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 5 of 9)

[M. DEBENEST continues his cross examination of Artur Seyss-Inquart]

[Page 121]

Q. Thank you. Therefore, you set up, in the Netherlands, a civil government and a German civil government.

A. My four commissioners general could not be considered as having the same offices as ministers normally have. Certain functions, however, had been delegated to the secretaries general.

But these secretaries general did not represent a government or a ministry. I mentioned yesterday that I took over the government.

Q. But they did represent the Government of the Netherlands, did they not?

A. No, they were the supreme heads (officials) of certain ministries, but they were not what we call the bearers of sovereignty in the State. Those gentlemen were in England.

Q. But you knew, nevertheless, that they had been left in the Netherlands by the Government in order to carry on the duties of the government in its place?

A. What intentions the government which had gone to England had had in making this appointment, I do not know. I assumed that they remained there in order to direct the administration technically. It is within the jurisdiction of an occupying power, in the case of complete occupation of a country, to determine just how the government is to be carried on.

Q. But did you consider that the creation of a German civil government in an occupied country was in conformity with international conventions?

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, I object to this question. In my opinion, it is a question which should be solved by the High Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks the question may be asked. The defendant has already given his views on International Law in his examination-in-chief. We allow the question.


Q. Then answer me, please.

A. May I please have the question repeated?

Q. Do you consider that the creation of a German civil government in an occupied country is in conformity with international conventions?

A. In the way in which it took place in Holland, certainly.

Q. And why?

A. Because, as a result of the complete occupation, Germany had assumed responsibility for the administration of this country and, therefore, had to establish a responsible leadership in this country.

Q. You yourself created the Secretariats General, particularly the Secretariat for Information and Fine Arts?

A. We called it the Propaganda Ministry.

[Page 122]

Q. Yes, that is it.

A. Yes, I did that.

Q. And whom did you put at the head of this Secretariat?

A. I believe, Professor Kudewagen first. He too was a member of the Dutch National Socialist Party.

Q. That is true. Was not the Staff of the General Secretariat mainly composed of members of the Dutch National Socialist Party?

A. I agree to that, but I did not know them individually.

Q. Do you also know that in one of the offices, a member of the SS acted in an advisory capacity?

A. The Dutch SS.

Q. No, the German SS.

A. Then he was a consultant?

Q. He was a consultant for national educational and national development.

A. I did not quite follow you - he was a consultant for ...?

Q. For national education.

A. Yes, but I did not know him. I consider it possible, but I do not believe that he was there as an SS man in particular, but rather for other reasons.

Q. You ordered the dissolution of the municipal and provincial assemblies; why?

A. One cannot say I ordered the dissolution of the administration. I eliminated merely the elected representatives of the communities and the provinces. I not only kept the administration itself, but also strengthened it in its functions.

Q. You even turned out the mayors of the more important municipalities?

A. Certainly, and, I am convinced, with the full right of an occupying power. The Burgomaster of Amsterdam did not prevent the general strike but rather promoted it.

Q. But was that the same reason that made you turn out all the mayors, or at least a certain number of them?

A. I did not remove any mayors from office until they became unbearable to me because of their actively hostile attitude. Otherwise their political attitude was of no significance to me. Up to 1945 I kept Herr Boraine's brother as mayor in a Dutch city, even though he was a very bitter enemy of National Socialism and of us Germans.

Q. Very well. And by whom did you replace all these mayors?

A. I believe that until the year 1943, at least, the posts were filled in agreement with Mr. Fredericks, the Secretary General of the Interior, who was left behind for me by the Dutch government to administer interior affairs. There were National Socialists; there were those who were not National Socialists. For instance, the son of the Province Commissioner of Holland, whom I appointed mayor of one of the largest Dutch cities, Zwolle, was a firm enemy of National Socialism and of Germany.

Q. You are not exactly answering my question. I am asking you to tell me by whom you replaced all the mayors whom you had turned out?

A. In part they were members of the Dutch National Socialist Party. In part they were non-political men, and in part they were those whose political trends were absolutely against National Socialism and against Germany. In time there were more and more people of the Dutch National Socialist Party, for other people did not put themselves at our disposal any longer. It was the greatest success of the Dutch resistance movement that politically it resisted us so completely.

Q. You therefore pretend that it was the Dutch Resistance Movement which led you to put a great number of NSB people in all the important positions?

A. No, that would be going a bit too far. The Dutch resistance movement merely induced the population not to co-operate with the occupying power at all, so that apart from the members of the Dutch National Socialist Party there was no one who wanted to work with us.

[Page 123]

THE PRESIDENT: Would that be a convenient time to break off?

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)




Q. Defendant, you installed, in the larger towns and in the provinces of the Low Countries, agents who were directly subordinate to you and to whom you gave full powers. Were those agents not members of the NSDAP?

A. Will you please tell me what you mean by "agents"? I had German representatives in the provinces and in the big cities. Do you mean the German or the Dutch ones?

Q. No; I meant to speak of the Beauftragte (delegates).

A. They were Germans, and I assume that all were members of the NSDAP. I do not know for certain, but it is quite possible and I believe that was the case.

Q. Well, then, in order to refresh your memory, will you please take Document 997-PS, which I had handed to you this morning. I refer to Page 9, in the French and German texts.

M. DEBENEST: I would like to inform the Tribunal that I gave an incorrect reference this morning. The document was submitted as Exhibit USA 708, but is, in fact, RF 122.


Q. At the top of Page 9, you write:

"Delegates with far-reaching administrative powers have been appointed for the provinces. The creation of these posts was delayed due to the necessity of making a preliminary examination of the situation. It has now been shown that it must be less a question of administrative officers than of men who have had political experience. Therefore, through Reichsamtsleiter Schmidt, Reichsleiter Bormann (Hess' staff) was asked for men, who mostly, coming from the Party, are now on their way and can be installed in their functions in the provinces in a few days."
That was true, was it not?

A. Yes, and I find my assertion confirmed that they were not all from the Party.

Q. Very well, but I also notice that these men were specially selected.

A. Yes, they were politically experienced men, for I did not want any administrative bureaucrats, but men who were experienced and skilful in public political life, and not Party political life.

Q. On what basis did you organise the municipal councils and the regional councils?

THE PRESIDENT: M. Debenest, it seems to the Tribunal - I do not know whether we are right - that it would be better if you would pause after the sentence rather than after each word.


THE WITNESS: Will you please tell me what you mean by municipal and provincial councils? According to our concept, the word "council" means a body, but I did not establish any bodies, I appointed individuals to direct the administration.


Q. In the communes, in the Netherlands, there were municipal assemblies call them, if you wish municipal councils. In the provinces there were provincial assemblies, which you call provincial councils.

A. Thank you. I understand. In 1941 I dispersed the provincial and community representatives which had previously existed. I provided for such

[Page 124]

councils in the community regulations which I issued then, but never actually appointed such councils, because the Netherlands population did not co-operate and, as a result, these community councils would have been only artificial bodies. This provision of my community regulations did not come into effect.

Q. But upon what basis did this regulation establish this reorganisation?

A. May I ask to have the question repeated?

Q. But on what basis did this regulation lay down this reorganisation?

A. I cannot recall any certain basis. I assume that it was established by law, if it was provided for at all.

Q. Well, I will put the question in a different manner and perhaps you will be able to answer it. Did you introduce, by means of your regulations, the Fuehrer principle?

A. Yes. I called it the "one-man responsibility," and I am of the opinion that in times of crises a "one-man responsibility" is the correct thing.

Q. That was, in fact, the system which was also applied in Germany?

A. That is true. Perhaps it was not exactly the same, but under the circumstances, I considered it correct.

I repeat what I said yesterday: We committed an error here. We committed the error of considering the authority exercised by the occupying forces better than that already existing in the occupied territory.

Q. Well, the introduction of this principle had a particular importance, had it not?

A. I certainly thought it had; in these territorial districts in particular, I had to have a man who was responsible to me for the administration, and not an anonymous majority of a representative body.

Q. I am having Document F-861 handed to you, which I submit as Exhibit RF 1524. In the last paragraph, you will see the importance which was attached to that in the Reich. It is a letter of the Minister of the Interior, dated 6th September, 1941. It reads as follows:

"Particular importance must be accorded to the decree because it contains detailed regulations concerning the introduction of the Fuehrer principle in the municipal government of the Netherlands."
A. Yes. The Ministry of the Interior was interested in this. I should only like to point out to get things straight that the Reichsminister of the Interior exerted no influence and, in the second place, these larger powers were given in 1941 to at least eighty per cent of the mayors who belonged to the democratic party and were therefore my political opponents.

THE PRESIDENT: M. Debenest, have you not established, by the questions that you have put to this defendant, that he did alter, to a considerable extent, the form of government in the Netherlands, and that he introduced a different form of government. Is not that all that you really require for the argument which, no doubt, you intend to present? The details of it do not very much matter, do they?

M. DEBENEST: Mr. President, I simply wish to demonstrate that, contrary to what the defendant said, he had sought to impose the National Socialist system upon the people of the Netherlands.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, to a large extent, I think he had admitted that. He said just now that he introduced what he called "one-man responsibility," which is another phrase for the Fuehrer principle, and that he had dissolved various organisations of the Netherlands government. All I am suggesting to you is that, having got those general admissions, it is not necessary to go into details about the exact amount that the government of the Netherlands was interfered with or the exact way in which it was replaced. Is it not really all stated in a document drawn up by the defendant, namely, the document you have been putting, 997-PS?

M. DEBENEST: More or less, Mr. President, but not entirely.

[Page 125]

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the only question is whether the details are really very important for the Tribunal.

M. DEBENEST: I thought that those details might have a certain importance, since the governors of the Reich itself attached a great deal of importance to the decree, and that, in fact, the whole was part of a plan which had been definitely laid down.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Tribunal is inclined to think that you have got all that is necessary for the argument which you are indicating that you would present. If there are any particular details that you think important to us, no doubt you can bring them out.

M. DEBENEST: Quite so, Mr. President.


Q. To what end had you centralised the police into a police directorate?

A. May I ask to have the question repeated?

Q. For what purpose had you centralised the police into a police directorate?

A. I will repeat my testimony of yesterday. The Netherlands police was under three or four different agencies, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice, I believe the Army Ministry and so forth. For the sake of a police administration, I thought it necessary to unite these various police organisations into one and to place it under the Ministry of Justice.

Q. Did you not appoint as chief of this police a National Socialist?

A. Yes.

[ 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.