The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th February to 26th February, 1946

Sixty-Fourth Day: Thursday, 21st February, 1946
(Part 1 of 8)

[Page 173]

THE MARSHAL: The defendant Hess will be absent from to-day's session on account of illness.

GENERAL RUDENKO: I would like to inform your Honour that in accordance with the plan of the Soviet Prosecution, presented to the Tribunal, and with the permission of the Tribunal, we shall start presenting evidence on that section entitled:-

The Destruction and Plunder of Cultural and Scientific Treasures, Cultural and Social Institutions, Monasteries, Churches and other Religious Institutions, as well as the Destruction of Cities and Villages.

The evidence on this section will be presented by State Counsellor of Justice (Second Class) Lieutenant- General Raginsky.

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL RAGINSKY: May it please your Honours, among the numerous and grievous War Crimes committed by the Hitlerite conspirators - crimes enumerated in detail in the third Count of the Indictment-crimes against culture occupy a definite place of their own. These crimes epitomised all the abomination and vandalism of German Fascism.

The Hitlerite conspirators considered culture of the mind and of humanity as an obstacle to the fulfilment of their monstrous designs against mankind, and they removed this obstacle with their own typical cruelty. In working out their insane plans for world domination, the Hitlerite conspirators, simultaneously with the initiation and prosecution of predatory wars, prepared a campaign against world culture. They dreamt of turning Europe back to the days of her domination by the Huns and Teutons. They tried to set mankind back.

It is unnecessary to quote the numerous pronouncements of the Fascist ringleaders on this subject. I shall merely permit myself to refer to one pronouncement of Hitler's, quoted on Page 80 of Rauschning's book, and already presented to the Tribunal by the Soviet Prosecution.

"We," said Hitler, "are barbarians and we wish to be barbarians. It is an honourable calling."

On behalf of the Soviet prosecution, I shall present to the Tribunal evidence of how the defendants put into practice these orders of Hitler, which found concrete expression in the wrecking of cultural institutions, the looting and destruction of cultural treasures and the suffocation of the national cultural life of the peoples in the territories temporarily occupied by the German armies, i.e. the territories of the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

I shall present to the Tribunal evidence of the Hitlerites' preparations and planning for the looting of cultural treasures; how, long before the treacherous attack on the USSR, the so-called "Einsatzstab Rosenberg" prepared for pillage; how the predatory activity of the defendant Rosenberg was co-ordinated with Goering, Heydrich and the Supreme Command, and how this pillage was disguised.

It is now generally known to what monstrous lies and prevarications the Hitlerites resorted in the camouflaging of their crimes.

While annihilating millions of people in the extermination camps they had set up, they spoke, in their orders, of "filtration" and "cleansing".While destroying and plundering cultural treasures, the fascist vandals sheltered behind the terms: "collection of materials" and the " study of problems", and shamelessly referred to themselves as "bearers of culture".

[Page 174]

The Hitlerite conspirators endeavoured to change into serfs, bereft of all their rights, the peoples of the territories seized, and, for this purpose, they destroyed the national culture of these peoples.

The destruction of the national culture of the Slav peoples and particularly of the Russian, Ukrainian and Bielorussian cultures; the destruction of national monuments, schools, literature, and the compulsory Germanisation of the population, followed the German occupation everywhere, in obedience to the same criminal principle which governed the ensuing pillage, rape, arson and mass murders.

I omit, Mr. President, the end of Page 3 and Page 4 of my report, and I proceed to the presentation of Section 2, Page 5.

As I have already indicated, the destruction of the national culture of the peoples in the occupied territories was a fundamental part of the general plan for world domination established by Hitler's conspirators.

It is difficult to determine whether destruction or plunder was the prevalent factor in these plans. But there is no disputing the fact that both plunder and destruction were aimed at one goal only - extermination; and this extermination was carried out everywhere, in all the territories occupied by the Germans, and on an enormous scale.

Article 56 of the 1907 Hague Convention laid down, as I quote:-

"The property of municipalities, of Church institutions and establishments dedicated to charity and education, arts and sciences, even when belonging to the State, shall be considered as private property. All premeditated seizure of, and destruction or damage to, institutions of this character, or historic monuments, works of art and science, is forbidden and should be made the subject of legal proceedings."
The Hitlerites consciously and systematically scoffed at the principles and demands laid down in Article 56.

All the conspirators are guilty of this, and the defendant Rosenberg in the first place.

Rosenberg had an organisation with widespread ramifications, for the plunder of cultural treasures, with numerous staffs and representatives.

The "Einsatzstab Rosenberg" and Rosenberg's Chief of Staff, Utikal, were the focal point of the network co-ordinating the criminal activities of many predatory organisations, inspired and directed by the Hitlerite Government, together with the German Supreme Command.

Rosenberg was officially placed in charge of the plundering of cultural treasures in the occupied territories, by a decree of Hitler of 1 March, 1942. I have in mind Document 149 PS, presented to the Tribunal on 18 December of last year, by the American Delegation, and accepted by the Tribunal as Exhibit USA 369. With your permission, Mr. President, I shall quote only two paragraphs of this document. You will find this document on Page 3 of your document book. I quote:

"His (Rosenberg's) 'Einsatzstab' for the occupied territories has the right to inspect libraries, archives and every other kind of cultural establishment and to confiscate their contents for the realisation of the aims of the National Socialist Party."
I omit one paragraph and quote the last paragraph of this document:-
"The regulations for the execution of this task, in co- operation with the Armed Forces, are issued by the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, in agreement with Reichsleiter Rosenberg. The necessary measures for the Eastern Territories under German administration will be taken by Reichsleiter Rosenberg in his capacity as Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories."
This decree of Hitler's was issued, as is clear from the document quoted, to all departments of the Armed Forces, the Party and the Government.

[Page 175]

But it is not 1 March, 1942, which should be considered as the beginning of Rosenberg's predatory activities.

I shall submit several excerpts from a letter of Rosenberg to Reichsleiter Bormann in confirmation. The letter is dated 23 April, 1941. This document was presented to the Tribunal on 18 December, 1945, by the American Delegation, and it was accepted by the Tribunal as Exhibit USA 371.

This document - which your Honours will find on Page 4 of your document book - is interesting also for the fact that the plunder, referred to as "confiscation" in the letter, was carried out by the defendant Rosenberg in close collaboration and contact, based on a written agreement, between the departments of Rosenberg and Himmler.

I cite extracts from Page 1 of the Russian translation of this letter:-

"I have," wrote Rosenberg, "transmitted to you a photostatic copy of my agreement with the Security Police, S.D., concluded with the express approval of Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich."
And further (you will find this on Page 5 in your document book):-
"Questions bearing on works of art - as stated in this letter - were considered of secondary importance. Of primary importance was the Fuehrer's directive regarding the twice- issued order from the Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, for the occupied territories of the West, to the effect that all archives and all scientific property belonging to our ideological opponents be placed at my disposal. This, too, was carried out on a wide scale and in close co-operation with the S.D. and the military leaders."
The importance attached by the Hitlerite conspirators to Rosenberg's predatory staffs is shown in Goering's special circular of 1 May, 1941, addressed to all Party, Government and Military Institutions, which had been ordered to co- operate with the "Rosenberg Einsatzstab".

This document was . presented by our American colleagues on 18 December of last year and accepted by the Tribunal as Exhibit USA 384.

Even at that time the scale on which the pillage was conducted was already enormous. As Rosenberg stated, in his letter of 23 April, 1941, at that time, i.e., in April, 1941, 7,000 cases of looted works of art had already been despatched to Germany.

To conclude with this document I shall, with your permission, read one further brief quotation into the record. It consists of one paragraph only. You will find this paragraph on Page 6 of the document book:

"And thus," wrote Rosenberg, "these problems practically solved themselves and the work has followed its own course. Here I would like to ask for a confirmation that these decisions, already adopted in the West, should, in the present circumstances, be rendered valid in the other occupied territories."
This document, in which pillage is referred to as "work," proves that Rosenberg's criminal activities were carried out in close contact with the S.D. and the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, and, finally, that as early as April, 1941, plans were being made for plundering the territories about to be reoccupied.

The speech of the Chief Prosecutor for the USSR, General Rudenko, and the speech of the representative of the United States prosecution, Mr. Alderman, defined what Rosenberg meant in his letter by "territories about to be reoccupied" at that time. That was the period of the practical realisation of the evil Hitlerite schemes, planned in the so- called "Case Barbarossa," the period when the German fascist -hordes were hurled against the frontiers of the Soviet Union, the period of the attack on the USSR.

[Page 176]

Lastly, it is necessary to point out that in April, 1941, the defendant Rosenberg placed Utikal at the head of all operational staffs , "the creation of which may become necessary during the course of this war". In this connection Rosenberg referred to the "successful work", and to the "experience gained" by his operational. staff in the Western occupied territories and in the Netherlands.

This fact is confirmed by a certificate issued to Utikal, dated 1 April, 1941, and signed by Rosenberg.

The authenticity of this document - which is Document 143-PS - was confirmed by Rosenberg at his interrogation on 26 September, 1945. I present this document to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 371.

In reporting on the organisation for the looting and destruction of cultural treasures, it is necessary to indicate yet another department which combined diplomacy with pillage.

I have in mind the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The Chief Prosecutor for the USSR, General Rudenko, in his opening speech, pointed out that the general pillage in the occupied regions of the USSR, carried out on the direct orders of the German Government, was directed not only by the defendants Goering and Rosenberg and by the various "staffs" and "commandos" subordinated to them. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, headed by the defendant Ribbentrop, also participated through a "special formation".

The creation of such a formation, the so-called "Ribbentrop Battalion" and its practical activities in the looting of cultural treasures in the territory of the USSR are testified to, in an affidavit of 10 November, 1942, by Obersturmfuehrer Dr. Forster, who was captured by Red Army Units in the region of Mosdok.

In this affidavit Forster likewise indicated the task of Rosenberg's staff in the plunder or, as he expressed it, in the "withdrawal" of museum treasures and antiques.

A certified photostat of this affidavit I present to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 157.

It is stated in Forster's affidavit, I read:-

"In August, 1941, while in Berlin, I, with the assistance of my old acquaintance from the University of Berlin, Dr. Focke, then employed in the Press Section of the Foreign Office, was transferred from the 87th Tank Destroyer Division, to the Special Purpose Battalion attached to the Foreign Office. This battalion had been created on the initiative of the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ribbentrop, and was under his direction.

The officer commanding the Battalion is Major of the Waffen S.S., von Kuensberg.

The task of the Special Purpose Battalion was to seize, immediately after the fall of large cities, their historic and cultural treasures, the libraries of scientific institutions, to confiscate valuable editions and films, and finally to despatch them all to Germany.

The Special Purpose Battalion consists of four companies. The first company is attached to the German Expeditionary Corps in Africa, the second company to the Army Group 'North', the third to the Army Group 'Centre', and the fourth to the Army Group 'South'. The first company is located at present in Italy, in Naples, awaiting possible deployment to Africa.

Battalion Staff Headquarters are in Berlin, Hermann Goeringstrasse, No. 6.

The confiscated material is stored in the premises of the Adler firm, in the Hardenbergstrasse.

Prior to our departure for Russia, Major von Kunsberg transmitted to us

[Page 177]

Ribbentrop's order, thoroughly to 'comb out' all scientific establishments, institutions, libraries and all the palaces, to search all the archives, and to lay our hands on anything of a definite value.

I heard from my comrades that the second company of my battalion had removed valuable objects from the palaces in the Leningrad suburbs. I myself was not there at the time. At Zarskoje Selo the company seized and carried off property belong to the Palace Museum of the Empress Katherine. The Chinese silk draperies and the carved gilt ornaments were torn from the walls. The mosaic floor of complicated design was dismantled and taken away. From the Palace of the Emperor Alexander, antique furniture and a large library containing some six to seven thousand volumes in French and over five thousand volumes and manuscripts in Russian, were removed.

The fourth company, to which I was attached, confiscated the Kiev laboratory of the Medical and Scientific Research Institute. The entire equipment, as well as scientific material, documentation and books, were shipped to Germany. We reaped a rich harvest in the library of the Ukrainian Academy of Science, treasuring the rarest manuscripts of Persian, Abyssinian and Chinese literature, Russian and Ukrainian chronicles, the first edition books printed by the first Russian printer, Ivan Fiodorov, and rare editions of the works of Schevtchenko, Mickiewicz and Ivan Franko.

From the Kiev Museums, Ukrainian art, Russian art, Western and Eastern art, and from the Central Schevtchenko Museum numerous exhibits which still remained there, including paintings, sketches and portraits by Repin, canvases by Vereschiagin, Fedotoff, Goe, sculptures by Antokolsky and other masterpieces of Russian and Ukrainian painting and sculpture were despatched to Berlin.

In Kharkov several thousand valuable books in 'de luxe' editions were seized from the 'Korolenko' library and sent to Berlin. The remaining books were destroyed. From the Kharkov picture gallery several hundred pictures were removed, including 14 pictures by Aivasovsky, works by Repin and many paintings by Polienov, Schishkin and others. All sculptures and the entire scientific archives of the museum were also taken away. Embroideries, carpets, Gobelin tapestries and other exhibits were appropriated by the German soldiers.

I also knew that the staff of Alfred Rosenberg used special commandos for the confiscation of valuable antiques and museum pieces in the occupied countries of Europe and in the territories of the East, Civilian experts were in charge of these commandos.

Immediately after the occupation of any big city, the leaders of these commandos arrive, accompanied by various art experts. They inspect museums, picture galleries, exhibitions and institutions of art and culture, they determine their condition and confiscate everything of value."

I omit the last paragraph of this affidavit.

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