Sitting in the archives of CEGES/SOMA in Brussels, I opened up a folder piled high with official forms all neatly filled out by hand or typewriter in bureaucratic German. They were the files of the Devisenschutzkommando (DSK), literally translated as the Currency Protection Unit*. It sounds innocuous enough, like a band of accountants searching out money laundering schemes by studying account books. Indeed, they answered to the German customs authorities. But they were far from innocuous. They were hunting for loot and although some of their victims were “Aryans”, most were Jewish.

One random report states that in Brussels on 23 October 1942 the officer arrested a Jewish couple making an illegal journey from Holland to Switzerland. He confiscated the following:

258 Dutch guilders in notes

140 US dollars in notes

20 Swiss francs in notes

23 Swiss francs in silver

The DSK also arrested Jews who lived in Brussels while plundering their homes. Lists of confiscated valuables make up the bulk of the reports. And then, almost as an after thought, comes the sentence: the Jews in question were turned over to the SS or SD. Which meant deportation, which was as good as writing out a death warrant.

What’s so chilling about these documents is the orderly greed of it. The point was the theft of the money and other valuables. The murders were secondary, almost a way of closing the book on the account, making sure that the balance stayed on the Reich’s side.

*CEGES AA 558/110 a-c. For more on the nefarious activities of the DSK in Belgium, see the work of Insa Meinen (in French and German).