The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Artur Seyss-Inquart

(Part 5 of 18)

[Page 966]

The subversive machinations of the Austrian Nazis to bring about the absorption of Austria by the Greater German Reich was described in detail by Dr. Friedrich Rainer, a leading Austrian Nazi and a collaborator of Seyss-Inquart who became one of Hitler's Gauleiters, in a report prepared by him and forwarded to Buerckel. A copy of this report accompanied by a letter of transmittal was later sent to Seyss-Inquart by Dr. Rainer. In substance, the report related how the Nazi party lost a parliamentary battle in 1933, continued its efforts to force admission of its representatives into the Austrian government, and finally flowered into the unsuccessful "Putsch" of July 1934, which, in effect, destroyed the Nazi organization. Following the unsuccessful "Putsch" Hitler liquidated the first stage of the battle, and instructed Franz von Papen to restore normal relationships between the two countries. Accordingly, a new method of political penetration was adopted. The result was that Hinterleitner, an Austrian Nazi got in touch with the lawyer Seyss-Inquart, who had connections with Dr. Wachter originating from Seyss-Inquart's support of the July uprising. Seyss-Inquart also had a good position in the legal field and especially well established relations with Christian Social politicians. Dr. Seyss-Inquart came from the ranks of the "Styrian Heimatschutz" and had become a Nazi party member when the entire "Styrian Heimatschutz" was incorporated in the NSDAP. The reason for utilizing Seyss- Inquart appears in the following excerpt from the covering letter which accompanied Dr. Rainer's report to Reich Commissar Gauleiter Josef Buerckel, dated 16 July 1939:

"I think the main reason for the fact that the person of Dr. Seyss-Inquart seemed to Hitler and to public opinion to have stepped in the limelight in those March days, was that no position existed in the party which one might have presented oneself to the public, and that there was no man who had the guts to let himself be presented. The actual reason was that the party leadership had to remain secret during the whole illegal fight, secret even from the Reich German public." 812-PS)

Thus it is clear why Seyss-Inquart was surreptitiously a member of the Austrian Nazi Party after it was declared illegal in 1934.

Dr. Rainer goes on to report that full recognition of the party leadership was given by Seyss-Inquart and also that the defendant was in permanent contact with Captain Leopold, who became a member of the staff of Hess. After Hinterleitner was arrested, Dr. Rainer became his successor as leader of the Austrian Nazi Party, and, on 16 July 1936, Dr. Rainer and Globocnik visited

[Page 967]

Hitler at Obersalzburg, where they received a clear explanation of the situation and the wishes of the Fuehrer. Subsequently, on 17 July 1936, all illegal Gauleiters met in Anif near Salzburg, where they received a complete report from Dr. Rainer on the statement of the Fuehrer and his political instructions for carrying out the fight. After the agreement between Germany and Austria on 11 July 1936, Hitler appointed Wilhelm Keppler as Chief of a mixed commission to supervise the execution of the agreement. At the same time Keppler was given full authority for the Nazi Party in Austria. (812-PS)

(6) The activities of Seyss-Inquart and his fellow Nazi coconspirators and collaborators forced the then Austrian government into a critical situation and a struggle for survival. As the result of the plans, maneuvers, and disturbances created by the Nazis in Austria, Schuschnigg, Chancellor of Austria, accompanied by his State Secretary, Guido Schmid, conferred with Hitler at Berchtesgaden on 12 February 1938. Dr. Muehlmann was also present but not as a member of the Schuschnigg delegation. At this meeting the possibilities for military action by Germany against Austria were demonstrated to the Chancellor. The ultimate result was that Chancellor Schuschnigg had no choice but to accept the demands of Hitler that the Austrian Nazi Party be legalized; that amnesty be granted to Austrian Nazis already convicted for illegal activities; and that Seyss-Inquart be appointed Minister of the Interior and Security in the Austrian cabinet, (2995-PS; 3254-PS; 3425-PS; 2469-PS; 2464-PS)

A few days after the Berchtesgaden meeting of Hitler and Schuschnigg, and immediately after his appointment as Minister of the Interior and Security of Austria, Seyss- Inquart went to Berlin for a conference with Hitler. Upon arrival in Berlin he was met by Keppler, Hitler's special delegate on Austrian affairs, who took him to Himmler. After a short conference with Himmler, the defendant was conducted to Hitler, to whom he gave the Nazi salute and with whom he had a conference lasting two hours and ten minutes. Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop and Keppler waited in the ante- chamber during the conference. Seyss-Inquart first offered Hitler an explanation for greeting him with the Hitler salute, by saying: "I consider him as the Fuehrer of the German people who led us out of the discriminations of the peace treaties." During the conference, he rendered a report to Hitler concerning the Austrian situation since June of 1934 and presented his own program for Hitler's approval. Hitler expressed his approval of the plan but told Seyss- Inquart that he doubted

[Page 968]

whether Chancellor Schuschnigg would be willing to go so far. It seems clear that Hitler's doubt concerning Schuschnigg's approval of the Seyss-Inquart plan referred solely to Seyss-Inquart's proposal to allow Austrian Nazis to "conduct their activities according to the Austrian Constitution and on those lines find their way to the Reich," because all other portions of his plan had previously been adopted as a result of the Berchtesgaden Agreement. (3254-PS; 3425-PS; 2484-PS)

Seyss-Inquart has asserted that, upon his return to Vienna after his conference with Hitler, he reported to Chancellor Schuschnigg the content of his discussion and urged the Chancellor to make a decision about the Austrian National Socialist question. He then attended rallies of the Austrian National Socialists held in various places in Austria to inform them of the content of his conference with Hitler. Two of the principal meetings were held at Graz and Linz (3425-PS; 3254-PS). Considerable doubt is cast upon the truth of Seyss-Inquart's assertions that he reported the contents of his conference with Hitler to Chancellor Schuschnigg and in public meetings of the Austrian Nazis, by a statement contained in a letter written by Seyss-Inquart to Himmler on 19 August 1939. The statement is as follows:

"I had a conversation of over two hours with the Fuehrer on 17 February 1938, in which I explained to him my point of view. I would only be able to make statements about the content of this conversation if the Fuehrer would grant me permission. I left this discussion as a very sincere man and with a feeling of great happiness to be of help to the Fuehrer." (3271- PS)

(7) Finally Chancellor Schuschnigg determined to go before the people for a decision on the question of Austrian independence. Chancellor Schuschnigg planned to hold a plebiscite on that precise question and fixed 13 March 1938 as a date upon which the plebiscite would be held. The Chancellor took Seyss-Inquart into his confidence and discussed the matter of the plebiscite with him. The Chancellor requested Seyss-Inquart to keep the matter a secret until noon of the next day, and the defendant promised to do so. Thereafter, Seyss-Inquart prepared a letter to Schuschnigg objecting to the plebiscite on constitutional grounds and alleging that the manner in which the plebiscite was to be held would not allow the Austrians to express their own desires. Seyss-Inquart admits that a copy of his letter was delivered to Hitler in Berlin by Globotschnigg. (254-PS; 425-PS)

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