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 8 of 9)

[DR. STEINBAUER continues his direct examination of Artur Seyss-Inquart]

[Page 94]

Q. That would not have been so bad, but it is said that you were particularly cruel and had a large number of people shot without legal proceedings. What have you to say to that?

A. As far as I can remember, there was only one real case of hostages being shot, that is, people were shot without there being any connection with a crime. This occurred in August 1942, and the case has already been brought up here. It was handled strictly according to the so-called "Hostage Law" which has been quoted. It was in connection with an attack on an army transport, and fifteen or twenty-five hostages were demanded to be shot. It was, I think, the Higher SS and Police Leader who made the demand through the Commander of the Armed Forces upon request of the OKH.

My intervention consisted in reducing this figure to five and in looking over the list which had been submitted to me by other departments, and which has been read out here in court, I, too, noticed something peculiar about it. The Higher SS and Police Leader had given strict instructions for the list to be drawn up in keeping with the directives, saying that the attack could be traced back to the centres of resistance on the right, not to those on the left, so that no workers could be shot. I only exercised my influence in so far as I caused the Higher SS and Police Leader to cross out the names of fathers with several children from the list.

Q. Witness, what do you know, in detail, about the people who were shot when the camp at Vught was evacuated?

[Page 95]

A. When the British and Canadians were advancing through Belgium towards the south of Holland, I had so much to do to keep order in my province, that I could not pay any special attention to the camp at Vught which was under police direction. The Higher SS and Police Leader informed me that the most important political prisoners, numbering about 200, would be transferred to the Reich, the less important political prisoners would be set free, and ordinary delinquents would be placed under the command of a Dutch police officer, and handed over to the Canadians. It was only here that I heard some people were shot and the only way I can explain it is that at the last minute the Reich forbade these people to be transported into the Reich and gave orders for them to be shot. I do not believe there were Goo of them, because from what the witness Kollpuss said there seem to have been some 130 to 150, but even that is a high figure.

Q. What do you know about the shooting of hostages after the attempt on the life of SS and Police Leader Rauter?

A. The attempt on the life of the Higher SS and Police Leader came from the resistance movement and was carried out with British weapons.

Q. What do you know about the Putten case?

A. Excuse me, I have not finished my previous statement.

Q. Oh, you want to give a more exact

A. Himmler, at that time, gave orders for 500 hostages to be shot. Rauter's deputy Dr. Schongart refused and informed me that there were a number of Dutchmen in the prisons who were to be shot in accordance with the Fuehrer's order because they had been convicted of other acts of sabotage. He had hesitated, he said, since the number was rather large, but now he could not hesitate any longer. He did not give me the actual figure. In this situation, I could not, in my opinion, prevent him carrying out the order, because we had to control the resistance movement by whatever means we had at our disposal. The movement had been organized and supplied with arms by the Dutch Government in London and it presented a serious danger to the German occupation forces.

Two hundred and thirty Dutchmen were supposed to be shot, amongst them eighty in Apeldoorn alone, and this seemed to me a lot, but Dr. Schongart told me that in the north of Apeldoorn there was a centre of the illegal resistance movement.

Q. I want to ask you, last of all, what do you know about the Putten case?

A. In Putten there was an attack on German officers. Three were murdered. The whole thing took place within the army, the SS and the police, and I knew that measures of repression were planned. I, myself, at that time, was concerned with the construction of defences. The Higher SS and Police Leader informed me that he had received the order to burn the village of Putten, and to transfer the male population to a concentration camp in the Reich. However, he had reduced the figure to 40 per cent. and later on he reported to me that there was a high mortality rate in German concentration camps. Both he and I applied to the military commander to have these men returned. The military commander agreed. Whether this order was actually carried out I do not know.

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, perhaps at this point we could make a short pause?


(A recess was taken.)

DR. STEINBAUER: Members of the High Tribunal, I should like to come back to the question of the embargo on foreign currencies.

The defendant Reichsmarschall Goering has just informed me during the recess that in this conflict Fischbock, Trip, Wohltaht on the one hand, and then Funk, who was against it, and he himself, Goering, as head of the Four-Year Plan, took a decision to lift the embargo on foreign currencies - and he writes me here, "I bear the responsibility." So it was a decision which was taken by Goering.

[Page 96]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Steinbauer, it is not of course a regular way in which to inform the Tribunal about anything, to tell them what one of the defendants may have said to you during an adjournment.

DR. STEINBAUER: He wrote it.

THE PRESIDENT: I am afraid that does not improve matters. You may ask the witness any question about it.

DR. STEINBAUER: As regards the question of shooting without a court sentence, I should like to refer to a very important document, No. 77, Page 199. This is Exhibit F-224, a report made by Kriminal Kommissar Mund. He says the following on Page 3:

"In my opinion it is very likely that General Christiansen expected the maximum number of victims to be executed. Christiansen spoke of numerous reprisals to Rauter, who was an impulsive and tactless man, and he on his part brought pressure to bear on the Commander of the Security Police (Dr. Schongart)."
He reports further on Page 5
"It was often a question of prisoners who had already been sentenced to death by the Higher SS and Police Leader. Reprisals for punishable acts were a matter for the police. After August 1944 and in accordance with an order of the Fuehrer these measures of reprisal were interpreted in such a way that a number of Dutchmen were arrested for entirely different reasons and were shot for acts of sabotage and attempts at murder."
A. May I explain that briefly?

Q. Please do.

A. For example, leading members of the Resistance movement were arrested and on examination by the Higher SS and Police Leader it was decided that they should be shot according to the Fuehrer's orders. The Higher SS and Police Leader called upon his court officer for this examination. After an attempt to blow up a bridge had been made, instead of shooting hostages these men were taken and shot. That was the exact opposite of the shooting of hostages. Or at least it was supposed to be.

Q. Now I come to Chapter IV-B, "Concentration Camps and Prisons." My first question: Who was competent in these matters?

A. For concentration camps and for police detention barracks, the police were competent. For court prisons, the court authorities and I myself were competent; that is, the court prisons were under my charge.

Q. Were there concentration camps in the Netherlands?

A. Yes, especially the big concentration camp of Putten, near Hertogenbosch; then a police transit camp near Amersfort, and a Jewish assembly camp in Westerborg. I have already spoken of Michelgestell; that was a protective custody camp. And then might be mentioned the camp at Ommen, which was neither a police nor a concentration camp, but abuses occurred.

Q. What can you tell me about the Hertogenbosch camp?

A. Hertogenbosch was originally meant as a Jewish assembly camp, at the time when we intended to keep the Jews in the Netherlands. But Reichsfuehrer Himmler gave orders for it to be turned into a concentration camp. After some reflection I was satisfied with the idea, thinking that as I could not prevent Dutchmen being put into concentration camps, I would prefer them to be in concentration camps in the Netherlands where I might still be able to exert a certain influence.

Q. But there are supposed to have been excesses in these concentration camps too; for example, in the Vught camp, which you mentioned.

A. That is quite true. There were excesses in prisons, as well as in concentration camps. In wartime I considered it almost unavoidable, because subordinates get an unlimited sway of power over others and whenever I heard of any excesses I took steps, the first time towards the end of 1940 or 1941 when the president of my German court reported to me that a prisoner had been brought up with injuries

[Page 97]

from blows on the head. I had the case investigated and the prison warden received exemplary punishment and was sent back to the Reich. In the Vught concentration camp soon after its opening there was a high mortality rate. I immediately initiated an investigation, using the services of Dutch medical personnel. Every day - and later on every week - I had the mortality figures reported to me, until they dropped to what was approximately a normal level. Of course, I do not know whether the commandant of the camp reported the normal death cases only or whether he included the cases of shooting. I could not say.

In this camp there were excesses due to drinking parties and revelling; brawls and fights were also heard of now and then. The head of the camp was removed and sent to the Reich. I noted that the Higher SS and Police Leader had apparently himself tried to maintain order, although he was not in charge of the camps; they were under Gruppenfuehrer Pohl.

There was one very serious case which, in Document F-224, is described under the title: "Woman in Cell."

The head of the camp had a large number of women, allegedly for disciplinary reasons, crowded into a cell overnight, whereby three or four women were smothered to death. When we heard of that, we demanded court action. The Central Administration in Berlin refused, and we turned to Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler. We did not give in. The head of the camp was put on trial and received at least four years - I believe even a sentence of eight years. That is indicated moreover in the French report.

Q. What about the Amersfort camp?

A. That was a police transit camp, that is, for prisoners who were to be turned over to the courts or who were to be sent to the Reich, or persons who refused labour service who were being sent to the Reich. In general, they were not to be there more than six or eight weeks. There were Dutch guards in this camp; not Dutch police, but a voluntary SS guard company, I believe.

Excesses did occur here. General Secretary van Damm called my attention to the fact that a Dutchman was supposed to have been beaten to death there. I urged the Higher SS and Police Leader to clear up the case. He did this through his court officer, and sent the documents to me. According to the documents, severe maltreating occurred, but no one was killed, and the persons responsible were punished.

I repeatedly called the attention of the Higher SS and Police Leader to the fact that concentration camps and prisons in wartime actually favoured the perpetration of brutal excesses. If, here or there, not a severe case but certain maltreatment was reported to me, I always called his attention to it. He then reported to me either that the case had not occurred, or that he had taken steps, and so forth.

In particular, I always had the food ration statistics of the concentration camps and prisons reported to me. The food rations were satisfactory. I believe that the Dutch in the concentration camps and prisons, at the end of 1944 and in 1945, received more than the Dutch in the Western Netherlands. Of course, I do not want to attach too much importance to this fact, because the Dutch did suffer from hunger.

Q. Then there was the Westerborg camp.

A. The Dutch Government had already set up Westerborg as a completely free camp for Jews who had fled from Germany. This was enlarged into an assembly camp for Jews. In the camp itself there were Jewish guards to maintain order. Dutch police guarded the camp on the outside. There was only a company of the Security Police for supervision in the camp. In all the files I found no report about excesses in the camp itself. Every Sunday clergymen went to the camp, at least one clergyman for the Catholic Jews, and one for the so-called Christians. They, too, never reported anything.

Q. We will speak about the transport later on.

A. Now I would like to speak about Ommen. There is a long report on that. Ommen was intended as a training camp for those Dutch who voluntarily wanted

[Page 98]

to be employed in the economy in the Eastern Territories. They were given instruction on the country, the people, and their language. The head of the camp borrowed prisoners from a neighbouring penal institute for the work. I received reports that these prisoners were being maltreated. The judges of Amsterdam turned to me. I gave the Dutch judges of Amsterdam permission personally to inspect the camp and speak to the prisoners. That was done; according to Exhibit F-224, on 5th March, 1943. Thereupon the Amsterdam judges wrote a long letter to the General Secretary for Justice. They complained about the maltreatment of the prisoners which they had noted, and about the fact that Dutch prisoners were transferred to prisons in the Reich for labour engagement. The complaints were justified, and I ordered that the prisoners should be sent back from the Ommen camp to the Dutch penal institution, and that Dutch prisoners should be returned from German prisons to Dutch prisons. This procedure was correct, and therefore I necessarily took due steps to settle the matter.

Q. But now I am obliged to ask you a certain question, Herr Doctor, and confront you with a charge. Exhibit RF-931 shows that you removed judges who made similar complaints, namely in Leuwarden.

A. In my view the procedure of the court of Leuwarden was incorrect. These judges did not approach me, but they publicly asserted, while delivering a verdict, that the Dutch prisoners were being sent to German concentration camps and shot. According to the facts as they lay before me, that was false. I then informed them about the results obtained by the Amsterdam judges. The Leuwarden judges refused to pass further judgements. I asked them to continue to officiate, but they refused. I then dismissed them as persons who refused to work. Of course, I could have had them tried by a German court with charges of making atrocity propaganda.

Q. Did you receive complaints from the Red Cross about conditions in the camps?

A. In the Netherlands we had the arrangement that a representative of the Dutch Red Cross, Mrs. von Overliyn, could visit all concentration camps and prisons, especially for the purpose of verifying whether the food packages were being delivered. Neither Mrs. von Overliyn nor the heads of the Dutch Red Cross ever lodged any complaint with me. I should like to say that this fact was especially significant for me because the Dutch complained about everything, and if for a change I received no complaints, then that meant a certain relief to me.

I should like to state that about the beginning of 1944, according to information which reached me, about 12,000 Dutch persons were in concentration camps or prisons. That caused me to set up legal commissions which had to visit the camps and the prisons in order to make investigations and determine what prisoners could be released or brought to trial. Naturally in cases where there were orders for arrest from Berlin, I could do nothing.

Q. Witness, so you say that you constantly struggled with the police on this question?

A. I do not want to speak about a struggle.

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