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 4 of 11)

[MR. DODD continues his cross examination of Emil Johann Rudolf Puhl]

[Page 53]

Q. You did not want to discuss this matter on the telephone with Pohl of the SS, did you? You asked him to come to your office rather than talk about it on the telephone?

A. Yes.

Q. Why was that, if it was just an ordinary business transaction?

A. Because one never knew to what extent the telephone was being tapped, and thus the transaction might have become known to others.

Q. Well, you did not talk to anybody much on the telephone; is that right? You were a man that never used the Reichsbank telephone to speak to people outside? Now, I think you realize full well that there was a special reason in this case for not wanting to talk on the telephone and I think you should tell the Tribunal what it was.

A. Yes; the reason was, as I have said repeatedly, that from the beginning special secrecy was desired, this desire was respected and adhered to everywhere, also in my telephone calls.

Q. And you are still insisting that this transaction was not a special secret transaction or that you told Dr. Kempner it was "Schweineri". Do you know what that word means?

A. Yes.

Q. What does it mean? It means it smelled badly, does it not?

A. That we should not have done it.

Q. Now, you called up Toms on more than one occasion to ask him how the deposits from the SS were coming in, did you not?

A. No, I hardly ever saw Toms, often not for months, as he could hardly come to my office.

Q. I did not ask you if you saw him often. I asked you if you did not call him on the telephone and ask him how the deposits were coming along?

A. No, I took no further interest in the conduct of this particular transaction. Moreover, the requesting of a report from the cashier would have been the proper procedure.

Q. Did you tell him to get in touch with Brigadefuehrer Frank or Gruppenfuehrer or Obergruppenfuehrer Wolff of the SS? Did you tell that to Toms?

A. Yes, I repeat what I said earlier; when Pohl was in my office he told me that he would appoint two people to negotiate the transaction with the Reichsbank, and they were the two people just mentioned; I passed on their names to the cashier's office.

Q. What was the name under which these deposits were known in the Reichsbank?

A. I heard of the name under which these deposits were known in the Reichsbank for the first time in Frankfurt, when I saw it in the files.

Q. Do you not know the name Melmer, M-e-l-m-e-r?

A. Yes, from my time in Frankfurt.

[Page 54]

Did you not on one occasion call Herr Toms on the telephone and ask him how the Melmer deposits were coming along?

A. I am afraid, I did not quite understand.

Q. Well, I say did you not on one occasion at least call Herr Toms on the telephone in the Reichsbank and ask him how the "Melmer" deposits were coming along?

A. No, I could not have put that question because I did not know the word "Melmer".

Q. You did not know that Melmer was the name of an SS man? You did not know that?

A. No, I did not know that.

Q. I want you to look at an affidavit by Herr Toms, executed the 8th day of May, 1946. You have seen this before, by the way, have you not, you saw it yesterday? Answer that question, will you please, witness. You saw this affidavit yesterday, the one I just sent up to you? You saw that yesterday, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. You will observe in paragraph 5 that Toms, who executed this affidavit, said that he went to see you and that you told him that the Reichsbank was going to act as custodian for the SS and the receipt and disposition of deposits, and that the SS would deliver the property, namely gold, silver and foreign currency, and you also explained that the SS intended to deliver numerous other kinds of property such as jewellery, and "we must find a way to dispose of it", and that he suggested to you, Herr Puhl, that "we transmit the items to the Reichshauptkasse, as we did in the case of Wehrmacht booty, or that the items could be given by the Reichsfuehrer SS directly to the pawnshop for disposition, so that the Reichsbank had no more to do with it than it did in the case of confiscated Jewish property." He added that Puhl told him that it was out of the question, and that it was necessary that a procedure should be arranged for handling this unusual property in order to hold the whole business secret.

Then he goes on to say:

"This conversation with Puhl occurred just a short time, approximately two weeks, before the first delivery, which occurred on 26th August, 1942. The conversation was in Herr Puhl's office; nobody else was present. And Puhl said it was very important not to discuss this with anybody, that it was to be highly secret, that it was a special transaction, and if anybody asked about it that I was to say I was forbidden to speak about it."
And on the next page you find in paragraph 8 Herr Toms saying:-
"I was told by Herr Puhl that if I had any questions on this matter I was to get in touch with Brigadefuehrer Frank or with Gruppenfuehrer or Obergruppenfuehrer Wolff of the SS. I remember getting the telephone number of this office, and I think I recall it being given to me by Herr Puhl. I called Brigadefuehrer Frank about this, and he stated that the deliveries would be made by truck and would be in charge of an SS man by the name of Melmer. The question was discussed whether Melmer should appear in uniform or civilian clothes, and Frank decided it was better that Melmer appear out of uniform." And so on.
Then, moving on down, he says in paragraph 10:-
"When the first delivery was made, however, although Melmer appeared in civilian clothes, one or two SS men in uniform were on guard, and after one or two deliveries, most of the people in the Hauptkasse and almost everybody in my office knew all about the SS deliveries."
Then, further on, paragraph 12:-
"Included in the first statement sent by the Reichsbank and signed by me, to Melmer, was a question concerning the name of the account to which the proceeds should be credited. In answer to that I was orally advised by Melmer that the proceeds should be credited to the account of 'Max Heiliger'. I

[Page 55]

confirmed this on the telephone with the Ministry of Finance, and in my second statement to Melmer, dated 16th November, 1942, I confirmed the oral conversation."
Now the next paragraph is 13:-
"After a few months, Puhl called me and asked me how the Melmer deliveries were going along, and suggested that perhaps they would soon be over. I told Puhl that the way the deliveries were coming in it looked as though they were growing."
And then I call your attention to the next paragraph:-
"One of the first hints of the sources of these items occurred when it was noticed that a packet of bills was stamped with a rubber stamp 'Lublin'. This occurred some time early in 1943. Another hint came when some items bore the stamp 'Auschwitz'. We all knew that these places were the sites of concentration camps. It was in the tenth delivery in November 1942, that dental gold appeared for the first time, and soon its quantity became unusually great."
Now, there is another paragraph, but I particularly want to call your attention to the fact that Toms says you called him and asked him how the Melmer deliveries were going, and also to the fact that you, as he states, again impressed upon him the need for absolute secrecy.

And now, I want to ask you, after having seen that affidavit again - and you will recall that you told our people yesterday that the affidavit, in so far as your knowledge was concerned, was absolutely true - now I am going to ask you if it is not a fact that there was a very special reason for keeping this transaction secret.

A. In reading this statement, it is obvious that the desire for secrecy came from the SS; and this tallies exactly with what I said before, namely, that the SS emphasized that the desire for secrecy originated with them. And as we heard, they went so far as to invent an account - a "Max Heiliger" - which was obviously, as is also clear from the statement, an account for the Reich Ministry of Finance. In other words, this tallies with what I have been saying, namely, that the obligation to keep the matter secret, this special obligation, was desired by the SS and was carried out; and it applied even to the transfer of the equivalent value. As regards the second point, that I am supposed to have talked to Toms, I already stated yesterday that I do not remember such a conversation among the very great number of conversations which I had at the bank daily. Nor can I imagine that I went to see him. That would have been a very unusual procedure.

I do not recall the expression "Melmer deliveries" in that connection, but I suggest that it is used in this statement for simplicity's sake, just to refer briefly to the subject under discussion.

Q. It is not very important, but of course he says you called him on the telephone, that you did not go to see him. However, I offer this as Exhibit USA 850.

THE PRESIDENT: This statement we have before us does not appear to be sworn.

MR. DODD: Well, the witness is here in Nuremberg. I will withdraw it and have it sworn to and submitted at a later date. I was not aware that it was not sworn. He is here and available. I had him brought here in case any question was raised about him.


Q. Now, the defendant Goering knew something about these deposits, too, did he not? Now that we are discussing this matter fully, what about that?

A. I was not aware that Herr Goering knew anything about these things.

Q. I show you a document that was found in the files of the Reich Treasury, the Reichsbank rather. It is 3947-PS, and it is a new document. You have not seen this, by the way.

[Page 56]

Now, this is a memorandum in the files, dated 31st March, 1944, and it says, its subject is:-
"Utilization of jewels, and so forth, which have been acquired by official agencies in favour of the Reich.

"According to an oral confidential agreement between the vice-president Herr Puhl and the chief of one of Berlin's public offices, the Reichsbank has taken over the converting of domestic and foreign monies, gold and silver coins, precious metals, securities, jewels, watches, diamonds and other valuable articles. These deposits will be processed under the code name 'MELMER.

The large amounts of jewellery, and so forth, acquired hereby have previously been turned over - after checking the number of pieces and, in so far as they had not been melted down, the approximate weights given - to the Municipal Pawn Shop, Division III Main Office Berlin N4, Elsasserstrasse 74, for the best possible realization of value."

I am not going to read all of it. It goes on with more material about the pawnshop, but I want to call your attention to the paragraph beginning:-
"The Reichsmarschall of the Greater German Reich, the Commissioner for the Four-Year Plan, informs the Reichsbank, in his letter of 19th March, 1944, copy of which is enclosed, that the considerable amounts of gold and silver objects, jewels, and so forth, at the Main Office of Trustees for the East (Haupttreuhanderstelle Ost) are to be delivered to the Reichsbank according to an order issued by Reichsminister Funk and Graf Schwerin von Krosigk. The converting of these objects must be accomplished in the same way as the 'Melmer' deliveries.

At the same time the Reichsmarschall instructs us on the converting of objects of the same kind, which have been acquired in the occupied Western territories. We do not know to which office these objects have been delivered and how they are dealt with."

Then there is more about an inquiry and more about this whole business, the pawnshops, and so on. But, first of all, I want to ask von: In the first paragraph it says: "according to a confidential oral agreement between you and the chief of one of Berlin's public offices" - who was this chief of the Berlin public office who had a confidential agreement about this business with you?

A. That was Herr Pohl, This is the agreement of which we spoke this morning.

Q. That was Herr Pohl of the SS, was it not?

A. Yes.

Q. And that was this whole transaction; this whole SS transaction that this memorandum is about?

A. This is a report from our cashier, and in keeping with the demands of secrecy the words "SS Economic Department" have been avoided and the more general term "the head of a Berlin public office" is used.

Q. And later on in the paragraph it refers to the incoming objects to be processed under the code name 'Melmer', M-e-l- m-e-r. That is the name I asked you a few minutes ago if you recognized, is it not?

A. I did not understand the question.

Q. Well, the last sentence in this paragraph says: "All incoming deposits will be processed under the code name 'Melmer'". M-e-l-m-e-r. That is the name I asked you about a few minutes ago, and you said you did not know it.

A. Yes, and this statement also shows that I could not have known it, because only now, in this statement, is it disclosed that the name "Melmer" was used.

Q. I think if you will read it you will see that it shows just the opposite. It says, according to the oral confidential agreement between you and Pohl of the SS, that the Reichsbank took over the selling, and so on, of gold, silver coins, and so forth. "All incoming deposits will be processed under the code name 'MELMER'."

You are not telling this Tribunal that a transaction like this was going on under a code name, in the bank of which you were vice-president and that you did not

[Page 57]

know it, - you - the man who was dealing directly with the SS man. Are you seriously saying that to this Tribunal?

A. Yes. The word "Melmer" was never used in my presence. Our treasury directors could use code words for the accounts of clients who preferred not to give their own names and the names of their institutions; and the treasury made use of a code word in this case too.

Q. You will observe that this is the second time this morning that we have run across the name Melmer. Herr Toms says you used that term in talking to him, and now we find it in one of your own bank memoranda, which is a captured document. Are you still saying that you do not know the term?

A. This memorandum was not made for me, but for the responsible treasury official; and specifically, in order to acquaint him with the arrangements made by the treasury, the memorandum states under what code name this transaction will be carried out.

Q. Herr Puhl, look up at me a minute, will you. Did you not tell Lt. Meltzer, Lt. Margolis, and Dr. Kempner, when they were all together with you, that all this business with the SS was common gossip in the Reichsbank? These gentlemen who are sitting right here, two of them at the United States table and one up here. You know them. Now I want you to think a minute before you answer that question.

A. We talked of the fact that the secret was not kept, and how in the long run it is not possible to keep a permanent secret in a bank, but that has nothing to do with it. What we were speaking of just now were the technical details, how this sort of transaction was carried out. The details did not become general knowledge. What naturally could not be avoided was the transaction as such becoming known.

Q. Now, in case you do not understand me, we are not talking about that. I think you cannot help remembering, because this was only a day or so ago, and in this building, having a conversation with these gentlemen, didn't you? And I am now asking you if it is not a fact that you told them that this whole SS transaction with the bank was common gossip in the bank.

A. There was a general whisper in the bank about this transaction, but details were, of course, not known.

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