The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd February to 13th February, 1946

Fiftieth Day: Monday, 4nd February, 1946
(Part 7 of 8)

M. FAURE: I ask the Tribunal kindly to take the presentation file and the document book constituting the end of the section on the seizure of sovereignty, which bears the title "France."

France, like Belgium, was placed under the regime of the military occupation administration. There was, moreover, in France a diplomatic representation. Finally, it must be noted that the police administration always played an important role there. It became increasingly important and was extended particularly during the period which followed the appointment of General Oberg in 1942.

As regards this last part of my section on the seizure of sovereignty, I should like to limit myself to mentioning a few special features of these usurpations in France, and certain original methods employed by the Germans in that country, for this question has already been extensively dealt with, and will be

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further dealt with, by me under the heading, Consequences of German Activities in France.

I wish to draw the attention of the Tribunal to four considerations. Firstly, the German authorities in France, at the very beginning got possession of a special key to sovereignty. I speak of the splitting up of the country into five different zones. This splitting up of the country by the Germans compensated to a certain extent for the special situation which the existence of unoccupied French territories created for them.

I have already indicated that the Armistice Convention of 22nd June, which has already been deposited with the Tribunal, provided for the establishment of a line of demarcation between the occupied zone and the so-called unoccupied zone. It might have been thought at that time that this demarcation was chiefly drawn to meet the necessity of military movements in the occupied zone. It might also have been concluded that the separation of the zones would be manifested only through the exercise in the occupied zone of the ordinary rights of an armed force occupation. I have already had occasion to quote to the Tribunal a document, the testimony of M. Leon Noel, which contained the verbal assurances given in this respect by General Keitel and by General Jodl, who are now defendants before you.

Now, in fact, this demarcation of zones was interpreted and applied with extreme rigour and in a manner that was wholly unforeseen. We have already seen the far-reaching consequences of this from the point of view of the economic life of the country. There were also serious consequences from the point of view of local administration, which was continually hampered in its tasks, and from the point of view of the life of the population, which could move from one part of French territory to another only with great difficulty. In this way the Germans acquired a first means of pressure on the French authorities. This means of pressure was all the more effective as it could be used at any time and was very elastic. At times the Germans could relax the rules of separation of the zones, at others they could apply them with the greatest severity.

By way of example, I quote an extract from a document which 1 present in evidence as Exhibit RF 1051.

This document is a letter of 20th December, 1941, addressed by Schleier, of the German Embassy, to the French Delegate de Brinon, a letter concerning passes to German civilians wishing to enter the unoccupied zone. The French authorities of the de facto Government had protested against the fact that the Germans obliged the French authorities to allow any person provided with German passes to enter the unoccupied zone where they could, as one may imagine, take on any kind of work, particularly spying.

The letter which I quote is in answer to this French protest, and I wish to mention only the last paragraph, which is the second paragraph on Page 2 of this document.

"In case the French Government should create difficulties concerning requests for passes presented with the German approval, it will no longer be possible to exercise that same generosity as shown hitherto when granting passes to French nationals."
But what I have just said is only a beginning as regards the division of the country. This first division had as basis an instrument which was the Armistice Convention, although this basis was exceeded and was contestable. On the other hand, the other divisions which I am going to mention were simply imposed by the Germans without warning of any kind, and without the enunciation of any plausible pretext.

I must recall that a first supplementary division was that which separated the annexed departments of the Haut Rhin, the Bas Rhin, and the Moselle

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from the rest of France; and in this connection I have already proved that they had been really annexed.

A second division affected the departments of the North and the Pas de Calais. These departments were in fact attached to the German military administration of Belgium. This fact is shown by the headings of the German Military Command decrees, which are submitted to the Tribunal in the Belgian Official Gazette. Not only did this separation exist from the point of view of the German Military Command administration, but it also existed from the point of view of the French administration. This last-mentioned administration was not excluded in the departments under consideration, but its com munications with the central services were extremely difficult.

As I do not wish to develop this point at length, I would like simply to quote a document which will serve as an example, and which I submit as Exhibit RF 1052. This is a letter from the Militaerbefehlshaber under date of 17th September, 1941, which communicates his refusal to re-establish telegraphic and telephonic communications with the rest of France. I quote the single sentence of this letter:

"According to the decision of the High Military Command it is still not yet possible to grant the request for the establishment of direct telegraphic communication between the Vichy Government and the two departments of the North."
A third division consisted in the creation within the unoccupied zone of a so-called forbidden zone. The conception of this forbidden zone certainly corresponded to the future projects of the Germans as to the annexation of larger portions of France. In this connection I produced documents at the beginning of my presentation. This forbidden zone did not have any special rules of administration, but special authorisation was required to enter or to leave it. The return to this zone of persons who had left it in order to seek refuge in other regions was possible only in stages, and with great difficulty. Administrative relations, in the same way as economic relations between the forbidden zone and the other zones, were constantly hampered. This fact is well known. Nevertheless, I wish to quote a document, also as an example, and I submit this document as Exhibit RF 1053. It is a letter from the Militaerbefehlshaber, dated 22nd November, 1941, addressed to the French Delegation. I shall simply summarise this document by saying that the German Command agreed to allow a Minister of the defacto Government to go into the occupied zone, but refused to allow him to go into the forbidden zone.

In order that the Tribunal may realise the situation of these five zones which I have just mentioned, I have attached to the document book a map of France indicating these separations. This map of France was submitted as Exhibit RF 1054, but I think it is not necessary for me to produce it as a document properly speaking. It is intended to enable the Tribunal to follow this extreme partitioning by looking, first at the annexed departments, and then at Nord and the Pas de Calais, the boundaries of these departments being indicated on the map; then at the forbidden unoccupied zone, which is indicated by a first line, and finally at the line of demarcation with the unoccupied zone. This is, by the way, a reproduction of the map which was published and sold in Paris during the occupation by the publishers, Girard & Barere.

To conclude this question of the division I should like to remind the Tribunal that on 11th November, 1942, the German Army invaded the so-called un-occupied zone. The German authorities declared at that time that they did not intend to establish a military occupation of this zone, and that there would simply be what was called a zone of operations.

The German authorities did not respect the juridical conception that they had thought out any more than they had respected the rules of the law of the occupation, and the proof of this violation of law in the so-called operational

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zone has already been produced in a number of circumstances, and will be produced again in the final parts of this presentation.

Apart from this division, the inconveniences of which can well be imagined for a country which is not very extensive and whose life is highly centralised, I shall mention the second seizure of sovereignty, which consisted in the control by the Germans of the legislative acts of the French de.facto Government.

Naturally, the German military administration, in conformity with its doctrine, constantly exercised by its own decrees, a real legislative power in regard to the French. On the other hand -- and it is this fact which I am dealing with now -- in respect to the French power the sovereignty of which the Germans pretended still to recognise, they exercised a veritable legislative censorship. I shall produce several documents by way of example and proof of this fact.

The first, which I submit as Exhibit RF 1055, is a letter from the Commander-in-Chief of the Military Forces in France to the French Delegate General, dated 29th December, 1941. We see that the signature on this letter is that of Dr. Best, of whom I spoke this morning in connection with Denmark, where he went subsequently and where he was given both diplomatic and police functions. I think it is not necessary for me to read the text of this letter. I shall read only the heading: "Subject: Bill concerning the French Budget of 1942, and the New French Finance Law."

The German authorities considered that they had the right to take part in the drawing up of the French de facto Government's budget, although this bore no relation to the necessities of their military occupation. Not only did the Germans check the contents of the laws prepared by the defacto Government, but they made peremptory suggestions. I shall not quote any document on this point at the moment, as I shall be producing two: one in connection with propaganda and the other in connection with the regime imposed upon the Jews.

The third seizure of sovereignty which the Germans exercised consisted in their intervention in the appointment and assignment of officials. According to the method which I have already followed, I submit documents by way of example. First I submit a document which will be Exhibit RF 1056, a letter of 23rd September, 1941, from the Commander-in-Chief von Stuelpnagel to de Brinon. This letter puts forth various considerations, which it is not necessary to read, on the sabotage of harvests and the difficulties of food supplies. I read the last paragraph:

"Consequently, I demand absolutely that a single direction assure the food supplies of the population, and this to me seems impossible to realise except under the control of an energetic and competent man who will take in hand the two Ministries."
It was, therefore, a case of interference on the very plane of the composition of a Ministry, of an authority supposedly governmental. As regards the control of apnointments, I produce Exhibit RF 1057, which is a letter from the Military Command of 29th November, 1941. I shall merely summarise this document by indicating that the German authorities objected to the appointment of the President of the Liaison Committee for the Manufacture of Beet Sugar. You see, therefore, how little this has to do with military necessities.

I next produce Exhibit RF 1058, which is likewise a letter from the Military Command. It is brief and I shall read it by way of example:

"I beg you to take the necessary measures in order that the Sub- prefect of St. Quentin, M. Planacassagne, be relieved of his functions and replaced as soon as possible by a competent official. M. Planacassagne is not capable of carrying out his duties."
I shall now quote a text of a more general scope. I produce Exhibit RF 1059, which is a secret circular of 10th May, 1942, addressed by the Military

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Command Administrative Staff to all the chief town majors. Here again we find the signature of Dr. Best:
"Control of French policy as regards personnel in the occupied territories: The remodelling of the French Government presents certain possibilities for exercising a positive influence on French policy as regards personnel in the occupied territories. I therefore, ask you to designate those French officials who from the German point of view, appear particularly usable and whose names could be submitted to the French Government when the question of appointing holders for important posts arises."
Thus we see in the process of formation this general network of German control and German usurpation. I now produce Exhibit RF 1060. This document is an interrogatory of Otto Abetz, who had the function of German Ambassador in France. This interrogatory took place on 17th November, 1945, before the Commissioners Berger and Saulas at the General Information Bureau in Paris. This document confirms German interferences in French administration and likewise gives details about the duplications of these controls by the Militaerbefehlshaber and the Gestapo. I quote:
"The Militaerbefehlshaber in France, basing himself on the various conventions of International Law" - this is Otto Abetz who is speaking and it is not necessary to say that we in no way accept his conception of International Law - "considered himself the responsible and supreme judge for the maintenance of order and public security in the occupied zone. This being so, he claimed the right to give his approval for appointment or the retaining of all French officials nominated to occupy posts in the occupied zone. As regards officials residing in the free zone who were obliged by reason of their functions to exercise them subsequently in the occupied zone, the Militaerbefehlshaber also stressed the necessity for his approval of their nomination. In practice the Militaerbefehlshaber made use of the right thus claimed only when the officials were nominated and solely in the sense of a right to veto - that is to say, he did not intervene in the choice of officials to be nominated and contented himself with making observations on certain names proposed. These observations were based on information which the Militaerbefehlshaber received from his regional and local commanders, from his various administrative and economic departments in Paris and from the police and the Gestapo, which at that time were still under the authority of the Militaerbefehlshaber.

From 11th November, 1942 on, this state of things changed because of the occupation of the free zone. The German military authorities settled in this zone demanded that they should give their opinion in regard to the nomination of officials in all cases where the security of the German Army might be affected. The Gestapo for its part acquired in the two zones a de facto independence with regard to the regional and local military chiefs and with regard to the Militaerbefehlshaber. It claimed the right to intervene in connection with any appointment which might affect the carrying out of their police tasks.

Having been recalled to Germany from November, 1942, to December, 1943, I did not myself witness the conflicts which resulted from this state of things and which could not fail to compromise, in the highest degree, the so-called sovereignty of the Vichy Government. When I returned to France the situation was considerably worse because the Gestapo claimed, in the occupied as well as in the unoccupied zone, the right to make the nomination of prefects subject to its consent. It even went so far as to propose itself the officials to be nominated by the French Government. Seconded by me, the Militaerbefehlshaber took up again the struggle against these abusive demands and succeeded in part in restoring the situation to what it was before November, 1942."

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The document which I have just read constitutes a transition to the fourth consideration which I should like to submit to the Tribunal. In putting this consideration I would like to stress the juxtaposition and the collaboration of the various agents of usurpation, that is to say, the Military Command, the embassy, and the police. As regards the latter I shall deal at greater length with its role in the last part of my brief.

With regard to the setting up of the German Embassy in France, I produce before the Tribunal Exhibit RF 1061. This document was in my file as a judicial translation of a judicial document in the file concerning Otto Abetz in Paris. On the other hand, it is also contained in the American documentation as Document 3614-PS. It has not, however, as yet been submitted to the Tribunal. It deals with the official appointment of Otto Abetz as ambassador.

I should like to read this document:

"Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 3rd August, 1940. In answer to a question of the General Quartermaster, addressed to the High Command of the Armed Forces and transmitted by the latter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Fuehrer had appointed Abetz, up to now Minister, as Ambassador and on the strength of my report has decreed the following:
(1) Ambassador Abetz has the following functions in France:
(a) To advise the military agencies in political matters.

(b) To maintain permanent contact with the Vichy Government and its representatives in the occupied zone.

(c) To influence in a way favourable to us the important political personalities in the occupied zone and in the unoccupied zone.

(d) To guide from the political point of view the Press, the radio, and the propaganda in the occupied zone and to influence the responsible elements in the formation of public opinion in the unoccupied zone.

(e) To concern himself with the German, French and Belgian citizens returning from internment camps.

(f) To advise the secret military police and the secret State police on the seizure of documents that are important from the political point of view.

(g) To place in safety all public and private art treasures, and particularly those belonging to Jews, on the basis of special instructions relating thereto.

(2) The Fuehrer has expressly ordered that Ambassador Abetz shall alone be responsible for all political questions in occupied and unoccupied France, insofar as his functions concern military interests. Ambassador Abetz shall act only in agreement with the Military Command in France.

(3) Ambassador Abetz will be attached as my delegate to the Military Command in France. His domicile shall continue to be in Paris as hitherto. He will receive from me instructions for the accomplishment of his tasks and will be responsible solely to me. I shall greatly appreciate it if the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (the O.K.W.) will give the necessary orders to the military agencies concerned as quickly as possible.

(Signed Ribbentrop.)"

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