The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fifty-Fourth Day: Friday, 8th February, 1946
(Part 15 of 22)


[Page 193]

(e) Destruction and Plunder of Cultural and Scientific Treasures, Monasteries, Churches and Other Institutions for Religious Observances

In their fierce hatred of the Soviet people and their culture, the invaders destroyed scientific and artistic institutions, historical and cultural monuments, schools and hospitals, clubs and theatres.

"No historic or artistic treasures in the East", Field Marshal Reichenau decreed in his order, "are of any importance."

The destruction of historical and cultural treasures carried out by the Hitlerites assumed vast proportions. Thus, in a letter of 20th September, 1941, from the Plenipotentiary General for Byelorussia to Rosenberg, it is stated:

"According to the report of the major of the 707th Division, who to-day handed over to me the remaining treasures, the S.S. men left the rest of the

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pictures and works of art to be plundered by the Armed Forces; these included extremely valuable pictures and furniture dating from the 18th and l9th century, vases, marble sculptures, etc....

...the Museum of History was also completely destroyed. From the geographical section, valuable precious and semiprecious stones were looted. In the university, scientific instruments to a total value of hundreds of thousands of marks were senselessly smashed or stolen."

In the territory of those districts of the Moscow province which were temporarily occupied by the Fascists, the occupants destroyed and looted 112 libraries, 4 museums and 54 theatres and cinemas. The Hitlerites looted and burnt the famous museum at Borodino, whose historical relics pertaining to the patriotic war of 1812 are particularly dear to the Russian people. In the small village of Polotnyanny Zavod the occupants looted and burnt Pushkin's house, which had been turned into a museum. The Germans destroyed manuscripts, books and pictures which had belonged to Leo Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana. The German barbarians desecrated the grave of the great author.

The occupants looted the Byelorussian Academy of Science, housing extremely rare collections of historic documents and books, and destroyed hundreds of schools, clubs, and theatres in Byelorussia (White Russia).

From the Pavlovsk Palace in the town of Slutzk the extremely valuable palace furniture, made by outstanding craftsmen of the 18th century, was removed to Germany. From the Peterhof palaces the Germans removed all the remaining sculptured and carved ornaments, carpets, pictures and statues. The Great Palace of Peterhof, constructed in the reign of Peter I, was barbarously burnt after it had been looted.

The German vandals destroyed the State Public Library at Odessa, containing over 2,000,000 volumes.

At Tchernigov a famous collection of Ukrainian antiquities was looted. At the Kievo-Petchersk Monastery the Germans seized documents from the archives of the Metropolitans of Kiev and books from the private library of Peter Mogilla, who had collected extremely valuable works on world literature. They looted the precious collections of the Lvov and Odessa museums and removed to Germany or partially destroyed the treasures of the libraries of Vinnitza and Poltava, where extremely rare copies of medieval manuscripts, the first printed editions of the 16th and the 17th centuries, and ancient missals were kept.

The wholesale plunder in the occupied regions of the U.S.S.R., carried out on direct orders of the German Government, was not only directed by the defendants Goering and Rosenberg and by the various staffs and detachments subordinated to them, but the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, with the defendant Ribbentrop at its head also took part in the looting through a special organisation.

The statement by Obersturmfuehrer, Dr. Norman Foerster of the 4th Company, Special Task Battalion of the S.S. Troops (Waffen S.S.), published by the Press at that time, bears witness of the fact.

Foerster stated in his deposition:

"In August, 1941, while I was in Berlin, I was detached from the 87th Antitank Division and assigned to the Special Purpose Battalion of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, through the help of Dr. Focke, an old acquaintance of mine at Berlin University, who was then working in the Press Division of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. This battalion was formed on the initiative of Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, and acted under his direction. The task of the Special Task Battalion consisted in seizing, immediately after the fall of large cities, their cultural and historical treasures, libraries of scientific institutions, selecting valuable editions of books and films, and then sending all these to Germany."

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And further:
"We obtained rich trophies in the library of the Ukrainian Academy of Science, housing the rarest manuscripts of Persian, Abyssinian, and Chinese literature, Russian and Ukrainian chronicles, the initial copies of books printed by the first Russian printer, Ivan Fedorov, and rare editions of works by Shevtchenko, Mitzkevitch and Ivan Franko."
Side by side with the barbarous destruction and looting of villages, towns, and national cultural monuments, the Hitlerites also mocked the religious feelings of the believers among the Soviet population.

They burnt, looted, destroyed and desecrated on Soviet territory 1,670 Greek-Orthodox churches, 237 Roman Catholic churches, 69 chapels, 532 synagogues, and 258 other buildings belonging to religious institutions.

They destroyed the Uspensky Church of the famous Kievo-Petchersky Monastery, built in 1073, and with it eight monastery buildings.

At Tchernigov, the German Fascist armies destroyed the ancient Borisoglebsky Cathedral, built at the beginning of the 12th century, the Cathedral of the Efrosiniev Monastery of Polotzk, built in 1160, and the Church of Paraskeva- Piatniza-in-the-Market, an extremely valuable monument of 12th century Russian architecture.

At Novgorod the Hitlerites destroyed the Antoniev, Khutynsky, Zverin, Derevyanitzky and other ancient monasteries, the famous church of Spas-Nereditza, and a series of other churches.

The German soldiers scoffed at the religious feelings of the people. They dressed up in church vestments, kept horses and dogs in the churches, and made bunks out of the icons.

In the ancient Staritzky Monastery, units of the Red Army found the naked bodies of tortured Red Army prisoners of war, stacked in piles.

The damage inflicted on the Soviet Union as a result of the destructive and predatory activities of German army units is extremely great.

The German armies and occupying authorities, carrying out the order of the criminal Hitlerite Government and of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, destroyed and looted Soviet towns and villages and industrial establishments and collective farms seized by them; destroyed works of art, demolished, stole, and removed to Germany machinery, stocks of raw and other materials and finished goods, art and historic treasures, and carried out the general plundering of the urban and rural population. In the territories of the Soviet Union which suffered under the occupation, 88,000,000 persons lived before the war; gross industrial production amounted to forty-six billion roubles (at the fixed Government prices of 1926-27). There were 109,000,000 head of livestock, including 31,000,000 head of horned cattle and 12,000,000 horses; 71,000,000 hectares of cultivated land and 122,000 kilometers of railway lines.

The German Fascist invaders completely or partially destroyed or burned 1,710 cities and more than 70,000 villages and hamlets; they burned or destroyed over 6,000,000 buildings and rendered some 25,000,000 persons homeless. Among the damaged cities which suffered most were the big industrial and cultural centers of Stalingrad, Sevastopol, Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Odessa, Smolensk, Novgorod, Pskov, Orel, Kharkov, Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don and many others.

The German Fascist invaders destroyed 31,850 industrial establishments employing some 4,000,000 workers; they destroyed or removed from the country 239,000 electric motors and 175,000 metal-cutting machines.

The Germans destroyed 65,000 kilometers of railway tracks, 4,100 railway stations, 36,000 post and telegraph offices, telephone exchanges and other installations for communications.

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The Germans destroyed or devastated 40,000 hospitals and other medical institutions, 84,000 schools, technical colleges, universities institutes for scientific research, and 43,000 public libraries.

The Hitlerites destroyed and looted 98,000 collective farms, 1,876 State farms, and 2,890 machine and tractor stations; they slaughtered, seized or drove into Germany 7,000,000 horses, 17,000,000 head of horned cattle, 20,000,000 pigs, 27,000,000 sheep and goats and 110,000,000 head of poultry.

The total damage caused to the Soviet Union by the criminal acts of the Hitlerite armies has been estimated at 679 billion roubles at the Government prices of 1941.

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