The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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THE PRESIDENT: I was only asking for what purpose you were
referring to them now. Of course we haven't all the books
here. They aren't in your books?

DR. THOMA: No. 161 is in Document Book 3, Page 34. Nothing
else is mentioned in the Document Book.


A. (Continuing) The Document 161-PS deals with an order for
the bringing back of certain archives from Esthonia and
Latvia. The Soviet Prosecution, therefore, has concluded
from this that there was a plundering of the cultural
treasures in these countries. I would like to state that the
instructions which I had read from Document 1015-PS
requested in an unequivocal manner that all these cultural
objects were to remain in the country. And that took place.
I permit myself to refer to the date of that document, which
is 23 August, 1944, when warfare had spread over this
territory, and when these cultural objects and archives were
to be safeguarded from its dangers. It was here a matter of
having the archives mentioned sheltered in Esthonian country
estates. That is, they were still to remain in the country
itself, even in the midst of the war. I believe later some
of these archives were brought to Germany and were
safeguarded in Schloss Hoechstadt in Bavaria.

Document 076-PS has been used by the prosecution as proof of
a plundering of the library treasures in Minsk. We are
concerned here with a report which a deputy of the commander
of the rear area had issued and which was given to the
Ministry for the East. From this report it is evident that a
considerable damage had in fact taken place in many
libraries, but that that was a consequence of troops having
been quartered in the library buildings because the city of
Minsk had suffered great destruction and the billeting
facilities were limited.

But then under No. 1, and again under other paragraphs, it
is expressly shown that posters forbidding destruction and
plundering had been put up everywhere, and that these things
were put under control and were not to be

                                                   [Page 24]

touched after that. It is added that any further removals
would have to be considered as plundering.

Under No. 2 I would like to point out that it has been
confirmed here that the most valuable part of this library
of the Academy of Sciences came from the library of the
Polish Prince Georg Radziwill, which the Soviet authorities
had taken from the occupied Polish territory to Minsk and
had incorporated into the library of the Academy of Sciences
long before the Special Purpose Staff or any other German
departments were active in that area. There are a number of
other documents, i.e., 035-PS and several others, which have
been submitted to the Tribunal, which make statements about
the removal of cultural objects from the Ukraine. The date
on these documents of the year 1943 shows that these
cultural objects remained in the country until then, as had
been ordered, and that only when fighting made it necessary,
were they removed. Document 035-PS says, on Page 3, No. 5:-

  "The infantry division concerned attaches great
  importance to the further evacuation of valuable things,
  since the Armed Forces can in no way adequately protect
  them in this area, and bombardment by artillery is to be
  counted on shortly."

DR. THOMA: I would like to submit this document under
Rosenberg 37, it has not yet been submitted.

A. (Continuing) It then adds:

  "Wehrmacht equipment, means of transportation, etc.,
  shall be provided as far as possible by the infantry

DR. THOMA: May I have the document again? I would like to
submit it to the Tribunal.

A. (Continuing) The evacuation then actually took place
under artillery bombardment, and hence cultural objects,
which had come from Kharkov and other cities, were
transferred only then to Germany.

Now I would like to deal with the documents which the Soviet
Prosecution has presented regarding the Extraordinary State
Commissions for Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I should
like, in this connection, to discuss just a few concrete

On Page 1 of the Exhibit USSR 39 it states:

  "From the beginning of their occupation of the Esthonian
  Soviet Republic, the Germans and their accomplices
  destroyed the independence of the Esthonian people and
  then tried to establish a 'new order' as to culture, art,
  and science; proceeded to exterminate the civilian
  population or to deport them as slave labour to Germany,
  and to lay waste and plunder cities, villages and

I should like to remark in that connection, first of all,
that the twenty-year independence after the Soviet attack in
1919 was broken by the marching in of the Red Army in  1940,
a standpoint that is ...

GENERAL RUDENKO: Mr. President, it seems to me that the
document which is now being looked over by the defendant
Rosenberg, naturally gives him a basis for replying to the
concrete accusations of his criminal activity while he was
Minister of the Eastern Regions. However, I think that that
which the defendant Rosenberg has just begun to say consists
of plain fascist propaganda and it can be taken for granted
that it has no connection whatever with the question
discussed, or with the accusations.

DR. THOMA: Mr. President, if the defendant Rosenberg makes a
few introductory remarks to his statements on the document
from which he wants to quote, I ask that he should not be
interrupted right away. We will deal with a few actual
statements taken from the document.

A. (Continuing) So far as point 2 is concerned, I would like
to remark ...

THE PRESIDENT: Is this document he is dealing with a
document that he

                                                   [Page 25]

wrote himself or had anything to do with? I have not got the
document before me.

DR. THOMA: The document has been submitted by the U.S.S.R.
and it contains charges against Rosenberg ... charges of
having undertaken demolitions and expropriations in these
territories and he is entitled to state his position with
regard to this.

THE PRESIDENT: But when you say "his position," can't he say
what he did in connection with the document, or the subject
of the document? I mean, when you say "state his position,"
it is such a very wide phrase, it may mean almost anything.
If you ask him what he did in connection with the subject of
the document it is different, but it is more concrete and


Q. What did you do in these occupied areas, contrary to the
assertion of the Soviet Prosecution?

A. To refute the assertion that I destroyed culture and art
and science in Esthonia, I must establish the fact that one
of the first directions of the Eastern Ministry was to
establish autonomous administration in these three countries
and to have the German administration in principle serve as
a supervisory one. The limitations prescribed by war were
naturally given in times of war, they applied to spheres of
war and armament economy, to the sphere of police security,
and naturally to the political attitude in general.

A complete cultural autonomy was enjoyed by Esthonia and
Latvia as well as by Lithuania; their art and their theatres
were active all through these years, many departments of the
university at Dorpat functioned, and so did some departments
in Riga. The judicial sovereignty of these countries was
under the power of the autonomous administration - national
directorates as they were called - with all authoritative
departments necessary for the administration. The entire
school system remained untouched. I visited these
territories twice, and can say only that the commissioners
in charge there also did everything to work as closely as
possible in accordance with the desires of the autonomous
government, which often expressed itself critically
regarding the German administration, when we, frankly
speaking, could not quite recognise the complete political
sovereignty in the midst of war.

On Page 2 of this document it is stated, under corporal
punishment for office employees, that the occupying power
had prescribed the corporal punishment for Esthonian
workers, in accordance with the regulation of the Railway
Administration of 20 February, 1942, for neglect of work or
coming to work drunk. This regulation of the director of the
Railway Administration corresponds with the facts. But when
this regulation was made known, of course it aroused
indignation in the German Civil Administration. Reich
Commissioner Lohse at once annulled it, and we asked the
Reich Minister of Transportation to have the official
responsible for the regulation removed. This took place
immediately, he was dismissed and called home, and the fact
that he was recalled was to be made known in the Press.
However, I cannot say whether it actually appeared in the

On Page 5 of this document, in paragraph 2, it is set forth
that the Germans destroyed historical buildings, that they
had searched through and destroyed the Tartua, that is, the
Dorpat University which had a glorious history of more than
three hundred years, and was one of the oldest seats of
higher learning.

Now I would like to add that these buildings dating from the
seventeenth and other centuries were constructed by Germans
exclusively, and that German troops would certainly not be
interested in destroying arbitrarily the buildings of their
own people. Secondly, this 300 year old university of Dorpat
was a German university, which in actual fact Russia and
Germany provided with scholars of European repute.

                                                   [Page 26]

THE PRESIDENT: That is quite irrelevant, quite irrelevant.
The question is whether it was destroyed.

A. (Continuing) In the year 1942 1 was once in Dorpat. A
large part of the city had been destroyed through fighting,
but the university buildings
were still standing. During this visit I learnt that the
Rosenberg Special Staff in the Ukraine had removed ten to
twelve thousand volumes belonging to the university of
Dorpat and restored them again to their rightful owner.

I consider it out of question that an arbitrary destruction
of this old German university could have been carried out by
German troops and I can assume only that it was the result
of warfare, if destruction actually took place.

As far as the other details of the document are concerned, I
cannot define my position. They refer to many shootings by
the police and matters clearly connected with fighting, and
I cannot make any statement about them, since they are
concerned with the time of retreat.

The Exhibit USSR 41 deals with the report of the
Extraordinary State Commission on matters in Latvia. I would
like to say only that the head-quarters of the Foreign
Minister were not at Riga, but that he had his regular
office exclusively in Berlin.

In paragraph 5 it says:-

  "The Germans confiscated the country of the Latvian
  peasants for their barons and landowners, and mercilessly
  exterminated the civilian population - men, women and

I would like to state in this connection that not a single
peasant farm was given up to the German barons of former
times in the period of civilian administration, but the
German administration of the country issued a decree, which,
in my opinion, was a singularly progressive piece of
legislation. For this land, belonging to Germany for seven
hundred years, and expropriated by the young Esthonian and
Latvian Republics with practically no compensation, could
certainly have been returned easily to the Germans again.
But I signed a law in March - either 1942 or 1943, I don't
know which - the so-called "Restitution law"
(Reprivatisierungsgesetz,), which legally guaranteed the
Esthonian and Latvian peasants the German property received
at that time; and it was handed over with formal documents.
With the occupation by the Soviet Union, a collectivisation
of this private farm property was  introduced, and this
collectivisation was made retroactive and, therefore the
former owners of 1919 again came into possession of their
property; I would like to mention that in explanation of
this statement. On Page 2 it is stated:-

  "Through more than three years the Germans have made it
  their task to destroy factories, public businesses,
  libraries, museums and homes in the Latvian cities."

I myself have been in a Latvian art museum, have seen a
great Latvian art exhibition, I have been in the Latvian
theatre, in which all presentations were in the Latvian
language, with just a few German guest conductors and
singers. Factories were not destroyed in these three years
of occupation, but their productivity was increased by
numerous German machines. Of course this brought many
protests from the landowners, because it was accompanied
with an insecurity of their role in the economy; but in any
event there was no destruction, rather an increase in
productive capacity.

And finally, as far as the archives and libraries are
concerned, I have already said what is necessary in
connection with Exhibit USSR 035.

As regards the extermination of 170,000 civilians, I cannot
speak about what transpired in the police camps on grounds
of police security. I would like to point out, however, that
according to official confirmations of the autonomous
administration, more than 40,000 Esthonians in Esthonia and
more than 40,000 Latvians in Latvia were deported to Soviet
Russia after the Red Army occupied

                                                   [Page 27]

these countries; that a large number of Latvians and
Esthonians volunteered to fight the Red Army; that at the
time of the German withdrawal hundreds of thousands of
Esthonians and Latvians asked to be taken to the Reich and
many actually went. The entire population of Latvia was
about two millions. That the German authorities had 170,000
Latvians shot seems improbable in the highest degree.

However, regarding other destruction which it has been
alleged took place during the fighting, I am not able to
make any statement.

The third Exhibit, USSR 7, treats with the reports of the
Extraordinary Commission on Lithuania. On Page 1, paragraph
2, it states that Reich Minister Rosenberg tried to
Germanise the Lithuanian people and to exterminate the
national culture. Lithuania "was proclaimed a part of the
German Eastern Provinces."

In Lithuania the peasant question was handled in the same
way as in Esthonia and Latvia. Of course there was one
difference, that Lithuania had a larger number of small
German peasant industries which, at the end of 1939, were
taken into the German Reich, and when the Germans marched
into Lithuania they were returned to their original peasant
farms and settled in as concentrated a manner as possible in
certain settlement districts. That corresponds to the facts,
to the rest I cannot agree.

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