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 7 of 9)

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

[Page 90]

THE WITNESS: The prosecution has quoted Page 167. On 1st August, 1943, I made a speech announcing special measures which would bring difficulties and restrictions upon the Dutch, and the prosecution believes that the shootings which took place later are connected with it. That is an error. The restriction I spoke of in that speech was only an order forbidding Dutch people to stay in places outside their own provinces, so that bands of terrorists from the North-west could not get to the East. As this happened during the vacation tithe, it really was a restriction for the Dutch.

Q. Now I come to the next question. Did you change and possibly misuse the existing organization of the lower courts?

A. I took over the organization of the Dutch courts entirely. The administration of justice in the Netherlands was of a commendably high standard. Only on two occasions did I supplement it. The Dutch judges showed little understanding of the economic situation. For instance, on one occasion a group of black market butchers, who had killed large numbers of cattle and brought them to the black market, were fined two hundred guilders; so I introduced special economic judges, Dutchmen, who had more understanding of these economic necessities. But the legal situation remained as it was. Of course, we also introduced our German courts, as every occupation force does.

Q. So that we had Dutch courts and German courts for Germans staying in the Netherlands, and also the police courts?

A. Yes, but also for the Dutch who violated the interests of the German occupation forces.

Q. Now, it is alleged in the proceedings that through these courts there were four thousand executions which have to be accounted for.

A. That is perfectly untrue. If I take into account all the death sentences which were pronounced and actually carried out by the German courts, the police courts, and the military courts, and if I add to them the cases where Dutchmen lost their lives in clashes with the executive powers, then according to a statement of the Higher SS and Police Leader up to the middle of 1944 there were less than

[Page 91]

eight hundred cases in four years, that is to say less than were caused by a bombing attack on the town of Nijmegen. The shootings came afterwards.

Q. You also exercised the right to reprieve, for which you had a special reprieve department?

A. Yes.

Q. In this connection I wish to refer to Document No. 75, Page 190 in the Document Book. This is the affidavit of Rudolf Fritsch, who was Judge at the Court of Appeal in Berlin, and reprieve expert for the Reich Commissioner. I should like to quote from this document and I refer to the second paragraph on Page 3:

"In exercising his right to reprieve the Reich Commissioner proceeded from the standpoint that this was one of the most eminent rights of the head of a State and that it was especially apt to create a good, confidential atmosphere between the Germans and the Dutch. Therefore in the beginning it was he himself who made the decision in every case on the basis of case reports which were submitted to him together with a suggestion for a reprieve from the reprieve department. After about two to three months he delegated the exercise of the right to reprieve within his own organization to the chief of the department for reprieves. This Chief was competent except in the following cases: (1) The cancellation of proceedings; (2) decision in the matter of death sentences; (3) decision in fundamental questions; (4) decision in isolated cases without precedent .... No sentence of death was carried out without there being an official examination of the question of a reprieve, even when a formal appeal for a reprieve was not submitted."
Then I come to Page 5, the last paragraph:
"Since co-operation with authorities in the Dutch courts proved that they could be trusted, the Reich Commissioner gradually delegated the right to reprieve to the Dutch Minister of Justice. From the great amount of mail which came in .... I repeatedly saw that police actions had been staged by the Gestapo in which regular jurisdiction was eliminated. In such cases I would collect material and make use of it to bring the persons involved before regular courts for trial. And I was actually successful with such action. This was proof to me that the Reich Commissioner opposed the wild police methods of the Gestapo and was in favour of regular legal procedure."
I think that with this we can close this subject of justice and now come to the question of finance.

A. Yes, but the Fuehrer's order excluding courts is also very important.

Q. Well, if you wish to add something else.

A. Yes, it is decisive. After the strike at Amsterdam, I proposed court-martial procedure: That is not an invention of recent times; it is summary court procedure for special emergencies, such as you can find in the legislation of every country. The summary courts were also subject to certain provisions. First of all, a proper judge had to be there; secondly, we admitted a counsel for the defence, who could be Dutch. Thirdly, evidence had to be given in the proper manner, and if the question of guilt was not clearly proved, then the case had to be transferred to the ordinary courts.

This court-martial procedure was only in force for two weeks at the time of the general strike in May 1943. The number of people shot later on cannot be traced back to these courts martial. They had also been set up in case of a special emergency if the Netherlands should again become a theatre of war.

In the meantime, however, a decree came from the Fuehrer which had already been made public in an order from the High Command of the Wehrmacht. I refer to PS-1155 - no, I beg your pardon, that is wrong - it is PS-835.

On 30th July, 1944, the Fuehrer ordered that all non-German civilians in occupied territories who were guilty of sabotage or terror actions were to be handed over to the Security Police. The Higher SS and Police Leader and I both objected to this order, as we realised what damaging effects it would have especially in the

[Page 92]

Netherlands. Through such an order the Dutch would only be driven into illegal organizations.

Over a period of four to six weeks the Higher SS and Police Leader never carried out the order, but he then received a severe reprimand from Himmler, and from that time on he was obliged to deal with the Dutch who had been arrested for sabotage or illegal activities and had to judge them according to his own jurisdiction, shooting them when necessary. One can account in this way for the majority of people who were shot, but I do not believe that there were as many as 4,000. As often as I could, I urged the Security Police to be most careful in carrying out this order, and I never received any reports on the individual cases. I had the impression that there were perhaps 600 to 700.

Q. If I understood you correctly, then this was a police affair, which was directly -

A. At all events it no longer came under my authority or influence. But if at that time I gave the Security Police orders to check up on an illegal movement somewhere, I nevertheless realised that some Dutchman or other who was found to be the leader of such a movement would be shot by the police without the courts or me being able to investigate the case. But then I could not refuse to safeguard the security of the occupation authorities because the Fuehrer decree had been issued.

Q. I now come to the chapter of finance. A document has been presented here where a certain Mr. Trip announces his resignation. Who was this gentleman?

A. Mr. Trip was the president of the Bank of the Netherlands, that is to say, the bank of issue, and he was also the General Secretary for Finance. I think he can readily be considered one of the world's leading banking experts. He is an outstanding personality and one of the men who today are described as Dutch patriots.

Q. He was also General Secretary for Finance, was he not?

A. Yes. Until March 1941 he was the General Secretary for Finance. In my first speech to the general secretaries I said that I would not ask any general secretary to do anything contrary to his conscience. If he thought that there was something he felt he could not do, then he could resign without any harm to himself. I said that all I asked was that he should carry out my orders loyally as long as he remained in office. Mr. Trip was in office until March 1941 and then he resigned, because there was something he refused to carry out. He did this without the slightest disadvantage to himself.

Q. Who was his successor?

A. I should like to say that what Mr. Trip carried out until March 1941 is, in my opinion, justifiable in every respect. Otherwise he most certainly would not have done it.

His successor was Dr. Rost van Tonningen. Rost van Tonningen was a League of Nations Commissioner in Austria who there had had the tasks similar to those I gave him in the Netherlands.

Q. What about the costs of occupation?

A. As far as the civilian administration was concerned, Mr. Trip and I agreed that I should receive three million guilders a month. Then there were another twenty millions in fines in addition to that. During the first three years I saved sixty million guilders which remained in the Netherlands as a special bequest.

As far as the costs of the military occupation were concerned, I had no authority to check them. The armed forces put in their demands to the Minister of Finance, and I then received orders to place the money at their disposal. During 1941, the Reich exacted indirect occupation costs. It took the point of view that not only the expenses which were incurred directly in the Netherlands should be paid for, but that the cost of preparations in the Reich should be borne too. Fifty million marks per month were demanded, partly in gold. Later this payment was designated as voluntary assistance for the East -

[Page 93]

THE PRESIDENT: Do you mean marks or do you mean guilders?

THE WITNESS: Marks, fifty million marks. Later on the payment was known as voluntary assistance for the East for political reasons, but of course it was not so. Later on, the Reich demanded that this sum be increased to l00 millions but I refused.


Q. Mr. Trip retired as General Secretary for Finance because the foreign currency embargo which still existed at the time between Germany and the Netherlands was lifted?

A. Yes, that is correct. I received an order through my administration for the purpose of intensifying economic exchanges between the Reich and the Netherlands, to lift the foreign currency embargo so that without having recourse to currency banks guilders could be exchanged for marks and vice versa.

The fundamental possibility of such exchanges had already been determined by Mr. Trip, but it was subject to the control of the currency banks, that is to say, of the Netherlands Bank as well. Mr. Trip raised objections, and I passed the matter on to Berlin. Berlin decided that it was to be carried out, and Mr. Trip resigned.

I appointed Dr. Rost van Tonningen President of the Bank of the Netherlands, and I published the decree.

I wish to say that the President of the Reichsbank, Herr Funk, was against this procedure, and I can quote in explanation that the effects at that time were not so catastrophic as they turned out to be later. At that time the Netherlands were completely cut off and the Reich had reached the climax of its power. It was to be expected that the mark would be the leading currency in Europe, and the guilder would have taken on the same importance. In February 1941, for instance, imports from the Reich into the Netherlands were greater than the exports from the Netherlands into the Reich; Reich Minister Funk always held the view that these were real debts, so that in the event of a different outcome of the war, such debts which amounted to some 41 billion would have had to be paid back to the Netherlands.

Q. If I understood you correctly, it was your General Secretary for Finance, Dr. Fischbock, who suggested this matter contrary to the wishes of Trip.

A. I do not know whether the suggestion came from Fischbock only. I presume that he must have talked it over with other people, but it was he who put the matter to me.

Q. You have also been accused of imposing collective penalties in the form of fines, which is contrary to the International Law.

A. Collective fines are prohibited under International Law only where individual offences are concerned. The large collective fine of eighteen million guilders was imposed in connection with the general strike in Amsterdam, Arnhem, and Hilversum, when the entire population took part.

Later, I had collective fines paid back if it was discovered that definite individuals were responsible for the offence.

Q. Can you give us any practical example?

A. I think witness Schwebel will be able to tell you that. There were towns in the South of Holland where it happened.

Q. You are also accused by the prosecution of being responsible for what happened in the hostage camp in Michelgestell. What have you to say to that?

A. I can take full and absolute responsibility for what happened in the hostage camp in Michelgestell. It was not a hostage camp in the actual sense of the word, I only took Dutchmen into custody when they had shown themselves to be active in resistance movements. The camp at Michelgestell was not a prison. I visited it. The inmates of the camp played golf. They were given leave, in the case of urgent family affairs or business matters. Not a single one of them was ever shot. I think the majority of the present Dutch Ministers were at Michelgestell. It was a sort of protective custody to temporarily hinder them from continuing their anti-German activities.

[Page 94]

Q. In addition to this you are said to have prohibited the reading of pastoral letters, and to have put Catholic priests and Lutheran ministers in concentration camps?

A. It is true that I prohibited one pastoral letter. That was during the occupation because it publicly opposed the measures of the occupation forces and incited people to disobedience. That was an isolated case and it never happened again, for the good reason, too, that there were no more provocations of such a kind in the pastoral letters. In fact I even intervened and cancelled the prohibition issued by the police, if the measures taken by the occupying power were only criticized and there was no incitement to opposition. I myself never sent priests to concentration camps. On the contrary, at the beginning of 1943 after repeated urgent requests, I received a list from the Security Police with the names of the priests who were shut up in concentration camps. There were forty-five or fifty of them altogether. Three or four were mentioned as having died in the concentration camp. On the grounds of the facts of their case, I sought out about a third of them and demanded their release. For another third I demanded investigation within the coming six months, and it was only as far as the last third was concerned that it was impossible for me to intervene without violating my own responsibility towards the Reich. Dutch hostages were also taken for purposes of "repression." When the Netherlands came into the war, the Germans in the Dutch East Indies were put into prison and allegedly maltreated. The Reich demanded the arrest of 3,000 Dutchmen. The Security Police arrested 800 and took them to Buchenwald. When I heard that the mortality was very high, I made such urgent appeals that the hostages were finally returned. They were then accommodated in such a way that one could no longer talk of a prison. They were given leave, and when necessary I released them. In the end, I had less than 100.

Q. You are said to have prohibited prayers in church and especially prayers for the Queen.

A. That is incorrect. The prayers in Dutch churches were public demonstrations. Prayers were made - as was quite natural - for the Queen of the Netherlands and for her happiness and prosperity and the fulfilment of her wishes. At the same time there were prayers for the Reich Commissioner and for his enlightenment. I was severely reproached for tolerating these demonstrations. But I found nothing wrong with these prayers and did not prohibit them. Perhaps, in some case or other a subordinate authority acted and I had such action repressed.

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