The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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By DR. STEINBAUER, Continued:

The Jesuit Father Kuhle also expresses himself in a similar
way in his book, The Concentration Camps - a (Question of
Conscience for the German People. He writes, Page 19:

  " ... and he believed it was possible to prevent the
  unmasking by an absolutely impenetrable ring of silence
  with which he surrounded his works. This ring was closed
  so tightly that a German had to travel abroad to learn
  something concrete about the camps and to read there
  about these Soldiers of the Marshes (Moorsoldaten). Books
  like these did not exist at home, and one learned only
  very little from hearsay. Nobody came out of the worst
  camps, and the wrongdoers themselves were 'liquidated '
  from time to time, so that they could not tell anything.
  But the few who got out of the less terrible camps were
  so intimidated that they gave only quite general, obscure
  hints just enough to create in the entire people a
  general feeling of horror of these mysterious places."

But even the little which went from mouth to mouth never
came to the knowledge of higher officials of the Third
Reich, for if they followed up these things, the police
learned about it and took care to see that those who spread
such "atrocity propaganda" kept silent. Therefore, as time
went on, one refrained from telling anything to these
officials.

But the most important testimony is that of one who knows,
who himself had an active share in the liquidation of the
Jews. On 25th June, 1946, Dieter Wisliceny, the special
representative of Eichmann who was in charge of the
liquidation of the Jews, was questioned as a witness by the
appointed judge of this Tribunal. He stated that commissions
of the International Red Cross or foreign diplomats were
conducted to Theresienstadt in order to make it appear that
conditions were normal. The Jews who were brought to
Auschwitz were forced to write postcards before they were
murdered; these postcards were then mailed at long intervals
in order to create the impression that the persons were
still alive. He invited various representatives of the
Press. To the specific question, "Under whose jurisdiction
is the Jewish question in the occupied countries, under the
commander of the regular police, the Security Police or the
Security Service?" he gave the answer: "According to my
knowledge, the Jewish question in the other occupied
countries is an affair of the Higher SS and Police Leader,
in accordance with a special order by Himmler."

In order to make the deception even greater, 500 Reichsmark,
for instance, would be demanded from the Slovak Government
as settlement contribution for every Jew. I confronted the
defendant with this, and he told me that Himmler also
demanded from him a settlement contribution of 400
Reichsmark for every Dutch Jew. As Reich Commissioner he
refused this, because of the inadequate information about
the actual settlement of the Jews. Also he argued that the
final settlement would have to be left over until the time
of peace.

During his examination, the defendant, of his own accord,
mentioned individual cases of sterilisation. The letters
written by Seyss-Inquart to Himmler, procured as evidence,
taken in conjunction with the statement of the defendant,
show the following facts

                                                  [Page 194]

Contrary to the statement of the then 18-year-old informant
Hildegard Kunze, Seyss-Inquart never reported through any
sort of official channels to Himmler about the Jewish
question. What happened was that Seyss-Inquart asked Himmler
not to aggravate the situation of the Jews in the
Netherlands any further, referring in this connection to the
measures which had been carried out in the meantime against
the Jews and which exceeded the measures in the Reich, and
at the same time pointing out the cases of sterilisation.

Seyss-Inquart took an immediate stand against the
sterilisation of women and made a statement to the Christian
Churches that no coercion must be exercised. As a matter of
fact, after a short time there were no further cases.

As regards the case itself, the defendant can only be made
responsible in so far as he did not take an immediate stand
against it, irrespective of whether he was certain that he
would be able to prevent the action. The reasons for the
attitude of the defendant are given in the letter which it
was requested should be put in evidence. He was worried lest
the position of the Jews should be made even worse, and
supposed that these Jews would be spared further attention
from the police in the future.

In any case, in so far as measures against the Jews went
through the defendant, they were taken only as measures
against enemy aliens for reasons which the defendant
mentioned in his speech of 21st March, 1941, in Amsterdam.
Whatever happened beyond that was the express order of the
Reich Central Agencies, especially Heydrich, and was mostly
carried out by organs of these Reich Central Agencies
themselves.

A further point of the Indictment is the assertion that the
defendant as Reich Commissioner, in accordance with the
planned policy to weaken and exterminate the peoples of the
occupied countries, had deliberately neglected food supplies
for the Dutch, and thus brought about a famine crisis.

Such allegations appear to be refuted by the testimony of
the witnesses Dr. Hirschfeld and von der Wense, as well as
by the statements of the defendant himself. In the interests
of the population the whole machinery of food supply was
from the very beginning under Dutch direction, although it
was known to the Reich Commissioner that it was particularly
in this field that the leading cells of the resistance
movement had established themselves. The food supply in the
Netherlands was certainly not worse than in Germany; they
even received from the latter supplies of grain for bread.
As late as 1944, the ration amounted to 1,800 calories and
before that 2,500 calories, which was supplemented by a
great variety of things.

The Reich Commissioner succeeded in putting a stop to the
knapsack-traffic of the Wehrmacht, which was mentioned in
the cross-examination, by intervening with the Reich Food
Office - even if it was not until 1943.

How much was done by the defendant to improve the food
supplies of the Dutch, for example by developing the north-
east polders, and by resisting the excessive demands of the
Reich, is confirmed by the witness yon der Wense.

That the Dutch production of nitrogen was reserved for Dutch
agriculture until September, 1944, is due exclusively to the
defendant. From the autumn of 1944 on, the situation as
regards food supplies deteriorated considerably. Most of the
country was in the fighting zone after the invasion, and the
traffic routes had been smashed by countless air attacks.
This created a very difficult food situation, particularly
in the west of Holland, where millions of people were
crowded into a small area in three large cities. In view of
the small number of occupation troops, it would have been a
giant blunder to drive these crowded masses to desperate
resistance by starvation.

When in September, 1944, there was a strike of railway and
shipyard workers, engineered by the London exile Government,
which was counting on a favourable outcome of the battle
near Arnhem and a German collapse in the very near future,
this, seen from the aspect of International Law, was a state
of emergency in which

                                                  [Page 195]

the country had placed itself vis-a-vis the occupant. It was
only natural that the Wehrmacht should have used all
available shipping space for their own defence and to secure
their food supplies.

In order to avoid repetition, may I refer to the testimony
of von der Wense and Dr. Hirschfeld and bring out the most
important point, namely that the witness Dr. Hirschfeld
testified that as early as 16th October, 1944, the Reich
Commissioner had given an order for lifting the ban on
shipping traffic. He was able to count on the fact that a
blockade of four weeks, which was not planned as a reprisal
measure, would not cause any damage, because sufficient food-
stocks were available or could be sent into Holland in the
months of November and December. In fact he lifted the
embargo at an earlier date, organized emergency transport
and imported food from the north-eastern provinces, using
for this German transport.

The breakdown of the Dutch transport system, the constant
day and night enemy air attacks, the acts of sabotage by the
resistance movement and finally, the serious coal shortage,
hampered the supply operations, so that the state of
emergency caused by the strike cannot be in any way laid to
the charge of the defendant as a criminal offence.

In any case, the statistics submitted by me show that during
the entire period of the occupation, until the middle of
1944, the population steadily increased, and that general
standards of living, in spite of war-time conditions, did
not deteriorate to any considerable extent.

As the food situation deteriorated more and more because of
the war, the defendant arranged for food to be brought in by
German trains, and also made food available for children
from German Wehrmacht stocks. He supported the welfare work
of the Churches and of the Red Cross, although the Geneva
badge was often misused by the resistance movement. The
Crown Prince of Sweden, as President of the Swedish Red
Cross, expressed his special thanks to the Reich
Commissioner. Finally the Reich Commissioner contacted the
Dutch Government-in-exile through its confidential agents,
and in this manner brought about an agreement with the
Allied High Command, whereby supplies of food for Holland
were secured and the occupation actually brought to an end.

In Allied military circles at that time one still expected
the resistance to continue for another sixty days. The
German occupation troops in the Netherlands would certainly
have been able to hold out for this length of time, but this
would have meant that the country and its population would
have perished.

I come now to the last point of the French Indictment, that
of the flooding and destruction caused by the Occupying
Power. Even if the prosecution had not brought up this
point, then I, as defence counsel, would have discussed this
matter before the Tribunal, because it is this point,
perhaps more than any other, which makes the defendant
appear in a different, a very favourable light. In referring
to the testimony of the witnesses Wimmer, Schwebel and Dr.
Hirschfeld, also of General von Kleffel, I should like to
make the following brief statement: The Tribunal is perhaps
aware that forty per cent of the total area of the
Netherlands lies below sea level. In the course of centuries
of hard work the land was wrested from the sea and changed
into fertile farming land. Protected by mighty dykes, locks
and pumping installations regulate the entry of water and
traffic on the inland waterways. The constant struggle
against storms and water has made Dutchmen a proud and
freedom-loving people. "God has created the earth; ourselves
we have created our country," says the Dutch proverb.

When the Canadian troops thrust towards the north, the Reich
Commissioner did not take the road back to the Reich through
Groningen, as many people expected him to do, but returned
to the Hague in order to carry out his task until the end.
He feared that the collapsing Reich might adopt a desperate
policy which would lead to the destruction of an exposed
country like Holland, where there were 271 people to the
square kilometre.

                                                  [Page 196]

The legendary battle of the Goths, in which everything is
utterly destroyed, became a fixed idea with many. It was
Goebbels who said in his boastful manner that if they must
go, they would slam the door with such a bang that the whole
world would hear. The. Reich Commissioner warned the people
against such ideas. The "scorched earth" order was actually
given, and would have meant the destruction of all technical
installations in Holland, including dams and locks, and
laying waste two-thirds of the country, but, acting together
with Minister Speer and Donitz, the defendant prevented all
this.

This has also been confirmed in my questionnaire by the
Commander-in-Chief General von Kleffel and been acknowledged
by the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Bedell Smith.
Historical monuments were also to be destroyed, as has been
testified by Schwebel.

General Christiansen's defence counsel has informed me that
in addition to the technical troops of the Wehrmacht who
dynamited and flooded everything which military necessity
justified, Himmler sent his own men to carry out destruction
behind the backs of the Wehrmacht. All this was prevented by
the Reich Commissioner, who, conscious of his
responsibility, intervened, and the country was spared much
devastation which could have never been made good.

In May, 1932, a simple memorial was placed on the dam of the
Zuider Zee, the largest dam which has ever been constructed,
which bears no name - only the words: "Een volk dat leeft,
bouwt san zijn toekomst" (A nation that lives builds on its
future).

Regardless of how the Trial may end, perhaps the day will
come when under this proverb the words will be added: "Saved
from destruction by Seyss-Inquart."

Thus I come to the end of the second point of the
Indictment.

Slowly the curtain falls on the drama of the alleged
conspirators. But I ask you: Can one call that man a cruel
and ruthless despot and war criminal, who in the middle of
the life-and-death struggle of his nation is placed at the
head of the administration of an enemy country and yet tries
again and again to prevent excesses or to moderate them?

However, I would not wish to bring my discourse to an end
without expressing some general remarks on the Trial. I
esteem France and her tradition of culture, and I have
considered it an honour to be allowed as an attorney to
cross swords with Frenchmen in these proceedings. I have
listened to the speech of the Chief Prosecutor for France,
M. Fran‡ois de Menthon, with close attention and sympathetic
interest. However, it cannot remain entirely undisputed. M.
de Menthon has described Germany as the eternal enemy of
France and has demanded the severest penalty, death, for all
defendants without exception. He thereby brings out one of
the weaknesses of this Trial, namely, that it will always be
one of victors over vanquished. One is reminded too strongly
of the Gaul Brennus, who with his "Vae victis" throws his
sword into the scale. M. de Menthon with this demand
unintentionally obstructs the road to a lasting peace.

The sin against the spirit is the basic error of National
Socialism and the source of all crimes, says M. de Menthon;
National Socialism is based on racial theory, a product of
German mentality. But M. de Menthon rightly explains that
National Socialism is the final stage of a doctrinaire
development over a long period. There are no direct
transitions in history, but all is rooted in preceding ideas
and undercurrents. The events of the twentieth century can
only find their explanation in the developments of the
preceding century. The closing years of the nineteenth
century saw the birth of an exaggerated nationalism, and
here it must be said that it was not the Germans, but the
French who first established the racial theory, for
instance, Count Gobineau in his essay Sur L'Inigalite des
Races Humaines, and George Sorel in his Reflexion sur la
Violence.

At the end of his statement M. de Menthon quotes the book by
Politis, La Morale Internationale, which I have also
mentioned. Politis describes this exaggerated nationalism as
a veritable international malady, deriving from the

                                                  [Page 197]

nineteenth century. He mentions particularly the case of the
Frenchman Maurice Barres. He sees in the phrase: "La patrie
eut-elle tort, il faut lui donner raison" (my country right
or wrong), the negation of all ethical laws.

I would like to confront M. de Menthon with another
Frenchman. He is an unknown professor of history. The
Gestapo, the German and the French police are on his track,
he frequently changes his appearance and his name. He is
everywhere, we find him in the Massif Centrale, in the
Auvergne, in the mountains near Grenoble, at Bordeaux on the
coast and in Paris. Wherever he appears Wehrmacht trains are
derailed, ammunition dumps blow up, and important industrial
plants shut down. He always remembers the words of De
Gaulle: "Our country is in mortal danger; join us,
everybody; fight for France!" The name of this man is
Georges Bidault. The first thing he did after the enemy had
been driven out of the country was to visit severely wounded
soldiers in the hospitals. But he does not only go to the
Frenchmen, he also visits the German wounded in their wards
and says to them: "Comrades, I wish you speedy recovery and
a happy return to your homes." These words of the man who
today is the leader of France show us the path to peace by
the honest and free collaboration of peoples and nations.

Hitler wanted to create a new Europe; in this he failed
because of his methods. Germany lies defenceless, her towns
are destroyed, her economy shattered. France, one of the
oldest countries of Christendom, the country which at the
end of the eighteenth century proclaimed the Rights of Man,
has today the special mission and responsibility of saving
the Western civilisation.

To achieve this, however, it is necessary that distrust,
which poisons the life of all peoples, should disappear. I
thus conclude my very brief and general remarks on the
Trial.

Honourable Judges.

Into your hands I confidently put the fate of my client. I
know well that you will consider carefully all the facts
which speak for Seyss-Inquart.

But I will walk again through the streets of Nuremberg, as I
have done so often during the long months of this Trial, and
from the ruins of the imperial castle look down on the
German countryside. From the ruins of the old town rise,
scarcely damaged, the monuments of the painter Albrecht
Durer and the geographer Martin Beheim. They are the
prophets of German art and science. May those two names be
symbols for the future, and, like beacons, guide the German
people from dark misery to the happy uplands of a lasting
peace.

THE, PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn for a few minutes.

(A recess was taken.)


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