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 9 of 9)

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

[Page 98]

Q. Do you believe that you were successful?

A. Yes. I believe so, on the basis of certain definite facts. I have followed the proceedings here very carefully, and ... We have heard terrible things. The reports from the Netherlands, it seems to me, are not so bad. I do not want to say that I excuse every excess. However, such reports as those about Breendonck in Belgium do not exist. The reports show beatings as the most serious charges. There is only a single report here - that is F-677, the report of the tax collector Bruder - which attains the level of the usual atrocity reports. But I do not believe that this report should be accepted at its face value, since Bruder does not even say who told him this. And the information itself is not credible. He asserts, for example, that the prisoners who were at work had to prostrate themselves before

[Page 99]

every SS guard. I do not believe that the camp authorities would have permitted that, because then the prisoners would not have been able to work.

It is hard for me to say, but I do not think that conditions in the Netherlands were quite as bad as all that.

Q. I think that I can now conclude this chapter and turn to point 5 of the indictment which deals with the question of labour commitment. What problems did you have in the Netherlands in the field of labour commitment?

A. In the field of labour commitment, we must distinguish between three or four different phases. When I came to the Netherlands, there were about 500,000 unemployed: registered unemployed, those who would be due for release from the Dutch military and naval forces, and then part-time workers, and so forth. It was an urgent problem, not only a social one, for me to reduce the number of unemployed. For, in the first place, such an army of unemployed is without doubt a good source of recruits for illegal activities. In the second place, as the war continued, it was to be expected that the material situation of the unemployed would steadily become worse. At that time we instituted measures which I must, despite all charges, call voluntary labour recruitment. That lasted until the middle of 1942; that is, about two years.

At that time, I gave neither the German nor the Dutch labour authorities full power to obligate any worker to work abroad. Without doubt there was a certain economic pressure; but I believe that always exists in this connection.

The recruitment was carried out by the Dutch labour offices, which were subordinate to the Dutch General Secretary for social administration. There were German inspectors in the labour offices. There were also private hiring agencies; companies from the Reich sent their own agents over. On the whole, about 530,000 Dutchmen were engaged to work in the Reich. In the period which I call "voluntary," 240,000 to 250,000 volunteers went to the Reich and about 40,000 to France. By the first half of 1942, this reservoir had been used up. The Reich demanded more workers. We then considered introducing compulsory labour service. I recall I did not receive instructions to this effect from Sauckel, but from Bormann as a direct Fuehrer order. Now, labour recruitment occurred predominantly but not exclusively in the following way: Young and, as far as possible, unmarried Dutchmen were called to the labour office where they received certificates of obligation to work in the Reich. The Dutch report itself says that only a few refused. Of course, some of those who refused were arrested by the police and taken to the Reich.

The Higher SS and Police Leader reported to me that this totalled 2,600 people. About 250,000 to 260,000 persons were obligated, and the total engaged was 530000. So this meant only one per cent. or even one-half per cent.

I believe that the figure resulting from compulsory measures in the Reich was no lower ... or higher.

At the beginning of 1943, the Reich demanded a large recruitment of workers. I was urged to draft whole age-groups to send to the Reich. I call attention to the fact that all of these workers received free labour contracts in the Reich and were not put in labour camps.

I decided to draft three young age-groups - I believe 21 to 23 years of age - in order to spare married men. The success was satisfactory in the first group; in the second group it was moderate, and in the third it was quite bad. I realised that I could draft further groups only by sheer force. I refused to do so. But at that time, I managed, due to the comprehension of Minister Speer, to arrange that the workers would not be taken to their work, but that the work would be brought to the workers. Big orders arrived in the Netherlands, and the concerns charged with filling these orders were declared "blocked" concerns. Among them was the Organization Todt.

Dutchmen who were needed in the Netherlands were exempted. Over a million certificates of exemption were issued by the Dutch authorities. It was clear that that was a Dutch sabotage, but I did not want to take steps against it.

[Page 100]

No woman was ever forced to work outside the Netherlands, nor were young people under 18. Reich Minister Lammers has confirmed here that at the beginning of 1944 he transmitted the Fuehrer order to me demanding that 250,000 workers be brought to the Reich. He also confirmed that I refused that. At that time Gauleiter Sauckel came to me and discussed this matter with me. I must state that he understood my arguments surprisingly quickly, and did not insist on carrying out the forced recruitment. By "forced recruitment," I mean cordoning off whole districts and seizing the men.

In the course of 1944 labour recruitment ceased almost completely. Instead of 250,000, I believe 12,000 were sent to the Reich. But something entirely different took place in the autumn of 1944. From experience gathered in France and Belgium, the High Command of the Army decided that able-bodied Dutchmen were to be drawn from Holland, that is the Western Netherlands. That was because the Netherlands Government in England had set up an illegal army. I had the organisational chart in my hands. There was a complete general staff and a complete war ministry. We estimated that there were about 50,000 illegal troops. If an appeal was made and any more able-bodied Dutchmen joined, the illegal forces would have been more numerous than the German troops in Holland. Moreover, they had received very good equipment from England. Full shiploads of the most modern tommy guns were confiscated by us, but I am convinced that the larger part of the weapons was not seized. The High Command of the Army, through the military commanders, ordered the removal of the able-bodied Dutchmen. The measure was entirely carried out by the Wehrmacht. A general who was sent for for that purpose, was entrusted with the task, with an operational staff of his own. The measure was carried out by the local commanders. My local authorities were informed of the action to be taken sometimes at the last moment and sometimes not at all. Of course, I knew about the measure. In view of the reasons just mentioned, I could not take the responsibility of protesting against it. I only intervened when it was necessary to protect civilian interests, and prevent the workers in the vital concerns from being removed also. I entrusted the Plenipotentiary General for the total war effort with this, whom Dr. Goebbels had sent to the Netherlands in the meantime. His task was to issue exemption certificates. He issued 50,000 of them.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you mean Himmler?

THE WITNESS: Goebbels the Plenipotentiary General for the total war effort.

I admit that this measure led to conditions which were unbearable for the Dutch. I am certain that; as for feeding, temporary lodging, and transportation, the population in the bombed German territories did not live under any better conditions, but one could not demand this of the Dutch. Many Dutch people told me at that time that they would be willing to agree to this labour recruitment, by no means in order to aid the German cause, but only in order to avoid these severe conditions, if they would be drafted in orderly proceedings. I then did that. The Plenipotentiary General for the total war effort issued the proclamation which has been submitted to the Tribunal. The people were called to the labour offices, registered, sent home again to get clothes and were ordered to report to the railway stations. Not the police, but labour officials took them to the Reich for work in normal fashion. The Dutch report, in its objectivity, recognises this fact. It speaks of the better transportation facilities for those mobilised for labour. I am responsible for this labour mobilization for the reasons which I have given.

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, may I remark in this connection that my Document No. 78, Exhibit USA 195, Page 200, excerpt from the Netherlands Government report, confirms the statements of my client fully. I should like to read it briefly because it is important. Page 2.

"Workers who refused (relatively few) were prosecuted by the Security Service of the SS (SD)."

[Page 101]

Then, Page 3.
"Apart from that, the measure was not very successful. Certain German authorities seem to have opposed its execution, because many former members of the Armed Forces received exemption; others went underground .... The result was that in the last month of 1943 and in the greater part of 1944 relatively few persons were deported."
And then, Page 6.
"Until the end of 1944, the method of transportation for deportees was bearable. ... Anyone who reported for the manpower mobilization in January 1945, enjoyed improved transportation facilities, that is, almost the whole journey by rail, although only in freight cars."
THE WITNESS: We had no other cars at that time. I should like to refer to the fact that I also drafted Dutch workers in order to carry out the construction work entrusted to me by the Fuehrer on the defence liar s east of the Yssel. I used part of the transports which came from Rotterdam, etc., for this purpose and thus I prevented these people being sent to the Reich. I had no influence on the treatment in the Reich, I only forbade further transports into the Gau Essen, because it was reported to me that in the Rees camp the treatment was very poor and that some Dutch people had died.

DR. STEINBAUER: Now I come to the next item of the indictment; that is, to the Jewish question. The Netherlands Government report, Exhibit USA 195, sums up all ordinances submitted by the prosecution. I should like to submit this Document 1726 to my client, so that it may remind him of the laws. The Tribunal already has it.


Q. What did you, as Reich Commissar, do in the Jewish question?

A. When I took over the functions of the Reich Commissar, I of course realised that I had to take some position and would have to take some steps in regard to the Jews in the Netherlands. Amsterdam, in Western Europe, is perhaps the best known and one of the oldest Jewish communities in Western Europe. Moreover, in the Netherlands there were many German Jewish emigrants. I will say quite openly that ever since the First World War and the post-war period, I was an anti-Semite and went to Holland as such. I need not go into detail about that here. I have said all that in my speeches and you may refer to them.

I had the impression, which will be confirmed everywhere, that the Jews, of course, were definitely against National Socialist Germany. There was no discussion of the question of guilt as far as I was concerned. As head of an occupied territory, I had only to deal with the facts. I had to realize that particularly from the Jewish circles I had to reckon with resistance, defeatism, and so on.

I told Colonel General von Brauchitsch, Commander-in-Chief of the Army, that in the Netherlands I would remove Jews from leading posts in the economy, the Press, and the administration. The measures taken from May 1940 to May 1941 were limited to this. The Jewish officials were dismissed, but were given pensions. The Jewish firms were registered and the heads of the firms were dismissed. In the spring of 1941, Heydrich came to me in the Netherlands. He told me that we would have to expect that the greatest resistance would come from Jewish circles. He told me that the Jews would at least have to be treated like other enemy aliens. The English, for instance, in the Netherlands, were interned and their property confiscated. In view of the large number of Jews - about 140,000 - this was not so simple. I admit frankly that I did not object to this argument of Heydrich. I also felt that this was necessary in a war which I absolutely considered a life and death struggle for the German people. For that reason, in March 1941, I ordered that the Jews in the Netherlands be registered. And now things went on step by step.

[Page 102]

I will not say that the final results, as far as the Netherlands are concerned; were intended thus from the beginning, but we decided on this method. The regulations cited here, if they appeared in the Dutch Legal Gazette, were mostly signed by me personally. At least, they were published with my express assent. Individual measures which are mentioned here were not due to my volition. For example, in February 1,000 Jews were supposed to have been arrested and sent to Buchenwald and Mauthausen. That much I know. In the Amsterdam ghetto

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): February of what year?

A. (continuing): February 1941. In the Amsterdam ghetto, a National Socialist was killed by Jews. Reichsfuehrer Himmler thereupon ordered 400 young Jews to be sent to Mauthausen. I was not in the Netherlands at that time. That was, by the way, the reason for the general strike in Amsterdam in March 1941.

After my return to the Netherlands, I ,protested against this measure, and to my knowledge such a mass transfer to Mauthausen did not occur again.

Synagogues were also burned. Apparently someone ambitiously tried to imitate the 9th November, 1938. I immediately intervened. Further incidents did not occur. On the other hand the police wanted to pull down the old temple in Amsterdam. General Secretary van Damm called this to my attention, and I prevented it.

I indicated earlier that the motive of the measures is to be found in the consideration to treat Jews like enemy aliens. Later, with other measures, the original intention was certainly abandoned. They were the same as those taken against the Jews in the Reich. Perhaps, in one case or another, this was exceeded, for I know that, for example, in the Netherlands there was a drive to force the Jews to be sterilised.

Our goal was to keep the Jews in the Netherlands, namely, in- two districts of Amsterdam and then in the Westerborg camp and in the Vught camp. We had also prepared to create the necessary opportunities for work. I instructed the General Secretary for Education to withdraw as much money from the Dutch budget for the education of the Jews as they should have according to their proportion of the population.

It is certain that with this measure of concentrating the Jews in two districts and two camps, harshness occurred, which was perhaps unavoidable, and which might even in some cases be considered as excessive.

Finally, the Security Police demanded the introduction of the so-called Jewish Star. A not inconsiderable number of Jews were not in the confined areas, and the Security Police demanded that they be distinguished in order that it might be ascertained whether the Jews adhered to the other restrictions.

In the eyes of Germans, this star was certainly considered a stigma. The Dutch did not consider it as such. There was many a Dutchman who, out of protest, wore such a star himself.

About 1942, I believe, Heydrich came along with further demands, this time that the Jews be evacuated. He explained this by saying that Holland would sooner or later be a theatre of war, in which one could not allow such a hostile population to remain. He pointed out that he was responsible for the police security of the Reich, and that he could not bear this responsibility if the Jews remained in Holland. I believe that we in the Netherlands opposed this evacuation project for three or four months while attempting to find other ways out.

Finally, Heydrich had a Fuehrer decree sent to me, according to which he had unlimited powers to carry out all measures in the occupied territories as well. I inquired of Bormann what this meant, and this order was confirmed, whereupon the evacuation of the Jews began. At that time I tried to ascertain the fate of the Jews, and it is rather difficult for me to speak about it now, because it sounds like mockery.

[Page 103]

I was told that the Jews were to be sent to Auschwitz. I had people sent from the Netherlands to Auschwitz. They came back with the report that that was a camp for 80,000 people with sufficient space. The people were comparatively well off there. For example, they had an orchestra of 100 men. A witness here confirming that this orchestra played when victims arrived at Auschwitz, made me think of that report.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Steinbauer, you probably will not finish today.


THE PRESIDENT: How long do you think you are likely to be?

DR. STEINBAUER: I hope to be finished at the. latest by noon tomorrow, but perhaps it will take only an hour. I have questions on plundering, economic, measures, and destruction. Then I will be finished.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 11th June, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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