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Arthur Seyss-Inquart

In office
11 March 1938 – 13 March 1938
President Wilhelm Miklas
Preceded by Kurt Schuschnigg
Succeeded by Anschluss
(Adolf Hitler as Head of State and Chancellor of Greater Germany)
Karl Renner (1945)

In office
30 April – 2 May 1945
President Karl Dönitz
Chancellor Joseph Goebbels
Preceded by Joachim von Ribbentrop
Succeeded by Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk

In office
May 1940 – September 1944
Appointed by Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Alexander von Falkenhausen (military governor)
Succeeded by None

Born 22 July 1892 (1892-07-22)
Stonařov, Moravia, Austro-Hungary
Died October 16, 1946 (aged 54)
Nuremberg, Germany
Political party National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)
Spouse(s) Gertrud Maschka
Children 3
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholic

Arthur Seyss-Inquart (in German: Seyß-Inquart) (22 July 1892 - 16 October 1946) was a prominent 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, Seyss-Inquart was found guilty of crimes against humanity and later executed.


Life before the Anschluss

Seyss-Inquart was born Arthur Zajtich[1] in 1892 in Stonařov (German: Stannern), Moravia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to the ethnic Czech school principal Emil Zajtich and his German-speaking wife Auguste Hýrenbach. The family moved to Vienna in 1907 where it changed the Czech Slavic name of "Zajtich" to the invented German "Seyß-Inquart".[citation needed] 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 also 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, still alive as of 2008, living in Mattsee, Upper Austria).

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 Schuschnigg. He was not initially a member of the Austrian National Socialist party, although he was sympathetic to many of their views and actions.[2] By 1938, however, Seyss-Inquart knew which way the wind was blowing and became a respectable frontman for the Austrian National Socialists.

Seyss-Inquart with Hitler 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 triumphal entry into Vienna, Hitler had planned to leave Austria as a suppliant 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.[3]

Head of Ostmark and Southern Poland

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 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 government.

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.

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 largely controlled by Seyss-Inquart himself. 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 condoned the execution of around 800 people, although some reports put this total at over 1,500, including the execution of people under the so-called "Hostage Law", the death of political prisoners who were close to being liberated, the Putten incident, and the reprisal execution of 117 Dutchmen for the attack on SS and Police Leader Hanns Albin Rauter. From July 1944 the majority of Seyss-Inquart's powers were transferred to the military commander in the Netherlands and the Gestapo, though he remained a figure to be reckoned with.

There were two small concentration camps in the Netherlands – KZ Herzogenbusch near Vught, Kamp Amersfoort near Amersfoort, and a "Jewish assembly camp" at Westerbork; 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. 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 government, the press and leading positions in industry. Anti-Jewish measures intensified from 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 favour. 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 his 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.[3] At the very end of the so-called '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 north-west 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 Bedell Smith then retorted "It will." [4]

He remained Reichskommissar until 8 May 1945, when, after a meeting with Karl Dönitz to confirm his blocking of the scorched earth orders, he was captured aboard a German U-boat by Canadian sailors.

Nuremberg Trials

Seyss-Inquart at Nuremberg Trials.

At the Nuremberg Trials, Seyss-Inquart 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.

Defended by Gustav Steinbauer, he was nonetheless found guilty of all charges except conspiracy (Controversy remains over the extent of his role as a planner, initiator and wager of wars of aggression.) 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".[5] He was hanged on 16 October 1946, at the age of 54, together with ten 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, received absolution in the sacrament of Confession from prison chaplain Father Bruno Spitzl.


  1. ^ Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial by Joseph E. Persico (Viking, 1994, page 214, ISBN 0670842761 , ISBN 9780670842766)
  2. ^ L. L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (1976), McGraw-Hill, page 320.
  3. ^ a b [1] Seyss-Inquart transcript - Nuremberg Trial.
  4. ^ United States Amy in World War II: Civil affairs: soldiers become governors
  5. ^ G. M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary (1947), Farrar Straus, page 433.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Kurt Schuschnigg
Chancellor of Austria
Title next held by
Karl Renner
Preceded by
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Foreign Minister of Germany
Succeeded by
Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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.

Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart (July 22, 1892October 16, 1946) was a prominent 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, Seyss-Inquart faced charges of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression; war crimes; and crimes against humanity. Found quilty on three of the four charges Seyss-Inquart was executed by hanging.


  • 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.
    • Last words, 10/16/46. Quoted in "Justice at Nuremberg" - Page 506 - by Robert E. Conot - History - 1984
  • Death by hanging...well, in view of the whole situation, I never expected anything different. It's all right.
    • To G.M. Gilbert, about receiving the death sentence. Quoted in "Nuremberg Diary" by G. M. Gilbert - History - 1995
  • 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.
    • Speech in Berlin, April 7, 1938. Quoted in "The Trial of the Germans" - by Eugene Davidson - History - 1997
  • 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.
    • Speech in Amsterdam, March 12, 1941. Quoted in "The Trial of the Germans" - Page 468 - by Eugene Davidson - History - 1997
  • The Fuehrer declared that the Jews have played their final act in Europe, and therefore they have played their final act.
    • Speech in Amsterdam, March 12, 1941. Quoted in "The Scourge of the Swastika: A Short History of Nazi War Crimes" - Page 248 - World War, 1939-1945 - 1954
  • Bedell Smith: Well, in any case, you are going to be shot.
    Seyss-Inquart: That leaves me cold.
    Bedell Smith: It will.
    • During surrender negotiations in Achterveld. Quoted in "United States Amy in World War II: Civil affairs: soldiers become governors" - Page 831 - by Harry L. Coles and Albert K. Weinberg

About Seyss-Inquart

  • Seyss-Inquart, spearhead of the Austrian fifth column, took over the government of his own country only to make a present of it to Hitler, and then, moving north, brought terror and oppression to the Netherlands and pillaged its economy for the benefit of the German juggernaut.
    • Robert H. Jackson
  • Soon after taking over in Austria, Klausner, Globocnik, and I flew to Berlin to report to Hitler's deputy, Hess, about the events which led to our taking over the government. We did this because we had the impression that the general opinion, perhaps also Hitler's own, was that the liberation depended more on Austrian matters of state rather than the Party. To be more exact, Hitler especially mentioned Dr. Seyss-Inquart alone; and public opinion gave him alone credit for the change and thus believed him to have played the sole leading role.
    • Dr.Friedrich Reinhard, report to Reich Commissar Gauleiter Josef Buerckel, 6 July 1939

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"I told myself in July 1934 that we must fight this clerical regime on its own ground in order to give the Fuehrer a chance to use whatever method he desires. I told myself that this Austria was worth a mass. I have stuck to this attitude with an iron determination because I and my friends have had to fight against the whole political church, and Free Masonry, the Jewry, in short, against everything in Austria. The slightest weakness which we might have displayed would undoubtedly have led to our political annihilation; it would have deprived the Fuehrer of the means and tools to carry out his ingenious political solution for Austria as became evident in the days of March 1938. I have been fully conscious of the fact that I am following a path which is not comprehensible to the masses and also not to my party comrades. I have followed it calmly and would without hesita-tion follow it again because I am satisfied that at one point I could serve the Fuehrer as a tool in his work, even though my former attitude, even now, gives occasion to very worthy and honorable Party comrades to doubt my trustworthiness. I have never paid attention to such things because I am satisfied with the opinion which the Fuehrer and the men close to him have of me." (2219-PS)


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