The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fifty-Second Day: Wednesday, 6th February, 1946
(Part 3 of 6)

[M. GERTHOFFER continues]

As far as the methods which were used to seize these works of art were concerned, I submit to the Tribunal a document which is a letter of the Secretary of French Finance, dated 25th October, 1941. I offer it in evidence as Exhibit RF 1315; and so as not to waste the Tribunal's time I shall merely deposit this document since it is quite probable that my colleague, who is concerned with individual culpability, will refer to it in his turn. Page 24 of the written report.

THE PRESIDENT: How do you prove that the greater part of the Rothschild, Kahn, Weil-Picard and Wildenstein collections was confiscated in the middle of November, 1940? What is the evidence of this?

M. GERTHOFFER: General information furnished by the Fine Arts Department.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you put in a report of a Government committee which states that?

M. GERTHOFFER: No, Mr. President, I have not got the report in my dossier. I did not believe it was necessary to put it in evidence, because I thought that it was admitted that nearly all the Rothschild collections were seized at this time.

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think we can take judicial notice of it in the absence of some Government report, and simply upon the statement.

M. GERTHOFFER: I think the question is not of great interest.

[Page 106]

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Tribunal cannot take any notice of statements which are not supported by evidence; therefore we shall disregard that statement. We must have the evidence first.

M. GERTHOFFER: I consider that the question is not of interest, since the Tribunal will soon see the enormous quantities of works of art which were removed by the Germans, and I thought it would be useless to mention the individual owners by name.

THE PRESIDENT: I see that in the Document 1015-PS, which is in your second document book, the facts are stated. I do not know whether you are going to make use of that document.

M. GERTHOFFER: That document is the report of Dr. Scholz on the activities of "Stab Rosenberg." This report contains details of quantities of works of art which were seized. I will quote this document later on.

THE PRESIDENT: It includes the dates October, 1940, to July, 1944, and also the Rothschild collection. I do not know whether it refers also to the other collections which are mentioned in your expose.

M. GERTHOFFER: I will cite this document a little later on. The report in question was also quoted on 18th December by Colonel Storey.

THE PRESIDENT: I intervened only for the purpose of saying that we cannot take any notice of statements of facts unless there is some evidence to support them.

M. GERTHOFFER: After the seizures had been effected, the Germans carried out the work of listing, cataloging and preparing for the presentation of the works of art which had been confiscated. This was a very great task indeed, rendered excessively long and complicated by lack of order and method. Works of art were brought to the museum of Jeu de Paume and to the Louvre; they mostly arrived in one lot and from various sources -- hence the impossibility of drawing up an inventory. The vast quantity of material was classified as "unknown" in so far as its origin was concerned.

Nevertheless, in a report of "Stab Rosenberg" of 15th April, 1942, discovered by the U.S. Army and registered under No. 172-PS, a copy of which I submit as Exhibit RF 1316, we find the passage which deals with a detailed study of the material confiscated, and is an accurate statement of the whole operation of confiscation, from a financial point of view. The preparatory work was carried out in such a way that the statement can be considered the incontestable record of the seizure and cataloging of these art treasures, a record unique in history.

I come to Page 26 of my brief. Certain of these works of art were considered by the Germans as degenerate, and their admittance into National Socialist territory was forbidden. Theoretically speaking, they should have been destroyed, but within the scope of total war economy these paintings, although condemned, were none the less of commercial value and as a means of barter their value was both definite and great. So these paintings, carefully selected from among the great public and private collections, were confiscated and, as already provided for in Section 5 of the decree of 5th November, 1940, put in the French and German art markets.

In addition to these condemned paintings, others were set aside as being of lesser interest for official collections. They formed the object of numerous fraudulent transactions. We now come to the traffic in works of art. We are not, in this case, dealing with secret and unlawful operations -- the personal acts of such-and-such a member of the Rosenberg service; we are dealing with official operations.

Two kinds of operations were currently carried out by the "Einsatzstab," i.e., exchanges and sales.

[Page 107]

Exchanges. On this subject we have, by way of an example, the evidence of M. Gustav Rochlitz, received by the examining judge, M. Marcel Frapier, in Paris on 8th January, 1946. I submit the evidence as Exhibit RF 1317 and shall read a passage to the Tribunal.

"During the years 1941 and 1942 I exchanged various old paintings for 80 modern ones, delivered by Lohse, who always told me that these exchanges were carried out on Goering's order, and that the paintings received had been intended for Goering. I have since learned that all the paintings given in exchange are contained in the Goering collection. I delivered in exchange about 35 paintings, possibly more."
These facts are confirmed by the defendant Rosenberg himself in the last lines of his report of 15th April, 1943, filed under No. 172-PS already quoted, of which I have submitted a copy as Exhibit RF 1316. Here is an interesting passage of the report:
"On the order of the Reich Marshal a certain number of these products of modern and degenerate French art were bartered on the Paris art market for paintings of a recognized artic [sic] value. Under these very interesting conditions, 87 works of old Italian, Dutch, and German masters, of high and recognized value, were acquired."
Numerous works of art, books, and especially paintings, were sold by representatives of "Stab Rosenberg." Some were sold in France, others in Germany or Switzerland. The fact that this was a calculated procedure is evident if we consider that the value of these paintings, confiscated under the legally fallacious pretext of keeping them in safe custody, could be realised if they were sold on neutral markets and paid for in foreign currency.

I now consider that I should give you some brief explanations of the justifications offered by the Germans concerning their confiscations. Primarily, these justifications are mere quibbles relating to the nature of the seizures. The seizures were only "temporary and preservative measures for the safe-keeping of the art treasures." Count Metternich, Chief of the Department for the Protection of Works of Art in France from July, 1940 to 1942, made this point quite clear in a report, a copy of which has been discovered in France and which I submit as Exhibit RF 1318. Here are some brief excerpts from this report:

"As soon as I arrived in Paris, I realised that various departments which did not belong to the military administration were interested in removable works of art."
And further on, in the same paragraph:
"It has been said that there was no intention of expropriation, but that these times were to be considered as pawns, to be used in future peace negotiations."
No detailed instructions were given as to how the operations should be carried out and, in particular, no interpretation was given of the term "custody."

The vague expression "in custody" has been subjected to every variety of interpretation. According to some, the seizure was only a temporary measure, although the question of definite appropriation remained unsettled. For the defendant Rosenberg the solution was simple; he expresses it in a letter, previously quoted, of 18th June, 1942, addressed to Goering, which I have just submitted as Exhibit RF 1314. This is the relevant passage:

"I therefore believe you will be in agreement with me on this point, namely, that art objects forming a part of Jewish property, when taken into custody, should be considered as seized for the benefit of the N.S.D.A.P. As to material suitable for research work, the Fuehrer has already decided that these treasures, now in the custody of the 'Einsatzstab,'

[Page 108]

shall become the property of the 'Hohe Schule.' It is be only just and fair that the great art treasures now in custody should one day become the property of the N.S.D.A.P. Needless to say, the decision of this question rests with the Fuehrer. However, since the N.S.D.A.P. has for 20 years financed a war against Jewry, such a decision would appear permissible."
And we are justified in saying that these confiscations are now no longer measures of preservation or requisition, but a species of booty which perforce must fall into the hands of a German people triumphing over the Jewish race whom they have outlawed.

In a report justifying their action, demanded by the Army Commander and drawn up on the order of the defendant Rosenberg by the Chief of the "Einsatzstab," Utikal, in November, 1941, the latter went so far as to state (I submit this report as Exhibits RF 1319, 1320, and 1321, from the attached supplement No. 1321, Page 31):

"The German measures of reprisal against the Jews are likewise justified by International Law. It is a recognized principle of International Law that, in war, reprisals may be taken by resorting to the same procedures and the same concepts as primarily used by the enemy. From time immemorial the Jews have, in their Jewish laws, codified in the Talmud and the Schulchan Aruch, applied the principle that all non-Jews are to be considered as so much cattle, i.e., as without any rights; and that the property of non-Jews should be dealt with as a thing which has been abandoned, that is to say, as derelict property."
Thus, Gentlemen the confiscations of the "Einsatzstab" were sheltered by this strange interpretation of International Law. It seems useless to discuss the validity of this argument before the Tribunal. The Belgian, Dutch and French authorities made frequent protests based on the most elementary principles of International Law, but always met with refuals [sic] (Page 32 of the brief).

It would at any rate be fitting to define the extent of these seizures.

It is difficult to give a total estimate, although Rosenberg himself, on several occasions, made an estimate of his booty, especially in a letter to the treasurer of the Party, Schwarz, 14th November, 1940, a document discovered by the U.S. Army and bearing the number 1736-PS, a copy of which I offer in evidence as Exhibit RF 1322. At that date Rosenberg already considered that the booty amounted to half a million Reichsmark.

The documents of the "Einsatzstab" are sufficiently numerous and precise to allow us to establish certain quantitative data. First -- the seizures by the General Staff for Art Treasures. The fundamental document is a report of Dr. Scholz, dated 14th July, 1944, which we have just mentioned. This is Document 1015-PS, which was presented in part to the Court by Colonel Storey, and which I offer in evidence as Exhibit RF 1323. From this report I shall extract only some very brief details on the quantities of art objects carried off.

According to this report, 21,903 objects taken from 203 private collections were removed, notably from the Rothschild, Alphons Kann, David Weil, Levy de Benzion, and the Seligmann brothers' collections. According to the same report there were "all told, 29 transports, 137 trucks, and 4,174 cases."

I shall not quote any further from this report, because I think that my colleague, also entrusted with preferring the charges, will refer to it.

THE PRESIDENT: Would that be a convenient time to break off?

(A recess was taken.)

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