Soon after the order General Heydrich called me to his office in the Prinz Albrecht Strasse. He told me about Reichsführer Himmler's order that all emigration of Jews was to be prohibited - with no more exceptions. He assured me that neither I nor my men would have anything to do with the physical liquidation. We would act only as policemen; that is, we would round up the Jews for the others.
By this time the formula "Final Solution for the Jewish Question" had taken on a new meaning: liquidation. In this new sense we discussed it at a special conference on Jan. 10, 1942 in the Wannsee section of Berlin. It was I who had to bustle over to Heydrich with the portfolio of invitations on which he scribbled his "Heydrich", stroke for stroke. So we sent out the whole thing. A few people declined to participate, on grounds principally of other duties.
After the conference, as I recall, Heydrich, Müller and your humble servant sat cozily around the fireplace. I noticed for the first time that Heydrich was smoking. Not only that, but he had a cognac. Normally he touched nothing alcoholic. The only other time I had seen him drinking was at an office party years before. We all had drinks then. We sang songs. After a while we got up on the chairs and drank a toast, then on the table and then round and round - on the chairs and on the table again. Heydrich taught it to us. It was an old North German custom.
But we sat around peacefully after our Wannsee Conference, not just talking shop but giving ourselves a rest after so many taxing hours.
It is not true that Reichsführer Himmler set down in writing anything ordering the annihilation of the Jews. Do you think he sat down to write, "My dear Eichmann, the Führer has ordered the physical annihilation of the Jews"? The truth is that Himmler never put a line in writing on this subject. I know that he always gave his instructions orally to Lieut. General Oswald Pohl, in charge of the economic administration which ran the concentration camps. I never received any order of this sort.
I would like to stress again, however, that my department never gave a single annihilation order. We were responsible only for deportations. In every European country under our jurisdiction it was the job of the Jewish Adviser (the representative of my office) to work through local officials until he had attained our goal: a roundup of the Jews and their delivery to the transports. I had Captain Richter sitting in Bucharest, Captain Wisliceny in Pressburg [Bratislava], Dannecker in Paris, etc. All these Jewish Advisers enjoyed the greatest respect, for each of them was really the long arm of Himmler himself. Although I myself had a relatively low rank, I was the only department head in the Gestapo with my own representatives in foreign countries. If one of my specialists got in trouble with a local commander, I would then have my bureau chief, General Müller, give the necessary orders. Müller was more feared than Reichsführer Himmler.
I carefully set up my timetables for the transports with the Ministry of Transportation, and the trains were soon rolling. But through the years we met many difficulties. In France the French police helped only hesitantly. After its initial enthusiasm for the project, the Laval government itself became more and more cautious. Italy and Belgium were by and large failures. And in Holland the battle for the Jews was especially hard and bitter. The Dutch, for one thing, did not make the distinction between Dutchmen and Jews with Dutch citizenship. A person was either Dutch, they said, or he wasn't. Denmark posed the greatest difficulties of all. The King intervened for the Jews there, and most of them escaped.
Yet we managed after a struggle to get the deportations going. Trainloads of Jews were soon leaving from France and Holland. It was not for nothing that I made so many trips to Paris and The Hague. My interest here was only in the number of transport trains I had to provide. Whether they were bank directors or mental cases, the people who were loaded on these trains meant nothing to me. It was really none of my business.
In general, I found that there were fewer problems with local authorities the farther east you went - with the exception of the assimilated Jews in Hungary. The Romanian operations went off without friction. Captain Richter in Bucharest was a good man. Eager to strike against these parasites, the Romanians astonishingly enough liquidated thousands and thousands of their own Jews. Slovakian officials offered their Jews to us like someone throwing away sour beer. Tiso, the Catholic priest who ran the government there, was an anti-Semite.
Tiso's attitude contrasted with mine. I am no anti-Semite. I was just politically opposed to Jews because they were stealing the breath of life from us.
June 1, 1998