The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Sessions/Session-015-02

Archive/File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Sessions/Session-015-02
Last-Modified: 1999/05/30

Q. Did this emigration movement come up against any special

A. Not on the part of the authorities, since the line was
"Jewish emigration" and we even had encouragement from
economic circles, from Schacht, from the Ministry of
Economics and from senior officials who, after some
hesitation and some negotiations decided on the "Transfer,"
the transfer of capital in the form of German goods. At that
time the "Ha'avarah" (Transfer) project was set up, both
here in this country and in Germany. Thus capital was
transferred to this country and persons who immigrated to
Palestine were allowed to take with them a certain amount of
capital, usually one thousand pounds, but in certain special
cases also up to two thousand pounds.

Presiding Judge: Pounds Sterling?

Witness Cohn: Yes.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Mr. Cohn, you have spoken about the
Ha'avarah. Do you remember the name in German of this

04Witness Cohn: Kapitaltransfer nach Palaestina. @(Capital
Transfer to Palestine). There arose problems around this
matter. The people from Sarona* {*Sarona - a German Templar
Colony near Tel Aviv.}  rose up. They were opposed to it.
They were already Nazis. They had a local Nazi party branch
in Sarona. We heard that on the German side opinions on the
subject differed and that they were waiting for a decision
to be handed down from high up. One day that decision was
indeed given: the operation is to be continued.

Presiding Judge: In what year was that, approximately?

Witness Cohn: The difficulties were in 1937 till 1938, the
beginning of 1938, but I do not remember exactly.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Do you remember the name "Paltreu?"
Can you explain its meaning?

A. ""Paltreu" was a Schwestergesellschaft, a sister company
of the Ha'avarah. There the money was paid in Reichsmark and
then they got the money at the Ha'avarah office in Tel Aviv.

Q. Were there any special restrictions affecting the ability
of the Jews of Germany to emigrate?

A. With regard to emigration to other countries - it was
very difficult. There were no relaxations. On the contrary,
there was greater restrictions.

Presiding Judge: What does that mean?

Witness Cohn: With regard to emigration to other countries,
other than Palestine, there were many difficulties. Any
emigration is like a serious surgical operation for middle
class persons getting on in years, and that surgery became
even more difficult.

Judge Raveh:   Made difficult - by whom?

Witness Cohn: Difficulties were caused by the German
authorities. They [the Jews] were not allowed any monies.
The Jewish institutions, the Reichsvertretung, the
Hilfsverein (Mutual Help Organization) asked that these
others also be allowed to take with them some money to
enable them to start, middle-aged as they were, or even old,
a new life in a strange country with a language strange to

Judge Raveh:   That means that the German authorities
allowed the transfer of money to Palestine only?

Witness Cohn: Yes, through the Transfer, and also through
the sale of German goods.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Did any special conditions attach to
emigration, to the liquidation of capital for any Jew who
wanted to leave Germany? What were those conditions? I am
speaking of fiscal conditions.

Witness Cohn: There were fiscal difficulties. First of all,
that he had to pay 25 percent of his capital as
"Reichsfluchtsteuer." (Reich Flight Tax). But, if I am not
mistaken, this tax had been introduced already before the
Nazi regime, at the time of Bruening, but I am not sure of
that - one of the Chancellors that preceded the Nazis.

Q. was it possible to liquidate property?

A. Yes, by means of blocked accounts (Sperrmark). The
accounts had a special exchange rate and the exchange rate
for these accounts decreased from year to year and the
return produced very little. In that respect those who
emigrated to other countries usually fared worse, than those
who went to Palestine.

Q. Mr. Cohn, we were speaking of Jews with Polish
citizenship being deported from Germany at the end of
October 1938. Could you please move on and come to November
1938. What do you remember?

A. In November, there was this historic day, the 7th of
November. The evening papers brought the news that the
Legationsrat (Counsellor at the Embassy) vom Rath had been
shot at the German Embassy in Paris by a young man. We were
very shocked. We expected very serious developments. We met
and held consultations - representatives of the
Reichsvertretung of the Zionist Organization - we had to
wait for developments.

Q. Did you learn the name of that young man?

A. That was published straight away, if I am not mistaken.
His name was Hershel Grynszpan. Earlier, that is a few days
before that, another Jewish young man by the name of David
Frankfurter who is now in Israel, had shot the Gauleiter in
Davos, Gauleiter Gustloff. Then he gave himself up to the
Swiss police and stated that he had done his deed in revenge
for the serious attacks on Jews and the defamation of the
Hebrew nation. He was in prison until 1944.

Q. What happened after 7 November 1938?

A. On the 9th of November, in the evening, we learned that
vom Rath had died of his wounds. That night was to be the
stormiest night of that whole period. It has been named
"Crystal Night" (Kristallnacht03) but the appellation does
not really give an idea of the terrible things that
happened. The crystal was the least important part of what
was shattered that night. At night shop windows of Jewish
stores were attacked. One could hear the noise. At six
o'clock in the morning I was called to the telephone. I was
told that a gang was at the Meinickestrasse, the seat of the
Palestine Office (Palaestin-Amt) and of the Zionist
Organization. I dressed and went there. By the time I got
there those people had already left. I found the premises in
shambles. My office had been smashed to pieces. Above my
desk I found a large sign which read: "Revenge for vom Rath"
(Rache fuer vom Rath). The same had been happening in other
places. The telephone wires had been cut. Later that morning
I went to the Reichsvertretung. That was in the Kantstrasse,
some five to ten minutes from the Meinickestrasse. A meeting
was already in progress. Two representatives went to the
Reichskanzlei (Reich Chancellery) in the Wilhelmstrasse to
report on the events of that night. They went to
Staatssekretaer (State Secretary) von Lammers, who was
formally the right hand of the Chancellor.

Q. Do you remember who those two representatives were?

A. One of them, if I am not mistaken, was Hirsch, the other
was Eppstein. The State Secretary did not agree to see them.
He had always assured us, and others had assured us, that
whatever might happen, peace and order would be guaranteed
the Jews: "Ruhe und Ordnung wird garantiert sein den Juden."
They were, however, unable to see the State Secretary and
had to come back. The Reichsvertretung office received
telephone calls from all over Germany, from the large towns,
telling of the night's events - it had not yet happened in
Berlin - telling of gangs breaking into dwellings, smashing
all they could lay their hands on, dragging off the men -
not the women - to the police station. They thought it was
to concentration camps.

Presiding Judge: Who thought that? The men who were

A. All the representatives of our offices, the Palestine
Office, the Jewish communities. I remember the conversation
we had with the Jewish community in Breslau, and with the
Jewish community in Frankfurt. It was the same picture in
all these cities: destruction, breaking into Jewish homes,
smashing all the household, dragging all the men to an
unknown destination. One could only guess where: to
concentration camps. In Berlin itself it started later, at
noontime. On 10 November at two o'clock, I had the first
news about a friend of mine having been detained. We got all
the information from his father.

Presiding Judge: Who was that?

Witness Cohn: Dr. Kurt Lewin. He is now an Israeli
Ambassador, in Tokyo, I believe. He has a different name
now. I decided not to wait for this fate to overtake me.
They would undoubtedly come for me too, to detain me. Our
motto had always been: The work has to go on. That was what
mattered. Inside a concentration camp one cannot go on with
the work. So I went to some house in the suburbs. And from
that house, together with many others, we carried on what
little activity could still be carried on. We were very
excited. One heard that for two days Jews had been also
arrested in the streets. The policemen were given a certain
number of people whom it was their task to round up
according to statistics. When they did not find these people
they just took somebody else instead, either a passer-by in
the street or else somebody from some other house, just in
order to fill the quota they had been given. It was said in
those days that the number of people detained by 20 November
had reached approximately 30,000 Jewish men.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Does that mean that people were
being arrested as you have been describing, from 10 to 20
November, and during all those ten days Jews were being

A. Yes. Upon his arrest each detainee was informed that if
he could prove that he would leave Germany he would be
released. That was the information.

Q. What did that cause in your offices?

A. That caused an unending scramble and a run on our
offices. They were closed. Kuchmann had come and closed down
the offices of the Meinickestrasse.

Q. When was that?

A. Some time after that. I was summoned to go there from my
hiding place and I signed the protocol.

Q. Were the offices of the Reichsvertretung also closed

A. Yes, all the Jewish offices were closed down and were
sealed.  All the rescue work had to be carried out in
secret, in private homes. That was the finest hour of the
women. The women were the ones who saved the lives of the
men or tried to save them. Not everybody escaped. It was the
coldest winter in Germany I remember. News was already
coming of deaths, with the ashes in urns that were sent, as
has been recounted here. The women stood in long queues
before the Legations and Consulates of foreign countries in
order to obtain visas for entry into other countries. But
one must once again state the well known fact described in
that famous book Der Planet ohne Visum (The Planet without a
Visa), that there were not many countries prepared to grant
a visa. We were in a desperate situation.

Q. And what would happen whenever one of these women
succeeded in obtaining a visa in some other way?

A. The information would be passed on to the police or to
the concentration camp and the man would be released and
given a date: Within two weeks you have to leave the
country, or else - he would again be summoned and threatened
with detention.

Q. Do you remember the names of the concentration camps to
which Jews were being taken during those ten days?

A. Unless I am mistaken they were Dachau, Buchenwald and

Q. Would you now please  once more take the Official
Gazette(Reichsgesetzblatt) for 1938, volume two, page 1579.
Can you see the "Verordnung ueber eine Suehneleistung der
Juden deutscher Staatsangehoerigkeit " (Decree about
Atonement to be made by Jews that are German Subjects),
dated 12 November 1938. Please read it out in German.

A. "Die feindliche Haltung des Judentums gegenueber dem
deutschen Volk und Reich, die auch vor feigen Mordtaten
nicht zurueckschreckt, erfordert entschiedene Abwehr und
harte Suehne." (The hostile attitude of Jewry to the German
Nation and State which does not shrink from cowardly
murderous deeds, calls for resolute defence and severe
atonement.) Signed Goering, Commissioner for the Four-Year-
Plan (Der Beauftragte des Vierjahreplans Goering.)

"Ich bestimme daher, auf Grund der Verordnung zur
Durchfuehrung des Vierjahresplans vom 18. Oktober 1936, das

#1) Den Juden deutscher Staatsangehoerigkeit in ihrer
Gesamtheit wird die Zahlung einer Kontribution von einer
Milliarde Reichsmark an das Deutsche Reich auferlegt.

#2) Die Durchfuehrungsverfuegungen erlaesst der
Reichsminister der Finanzen im Benehmen mit dem beteiligten
Reichsminister. Berlin, den 12. November 1938."

(On the basis of the Decree for the Implementation of the
Four-Year-Plan, dated 18 October 1936, I therefore determine
as follows:

#1) The payment of a tribute of RM 1,000,000,000 to the
German State is imposed on the Jews who are complete German

#2) Implementation ordinances are to be issued by the
Minister of Finance in coordination with the Reich Minister
concerned. Berlin, 12 November 1936."

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Thank you. May I submit this?

Presiding Judge: Exhibit T/75.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Now, could you please turn to page
1580. "Verordnung zur Ausschaltung der Juden aus dem
deutschen Wirtschaftsleben" (Decree for the Exclusion of the
Jews from German Economic Life), that too dated 12 November
1938. What does that mean?

Witness Cohn: Many years have passed, it is hard to

Q. Doesn't it mean a ban on Jews managing and participating
in any economic enterprise whatsoever. Is that correct?

A. Yes. Even more serious was the severe ban on keeping
retail shops. All the shops had to close down. There
remained no source of livelihood open to the Jews.

Q. You will find that in the first part of paragraph 1 of
this decree.

A. "Einzelhandelsverkaufstellen, Versandgeschaefte, Kontore,
sowie der selbstaendige Betrieb des Handwerks" (retail
shops, mail order houses, trading bureaus as well as the
independent exercise of crafts). Also the crafts. No branch
of economic activity was left open to Jews in Germany. They
were also forbidden to appear at fairs.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  May I submit this?

Presiding Judge: T/76.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Could you please turn to page 1638?

Witness Cohn: Page 1638?

Q. Yes please. There you will find the
"Durchfuehrungsverordnung ueber die Suehneleistung der
Juden" (Implementation of the Decree Regarding the Atonement
Payment by the Jews) dated 21 November 1938. Can you find

A. Yes.

Q. Could you tell the Court briefly how Goering's Decree for
the payment of the fine of one milliard marks was in fact

A. Yes. It is a rather long text, but I can say what was the
main provision: The tax was to be twenty per cent of the
capital and this sum was to be paid in four instalments of
five per cent each. Four instalments, making a total of
twenty percent, of the capital of each Jew.

Presiding Judge: Of what is called the liquid assets or of
all the assets?

A. Of the total assets. The total capital. There is a
definition here. It is very complex.

Q. Look also at paragraph 8, please. Could you read it out?

A. Of the same decree?

Q. Yes.

A. "Der Reichsminister der Finanzen trifft im
Verwaltungswege Bestimmungen darueber, inwieweit die
Finanzaemter in geeigneten Faellen Wertpapiere und
Grundbesitz in Zahlung nehmen koennen." (The Minister of
Finance will issue departmental instructions laying down to
what extent tax inspectors may in appropriate cases accept
securities and real estate as payment.)

State Attorney Bar-Or:  If it please the Court, may I submit

Presiding Judge: T/77.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Please, carry on Mr. Cohn.

Witness Cohn: I wanted to add something. On my way to the
offices of the Reichsvertretung on that morning of the 10th
of November 1938, I went past the synagogue in the
Fasanenstrasse and I saw, I could not believe my eyes, how
that building was going up in flames with the fire brigade
being there but not lifting a finger. Later we heard that
they had instructions to "operate our apparatus only for the
protection of neighbouring, Aryan buildings." I also saw how
Jews extricated, dragged, carried the Scrolls of the Law out
of that great synagogue, one of the largest in Berlin. And
the crowd stood around, civilians, cheering and jeering at
the sight. Within half an hour we heard that the other
synagogues were also going up in flames, the one in the
Prinzregentenstrasse, and the others, I don't remember the
names of all of the other synagogues that were burnt down.
And news reached us also from all over the country, from the
provinces, from towns and major cities, that almost all the
synagogues suffered the same fate. Later we learned that
some 280 synagogues had thus been burnt down, but I cannot
vouch for the figure.

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.