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-Fourth Day: Thursday, 13th June, 1946
(Part 7 of 10)

[DR. STEINBAUER continues his direct examination of Michael Skubl]

[Page 218]

Q. What was his attitude in general towards National Socialism?

A. Dr. Seyss-Inquart admitted to being a National Socialist. However, as far as I know, the so-called 120 or 150 per cent National Socialists - that is to say, the leaders of the illegal movement - did not consider him a 100 per cent National Socialist. He was, however, considered a very suitable person to be used as a pawn on the chess-board of the National Socialist Movement.

Q. If I understand you correctly, then, he was more a person who was led than a person who was leading?

A. It was my impression that he was more led than leading.

Q. Now, how did you work together with Seyss-Inquart in his capacity as Minister of the Interior?

A. There were no rifts in our understanding. It was a completely harmonious understanding.

Q. Did he exert any influence upon the police? Did he, for instance, bring National Socialists into the police corps?

A. No; that happened in no case.

Q. Did you have an opportunity to by-pass the Minister and report directly to Federal Chancellor Schuschnigg?

A. Federal Chancellor Schuschnigg was the Chief of the Government, and in that capacity he was naturally my highest superior. It was natural that I had to make reports to the Federal Chancellor regularly and upon special request and that I also received instructions from him in return.

Q. Soon after Dr. Seyss-Inquart was appointed Minister he went to visit Hitler in the Reich. Was that an official journey, or was it kept secret?

A. It was official.

Q. How did you come to that conclusion?

A. It had been announced. I knew about the journey; and Federal Chancellor Schuschnigg, so far as I know, also knew about the journey. It was also suggestive

[Page 219]

that in his capacity as liaison man between the Austrian Government and the Reich he must necessarily have an opportunity to speak to Hitler.

Q. Well then, when Seyss-Inquart came back, did he make a report on the discussions with the Fuehrer?

A. Yes. Upon his return I met Seyss-Inquart at the station, and I asked him how the conferences with Hitler had gone off. Seyss-Inquart, still being under the influence of the meeting and discussions, informed me of what he had stated to the Fuehrer I still remember the individual points exactly. Seyss-Inquart told the Reich Chancellor the following:

"Herr Reich Chancellor:

1. I am an Austrian Minister, and as such I have sworn an oath of allegiance to the Austrian Constitution. I have sworn an oath, therefore, to Austria's autonomy and independence.

2. I am a faithful and active Catholic, and therefore, I could not follow a course which might lead to a cultural struggle.

3. I come from a country where a totalitarian regime is out of the question."

Q. In spite of these views, did the Reich appoint a new State leader for the illegal NSDAP?

A. Yes. As far as is known to me, on the 21st of February Klausner was appointed State leader (Landesleiter).

Q. When Dr. Schuschnigg announced the plebiscite did he order any special security measures?

A. The order for the plebiscite naturally had the effect of a bombshell on the National Socialists, not only on the National Socialists in Austria, but also in the Reich. There was feverish activity, therefore, and precautionary measures naturally had to be introduced.

This special activity can be explained by the fact that the National Socialists were afraid that in the event of a plebiscite they would suffer a great defeat, for the election slogans would have been accepted by the overwhelming majority of the Austrian population.

In this connection it is most interesting to draw your attention to an article which appeared on the 11th of March in the German-Austrian daily paper, and from which the fear could be read that this plebiscite would open the way for a democratisation of Austria, the formation of a people's front, and consequently to a Bolshevisation. From this one could recognize the consciousness that the Austrian National Socialists were a minority.

Q. Now we come to the memorable 11th of March, 1938. When did you, as Chief of the executive authorities, learn that German troops were marching in?

A. The 11th of March was, of course, an exceptionally exciting and eventful day. The sense of time was completely absent during those hours. I know that in the evening hours a report was submitted to me showing that German troops had crossed the frontier, a report which could not be verified, however, but which was supplemented by the fact that unusually alarming troop movements were taking place on the Austrian frontier.

Q. Did not Seyss-Inquart, after Schuschnigg's resignation, say on the radio, that in order to avoid chaos he was asking the population to remain quiet and orderly since he was still Minister of Security?

A. Seyss-Inquart did make that statement on the radio.

Q. Did you make any observations to the effect that before Schuschnigg's resignation he, Seyss-Inquart, gave instructions, sent telegrams, made telephone calls, or transmitted any other information regarding the seizure of power?

A. What I observed was that Seyss-Inquart's behaviour until the critical moment was certainly very passive, and as I have already said earlier, he did in fact give more the impression of a man who was being led rather than a man who was leading, and indeed there were clear indications that he felt embarrassed.

[Page 220]

Q. Did you not, yourself, in the afternoon or evening, receive an offer from President Miklas to take over the Federal Chancellorship?

A. Federal Chancellor Dr. Schuschnigg first summoned me in the late afternoon, and he told me that there had been an ultimatum from Germany - that is to say, from Hitler - to the effect that he would no longer be satisfied with calling off the plebiscite, but was demanding Schuschnigg's resignation. Then Schuschnigg told me that he, personally, was ready to resign, but that he could not expect his staff to accept Seyss-Inquart's appointment as Federal Chancellor. He had a question to ask me, he said, and that was whether I was prepared to take over the Chancellor's office. He did this in agreement with the President, who, a few moments later, made me the same offer.

I refused this offer and I refused it because I considered that my appointment as Chancellor would, in Hitler's eyes, mean a declaration of war. As Secretary of State for Matters of Public Security I was at the head of the defensive front against National Socialist aggression, and consequently was also in personal opposition to Hitler. Therefore, had I accepted the Chancellorship, this would have offered Hitler a welcome opportunity to have his troops march in. My acceptance of the Chancellorship, therefore, would have meant the beginning of the struggle against invasion, and such a struggle was probably hopeless, in view of the manifold superiority of the German armed forces, compared with the Austrian armed forces and Austrian executive personnel.

Q. Then Seyss-Inquart formed his cabinet and took you over, too, as State Secretary. Why did you join that Ministry?

A. Seyss-Inquart proposed that I retain direction of matters of public security in the State Secretariat under his government, too. I accepted the offer, having confidence that Seyss-Inquart would remember the proposals which he had made to the Fuehrer; that is, that he would be Federal Chancellor of an independent Austria. Apart from that, I was impelled by the desire and hope that I could keep the executive force in my hands, and that in the event of Seyss-Inquart having difficulties in representing the Austrian point of view, I could be of assistance to him. In other words, there should be an Austrian strong point, an Austrian enclave, in the cabinet of the Austrian Federal Chancellor Seyss-Inquart.

Q. Did Seyss-Inquart still, at that time, speak in favour of Austrian independence?

A. He did not speak about it in detail. We took that for granted during the conference.

Q. When did you leave the cabinet, and why?

A. During the night of March 11-12, I took over the task of going to the airfield to receive the Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler, who had been announced from Berlin. On that occasion he did not arrive alone, but with a whole entourage. I can no longer remember the names of the individuals, the number was too large; one name I understood very clearly, and that was the name of Meissner. Meissner, the Austrian naval officer who had joined the National Socialist uprising on 25th July and who then, after the collapse of this uprising, had fled to the Reich and now had returned under Himmler's protection.

That to me was such an impossible situation that I made the firm decision not to have any more to do with all this, and so when I entered the Federal Chancellery at noon and received the surprising news from Glaise Horstenau that Himmler had demanded my resignation, I answered, "He can have that immediately, because I had already decided on that in the early hours of the morning".

Subsequently I also informed Federal Chancellor Dr. Seyss-Inquart that I knew of Himmler's request, and that I had naturally decided to resign and asked him to take official notice of my resignation.

Upon this Seyss-Inquart replied, "It is true that Himmler has demanded your resignation but I am not going to have anything dictated to me from outside. At the moment the situation is such that I think it perhaps better for you to disappear

[Page 221]

for a few weeks, but then you must come back, because I consider your co-operation important".

To be sure, I declared that I would not do that. And the following day, in writing, I handed in my resignation as Chief of the Police and State Secretary, after I had already on the evening of the 12th actually handed the affairs of the office over to Kaltenbrunner, who had been attached to me as a so-called political leader of the executive force.

Q. And then you were imprisoned, and up to now have not yet returned to Vienna?

A. I beg your pardon?

Q. I said, you were then imprisoned and have not gone back to Vienna to this day?

A. First of all, I was held prisoner in my official apartment under SS and police guard and then on the 24th of May two crimes department officials of the Cassel Gestapo conducted me to forced residence in Cassel, where I remained until my liberation by the Allies.

DR. STEINBAUER: I have no further questions of this witness, Mr. President, and perhaps this would be a suitable moment for a recess.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Do any other defendants' counsel want to ask any questions? (No response.)

THE PRESIDENT: The prosecution?

MR. DODD: No questions, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can retire.

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, may I now call the next witness, Dr. Friedrich Wimmer?

DR. FRIEDRICH WIMMER, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Dr. Friedrich Wimmer.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, I have finished the questions concerning Austria with the cross-examination of the witness Skubl and I shall now proceed to deal with the Netherlands.



Q. Witness, were you, from July 1940 until May 1945, general commissioner for internal administration and justice in the Netherlands?

A. Yes.

Q. In that position did you have to deal with internal administration, justice, education, health, archives, museums and the legislature?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you not also, at the same time, the deputy of the Reich Commissioner?

A. In exceptional cases, not otherwise.

Q. Did you also participate in the regular weekly official conferences of the general commissioners and the general secretaries with the Reich Commissioner?

A. Yes.

Q. Therefore, you were fully informed about events in the occupied Netherlands.

[Page 222]

A. In general, yes.

Q. Now I ask you: Was the German police a part of the offices of the RK, of the Reich Commissioner, or was it not rather independently subordinate to the Berlin central offices?

A. The German police was a distinct office, separate from the Reich Commissioner's office, and was subordinate to the respective central offices in the Reich, both administratively and materially.

Q. That is to say then, directly subordinate to the Reichsfuehrer SS, Himmler?

A. It was directly subordinate to the Reichsfuehrer SS.

Q. Now, did the German police, apart from the duties of the regular and security police, have other special duties in the Netherlands?

A. They had a number of special duties in the Netherlands.

Q. Can you enumerate them?

A. I could not enumerate them completely, but, for example, the combating of resistance movements in the Netherlands belonged exclusively to their sphere of activity; furthermore, the establishment, direction, and supervision of concentration camps belonged to their jurisdiction. Furthermore, the removal of Jews from the body of the Dutch nation belonged exclusively to their sphere of activity.

Q. Now we come to internal administration. At the head of each of the former ministries there was a general secretary, that is to say, a Dutchman. Were these men persecuted in any way if they resigned?

A. No. The Reich Commissioner had told the Dutch general secretaries upon assuming office that if they should feel in any way embarrassed by the decrees or demands of the occupation power, they should apply to him without any fear and explain their difficulties to him, and that then, if so desired, he would let them resign from their office in such a manner that in no way would they ever have to fear any unpleasantness, of any kind whatsoever, and that they would also be assured of financial security and get their pensions.

Q. Did the Reich Commissioner also dismiss provincial commissioners?

A. He probably dismissed provincial commissioners too, but these changes also occurred - I recall two cases - through the death of the provincial commissioner.

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