The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th June to 19th June 1946

One Hundred and Fifty-First Day: Monday, 10th June, 1946
(Part 3 of 9)

[Page 74]

THE PRESIDENT: Is that what you say, defendant, that the document which you have just handed to your counsel is a copy of the document which you say you produced during your interrogations, which was from the shorthand notes you made at that time?

WITNESS [Artur Seyss-Inquart]: Mr. President, the original notes I made on the afternoon of February 17th. A few weeks later I dictated these notes, which I made in shorthand, to my secretary who took them down on a typewriter. I had several copies, one of which I gave to the prosecution during one of my interrogations last summer. I have now given a second copy to my defence counsel. These are copies made from the original notes a few weeks after the conference. The original was in my secret files in Vienna.


MR. DODD: I wonder if we could learn just who it was to whom the defendant gave these notes? Mr. President, I would like to have some search made for them, and some effort made to find them.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you know who was the interrogating counsel?

WITNESS: Mr. Dodd himself.

MR. DODD: We do not have it.

WITNESS: I think I am right in saying that it was handed over.

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, the main points of the contents coincide with the voluntary statement, which the defendant -

MR. DODD: I think this is important enough at this point, Mr. President, to make it clear. I have the interrogation that I first conducted on this defendant, and it clearly shows that he referred to the notes, but he clearly said at the time that he did not have them, that he left them in a black leather case with other documents in Mondorf, and he asked me if I would make an effort to get them, and I said that I would. We have never been able to find them, and that's the transcript of the interrogation.

(A short pause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Go on, Dr. Steinbauer.

DR. STEINBAUER: May I say that Document No. 492, Page 113, is substantially of the same content. The defendant, the present witness, informed Schuschnigg of the substance of that talk; that is evident from Document No. 65, on Page 158.

Q. Witness, I want to ask you now whether Hitler approved of your proposals?

A. He clearly said "yes" to a number of things, but on other points he expressed doubts whether the Austrian Government would agree; the principal impression was, however, that this policy seemed feasible.

Q. In this connection it has also been alleged that as Minister of the Interior and Police you brought executive power under the control of the Nazis.

A. I should like to leave the main explanation on this matter to my witness, Dr. Skubl. After Dollfuss's death Dr. Skubl was a special confidant of the Austrian Government and was placed at my disposal as Secretary of State and Inspector-General for Security Matters; clearly also to act as a kind of check. I had no objection at all to that and was very pleased to have such an expert at my disposal.

I should just like to mention briefly that all orders of the executive came from Skubl. I myself never gave a direct order to the Austrian police. Skubl was given instructions by Dr. Schuschnigg, particularly on 10th and 11th March. I myself did not bring a single National Socialist into the Austrian police.

[Page 75]

Q. All right, that is sufficient.

A. Perhaps I might refer briefly to the public appeal-

DR. STEINBAUER: In this connection I want to refer to two documents, Nos. 51 and 52, on Pages 117 and 119 respectively.

We have now reached Document Book No. 2. The first is a speech by the defendant as Minister addressed to his police officials, and the second speech is a radio talk which he gave at Linz.

Q. We now come to the critical days in March. Were you informed of the plebiscite plan of Schuschnigg, and by whom?

A. The day before Dr. Schuschnigg announced the plan for the plebiscite in Innsbruck, he called me in and informed me of his plan. I asked him whether the decision was unalterable, and he affirmed that. I expressed my concern that this might lead to difficulties, but I promised him that I would help him wherever I could, either to make the best of this plebiscite or to bring about a suitable outcome of it, suitable, that is to say, even for the National Socialists. Of course, I had continuous contact with the Austrian National Socialists, since I was the liaison man. I spoke at several meetings - Zernatto and Dr. Schuschnigg knew that - and recounted what I had discussed with Adolf Hitler, or what I had proposed to him. I avoided all possibilities of demonstrations, and as Minister of the Interior also banned such demonstrations. In that connection may I refer to the general ban on public meetings, imposed by me among others, and to the specific prohibition of a demonstration at Graz, evident from the interrogatory of the witness Uiberreither.

Q. Did Schuschnigg give you any promises?

A. No. I want to say that on the same evening I was also approached by Dr. Jury who in some way had already heard of the plan for the plebiscite. I did not tell him that I had given my assent to Dr. Schuschnigg, though on account of my function as liaison man I should not have allowed silence to be imposed on me; yet, I did keep silent.

DR. STEINBAUER: I think, Mr. President, this might be a suitable moment for a recess.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well. We will break off now.

(A recess was taken.)

Q. We got as far as the plebiscite which Schuschnigg had planned and which then became known. We come now to 11th March. What did you do in the forenoon of that day?

A. I must say first that a day or two before, after consultation with Austrian National Socialists, I wrote a letter to Dr. Schuschnigg in which I commented on the plebiscite, in an unfavourable way. The reasons were primarily that a regular plebiscite result was not guaranteed, because it was not a proper plebiscite within the meaning of the constitutional laws. For example, the plebiscite was not decided on by the Council of Ministers, but by the Fatherland Front, that is, by the Party, and it was to have been carried out by that Party.

It was suggested that the plebiscite be postponed and a proper election with all its legal requisites be held. On the evening of 10th March, in the presence of Foreign Minister Schmidt, I had another detailed conversation with Dr. Schuschnigg, and we agreed that the Government - as well as the provincial governments, and so forth - should include National Socialists, that in effect a coalition government should be formed; and in that case the National Socialists would also vote "yes." Only with reference to the licence of the Party, the activities of the Party, there were still differences of opinion. I reported this to the Austrian National Socialists but they were not much interested, because news had come from Berlin that Hitler had rejected the plebiscite. I was told that on the next day I would receive a letter from Hitler.

Q. Did you receive a letter?

[Page 76]

A. Yes. I received a letter from Hitler by courier. I am almost certain that the letter also contained the draft of a telegram for a march into Austria, but I cannot recall whether the draft of a radio speech was also included in it.

Q. What did you do in the morning, after receiving this letter?

A. After receiving this letter I went with Minister Glaise to Dr. Schuschnigg. We were at the Chancellor's office at ten o'clock, and I informed Chancellor Schuschnigg of the entire contents of this letter without reservation. In particular, I pointed out that in case of a refusal, Adolf Hitler expected unrest among the Austrian National Socialists, and that he was ready, if disturbances occurred, to answer an appeal for help by marching in. In other words, I expressly called Chancellor Schuschnigg's attention to the possibility of this development.

Q. Did you ask for an answer from him?

A. The letter set a deadline for twelve o'clock noon. As our talk lasted until about eleven-thirty, I asked Chancellor Schuschnigg to give me an answer by two o'clock. I know that in the meantime, and also on the previous day, he had taken security measures through Dr. Skubl, of which I had approved. A number of age groups of the Austrian Army were called up; the police everywhere received instructions, and a curfew was imposed in the evening.

Q. What happened in the afternoon of 11th March?

A. At two o'clock I went to the Chancellor's office with Minister Glaise. We had a talk with Dr. Schuschnigg; he rejected a postponement. At that moment I was called to the telephone; Field Marshal Goering was on the phone, and the conversation between us is reproduced here under Exhibit USA 76.

And then followed demands and concessions. When I told Field Marshal Goering that Chancellor Schuschnigg rejected the postponement, he declared, in the name of the Reich, that he had to ask for Schuschnigg's resignation, because he had broken the agreement of the 12th of February, and the Reich had no confidence in him. Dr. Schuschnigg was then ready to postpone, but not to resign. Thereupon Field Marshal Goering demanded not only Schuschnigg's resignation, but my appointment as Chancellor. During a conference with Dr. Schuschnigg at three-thirty in the afternoon, the Chancellor said that he would hand to the President the resignation of the whole cabinet. When I was informed of this, I left the Chancellor's office, because I considered my function as a middle-man concluded in the meaning of the agreement of the 12th February, and I did not want in any way to advocate or promote my own appointment as Chancellor.

Q. In this connection may I refer to my document lumber 58, Page 134. This is an excerpt from the telephone conversations of Goering; Goering is listening to reports, and Seyss-Inquart is speaking of the relationship between Germany and Austria. It says here:

"Yes, he means that Austrian independence will be preserved."
Now, that was on the 11th of March, in the late afternoon?

A. In these telephone conversations it was also suggested that the Party formation, the emigrant Legion, should come to Austria. From the same telephone conversation it is obvious that I opposed this, but that I wanted an election or a plebiscite held before the entry of any formation into Austria.

In the course of that afternoon Secretary of State Keppler came to Vienna and requested information from me. And so I again went to the Chancellor's office. Berlin repeatedly asked me to intervene with the President in order to effect my own appointment as Chancellor. I always refused to do that.

Q. And what did the Austrian NSDAP do?

A. The Party in Austria began demonstrations. Party members left their houses, crowded the streets and, whether only Party members or sympathisers, took part in a demonstration against the system and for the National Socialists, a demonstration which assumed enormous proportions.

Q. What was the feeling in the provinces?

A. I had no contact with the provinces, but learned quite late during that night, or on the next day, that there, even on a larger scale than in Vienna, big demonstra-

[Page 77]

tions of large crowds had taken place against the Fatherland Front and for the National Socialists.

Q. What attempts did President Miklas make to solve this situation?

A. I cannot say anything about that from my own observation, for until eight o'clock in the evening no one at all approached me on these matters. No one spoke to me about the Chancellorship, no other possibility of a solution was discussed with me. I heard that the President wanted to make Dr. Ender, of Vorarlberg, Chancellor and me Vice-Chancellor. I believe that suggestion would have been completely practicable. But I could not discuss it, least of all with Berlin, because no one had said anything to me about it.

Q. And when events reached a climax and Schuschnigg offered his resignation, did you compile a cabinet list?

A. In the course of the evening it became clear that Chancellor Schuschnigg would resign, and that the Reich would not tolerate any other than a National Socialist Government. Therefore, in order to avoid being taken by surprise, I considered it my task to study whom I would take into a cabinet. The suggestions mentioned in the telephone conversations were not conveyed to me at all.

I chose my colleagues quite independently - naturally after consultations with the Austrian National Socialists - and they included people with Catholic ties, such as Professor Mengin, Dr. Wolff, and others.

I asked Foreign Minister Schmidt to enter the cabinet. He asked me for a reason, and I told him: I want to keep Austria autonomous and independent, and I need a foreign minister who has connections with the Western Powers. Schmidt refused, remarking that Chancellor Schuschnigg had introduced him into politics and that he would remain loyal to him.

DR. STEINBAUER: I should like to submit some documents now: No. 50, Page 115, from Zernatto's book, on Seyss-Inquart's attitude; then, on Page 1125, Document No. 54, also from Zernatto's book, where it says:

"He (Seyss-Inquart) no longer has developments in his hands."
Then Document 62, Page 149, in which Zernatto quotes from a conversation with Dr. Seyss-Inquart:
"He says that there are two main points on which he will not compromise. The first is Austria's independence and the second, the possibility for the conservative-catholic element developing its own life."

Q. Now we come to a very important question. You then made a radio speech in which you called yourself a minister, although Schuschnigg had already resigned.

A. The situation was as follows: The resignation of the whole cabinet was not accepted by the President; that is we, including myself, remained ministers. When Dr. Schuschnigg made his farewell speech, he did not speak of the resignation of the whole cabinet. He only said, "We yield to force." Dr. Schuschnigg and President Miklas had agreed that I would not actually be appointed Chancellor, but that with the entry of German troops executive power should be passed to me.

Q. The prosecution asserts that you yourself exerted pressure on President Miklas to appoint you Chancellor?

A. I did not see President Miklas at all until nine or ten o'clock in the evening, after Schuschnigg's speech, "We yield to force."

DR. STEINBAUER: I should like to submit to the Tribunal this speech of Chancellor Dr. Schuschnigg of the 11th of March under No. 53, Page 122; in it he says

"The President has commissioned me to inform the Austrian people that we are yielding to force. Since we are at all costs determined not to spill German blood, even in this grave hour, we have given orders to our army to withdraw without resistance, if the march into Austria is carried out, and to await the decision within the next hours."

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.