The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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DR. LATERNSER: No, Mr. President, that point of view cannot
be right. Up to now we could merely submit affidavits to the
Commission and not documents. The documents were to be
included in the document books, and that is what we are
discussing today. This document is a document, a list,
whereas the affidavit has purely a subsidiary character. It
is merely meant to give an explanation. I ask that a
decision be made.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we hear what you say and we will
consider the matter.

DR. LATERNSER: Then I wish to speak about Documents I5 and
20. Both are letters, the admissibility of which is of
importance to me particularly, since ordinary letters have
frequently been submitted in evidence during the trial. I
will remind you in particular of the Rainer letter in the
case of the defendant Dr. Seyss-Inquart. Then there is the
letter of Colonel-General Zeitzler, dated 8th July, 1946,
which is, Document 20. It is important because it shows that
as a result of the efforts of a general who is indicted the
Commissar Order was rescinded. That is why this letter
assumes particular significance for me as defence counsel of
the indicted group.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you give me the date of the letter?

DR. LATERNSER: The letter is dated 8th July, 1946, and it
was addressed to me. That, Mr. President, is all I have to
say to the objections raised by the prosecution.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Mr. Dodd, that concludes the
arguments that we need hear this morning, does it not?

MR . DODD: Yes.

                                                  [Page 189]

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Tribunal will consider your
suggestions.

I call on Dr. Steinbauer for the defendant Seyss-Inquart.

DR. STEINBAUER: Gentlemen of the Tribunal, on Friday I had
got as far as Page 71, and with the permission of the
Tribunal, I should like to continue on that page of my
script.

From what has been said it is shown that the Reich
Commissioner had to assume only a limited responsibility for
the German police, that is to say, in so far as he used them
for the execution of his orders in civilian matters. When
the Reich Commissioner called for their help, the police as
a rule first got in touch with Himmler. But in all matters
which came within the competence of the police, the Reich
Commissioner could neither issue orders to them nor
intervene de jure in their activity. This fact must never be
lost sight of when judging the Jewish question, the
concentration camps, and the deportations.

The admissibility of special courts and police protective
custody is recognized even in the report of the Dutch
Government. The police were responsible for the arrests and
the management of the concentration and prison camps. As
explained in detail by the defendant when examined as a
witness, he went to great trouble, as Wimmer and Schwebel
also confirmed, to put an end to abuses in the camps about
which he had heard. I shall refer only briefly to the
treatment of the so-called Dutch reprisal hostages in whose
case the defendant was very interested, also to the fact
that he succeeded in obtaining permission for the members of
the clergy who had been imprisoned in the Reich to return to
the Netherlands.

Having thus briefly outlined the position of the police and
their tremendous power, I shall pass on to one of the main
points of the Indictment - the Jewish question.

In its Trial Brief the prosecution states that Reich
Commissioner Seyss-Inquart alone bears full responsibility
for the carrying out of the Nazi programme to persecute the
Jews in Holland, and that in his Amsterdam speech before the
members of the NSDAP, on 13th March, 1941, he himself
declared: "To us the Jews are not Dutchmen; to National
Socialism and to the National Socialist Reich the Jews
represent the enemy." In that speech Seyss-Inquart also
explains why, as defender of the interests of the Reich, he
believed he had to adopt that attitude towards the Jews. He
knew them to be people who, through their influence on the
German people, would paralyse their will to resist, and who
would always prove to be their enemies. But this speech
shows more than anything else that Seyss-Inquart considered
all measures against the Jews as security measures for the
duration of the war only. He spoke of his desire to create
endurable measures during the period of transition and said
that after the occupation had come to an end it would be for
the Dutch people to decide what was to be the fate of the
Jews. It was quite natural and obvious, as a result of the
treatment they had experienced in Germany and later in the
occupied countries, that the Jews, no matter what their
nationality, should, during the war, become the most bitter
opponents of National Socialist Germany. That had to be
taken into account by every official who had to look after
the interests of the Reich in occupied territories. This
also makes the speech referred to in the beginning
understandable. Therefore when Seyss-Inquart was
commissioned by Fuehrer decree to safeguard the interests of
the Reich in Holland, he also had to take some kind of stand
on the Jewish question. It was his intention to remove the
Jews from leading positions in the State and the economic
life of the country for the duration of the occupation, but
otherwise to refrain from any further measures against them.
Actually, the measures instituted by him merely provided
that those Jews who were working for the State were sent on
leave or were retired with a pension.

In the meantime, Adolf Hitler had transferred the handling
of the whole Jewish question to Himmler, or to Heydrich, who
received full powers over the whole sphere of interest of
the Reich. The Security Police, dissatisfied with the
dilatory way in which the Reich Commissioner handled the
Jewish problem, availed them-

                                                  [Page 190]

selves of their full powers and established an office in
Amsterdam. Interference by this office was the cause of
constant friction with the Reich Commissioner's deputy in
Amsterdam. The Security Police claimed that they were unable
to guarantee the safety of the Reich, with which task they
had been entrusted, unless further measures were taken
against the Jews to restrict their activities in the field
of economy and their personal liberties. English and French
people had been assembled in separate camps and had been
driven over the Reich border, after their property had been
confiscated as enemy property, treatment which Germans
living abroad had likewise experienced in enemy countries.
The police made it particularly known that very many Jews
were actually involved, and often took a leading part in all
the more serious attempts at sabotage and other forms of
resistance. The Dutch Jews also, some of whose ancestors had
come from proud Spain, and many of whom had come from
Germany and the East as immigrants, had already held leading
positions in the economic field, but more especially in the
Press, before the occupation, positions which they had used
to combat National Socialism. When the enemy entered the
country, they knew it would be a life-and-death struggle,
and, contrary to Shylock's words in the Merchant of Venice:
"For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe," they placed
not only their property but even their lives at the disposal
of the resistance movement. The Reich Commissioner himself
could not close his eyes to this fact. Because of the great
number of persons involved, it was simply not possible to
mete out to the Jews treatment similar to that of the
English or the French or other enemy aliens who were
confined in camps. Measures restricting personal freedom of
action were taken by the Higher SS and Police Leader as
Himmler's direct subordinate, or by the Security Police on
direct orders from Heydrich. At this point, the Jewish star
was introduced; incidentally, the Dutch did not consider
this a mark of abasement. At the same time that measures
affecting the freedom of movement were taken, the property
of Jewish organizations and Jews was also placed under
control. The Reich Commissioner appointed Dr. Bomker as his
special trustee, and gave him the task of supervising the
measures taken by the police - in so far as this was
administratively possible and of preventing excesses. In
effect, he intervened in several cases and was able to
prevent wrongful police measures.

A large part of the activity of the Reich Commissioner's
office was concerned with economic measures, and the
description by the Dutch Government Commissioner for
Repatriation, Exhibit USA 195, gives a clear picture of the
entire Jewish problem in Holland. The chart shows that the
Reich Commissioner was able to delay measures against the
Jews for almost a year and that really intensive measures
did not begin until February, 1941, when the Central Office
for Jewish Emigration was established which was managed by
Heydrich and was under the supervision of SS
Obersturmfuehrer Aus der Funte. A comparison with measures
taken against the Jews in Germany itself and in occupied
countries shows a pronounced uniformity, which likewise
indicates that the measures in question were not taken by
the Reich Commissioner but were measures taken uniformly by
Reich offices, in other words, by the police. The Reich
Commissioner also saw to it that Jewish property was
sequestrated in an orderly manner. When it finally came to
the liquidation of the property pursuant to orders from the
Berlin Central Offices, proceeds from the liquidation were
not confiscated, but credited to the Custodian of Jewish
Property; thus, towards the end, the Jewish administrative
office had accumulated some 500 million guilders.

In order to put an end to the constant pressure and
interference by the police through Heydrich, the Reich
Commissioner, together with the Higher SS and Police Leader,
tried to stabilise the Dutch Jewish question by assembling
the Jews affected by the restrictive regulations in two
camps in Amsterdam, where they were to live under their own
administration. One of the camps was Westerbork, where they
had a Jewish camp police of their own. From the outside, the
camp was under the supervision of the Dutch police. When, in
the spring of 1945,

                                                  [Page 191]

it was taken by the Canadians, the British radio reported
that they found the Jews housed there to be in good
condition, which was not the case in other camps which were
found outside Holland. The second confinement camp was to be
Vught. Himmler made a concentration camp out of it. The
Jewish community of Amsterdam was under the direction of
Ascher, a merchant who dealt in precious stones. Funds were
made available to the Jewish community, especially for
school purposes; negotiations were carried out with firms to
provide work in the Jewish quarters. At the beginning of
1942, Heydrich, or rather Himmler, demanded the transfer of
the Dutch Jews to assembly camps situated in Germany. Both
referred to the full powers given them by the Fuehrer and
pointed out that sooner or later an invasion had to be
expected. Holland seemed a likely territory, because the
ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam provided suitable supply
bases, and from there the British would take the shortest
route to the Ruhr, the industrial centre of Germany. To
permit so many violently anti-German people to remain in a
territory which would see future operations in the battle
against Britain was inconsistent with the safety of the
Reich. The police were adamant and all the Reich
Commissioner was able to do was to take steps to make the
evacuation by the police as humane as possible. The Reich
Commissioner succeeded in getting thousands of Jews exempted
from evacuation, so that they were able to remain in
Holland. The defendant got his agents to inspect the
internment camps and, in so far as he was able to do so, he
managed to have bad conditions remedied by the intervention
of the Christian Church. The order for the evacuation was
not given by the defendant, but by Himmler or Heydrich. The
defendant did not even give his consent to the evacuation.
As a result of representations by the defendant, a number of
the Jews were taken to Theresienstadt, which was said to be
a camp, ostensibly under the supervision of international
agencies, such as the Red Cross, and where the Jews were
said to be well treated. As a result of exemption
regulations introduced by the Reich Commissioner, a great
many Jews were exempted from evacuation. The above-mentioned
Dr. Bomker was appointed to supervise the transport of the
Jews in Holland and in many cases succeeded in getting the
Higher SS and Police Leader to remedy bad conditions. Most
of the Jews were taken to Poland, and probably one of the
most terrible sentences is that to be found in USA 195 - a
document submitted by the prosecution - which reads: "Total
number of those deported was 117,000. After they had left
Holland every trace of them was lost; they merged with the
mass of deportees coming from all occupied countries and
could no longer be identified as an individual group."

Now comes the culminating point of the whole Indictment, the
dramatic climax in the trial against this defendant. Did the
defendant know of the fate of these many unfortunate and
innocent people; did he intentionally approve of their fate
or is he guilty because he did not prevent it?

Again and again, the defendant has solemnly declared, even
when questioned as a witness under oath, that he did not
know anything about this, and that he was of the opinion
that the Jews really were going to be resettled in the East
for the duration of the war.

When in 1942 or 1943 the defendant once had, an opportunity
of speaking to Adolf Hitler himself when he had to make a
report to him, he steered the conversation round to the
Jewish question. When the Reich Commissioner pointed out
that the evacuation of the Jews was causing serious unrest
in the Netherlands, Adolf Hitler replied that he had to
segregate the Jews from the body of the German people,
because they were a destructive element, and that he wanted
to resettle them in the East. When Himmler, the Chief of the
SS and of the German police, was questioned by the defendant
at the beginning of 1944, all he said in answer to the Reich
Commissioner's apprehensions was that he should not be
worried about his Jews, his Dutch Jews were his best
workers.

The Government representatives who had been sent to inspect
some of the camps returned with the report that the Jews
were getting along well and that they were

                                                  [Page 192]

satisfied. News from the deportees reached the Netherlands
at regular intervals, even if it did become less and less
frequent later on. Now that the heavy curtain which
concealed the horror of those mass murders has been lifted,
we know the circumstances and the truth. The scrupulously
careful probings in this trial have revealed the devilish
manner in which Hitler and Himmler knew how to disguise and
cover up their criminal intentions concerning the final
solution of the Jewish question. When I read the Dutch
report about the Jewish question for the first time, I
myself was deeply moved. This is the document which,
together with the so-called Hoszbach document - the last
will of Hitler of the year 1937 - I have especially
submitted to my client. As for the Hoszbach document, in
which the evacuation of one million Austrians was demanded,
Dr. Seyss-Inquart told me that he had never seen it and had
also never heard of it. He said: "If I had known about such
an intention I would never have been a party to it."

Also when I submitted to him the document concerning the
Jews, he told me, in a way which convinced me, that at the
time he knew nothing about the final solution and the
happenings in the extermination camps. When I then asked him
why he did not resign when he found he could not prevail
upon Himmler and his accomplices, especially concerning the
Jewish question, he told me that, after all, he was a
soldier and knew that a soldier must not desert in war time.
He had decided in his own mind that if he were to remain at
his post, quite apart from his other obligations, it would
be because he doubted very much if the Netherlands would
fare any better under a successor.

As a defence counsel and jurist, I must add the following:
One could not know of the measures of extermination which
the prosecution has mentioned. If extermination did take
place to the extent as alleged, then these are the acts of a
special group of Himmler's hangmen in a desperate situation.
But in penal law, the principle applies that the causal
nexus is interrupted if an independent criminal act
interposes. This is the case here. Before I conclude the
most difficult chapter of the whole Indictment I should
still like to examine the question as to whether the
statement of the defendant that he actually could not have
had any knowledge of the terrible crimes which were
committed in the extermination camps is, in fact, credible.

THE PRESIDENT: Would that not be a convenient time to break
off?

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: I will deal with these documents. The
documents objected to in the case of the SS, Nos. 69, 85,
86, 96, 101 and 102, are all disallowed.

In the case of the SD and the Gestapo all the documents are
agreed.

In the case of the High Command, the Tribunal allows the
Documents 8 and g to be translated and put in the document
book. Document 11 is withdrawn, Documents 5, 13, 15 and 20
may be submitted to the Commissioners, but they will not be
translated for the document books. That is all.

Now, Dr. Steinbauer.

DR. STEINBAUER: I continue.

First of all I should like to present the testimony of a
French medical doctor, who himself was a prisoner in an
extermination camp for a long time. This is Dr. Goubtien
from Montgeron (Seine-et-Oise), who writes, in Exhibit RF
107:

  "It is difficult for a normal human being to picture
  exactly what a concentration camp, which is designated in
  the German language by the two letters 'KZ', is like.
  
  It is difficult for various reasons: first of all, a man
  brought up according to the principles of our
  civilisation, which is wholly based on the elementary
  Christian humanitarian doctrine, cannot believe the
  statements made by the victims of so many atrocities; the
  sadism, the exaggerated refinement used in causing
  suffering, go beyond the normal powers of feeling;
  moreover, the

                                                  [Page 193]

  Nazis tried to conceal their crimes in a hypocritical
  way, so that a foreigner inspecting a concentration camp
  two or three years ago would have been impressed by the
  order and cleanliness in it.
  
  If a jurist had examined the execution cases, he would
  always have found at least sufficient reasons, if not
  valid ones, for their justification. Finally, if a doctor
  had searched for medical records, he could very easily
  have concluded that the causes of death were normal.
  
  That shows how thick was the curtain which covered the
  concentration camps, and how careful were the SS to see
  that it was kept down - how jealously they guarded the
  secrets. The SS tried to give a legal appearance to their
  crimes; here is a characteristic feature of Hitlerian
  hypocrisy."

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