The 'Inventaire des archives du Séquestre de la Brüsseler Treuhandgesellschaft et du Groupe 12 y compris les archives du 'Service Belgique' de l'Office de Politique coloniale du NSDAP 1899-1988 (principalement 1940-1963' was created in French by Filip Strubbe and Jérôme Franssen of the Belgian State Archives in 2014.
The inventory of the Belgian records is available as a PDF here. To access it on the Belgium State Archives website, go to https://search.arch.be/nl/zoeken-naar-archieven/zoekresultaat/ead/index/zoekterm/treuhandgesellschaft/eadid/BE-A0545_007101_006943_FRE where it has the title 'Archives du Séquestre de la Brüsseler Treuhandgesellschaft et du Groupe 12, y compris les archives du 'Service Belgique' de l'Office de Politique coloniale du NSDAP.'
The authors note that the Belgian records are the "second piece of a puzzle", the first part of which is conserved at the Archives nationales in Paris. The Belgian inventory of their records has been modeled to reflect the structure of the inventory of the French AJ40 records. These have the title 'La France et la Belgique sous l’occupation allemande 1940-1944' and their inventory can be found at http://www.archivesnationales.culture.gouv.fr/chan/chan/series/pdf/Aj40-inventaire.pdf (see pp. 94-157, AJ40 1-415).
In their introduction to the Belgian inventory, the authors explain:
"The Nazi regime took great interest in the 'Jewish and enemy' possessions in the occupied territories, including Belgium. The resulting policy of spoliation was intended to support the German economy. Shortly after the German invasion, only a small occupation force was left in Belgium, under the direction of a commander reporting to the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) in Berlin. The execution of the anti-Jewish measures by the military administration (Militärverwaltung), however, was a source of tension with the Berlin authorities. For the military administration, the 'de-Jewification' of the economy could not be achieved without the help of Belgian legal structures. Promulgating ordinances was not enough. Therefore, the German administration hired administrative commissioners (Verwalter) to liquidate the property considered as enemy and Jewish. Given the number of measures taken by the occupier (between 23 October 1940 and 21 September 1942, no less than 18 anti-Jewish ordinances were promulgated), the OKH approved this method.
It soon became clear that the financial issues of managing and liquidating a company considered to be Jewish were beyond the competence of the Verwalter. The military administration therefore decided to set up a central administration company for looted property. The Brüsseler Treuhandgesellschaft (BTG) was founded on 12 October 1940 with the primary aim of detecting 'enemy and Jewish' influences in the Belgian economy more effectively. Although the BTG, as a Belgian company, was subject to the provisions of Belgian law, its directors were almost exclusively senior officials of the Wirtschaftsabteilung of the military administration, especially of Group 12 (Gruppe XII, Feind- und Judenvermögen) under the Wirtschaftsabteilung, the department responsible for the management of enemy assets in Belgium. The BTG began by identifying 'enemy and Jewish' influences in the Belgian economy. Subsequently, it also administered numerous 'non-active property complexes' (enemy claims, bank accounts belonging to persons of Jewish origin, etc.), a task in which it was assisted by the Verwalter and by certain banks. These were subsidiaries of German financial institutions, or enemy institutions under control. These banks were responsible for managing the portfolios of 'Jewish and enemy' securities and cash.
"In view of the liberation of the territory, the Belgian government in exile took the necessary measures to put the enemy assets under control as well. The decree-law of 23 August 1944 placing all enemy property under sequestration was issued in order to obtain guarantees for the damage caused by the enemy to the national heritage. Among the sequestered assets were the possessions of the BTG, the management of which was entrusted in December 1944 to a special department called the BTG Sequestration Office. This service was entrusted with a gigantic 'non-enemy' patrimony, the result of the BTG's spoliation policy. From a legal point of view, the BTG Receivers Office immediately found itself on very difficult ground. However, the liquidation of the BTG's assets began at the end of 1944. The management of the BTG Receivers Office was entrusted to the trustee Alfred Pranger until April 1956. After his departure, the liquidation continued until the abolition of the Receiver's Office on 1 January 1960, when the Administration of Registration and Domains of the Ministry of Finance took over its responsibilities. The assets that could not be liquidated for the benefit of the beneficiaries were gradually transferred to the Belgian Treasury."
"Group 12 of the Wirtschaftsabteilung was entrusted by the German military administration with the control and management of private enemy assets in Belgium with two objectives: 1° the application in occupied Belgium of the anti-Jewish measures promulgated in Berlin and 2° the constitution of the greatest possible economic benefit for the German war effort. The gradual spoliation of enemy property, especially 'Jewish' property, took place in several phases: the identification of property; the liquidation of 'enemy and Jewish influences' active in trade, industry, the press, the cinema, the financial and transport sectors; the realisation of all possible material goods (means of production, stocks and real estate,...); the systematic plundering of movable property and heritage. Finally, the centralisation of these financial assets in a few banking institutions.
This spoliation process was framed by numerous orders regulating the management of the entire 'enemy and Jewish' assets:
▪ Ten ordinances, promulgated from 1940 to 1943, concerned so-called enemy assets. Nationals or persons domiciled in countries with which Germany was at war were considered enemies, namely: 1° the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland with its overseas possessions (its colonies, protectorates and mandates, the dominions of Canada, the Federation of Australian States, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa), 2° France (its colonies, protectorates and mandates), 3° the Kingdom of Norway 4° the Kingdom of the Netherlands with the Netherlands Indies, Surinam and Curaçao, 5° the Kingdom of Belgium with the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi, 6° the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, 7° Egypt, 8° Sudan, 9° Iraq and, from 1941 onwards, 10° the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America. 2 Towards the end of 1942, these provisions were also extended to 'persons who had fled to an enemy country or who favoured the enemy outside the territory of the Military Commander'.
▪ Four orders, issued from 1940 to 1942, specifically targeted Jewish assets. The military administration made a distinction between the declaration of 'enemy' and 'Jewish' property. Jews of enemy nationality were covered by the orders on nationals/inhabitants of enemy states, while the antisemitic orders applied to French Jews as well as to Jews from Romania, Croatia, Italy, Hungary and Spain, as the legislation of these countries was adapted to German racial laws. Jews from neutral countries such as Switzerland, Sweden and some South American countries were exempted from these provisions on condition that they left Belgian territory before 1943. Finally, Turkish Jews were not affected by any antisemitic measures.
▪ Three ordinances (issued in 1942 and 1943) regulated the seizure and confiscation of 'Jewish assets' in favour of the German Reich. These measures concerned only Jews originating from the Greater Reich: German territory in 1938.
▪ Eight other ordinances (1940-1943) were issued with the aim of controlling foreign assets of various origins (sonstiges Fremdvermogen) that still escaped the above-mentioned provisions, such as the ordinance banning Freemasonry or the ordinance concerning the repression of Bolshevik activities. The identification of 'enemy' and 'Jewish' assets was the cornerstone of the spoliation policy. Thus, the ordinance of 2 July 1940 implementing the ordinance of 23 May 1940 concerning enemy property introduced the obligation to declare a whole range of properties that might belong to enemy/Jewish persons residing in Belgium and Luxembourg. This concerned: 1° real estate, real estate rights and movable property; 2° securities, shares, profit-sharing shares and bonds; 3°cash values, 4° holdings in companies; 5° claims on debtors; 6° rights and claims registered in a public book; 7° exclusive privileges to exercise a profession; 8° professional protection rights and copyrights; 9° other property of third parties serving for the exploitation or exercise of a profession within the occupied territories.
Two registration offices within Group 12 were responsible for carrying out these registration operations: first the Office for the Declaration of Enemy Property, then the Office for the Declaration of Jewish Property, from 28 October 1940. The German military administration constantly tried to divert the Belgian economy to the German war effort through the collaboration of Belgian services in the private and public sectors. In this context, it tried to keep up appearances by giving the illusion of respecting Belgian and international law. However, its policy of spoliation met with obstacles on the Belgian side. In particular, the military administration found it difficult to 'disenfranchise' the economy. Indeed, the Secretaries General refused to issue anti-Jewish decrees in the name of respect for the Constitution. Moreover, faced with the reluctance of the Belgian courts, the military command was obliged to mobilise new means. The policy of spoliation, in particular the liquidation of 'Jewish influences', thus required the intervention of administrator-commissioners (Kommissarische Verwalter) responsible for the management and liquidation of enemy and Jewish property or enterprises.
The Verwalter were initially German subjects, but the occupying administration also called on Belgians to manage certain organisations such as trade unions and health insurance funds. The administrator-commissioners were a response to the German administration's wish to have competent and trustworthy people at its disposal. In total, Group 12, whose main task was to control the effectiveness and application of racial measures, appointed around 1,700 Verwaltungen, which were carried out by around 150 administrator-commissioners. The Verwalter were officially appointed and dismissed by the Command-in-Chief of the Army in Belgium. In practice, they were appointed by Group 12, except for the administrators of the important (non-enemy and non-Jewish) armaments factories and the administrators in the banking and insurance sector, who were respectively appointed by the Rüstungsinspektion (Armaments Inspectorate) and Group 8 (Financial Institutions and Insurance Companies).
The trustees were authorised to carry out all judicial and extra-judicial transactions or legal acts required for the operation of a business. The administrators had the right to acquire, sell or take over the real estate of a company as part of its overall management, but its land holdings were excluded from the liquidation itself. In the case of 'Jewish' companies, an independent deed was required to specify the sale of the property or its taking over by a German administrator. In the case of a transfer or sale of the business, the real estate part of the business was accounted for along with the inventory, receivables and bank assets. When the winding-up notice was issued, the company and its real estate were managed differently: the inventories were realised by the administrator, while the real estate passed into the hands of other Verwalter, namely E.R. Müller or Hütteman. The liquidation of the business involved the cessation of all activities, the deletion from the Commercial Register, the disposal of stocks, movable and immovable property. The control of the actual liquidation of a business fell to the Feld- and Oberfeldkommandaturen, the local branches of the German military administration. When appointed, the Verwalter had to report to these offices in order to facilitate future controls.
The Brüsseler Treuhandgesellschaft (BTG)
The creation of a service to detect 'enemy and Jewish' influences in the Belgian economy was an unusual task for the Military Command. To deal with this, the Militärbefehlshaber für Belgien und Nordfrankreich set up a trust company on 12 October 1940, in accordance with Article 17 of the Order of 2 July 1940: the Brüsseler Treuhandgesellschaft (BTG), established in the same building as Group 12 of the Economic Section.12 Gradually, the BTG was to perform four main tasks.
1. Initially, the BTG was charged with detecting 'enemy and Jewish' influences in the Belgian economy. In case of doubt, Group 12 commissioned a fiduciary office to verify the accounting situation of the company. This preliminary verification, carried out by the Verbindungsstelle des handels, had to determine the interest of the company. After a possible positive opinion, a more complete accounting study was carried out. Group 12 required the BTG to collect a number of pieces of information necessary for the takeover of the company, including the legal form, enemy and Jewish influence, cross-shareholdings, the management of the company and its development, stock levels, financial situation and turnover. By the end of 1942, the BTG had already examined the cases of almost 400 companies. In the case of forced Aryanisation of a company, potential buyers had to apply to the BTG or the Verwalter in charge. The application was then submitted to the Sicherheitsdienst and the Militärbefehlshaber for approval. Since the BTG was a Belgian company under Belgian law, it was entitled to manage property, but not to dispose of it The same applied to the Verwaltung des Jüdischen Grundbesitzes, a German management body under the control of the BTG, which was responsible for the management of Jewish real estate in Belgium (except Antwerp).
2. After the great wave of liquidation in the spring of 1942, the Militärbefehlshaber evaluated the management of the Verwalter. In July 1942, the BTG took over the management of some companies directly through the Sammelverwaltung, a kind of office of experts consisting of twelve BTG employees. From then on, the BTG could itself manage 'Jewish and enemy' assets and ensure their eventual liquidation. If necessary, it could request the services of a Verwalter, who was then employed by the BTG under Belgian social law. When the management of a Verwalter was evaluated negatively, he was replaced, in accordance with his contractual situation. At the end of the occupation period, in August 1944, the BTG managed 637 Jewish enterprises not yet fully Aryanised.
3. The BTG not only contributed to the liquidation of the economic fabric of the Jewish population, but also played an important role in the centralisation and management of the financial assets resulting from this spoliation policy. From May 1941, people of Jewish origin were obliged to register with their financial institution(s). From 16 July 1941, their securities portfolios were blocked. In September 1942, the accounts opened in their name suffered the same fate. In addition, to remedy the dispersion of Jewish assets in different banks, Group 12 opted to centralise them in a single organisation: the Société française de Banques et de Dépôts, a subsidiary of the Société générale de France (SFBD). At the same time, from 24 October 1942, the BTG was commissioned as the collective administrator of these assets. The centralisation process was gradually put in place: towards the end of January 1943, the cash of private individuals was transferred to the SFBD, and the securities followed the same path in the autumn of 1943. On 10 March 1943, the BTG was also entrusted with the management of the contents of safes rented to Jews from Belgian banks. The safes in question were registered and then opened or broken into in the presence of the owner or a bailiff. Securities and cash seized in this way were deposited at the SFBD; gold and currency at the Bank of Issue.
4. The disposal of accounts or the liquidation of companies also yielded additional profits for the Militärverwaltung in the form of taxes, fees or management charges. The BTG had instructed several banks to open a global account in its name, which was provided with headings and sub-accounts in the name of the entitled parties. Anxious to respect Belgian law, the BTG did not declare itself the owner, but the manager of the blocked assets. Thus, the placing of a company under provisional administration was accompanied by the deduction of costs, the amount of which was fixed by Group 12: administration costs, costs for the installation of the Verwalter, costs of the accounting expertise and finally liquidation costs fixed at 5% of the proceeds of the liquidations. The management of blocked accounts (for companies or individuals) also entailed a fee of 0.5% per year on the highest financial position of the account. All these administration fees were charged to three accounts opened by the BTG in its own name in three different banks. The BTG managed the amounts as an intermediary between the German military administration and the companies or persons whose assets had been placed under compulsory administration. It therefore collected sums determined by the Militärbefehlshaber and then used them for the purpose indicated by the Militärbefehlshaber.20 Towards the end of the occupation, the SFBD centralised about 3 million Reichsmark from Jewish individuals and 12 million Reichsmark from the proceeds of administrative measures.
The BTG was also sometimes involved in special operations. As an agency for the management of 'enemy and Jewish property', for example, it took over the management of confiscated cultural property. These activities were partly linked to the Möbelaktion in Belgium, an action resulting from Hitler's decision in January 1942 to confiscate furniture from homes abandoned by Jews in order to decorate the homes of those affected by the Allied bombings in Germany. The Dienststelle Westen of the Reichministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete (RMfdbO) was ordered to carry out this operation in Belgium, France and the Netherlands under the auspices of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR). The ERR handed over the furniture to the RMfdbO, but retained control of the art objects classified as 'cultural heritage': art objects, books, writings or archives of museum value.
The BTG, on the other hand, took care of art objects that had material and artistic value but did not belong to the cultural heritage. For this purpose, the BTG had large depots in Antwerp and Brussels and experts who could appraise the collections in the sealed houses. The RMfdbO called in an art expert appointed by the BTG to sort and select the furniture and objects found during the Möbelaktion. The confiscated objects were subject to an inventory drawn up by the RMfdbO, in which the distribution of the objects between the RMfdbO, the ERR and the BTG was mentioned. The BTG was also responsible for honouring any third-party claims on the ship to be transported by the RMfdbO (such as unpaid rent, etc.). After verification, the amounts claimed by the complainants were paid into their accounts by the BTG.
Kolonialpolitisches Amt der NSDAP (Dienststelle Brüssel)
The Kolonialpolitisches Amt (KPA) or 'Colonial Policy Office' of the NSDAP was established on 5 May 1934 and headed by Franz Xaver Ritter von Epp, who was also the head of the Wehrpolitisches Amt. The KPA operated within the Auswärtiges Amt, the German Foreign Office, and had as its aim to prepare for the takeover of former German colonies. In addition, the organisation was responsible for winning over colonial circles to its cause. At the beginning of the Second World War, the KPA was reorganised and expanded, so that regional branches were established in France (Paris) and Belgium (Brussels). The main task of the Brussels office was to collect documents and archives from the Colonial Office and to examine them in order to extract relevant information.
The Office des Séquestres BTG
In view of the liberation of the territory, the Belgian government in London took steps to seal off enemy property. Its aim was to create a guarantee fund to cover the damage caused to the national heritage by the Germans. The decree-law of 23 August 1944 concerned the property, rights and interests of enemy states, organisations and nationals. All these assets were automatically and automatically placed under sequestration, although the enemy nations (Germany and Japan) were not defined until one year later, by the decree-law of 1 August 1945. To carry out this operation, the Office des Séquestres was created on 4 September 1944 (decree-law of 23 August). It began its activities on 31 October 1944, when agents responsible for the day-to-day management of sequestered property were appointed by the General Directorate of the Office des Séquestres. The Office had the legal competence to keep and manage all sequestered assets, but could not dispose of them, as liquidation of these assets was only possible in exceptional circumstances. The systematic liquidation of German property, rights and interests only became possible seven years later (law of 14 July 1951).
Among the enemy assets placed under sequestration were also the assets of the Brüsseler Treuhandgeselschaft, the management of which was entrusted to a separate BTG Sequestration Office in December 1944. This service had the particularity of being in charge of the sequestration of an enemy company that had managed the property of victims of the Nazi regime. In addition, the Office des Séquestres BTG was able to systematically liquidate the accounts managed by the BTG and the assets built up by this company as early as December 1944, whereas the Office des Séquestres only acquired the power to liquidate enemy assets by virtue of the law of 14 July 1951.
Towards the end of 1944, the BTG's financial assets amounted to 554 million Belgian francs, distributed among nine banks: Crédit Lyonnais, SFBD, Banque de Commerce, Lloyds & National, Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas, Westminster Foreign Bank, Hansa Bank, Continentale Bank and Westbank. The sums from the spoliation of persons of Jewish origin, centralised at the SFBD, amounted to 328.5 million and also included collective accounts, accounts that were identified only by initials and securities accounts. In addition, the SFBD had sealed envelopes in the name of the BTG or private individuals and rented vaults from Crédit Lyonnais and the SFBD, the contents of which had yet to be inventoried. The Office des Séquestres decided to release the accounts but each restitution had to be made on an individual basis. The rightful claimants had to provide proof of their property rights, of the non-suspicious origin of their goods, and of their 'non-enemy' status by means of a police certificate (for Belgians) or a certificate from the Aliens Police (for foreigners). This last requirement caused problems for some Jewish account holders, especially German and Austrian Jews. The repeal by the Allied authorities in Germany of the racial laws enacted by the Nazi regime meant that many Jews had to regain their German or Austrian nationality. However, Germans and Austrians were considered 'enemies' by the decrees of 23 August 1944 and 1 August 1945. However, the Sequestration Office did not ignore the fact that Germans and Austrians had been pursued by the Nazi regime and, while waiting for an adapted legislation (which was to come into being with the decree-law of 13 January 1947), imposed two conditions for the non-sequestration of the property of German or Austrian Jews: 1° the person placed under sequestration had to prove that he or she had left Germany before 10 May 1940; 2° his or her behaviour with regard to the Belgian State had to be irreproachable. Any individual restitution was also limited to 'simple cases', i.e. accounts subject to what were considered normal transactions during the war, and had to be made subject to the decree laws on monetary reorganisation."
To read the full introduction and explanation, please go to the Inventory here.