Walther Funk was born on 18 August 1890 in Königsberg. He studied law, economics, philosophy, the arts and music at Berlin University then later at the University of Leipzig. He enrolled in the infantry in 1914 but was discharged in 1916 for health reasons. He then began work as a journalist before being appointed, in 1922, Chief Editor of the Berliner Börsenzeitung, a newspaper specialised in finance and economics.
On resigning from this position in 1931, Funk joined the NSDAP, the Nazi Party, and was elected to the Reichstag (the German Parliament) the following year. After the Nazis came to power, he became Secretary of State within the Propaganda Ministry. On 27 November 1937, he became Economics Minister. From the month of January 1939, he became also President of the Reichsbank.
Funk was accused of using his various functions and his personal influence in order to promote the access to power of the Nazi conspirators according to count 1 of the indictment. Funk was accused of participating in economic preparations aimed at wars of aggression according to count 2. He was also accused of having authorised, directed and having taken part in acts constituting war crimes according to count 3 and in crimes against humanity under count 4.
Walther Funk pleaded not guilty to the 4 counts of indictment with which he was charged: count 1 (concerted plan or conspiracy), count 2 (crimes against peace), count 3 (war crimes) and count 4 (crimes against humanity).
On 1 October 1946, Funk was found guilty of crimes against peace (count 2), since in his position as Economics Minister, it was he who issued the necessary directives to prepare for war. Funk was also found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. By way of example, the gold taken from the Jews in the death camps was handed over directly to the Reichsbank which was governed by Funk.
On the other hand, Walther Funk was found not guilty of count 1.
Following this verdict, the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal sentenced Walther Funk to life imprisonment.
His appeal to the Control Council was rejected on 10 October 1946.
Walther Funk was nevertheless released on 16 May 1957 for health reasons. He died on 31 May 1960 in Düsseldorf.
After the Second World War numerous trials against war criminals and those responsible for Nazi crimes took place in Germany and other countries. It is not possible here to give an overview of all the trials. Below are the main facts concerning the major trials of war criminals at Nuremberg.
BASIS UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on 7-8 May 1945. The Allies (USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France) took over all governmental functions in Germany, instituted the Allied Control Council and divided Germany into four zones of occupation.
After the adoption of the London Charter of 8 August 1945, the Allies set up the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in order to judge the major German war criminals. Annex III of the Agreement contains the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (IMT Statute ).
NUREMBERG TRIAL OF MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS
According to Articles 1-3 of the London Charter, war criminals with offenses having no particular geographical location were to be judged by the IMT. However in accordance with Articles 4 and 6 of the Convention, the principle of territoriality was to apply to the other German war criminals, with the courts of those states where crimes had been committed having the competence to try these criminals on the basis on their national laws.
Crimes within the jurisdiction of IMT:
– Crimes against peace;
– War crimes and
– Crimes against humanity (Article 6 of IMT Statute).
The IMT was composed of four judges and four substitutes who were appointed by the four Allied powers (Article 2 IMT Statute). In application of Article 13 of the IMT Statute, the Tribunal drew up its own Rules of Procedure
The IMT indicted 24 people in total. The trials took place from 14 November 1945 until 1 October 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In one case, the procedure was suspended for health reasons and in another the defendant committed suicide before his trial.