Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Walter Funk was born into a merchant family in Danzkehmen, Kreis Stallupönen, East Prussia. He was the son of Wiesenbaumeister Walther Funk the elder and his wife Sophie (née Urbschat). He studied law, economics, and philosophy at the University of Berlin and the University of Leipzig. In World War I he joined the infantry but was discharged as unfit for service in 1916.
In 1919 Funk married Luise Schmidt-Sieben. Following the war he worked as a journalist, and in 1922 he became the editor of the center-right financial newspaper the Berliner Börsenzeitung. He joined the Nazi Party in 1931, and shortly thereafter became one of Hitler's personal economic advisers.
On 30 January 1933, he was made Press Chief in the Reich Government, and on 11 March 1933 became Under Secretary in the Ministry of Propaganda and shortly thereafter a leading figure in the various Nazi organizations which were used to control the press, films, music, and publishing houses. He took office as Minister of Economics and Plenipotentiary General for War Economy in early 1938, and as President of the Reichsbank in January 1939.
In 1939 one of Funk's subordinates sent a memorandum to the OKW on the use of prisoners of war to make up labor deficiencies which would arise in case of mobilization. On 30 May 1939, the Under Secretary of the Ministry of Economics attended a meeting at which detailed plans were made for the financing of the war.
Despite his highly visible role in the Nazi hierarchy, Funks activities were limited to the economic sphere under the supervision of Goering as Plenipotentiary 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 the Nuremberg Indictment's against him at his later trial.
"...Mr. Dodd: I think you have established that you had to use gold as foreign exchange in 1942 and 1943 and that is all I wanted to know. When did you start to do business with the SS, Mr. Funk?
Funk: Business with the SS? I have never done that.
Mr. Dodd: Yes, sir, business with the SS. Are you sure about that? I want you to take this very seriously. It is about the end of your examination, and it is very important to you. I ask you again, when did you start to do business with the SS?
Funk: I never started business with the SS. I can only repeat what I said in the preliminary interrogation. Pohl one day informed me that a deposit had been received from the SS. First I assumed that it was a regular deposit, that is, a deposit which remained locked and which was of no further concern to us, but then Pohl told me later that these deposits of the SS should be used by the Reichsbank.
I assumed they consisted of gold coins and foreign currency, but principally gold coins, which every German citizen had had to turn in as it was, and which were taken from inmates of concentration camps and turned over to the Reichsbank. Valuables which had been taken from the inmates of concentration camps did Not go to the Reichsbank but, as we have several times heard here, to the Reich Minister of Finance, that is...
Mr. Dodd: Just a minute. Were you in the habit of having gold teeth deposited in the Reichsbank? Funk: No. Mr Dodd: But you did have it from the SS, did you not?
Funk: I do not know..."
Investigation into the Acquisition by the Reichsbank of Gold and Valuables Looted by the SS From Jews and From Jewish and Non-Jewish Concentration Camp Inmates
Pohl told his interrogators that, sometime in the summer of 1942, Reichsbank President and Reich Minister of Economy Walter Funk informed him of an agreement between Reich Leader of the SS and Police Heinrich Himmler and Reich Finance Minister Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk whereby the Reichsbank was to receive shipments of confiscated jewelry and securities from the SS, which would use the cash proceeds from the conversion of these shipments to finance its industrial enterprises.
Funk instructed Pohl to make the necessary arrangements for these shipments with Oswald Pohl, head of the SS-WVHA (SS Economic Administrative Main Office). After meeting with Pohl, Pohl turned over responsibility for dealing with the shipments to Frommknecht, the Reichsbank director for cash and vault, and to Frommknecht’s subordinate, Albert Thoms, chief of the bank’s Precious Metals Department.
The deliveries were first deposited into an account designated "Melmer." The Reichsbank then sorted and inventoried the deliveries and disposed of them. Gold and silver bars and currency were bought by the Bank at full value from the SS and small items like gold rings were sent to the Prussian Mint for re-smelting. Jewelry and larger items were sent to the Municipal Pawnshop, which sold the better items abroad for foreign currency and sent most of the rest to the Degussa firm for re-smelting.
Degussa was allowed to keep a certain amount of gold for industrial purposes, but any gold exceeding the permitted amount was sold back to the Reichsbank and credit for the proceeds was deposited in the SS account. Thoms noticed that a few of the deliveries contained stamps or other designations indicating that they came from concentration camps or from the cities of Auschwitz and Lublin.
The Reichsbank was "charged with realizing these valuables" and would credit the equivalent amount in Reichsmarks to an account of the SS at the Reichshauptkasse (Reich Main Accounting Office) in the Reich Ministry of Finance. The correspondence relating to these shipments was kept in the "Reinhardt" file.
Will Burger, who was the administration chief at Auschwitz Concentration Camp from June 1942 until April 1943, testified at Nuremberg that while he was stationed at Auschwitz, an order came from the SS-WVHA to send all dental gold and such valuables as jewelry, rings, and watches to Melmer. Burger further recalled that in approximately late 1943, when he was working at the SS-WVHA in the department that administered concentration camps, an order was issued to all the concentration camps besides Auschwitz to send dental gold and valuables to Burger’s department, which delivered them to Melmer. Auschwitz, however, continued to ship them directly to Melmer because the number of valuables it collected was so large.
This receipt did not, however, assign any value to the jewelry in the shipments. Also found among the captured Reichsbank records was a November 24, 1944, cover letter from Thoms to the Prussian Mint forwarding items from the 46th Melmer delivery for smelting, including
The origin of the gold and other valuables in these shipments was clear from the "Reinhardt" designation of the file in which Melmer kept the correspondence relating to his deliveries to the Reichsbank. The name of this file referred to Operation Reinhardt, the SS program for exploiting Jewish property and labor and murdering millions of Jews in killing centers in Eastern Poland. The Allies learned the details of Operation Reinhardt shortly after the war, and documents linking Oswald Pohl with the Reinhardt program contributed to the decision of the U.S. Military Tribunal at Nuremberg to sentence him to death.
In February 1943 Odilo Globocnik, the SS and Police Leader in Lublin and head of Operation Reinhardt, sent an interim report concerning valuables from Operation Reinhardt that had been delivered to the SS-WVHA "for transmission to the Reich Bank or to the Reich Ministry of Economy." In addition to foreign currency notes, jewelry, watches, silver bullion, and textiles, the report lists 1,775.46 kilograms of gold bullion and coined gold currency valued at 843,802.75 Reichsmarks. Globocnik’s final report on the total value of the valuables and textiles forwarded to the Reichsbank, Reich Ministry of Finance, and Textile Works in the course of Operation Reinhardt listed 2,909.68 kilograms of gold bullion valued at 8,147,104 Reichsmarks and minted gold currency valued at 1,736,554.12 Reichsmarks.
Control Policies of the Reichsbank, 1924-1933. by Mildred B. Northrop
Conot, Robert E. Justice at Nuremberg. New York: Harper and Row, 1983.
Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah. Hitler's Willing Executioners. New York: Alfred E. Knopf, 1996.
Michman, Jozeph. "Artur Seyss-Inquart," in Israel Gutman, ed. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, New York: Macmillan, Vol. 4, 1990:1346ff.
US National Archives.
US Library of Congress
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2007