The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/05/30

Q. Now, Mr. Cohn, just before we come to the end and to your
last meeting with Eichmann, turn to the year 1939. Could you
please take the first volume of the Reichsgesetzblatt for
that year. Please turn to page 153, to the decree with the
heading "Erste Verordnung zur Durchfuehrung des Gesetzes
ueber die Rechtsverhaeltnisse der juedischen
Kulturvereinigungen' (First Decree for the implementation of
the law on the legal status of Jewish religious
associations) of 30 January 1939. What does this mean?

A. All Jews, also those who had left the Jewish community in
accordance with the previous law, were now once more members
of the Jewish religious associations, if I remember
correctly - I haven't seen this document for 23 years.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  May I submit this decree.

Presiding Judge: T/78.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Mr. Cohn, I am now showing you the
Ministerialblatt (Ministerial Gazette) for the year 1939.
Please, turn to page 266. You will find there a
Ministerialverfuegung (ministerial decree) concerning
"Einsatz juedischen Vermoegens" (mobilization of Jewish

A. Yes.

Q. Will you please look at the text, especially at the
headings of the different passages. Would I be right in
saying, Mr. Cohn, that these passages deal with the
appointment of trustees in the course of a process which you
may remember as "Arisierung " (Aryanization) and "Entjuding"
(de-Judaization). Would you like to explain to us what this
is about?

A. I had forgotten all about it but it is now coming back to
me. Through the elimination (Ausschaltung) of the Jews from
major firms, from major factories, great difficulties had
arisen. Economic circles had voiced protests, some of those
around Schacht too. So they issued this regulation: in order
to  avoid extensive damage to the German economy, trustees
were to be appointed in special cases whenever that was
required in the "public interest." In such cases trustees
were appointed to prevent serious upheavals to the German
economy as a result of the removal of very capable rich Jews
from enterprises.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  I am submitting this Ministerial

Presiding Judge: T/79

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Finally, two directives that appear
in the  Reichsgesetzblatt for 1939. One of them on page 282
"Dritte Verordnung auf Grund der Verordnung ueber die
Anmeldung des Vermoegens von Juden," (Third Decree under the
Decree on Declaring the Property of Jews) dated 21 February
1939 signed by Goering as Commissioner for the Four-Year-
Plan. Is it correct, Mr. Cohn, that this third directive
makes it obligatory - and that is actually its meaning - for
the Jews to hand over to the State all their gold, silver
and precious stones and other valuables?

Witness Cohn: Yes. Within a fortnight.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Thank you, I will submit this.

Presiding Judge: T/80.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Finally, could you turn to page
1097. You will find there the Tenth Decree to implement the
German state citizenship law ("Zehnte Verordnung zum
Reichsbuergergesetz") dated 4 July 1939. In article one you
find instructions on what is here called "Reichsvereinigung
der Juden" (Reich Association of the Jews in Germany). Could
you perhaps explain to the Court what was the difference
between Reichsvertretung you have previously spoken of, and
the Reichsvereinigung mentioned here?

A. The Reichsvertretung was a voluntary organization of Jews
although it was under the control of the authorities, as was
everything in a totalitarian state. In July 1939, however,
it was decided to centralize and, first of all, to change
the name Reichsvertretung to Reichsvereinigung to avoid any
possible misunderstanding about it being a body representing
the "Reich" and to bestow upon it legal status empowering it
to concentrate in its hands most activities such as Jewish
schools, welfare matters, and the like: to serve as official
custodian for the Jews who still remained in Germany.

Q. May I ask you, Mr. Cohn, to read the fourth Section of
the tenth directive?

A. "Die Reichsvereinigung steht unter der Aufsicht des
Reichsministers des Inneren. Ihre Satzung bedarf seiner
Genehmigung." (The Reich Association is subject to the
control of the Reich Minister for the Interior. Its statutes
require his consent).

Witness Cohn: A few weeks later the Jewish offices were re-

Presiding Judge: A few weeks after what?

A. A few weeks after the 10 of November, after the pogrom of
the 10th of November, centres were opened. Not political
organizations, not the Zionist Organization which remained
banned, not the Zentralverein. Only welfare institutions,
administrative bodies of the Jews of Germany. The Palaestina
Amt  for instance, was opened, but the Zionist Organization
remained closed. On entering that office after some time, my
first aim was to place a telephone call to Jerusalem. I put
a call through to Mr. Moshe Shertok, Head of the Political
Department of the Jewish Agency, as he then was, and I told
him - I had to conduct this conversation with great caution,
after it was obvious that "Der Feind hoert mit" (the enemy
is listening). I said only a few words. I remember because I
had written them down beforehand in order to have a record.
"Mr. Shertok, S.O.S; Save our Souls; 40,000 men are in
concentration camps; send us certificates. Pikuakh Nefesh. I
stressed the phrase Pikuakh Nefesh several times.

Presiding Judge: You used the Hebrew term "Pikuakh Nefesh"
(Danger to human life) implying urgency, a term of Jewish
law implying urgency which overrides most legal
Witness Cohn: I said it in Hebrew. Dr. Georg Landauer, the
Head of the German Department of the Jewish Agency, also
came to the telephone. I repeated it all. They both assured
me that they would do their utmost to obtain "certificates"
(authorizations for entry into Palestine). To our great
sorrow, this produced only a very small result. Nevertheless
we succeeded in getting a sizable number of Jews to
Palestine. That was thanks to a man who is to my mind to be
counted among the Righteous Gentiles.

Presiding Judge: Who was that man?

A. Captain Foley. The British Passport Control Officer.

Q. Where did he work?

A. In the Tiergartenstrasse, in the British Consulate in
Berlin. He did all he could to enable Jews to immigrate to
Palestine. He helped a lot, people of all the categories
("A" certificates were for "capitalists" who had 1,000 Pound
Sterling, "C" were the "Labour Schedule," "D" were students,
etc.) One may say that he saved thousands of Jews from

Q. Would you now like to move on to your second meeting with

A. Certainly. With regard to that meeting I can refer to
notes dictated by me before Eichmann was caught. That was in
Dr. Ball's circle and is not to be found in the archives. We
refreshed each other's memory and reconstructed past events.
That was in July 1958. People pass away and all that a man
had in his head is lost forever.

Q. Who arranged for that?

A. An official of Yad Vashem (the National Institute for the
Commemoration of the Holocaust and Heroism) by the name of
Dr. Ball.

Q. You said July. July of which year?

A. July 1958.

Presiding Judge: That was when he reconstructed the details
of the meeting.

Witness Cohn: This is the statement as it was handed to Yad
Vashem - no, it was April, the second of April 1958.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Do you remember it all?

Witness Cohn: I will do my best.

udge Halevi  He wishes to stress that his notes had not been
written for the purpose of this trial.

Witness Cohn: It was very shortly before I left Germany. At
the end of March 1939 I left Germany, I immigrated to
Palestine. I received a telephone call stating that the
Gestapo was calling the representatives of the Jewish
institutions to a meeting in the Prinz Albrecht Strasse.

Q. What was the Prinz Albrecht Strasse?

A. That was the central office of the Geheime Staats-Polizei
(Gestapo - secret state police) for the whole of Germany. I
went there with some misgivings as I already had my
immigration papers in my pocket. I went there. I went there
alone as the representative of the Palaestina-Amt. In those
days I was also the director of the Palaestina-Amt after the
November upheavals. Others at the meeting were - Heinrich
Stahl, the Chairman of the Jewish Community in Berlin, Dr.
Lilienfeld, Head of the Financial Department of the
Reichsvertretung, Dr. Kotzover, the lawyer, one of the
representatives of the Jewish community and Dr. Eppstein who
was at that time Head of the Emigration Department of the
Reichsvertretung. We had been summoned for a rather late
hour in the afternoon, for six o'clock. I can still remember
the room on one of the upper floors of the building. We went
in, there was a rope and beyond that rope there sat or stood

Q. How was he dressed?

A. In civilian clothes. Next to him, behind a desk, there
sat a man in uniform.

Presiding Judge: Please, do sit down, Mr. Cohn.

Witness Cohn: Thank you. [Sits down] In uniform. He was of
high rank, an Untergruppenfuehrer or a Gruppen-fuehrer, one
of the senior officers of the SS. He took no part in this
conversation. He kept silent all the time and did not open
his mouth in our presence. The meeting began very angrily.

Presiding Judge: Were you standing or seated?

A. No, we were seated. At that time we were still seated.
Eichmann began. He had papers in front of him. A French
emigrant's newspaper, the Pariser Tageblatt, if I am not
mistaken. It was a newspaper which we had not seen before in
Germany, as it was banned. He was very upset that we had
published something about him in that paper - he read out to
us excerpts from this paper...that he was "der Bluthund
Eichmann" (bloodhound Eichmann) - I am using the language
used at that time - "Der Bluthund Eichmann,"
blutunterlaufene Augen" (blood-shot eyes) "ein neuer Feind,"
"Judenfeind" (a new enemy, an enemy of the Jews). I don't
remember all the expressions, but they were all very
trenchant. He accused us that one of us had supplied this
false and misleading information about him. And then he said
that Dr. Landau, the director of the J.T.A. (the Jewish
Telegraphic Agency) whom I knew very well, had been in
Berlin for a few days and that it was undoubtedly to him
that we had supplied the information. Who had given this out
for publication - that was his first question. He was very
tense, shouting at us and threatening us with all the
measures he was able to take. None of us admitted to having
supplied the information. That was obvious. Anything else
would have been suicidal. That was the first point. Then he
went on to the second point of the meeting. He put a
question to us with regard to our visit to Vienna. I must
mention here what other witnesses are going to relate that
Eichmann had invited representatives of German Jewish
institutions to Vienna to become acquainted there with the
institution called "Zentralstelle fuer juedische
Auswanderung" (Central Office for Jewish Emigration).

Q. When had that invitation been extended?

A. I was ill at that time.

Q. When approximately?

A. In winter. In December 1938 or in January or February
1939. I did not take part in that. I was laid up in bed.
Others took part. He turned to the others, such as Dr.

Q. Who had been in Vienna?

A. Who had been in Vienna. The others all had been in
Vienna. He shouted at them and turned to them beratingly:
"Why did you act against my explicit instructions forbidding
you to get in touch with the Jews, with the Jewish leaders
in Vienna. That had been strictly forbidden and yet you did
it!" He resorted to rude language, barrack room language
("Kasernenstil"), quite a different style from what we were
used to. He attacked us and accused us of breaching the ban
on any contact with the representatives of the Jews of
Vienna. Whereupon somebody got up, I believe it was Stahl or
Dr. Eppstein. They stood up and said:"If after all that has
happened we were visiting Vienna, we are entitled - and it
is only human - to get in touch with our friends in distress
there in order to comfort them. This fate has overcome them
only recently, whereas we have for some time now been living
under this rule. It is only human and natural for us to get
in touch with them, and you must understand this." It was
Stahl or Eppstein who said this, I don't remember exactly.
Eichmann wound up with the following words, more or less:
"If such a thing occurs once more, you will go to a Konzert-
Lager!" (concert camp) that was a vulgar term for
Konzentrationslager (concentration camp).

Q. Do you remember his using the term Konzert-Lager?

A. Oh yes, not only once but several times. Heinrich Stahl,
as it were, began to attack him.  He got up and said: "We
are all very keen, as indeed is the Gestapo, on emigration,
on a mass-exodus from Germany. But you are going to spoil
matters by your deportations across the borders. During the
last few weeks deportations of Jews have begun to
neighbouring countries, Denmark, Holland, Belgium - I don't
know whether to France, too - and other North and West
European countries. These transports were sent back, in
part. Some of those deported had managed to remain in the
other country, and to hide. Some had been returned to
Germany. Many remained in no-man's-land. And others were put
into German prisons or camps. That was a bitter fate. And
what was the result of it all? That these countries which
had not been very generous in granting visas, had now
stopped doing so and had restricted immigration.

Q. And was it to this situation that Dr. Stahl was
addressing himself when he spoke to Eichmann?

A. Yes. To all this Eichmann replied very rudely and used
foul language. I am ashamed to utter such awful words. But
then, awful things have happened since then. I could in

Q. You don't have to put it in Hebrew. Actually, if you can
still recollect the very words Eichmann used, please quote
him in his own words.

A. There was just one expression that I remember. I have not
heard it again since. I learned this expression from
Eichmann's vocabulary. He said: "Sie elender Geselle, Sie
alter Scheissack" (you miserable rascal, you old shit-bag).
And again:"It seems it is a long time since you have been to
a camp. What do you think you are doing? How dare you
complain?" He was offended that Stahl had dared criticize
the  emigration policy; who was responsible for those
deportations. I have no knowledge of that.
After what had happened at the meeting, Eppstein got up and
made a short speech. He said: The people sitting here in
front of you are honorary officers, voluntary communal
workers, for the Jewish institutions in Germany. They have
been all elected. The Jews of Germany have put their trust
in them. The Jewish people find themselves in a very tragic
and miserable situation. Make allowances for this. We are
accountable to the Jews who have elected us. In such a style
one cannot converse. You can - and I remember this
distinctly - you can send us to a camp, you can put us in
prison, we are at your mercy. But we are asking you that as
long as we are still free, you should talk to us as to free
men. Otherwise we are unable to act as free representatives
of the public bodies that have entrusted us with this
ungrateful task.

Q. Did Eichmann reply to this?

A. Eichmann shouted again, and consulted in whispers with
the senior SS officer. When he came back from his whispered
consultation he said :"Heraustreten. Wir unterbrechen die
Sitzung" (Dismissed! The meeting is suspended) So we went
out. We thought he might decide to have us taken to prison
or to a camp. I remember...

Q. How long did you wait outside?

A. About half an hour. We destroyed all the papers. I had
after all been a prisoner already before that, so I had had
my experience, and I knew that any paper could be one's

Presiding Judge: I didn't understand what you said about
destroying papers.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  During that half hour you say you
destroyed all the papers, because you had had your
experience. What do you mean when you say that?

Witness Cohn: We destroyed the papers, because when you are
detained they first of all go through all your pockets, and
if they find any papers they might incriminate you. I
remember from my own period of detention, all the trouble I
was in, when some papers were found that I was unable to
decipher or to explain. It became part of the professional
secrets of a Jewish leader in Germany that you had first of
all to destroy all your papers.

Q. And that was what you did during that half hour when you
were kept waiting?

A. Yes. Then after that half hour and a few more minutes, we
went back into that room, and Eichmann did not at all return
to the subject. Not to the subject of Vienna, nor to the
subject that had been raised by the criticism voiced by the
late Heinrich Stahl. Eventually he died in Theresienstadt.

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