The twenty-second day of the trial, 31 January 1947.
[President:] Please ask witness Herbich in.
Witness Kazimierz Herbich, 57 years old, living in Łódź, economist, no relationship to the parties (testifying as an unsworn witness, has been advised of the liability [for giving false testimony]).
President: What do you know about the case?
Witness: In 1939 I was a board member of the Central Agricultural Cooperative. This institution was working for the development of agricultural cooperatives that were shipping all kinds of products for this sector. Since 1939 we were in charge of accumulating wartime stocks, we received state money for this.
When the German invasion came, apart from our basic reserves and from the grain for export stored in Gdynia and Gdańsk, we had about 92,000 tons of extra grain. Those 92,000 tons, in the last months of 1939, were allocated mostly to central Poland. It is possible that the food supply crisis in the General Government has never been as severe as it was during the first months after the German invasion, in October, November and December of 1939. Interestingly, at that time people had money, but due to the lack of means of communication, there was nothing to buy. There were no cars either, so transport was hindered.
Rearranging the borders of the General Government with regards to the borders of the Warthegau was a very severe issue. When it comes to the Warthegau, most of the specialized agricultural counties were located within its borders. Those counties had close links to Warsaw. Soon after the rearrangement, the occupier issued a regulation prohibiting the transfer of agricultural crops between distrikts [administrative units at the time of the General Government]. This meant that Warsaw had to settle for counties of Distrikt Warschau that were not exactly agriculturally active, apart from grójecki or sochaczewski. What is more, those counties, because of their closeness to Warsaw, had been destroyed, so they just couldn’t supply the capital city with the products it needed.
We, the Central Agricultural Cooperative, were at the time obligated to mobilize the reserves and help Warsaw.
We held a whole series of meetings, but the authorities responded negatively, explaining that those reserves, which stayed in the Warthegau, were spoils of war. The storage unit in the Distrikt Warschau was not available and not at our disposal. Therefore, we submitted an open letter to the Distrikt’s authorities in which we raised the following matters. Firstly, establishing the General Government’s borders in the way the occupier had, created a loss- making country. Secondly, we estimated that taking into consideration the population of the General Government, there would be 300-500 tons of grain deficit. We based this estimation on pre-war statistics. As for meeting the needs of the General Government, we put forward a number of claims. We received a reply that we were not responsible for planning, but only for carrying out the orders of the German authorities. They kept the letter and gave no public response to our demands.
I must point out that not only was Warsaw the most densely populated city, but also the Distrikt Warschau itself was the biggest of all distrikts as to population. It had around 600,000 inhabitants, while in other districts lived 150–200 [thousand] people. So they ordered about 200,000 tons of flour to be released from Warthegau to Warsaw. It was in November, December 1939. Once again, we had our national reserve there, it was ours, that’s all. It was Polish grain, taken by the Germans as the spoils of war.
President: Who gave the permission?
Witness: The Distrikt Warschau [authorities], in conjunction with Poznań.
President: As I recall, one of the defendants, I think it was Fischer, claims that he ordered that 200 tons of flour be brought from German supplies.
Witness: As a result of our intervention. In October, when the food crisis occurred, the late president Starzyński wanted to establish an institution which would manage food distribution using the rationing stamps system. He didn’t want to recreate the system from the previous war, when Warsaw had its own supply department. He wanted the society to participate and to create an independent commercial establishment which would manage the food supply. This was the purpose of creating the Warsaw Wholesale of Food Supply, with the city itself, “Społem”, the Agricultural and Commerce Centre, the Milk and Eggs Centre, or the Chamber of Commerce and Industry as the shareholders. Some of the shares had been reserved for private commerce. The purpose of this establishment was to centralize every purchase through those agricultural centers. We didn’t know then what kind of food supply system the occupier would introduce. We wanted this establishment to work effectively, to allow us to import enough alimentary products and to distribute them. The Germans’ attitude towards this entity was negative, so it could operate only within the small sector of purchasing. The Germans chose a system of quotas, which was the most convenient for them. They based all purchasing on Polish agricultural cooperatives, but the management of food supply was reserved for the Distrikt authorities.
In my testimony, I provided the High Tribunal with data about how much food Polish people received, relative to Jewish people, during the first period through the rationing stamp system, how it compared to overall pre-war consumption in Warsaw, what the caloric intake was, I think I don’t have to repeat all this.
President: I believe both Prosecutor and Attorney are familiar with the testimony, so if the parties don’t have any objections, the Tribunal shall consider the testimony disclosed. Hearing no opposition, the testimony is considered disclosed.
Witness: I’m not talking about how prices were changing, about payments in kind or quotas yet. I would stress that the order of receiving rations was determined by the energy we put into our work. Maybe it was supposed to be some kind of motivation. Polish people were fifth in line, Jews sixth. Only when the Wehrmacht, Reichsdeutsch and some workers in the heavy industries were given their rations, did it come time for Polish people. This caused many difficulties. Sometimes there were obstacles concerning shipments. Farmers couldn’t always deliver [quotas] on time, for various reasons including rain or mud. Nevertheless, after some time, the system started to work quite well, but, as I already pointed out, quotas and payments in kind were getting smaller and smaller.
I want to point out one more aspect: the Central Welfare Council. The CWC also had portions of soup for their dependents. During the last few years of the occupation, the situation wasn’t critical. The number of dependents was getting lower and lower, as many people were deported from the General Government or taken to various camps etc., and also part of the population managed to make a living in the new system by their own income. However, in the beginning, it was really hard to manage for so many people. I recall that at the beginning, in 1940, there were 200,000 people. The number of rations given by the Distrikt to the CWC was the minimum. So, to be safe, we created a fictitious shortage.
Attorney Chmurski: Did the means of supplying Warsaw and Distrikt Warschau change during the occupation, and how?
Witness: Yes, it did.
Witness: At first the rations were bigger. In the beginning, Polish people were getting 1,5 kg of bread per week. At the end, it was 70g per week, 96 per cent.
Attorney: When was that?
Witness: It is difficult for me to give an answer.
Attorney: Perhaps I might remind you. Did the outbreak of war in the East have any influence on food supply? To what extent?
Witness: The outbreak of war in the East made the life of Polish people in Distrikt Warschau easier. I guess it was in 1940-1941.
Attorney: June 1941?
Witness: There were many German soldiers in the villages. Free trade was forbidden. To make a long story short, smuggling was hindered because German soldiers were consuming those products in the field. When the German-Russian war broke out and German soldiers left the area, the situation of the food supply in Warsaw got better because the Germans stopped eating it up.
President: Meaning that it was possible to buy those products on the free market. Was this reflected in the rationing stamp system?
Witness: No, it wasn’t. Besides, the rationing stamp system can’t be considered as feeding the population, for we’d all be dead by now. Smuggling was crucial.
Attorney: Did the deportation to forced labor affect food supply?
Witness: It had to.
Attorney: And the uneven distribution of food affected it too? I have in mind the arms industry – those who worked there had more food than the average person. Did this affect the food supply in general?
Witness: If memory serves, not many people in Warsaw were receiving food supplies. One million and one hundred thousand were given rationing stamps. The number varied, but there were many people who were not registered.
Attorney: If I may, I’d like to recall the numbers given by defendant Fisher. According to him, there were 900,000 people living in Warsaw and 600,000 who, for various reasons, were receiving higher rations.
President: Defendant Fischer stated that there were 900,000 people living in Warsaw, among which there were 600,000 who were to a certain extent privileged. As they worked in the arms industry, they were receiving more food.
Witness: I don’t know about that.
Attorney: Let me ask another question. The defense believes this issue to be of great importance. What was the role of the illegal trade? The defendant claims that it was knowingly and deliberately tolerated by the district authorities.
Witness: I’ve never said that illegal trade was tolerated. As for grain, there was no free trade in the occupied territory. We couldn’t sell potatoes either.
President: And what about meat?
Witness: Neither meat nor dairy. It was all illegal.
Attorney: I’d like to clear up an obvious misunderstanding. I’m not saying that illegal trade was legalized, only tolerated. I mean that in theory the penalty for it was capital punishment, and in practice, illegal trade flourished.
Witness: I wouldn’t say that. I remember situations when people who were smuggling something were beaten. I guess we all know what one was risking when smuggling some dairy or lard to Warsaw. They were caught, transported to Auschwitz, and so forth. I remember when one military policeman, in the space of only three weeks, killed five smugglers - five women who were going to the market before five AM. However, the impulse was so strong that, despite the repressions, people were still trading.
President: Do you know about special divisions of Germans in uniforms carrying out food controls in trains?
Witness: Yes, I do.
President: In cities?
Attorney: We all remember those repressions, but they weren’t as bad as to prevent us from eating. There was an expert witness who stated that, thanks to the illegal trade, people could make it, that people might receive only 16 per cent of the alimentary products they needed, but in fact, they were getting up to 100 per cent of it. Stores were full. Tradeswomen were being harassed, but stores were full. Did this actual situation matter?
President: I heard what the witness said. Trade wasn’t tolerated, but the will to survive prevailed and despite all persecutions and prohibitions, the illegal trade indeed existed.
Prosecutor Siewierski: Is it possible that to some extent this illegal trade could exist because of corruption in the German administration? How did it work? Did it influence the very existence of the market and its supply?
Witness: There is no doubt that if the German authorities hadn’t been changing officers all the time, it would have been easier – the corruption was massive. One had to pay them off. When new military policemen came, it took a while before they shifted from shooting to taking bribes.
Prosecutor: Was the illegal trade benefiting from corruption? Were commodities transported in German administrative cars?
Defendant Fischer: I want to ask the witness a question. Are you aware that I issued a regulation which made minor trade in illegal foodstuffs legal? It meant that people could buy food in the countryside. Wasn’t a similar regulation issued by the authorities of the General Government?
Witness: Yes, there was a regulation, but not at the beginning of the occupation, only later. But it rather concerned people who had parcels [e.g. victory gardens], who tried to cultivate them and get some crops. Maybe the defendant can say when he issued this regulation?
Defendant: It was late summer of 1941, in Warsaw.
Witness: I couldn’t remember if it was in 1941 or in 1942. In the first two years of the occupation there were no concessions, and in the following years, there was much harassment.