The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th June to 19th June 1946

One Hundred and Fifty-First Day: Monday, 10th June, 1946
(Part 2 of 9)

[DR. STEINBAUER continues his direct examination of Artur Seyss-Inquart]

[Page 69]

Q. Well, Dr. Schuschnigg succeeded Dollfuss as Chancellor. What conclusions were drawn by the NSDAP from this event, as far as you could gather?

[Page 70]

A. The NSDAP itself was completely broken up and disorganised, and a small circle of men organised themselves; I found my way to those men and we drew the following conclusions from the events of 25th July:

Firstly, that they represented a considerable danger. I recall the meeting of statesmen in Stresa and its resolutions against Germany. And even though we were never worried about Italy, one had nevertheless to realize that in this very troubled atmosphere anything could easily lead to war. We all agreed that the main task of German policy must be to avoid war.

Q. We are now in the year -

A. I should like to add that, domestically, the events on the 25th of July were the worst possible that could have happened with regard to the prospect of the Anschluss. We reflected on what might be done and came to the conclusion that the Party in the Reich should cease interfering with the Austrian National Socialist Party, the existence of which, from the point of view of the Reich Party, anticipated the Anschluss; but in return, the National Socialists in Austria should once more receive permission to be active, and especially, there should be elections to ascertain the strength of the parties.

Q. What I am interested in is the question whether you had any connections with authorities in the Reich at that time, that is, in 1936?

A. I had no connections with authorities in the Reich.

Q. Thank you. Did you -

A. Only, as Reichsmarschall Goering has said, when I became a State Counsellor did I, for the first time, meet a leading German politician.

Q. When was that?

A. That was in June or July, 1937.

Q. 1937?

A. 1937.

Q. What was your attitude towards the NSDAP in Austria at that time, when you were State Counsellor?

A. When the agreement of 11th July, 1936, was reached - without my having taken any part in it - Dr. Schuschnigg, through Minister Klees, asked me for my political co-operation. At that time I had particularly close connections with Zernatto, the General Secretary of the Fatherland Front. At the suggestion of Zernatto and his friends, I became an Austrian State Counsellor and Dr. Schuschnigg gave me the task, in writing, of examining the terms under which the Opposition would collaborate politically. In order to fulfil that task I did, of course, have to contact the National Socialists, because the Opposition consisted only of National Socialists.

Q. Who was the head of the NSDAP in Austria?

A. The Party in Austria had assembled again illegally; Captain Leopold was the head.

Q. Were you on friendly terms with him?

A. I could not come to an agreement with Captain Leopold; he did not understand my policy, but thought that, on the basis of the agreement of 11th July, Dr. Schuschnigg had to allow the NSDAP again in its earlier form. I think I talked to Leopold only twice, or at most three times throughout that time. He demanded that I be subordinate to him; that I refused.

DR. STEINBAUER: May I, in this connection, draw attention to the following documents without reading from them?

Exhibit No. 44, on Page 103 of the Document Book, an excerpt from the Exhibit USA 583, already submitted to the Tribunal.

Exhibit No. 45, on Page 105, also Exhibit USA 581.

And Exhibit No. 97, on Page 109, in which Zernatto expressly states that Seyss-Inquart entirely disagreed with Leopold's aims and efforts.

My client has been accused by the prosecution of double dealing. As counter-evidence, I applied for permission to hear the former Gauleiter Siegfried Uiberreither. He was interrogated here, and I want to quote from the interrogatory,

[Page 71]

which is Document No. 59, from the counter-questions put by the prosecution on Page 140:
"Question: Was not the defendant Seyss-Inquart, before the time wheel the Nazi Party was legalised, that is, before it was declared legal in February, 1938, was he not in constant contact with the illegal Nazi Party of Austria?

Answer: No. I personally did not know Seyss-Inquart until his visit to Graz. In Nazi circles he was considered a non-Party member. I think - I do not know with certainty - that he joined the NSDAP only when it was legalised. For this reason, he personally encountered a strong opposition in illegal Nazi circles."

On Page 6 of the same document it says:
"Question: Was the defendant Seyss-Inquart not a double-dealer: on one side his legal position in Schuschnigg's Cabinet and on the other side his co-operation with the formerly illegal Nazi Party, whose activity was then legalised to a certain extent through the efforts of the defendant at Berchtesgaden in February, 1938?

Answer: I do not know to what extent he was in touch with the illegal Nazi circles before 12th February. I do not know about it, because I was not in Vienna. But from 18th February his contact with the Nazi Party ways not duplicity, but his duty. Schuschnigg himself had discussions with Leopold, the leader of the Nazis before Klausner."


Q. This brings us to 1938. At the beginning of that year you were State: Counsellor in the Austrian Government. What did you think of the political situation at that time?

A. In many conversations with Dr. Schuschnigg, but most of all in continuous discussions with Zernatto, I suggested, in line with the conclusions we had drawn from the events of 25th July, 1934, that the Reich, and particularly Hitler, be asked to refrain from all interference in Austrian politics through the medium of the Austrian National Socialist Party. I proposed that instead the Austrian National Socialists should receive permission to be active. That did not mean at all that I would give up the Anschluss, but I was completely convinced that a lawful and responsible policy of the Austrian National Socialists in Austria would in time win for them the support of a clear majority of the Austrian nation - I mean of the Germans in Austria; and that the demonstration of such a clear majority would no longer be challenged by the powers of the League of Nations. One had to attempt to make Hitler agree to such a policy by enlisting the support of the, autonomous and independent State of Austria for the Fuehrer's policy and his demand for equal rights of the German people. It was in the interests of these ideas that I talked to Field Marshal Goering and Herr Hess. I reported the outcome of these conversations to Dr. Schuschnigg and to Zernatto and I recommended the formation of a coalition government with National Socialist ministers, as soon as Adolf Hitler's corresponding guarantees were forthcoming. My suggestions made no headway with either of the two parties, but were not directly turned down. Meanwhile, the Austrian National Socialists continued to be active illegally, the police intervened and made arrests; three Austrian concentration camps were set up; in short, the events of that time foreshadowed today's denazification system.

Q. Were you at the Obersalzberg on 12th February, 1938?

A. No. But I want to describe how that meeting came about. First of all, a renewed party radicalism set in. At the beginning of 1938 legitimist tendencies were promoted in Austria, the laws regarding the return of the Hapsburg property were discussed in the State Council. For the moment, my own position therefore became untenable, I retired, and informed Zernatto and Secretary of State Keppler who had been officially nominated by the Reich Government to conduct the affairs relating to Austria. I felt that in view of my task it was my duty to inform Keppler also. I myself accepted an invitation from the Reich Sport Leader Tschammer-

[Page 72]

Osten and went to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. There, without previous appointment, I met Herr von Papen. Each of us poured out his troubles to the other, and came to the conclusion that both parties, that is to say, Hitler as well as the Austrian Government, namely, Dr. Schuschnigg, should be made aware of the fact that a clear decision on the lines of my proposal was necessary. At that time, participation of the National Socialists in the government was certainly discussed. Perhaps the Ministry of the Interior was also a subject of discussion, but my name was definitely not mentioned though it was the obvious one. I received no report on the discussions which Herr von Papen had with Hitler, but I informed Zernatto of my conversation with Herr von Papen. Zernatto, at that time, agreed with me on some questions, in particular with regard to the expansion of those sections of the government which were concerned with the National Socialists; and he also placed means at my disposal. It was on 10th February, I think, when I heard through the group of my colleagues that Hitler had invited Dr. Schuschnigg to Berchtesgaden. Among the members of my circle were Dr. Rainer, Dr. Jury, Dr. Kaltenbrunner, Langhot, and several others.

Q. Were you informed of the outcome of the discussions at the Obersalzberg?

A. I was informed of the outcome of this conference first by Zernatto. On the evening of the 11th before Dr. Schuschnigg left for Berchtesgaden, I had a detailed discussion with him and Zernatto. We agreed to a large extent, regarding the appointment of National Socialists, for instance, Jury, Reinthaler and Fischbock to certain public offices, but not to ministerial positions. I did not mention the subject of a ministerial post, because I did not know how Adolf Hitler had reacted to the suggestion which I had made to Herr von Papen. On 13th February, Zernatto asked me to see him, and he then told me of the results and contents of the Berchtesgaden conference, which were known to him.

Q. In this connection, I want to refer to Document 48, Page 111, in which Zernatto states:

"I had the definite impression that he - Seyss-Inquart - did not until then know anything about the result of the discussion and the contents of the agreement of 12th February."
Witness, on the basis of that agreement, you became Minister of the Interior and Police, did you not?

A. Yes, on 17th February.

Q. On 17th February, 1938, with the assignment of establishing connections between Austria and the Reich, or rather of improving them. Did you also have a discussion with Hitler himself?

A. Yes. The agreement at Berchtesgaden on 12th February contained a definite stipulation to the effect that I was to be the liaison man between the Austrian Government and the Austrian National Socialists on one side, and the German Reich on the other. The contents of the protocol appeared to me unsatisfactory, and even dangerous. There was no doubt at all that my appointment to the Ministry of the Interior and Security served as a notification, if not a signal, for the Austrian National Socialists that they might expect an early realization of their political objectives. In addition, they received permission to profess their beliefs, they could wear the swastika and salute with the raised hand. What was not permitted, however, was their organization; my National Socialist friends in Austria had no possibility therefore of getting in touch with the National Socialists in a legal way. This agreement opened the gates without providing for a regular procedure thereafter. Hence, I myself resolved to see Adolf Hitler and to ascertain whether my plan had his approval. I went, with Dr. Schuschnigg's assent, and with an Austrian diplomatic passport.

Q. And when did you talk to Hitler?

A. I mentioned an incorrect date just now; it was on the 16th of February that I became Minister and I went to Berlin on the 17th. I talked with Adolf Hitler alone for more than two hours.

[Page 73]

It was pointed out here by the prosecution that I saluted Adolf Hitler with the raised hand. That was permissible under the agreement. But I would ask the prosecution to admit that during every one of my interrogations, I stated that I had emphasized to Adolf Hitler at once that I was an Austrian Minister and as such responsible to Austria. I made some shorthand notes on this discussion on the back of a letter, and a few weeks later I dictated those notes to my secretary. I now want to relate the substance of my talk with Hitler on the basis of those notes. My statements -

Q. Witness, will you kindly be as brief as possible; can you do it by giving leading points, perhaps?

A. But this is the most important point with regard to my whole responsibility.

"A condition of Chancellor Schuschnigg is that I agree to an autonomous and independent Austria, that I support the Constitution. Further development, including the Anschluss, must be based on this. The formation of public opinion in Austria must proceed independently, and in accordance with present constitutional possibilities. I would have to be the guarantor for Dr. Schuschnigg's policy. The Party and Movement must not adopt an oppositionist attitude. No totalitarianism of the Party and Movement; that is, National Socialist ideology to be furthered with due appreciation of and regard for conditions in Austria; not to be imposed on others by force. The Party, as such, is not simply to disappear, but to exist as an organization of individuals; no illegal activity, no efforts inimical to the State, everything to be done in a legal fashion, anyone failing to do this to be arrested."
In the main, Adolf Hitler agreed, and he told me:
"It is not a question of the twenty-five points, one cannot proclaim a dogma; one has to base National Socialist ideology on Pan-German and nationalistic ideals."
That was the gist of my conference with Adolf Hitler on 17th February, starting at twelve and ending at two-ten.

Q. Did you -

MR. DODD: Mr. President, I understood the witness to say that he made his notes on the meeting with Hitler and later dictated them to his secretary. It is not clear to me whether he was reading from those notes. Furthermore, we have never seen such notes and I think it should be made clear in the record.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Steinbauer, has the defendant got the notes?

DR. STEINBAUER: The original was taken from him when he was arrested.

THE PRESIDENT: Defendant, you heard the question I asked, have you got the notes?

WITNESS: The original of these notes was among my files in Vienna. I made an application to have these files of mine searched for the notes. I handed a copy of the notes to the prosecution during one of my first interrogations; it is in the files of the prosecution. I have only copies, however, I do not have the original.

THE PRESIDENT: The copy would be just as good for the purpose.

WITNESS: I have placed a copy at the disposal of the defence.

DR. STEINBAUER: But I gave it back to you.

WITNESS: Then you can submit this one.

DR. STEINBAUER: Yes, would you hand it over?

THE PRESIDENT: Will you give it an exhibit number, Dr. Steinbauer?

DR. STEINBAUER: Number 61, otherwise it would be confused with the others.


[Page 74]

MR. DODD: Mr. President, I am confused about this, I still do not understand, and I am sure that my colleagues do not. We have never received any copy of any notes that this defendant has claimed he made soon after, or at the time of his conference with Hitler. We have no such copy in our files. And I would like to understand whether or not he is now claiming that this copy which is offered to the Tribunal is a copy of the original that he claims he gave to us.

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