The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/05/21

Q. In short, the end that you had in view, was it not to
place the Netherlands in the hands of the NSDAP and, thus,
adapt the internal organisation of the Netherlands to that
of the Reich? In other words, to do something similar to
what you had done in Austria?

A. The translation did not come through completely.

Q. I repeat: The end which you had in view in the
Netherlands, was it not to place the administration of that
country in the hands of the NSDAP, was it not to adapt the
internal organisation of the Netherlands to that of the

A. I do not believe that one can say that. In particular,
the policy of the NSB was not that of the NSDAP. The NSB was
different in many respects. In the second place, if I had
wanted to do that, I would have been able to make Herr
Mussert prime minister; that would have been less
complicated. The simple explanation is that I used the
example of the Reich as a plan to set up an administration
in the Netherlands, which, at least in part, made it
possible for me to carry out my task of watching over
security and order. Yesterday all that I asserted was that I
forced no Dutch citizen to become a National Socialist. I
did not deny that a certain co-ordination was undertaken due
to the mistakes which I have repeatedly admitted.

Q. But you placed members of the NSB in all the
administrative bodies - in the higher offices?

A. Not exclusively, but I did it because in the last
analysis I could rely only on them; all others sabotaged my

Q. You told the Tribunal yesterday of the dismissal of the
magistrates of the Court of Leuwarden. Would you tell us
again the exact reason for this action?

A. It was not the magistrates, but the administrators of the
court. This court of Leuwarden had said in public judgement
that those Dutch citizens who were convicted by Dutch courts
and sent to a Dutch prison would be transferred to German
concentration camps, mistreated, and executed. As a result,
the court no longer saw itself in a position to convict a
Dutch citizen.

This statement of the court was wrong, in my opinion. In my
opinion, Dutch citizens were not sent from Dutch prisons to
German concentration camps to be executed there.

                                                  [Page 126]

In the meantime, I cleared up the situation at the
suggestion of the Amsterdam judges, and through the General
Secretary for Justice I had the court in Leuwarden requested
to continue passing sentences. The court in Leuwarden did
not do so. Thereupon, I dismissed this court.

Q. Well, I have here the document "Verdict of the Court of
Appeal of Leuwarden," and there is no question of Dutch
prisoners being sent to concentration camps or being
tortured or otherwise put to death. All that is mentioned is
that the magistrates of that court did not wish that the
detainees be sent to concentration camps after they had
served their sentence.

I shall hand you the original of this document so that you
can check it. The document has already been submitted as
Exhibit RF 931.

A. I have not a German translation, or the original German.

Q. I shall read you the translation of the judgement; you
may check it:

  "Considering that the Court wishes to take into account
  the fact that for some time past various terms of
  imprisonment have been imposed by the Dutch judges upon
  the people contrary to the intentions of the legislation,
  and the punishments imposed by the judges have been
  executed in a manner which aggravates them to such an
  extent that it is impossible for the judge to foresee or
  even to imagine what the punishment will be - "

THE PRESIDENT: The translation is not coming through.

THE WITNESS: I am not getting the translation. This document
exists in German translation. I believe my defence counsel
has it in his files.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you got a German copy of it?

M. DEBENEST: Mr. President, we have a German copy, but we
cannot find it.

THE PRESIDENT: Why do you not put it to the defendant?

M. DEBENEST: Mr. President, I cannot find it ... it is

THE PRESIDENT: Why not summarise the document to the
witness, do it in that way? You can give the effect of the

M. DEBENEST: Willingly, Mr. President, certainly.


Q. This judgement sets out in detail that the judges no
longer wish to pronounce any sentence more severe than
protective custody.

THE PRESIDENT: Did you hear the question?

THE WITNESS: Yes, Mr. President, but why did they not want
to pass sentences? I had the German translation here in my
hands, and I took this translation as my basis in this
matter because I did not recall this judgement, I read it
here, and I remember that it stated there that these Dutch
prisoners were coming to German concentration camps, were
being tortured and executed.

THE PRESIDENT: It does not appear to say anything about that
in the judgement before us. There is nothing about that in
the judgement, is there?

M. DEBENEST: Mr. President, it is the defendant who claims
that the judges did not wish to pronounce such sentences any
more, so that people would not be sent to concentration
camps to be tortured or executed. There is no question of
that in the judgement. The only thing that is mentioned is
that the tribunal did not want to inflict any penalty which
would result in the people being sent away to concentration
camps. I do not see that there is anything in this judgement
which the defendant might consider as a personal insult or

THE WITNESS: Now I have the German text. It reads:

  "The court wants to take into consideration the fact that
  for some time judges have imposed penalties and that
  Dutch male criminals contrary to legal prescription and
  contrary to the intention of the legislator and the
  judge, have been executed and are being executed in the
  camp in a manner which..."

and so forth.

                                                  [Page 127]

Those are the concentration camps which the court meant. So
it is that prisoners were sent from Dutch prisons to German

THE PRESIDENT: Go on, M. Debenest.


Q. As regards education, did you not bring about very
extensive changes?

A. I introduced the supervision of the curriculum of the
schools, and I made my influence felt on the appointment of
teachers, particularly in the very numerous private schools
in the Netherlands. Two-thirds of the Netherlands schools
were private. I felt it necessary because in these schools
the students were definitely taught an anti-German tendency.
The Netherlands Education Ministry had the supervision of
these matters.

Q. You thereby prevented a large number of clergymen from
taking part in public education.

A. I do not believe so. I ordered, or agreed to an order,
that clergymen should not be heads of schools. As for
clergymen who were teachers, I agreed to have their pay
reduced by one-third. They were able to continue to teach
with two-thirds of their income, and with the money saved, I
gave positions to 4,000 young teachers out of work.

Q. Talking of teachers, did you not cause the creation of a
special school for teachers?

A. No. I believe you mean courses which were given in Avigor
for those who volunteered for them.

Q. No. What I mean is those teachers who were compelled is
take a course for a few months in Germany before their

A. I do not recall the case. It may refer to those who were
to teach German in the Netherlands schools. In that case, it
is possible that I demanded that they should first spend a
certain time in Germany before being employed.

Q. You did, as a matter of fact, make the study of the
German language in certain classes obligatory?

A. In the seventh grade and also in the eighth grade, which
I newly introduced. But at the same time, I had instruction
in the Dutch language increased, in order to prove that I
did not want to Germanise the Dutch, but only wanted to give
them an opportunity to study the German language.

Q. But they already had that opportunity. German was taught
simultaneously with English and French. You imposed the
teaching of the German language at the expense of the other
two foreign languages.

A. I spoke of the elementary schools in which the study of
German had not yet been, introduced. It is conceivable that
in the secondary schools instruction in German was increased
at the expense of instruction in English and French.

Q. Did you not order the closing down of several
universities? And why did you do so?

A. I recall only the closing of the Leyden University. When,
according to my instructions, Jewish professors of the
faculty were dismissed, the students of Leyden University
went on strike for a long time, and I thereupon closed its
doors. I do not recall having closed any other universities.
The Catholic University in Neumegen and the Calvinistic
University in Amsterdam, as far as I can recall, closed of
their own accord.

Q. And the Polytechnic Institute at Delft? You did not order
it to be closed either?

A. Yes. That was a temporary measure. It was reopened, as
far as I recall.

Q. How about the Catholic Commercial College at Tilburg?

A. I do not remember that.

Q. It was in 1943.

A. I do not remember. It is quite possible that for some
reason or other it was closed, probably because it seemed to
me to endanger the interests of the occupation forces.

                                                  [Page 128]

THE PRESIDENT: It is not necessary to investigate this in
detail, is it? If the defendant said that he closed one
school without giving an adequate reason, is that not
sufficient for you to develop your argument?

M. DEBENEST: Certainly, Mr. President.


Q. Later on you attempted to turn Leyden University into a
National Socialist University?

A. If you consider the appointment of two or three
professors out of about l00 professors or fifty professors
as to mean that, I should have to say yes. I cannot recall
any other measures. Once it was suggested to me to establish
a university in Leyden at which German and Dutch students
could study, and that the study there should find suitable
recognition in Germany. This did not come about.

Q. Anyway, you admit that you had the intention of creating
this school?

A. "Intention" is a little too strong. These ideas were
discussed. There was another suggestion. In the Netherlands,
in the German Wehrmacht we had a number of university
students who, for obvious reasons, had not been able to
continue their studies. It was under consideration to hold
courses at Leyden for these university students in the
Wehrmacht; these courses would be a sort of continuation of
their studies.

Q. I shall have Document F-803 presented to you, which I
submit as Exhibit RF I525. This is a report from the
Ministry of National Education of the Netherlands. It is on
Page 23 of the French version and Page 16 of the German

A. Page 16?

Q. Yes, 16.

THE PRESIDENT: Why do you not go on, M. Debenest?

M. DEBENEST: I am allowing the defendant to find the place.


Q. Have you found Page 16?

A. Yes.

Q. I shall read the passage:

  "Attempts were made to make the University of Leyden a
  National Socialist University by appointing National
  Socialist professors. However, these attempts failed as a
  result of the firm attitude taken by the professors and
  by the students. Certain professors even - "

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Is that on Page 15?

M. DEBENEST: That is on Page 23 of the French text, in the
last paragraph.

THE PRESIDENT: What is it?

M. DEBENEST: It is Document F-803.

THE PRESIDENT: I did not ask what document it was. I asked
what is the nature of the document.

M. DEBENEST: I pointed out to the Tribunal that it was a
report of the Minister for Education in the Netherlands.

THE PRESIDENT: Was he appointed by the defendant, or
appointed before the war?

M. DEBENEST: It is the present Minister for Education. I
would point out to the Tribunal that I am obliged to go into
a certain amount of detail, because when the French
Prosecution presented its case, we did not have all the
documents at our disposal, and the Dutch government is
anxious to have these facts presented in as detailed a
manner as possible.

I might add that today I am producing documents which
emanate from the Dutch government.

                                                  [Page 129]

THE PRESIDENT: That is Page 23?

M. DEBENEST: Page 23 of the French text, six lines before
the end of the last paragraph.


  M. DEBENEST: "Attempts were made to make the University
  of Leyden a National Socialist University by appointing
  National Socialist professors. However, these attempts
  failed as a result of the firm attitude taken by the
  professors and by the students. The professors even
  tendered their collective resignations in May 1943, and
  as there was no reaction to it, they tendered them a
  second time in September of the same year.

THE PRESIDENT: Surely, the defendant has already said this,
has he not? This is Leyden University that you are speaking
about, is it not?

M. DEBENEST: Yes, Mr. President. If I understood correctly,
I believe the defendant said that there had been a question
of creating a National Socialist school in Leyden but that
he had not put this project into effect.

On the other hand, it appears from this document that it did
not depend upon him but that it was a result of the attitude
of the teachers. That is what I wanted to bring out.

THE WITNESS: May I comment on that?


Q. Certainly.

A. The fact that there was an attempt to make Leyden a
National Socialist University is stated only in this
document. I repeat my assertion that I appointed two or at
the most three professors who were National Socialists. This
did not mean, by any means, that the University would become
National Socialistic, and this document shows clearly what
my attitude was. I did nothing at all against the
demonstrative gesture of resignation of the professors. The
second attempt was also unanswered. The fact that arrests
occurred then is connected with the fact that some of the
professors were under suspicion on other grounds, and these
professors were sent to Michelgestell. That is the
concentration camp in which the members played golf.

Q. Then that was a coincidence?

A. I would not even say that. Certainly after the second
attempt, we checked up on the gentlemen a little.

Q. Did you not take measures to oblige the students to do
forced labour?

A. I believe that not as long as they were studying, for I
had issued express orders for exemption of all students.
Advanced technical students were given exemption and
University students who were actually studying or had
fulfilled the requirements for study were not forced to
work, either, as far as I remember.

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