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-Fifth Day: Friday, 14th June, 1946
(Part 2 of 9)

[Page 239]

DR. STEINBAUER: With the approval of the Tribunal, I shall call the witness Dr. Hirschfeld to the stand.

DR. HEINZ MAX HIRSCHFELD, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Will you state your full name please?

A. Heinz Max Hirschfeld.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.



Q. Witness, when the Netherlands were occupied in May 1940, were you General Secretary of the Economic and Agricultural Ministry?

A. Before I answer your question, I should like to state that I would have preferred to speak Dutch, but in order not to delay the proceedings, I will speak the foreign language which I speak best; I will speak in German.

As for your question, I can say "yes."

Q. In this same capacity, did you direct the affairs of both ministries until the end of the occupation?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it true that the Reich Commissioner, in the first conference, told all the general secretaries that he expected loyal fulfilment of their duties, but that no one would have to fear any disadvantage if he should resign?

A. In answer to that, I should like to say that the Netherlands general secretaries, who were ordered by the Netherlands Government to remain in the Netherlands, told the Reich Commissioner at that time that, in the interests of the Netherlands people, they would remain in office, after they had received approval to do so from the Commander-in-Chief of the Netherlands Army who, at that time, was the authorized representative of the Netherlands Government. In answer to the question of the Reich Commissioner we said "yes," under those conditions.

As for his remark about not fearing disadvantages if we should resign, we answered that that had nothing to do with our decision.

Q. Did the general secretaries who resigned receive their pension? For example, Mr. Trip, who was president of the Netherlands Bank.

A. Yes.

Q. Did the General Secretary of the Interior, Frederiks, remain in office until September of 1944?

A. Yes.

[Page 240]

Q. Now we will speak of your own department, Agriculture and Economy.

Did the Reich Commissioner interfere in the administration of your ministry? In particular, did he release or transfer officials from the Food Service?

A. The Reich Commissioner personally did not interfere. His officials attempted to do so several times, but we refused to allow it.

Q. A so-called State Political Secretariat of the NSB existed. Did it have any influence on the Administration?

A. According to the order of the Reich Commissioner, this State Political Secretariat had no influence on the Netherlands Administration. However, I should like to add that through the appointments of the NSB General Secretaries later, such influence was actually exercised in various departments, though not in my department.

Q. Did the Reich Commissioner have the Head of the Food Service, Louwes - who was known as being hostile to the Germans - retained in the interest of the food supply for the population?

A. I believe the Netherlands officials, left behind by the Government, in general had the same attitude as Mr. Louwes. However, Mr. Louwes was left in his office.

Q. Although it was demanded that he should be removed?

A. This was reported to me by Mr. van der Wense only at that time.

Q. When the trade economy was reorganised, was this done by order of the Reich Commissioner or by the General Secretary?

A. The reorganisation of the trade economy was carried out on the basis of an order signed by me, although there was originally a draft, which was to be signed by the Reich Commissioner. I refused this, because I was of the opinion that this was a Dutch affair, and if the order was signed by me the danger of German influence could be prevented.

Q. The Reich Commissioner organized agriculture in the so-called Landstand. Did this Landstand receive any executive powers?

A. The Landstand did not receive any executive powers. I should like to add that, in a personal talk, I advised the Reich Commissioner not to form the Landstand.

Q. Was the so-called Conscription Order (Dienstpflichtverordnung) of 1941 enforced to a great extent, particularly in the Netherlands?

A. As far as I know, the Conscription Order was only enforced to a limited extent in the Netherlands, but it was applied all the more for the deportation of Dutch workers to Germany.

Q. Then there was a drive to remove members of the population who were capable of military service, especially from Rotterdam and The Hague. Who carried out this drive?

A. Which drive do you mean?

Q. To remove members of the population capable of military service.

A. In 1944?

Q. 1944.

A. This drive was carried out by the Wehrmacht.

Q. Did the Reich Commissioner weaken this action, by making exemptions, particularly in your department?

A. As for issuing exemptions, I heard very little of this at the time.

Q. The shipyards and dock installations in Rotterdam and Amsterdam were to be blown up. Do you know the attitude of the Reich Commissioner on this subject?

A. I only know, from statements of the deputy of the Reich Commissioner, Voelkers, in Rotterdam, that he opposed these measures, in the face of the Wehrmacht.

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, I must remark that Voelkers' affidavit has not yet arrived and at the moment cannot be traced at all; that is why I am putting this question to this witness.

[Page 241]


Q. Do you confirm the fact that through the intervention of the Reich Commissar the area which was to be flooded was reduced by about 100,000 hectares?

A. I know that through the intervention of the Reich Commissioner, or his office, the area which, in 1933 in particular, was to be flooded was reduced. I do not know exactly to what extent.

Q. You mean 1943. You made a mistake. You said 1933; it must be 1943.

A. '43.

Q. Is it possible that this figure of 100,000 hectares is correct?

A. I recall that it might be about half of what the Wehrmacht had intended to flood at that time.

Q. Is it true that the Reich Commissioner, in view of the blockade, reorganised agriculture for the production of food at an opportune moment?

A. When in 1940 the Netherlands were invaded and occupied by the Germans, the authorities who dealt with agriculture were of the opinion that a reorganisation of agriculture was necessary. The Reich Commissioner and his office did not oppose us in this work.

Q. Is it true, in particular, that the stock of high quality cattle in the Netherlands was retained by these measures.

A. The livestock in the Netherlands was, to my knowledge, reduced by about 30 per cent in the period of occupation. These measures of reorganisation of agriculture made it possible to retain this 70 per cent of the livestock throughout the war. Hogs, however, had been reduced to a much greater extent, and it was necessary to slaughter almost all the fowls.

Q. The question of the embargo in 1944 was discussed in detail here. I have one question to put to you:

When did you speak to the defendant Seyss-Inquart for the first time about lifting the embargo?

A. In answering this question, I must go back a little. When the railway strike was proclaimed, Mr. Louwes and I on the 17th of September - I beg your pardon, the 22nd of September, 1944, were visited by van der Wense, who, on behalf of the Reich Commissioner, told us that he expected that Mr. Louwes and I would issue an appeal to the railway men, in order to put an end to the railway strike in the interests of the food supply for the country. If we did not do so, counter-measures would immediately be taken to threaten the Netherlands population in the west of the country with famine.

We refused to issue such a statement, and we told van der Wense that he should report to the Reich Commissioner that reprisals against the population in connection with the railway strike would place responsibility for the famine on the Reich Commissioner. That was the decisive discussion. Nevertheless, the embargo came into being. Thereupon, protests were lodged on this subject with the various agencies of the Reich Commissioner, and on the 16th of October, 1944, the first discussion took place in which it was announced that the intention was to lift this embargo.

Q. Is it true that unfortunately in this particular year the frost came earlier than in other years?

A. Perhaps it came a little earlier than in other years; but in Holland the question of frost is always uncertain. From the Dutch side it was pointed out - I did this myself in a Press report - that we always have to expect an early frost.

Q. When the invasion threatened and a large part of the population was drawn upon to build fortifications, did the Reich Commissioner agree to your suggestion that a large number of the agricultural workers should be allowed to go home early?

A. I know of two cases. In the first place, it was a question of workers from the big cities who were sent to the north-eastern provinces in order to dig potatoes, and the promise was made that these workers would not be used for fortification work. This promise was kept. Secondly, at the same time, a large number of

[Page 242]

agricultural workers in the province of Trente who were already being used for fortification work were released for digging potatoes.

Q. I was unfortunately not able to ask the witness Fischbock about questions relating to finance. Do you know that Mr. Trip, who resigned on the question of the foreign currency blockade, was retained in the Bank for International Payments by the Reich Commissioner in agreement with Funk, the Minister for Economics.

A. I recall in this connection that Mr. Trip intended to resign as a member of the administrative council of the International Bank. When this became known, the Germans were apparently somewhat scared, and Mr. Trip was asked not to hand in his resignation. I know that he did not hand it in. What this implied and what reasons were behind it, I do not know from my own experience.

Q. I have two last questions, which are extremely important. We know of an order of the Reich authorities under the title "scorched earth." It was actually issued in March, 1945, for the Netherlands. Locks, pumping machinery, dykes, etc., were to be destroyed. Do you know what was the opinion of the Reich Commissioner with respect to this important matter? Did you speak with him about this question?

A. This question was discussed for the first time in a conversation which I had with the defendant on the 14th of December, 1944. In this conversation he told me that in view of military developments, he feared that the Wehrmacht might receive an order to destroy the west of the country. At that time he discussed with me to what extent it would be possible to keep the western part of the Netherlands out of hostilities. On the 7th of January, 1945, this conversation was continued. As a result of this conversation, I attempted to establish contact with London on this question. I did not succeed in obtaining an answer. These reports had to be made by secret radio stations. I never learned whether it was even possible to get one through. Then the Reich Commissioner visited me on the 2nd of April and told me that the "scorched earth" order had arrived, and that he had called on Speer for that reason. Speer had told him that the Reich Commissioner did not need to carry out this order in the civilian sphere. But Speer could not speak for the Wehrmacht. Therefore, the Reich Commissioner had also talked with General Blaskowitz. Blaskowitz had told him, that orders were orders, but if a way could be found to avoid this order, he would be ready to act. Then the Reich Commissioner asked me what possibilities I could see. This discussion was the result of a communication which I reported to London by telegram in April, 1945. It was confirmed to me that this report had reached London. Further conversations followed then.

Q. The last question: Did the Reich Commissioner, in contrast to the central authorities, establish any contact with the agents of the resistance movement in order to stop the war prematurely?

A. A few days after the conversation on the 2nd of April, 1945, I had a talk with the deputy of the Reich Commissioner, Schwebel. He asked me to what extent the Reich Commissioner could have been in contact with the agents and whether the few men designated by Herr Schwebel were the proper men. I then confirmed this.

DR. STEINBAUER: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any other of the defendants' counsel want to ask questions?

DR. SAUTER (Counsel for the defendant Funk): I should like to ask the witness a few questions.


Q. Dr. Hirschfeld, you just said that the former president of the Dutch State Bank, Mr. Trip, was in the administrative council of the Bank for International Payments at Basle and remained there after he had resigned his office as bank president in Holland. You just confirmed that. I should like to ask you, do you

[Page 243]

know that the Reich Minister of Economics, Funk, urged the bank in Basle to allow Mr. Trip to remain in the International Bank in Basle although Mr. Trip was no longer authorized to represent Dutch interests?

THE PRESIDENT: How are we concerned with this, Dr. Sauter?

DR. SAUTER: In questioning the defendant Seyss-Inquart the French prosecution brought out the fact that the former president of the Dutch State Bank, Mr. Trip, was forced to resign, or resigned, and the defendant Seyss-Inquart was charged with this. As defence counsel for the defendant Funk, I should like to prove that the defendant Funk took part with Mr. Trip as president of the Netherlands State Bank and saw to it that Mr. Trip was retained in the International Bank at Basle.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Dr. Sauter, the Tribunal thinks it so remote and so trivial that really it is quite a waste of time for the Tribunal to listen to this sort of thing.

DR. SAUTER: Very well, Mr. President, then I will ask another question.


Witness, do you know that at the time when Dr. Funk was president of the Reichsbank, the Reichsbank shares in the possession of Dutch capitalists were taken over and that Dutch circles realised that this was done in a fair and satisfactory way by Dr. Funk?

A. I know nothing at all about taking over Reichsbank shares.

Q. Do you know anything, Dr. Hirschfeld, about the opinion Dr. Funk expressed to you on the question of the treatment of the clearing debts?

A. After the outbreak of the war between Holland and Germany I never spoke to Funk. Therefore he did not express any opinion at all to me during the war.

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