Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team


Holocaust Economics




Walter Funk


Hand signed post card of Walter Funk

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.

Walter 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 14 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.


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.

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 ruble 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.

In January 1939 Funk gained another credit to his name when he assumed the post of President of the Reichsbank, again replacing Schacht. He was made a member of the Ministerial Council for the Defense of the Reich in August 1939, and a member of the Central Planning Board in September 1943.


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.

Nuremberg Trial

After the war Funk was tried with other Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg Trials. Accused of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression; war-crimes and crimes against humanity, he argued that, despite his titles, he had very little power in the regime.

One tense moment in the trial occurred when documentary evidence was presented by the prosecutor's staff that the Reichsbank received and held a large deposit from the SS. The deposit consisted of bags of jewelry and other valuables, including dental gold, taken from Jewish victims in eastern Europe. Funk consistently denied knowledge of  the contents of those bags and the prosecutors could never show conclusively that he did have such knowledge. Now could they demonstrate conclusively that he was instrumental in planning military operations, or that he was directly involved in "crimes against humanity."

On day 122 of deliberations, Funk is cross-examined by the prosecution:


 "...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.


Funk while imprisoned

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

Over the next two years, through examination of Reichsbank records and interrogations of the German officials involved, the U.S. military government in Germany pieced together the story of the "Melmer" account. The most important sources of information were Thoms, Reichsbank Vice President Emil Pohl, and SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Bruno Melmer, all of whom were interrogated by or at the request of the U.S. Army’s Finance Division.

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.

Oswald Pohl confirmed that he met with Funk in the summer of 1942. Pohl stated that he and Funk worked in strictest secrecy to arrange for gold, jewelry, and foreign currency to be deposited in the Reichsbank, while gold teeth and crowns taken from concentration camp inmates would be melted down and the gold then transferred to the Reichsbank. After these arrangements had been agreed upon, all subsequent shipments from the East and from concentration camps were forwarded to the Reichsbank.

As head of the Precious Metals Department, Albert Thoms was able to provide many details about the SS shipments to officials of the Finance Division, which employed him to examine the captured Reichsbank records for traces of the looted central bank gold. Thoms recalled that, in the summer of 1942, Frommknecht sent him to Pohl, who informed him that the SS was about to begin delivering shipments to the Reichsbank that would contain not only gold, silver, and foreign currency, which was in the Reichsbank’s area of competence, but also jewelry and other types of property whose disposal would be the Reichsbank’s responsibility. Pohl told Thoms that in the interest of secrecy, the Reichsbank must dispose of these items itself.

Shortly after this meeting, Pohl’s deputy, SS-Brigadeführer (Brigadier General) August Frank informed Thoms that an SS officer named Melmer would deliver the first shipment in a truck. This shipment arrived on August 26, 1942, and other deliveries quickly followed. The tenth delivery, in November 1942, was the first to include dental gold, and subsequent deliveries contained large amounts of this material.

Oswald Pohl gives testimony

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.

SS-Hauptsturmführer Bruno Melmer confirmed Thoms’ statements. As head of the Finance Office in the Troop Administration Department (Amtsgruppe A/II) of the SS-WVHA, Melmer was instructed by Pohl to receive valuables confiscated as Jewish property that were shipped from Auschwitz concentration camp and the camps and killing centers in the Lublin District and to transfer them to the Reichsbank Berlin.


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.

Melmer recalled receiving these instructions in approximately May 1942, and soon thereafter, the first shipment arrived at his offices. After the first delivery, subsequent shipments were sent in sealed containers, which the Reichsbank’s Precious Metals Department opened, inventoried, and distributed to the appropriate Reichsbank departments or to the Prussian Mint or the Municipal Pawnshop. Eventually, the Reichsbank returned a statement to Melmer that gave the value of each shipment and reported that the equivalent value in Reichsmarks had been paid to the Reichshauptkasse.


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.

Reichsbank records captured at Merkers and maintained and studied by the Finance Division provided additional support for the claims of Thoms and Melmer. For example, among the records was the receipt for the first three Melmer deliveries on August 26, September 4, and September 7, 1942. In addition to jewelry, silver, and foreign currency, the shipments included gold bars and gold coins. The total value assigned to the gold, silver, and currency in all three Melmer deliveries was 1,184,375.59 Reichsmarks, which the Reichsbank paid to the Reichshauptkasse on October 27, 1942.


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
more than 30 kilograms of gold teeth.

By 1946, therefore, the U.S. Military Government knew from available records and from interrogations that, beginning in August 1942, the Reichsbank received and converted gold and other valuables that the SS had looted from Jews it enslaved and murdered in Poland and from Jewish and non-Jewish concentration camp inmates. In fact, Pohl’s role in arranging for "the receipt, classification, deposit, conversion, and disposal of properties taken by the SS from victims exterminated in concentration camps" formed the basis for his indictment in 1946 before the U.S. Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, which subsequently sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment.


Goering Doenitz & Funk having lunch during the Nuremberg Trials

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.

Some of the Operation Reinhardt documents also revealed how gold and other valuables robbed from murdered Jews passed from the Lublin camps and Auschwitz via the SS Economic Administrative Main Office to the Reichsbank. On August 12, 1942, Himmler ordered all the Higher SS and Police Leaders in the Eastern Territories to send all precious metals and other valuables confiscated from Jews to the SS-WVHA, which would distribute them to the appropriate Reich agencies.


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.

Walter Funk was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released from Spandau Prison in 1957 and died in 1960.




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



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