The Hague, Netherlands · May 15, 1940

Following the Dutch surrender on this date in 1940, Adolf Hitler appointed fellow Aus­trian Arthur Seyss-Inquart to be Reichs­kommissar for the Occupied Nether­lands. Previously, long-time Nazi Party mem­ber Seyss-Inquart had served as Reichs­statt­halter (gover­nor) of the new Ger­man pro­vince of Ost­mark, which had once been the inde­pen­dent country of Austria before the March 1938 An­schluss (union). Later he was posted to Kraków in south­ern Poland. As deputy gover­nor to the noto­rious Gover­nor Gen­eral Hans Frank of the Gen­eral Govern­ment (the Nazi’s admin­is­tra­tive name for cen­tral and south­ern Poland), Seyss-Inquart was in­volved in “paci­fying” the region and forcing Polish Jews into ghettos, from which they were sent to exter­mi­na­tion camps such as Auschwitz-Birke­nau and the con­cen­tra­tion camp at Płaszów, where fellow Austrian Amon Goeth, depicted in Steven Spiel­berg’s movie Schindler’s List, served as camp super­in­ten­dent. In his new posi­tion in the Nether­lands, Seyss-Inquart directed the civil admin­is­tra­tion, took meas­ures to thwart resis­tance groups, and in May 1943 created spe­cial sum­mary court-martial proce­dures for striking Dutch workers who were col­lec­tively fined a breath­taking 18 mil­lion guilders (close to 24 mil­lion war­time dollars). Seyss-Inquart was an unwa­vering anti-Semite. With­in months of his arrival from Poland, he took meas­ures to expel Jews from the Dutch govern­ment, the press, and leading posi­tions in indus­try. He inten­si­fied anti-Jewish meas­ures in 1941 when he forced approx­i­mately 140,000 Jews to regis­ter and ordered the crea­tion of a ghetto in Amster­dam, the only attempt by Nazi Ger­many to estab­lish a Jewish ghetto west of Poland. At Wester­bork in north­eastern Nether­lands he opened a depor­ta­tion camp for Jews and Roma. Beginning that Feb­ru­ary Jews were deported to con­cen­tra­tion camps at Buchen­wald, Maut­hau­sen (Aus­tria), and Bergen-Bel­sen, where 15-year-old German-born Anne Frank, deported from Holland with her family, died. Later Dutch Jews were sent to Auschwitz and Theresien­stadt (Tere­zín, Czech Repub­lic). Of the 140,000 Dutch Jews who regis­tered, only 30,000 survived the war. During the five years of Nazi occu­pa­tion, over 300,000 Dutch died and between 800 and 1,500 were exe­cuted by order of Seyss-Inquart. On May 7, 1945, Seyss-Inquart was arrested in Hamburg, North­ern Germany. At the Inter­national Mili­tary Tri­bu­nal at Nurem­berg (1945–1946), both he and Hans Frank were con­victed of war crimes and crimes against human­ity. Both men expressed repen­tance and both were exe­cuted by hanging on October 16, 1946.

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Arthur Seyss-Inquart, 1892–1946: Leading Nazi Figure in Austria, Poland, and the Netherlands

Arthur Seyss-Inquart with Hitler, Vienna, 1938Arthur Seyss-Inquart in The Hague, 1940

Left: Austrian governor Arthur Seyss-Inquart in Vienna 1938 with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Adolf Hitler. Behind Hitler and to his left are Hein­rich Himm­ler, Chief of Ger­man Police in the Reich Minis­try of the Interior, and Rein­hard Hey­drich, head of both the Sicher­heits­po­lizei (SiPo), con­sisting of the Gestapo and Kripo (Kriminal­po­lizei, or crim­i­nal police), and the Sicher­heits­dienst (SD), the intel­li­gence agency of the Schutz­staffel (SS) and the Nazi Party.

Right: Reich Com­mis­sioner for Occupied Nether­lands Seyss-Inquart addressing Ger­man police bat­ta­lions (Ordnungs­polizei) at The Hague, Nether­lands, 1940. The head­quarters of the Ordnungs­polizei was in the Gestapo head­quarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse in Berlin.

Nuremberg Trial defendantsArthur Seyss-Inquart at Nuremberg

Left: View of the defendants, including Arthur Seyss-Inquart, in the dock at the Inter­national Mili­tary Tri­bu­nal trial of war crim­i­nals at Nurem­berg, Novem­ber 1945. The trial of Nazi war crim­i­nals was a trial with­out prece­dent in history.

Right: Defendant Seyss-Inquart, former Reich Com­mis­sioner for Occupied Nether­lands, at the Nurem­berg Trials, 1946.

1950 U.S. Army Documentary: Nuremberg War Crime Trials, 1945–1946