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-Seventh Day: Friday, 12th July, 1946
(Part 7 of 8)

[Page 345]

By DR. SAUTER, Continued:

Puhl's statement is important for the correct understanding of the references, made by Funk in his letter to Hitler of 25th August, 1939, to the conversion of foreign assets into gold. During the period of Funk's presidency of the Reichsbank the transactions to which he refers were no longer of any importance. The exaggerated phrases used by Funk in his letter to Hitler make the contents appear much more important than they actually were.

Funk explained this fact during his examination by saying that this letter was a private letter of thanks, that in those days every German was under a very great strain owing to the political events creating tension throughout Europe, and that he (Funk) wanted to inform his Chancellor at this moment when his country was in danger of war that he (the defendant Funk) had also done his duty. This was the first and only occasion on which Funk actively exercised his functions as Plenipotentiary for Economy.

Here I must insert something which is based upon a protocol which the defence did not submit until the hearing of evidence had been concluded - Document 3787-PS. These are the minutes of the second meeting of the Reich Defence Council held on 23rd June, 1939.

Funk, as General Plenipotentiary for Economics, attended that meeting of the Reich Defence Council, which took place about two months before the beginning of the war. The text of the minutes, however, leaves no doubt whatever that they concern general - and therefore mainly theoretical - preparations for any war.

Furthermore, to appreciate this document, it must be remembered that during the war which broke out three months later, the whole of the defendant Funk's assignments in connection with the distribution of labour were transferred to the Four-Year Plan, as the main functions of the General Plenipotentiary for Economics were formally and completely abolished, as I have previously shown, shortly after the outbreak of war. I continue with my brief. The defendant Funk has explained in detail during his examination that up to the very end he did not believe that war would come, but thought on the contrary that the Polish conflict would be settled by diplomatic means. The accuracy of this statement is also confirmed by the witnesses Landfried, Posse and Puhl, the defendant's three closest co-workers, in interrogatories submitted to the Tribunal. The danger of war with Russia came to Funk's knowledge for the first time when he heard of Rosenberg's appointment as Plenipotentiary for the Unified Treatment of Eastern European

[Page 346]

Problems in April, 1941. We remember that at that time Lammers and Rosenberg gave the defendant Funk the same explanations, generally speaking, as those stated to the Tribunal here by all the witnesses heard on this question. He was told that the reason for the preparations for war against Soviet Russia was that the Soviet Russians were massing strong troops along the entire border, that they had invaded Bessarabia, and that Molotov, in his discussions on the territory of the Baltic Sea and the Balkans, had made demands which Germany could not fulfil. As Rosenberg stated that the assignment given him by Hitler also included economic measures, Funk placed Dr. Schlotterer at Rosenberg's disposal as liaison officer. Schlotterer later on took over the direction of the economic section of the Rosenberg Ministry and joined the Economic Operations Staff East of the Four-Year Plan. The Ministry of Economics itself and Funk had practically nothing to do with economic questions in the occupied East, and concerned themselves merely with questions bearing on German internal economy. The Ministry of Economics had no authority whatever to make decisions in the Occupied Eastern Territories. During his cross-examination the defendant Funk was shown an extract from an interrogation of 19th October, 1945, dealing with the subject "Preparations for war against Russia." In this interrogation Funk stated that the defendant Hess asked him at the end of April, 1941, whether he, Funk, had heard anything about an impending war against Russia. Funk replied: "I have not heard anything definite, but there seems to be some discussion along that line."

The explanation of this conversation at the end of April, 1941, between two men who were not informed of the facts, may well be that at that time Funk did not yet definitely know the reason for Rosenberg's assignment, but knew only of suspicions and rumours.

On 28th May, 1941, Rosenberg had a meeting with Funk (Document 1031-PS). In this meeting, as you may recall, they discussed the question of how the monetary problem in the East might be regulated in the event of war breaking out against Russia and the occupation of those territories by our forces. Gentlemen, in my opinion it is very natural that in view of an imminent war, even a war of defence, the authorities responsible for money matters should discuss the question of the handling of these matters in the case of the occupation of enemy territory. Funk was opposed to any solution likely to give rise to speculation; and he described the suggested rate of exchange for marks and roubles as entirely arbitrary. He agreed with Rosenberg that the Russian territory should have its own national currency as soon as conditions permitted. For the rest, he demanded further investigation of these problems, especially since the matter could not be decided in advance.

Here too, therefore, Funk approached matters with his characteristic caution, and endeavoured to find a solution which would create stable conditions from the very start. If the necessity for printing rouble bills to meet the most urgent demands for currency was mentioned in the discussion with Rosenberg - though not by Funk - Funk did not see anything either unusual or criminal therein. If the currency of a country has been depleted, it is absolutely necessary for a new currency to be created by the Power responsible for maintaining a stable monetary system. Who produced the banknotes was of no importance to Funk; the essential point for him was by whom the banknotes were issued and in what quantity.

Moreover, the production of a new banknote requires months of preparation, so that the execution of such a plan - which, as I said, was not Funk's plan - could have been intended only for a much later date.

A few weeks after this discussion war actually broke out. Funk knew that war with Russia was imminent. That Germany had long been preparing for such a war was as little known to him as the fact that Germany would attack.

Funk was informed neither of the march into Austria nor of the negotiations in regard to the Sudetenland - in September and October, 1938, he was not in Germany

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at all - nor was he informed of the seizure of the remainder of Czechoslovakia. In the case of Poland, he knew that the conflict was acute, but nothing more; of Russia the same thing was true. But in both cases he was informed only a short time before the actual outbreak of war. As far as wars with other countries were concerned, Funk received no information whatsoever before the opening of hostilities; he was only informed afterwards.

All the facts I have mentioned give a clear indication that Funk knew nothing of Hitler's intentions with regard to foreign policy and that he had no knowledge whatsoever of the fact that Hitler was planning wars of aggression. In the summer of 1939, Funk certainly devoted particular attention to the conversion of German economy from a peace-time to a war-time basis. But as an official of the Reich, Funk considered it to be not only his right but also his duty to prepare the German people for a defensive war and to take the necessary economic measures.

However, the prosecution believes that it can eliminate all these doubts by describing the Reichsregierung or the National Socialist Party as a criminal organization which conspired against other nations and whose sole task was to plan and wage wars of aggression, to subjugate and enslave foreign nations and to plunder and Germanise other countries. This deduction is erroneous since those plans were devised and executed only by Hitler himself and a few of the men closest to him, of the type of Goebbels, Himmler and Bormann. According to the evidence we have heard, there can be no doubt that even the highest officials of the State and the armed forces - and in particular Funk himself - were not informed of these plans, but that these plans were concealed from them by a cunning system of secrecy. No comparison with the secret societies mentioned by the prosecution and which in other countries banded together in criminal organizations, as, for example, the Ku-Klux-Klan in America, can be made, for a further reason.

The Ku-Klux-Klan was organized from the start as a secret society for the purpose of terrorising and committing crimes. In 1871, after scarcely six years of existence, it was expressly forbidden by the North American Government through a special law, known as the Ku-Klux-Klan Act. At that time the Government even imposed martial law on it and fought it with every possible means. It was an organization with which the Government and Congress of the United States never had any dealings. A man like Funk would, of course, never have joined a secret society, a criminal organization against which the Government was fighting. However, the National Socialist Party in Germany was never a secret organization, but was a party recognized by the Government and considered lawful; The unity between this party and the State was even declared in a special Reich law. Since 1934 the leader of this party was at the same time the elected head of the Reich, and this head of the State and his government have been constantly and officially recognized as a government by the entire world from 1933 on. It was due precisely to this international recognition of Hitler by every foreign country - a recognition which continued to be extended in part even during the Second World War - that Funk and millions of other Germans never doubted the legality of the Government and that such doubts, if they ever entered their minds, were immediately stifled. Millions of German officials and German soldiers assumed, just as Funk did, that they were only doing their duty in riot withholding from the head of the State the recognition accorded to him by every country in the world.

I may omit a lengthy passage in the copy before you, and continue on Page 37.

As already mentioned, Funk has never denied that in his plans and directives he naturally took into account the possibility of wars which might some day have to be waged by Germany, just as it is part of the duty of every general staff in the world to take such possibilities into consideration. At that time Funk had every reason to do so; for the world situation since the First World War had been so tense and the conflicting interests of individual nations had frequently appeared insurmountable to such a degree that, unless he wanted to be accused of neglecting or betraying the interests of his own people, every statesman had to make the

[Page 348]

preparations necessary for waging war. A preliminary activity of this kind is therefore, not in itself of a criminal nature; and Funk has no doubt that during those years the ministers of economics and bank presidents of other countries also made - and had to make - similar preparations for the event of war. In the case of Funk it is of no importance whether or not he, for his part ordered such preparations, but only whether or not he knew that Hitler was planning aggressive wars and intended to wage such aggressive wars in violation of existing treaties and in disregard of International Law.

But Funk, as he declared under oath, did not know this, nor did he act on this premise. Hitler's constant affirmations of peace prevented such a possibility from entering his mind. Today, of course, we know, on the basis of the actual events that followed, and on the basis of the facts established by these proceedings, that those peace assertions of Hitler which were still on his lips when he committed suicide were in reality only lies and deception. But, at that time, Funk regarded Hitler's protestations of peace as perfectly genuine. It never occurred to him at that time that he himself and the whole German nation could be deceived by Hitler; he believed Hitler's words, just as did the entire world, and thus he was the victim of that deception just as was the entire world. If no blame attaches to foreign statesmen and generals who believed Hitler's protestations, although they certainly were better informed on Germany's rearmament than was Funk, the faith which he himself had in the head of the State cannot be called a crime.

Gentlemen of the Tribunal, I have now examined the prosecution's accusation that Funk had planned wars of aggression; and I turn to another point of the indictment which concerns Funk's activities in the occupied territories and the charge of forced labour.

The prosecution offered very little evidence against Funk on the subject of "Forced Labour" or "Slave-Labour Programme." In the main he is held responsible for the compulsory employment of foreign workers on the grounds that he was a member of the Central Planning Board from autumn, 1943, onwards. The first session of the Central Planning Board at which he was present took place on 22nd November, 1943 - i.e. at an advanced stage of the war - and after that he very rarely attended meetings. The defendant Speer testified to this and it is also evident from the minutes of the Board, which were very carefully kept. And I should like to emphasize the fact that Funk never had anything to do with the employment of labour - either in his capacity as Minister of Economics or as President of the Reichsbank. He was in principle opposed to taking too many workers from the occupied territories - and especially by force - because this interfered with the economic and the social life of these territories. The co-defendant Sauckel and the witnesses Landfried and Hayler have confirmed this and it is also shown by the remarks made by Funk himself at the meeting held in Lammers's office on 11th July, 1944 (Document 3819-PS) and frequently quoted in court. Here, for instance, Funk expressed disapproval of ruthless raids to recruit foreign workers.

If Funk sent representatives to the Central Planning Board, he did so only to ensure that the necessary raw materials were allocated to the industries engaged in manufacturing consumer goods and goods for export, but never to deal with questions of foreign labour, in which he was not at all interested. Although the prosecution, in cross-examining the witness Hayler, confronted him with a statement by Funk during the preliminary interrogation of 22nd October, 1945, to the effect that he had "not racked his brain" over these labour problems, it must also be stated on the part of the defence that in the next sentence of this protocol - in the same breath, so to speak - Funk declared that he had always done his utmost to prevent workers being taken away from their homeland, e.g. France. This second sentence, although not quoted by the prosecution, seems to be of special importance because it clearly reveals Funk's disapproval of the compulsory measures used in connection with the utilization of foreign labour. The defendant Speer, however, testified before the Tribunal on 20th June that the Central Planning Board made no plans at all for the utilization of labour. Only occasional discussions on the

[Page 349]

utilization of labour questions took place here. The records containing the actual results of the negotiations and decisions of the Central Planning Board have not been introduced by the prosecution. It has been shown that Funk, who only attended a few of the meetings of the Central Planning Board, never received the full notes, but only the minutes, which revealed nothing. Before Speer became responsible for decisions on war production, and before Sauckel became Plenipotentiary General for the Employment of Labour - i.e. before 1942 - the question of recruiting labour was, for production, dealt with by the Four-Year Plan, that is by Goering and not by Funk. Later on, too, applications for necessary workers, as Speer has testified, were usually made by the industries direct to the offices controlling the employment of labour. While Funk was still in charge of production in the Reich Ministry of Economics and working in accordance with the directives of the Four- Year Plan, questions concerning the employment of labour were not dealt with by the Reich Ministry of Economics at all, but by the Plenipotentiary General appointed under the Four-Year Plan for the various branches of industry - i.e. by Goering - by means of direct negotiation with the Plenipotentiary General for the Employment of Labour. Speer clarified this in connection with Sauckel Exhibit No. 12. He also clarified the fact that several branches of industry not falling within the competency of the Reich Minister of Economics were cited in this document belonging to it.

Finally - I continue on Page 41 - it must be stated that Funk, at the time he joined the Central Planning Board, no longer had any production assignments, could therefore no longer claim workers and had in consequence no further interest in this aspect of the Central Planning Board's activities.

I now omit a few pages and turn to Page 42 - the middle of the page - to sum up by saying that the evidence submitted has proved beyond doubt that the defendant Funk took a great many measures to prevent the exploitation of occupied territories and that the fact that he succeeded in preventing the devaluation of currency in occupied countries was in itself enough to protect them from suffering damage to an extent which cannot be evaluated in detail.

With that, gentlemen of the Tribunal, I leave this point of the Indictment against Funk and turn to a further charge against him, namely his participation in the elimination of Jews from economic life, in November and December, 1938, which forms Point 3 of the Indictment against him.

Gentlemen, the charges which the prosecution has made against Funk contain many details with which, in view of the time at my disposal, I am unable to deal fully. With regard to such details, I shall refer to statements made by Funk himself in this connection. First of all, however, I must deal more fully with what seems to me the most important of all the charges made against Funk, namely, that of playing a part in the persecution of the Jews. The defendant Funk considers this to be the most important factor in his trial.

Gentlemen, no one in Germany has ever asserted that Funk was one of those fanatic anti-Semites who took part m the pogroms against the Jews or who approved of these proceedings and profited by them; Funk always condemned such actions. This can be explained not only by his natural disposition and the milieu in which he grew up but also in his years of work as a journalist, mainly in connection with that section of the Press which dealt with economic policy and consequently kept him in continuous touch with the valuable Jewish circles in economic life. Experts in that field know and have still respect for Funk, who showed, even at that time, an attitude that was free of all anti-Semitism and friendly towards the Jews rather than hostile.

It is tragic to a certain extent that, in spite of this, Funk's name has been repeatedly connected in this trial with the decree of November, 1938, as a result of which the Jews were eliminated from economic life. Whether he liked it or not, all questions concerning the treatment of Jews in the economic life of Germany were under the jurisdiction of his department as Minister of Economics. As an official it was his duty to issue the necessary decree for execution.

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