The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Third Day: Monday, 22th July, 1946
(Part 3 of 11)

[Page 188]

DR. LATERNSER: No, Mr. President, that point of view cannot be right. Up to now we could merely submit affidavits to the Commission and not documents. The documents were to be included in the document books, and that is what we are discussing today. This document is a document, a list, whereas the affidavit has purely a subsidiary character. It is merely meant to give an explanation. I ask that a decision be made.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we hear what you say and we will consider the matter.

DR. LATERNSER: Then I wish to speak about Documents I5 and 20. Both are letters, the admissibility of which is of importance to me particularly, since ordinary letters have frequently been submitted in evidence during the trial. I will remind you in particular of the Rainer letter in the case of the defendant Dr. Seyss-Inquart. Then there is the letter of Colonel-General Zeitzler, dated 8th July, 1946, which is, Document 20. It is important because it shows that as a result of the efforts of a general who is indicted the Commissar Order was rescinded. That is why this letter assumes particular significance for me as defence counsel of the indicted group.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you give me the date of the letter?

DR. LATERNSER: The letter is dated 8th July, 1946, and it was addressed to me. That, Mr. President, is all I have to say to the objections raised by the prosecution.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Mr. Dodd, that concludes the arguments that we need hear this morning, does it not?

MR . DODD: Yes.

[Page 189]

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Tribunal will consider your suggestions.

I call on Dr. Steinbauer for the defendant Seyss-Inquart.

DR. STEINBAUER: Gentlemen of the Tribunal, on Friday I had got as far as Page 71, and with the permission of the Tribunal, I should like to continue on that page of my script.

From what has been said it is shown that the Reich Commissioner had to assume only a limited responsibility for the German police, that is to say, in so far as he used them for the execution of his orders in civilian matters. When the Reich Commissioner called for their help, the police as a rule first got in touch with Himmler. But in all matters which came within the competence of the police, the Reich Commissioner could neither issue orders to them nor intervene de jure in their activity. This fact must never be lost sight of when judging the Jewish question, the concentration camps, and the deportations.

The admissibility of special courts and police protective custody is recognized even in the report of the Dutch Government. The police were responsible for the arrests and the management of the concentration and prison camps. As explained in detail by the defendant when examined as a witness, he went to great trouble, as Wimmer and Schwebel also confirmed, to put an end to abuses in the camps about which he had heard. I shall refer only briefly to the treatment of the so-called Dutch reprisal hostages in whose case the defendant was very interested, also to the fact that he succeeded in obtaining permission for the members of the clergy who had been imprisoned in the Reich to return to the Netherlands.

Having thus briefly outlined the position of the police and their tremendous power, I shall pass on to one of the main points of the Indictment - the Jewish question.

In its Trial Brief the prosecution states that Reich Commissioner Seyss-Inquart alone bears full responsibility for the carrying out of the Nazi programme to persecute the Jews in Holland, and that in his Amsterdam speech before the members of the NSDAP, on 13th March, 1941, he himself declared: "To us the Jews are not Dutchmen; to National Socialism and to the National Socialist Reich the Jews represent the enemy." In that speech Seyss-Inquart also explains why, as defender of the interests of the Reich, he believed he had to adopt that attitude towards the Jews. He knew them to be people who, through their influence on the German people, would paralyse their will to resist, and who would always prove to be their enemies. But this speech shows more than anything else that Seyss-Inquart considered all measures against the Jews as security measures for the duration of the war only. He spoke of his desire to create endurable measures during the period of transition and said that after the occupation had come to an end it would be for the Dutch people to decide what was to be the fate of the Jews. It was quite natural and obvious, as a result of the treatment they had experienced in Germany and later in the occupied countries, that the Jews, no matter what their nationality, should, during the war, become the most bitter opponents of National Socialist Germany. That had to be taken into account by every official who had to look after the interests of the Reich in occupied territories. This also makes the speech referred to in the beginning understandable. Therefore when Seyss-Inquart was commissioned by Fuehrer decree to safeguard the interests of the Reich in Holland, he also had to take some kind of stand on the Jewish question. It was his intention to remove the Jews from leading positions in the State and the economic life of the country for the duration of the occupation, but otherwise to refrain from any further measures against them. Actually, the measures instituted by him merely provided that those Jews who were working for the State were sent on leave or were retired with a pension.

In the meantime, Adolf Hitler had transferred the handling of the whole Jewish question to Himmler, or to Heydrich, who received full powers over the whole sphere of interest of the Reich. The Security Police, dissatisfied with the dilatory way in which the Reich Commissioner handled the Jewish problem, availed them-

[Page 190]

selves of their full powers and established an office in Amsterdam. Interference by this office was the cause of constant friction with the Reich Commissioner's deputy in Amsterdam. The Security Police claimed that they were unable to guarantee the safety of the Reich, with which task they had been entrusted, unless further measures were taken against the Jews to restrict their activities in the field of economy and their personal liberties. English and French people had been assembled in separate camps and had been driven over the Reich border, after their property had been confiscated as enemy property, treatment which Germans living abroad had likewise experienced in enemy countries. The police made it particularly known that very many Jews were actually involved, and often took a leading part in all the more serious attempts at sabotage and other forms of resistance. The Dutch Jews also, some of whose ancestors had come from proud Spain, and many of whom had come from Germany and the East as immigrants, had already held leading positions in the economic field, but more especially in the Press, before the occupation, positions which they had used to combat National Socialism. When the enemy entered the country, they knew it would be a life-and-death struggle, and, contrary to Shylock's words in the Merchant of Venice: "For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe," they placed not only their property but even their lives at the disposal of the resistance movement. The Reich Commissioner himself could not close his eyes to this fact. Because of the great number of persons involved, it was simply not possible to mete out to the Jews treatment similar to that of the English or the French or other enemy aliens who were confined in camps. Measures restricting personal freedom of action were taken by the Higher SS and Police Leader as Himmler's direct subordinate, or by the Security Police on direct orders from Heydrich. At this point, the Jewish star was introduced; incidentally, the Dutch did not consider this a mark of abasement. At the same time that measures affecting the freedom of movement were taken, the property of Jewish organizations and Jews was also placed under control. The Reich Commissioner appointed Dr. Bomker as his special trustee, and gave him the task of supervising the measures taken by the police - in so far as this was administratively possible and of preventing excesses. In effect, he intervened in several cases and was able to prevent wrongful police measures.

A large part of the activity of the Reich Commissioner's office was concerned with economic measures, and the description by the Dutch Government Commissioner for Repatriation, Exhibit USA 195, gives a clear picture of the entire Jewish problem in Holland. The chart shows that the Reich Commissioner was able to delay measures against the Jews for almost a year and that really intensive measures did not begin until February, 1941, when the Central Office for Jewish Emigration was established which was managed by Heydrich and was under the supervision of SS Obersturmfuehrer Aus der Funte. A comparison with measures taken against the Jews in Germany itself and in occupied countries shows a pronounced uniformity, which likewise indicates that the measures in question were not taken by the Reich Commissioner but were measures taken uniformly by Reich offices, in other words, by the police. The Reich Commissioner also saw to it that Jewish property was sequestrated in an orderly manner. When it finally came to the liquidation of the property pursuant to orders from the Berlin Central Offices, proceeds from the liquidation were not confiscated, but credited to the Custodian of Jewish Property; thus, towards the end, the Jewish administrative office had accumulated some 500 million guilders.

In order to put an end to the constant pressure and interference by the police through Heydrich, the Reich Commissioner, together with the Higher SS and Police Leader, tried to stabilise the Dutch Jewish question by assembling the Jews affected by the restrictive regulations in two camps in Amsterdam, where they were to live under their own administration. One of the camps was Westerbork, where they had a Jewish camp police of their own. From the outside, the camp was under the supervision of the Dutch police. When, in the spring of 1945,

[Page 191]

it was taken by the Canadians, the British radio reported that they found the Jews housed there to be in good condition, which was not the case in other camps which were found outside Holland. The second confinement camp was to be Vught. Himmler made a concentration camp out of it. The Jewish community of Amsterdam was under the direction of Ascher, a merchant who dealt in precious stones. Funds were made available to the Jewish community, especially for school purposes; negotiations were carried out with firms to provide work in the Jewish quarters. At the beginning of 1942, Heydrich, or rather Himmler, demanded the transfer of the Dutch Jews to assembly camps situated in Germany. Both referred to the full powers given them by the Fuehrer and pointed out that sooner or later an invasion had to be expected. Holland seemed a likely territory, because the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam provided suitable supply bases, and from there the British would take the shortest route to the Ruhr, the industrial centre of Germany. To permit so many violently anti-German people to remain in a territory which would see future operations in the battle against Britain was inconsistent with the safety of the Reich. The police were adamant and all the Reich Commissioner was able to do was to take steps to make the evacuation by the police as humane as possible. The Reich Commissioner succeeded in getting thousands of Jews exempted from evacuation, so that they were able to remain in Holland. The defendant got his agents to inspect the internment camps and, in so far as he was able to do so, he managed to have bad conditions remedied by the intervention of the Christian Church. The order for the evacuation was not given by the defendant, but by Himmler or Heydrich. The defendant did not even give his consent to the evacuation. As a result of representations by the defendant, a number of the Jews were taken to Theresienstadt, which was said to be a camp, ostensibly under the supervision of international agencies, such as the Red Cross, and where the Jews were said to be well treated. As a result of exemption regulations introduced by the Reich Commissioner, a great many Jews were exempted from evacuation. The above-mentioned Dr. Bomker was appointed to supervise the transport of the Jews in Holland and in many cases succeeded in getting the Higher SS and Police Leader to remedy bad conditions. Most of the Jews were taken to Poland, and probably one of the most terrible sentences is that to be found in USA 195 - a document submitted by the prosecution - which reads: "Total number of those deported was 117,000. After they had left Holland every trace of them was lost; they merged with the mass of deportees coming from all occupied countries and could no longer be identified as an individual group."

Now comes the culminating point of the whole Indictment, the dramatic climax in the trial against this defendant. Did the defendant know of the fate of these many unfortunate and innocent people; did he intentionally approve of their fate or is he guilty because he did not prevent it?

Again and again, the defendant has solemnly declared, even when questioned as a witness under oath, that he did not know anything about this, and that he was of the opinion that the Jews really were going to be resettled in the East for the duration of the war.

When in 1942 or 1943 the defendant once had, an opportunity of speaking to Adolf Hitler himself when he had to make a report to him, he steered the conversation round to the Jewish question. When the Reich Commissioner pointed out that the evacuation of the Jews was causing serious unrest in the Netherlands, Adolf Hitler replied that he had to segregate the Jews from the body of the German people, because they were a destructive element, and that he wanted to resettle them in the East. When Himmler, the Chief of the SS and of the German police, was questioned by the defendant at the beginning of 1944, all he said in answer to the Reich Commissioner's apprehensions was that he should not be worried about his Jews, his Dutch Jews were his best workers.

The Government representatives who had been sent to inspect some of the camps returned with the report that the Jews were getting along well and that they were

[Page 192]

satisfied. News from the deportees reached the Netherlands at regular intervals, even if it did become less and less frequent later on. Now that the heavy curtain which concealed the horror of those mass murders has been lifted, we know the circumstances and the truth. The scrupulously careful probings in this trial have revealed the devilish manner in which Hitler and Himmler knew how to disguise and cover up their criminal intentions concerning the final solution of the Jewish question. When I read the Dutch report about the Jewish question for the first time, I myself was deeply moved. This is the document which, together with the so-called Hoszbach document - the last will of Hitler of the year 1937 - I have especially submitted to my client. As for the Hoszbach document, in which the evacuation of one million Austrians was demanded, Dr. Seyss-Inquart told me that he had never seen it and had also never heard of it. He said: "If I had known about such an intention I would never have been a party to it."

Also when I submitted to him the document concerning the Jews, he told me, in a way which convinced me, that at the time he knew nothing about the final solution and the happenings in the extermination camps. When I then asked him why he did not resign when he found he could not prevail upon Himmler and his accomplices, especially concerning the Jewish question, he told me that, after all, he was a soldier and knew that a soldier must not desert in war time. He had decided in his own mind that if he were to remain at his post, quite apart from his other obligations, it would be because he doubted very much if the Netherlands would fare any better under a successor.

As a defence counsel and jurist, I must add the following: One could not know of the measures of extermination which the prosecution has mentioned. If extermination did take place to the extent as alleged, then these are the acts of a special group of Himmler's hangmen in a desperate situation. But in penal law, the principle applies that the causal nexus is interrupted if an independent criminal act interposes. This is the case here. Before I conclude the most difficult chapter of the whole Indictment I should still like to examine the question as to whether the statement of the defendant that he actually could not have had any knowledge of the terrible crimes which were committed in the extermination camps is, in fact, credible.

THE PRESIDENT: Would that not be a convenient time to break off?

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: I will deal with these documents. The documents objected to in the case of the SS, Nos. 69, 85, 86, 96, 101 and 102, are all disallowed.

In the case of the SD and the Gestapo all the documents are agreed.

In the case of the High Command, the Tribunal allows the Documents 8 and g to be translated and put in the document book. Document 11 is withdrawn, Documents 5, 13, 15 and 20 may be submitted to the Commissioners, but they will not be translated for the document books. That is all.

Now, Dr. Steinbauer.

DR. STEINBAUER: I continue.

First of all I should like to present the testimony of a French medical doctor, who himself was a prisoner in an extermination camp for a long time. This is Dr. Goubtien from Montgeron (Seine-et-Oise), who writes, in Exhibit RF 107:

"It is difficult for a normal human being to picture exactly what a concentration camp, which is designated in the German language by the two letters 'KZ', is like.

It is difficult for various reasons: first of all, a man brought up according to the principles of our civilisation, which is wholly based on the elementary Christian humanitarian doctrine, cannot believe the statements made by the victims of so many atrocities; the sadism, the exaggerated refinement used in causing suffering, go beyond the normal powers of feeling; moreover, the

[Page 193]

Nazis tried to conceal their crimes in a hypocritical way, so that a foreigner inspecting a concentration camp two or three years ago would have been impressed by the order and cleanliness in it.

If a jurist had examined the execution cases, he would always have found at least sufficient reasons, if not valid ones, for their justification. Finally, if a doctor had searched for medical records, he could very easily have concluded that the causes of death were normal.

That shows how thick was the curtain which covered the concentration camps, and how careful were the SS to see that it was kept down - how jealously they guarded the secrets. The SS tried to give a legal appearance to their crimes; here is a characteristic feature of Hitlerian hypocrisy."

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.