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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd July to 15th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Fourth Day: Tuesday, 9th July, 1946
(Part 10 of 11)

[Page 245]

DR. THOMA, Continued:

Number of Pieces
Plough tractors, 40-50 HP about 7,000
Thrashing machines about 5,000
Agricultural tools about 200,000
Gas generators for German and Russian tractors about 24,000
Reaping machines about 35,000
Total cost: about 180,000,000 marks.

I do not think one can say that these deliveries were made with a view to exploitation. So, in this, too, Rosenberg accomplished a piece of constructive work that was really a blessing.

In the following, I will first treat the question of Rosenberg's automatic responsibility as Minister for the Eastern Territories, that is the question of his criminal liability on the grounds of his official position.

On 17th July, 1941, Rosenberg was appointed Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. Two Reich commissariats were set up as supreme territorial authorities: " Ostland " (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and White Ruthenia) -under the Reich Commissioner Lohse, and " Ukraine " under Reich Commissioner Koch. The Reich commissariats were divided into general districts and regions. Right from the beginning, the Eastern Ministry was not conceived as an administrative authority built on a large scale, but as a central office, a supreme authority which was to confine itself to overall instructions and fundamental directives, and in addition was to ensure the supply of material and personnel. The actual governing was the duty of the Reich Commissioner: he was the sovereign in his territory.

Moreover, it is of special importance that Rosenberg, as Minister for the East, was not at the head of the whole Eastern administration, but that several supreme authorities existed at the same time. Goering who was Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan, was responsible for the control of the economy in all occupied territories, and in this respect had authority over the Ministry for the East, for Rosenberg could only issue economic decrees with Goering's agreement. The chief of the German police, Himmler, was solely and exclusively competent for police security in the Occupied Eastern Territories; there was no police division at all in the Ministry for the East, nor in the Reich commissariats. Rosenberg's competence was furthermore undermined by Himmler as "Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationality", and by Speer, on behalf of whom a Fuehrer decree detached all technical matters from the Eastern administration. It was further weakened by Goebbels, who claimed for himself the control of propaganda in the Occupied Eastern Territories as well. Later on I shall come to the important question of labour mobilization which was put under the authority of Sauckel.

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Nevertheless, Rosenberg was the minister responsible for the Occupied Eastern Territories. In view of this, the following must be emphasized:

In this trial Rosenberg is not made responsible from the political standpoint, since the High Tribunal is no parliament; neither is he made responsible from the point of view of Constitutional Law, for the High Tribunal is not a Supreme Court of Justice. The liability of the defendant with respect to civil law is not in question either, but only his criminal liability, his responsibility for his own alleged crimes and for the crimes of others. I do not need to outline in more detail the fact that to establish criminal liability and condemn it, it must be proved that the defendant illegally committed acts punishable by law, and that he may only be punished for non-action, i.e., an omission, if he had the legal duty to act and if it was due to his inaction that the criminal result occurred, i.e., if the actual possibility existed of his preventing the criminal result.

The fact seems to me of decisive importance that Rosenberg was a minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, but not a supreme ruler. Supreme rulers were the Reich Commissioners of the gigantic territories "Ostland" and "Ukraine". The lines along which these territories were to be constitutionally remodelled were not visible yet, but one thing was certain: The Reich Commissioner was the highest authority. For instance, it was he who, in the most important measures - like the shooting of inhabitants of a region for acts of sabotage - had the right to make the ultimate decision. I should like to insert that in practice, in these cases, the police had exclusive competence. The Reich had the right to make fundamental legislation and give overall supervision. To slightly change the well-known remark of Benjamin Constant, the French professor of Constitutional Law: "Le roi regne, mais il ne gouverne pas," one may define in the following way Rosenberg's position as Minister for the Occupied Territories of the East: "Le minastre gouverne, mais il ne regne pas." As in certain dominions of the British Empire, there existed a sovereignty of the Reich Commissioner with a central overall supervision by the Minister for the East. Today nobody would think of summoning the competent English minister before a tribunal because a governor in India had allowed a native village to be bombed and burned down.

And so I come to my conclusion that in Rosenberg's case there exists no automatic criminal responsibility for the non-prevention of crimes in the East, if only because, although he had the authority of supervision, he was not sovereign; the two Reich Commissioners had the supreme authority.

The question must furthermore be asked and briefly examined whether the defendant is individually guilty of the criminal exploitation and enslavement of the nations of the East and maybe of further crimes. What was his attitude, what were the general lines and general trends of his policy, what did he do positively and what did he prevent or at least try to prevent?

In the Baltic countries, national administrations (directorates) were installed under German supervision. The German administration was instructed by the Reich Minister for the Occupied Territories of the East to show great understanding for all desires which could be fulfilled and strive for good relations with the Baltic countries; the Baltic countries had a free legal, educational and cultural system and were only limited with respect to questions concerning politics, economy and the police. After the war of 1914-1918 agrarian reform in the Baltic States was carried out almost exclusively at the expense of the 700- year-old German holding; Nevertheless Rosenberg, as Minister for the East, made a law giving back to private owners the farms which had already been made collective by the Soviet Union since 1940, and in this restitution of the soil which had once been taken away from German proprietors, showed the greatest possible good will of the German Reich. This, as well as the above-mentioned agrarian programme, has been expressly confirmed by witness Riecke.

In the general district of White Ruthenia, independent administration was initiated under Reich Commissioner Kube. The "White Ruthenian Central Committee" was set up, as well as a White Ruthenian relief system and a White

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Ruthenian youth organization. When a White Ruthenian youth delegation returned from a visit to Germany, Kube said that he would continue to act as a father to the White Ruthenian youth; the following night he was murdered, but his policy was not changed.

I should like to observe here in passing that the actual Russian territories between Narva and Leningrad and around Smolensk remained all the time under military administration. Likewise the districts around Kharkov and the Crimea.

As far as the Ukraine is concerned, Rosenberg intended to give it extensive central self-administrative sovereignty as soon as possible, similar to the directorates in the Baltic States, and pledged to a definite advancement of the cultural and educational needs of the people. After Rosenberg had originally believed that he could assume that Hitler agreed with this idea, another conception came to prevail, namely that all forces should be directed towards the war economy. Rosenberg only managed to achieve and carry through one thing: the new agrarian programme of 15th February, 1942, which provided for a transition from the collective economy of the Soviet Union to private enterprise and then to ownership by the farmers. On 23rd June, 1943, the property decree was issued as a complement to this. At first, it was not possible to carry it out because of Reich Commissioner Koch's opposition, but then military events brought everything to an end. A further fundamental decree was based on a general adjustment of the school system which Rosenberg had ordered to be worked out, because the Reich Commissioner of the Ukraine declined to do it himself. Rosenberg provided for elementary schools and higher technical schools; the Reich Commissioner protested against this. On account of the conflict which became more and more acute between Rosenberg and Reich Commissioner Koch, Hitler, in June, 1943, issued the following written instruction: The Reich Commissioner had no right to make any obstructions, but the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories should confine himself to essential questions, and when issuing any orders should make it possible for the Reich Commissioner of the Ukraine to express his opinion beforehand, which practically meant Koch's co-ordination along with Rosenberg.

During his examination of 8th April, 1946, the witness Lammers described Rosenberg's peculiar constitutional position as Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories and his political position, which became constantly weaker. I would like to emphasize the following striking and especially important declarations made by the witness: the authority of the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories was undermined by the Wehrmacht, by Goering as Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan, by Himmler as Chief of the German Police, by Himmler as Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationality (resettlement measures), by Sauckel as General Plenipotentiary for Labour Mobilization, by Speer in the field of armaments and technique and finally, through differences of opinion, by Propaganda Minister Goebbels.

Furthermore, Rosenberg was limited by the fact that two Reich Commissioners, Lohse and Koch, were appointed for the Occupied Eastern Territories. The Higher SS and Police Leader was "personally and directly" subordinated to the Reich Commissioner, but, as Lammers has declared, in technical respects he could not receive any orders from Rosenberg or from the Reich Commissioner but only from Himmler.

Lammers said furthermore: Rosenberg always wished to pursue a moderate policy in the East; he was without any doubt against a " policy of extermination " and against a " policy of deportation ", which was widely advocated in other quarters. He made efforts to rebuild agriculture through the agrarian programme, to put the educational system, Church affairs, the universities and schools in order. Rosenberg had great difficulty in succeeding; in particular the Reich Commissioner for the Ukraine simply did not follow Rosenberg's orders. Rosenberg favoured setting up a certain degree of independence in the Eastern nations; he particularly had at heart the cultural interests of the latter. The differences of opinion between Koch and Rosenberg, says Lammers, could have filled volumes of files. Hitler

[Page 248]

called Rosenberg and Koch to him and decided that they should meet each month in order to consult each other.

The witness Lammers said, quite rightly, that for Rosenberg as the superior minister it was unendurable to have to come to an agreement in each case with his subordinate the Reich Commissioner. Subsequently it was shown that in spite of the meetings they came to no agreement, and finally it was Herr Koch who was right in the eyes of the Fuehrer. As Lammers says, it was about the end of 1943 that Rosenberg was received for the last time by the Fuehrer, and even before that time he had always had great difficulties in reaching him. There had been no more Reich Cabinet sessions since 1937.

Hitler's ideas tended more and more in the direction of Bormann-Himmler. The East became the ground for experiment.

To this group (as is quite clear today for the first time) it seemed hopeless to look for an understanding on the part of Rosenberg for the development of the Reich as they wished it. Rosenberg had no idea of the extent of the fight put up against him. His argument with Reich Commissioner Koch, the exponent of Himmler and Bormann, is a proof of this ignorance, but it is also a complete proof of Rosenberg's integrity.

On 14th December, 1942, Rosenberg issued a set of instructions to the Reich Commissioner of the Ukraine (19- PS); his other instructions have unfortunately not been found. In this, Rosenberg requests the administrative chiefs to preserve decent attitudes and views; he demands justice and human understanding for the population, which had always seen in Germany the support of legal order (194-PS); the war had brought terrible hardships, but every offence should be fairly examined and judged and should not be punished too severely. It is also inadmissible that German authorities meet the population with expressions of contempt. One can only show one is the master through correct attitude and actions, not by overbearing behaviour; one's own attitude must bring others to respect the Germans; those administrative chiefs who have shown themselves unworthy of their tasks, who have misused the authority they were given and who by their pernicious behaviours have shown themselves to be unworthy of our uniform, must be treated accordingly, summoned before a court or removed to Germany.

Koch's reaction to such degrees is shown in his memorandum of 16th March, 1943 (192-PS). He writes that it is an alienating thought that not only a correct attitude must be displayed toward the Ukrainians, but that one must even be amiable to them and always ready to help. Furthermore, Rosenberg demands esteem for the highly developed national pride of the Ukrainian people and, according to Rosenberg, a high degree of cultural self-administration is desirable for the Ukraine; countries as big as the Ukraine cannot be kept in permanent dependence, the Eastern campaign is a political campaign and not an economic raid. Here Koch is speaking to Rosenberg in a cynical manner about the climax reached in the relations of his organization with Ukrainian emigration.

There are other decrees of Rosenberg's which are criticized by Koch. One of these is the decree of 18th June, 1942, concerning the acquisition by Rosenberg of Ukrainian schoolbooks for a total of 2.3 million Reichsmarks to be charged to the budget of the Reich Commissariat without his previously even getting in touch with Koch. 1 million primers, 1 million spelling charts, 200,000 school books, 300,000 language books, 200,000 arithmetic books, were to be provided at a time when there was hardly even the most necessary paper for German schoolchildren.

Koch goes on to say:

"It is not necessary to point out repeatedly in the decrees issued by your Ministry and in long-distance telephonic remonstrances that any coercion in recruiting labourers has to cease and that the Eastern Ministry even demands to be informed of every instance in which compulsion has been used."
In a subsequent decree, Koch says he is blamed for having caused the closing of vocational schools, and states that Rosenberg ordered the General Commissioners to adopt a different school policy, thereby overstepping his authority as a Reich

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Commissioner. Koch then concludes with a veiled threat that to him, a veteran Gauleiter, the way to the Fuehrer could not be barred.

So much challenging criticism of Rosenberg, so much unintentional praise and so much proof of the absolute decency of his behaviour and the far-sighted and statesmanlike direction of his office as Chief of the Eastern Administration.

One last document in the fight of Rosenberg against Koch is the report regarding Reich Commissioner Koch and the timber region of Zuman of 2nd April, 1943 (Document 032-PS), regarding which Rosenberg gave exhaustive information as a witness. In this very matter Rosenberg displayed his conscientiousness particularly clearly.

And now we have again to unroll another scene before our eyes, because the prosecution attached specific importance to it: In July, 1942, Bormann wrote a letter to Rosenberg, Rosenberg replied, and a third party, Dr. Markull, an associate of Rosenberg in his Ministry, wrote a commentary regarding it. According to Dr. Markull's representation, the content of Bormann's letter, the original of which is not extant, was the following: the Slavs should work for us; if of no use to us, they should die; health provisions were superfluous; the fertility of the Slavs was undesirable, their education dangerous; it would do if they could count up to one hundred. Every educated person is a potential enemy. We could leave them their religion as an outlet. AS sustenance they should receive only the barest necessities; we are the masters and we come first.

To that letter by the closest collaborator of Hitler there could be only one reply by Rosenberg; feigned consent and feigned compliance. In the inner circle of the Eastern Ministry there arose considerable apprehensions regarding this significant change in the attitude of its chief, apprehensions which were expressed in Dr. Markull's memorandum of 5th September, 1942. Rosenberg as a witness has stated that he agreed only for the sake of pacifying Hitler and Bormann, and there cannot exist any doubt of this when that document is read impartially. Rosenberg wanted to insure himself against the attack from the Fuehrer's Headquarters which he anticipated with certainty, because he allegedly did more for the Eastern population than for the German people, because he required more physicians than there were available for sick Germans, etc.

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