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 2 of 8)


[Page 177]

With your permission, your Honours, I shall read two more excerpts into the record from a letter of the "Reich Minister for the Occupied Territories", dated 7 April, 1942, and signed on the order of the Minister, Laibrandt, closest assistant of the defendant Rosenberg.

This letter, your Honours, is in your document book, on Pages 12 and 13, and is submitted as Exhibit USSR 408.

This document is very revealing in that it betrays the scale of the projected pillage, and disguises this pillage which, in the document, is shamelessly referred to as "the preservation of objects of culture, research material and of scientific institutions in the occupied Eastern territories".

[Page 178]

This document is also characteristic in that Rosenberg, fearing that he might miss some of the booty, established his own monopoly to plunder and only made concessions to the Quartermaster General of the Army, in conjunction with whom - as the letter reveals - Operational Staff Rosenberg carried on its "work". I read the first excerpt of this letter. I quote:
" . . . I have entrusted the 'Einsatzstab' with the listing and detailed handling of all cultural valuables, research materials, and scientific work in libraries, archives, research institutions, museums, etc., found in public and religious establishments, as well as in private houses. . . . The Einsatzstab, instructed once again by the Fuehrer's Order of 1st March, 1942, begins its work jointly with the Quartermaster General of the Army immediately after the occupation of the territories by combat troops, and executes this work after the civil government has been established, in co-operation with the competent Reichskommissar until such time as the task is completed. I request all the authorities of my Department to support as far as possible, the representatives of the 'Einsatzstab' in the execution of these measures, and to supply them with all essential information, especially in connection with the registration of objects in the occupied territories, whether or not they have been removed and, if so, where this material is located at the present time."
As you see, your Honours, the looting of libraries, archives, scientific research institutes, museums - both public and private - and even of church treasures, was already being planned.

The fact that this is not a question of preserving cultural treasures, but of plunder, is revealed by the following excerpt from the letter mentioned. You will find it on Page 12 of your document book:

" . . . In so far as seizures or transports have already taken place contrary to these provisions, Reichsleiter Rosenberg's Einsatzstab, Berlin, Charlottenburg 2, Bismarckstrasse 1, must be informed without delay."
I shall not burden you by enumerating the many addresses to whom copies of this letter were sent. I shall merely name some of them: The O.K.W., the Minister for Economy, the Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan, the Reich Commissars for the Baltic Regions, the Ukraine, etc.

Thus this document reconfirms that both Goering and Funk, as well as the representatives of the O.K.W., actively participated in this pillage.

The priceless works of art plundered in the occupied countries were removed to Germany, now transformed by the Hitlerites into a robber's den.

The Extraordinary State Commission established that, in January, 1943, the Commander of the First Tank Army, Cavalry General Mackensen, in the presence of the Head of the Propaganda Department of the First Tank Army, Miller, removed from the Rostov Museum of Pictorial and Plastic Art, which had been evacuated to the town of Pyatigorsk and which was then on the premises of the Lermontov Museum, the most valuable canvases of Riberio, Rubens, Murillo, Jordans, Vereshiagin, Korovine, Kramskey, Polenov, Repin, Lagorio, Aivasovsky and Shishkin, sculptures by Donatello and other exhibits.

This statement, your Honours, has already been presented to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 37. With your permission I should like to read into the record only one paragraph on Page 5 of this document. The quotation is on Page 18 of your document book. I quote:

"The Rostov Museum of Pictorial and Plastic Art had been looted and its contents carried off to Germany by the Commander of the First Tank Army, General Mackensen, and by the Chief of the Propaganda Section of the First Tank Army, Miller."

[Page 179]

From the affidavit of the Plenipotentiary of the Polish Government, Stefan Kurovsky, it has been established that the defendant Frank, in looting the cultural treasures of the Polish State, was also striving after his own personal gain.

Pictures, porcelain and other works of art from the plundered museums of Warsaw and Cracow, particularly from the Varel Castle, were transferred to the estate of the defendant Frank.

The affidavit, to which I referred, is an appendix to the report of the Polish Government and is presented to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 302. This document, your Honours, is to be found on Pages 19-20 of your document book.

In this document, registered as Document 055 PS, which is a letter from the "Head of the Fourth Political Leadership Group of the Reich Ministry for the Eastern Occupied Territories," dated 14 September, 1944, there are indications as to where the looted treasures were taken and stored.

This letter, addressed to the "Reich Minister, with a copy to the Head of the Political Leadership Staff", is headed "Works of Art evacuated from the Ukraine". This letter is to be found in your document book on Page 21. I present this letter as documentary evidence and submit it as Exhibit USSR 372, and I quote the text. I read:-

"The Reichskommissar for the Ukraine has stored the works of art and pictures evacuated from Kiev and Kharkov in the following shelters in East Prussia:
1. The Richau family estate, near Behlau.

2. Wildenhoff Manor (owner Count Schwerin)."

I read further from the text of this letter:
"There are sixty-five cases, the exact contents of which are enumerated on the attached list. As to the other twenty cases, fifty-seven portfolios and one roll of engravings, their inventory has not been taken to date. Among the pictures there are a great number of very ancient icons, works by famous masters of the German, Italian and Dutch schools of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as the works of the best Russian masters of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

On the whole, this property consists of extremely valuable works of art, which have been removed from the Ukrainian Public Museum and whose value, even at a rough estimate, amounts to a sum of many millions. In addition, this is the sole collection of such international worth on German territory."

I omit the last paragraph of this letter since it has no material bearing on the subject, and will continue by quoting an excerpt from Page 2 of Rosenberg's letter, of which I have already read one quotation earlier in the day. (You will, your Honours, find it on Page 5 of the document book.) I quote:-

Rosenberg wrote:-

"In the process of these confiscations we have, of course, found also many other works of art. Among them there are some of great value and, in order to preserve them, the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, at my request and in accordance with the Fuehrer's directives, ordered me to draw up a catalogue of these works of art and to keep them for the Fuehrer."
You have heard, your Honours, of Hitler's attitude towards the property of the people and the works of art in the countries seized by the Germans.

This episode is to be found in the Czechoslovak Government report, presented to the Tribunal; excerpts from this report were read into the record yesterday. Therefore, I consider there is no necessity for reading it into the record once more. However, it is necessary to note that not only Hitler but Goering was an ardent adherent of this policy of "acquisitions". You also heard, your Honours, yesterday, how Goering acquired valuable Gobelin tapestries in France. However,

[Page 180]

Goering did not acquire Gobelin tapestries only. He wrote in one of his letters to Rosenberg - I refer to document 1985 PS, which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 373, and which is in your document book on Pages 156 and 158 - Goering wrote that he "by means of purchases, presents, bequests and barter, owns perhaps the most important private collection, at least in Germany, if not in Europe". The document presented is a copy of a typewritten letter and includes a series of corrections and notes in ink, evidently in Goering's own hand. This copy was captured, together with Goering's other correspondence, by units of the American Army, a fact which was confirmed and in due time presented to the Tribunal by our American colleagues.

This document, your Honours, reveals, to a remarkable extent, the nature of the acquisitions effected by Goering, and also confirms Ribbentrop's part in the preservation of cultural treasures in the occupied territories.

For this reason, I shall, with your permission, read a few extracts from this document.

I read the extract from the first page of this letter. I quote:-

"After prolonged search," wrote Goering to Rosenberg, "I was much gratified that a place was at last selected for the collection, although I want to point out that other departments are also claiming the authority of the Fuehrer. First of these was the Reichsminister for Foreign Affairs, who, several months ago, sent a circular to all departments, in which he, inter alia, stated that he had received full authority for the preservation of cultural works in occupied territories".
I now read an extract from page two of the letter, the last paragraph:-
" . . . In order to avoid misconceptions regarding these articles some of which I want to claim for myself, some of which I have purchased, and some of which I wish to acquire, I want to inform you as follows :

1. I have now obtained by means of purchase, presents, bequests and barter, perhaps the greatest private collection in Germany at least, if not in Europe."

I omit one paragraph and I refer to sub-paragraphs 2 and 3 of the next one. Sub-paragraph 2 enumerates the objects which Goering would like to acquire. It refers to a very extensive and highly valued collection of Dutch artists of the seventeenth century, while sub-paragraph 3 mentions a comparatively small, though very good, collection of French artists from the eighteenth century, and finally, a collection of Italian masters.

You have heard, your Honours, what was meant, in practice, by "the personal material interest of soldiers in the war". All this established irrevocably that the Hitlerites engaged in pillage and brigandage, and that everybody, from the privates to the criminal leaders of Hitlerite Germany, participated in the plunder.

The same must be said regarding the destruction of cultural treasures.

Decrees and directives concerning the destruction of cultural treasures came from the leaders of Hitlerite Germany and from the highest ranks of the Military Command.

I shall refer, as evidence, to the order of the Commander of the German Sixth Army, signed by Field Marshal von Reichenau, approved by Hitler and entitled "On the behaviour of the troops in the East".

This order was presented to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 12, and, contrary to the usual Hitlerite custom, contains direct and entirely undisguised instructions for the destruction and suppression of culture in the occupied territories.

With your permission, I shall quote just one paragraph of this decree. It is on Page 161 of your document book. I quote:-

"The Army is interested in extinguishing fires only in such buildings as may be used for army billets . . . all the rest must be destroyed. No historical or artistic buildings in the East are of any value whatsoever."

[Page 181]

I shall quote one more document which establishes that the destruction and pillage of cultural treasures, universally carried out by the Hitlerites in the territories occupied by them, was inspired and directed by the Hitlerite Government. I refer to the diary of the defendant Frank, extracts of which have already been submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 223. In the first volume of Frank's diary, on Page 38 (Page 169 in your document book) there appears an entry dated 4th October, 1939, which reads as follows:-
"Berlin. Conference with the Fuehrer. The Fuehrer. discussed the general situation with the Governor-General and approved the activity of the Governor-General in Poland, particularly in the destruction of the Warsaw Palace, the non-restoration of this city, and the evacuation of its art treasures."
I consider that the documents now submitted and read into the record are fully sufficient to enable us to draw the following conclusions :
(a) The pillage and destruction of the cultural treasures of the peoples in the German occupied territories were carried out in accordance with previously elaborated and carefully prepared plans.

(b) The Fascist Government and German High Command directed the pillage and destruction of cultural treasures.

(c) The most active role in the Organisation of the pillage and destruction of cultural treasures was taken by the participants in the conspiracy: the defendants Rosenberg, Ribbentrop, Frank and Goering.

I pass on to the next section of my presentation, entitled:-

Destruction and Pillage of Cultural Treasures in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia.

I reported to the Tribunal on the general plans of the Hitlerite conspirators for strangling national cultural life in the countries occupied by them.

I now pass on to report on the actual materialisation of the criminal plans of the Hitlerite conspirators in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia.

I will refer only to such irrefutable proofs as the official reports of the Governments of Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia already submitted to the Tribunal by the Soviet prosecution.

I shall read into the record a few parts of the relevant sections of these reports directly concerning the theme expounded by me, which have not been quoted by my colleagues.

I begin by quoting extracts from the Czechoslovak Government reports. These excerpts, your Honours, are to be found in your document book, on Pages 81 to 88. I quote from Page 81:-

"Destruction Of Czech Cultural Life
Eradication of the Czech Intelligentsia.

K. H. Frank, who was appointed Secretary of State and Deputy to Reich Protector Neurath in March, 1939, and in August, 1943, became Minister of State and Head of the German Executive in the Protectorate, said: 'The Czechs are only fit to be used as workers or farm labourers '.

K. H. Frank replied to a Czech delegation which, in 1942, requested the Czech universities and colleges to be reopened: 'If the war is won by England, you will open your schools yourselves; if Germany wins, an elementary school with five grades will be enough for you'.

The Germans seized all colleges and students' hostels".

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