The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd February to 13th February, 1946

Fiftieth Day: Monday, 4nd February, 1946
(Part 3 of 8)

M. FAURE: I should like first of all to point out to the Tribunal that, with its permission, I shall examine this afternoon the witness van der Essen, concerning whom a formal request has already been submitted.

[Page 31]


M. FAURE: This witness can then be called at the beginning of the afternoon session.

The observations which I have just presented had to do with Norway.

In the Netherlands, unlike what happened in Norway, the Nazis did not utilise the local party as an official instrument of government. The governmental authority was completely in the hands of the Reichskommissar, who set up a sort of Ministry, including four German General Kommissaere, respectively competent for administration, justice, finance and economic affairs. This organisation was created by a decree of 3rd June, 1940 (Official Gazette for Holland, 1940, No. 5). I point out that, as the Dutch Official Gazette has already been submitted in evidence to the Tribunal, I shall not again submit each of these texts, which are a part of it. I shall, therefore, simply ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of them and to consider them as proved.

The holders of the posts of General Kommissaere were appointed by the same decree of 5th June, 1940.

The local authorities were represented at the higher level only by the Secretaries General of the Ministries, who were entirely under the authority of the Reichskommissar and of the German Kommissaere.

The decree of 29th May, 1940, which is in the Dutch Official Gazette, 1940, Page 8, lays down in its first article:

"The Government Kommissaere will exercise the powers invested until now in the King and the Government."
And in Article 3:
"The Secretaries General of the Dutch Ministries are responsible to the Reichskommissar."
If the Nazi Party did not constitute the Government, it nevertheless received the official blessing.

I shall quote to the Tribunal in this connection the decree of 30th January, 1943, which likewise is in the Dutch Official Gazette, 1943, Page 63. I read the following passage:

"The representative of the political will. of the Dutch people is the National Socialist movement of the Netherlands. I have decreed that all the German offices under my orders, with a view to co-ordinating the tasks of the administration and those of the National Socialist movement, shall maintain close relations with the Leader of the movement, for the execution of important administrative measures and particularly for all matters concerning personnel."
The Tribunal knows already, for it is common knowledge, as far as was necessary through the witness who has already been heard, how outrageously untrue it was to claim that the Dutch National Socialist Party represented the political will.of the people of this country.

Having commented on these two forms of utilisation of the local party as agents of sovereignty, I should now like to point out to the Tribunal the main features of these usurpations which were committed by the Germans. A first line of action is exemplified by the attempt to induce the occupied countries to participate in the war, or, at the very least, to initiate recruitment for the German Army. In Norway the Nazis created the "S.S. Norge," a formation which later was called the "Germanske S.S. Norge." I submit as evidence Exhibit RF 926, which is the decree of 21st July, 1942, concerning the "Germanske S.S. Norge," and I quote paragraph 2 of this decree, which is a Quisling decree.

"2. 'The Germanske S.S. Norge' is a National Socialist order of soldiers which must be composed of men of Nordic blood and ideas. It is an

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independent subdivision of the Nasjonal Samling, directly under the N.S. Fuehrer (N.S. Leader) and responsible to him. It is, at the same time, a section of the 'Storgermanske S.S.' (the S.S. of Greater Germany) and must contribute to the carrying out of the following task:

To lead the Germanic peoples towards a new future and create the basis of a Germanic community."

We see again, by this example, that the interventions of the so-called Norwegian Government were perfectly obvious methods of Germanisation.

In order to facilitate the recruiting into this legion, the German or Norwegian Nazis did not hesitate to upset the civil legislation and to abolish the abiding principles of family rights by making a law which exempted minors from having to obtain the consent of their parents. This isalawof the 1st February, 1941, Norwegian Official Gazette, 1941, Page 153, which I submit in evidence as Exhibit RF 927.

In the Netherlands the Germans were obliged to upset the national legislation even more in order to permit military recruitment. As they did not create a fictitious Government, and as the legitimate Government was still at war with the Reich, the volunteers came under Article 101 and the following articles of the Dutch penal code, which decree punishment for those who enlist in the Army of a foreign Power at war with the Netherlands, and likewise those who give aid to the enemy.

By reason of the defacto occupation of the country there was little chance of these penalties being effectively applied, but it is very curious and very revealing that the Reichskommissar issued a decree of 25th July, 1941, Dutch Official Gazette, 1941, No. 1135. This decree states that the taking of Dutchmen for service in the German Army, the Waffen S.S. or the Legion of Netherlands Volunteers does not bring them under the provisions of the penal texts mentioned above, and this decree is declared retroactive to 10th May, 1940. It is therefore very convenient, when one commits a criminal act according to the general code, to be able to modify the law to suppress the crime in question.

Another decree of 25th July, 1941, Official Gazette for 1941, Page 548, stipulates that enrolment in the German Army will no longer involve loss of Dutch nationality.

Finally, a decree of 8th August, 1941, Official Gazette for 1941, Page 622, declares that the acquisition of German nationality no longer entails the loss of Dutch nationality except in cases of express renunciation. Although this last text seems to bring out a point in detail, it may be regarded as an initial attempt to create a dual Dutch and German nationality, which will fit into the general procedures for the advancement of the whole plan of Germanisation.

In regard to these measures for military recruitment, I should like to state precisely the attitude of the Prosecution as a result of the examination and cross-examination of the witness Vorrink, who was heard on Saturday. The Prosecution does not consider that the criminal character of this military recruitment is established only by the fact of having recruited persons by force or by pressure upon their will. This pressure and this constraint are an aggravating and characteristic aspect but not a necessary aspect of the criminal action which we reprehend. The fact of having recruited persons, even on a voluntary basis, in the occupied countries for service in the German Army is considered by us as a crime, and one which is, moreover, punishable under the internal legislation of all these countries, which legislation covers such acts as those committed in these countries, in accordance with the rules of law in matters of legislative competence.

It is even relatively of small importance - except for knowing all the details - whether the recruiting of traitors was favoured or not by particular pressure according to the situation in which these traitors found themselves.

[Page 33]

I should like also to indicate in a more general way that the prosecution does not consider that the recruiting of traitors, either for service in the Army or in other activities, is for the Nazi leaders an extenuating circumstance or an exonorating one. On the contrary, it is one of the characteristics of their criminal activity, and the responsibility of the traitors in no way exempts them from responsibility. On the contrary, we hold against thern the corruption which they attempted to spread in the occupied countries by appealing to those elements of weak morality which may be found among the population of a country, and by instilling in the mind of each person the thought of possible immoral and criminal activity against his country.

This was a first line of action for German usurpation: namely, the enrolment of troops.

A second line of action is identified with the whole of the measures designed to abolish civil liberties and to set up the Fuehrer principle. I shall quote some of these measures by way of example.

In Norway, suppression of political parties, German decree of 25th September, 1940, which is in the Official Gazette for 1940, Page 19; a decree forbidding all activity in favour of the legitimate dynasty, decree of 7th October, 1940, in the Official Gazette for 1940, Page 10; and the suppression of the guarantees under the statutory rules for officials - they could be transferred or dismissed for political reasons - German decree of 4th October, 1940, Page 24. Finally, a Norwegian law of 18th September, 1943, setting up a characteristic institution, that of Departmental Chief representing the Party, and responsible to the Minister President and to no other authority of the State (Exhibit RF 928). He exercised in the department the supreme political control over all public authorities of the department.

All professions came under the system of compulsory membership with application of the Fuehrer principle. In Holland we likewise observe the suppression of elected bodies, decree of 11th August, 1941, Official Gazette, 1941, Page 637, which confirms the decree of 21st June, 1940, Official Gazette of 1940, Page 54; the dissolution of political Parties, decree of 4th July, 1941, Official Gazette, 1941, Page 583; creation of the Labour Front, decree of 30th April, 1942, Official Gazette, 1942, Page 211 ; setting up of the Peasant Corporation, decree of 22nd October, 1941, Official Gazette, 1941, Page 838.

I have given only a few examples of this principle, and to conclude I shall quote a decree of 12th August, 1941, Official Gazette, 1941, Page 34, which created a special judicial competence for all offences and infringements committed against political peace and against political interests, or committed for political motives. In fact, the Justices of the Peace charged with exercising these oppressive powers were always chosen from among the members of the Nazi Party.

Finally a third line of action in this usurpation can be defined as a systematic campaign against the fflte of the country and against its spiritual life. In fact it is always in this sphere that the Nazis met with the greatest resistance to their designs. They attacked the universities and teaching establishments.

In Holland a decree of 25th July, 1941, Official Gazette, 1941, Page 559, gives the administration the right to close arbitrarily all private institutions. In the Netherlands the University of Leyden was closed on 11th November, 1941.

By a decree of the Reichskommissar of 10th May, 1943, Official Gazette, 1943, Page 127, the students were forced to sign a declaration of loyalty drawn up in the following terms:

"The undersigned hereby solemnly declares on his word of honour that he will conscientiously conform to the laws, decrees and other dispositions

[Page 34]

in force in Dutch occupied territory, and will abstain from any act directed against the German Reich or the Dutch authorities or engage in any activity which might imperil public order in the higher teaching institutions in view of the present circumstances and danger."
In Norway rigorous measures were taken against the University of Oslo. I offer in evidence Exhibit RF 933. I point out to the Tribunal that this is not in strict order and that it is the last in the document book.

This is an article in the "Deutsche Zeitung" of 1st December, 1943, reproduced in a Norwegian newspaper. It is entitled, "A cleaning-up measure necessary in Oslo. Purge in the Student World." I shall read only a few paragraphs of this article. I begin with the second one:

"The students of the University of Oslo" - will the Tribunal excuse me. I shall read also the first paragraph:

"By order of the Reichskommissar, Terboven, the S.S. Obergruppenfuehrer and General of the Police Rediess made the following announcement to the students in the lecture room of the University of Oslo on Tuesday afternoon:

The students of the University of Oslo have attempted since the occupation of Norway, that is, since 1940, to offer resistance to the German Army of Occupation, and to the Norwegian Government recognised by the Reich."

I shall end the quotation here, and continue at paragraph 5:
"To protect the interests of the occupying Power and to assure the maintenance of peace and order within this country, rigorous measures are indispensable. Therefore, in the name of the Reichskommissar, I must make known to you the following:
(1) The students of the University of Oslo will be transferred to a special camp in Germany. (2) The women students will be dismissed from the University and must return by the quickest means to their original place of residence, where they will immediately report to the police. Until further notice they are forbidden to leave these places without permission from the police."
I break off the quotation here and continue at the last paragraph but one, on the second page of this document, 933:
"You must be thankful to the Reichskommissar that other much more draconian measures are not being applied. Moreover, thanks to this measure, most of you have escaped for the future the danger of losing your lives and your property."
As concerns religious life, the Germans multiplied their harassing methods. By way of example, I offer in evidence Exhibit RF 929, which I shall read:
"Oslo, 22nd May, 1941: to the Commanders of the Sipo and the S.D in Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim, Tromsoe. Subject: Surveillance of Religious Services during the Whitsuntide Feasts. Incidents: nothing.

You will watch the religious services and send in a report here on the result.

B.d.S. (Commander) of the Sipo and the S.D., Oslo. Signature illegible - S.S. Hauptsturmfuehrer."

Now here is the report following this order to watch the church services. I offer this in evidence as Exhibit RF 930. It is very short.
"Trondheim, 5th June, 1941.

The surveillance of religious services during the Whitsuntide Feasts showed no new essential elements. Domprobst Fjellbu continues his activity as a tendentious preacher, but in a sufficiently skilful manner to

[Page 35]

enable him to defend each turn of phrase as having a religious and not a political interpretation."
The rest of the letter is partly burned.

Finally I should like - in order not to dwell on this matter too long - to quote two examples which show, on the one hand, the constant immorality of the German methods, and, on the other hand, the just protests to which they gave rise on the part of the most qualified authorities. The first example concerns the Netherlands.

The Dutch magistrates were roused to righteous indignation by the German practice of arbitrary detentions in concentration camps. They found the opportunity of making known their disapproval in a manner which came within the normal carrying out of their judical functions. Thus, in connection with a particular case, the Court of Appeal at Leeuwarden took a decision of which I wish to read an extract to the Tribunal. This is submitted as Exhibit RF 931. I will read to you an extract from this document:

"WHEREAS the Court cannot declare itself in agreement in the matter of the penalty inflicted upon the accused by the Chief Judge and his presentation of motives, the Court is of the opinion that this penalty should be determined as follows:

WHEREAS as regards the penalty to be inflicted:

The Court desires to take into account the fact that for some time various penalties of detention inflicted by the Dutch Judge upon delinquents of masculine sex, contrary to legal principles and contrary to the intention of the Legislator and of the Judge, have been executed, or are being executed, in camps in a manner which aggravates the penalty to a degree such as it was impossible for the Judge to foresee or even to suppose when determining the degree of the punishment.

WHEREAS the Court, taking into account the possibility of this manner of executing the penalty to be inflicted at present, will abstain, for conscience sake, from condemning the suspect to a period of detention in conformity, in this case, with the gravity of the offence committed by the defendant, because the latter would be exposed to the possibility of an execution of the penalty as indicated here above.

WHEREAS the Court, on the strength of this consideration, will confine itself to condemning the suspect to a penalty of detention to be determined hereafter, after deducting the time spent by him in preventive detention, and the duration of which is such that the penalty at the moment of the pronouncing of the penalty will have almost entirely expired during the period of preventive detention."

This example is especially interesting, because I now have to indicate that as a result of this decision of the Court of Appeal the defendant Seyss-Inquart dismissed the President of the Court by a decree of 9th April, 1943, which is likewise submitted in evidence under the same document number, 931. These two documents constitute a whole:
"By virtue of paragraph 3 of my decree," etc., "I dismiss from his office as Counsellor of the Court of Appeal at Leeuwarden, such dismissal to take effect immediately, Doctor of Law F.F. Viehoff."

Signed, "Seyss-Inquart."

The second example which I give in conclusion will be taken from Norway. It is a solemn protest made by the Norwegian bishops. The special occasion which called forth this protest is the following: The Minister for Police had issued a decree, dated 13th December, 1940, by which he arrogated to himself the right to suppress the obligation of professional secrecy for priests, and provided that priests who refused to break the secrecy of the confession would be subjected to imprisonment.

[Page 36]

On 15th January, 1941, the Norwegian bishops addressed themselves to the Ministry of Public Education and Religious Affairs, and handed to it a memorandum. In this memorandum they made known their protests against this extraordinary demand by the police, and at the same time they protested against other abuses; violent acts committed by Nazi organisations, and illegal acts in judicial matters. This protest of the Norwegian bishops is transcribed in a pastoral letter addressed to their parishes in February, 1941. I submit it as Exhibit RF 932. I should like to quote an extract from this document on Page 9, top of the page:
"The decree of the Ministry of the Police, dated 13th December, 1940, just published, gravely affects the mission of the priests. According to this decree, the obligation of professional secrecy for priests and ministers may be suppressed by the Ministry of the Police.

Our obligation to maintain professional secrecy is not only established by law, but has always been a fundamental condition for the work of the Church and of the priests in the exercise of their care of souls, and when they receive the confession of persons in distress. It is an unalterable condition for the work of the Church that a person may have absolute and unlimited confidence in the priest, who is unreservedly bound by his obligation to keep professional secrecy, as it has been formulated in the Norwegian legislation and in the regulations of the Church at all times and in all Christian countries.

To abolish this 'Magna Charta' of the conscience is a blow at the very heart of the work of the Church, and one which is all the more serious because paragraph 5 of the decree stipulates that the Ministry of the Police may imprison the priest in question, and thus obtain by force an explanation, without the case having been submitted to a tribunal."

Yet all this was happening during the first year of the occupation. Already the highest spiritual authorities of Norway found themselves in a position of having not only to protest against a particularly intolerable act, but also to enunciate a judgment upon the whole of the methods of the occupation, which judgment appears on Page 16 of the pastoral letter, and which I shall read to the Tribunal (last paragraph):
"For this reason the bishops of the Church have placed before the Ministry some of the acts and official proclamations in regard to the ruling of society during these latter times; acts and proclamations which the Church finds in contradiction with the Commandments of God, and which give the impression that there exists a revolutionary state in the country, and not a state of occupation under which the laws are maintained to the extent that they are not directly incompatible with the state of occupation."
This is a very correct juridical analysis; and now, if it please the Tribunal, I should also like to read the last sentence which preceded this, on Page 16:
"When the public authority of society permits violence and injustice and exercises pressure over souls, then the Church becomes the guardian of consciences. A human soul is of more importance than the whole world."

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