The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/09/19

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

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

                                                  [Page 347]

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

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

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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