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 July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-First Day: Thursday, 18th July, 1946
(Part 9 of 10)

[DR. SERVATIUS continues.]

[Page 115]

The defendant Sauckel could with good reason refer to the consequence of the counter-propaganda land of the deteriorated war situation as causing the necessity for using coercion; he could not, however, on the basis of the evidence to which he had access, be convinced that the exhaustion of the countries was so great that nothing more could be extracted from them without the use of inhuman methods. The defendant Sauckel believed he could obtain his object, not by using violence but rather by creating special working conditions.

As example, I refer to the promise which Sauckel himself gave on 3rd May, 1943, in Riga, Document 2228-PS.

Apart from this there is still another field of labour procurement which must be put in a different category. This is the release of prisoners of war on condition that labour forces be made available for Germany by "releve" or "transformation".

The French governmental report RF 22 declares both methods of recruiting labour forces as inadmissible. It is pointed out in the report that the exchange on the basis of "releve" is equal to the enslavement of about triple the number of French workers. Against this it must be stated that the replacement workers came only for half a year for voluntary work and in succession. After a year and a half all the workers were free; the prisoner was free immediately.

Coercion for the execution of the "releve" did not exist. From a legal point of view it was not assailable. Captivity can be terminated any time; release can also be made subject to a condition. The French report exaggerated the moral indignation in quoting a phrase of the President of the News Agency of the United States; this phrase speaks of the "abominable choice" of either to work for the hereditary enemy or to rob a son of his country of the possibility of release from captivity. To refute this, I refer to the healthy sentiment according to which in the older Russian literature such a change was praised as a patriotic and magnanimous deed during the Northern War. Neither the King of Sweden nor Peter the Great have therefore considered the exchange as replacement by a substitute slave.

The "Erleichterte Statut" ("Transformation") is contained in Document Sauckel 101. It is the release of a Frenchman from captivity against the acceptance

[Page 116]

of other work under the condition that another French worker comes to Germany according to the "releve" regulations.

No prisoner of war was forced to change his legal position, but whole camps volunteered for it. If a prisoner made use of the possibility offered, he forfeited thereby the juridical special labour protection of the Geneva Convention; but this was done in agreement with his Government. This does not constitute a violation of International Law.

The furlough home connected with the change-over was discontinued because people who were granted these furloughs did not return. The French report, Exhibit RF 22, itself states on Page 69 that of the 8,000 people of one leave convoy, 2,000 did not return. The report states that the "unfortunate people" were confronted with the alternative: "Either you return, or your brothers must die." This consideration, however, did not impress them. Even their promise did not prevent them from immediately joining the Maquis.

The abolition of these furloughs home does not therefore constitute an arbitrary act in slave labour. The reading of the French report can only emphasize this view. It follows therefore that, in this special field also, no seizure of workers which violates the laws of war or which was carried out in an inhuman manner has been effected by the defendant Sauckel.

I now come to the question: treatment of the workers.

In order to facilitate a proper judgement, a distinction between the different bearers of responsibility must be made here. The works manager was responsible for the general labour conditions in the works. The general conditions of life outside the works was the competence of the German Labour Front.

These spheres of responsibility become conspicuous through the fact that two special representatives for them are mentioned in the Indictment, namely Krupp and Dr. Ley.

The defendant Sauckel can be held responsible for what happened in these spheres only in so far as it was due to his decrees, or if, contrary to his duty, he did not intervene by direct supervision.

The defendant Sauckel was directly responsible for the wages. When he tool office, he found a schedule of wages which he could not alter on his own responsibility; to do this he had to apply for the authorisation of his superior office which was the Four-Year Plan and for the consent of the competent Reich Minister The legal regulations summed up in the chapter on wages of my Document Book FI show that the basic decrees are not issued by the defendant Sauckel, but by the Cabinet Council for the Defence of the Reich (see Documents Sauckel Nos. 50, 17 and 58) or by the Reich Minister of Economics (Document 51) and the Reich Minister of Finance (Document Sauckel 52). The defendant Sauckel could schedule wages and determine piece-wages only within this framework fixed for him, and in so doing he had to consider the interests of the Ministries in question.

So far as it was really possible for the defendant Sauckel to do so, he introduce improvements; thus a series of his decrees show that he granted privileges such as premiums, compensatory payments and the like (compare Documents Sauckel Nos. 54 and 58a).

The defendant Sauckel's activity, however, aims on the whole at increasing wages by influencing the competent authorities. This is shown in Document 021-PS of 2nd April, 1943. Therein we find as appendix a treatise with statistic material on the proposition for g basic improvement of wages for Eastern workers. From a study of the wage sheets covering different periods, it is obvious that the wages of Eastern workers were raised several times during defendant Sauckel term of office.

It was for the defendant Sauckel to regulate the working hours, but only within the framework of the superior competence of the Reich Minister of Labour Seldte. This is shown by Document Sauckel 67, where Seldte regulates the working hours for Eastern workers in par. 3 of the decree of 25th January, 1944.

[Page 117]

The working hours were on principle the same as for the German workers, corresponding to the tempo of the work in the factories.

This is also admitted by the French Government report, Document UK 78-3; the cases enumerated there on Page 580 of excessive working hours were contrary to the orders of the defendant Sauckel.

Since they do not specify the years, it cannot be ascertained if they deal only with temporary measures or with permanent conditions. The same lack of clarity exists in the French report, Document RF 22m, Page 101; there the minimum working time has been listed as 72 hours, which was increased to 100 hours. This may be referring to the work of concentration camp inmates, which has been left abstruse and unclear.

The working hours were then changed by Goebbels, who on the strength of his plenipotentiary powers for the waging of total war introduced the 10-hour day for Germans and foreigners, although in practice this could not be carried out generally. An unreasonably high working time cannot be maintained and leads to setbacks. I should like to add that Sauckel was responsible for the fact that these extra hours were paid for, or compensated for, on the basis of overtime work. Special attention has been paid by the prosecution to the regulation of the working hours of female domestic workers from the East, of whom, instead of the 400,000- 500,000 girls originally demanded by Hitler, only 13,000 came to Germany.

The prosecution has presented the memorandum for the employment of these female domestic workers as Exhibit USSR 383. There it is stated under No. 9 that no demand for time off can be made. The purpose of the regulation was to leave the settlement of the time off to the household according to its requirements. Any other interpretation of the regulation is hardly imaginable, because after all it was intended to permanently take these female domestic workers into the families, and to give them the opportunity to remain in Germany. They had been selected as girls who were considered particularly dependable, and had reported voluntarily for domestic work. In accordance with the general practice the order was amended by a subsequent decree (Document Sauckel 26) simultaneously with the rescinding of all remaining limitations.

The regulation of the working hours for children came within the scope of the German legislation on Protection of Labour. In this case it deals with children who, contrary to the decrees of the defendant Sauckel, had come to Germany with their parents in an unregulated manner.

Their work could only be of an agricultural nature, as was customary for German children too. With regard to this, it is pointed out that during the war the schoolchildren in Germany from their tenth year upward could be employed, according to the decree of the Reich Youth Leader of 11th April, 1942 (Document Sauckel 67a).

A summarising discussion by Dr. Blumensaat in the complete Document Sauckel 89 gives the best information about the whole question of wages and working hours, as it was finally regulated by law.

This immediate responsibility alone, however, cannot serve the defendant Sauckel as an excuse if he knew and tolerated those things which, according to the prosecution's assertion, branded with infamy the transport to and the life in the camps and factories. It was his duty to superintend, even there where he was not directly responsible. Such sphere of activity as the accommodating and feeding of the workers was the responsibility of the industries.

As regards the installations of the camps for foreigners, the same regulations as for the camps for German workers were applied by virtue of decrees of the competent Reich Minister of Labour, Seldte (Documents Sauckel Nos. 42, 43 and 44).

It is indisputable that the accommodation suffered from war exigencies, in particular from the effects of air warfare. The abuses, however, were eliminated

[Page 118]

as far as possible. The condition of the foreign workers was not different from that of the German civilian population.

The food supply suffered because of the blockade and the damaged transportation system. The established rations, contrary to the notorious statements on the feeding of the Russians, amounted to 2,540 calories for the Soviet prisoners of war according to the schedule of 24th November, 1941, in Exhibit USSR 117. A further schedule has been submitted with the affidavit of the witness Hahn as Exhibit Sauckel 11. According to this the ration in the Krupp works amounted to 2,156 calories for the ordinary Eastern worker and 2,615 calories for those doing heavy work. Supervision ensured a careful distribution. The Reich Food Ministry was responsible for the supply of food. Grave accusations have been made by the prosecution with regard to both points. These, however; are only justified if the existing regulations were not observed. It is quite likely that mistakes were made in this large sphere of activity in the course of years, but the general picture is not only composed of mistakes, and a judgement cannot be based thereon. The actual conditions have not been clarified in this procedure to the extent that one could say the abuses were so general and obvious that the defendant Sauckel must have known them or did know them.

Contrary to the uncertain statements of the witness Dr. Jaeger is the affidavit of the witness Hahn which refutes the former to a large extent. The affidavits of the witnesses Dr. Scharmann and Dr. Voss (Exhibits Sauckel Nos. 17 and 18) confirm that no serious abuses existed in their spheres of activity.

In addition to the obligation of the works managers, the German Labour Front had to care for the foreign workers (Document Sauckel 16). Its tasks among others included transport and the supervision of medical care, as well as welfare in general. The extensive activity which this very large organization developed has not been described in these proceedings. The basic principles of the German Labour Front can be seen from Document Sauckel 27, which is a regulation of the German Labour Front regarding the status of foreign workers in the plants. The aim is emphasized as follows: Maintenance of the willingness to work by observing conditions of contracts, absolutely fair treatment and comprehensive care and attention.

The German Labour Front was also responsible for transport according to Regulation No. 4 (Document Sauckel 15). Sauckel's instructions are contained therein. This task included transport to the places of work. The witnesses Timm, Stothfang and Hildebrandt have testified about this and did not report anything about bad conditions.

The descriptions in the Molotov Report (Exhibit USSR 51) cannot refer to transports which were carried out under co- ordinated direction, but only to so-called "wild" convoys. The same applies to convoys, the destination of which, according to the Indictment, was the concentration camps. The amount of attention which the defendant Sauckel gave from the very beginning to transport problems is particularly shown by Document 2241-PS submitted by the prosecution. It contains a decree in which careful directives for the prevention of the utilization of unsuitable trains are given.

Mistakes occurred, such as the incident mentioned in Document 054-PS in connection with a return transport of workers. These had been brought into the Reich before Sauckel's time in violation of his basic principles. This was an isolated incident, and the necessary steps were immediately taken. The return journey of sick persons in conditions which did not permit them to travel in convoys was prohibited, and Bad Frankenhausen was placed at their disposal. This was followed by the order specifying the accompanying of such transports by male and female assistants of the Red Cross (Document Sauckel 99).

The carefully and thoroughly organized system of medical. care which worked under the collaboration of the Association of Panel Doctors did not break down,

[Page 119]

in spite of the greatest difficulties, resulting in the great achievement that no epidemics and serious diseases broke out.

The cases presented by the prosecution from individual camps of the 60 camps of the Krupp firm can only have arisen owing to an unusual concatenation of circumstances. They cannot prove that generally bad conditions, of which these examples are typical, existed.

Another document, RF 91, has also been presented, i.e., the medical report of Dr. Fevrier of the French Delegation of the German Labour Front, which was compiled after the beginning of the invasion on 15th June, 1944. Besides faults which it is intended to correct, the report also points out good things. It speaks, with particular acknowledgement to leaders of youth camps, of the systematic X-ray examinations, and of the support given by the district administrations, and similar things. A real overall picture of conditions could only be obtained by the study of the medical reports of the Health Offices of the German Labour Front established everywhere.

For the defence of the defendant Sauckel, may I say here that being a distant onlooker he could not have a clear picture of bad conditions. The sanctioning of such bad conditions would have been in complete contrast to the actions and declarations of Sauckel. The defendant Sauckel did not acquiesce if a Gauleiter possibly said: "If somebody has to freeze, then first of all the Russians." He intervened here, and he stood up against it publicly in his official Handbook of the Commitment of Labour (Document Sauckel 19). The defendant Sauckel also tried to improve the food even though this was outside of his competence. This has been confirmed by several witnesses, amongst others the witness Gotz (Exhibit Sauckel 10). It is also shown by the record of the Central Planning Board (Document R 124, Page 1783). The defendant Sauckel did not let matters drift, but he established his own personal staff, whose members travelled around the camps and corrected bad conditions on the spot. He also attempted to obtain clothing, and made factories work to a large extent for supplying the Eastern workers. All witnesses who have been heard regarding this problem have again and again unanimously confirmed the basically benevolent attitude of the defendant Sauckel.

I refer to the announcements and speeches of the defendant Sauckel, which always advocate good treatment. I do not wish to enumerate the documents in detail, and shall only mention in particular the "Manifesto" on the commitment of labour, Document Sauckel 84, in which he refers to his binding basic principles, and demands that these be recalled constantly and with emphasis. I also refer to the speeches to the Presidents of the District Employment Offices of 24th August, 1943 (Document Sauckel 86), and of 17th January, 1944 (Document Sauckel 88). The defendant Sauckel finally so prevailed that even Himmler, Goebbels and Bormann acknowledged his ideas as correct. This is shown by Document 205-PS of 5th May, 1943. This is a memorandum regarding the general basic principles for the treatment of foreign workers. There the basic principles of a regulated commitment of labour are accepted.

How do the statements of the prosecution on the ill- treatment of workers as though they were slaves correspond with this? It will be necessary to examine closely whether the cases referred to involve real abuses affecting workers in the process of normal mobilization, or abuses involved in the deportation of prisoners and in their work. Then one should investigate exaggerations and distortions which can be explained by human weakness and peculiarities. In my opinion no adequate clarification of this subject has so far been obtained, and reports in the Press have already begun to appear which are bound to strengthen doubts as to the traditional standard of living of foreign workers.

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