As Christmas approached, I has nothing more to do in Hungary but no orders to withdraw. I was having a drink with Zehender on day when he told me that many of his officers had been killed and a whole company had gone over to the Russians.
"Give me a squadron," I told my friend, "and I'll stay here through New Years' Day." Then, in the presence of my aide, Zehender telephoned Kaltenbrunner, who had replaced Heydrich as Himmler's deputy. I put my head close to his ear to hear what my chief said, but Zehender broke the news: "Kaltenbrunner tells me it's impossible. You are too valuable. Himmler would have his head." And so my last attempt to see some action was reduced to absurdity.
One or two days before Christmas Eve, 1944, all the German police units were ordered to withdraw, except for one Gestapo group which stayed behind as a gesture to the Hungarians. They were all killed. So was my comrade Zehender, shot as he fought off the enemy with his machine pistol. I left Budapest at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the last member of the German police to leave the city. As my Mercedes raced westward, the road was already under Russian artillery fire. A great flood of refugees streaming toward Vienna had choked the highway for days, but now it was suddenly empty. It was as though the road had died.
I made my last report to Himmler less than a month before the final surrender of Germany. The Reichsführer had been for some time negotiating with Count Bernadotte about the Jews. He wanted to make sure that at least 100 of the most prominent Jews we could lay our hands on would be held in a safe place. Thus he hoped to strengthen our hand, for almost to the end Himmler was optimistic about making separate peace terms. "We'll get a treaty," he said to me, slapping his thigh. "We'll lose a few feathers , but it will be a good one." It was then mid-April 1945.
Himmler went on to say that he had made some mistakes. "I'll tell you one thing, Eichmann," he said, "if I have to do it over again, I will set up the concentration camps the way the British do. I made a big mistake there." I didn't know exactly what he meant by that, but he said it in such a pleasant, soft way that I understood him to mean the concentration camps should have been more elegant, more artful, more polite.
During those last days I called my men into my Berlin office in the Kurfürsten Strasse and formally took leave of them. "If it has to be," I told them, "I will gladly jump into my grave in the knowledge that five million enemies of the Reich have already died like animals." ("Enemies of the Reich," I said, not "Jews.") I spoke these words harshly and with emphasis. In fact, it gave me an extraordinary sense of elation to think I was exiting from the stage in this way.
My immediate superior, General Müller, had just said to me: "If we had had 50 Eichmanns, then we would have won the war." This made me proud even though, ironically, he spoke on the same day that I learned all was finally lost. By that time my department was one of the few offices which was not burned out from the bombing. I had set my subordinates like bloodhounds on the trail of every incendiary bomb. I helped them myself. So the office was in good condition. Later the whole Gestapo head office moved in and squeezed me out.
Each one of the Gestapo officials was now out to select a civilian firm for which he could say he had worked during the last few years. He could receive employment certificates, "instructions" or correspondence from the company, in a word, anything that would permit him to hide his real job from postwar investigators. There were hundreds of civilian letterheads on file in that office, and if a particular one was not available, we could always have it printed.
You could see how closely they crowded around the official in charge, who made detailed notes on how each man wanted his faked papers to read. The press was so thick that Müller and I had a large space in the back of the room where I used to play music with my subordinates. (I had played second violin: my sergeant played first violin - he was a far better musician than I.) "Well, Eichmann," Müller said, "what's the matter with you?" Since my return from Hungary I had carried a Steyr army pistol. I said to Müller, indicating the gun: " Gruppenführer, I don't need these papers. Look here, this is my certificate. When I see no other way out, it is my last medicine. I have no need for anything else."
This is the truth: of all the Gestapo department heads in Berlin, I was the only one who spat on these false certificates. Müller must have known I was a regular guy.
July 6, 1998