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-Fourth Day: Thursday, 13th June, 1946
(Part 10 of 10)

[M. DEBENEST continues his cross examination of Dr. Friedrich Wimmer]

[Page 230]

Q. Is it true that during the occupation of the Netherlands a large number of members of the NSB and pro-German elements were appointed not only to leading positions, but also to subordinate positions in the Dutch police, and that they were charged with executing orders issued by the occupation authorities, such as the arresting of Jews, members of the resistance, and hostages?

A. I can confirm the fact that members of the NSB and of groups friendly to the Germans were employed in high and low positions by the Reich Commissioner. However, as to their proportional part within the total of Dutch civil servants employed in the civilian branch, I believe that even at the end of the occupation period the participation of these groups in proportion to the Dutch population was not greater -

Q. I spoke to you expressly about the police; reply to that point.

A. You mean only the police?

Q. I told you: the police.

A. Yes, that is known to me. However, I do not believe that those members of pro-German groups received special assignments, but rather I believe that they received their assignments in exactly the same way as the other civil servants in the same positions. I cannot, however, say anything in detail about that, because I had very little to do with the police.

Q. When officials of the Dutch police refused to carry out orders which had been given to them by the occupation authorities and abandoned their posts, did not the German authorities take members of their families as hostages, women and children, for instance?

A. I cannot recall that.

Q. In no case?

[Page 231]

A. That relatives of police officials were arrested? Members of their families?

Q. Yes, of those who were not carrying out the orders of the German authorities.

A. I do not remember that.

Q. Well, perhaps you may remember that members of families of Dutch citizens who offered resistance in one way or another were arrested as hostages?

A. I have heard about that.

Q. There were some hostages arrested in such cases, for example, were there not? There were hostages arrested in those cases?

A. You call it "hostages". Do you also use that expression in cases where the individuals concerned did not have to expect that they would lose their lives, that it would cost them their heads?

Q. So far I have been asking you the questions, and you have been answering them, have you not?

For instance, did you not receive protests from the Board of the University of Amsterdam against the fact that the wife and children of a professor of that University had been arrested as hostages?

A. I do not remember that. It is possible, however, that such a complaint came to the Main Department for Education, which belonged to my Commissariat.

Q. In any case, you do not deny the fact?

A. I could not deny it entirely, but I do not know anything about it.

Q. Another question. Following the declaration of loyalty which was imposed on the students, those who refused, were they not forced to present themselves immediately for work, and were they not deported to Germany without waiting for their group to be called up?

A. Yes, but not by the Labour Service (Arbeitsdienst). Do you mean the Labour Allocation Office (Arbeitseinsatz)?

Q. That is of little importance; but they were deported to Germany for that reason, were they not?

A. Yes, by virtue of a decree by the Higher SS and Police Leader.

Q. Is not it true that numerous and extensive reforms were introduced by the Reich Commissioner in all the activities of the life of the Dutch people, and that these reforms were all contrary to the Constitution?

A. One cannot say that.

Q. But there were reforms, were there not?

A. Certainly, yes, which were caused by the necessities of war and the fact of the occupation. And there is a third factor involved, too, which was that there were measures necessitated by the absence of the head of State and the Government.

THE PRESIDENT: M. Debenest, would it not be better to put the particular points you want to him, rather than general questions, which will enable him to deal with the matter at length?

M. DEBENEST: Yes, Mr. President.


Q. Did the civil administration service in the Netherlands enjoy a certain freedom?

A. Yes, a great deal of freedom.

Q. I am going to read to you a passage from a report of the defendant Seyss-Inquart, a report drafted on 19th July 1940, You shall tell me whether you still maintain the reply that you have just given me. This is what Seyss-Inquart wrote:

"The civil administration" (he means the civil administration in the Netherlands) "at present finds itself in a sufficient and otherwise progressive way under the direction and control of the German authorities."
Is the answer which you have just made in agreement with what Seyss-Inquart wrote?

A. If mention is made in Dr. Seyss-Inquart's reply that the control was in German hands, that can only mean that the supervision was in the hands of German

[Page 232]

authorities, for it is naturally to be taken for granted that the German occupation authorities reserved for themselves a certain control and supervision over Dutch legislation, as well as all important acts of administration and government; and if everything went as it should, important decrees could not be issued without the approval of the occupying power.

Q. That is enough. The Tribunal will judge your answer with regard to this document.

Will you explain why a civilian government was established in the Netherlands, whereas no such government was set up in other countries, such as Belgium, for instance?

A. I do not know the real reason for that, but from what I have heard and could find out myself, the main reason was that Germany attached the greatest value to establishing a good relationship with the Netherlands, and the leaders in the Reich probably thought that this could be more easily done through men of the civilian administration than through the Wehrmacht.

Q. More exactly, were they not pursuing a political goal in this, the goal of placing the country in the hands of the National Socialists, in order to bring about some sort of Germanic federation of Germanic states?

A. Whenever I spoke with the Reich Commissioner about such things, the Reich Commissioner expressed the point of view that the Dutch people had all the characteristics of a distinct and independent people and therefore should remain independent and sovereign as a State. It goes without saying that during the occupation period the Reich Commissioner and the German administration maintained fairly close contact with those parties and groups which were pro-German, and I do not have to give any reasons for that. But that the Netherlands, especially during a period of occupation, were not going to accept completely the political ideology of the occupying power was quite clear to the Reich Commissioner, as well as to anyone who was able to judge the conditions at all reasonably.

Q. You said a few moments ago, if I understood correctly, that the Reich Commissioner did not want to force the general secretaries of the Netherlands to make decisions which might be contrary to their conscience, and if they felt uneasy about it, they could tender their resignation. Is that what you stated?

A. Yes.

Q. Did he dismiss any general secretaries who had not tendered their resignation?

A. There was only one exception, that of General Secretary Spitzen. That was the general secretary to the Ministry of Waterways who did not carry out an order of the Reich Commissioner and in spite of this did not hand in his resignation.

Q. Which general secretary was this? In which department?

A. That was the Ministry of Waterways - that was the ministry that was responsible for canals, reclaimed land, highways, inland waters, and so forth.

Q. Is that the only case that you know of?

A. That is the only case of which I know.

Q. In what year was that?

A. That, I believe - one moment - at any rate, that was in 1944; in the summer, I believe.

Q. Do you not remember the dismissal of the general secretary for national defence, Mr. Ringelin?

A. The dismissal of the general secretary for national defence was not a matter for the Reich Commissioner, but fell within the jurisdiction of the commander of the Wehrmacht, since by virtue of the Fuehrer's decree all military matters fell within the jurisdiction of the commander of the Wehrmacht.

Q. Why was he dismissed?

A. That is not known to me.

[Page 233]

Q. Try to refresh your memory with the aid of Seyss-Inquart's report, and then we will see whether this was in agreement with the head of the Wehrmacht. This is what the defendant writes:
"One of the general secretaries tried - "
THE PRESIDENT (Interrupting): M. Debenest, the witness does not know anything about it, apparently.

M. DEBENEST: He says that he does not know the reasons, Mr. President, but he adds - he had previously added - that it was in agreement with the military, authorities.

THE PRESIDENT: It is a matter which would come under the competence of the military authorities; and he does not know about it. That is what he said.

THE WITNESS: All the matters of the ministry for national defence fell within the jurisdiction of the commander of the Wehrmacht, for it is perfectly clear that everything of a military nature which took place or was directed in the Netherlands there was directed by this ministry, and it is clear that the commander, the German military representative of the Reich, was competent in this sphere.

THE PRESIDENT: If you have a document which proves that the man's dismissal was done by Seyss-Inquart, I suppose you can put it to him.

M. DEBENEST: I wanted simply to demonstrate that the answer he gave was inexact, merely by reading four lines of the document.

THE PRESIDENT: As I said, if you have a document which proves that the man's dismissal was by Seyss-Inquart, you can put it to him.

M. DEBENEST: That is what I intended to do, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Do it; put it to him, then.

M. DEBENEST: I do not have the original in German. I handed it in yesterday evening to the Secretary of the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: Read it to him, M. Debenest. Read it to him.

M. DEBENEST: That is what I am going to do, Mr. President.


Q. Here is what Seyss-Inquart wrote:

"One of the general secretaries tried to appeal to the authority of Winkelmann" - Winkelmann was the military chief - "concerning the question of the continuation of work in armament factories for the Wehrmacht. But this official - "
A. I did not understand that. Will you please read the last two sentences once more?

Q. " ...concerning the matter of the continuation of armament factories for the Wehrmacht. But this official was immediately dismissed."
A. But that does not say that the Reich Commissioner dismissed this official.

Q. Certainly it is not said that the Reich Commissioner did it; but it is none the less clear in this report that the Reich Commissioner indicates here that when an official, no matter who he may be, does not obey the orders which are given to him, he is dismissed from his office and he quotes this case as an example.

A. But here it is a question of the military branch. What I have said before deals exclusively with the civilian sector, the Reich Commissioner's branch. It is perfectly clear and possible that in a report to Hitler the Reich Commissioner should speak about other things also, because he was the guardian of the interests of the Reich. And he reported about other things to his superior also, besides those which were exclusively within his sphere of activity.

I do not know either whether by these officials or these workers, for example, the general secretary is meant, the general secretary for national defence.

[Page 234]

Q. Very well. We will leave this question.

Did you not request that the Secretary General for Education should place the Kamerlynek-Honesse Laboratories in Leyden at the disposal of the German authorities for research on atomic energy?

A. But only in the Netherlands; not in Germany.

Q. But if it was not for Germany, the Secretary General for Education had perfect freedom to decide for himself; you did not have to intervene, did you?

A. No. That was a German measure which had been demanded by the Reich and which was now carried out in such a manner that all the materials, machinery and so on, remained in the Netherlands, and German scientists were to have the opportunity to carry out their researches there. Moreover, I do not believe that that had anything to do with atomic matters.

Who said that?

Q. You claim that important public libraries and private libraries were not confiscated or transported to the Reich? You said so just now, is not that a fact?

A. Just now? I did not speak about libraries at all just now.

Q. But just now when Seyss-Inquart's defence counsel was questioning you, you certainly said, unless I misunderstood you, that no libraries had been transported to the Reich which came from the Netherlands.

A. I did not say that. Will you please show me that in the transcript?

Q. Then it is doubtless a mistake. Were not the professors of the University of Amsterdam threatened with the death penalty if they handed in their resignations, and did you not threaten them yourself?

A. I neither expressed such a threat, nor do I know of any such threat. I consider it quite impossible that anybody could have uttered such a threat.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1000 hours, 14th June, 1946.)

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