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 6 of 9)

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

[Page 125]

Q. In short, the end that you had in view, was it not to place the Netherlands in the hands of the NSDAP and, thus, adapt the internal organisation of the Netherlands to that of the Reich? In other words, to do something similar to what you had done in Austria?

A. The translation did not come through completely.

Q. I repeat: The end which you had in view in the Netherlands, was it not to place the administration of that country in the hands of the NSDAP, was it not to adapt the internal organisation of the Netherlands to that of the Reich?

A. I do not believe that one can say that. In particular, the policy of the NSB was not that of the NSDAP. The NSB was different in many respects. In the second place, if I had wanted to do that, I would have been able to make Herr Mussert prime minister; that would have been less complicated. The simple explanation is that I used the example of the Reich as a plan to set up an administration in the Netherlands, which, at least in part, made it possible for me to carry out my task of watching over security and order. Yesterday all that I asserted was that I forced no Dutch citizen to become a National Socialist. I did not deny that a certain co-ordination was undertaken due to the mistakes which I have repeatedly admitted.

Q. But you placed members of the NSB in all the administrative bodies - in the higher offices?

A. Not exclusively, but I did it because in the last analysis I could rely only on them; all others sabotaged my orders.

Q. You told the Tribunal yesterday of the dismissal of the magistrates of the Court of Leuwarden. Would you tell us again the exact reason for this action?

A. It was not the magistrates, but the administrators of the court. This court of Leuwarden had said in public judgement that those Dutch citizens who were convicted by Dutch courts and sent to a Dutch prison would be transferred to German concentration camps, mistreated, and executed. As a result, the court no longer saw itself in a position to convict a Dutch citizen.

This statement of the court was wrong, in my opinion. In my opinion, Dutch citizens were not sent from Dutch prisons to German concentration camps to be executed there.

[Page 126]

In the meantime, I cleared up the situation at the suggestion of the Amsterdam judges, and through the General Secretary for Justice I had the court in Leuwarden requested to continue passing sentences. The court in Leuwarden did not do so. Thereupon, I dismissed this court.

Q. Well, I have here the document "Verdict of the Court of Appeal of Leuwarden," and there is no question of Dutch prisoners being sent to concentration camps or being tortured or otherwise put to death. All that is mentioned is that the magistrates of that court did not wish that the detainees be sent to concentration camps after they had served their sentence.

I shall hand you the original of this document so that you can check it. The document has already been submitted as Exhibit RF 931.

A. I have not a German translation, or the original German.

Q. I shall read you the translation of the judgement; you may check it:

"Considering that the Court wishes to take into account the fact that for some time past various terms of imprisonment have been imposed by the Dutch judges upon the people contrary to the intentions of the legislation, and the punishments imposed by the judges have been executed in a manner which aggravates them to such an extent that it is impossible for the judge to foresee or even to imagine what the punishment will be - "
THE PRESIDENT: The translation is not coming through.

THE WITNESS: I am not getting the translation. This document exists in German translation. I believe my defence counsel has it in his files.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you got a German copy of it?

M. DEBENEST: Mr. President, we have a German copy, but we cannot find it.

THE PRESIDENT: Why do you not put it to the defendant?

M. DEBENEST: Mr. President, I cannot find it ... it is filed.

THE PRESIDENT: Why not summarise the document to the witness, do it in that way? You can give the effect of the judgement.

M. DEBENEST: Willingly, Mr. President, certainly.


Q. This judgement sets out in detail that the judges no longer wish to pronounce any sentence more severe than protective custody.

THE PRESIDENT: Did you hear the question?

THE WITNESS: Yes, Mr. President, but why did they not want to pass sentences? I had the German translation here in my hands, and I took this translation as my basis in this matter because I did not recall this judgement, I read it here, and I remember that it stated there that these Dutch prisoners were coming to German concentration camps, were being tortured and executed.

THE PRESIDENT: It does not appear to say anything about that in the judgement before us. There is nothing about that in the judgement, is there?

M. DEBENEST: Mr. President, it is the defendant who claims that the judges did not wish to pronounce such sentences any more, so that people would not be sent to concentration camps to be tortured or executed. There is no question of that in the judgement. The only thing that is mentioned is that the tribunal did not want to inflict any penalty which would result in the people being sent away to concentration camps. I do not see that there is anything in this judgement which the defendant might consider as a personal insult or injury.

THE WITNESS: Now I have the German text. It reads:

"The court wants to take into consideration the fact that for some time judges have imposed penalties and that Dutch male criminals contrary to legal prescription and contrary to the intention of the legislator and the judge, have been executed and are being executed in the camp in a manner which..."
and so forth.

[Page 127]

Those are the concentration camps which the court meant. So it is that prisoners were sent from Dutch prisons to German camps.

THE PRESIDENT: Go on, M. Debenest.


Q. As regards education, did you not bring about very extensive changes?

A. I introduced the supervision of the curriculum of the schools, and I made my influence felt on the appointment of teachers, particularly in the very numerous private schools in the Netherlands. Two-thirds of the Netherlands schools were private. I felt it necessary because in these schools the students were definitely taught an anti-German tendency. The Netherlands Education Ministry had the supervision of these matters.

Q. You thereby prevented a large number of clergymen from taking part in public education.

A. I do not believe so. I ordered, or agreed to an order, that clergymen should not be heads of schools. As for clergymen who were teachers, I agreed to have their pay reduced by one-third. They were able to continue to teach with two-thirds of their income, and with the money saved, I gave positions to 4,000 young teachers out of work.

Q. Talking of teachers, did you not cause the creation of a special school for teachers?

A. No. I believe you mean courses which were given in Avigor for those who volunteered for them.

Q. No. What I mean is those teachers who were compelled is take a course for a few months in Germany before their appointment.

A. I do not recall the case. It may refer to those who were to teach German in the Netherlands schools. In that case, it is possible that I demanded that they should first spend a certain time in Germany before being employed.

Q. You did, as a matter of fact, make the study of the German language in certain classes obligatory?

A. In the seventh grade and also in the eighth grade, which I newly introduced. But at the same time, I had instruction in the Dutch language increased, in order to prove that I did not want to Germanise the Dutch, but only wanted to give them an opportunity to study the German language.

Q. But they already had that opportunity. German was taught simultaneously with English and French. You imposed the teaching of the German language at the expense of the other two foreign languages.

A. I spoke of the elementary schools in which the study of German had not yet been, introduced. It is conceivable that in the secondary schools instruction in German was increased at the expense of instruction in English and French.

Q. Did you not order the closing down of several universities? And why did you do so?

A. I recall only the closing of the Leyden University. When, according to my instructions, Jewish professors of the faculty were dismissed, the students of Leyden University went on strike for a long time, and I thereupon closed its doors. I do not recall having closed any other universities. The Catholic University in Neumegen and the Calvinistic University in Amsterdam, as far as I can recall, closed of their own accord.

Q. And the Polytechnic Institute at Delft? You did not order it to be closed either?

A. Yes. That was a temporary measure. It was reopened, as far as I recall.

Q. How about the Catholic Commercial College at Tilburg?

A. I do not remember that.

Q. It was in 1943.

A. I do not remember. It is quite possible that for some reason or other it was closed, probably because it seemed to me to endanger the interests of the occupation forces.

[Page 128]

THE PRESIDENT: It is not necessary to investigate this in detail, is it? If the defendant said that he closed one school without giving an adequate reason, is that not sufficient for you to develop your argument?

M. DEBENEST: Certainly, Mr. President.


Q. Later on you attempted to turn Leyden University into a National Socialist University?

A. If you consider the appointment of two or three professors out of about l00 professors or fifty professors as to mean that, I should have to say yes. I cannot recall any other measures. Once it was suggested to me to establish a university in Leyden at which German and Dutch students could study, and that the study there should find suitable recognition in Germany. This did not come about.

Q. Anyway, you admit that you had the intention of creating this school?

A. "Intention" is a little too strong. These ideas were discussed. There was another suggestion. In the Netherlands, in the German Wehrmacht we had a number of university students who, for obvious reasons, had not been able to continue their studies. It was under consideration to hold courses at Leyden for these university students in the Wehrmacht; these courses would be a sort of continuation of their studies.

Q. I shall have Document F-803 presented to you, which I submit as Exhibit RF I525. This is a report from the Ministry of National Education of the Netherlands. It is on Page 23 of the French version and Page 16 of the German version.

A. Page 16?

Q. Yes, 16.

THE PRESIDENT: Why do you not go on, M. Debenest?

M. DEBENEST: I am allowing the defendant to find the place.


Q. Have you found Page 16?

A. Yes.

Q. I shall read the passage:

"Attempts were made to make the University of Leyden a National Socialist University by appointing National Socialist professors. However, these attempts failed as a result of the firm attitude taken by the professors and by the students. Certain professors even - "
THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Is that on Page 15?

M. DEBENEST: That is on Page 23 of the French text, in the last paragraph.

THE PRESIDENT: What is it?

M. DEBENEST: It is Document F-803.

THE PRESIDENT: I did not ask what document it was. I asked what is the nature of the document.

M. DEBENEST: I pointed out to the Tribunal that it was a report of the Minister for Education in the Netherlands.

THE PRESIDENT: Was he appointed by the defendant, or appointed before the war?

M. DEBENEST: It is the present Minister for Education. I would point out to the Tribunal that I am obliged to go into a certain amount of detail, because when the French Prosecution presented its case, we did not have all the documents at our disposal, and the Dutch government is anxious to have these facts presented in as detailed a manner as possible.

I might add that today I am producing documents which emanate from the Dutch government.

[Page 129]

THE PRESIDENT: That is Page 23?

M. DEBENEST: Page 23 of the French text, six lines before the end of the last paragraph.


M. DEBENEST: "Attempts were made to make the University of Leyden a National Socialist University by appointing National Socialist professors. However, these attempts failed as a result of the firm attitude taken by the professors and by the students. The professors even tendered their collective resignations in May 1943, and as there was no reaction to it, they tendered them a second time in September of the same year.
THE PRESIDENT: Surely, the defendant has already said this, has he not? This is Leyden University that you are speaking about, is it not?

M. DEBENEST: Yes, Mr. President. If I understood correctly, I believe the defendant said that there had been a question of creating a National Socialist school in Leyden but that he had not put this project into effect.

On the other hand, it appears from this document that it did not depend upon him but that it was a result of the attitude of the teachers. That is what I wanted to bring out.

THE WITNESS: May I comment on that?


Q. Certainly.

A. The fact that there was an attempt to make Leyden a National Socialist University is stated only in this document. I repeat my assertion that I appointed two or at the most three professors who were National Socialists. This did not mean, by any means, that the University would become National Socialistic, and this document shows clearly what my attitude was. I did nothing at all against the demonstrative gesture of resignation of the professors. The second attempt was also unanswered. The fact that arrests occurred then is connected with the fact that some of the professors were under suspicion on other grounds, and these professors were sent to Michelgestell. That is the concentration camp in which the members played golf.

Q. Then that was a coincidence?

A. I would not even say that. Certainly after the second attempt, we checked up on the gentlemen a little.

Q. Did you not take measures to oblige the students to do forced labour?

A. I believe that not as long as they were studying, for I had issued express orders for exemption of all students. Advanced technical students were given exemption and University students who were actually studying or had fulfilled the requirements for study were not forced to work, either, as far as I remember.

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