nuremberg military tribunal




Appropriation of Personal Effects and Valuables

While no explanation was ever given as to why the Nazi's condemned the Jews to extermination, the public record shows that they counted on substantial material advantage. The levying of enormous indemnities against persons considered by the Nazi's as Jew or half-Jews and the expropriation of their property in Germany as well as in the countries occupied by it, brought huge returns to the coffers of the Reich. And even in the dread and grim business of mass slaughter, a definite profit was rung up on the Nazi cash register. For example, Situation Report No. 73, dated 4 September 1941 reporting on the executions carried out by a single unit, Einsatzkommando 8, makes the cold commercial statement:

"On the occasion of a purge at Tscherwon 125,880 rubels were found on 139 liquidated Jews and were confiscated. This brings the total of the money confiscated by Einsatzkommando 8 to 1,510,399 rubels up to the present day."


Situation Report No. 133, dated 14 November 1941, shows the progress made by this unit in a little over two months:

"During the period covered by this report, Einsatzkommando 8 confiscated a further 491,705 rubles as well as 15 gold rubels. They were entered into the ledgers and passed to the Administration of Einsatzkommando 8. The total amount of rubels so far secured by Einsatzkommando 8 now amounts to 2,511,226 rubels."


On 26 October 1941, Situation Report No. 125 gave Einsatzkommando 7b credit for 46,700 rubels taken from liquidated Jews, Einsatzkommando 9 credit for 43,825 rubels and "various valuables in gold and silver", and recorded that Einsatzkommando 8 had increased the amount of its loot to the sum of 2,019,521 rubels. (NO-3403)

Operation and Situation Report No. 31, dated July 1941 rendering an account of operations in Lithuania, recorded the taking of "460,000 rubels in cash as well as a large number of valuables" from liquidated Jews. The report stated further:

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"The former Trade Union building in Wilna was secured for the German Labor Front (DAF) at their request, likewise the money in the trade union accounts in banks, totalling 1.5 million rubles."


Although engaged in an ideological enterprise, supposedly undertaken on the highest ethnic and cultural level, executants of the program were not above the most petty and loathsome thievery. In the liquidation of Jews in Zhitomir and Kiev the reporting Einsatzkommando collected 137 trucksful of clothing. The report does not say whether the clothing was torn from the victims while they were still alive or after they had been killed. This stolen raiment was turned over to the National Socialist People's Welfare Orginization.

On of the defendants related how during the winter of 1941 he was ordered to obtain fur coats for his men, and that since the Jews had so much winter clothing, it would not matter much to them if they gave up a few fur coats. In describing an execution which he attended, the defendant was asked whether the victims were undressed before the execution, He replied: "No, the clothing wasn't taken -- this was a fur coat procurement operation."

A document issuing from Einsatzgruppe D headquarters (February 1942) speaks of the confiscation of watches in the course of anti-Jewish activities. The term "confiscate" does not change the legal or moral character of the operation. It was plain banditry and highway robbery. The gold and silver watches were sent to Berlin, others handed over to the Wehrmacht (rank and file) and to members of the Einsatzgruppe itself "for a nominal price" or even gratuitously if the circumstances warranted that kind of liberality with these blood-stained articles. This report also states that money seized was transmitted to the Reich Bank, except "for a small amount required for routine purposes (wages, etc.)" In other words, the executioners paid themselves with money taken from their victims. (NOKW-631)

The same Einsatzgruppe, reporting on the hard conditions under which some Ethnic German families were living in southern

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Russia, showed that it helped by placing Jewish homes, furniture, children beds, and other equipment at the disposition of the Ethnic Germans. These houses and equipment were taken from liquidated Jews.

Einsatzgruppe C, proudly reporting on its accomplishments in Korowo (September 1941), stated that it organized a regular police force to clear the country of Jews as well as for other purposes. The men enlisted for this purpose, the report goes on to say, received "their pay from the municipality from funds seized from Jews." (NO-154)

Whole villages were condemned, the cattle and supplies seized, (that is, stolen), the population shot and then the villages themselves destroyed.

Villages were razed to the ground because of the fact, or under the shallow pretense, that some of the inhabitants had been aiding or lodging partisans.

The reports abound with itemization of underwear, clothing, shoewear, cooking-utensils, etc., taken from the murdered Jews.

In Poltawa, 1,538 Jews were shot and their clothing was handed over to the mayor who, according to the report covering this action, "gave special priority to the Ethnic Germans when distributing it." (NO-3405)

Even those who were detained for death through the gas-vans had to give up their money and valuables and sometimes their clothes before breathing in the carbon monoxide.

Money and valuables taken from victims were sent to Berlin to the Reich Ministry of Finance. When a Jewish Council of Elders was appointed to register the Jews for the ostensible purpose of resettlement, the Council was also requested to submit the financial situation of the Jews. This facilitated the despoliation of their possessions which went hand in hand with their execution.

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Musmanno, Michael A., U.S.N.R, Military Tribunal II, Case 9: Opinion and Judgment of the Tribunal. Nuremberg: Palace of Justice. 8 April 1948. pp. 36 - 38 (original mimeographed copy)

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Ken Lewis
March 14, 1998
Rev. 1.1
Apri 24, 2000