The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd February to 13th February, 1946

Forty-Ninth Day: Saturday, 2nd February, 1946
(Part 3 of 4)

[Page 10]

M. FAURE: Mr. President, may I ask the permission of the Tribunal to call the witness Jacobus Vorrink?


M. FAURE: This witness speaks Dutch as his native tongue, and the interpreting system does not include this language. I suggest that he speaks in the German language, which he knows well.

(The witness took his place in the box.)


Q. What is your name?

A. Vorrink.

Q. Your Christian name, your first name?

A. Jacobus.

Q. Do you swear to speak without hate or fear, to speak the truth, all the truth and only the truth? Will you raise your right hand and say, "I swear"?

(The witness raised his right hand.)

A. I swear.

BY M. FAURE: Sit down.

Q. Mr. Vorrink, you are a Dutch Senator?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. You are President of the Socialist Party of the Netherlands?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. You exercised these functions in 1940 at the time of the invasion of the Netherlands by the Germans?

A. Yes.

Q. I would like to ask you to give a few explanations on the following situation: There existed in the Netherlands, before the invasion, a National Socialist Party. I would like you to state what the situation was after the invasion by the Germans and during the occupation, with regard to the various political parties in the Netherlands, and more particularly the National Socialist Party, and what were the activities of this Party in liaison with the German occupation ?

A. I would prefer to speak in the Dutch language. I am sorry I do not know French and English well enough to use these languages - but in order not to delay the proceedings I will give my answers in German. This is the only reason why I am using the German language.

The political situation in Holland after the invasion by the Germans was that first and foremost the German Army wanted to maintain public order in Holland. But the real Nazis immediately came with the Wehrmacht and tried to direct and organise public life in Holland according to their concepts. There were among the Germans three main categories. In the first place, there were those who believed in the "blood and soil" (Blut und Boden) theory. They wanted to win over the whole of the Dutch people to their National Socialist concepts. I must say that in certain respects this was our misfortune, because

[Page 11]

these people, on the basis of their "blood and soil" theory, loved us too much, and when that love was not reciprocated it turned to hate.

The second category consisted of the politically informed, and these people knew perfectly well that the Dutch National Socialists in Holland were only a very small and much-hated group. At the elections of 1935 they received only 8 per cent. of the votes, and two years later this percentage had been reduced by one-half. These people were tactlessness itself. For instance, when the ruins of Rotterdam were still smoking they saw fit to make a demonstration at which the Dutch leader of the Dutch National Socialists, Mussert, dedicated to Goering a new bell as a thank offering of what he had done for Holland. Fortunately, it did not prevent him from being defeated.

In the third place, there were the so-called intriguers - those who wanted to destroy the national unity of Holland and who first of all tried through Seyss-Inquart to gain the favour of the Dutch people by flattery. In the same way as Seyss-Inquart, they always stressed that the two peoples were kindred races and should therefore work together, while behind the scenes they played off one Nazi group against the other.

In Holland at that time there existed the Dutch National Socialist Workers' Party, the Dutch National Socialist Front, and the so-called National Front. All these three movements had their contacts with certain German organisations. The Germans first tried to find out whether it was possible to use these groups for their purposes. Slowly, however, they recognised that it was not possible to work with these groups, and so they decided to adopt the National Socialist movement only.

These National Socialists gradually occupied the key positions in the Dutch administration. They were appointed General Secretaries for internal administration, they became Commissioners of the Provinces, mayors, etc.

I would like to mention in this connection that at that time there were not enough people qualified to become mayors, so that short courses of instruction were arranged, which performed the record feat of turning out Dutch mayors in three weeks. You can imagine what kind of mayors they were.

Furthermore, they became administrators in Nazified organisations and commercial undertakings, which gave them certain power in Holland, and they behaved like cowardly Nazi lackeys.

M. Rost von Tonningen, for instance, used millions of Dutch guilders to finance the war against Russia in order to fight against Bolshevism, as he called it. Finally, in December, 1942, Seyss-Inquart declared the Nazi Party to be the representative of the political life of Holland. If it had not been so tragic, one might have laughed at it. Mussert was then appointed as the Leader of Holland. I must add that the Nazi Party had only a shadow existence from the political point of view, with the single but important exception that these people had occasionally the opportunity to deal with matters of personnel. I would also add that sometimes they turned the heads of young Dutchmen and persuaded several thousands of them to enter the S.S. formations - and during the last years it became even worse. Then they even went so far as to put young boys into the S.S. without their parents' consent. They even forced young boys from correctional institutions into the S.S. Sometimes - I know of cases myself - young boys who for certain reasons were at loggerheads with their parents were taken into the S.S. To realise the harm done, you must - as I have sometimes done - go and speak to these children who now are in camps in Holland. You will then see what a monstrous crime has been committed against these young people.

M. FAURE: Am I to understand that all these methods employed by the Germans were intended to achieve the Nazification of Holland, and that if there were - as you have indicated - several varying tendencies among the

[Page 12]

Germans, these tendencies differed only as to the means to be employed and not in regard to the purpose of Germanisation?

A. The actual Nazification of Holland extended to practically all spheres of our national life. They tried in every domain to introduce the Fuehrer principle. I would like to point out, for instance, that, contrary to our expectations, they did not ban the Socialist Trade Unions, but just tried to employ them. They merely sent a Nazi Commissioner who told the people: "The era of democracy is past, just go on working under the leadership of the Commissioner and you can still help the workers. It is not necessary to change anything." They even tried that with the Dutch political parties.

As President of the Socialist Democratic Workers' Party of Holland, I had a long conversation with Mussert, who personally told me that it was a pity that the good cultural work done to educate the workers should cease. We both wanted Socialism and all we had to do was to work together calmly. I denied that at the time of that conversation. I told him that for us, democracy was not a question of opportunism but a part of our ideology, and that we were not prepared to betray our convictions and our principles.

They tried to keep the workers in their organisations, but slowly the workers - thousands and tens of thousands of them - left these organisations. When finally the National Labour Front was created, with the Catholic and Christian Trade Union, there certainly was an organisation, but no longer any members.

Q. Can you state with accuracy whether in your country persecutions against the Jews were started?

A. One of the worst chapters of our sufferings in HollandWas the persecution of the Jews. You may know that we in Holland - and especially in Amsterdam - had a strong Jewish minority. These Jews took a very active part in the public and cultural life of Holland, and one can say there was no anti-Semitism in Holland.

When the Germans first came to Holland they promised us that they would not harm the Jews at all. Nevertheless, even in the first weeks there was a wave of suicides. In the following months the measures against the Jews started. The professors in the universities were forced to resign.

The President of the highest court in Holland was dismissed. Then the Jews had to present themselves for registration, and then came the time when the Jews were deported in great numbers.

I am proud to say that the Dutch population did not suffer this without protesting. The Dutch students went on strike when their Jewish professors were driven out, and the workers of Amsterdam went on strike for several days when the persecution of the Jews started. But one has to have seen this with one's own eyes, as I have, to know what a barbaric system this National Socialism was.

The Green Police sealed off whole sections of cities, went into houses, even went on the roofs, and drove out young and old and took them off in their lorries. No difference was made between young and old. We have seen old women of over 70, who were lying ill at home and had no other desire than to be allowed to die quietly in their own home, put on stretchers and carried out of their home, to be sent to Westernborg and from there to Germany, where they died.

I myself remember very well how a mother, when she was dragged from her home, gave her baby to a stranger, who was not a Jewess, and asked her to look after her child. At this moment there are still hundreds of families in Holland where these small Jewish children are being looked after and brought up as their own.

Q. Can you state whether, apart from these measures against the Jews, the Germans concerned themselves with other denominations, other Churches?

[Page 13]

A. From the beginning the German always tried to get the Curches into their power. All the Churches - the Catholic, as well as the Protestant - protested whenever the Germans violated human rights. The Churches protested against arbitrary arrest of persons, and against the mass deportation of our workers, and never failed to testify for the Jews.

Of course, the Church dignitaries, the priests and pastors had to suffer for that, and hundreds of our pastors and priests were taken to concentration camps, and of the 20 parsons and priests whom I knew in the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, only one has returned to Holland.

Q. Can you state what measures were adopted with regard to culture, propaganda, and teaching?

A. What incensed us most in Holland was not so much our military defeat. We were a small people, and I can say that during those five days we fought as well as we could. Perhaps it would have been possible to maintain a correct attitude with the Occupation Forces if it had not been for the Nazi's determination to dominate us, not only in a military sense but also to break our spirits and to crush us morally. Therefore, they never lost an opportunity of encroaching on our cultural life in their efforts to Nazify us.

In regard to the Press, for instance, they forced us to publish in our Press editorials which were written by Germans, and to print them on the front page in order to create the impression that the editor-in-chief of the paper had written them. One can even say that these measures were the starting point for the very extensive underground Press in Holland, because we would not allow the Germans to lie to us systematically. We had to have a Press which told us the truth.

Also in regard to the radio, it was soon forbidden to listen to foreign stations, and they dealt out exceedingly harsh punishment to people who defied this ban, and there were a great many people in Holland who listened to the foreign radio, especially the B.B.C. We in Holland were always glad to hear the British radio which never hesitated to give the people in full the affecting speeches of Hitler and Goering, while we were not allowed to listen to Churchill's speeches. In those moments we were deeply conscious of the reasons why we had built up our resistance, and we also knew why our Allied friends strove with all their might to deliver the world from the Nazi tyranny.

It was the same in the field of the arts. Quite a number of guilds for painters, musicians and writers were forced to organise themselves. An author could not even publish a book without submitting it to some Nazi illiterate.

They also encroached on school life, and tried to influence elementary education; for instance, in the text books for children of 6 to 12 years they ordered that whole sentences should be struck out, e.g. a sentence like the following: "When the Queen visited them the people cheered." In the schools and public buildings they organised real hunts for pictures of our Royal Family.

M. FAURE: I thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: You have finished your examination, have you?

M. FAURE: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: General Rudenko?

GENERAL RUDENKO: No questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Have the British or American prosecutors any questions? Does any member of the defendants' counsel wish now to cross-examine?

DR. STEINBAUER (counsel for defendant Seyss-Inquart): Mr. President, in order to avoid the witness having to make the long trip from Holland a second time, I would like to cross-examine him to-day, although my client is absent.


Q. Witness, when Seyss-Inquart took over the Government in Holland under the decree of 18th May, 1940, was the Queen or were members of the Dutch Government still on Dutch territory?

[Page 14]

A. No, there were no longer on Dutch territory.

Q. Did the Government of Seyss-Inquart, the Reich Commissioner, leave in office the functionaries of the former Government?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know that of the nine general secretaries appointed by the former Royal Government and still in office, only one was dismissed?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you further know that of the eleven Commissioners of the Provinces only four were dismissed from the Government for political reasons?

A. I do not know the exact number, but that is possible.

Q. Do you know how many mayors were appointed by the Royal Government and, in particular, is it correct that more than one-half were still in office in 1944?

A. Yes, I believe so.

Q. You have not answered fully the question which was asked you by the Prosecutor. He asked you how many political parties there were in Parliament at the time of the invasion.

A. The Catholic Party, two Protestant Christian parties, two Liberal parties, the Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party, and some minor parties.

Q. I will now talk about two subjects mentioned by you - schools and churches. Is it correct that the Dutch school system, throughout the Seyss-Inquart regime, was under the direction of a Dutchman?

A. It was under a Dutchman during the whole time, but we do not consider him as a Dutchman. This Dutchman is to-day in prison because he betrayed his country.

Q. But he was not a German?

A. He was a Dutch traitor.

Q. Is it correct that Seyss-Inquart showed great interest in the Dutch school system ?

A. I cannot remember that.

Q. For instance, that he added a class to the elementary school?

A. That is correct.

Q. And that in this way adolescents did not have to enter the Labour Services until later?

A. Correct.

Q. Did he show an interest in a long-standing wish of the Dutch concerning the spelling of the Dutch language, and did he not appoint a special committee to investigate the matter?

A. In this connection he did take some interest in a thing about which he knew nothing, he got his information from the wrong people.

Q. But he did make an effort?

A. Yes, but in the wrong direction.

Q. Is it correct that he endeavoured to increase the number of teachers?

A. No, certainly not.

Q. That, in particular, he employed pupil teachers and reduced expenses thereby ?

A. He did that because he wanted to influence the Dutch Youth.

Q. Do you know, for instance, that as a result of protests, Seyss- Inquart rescinded measures that had been taken against the Commercial Academy in Rotterdam?

A. Will you repeat the question? I did not understand it.

Q. Do you know that Seyss-Inquart, as a result of protests made, took steps to see that the Commercial Academy in Rotterdam was not interfered with?

A. I do not know.

[Page 15]

Q. As far as the Churches are concerned, apart from deportation, as you say for political reasons, were the Catholics and Protestants ever prevented from practising their religion?

A. The Germans interfered very much with the right to worship. They put spies in the churches to listen to the sermons with the idea of denouncing the priests.

Q. Yes, but that has happened in other countries too. Please could the priest or the parson still continue to preach according to his conscience?

A. No, certainly not according to his conscience.

Q. Do you know that during the whole of the occupation the prayer for the Queen was allowed in churches of all denominations?

A. It was certainly not allowed. Several ministers were arrested for that very reason.

Q. Do you know that Seyss-Inquart prevented 27 convents being confiscated? Is it correct?

A. I know nothing about it.

Q. But perhaps you may know that he prevented the destruction of synagogues in Rotterdam and in The Hague. The police wanted to them, and he prevented them from doing it. Do you know anything about that?

A. I do not know whether he wanted to prevent it, but in any case they were destroyed, and those who destroyed them went unpunished, and later on took part in the worst persecution of the Jews.

Q. Witness, do you know that out of the Catholic and Protestant clergymen deported to Germany, Seyss-Inquart succeeded in getting two-thirds sent back to Holland?

A. I do not know.

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