The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th May to 24th May, 1946

One Hundred and Thirtieth Day: Wednesday, 15th May, 1946
(Part 2 of 11)

[DR. SAUTER continues his direct examination of Emil Johann Rudolf Puhl]

[Page 44]

Q. Now, will you give details about the discussions which the defendant Funk had with you regarding the SS deposits. And may I ask you to consider your replies and search your memory very carefully before answering my questions. Naturally I allow you time.

First of all, what did you and the defendant Funk discuss when you talked about these deposits of the SS for the first time?

[Page 45]

A. I refer here to my affidavit of 3rd May. I had a very simple talk with Herr Funk. It turned on the request of the SS to make use of our bank installations by depositing valuables for which - it was said - there was not sufficient protection in the cellars of the SS building. Perhaps, for the sake of completeness, I may add that "SS", in this connection, always means the "Economic Department of the SS".

Q. What did the defendant Funk speak of at the time? Did he specify exactly what should be accepted for safekeeping?

A. He mentioned valuables which the SS had brought from the Eastern Territories, which were now in their cellars, and which, above all, they requested us to keep in safety.

Q. But did the defendant Funk tell you in detail what these valuables were?

A. No, not in detail, but he said, that in general, they were gold, foreign currency, silver and jewellery.

Q. Gold, foreign currency, silver, jewellery -

A. To which I may add that gold and foreign currency had of course, to be surrendered to the Reichsbank at any rate.

Q. Gold, foreign currency, silver and jewellery?

A. Yes.

Q. And that was supposed to have been confiscated in the Eastern Territories?

A. Yes.

Q. Did the defendant Funk tell you at the time why these confiscations had been made, or who had been affected by them?

A. No, that was not stated; the talk, as I have said, was brief.

Q. And what was your reply?

A. I said that this sort of business with the SS would be inconvenient for us, if nothing more, and I voiced objections to it. I may add that we, as the Reichsbank, were always very cautious in these matters, for example, when valuables were offered us by foreign exchange departments, customs offices, and the like.

Q. What was the actual reason for your objections in the case of the SS?

A. Because one could not know what inconvenient consequences a business connection of this sort might produce.

Q. Witness, that answer does not satisfy me. Did you or the defendant Funk not wish to have anything to do with the SS at all, or was there some other reason for your objections?

A. The first part of your question I answer with "no". There was no objection on principle, and could not be; for, after all, every German organization or institution had the legal right to enjoy the services of the Reichsbank.

The circumstances arising out of this confiscation were uncomfortable, like the confiscations of the foreign exchange departments, etc., which I mentioned, because one never knew what difficulties might result.

Q. So that, if I understand you well - please correct me if I interpret it wrongly - you voiced objections because these business affairs might be somewhat uncomfortable for the Reichsbank, they fell outside the normal scope of business, and were as little welcome to you as, for instance, deposits of the customs authorities or the foreign exchange authorities, and so forth? Only for this reason?

A. Yes. But I have to add something; we were asked whether we would assist the SS in handling these deposits. It was immediately clear, of course, and also expressly stated, that these deposits included foreign currency, and also securities and all sorts of gold coins, etc., and that the SS people did not quite know how to deal with these things.

Q. Did these things arrive afterwards?

A. Yes. But something else happened before that. After this conversation the head of the economic department of the SS, whose name was Pohl, Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl, contacted me. I asked him to come to my office, and there he repeated, what I already knew, namely that he would welcome it if we would take over these valuables as soon as possible.

[Page 46]

Q. What was your answer?

A. I confirmed what we had arranged and said: "If you will designate officials from your department, I shall inform our department, and together they can discuss the technical details."

Q. And, if this gap can be filled now, what did the defendant Funk say when you explained during your first conversation with him that you would not willingly take over those things because one often had a lot of trouble with such matters?

A. My objections were subordinated to the broader consideration of assisting the SS. All the more so, and this must be emphasized, because these things were for the account of the Reich.

Q. Did you discuss whether these things, particularly gold, should be converted by the Reichsbank or melted down?

A. No, not in detail; it was merely said that the officials of the Reichsbank should offer their good services to the SS.

Q. I do not quite understand. The good services of the Reichsbank officials consist in receiving these valuables into safe-keeping and locking them up?

A. Yes.

Q. Were the services of your officials to go beyond that?

A. Yes, in as much as the SS people could come and remove from the containers whatever had been deposited.

Q. For instance, gold coins, foreign currency, etc.?

A. Yes.

Q. Then did you see - to come back to the question already put - did you see what arrived, what the SS delivered?

A. No, not personally. This happened far away from my office, in quite a different building, downstairs in the strong-rooms which I, as vice-president of the Reichsbank would not normally enter without a special reason.

Q. Did you, as vice-president, visit these strong-rooms frequently?

A. It was a habit of mine, sometimes at an interval of three months or even more, to go through the strong-rooms; or if there was some occasion for it, for instance, when there was a visitor to be conducted or some new installation to be discussed, or when there was something of importance beyond mere attendance on the safes and the clients.

Q. But, of course, as vice-president, you had nothing to do with attending to the customers?

A. No.

Q. And I should like to put the same question to you with regard to the defendant Funk. Did the defendant Funk, who moreover belonged to the Reichsbank only in part, go to the strong-rooms often?

If so, how often and for what reason? And did he see what had been handed in by the SS?

A. The answer is that Funk, too, went to the strong-rooms on special occasions, for example, when there were foreign visitors. Naturally, I cannot know how often, nor whether he saw the SS deposits. That depends on whether the strong-room officials who were conducting him pointed them out to him.

Q. Did you, witness, see the things which came from the SS, did you see them yourself?

A. No, never.

Q. Never?

A. Never.

Q. Do you think that the defendant Funk saw them?

A. I cannot know that, of course; it depends on whether the strong-room officials pointed out specifically the deposit of the SS.

Q. Then, I presume, you cannot give us any information on how these things of the SS were actually kept or how they were packed?

A. No.

Q. Whether in boxes or - ?

[Page 47]

A. No, I do not know that.

Q, Did you talk again about this whole affair of the SS deposits with the defendant Funk?

A. Hardly at all, as far as I can remember. But I must certainly have talked to him a second time, after Herr Pohl had visited me, since it was, of course, my task and my duty to keep Funk informed of everything.

Q. Did the members of the Reichsbank directorate, the board of directors, attach a special significance to this whole matter so that there might have been occasion to discuss it more frequently, or was it regarded as just an unpleasant but necessary sort of business?

A. No. At the beginning there was probably a report on it to the meeting of the Directorate, but then it was not mentioned again.

Q. You cannot recollect having later again talked of the matter with Funk, but it is possible, if I understood you correctly, that after the settlement with SS Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl, you may have referred briefly to it again? Did I understand you correctly?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, witness, in your affidavit under (5), you say that among the articles deposited by the SS were jewellery, watches, spectacle frames, gold fillings - apparently these were dental fillings - and other articles in large quantities, which the SS had taken away from Jews and concentration camp victims and other persons. How do you know that?

A. I know that from my interrogations at Frankfurt.

Q. You were told about these things during your interrogations in Frankfurt after your arrest?

A. And they were shown to me.

Q. You had no knowledge of them while you were free and administered the Reichsbank as vice-president?

A. No, because, I repeat it again, we never discussed this in the Directorate, since it was of no basic significance for currency or banking policy or in any other respect.

Q. Witness, if at that time in 1942 you had known that these were articles which the SS had taken away from many concentration camp victims, would you have received them into safekeeping?

A. No. In that case we should have come to some decision on the attitude which the bank as a whole should adopt toward this problem.

Q. Who would have had the decisive word?

A. The decision would have been made by the directorate of the Reichsbank as an executive group, as a corporate body, and then it would have been submitted to the president for counter-signature.

Q. Earlier - I must fill in this gap in connection with your affidavit, - you expressed yourself in a rather misleading way. You stated earlier: "This was brought to our knowledge, because the SS personnel attempted to convert this material into cash." And today you say that you heard of it only after your arrest. Apparently, if I understand you correctly, there must be -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Sauter, I do not understand why you say 'earlier'. It is the sentence which followed the sentence which you put to him.

DR. SAUTER: Yes, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Why do you say 'earlier' then? Why do you say 'earlier'?

DR. SAUTER: In his affidavit - if the wording of the affidavit is correct and there is no misunderstanding - the witness said -

THE PRESIDENT: What I am pointing out to you is that the first sentence reads like this: "The material deposited by the SS included all these items taken from Jews, concentration camp victims, and other persons by the SS." And it then goes on, "This was brought to our knowledge by the SS personnel who

[Page 48]

attempted to convert this material into cash." What you are now putting to him is that that acceptance was put to him earlier. At least that is what I understood you to say.

DR. SAUTER: No; the witness said today, he was told only during his interrogations in Frankfurt-on-Main that these articles had been taken from concentration camp victims, etc. The affidavit, however, can and must be interpreted, in my opinion, as saying that he had received this information before his arrest, through the SS personnel, and that apparently is not true. For that reason I asked the witness whether this expression in the affidavit is not a misunderstanding.


Q. Now, witness, if I may repeat this: You first heard that these articles belonged to concentration camp victims at your interrogation?

A. Yes.

Q. And when did you learn what was contained in this deposit, when did you know that, to pick out one example, gold teeth were contained in it?

A. Never while I was in office. No details of this transaction were submitted to the Directorate by the strong- room or safe officials -

Q. So of this, too, you heard only after your arrest?

A. Of the details, yes.

Q. Good. Now, you speak of an agreement which, according to the statement of Funk, Himmler, the Reichsfuehrer of the SS, is said to have made with the Reich Minister of Finance. What do you know about this agreement?

A. That is the agreement I have already mentioned. It was clear from the beginning that the value of the things deposited with us was to be credited to the Ministry of Finance.

Q. Not to the SS?

A. No, not to the SS?

Q. Why not? The SS were the depositors, were they not?

A. Yes, but they maintained that their actions were carried out in the name and on behalf of the Reich and its accounts.

Q. Witness, do you know whether these valuables, which in some way had been confiscated or looted by the SS in the East were placed, as a matter of principle, at the disposal of the Reich Ministry of Finance?

A. I did not quite understand the question. Are you referring to these articles or to confiscated articles, valuables in general?

Q. To all valuables. I am speaking of gold, foreign currency and so forth, all the valuables acquired by the SS in the East; were they all to be placed at the disposal of the Reich Ministry of Finance, and not of the Reichsbank?

A. The equivalent value?

Q. Yes, the equivalent value.

A. The equivalent value was credited to the Reich Ministry of Finance.

Q. In this connection, witness, may I show you two accounts. I do not know, whether you have seen them. They are two accounts of the chief cashier's office of your bank. I should like you to look at them, and to tell me whether you have seen them before, and what you know about them?

A. I saw these two copies - photostatic copies - during my interrogations.

Q. But not earlier?

A. No, not earlier. And from these photostatic copies it is clear - we have just discussed it - that the equivalent value was to be credited to the Reich Chief Cashier's Office, as it says here; the Reich Chief Cashier's Office was a part of the Ministry of Finance.

Q. So apparently it is connected with this agreement, of which you heard, that finally all these things belonged to the Reich Ministry of Finance, to the Reich.

A. Yes.

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