The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/05/21

                                                  [Page 113]

THE WITNESS: I should like to be allowed to comment on this
matter. This is the charge which seems the most serious to
me, too.

DR. STEINBAUER: Perhaps we can have a brief recess now, if
your Honour agrees.


(A recess was taken.)


Q. In the Government Report it is asserted that at that time
50,000 Dutch people died of starvation, and, therefore, I
should like to ask you what reason you had for establishing
this traffic embargo at that time?

A. I believe I have already explained that in the main. The
traffic situation was such that the Wehrmacht had to make
sure of its shipping space. As long as it did that there was
no ship traffic as such possible. I wanted to limit this to
as short a period of time as possible, so that afterwards
ship traffic could again be assured and Holland regularly
supplied with food. Ship traffic was not interrupted
primarily by my embargo, but rather - the witnesses confirm
this - by the fact that all ships that could be found were
confiscated. Naturally, I asked myself whether the Dutch
food supply would be endangered, but I told myself that the
Dutch people themselves were responsible for this state of
emergency, and that the military interests of the Reich
were, anyhow, equally important. I thought, if in the second
half of October I could establish an orderly ship traffic,
then, according to my experience, I would have two months'
time in which to take care of the food supply for the Dutch
people. I could then bring over 200,000 to 250,000 tons of
food, and that would be sufficient to maintain rations of
1,400 to 1,800 calories. I believe I can recollect that
between 15th and 20th October, I gave the order to establish
ship traffic again.

Q. And what actually happened then?

A. Ship traffic was not established because the Dutch
transport authorities, for the most part, had disappeared,
perhaps because they were afraid that they would be made
responsible for the general railway strike. For weeks on end
our efforts were fruitless and finally I talked with
Secretary General Hirschfeld and gave him complete
authority, particularly -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Steinbauer, the Tribunal does not think
that this matter can be gone into in extreme detail like

Q. Witness, perhaps you can be very brief about this and
tell us what you did to alleviate conditions.

A. I have about finished. I gave Secretary General
Hirschfeld full authority over transport, which he then,
although very hesitantly, re-established. He will confirm
that I supported him in every possible way. Food supplies
were brought into Holland, but many weeks had passed with
nothing done. Within my sector, I then provided additional
aid, about which witness van der Vense and, I believe,
witness Schwebel give you information in their

Q. Now, I should like to submit as the next document an
affidavit deposed by the witness van der Vense. It has only
just arrived but the translations are already finished and
will probably be given to the Tribunal this afternoon or
tomorrow morning. I shall now submit the original. I do not
believe it necessary to read this document, which has been
translated into four languages. It describes exclusively the
food situation in this critical period of time.

THE WITNESS: May I also call your attention to the fact that
the Dutch Government -

THE PRESIDENT: What is the number of it?


THE WITNESS: ... that the Dutch Government changed the
figure of 50,000 deaths to the right one of 25,000.



Q. Now I shall turn to the last period of your activity as
Reich Commissioner. I should like to ask you, when did you
realise that the military resistance in the Netherlands was
in vain?

A. That we had to reckon with the possibility that Germany
might not win the war is shown in my letter to the Fuehrer
in 1939. The fear that this might happen arose at the time
of Stalingrad. Therefore we had to consider that
possibility, and in time I feared this and definitely and
reliably knew it through a statement which Reich Minister
Speer made to me on 1st April, 1945 -

Q. 1945?

A. April 1945. Up until that time I did not want to believe
it, but faced with the prospect of an unconditional
surrender and complete occupation, I naturally believed that
in every respect I should have to defend myself to the
utmost because the consequences were unpredictable. Speer at
that time told me that the war, for Germany, would end in a
relatively short period of time because armament production
simply could not be increased. He said two to three months.

Q. When you realised this fact, what did you do?

A. I decided to end the defensive occupation of Holland
without violating my duties to the Reich and to the Fuehrer
I went to the Hague and discussed the method to be employed
with the Secretary General Hirschfeld. We agreed to get in
touch at once with the confidential agents of the government
in the Hague - which was illegal for me - and to ask them to
start negotiations on the basis that the Allied troops
should not advance against Holland, in which case any
further destruction would not occur and the Allies could
take over the feeding of the Dutch population through direct
contact with the Dutch authorities for food supply. Then we
would wait for the end of the war.

Q. Was this not an arbitrary act on your part as far as the
German Government was concerned?

THE PRESIDENT: What was the date of this?

Q. What was the date of this?

A. This conversation with Secretary General Hirschfeld took
place on 2nd April, 1945. Then the negotiations dragged on,
and on 30th April I had the conversation with Lt.-General
Bedell-Smith. I purposely did not ask for authorisation from
Berlin lest I should be prohibited from carrying out my
intention. I did this on my own. General Blaskowitz, the
Commander-in-Chief of the Netherlands, was very
apprehensive. He called me during the night, because his
superiors had asked him just what the matter was.
Nevertheless, I was determined to carry through this matter,
for it seemed the only reasonable step I could take in this
situation. I stated that I would assume all responsibility
On 30th April the conference took place and the result that
I had desired materialised, in effect, the giving up of the
military defence of Holland.

Q. Then what did you, personally, do?

A. Admiral Donitz, as head of State, called me to Flensburg.
I went by speed-boat across the North Sea and reported to
him, and the Grand Admiral will confirm this as my witness;
I succeeded in having the demolition. decree rescinded and
tried my very best to return to the Netherlands. Finally I
started back and was arrested in Hamburg.

Q. Just why did you want to return to the Netherlands?

A. First of all, I wanted to take care of my co-workers; in
the second place, I always was of the opinion that I should
answer for my administration there; and, finally, I was of
the opinion that since we had been in the front row in the
hours of triumph we could lay claim to being in the front
row in the hours of disaster as well.

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, I have concluded my
examination-in-chief of the witness.

                                                  [Page 115]

BY DR. KARL HANSEL (Counsel for the SS):

Q. Did you belong to the SS?

A. I had an honorary position in the General SS. As such I
was not a regular member of the General SS, but I was very
much interested in the SS as an ideological, and a political

Q. Did you exercise any functions in the SS, or did you just
have a title?

A. De jure I had only the title. Politically I tried to
exert a certain influence on the SS in the Netherlands, in
so far as it was not the Waffen SS, the Security Police and
so on, and in April of 1945, I believe I can say that de
facto I was the first SS Fuehrer in the Netherlands.

Q. Did you have the impression that the SS was a closed,
unified organisation, or were there great divergences within
the organisation itself?

A. Outwardly it was an extremely closed organisation.
Internally there was a difference between two factions. One
wanted the SS to be just a political training unit.
Heissmeier belonged to this school. The other faction wanted
to make the SS a State executive organ. Heydrich belonged to
this group. At first Himmler vacillated, but later he went
over completely to Heydrich's camp. The SS ideal
disappeared, because Himmler misused it for executive

Q. Can you limit that as to time? When approximately, in
what year, did this ideal die out?

A. I believe the first signs were evident in 1938. The
process continued with giant strides at the time of the
eastern campaign.

Q. Did not the General SS rather fade into the background
after 1939, while only the executive office groups or the
Waffen SS were active?

A. In any event from this time on Himmler transferred people
from the General SS and put them into his various executive
organisations. The General SS, for me anyway, did not come
to the fore after that time.

Q. Do you think that the SS man could know about the
struggle for power in the leadership, that he had insight
into this at all, or was he unaware of this?

A. I do not believe that the ordinary SS man knew this, but
there were many of them who felt very uncomfortable, and who
remained with their organisation only because they felt it
was their duty.

Q. You said in your interrogation that a decree of
Heydrich's caused you to transport Jews from Holland. Did
you see a decree from Hitler to Heydrich?

A. That is what I meant - a decree from Hitler to Heydrich,
a decree from Heydrich alone would not have been enough for
me to act on.

Q. You pictured the situation as if Heydrich had told you
that he had this decree?

A. Yes, he told me that, and a few weeks later he sent it to

Q. Was it in writing?

A. Yes, it was in writing.

Q. And what did the decree say?

A. That he had complete charge of the final solution of the
Jewish question as well as other matters connected

Q. And when was this? 1941? 1940?

A. It was at about the time when the evacuations started.
That was in 1942.

Q. Was it not 1941? 1942 does not seem correct.

A. Perhaps he showed me the decree later. I do not know its

Q. That must be the case. But this decree, you said, was
worded in general terms?

A. Yes.

Q. It could be interpreted one way or another? I mean, you
must know ....

A. Yes, I had the impression that in the occupied
territories Heydrich was to carry through the evacuation,
and at that time I was not quite sure whether that was to be
a final evacuation - though this was possible. The extreme

                                                  [Page 116]

bility was that the Jews would be assembled in camps and,
after the end of the war, settled somewhere.

Q. I beg your pardon. Witness, the extreme possibility would
certainly be that the Jews would be exterminated, is that
not so?

A. I am speaking of the extreme possibility which I thought
of at the time.

Q. And which you could imagine according to the words of the

A. Yes.

Q. Now, the question is: Is it possible that Heydrich went
beyond Hitler's decree, that Hitler himself did not want
these acts which Heydrich committed?

A. I cannot testify to that.

Q. Did you talk with Hitler before 1943?

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think the witness can tell what the
possibility was as to what Heydrich would do, any better
than we can. He cannot give evidence about that sort of



Q. Before 1943 did you discuss these problems with Hitler?

A. I was merely present when Hitler talked about these
problems. It was always along this line, to eliminate the
Jews from the German population and to send them somewhere

Q. But there was no talk at all about extermination of the

A. Never.

BY DR. SERVATIUS (Counsel for the defendant Sauckel):

Q. Witness, did Sauckel cause raids in the Netherlands and
did he have churches and cinemas surrounded?

A. He could not have done that. I would not have allowed
that, and he did not ask to have it done.

Q. Did Sauckel have anything to do with the actions of the
Army in 1944?

A. No, he did not know anything about that. When he heard
about it, one of his men arrived so that he could in any
case recruit skilled workers on this occasion, but this
actually did not take place, for the Wehrmacht sent these
men into the Reich right away.

Q. Did the regular worker transports to Germany, in
connection with the recruitment of workers by Sauckel, take
place under normal transport conditions or under very bad

A. Whether the recruitment was voluntary or compulsory,
transport conditions were always normal. The same as for
everybody else in the Netherlands. They were not accompanied
by police, but by officials of the Labour Employment Office,
with the exception of the 2,600 whom the police had arrested
and who were sent to a camp of Sauckel's choosing in the

Q. Did Sauckel have anything to do with the transporting of

A. Nothing at all.

Q. Do you know what the working conditions were for the
workers who came from Holland to Germany?

A. I knew the essential features. Conditions were the same
as for workers in the Reich. But difficulties arose. First
of all, the employers in the Reich asserted that the Dutch
people had in part given false information at the time of
their recruitment and did not meet the requirements.
Secondly, these labour contracts were for a certain duration
and the employers wanted the Dutch people to remain in the
Reich for a longer period.

I saw to it that nothing was written into these labour
contracts which would not actually be observed in the Reich,
no matter what difficulties might be met with there.

DR. SERVATIUS: Then I have no further questions to put to
the witness.

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