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-Eighth Day: Monday, 15th July, 1946
(Part 1 of 10)

[Page 355]

THE MARSHAL: May it please the Tribunal, the defendant Ribbentrop is absent today.

THE PRESIDENT: Would it be convenient to counsel for the prosecution and for the defence if at two o'clock today we were to deal with those interrogatories and affidavits which have come in since the last applications were made?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, it would be perfectly convenient for the prosecution.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Sauter, do you think it would be convenient for the defence counsel to deal with those matters at two o clock?

DR. SAUTER (counsel for the defendant Funk): Certainly.

Mr. President, I will inform the other defence counsel that these applications will be discussed at two o'clock.

DR. DIX (counsel for the defendant Schacht): I agree with my colleague, Dr. Sauter, that this should be done. But if this is done just at two o'clock, it will interrupt my final speech. I should be very grateful if it could be done immediately after Dr. Sauter finishes his speech, so that I could present my plea coherently. It would be very awkward if I were interrupted.

THE PRESIDENT: Certainly, Dr. Dix. Very well; we will do it immediately after Dr. Sauter's plea.

DR. SAUTER: May I speak now, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Dr. Sauter.

DR. SAUTER: May it please the Tribunal, before the adjournment on Friday, I explained in conclusion the position and the attitude of the defendant Funk with respect to the Jewish question. On this occasion I pointed out that in connection with the executive decrees of the end of 1938 on the legal exclusion of the Jews from economic life, the defendant Funk acted only in his capacity as a Reich official and in the performance of the duties of that office.

On Friday, I finished my statements in that respect with the words:

"Gentlemen, accordingly a sense of duty on the one hand and human feeling on the other were the motives which kept the defendant in office and thus brought him into a situation where he is today charged with criminal action."
Now, gentlemen of the Tribunal, I turn to the last chapter of my appraisal of the defendant Funk, of his motives and actions, and consequently I shall deal with the SS gold deliveries to the Reichsbank and with the relation of the defendant Funk to the concentration camp question. That is to say, I am going to start on Page 58 of the written speech which has been submitted to you.

It is really a terrible tragedy in the life of the defendant Funk that he was not only condemned by fate, in the year 1938, to implement decrees for laws which he always mentally condemned and repudiated more than anybody else, but that once again, in the year 1942, he became involved in a particularly terrible manner with Jewish persecutions; I am thinking now of the deposits made by the SS in the Reichsbank, that is to say, the business shown here in a film of the steel vault

[Page 356]

of the Frankfurt branch of the Reichsbank and about which two witnesses have testified, namely, Vice-President Emil Puhl and Reichsbank Counsellor Albert Toms.

The defendant Funk had previously been examined about this matter of the gold deposits at the preliminary proceedings on 4th June, 1945 (Document 2828-PS); at that time, however, no details were disclosed to him, and Funk made the same statement then as he did before this Tribunal, namely, that he was only briefly occupied with the matter in question on a few occasions, and that he had not attached any importance to it at all. That is also the reason why the defendant Funk could not at first remember those happenings very well during the proceedings here. Therefore, he did not know anything more about them than he had already said.

Nevertheless, gentlemen of the Tribunal, Funk had to expect that this matter would be brought up in the trial, at any rate in the cross-examination. And this was actually done by the American prosecution on 7th May, 1946, and the latter submitted an affidavit by the witness Emil Puhl, Vice- President of the Reichsbank, in which at first Puhl appeared to make serious accusations against the defendant Funk. Now it is remarkable that since the beginning of this trial the defendant Funk has repeatedly referred to this very witness Puhl on various points, and that since December, 1945, he has repeatedly requested that the latter be interrogated. Measured by ordinary human standards, Funk would certainly not have done this if he had had a bad conscience and had reason to expect to be accused in the most damaging way by his own witness regarding the concentration camp stories. But the oral examination of the witness Emil Puhl here before this Tribunal showed beyond a doubt that Puhl could no longer in any way maintain the originally incriminating statements in his affidavit, as far as the character of the defendant Funk and his knowledge of the particulars of the SS deposits were concerned.

It is true that Funk, as he recalled after Puhl's testimony (and concerning this I have also submitted a corrected copy of his sworn testimony), was once asked by Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler whether articles of value which had been seized by the SS in the Eastern territories could be deposited in the treasure vaults of the Reichsbank. Funk answered this question in the affirmative and told Himmler that he could delegate somebody to discuss the matter with Vice-President Puhl and settle it. Himmler at that time told Funk that his Gruppenfuehrer Pohl could do this and that the latter would get in touch with Vice-President Puhl. That was all that Funk, at that time, I believe in 1942, had discussed with Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler, particulars of which he gave to his Vice-President Puhl on that occasion, because Puhl was actually directing the business of the Reichsbank and therefore was responsible for this affair.

There was nothing extraordinary in this question of Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler, at least as far as Funk was aware. For, as far as Funk knew, the SS was at that time in charge of the entire police service in the occupied territories in the East. For that reason it often had to confiscate valuables just as the ordinary police did in the interior, that is, within Germany. Moreover, all gold coins, foreign currency, etc., in the occupied territories of the East had to be turned in according to law, and these deliveries in the Eastern Territories were naturally made to the SS because there were no other State offices equipped for that purpose. Funk also knew that the concentration camps were under the direction of the SS and thought that the valuables which were to be given to the Reichsbank by the SS for safekeeping belonged very properly to that category of valuables which the entire population was obliged to deliver.

Finally, as has been ascertained in the course of this trial, the SS was constantly just as much engaged in the fighting in the East as the Wehrmacht, and just like the latter, the SS had also collected so-called booty in the abandoned and destroyed towns of the East and delivered it to the Reich. Therefore, Funk saw nothing at all extraordinary in the fact that the SS possessed gold and foreign currency, and brought it in for delivery in the regular way.

[Page 357]

Now, the essential point in this whole business is the question whether the defendant Funk knew or saw that among the objects delivered by the SS there were unusual quantities of gold spectacle frames, gold teeth and similar objects which had not come into the hands of the SS through legal confiscations, but only in a criminal way.

If, and I emphasize, gentlemen, if it could be proven that the defendant Funk had seen such objects in the deposits of the SS, this should naturally have caused him some surprise. But we heard the witness Puhl say in the most positive way that the defendant Funk had no knowledge of this, and, indeed, that Vice-President Puhl himself also did not know anything more of these details. In any case, Funk never saw what particular gold objects and what quantities the SS delivered.

Now, it has been said against Funk that he himself entered the vaults of the Berlin Reichsbank several times, and from this some people have concluded that he must have seen what objects had been delivered to the Reichsbank by the SS. This conclusion is obviously wrong, because the evidence shows that during the entire war Funk went to the vaults of the Reichsbank only a very few times for the purpose of showing these vaults and the bullion of the Reichsbank which was stored there to special visitors, especially foreign guests. But on those few visits to the vaults he never saw the deposits of the SS. He never observed what in particular the SS ha deposited in his bank. This is established beyond doubt, not only by the sworn statement of the defendant Funk himself, but also by the oral testimony of Vice-President Puhl and Counsellor of the Reichsbank Toms here in this courtroom. This witness for the prosecution, who is certainly free from suspicion and who by his own admission volunteered to testify, has declared here under oath that the valuables were delivered by the SS in locked trunks, boxes and bags and were stored away in these containers, and that Funk was never present in the vaults when the contents of an individual box or trunk were inventoried by the employees of the, bank. The witness Toms, who was in charge of these vaults, never saw the defendant Funk there at all. Therefore, Funk neither knew the extent which the deliveries of the SS gradually assumed in the course of time, nor did he know that the deposits contained jewellery, pearls and precious stones, and spectacle frames and gold teeth. He never saw any of those things, neither did any of his officials ever report to him about them.

Now it is the opinion of the prosecution that Funk, as President of the Reichsbank, surely must have known what was kept in the vaults of his bank, but this conclusion is also obviously wrong and does not take into consideration the actual conditions in a large central bank of issue. Funk, who was also Reich Minister of Economy, had in his capacity as President of the Reichsbank no occasion whatever to bother about an individual deposit of one client, even if he happened to belong to the SS. As President of the Reichsbank he did not bother about any deposits of other clients of his bank, either, as this was not his job. On only one occasion, following a suggestion of his Vice-President, Puhl, he asked Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler - this was during his second conversation with Himmler - whether the valuables deposited by the SS in the Reichsbank could be converted into cash in the legal course of business at the Reichsbank. Himmler gave his permission and Funk passed this information on to Vice- President Puhl.

But in this matter he was only thinking of gold coins and foreign currency, that is to say, of those particular valuables which by law had to be turned in to the Reichsbank in the German Reich and which could be and had to be converted into cash by the Reichsbank. The idea never occurred to Funk that the deposits might contain gold teeth or other such unusual things which had their origin in criminal acts in concentration camps. He heard about these things to his horror for the first time here in the courtroom during the trial.

The only remaining point in the statement of the witness Puhl which still seemed to rouse a certain amount of suspicion was the question of preserving secrecy, which, indeed, also played a very, very important part in the examination

[Page 358]

of the witness. Vice-President Puhl stated here at the beginning of his testimony that the defendant Funk had told him that the matter of the SS deposits must be kept especially secret. Funk, on the other hand, has always denied this in the most positive way and declared under oath that he never talked with Puhl at all about any such preservation of secrecy. Thus at the very beginning here in the courtroom we had conflicting statements on this point. Vice-President Puhl's statements regarding this point, however, seemed somewhat contradictory from the beginning. For on one occasion Vice-President Puhl said that this secrecy had not struck him as anything extraordinary, since, after all, secrecy is preserved about everything that occurs in a bank. In answer to a special question, Puhl then stated repeatedly that he did not notice at all that the defendant Funk had particularly spoken about preserving secrecy.

When, however, the affidavit of the witness Toms was produced and read to the witness Puhl, the latter finally stated here under oath on 15th May, 1946, that it was plainly visible from this affidavit that the desire for secrecy emanated from the SS. The SS considered it important that this business should be transacted secretly. The SS, as Puhl said, had been the ones originally responsible for the obligation of secrecy. The conclusion of the witness Puhl's statement read literally like this, and was also sworn to by him, and at the end of it he again confirmed that the obligation of secrecy was desired and imposed by the SS.

The initial contradiction regarding this point between the statements of the defendant Funk and those of the witness Puhl was hereby completely eliminated, in favour of the defendant. Puhl himself could no longer maintain his original assertion that it was Funk who had ordered the SS deposits to be kept secret Therefore, in arriving at your verdict, you must proceed from the premise that the statement of the defendant Funk is correct in this point also and deserves preference, for he has declared under oath from the very beginning and with the utmost certainty that he himself knew nothing about keeping something secret and that he had never spoken of any such secrecy to Puhl. Moreover, there was absolutely no reason for Funk to say anything to Puhl about any special secrecy, since Funs was obviously of the opinion that the valuables involved were only of the kind which had to be turned in, and which, therefore, were to be confiscated, and which came within the regular, lawful field of business of the Reichsbank and did not need to be kept secret, regardless of whether these things which had to b turned in were the property of a prisoner in a concentration camp or the property of a free individual.

It was never made clear, by the evidence submitted, why the SS for their part stressed the importance of preserving secrecy to Vice-President Puhl and why furthermore, the SS opened the deposit in the name of Melmer instead of in the name of the SS, and the prosecution for their part did not attach any importance to clearing up this point. However, in any case, the demand of the SS for secret evidently did not strike Vice-President Puhl as unusual, any more than it did the witness Toms, who had nothing at all to do with the matter, and who confirm the fact that this secrecy was nothing unusual. But nevertheless, one thing is still a fact, namely, that nothing was kept secret from the numerous personnel of the Reichsbank about exactly what kinds of objects were involved. On the contrary, personnel of the Reichsbank were even entrusted by Vice-President Puhl with the task of sorting the valuables delivered and converting them into cash at the pawnshop. Dozens of Reichsbank officials who regularly entered the vaults could see the individual articles every day, and the Reichshauptkasse, an institution separate from the Reichsbank, from time to time settled accounts for the conversion of valuables into cash with the Reich Ministry of Finance quite openly in the ordinary routine manner. Naturally, the defendant Funk did not know, and still does not know today, whether and to what extent agreements had been reached between the Finance Minister and Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler for accounting for the gold articles to the Reich. He was never interested in it, and, indeed, it d not concern him.

[Page 359]

From all these facts, as shown by the evidence, one can readily conclude that Funk himself knew nothing about the things which were turned over to the Reichsbank in his time, and that even Vice-President Puhl and Reichsbank Counsellor Toms did not think there was anything wrong connected with the procedure, although Toms, at least, had seen of what the deposits actually consisted.

For this reason, there is no longer need to examine the obvious question as to whether the initial statements of Puhl with regard to the deposits of the SS should not have been received with a certain scepticism from the very beginning, because Puhl apparently had the understandable desire, at least in his written affidavit, to shift responsibility from himself on to the shoulders of his President, Funk, in order to free himself of his own responsibility in the matter, when he was told during his imprisonment that the gold articles of the SS consisted mostly of spectacle frames and gold teeth which had been taken away from victims of concentration camps. In the beginning, even Puhl apparently did not see any thing wrong in the whole business. For him the matter was an ordinary business transaction of the Reichsbank for the account of the Reich, which he dealt with in the same manner as he dealt with gold articles and foreign currency that had been confiscated by the Customs Investigation Office or the Office of Control for Foreign Currency or any other State authority. Gentlemen, whatever one may judge the responsibility of Vice-President Puhl to be, at all events these things lie outside of any responsibility of the defendant Funk, who is the only one here with whom you are concerned in connection with this point.

In the period after this time Funk had only two or three very brief and unimportant conversations with Puhl regarding these gold deposits apropos of converting the gold coins and foreign currency delivered into cash in the regular way. Apart from this, Funk did not concern himself at all with this whole matter any more. He knew even less about the matter than Puhl, and it is not without significance that Puhl declared here under oath that he, Puhl, would never have permitted these gold objects to be deposited in the Reichsbank at all if he had had the slightest notion that the things had been taken away from concentration camp victims under criminal circumstances by the SS.

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