Nuremberg Trial Judgements: Arthur Seyss-Inquart
Seyss-Inquart is indicted under all Four Counts. Seyss-Inquart, an Austrian attorney, was appointed State Councilor in Austria in May, 1937, as a result of German pressure. He had been associated with the Austrian Nazi Party since 1931, but had often had difficulties with that Party and did not actually join the Nazi Party until 13th March, 1938. He was appointed Austrian Minister of Security and Interior with control over the police pursuant to one of the conditions which Hitler had imposed on Schuschnigg in the Berchtesgaden conference of 12th February, 1938.
Activities in Austria
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.
Criminal Activities in Poland and the Netherlands
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 police courts.
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
The Tribunal finds that Seyss-Inquart is guilty under Counts Two, Three and Four. Seyss-Inquart is not guilty on Count One.
Sources: The Avalon Project