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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Second Day: Friday, 19th July, 1946
(Part 9 of 12)

[DR. STEINBAUER continues.]

[Page 160]

But on the battlefields of Koniggratz in 1866 the thousand years' mutual bond between Austria and Germany was broken and Austria was forced to leave the German federation. But before the double eagle of the Hapsburgs was furled for ever, Germans and Austrians again fought shoulder to shoulder in 1914-1918, with true Nibelung loyalty, for the freedom of the Fatherland. The common history of almost a thousand years, but above all the common language and origins, the same customs and mode of life, all combine to form the bond of unity between the two countries in the whole field of culture, of creative poetry and scientific research. But is it not a symbol of spiritual unity that not only the North-German poet Hebbel but also Beethoven and Brahms made art-loving Vienna the permanent city of their work? There is no German music without Austria. But Austria not only made her contribution to the cultural life of the German people in the field of art, but also in the fields of science and technology.

THE PRESIDENT: I think it is possible for the Tribunal to become acquainted with the history of Austria without having it read to them as a part of your argument.

Up to now there has been nothing in your twenty pages but history of Austria.

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, I beg your pardon; I consider it essential to portray the background in Austria which influenced my client. I have now finished, and I shall pass on to the facts.

[Page 161]

The massed common will of the forces of the Third Reich to take over Austria at the opportune moment is the key to the solution of the Anschluss question. For that, there is no need for a conspiracy; those who participated were pawns on the chess-board of the two responsible men, supers on the great stage of the world.

But let us return to Austria. I have already pointed out in the presentation of evidence that in my opinion there were three reasons for the Anschluss, and I have also attempted to reinforce these by the documents submitted, to which I now refer.

1. The economic distress.

2. The disunity resulting from this.

3. The conduct of the Great Powers towards Austria, especially during the critical days of March, 1938.

Dr. Karl Renner, the federal president of the Austrian Republic, who enjoys the confidence of the four occupying powers, and on whom the entire Austrian people look with respect because he took the helm of the ship of State for the second time in a period of dire distress, described the history of the Anschluss very aptly in his memorandum in 1945:

"The political reason why the Anschluss idea got hold of almost all of Austria at the conclusion of the First World War lay in the repeated proclamations of the victorious powers that the war was waged for the right of self-determination of the nations.

"But it was not this political reason that decided the masses. Austria is a mountainous country with much too little arable land, a country with an entirely one-sided economic structure. Its capital alone sheltered a third of the population, its industry was able to maintain a large part of the people only by working for Austria's neighbours, receiving from them raw materials and bread. The sudden separation of the highly agrarian parts of the previously uniform tariff territory of the Danube Monarchy, and the measures of the successor States in 1918, introducing high protective tariffs, deprived the country simultaneously of its food sources and its export territories. The fear of not being able to feed themselves and of not being able to find work at home, the sudden limitation of the labour market, were the factors which in 1918 made the Anschluss appear to almost everybody as the only possible solution. One cannot talk about the national Chauvinism of the Austrian working class, because a large percentage of this class derived from parents of non-German blood who had hardly lost their ties with the homeland. The overwhelming competition of the Reich German and Czechoslovakian industry loomed menacingly before the workers of all trades in this small country, cut off from the sea and poor in raw materials, and made it afraid that it would not be able to stand up against this competition. Not until we understand the economic situation can we understand the Anschluss movement, and why it was that Hitler's boastful announcement that he had done away with unemployment made such a deep impression on the Austrian working class, and why the will to resist the Anschluss was so weak within this working class at the beginning ...."

I continue on Page 26.

By the decision of 5th September, 1931, the Permanent International Court at the Hague declared the contemplated customs union between Germany and Austria incompatible with the Geneva Protocol of the 4th October, 1922, by 8 votes to 7. This was the last attempt of the governments to achieve a closer mutual constitutional relationship with the express agreement of the victorious powers. It failed. Was not the conviction bound to arise in the minds of fanatical Anschluss, partisans that this supreme national aim could only be achieved through their own initiative?

A year later Austrian foreign trade showed a deficit of 613 million schillings. On the 15th July, 1932, Dr. Dollfuss concluded a loan agreement in Lausanne on

[Page 162]

the condition that the Anschluss question would be put off for another 10 years. The ratification took place during the session of the National Council on 30th August, 1932, by 82 votes to 80. In the federal council, the Social Democrat Korner, then mayor of Vienna, had protested this law in view of a rapprochement with Germany.

Hitler came to power the year after. The Social Democrats saw their party dissolved in the Reich and the trade unions smashed; they saw the Reichstag fire and the start of the persecution of the Jews, and their leaders turned away from the Anschluss idea. The Catholic circles, who wanted to strengthen the Catholic element in the Reich by means of the Anschluss, also turned away because the persecution of the Church in the Reich had begun; and only the National Socialists; whose membership had increased tenfold within a short time, were in favour of the Anschluss. As Dr. Dollfuss had eliminated Parliament and thereby the way to power by means of votes, the National Socialists, under the leadership of Landesleiter Theo Habicht, strove with all means to gain power in the State. We come to the bloody events of the year 1934. Dr. Dollfuss is killed by the hands of assassins and his successor Dr. Schuschnigg attempts to restore order in the seriously shaken State system. The Socialists, however, remain sulkily aloof because of the events in February, 1934. There are changes in the political situation abroad too. Whereas Italy in 1934 still stood at Austria's side and Mussolini had deployed his divisions on the Brenner menacingly against the North, the Ethiopian adventure had forced Italy to Hitler's side. Austria is forced to follow the changed course, and in order to improve the economic situation concludes the agreement of 11th July, 1936. In this agreement Germany recognises the independence of Austria and stops the economic war. The price for that, however, is a series of measures which give the National Socialists in Austria a new boost. In order to extend the small platform of his Government and bring about a real appeasement, Chancellor Dr. Schuschnigg declares himself willing to invite also the so-called Nationals to co- operate. Among these men is the defendant, who then became Austrian State Councillor in May, 1937. As already mentioned, the Anschluss idea constituted his political programme. He never tried to hide this fact. He also comes from the ranks of the National opposition, a factor which must not be overlooked. The Anschluss also brought him nearer to National Socialism and it seems idle to engage in long investigations to find out at what time he officially became a member of the Party. Among the documents confiscated when he was arrested was his membership card with the number above 7,000,000. The witnesses Gauleiter Rainer and Uiberreither confirm the statements concerning his Party membership. When, after taking office, the new State Councillor paid his first visit to the Fuehrer's deputy, Hess, the latter was very polite but cool and expressed his regret that Seyss-Inquart was not an old fighter. The task of Dr. Seyss-Inquart was to supervise the execution of the July agreement and to act as a mediator between the Austrian Government on one hand, the National circles on the other hand, and the Reich. It was a thorny and unthankful task. The Austrian patriotic circles (Vaterlandische Kreise) could not forget the terror methods of the National Socialists during the Dollfuss period. The National Socialists, headed by Captain Leopold, were not satisfied with the methods of the National representative Seyss-Inquart in his dealings with the Government. Between these two men there were constant differences of opinion which went so far that Seyss-Inquart wanted to give up the task entrusted to him, namely to bring about an agreement. To save time I refer in this connection to Documents 44 (letter from State Secretary Keppler to General Bodenschatz), 45 (Goering's telegram to Keppler) and 46 (USA 704) of my document book. There were continuous violations of the July agreement, and the Austrian Police found the plan for a revolution known as Tavs Plan, which was an attempt to overthrow the Government by violence. Minister Guido Zernatto has declared that the defendant kept himself aloof from all these enterprises. Then came the conference of 12th

[Page 163]

February, 1938, at the Obersalzberg. What happened at this conference is well known. That the defendant discussed things on the evening before this conference not only with Zernatto, the representative and confidant of the Chancellor in the Government, but also with the National leaders, is understandable, for one must never lose sight of the fact that the defendant had always openly declared his role as mediator. He also had to know the demands of the opposition, so that when the two statesmen met at Berchtesgaden the differences could be cleared up. The defendant cannot be charged with double dealing within the framework of a conspiracy, because the National Socialist Party tried to exploit the knowledge of the situation to their advantage; and by dispatching Muehlmann were quicker than the unsuspecting Chancellor Schuschnigg. Here, too, we must have recourse to Zernatto, who died in exile, and who declared that he was under the definite impression that Seyss-Inquart did not know at the time about the agreements concluded at the Obersalzberg. On the basis of this agreement Seyss- Inquart was appointed Minister of the Interior and Security. He went in that capacity to Berlin to pay a State visit to the Chief of State of the German Reich and to present to him his political programme for the relations between the two States, as set down in the Memoranda for File (Exhibit No. 61) submitted to the Tribunal. The account of this conference as given by the defendant in his testimony appears to be quite authentic. For various reasons Hitler had at that time obviously not yet decided to carry out the Anschluss. Let us here refer to what the defendant Goering says, when he testified as a witness on the 14th March:
"I was not present at Berchtesgaden; moreover I was not in favour of this agreement, because I was always against any half-measures which would prolong this state of suspense."
In a sense the Berchtesgaden agreement gave the Nazis in Austria a free hand to carry on their activities and propaganda. The 2,000 Party members, released from prison on the basis of the amnesty, and at least some of the members who had returned from the Reich, became increasingly active in the Federal States and sought to bring about a rapid growth of the Party. Hitler's Reichstag speech of the 20th February was used by them as a signal for hostile demonstrations against the Government and thus to bring them quickly to power. Not only Schuschnigg but also the great mass of the working class realised how dangerous the situation had now become. The threatening danger caused them to sink their differences, and the negotiations between Schuschnigg and the Socialist labour leaders and the Christian Trade Unions seemed to provide a guarantee for the defeat of the imminent attack of Nazism, by uniting all democratic forces in a common defensive front. Prompt action was necessary, and Schuschnigg proclaimed his plebiscite. The whole country awoke from its lethargy. Workers and peasants were called upon to defend their country, and under the leadership of Zernatto swift electoral preparations were made in the factories and in the remote mountain valleys. It was clear that this attempt of Chancellor Schuschnigg to veer round and alter course at the last moment could not fail to call forth the resistance of the National Socialists in Austria, as well as in Germany. Hitler raved, and Mussolini's words, when before the election he warned Schuschnigg that the bomb would explode in his own hand, unfortunately proved only too true.

And now, let us come back to the defendant. He was not only a Government member, he was the confidant of the National opposition and guarantor answerable to the Reich for the Berchtesgaden agreement. When the prosecution charges him with having given Schuschnigg his word of honour about the election and having failed to keep it, that is not correct. Let us refer to the speech made by Gauleiter Rainer on the 11th March, 1942, to the Berlin Party members. On Page 12 of this document, 400-PS, it is disclosed that Zernatto's woman secretary was a secret member of the NSDAP and betrayed the plebiscite plans to her co-members as soon as she came to know of them. Rainer says we already knew the whole plan at 11.30 p.m. that same evening.

[Page 164]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will recess now.

(A recess was taken.)

DR. STEINBAUER: The protest against the plebiscite made to the Chancellor by Seyss-Inquart in the name of the Nationals was entirely justified legally. Apart from the fact that there could be no guarantee for a proper vote at such short notice, the vote itself was not constitutionally legitimate. Article 65 of the Austrian Constitution of 1st May, 1934, specifies exactly under what circumstances the nation can be called upon to vote. Dr. Schuschnigg, therefore, bases his proclamation of the election on Art. 93 of the Constitution which article merely says generally: "The Federal Chancellor determines policy."

The Austrian Patriotic Front (Vaterlandische Front) i.e., the political organization had the task of carrying out the election. The subsequent developments are well known, particularly the events of the 11th March, 1938. The main charge in respect of the conspiracy is, I take it, that Seyss-Inquart caused the entry of the German troops by his telegram about alleged unrest. We find this historical lie, which has brought the defendant the name of "Judas of Austria", in the story of the Anschluss. We find this historic lie, for instance, in Raphael Lemkin's Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (page 109). We find it again in the opening speech of the American Chief Prosecutor, Mr. Justice Jackson, although it is incontestably proved by the submission of Goering's telephone conversations (2449-PS), in connection with Goering's testimony, that this telegram was never sent and, what is more, was dictated and addressed to a third party, at a time when the German troops had already received the order to cross the frontier. Consequently, these telephone conversations of Goering represent an historical document of the greatest importance.

Rainer's speech in Carinthia and his testimony as a witness before the Tribunal also give the lie to the charge that Seyss-Inquart participated in the seizure of power. According to this document (4005-PS) it was Globotschnigg who wrongfully used the telephone in the Federal Chancellery to give the alarm to the Federal States. Appointed Federal Chancellor by virtue of Schuschnigg's withdrawal under duress, the defendant discusses the constitution of the Cabinet, invites the Ministers to enter it and takes the retiring head of the Government home in his own car.

When it is further learned from the testimony of the witness Stuckart and Glaise-Horstenau under what circumstances the law of annexation came into being, then it can, indeed, be said that Zernatto was right when he wrote that Austria was conquered, in his opinion, even against the wishes of Seyss- Inquart and his Government. I refer to Exhibit No. 63. Whoever, therefore, dispassionately surveys the whole set of events of March, 1938, relative to the Anschluss, and examines particularly the part played by the defendant, can only come to the conclusion that one cannot really speak of a carefully thought out "conspiracy" for the perpetration of a crime by co-ordinated stages. Where Austria is concerned, however, the Englishman Goyde is right when he says the curtain fell on the Tragedy of Austria when the troops marched in. It was to rise again soon on a new play: The Martyrdom of Austria. On 15th March, 1938, Adolf Hitler came to Vienna. We have seen in this courtroom the film record of his reception. Deeply moved, the defendant addressed him as follows:

"What centuries of German history have striven for, what untold millions of the best Germans have bled and died for, the final goal in fierce combat, the only solace in hours of bitterness, has today been achieved. The 'Ostmark' has comeback to the homeland. The Reich is restored, the Empire of racial Germans is established."
With these words Seyss-Inquart defined his political aim, which was and remained the guiding star of his actions.

[Page 165]

With the Fuehrer came Josef Goebbels, who turned on his gigantic propaganda machine at full pressure. There was rally after rally. Festivals were held. There was not a house in the land which was not beflagged. The leader of the Socialist workers said: "I vote yes" and the Bishops made exhortations for the fulfilment of a national duty: "Render unto God the things that are God's and unto Caesar the things that are Caesars.'' Both were to be disappointed. For with Goebbels came Himmler and his Gestapo and SS. During the night of the 13th March there was a wholesale arrest operation in Vienna. It included the members of the former military associations, as well as prominent leaders of the Socialist para-military organizations; Jews who had been active in political and public life, Communists and Monarchists, priests and Freemasons, and even the leaders of the Boy Scouts and of the Austrian youth organization. In Vienna alone, 76,000 arrests were made. On the 2nd April, 1938, the first Dachau convoy left the West Station with 165 leading officials, including the present Federal Chancellor Figl, Education Minister Jurdes and Minister of Justice Dr. Geroe. The second convoy followed on the 21st May, the third at the end of May, and so it went on. Punctually, every eight days, convoys left for Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. On the 10th May, 1946, the People's Court in Vienna sentenced to death Anton Brunner, who caused 49,000 people, mostly Jews, to be sent to the extermination camps in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Minsk and Riga.

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