was linked with the German plan of "extermination through labour" of the populations adjoining Germany which she regarded as dangerous or inferior.

A document of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces of Germany, dated 1st October, 1938, provided for the forced employment of prisoners and civilians for war labour. Hitler in his speech of 9th November, 1941, "did not doubt for a moment that, in the occupied territories which we control at present, we shall make the last man work for us."

From 1942 on, it is under the admitted responsibility of the defendant Sauckel, acting together with the defendant Speer, under the control of the defendant Goering, General Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan, that compulsory foreign labour, for the benefit of the war conducted by Germany, was developed to the full.

The most various methods of constraint were utilised simultaneously or successively:

First: Requisition of services under conditions incompatible with Article 52 of The Hague Convention.

Second: So-called voluntary labour, which consisted of bringing a worker under pressure to sign a contract to work in Germany.

Third: Conscription for compulsory labour.

Fourth: The forcing of war prisoners to work for the German war production and their transformation in certain cases into so-called free workers.

Fifth: The enrolling of certain foreign workers, notably French (Alsatian, people of Lorraine) and Luxembourgers in the German Labour Front.

All these procedures constitute crimes contrary to International Law and in violation of Article 52 of The Hague Convention.

These services requisitions were made under threat of death. Voluntary labour recruiting was accompanied by individual measures of constraint, obliging the workers of occupied territories to sign contracts. The duration of these pseudo- contracts was subsequently prolonged unilaterally and illegally by the German authorities.

The failure of these measures of requisition or the voluntary recruitment of labour led the German authorities everywhere to have recourse to conscription. Hitler declared on 19th August, 1942, in a conference on the Four Year Plan, which was reported by the defendant Speer, that Germany "had to proceed to forced recruiting if sufficient labour were not obtained on a voluntary basis." On 7th November, 1943, the defendant Jodl declared in the course of a speech given in Munich before the Gauleiters:

"In my opinion the time has come to take vigorous, resolute, and unscrupulous measures in Denmark, in Holland, in France and in Belgium in order to force thousands of idle men to carry out this most important work of fortification."

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Having accepted the principle of force, the Germans made use of two complementary methods: legal constraint, consisting of promulgating laws regulating obligatory labour; and restraint in fact, consisting of taking necessary measures to oblige workers under penalty of grave sanctions to conform to the issued legislation.

The basis of the legislation on forced labour is the decree of 22nd August, 1942, of the defendant Sauckel, who formulated the charter of forced recruiting in all the occupied countries.

In France, Sauckel got the so-called Government of Vichy to publish the law of 4th September, 1942. This law effected the freezing of all manpower in industries and anticipated the possibility of a requisition of all Frenchmen who might be employed in any work useful to the enemy. All Frenchmen from 18 to 50 years of age, who did not have a job which occupied them more than thirty hours a week, had to prove that they were usefully employed to meet the needs of the country. A decree of 19th September, 1942, and an enabling directive of 24th September regulated the various provisions of this announcement. The law of 4th September, 1942, had been published by the so-called Government of Vichy, following strong pressure exercised by the occupation authorities. Specifically, Dr. Michel, Chief of the Administrative Staff of the German Military Command in France, wrote on 26th August, 1942, a threatening letter to the Delegate General for Franco-German Economic Relations, requesting him that the law be published.

In 1943, Sauckel obtained from the defacto authority a directive under date of 2nd February, stipulating a census of all male Frenchmen born between 1st January, 1912, and 31st December, 1921. He also obtained the passing of the law of 16th February, establishing the Bureau of Compulsory Labour for all young men from 20 to 22 years of age. On 9th April, 1943, Gauleiter Sauckel requested the deportation of 120,000 workers for the month of May and another 100,000 for the month of June. To accomplish this, the so-called Government of Vichy proceeded to mobilise the entire military conscription class of 1942. On 15th January, 1944, Sauckel requested the defacto French authorities to deliver one million men for the first six months of the year, and he caused the adoption of the regulation designated as the law of 1st February, 1944, which extended the possibility of impressing all men from 16 to 60 years of age and women from the age of 18 to 45 for forced labour.

Similar measures were taken in all occupied countries.

In Norway, the German authorities imposed on the so-called Government of Quisling the publication of a law dated 3rd February, 1943, which established the compulsory registration of Norwegian citizens and prescribed their forced enrolment. In Belgium and in Holland, the Bureau of Compulsory Labour was organised directly by ordinances of the occupying Power. In Belgium the ordinances were promulgated by the military command, and in Holland by the defendant Seyss-Inquart, who was Reich Commissar for the occupied Netherland territories. In both of these countries the development of a compulsory labour policy followed the same pattern. Compulsory labour was at first required only within the occupied territories. It was soon extended in order to permit the deportation of workers to Germany. This was achieved, in the case of Holland, by the ordinance of 28th February, 1941, and in Belgium by the ordinance of 6th March, 1942, which established the principle of forced labour. The principle of deportation was formulated in Belgium by means of the ordinance of 6th October, 1942, and in Holland by the ordinance of 23rd March, 1942.

In order to ensure the efficiency of these legal provisions, brutal compulsion was exercised in all countries, numerous round-ups in all large cities. For example, 50,000 persons were arrested in Rotterdam on 10th and 11th November, 1944.

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Even more serious than the forced labour of civilian population was the incorporation of labourers from occupied countries in the service of the Reich. This incorporation was not merely the conscription of labourers but meant, in fact, the application of German legislation to the nationals of occupied countries.

In the face of the patriotic resistance of the workers of the different occupied countries, the important results which the German Labour Office had anticipated were far from being fulfilled. However, a large number of workers from the occupied countries were forced to work for the German war effort.

With regard to the Todt Organisation, the labourers who were employed in the West in the construction of the Atlantic Wall totalled 248,000 at the end of March, 1943. In the year 1942, 3,300,000 workers from occupied countries worked for Germany in their own country. 300,000 of these were in Norway, 249,000 in Holland, 650,000 in France. The number of workers deported to Germany and coming from the occupied territories in the West increased in 1942 to the figure of 131,000 Belgians, 135,000 Frenchmen, 154,000 Dutchmen. On 30th April, 1943, 1,293,000 workmen, of whom 269,000 were women from the occupied territories in the West were working for the German War Economy. On 7th July, 1944, Sauckel stated that the number of workers deported to Germany during these first six months of 1944 reached a total of 537,000, of which 33,000 were Frenchmen. On 1st March, 1944, he acknowledged during a conference, held by the Central Office of the Four Year Plan, that there were in Germany, 5,000,000 foreign workers, of whom 200,000 were actually volunteers.

The report of the French Ministry for prisoners of war, deportees and refugees, gives the figure of 715,000 for the total number of men and women who had been deported.

It should be added that, contrary to International Law, the workers who were transported to Germany had to work under labour conditions and living conditions that were incompatible with the most rudimentary regard for human dignity. The defendant Sauckel has himself stated that foreign workers, who could achieve substantial production should be fed so that they could be exploited as completely as possible with the minimum of expense, adding that they should receive less food the moment their production began to decrease, and that no concern should be given to the fate of those whose production capacity no longer presented any interest. Special reprisal camps were organised for those who sought to avoid the compulsion imposed on them. An order of 21st December, 1942, stipulated, that unwilling workers should be sent, without trial, to such camps. In 1943, Sauckel, during an inter-ministerial conference, stated that the co-operation of the S.S. was essential to him in order to fulfil the task with which he had been entrusted. Thus, the crime of forced labour and of deportation gave rise to a whole series of additional crimes, against persons.

The work required of war prisoners did not remain within the legal limits authorised by International Law any more than did that of the civilian labourers. National Socialist Germany obliged prisoners of war to work for the German war production, in violation of Articles 31 and 32 of the Geneva Convention.

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