Industry without responsibility?

Photo album of the Flick trial, ca. 1950.

The industrialists Friedrich Flick and five of his staff were charged in the Flick trial (1947). After the trial, Friedrich Flick’s closest member of staff Odilo Burkart, who had been acquitted, put together an 80-page photo album.

Source: Berlin-Brandenburgisches Wirtschaftsarchiv

Excerpt from the Photo album of the Flick trial.

“Who counts the peoples, names the names that congregated full of hatred!” Press representatives during the trial. Burkart insinuated that the American principal prosecutor Telford Taylor merely wanted to take revenge on the Germans.

Source: Berlin-Brandenburgisches Wirtschaftsarchiv

Excerpt from the Photo album of the Flick trial.

“Here already existing international law was supposed to be interpreted and new international law born. Never has an attempt failed more miserably.” The Courthouse in Nuremberg, 1947.

Source: Berlin-Brandenburgisches Wirtschaftsarchiv

Excerpt from the Photo album of the Flick trial.

“The woman witness who bathed daily in tears in Rombach.” At the Rombach steelworks in Lorraine, thousands of forced laborers were deployed under the direction of Flick’s son Otto-Ernst.

Source: Berlin-Brandenburgisches Wirtschaftsarchiv

Excerpt from the Photo album of the Flick trial.

“I am not guilty.” Friedrich Flick after the reading of the indictment. The defense did not contest that tens of thousands of forced laborers had been deployed in the factories of the Flick concern. However it did not consider it to be an offense.

Source: Berlin-Brandenburgisches Wirtschaftsarchiv

Excerpt from the indictment of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (IMT).

The charges of “deportation for slave labor” and “enslavement” were listed among the key war crimes and crimes against humanity in the IMT indictment against the perpetrators.

Source: Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, Nürnberg 1947

London Debt Agreement, 27 February 1953.

In the London treaty, the Federal Republic of Germany was able to postpone negotiations on the majority of reparations claims until the signing of a final peace treaty, despite the existence of other reparations agreements. However, with Germany divided and the Cold War underway, a final peace treaty appeared a distant prospect at the time.

In August 1953, the Soviet Union relinquished all further claims for reparations and compensation against East Germany.

Source: Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes, Berlin

Reparations and treaties.

The German delegation during the signing of the London Agreement on German External Debts, 27 February 1953.

Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

More on the subject

Conflict over Remembrance (section of the exhibition)

Educational offers / Worksheets (in German)

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“Flick is no role model”

In April 2008, former students of the Friedrich-Flick-Gymnasium, who had started an initiative to rename their old school in Kreuztal, launched a website with a guestbook. By the time the school was renamed “Städtisches Gymnasium Kreuztal” on 6 November 2008, 1,428 entries had been made in the guestbook.

Industry without responsibility?

At the Nuremberg Trials, the Allies treated forced labor as a “crime against humanity,” the first time in history that this view was taken. In later trials, however, forced labor hardly played a role. The Allies sentenced ten of the twenty-four principal defendants in the Nuremberg Trial to severe punishment for their involvement in the organization of forced labor. Soon the majority of Germans, like the defendants themselves, came to view the verdicts – and not the crimes – as being unjust. The sentences were already milder in the follow‑uptrials, and before long almost no one was being punished in connection with the forced labor system. Before German courts, the exploitation of forced laborers was not treated as a statutory offense. Only concrete cases of physical abuse in this context were tried. Citing bilateral global agreements, the authorities categorically denied former forced laborers’ demands for compensation.

Beginning in 1946, the US prosecution held twelve additional war crimes trials. Four of the trials addressed the issue of the industry’s responsibility for forced labor. The industrialists Friedrich Flick and five of his staff were charged in the Flick trial. The defendants received only mild sentences. Flick manager Odilo Burkhart, who had been acquitted, made a photo album on behalf of the top management after the trial.

New generation – New outlook

In December 1968, the industrialist Friedrich Flick donated 3 million Marks for the construction of a secondary school in his hometown, which later bore his name. In the early 1980s, the students at the school began asking questions about his role under National Socialism. Their questions turned into a 20-year battle over whether the school should be renamed. In November 2008, the Friedrich Flick Secondary School was renamed the Kreuztal Municipal Secondary School.