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 5 of 9)

[DR. STEINBAUER continues his direct examination of Ernst August Schwebel]

[Page 252]

Q. Witness, please speak a little more slowly and clearly. I cannot understand you even in German.

A. I was approached by Mr. van der Vlugt, who was the director of an interdenominational group, which aimed at supplying the population with special foodstuffs. I knew him for that reason. He told me that he was acting on behalf of the Dutch Government in London. He asked me whether the Reich Commissioner would be ready to negotiate with him, briefly on three questions:

1. A more extensive food supply for the Netherlands people through the Allies.

2. The stopping of floodings.

3. The cessation of the fight against the resistance movement.

I immediately got in touch with the Reich Commissioner and he immediately declared himself ready to enter into discussions. Then, two days after that, we dealt with Mr. van der Vlugt and another representative -

THE PRESIDENT: Witness, the yellow light means that you are going too fast, you see. So, when you see the yellow light, go a little more slowly.

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: You were telling us what Seyss-Inquart did.

A. Yes. Seyss-Inquart declared himself ready to negotiate about these questions immediately. A discussion then took place between us and Mr. van der Vlugt and another representative of the Dutch Government in London.

That was Jonkheer Six. This discussion took place among the four of us.

On this occasion we agreed, first of all, about one point: to the effect that any combating of the resistance movement was definitely to be stopped immediately, and the resistance group on its part undertook to dispense with sabotage.

Secondly, the Reich Commissioner declared himself ready to give his permission to a generous food supply for the population on the part of the Allies and to stop the floodings. However, there were to be more detailed negotiations in this respect.

The result of this discussion was communicated to London and I brought two Dutchmen through one part of the front line as truce officers. Then, after various negotiations had been going on for some time, we received an inquiry from London as to whether the Reich Commissioner was ready to negotiate with the Commander-in-Chief, General Eisenhower, and deal with him about these questions. The immediate answer was "yes." Thereupon, first of all, I crossed the front line on the 28th of April at Amersfoort, and there I briefly negotiated with General Sir Francis Gengard, who was the Chief of the General Staff of Field Marshal Montgomery, and -

THE PRESIDENT: You do not need any more detail about it, do you?

A. ... and in this discussion with Sir Francis Gengard we agreed that another discussion was to take place two days later between -


Q. Witness, we are not really concerned with the details. It a are concerned with the results of this conversation, and how it worked out in the interests of the Dutch population.

A. Yes. This discussion took place on the 30th of April, between the Reich Commissioner and the Chief of the General Staff of General Eisenhower, who was General Bedell-Smith. In this discussion the Reich Commissioner agreed completely to the wishes of General Bedell-Smith, that there should be a very generous food supply for the Dutch population.

THE PRESIDENT: If he said he agreed with the demands of General Bedell-Smith, surely that is all you want, is it not?


Q. Yes, that is quite sufficient. Through these negotiations - I would like to ask you - the war was ended two months earlier, was it not?

[Page 253]

A. One cannot say that exactly. The situation was as follows. For the Dutch population, of course, the war ended, practically speaking, on that day, because the supply that could be carried by air and by sea to Rotterdam was so generous. In order to make these transports possible, an armistice had to be arranged from place to place, so that in actual fact though not formally we had a general armistice, and the population at that time immediately benefited by it.

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, I have no further questions to ask this witness.

THE WITNESS: May I just make a few remarks, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: I think not. If counsel has finished examining you, we do not want any more remarks.

Do any other counsel wish to ask questions?

(No response.)

THE PRESIDENT: Is there any cross-examination?



Q. Witness, you spoke a short while ago of the negotiations which you undertook with delegates of the London government. Are you aware of the fact that these delegates, before undertaking the negotiations with the Reich Commissioner in April, 1945, laid down as a condition that no more people would be shot because of attacks against any German civil or military authority unless a court sentence had first been pronounced.

A. Yes.

Q. As a further question, did those delegates not request the Reich Commissioner whether the SS would conform to the conditions of an agreement which would put an end to hostilities?

A. That also took place. After that time nothing was undertaken against the resistance movement. Nothing further was undertaken against the resistance movement from that moment.

Q. Very good. Is it correct to say that the Reich Commissioner replied that, in his capacity as Obergruppenfuehrer of the SS, he was in a position to impose upon the SS that they would observe the conditions of this agreement, and that he could answer for it?

A. An agreement in its true sense? All these conversations were gentlemen's agreements -

Q. Wait a minute. No, I am asking you whether the Reich Commissioner made that reply to the negotiators, that is the delegates of the London government?

A. He said he was Obergruppenfuehrer of the SS as well, and in that capacity he was able to see to it that the SS would comply with this agreement.

Q. Thank you. The last question is this: Did you know Kiehl? He was an official in the Reich Commissariat.

A. Kiehl? Yes, I knew him.

Q. Did he not give instructions to flood the Polder Vieringermeer in April, 1945?

A. Kiehl, to my knowledge, did not give any instructions - he could not do so. Herr Kiehl was an expert on water works. But orders for the flooding could be given only by the highest military authority, and that was General Blaskowitz.

DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and the OKW): Mr. President, I object to this manner of questioning the witness. The prosecution is again questioning this witness in order to charge the General Staff and the OKW. In the objection I mentioned previously I said that if I may not question the witnesses with a view to exoneration, the same must apply to the prosecution with regard to incriminating questions. I ask that the last statement be stricken from the record.

[Page 254]

M. DEBENEST: I beg your pardon?


M. DEBENEST: Mr. President, I merely wanted to say that if I ask this question it is based on the information that was given to me. There is no question of the army, but of instructions that were given by a civil servant of the Reich Commissioner, and therefore originating from the Reich Commissariat. Therefore, I do not understand the objection by the defence counsel. There is no question of the army, and I am completely ignorant as to whether the witness is going to tell me whether the army was responsible or an officer of the Reich Commissioner when I was talking of an official of the Reich Commissioner.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. You may ask the question.


Q. Will you proceed?

A. Kiehl was the hydrostatic expert for the Reich Commissioner; but at the same time he was a hydrostatic expert under the Wehrmacht Commander-in-Chief. He was consulted by both authorities as an expert only. He had no right to give any instructions from either side -

Q. Please do not make any speeches; answer directly. Yes or no, did Kiehl transmit the order to flood the Vieringermeer?

A. But I must say how it was! Kiehl? No. He could not have done that.

Q. I am not asking you whether he gave the order; I am asking whether he merely transmitted this order.

A. I know absolutely nothing about that. I do not know how far Kiehl was involved in this order.

Q. That is sufficient.

What was the interest at that time in flooding the Vieringermeer? Did not people think that the war was over?

A. No. When the Vieringermeer, the Polder Vieringermeer, was flooded the war had not yet ended, and these agreements had not been concluded either. When the Polder Vieringermeer was flooded - and I found this out later from military men - there was the danger that a landing of airborne troops on the terrain of the Polder Vieringermeer would take place, which might bring the dyke giving access to Friesland and North Holland into the hands of the enemy. That was the reason why the military authorities considered this flooding necessary. That is what I was told.

Q. But at that moment in Holland was not the war considered as being lost for Germany?

A. No. At that time it was not considered lost. At any rate our army had, at that time, the order to defend us, which it had to carry out. There was the danger that this landing would take place.

M. DEBENEST: I have finished, Mr. President.


BY DR. STEINBAUER (Counsel for the defendant Seyss-Inquart):

Q. I would not have had to put another question to you if the French Prosecutor had not broached a certain subject. What did General Smith tell you about the flooding of the Vieringermeer?

A. General Smith said towards the end of the negotiations that any flooding that had been undertaken up to that time could be justified on the basis of military necessity. But no more was to be undertaken from that moment.

Q. Was any undertaken after that?

A. No, none was undertaken after that.

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, I have no further questions to ask this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can retire.

[Page 255]

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, with this I have concluded my examination of witnesses. Now I should like to refer to those documents contained in my Document Books and which I have submitted to the Tribunal. I was notified that Document Book No. 3 has been submitted to the Tribunal, and to conclude my case, I should like to submit another document, as No. 91, concerning the apostolic letter of the Catholic bishops, on the plebiscite in Austria. In this statement, reference is made to the attitude of Gauleiter Burckel. We can gather from it that the persecution of the churches cannot be charged to Seyss-Inquart, but rather the responsibility is to be placed on Burckel. In order to save time, I should like to ask that the Tribunal take judicial notice of this document without my reading it, and I conclude herewith my presentation of evidence on the case of Seyss-Inquart.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Steinbauer, have you offered all the documents that you want to offer in your books? Have you offered them as evidence?

DR. STEINBAUER: I did not understand the question.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you offered all the documents that you want to offer as evidence and given them exhibit numbers?

DR. STEINBAUER: Yes, Mr. President. Only a few affidavits are missing, affidavits which were admitted by the High Tribunal: Voelkers's, Bolle's and Rauter's. I hope that we shall have them within a short time.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you see you must offer each of these documents as evidence; you must say so. Merely putting diem in the book does not offer them as evidence and, therefore, you must offer these things to us as evidence, if you wish to do so, giving them the numbers. You can offer them all together, saying you offer -

DR. STEINBAUER: Yes, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you wish to offer your documents Nos. 1 to - I do not know what the last number is. 105 seems to be the last one.

DR. STEINBAUER: Yes, Mr. President. I ask that the numbers in my Document Book be included up to 107.

THE PRESIDENT: Are the - Dr. Steinbauer, are the numbers given in the books the exhibit numbers which you wish to give to the documents?

DR. STEINBAUER: Yes, Mr. President. They are in numerical order and they are found in that order in my Document Book.

THE PRESIDENT: You wish, then, to offer Nos. 1 to - whatever the last number is - as evidence. Is that right?

DR. STEINBAUER: Yes, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: You offered some in the course of your presentation of the witnesses.

DR. STEINBAUER: Some of them I submitted and quoted according to the numbers given in my Document Book.

THE PRESIDENT: You now wish, then, to offer the remainder?

DR. STEINBAUER: Yes, the remainder as well.

THE PRESIDENT: Under the numbers which they bear in your Document Book?


THE PRESIDENT: And you are offering all the originals under these numbers?

DR. STEINBAUER: In so far as they are in my possession and I can say upon oath that the extracts coincide with the books.

[Page 256]

THE PRESIDENT: You have certified that they are true copies of the originals in accordance with the Tribunal's rules?



DR. FRITZ (Counsel for the defendant Fritzsche):

Mr. President, I ask the permission of the High Tribunal that the defendant Fritzsche be absent Monday and Tuesday of next week. He requires this time for the preparation of his defence.


DR. FLAESCHSNER (Counsel for the defendant Speer):

Mr. President, I wanted to put the same request on behalf of my client as he will be in the witness box immediately after von Papen, who is the next, and I ask that he have permission to be absent Monday or Tuesday.


DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and the OKW):

Mr. President, I shall only take a little of the Tribunal's time, but I must make a motion which is particularly important to me, a motion which concerns procedure, and I should like to give the reasons for my motion.

I move that the Tribunal, first of all, rescind the resolution given on the 8th of June, 1946, and secondly -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Laternser, if your motion is an important motion it should be in writing. If it is not in writing it must be put in writing. You know perfectly well that is the rule of the Tribunal.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, it is very important to me that this motion should appear in the record. May I continue?

THE PRESIDENT: But, Dr. Laternser, it will appear in the record if you make the motion in writing. You have been here for many months and you know perfectly well what the rule of the Tribunal is, that motions be made in writing.

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