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-Second Day: Tuesday, 11th June, 1946
(Part 3 of 9)

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

[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 this.

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 interrogatories.

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.

[Page 114]


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 formation.

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 purposes.

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 me.

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 therewith.

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 date.

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 possi-

[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 decree?

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 thing.



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 abroad.

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

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 conditions?

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 Reich.

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

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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