Archive/File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Judgment/Judgment-066 Last-Modified: 1999/05/27 220. Here we shall add that, in civilized countries the rejection of the defence of `superior orders' as exempting completely from criminal responsibility, has now become general. This was also acknowledged by the General Assembly of the United Nations, being one of the principles of the London Charter and of the judgment in the case against the Major War Criminals (Resolution of the Plenary Session, No. 55, dated 11.12.46). Perhaps it is not a vain hope that the more this conviction becomes rooted in the minds of men, the more will they refrain from following criminal leaders, and the rule of law and order in the relations between nations will be strengthened accordingly. It is to be pointed out here that even the jurists of the Third Reich did not dare to put on paper that obedience to orders is above all. They did not repeal Section 47(2) of the German Military Criminal Code, which states that whoever commits an offence against the Criminal Law, through obedience to a superior's order, is punishable as an accomplice to a criminal act, if he knew that the order concerned an act which is a crime or an offence according to the general Military Law. This provision was applicable also to SS men, according to the laws of jurisdiction over them (see exhibit T/1402/a, pp. 15, 21-22). 221. Of course, the Accused well knew that the order for the physical extermination of the Jews was manifestly illegal, and that by carrying out this order he was committing criminal acts on an enormous scale. To arrive at this finding, we do not have to rely on the Accused, because according to Section 19(b) the question as to whether an order is manifestly illegal is a question of law, left to be decided by the court according to objective criteria. In any case, we shall also quote his evidence in the matter, which he gave after much evasion, and as though it needed a great inner effort on his part to realize such a simple truth: "Your Honour, President of the Court, since you call upon me to tell and give a clear answer, I must declare that I see in this murder, in the extermination of Jews, one of the gravest crimes in the history of mankind." And in answer to Judge Halevi: "...I already at that time realized that this solution by the use of force was something illegal, something terrible, but to my regret, I was obliged to deal with it in matters of transportation, because of my oath of loyalty, from which I was not released." (Session 95, Vol. IV, pp. xxxx35-36) Not only the order for physical extermination was manifestly illegal, but also all the other orders for the persecution of Jews because of their being Jews, even though they were styled in the formal language of legislation and subsidiary legislation, because these were only a cloak for arbitrary discrimination, contrary to the basic principles of law and justice. As was stated by the court at Nuremberg which tried the Nazi jurists (Justice Case) (Green Series, vol. 3, p. 1063): "...but it is alleged that they participated in carrying out a governmental plan and program for the persecution and extermination of Jews and Poles, a plan which transcended territorial boundaries as well as the bounds of human decency. Some of the defendants took part in the enactment of laws and decrees, the purpose of which was the extermination of Poles and Jews in Germany and throughout Europe. "The overt acts of the several defendants must be seen and understood as deliberate contributions towards the effectuation of the policy of the Party and state. The discriminatory laws themselves formed the subject matter of war crimes and crimes against humanity with which the defendants are charged." This was not a single crime, but a whole series of crimes committed over the years. The Accused had more than enough time to consider his actions and to desist from them. But he did not stop; as time went on, he even increased his activity. 222. By what we have said up to now, the Accused's attempt to rely on superior orders for the justification of his acts, or even in mitigation of his punishment according to Section 11 of the Law, is already untenable. Since the order was manifestly illegal, they cannot be used as an excuse. Yet, we shall continue to examine what was the Accused's attitude to the orders within the framework in which he acted: Did these orders disturb his conscience, so that he acted under compulsion from which he saw no escape; or did he act with inner indifference like an obedient automaton; or perhaps, in his heart, he identified with the contents of the order. Although this makes no difference as regards the conviction of the Accused, yet it is important to examine these questions, in order to define the measure of the Accused's moral responsibility for his acts. For this reason, the Attorney General rightly requested that we draw our conclusions already at this stage from the evidence before us, in answer to this question as well. 223. What is in fact the Accused's version on this matter? He was verbose before this Court and in his statements outside the Court, but when all is said and done, we do not see in his words a clear consistent version. Besides the repetition of his statement that he acted according to orders, and that the oath of loyalty which he had taken as an SS man and an SD man strengthened even further his absolute duty to obey any order given to him, he keeps on saying that until a certain time he was carrying out his duties willingly and with inner satisfaction. It was thus, he said, as long as he was working at the Central Offices for Jewish Emigration in Vienna and Prague, for in this he saw work beneficial to both sides - his side and the Jewish side. This, too, was his attitude to the Madagascar Plan, on which he laboured so much, for also this was still a "political solution." But when this plan was also shelved, his world crumbled around him and his attitude to his work changed from one extreme to the other. He lost interest in his work and decided that in the future he would act as an ordinary official, obeying instructions and no more. Thus far the version is more or less clear. From here onwards the picture becomes more and more blurred. How does he describe his reaction to the horrifying sights he saw from time to time with his own eyes during his visits to the East: the mass slaughter of Jews - men, women and babies; the shooting on the brink of the pits; the blood spurting from a mass grave; the loading of Jews into the gas vans in Chelmno; the cremation of bodies there; the transport of Jews into the gas chambers? This is what he said, quoting his own words to Mueller on his return from such a journey: "`Terrible, I tell you, the inferno, this I cannot bear,' I told him. (T/37, 177) "`Please don't send me to that place. Send someone else, send someone more robust (Jemand robusteren). Look, I have never been allowed to go to the front. I was never a soldier... They do not collapse. I cannot watch it.' I said, `I cannot sleep at night! I have dreams - I cannot carry on this way, Gruppenfuehrer.'" (218) Elsewhere in his Statement to Superintendent Less he explains his desire to be transferred to another post, giving as additional reasons his chances for promotion and his lack of interest in police work as such from the very beginning, from the time of his transfer to Berlin in the year 1939 (T/37, p. 250). And also in his evidence, in answer to the Attorney General (Session 94, Vol. IV, pp. xxxx13-14): "I referred to him [Mueller] with such a request for the first time and asked not to be transferred to Berlin at all, because I wanted to remain where I lived with my family. I sent in a second urgent request and told him I would not be able to stand this physically, after the service trip to the East, the first trip, and later on I applied after each trip. Mueller was aware of my state of mind at the time after such a trip." 224. It is therefore clear that, according to his contention, he requested a transfer to another job for reasons of convenience, to obtain promotion, and also, according to his own words, because physically he was not robust enough to bear all the horrifying sights with which he was confronted in the East. But there is not one word here about inner revulsion against the extermination of Jews for reasons of conscience. True, when pressed by the Attorney General, who asked, "And you did not mind acting as the great transporter to death?" his answer is: "I did mind, I minded very much - more than anyone can imagine. That is why, from time to time, I requested my superior, and repeated my request, that he find me another task." (Session 94, Vol. IV, pp. xxxx11-12) 225. But this version - that he asked to be relieved of his post for reasons of conscience - is contradicted by the Accused himself. When his Counsel asks him, "It does seem that, from the remarks in the reminiscences taken down by Sassen, as well as now, you were quite satisfied with the Conference [the Wannsee Conference]. Can you express your opinion about this?" (Session 79, Vol. IV, p. xxxx2) then his answer is: "Yes, but the origin of my satisfaction is to be sought in another direction, not in that of Heydrich's satisfaction... "And so, after many efforts [to find other solutions], after the Wannsee Conference I could say to myself that, in spite of my wish, and not due to my own preparations, through no fault of mine, and having the feeling of a Pontius Pilate washing his hands, I could feel that the fault was not mine. But at this Wannsee Conference, the men at the top, the elite, the popes of the empire, laid down the line to be followed. And I? I had only to obey." It should be remembered that even before the Wannsee Conference he had already seen what was happening in the East and had begun deporting Reich Jews to the slaughter; yet, in spite of this, according to his testimony here, he feels like a Pontius Pilate, that is, like a man who could find a way of soothing his conscience. And this, in fact, is his basic contention: that the order sets his conscience free; that blind obedience, according to an oath of loyalty, comes first and stands above all, and that against this obedience the voice of one's conscience cannot even make itself heard. Dr. Grueber, the German priest, one of the righteous men of this world, who because of his activities on behalf of persecuted Jews was himself thrown into a concentration camp, described before us this type of the German mercenary, the "Landsknecht": "A German Landsknecht, the minute he dons his uniform, doffs his conscience; it is said that he deposits them in the cloakroom." (Session 41, p. 737) And here, in the evidence of the Accused, is the argument in all its nakedness: "...responsibility and the matter of conscience lie upon the heads of the state." (Session 88, Vol. IV, p. xxxx9) Later, when cross-examined by the Attorney General, he retreats somewhat from this extreme position and clings to the most miserable of excuses (Session 95, Vol. IV, pp. xxxx33-34): "In my opinion, to break an oath of loyalty is the worst crime and offence that a man can commit. "Q. A crime greater than the murder of six million Jews, amongst them one and a half million children, is that correct? "A. Not that, of course. But I was not occupied in extermination. Had I been occupied in exterminating, had I been ordered to deal with extermination - I believe that I would have committed suicide by shooting myself." This answer calls to our mind matters in the same spirit which he noted in his remarks to the article in Life magazine, in connection with the activity of Section IVB4: "We had nothing to do with the atrocities, we went about our affairs in a decent way." (T/51, second paragraph.) That is, had he been ordered to throw the gas container amongst the victims, then his conscience would have woken up, but since it was his duty to hunt down the victims in the countries of Europe and transport them to the gas chambers, his conscience was at peace, and he obeyed orders without hesitation.
Site Map ·
What's New? ·
Home · Site Map · What's New? · Search Nizkor