Verdict Hjalmar Schacht

Schacht is indicted on Counts One and Two of the Indictment (explanation). Schacht served as Commissioner of Currency and President of the Reichsbank from 1923 to 1930; was reappointed President of the bank on 17 March 1933; Minister of Economics in August 1934 and Plenipotentiary General for War Economy in May 1935. He resigned from these two positions in November 1937 and was appointed Minister without Portfolio. He was reappointed President of the Reichsbank for a one-year term on 16 March 1937 and for a four-year term on 9 March 1938 but was dismissed on 20 January 1939. He was dismissed as Minister without Portolio on 22 January 1943.

Crimes against Peace

Schacht was an active supporter o£ the Nazi Party before its accession to power on 30 January 1933 and supported the appointment of Hitler to the post of Chancellor. After that date he played an important role in the vigorous rearmament program which was adopted, using the facilities of the Reichsbank to the fullest extent in the German rearmament effort. The Reichsbank, in its traditional capacity as financial agent for the German Government, floated long-term Government loans, the proceeds of which were used for rearmament. He devised a system under which five-year notes, known as "mefo'' bills, guaranteed by the Reichsbank and backed, in effect, by nothing more than its position as a bank of issue, were used to obtain large sums for rearmament from the short-term money market. As Minister of Economics and as Plenipotentiary General for the War Economy, he was active in organizing the German economy for war. He made detailed plans for industrial mobilization and the co-ordination of the Army with industry in the event of war. He was particularly concerned with shortages of raw materials and started a scheme of stock-piling and a system of exchange control designed to prevent Germany's weak foreign exchange position from hindering the acquisitioin abroad of raw materials needed for rearmament. On 3 May 1935, he sent a memorandum to Hitler stating that "the accomplishment of the armament program with speed and in quantity is the problem of German politics, that everything else therefore should be subordinated to this purpose".
By April 1936, Schacht began to lose his influence as the central figure in the German rearmament when Göring was appointed co-ordinator for raw materials and foreign exchange. Göring advocated a greatly expanded program for the production of synthetic raw materials, which was opposed by Schacht on the ground that the resulting financial strain might involve inflation. The influence of Schacht suffered further when on 16 October 1936, Göring was appointed Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan with the task of putting ''the entire economy in a state of readiness for war within four years". Schacht had opposed the announcement of this plan and the appointment of Göring to head it, and it is clear that Hitler's action represented a decision that Schacht's economic policies were too conservative for the drastic rearmament policy which Hitler wanted to put into effect.
After Göring's appointment, Schacht and Göring promptly became embroiled in a series of disputes. Although there was an element of personal controversy running through these disputes, Schacht disagreed with Göring on certain basic policy issues. Schacht, on financial grounds, advocated a retrenchment in the re-armament program, opposed as uneconomical much of the proposed expansion of production facilities, particularly for synthetics, urged a drastic tightening on Government credit, and a cautious policy in dealing with Germany's foreign exchange reserves. As a result of this dispute and of a bitter argument in which Hitler accused Schacht of upsetting his plans by his financial methods, Schacht went on leave of absence from the Ministry of Economics on 5 September 1937, and resigned as Minister of Economics and as Plenipotentiary General for War Economy on 16 November 1937.

War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

As President of the Reichsbank, Schacht was still involved in disputes. Throughout 1938, the Reichsbank continued to function as the financial agent for the German Government in floating long-term loans to finance armaments. But on 31 March 1938, Schacht discontinued the practice of floating short-term notes guaranteed by the Reichsbank for armament expenditures. At the end of 1938, in an attempt to regain control of fiscal policy through the Reichsbank, Schacht refused an urgent request of the Reichsminister of Finance for a special credit to pay the salaries of civil servants which were not covered by existing funds. On 2 January 1939, Schacht held a conference with Hitler at which he urged him to reduce expenditures for armaments. On 7 January 1939, Schacht submitted to Hitler a report signed by the Directors of the Reichsbank which urged a drastic curtailment of armament expenditures and a balanced budget as the only method of preventing inflation. On 19 January, Hitler dismissed Schacht as President of the Reichsbank. On 22 January 1943, Hitler dismissed Schacht as Reichsminister without Portfolio because of his "whole attitude during the present fateful fight of the German nation". On 23 July 1944, Schacht was arrested by the Gestapo and confined in a concentration camp until the end of the war.
It is clear that Schacht was a central figure in Germany's rearmament program, and the steps which he took, particularly in the early days of the Nazi regime, were responsible for Nazi Germary's rapid rise as a military power. But rearmament of itself is not criminal under the Charter. To be a Crime against Peace under Article 6 of the Charter it must be shown that Schacht carried out this rearmament as part of the Nazi plans to wage aggressive wars.
Schacht has contended that he participated in the rearmament program only because he wanted to build up a strong and independent Germany which would carry out a foreign policy which would command respect on an equal basis with other European countries; that when he discovered that the Nazis were rearming for aggressive purposes he attempted to slow down the speed of rearmament; and that after the dismissal of Von Fritsch and Von Blomberg he participated in plans to get rid of Hitler, first by deposing him and later by assassination.
Schacht, as early as 1936, began to advocate a limitation of' the rearmament program for financial reasons. Had the policies advocated by him been put into effect, Germany would not have been prepared for a general European war. Insistence on his policies led to his eventual dismissal from all positions of economic significance in Germany. On the other hand, Schacht, with his intimate knowledge of German finance, was in a peculiarly good position to understand the true significance of Hitler's frantic rearmament and to realize that the economic policy adopted was consistent only with war as its object.
Moreover, Schacht continued to participate in German economic life and even, in a minor way, in some of the early Nazi aggressions. Prior to the occupation of Austria he set a rate of exchange between the Mark and the Schiling. After the occupation of Austria he arranged for the incorporation of the Austrian National Bank into the Reichsbank and made a violently pro-Nazi speech in which he stated that the Reichsbank would always be Nazi as long as he was connected with it, praised Hitler, defended the occupation of Austria, scoffed at objections to the way it was carried out and ended with: "to our Führer, a triple Sieg Heil". He has not contended that this speech did not represent his state of mind at the time. After the occupation of the Sudetenland, he arranged for currency conversion and for the incorporation into the Reichsbank of local Czech banks of issue. On 29 November 1938, he made a speech in which he pointed with pride to his economic policy which had created the high degree of German armament, and added that this armament had made Germany's foreign policy possible.
Schacht was not involved in the planning of any of the specific wars of aggression charged in Count Two. His participation in the occupation of Austria and the Sudetenland (neither of which is charged as aggressive war) was on such a limited basis that it does not amount to participation in the common plan charged in Count One. He was clearly not one of the inner circle around Hitler which was most closely involved with this common plan. He was regarded by this group with undisguised hostility. The testimony of Speer shows that Schacht's arrest on 23 July 1944 was based as much on Hitler's enmity towards Schacht growing out of his attitude before the war as it was on suspicion of his complicity in the bomb plot. The case against Schacht therefore depends on the inference that Schacht did in fact know of the Nazi aggressive plans
On this all-important question evidence has been given for the Prosecution, and a considerable volume of evidence for the Defense.
The Tribunal has considered the whole of this evidence with great care, and comes to the conclusion that this necessary inference has not been established beyond a reasonable doubt.


The Court finds the Defendant Schacht is not guilty on this Indictment and directs that he shall be discharged by the Marshall, when the Tribunal presently adjourns.

See also: Final statement Schacht

Explanation of the four Counts of the Indictment:

  1. Conspiracy to wage a war of aggression or crimes against peace
  2. waging of a war of aggression
  3. war crimes
  4. crimes against humanity


concentration camp
Closed camp where people are being held captive that are considered to be anti- social, enemies of the state, criminal or unwanted individuals. These groups mostly do not get a fair trial or are condemned to doing time in a camp.
crimes against humanity
Term that was introduced during the Nuremburg Trials. Crimes against humanity are inhuman treatment against civilian population and persecution on the basis of race or political or religious beliefs.
Four Year Plan
A German economic plan focussing at all sectors of the economy whereby established production goals had to be achieved in four years time.
German word for leader. During his reign of power Adolf Hitler was Führer of Nazi Germany.
“Geheime Staatspolizei”. Secret state police, the secret police in the Third Reich.
An economic process of sustained increase in general price levels and devaluation of money.(loss of purchasing power)
To make an army ready for war, actually the transition from a state of peace to a state of war. The Dutch army was mobilized on the 29 August 1939.
Abbreviation of a national socialist.
war crimes
Crimes committed in wartime. Often concerning crimes committed by soldiers against civilians.


From right to left: Hans Fritzsche, Hjalmar Schacht and Franz von Papen meet the press shortly after their acquittal by the Tribunal. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-V01715 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.


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Arnold Palthe
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International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg 1947