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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th April to 1st May, 1946

One-Hundred-and-Ninth Day: Tuesday, 16th April, 1946
(Part 2 of 10)

[DR. THOMA continues his direct examination of Alfred Rosenberg]

[Page 5]

THE WITNESS: Document 072-PS is a letter from Bormann with reference to the matter of investigating the libraries of monasteries confiscated by the State. I was not told the political reasons involved in each case. But I did hear that the police were demanding the additional right to take over the investigation of libraries, etc. This was a problem which brought me into conflict with Himmler in these years. I considered it completely improper that such investigation should be placed under police control as well and that prompted me, as can be seen from Document 071, to place myself in opposition to Bormann in this matter.

This document, 072, gives Bormann's answer to me, in which he points out that Heydrich insisted absolutely on continuing this research and said (I quote): "The scientific treatment of antagonistic philosophy can only be carried out after preliminary police and political preparation." I considered this attitude absolutely untenable and I protested against it.

These are the pertinent comments which I have to make on this wealth of documents. I declined to issue official party tracts and treatises of a religious nature or to publish catechisms through my Party offices. I always strove to take what I considered to be a National Socialist position and not to consider my office a "spiritual" police force; but the fact remained that the Fuehrer had charged Bormann with the official representation of the Party's attitude toward the church.

My answer to all of these documents is missing, and I do not recall whether I replied to everything or whether I gave these answers orally to Bormann at conferences. But despite the fact that all of these answers are lacking, the prosecution has stated that both of us, that is Bormann and I, had issued decrees for religious persecution and had misled other Germans into participating in these religious persecutions.

I would like to summarise and state as a basic principle that this is the thousand-year-old problem of the relationship between secular and church power, and that this problem has led many States to take measures against

[Page 6]

which the churches have always protested. When in modern times we look at the laws of the French Republic under the ministry of Combes, and when we look at the legal system of the Soviet Union, we see that they supported the officially promoted atheist propaganda in tracts, newspapers, and caricatures.

Lastly, I would like to point out that the National Socialist State, up to the very end, gave to the churches more than seven million marks annually out of the tax receipts for the maintenance of their organisational work.

Q. Witness, the head of the Party Chancellery, Bormann, at a subsequent time, came into an even more acute conflict with you. Was the reason for the - one may well say - enmity between you and Bormann the fact that in church matters you were considerably more tolerant than Bormann himself?

A. It is difficult to say just what the reason was. That this hostility was as deep as it finally revealed itself to be, particularly in matters pertaining to Eastern problems, I realised only much later. Ultimately I had to admit, of course, that in a large movement many temperaments and many views may exist, and I did not except myself from having shortcomings and faults which could be criticised by others. I did not believe that differences and opinions could lead to a hostility of such proportions that it would bring about an undermining of the official position of an opponent.

Q. Were religious services in the Third Reich, regular Sunday services, etc., limited in any way?

A. I cannot tell you that at the moment. As far as I know, religious services were never forbidden in the whole of Germany up to the end.

Q. Now I come to the Special Purpose Staff (Einsatzstab). I give you Document 1,015, in which the essential matters are summarised, and I refer you to the Document Book of the French Prosecution, FA-1, in particular. How did the establishment of Special Purpose Staff come about?

A. The prosecution contends that it is a matter of a long- range plan for the plundering of the cultural treasures of other States. In reality the following is the truth:

We were dealing with an unforeseen occasion. A colleague of mine accompanied a Press delegation when the German troops marched into Paris and noticed that practically the whole population was returning, with the exception of the Jewish section. Thus all the premises and institutions of the latter were left behind empty and also the residences and mansions of leading personalities were unoccupied. He suggested that research into their property, archives, and correspondence should be instituted. I reported the matter to the Fuehrer and asked whether he approved of the carrying out of this suggestion.

This letter of mine to the Fuehrer was submitted to me in the preliminary interrogation but was not submitted to the Tribunal by the prosecution. Thus, even though the documentary proof of the reason for this entire transaction is at hand, the prosecution still maintains the charge of a long-range plan.

The order of the Fuehrer approving of the suggestion was issued at the beginning of July, 1940, and since, in addition to the archives, a great quantity of art treasures, of which many were imperilled, was found in many mansions, the safe keeping and the transporting of these treasures into the German Reich was decreed by the Fuehrer.

Q. Did you know anything as to what legal reasons Hitler believed he had for taking these measures.

A. Yes, and I would -

THE PRESIDENT: Just one minute. I don't understand what you are saying. Are you saying that you made a suggestion to the Fuehrer, and that there is proof of your letter making that suggestion and that the prosecution are concealing that proof? Is that what you are saying? Will you answer that question? Are you suggesting that they are concealing a proof of the

[Page 7]

suggestion which you made to the Fuehrer for this scheme of taking away Jewish property from France?

THE WITNESS: No, I do not wish to say conceal, but only to say that it was not submitted, even though it was shown to me in a preliminary hearing.

DR. THOMA: May I add a few details, Mr. President. I would like to point out that I repeatedly stressed in my petition that this letter would have to be produced, since it was submitted to the defendant Rosenberg in the preliminary hearings.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you made any application for the document to be produced?

DR. THOMA: Yes, Mr. President.


DR. THOMA: I repeatedly called attention to this document - to the submission of this document.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Tribunal is quite unaware of having turned down any such request. Let me see the written request.


THE PRESIDENT: It probably isn't a matter of very great importance. I only wanted to know what the witness was talking about.

DR. THOMA: Mr. President, I will send for my files.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, you can go on in the meantime.

THE WITNESS: Of course it was clear that we were concerned with an unusual problem, and for that very reason I did not talk with the military administration but went directly to the Fuehrer so that I could get his opinion. But I believe the fact in itself can be understood that we were interested in going into historical research as to the extent to which various organisations had taken part, in the course of recent years or decades, in activities which are here, too, under discussion as destructive of peace; secondly, how many prominent persons individually took part in them; and thirdly, I remembered that many works of art, which had been taken from Germany in the past had not been returned to Germany for many decades, despite the agreement of 1815.

Finally, I thought of a measure which in 1914 to 1918 was recognised by the Allies as being in accord with the Hague Convention. At that period German citizens of a certain category - they were the racial Germans abroad, in foreign countries, also in occupied German territory, that is, in the colonies - had property of a value of 25 billion Reichsmarks confiscated, and later taken from them without compensation.

In the peace treaty of Versailles Germany was in addition obliged to post security for these dispossessed Germans and to set up a special fund.

The Chief French Prosecutor declared at this trial that the Versailles Treaty was based on the Hague Convention. Therefore, I drew the conclusion that this measure against a very distinct category of citizens appeared to be as justified and to have as much international legal sanction as the measure of the Allies during the 1914-1918 war.

During the preliminary hearing I was also asked about the legal hypotheses and had started to point them out, but I was interrupted with the remark that we were not concerned with that problem at the time. The record of this interrogation which the French Prosecution presented here contains the remark that I am supposed to have said ...

THE PRESIDENT: We are not concerned with the interrogations until the interrogations are put in evidence. These interrogations haven't been put in evidence yet. You can give your explanations of them if they are put to you in cross-examination.

THE WITNESS: Mr. President, the document mentioned here is in the document book, and the German translation may be found, although not exactly verbatim, in the French files.

[Page 8]

DR. THOMA: Mr. President, the defendant only wishes to say that from the beginning he pointed out that the Treaty of Versailles, Article 279, was authoritative, that he did not invent that later on.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Thoma, all I was pointing out to him was that. the various interrogations which have taken place very likely are not in evidence. Of course, if he is referring to interrogations which have been put in evidence - but is he?

DR. THOMA: Yes. This is Document FA-16 Exhibit USA 386. That was submitted, Mr. President.

THE WITNESS: That is what I was speaking of. That was submitted. But this interrogation was -

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Just a moment. If he is referring to an interrogation which has been put in evidence, it must have an exhibit number.

DR. THOMA: This interrogation is in the document book, and it is known as Exhibit USA 386.

THE PRESIDENT: If he is referring to an exhibit, no doubt he can do it.

THE WITNESS: I would only like to rectify somewhat an error in the translation. I did not say, "Yes, it is true, I remember that this measure was taken, " but I said "I thought of it," that is to say, I had thought of it earlier, not at the moment when I was asked.

I only saw this when I received the translation, which I had not seen prior to that time.

As far as Document 1015-PS is concerned, in order not to delay the Court too long I would like to point to just a few items, namely that in the work report of 1940-44, on Page 2, it was stated that the origin was determined beyond question, and on Page 3 we see that the taking of inventories was done in a conscientious manner on the basis of a scientific catalogue, that a restoration shop was set up in order to ensure their arriving at their destination in good condition.

Finally I would like to add a few words because they seem important to me in view of the charges of the Soviet Prosecution relative to the treatment of cultural treasures by the Special Purpose Staff in the former occupied Eastern territories. At the end of the work report is stated under the title "Work in the Eastern Regions.":

"The activity of Special Purpose Staff, 'Plastic Art,' was limited in the Occupied Eastern Territories to scientific and photographic reproduction of public collections, their safeguarding and maintenance in collaboration with military and civilian offices. In the course of evacuation of the area several hundred highly valuable Russian icons, several hundred Russian paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries, individual pieces of furniture and household articles ... were recovered and brought to the Reich for safe keeping."
I only wanted to point out by this that the Special Staff in the East did not transport any Soviet cultural and art treasures to the Reich, but only brought them to safety - as may be seen from later documents, when the territories directly menaced with fighting were evacuated - first into the rear communication areas, then further back, and partly into the Reich.

From the same document I would like to point to a letter of 5 July, 1942, from the Reich Minister and head of the Reich Chancellery. I refer to the charge of the Polish Government that the entire removal of works of art and museum pieces was concentrated in the Special Purpose Staff or in the Rosenberg office in Berlin. I will return to this Polish accusation. I just want to point to the paragraph in Dr. Lammers' letter which says that the Fuehrer had decreed that various libraries of the Eastern region were to be confiscated, and then states expressly: "The Government General is not included."

[Page 9]

Furthermore I refer to the directive of the Reich Minister for the occupied Eastern territories of 20 August, 1941, to Reich Kommissar Ostler.

DR. THOMA: What page?

THE WITNESS: Page 2 of this document. At the end it says -

THE PRESIDENT: What document are you talking about now? What document number?

THE WITNESS: I'm sorry, but the copy I have is not marked in red and I am therefore referring to the document in my hands. At any rate it is at the end of Page 1 of the document; this is no special letter, it is a circular letter dated 7 April, 1942.

THE PRESIDENT: I only want to get this clear. What I took down was that he was referring to a decree of 20 August, 1941.

THE WITNESS: I beg your pardon. It is 20 August.

DR. THOMA: 20 August, that is correct, and the year is 1941. It is Page 78 of Document Book 2, at the end of the page.

THE WITNESS: "I expressly request that you prohibit the removal of cultural objects of any kind from your Reich Commissariat by any agencies whatsoever without your approval. What confiscated cultural objects will remain in the Reich Commissariat Ostland and what may possibly be utilised for specialised research work must come under a later regulation. I request that you inform your subordinated General and District Commissioners of this directive. The national administration of museums, libraries, etc., regardless of the right of inspection and inventory by the Special Purpose Staff, remain unaffected by this directive."
I shall come back to this directive later when replying to the accusation by the Soviet Prosecution regarding the administration of Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

DR. THOMA: We come now to the furniture episode in France.

A. I have not finished this matter yet, because exceptionally serious charges have been preferred in this matter. I refer to a second directive of the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, dated 7 April, 1942, where, at the end, under 1, the fundamental principles I have just read are reiterated. It is in Document Book 2, Page 94. All are told to refrain entirely from independent action. Under II, it says:

"In special cases immediate steps can be taken to secure or remove items to a safe place in order to evade threatening dangers (e.g., danger of collapse of buildings, enemy action, climatic influences, etc.)."
I shall come back to this in connection with the accusation of the Soviet Government regarding happenings in Minsk. When Document 076-PS was read, it said at the end that there was never any order given for the protection of cultural goods. This order has been presented here twice.

Further, I would like to refer to a directive by the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories to the leader of the Special Purpose Staff in the same document of 3 October, 1941. I again call his attention to the document which I have just read.

In addition I call the Tribunal's attention to a decree of the High Command of the Army of 30 September, 1942, which was issued in agreement with the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. Here also it says literally at the end, under 1, -

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