The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Sessions/Session-120-03

Archive/File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Sessions/Session-120-03
Last-Modified: 1999/06/14

Of course Eichmann is not the only one who should be put to death for
his crimes. There were legions of assistants and their
assistants together with him, who carried out his commands.
Many of them have not yet been suitably punished or have not
been punished at all. But just because this State is unable
to deal with all these evil-doers as they deserve, should it
therefore not impose that punishment which the Court has in
its power to impose on the archmurderer who has been caught?
In your Judgment it has already been held that he "caused
the deaths of millions of Jews with the purpose of
implementing the Final Solution," and among the major
surviving Nazis it is obvious that Adolf Eichmann is the
central figure in the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Punishing him suitably is in no way related to the enormous
historical bloodsoaked reckoning between Jewry and Nazi
Germany. His punishment will not lighten the suffering of a
single Jew whose dear ones perished, and the national
calamity will also remain just as great. But this, too, will
not induce the Court to mitigate his punishment.

If Adolf Eichmann is not sentenced to the severest penalty
laid down in the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment)
Law, then this penalty has no significance whatsoever. Whom
did the legislator intend when he decreed the death sentence
for crimes against the Jewish People, for crimes against
humanity and for war crimes, if Adolf Eichmann is spared
this punishment? If he is not punished for his crime, there
will be no one anywhere in the world who will deserve this

Your Honours, there stands before you a destroyer of a
people, an enemy of the human species, a shedder of innocent
blood. I ask that you condemn this man to death.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, please proceed.

Dr. Servatius:  You have found the Accused guilty on all
counts - of crimes against the Jewish People, crimes against
humanity, war crimes, and the crime of membership of a
hostile organization.

The Attorney General has asked for the death penalty. This
is the penalty which the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators
(Punishment) Law provides for the perpetrators. It is not,
however, an absolute penalty which cannot be mitigated.  The
Attorney General's observations on the death penalty as an
absolute penalty indicate an obscurity which exists under
Israeli law. In the case referred to by the Attorney
General, in which a death penalty was imposed, and the
possibility of reducing the sentence was rejected, the
decision was of the court of first instance only. As the
Attorney General said, it was not confirmed by the Supreme
Court, for other reasons. In a case such as this no decision
of the Supreme Court exists as yet.

The lapse of time generally affects the justification of the
death penalty, of an absolute death penalty. This should be
considered. In my opinion Section 11 of the Nazis and Nazi
Collaborators (Punishment) Law indicates that the death
penalty is not an absolute penalty. According to Section 11
of this Law, acting on orders from above can be taken into
account as a mitigating aspect of punishment. This may occur
when obeying the order appears excusable and the perpetrator
did everything he could to mitigate the consequences of the
act. Here, the Accused did not do anything to mitigate such
consequences. But there was nothing he could have done. As
an individual he could not halt the machine that produced
the orders. Neither insubordination nor suicide would have
changed the course of events.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, you may sit down in order to
read out your arguments.

Dr. Servatius:  According to the Court's findings, the
Accused's behaviour is not excusable either. But it must be
remembered that the Accused did not act at his own
discretion, but according to an outside will, to which he
was subject, the will of the political leadership. These
were the orders of the state - not the orders of a single
individual superior, who overstepped the orders given him.
In this dependence, the Accused was in no way different from
his contemporary setting. The Accused must be seen as an
integral part of the existing group hierarchy. He was
subject to the dynamics of this group. One's own emotional
aspects were neutralized, a co-ordinated opinion was the
only one allowed. Nevertheless the Accused offered inner
resistance when he saw the atrocities. Who would not have
done so? This unforgettable sight remained engraved in his
memory, and of his own will he disclosed this most dreadful
thing. In this way he has shown his attitude to these

But after the Wannsee Conference, where the Accused saw the
ruling circles at work, his rejection became paralyzed. He
succumbed to the psychology of the liegeman.

This subjection too can only be understood in the wider
setting of the political hypnosis which held sway over the
overwhelming majority of the people. The secret of this
subjection was the official driving home of a picture of
history according to which the political leadership was the
executor of the historical imperative, according to which
the Fuehrer's actions were determined and hallowed by
Providence. History is not made with kid gloves, was the
phrase, and where trees are chopped down, chips fly. In this
process the individual was rendered incapable of deciding
for himself and his will became insignificant.

It is a mistake to assume that the Accused saw himself as a
driving force, as the executor of a historical imperative.
Today the people which history calls to account is looking
for guilty individuals. The idea is even to defend
retroactively the democratic basic regime. By expelling the
guilty from the community and punishing them, one believes
that one can easily justify oneself.

Here the Accused is the scapegoat, who was left to stand
trial by this Court, in conflict with international law. But
in this fashion the responsibility...

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, you cannot at this stage
adduce these arguments before this Court. You may make these
arguments to a higher court. Perhaps I did not understand
you properly.

Dr. Servatius:  I would like to state here - I was here
adopting the German viewpoint. I assume that from the German
viewpoint an intervention should have been made and
extradition should have been requested.

Presiding Judge: Excuse me, I did not understand you.

Dr. Servatius:  This means that the responsibility of
society at the time... My observations relate to the group
locations and the group relationships, and this group is in

The Accused cannot be made to pay as a surrogate for the
guilt of the human associations, for the guilt of the epoch.
One cannot disregard the findings of modern group
psychology, which are the only way of understanding the
behaviour of an individual. From the interweaving of the
various connections must be drawn the lesson that what
happened to the Accused can in the future happen to anyone,
no one is immune. Concepts are remodelled, the capable ones
are needed, they are lured and won over and they are the
very ones who become guilty. What happened to the German
people can come to pass in every people. The entire
civilized world is confronted by this problem. Recognizing
this truth should heal and teach us how to prevent new

This is a crisis of the leaders, those who give the orders.
It is not a crisis of the subordinate. The people trembles
before totalitarian measures and would like to prevent them.
It desires coexistence between human beings.

This process will go down in history; but it is not a
historical process.

In its introduction to the Judgment the Court also stressed
that the causes of the political events and the political
total guilt cannot be clarified in legal proceedings, using
evidence submitted for the purposes of a trial. The Court
also emphasized that the problem of mystical supernatural
responsibility could not be touched upon. The temporal judge
is bound by temporal law. The penalty which the temporal
judge imposes can only have a temporal purpose. In national
law this purpose can only be the protection of the nation.
In respect of the Accused, the preventive effect of
punishment towards the community and the individual becomes

Participation in the act of which the Accused has been found
guilty was a government crime. The government has been
toppled, and the ideas that it represented have been
obliterated in politics.

There will no longer be any ground for action on the part of
the Accused in his former position.

Nor is the educational purpose of the penalty valid any
more. The world is warned by what it finds out about
political horrors. Punishing the Accused cannot achieve
this, it is of no consequence to the world. The purpose of
the trial is achieved with the guilty verdict. The Accused
himself has changed, he has shown this by his life after the
War. His mental approach will be shown by the book which he
has written in order to warn the young generation. This is a
genuine reparation, the only one which is possible and makes
sense and is the most effective. Punishment as expiation
follows irrational supernatural ideas. Expiation is
equivalent to temporal retribution.

But here it says: Mine is the retribution, saith the Lord.
This leads to the kingdom of mercy, where all the
contradictions of the temporal world are to be resolved.

The judge seeking ultimate justice should also show mercy in
his sentence.

The Court has passed a verdict of guilty and has affirmed
the State of Israel's claim to punishment.

In the Federal Republic of Germany a representative of the
Public Prosecutor's Office, who is primarily responsible for
investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity, has
stated that in judging the Accused the Israeli Court is
sitting as a delegated administrator of justice. I do not
share this opinion.

Were one, however, to follow the legal opinion of the German
public prosecutor, then the claim to punishment cannot
exceed the maximum penalty of the country being represented,
and then under the law of the Federal Republic the death
penalty should not be recognized.

I would ask the Court to take this into account in
determining the sentence.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, does that conclude your

Dr. Servatius:  Yes.

Presiding Judge: Adolf Eichmann, you have heard your
Counsel's statement on the penalty. Do you wish to add
anything concerning the penalty which the Court should
impose on you for the crimes of which you have been found

Accused:    I have heard the Court's severe verdict of
guilty. I see myself disappointed in my hopes for justice. I
cannot recognize the verdict of guilty. I understand the
demand for atonement for the crimes which were perpetrated
against the Jews. The witnesses' statements here in the
Court made my limbs go numb once again, just as they went
numb when once, acting on orders, I had to look at the
atrocities. It was my misfortune to become entangled in
these atrocities. But these misdeeds did not happen
according to my wishes. It was not my wish to slay people.
The guilt for the mass murder is solely that of the
political leaders.

I did try to leave my position, to leave for the front, for
honest battle. But I was held fast in those dark duties.
Once again I would stress that I am guilty of having been
obedient, having subordinated myself to my official duties
and the obligations of war service and my oath of allegiance
and my oath of office, and in addition, once the war
started, there was also martial law.

This obedience was not easy. And again, anyone who has to
give orders and has to obey orders knows what one can demand
of people. I did not persecute Jews with avidity and
passion. That is what the government did. Nor could the
persecution be carried out other than by a government. But I
never... I accuse the leaders of abusing my obedience. At
that time obedience was demanded, just as in the future it
will also be demanded of the subordinate. Obedience is
commended as a virtue.

May I therefore ask that consideration be given to the fact
that I obeyed, and not whom I obeyed.

I have already said that the top echelons, to which I did
not belong, gave the orders, and they rightly, in my
opinion, deserved punishment for the atrocities which were
perpetrated on the victims on their orders. But the
subordinates are now also victims. I am one of such victims.
This cannot be ignored. It is said that I could and should
have refused to be obedient. That is a consideration with
hindsight. Under the circumstances then prevailing such an
attitude was not possible. Nor did anyone behave in this
fashion. From my experience I know that the possibility,
which was alleged only after the War, of opposing orders is
a self-protective fairy tale. An individual could secretly
slip away. But I was not one of those who thought that

It is a major error to believe that I belonged to the
fanatics of the persecution of the Jews. In the entire post-
War period I have been tormented and incensed that all the
guilt has been shifted from my superiors and others onto me.
I did not in fact make any statements which could have shown
my fanaticism, and no blood guilt lies on me. In this
connection the witnesses have told a great falsehood. The
Court's putting together of statements and documents
initially makes a very convincing impression, but it is a
deceptive one. I shall try to clarify these errors before
the next legal instance.

Nobody came to me and remonstrated with me because of my
official activities. Even the witness Pastor Grueber does
not claim this. He came to me and only wanted relaxations to
be granted, without criticizing my official activities
themselves. He confirmed here in Court that I did not reject
him, but simply stated to him that I had to obtain my
superiors' decision, that I myself could not take a

Dr. Loesener, the ministerial director who was referred to
in the proceedings, was the expert in charge of Jewish
affairs in the Reich Ministry of the Interior. He has died.
In his written statement of justification, which has
appeared only recently, he admitted that he knew of the
atrocities and that he also informed his superiors
accordingly. It must be assumed that everyone in the
Ministry of the Interior was thus made aware of what was
going on. But no one opposed my superiors. Ministerial
Director Loesener continued silently in tacit opposition and
served his Fuehrer as a well-paid judge in the Reich
Administrative Court. That is the form that the courage of
one's convictions takes in the case of a prominent person.
In the report he wrote in 1950, Loesener expresses views
about me, according to which I am supposed to have been a
primary figure in the persecution of the Jews. But these are
simply emotional outbursts, without any indication of facts
in which these speculations are rooted. The same applies to
other witnesses. I was asked by the judges whether I wished
to make an admission of guilt, like the Commandant of
Auschwitz, Hoess, and the Governor General of Poland, Frank.
These two had every reason to make such an admission of
guilt: Frank as the person who gave the orders admitted his
guilt for the orders which he gave, and balked at delegating
to inferiors. Hoess was the one who actually carried out the
mass killings.

My position is different. I never had the power and the
responsibility of a giver of orders. I never carried out
killings, as Hoess did. If I had received the order to carry
out these killings, I would not have escaped by using a
trumped up pretext; during my interrogation I already
stated: Since because of the compulsion exerted by an order
there was no way out, I would have put a bullet through my
brain in order to solve the conflict between conscience and

The Court believes that my current attitude is a result of
being on trial and is a fabrication. A whole list of items
was given which appear to confirm this. But the
contradictions which exist were caused by the fact that, at
the beginning of my interrogation by the police, naturally I
could not remember details with precision. It was too much,
what I had experienced in recent years. Nor did I resist;
this is shown by the police record which is over 3,500 pages
long. What I said was the first unrestrained attempt to
provide assistance in shedding light on things. Mistakes did
occur in this, but I had to be allowed to correct them.
After sixteen or twenty years have lapsed, I cannot be
reproached with such mistakes, nor should my willingness to
provide assistance be considered as a subterfuge and a lie.

My life's principle, which I was taught very early on, was
to desire and to strive to achieve ethical values. From a
particular moment on, however, I was prevented by the State
from living according to this principle. I had to switch
from the unity of ethics to one of multiple morals. I had to
yield to the inversion of values which was prescribed by the
State. I had to engage in introspective examination in areas
which concern my inner self alone. In this introspective
examination I have to ignore my sense of guiltlessness in
the legal sense. And I would now ask the Jewish People on a
personal level for forgiveness, and I would admit that I am
overwhelmed by shame when I think about the evil committed
against the Jews and the acts that were perpetrated against
them. But in the light of the reasoning of the Judgment this
would probably only be interpreted as hypocrisy.

I am not the monster that I am made out to be. I am the
victim of an error of judgment. I was assaulted in Buenos
Aires, tied to a bed for a week and then drugged by
injections in my arms and brought to the airport in Buenos
Aires; from there I was flown out of Argentinia. This can
quite obviously only be explained by the fact that I was
considered to be the person who was responsible for
everything. The reason for this lies in the fact that the
National Socialists of the time and others have spread
untruths about me. They wanted to exonerate themselves at my
expense, or to create confusion for reasons unknown to me.
Oddly enough, some of the press coverage also reproduced the
same untrue descriptions in an extremely exaggerated fashion
over fifteen years in a most suggestive manner. This is the
cause of the false inference. This is the reason why I am
here. I thank my Counsel, who has insisted on my rights. I
am utterly convinced that I must suffer here for others. I
must bear what fate imposes on me.

Presiding Judge: We shall announce the sentence on Friday,
the day after tomorrow, at 9 o'clock.

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