The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fifty-Second Day: Wednesday, 6th February, 1946
(Part 4 of 6)

M. GERTHOFFER: "Stab Rosenberg" was not only interested in paintings and objects of art, but in books as well. Thus it appears, in a document

[Page 109]

discovered by the United States Army and registered under No. 171-PS, of which I submit a copy as Exhibit RF 1324, that 550,000 volumes were seized in France.

Holland provided an equally heavy contribution in books. Libraries rich in early prints of books and manuscripts were pillaged. It appears from Document 176-PS, discovered by the United States Army, a copy of which I submit as Exhibit RF 1325, that the value of the books amounted to about 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 Reichsmark.

It must also be noted, as proved by Documents 178 and 171- PS, which I submit as Exhibit RF 1326, that archives of the Rothschild Bank were taken away in the month of February, 1941.

"Stab Rosenberg" likewise pillaged furniture. This is quite evident from a note addressed by the defendant Rosenberg to the Fuehrer, dated 3rd October, 1942, submitted as Exhibit RF 1327. I read the following passage:

"For carrying out action 'M' the Office West was created in Paris with special branches (`Einsatzleitungen') in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. This service has to date sent about 40,000 tons of furniture to the Reich, utilizing all available transport facilities (ship and railroad).

...the Reich Ministry has placed a considerable part of this furniture (over 19,500 tons) at the disposal of bombed-out people in the Reich...."

A copy of a Rosenberg report, dated 4th November, 1943, Document 1737-PS, a copy of which I submit as Exhibit RF 1328, tells us:
"52,828 Jewish lodgings were seized and sealed in favour of the bombed out victims. In accordance with special orders, furniture has been removed from 47,569 dwellings for shipment to the bombed cities."
Document L-118, found by the American 7th Army, a report issued by the offices of the defendant Rosenberg, a copy of which I submit as Exhibit RF 1329, shows that over 69,619 Jewish lodgings were looted, that the furniture occupied over 1,000,000 cubic meters, and that it took 26,984 freight cars, i.e., 874 trains, to remove it.

In the same file there is a document which I submit as Exhibit RF 1330 which indicates that in Paris alone 38,000 Jewish lodgings were stripped of their contents.

Document 1772-PS, already submitted as Exhibit RF 1325, indicates that in Holland, from March, 1942, to July, 1943, inclusive, 22,623 lodgings were stripped of their contents and that it took 586 barges and 178 freight cars to move this. These few figures undeniably suffice to support the accusation of economic pillage levied against "Stab Rosenberg" on behalf of the Western European countries.

As has already been stated, although the material elements of the breach of the law are the same, there can be no comparison between the pillaging typical of the history of this or that conqueror and practised throughout the centuries, and the pillaging as conceived by the defendants.

What prevents any comparison between the looting of the past and that practiced by "Stab Rosenberg" or the National Socialist chiefs is the difference in purpose, however difficult and delicate a matter it may be to analyse it. The looting in the past of works of art may primarily be traced to the vanity of the conqueror, in which his egoism, his taste, and his love of glory played the determining part. It is of course possible to identify the same feeling as underlying the criminal activities of one or the other of the defendants.

But -- and here we find the fundamental difference -- the National Socialist leaders, when estimating the value of this and that painting or of this or that work of art, wittingly took into account both the standard of aesthetic wealth -- that is, the value of the object to the individual -- and the standard of material wealth -- that is, its exchange value, an exchange value in which it is a matter of retaining a pawn if not to facilitate, at least to bring pressure to bear when

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negotiating future peace treaties, as is evident from the documents submitted to the Tribunal.

Whatever were the pretexts or excuses submitted by the National Socialist leaders when seizing the artistic heritage of Western Europe -- whether by theft, by so-called preservative confiscations, or by direct purchase from the owners or on the art markets -- the criminal intention is always the same.

The German motive was undeniably the establishment of a reserve of securities, if not for the satisfaction of the individual desire, then for the satisfaction of a collective need in conformity with the myth of the "Greater Germany."

This reserve of securities would have a triple advantage:

A cultural advantage, that is, the advantage of the "Hohe Schule."

Secondly -- an economic advantage: A basis for financial speculation and a reserve of securities easily negotiable in the world markets. Above all -- a reserve of fixed value entirely unaffected by the fluctuations in the cost of raw materials and unaffected either by the depreciation or the manipulation of the currency. Lastly, reserves of securities of political importance in the hands of those negotiating the peace treaties.

The defence will perhaps object that exchanges and purchases on free markets cannot be held against the defendants, because they were in the nature of contracts and agreements, and because equivalents were given. But the facts presented to the Tribunal render it possible to declare that these operations merely appeared to be regular, if we remember the conditions under which the contracts were drawn up, that the transactions were made under duress, or if we consider the rights over the equivalents given -- equivalents of exchange, represented by stolen objects or works of art, or consisting in money paid in national currency, and derived from war contributions of a questionable nature especially from occupation costs or clearing operations.

Most of these particulars, from the point of view of the general principles of common law, are doubly tainted: on the one hand they were paid in stolen currency since the work of art forming the object of the sale could never, legitimately, have become the property of the purchaser. On the other hand, fraud and deceit tainted a considerable part of the negotiations, as proved by numerous statements, such as the extract from the minutes of M. Rochlitz's statement of 8th January, 1946, which I have just read to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 1317, and which the Tribunal will allow me to recall to its notice by a brief reading of a few more passages. Rochlitz, picture dealer in Paris, states:

"Lohse came to see me in February, 1941. He told me that he was looking for pictures for certain highly placed persons, chiefly for Goering. I showed to him a picture by Wennix of which I was the owner and a 'Portrait of a Man,' by Titian, of which two-thirds belonged to Birchentski and one-third to me.

Lohse bought them. Then eight to ten days later he offered me some pictures in exchange, instead of money. Incidentally, he considered that I had sold them at too high a price. The price was about two million. He added that Goering had seen them; that he did not want to pay for them at the price agreed, but that he had given an order to exchange them for modern ones brought from Germany. He showed me a certain number of pictures and offered me eleven of them in exchange for the two paintings. He prevented me from looking at their backs."

Further on, the same witness states:
"I thought at that time that the pictures came from Germany. I found out shortly after that these pictures and those subsequently exchanged

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with Lohse had been confiscated from Jews. When I saw that these pictures had been confiscated I protested and Lohse answered: 'I am acting under Goering's orders, you have nothing to fear. These confiscations have been sanctioned by the Armistice Convention and the exchanges are regular.' As I still protested, he called me an enemy of the people."
Never -- and this is the last remark I shall make on the subject -- has history furnished an example of wholesale pillaging organised on so completely scientific a basis. The pillaging, together with the "Einsatzstab", became a recognized institution in the sphere of culture, just as it became a recognized institution in the "Economic Detachments" of the R.O.G.E.S., whose activities have been exposed before the Tribunal.

The pillaging of works of art was organised by the highest leaders of the Reich. My colleague of the prosecution, who has been entrusted with the individual accusations, will return to this matter. I shall content myself with submitting a few more documents and making a few more quotations on this point.

Alfred Rosenberg was the responsible Chief of the "Einsatzstab." The orders emanated from him, as is shown in the course of the interrogation; he was heard by Colonel Hinkel, and I submit a copy of the interrogatory of 28th September, 1945, as Exhibit RF 1332.

The defendant Goering was the official protector of "Stab Rosenberg." He himself wrote to Rosenberg on 21st November, 1940 -- Document 1651-PS, a copy of which I submit as Exhibit RF 1335 -- as follows:

"I have done what is necessary to support energetically the work of your staff and to place at its disposal that which you otherwise could not obtain, namely, means of transport and personal guard. The Air Force has received the order to give you every facility."
There was discovered, in France, a sheet of gilt-edged paper containing, in an unknown writing, instructions issued by Goering in Paris on 11th February, 1941. I submit the original document to the Tribunal, as well as the translation, as Exhibit RF 1333:
"All paintings marked 'H' are for the Fuehrer."
THE PRESIDENT: I think this has been read already by the United States. Has this been read already?

M. GERTHOFFER: It has never as yet been read, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Then please proceed.

M. GERTHOFFER: "---- One case marked 'AH' for me. Everything that is marked 'G'..."

THE PRESIDENT: Is this identified as a captured document?

M. GERTHOFFER: It was captured by the French authorities, who transmitted it to us.

THE PRESIDENT: Where is the identification to show this is the document captured by the French authorities?

M. GERTHOFFER: This document was transmitted to me as it is, with a series of other documents, of which I have only produced a certain number. If the Tribunal wishes, I can let them have a special authentication for this document.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I suppose there is probably a report of the French authorities which sufficiently refers to this document.

M. GERTHOFFER: The document was sent to me with a series of other documents; since they were extremely numerous, we took those that seemed to be the most important in order to present them to the Tribunal, but if the Tribunal wishes, I can obtain an affidavit indicating under what conditions the documents were discovered a by the French authorities.

THE PRESIDENT: You see, the document hasn't anything on it to indicate that the French Government really found it, nor that they have ever seen it;

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