The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Artur Seyss-Inquart

(Part 7 of 18)

[Page 972]

"Due to the cooperation of the above-mentioned people with group leader Keppler and other officials of the Reich and due to the activities of other contact-men in Austria, it was possible to obtain the appointment of Seyss-Inquart as 'Staatsrat' [councillor of State] in July 1937. Due to the same facts, the Chancellor Dr. Schuschnigg was forced to take a new so-called 'satisfactory action'. Through all this a new and stronger political position was won in the Austrian system. The National-Socialist Party became acceptable again in the political field and became a partner with whom one had to negotiate, even when it was not officially incorporated into internal Austrian political developments. This complicated political maneuver, accompanied by the steadily increasing pressure from the Reich, led to talks between the Fuehrer and Schuschnigg at the Obersalzberg. Here Gruppenfuehrer Keppler presented the concrete political demands of the fighting underground movement, which he estimated according to his personal experiences and the information he received. The results of these talks were the right of a free acknowledgment of the National Socialist movement on the one hand and the recognition of an independent Austrian state on the other hand, as well as the appointment of Seyss-Inquart as Minister of Interior and Public Safety, as a person who will guarantee to both sides the proper carrying out of the agreements. In this way Seyss-Inquart occupied the key position and was in the center of all obvious political actions. A legal base in the government was won for the party. This resulted in a paralysis of the 'system apparatus' [Schuschnigg government] at a time when a revolution needed to be carried out. Through this, the basis for a new attack on the Schuschnigg government was won.

"Situation: Miklas negotiated with Ender for the creation of a government which included, blacks, reds and National Socialists, and proposed the post of Vice- Chancellor to Seyss-Inquart. The latter rejected it and told Rainer that he was not able to negotiate by himself because he was personally involved, and therefore a weak and unpleasant political situation might result. Rainer negotiated with Zernette. Director of the cabinet Huber, Guido Schmid, Glaise-Horstenau, Legation Councillor Stein, Military Attache General Muffe, and the 'Gruppenfuehrer' Keppler, who had arrived in the meantime, were also negotiating. At 7:00 Seyss-Inquart entered the negotiations again. Situation at 7:30 p.m.: Stubborn

[Page 973]

refusal of Miklas to appoint Seyss-Inquart as Chancellor; appeal to the world in case of a German invasion.

"Gruppenfuehrer Keppler explained that the Fuehrer did not yet have an urgent reason for the invasion. This reason must first be created. The situation in Vienna and in the country is most dangerous. It is feared that street fighting will break out any moment because Rainer ordered the entire party to demonstrate at 3 o'clock. Rainer proposed storming and seizing the government palace in order to force the reconstruction of the government. The proposal was rejected by Keppler but was carried out by Rainer after he discussed it with Globocnik. After 8:00 p.m. the SA and SS marched in and occupied the government buildings and all important positions in the city of Vienna. At 8:30 p.m. Rainer, with the approval of Klausner, ordered all Gauleiters of Austria to take over power in all eight 'gaus' of Austria, with the help of the SS and SA and with instructions that all government representatives who try to resist should be told that this action was taken on order of Chancellor Seyss-Inquart.

"With this, the revolution broke out, and this resulted in the complete occupation of Austria within three hours and the taking over of all important posts by the party ***.

"The seizure of power was the work of the party supported by the Fuehrer's threat of invasion and the legal standing of Seyss-Inquart in the government. The national result in the form of the taking over of the government by Seyss-Inquart was due to the actual seizure of power by the party on one hand, and the political efficiency of Dr. Seyss-Inquart in his territory on 1;he other; but both factors may be considered only in the relation to the Fuehrer's decision on 9 March 1938 to solve the Austrian problem under any circumstances and the orders consequently issued by the Fuehrer." (812-PS)

Seyss-Inquart's own story of the events on 11 March 1938 is not fundamentally different, although he does show a marked tendency to minimize his role in the planning, precipitating, and accomplishment of the annexation of Austria by Germany, in a statement signed by him after his arrest and indictment:

"At 10 o'clock in the morning Glaise-Horstenau and I went to the Bundes Chancellery and conferred for about two hours with Dr. Schuschnigg. We told him of all that we knew, particularly about the possibility of disturbances and preparations by the Reich. The Chancellor said that he would

[Page 974]

give his decision by 1400 hours. While I was with Glaise-Horstenau and Dr. Schuschnigg, I was repeatedly called to the telephone to speak to Goering. He informed me, (the demands of the Reich steadily increasing) that the agreement of 2/12 had been cancelled, and demanded Dr. Schuschnigg's resignation and my appointment as Chancellor. I delivered this information verbally to Dr. Schuschnigg and withdrew from the conference.

"In the meantime Keppler arrived from Berlin and had a conference in the Bundes Chancellery, I believe also with President Miklas. The latter refused to concede to the demands and sought to find various other solutions. When Keppler arrived from Berlin he showed me the contents of a telegram which I, as leader of the provisional Austrian Government, was to send to Hitler and in which I was to request sending of German troops to Austria to put down disorders. I refused as I did not want to establish myself as head of a provisional government, and there were no disorders in Austria. Keppler repeatedly urged me about the telegram. Around 6 p.m. I told him that he knew my standpoint and should do what he wished with Berlin. Keppler, as I have been able to confirm from records available, understood my answer and did not send off the telegram at that time. Around 7:30 p.m. a frontier police post announced that German troops were crossing the frontier. Thereupon Dr. Schuschnigg gave his well known farewell speech over the radio. Upon-requests from various sides I followed with a speech over the radio, stating that I was still functioning as Minister of Interior and Security, requesting preservation of peace and order, and gave directions that no resistance should be offered the German

"As I am able to gather from the records available, I was again requested about 10 p.m. to give my sanction to another somewhat altered telegram, about which I informed President Miklas and Dr. Schuschnigg. Finally President Miklas appointed me Chancellor and a little while later he approved of my proposed ministers." (3425-PS)

However, Seyss-Inquart displayed undue modesty in this statement. His letter to Himmler indicates how active he was on 11 March 1938, and reveals that he was not satisfied with making demands upon Chancellor Schuschnigg, but also handed an ultimatum to President Miklas:

"It is only possible that Buerckels made a statement that in the critical hours it was hard to find me. After I had handed

[Page 975]

an ultimatum to Miklas which was respited until 5:45 p.m. I took a recess of about a half hour to catch some fresh air. I conceded that I was, in a way, exhausted from the things which happened just a few hours before that and I tried to find recreation in the fresh air. Besides that I planned to take a look at the situation on the streets. Furthermore, I wanted to make a phone call to Berlin, not from the Chancellery, but from some other place. Phone calls from the Chancellery were always tapped whereas they were only sometimes tapped from other places. I was sure they didn't need me until 5:30 p.m., because the men of the old system would not make a decision a second earlier than they had to." (3271-PS)

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