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 8 of 10)

[DR. STEINBAUER continues his direct examination of Dr. Friedrich Wimmer]

[Page 222]

Q. What about the mayors?

A. As far as the appointment of mayors is concerned, in principle the same thing holds true as for all other officials in the Netherlands. The mayors in the Netherlands, contrary to the rule in many other nations, in most nations, are not elected to office, but are civil servants in the true sense of the word. They were appointed by the Queen, even the mayors of the small communities. Since the head of the State was not present in the Netherlands, the Reich Commissioner was confronted with the necessity of regulating the appointment and dismissal of mayors and he made the regulations in such a way that in so far as the most important positions of the State were concerned, he reserved for himself the right to make appointments, whereas he placed the appointments and dismissals of lesser importance in the hands of the Dutch general secretary.

Q. So if you look back today and examine the question of how conditions were between '40, and '45 regarding the offices and civil servants in the Netherlands, what can you state in that respect?

A. I believe I may say that at the end of the period of German occupation the majority of the civil servants, who had been in office when the German occupation force came into the Netherlands, were still in office.

Q. Seyss-Inquart has been accused of dissolving the political parties. When and why did that take place?

A. The dissolution of the political parties was necessitated by the fact that some political parties displayed an attitude which, especially in critical times, the occupying power could not tolerate, apart from the fact that in an occupied territory it is generally difficult if not quite impossible to deal with political parties. Report

[Page 223]

after report came from our intelligence services about conspiracies of the most various kinds, and so the Reich Commissioner felt called upon to dissolve the parties. Nevertheless, he did not constitutionally remove the parties as such; the institution of parties, as such, still remained.

Q. It was suggested on the part of the Reich that the administration be reorganised and that the Netherlands be divided into five administrative districts instead of the traditional provinces. Did Seyss-Inquart do that?

A. The Reich Commissioner refused such suggestions or demands every time, and indeed he could do that all the more easily because the Dutch administration was on a high level and primarily because the Reich Commissioner expected, and on the basis of all kinds of assurances could expect, that the Dutch administration would show itself loyal to the occupying power.

Q. Now we also have a party which was very close to the National Socialists led by Mussert, the NSB. Did this NSB party gain a leading influence in the administration or not?

A. The NSB, as a party, gained no influence at all in the administration. It was only that the occupying power, as was very natural, applied to the NSB and consulted it in certain cases, for every occupying power in history, I believe, as well as in our days, is not going to approach those parties or groups which assume a hostile attitude toward the occupying power.

Q. Did the leader of the NSB, Mussert, try to create a similar situation as existed in Norway under Quisling; that is for him to become Prime Minister of the Netherlands?

A. Mussert did have that aim. He expressed it persistently, again and again, and I can say that by doing so, he put the Reich Commissioner into disagreeable situations.

Q. Well, briefly the Reich Commissioner -

A. The Reich Commissioner rejected this every time.

Q. Another question. Did Seyss-Inquart in any way exert pressure in religious matters on the population of the occupied territory?

A. No.

Q. Did he, in the field of education, issue decrees which reduced the rights of the Netherlands?

A. No.

Q. Did he not encourage the Dutch Red Cross, although there were cells of the illegal resistance movement in it?

A. He not only permitted the Red Cross to carry out its functions without hindrance, but, as you say, he even encouraged it. As far as the political attitude was concerned, he would have had sufficient reasons to interfere because broadcasting stations, illegal broadcasting stations, had been found under Red Cross control.

Q. They were resistance centres?

A. Yes.

Q. Furthermore, he has been accused of interfering with the existing legislation by issuing laws concerned with citizenship and also with marriage. You were in charge of the Department of Justice. What can you say about that, quite briefly?

A. Acts of interference of that kind did occur. However, they occurred because they were necessary from the point of view of the conduct of the war and the armed forces in particular, for, to speak about the question of citizenship, those Dutchmen who had joined the German Army wanted to have the assurance of also obtaining German citizenship. The Reich Commissioner, however, who was of the opinion that by acquiring German citizenship they should not incur any disadvantage in Holland, decreed - and this can be found in the corresponding decree - that these Dutchmen who acquired German citizenship should retain their Dutch citizenship, so that by so doing they would not be alienated from their people and their nation.

[Page 224]

So far as marriage laws are concerned, the necessity arose that if soldiers, in particular, wanted to marry Dutch girls, the parents' approval of the marriage was refused, and not for political reasons. This approval was of some importance in that connection because the parents, contrary to the rule in many other nations, retained this right of approval until, I believe, the thirtieth year of the daughter concerned.

Q. Now I come to another chapter. That is the question of the so-called summary courts-martial (Standgrichte). Will you tell us how these courts-martial were organised and how long and when they were functioning?

A. The creation of courts-martial was considered a necessity after a general strike had broken out in Amsterdam and we wanted to have a legal basis for future cases, so as possibly to prevent future strikes in advance, that is, to be able to combat them, above all, on the basis of the proper law, properly and effectively after they had broken out.

How these courts-martial were organized and when they had to function is exactly set out in the corresponding decree of the Reich Commissioner. However, if I am to answer your specific question here about the composition of these summary courts-martial, I can in any case only say from memory that the president of these courts was a judge, and moreover a judge who fulfilled all the requirements which a judge in the German Reich had to fulfil.

Q. Well, that is the essential point, and if I understand you correctly, before these courts became police courts a judicial functionary was president of these courts-martial. Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it known to you whether Seyss-Inquart had so-called collective fines imposed on certain cities and communities?

A. The Reich Commissioner actually imposed such collective fines. The largest, I believe, was the one which was imposed once on Amsterdam on the occasion of the general strike which I have already mentioned. The fines were decreed in accordance with established procedure on the basis of existing decrees, and they were proclaimed in an official decree by the police.

Q. If I understand you correctly, therefore, these collective fines - you mentioned the words "general strike" - were imposed when actions of a large community were involved, and not actions by individuals.

A. The collective fines were imposed in cases of violations which were charged to a fairly large portion of the community in question.

Q. I believe we can conclude that chapter. However, you did not tell me how long these so-called police courts-martial were functioning.

A. The police courts-martial were functioning as long as police martial law was in force. That was two weeks. Moreover, that was the only time that martial law had been proclaimed in Holland by the Reich Commissioner, that is, if you do not count the state of emergency that was declared after the invasion as such.

Q. Now I come to one of the most severe accusations brought against my client. That is the accusation that he had hostages shot illegally and contrary to International Law, or participated in their execution.

With the permission of the Tribunal I submit two statements to you which were put to my client yesterday by the prosecution. One is a statement by General of the Air Force Christiansen, as a defendant, dated the 20th of February, 1946, and the other one is also an interrogation of a defendant, Higher Police official Dr. Schongart. It is F-886.

Will you please look at it and tell me what you know about these questions. Take your time - I remind you of your oath - and answer these questions as far as you can do it in good faith.

Have you read it?

A. No, not yet.

Q. Witness, I will help you. Are you through?

A. No, I am not through yet, but please go ahead.

[Page 225]

Do you know that hostages were shot in August 1942, on the occasion of an act of sabotage in Rotterdam?

A. Yes, yes.

Q. Why were these hostages shot? On whose orders?

A. It is well known what the Rotterdam incident was all about. It was an attempt to blow up a Wehrmacht leave train. In this affair, the Wehrmacht applied to the Reich Commissioner and therefore -

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): That is not an answer to the question. The question was: Who gave the order?

THE WITNESS: The order for what?


Q. For shooting the hostages.

A. The order for the execution was, I believe, given by the police.

Q. What did the Reich Commissioner have to do with it? You have read here how Christiansen accuses him in that connection.

A. The Wehrmacht applied to the Reich Commissioner because it was customary in fairly important matters for the two offices, that is, the Commander of the Armed Forces and, the Reich Commissioner, to get together and discuss these things. I recall that the Commander of the Wehrmacht appeared in a very determined manner and demanded that an example should be made so that such cases might be prevented in the future as much as possible. It was stated on the part of the Wehrmacht that it considered hardly any other means possible than the shooting of a considerable number of hostages.

I no longer recall the figure very exactly today, but as far as I do remember, the figure was around fifty. I also recall that it was stated on the part of the Wehrmacht that they could dispense with such a selection of hostages if the assurance could be given by the police that on the basis of some sort of material which the police had in their possession there was a chance that the perpetrators might be found and brought to punishment by the German court, that is to say, by the court of the Wehrmacht.

On the part of the Wehrmacht it was also pointed out that, at that time, resistance in the Netherlands was beginning to organize in increasing measure, and that this was finding expression in an increase in sabotage and other acts hostile to the occupation forces. I also recall that it was pointed out that if the Wehrmacht and police had been present in larger numbers than was actually the case, it would perhaps not have been necessary to take a severe step of that kind. The forces at that time at the disposal of the German Army in the Netherlands were extremely small and in case of an increase in the resistance movement the position of the Wehrmacht in the Netherlands could have been seriously endangered.

Q. Witness, I shall ask you several questions so that we can go ahead.

You have stated that the commander of the Wehrmacht came and reported that in view of this outrage he would have to shoot some hostages.

A. Yes.

Q. Is it known to you that there was a Reich decree stating that saboteurs in the occupied western territory should not be tried by the courts but turned over to the Police? Can you remember that?

A. I do not think that was the case at this particular time. Especially if you refer to the so-called "Nacht and Nebel" ("Night and Fog") decree which, to my recollection, is of a later date. I remember very clearly that an order was mentioned at that time, but I believe this order was one which applied exclusively to the military sector. And so I do not know the wording of that order.

Q. Is it known to you that the Reich Commissioner used his influence to see that instead of the fifty you mentioned - in reality, it was only twenty-five hostages - that these were reduced to five?

A. That is known to me.

Q. And that he also succeeded in having this done

[Page 226]

A. And that he succeeded.

Q. And that he particularly succeeded in having fathers of families excluded?

A. Yes, indeed.

Q. That concludes one case. There is another case which has been presented to you. That is the case of the attempt made on the life of the Higher SS and Police Leader, Rauter, when, in fact, more than 150 persons were shot as hostages. Have you finished reading that?

A. Partly.

Q. Please read it all then.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Steinbauer, why is it necessary for the witness to read the whole document? You can put the facts to him.



Q. Witness, at that time, it was demanded that as a reprisal for the attempt on the Police and SS Leader hostages should be shot?

A. Yes.

Q. Who ordered that and who carried it out?

A. I know of the case because - that is, I know of it from the report of Brigadefuehrer Schongart, who was at that time the chief of the Security Police. He had applied to me to find out what his proper title was, after Rauter had become incapacitated for duty and he had to sign a proclamation and in so doing add his official title. On that occasion he told me this story and he also told me that he had got in touch with Berlin, to find out what they would consider necessary as reprisals for the attempt on Rauter. Berlin wanted a considerable number of hostages shot. He mentioned a figure to me which was something like 500; at any rate, not less than 500 but rather more than 500. Then he also told me that he had talked to the Reich Commissioner and told him about this wish on the part of Berlin.

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