Warsaw, Occupied Poland November 4, 1939

On this date in 1939 in Nazi-occupied Poland, newly appointed Governor-Gen­er­al Hans Frank estab­lished the War­saw ghetto and began forcing the city’s Jews into a single area. Ten days later Frank and his deputy Arthur Seyss-Inquart ordered Jews in Poland to wear a white brace­let bearing a hexa­gonal Star of David, long a Jewish symbol. Like Frank, Seyss-Inquart was an unwa­vering anti-Semite and assisted Frank in the “paci­fi­cation” of Poland’s underground resistance movement, or Polish Underground State.

Following the capitulation of the Nether­lands, Bel­gium, and Luxem­bourg to the German Wehr­macht (armed forces) in May 1940, Seyss-Inquart assumed the office of Reichs­kom­mis­sar for the Occu­pied Nether­lands. Within months of his arri­val, Seyss-Inquart banned all poli­ti­cal parties except the Dutch fas­cist party, the National Social­ist Move­ment in the Nether­lands (NSB), which oper­ated a para­military wing. His admin­is­tra­tion estab­lished a forced labor pro­gram that put around 530,000 Dutch civil­ians to work for the occu­piers, of whom 250,000 were sent to fac­tories in Germany. Camp Erika at Ommen (Eastern Nether­lands) collected Dutchmen who refused to perform forced labor.

As a Reichskommissar who answered directly to Adolf Hitler, Seyss-Inquart took mea­sures similar to those Hitler had taken in Germany in the 1930s; namely, removing Jews from the Dutch govern­ment, the press, and leading posi­tions in indus­try. Anti-Jewish mea­sures inten­si­fied from 1941: all of the approx­i­mately 140,000 Jews in the country (less than two per­cent of the popu­la­tion) were regis­tered, a Jewish Coun­cil (Joodse Raad voor Amsterdam) was estab­lished to coor­di­nate Jewish affairs within the country, $100,000,000 worth of Jewish pro­perty was con­fis­cated, a ghetto behind barbed wire was created in Amster­dam, and several “Jewish as­sem­bly camps,” or tran­sit camps, were set up, one at Amers­foort in Cen­tral Hol­land for poli­tical pri­soners and one near West­er­bork in North­eastern Hol­land adja­cent to the German border. A con­cen­tra­tion camp at Herzogen­busch modeled on those in Nazi Germany opened for busi­ness in January 1943 near Vught in the south of the country. It was just one of two con­cen­tra­tion camps that was run directly by the SS (Schutz­staffel) out­side Germany. The Joodse Raad collaborated in selecting Jews for deportation to the various camps.

In February 1941 the first 600 Jews were dis­patched to con­cen­tra­tion camps at Buchen­wald in Germany and Maut­hausen in Austria. Later, 101,000 Dutch Jews and about 5,000 Ger­man Jews (including Anne Frank and her family) were deported from West­er­bork to Auschwitz-Bir­ke­nau (Oświęcim in present-day Poland), Sobibór (Poland), Bergen-Belsen (North­western Germany), and There­sien­stadt (Terezín, Czech Republic), all places where most camp inmates died from depri­va­tions, exhaus­tion, or dis­ease or were gassed. As Allied liberators approached West­er­bork in Septem­ber 1944, the remaining Jews were removed to There­sien­stadt, and when Amers­foort was liber­ated there were scarcely any Jews among its 415 sur­vivors. At Herzogen­busch Cana­dian lib­er­ators rescued 500–600 of the camp’s prisoners on the after­noon of their scheduled exe­cu­tion, though not early enough to save 500 murdered that morning. Of 140,000 regis­tered Jews in Hol­land, only 30,000 sur­vived the war, many of them hidden by the Dutch underground.

Arthur Seyss-Inquart: Hitler’s Reichskommisar in Occupied Netherlands

Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Vienna, Austria, 1940Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Netherlands, 1940

Left: Austrian lawyer Arthur Seyss-Inquart (1892–1946), shown here in Vienna on the last day of 1939, was a devo­tee of Hein­rich Himm­ler and his con­cepts of racial purity. In February 1938 Austrian Chan­cellor Kurt Schusch­nigg appointed Seyss-Inquart Minis­ter of the Interior, the second-most important post in the Austrian cabinet, after Adolf Hitler had threatened Schusch­nigg with mili­tary action in the event of non­com­pliance. Mili­tary action came anyway. Upon Anschluss (union) with Germany in March 1938, Seyss-Inquart, Schusch­nigg’s succes­sor as Austrian chan­cellor, was appointed gover­nor of the new Reich pro­vince of Ostmark. Following the German inva­sion of Poland, Seyss-Inquart became a deputy to Hans Frank, Governor-General of the admin­is­trative unit known as the “General Govern­ment,” or that part of Poland not incor­porated into the Third Reich. He fully sup­ported Frank’s heavy-handed policies, including the brutal persecution of Poland’s Jews.

Right: In this photo Seyss-Inquart is seen addressing German Ordnungs­polizei (Orpo, short for Order Police) in the Dutch capital, The Hague, 1940. The Orpo reported to Hein­rich Himm­ler, Reichs­fuehrer-SS and Chief of German Police. Following the capit­u­la­tion of the Low Coun­tries, Seyss-Inquart was appointed Reichs­kom­misar for the Occupied Nether­lands in May 1940. Until July 1944 Seyss-Inquart admin­i­stered the coun­try him­self. Up until Dutch libera­tion in May 1945, Seyss-Inquart autho­rized the exe­cu­tion of around 800 Dutch citizens (although some reports put this total at over 1,500), which included the repri­sal exe­cu­tions of 117 Dutch­men for the attack on an SS police chief. At the Nurem­berg Trials, the court weighed Seyss-Inquart’s involve­ment in the harsh sup­pres­sion of Nazi oppo­nents during his years in govern­ment ser­vice, atro­ci­ties per­pe­trated against the Jews, and his reign of terror in the Nether­lands. He was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death in 1946.

Reichskommissar Seyss-Inquart Reviewing a Parade in Groningen’s Grote Markt Square, June 1940 (in Dutch and German)