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 10 of 10)

[Page 378]

M. FAURE: Mr. President and your Honours, I propose to submit to the Tribunal an introduction dealing with the first and the second part of the French case.

The first part relates to forced labour; the second part to economic looting. These two overall questions are complementary to each other and form a whole. Manpower on the one hand and material property on the other constitute the two aspects of the riches of a country and the living conditions in that country. Measures taken with regard to the one necessarily react on the other, and it is understandable that in the occupied countries German policy with regard to manpower and economic property was inspired, from the very beginning, by common directing principles.

For this reason the French Prosecution has deemed it logical to submit successively to the Tribunal those two briefs corresponding to the letters "H" and "E" of the Third Count of the Indictment. My present purpose is to define the initial directives covering the German procedure in regard to manpower and to material in the occupied territories.

When the Germans occupied the territories of Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and, in part, continental France, they thereby assumed a material power of constraint with regard to the inhabitants and a material power of acquisition with regard to its property. They thus had, in fact, the possibility of utilising these dual resources on behalf of the war effort.

On the other hand, legally they were confronted with precise rules of International Law relating to the occupation of territories by the military forces of a belligerent State. These rules very strictly limit the occupant, who may requisition property and services solely for the needs of the Army of Occupation. I here allude to the regulation annexed to the Convention Concerning the Laws and Customs of War signed at The Hague on 18th October, 1907, Section 111, and in particular to Articles 46, 47, 49, 52 and 53. If it please the Tribunal, I shall merely cite the paragraph of Article 52 which defines in a perfectly exact manner the lawful conditions of requisition of persons and property:

"Requisitions in kind and of services may be demanded of communities or of inhabitants only for the needs of the Army of Occupation. They will be proportionate to the resources of the country and of such a nature that they do not imply for the population the obligation of taking part in war operations against their native country."

[Page 379]

These various articles must, moreover, be considered in the general spirit defined in the preamble of the Convention, from which I take the liberty of reading the last paragraph to the Tribunal:
"Until such time as a more complete code of the laws of war can be enacted, the High Contracting Parties deem it opportune to state that in cases not included in the regulations adopted by them, populations remain under the safeguard and direction of the principles of the law of nations derived from the established usages among civilised nations, the laws of humanity and the requirements of public conscience."
From this point of view it is very evident that the total exploitation of the resources of occupied countries for the benefit of the enemy's war economy is absolutely contrary to the law of nations and to the requirements of public conscience.

Germany signed The Hague Convention, and it must be pointed out that she made no reservations at that time except with regard to Article 44, which relates to the supply of information to the belligerents. She made no reservation with regard to the articles which we have cited, nor with regard to the preamble. These articles and the preamble, moreover, reiterate the corresponding text of the previous Hague Convention of 28th July, 1899.

German official ratifications of the Conventions were given on 4th September, 1900, and 27th November, 1909. I have purposely recalled these well-known facts in order to emphasise that the Germans could not fail to recognise the constant principles of International Law to which they subscribed on two occasions, long before their defeat in 1918 and consequently outside the alleged pressure to which they referred in regard to the Treaty of Versailles.

While on this subject of juridical theory may I point out that in the agreement signed at Versailles on 28th June, 1919, in connection with the military occupation of the territories of the Rhine, reference is made, in Article 6, to The Hague Convention in the following terms:

"The right of requisition in kind and in services as formulated by The Hague Convention of 1907 will be exercised by the Allied and associate armies of occupation."
Thus the governing principles of the rights of requisition by the occupiers is confirmed by a third International Agreement subscribed to by Germany, who in regard to the occupation of her own territory is here the beneficiary of this limitation.

What, then, will the conduct of the Germans be like in view of this factual situation, which involves power and temptation, and of the legal situation which involves a limitation?

The Tribunal is already aware, by virtue of the general presentation of the American Prosecution, that the conduct of the Germans was to profit by the fact and to ignore the law.

The Germans systematically violated international rules and the law of nations, as far as we are concerned, both by forced labour and by spoliation. Detailed illustrations of these acts in the Western countries will be laid before you in the briefs which will follow my own. For my part I propose to concentrate for a moment on the actual concepts which the Germans had from the outset. In this connection I shall submit to the Tribunal three complementary propositions.

First proposition. From the very beginning of the occupation, the Germans decided, in the interests of their war effort, to seize in any way possible all the resources, both material and human, of the occupied countries. Their plan was not to take any account of legal limitations. It was not under the spur of occasional necessity that they subsequently perpetrated their illicit acts, but in pursuance of a deliberate intention.

[Page 380]

Second proposition. However, the Germans took pains to mask their real intentions, they did not make known that they rejected international juridical rules. On the contrary, they gave assurance that they would respect them.

The reasons for this camouflage are easy to understand. The Germans were anxious from the beginning to spare public opinion in the occupied territory. Brutal proceedings would have aroused immediate resistance which would have hampered their actions. They also wished to deceive world opinion and more particularly American public opinion, since the United States of America had at that time not yet entered the war.

The third proposition which I lay before the Tribunal results from the first two. As the Germans contemplated achieving their aims and masking their intentions, they were of necessity bound to organise a system of roundabout means, whilst maintaining an appearance of legality. The complexity and the technical character of the procedure they used enabled them easily to conceal the real state of affairs from the uninitiated or the merely uninformed. These disguised means proved, in fact, just as efficient and perhaps even more so than would have been brutal seizure. They moreover enabled the Germans to have recourse to such brutal action whenever they deemed that this would yield them more advantages than disadvantages.

We are of the opinion that this analysis of the German intentions is of interest to the Tribunal for, on the one hand, it demonstrates that the illegal acts were premeditated, and that their authors were aware of their reprehensible character and, on the other hand, it enables one to understand the scope and extent of these acts, despite the precautions taken to mask them.

The evidence which the prosecution will submit to the Tribunal refers chiefly to the second and third propositions, for as regards the first, that is to say, the criminal intention and premeditation, it is demonstrated by the discrepancy between the facade and reality.

I say in the first place that the Germans at the time of the occupation made a pretence of observing the rules of International Law. Here is, by way of example, a proclamation to the French population, signed by the Commander-in-Chief of the German Army. This is a public document which is reproduced in the Official Journal containing the decrees issued by the military governor for occupied territories, No. 1, dated the 4th July, 1940.

I submit to the Tribunal this document, which will be Exhibit RF-1 of the French documentation, and from it I cite merely the following sentence:

"The troops have received the order to treat the population with regard and to respect private property provided the population remains calm."
The Germans proceeded in identical manner in all the occupied countries. I also submit to the Tribunal the text of the same proclamation, dated the 10th May, 1940, which was published in the Official Journal of the Commander-in- Chief in Belgium and in the North of France, No. 1, Page 1, under the title: "Proclamation to the Population of Belgium." The German text, as well as the Flemish text, bears the more complete title: "Proclamation to the Population of Holland and Belgium." In view of the identical nature of these texts, this copy may be considered as No. 1 of the French documentation.

I now submit another proclamation entitled: "To the Inhabitants of Occupied Countries," dated 20th June, 1940, and signed "The Military Governor of France." This is likewise published in the Official Journal of German decrees. This will be Document RF-2 of the French documentation. I will cite the first two paragraphs:

"The Commander-in-Chief of the German Army has given me authority to announce the following: First, the German Army guarantees the inhabitants full personal security and the safeguard of their property. Those who behave peacefully and quietly have nothing to fear."

[Page 381]

I also quote passages from paragraphs V, VI and VII:
"V. The administrative authorities of the State, communities, the police and schools shall continue their activities. They therefore remain at the service of their own population.

VI. All enterprises, businesses and banks will continue their work in the interest of the population.

VII. (Finally.) Producers of goods of prime necessity, as well as, merchants, shall continue their activities and place their goods at the disposal of the public."

The passages which I have just quoted are not the literal reproduction of international conventions, but they reflect their spirit. Repetition of the terms: "At the service of the population," "In the interest of the population," "At the disposal of the public," must necessarily be construed as an especially firm assurance that the resources of the country and its manpower will be preserved for that country and not diverted in favour of the German war effort.

I now submit, as Exhibit RF-2, the text of the same statement signed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Army Group and published in the Official Journal of the Commander-in- Chief in Belgium, numbered as above, Page 3.

Finally, on 22nd June, 1940, an armistice convention was signed by the representatives of the German Government and by the representatives of the de facto authority which was at that time assuming the Government of France. This convention is likewise a public document. It will be submitted to the Tribunal at a later stage as Document L.D.F. Eco. I. At this stage I merely wish to cite the first sentence of paragraph 3, which reads as follows:

"In the occupied districts of France the German Reich exercises an the rights of an occupying Power."
This constitutes, then, a very definite reference to International Law. Moreover, the German plenipotentiaries gave in this respect complementary oral assurances. On this matter I submit to the Tribunal, in the form of French Document RF-3, an extract from the deposition made by Ambassador Leon Noel in the course of proceedings before the French High Court of Justice. This extract is reproduced from a book entitled "Transcript in extenso of the sessions of the trial of Marshal Petain," printed in Paris in 1945 at the printing office of the Official Journals, and constitutes a document acceptable in proof in accordance with the Charter of the Tribunal, Article 21. This is the statement of M. Leon Neol, which I desire to cite to the Tribunal. M. Leon Noel was a member of the French Armistice Delegation.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you going to present this document to us?

M. FAURE: This document is presented to the Tribunal. We have given to the Tribunal the transcript of the proceedings, and in the book of documents the Tribunal will find the excerpt I am now quoting.

THE PRESIDENT: We are not in possession of it at present. I do not know where it is.

M. FAURE: I think that possibly this document was handed to the Secretariat of the Tribunal rather late, but it will be here immediately. May it please the Tribunal, I merely intend to read a short extract from this document to-day.

THE PRESIDENT: We will have it to-morrow, I hope?

M. FAURE: Certainly, Mr. President.

"I have also obtained a certain number of replies from German generals which, I believe, could have been subsequently used; from General Jodl, who, in the month of May last, signed, at Rheims, the unconditional surrender of Germany and from General, subsequently Marshal, Keitel, who, a few weeks later, was to sign, in Berlin, the ratification of this surrender. In this way I got them to declare in the most categorical manner that in no event would they interfere with administration, that the rights which they claimed for themselves under the convention were purely and

[Page 382]

simply those which in similar circumstances International Law and international usage concede to occupation armies, that is to say, those indispensable for the maintenance of security, transportation and the food supply needs of these armies."
These assertions and promises on the part of the Germans were therefore formal. Now even at that time they were not sincere. Indeed, not only did the Germans subsequently violate them, but from the very beginning they organised a system whereby they were enabled to accomplish these violations in the most efficacious manner and at the same time in a manner which enabled them to some extent to mask them.

As far as economy and labour are concerned, this German system comes from a very simple idea. It consisted in supervising production at its beginning and its end.

On the one hand the Germans embarked immediately upon the general requisitioning of all raw materials and all goods in the occupied countries.

Thenceforth, it would depend upon them to supply or not to supply raw materials to national industries. They were thus in a position to develop one branch of production rather than another, to favour certain undertakings, and, conversely, to oblige other undertakings to close down. As events and opportunities demanded, they organised this appropriation of raw materials, principally with a view to facilitating their distribution in their own interest, but the principle was continuously maintained. They thus held, as it were, the key of entrance to production.

On the other hand, they also held the exit key, that is to say, of finance. By securing the financial means in the form of the money of an occupied country, the Germans were able to purchase products and to acquire, under the pretence of legality, the output of the economic activity of the country. In point of fact, the Germans obtained for themselves, from the outset, such considerable financial means that they were easily able to absorb the entire productive capacity of each country.

If the Tribunal finds it suitable, I will stop at this point.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 10.00 hours on 18th January, 1946.)

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