Seyss-Inquart participated in the last stages of the
Nazi intrigue which preceded the German occupation of Austria, and was
made Chancellor of Austria as a result of German threats of invasion.
On 12th March, 1938, Seyss-Inquart met Hitler at Linz
and made a speech welcoming the German forces and advocating the reunion
of Germany and Austria. On 13th March, he obtained the passage of a
law providing that Austria should become a province of Germany and succeeded
Miklas as President of Austria when Miklas resigned rather than sign
the law. Seyss-Inquart's title was changed to Reichs Governor of Austria
on 15th March, 1938, and on the same day he was given the title of a
General in the SS. He was
made a Reichs Minister without Portfolio on 1st May, 1939.
On 11th March, 1939 he visited the Slovakian Cabinet in Bratislava and induced them to declare
their independence in a way which fitted in closely with Hitler's offensive
against the independence of Czechoslovakia.
As Reichs Governor of Austria, Seyss-Inquart instituted
a programme of confiscating Jewish property. Under his regime Jews were
forced to emigrate, were sent to concentration camps and were subject
to pogroms. At the end of his regime he co-operated with the Security
Police and SD in the deportation of Jews from Austria the East. While
he was Governor of Austria, political opponents of the Nazis were sent
to concentration camps by the Gestapo,
mistreated and often killed.
In September, 1939, Seyss-Inquart was appointed Chief
of Civil Administration of South Poland.
On 12th October, 1939, Seyss-Inquart was made Deputy Governor General
of the General Government of Poland under Frank. On 18th May, 1940,
Seyss-Inquart was appointed Reichs Commissioner for occupied Netherlands.
In these positions he assumed responsibility for governing territory
which had been occupied by aggressive wars and the administration of
which was of vital importance in the aggressive war being waged by Germany.
As Deputy Governor General of the General Government
of Poland, Seyss-Inquart was a supporter of the harsh occupation policies
which were put in effect. In November, 1939, while on an inspection
tour through the General Government, Seyss-Inquart stated that Poland
was to be so administered as to exploit its economic resources for the
benefit of Germany. Seyss-Inquart also advocated the persecution of
Jews and was informed of the beginning of the AB action which involved
the murder of many Polish intellectuals.
As Reichs Commissioner for Occupied Netherlands,
Seyss-Inquart was ruthless in applying terrorism to suppress all opposition
to the German occupation, a programme which he described as " annihilating
" his opponents. In collaboration with the local Hitler SS and
Police Leaders he was involved in the shooting of hostages for offences
against the occupation authorities and sending to concentration camps
all suspected opponents of occupation policies including priests and
educators. Many of the Dutch police were forced to participate in these
programmes by threats of reprisal against their families. Dutch courts
were also forced to participate in his programme, but when they indicated
their reluctance to give sentences of imprisonment because so many prisoners
were in fact killed, a greater emphasis was placed on the use of summary
Seyss-Inquart carried out the economic administration
of the Netherlands without regard for rules of the Hague Convention
which he described as obsolete. Instead, a policy was adopted for the
maximum utilisation of economic potential of the Netherlands, and executed
with small regard for its effect on the inhabitants. There was widespread
pillage of public and private property which was given colour of legality
by Seyss-Inquart's regulations and assisted by manipulations of the
financial institutions of the Netherlands under his control.
As Reichs Commissioner for the Netherlands, Seyss-Inquart
immediately began sending forged labourers to Germany. Up until 1942,
labour service in Germany was theoretically voluntary, but was actually
coerced by strong economic and governmental pressure. In 1942,
Seyss-Inquart formally decreed compulsory labour service, and utilised
the services of the Security Police and SD to prevent evasion of his
order. During the occupation over 500,000 people were sent from the
Netherlands to the Reich as labourers and only a very small proportion
were actually volunteers.
One of Seyss-Inquart's first steps as Reich Commissioner
of the Netherlands was to put into effect a series of laws posing economic
discriminations against the Jews. This was followed by decrees requiring
their registration, decrees compelling them to reside in Ghettoes and to wear the Star of David, sporadic arrests and detention in concentration
camps, and finally, at the suggestion of Heydrich,
the mass deportation of almost 120,000 of Holland's 140,000 Jews to Auschwitz and the “final
solution.” Seyss-Inquart admits knowing that they were going
to Auschwitz but claims that he heard from people who had been to Auschwitz
that the Jews were comparatively well off there, and that he thought
that they were being held there for resettlement after the war. In light
of the evidence and on account of his official position it is impossible
to believe this claim.
Seyss-Inquart contends that he was not responsible
for many of the crimes committed in the occupation of the Netherlands
because they were either ordered from the Reich, committed by the Army,
over which he had no control, or by the German Higher SS and Police
Leader, who, he claims, reported directly to Himmler.
It is true that some of the excesses were the responsibility of the
Army, and that the Higher SS and Police Leader, although he was at the
disposal of Seyss-Inquart, could always report directly to Himmler.
It is also true that in certain cases Seyss-Inquart opposed the extreme
measures used by these other agencies, as when he was largely successful
in preventing the Army from carrying out a scorched earth policy, and
urged the Higher SS and Police Leaders to reduce the number of hostages
to be shot. But the fact remains that Seyss-Inquart was a knowing and
voluntary participant in war crimes and crimes against humanity which
were committed in the occupation of the Netherlands