The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Testimony-Abroad/Kurt_Becher-02

Last-Modified: 1999/06/14

On the outbreak of war at the beginning of September 1939,
as a member of the Mounted SS I was drafted into a unit
reinforcing the police.  I was then transferred to the
Waffen--SS.  I served as SS Infantryman in the Polish
campaign.  However, my unit saw no further action.  It spent
only a week or so in occupied Polish territory and was then
withdrawn to the Reich territory.  In the spring of 1940 I
was detached to the First SS Reiterstandarte (Cavalry
Regiment), with its base in Warsaw, and after a month or so
I was sent from there to Bad Toelz Junkerschule (Cadet
School) to attend an Officers' Wartime Course.

After completing the officers' course and being promoted to
Oberscharfuehrer-Fuehreranwaerter (Sergeant-Cadet Officer)
at the end of November or December 1940, I was transferred
back to my old regiment, now called the First SS
Reiterregiment.  The regiment was a purely military unit.  I
became platoon leader in the first squadron, and because of
my training at the officers' school I was appointed as
officer instructor.  Around May-June 1941, the regiment was
transferred to East Prussia, and on the outbreak of war with
Russia, it invaded Russia.  During the advance I was
transferred to the First Cavalry Brigade as orderly officer.
As orderly officer, my duties were basically to maintain
contact with the superior commander in the Wehrmacht.  My
brigade took part in the advance through Minsk, Bobruisk,
Smolensk, into the area of Vitebsk, Rzhev and Toropetz,
where in the autumn of 1941 the brigade got caught up in
heavy fighting.  For my part in these battles I received the
Iron Cross, Second Class, and the Iron Cross, First Class.

In December 1941, owing to illness, I was hospitalized in
the Berlin-Lichterfelde Military Hospital.  After my
recovery, at the end of February, beginning of March 1942, I
was attached to the SS Leadership Head Office, Cavalry and
Transport Bureau (I.N. 3) as a Hauptsturmfuehrer.  The
duties of the Cavalry and Transport Bureau were to equip
horse-drawn and mounted units, to take care of studs,
training units, riding and driving schools, and to run
weapons training courses for these units.  The headquarters
of the bureau were in Berlin.  From December 1941 until
December 1942, therefore, I was in Berlin.  On 30 January
1942 I was awarded the Kriegsverdienstkreuz zweiter Klasse
(Distinguished Service Cross, Second Class) with swords.

In the winter of 1942, the fighting on the eastern front,
particularly in the area of the Don, took a dangerous turn,
and in order to provide support in the region, where
Hungarian, Italian and Romanian units were in action, German
fighting units were formed anew and sent into action as
"corset stays."  In December 1942 I was attached to the
Fegelein task force.  This task force was a military
formation hastily assembled from any and every unit of the
army and the Waffen-SS.  I led various units in extremely
hard fighting against the Russian penetration of our lines.
For my role I was awarded not only the Infantry Assault
Decoration and the Close Combat Bar in Bronze, but also the
German Cross in Gold.  The fighting, during which the task
force was utterly destroyed, lasted until March 1943.  From
December 1942 to March 1943 I was stationed without a break
on the Don front.

After the remnant of this task force was disbanded, I was
ordered back to the SS Leadership Head Office, where I
returned to my old job.  Around October 1943, I was ordered
to join the Eighth SS Cavalry Division which then fought a
holding operation on the Dnieper, near Krivoi Rog, and then
returned two months later to Berlin and the SS Leadership
Head Office.  As a member of staff of the Cavalry and
Transport Office, I was seconded in March 1944 (at the time
I held the rank of SS Obersturmbannfuehrer) to Budapest to
head the staff of the SS Leadership Head Office, with the
task of procuring, together with the Wehrmacht and the
Hungarian Ministry of War (Honved Ministry), horses and
equipment for Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS horse-drawn and
mounted units, both new and reinforced.

At the beginning of January 1943 I was promoted to SS

Finally, I should like to note that in April 1945, when I
was travelling from Mauthausen to Flossenbuerg, I came into
contact with American troops.  I was wounded in the
encounter.  On 26 April 1945 I was awarded the Black Wounded
Badge.  In May 1945 I was taken prisoner of war by the
Americans.  I was released at the end of 1947.  I began my
business activities in Bremen in the autumn of 1948.

(1): What do you know about the foot march which took place
in November 1944 of part of the Jewish population of

Answer: From my own knowledge I am unable to say who gave
the orders for the foot marches of part of the Jewish
population of Budapest to the Austrian border in the autumn
of 1944.  I also do not know anything about the negotiations
between the Hungarian Government and Ambassador Veesenmayer
on this question.  On my journeys between Vienna and
Budapest, I saw these foot marches myself.  They were
accompanied by men in Hungarian uniforms.  I am unable to
say whether these were Hungarian policemen, or Hungarian
Honved soldiers, or both.  I have referred to "foot
marches," because the foot march of the Jewish population of
Budapest spread over several weeks.  According to my
observations, it began in the last days of October and
lasted until 20 or 25 November 1944.  In fact I do not know
of the date when the foot march started from my own
observations, since I was not in Budapest at the time; but I
heard about it.

(2): What were the powers of Ambassador Veesenmayer as Reich
Plenipotentiary in Hungary?

Answer: I am unable to say anything as to what powers
Ambassador Veesenmayer had as Reich Plenipotentiary in
Hungary.  It was my impression that Veesenmayer was the
official interlocutor between Germany and the Hungarian
Government, and that all major questions were discussed at
the top level between Veesenmayer and the Hungarian
government.  However, in practical terms the departments of
the Hungarian Government must have implemented things
directly together with the appropriate German offices.  For
example, on my assignment to "procure horses for units and
obtain equipment," as far as I remember I had dealings first
with General Winkelmann, and then, at his suggestion, with
Veesenmayer.  As far as I remember, Veesenmayer established
contacts between me and the Ministry of Agriculture and the
Honved Ministry through the military attache, General
Greiffenberg.  I then negotiated directly with these

(3): In implementing measures, were all the units of the
Security Police and the Security Service in Hungary,
including the Chief, Geschke, for tactical purposes under
the orders of the Higher SS and Police Leader Winkelmann?

Answer: I cannot give a reply to the question as to whether
and how all the offices of the Security Police and the
Security Service in Hungary were under the orders of the
Higher SS and Police Leader.  I can only say that when I was
assigned to Hungary, I was in technical and disciplinary
terms subject to the SS Leadership Head Office, Command
Office of the Waffen-SS.  It was only in terms of
supervision that I was subject to the Higher SS and Police
Leader in Hungary, General Winkelmann.

(4): Was the office of the Accused Eichmann in Budapest able
to issue instructions or orders to Veesenmayer, Winkelmann
and Geschke, and were such instructions or orders issued?

Answer: I am not familiar with the complicated
organizational aspects and structure of authority in detail.
However, I cannot imagine that Eichmann's office was able to
issue instructions or orders to Ambassador Veesenmayer, or
to the Higher SS and Police Leader Winkelmann, or to the
Chief of the Security Police and the Security Service.  As
to whether Eichmann nevertheless issued instructions and
orders, I cannot say anything.

(5): Did the offices of Eichmann, Veesenmayer, Winkelmann
and Geschke receive their instructions directly from the
German Foreign Ministry or from the Reichsfuehrer-SS?

Answer: As I still remember the organizational scheme today,
Veesenmayer received his instructions from the German
Foreign Ministry, and Winkelmann received his orders from
the personal staff of the Reichsfuehrer-SS.  Geschke and
Eichmann must have received their orders from the Head
Office for Reich Security.

(6): Was the Accused Eichmann the first person to propose
through the official channels - more precisely, to
Obergruppenfuehrer [sic!] Mueller - that the deportation of
Hungarian Jews be halted until negotiations were concluded
on the supply of war material in return?

Answer: I had no way at all of knowing about the dealings
between Eichmann and Gruppenfuehrer Mueller.

(7): In order to bring about the projected plan, did
Eichmann make arrangements for sending a Jewish negotiator
to Constantinople, and did he propose Joel Brand for this

Answer: I am unable to say whether it was Eichmann who
planned to send a Jewish negotiator to Constantinople, or
whether he decided that this should be Joel Brand.  When -
at the very insistent urging of Jewish circles, particularly
Dr. Wilhelm Billitz - I decided to make representations to
Himmler in order to help the Jews, I took advantage of the
"ten thousand trucks in return for freeing Jews" project to
ask for an appointment with Himmler.  Today, I am unable to
say whether - and if so, to what extent -  I discussed with
Himmler the details of sending a negotiator.  Himmler
ordered Eichmann, through Winkelmann, to keep me informed of
the negotiations.  That is why I was present when Eichmann
dispatched Brand to Constantinople.  That was the first time
I met Brand, and as far as I remember, I had no further
meetings with him in Hungary.

(8): Did the Accused try not to obstruct the implementation
of the operations referred to, but rather to facilitate
things, by proposing to his superior a lesser consideration
in return than that demanded by Himmler?

Answer: I do not know anything about Eichmann proposing to
his superior a lesser consideration than that demanded by
Reichsfuehrer Himmler.  Nor do I remember whether
immediately on the arrival of the agreement ten per cent of
the Jews were already to be released for emigration, in
accordance with a promise given by Eichmann to Brand.

(9): Is the Kriegsverdienstkreuz (Distinguished War Service
Cross) an important decoration?

Answer: Basically it is the class which determines the
importance of the decoration.  I received the Distinguished
War Service Cross, Second Class, i.e., the lowest level.  My
other decorations were far more important to me, as they
were decorations for bravery.

(10): After the fall of Stalingrad and the retreat of the
German army from the Dnieper in January 1944, did you
believe that Germany had lost the war?

Answer: Today I am unable to say whether after the fall of
Stalingrad and the retreat of the German army from the
Dnieper in January 1944 I believed that Germany had lost the
war.  With the best will in the world I am unable to say
today when it was that I realized the war was being lost.
In any case I did not realize this suddenly: at times I used
to think pessimistically, sometimes optimistically.

(11): What special assignment were you given by
Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler?

Answer: As can be seen in my introductory remarks, in March
1944 I was assigned to Hungary, not by Himmler, but by the
SS Leadership Head Office, Command Office of the Waffen-SS.
At that time I had only been instructed by the SS Leadership
Head Office to procure horses for the army and equipment for
mounted and horse-drawn units.  I had no further
assignments.  More particularly, I had no assignment related
in any way whatsoever to the treatment of Jews.

(12): Were you convinced that the carrying out of your
assignment was of considerable importance?

Answer: Yes, my assignment from the SS Leadership Head
Office was of direct service to the military conduct of the

(13): Did you carry out your assignment?

Answer: Yes; as far as I remember, in conjunction with the
Wehrmacht and the competent Hungarian authorities, some
twenty thousand horses were drafted and distributed to those
who needed them: Wehrmacht units, Waffen-SS units, and
possibly police units as well.  However, my efforts to
obtain equipment were successful only to a minor extent;  I
do not remember any details of this.

(14): Did you endeavour to have the management of the Weiss-
Manfred Works in Hungary transferred to yourself?

Answer: I did not endeavour to obtain my appointment to
manage the Weiss-Manfred Works.  As I remember it today, I
never wished to remain in the management of the concern
after the War either.  When in March 1944 I came to Hungary
with my staff, the Wehrmacht Commander's Office allocated me
three detached houses for my staff.  I found out that these
belonged to the Manfred Weiss family, whereupon I asked that
a representative of the Manfred Weiss family visit me, in
order to draw up an inventory in due form.  A Dr. Billitz
reported to me about my assignment to procure equipment.
Dr. Billitz thought I should contact the person of influence
in the Weiss-Manfred Works, Dr. Ferenc Choren.  He said that
he was the only person who could help me with my assignment.
At that time Dr. Choren was under arrest.  However, I
nevertheless managed to establish contact with him.  At the
outset Dr. Choren thought that, in order to buy up the
equipment, a Hungarian firm should be set up, but later he
said that this approach would probably also not be
successful for obtaining the items of equipment.  During the
amicable talks I had at the time with Dr. Choren, he
suggested one day that perhaps Germany might take over the
Weiss-Manfred Works, or rather the shares which were
formally in non-Jewish hands, and in return allow the
members of the Manfred Weiss family to leave the country.
On my proposal, Himmler authorized conclusion of an
agreement and gave orders for Obersturmbannfuehrer Bobermin
and myself to be appointed to the board of management of the

(15): Was Dr. Choren released from custody at your

Answer: As far as I remember, Dr. Choren returned to
Hungary, at my suggestion and with Himmler's agreement, from
the internment camp to the house of the Manfred Weiss
family.  Dr. Choren remained there until he emigrated with
the family.  At first I received an authorization from
Winkelmann to communicate with him.  I do not remember
definitely whether Dr. Choren's return to Budapest was
obtained by Winkelmann approaching Himmler, or directly
through my approach to Himmler.  Dr. Choren remained in
Budapest until he emigrated together with the Weiss family,
as we have already said.

(16): Did you confiscate factories and other enterprises?

Answer: I cannot remember having confiscated factories or
other enterprises.  I consider it to be out of the question.
I also consider it impossible that my staff would have
carried out such confiscations.

(17): Did your measures - particularly your efforts to be
put in charge of the Weiss-Manfred Works - serve to carry
out the assignment given to you?

Answer: Maintaining the Weiss-Manfred Works was important to
the war effort.  It also served to carry out my assignment,
because there was a possibility of using the concern's
connections in order to procure equipment.  The industrial
plants which belonged to the Weiss-Manfred Works produced
aircraft, lorries, motor bikes - everything down to pins,
including foodstuffs and preserves.  It also seemed
important to employ some thirty thousand workers close to
the fighting troops.

When I was negotiating with Dr. Chorin, the Jewish shares of
the Weiss-Manfred Works had been seized by the Hungarian
Government.   That was what Dr. Chorin explained to me.
The non-Jewish shares of the concern were held by members of
the Weiss family.  As far as I remember, they amounted to 51
per cent of the total shares.  As far as I remember, Dr.
Chorin maintained that these shares, which were in non-
Jewish hands, might also be seized by the Hungarian
Government through an order of the government to that
effect.  As far as I remember, the main clauses of the
agreement between Mr. Chorin and Himmler were, firstly, the
transfer of the management in trust of the non-Jewish shares
of the Weiss_Manfred Works to the German Reich for a
duration of twenty_five years, and secondly, the approval of
the departure of a group of members of the family, plus
certain persons who were not part of the family, as well as
the provision by the German Reich to the Weiss family of a
sum which I no longer remember.  As far as I remember, Dr.
Chorin asked that Horthy be informed of this contract only
after the family group had left Hungary.  I cannot remember
whether there were similar requirements on the part of the
Germans.  I do know that the entire transaction was
initiated by Dr. Chorin.  As far as I remember, the
contracts were signed in the middle of May, and the family
left Hungary on the same day.  Immediately after their
departure, as far as I remember, Veesenmayer was notified by
Winkelmann.  Today I no longer remember whether I met Brand
before or after the finalization of the trust agreement; it
must have been around this time.

(18): Are you familiar with what is known as the Brand
Operation, under which, subject to certain conditions, one
million Jews were to leave the country?

Answer: I am familiar with the Brand Operation of trucks in
return for the release of people.  I do not know whether the
Accused suggested this "Brand Operation" and submitted it to
his superior.  I also do not know whether the Accused
travelled several times to Berlin in this connection.

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