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-Third Day: Wednesday, 12th June, 1946
(Part 6 of 12)

[MR. DODD continues his cross examination of Artur Seyss-Inquart]

[Page 163]

Q. He says it was a few days after the Berchtesgaden meeting. I suppose that could be the 17th, but it is not likely. Was it not before you went to Berlin?

A. Who said that - I?

Q. Zernatto.

A. No, the first time in my life that I saw Hitler was on 17th February, and at that time I think Klausner had not yet been nominated, because I myself

[Page 164]

mentioned to Hitler that he ought to agree to Klausner becoming the leader of the Austrian National Socialists.

Q. Now I see that you recognize that. That is a very crucial matter in your whole dealing between Austria and Germany, because if, as Zernatto indicates, this agreement was broken a few days after the meeting, then when you went to Berlin and talked about a Trojan Horse you knew that Hitler had already started his illegal activity in Austria, did you not, if, indeed, it was before you went there?

A. I would like to say that the illegal activities - not necessarily Hitler's but of several other persons - never ceased, and it was my intention to shape this illegal activity in such a way that we could control it from the Austrian side. I also told Schuschnigg repeatedly that the Austrian Nazis would do nothing without Hitler.

Q. Well, that is not the point, I am not going to labour it further. I am going to ask you one other question about your meeting with Hitler. You surely knew by the 17th how badly Schuschnigg and Guido Schmidt had been treated at Berchtesgaden. Did you say anything to Hitler about that in the course of your two and a half hours' conversation with him?

A. No, for I am not responsible for the policy of the Fatherland Front against the National Socialists in 1934. It was only the reaction to the suppression of the National Socialists in Austria.

Q. Well, all right. Now we come down to 8th March. That is the day that Schuschnigg told you about the plebiscite that he intended to hold in a few days.

A. Yes.

Q. It was on 9th March that you wrote the letter to Schuschnigg and sent the copy of it to Hitler, was it not?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you tell Schuschnigg that you were sending a copy by courier to Hitler?

A. I do not know, but I would have had no qualms about it, because after 12th February, 1938, I had to inform the Reich.

Q. You certainly also had to inform Schuschnigg, did you not, as his State Councillor, that you were sending a copy of this very important letter to Hitler? You did not tell Schuschnigg anything about that, is that not true?

A. It is possible, but I believe that I may have told Zernatto. I certainly told Zernatto that I was informing the Reich. Of that there is no doubt.

Q. We will see about that. The next night you had 4 meeting with Schuschnigg and with Schmidt and with Skubl, I believe in the Chancellery office. You never mentioned the fact to anyone of them there, did you, that you had already communicated with Hitler by special courier; do you remember that meeting?

A. Actually I have no clear idea of it. I only remember the meeting on the evening of 10th March, but I think it is quite possible that it -

Q. That is the night that you did go to the Regina Hotel and saw Klausner; immediately after that meeting you went right down to the street and saw your associates. Did you tell them what Schuschnigg had said to you and what you had said to Schuschnigg in the conversation a little earlier?

A. On 10th March?

Q. Yes, on the 10th.

A. Yes, but I found a most amazing lack of interest.

Q. But your courier was back from Berlin, was he not; Globocnik had returned from Berlin?

A. Yes. Globocnik came back and informed us that Berlin refused to agree to this plebiscite, and that the following day I would receive a letter indicating Hitler's attitude.

Q. Now, during that same meeting at the Regina Hotel you heard Rainer give instructions for the mobilization of the Party in Austria so as to be ready to make demonstrations or to seize power the next day. You were there when he made his plans. Do you remember that?

[Page 165]

A. I think that is a considerable exaggeration on Rainer's part. I only remember that Klausner said, "Well, then, everybody is to keep in touch with him tomorrow." That demonstrations might, of course, take place, was so obvious that everybody was aware of it, and that if the matter was not cleared up then, these would be serious. But the Government also knew that.

Q. I think we can get over it pretty quickly if you will agree with me that these demonstrations were not spontaneous at all, as I thought you were trying to convey to the Tribunal, but were well planned out beforehand by your associates.

A. That the actions were not spontaneous? Certainly they were not spontaneous.

Q. They were not?

A. The entire situation after 8th March became more and more heated.

Q. All right. Now, when Horstenau came back from Berlin on the next morning - 11th March - he told you about the military preparations for invasion or the talk of military preparations in Berlin, did he not?

A. Horstenau?

Q. Yes.

A. Yes, and we told Dr. Schuschnigg the same thing.

Q. You went to see Schuschnigg and you wrote him another letter that same morning.

A. Before that, during a conversation which lasted for nearly two hours, I reported all details. The letter was merely a, confirmation.

Q. Well, the letter was an ultimatum to Schuschnigg, was it not, and it was written by you at the direction of your political superior, Klausner?

A. No. Rainer has asserted that - that again is one of his assertions. If you can call it an ultimatum, then I had already given that orally, because when I left Dr. Schuschnigg I asked him to reply to me by two o'clock in the afternoon, and I said that in the event of his refusal Glaise and I would have to resign, but at that time I had not even spoken to Klausner.

Q. Well, as I take it, everything that Rainer has said in this report, in his document, 812-PS, you say is untrue. He also says there -

A. Not untrue, but slightly exaggerated.

Q. All right. I just want to get your views, I repeat, because you will not be available after he comes on the stand. You know he also says that he talked with you about the seizure of power in the event of Schuschnigg rejecting your ultimatum. Do you say that is so or not so?

A. I don't remember, I do not think so.

Q. What do you say about his statement that you discussed three definite possible steps for the taking over of Austria and handing it over to Germany? Is that true or not?

A. That is a retrospective construction by Rainer of our conversation.

Q. Now, I have to ask you about these things because we must get your view, I think.

A. Please do.

Q. Rainer also says that the telegram, the now well-known telegram to Hitler, saying that there was a bad situation in Austria, was actually brought back from Berlin by Glaise Horstenau. He says that in the same document. What do you say to that?

A. It is not quite correct. Hitler's letter -

Q. Well, how is it not quite correct? You indicate that there is some truth in it.

A. I received Hitler's letter through a courier, not through Glaise Horstenau. And in that letter there was a draft for a telegram.

Q. And that is the same telegram that Goering referred to when he talked to you on the telephone, and the same one that Keppler referred to when he talked to Dietrich on the telephone, is it not?

[Page 166]

A. No, that telegram was at least twice as long and I very definitely rejected this telegram.

Q. Well, finally, let me ask you this about that particular day. The radio speech that you delivered was really made at the direction of Goering, was it not? He told you -

A. No.

Q. - to make a statement, did he not?

A. There is no question of that and it would not have affected me.

Q. You had better look at the transcript of his telephone conversation with you. It is 19.57 hours that night, when he told you to make a statement to the people, and about three minutes later you went on the radio and made it. What do you mean that Goering did not tell you to do it?

A. Yes, but Goering asked me to do something quite different. He asked me to declare myself head of a provisional government and to take over power. At least that is what I believe. I introduced myself as Minister of the Interior and Security and I demanded that the people should keep calm and should not put up any resistance to the German troops who were marching in, which was exactly what Schuschnigg had said half an hour before me.

Q. Well, anyway it only took you two or three minutes to get to the microphone after you had talked to Goering?

A. I talked to Field Marshal Goering such a lot - I do not want to involve him or myself in all that we did on the basis of the telephone calls. I believe that I did hardly any of these things.

Q. You are not suggesting, are you, that Goering was not interested in your selling out Austria to Germany? He certainly had a great interest in what happened there that day, had he not?

A. Yes, but I do not think the expression "selling out" is very suitable. Obviously Goering was extremely interested in bringing this thing to a final conclusion, perhaps in some drastic way.

Q. You told the Tribunal yesterday that there were about forty SS men in the building, and that you thought they were there because Miklas and Schuschnigg did nothing to remove them, that they could very easily have removed them. Now, the truth of the matter is that you were the Minister for Security, and it was your responsibility to remove them, was it not?

A. No, I was not the master of the Chancellery. Apart from that, there was Dr. Skubl, and one word from Dr. Miklas or Dr. Schuschnigg would have sufficed to bring in 300 men from the Guards Battalion to restore order. One could not expect me, at that moment, to proceed against National Socialists.

Q. Well, if one word from them would have sufficed, just the wave of your finger would have sufficed, would it not, to get them out of there? They were your National Socialist SS men; apart from the fact that you were the head of the police.

A. Whether they would have obeyed me or not, I do not know. I did not have command over the Guards Battalion because it was part of the Wehrmacht. Undoubtedly I could have exercised my influence and it might have been successful, but the fact that these forty men were there seemed to me to be quite insignificant.

Q. The place was surrounded with them, was it not? They were not only in the building, but they were outside it and on the roofs of neighbouring buildings. You remember all that?

A. There were a few thousand National Socialists in front of the Chancellery at the time.

Q. Well, we had better refer to your friend Rainer, who is coming here on your behalf, and see what he says about it.

Have you seen the article - Yes, I think it is fair to call it an article - that he wrote about that historical night? Are you familiar with that?

A. Oh yes; one can really call it more than an article.

Q. Yes. He called it "The Hours of Historical Decision."

[Page 167]

MR. DODD: This is Document 4004-PS, Mr. President, Exhibit USA 883.


Q. You will agree, then, that it is quite a different picture that Rainer gives from what you have given this Tribunal, is it not? If you know the article, and you say you do, he says, you know, that Kaltenbrunner commanded 700 SS men there that night, and that Lukesch had 6,000 SA men within half an hour, and they received the order to advance and occupy the Federal Chancellery and to hold the Ring and the building until the National Socialist Government was proclaimed; and that forty SS men, under Kaltenbrunner's adjutant, Rinner, received the order to force their way into and occupy the Federal Chancellery, and so on. He says you are the man who ordered that Rinner be let in. That is very important, and I would like to know what you say about that. Rinner was in command of the forty SS men, that you say somebody else should have removed. He says:

"It was getting on for 10 o'clock, when the commanding officer of the guards reported to the Minister of Security, Dr. Seyss, who happened to be in our room, that a man, accompanied by forty others, was demanding to be let in through the gate, on, the strength of higher orders. I quickly informed Dr. Seyss that these were Rinner and his forty men who had been detailed to occupy the Federal Chancellery. Dr. Seyss ordered that Rinner be brought upstairs. I shall never forget this moment. Escorted by a lanky guardsman, Felix Rinner, the famous Austrian champion runner" - and so on.
He was the first National Socialist Sturmfuehrer who entered the headquarters that night, and you are the man, actually, who let him in.

A. That is the victory article, written in the flush of victory. All I can say is that I saw these National Socialists, in black trousers and white shirts, in the corridors and I asked, "What is going on"? But this dramatic account about my opening the gate - well, let us wait and see whether Rainer confirms that.

Q. Well, I understand that; we look forward to it as well as you do.

You will notice that a little further on he says that you, on your own responsibility, gave the order to open the gate and let these men in. But you say that is not so. That is all I want to know.

A. No, that is quite new to me.

Q. Well, I think we can pass on. There is not any truth at all, I expect, is there, in this whole article by Rainer? Or is there something in it that you might admit is true? You know he is going to be your witness.

A. I am also extremely interested in hearing what he has to say here. This is a somewhat poetical account of these events. The basis is certainly correct, but there is a lot of victorious exultation attached to it.

Q. I think I should also tell you, by way of a preliminary to a question, that Guido Schmidt, in testimony which we have here and which I will be glad to present to you, says that the place was surrounded by these SS men and that they were in there with your knowledge. What do you say to that? He is also going to be your witness.

A. I have said that a few thousand National Socialists had collected around the Chancellery. Whether they were SS or SA men, that I do not know. There were quite a lot of women amongst them. This so-called mobilization order of the Party was unknown to me, but I told Dr. Schuschnigg that very morning that if we could not agree, then he would have to expect large-scale demonstrations by the Party.

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