The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/01/20

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

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

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

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


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

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

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,

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

Under 11, 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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