Friedrich Flick is accused of being responsible for the commission of the crime against humanity of enslavement as a superior civilian commander, punishable under Article 7 (1) (c) and 28 (b) of the Rome Statute.
Case background: World War II (1939 – 1945)
The Second World War (1939-1945) was planned by the German government as an extensive and rapid war. One of its aim was to take over as many territories in Europe as possible, and subdue the people living there under the rule of the “German Master Race”. A lot of resources were needed to conduct this war – in the form of natural resources (e.g. oil, equipment and foodstuff), but also the resource of manpower as work force. Since many German men had been recruited for the army and Germany was reluctant to make use of its female workforce, there was lacking a large amount of workforce, especially from 1941 onwards. Therefore the German government decided to use prisoners of war, concentration camp inmates and in general foreigner workers in the work force, whom they abducted, recruited and employed by force from the occupied territories both in the East and the West of Europe. Without this underpaid or often unpaid work force, Germany could probably not have continued the war after 1942, whilst maintaining the same high life standards for its citizens at the same time.
Friedrich Flick (born on 10 July 1883) was a daring and resourceful German industrialist. He initially built a fortune during World War I and became extremely wealthy during the Weimar Republic, establishing a major industrial conglomerate in the coal and steel industries. By 1933, when the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party – NSDAP) took power in Germany, his holding was the 3rd largest in the country.
During the time of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) he was a member of the conservative “Deutsche Volkspartei”. However, he supported numerous parties with electoral donations. Since Hitler’s party, the NSDAP, was rather small at that time and Flick did not find Hitler very likeable, they were not supported. This changed in 1932 when the NSDAP developed into a powerful party that was able to attract the masses. From then on he regularly donated to the National Socialists s well, and from 1933 onwards almost exclusively to them. In 1937 he became a party member of the NSDAP. In turn, he was awarded important positions in the German heavy industries.
From 1933 or 1935 on he was member of a group called “Himmlers Freundeskreis” (Himmler’s Circle of Friends), a group of about 40 persons that supported the Leader of the SS ideally but also financially with about one million Reichsmark annually.
From 1938 onwards he was called on the boards of several large companies in the coal, steel and iron industries. He was a member of the four person board of Berg- und Hüttenwerke Ost (mountaineering and smelting works – BHO), a public-private monopoly enterprise, that organized the systematic asset stripping of raw materials and their use for war production.
Flick’s industrial conglomerate focussed on the production of steel, armament, and military-related equipment. Since from 1939 the production of armament became more and more important and German workers were sent to the fronts, Flick desperately needed workers to conduct the expansion of his production. In order to fill this gap, the conglomerate used “forced labour” by employing the work of Prisoners of War and inmates of concentration camps.
The working conditions in Flick’s companies were extremely poor and their treatment extremely cruel. During the years Flick employed 120.000 forced workers of which an estimated 10.000 persons died.
It is unclear if Mr. Flick ever visited the companies himself, or had direct knowledge of the circumstances.