Arthur Seyss-Inquart : Nazi Germany

Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the son of a teacher, was born in Stannern, in Austria, on 22nd July, 1892. The family moved to Vienna in 1907 and Seyss-Inquart studied law before joining the Austro-Hungarian Army. During the First World War he saw action against the Russian Army on the Eastern Front and in Italy before being badly wounded in 1917.

After the war Seyss-Inquart became a lawyer in Austria. He developed extreme right-wing views and joined the German Brotherhood.

A strong advocate of Anschluss, Seyss-Inquart became a state counselor in May 1937. The following February Kurt von Schuschnigg appointed him minister of the interior and served as chancellor for a brief spell in March, 1938, before Hitler took control of the country.

Seyss-Inquart has a series of jobs under the Nazis including governor of Ostmark and minister without portfolio in Hitler's cabinet. When the German took control of Poland Seyss-Inquart served as deputy governor under Hans Frank. In May 1940, he became Reich Commissioner of the Netherlands.

At the end of the Second World War Seyss-Inquart was arrested and charged with war crimes in Nuremberg. At his trial it was pointed out that of the 140,000 Dutch Jews, only 8,000 survived in hiding and only 5,450 came home from camps in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Arthur Seyss-Inquart was found guilty and hanged on 16th October, 1946.

The National Socialist Party in Austria never tried to hide its inclination for a greater Germany. That Austria would one day return to the Reich was a matter of course for all National Socialists and for true Germans in Austria. I asked the Fuehrer for armed assistance to save Austria from a civil war and from the fate of Spain because I had information that the workers' militia was to act as an armed military force at the Schuschnigg plebiscite.

The Jews are the enemy of National Socialism. From the time of their emancipation their methods were directed to the annihilation of the folkish and moral worth of the German people and to replace a national and responsible ideology with international nihilism. It was really they who stabbed the Army in the back which broke the resistance of the Germans (in the First World War). The Jews are the enemy with whom no armistice or peace can be made. We will smite the Jews where we meet them and whoever goes along with them must take the consequences.

10 Things You May Not Know About the Nuremberg Trials

A huge crowd of soldiers stands at attention beneath the reviewing stand at a 1936 Nazi rally in Nuremberg, Germany. (Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

The Bavarian city that spawned the rise of the Third Reich by hosting massive Nazi Party propaganda rallies in the 1920s and 1930s was deemed by the victorious Allies to be a fitting place to stage its symbolic death. Although World War II had left much of the city in rubble, the Palace of Justice—which included a sizable prison capable of holding 1,200 detainees—remained largely undamaged and was chosen to host the trials once German prisoners completed the work of enlarging its courtroom.

Arthur Seyss-Inquart

In the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, the world was faced with a challenge—how to hold individually accountable those German leaders who were responsible for the commission of monstrous crimes against humanity and international peace. The International Military Tribunal (IMT) held in Nuremberg, Germany, attempted to face this immense challenge. On October 18, 1945, the chief prosecutors of the IMT brought charges against 24 leading German officials, among them Arthur Seyss-Inquart.

Arthur Seyss-Inquart (1892–1946) was Reich governor of Austria, deputy governor to Hans Frank in the General Government of Occupied Poland, and Reich commissioner for the German-occupied Netherlands. In the latter capacity, Seyss-Inquart shared responsibility for the deportation of Dutch Jews and the shooting of hostages.

He was found guilty on counts two, three, and four (crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity) and sentenced to death. Seyss-Inquart was hanged on October 16, 1946.

Defendant Arthur Seyss-Inquart talks to fellow defendant Wilhelm Frick during a court recess. - Harry S. Truman Library

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About Arthur Seyss-Inquart

Arthur Seyss-Inquart (help·info) (in German: Seyß-Inquart) (22 July 1892 – 16 October 1946) was a Chancellor of Austria, lawyer and later Nazi official in pre-Anschluss Austria, the Third Reich and for wartime Germany in Poland and the Netherlands. At the Nuremberg Trials, he was found guilty of crimes against humanity and later executed.

Life before the Anschluss

Seyss-Inquart was born in 1892 in Stonařov (German: Stannern), Moravia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to the school principal Emíl Seyss-Inquart and his German-speaking wife Auguste Hýrenbach. The family moved to Vienna in 1907. Seyss-Inquart later went to study law at the University of Vienna. At the beginning of World War I in August 1914 Seyss-Inquart enlisted with the Austrian Army and was given a commission with the Tyrolean Kaiserjäger, subsequently serving in Russia, Romania and Italy. He was decorated for bravery on a number of occasions and while recovering from wounds in 1917 he completed his final examinations for his degree. Seyss-Inquart had five older siblings: Hedwig (born 1881), Richard (born 3 April 1883, became a Catholic priest, but left the Church and ministry, married in civil ceremony and became Oberregierungsrat and prison superior by 1940 in the Ostmark), Irene (born 1885), Henriette (born 1887) and Robert (born 1891). In 1911, Seyss-Inquart met Gertrud Maschka. The couple married in 1916 and had three children: Ingeborg Caroline Auguste Seyss-Inquart (born 18 September 1917), Richard Seyss-Inquart (born 22 August 1921) and Dorothea Seyss-Inquart (born 7 May 1928). He went into law after the war and in 1921 set up his own practice. During the early years of the Austrian First Republic, he was close to the Vaterländische Front. A successful lawyer, he was invited to join the cabinet of Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in 1933. Following Dollfuss' murder in 1934, he became a State Councillor from 1937 under Kurt von Schuschnigg. He was not initially a member of the Austrian National Socialist party, though he was sympathetic to many of their views and actions.[1] By 1938, however, Seyss-Inquart knew which way the political wind was blowing and became a respectable frontman for the Austrian National Socialists.

Seyss-Inquart with Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich in Vienna, 1938 In February 1938, Seyss-Inquart was appointed Minister of the Interior by Schuschnigg, after Adolf Hitler had threatened Schuschnigg with military actions against Austria in the event of non-compliance. On 11 March 1938, faced with a German invasion aimed at preventing a plebiscite of independence, Schuschnigg resigned as Austrian Chancellor and Seyss-Inquart was reluctantly appointed to the position by Austrian President Wilhelm Miklas. On the next day German troops crossed the border of Austria, at the telegraphed invitation of Seyss-Inquart, the latter communique having been arranged after the troops had begun to march, so as to justify the action in the eyes of the international community. Before his triumphant entry into Vienna, Hitler had planned to leave Austria as a puppet state, with an independent but loyal government. He was carried away, however, by the wild reception given to the German army by the majority of the Austrian population, and shortly decreed that Austria would be incorporated into the Third Reich as the province of Ostmark (see Anschluss). Only then, on 13 March 1938, did Seyss-Inquart join the National Socialist party.[2] [edit]Head of Ostmark and Southern Poland

This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2009) Seyss-Inquart drafted the legislative act reducing Austria to a province of Germany and signed it into law on 13 March. With Hitler's approval he remained head (Reichsstatthalter) of the newly named Ostmark, with Ernst Kaltenbrunner his chief minister and Josef Burckel as Commissioner for the Reunion of Austria (concerned with the "Jewish Question"). Seyss-Inquart also received an honorary SS rank of Gruppenführer and in May 1939 he was made a Minister without portfolio in Hitler's cabinet. Following the invasion of Poland, Seyss-Inquart became administrative chief for Southern Poland, but did not take up that post before the General Government was created, in which he became a deputy to the Governor General Hans Frank. It is claimed that he was involved in the movement of Polish Jews into ghettos, in the seizure of strategic supplies and in the "extraordinary pacification" of the resistance movement. [edit]Reichskommissar in the Netherlands

Seyss-Inquart in The Hague (1940) Following the capitulation of the Low Countries Seyss-Inquart was appointed Reichskommissar for the Occupied Netherlands in May 1940, charged with directing the civil administration, with creating close economic collaboration with Germany and with defending the interests of the Reich. He supported the Dutch NSB and allowed them to create a paramilitary Landwacht, which acted as an auxiliary police force. Other political parties were banned in late 1941 and many former government officials were imprisoned at Sint-Michielsgestel. The administration of the country was controlled by Seyss-Inquart himself and he answered directly to Hitler.[3] He oversaw the politicization of cultural groups "right down to the chessplayers' club" through the Nederlandsche Kultuurkamer and set up a number of other politicised associations. He introduced measures to combat resistance and when a widespread strike took place in Amsterdam, Arnhem and Hilversum in May 1943 special summary court-martial procedures were brought in and a collective fine of 18 million guilders was imposed. Up until the liberation, Seyss-Inquart authorized the execution of around 800 people, although some reports put this total at over 1,500, including the executions of people under the so-called "Hostage Law", the death of political prisoners who were close to being liberated, the Putten raid, and the reprisal executions of 117 Dutchmen for the attack on SS and Police Leader Hanns Albin Rauter. Although the majority of Seyss-Inquart's powers were transferred to the military commander in the Netherlands and the Gestapo in July 1944, he remained a force to be reckoned with. There were two small concentration camps in the Netherlands – KZ Herzogenbusch near Vught, Kamp Amersfoort near Amersfoort, and Westerbork transit camp (a "Jewish assembly camp") there were a number of other camps variously controlled by the military, the police, the SS or Seyss-lnquart's administration. These included a "voluntary labour recruitment" camp at Ommen (Camp Erika). In total around 530,000 Dutch civilians forcibly worked for the Germans, of whom 250,000 were sent to factories in Germany. There was an unsuccessful attempt by Seyss-Inquart to send only workers aged 21 to 23 to Germany, and he refused demands in 1944 for a further 250,000 Dutch workers and in that year sent only 12,000 people. Seyss-Inquart was an unwavering anti-Semite: within a few months of his arrival in the Netherlands, he took measures to remove Jews from the government, the press and leading positions in industry. Anti-Jewish measures intensified after 1941: approximately 140,000 Jews were registered, a 'ghetto' was created in Amsterdam and a transit camp was set up at Westerbork. Subsequently, in February 1941, 600 Jews were sent to Buchenwald and Mauthausen concentration camps. Later, the Dutch Jews were sent to Auschwitz. As Allied forces approached in September 1944, the remaining Jews at Westerbork were removed to Theresienstadt. Of 140,000 registered, only 30,000 Dutch Jews survived the war. When Hitler committed suicide in April 1945, Seyss-Inquart declared the setting-up of a new German government under Admiral Karl Dönitz, in which he was to act as the new Foreign Minister, replacing Joachim von Ribbentrop, who had long since lost Hitler's favor. It was a tribute to the high regard Hitler felt for his Austrian comrade, at a time when he was rapidly disowning or being abandoned by so many of the other key lieutenants of the Third Reich. Unsurprisingly, at such a late stage in the war, Seyss-Inquart failed to achieve anything in his new office, and was captured shortly before the end of hostilities. The Dönitz government lasted no more than 20 days. When the Allies advanced into the Netherlands in late 1944, the Nazi regime had attempted to enact a scorched earth policy, and some docks and harbours were destroyed. Seyss-Inquart, however, was in agreement with Armaments Minister Albert Speer over the futility of such actions, and with the open connivance of many military commanders, they greatly limited the implementation of the scorched earth orders.[2] At the very end of the "hunger winter" in April 1945, Seyss-Inquart was with difficulty persuaded by the Allies to allow airplanes to drop food for the hungry people of the occupied northwest of the country. Although he knew the war was lost, Seyss-Inquart did not want to surrender. This led General Walter Bedell Smith to snap: "Well, in any case, you are going to be shot". "That leaves me cold", Seyss-Inquart replied, to which Smith then retorted: "It will".[4] He remained Reichskommissar until 7 May 1945, when, after a meeting with Karl Dönitz to confirm his blocking of the scorched earth orders, he was arrested on the Elbe Bridge at Hamburg by two members of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, one of whom was Norman Miller (birth name: Norbert Mueller), a German Jew from Nuremberg who had escaped to Britain at the age of 15 on a kindertransport just before the war and then returned to Germany as part of the British occupation forces.[5] Miller's entire family had been killed at the Jungfernhof Camp in Riga, Latvia in March 1942. [edit]Nuremberg Trials

Seyss-Inquart talking to Wilhelm Frick at the Nuremberg Trials.

Seyss-Inquart's body after his execution in 1946. At the Nuremberg Trials, Seyss-Inquart was defended by Gustav Steinbauer and faced charges of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression war crimes and crimes against humanity. During the trial, Gustave Gilbert, an American army psychologist, was allowed to examine the Nazi leaders who were tried at Nuremberg for war crimes. Among other tests, a German version of the Wechsler-Bellevue IQ test was administered. Arthur Seyss-Inquart scored 141, the second highest among the Nazi leaders tested, behind Hjalmar Schacht. Seyss-Inquart was found guilty of all charges, save conspiracy and sentenced to death by hanging. Upon hearing of his death sentence, Seyss-Inquart was fatalistic: "Death by hanging. well, in view of the whole situation, I never expected anything different. It's all right."[6] He was hanged on 16 October 1946, at the age of 54, together with nine other Nuremberg defendants. He was the last to mount the scaffold, and his last words were "I hope that this execution is the last act of the tragedy of the Second World War and that the lesson taken from this world war will be that peace and understanding should exist between peoples. I believe in Germany." Before his execution, Seyss-Inquart had returned to Catholicism, receiving absolution in the sacrament of confession from prison chaplain Father Bruno Spitzl. [edit]References

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Arthur Seyss-Inquart ^ L. L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (1976), McGraw-Hill, page 320. ^ a b Judgement : Seyss-Inquart The Avalon Project ^ Donovan Nuremberg Trials Collection. "OSS Research and Analysis Branch Biographical Sketch on Seyss-Inquart". Cornell University Law Library. Retrieved 28 April 2011. ^ United States Amy in World War II: Civil affairs: soldiers become governors ^ The Flash (A Fortnightly Edition Published by The Royal Welch Fusiliers), 10 December 1945, Front Page ^ G. M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary (1947), Farrar Straus, page 433. [edit]

Lawyer from Moravia

Arthur Seyss was born in 1892 in Stannern, a German-speaking village near the town of Iglau. This community in Moravia, one of the Czech provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was a German linguistic island in the middle of a Czech-speaking region. The environment of increasing competition between Germans and Czechs turned Arthur Seyss into a nationalist. There were rumours that only his mother was German, while his father Emil Seyss, a school principal, was Czech and that his real surname was Zajtich. However, there are no documents that confirm this legend.

In 1906, the family adopted the surname of a cousin, historian Heinrich Ritter von Inquart, and from then Arthur was known as Seyss-Inquart. In 1907, the family moved to Vienna. There, the future x Nuremberg defendant entered the University of Vienna to study law, but his studies were interrupted due to World War I. In August 1914, he joined the Austrian army, where he served together with the future Chancellor of Austria, Kurt von Schuschnigg, who would later be removed from power. He was decorated with several honours for bravery. While recovering from wounds in 1917, he completed the final examinations for his degree. After the war, Seyss-Inquart began a law practice. In 1916, he married Gertrud Maschka, with whom he had a son and two daughters.

Vienna lost World War I, shattering the once-great Austro-Hungarian Empire into a group of nation-states centred around ethno-linguistic groups: mostly-Czech Moravia, where Seyss-Inquart was born, became part of Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, for the first time in its history, Austria became an independent republic.

German Nazism vs Austrofascism

In the early years of the Republic of Austria, Arthur Seyss-Inquart was close to the conservative Fatherland Front under Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, whom he also met during the war.

Dollfuss, who was under pressure from both Austria’s National Socialists and the left (Communists and Social Democrats), attempted to bring the nation together by promoting traditional values. In 1933, Austria turned from a parliamentary republic into a corporate, authoritarian state. The new government embraced a social doctrine being promoted by the Catholic Church which came to be known as Austrofascism, as Austria sought to side with fascist Italy against Hitler’s National Socialist Germany. The Federal State of Austria embraced the principles of solidarity (cooperation between different sectors of society), distributism (broad ownership of the means of production) and subsidiarity (local solutions to problems wherever possible). The Nazi party was banned and its activists were imprisoned. Many of the practices the Austrofascists borrowed from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, although they pursued more lenient policies.

The Nazis did not like the policy of Dollfuss, who sought to preserve Austria's independence and autonomy. Neither did Seyss-Inquart, who had been involved in the pro-German movement since the 1920s and believed that his country should become part of Germany.

A brief civil war between the government and Social Democrat forces in early 1934 led Dollfuss to eliminate the last vestiges of democratic rule, but on 25 July, the Chancellor was assassinated by 10 Austrian Nazis in an coup attempt. However, this was put down with support from Italy Mussolini stationed troops along Austria’s border and threatened Hitler with war in the event of a German invasion.

The new Chancellor, Schuschnigg, appointed Seyss-Inquart as his State Councillor. Around the same time, Arthur became a supporter of Heinrich Himmler's ideas of racial purity and by 1938 had become a respectable frontman for the Austrian National Socialists, despite not yet being a party member.

At the Nuremberg Trials, US Prosecutor Sydney Alderman quoted a letter from Seyss-Inquart to Hermann Göring, where he confessed to his own hypocrisy in describing the events of 1934-1939:

According to the prosecution, these lines sufficed to demonstrate Seyss-Inquart “as one whose loyalty to Hitler, a foreign dictator, and to the aims of the Nazi conspiracy, led him to fight for the Anschluss with all the means at his disposal”.

Chancellor Schuschnigg was inferior to Dollfuss in his determination, but tried to prevent the Third Reich from taking over Austria. In order to appease Germany, several thousand Austrian Nazis were granted amnesty, the state undertook to follow German foreign policy, and many Hitler supporters were given administrative posts in Austria. But the German Führer did not limit himself to half measures and was determined to annex the neighbouring state.

To the Middle Ages and Beyond

On 12 February 1938, under the threat of German invasion, Schuschnigg accepted Germany's ultimatum. One of the conditions stipulated for the appointment of Seyss-Inquart as Minister of the Interior and Public Security. On 17 February, he was at an appointment with Hitler and openly discussed the Nazi invasion plans. Nevertheless, the chancellor was still hoping to save the country. On 9 March he scheduled a plebiscite on Austria's independence for the coming Sunday. The next day, Hitler, again threatening with invasion, demanded that the vote be cancelled. On 11 March, Schuschnigg was forced to agree and resign. Seyss-Inquart became the new leader of the country. On the same night, German troops entered Austria. Officially, they were invited by a government telegram sent by the Chancellor, but Seyss-Inquart himself had learned about it only post factum. During the Nuremberg Trials, this episode was closely examined.

On 12 March, Hitler arrived in Austria via his hometown of Braunau and Linz, where he spent his youth. On his way, he was greeted by crowds of people. The next day, the Führer arrived in Vienna. On the same day, the law “On the Reunification of Austria with the German Reich” was published, according to which Austria was declared “one of the lands of the German Reich” and henceforth became known as the “Ostmark” (the 9th-12th century name for this territory). All of Austria's government agencies, including the post of chancellor, were abolished. Seyss-Inquart became Reichsstatthalter or Governor of the so-called Ostmark. On the same day, he joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and received the title of Gruppenführer (Lieutenant General) of the SS.

On 10 April, Germany and Austria held a plebiscite about the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany). According to official data, 99.08% of residents voted for the Anschluss in Austria, 99.75% of the vote in Austria.

Anschluss was a controversial event for both Austrians and the international community. On the one hand, after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the transformation of Germany into a republic, the unification of the two German-speaking states seemed logical. On the other hand, Germany had become a totalitarian state by 1938, where many minority ethnic groups were being categorically persecuted. Although Hitler himself was Austrian, he saw the new lands not as a homeland that had finally been reunited with Germany, but as a resource base and a platform for unleashing aggression.

In April 1939, this became evident when the federal states of Ostmark were reorganised into seven administrative subdivisions (Reichsgaue) that had no unified administration and were directly subordinate to Berlin. Later, in January 1942, even the name Ostmark was forgotten. Instead, they started to say “The Alpine and Danube Reichsgaue of the Greater Germanic Reich” to avoid recalling Austria's former independence.

‘Six-and-a-Quarter’ Reichskommissar

Austria lost all remaining autonomy, and Seyss-Inquart lost his position. But the Fuhrer found a new place for him. In April 1939 Seyss-Inquart was made a Reichsminister without Portfolio in Hitler's cabinet, and in October he was appointed Deputy Governor General of the Polish Occupied Territory. He was responsible for the organisation of the Jewish ghettos and "extraordinary measures" in suppressing the Polish resistance.

In May 1940, he received a new promotion. Following the capitulation of the Low Countries, Seyss-Inquart was appointed Reichskommissar for the Occupied Netherlands. He first formed a Dutch government, but then disbanded it and subordinated all the governing bodies to himself. Industry and the economy were reorganised to meet the needs of the German army. Under the leadership of Reichskommissar Seyss-Inquart, paramilitary organisations (Landwacht) of local National Socialists appeared and the country was actively Germanised. The Führer’s apprentice was personally responsible for suppressing the anti-Nazi uprisings, including the 1941 strikes in Amsterdam and Arnhem. In total, he confirmed around 800 death sentences during his rule (some sources give the figure of 1,500).

In the Hague, Seyss-Inquart spoke out as a supporter of tough anti-Semitic measures. He advocated the “special treatment of Jews” in the Netherlands, namely “the complete elimination of Jews from the Dutch national community”. The radicalism of his statements was perfectly in line with the realities of German occupation policy. According to Seyss-Inquart, persecution of Jews was even more important than introducing the Dutch to the ideas of National Socialism. Since 1941, there was mass registration of Jews, a ghetto was established in Amsterdam, and a detention and transit camp was set up in Westerbork. At that time, Jews were sent to concentration camps in Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Bergen-Belsen, and then to death camps in Sobibor and Auschwitz. In September 1944, as the Allied forces advanced, all Westerbork prisoners were transferred to the ghetto-concentration camp Theresienstadt (Terezin). As a result, of 140,000 Dutch Jews, between 27,000 and 35,000 survived the war. Apart from that, between 430,000 and 530,000 Dutch were brought to work in Germany, including up to 250 000 exported to the Reich. Anna Frank, a Jewish girl who spent two years in Amsterdam hiding from persecution before being caught, sent to a concentration camp and executed, portrayed the atmosphere of that time in her diary, which was published posthumously.

Berlin gave the Reichskommissar a lot of leeway. “This allows the opportunity for a fresh look at people who claimed after the war ended that they were just a cog in a huge machine,” writes German historian Ludger Josef Heide. According to him, Seyss-Inquart could be called a full-fledged “wheel” of the Nazi machine.

However, for the sake of justice, it is worth noting that Seyss-Inquart resisted certain orders. In 1944, he sent only 12,000 workers to the Reich instead of the 250,000 initially planned. During his retreat from the Netherlands, the Reichskommissar, acting in concert with the Reichminister of Armaments and War Production, Albert Speer, sabotaged Berlin's “Scorched Earth Decree”. At the end of 1944, he imposed a food embargo on the occupied provinces of Holland, but towards the end of the “Hunger Winter”, which occurred because of his order, he agreed not to interfere with the humanitarian operations of the Allies, who airdropped food in the deprived areas.

The Dutch themselves turned to sarcasm to deal with the occupation governor. People produced and shared objects that mocked Seyss-Inquart, such as ashtrays made from six and a quarter-cent coins: his surname sounded to many like “Zes-en-een-kwart”, i.e. “six-and-a-quarter”.

Between Führer and Nuremberg

On 30 April 1945, Hitler committed suicide. The day before his death, he signed his last will and political testament, in which he named a new government. Seyss-Inquart was appointed Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs – the Führer probably had no doubts about his loyalty until his death.

Although the Dutch coast was patrolled by Allied ships, the Reichskommissar arrived in Flensburg at night in a torpedo boat the newly appointed Cabinet of the Reich President, Karl Dönitz, had settled in the city. There, Seyss-Inquart stated that he refused to take up his position in the government because he had to work in Holland. “My place is there”, Speer quoted him as saying in his book “Memories”. “I will be arrested immediately after my return.” And so it happened. On 4 May 1945, German troops stationed in the Netherlands capitulated, and the Reichskommissar was taken prisoner.

In Austria the image of Seyss-Inquart as a respectable Catholic gentleman persists, one of a reserved and refined intellectual whose chief fault was his sympathy for Nazism. However, researchers, including his biographer Johannes Kohl, show that Seyss-Inquart became a die-hard National Socialist in the 1930s, and his role in crimes against humanity cannot be understated.

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.


Primary Sources

Seyss-Inquart, Arthur. Vier Jahre in den Niederlanden: Gesammelte Reden. Berlin, 1944.

Secondary Sources

Davidson, Eugene. The Trial of the Germans: An Account of the Twenty-two Defendants before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Columbia, Mo., 1997.

Hirschfeld, Gerhard. Nazi Rule and Dutch Collaboration: The Netherlands under German Occupation, 1940–1945. Translated from the German by Louise Willmot. Oxford, U.K., 1988.

Neuman, Henk J. Arthur Seyss-Inquart: Het leven van een Duits onderkoning in Nederland: met authentieke brieven tijdens zijn gevangenschap geschreven. 2nd ed. Utrecht, Netherlands, 1989.

Arthur Seyss-Inquart

Austrian Nazi Arthur Seyss-Inquart. After the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940, a civil administration was installed under SS auspices. Seyss-Inquart was appointed Reich Commissar.

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Caricature of Nuremberg International Military Tribunal defendant Arthur Seyss-Inquart, by the German newspaper caricaturist, Peis.

About This Photograph

Event History The International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg opened in the fall of 1945, but by the winter of 1942, the governments of the Allied powers had already announced their determination to punish Nazi war criminals. On December 17, 1942, the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union issued the first joint declaration officially noting the mass murder of European Jewry and resolving to prosecute those responsible for violence against civilian populations. Though some political leaders advocated for summary executions instead of trials, eventually the Allies decided to hold an International Military Tribunal so that, in the words of Cordell Hull, "a condemnation after such a proceeding will meet the judgment of history, so that the Germans will not be able to claim that an admission of war guilt was extracted from them under duress." The October 1943 Moscow Declaration, signed by U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet leader Josef Stalin, stated that at the time of an armistice persons deemed responsible for war crimes would be sent back to those countries in which the crimes had been committed and adjudged according to the laws of the nation concerned. Major war criminals, whose crimes could be assigned no particular geographic location, would be punished by joint decisions of the Allied governments.

The trials of leading German officials before the International Military Tribunal (IMT), the best known of the postwar war crimes trials, formally opened in Nuremberg on November 20, 1945, only six and a half months after Germany surrendered. Each of the four Allied nations -- the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and France -- supplied a judge and a prosecution team. Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence of Great Britain served as the court's presiding judge. The trial's rules were the result of delicate reconciliations of the Continental and Anglo-American judicial systems. A team of translators provided simultaneous translations of all proceedings in four languages: English, French, German, and Russian. After much debate, 24 defendants were selected to represent a cross-section of Nazi diplomatic, economic, political, and military leadership. Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels never stood trial,having committed suicide before the end of the war. The IMT decided not to try them posthumously so as not to create an impression that they might still be alive. In fact, only 21 defendants appeared in court. German industrialist Gustav Krupp was included in the original indictment, but he was elderly and in failing health, and it was decided in preliminary hearings to exclude him from the proceedings. Nazi Party secretary Martin Bormann was tried and convicted in absentia, and Robert Ley committed suicide on the eve of the trial.

The IMT indicted the defendants on charges of crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The IMT defined crimes against humanity as "murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation. or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds." A fourth charge of conspiracy was added both to cover crimes committed under domestic Nazi law before the start of World War II and so that subsequent tribunals would have jurisdiction to prosecute any individual belonging to a proven criminal organization. Therefore the IMT also indicted several Nazi organizations deemed to be criminal, namely the Reich Cabinet, the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party, the Elite Guard (SS), the Security Service (SD), the Secret State Police (Gestapo), the Stormtroopers (SA), and the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces.

The defendants were entitled to a legal counsel of their choosing. Over 400 visitors attended the proceedings each day, as well as 325 correspondents representing 23 different countries. American chief prosecutor Robert Jackson decided to argue his case primarily on the basis of mounds of documents written by the Nazis themselves rather than eyewitness testimony so that the trial could not be accused of relying on biased or tainted testimony. Testimony presented at Nuremberg revealed much of what we know about the Holocaust including the details of the Auschwitz death machinery, the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto, and the estimate of six million Jewish victims.

The judges delivered their verdict on October 1, 1946. Agreement among three out of four judges was needed for conviction. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, among them Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hans Frank, Alfred Rosenberg, and Julius Streicher. They were hanged, cremated in Dachau, and their ashes were dropped in the Isar River. Hermann Goering escaped the hangman's noose by committing suicide the night before. The IMT sentenced three defendants to life imprisonment and four to prison terms ranging from 10 to 20 years. It acquitted three of the defendants.

Biography Arthur Seyss-Inquart, (1892-1946), Reich Governor of Austria, Deputy Governor to Hans Frank in the General Government of Occupied Poland and Reichskommissar for the German occupied Netherlands. Seriously wounded during World War I, Seyss-Inquart returned to Austria and studied law. In 1931 he secretly joined the Austrian Nazi party, was appointed Austrian state councillor in 1937, and Austrian Minister of the Interior (a position which gave him control over Austrian domestic security). In March 1938 pressure from German Chancellor Adolf Hitler forced the resignation of Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schussnigg and his replacement by Seyss-Inquart. The very next day, at Seyss-Inquart's invitation, German troops crossed the Austro-German border, implementing the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria to the German Reich. Following the Anschluss, Seyss-Inquart was appointed Reich Governor of the Ostmark (Austria) and SS Obergruppenfuehrer (General). In 1939 Seyss-Inquart was named deputy to Governor-General Hans Frank in the General Government of Occupied Poland. In 1940 Seyss-Inquart became Reichkommissar for the German occupied Netherlands. In that capacity, he was responsible for the deportation of 5,000,000 Dutchmen to Germany for labor and 117,000 Dutch Jews to the east. Arrested by Canadian troops in May 1945, Seyss-Inquart was convicted by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and executed in Nuremberg prison in 1946.

[Sources: Who's Who in Nazi Germany Encyclopedia of the Holocaust]

Victor’s justice was never better served than this date in 1946, when the brass of Third Reich hung for crimes against humanity during the late World War II.

The landmark legal proceeding* is covered well enough in many other sources for this humble venue to break new ground.

Apart from trailblazing international law, the trial was notable for the gut-punching film of German atrocities this relatively novel piece of evidence is available for perusal thanks to the magic of the Internet. Caution: Strong stuff. An hour’s worth of Nazi atrocities. The climactic hangings in the predawn hours this day in Nuremberg were conducted by an American hangman who used the American standard drop rather than the British table calibrated for efficacious neck-snapping. As a result, at least some hangings were botched strangulation jobs, a circumstance which has occasionally attracted charges of intentional barbarism.

Media eyewitness Kingsbury Smith’s taut report of the night’s executions (well worth the full read) described just such an ugly end for propagandist Julius Streicher.

At that instant the trap opened with a loud bang. He went down kicking. When the rope snapped taut with the body swinging wildly, groans could be heard from within the concealed interior of the scaffold. Finally, the hangman, who had descended from the gallows platform, lifted the black canvas curtain and went inside. Something happened that put a stop to the groans and brought the rope to a standstill. After it was over I was not in the mood to ask what he did, but I assume that he grabbed the swinging body of and pulled down on it. We were all of the opinion that Streicher had strangled.

There were in all 12 condemned to death at Nuremberg all hanged this day except Martin Bormann (condemned in absentia it was only years later that his death during the Nazi regime’s 1945 Gotterdammerung was established) and Hermann Goering (who cheated the executioner with a cyanide capsule two hours before hanging). The ten to die this day were:

  • Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, whose name adorns Nazi Germany’s shortlived truce with Stalin. , Reichskommissar of the occupied Netherlands. , a career military man whose “only following orders” defense was rejected by the tribunal.
  • Waffen-SS General Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
  • Nazi intellectual Alfred Rosenberg.
  • Gauleiter of Poland Hans Frank, notable for his postwar conversion to Catholicism and profession that “a thousand years will pass and still Germany’s guilt will not have been erased.”
  • Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick. organizer Fritz Sauckel.
  • General Alfred Jodl, who signed the German capitulation in May 1945 and was posthumously acquitted of his war crimes charges by a German court.
  • Streicher, whose anti-Semitic frothing on the scaffold was the only overtly Nazi display of the night.

* Its resultant Nuremberg Principles comprise a lofty articulation of principles whose actual application, as Noam Chomsky has observed, would have meant that “every post-war American president would have been hanged.”