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-Second Day: Tuesday, 11th June, 1946
(Part 2 of 9)

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

[Page 108]

Q. Document 1988-PS, Exhibit RF 130, charges that you had the rolling mill in Ymuiden removed.

[Artur Seyss-Inquart] A. This rolling mill in Ymuiden had been built by a German firm after May 1941, so this firm were partners in the blast furnace joint-stock company. The electrical installations of these works were repeatedly destroyed by the English, not without the aid of the Intelligence Service of the Dutch resistance movement. In my opinion the Reichsmarschall was right in ordering that they be moved to the Reich. This was done. Why an indemnity was not paid, I do not understand, for I had issued an order that all such demands had to receive full indemnification, but perhaps the German concern relinquished its partnership.

Q. The charge is further made that you turned over the essential transportation means of the Netherlands to the Reich.

A. I could not in substance dispose of the means of transportation; that was the concern of the transport command of the Wehrmacht. Once I took part in demanding 50,000 bicycles - there were 4,000,000 bicycles in the Netherlands - for the mobilization of troops in the Netherlands themselves.

Q. Another charge is that you had art treasures removed from public museums and collections.

A. I most painstakingly took care that famous art treasures, especially pictures, in the Dutch public museums of Amsterdam, Mauritzhuis and so forth were especially protected. But it is possible that treasures loaned to these museums, belonging to Jewish persons, were claimed in connection with the liquidation of Jewish property. There was just one case. A Kruller foundation existed in the Netherlands which was willed to the Netherlands State. Without my permission three pictures were taken from this foundation to the Reich, and I later concluded

[Page 109]

a contract with the museum authorities for their sale. I tried to replace these pieces for the museum. I procured some beautiful Van Goghs and a Corre from the German treasure list, and the head of the museum once told me that the new pictures fitted better into the museum than the old ones. The famous paintings were in an air-raid shelter on the Dutch coast. When the coast was declared a fortified area, I induced the Dutch authorities to have a new air-raid shelter built near Maastrich. The pictures were taken there, always under Dutch care. No German had anything to do with it. In the autumn of 1944, Dr. Goebbels demanded that the pictures be taken to the Reich. I definitely refused this and had reliable guards placed at the air-raid shelter and also sent an official from the Dutch Ministry who was authorized to hand over the pictures to the approaching enemy troops. I was convinced that the Dutch Government in England would see to it that these pictures remained in the Netherlands.

Q. Did you yourself acquire any pictures?

A. I did not buy any pictures for myself in the Netherlands, with the exception of two or three small etchings by a contemporary artist. As Reich Commissioner I bought pictures by contemporary artists at exhibitions when I liked them and when they seemed worth the price and were offered for sale. I also bought old pictures and gave them to public institutions in the Reich, especially to the Museum of Art History in Vienna and the Reich Governor's office in Vienna. They were all purchases on the open market. Among them was a picture attributed to Vermeer, but that was contested. On the other hand I acquired an authentic Vermeer for the Dutch State by preventing its sale to the Reich.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Steinbauer, there is no specific charge against this defendant of having bought pictures.

DR. STEINBAUER: It was mentioned in the Trial Brief. May I continue? Let us conclude this question.

THE PRESIDENT: We do not want details about it. It is sufficient if he told us that he paid for the pictures. He need not give us details about the pictures.

DR. STEINBAUER: I will go on to the next question.


Q. I submit to you Document RF 136. It describes the confiscation of the property of Her Majesty, the Queen of the Netherlands.

A. To tell the whole truth, I must add something to the previous question. Pictures and art treasures from Jewish or enemy collections, when there was reason, were liquidated and sold in the Reich. In this connection very lively free trade developed with the participation of the Dutch art dealers, doubtless favoured by the free transfer of foreign currency.

Q. Now I should like to go on to the question of the royal property, RF 136. What do you know about the order for the liquidation of this property?

A. I myself ordered this liquidation. In the Netherlands we, of course, had an order to confiscate enemy property, as in all occupied territories. When we came to the Netherlands, the royal property was merely placed under trusteeship, without any steps being taken to seize it. Immediately after the outbreak of the campaign in the East, the Queen of the Netherlands spoke personally on the radio in a very antagonistic manner, sternly accusing the Fuehrer and making an express appeal for active resistance. In view of this state of affairs the property of every Dutch citizen could have been confiscated. I therefore decided to proceed in this case in the way I did, in order to prevent an excessive extension of this measure as had been demanded of me, while having the conviction that I could not make any exceptions. I myself, as I said, signed the order for confiscation, in order not to implicate anybody else.

[Page 110]

Q. What instructions did you give in the course of the liquidation?

A. I immediately issued liquidation orders which in practice prevented the liquidations being carried out. I ordered estates or castles to be turned over to the Netherlands State - with the exception of one apartment house, I believe - and likewise bonds and securities and archives, and all historic or artistic or otherwise valuable furniture to be selected by a Dutch commission so that the Netherlands State could take it over. The commission included almost everything at all possible in its list. I realised that and did not strike out one piece. In particular, I had the historical institutions at Joesdijk and Huistenbosch turned over in full, although Berlin wanted the Huistenbosch one as memorial to the people of Brandenburg. Finally, even the personal things -

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think that the defendant need make this quite so detailed, Dr. Steinbauer. He has made the point that some of the things were turned over to the Netherlands State.


Q. Then I should like very briefly to ask in this connection: Do you know to what extent the property was actually liquidated?

A. I had a survey given to me. It was reported to me that three, or at the most, five per cent. of the property was actually liquidated.

Q. Thank you, that is enough.

A. The proceeds were turned over to a fund for the repairing of war damages.

Q. Now I shall proceed to the question of the confiscation of factories and raw materials. Who undertook this confiscation?

A. I may refer to my previous statements. From the late summer of 1944 on, this was done primarily by the Field Economic Commands. There are individual documents available with notations referring to me. There were many unauthorised confiscations. People came from the Reich with trucks and began to take away machinery. Together with the Wehrmacht commander and the Higher SS and Police Leader I ordered that the strictest measures be taken against these methods.

DR. STEINBAUER: In this connection I should like to refer to two documents which I submitted, but which I shall not read, in order to save time. These are Documents number 80 and 81, Pages 205 and 208. It can be seen from these that this is a concern of the Armed Forces, that these confiscations were all carried out by the occupation forces.


Q. In Document RF 137, witness, the charge is made that the removal of furniture and clothing from Arnhem was sanctioned by you.

A. The charge is correct. The situation was as follows: The front was directly south of Arnhem. There were three or four defence lines built in Arnhem proper. The city had been completely evacuated. It was being shelled, and buildings and goods in Arnhem were gradually being ruined in the course of the winter. The Fuehrer ordered at that time through Bormann that particularly textiles be brought from the Netherlands for German families who had suffered bomb damage. Without any doubt the furniture and the textiles in Arnhem would probably either have been plundered or would have been ruined by the weather or would have been burned in battle. Although it was not in my territory but at the front, and the executive power thus lay with the Wehrmacht, I gave my approval, under the circumstances, for furniture and textiles to be brought to the Ruhr area, I ordered at the same time that the items be listed for indemnification claims. I believe that Dr. Wimmer can confirm this as a witness.

Q. I believe we can conclude that.

A. The charge is also raised against me that I blew up safes. I opposed this most strongly. When such a case was reported to me, I had my prosecuting authority issue the indictment and the order for arrest.

Q. Now I shall go on to the next question. How about the blowing up and destruction of ports, docks, locks and mines in the Netherlands?

[Page 111]

A. Blastings were undertaken at the moment when the Netherlands again became a theatre of war. As for port and dock installations and shipyards, the following is important: the port of Antwerp fell almost undamaged into the hands of the enemy. I believed that that was of decisive importance for the further development of the offensive. Thereupon the competent military authorities in the Netherlands began a precautionary blowing up of such installations. I was acquainted only with the fact, not with the details, and I refused to watch the explosions. But my commissioner and I intervened with the Wehrmacht offices, and I believe that in Rotterdam half of the installations were not blown up. This is shown by the Netherlands reports. I had nothing whatever to do with the matter, aside from this intervention.

When the English reached Limburg, an order was issued to blow up mines as being vital for war. I questioned Reich Minister Speer about this, and he issued an order not to blow them up but only to put them out of commission for three or four months. The orders were issued to this effect. I hope that they were not violated.

Q. We have heard in this trial of "scorched earth " policy. Did that apply to the Netherlands also?

A. I received a "scorched earth" order from Bormann. Without there being a military necessity for it, all technical installations were to be blown up. That meant, in effect, the destruction of Holland, that is, the Western Netherlands. If explosions are carried out in fourteen or fifteen different places in Holland, the country is entirely flooded in three or four weeks. I did not carry out the order at first; instead I established contact with Reich Minister Speer. I had a personal meeting with him on 1st April, in Oldenburg. Speer told me that the same order had been given in the Reich, but that he now had full authority in this matter, and that he agreed that the order should not be carried out in the Netherlands. It was not carried out.

Q. Now, to another chapter. Floods did occur. Did you have anything to do with them?

A. I knew about this, and in a certain connection I did have something to do with it.

There were floodings previously prepared by the Wehrmacht for defence purposes and there were so-called "battle" floodings, which suddenly became necessary in the course of battle. The prepared ones were carried out in closest contact with my office and the Dutch offices. Through the latter's intervention, about half of the area was spared and saved. The flooding was done mostly with fresh water so that less damage would occur, and the outer dikes were spared. There were two battle floodings in Holland, by order of the Commander-in-Chief of Holland. The Wieringer Polder was mentioned in particular. At that time there was great danger of a landing from the air to outflank the Dutch defence front. I was not actually informed of the execution of the battle floodings. The Commander-in-Chief had decided on it overnight.

When, on 30th April, I talked to Lt.-Gen. Bedell-Smith, General Eisenhower's Chief of the General Staff, he told us: "What has been flooded so far can be justified from the military point of view; if you flood any more now, it is no longer justifiable."

After 30th April there were no more floodings.

Q. In this connection I should like to refer to Document 86, Page 221, without reading it. It shows that these floodings were of a purely military character.

Another charge which was made against you, witness, is the question of the food supply for the Netherlands population. What measures did you take to maintain the food supply of the Dutch people?

A. The food question in the Netherlands was doubtless the most difficult question of the whole administration, and I believe, because of the special aspects of the case, it was. one of the most difficult in all the occupied territories.

[Page 112]

In the Netherlands there is a density of population of 270 people per square kilometre, and in Holland specifically more than 600, and all had to be fed. The food economy is highly cultivated as a processing economy dependent upon the importation of hundreds of thousands of tons of food. With the occupation and the blockade all that had disappeared. The whole food economy had to be put on a new basis, as well as the production of food for immediate human consumption. It was certainly a great achievement of Dutch agriculture and its leadership that made this successful. However, I may say that my experts aided very effectively, and we got a great deal of support from the Reich.

Food distribution in the Netherlands was also very carefully regulated, more so almost than in any other occupied territory. The most important thing for me was to maintain this distribution, although General Director Laures and his entire staff of helpers were definitely hostile to the Germans. Against the wish of the Reich Central Office I nevertheless retained him, because otherwise I would not have been able to bear the responsibility for the nourishment of the people.

Q. Did you also deliver food to the Reich?

A. The troops claimed the right to live off the land, I believe, but grain was supplied from the Reich to an extent of 36,000 tons, vegetables being demanded in exchange. The Reich demanded, in addition, more vegetables and also the delivery of cattle, canned meat, fruits and some other products. Vegetables and meat would not have made so much difference, but the fruits caused trouble. I am convinced that the Dutch food administration did its utmost to prevent deliveries.

Q. I believe that that is enough on this theme, and I should like to ask how the total food situation was in the autumn of 1944?

A. During most of the occupation period we had a calorific value at first of 3,000 and then of about 2,500 calories, and in 1944 about 1,800 calories. Experience today will show what that meant.

In September of 1944 the Netherlands became a theatre of war again. At about the time the first British airborne divisions landed at Arnhem, a general strike of Dutch railwaymen began, by order of the Dutch Government in England, and it was carried out almost completely. At the same time ships vanished from the internal waterways. It was not a formal strike, but it amounted to the same thing.

Through this situation the defence possibilities for the, German Wehrmacht were most severely endangered. The German Wehrmacht then began to confiscate ships and, in effect, interrupted all traffic. I got in touch with the Wehrmacht and was told that if the railway strike stopped, it (the Wehrmacht) would not have to proceed so rigorously. I reported this to Secretary General Hirschfeld and Director General Laures. No result was achieved, and I had to consider how I could restore shipping. I discussed it with the Wehrmacht, and I suggested that I gave them three of four weeks' time in which they could secure their necessary shipping space. Of about two million tons available, they needed 450,000 tons. During this time I forbade all ship traffic, because the Wehrmacht was confiscating all ships anyhow. I permitted traffic of small ships in Holland.

THE PRESIDENT: How is all this relevant to the charges made against the defendant?

DR. STEINBAUER: The report of the Netherlands Government, which the prosecution also mentioned, states in great detail that the defendant, as Reich. Commissioner, is responsible for the famine which began in September of 1944 and lasted until the spring of 1945 and for the great mortality, especially of children - whole tables of statistics have been submitted - because, on the occasion of the shipping and railway strike, he prohibited the importing of food. That is one of the most important and serious charges made against him. I have asked for witnesses on this subject, and perhaps I might cut it short now so that the witnesses may speak about it.

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