Nazi-occupied Netherlands: Testimony of Jacobus Verrink

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Nazi-occupied Netherlands: Testimony of Jacobus Verrink

Post by David Thompson » 03 Nov 2004 22:49

This testimony is taken from the Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal (IMT), vol. 6, pp. 489-499. The proceedings are available on-line at the Avalon Project of the Yalue University Law School at:

2 Feb. 46

M. FAURE: Mr. President, may I ask the permission of the Tribunal to call the witness, Jacobus Vorrink.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, have him called.

M. FAURE: This witness speaks Dutch as his native tongue. Since the interpreting system does not include this language, I propose that he speak in the German language, which he knows well.

[The witness, Jacobus Vorrink, took the stand.]

THE PRESIDENT: What is your name?

JACOBUS VORRINK (Witness): Vorrink.

THE PRESIDENT: Your Christian name, your first name?

VORRINK: Jacobus.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you swear to speak without hate or fear, to say the truth, all the truth, and only the truth? Will you raise your right hand and say, "I swear"?

VORRINK: I swear.

M. FAURE: Sit down, Mr. Vorrink. You are a Dutch Senator?

VORRINK: Yes, Sir.

M. FAURE: You are President of the Socialist Party of the Netherlands?

VORRINK: Yes, Sir.

M. FAURE: You exercised these functions in 1940 at the time of the invasion of the Netherlands, by the Germans?


M. FAURE: I should like to ask you to give a few explanations on the following situation: There existed in the Netherlands, before the invasion, a National Socialist Party. I should like you to state what the situation was, after the invasion by the Germans and during the occupation, with regard to the various political parties in the Netherlands, and more particularly the National Socialist Party, and what were the activities of this Party in liaison with the German occupation?

VORRINK: I should prefer to speak in the Dutch language. I am sorry I do not know French and English well enough to use these languages-but in order not to delay the proceedings, I shall make my declarations in German. This is the only reason why I am using the German language.

The political situation in Holland after the invasion by the Germans was that first and foremost the German Army wanted to maintain public order in Holland. But the real Nazis immediately came with the Wehrmacht and tried to direct and organize public life in Holland according to their concepts. There were among the Germans three main categories. In the first place, there were those


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who believed in the "blood and soil" (Blut und Boden) theory. They wanted to win over the whole of the Dutch people to their National Socialist concepts. I must say that, in certain respects, this was our misfortune because these people, on the basis of their "blood and soil" theory, loved us too much and when that love was not reciprocated it turned to hate.

The second category consisted of the politically informed; and these people knew perfectly well that the Dutch National Socialists in Holland were only a very small and much hated group. At the elections of 1935 they received only 8 percent of the votes, and 2 years later this percentage had been reduced by one-half. These people were tactlessness itself. For instance, when the ruins of Rotterdam were still smoking, they saw fit to make a demonstration at which the leader of the Dutch National Socialists, Mussert, dedicated to Goering a new bell as a thank offering for what he had done for Holland. Fortunately, it did not prevent him from being defeated.

In the third place there were the so-called intriguers, those who wanted to destroy the national unity of Holland and who, first of all, tried through Seyss-Inquart to gain the favor of the Dutch people by flattery. In the same way as Seyss-Inquart, they always stressed that the two peoples were kindred races and should therefore work together, while behind the scenes they played off one Nazi group against the other.

In Holland at that time there existed the Dutch National Socialist Workers' Party, the Dutch National Socialist Front, and the so- called National Front. All these three movements had their contacts with certain German organizations. The Germans first tried to find out whether it was possible to use these groups for their purposes. Slowly, however, they recognized that it was not possible to work with these groups; and so they decided to adopt the National Socialist movement only. These National Socialists gradually occupied the key positions in the Dutch administration. They were appointed general secretaries for internal administration, they became commissioners of the provinces, mayors, et cetera.

I should like to mention in this connection that at that time there were not enough people qualified to become mayors, so that short courses of instruction were arranged which performed the record feat of turning out Dutch mayors in 3 weeks. You can imagine what kind of mayors they were.

Furthermore, they became administrators in nazified organizations and commercial undertakings, which gave them certain power in Holland; and they behaved like cowardly Nazi lackeys.

Mr. Rost von Tonningen, for instance, used millions of Dutch guilders to finance the war against Russia in order to fight against


2 Feb. 46

Bolshevism as he called it. Finally, in December 1942, Seyss-Inquart declared the Nazi Party to be the representative of the political life of Holland. If it had not been so tragic, one might have laughed at it. Mussert was then appointed as the Leader of Holland. I must add that the Nazi Party had only a shadow existence from the political point of view, with the single but important exception that these people had occasionally the opportunity to deal with matters of personnel. I should also add that sometimes they turned the heads of young Dutchmen and persuaded several thousands of them to enter the SS formations; and during the last years it became even worse.

Then they even went so far as to put young boys into the SS without their parents' consent. They even forced minors from correctional institutions into the SS. Sometimes-I know of cases myself-young boys who for certain reasons were at loggerheads with their parents, were taken into the SS. To realize the harm done you must, as I have sometimes done, go and speak to these children who are now in camps in Holland. You will then see what a monstrous crime has been committed against these young people.

M. FAURE: Am I to understand that all these methods employed by the Germans were intended to achieve the nazification of Holland and that if there were, as you have indicated, several varying tendencies among the Germans, these tendencies differed only as to the means to be employed and not in regard to the purpose of Germanization?

VORRINK: The actual nazification of Holland extended to practically all spheres of our national life. They tried in every domain to introduce the Leadership Principle. I would like to point out, for instance, that contrary to our expectations, they did not ban the Socialist Trade Unions but just tried to employ them. They merely sent a Nazi commissioner who told the people, "The era of democracy is past, just go on working under the leadership of the commissioner and you can still help the workers. It is not necessary to change anything." They even tried that with the Dutch political parties.

As President of the Socialist Democratic Workers' Party of Holland, I had a long conversation with Rost von Tonningen, who personally told me that it was a pity that the good cultural work done to educate the workers should cease. We both wanted socialism and all we had to do was to work together calmly. I denied that at the time of that conversation. I told him that for us democracy was not a question of opportunism but a part of our ideology and that we were not prepared to betray our convictions and our principles.


2 Feb. 46

They tried to keep the workers in their organizations; but slowly the workers, thousands and tens of thousands of them, left their organizations. When finally the National Labor Front was created, with the Catholic and Christian Trade Unions, there certainly was an organization but no longer any members.

M. FAURE: Can you state with accuracy whether in your country persecutions against the Jews were started?

VORRINK: One of the worst chapters of our sufferings in Holland was the persecution of the Jews. You may know that we in Holland, and especially in Amsterdam, had a strong Jewish minority. These Jews took a very active part in the public and cultural life of Holland, and one can say there was no anti-Semitism in Holland.

When the Germans first came to Holland, they promised us that they would not harm the Jews at all. Nevertheless, even in the first weeks there was a wave of suicides. In the following months the measures against the Jews started. The professors in the universities were forced to resign.

The president of the highest court in Holland was dismissed. Then, the Jews had to present themselves for registration, and then came the time when the Jews were deported in great numbers.

I am proud to say that the Dutch population did not suffer this without protesting. The Dutch students went on strike when their Jewish professors were driven out, and the workers of Amsterdam went on strike for several days when the persecution of the Jews started. But one has to have seen this with one's own eyes, as I have, to know what a barbaric system this National Socialism was.

The Green Police sealed off whole sections of cities, went into houses, even went on the roofs, and drove out young and old and took them off in their trucks. No difference was made between young and old. We have seen old women of over 70, who' were lying ill at home and had no other desire than to be allowed to die quietly in their own home, put on stretchers and carried out of their home, to be sent to Westernborg and from there to Germany, where they died.

I myself remember very well how a mother, when she was dragged from her home, gave her baby to a stranger, who was not a Jewess, and asked her to look after her child. At this moment there are still hundreds of families in Holland where these small Jewish children are being looked after and brought up as their own.

M. FAURE: Can you state whether, apart from these measures against the Jews, the Germans concerned themselves with other confessions?

VORRINK: From the beginning the Germans always tried to get the churches into their power.
All the churches, the Catholic as


2 Feb. 46

well as the Protestant, protested whenever the Germans violated human rights. The churches protested against the arbitrary arrest of persons, against the mass deportation of our workers, and the church never failed to testify for the Jews.

Of course, the church dignitaries, the priests and pastors, had to suffer for that; and hundreds of our pastors and priests were taken to concentration camps, and of the 20 parsons and priests whom I knew in the concentration camp- in Sachsenhausen, only one has returned to Holland.

M. FAURE: Can you state what measures were adopted with regard, for example, to culture, propaganda, and teaching?

VORRINK: What incensed us most in Holland was not so much our military defeat. We were a small people, and I can say that during those 5 days we fought as well as we could.

Perhaps it would have been possible to maintain a correct attitude with the occupation forces, if it hadn't been for the Nazis' determination to dominate us, not only in a military sense, but also to break our spirit and to crush us morally. Therefore, they never lost an opportunity of encroaching on our cultural life in their efforts to nazify us.

In regard to the press, for instance, they forced us to publish in our press editorials which were written by Germans and to print them on the front page in order to create the impression that the editor in chief of the paper had written them. One can even say that these measures were the starting point for the very extensive underground press in Holland, because we wouldn't allow the Germans to lie to us systematically. We had to have a press which told us the truth.

Also in regard to the radio, it was soon forbidden to listen to foreign stations; and they dealt out exceedingly harsh punishment to people who defied this ban; and there were a great many people in Holland who listened to the foreign radio, especially the BBC. And we in Holland were always glad to hear the British radio which never hesitated to give the people, in extenso, all the affecting speeches of Hitler and Goering while we were not allowed to listen to Churchill's speeches. In those moments we were deeply conscious of the reasons why we had built up our resistance, and we also knew why our Allied friends strove with all their might to deliver the world from the Nazi tyranny.

It was the same in the field of the arts. Quite a number of guilds for painters, musicians, and writers were forced to organize themselves. An author could not even publish a book without submitting it to some Nazi illiterate.

They also encroached on school life and tried to influence elementary education; for instance, in the text books for children of 6 to


2 Feb. 46

12 years they ordered that whole sentences should be struck out. A sentence like the following, "When the Queen visited them the people cheered." In the schools and public buildings they organized real hunts for pictures of our Royal Family.

M. FAURE: I thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: You have finished your examination, have you?

M. FAURE: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: General Rudenko?

GENERAL RUDENKO: No questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Have the British or American prosecutors any questions? [There was no response.] Does any member of the defendants' counsel wish now to cross-examine?

DR. STEINBAUER: Mr. President, in order to avoid the witness having to make the long trip from Holland a second time, I should like to cross-examine him today, although my client is absent.

Witness, when Seyss-Inquart took over the government in Holland under the decree of 18 May 1940, was the Queen or were members of the Dutch Government still on Dutch territory?

VORRINK: No, they were no longer on Dutch territory.

DR. STEINBAUER: Did the government of Seyss-Inquart, the Reich Commissioner, leave in office the functionaries of the former government?


DR. STEINBAUER: Do you know that of the nine General Secretaries appointed by the former Royal Government and still in office only one was dismissed?

VORRINK: Well, it is possible.

DR. STEINBAUER: Do you further know that of the 11 Commissioners of the Provinces only four were dismissed from the government for political reasons?

VORRINK: I do not know the exact number but that is possible.

DR. STEINBAUER: Do you know how many mayors were appointed by the Royal Government and in particular is it correct that there were more than one-half still in office in 1944?

VORRINK: Yes, I believe so.

DR. STEINBAUER: You have not answered fully the question which was asked you by the prosecutor. He asked you how many political parties there were in parliament at the time of the invasion. Which were those parties?


2 Feb. 46

VORRINK: The Catholic Party, two Protestant Christian parties, two liberal parties, the Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party, and some minor parties.

DR. STEINBAUER: I shall now talk about two subjects mentioned by you-schools and churches. Is it correct that the Dutch school system, throughout the Seyss-Inquart regime, was under the direction of a Dutchman, Van Hann?

VORRINK: It was under a Dutchman during the whole time, but we do not consider him as a Dutchman. He is today in prison because he betrayed his country.

DR. STEINBAUER: But he was not a German?

VORRINK: He was a Dutch traitor.

DR. STEINBAUER: Is it correct that Seyss-Inquart showed great interest in the Dutch school system?

VORRINK: I cannot remember that.

DR. STEINBAUER: For instance, Seyss-Inquart added an eighth class to the elementary school?

VORRINK: That is not correct.

DR. STEINBAUER: And that in this way adolescents did not have to enter the labor services until later?

VORRINK: Correct.

DR. STEINBAUER: Did he show an interest in a long standing wish of the Dutch concerning the spelling of the Dutch language and did he not appoint a special committee to investigate the matter?

VORRINK: In this connection he did take some interest in a thing about which he knew nothing; he got his information from the wrong people.

DR. STEINBAUER: But he did make an effort.

VORRINK: Yes, but in the wrong direction.

DR. STEINBAUER: Is it correct that he endeavored to increase the number of teachers?

VORRINK: No, certainly not.

DR. STEINBAUER: That, in particular, he employed junior teachers and reduced expenses thereby?

VORRINK: He did that because he wanted to influence the Dutch youth.

DR. STEINBAUER: Do you know, for instance, that as a result of protests, Seyss-Inquart rescinded measures that had been taken against the School of Commerce in Rotterdam?

VORRINK: Will you repeat the question? I did not understand it.


2 Feb. 46

DR. STEINBAUER: Do you know that Seyss-Inquart, as a result of protests, took steps to see that the School of Commerce in Rotterdam was not interfered with?

VORRINK: I do not know.

DR. STEINBAUER: As far as the churches are concerned, apart from deportation, as you say for political reasons, were the Catholics and Protestants ever prevented from practicing their religion?

VORRINK: The Germans interfered very much with the right to worship. They put spies in the churches to listen to the sermons with the idea of possibly denouncing the pastors.

DR. STEINBAUER: Yes, but that has happened in other countries too. Please, tell me, could the priest or the parson still continue to preach according to his conscience?

VORRINK: No, certainly not according to his conscience.

DR. STEINBAUER: Do you know that during the whole of the occupation the prayer for the Queen was allowed in churches of all denominations?

VORRINK: It was certainly not allowed. Several ministers were arrested for that very reason.

DR. STEINBAUER: Do you know that Seyss-Inquart prevented 27 convents from being confiscated for German refugees? Is it correct?

VORRINK: I know nothing about it.

DR. STEINBAUER: But perhaps you may know that he prevented the destruction of the synagogues in Rotterdam and in The Hague. The police wanted to destroy them, and he prevented them from doing it. Do you know anything about that?

VORRINK: I do not know whether he wanted to prevent it; but in any case, the synagogues were destroyed; and those who destroyed them went unpunished and later took part in the worst persecution of the Jews.

DR. STEINBAUER: Witness, do you know that out of the Catholic and Protestant Dutch clergymen deported to Germany, Seyss- Inquart succeeded in getting two-thirds sent back to their country?

VORRINK: I do not know.

DR. STEINBAUER: Do you know that he prevented the departure of valuable cultural treasures, especially libraries, which were already prepared for transportation from Holland to the Reich?

VORRINK: I do not know whether he used his personal influence in that respect; I only know that enormous quantities of our art treasures and books were taken away by the Germans, and in any case he was then powerless to prevent it.


2 Feb. 46

DR. STEINBAUER: You said also that the radio was prohibited because it stimulated the organization of resistance. As a leader, would you have allowed a radio speaking against you?

VORRINK: I would by all means allow the radio. 'I am of the opinion that there can be no human dignity if people are not allowed to form their opinions by hearing reasons for and against.

DR. STEINBAUER: Was Mussert given the task of forming a government, or was that not done because Seyss-Inquart objected?

VORRINK: I really do not know what happened behind the scenes, but perhaps you may be right that Seyss-Inquart was no friend of Mussert. While in prison I was taken out of my cell one night and asked to write an article on the National Socialist movement in Holland, and I was requested to give my own personal opinion about Mussert. When I answered, 'Why should I do this? You know what I think of Mussert and of all the Nazis,' they said: 'You cannot make it bad enough.' I took this to be one of the many machinations of the Nazi cliques which fought against each other.

DR. STEINBAUER: I thank you. I have no further questions.

HERR BABEL: Witness, you spoke of Dutch youngsters who had entered the SS. Could you tell me approximately what the total number was?

VORRINK: I would say a few thousand.

HERR BABEL: In your opinion how many of those entered the ranks voluntarily and how many were forced?.

VORRINK: I cannot give you an exact figure; but I am of the opinion that if minors entered such organizations without the consent of their parents, they did not do it voluntarily. They could not judge the consequences of their actions.

HERR BABEL: I did not ask that question. I asked you how many, in your opinion, joined the SS voluntarily and how many were forced. Will you answer this question and no other?

VORRINK: I have already said that I cannot give you the exact number.

HERR BABEL: Well, an approximate figure.

VORRINK: I should say several hundred were forced.

HERR BABEL: Good, and you gave the total number as several thousand.

VORRINK: They were youngsters who for some reason or another left their homes, and they were taken by the Green Police or the Security Police and pressed into the SS. I myself have come across quite a few cases of this in Dutch concentration camps. As


2 Feb. 46

an old leader in the Youth Movement I was able to speak to these youngsters and got them to tell me about their life.

HERR BABEL: You say "pressed"? What do you mean by 'pressed"?

VORRINK: That means that they were threatened with imprisonment if they were not willing to join the SS.

HERR BABEL: You heard that yourself?


HERR BABEL: You further said that thousands of workmen left their organizations. I think you said tens of thousands. Did they do so voluntarily, or what was the reason for this?

VORRINK: The reasons were that the workmen refused to be in a nazified trade union and to submit to the Leadership Principle. They wanted to be in their old trade unions where they could have a say in the running of their organizations.

HERR BABEL: The resignations, therefore, were voluntary?


HERR BABEL: In regard to the Jewish question you said that at first nothing happened to the Jews, but that nevertheless there was a wave of suicides. Why? What was the reason for those suicides when it had been said, "nothing will happen to you."

VORRINK: These Jews were the most sensible ones. We in Holland did not live on an island, and we knew all that had happened between 1933 and 1940 in Germany. We knew that in Germany the Jews had been persecuted to death, and I personally still have in my possession quite a few sworn statements of German Jews who had emigrated, who kept us hourly informed of how they had been tortured and martyred by the SS during the period before the war. That of course was known to the Dutch Jews, and in my opinion in that respect they were more sensible since they knew they would suffer the same fate.

HERR BABEL: You put it in such a way as to make it sound as if there were a large number of suicides. Was that so, or were there a few individual cases?

VORRINK: This happened to about 30 or 50 people, but in Holland, where we value life very highly, that is quite a large number.

HERR BABEL: Now, you used the word "Nazi illiterate." Quite apart from, I would say, your not very friendly attitude towards us Germans, have you any justification for saying this? Have you met a single German who was illiterate?


2 Feb. 46

VORRINK: I am rather surprised at this question. By an "illiterate Nazi" I meant a man who talks about things about which he has no knowledge, and the people who judged an author's work were people who had been set to read through the book to find out whether a Jew appeared in it and was presented as a good and humane character. According to the Nazi concepts, such a book could not be published. I would add that I have used the word "Nazi illiterate" from the days when there were found in the German cities, in the country of Goethe and Schiller, great piles of burned books, books that we had read and admired in Holland,

HERR BABEL: I understand you to mean that you can bring no positive facts which might justify this derogatory word "Nazi illiterate." Thank you.

DR. OTTO PANNENBECKER (Counsel for Defendant Frick): I have just one question, Witness. You just said that young people who did not enter the SS were threatened with prison.
Do I understand you to say that they would be given prison sentences for an offense committed previously or that they would be imprisoned only because they did not enter the SS?

VORRINK: They would be given a prison sentence, of course, because they had been threatened. Whether they would have put them in prison, I do not know, but it was a threat. It was one of the usual methods of, the Nazis to say "We want you to do this or that, and if you do not we will put you in prison." There were so many instances of this sort that one could have no illusions about it.

DR. PANNENBECKER: But it is correct in this case that these were youngsters who had run away from home because of differences with their parents?

VORRINK: Those are cases which I know of personally.

DR. PANNENBECKER: I thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other Defense Counsel wish to ask any questions? [There was no
response.] M. Faure, do you wish to ask any questions?

M. FAURE: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Then, the witness can leave.

[The witness left the stand.]

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