The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Sessions 6-7-8
(Part 4 of 10)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
The Accused

Now for a few personal details concerning the Accused. He was born on 19 March 1906, in Solingen, and as a child moved with his parents to Linz, Austria. After graduating from primary school, he studied in a secondary school and a technical college. As early as 1927, we find him marching in the ranks of the German-Austrian Front Fighters, and in 1932 he became a member of the Nazi Party and the SS. He was introduced into the Party by his boyhood friend, later his chief, the bloodstained Ernst Kaltenbrunner, whom the International Military Tribunal later stigmatized as the effective supervisor and commander over all the criminal activities of the RSHA. Of course, Eichmann joined the SS and remained in the organization of his own free will.

Like his master, Hitler, he left Austria and settled in the Reich. Hitler did so in order to evade military service in the Austrian army; Eichmann because he was attracted by the rising power of National Socialism in Germany. In 1933 we find him receiving his military training in the SS camp at Lachfeld, and later at Passau. In 1934 we meet him, with the rank of Unterscharfuehrer, in the concentration camp at Dachau, which served as a school for all promising SS men. The first commander of this camp, Theodor Eicke, laid down at the outset this principle:

"Tolerance means weakness. Knowing this, one must act without mercy when the interests of the homeland appear to demand it. As for political agitators and intellectuals, of whatever complexion, they must be told: Beware...or you will be grabbed by the throats and...silenced."
Dachau was the refining crucible, the school of violence and horrors, through which future Nazi leaders had to pass; it was there that they were taught the doctrine of hate, were compelled to beat prisoners and put them to death.

Armed with this experience, Adolf Eichmann went over in September 1934 to serve in the SD, already now a Scharfuehrer. A year later, we find him in the Jewish Section of the SD, which worked in close cooperation with the Jewish Section of the Secret State Police, the Gestapo. During the early years of his work there, he met a number of those who were later to be among his faithful assistants: Wisliceny, Dannecker, the brothers Guenther and Alois Brunner.

Eichmann's main employment at this stage was in the field of intelligence. He was sent to the Near East, and presented a detailed report of his trip, while Wisliceny was sent to the 20th Zionist Congress to follow its debates.

Eichmann continued to rise in the ranks of the SD, and was commissioned in 1937. During this period we shall meet him in the company of his second sponsor, the infamous Julius Streicher who was branded by the International Military Tribunal, the voice of the world's conscience, as an inciter and instigator of murder and extermination.

Streicher and his subordinates befriended Eichmann and brought him to the congress of the National Socialist Party in Nuremberg in 1937. There he met all those from abroad who were anxious for Nazi victory, and there he made contact with the leaders of the anti-Semitic agitation.

With the conquest of Austria in March 1938, Eichmann was sent back to the country of his childhood. By this time he was already known as an expert with practical experience in Jewish affairs. Vienna was his training-ground for independent work, where he first began to assume responsibility as an organizer. At that time Nazi policy concentrated on compelling Jews to emigrate, and Eichmann devoted himself to furthering this policy with great zeal, so that after a short while his work was brought to the notice of the Ministers of the Reich as the model to follow in the liquidation of the Jews. In Vienna the process was organized on the assembly-line principle: a man came into the office still a citizen, with a status in society, a job, a home and property.

After being thoroughly processed, he came out an emigrant, his property gone - in part confiscated and in part invested by government order in frozen currency of little value - his apartment registered for confiscation, no longer employed, his children no longer pupils in school, the only thing in his posSession a travel certificate marked Jude , which granted him permission to leave Austria by a certain date, never to return.

The pressure for Jewish emigration continued by all possible means. Foreign and stateless Jews were ordered to leave the country within twenty-four hours. Jews from the provinces were brought to Vienna destitute and the Jews of the capital were ordered to house and look after them until their emigration. Those who refused were arrested. In the meantime, Jewish hospitals, schools and convalescent homes were taken over.

It is no wonder, then, that the representatives of Berlin Jewry, who were ordered to come to Vienna to witness Eichmann's remarkable achievements and learn their lesson, stood awestricken at this "mass-production emigration."

Early in 1939, Eichmann's system of Jewish expulsion by emigration was copied by the office of the central German authority for Jewish emigration set up in Berlin, as well as by a similar office created in Prague after the German invasion.

As I have already mentioned, in September 1939 Himmler unified the national Security Police (SIPO - Sicherheitspolizei) and the Party intelligence service (SD). It was around this time that the Accused returned to Berlin and was appointed chief of the central authority for Jewish emigration - a post officially occupied by Heydrich, though the Accused had already been doing the actual work previously.

We shall bring evidence of Eichmann's methods of work in Vienna and in Prague; we shall show how he treated and spoke with Jews in the best tradition of Nazi duplicity. There was oppression, terror and intimidation - and at the same time the deliberate cultivation of the impression that "perhaps the Devil is not so bad, after all" - that perhaps it might be possible somehow to come to terms with him, to conduct negotiations, and even at times to detect in his voice a note of politeness. On the one hand, a slap in the face for Dr. Loewenherz, one of the leaders of the Vienna Jewish community, at their first meeting; arrogant invective for Stahl, head of the Berlin community in 1939 in the style of: "You wretch, you sack of dung - it's a long time since you were in a concentration camp!"; for Sebestyen, venerable leader of Bratislavan Jewry, who had dared to offer him a cigarette, a yell: Weg mit dem Zeug! - "Take the thing away!" All this, side by side with the hypocritical pretence that he was interested in Jewish problems and would give a favourable response to certain requests, usually concerning trivial matters.

Some Jewish leaders still thought it necessary to make some attempt at negotiating with him, and indeed, there was no other way, for he had become the master of life and death for the Jews. When the road was still long to the furnaces of Auschwitz and the brutal suppression of Hungarian Jewry, we find this Adolf Eichmann daring to use to Baron Freudiger, a man of rare distinction and leader of Budapest Jewry, who had come to plead for Jewish lives, the insulting expression: "Ich werde mit Ihnen Schlitten fahren." [Literally: "I'll ride on you like a sledge," or - figuratively: "I'll have you on the carpet."] Eichmann was well on the way to his goal. He was in fact the lord and master of the Jews, who gave them orders and determined their destiny as will be clear from all the reports of the Jewish communities in Vienna and Prague that will be presented to the Court. Meanwhile, his success in persecuting the Jews had brought him promotion and greater authority.

At the end of 1939 we meet Eichmann in Berlin. Now he summons the representatives of the Vienna community, to report to him on the progress of Jewish emigration and receive other instructions concerning the community's affairs. Henceforth, he notifies them, he will be dividing his time between Berlin, Vienna, Prague and occupied Poland. At the same time, thanks to his experience in uprooting populations, he is given the additional responsibility of putting into execution the enormous expulsion of the Jewish and Polish population from the western zones of Poland annexed to the Reich - including the districts of Warthegau, Upper Silesia and the Polish corridor with the city of Danzig. He is already chief of a section in the RSHA - namely IVD4. At that time, he is also occupied with the tragic expulsion of the Jews to the region of Nisko. In 1940 he continued to deal with the same matters.

In March 1941, we meet Eichmann as head of Section IVB4 of the Gestapo, concerned with Jewish affairs and the expulsion of populations. This was the office he continued to hold until the tragic end of European Jewry. But he was also Heydrich's special plenipotentiary for the final "solution of the Jewish question." As a consequence of this combination of functions, to which we shall return, Eichmann was the official executor of the extermination programme, with enormous authority in the Reich, which now included Austria and the Protectorate, and all the occupied countries. In the Reich itself, he did his work by means of the local police headquarters - Stapoleitstellen and Stapostellen - in each of which there was an officer for Jewish affairs taking his orders direct from Eichmann.

In the occupied countries - France, Norway, Belgium, Italy, Holland and Luxembourg- he had special envoys under his orders attached to police headquarters who had the authority to deal with Jewish matters. In the satellite countries such as Rumania, Bulgaria and Slovakia, he worked through special representatives attached to the German legations who procured the deportation of Jews with the aid of the local authorities, usually misleading them as to the destination of the convoys.

In Serbia, Eichmann used special envoys; in Croatia, through his representatives in the German embassy; to occupied Greece and Denmark he sent special units for the deportation of Jews to the extermination centres. In the area of the Generalgouvernement of Poland his tools were officers of the Security Police; and in the eastern occupied territories he also used the Einsatzgruppen.

Eichmann himself, in person, as the specialist in extermination, was sent to Hungary, where he appeared leading a band of confederates, intent on completing their mission of butchery in the shortest time possible.

In short, he reached out to every corner to carry out "the final solution," using the methods he found most effective, convenient and suitable to local conditions. With the satellite and occupied authorities, he would sometimes use persuasion, sometimes threats, but always pressure, and always with one goal in mind: to get hold of the Jews and to send them to the camps in the East.

He lorded it over the ghettoes and extermination centres; his position in the RSHA was unique. He could pass over the heads of his superiors and deal directly with Himmler. His nominally humble status as the chief of a subordinate department did not reflect his powerful position. Through his concern with Jewish matters, he was granted comprehensive and potent authority which brought him into contact with Ministers of the Reich and heads of the governments of the occupied territories, with the higher commanders of the German Army and the top men of the Foreign Ministry. In all that pertained to Jewish affairs he operated with all the power and authority of Himmler and Heydrich behind him. We shall present documents proving that in Jewish matters, the RSHA, the Central Security Office of the German Reich, was in fact Adolf Eichmann.

It need not surprise us, therefore, that on Jewish matters he gave orders to men of higher rank than his own. As early as 1940 he took part in a meeting to which the Minister Seyss-Inquart was also invited. His authority and power steadily increased, despite his inconspicuous nominal rank, as his assistant Wisliceny bore witness:

"Goering's order laid it down that the authority in Jewish matters passed to the chiefs of the RSHA and the SD and as a result Eichmann's power increased immeasurably. On the basis of that order, which as I recall was issued in the summer of 1941, he could annul or overrule measures taken by all the ministries and institutions of the government."

We shall see him preparing and organizing the well-known Wannsee conference, and being appointed to carry out its decision on the "final solution"; we shall find him acting in Himmler's name and giving instructions concerning executions in the concentration camps. Where Jews were concerned, Eichmann even gave orders to the German Army.

His powers grew and were solidly entrenched after the death of Heydrich; for half a year, until the appointment of Kaltenbrunner, the RSHA had no commander-in-chief, and during this period the power of department heads increased. And when the new chief turned out to be Kaltenbrunner, his boyhood friend, Eichmann came to enjoy a privileged position of great power.

When I develop further the history of the Holocaust, I shall present to the Court more details of the part Eichmann played in the work of extermination. At present, I shall only mention that in October 1941 the head of the personnel section of the SS recommended that he be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel (Obersturmbannfuehrer) in these words:

"I am proposing this promotion on the ground of the exceptionally fine services rendered by Eichmann, who has already achieved excellent results in the dejudaization of Austria, in his capacity as head of the central authority for Jewish emigration. Through Eichmann's work, enormous properties were secured for the German Reich. His work in the Protectorate, which was carried out with commendable initiative and the necessary firmness, was likewise distinguished. It should be added that Eichmann is an exemplary SS officer who was active for many years in Austria for the benefit of the National Socialist movement, losing his post there because of his political activities. At this time, Eichmann is working on important problems of the evacuation and transfer of populations. In view of the importance of his work, I also regard Eichmann's promotion as desirable in the interest of the service."
It need hardly be added that this recommendation was accepted and Eichmann became an Obersturmbannfuehrer. He received for his work a number of medals for distinguished service in the SS. In December 1944 he became head of Section IVA4, which dealt with the Jews and with political problems relating to the Christian churches.

Adolf Eichmann will tell you that he carried out the orders of his superiors. But the conscience of the world, speaking with the voice of the International Military Tribunal, has declared that orders contrary to the principles of conscience and morality, orders that violate the essential imperatives on which human society is based and negate the basic rules without which men cannot live together - such orders constitute no defence, legal or moral. Therefore, in the light of this ruling, our own law in Israel has denied the Accused the right to submit such a defence.

But that is by no means all. We shall prove to the Court that he went far beyond his actual orders, that he took the initiative in extermination operations for which he had been given no orders whatsoever, and carried them out only because of his devotion to his task in which he saw his life's mission. When, in the summer of 1944, Horthy in Hungary did not want to cooperate with the exterminators, Eichmann managed by stealth to push through another death-train from Kistarcsa to Auschwitz. He even used the cunning stratagem of convening a meeting of the leaders of Budapest Jewry at his headquarters so that they should be unable, at the last moment, to plead with Horthy for the frustration of Eichmann's designs.

And when Himmler issued a final order to discontinue the extermination in October 1944, Eichmann still managed to organize the transportation of the Jews, on foot, from Hungary to Austria, by methods that made it certain that the journey would be a death-march. Later, he planned to poison the survivors in Theresienstadt, and sought to kill Jews wherever he could lay his hands on them.

His independent initiative, his burning devotion to the utter destruction of Jewry, also shown by his ardour in frustrating every attempt at escape or flight by any individual Jew, when even his own authorities were prepared to allow these unfortunates to break trough the man-hunt network - and we shall present evidence of such instances by the score. He did not rest or relax his efforts until he had driven into the gas chamber every Jewish group and individual - including such as, in full obedience to his orders, he might have allowed to survive.

After the War, a number of people who collaborated with Eichmann were to provide general descriptions of the man and his work. Two of these had already been sentenced to death when they wrote: Dieter Wisliceny, in prison in Bratislava, who had been Eichmann's superior and later became his subordinate and loyal assistant; and Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz who wrote his diary in Cracow Prison on the eve of his execution. Each wrote with complete independence of the other. Both were criminals. Both might have erred in details, but it would seem that their words provide a true picture of the man. This is what Hoess wrote:

"Eichmann was absolutely devoted to his mission, and was certain that the extermination was necessary in order to save the German people in the future from the destructive intentions of the Jews. That was how he understood his mission and he devoted all his energies to carry out the extermination plans of the Reichsfuehrer. Eichmann was sharply opposed to every suggestion to sift out the Jews capable of work from those deported. He regarded this as a constant danger to his plans for the 'final solution,' in view of the possibility of mass-escapes or some other event that might permit the Jews to remain alive."
Wisliceny gave a detailed description of Eichmann's career, his intimate affairs, his methods of dealing with superiors and subordinates. Among other things he wrote:
"In 1942, he was opposed to any relaxation, even the very slightest. He endeavoured to get Himmler's consent, but at the same time he went to great pains to carry out the deportations in such a way as to frustrate every possibility of settlement."
And in another statement, also in the death-cell of the Bratislava Prison, Wisliceny wrote:
"On the basis of my personal experience, I reaffirm that, though Eichmann was covered by orders from Hitler and Himmler, his personal share in this act, the decimation of European Jewry, was decisive, and he must be regarded as fully responsible for it, as there were other possible ways of circumventing Hitler's order."
Another man, Kurt Becher, who had been appointed by Himmler to carry out the attempt at extortion from Hungarian Jewry in the well-known "Blood Against Merchandise" deal, and who worked a long while in personal contact with Eichmann, summed up his role in the extermination as follows:
"Eichmann was not the spiritual father of the programme, but he was its zealous executor."
Eichmann engaged in the work of slaughter not in apathy but with a clear mind, was fully conscious and aware of what he was doing, and believing that it was the right and proper thing to do; that was why he acted with all his heart and soul. We shall prove that even after the downfall of the Nazi monster, when the entire world had expressed its shock and horror at what had happened, when a number of the Nazi leaders themselves had begun, in panic-stricken haste and ostensible penitence, to expose and accuse one another - even then he, Adolf Eichmann, remained faithful to his ideas and principles. He did not repent. He still believes that he did what was right and proper in destroying millions.

He knows that today it is regarded as a crime, and he will therefore be ready to give verbal and insincere expression to this view; at times he may even clothe it with a mantle of grandiloquent phrases. But we have every reason to believe, that if the swastika flag were again to be raised with shouts of "Sieg Heil!," if there were again to resound the hysterical screams of a Fuerer, if again the high- tension barbed wires of extermination centres were set up - Adolf Eichmann would rise, salute, and go back to his work of oppression and butchery.

And now let us examine in detail the murderous project to which the Nazis gave the name of "the final solution of the Jewish problem."

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