Walther Funk, (born August 18, 1890, Trakehnen, East Prussia, Germany [now Yasnaya Polyana, Russia]—died May 31, 1960, Düsseldorf, West Germany), German Nazi and economist who was economics minister of the Third Reich from 1938 to 1945 and president of the Reichsbank from 1939.
He was tried and convicted as a major war criminal by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Sentenced to life in prison, he remained incarcerated until he was released on health grounds in 1957. He died three years later.
What disturbs me about the above quote is that although he says he is ashamed there is no admission of guilt, he also forgets to mention he willingly participated, and made a good life out of it.
At Nuremberg, Funk was accused by Allied prosecutors of having been closely involved in the State confiscation and disposal of the property of German Jews from this time. He boasted that by 1938, the German state had confiscated Jewish property worth two million marks, using decrees from Hitler and other top Nazis to force German Jews to leave their property and assets to the State if they emigrated, such as the Reich Flight Tax. They were forced by Göring to pay for the damage caused by the Nazis to their own property on Kristallnacht, and increasingly deprived of their personal wealth and assets as the Second World War approached.
Below are the findings of the Nuremberg Trials of Funk.
Funk is indicted under all four counts. Funk, who had previously been a financial journalist, joined the Nazi Party in 1931, and shortly thereafter became one of Hitler’s personal economic advisers. On 30th January, 1933, Funk was made Press Chief in the Reich Government, and on 11th March, 1933, became Under Secretary in the Ministry of Propaganda and shortly thereafter a leading figure in the various Nazi organisations which were used to control the press, films, music and publishing houses. Funk took office as Minister of Economics and Plenipotentiary General for War Economy in early 1938 and as President of the Reichsbank in January 1939. He succeeded Schacht in all three of these positions. He was made a member of the Ministerial Council for the Defence of the Reich on August, 1939, and a member of the Central Planning Board in September, 1943.
Funk became active in the economic field after the Nazi plans to wage aggressive war had been clearly defined. One of his representatives attended a conference on 14th October, 1938, at which Goering announced a gigantic increase in armaments and instructed the Ministry of Economics to increase exports to obtain the necessary exchange.
On 28th January, 1939, one of Funk’s subordinates sent a memorandum to the OKW on the use of prisoners of war to make up labour deficiencies which would arise in case of mobilisation. On 30th May, 1939, the Under Secretary or the Ministry of Economics attending a meeting at which detailed plans were made for the financing of the war.
On 25th August, 1939, Funk wrote a letter to Hitler expressing his gratitude that he had been able to participate in such world shaking events; that his plans for the ” financing of the war,” for the control of wage and price conditions and for the strengthening of the Reichsbank had been completed; and that he had inconspicuously transferred into gold all foreign exchange resources available to Germany. On 14th October, 1939, after the war had begun, Funk made a speech in which he stated that the economic and financial departments of Germany working under the Four Year Plan had been engaged in the secret economic preparation for war for over a year.
Funk participated in the economic planning which preceded the attack on the U.S.S.R. His deputy held daily conferences with Rosenberg on the economic problems which would arise in the occupation of Soviet territory. Funk himself participated in planning for the printing of rouble notes in Germany prior to the attack to serve as, occupation currency in the U.S.S.R. After the attack he made a speech in which he described plans he had made for the economic exploitation of the ” vast territories of the Soviet Union ” which were to be used as a source of raw material for Europe.
Funk was not one of the leading figures in organising the Nazi plans for aggressive war. His activity in the economic sphere was under the supervision of Goering as Plenipotentiary General of the Four Year Plan. He did, however, participate in the economic preparation for certain of the aggressive wars, notably those against Poland and the Soviet Union, but his guilt can be adequately dealt with under Count Two of the Indictment.
In his capacity as Under Secretary in the Ministry of Propaganda and Vicechairman of the Reichs Chamber of Culture, Funk had participated in the early Nazi programme of economic discrimination against the Jews. On 12th November, 1938, after the pogroms of November, he attended a meeting held under the chairmanship of Goering to discuss the solution of the Jewish problem and proposed a decree providing for the banning of Jews from all business activities, which Goering issued the same day under the authority of the Four Year Plan.
Funk has testified that he was shocked at the outbreaks of 10th November, but on 15th November, he made a speech describing these outbreaks as a “violent explosion of the disgust of the German people, because of a criminal Jewish attack against the German people,” and saying that the elimination of the Jews from economic life followed logically their elimination from political life.
In 1942 Funk entered into an agreement with Himmler under which the Reichsbank was to receive certain gold and jewels and currency from the SS and instructed his subordinates, who were to work out the details, not to ask too many questions.
As a result of this agreement the SS sent to the Reichsbank the personal belongings taken from the victims who had been exterminated in the concentration camps. The Reichsbank kept the coins and bank notes and sent the jewels, watches and personal belongings to Berlin Municipal Pawn Shops. The gold from the eyeglasses, and gold teeth and fillings was stored in the Reichsbank vaults. Funk has protested that he did not know that the Reichsbank was receiving articles of this kind. The Tribunal is of the opinion that Funk either knew what was being received or was deliberately closing his eyes to what was being done.
As Minister of Economics and President of the Reichsbank, Funk participated in the economic exploitation of occupied territories. He was President of the Continental Oil Company which was charged with the exploitation of the oil resources of occupied territories in the East. He was responsible for the seizure of the gold reserves of the Czechoslovakian National Bank and for the liquidation of the Yugoslavian National Bank. On 6th June, 1942, Funk’s deputy sent a letter to the OKW requesting that funds from the French Occupation Cost Fund be made available for black market purchases. Funk’s knowledge of German occupation policies is shown by his presence at the meeting of 8th August, 1942, at which Goering addressed the various German occupation chiefs, told them of the products required from their territories, and added, ” It makes no difference to me in this connection if you say that your people will starve.”
In the fall of 1943, Funk was a member of the Central Planning Board which determined the total number of labourers needed for German industry, and required Sauckel to produce them, usually by deportation from occupied territories. Funk did not appear to be particularly interested in this aspect of the forced labour programme, and usually sent a deputy to attend the meetings, often SS General Ohlendorf, the former Chief of the SD inside of Germany and the former Commander of Einsatzgruppe D. But Funk was aware that the board of which he was a member was demanding the importation of slave labourers, and allocating them to the various industries under its control.
As President of the Reichsbank, Funk was also indirectly involved in the utilisation of concentration camp labour. Under his direction the Reichsbank set up a revolving fund of 12,000,000 Reichsmarks to the credit of the SS for the construction of factories to use concentration camp labourers.
In spite of the fact that he occupied important official positions, Funk was never a dominant figure in the various pro
grammes in which he participated. This is a mitigating fact, of which the Tribunal takes notice.
The Tribunal finds that Funk is not guilty on Count One but is guilty under Counts Two, Three and Four.
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