Document Analyst's Report

During February I analyzed the defense documents for Arthur Seyss-Inquart and went through his defense case in the transcript, and began work on the documents of Franz von Papen. Seyss-Inquart was an Austrian Nazi who played a middle-man role in the German occupation of Austria in 1938, briefly assisted Hans Frank in occupied Poland, and then became the governor of the Netherlands from 1940 to the end of the war.

The pawn in the game: At the beginning of 1938 Seyss-Inquart wished to establish good relations between Germany and Austria, give Austrian Nazis a peaceful role in politics, and enable Austria to decide on its own to merge with Germany. In early March, as Hitler brought pressure to bear on the Austrian government. Goering heard from a German diplomat in Vienna that Seyss-Inquart believed that "Austrian independence is preserved." Goering, who understood Hitler's plan better, commented, "Well, well, we shall see what happens." The military occupation followed a few days later.

The occupier's agenda: After touring part of occupied Poland in November 1939, Seyss-Inquart reported to Hans Frank, the governor, on the standard they had to meet: "it is not yet a matter of procuring a higher standard of living for the Poles, but only of insuring the minimum for their existence."

The Netherlands: Seyss-Inquart regarded the Dutch as potential allies (and ethnic cousins), and showed substantial consideration for the interests and needs of the civilians, including the delivery of food and efforts to reduce destructive military actions at the end of the war. As the chief of the food agency commented, he did not have the "Lord and Master attitude" of most German officials. This relative benevolence did not extend to all residents, as noted below.

The Jews: In a wartime speech, Seyss-Inquart declared, "The Jews are no Hollanders to us. They are enemies with whom we can neither arrive at an armistice nor a peace . . . We will beat the Jews wherever we find them." In his administration this meant tight controls on Jews and then confinement in local concentration camps, essentially as POWs, and finally complicity with the SS in their deportation to the East. He claimed that he asked Hitler and Himmler how the Dutch Jews were being treated there and was assured that they were being treated well, partly because they were good workers. His role in this system led to his conviction and execution.

The standard set but not met: In January 1943 Seyss-Inquart gave a speech on the government's determination to end resistance to the occupation, describing what his regime would-and would not-do: "We remain human because we do not torture our opponents, we must remain hard by destroying them." What was actually done to those opponents was something that he either did not learn or did not want to acknowledge.

Matt Seccombe, 29 February 2024