The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Do you believe that you were successful?

A. Yes. I believe so, on the basis of certain definite
facts. I have followed the proceedings here very carefully,
and ... We have heard terrible things. The reports from the
Netherlands, it seems to me, are not so bad. I do not want
to say that I excuse every excess. However, such reports as
those about Breendonck in Belgium do not exist. The reports
show beatings as the most serious charges. There is only a
single report here - that is F-677, the report of the tax
collector Bruder - which attains the level of the usual
atrocity reports. But I do not believe that this report
should be accepted at its face value, since Bruder does not
even say who told him this. And the information itself is
not credible. He asserts, for example, that the prisoners
who were at work had to prostrate themselves before

                                                   [Page 99]

every SS guard. I do not believe that the camp authorities
would have permitted that, because then the prisoners would
not have been able to work.

It is hard for me to say, but I do not think that conditions
in the Netherlands were quite as bad as all that.

Q. I think that I can now conclude this chapter and turn to
point 5 of the indictment which deals with the question of
labour commitment. What problems did you have in the
Netherlands in the field of labour commitment?

A. In the field of labour commitment, we must distinguish
between three or four different phases. When I came to the
Netherlands, there were about 500,000 unemployed: registered
unemployed, those who would be due for release from the
Dutch military and naval forces, and then part-time workers,
and so forth. It was an urgent problem, not only a social
one, for me to reduce the number of unemployed. For, in the
first place, such an army of unemployed is without doubt a
good source of recruits for illegal activities. In the
second place, as the war continued, it was to be expected
that the material situation of the unemployed would steadily
become worse. At that time we instituted measures which I
must, despite all charges, call voluntary labour
recruitment. That lasted until the middle of 1942; that is,
about two years.

At that time, I gave neither the German nor the Dutch labour
authorities full power to obligate any worker to work
abroad. Without doubt there was a certain economic pressure;
but I believe that always exists in this connection.

The recruitment was carried out by the Dutch labour offices,
which were subordinate to the Dutch General Secretary for
social administration. There were German inspectors in the
labour offices. There were also private hiring agencies;
companies from the Reich sent their own agents over. On the
whole, about 530,000 Dutchmen were engaged to work in the
Reich. In the period which I call "voluntary," 240,000 to
250,000 volunteers went to the Reich and about 40,000 to
France. By the first half of 1942, this reservoir had been
used up. The Reich demanded more workers. We then considered
introducing compulsory labour service. I recall I did not
receive instructions to this effect from Sauckel, but from
Bormann as a direct Fuehrer order. Now, labour recruitment
occurred predominantly but not exclusively in the following
way: Young and, as far as possible, unmarried Dutchmen were
called to the labour office where they received certificates
of obligation to work in the Reich. The Dutch report itself
says that only a few refused. Of course, some of those who
refused were arrested by the police and taken to the Reich.

The Higher SS and Police Leader reported to me that this
totalled 2,600 people. About 250,000 to 260,000 persons were
obligated, and the total engaged was 530000. So this meant
only one per cent. or even one-half per cent.

I believe that the figure resulting from compulsory measures
in the Reich was no lower ... or higher.

At the beginning of 1943, the Reich demanded a large
recruitment of workers. I was urged to draft whole
age-groups to send to the Reich. I call attention to the
fact that all of these workers received free labour
contracts in the Reich and were not put in labour camps.

I decided to draft three young age-groups - I believe 21 to
23 years of age - in order to spare married men. The success
was satisfactory in the first group; in the second group it
was moderate, and in the third it was quite bad. I realised
that I could draft further groups only by sheer force. I
refused to do so. But at that time, I managed, due to the
comprehension of Minister Speer, to arrange that the workers
would not be taken to their work, but that the work would be
brought to the workers. Big orders arrived in the
Netherlands, and the concerns charged with filling these
orders were declared "blocked" concerns. Among them was the
Organization Todt.

Dutchmen who were needed in the Netherlands were exempted.
Over a million certificates of exemption were issued by the
Dutch authorities. It was clear that that was a Dutch
sabotage, but I did not want to take steps against it.

                                                  [Page 100]

No woman was ever forced to work outside the Netherlands,
nor were young people under 18. Reich Minister Lammers has
confirmed here that at the beginning of 1944 he transmitted
the Fuehrer order to me demanding that 250,000 workers be
brought to the Reich. He also confirmed that I refused that.
At that time Gauleiter Sauckel came to me and discussed this
matter with me. I must state that he understood my arguments
surprisingly quickly, and did not insist on carrying out the
forced recruitment. By "forced recruitment," I mean
cordoning off whole districts and seizing the men.

In the course of 1944 labour recruitment ceased almost
completely. Instead of 250,000, I believe 12,000 were sent
to the Reich. But something entirely different took place in
the autumn of 1944. From experience gathered in France and
Belgium, the High Command of the Army decided that
able-bodied Dutchmen were to be drawn from Holland, that is
the Western Netherlands. That was because the Netherlands
Government in England had set up an illegal army. I had the
organisational chart in my hands. There was a complete
general staff and a complete war ministry. We estimated that
there were about 50,000 illegal troops. If an appeal was
made and any more able-bodied Dutchmen joined, the illegal
forces would have been more numerous than the German troops
in Holland. Moreover, they had received very good equipment
from England. Full shiploads of the most modern tommy guns
were confiscated by us, but I am convinced that the larger
part of the weapons was not seized. The High Command of the
Army, through the military commanders, ordered the removal
of the able-bodied Dutchmen. The measure was entirely
carried out by the Wehrmacht. A general who was sent for for
that purpose, was entrusted with the task, with an
operational staff of his own. The measure was carried out by
the local commanders. My local authorities were informed of
the action to be taken sometimes at the last moment and
sometimes not at all. Of course, I knew about the measure.
In view of the reasons just mentioned, I could not take the
responsibility of protesting against it. I only intervened
when it was necessary to protect civilian interests, and
prevent the workers in the vital concerns from being removed
also. I entrusted the Plenipotentiary General for the total
war effort with this, whom Dr. Goebbels had sent to the
Netherlands in the meantime. His task was to issue exemption
certificates. He issued 50,000 of them.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you mean Himmler?

THE WITNESS: Goebbels the Plenipotentiary General for the
total war effort.

I admit that this measure led to conditions which were
unbearable for the Dutch. I am certain that; as for feeding,
temporary lodging, and transportation, the population in the
bombed German territories did not live under any better
conditions, but one could not demand this of the Dutch. Many
Dutch people told me at that time that they would be willing
to agree to this labour recruitment, by no means in order to
aid the German cause, but only in order to avoid these
severe conditions, if they would be drafted in orderly
proceedings. I then did that. The Plenipotentiary General
for the total war effort issued the proclamation which has
been submitted to the Tribunal. The people were called to
the labour offices, registered, sent home again to get
clothes and were ordered to report to the railway stations.
Not the police, but labour officials took them to the Reich
for work in normal fashion. The Dutch report, in its
objectivity, recognises this fact. It speaks of the better
transportation facilities for those mobilised for labour. I
am responsible for this labour mobilization for the reasons
which I have given.

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, may I remark in this
connection that my Document No. 78, Exhibit USA 195, Page
200, excerpt from the Netherlands Government report,
confirms the statements of my client fully. I should like to
read it briefly because it is important. Page 2.

  "Workers who refused (relatively few) were prosecuted by
  the Security Service of the SS (SD)."

                                                  [Page 101]

Then, Page 3.

  "Apart from that, the measure was not very successful.
  Certain German authorities seem to have opposed its
  execution, because many former members of the Armed
  Forces received exemption; others went underground ....
  The result was that in the last month of 1943 and in the
  greater part of 1944 relatively few persons were

And then, Page 6.

"Until the end of 1944, the method of transportation for
deportees was bearable. ... Anyone who reported for the
manpower mobilization in January 1945, enjoyed improved
transportation facilities, that is, almost the whole journey
by rail, although only in freight cars."

THE WITNESS: We had no other cars at that time. I should
like to refer to the fact that I also drafted Dutch workers
in order to carry out the construction work entrusted to me
by the Fuehrer on the defence liar s east of the Yssel. I
used part of the transports which came from Rotterdam, etc.,
for this purpose and thus I prevented these people being
sent to the Reich. I had no influence on the treatment in
the Reich, I only forbade further transports into the Gau
Essen, because it was reported to me that in the Rees camp
the treatment was very poor and that some Dutch people had

DR. STEINBAUER: Now I come to the next item of the
indictment; that is, to the Jewish question. The Netherlands
Government report, Exhibit USA 195, sums up all ordinances
submitted by the prosecution. I should like to submit this
Document 1726 to my client, so that it may remind him of the
laws. The Tribunal already has it.


Q. What did you, as Reich Commissar, do in the Jewish

A. When I took over the functions of the Reich Commissar, I
of course realised that I had to take some position and
would have to take some steps in regard to the Jews in the
Netherlands. Amsterdam, in Western Europe, is perhaps the
best known and one of the oldest Jewish communities in
Western Europe. Moreover, in the Netherlands there were many
German Jewish emigrants. I will say quite openly that ever
since the First World War and the post-war period, I was an
anti-Semite and went to Holland as such. I need not go into
detail about that here. I have said all that in my speeches
and you may refer to them.

I had the impression, which will be confirmed everywhere,
that the Jews, of course, were definitely against National
Socialist Germany. There was no discussion of the question
of guilt as far as I was concerned. As head of an occupied
territory, I had only to deal with the facts. I had to
realize that particularly from the Jewish circles I had to
reckon with resistance, defeatism, and so on.

I told Colonel General von Brauchitsch, Commander-in-Chief
of the Army, that in the Netherlands I would remove Jews
from leading posts in the economy, the Press, and the
administration. The measures taken from May 1940 to May 1941
were limited to this. The Jewish officials were dismissed,
but were given pensions. The Jewish firms were registered
and the heads of the firms were dismissed. In the spring of
1941, Heydrich came to me in the Netherlands. He told me
that we would have to expect that the greatest resistance
would come from Jewish circles. He told me that the Jews
would at least have to be treated like other enemy aliens.
The English, for instance, in the Netherlands, were interned
and their property confiscated. In view of the large number
of Jews - about 140,000 - this was not so simple. I admit
frankly that I did not object to this argument of Heydrich.
I also felt that this was necessary in a war which I
absolutely considered a life and death struggle for the
German people. For that reason, in March 1941, I ordered
that the Jews in the Netherlands be registered. And now
things went on step by step.

                                                  [Page 102]

I will not say that the final results, as far as the
Netherlands are concerned; were intended thus from the
beginning, but we decided on this method. The regulations
cited here, if they appeared in the Dutch Legal Gazette,
were mostly signed by me personally. At least, they were
published with my express assent. Individual measures which
are mentioned here were not due to my volition. For example,
in February 1,000 Jews were supposed to have been arrested
and sent to Buchenwald and Mauthausen. That much I know. In
the Amsterdam ghetto

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): February of what year?

A. (continuing): February 1941. In the Amsterdam ghetto, a
National Socialist was killed by Jews. Reichsfuehrer Himmler
thereupon ordered 400 young Jews to be sent to Mauthausen. I
was not in the Netherlands at that time. That was, by the
way, the reason for the general strike in Amsterdam in March


After my return to the Netherlands, I ,protested against
this measure, and to my knowledge such a mass transfer to
Mauthausen did not occur again.

Synagogues were also burned. Apparently someone ambitiously
tried to imitate the 9th November, 1938. I immediately
intervened. Further incidents did not occur. On the other
hand the police wanted to pull down the old temple in
Amsterdam. General Secretary van Damm called this to my
attention, and I prevented it.

I indicated earlier that the motive of the measures is to be
found in the consideration to treat Jews like enemy aliens.
Later, with other measures, the original intention was
certainly abandoned. They were the same as those taken
against the Jews in the Reich. Perhaps, in one case or
another, this was exceeded, for I know that, for example, in
the Netherlands there was a drive to force the Jews to be

Our goal was to keep the Jews in the Netherlands, namely,
in- two districts of Amsterdam and then in the Westerborg
camp and in the Vught camp. We had also prepared to create
the necessary opportunities for work. I instructed the
General Secretary for Education to withdraw as much money
from the Dutch budget for the education of the Jews as they
should have according to their proportion of the population.

It is certain that with this measure of concentrating the
Jews in two districts and two camps, harshness occurred,
which was perhaps unavoidable, and which might even in some
cases be considered as excessive.

Finally, the Security Police demanded the introduction of
the so-called Jewish Star. A not inconsiderable number of
Jews were not in the confined areas, and the Security Police
demanded that they be distinguished in order that it might
be ascertained whether the Jews adhered to the other

In the eyes of Germans, this star was certainly considered a
stigma. The Dutch did not consider it as such. There was
many a Dutchman who, out of protest, wore such a star

About 1942, I believe, Heydrich came along with further
demands, this time that the Jews be evacuated. He explained
this by saying that Holland would sooner or later be a
theatre of war, in which one could not allow such a hostile
population to remain. He pointed out that he was responsible
for the police security of the Reich, and that he could not
bear this responsibility if the Jews remained in Holland. I
believe that we in the Netherlands opposed this evacuation
project for three or four months while attempting to find
other ways out.

Finally, Heydrich had a Fuehrer decree sent to me, according
to which he had unlimited powers to carry out all measures
in the occupied territories as well. I inquired of Bormann
what this meant, and this order was confirmed, whereupon the
evacuation of the Jews began. At that time I tried to
ascertain the fate of the Jews, and it is rather difficult
for me to speak about it now, because it sounds like

                                                  [Page 103]

I was told that the Jews were to be sent to Auschwitz. I had
people sent from the Netherlands to Auschwitz. They came
back with the report that that was a camp for 80,000 people
with sufficient space. The people were comparatively well
off there. For example, they had an orchestra of 100 men. A
witness here confirming that this orchestra played when
victims arrived at Auschwitz, made me think of that report.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Steinbauer, you probably will not finish


THE PRESIDENT: How long do you think you are likely to be?

DR. STEINBAUER: I hope to be finished at the. latest by noon
tomorrow, but perhaps it will take only an hour. I have
questions on plundering, economic, measures, and
destruction. Then I will be finished.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 11th June, 1946, at 1000

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