German Bureaucrats Tried To Find Murdered Jews To Pay Back Taxes

Low-Level Officials Were Shockingly Oblivious to Genocide

getty images

By Reuters

Published June 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Many low-level tax inspectors in Germany’s Nazi-era finance ministry were oblivious to the Holocaust and dutifully tried to contact murdered Jews whose wealth was being plundered by the ministry’s top officials, according to a new book.

Germans have publicly atoned for Nazi crimes in a myriad of ways over six decades, providing scores of billions of dollars in reparations to Holocaust victims, their descendants and the state of Israel. But only recently have leading government ministries come clean on their own particular Nazi past.

The finance ministry’s role in assisting the Nazis was long assumed as a fact but never examined in real detail until Berlin historian Christine Kuller’s book “Bureaucracy and Crime”, which it commissioned.

Her study shows how the Reichsfinanzministerium’s top brass played an active role in looting the wealth of German Jews who fled the 1933-45 Nazi regime or were sent to death camps.

“There are indications that leading ministry officials knew about the connection (to the Holocaust) and also took part at times in the planning,” Kuller told Deutschlandfunk radio before the book’s formal presentation on Monday at the ministry.

“But that wasn’t the case for the broad mass of ordinary tax inspectors. There are examples of where the tax inspectors tried to track down deported Jews with questions about the assets they were leaving behind. Surely the top officials must have known they were already murdered.”

The finance ministry, now based in the formidable complex of buildings originally built as Hermann Goering’s Luftwaffe headquarters in central Berlin, is the latest German cabinet department to critically examine its role during the Nazi era.

The foreign ministry was the first, almost a decade ago, to take a critical look at its Nazi past after long presenting itself as a bastion of resistance to Hitler even though many top officials identified with his regime and even after the war ostracised genuine opponents of Hitler’s regime.

Nazi-era tax authorities appropriated property, bank account savings, securities, furniture, and artwork from Jews. Kuller said the Third Reich took “considerable sums, amounts into the billions”, for state coffers.

She said Jews had estimated wealth of 16 billion Reichsmarks in 1933. About four billion was taken abroad by Jews who left Germany while the remaining 12 billion padded Hitler’s coffers.

The Reichsmark was replaced by the deutsche mark in West Germany’s 1948 currency reform. West Germans were allowed to exchange 10 Reichsmarks for one deutsche mark.

“The finance ministry was certainly not an apolitical, neutral administration especially if you look at the way it took part in the financial exploitation of Jews,” said Kuller, a historian at Berlin’s Free University who headed a commission investigating the Nazi past at the ministry’s request.

“Bureaucracy and Crime” lays bare how the finance ministry systematically plundered assets from Jews but also how they were discriminated against with tax policies as well after the Nazis took power in 1933.

“Jews faced systematic discrimination and were even hit with a special tax,” she said. “Their assets were also expropriated.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.