The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 11
(Part 3 of 4)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Attorney General: I request page 1317 be played back, commencing with Less' question.
L. Yes, now I show you a photocopy of three pages, marked with my number 4 and 19-44 a, b, and c. Would you please read the document through. I will stop for a moment to enable you to read it through.

E. Yes, surely. This deals with...with Veesemeyer's cable to the Foreign Ministry and it refers here to a particular Jewish group of people...a certain number of Jewish people from Switzerland, or on their way to Palestine through the mediation of Switzerland.

Veesemeyer even quotes me and according to this, here, he asked me, apparently in Budapest, and in response to this I gave him a reply...that I far as I was aware, the Reichsfuehrer SS did not agree under any circumstances to the emigration of the Hungarian Jews to Palestine. The date, yes definitely, was July - July 1944. "With regard to the Jews who were being considered, the persons in question were, without exception, material which was of value from a biological point of view, very many veteran Zionists whose immigration to Palestine was most undesirable...immigration to Palestine highly undesireable - with regard to the Fuehrer's decision which was passed on to him, he intended to report to the Reichsfuehrer-SS and to request a new decision by the Fuehrer as far as it was necessary.

On this I wish to comment: This was July 1944, namely the period when transports were on their way to Palestine, and in exchange for...let us say in exchange for economic assets of which Becher gained possession. But today I no longer recall whether this entire matter...but possibly here Becher can be asked and can answer, since the authority was then in the hands of Becher to decide on behalf of the Reichsfuehrer SS and the Chief of the German Police, how he...and what assets he estimated to be important and how this was declared and formulated there with regard to the Hungarian authorities.

I am no longer familiar with this, but as far as I know, Becher is now at liberty in West Germany. It seems to me that at that time, after 1945, he stood trial and was acquitted so that he certainly would be capable of giving a reply on this point. I can no longer recollect - I, in fact, read over here that I actually changed my mind and backed down and demanded a decision from higher up - I myself was certainly at a loss here (sicherlich habe ich mich selbst nicht ausgekannt) - for otherwise Veesemeyer would not have referred several times to these demands of mine, a decision on the part of the higher amd highest authorities ...He writes..."Inter alia it was agreed with me that, to the extent that consent would be given to the evacuation of additional Jews from Budapest, an attempt should be made to implement it, as far as was possible, suddenly and so speedily that the Jews who were being considered for emigration should be deported...should already have been deported before the conclusion of the formal arrangements." Again this shows plainly and clearly that it was not only the Security Police alone, who in this matter had their own instructions from their commanders, but that other authorities, too, urged the speediest possible conclusion of the matter.

Moreover, I had already said once, Captain, that in Hungary these authorities did not have any need, even Veesemeyer, did not have the need, in any way...let us say in any way, to refer to the speed, as the tempo was laid down by State Secretary Endre, with his Hungarian gendarmerie, and this tempo was rapid to such an extent, that Auschwitz found it very difficult - this I still know - to absorb all these many transports in the appropriate manner.

L. He writes here, that this was discussed with you, that is the speeding up?

E. "...moreover it was agreed with Eichmann, that as far as it was still..." and so on; it seems from this that he told me that I should ensure that this would be speeded up (durchpeitschen) as quickly as possible.

L. Well, then he could have said "I instruct Eichmann," or something similar to that? But here he says "it was discussed?"

E. But, as I said, this...this is in any case not important to want to analyse these...this sentence into its parts, as to whether he gave an order on this, or if there was an agreement on this...whatever the significance may be, at all events the tempo was determined by Baky, I mean was determined by Endre and it also happened so - that sometimes - one thing followed another so swiftly that it was with difficulty that they could prepare the transport charts."

Attorney General: I would ask you to play the portion at the foot of page 1416, from Less' question "Wurden die Leute."
L. Who were the people who were subject to "special treatment,"... wasn't it the Gestapo which decided on this "special treatment." I believe you have already said so once?

E. Because it is as follows - but now you say to me ...but you now give me...the possibility of another idea, Captain. Here we are talking of Jewish Commissars, Jewish-Bolshevist Commissars, as you read it to me. Here there was a completely different Department in charge. Perhaps this matter was decided by that Department, something I do not know, for at that time the whole question belonged to the order called the decree of "Night and Fog."* {* 2"Bei Nacht und Nebel" A German idiom used for disappearance without trace.} For you had previously told me that these were the commissars. This did not arouse any associations within me, but when you mentioned the matter, a few days ago, then I recalled, naturally, the "Night and Fog" decree - for I had definitely heard of it.

L. No, no, I think that the "special treatment" also applied to Jews in general.

E. ...Inasmuch as all that asphyxiation by gas was "special treatment," but the Jews...ah...and of course non-Jews as well - whether they were Jews or non-Jews, this in my opinion made no difference as far as the commissars were concerned, it was not so. For them there was a different department.

L. No, my question was a different one; I asked whether "special treatment" was prescribed by the Gestapo. The order for "special treatment" and so forth was from...

E. No, from the Fuehrer from...from...from Hitler...

L. Was the order for the camps given by the Gestapo?

E. The order, for example for asphyxiation by gas, for the concentration camps?

L. The order, for this one, for that one or the other.

E. Ah - the individual cases - the individual cases - certainly, yes, yes, yes, yes...

L. Was given by the Gestapo?

E. Yes, definitely, yes, yes.

Attorney General: Mr. Less. What was discussed in the interrogation of the Accused before the section on page 1640 beginning with the words "Wenn Inhaftierungen vorgenommen wurden?"

Witness Less: Here we were talking about the affiliation to the Accused's Department of the section for Churches engaging in Politics.

Attorney General: Thank you. Please let us hear the excerpt.

L. If arrests were carried out - did this emanate from your Department?

E. No. This was done by Jahr.

L. Oh, well, but this was consequently from your Department?

E. From the Department, but here there was no need to ask, because this had been laid dawn by law and Jahr acted accordingly. On one particular occasion I had an evangelical pastor, what was his name...he afterwards became a Provost (Probst) in Berlin. That is, after 1945 he became a Provost in Berlin. But I don't know, I cannot now recall the name of this pastor whom, I believe I invited three times - namely He...there was a ban in existence on the part of the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police, a ban on approaches to the authorities by the clergy interveneing on behalf of the Jews.

That evangelical pastor - he had a small, sharply pointed beard - he came under suspicion on the part of a State Police Post, I do not know any longer in which area this was, at any rate, it must have been in the environs of Berlin even if it was not actually in Berlin itself, this I do not know - at any rate it was certainly near enough for me so that without inconvenience I could demand that he should appear before me.

And then I told him: Yes, such a report had been received and now he would have to be arrested. Now I said the same thing also to the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Church, I said it also to Bishop Muench - once Bishop Muench came to me together with the entire Supreme Council of the Church.

I should explain that I myself did not understand very much about the churches, for I indeed did not deal with this subject. Nor did I get to know the individual groupings, and when I was told about such a thing, I had to ascertain for myself first of all how all these things were constituteed. But I told him that I was obliged to confirm the protective arrest demanded by the Police Post of the competent police headquarters.

I further said to him that I was doing this with much reluctance - the arrest of the clergyman. First of all - my father was himself a presbyter of the evangelical community in Linz. A presbyter is not a clergyman, I do not know whether I may...presume that it is known, that he is not a clergyman but that twelve...yes twelve elders of the community are chosen to a certain extent for purposes of representation.

And on Sundays they walk around with a collection bag and collect contributions. I told him this and I gave him a warning, on behalf of the State Police and that he was obliged to act in accordance with it; I said to him Otherwise, next time, if there should be a further complaint, I shall have to take you into protective custody, owing to the existence of this order of the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police.

There was another complaint, I no longer know whether this was for the second time or the third when "the knife was pointed at my throat" - by my superior - then I had to take him into protective arrest - I still do know that his wife telephoned to from somewhere and approached me with a request to release her husband. But, in fact, I was unable to do anything for - on my part - with all my heart - but I had my orders, I could not do anything. I myself, I did not lodge a complaint against him but - the Police Post made the complaint, or the competent head of the State Police. In any case I was not behaving strictly in accordance with the law when I did not take him - immediately, on the first occasion, into protective custody as had been demanded.

L. What was the charge against him?

E. I believe that he had intervened on behalf of the Jews, but I do not know exactly. Perhaps I am also confused, he gave some...some...some...Sermon which was contrary to the regulations, Captain. Here I don't want to commit myself, I don't know it.

Attorney General: I request the section on page 1765, beginning with Mr. Less' question.
L. Didn't the practice pass...did the practice regarding delivering up not pass through your Department? Were not people...

E. ...Not the killing not the killing...I...

L. ...delivered up through your Department?

E. Yes, after the Head Office for Administration and Economy had announced the destination.

L. I should like to ask the following: Were the Jews collected, deported, brought to extermination camps, destroyed...

E. Yes, definitely.

L. The authority delivering them must have been you?

E. Yes, surely, the authority delivering them of course, Captain."

Attorney General: I would ask you to play back to us, on page 2464, the extract beginning "Sie erinnern sich an die Kristallnacht 1938."
Less: Do you remember the "Crystal Night" in 1938 which took place as the result of the shooting of von Rath?

Eichmann: ...Vom Rath?

L. It happened in Paris. What actually happened to Hershel Grynszpan?

E. Yes, Grynszpan appeared before me... Have I not already said this?

L. No.

E. In my opening remarks?

L. No, I think not.

E. ...Grynszpan [I was told] late in the War the War - it must have been in 43 - or 44 - I was hardly - in 43 Grynszpan was...this is it: I received the line of my duty I received an order that Grynszpan was in custody in Prinz Albrechtstrasse 8, and he had to be further examined concerning who was likely to have been behind the scenes.

Accordingly I gave instructions to bring Grynszpan no, not this way - accordingly Krischak gave orders - Krischak was dealing with the matter - to bring Grynszpan and...either way it would have been useless, I said to myself. I still remember exactly, for I was curious to see what Grynszpan looked like. For this reason I can still remember this very well, and I still said: Will they - more or less thus - if they had not found this out during all those years, then this will also...this examination will also be pointless, this would be useless, but an order was an order.

Grynszpan - er - Krischak questioned him and took notes. Nothing, obviously, emerged from the whole thing and I merely said then to Krischak that if he had completed the interrogation, I wanted him to bring him to me upstairs, for I very much wanted - for once - to look at the man Grynszpan. I wanted to talk to him. And I did then, exchange a few words with Grynszpan.

He was very brief (abweisend) and brusque, was indifferent and gave short replies to all the questions. I wanted to ask him, since I had no knowledge at all of the whole matter, where he had been and things of that kind. On the whole he looked well, he was small - he was a smallish lad - I have absolutely - I don't know if I am wrong but this I remember - such a...he was such a little man - this is still preserved in my memory; and then he was again returned to custody in Prinz Albrechtstrasse 8. What happened then I don't know. Again I deleivered my report, that is to say, the report was again conveyed through the service channels by Krischak. It was a short report - because nothing came of it.

L. Do you know what happened to him subsequently?

E. No, I do not know.

L. Was he taken to some camp, or, or was he shot or something?

E. Evidently to some camp. He cannot have remained in prison, so I believe.

L. So -

E. I was not authorized on this...

L. Didn't you interest yourself later as to what had happened to him - or possibly by chance did you hear something?

E. No, completely vanished ...completely vanished from my memory. Perhaps this was a short while before my departure for...for...perhaps this was the end of 1943...this I do not know. I don't know what ...what happened to him. I did not hear anything more. I didn't hear anything more about it. At any rate I cannot ...I cannot recollect. I also don't know where...where he stayed for the rest of the time, until the day on which I [received] the...on which the Department received the order, to interrogate him with regards to possible supporters. He was not...he was interrogated in the regular way - he was not examined in a particularly severe way, as far as any event we would have had to have the authorization.

He was questioned in a proper normal manner. This was...after so many years, in any case, of no use at all...this was - all the more so as - in general I cannot understand - even then I could not understand it, how after so many they could still investigate something which in relation to the present instance - was indeed of no consequence.

Attorney General: Mr. Less, the next passage I would ask you to play back to us relates to the interrogation commencing on page 2667, the last line at the bottom. You were holding a copy of Der Stern 6 July 1960 - what did you do?

Witness Less: I read out extracts of the article.

Q. The article contained passages from a particular book?

A. The article is based on a number of matters.

Q. And on remarks that the Accused made on these matters?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you read out to him all those passages on which you wanted him to comment?

A. I read certain sections to him, not the entire article.

Q. I would ask you to read, on page 2667, from the last line to the end of the reel on page 2679.

Less: I want to read out to you a few passages from the illustrated German paper Der Stern - volume 28 of 9 July 1960 - in which an article appears about yourself. The following appears here:

"Thus he writes" - the reference is to you "for example on the cover page of the book The Atom by Dr. Fritz Kahn, the following words:

I absorbed the contents of this book spiritually like other books on this topic and I found a wonderful endorsement of the National-Socialist faith in God and of Trust in God (Gottglaeubigkeit); in view of the fact that it has a remote connection with the materialistic faith of the Communist doctrine and therefore - with the materialism of Lenin which derives from the Marxist outlook, I warn my children against pouring all this together into the same vessel. The Leninist-Marxist belief preaches materialism. It is cold and devoid of life. Trust in God (Gottes-glaeubigkeit) by way of contrast, is lively, natural and eternal. But to my regret, I am afraid with regard to the spiritual arrogance and boorishness of my three sons, all this anyhow amounts to futile remarks. And for this I am sorry!'

Do you recall anything of this nature?

E. There was a search of my house, after they had forcibly removed me. This is what I now conclude. I know this, that I wrote this article...these words. Yes - certainly, yes, because my sons displayed a lack of interest so blatant in their spiritual development and in the further development let us say, of their talents - I wrote this, as a warning.

L. And afterwards - it says further here on page 58:

"He told them something that he had prepared for himself as an apology or justification: Their father is in fact being sought, he is being accused of abominable deeds but this is not true, he was always a mere official, faithful to his duty, which he performed, as he was commanded to do, but he never killed a person."

E. That is correct, too...

L. And further, after this: "In respect of his friends he admits who he is, he carries on endless conversations; he reads everything published since the War about the scope of authority of his office, the 'Jewish Question.' He desperately clings to what remains for him as the sole justification for his acts: the allegiance to the flag, in the fulfilment of his duty and in obedience. And anyone who deviated from this path, who, in the last hours of the 'Reich of a thousand years' put human feelings above unconditional obedience, incurred the uncompromising hatred of Eichmann. He reads the book by Gerhard Boldt Die letzten Tage der Reichskanzlei ('The Last Days of the Chancellery of the Reich'); and in the course of reading discovers that the author Boldt did not obey his Fuehrer to the utmost extent. What Eichmann's view on the subject was may be discerned from his marginal notes. The description on the dust cover of the book begins with the words 'A young front-line officer (Boldt) was stationed in the year 1945...' Eichmann draws a line through the words 'front-line officer' and writes above them 'scoundrel.' He does so throughout. In every place where Boldt is mentioned in this book, he adds: 'Scoundrel, traitor' or 'villain.' In one particular place, where Boldt relates that in the concluding days before the end of the Nazi Reich, senior SS officers who until then were arrogant and haughty, suddenly became lowly and needed bolstering up, a marginal comment of Eichmann appears: 'The author of this book is a stupid pig. Arshole Boldt is the name of this swine!!!'

"In another place Eichmann writes: 'This author should have been skinned alive because of his contemptible behaviour. With such scoundrels we had to lose the War!' And, finally, on the last page of the book, there is Eichmann's summing up:

"1. Everyone can live as he likes.

2. But then he should not play the part of an officer; for

3. An officer - fulfills orders in accordance with his allegiance to the flag!'

Here again he clutches at the straw of 'fulfilling orders' in defence of which he develops an eagerness and a vocabulary which were not yet at his disposal at the time when he assisted, cold-bloodedly and deadly correct (toetlich korrekt) to solve the 'Jewish Question'."

Did you make such marginal notes?

E. Yes, I did. But it, it was of course some kind ...some kind...if one is already relating such things, then this is contemptible on the part of such a person to say "he clutches..." "He clutches at a straw which was not at his disposal at that time." This is my...this Kantian demand I elevated into my principle and this had been so for a long time. I planned my life in accordance with this demand and I did not shut my mouth when preaching to my sons, when I...when I realized that they were becoming remiss; they showed laziness and indifference regarding the continuation of their education, I also the extent that it was right bring them to reason by using words of this kind to spur them on.

L. Here he writes further, in that same article:

"He also reads testimonies of his former friend and his immediate subordinate - Dieter Wisliceny, in the trials of the war criminals. And he feels indignant to the point of exploding, that Wisliceny in order to save his own skin tried like many others to foist all kinds of insinuations on Eichmann who had disappeared. From now on, amending his marginal comments he describes Wisliceny all the time only as an 'abysmal swine,' and a 'buttocks with ears.' He also denies vehemently Wisliceny's report of a sentence that he was alleged to have uttered in the concluding days of the War:'...and if it has to be so, I shall gladly jump into the pit in the conscious knowledge that with us five million Jews were put to death!' The literal significance is correct, but for one word: Eichmann acknowledges, merely that he did not say 'Jews' but 'enemies of the Reich' and in this form - the sentence was completely natural, for 'when our enemies are indeed destroying our Reich, I should rejoice at any one of our enemies being put to death.'

"Subsequently, however, there comes a lengthy explanation that he could not, for this reason, have said 'Five millioin Jews' because many, many less Jews had been killed. That it did not make any difference if they were two, three, five or seven million - this he does not see, he does not want to see this."

Did you [express] such opinions...about Wisliceny?

E. That could have been so - yes, it could have been. I did, when I read a book, that is when any book came into my hands, or any illustrated paper which belonged to me, then - while I was reading it, if I became seized with holy rage, and while I was in such a mood, I would take a pencil and write exactly what occurred to me, what was important to say in that instance, at that moment.

L. Here he continues writing:

"Acquaintances and friends who spoke to him at the time in Argentina, describe him as a man who was spiritually shattered, who, although recognizing his unspeakable guilt, dared not admit it to himself, and instead sought frantically for formal excuses to avoid the necessity of passing judgment upon himself."

E. This is not true. This is...this is...journalistic gossip.

L. And now it says as follows:

"Eichmann's conscience - this is what he notes:

I am slowly getting tired of living like an anonymous wanderer between worlds. The voice of my heart, from which no man is able to escape, always whispered to me about the search for peace. I want to find peace, even with my past enemies. Perhaps this is part of the German character. And I would be the last not to be prepared to appear before the German authorities if I had not the fear that the political aspect of the matter was likely to be too great in order to reach a clear and specific finality in the subject.

I am far from wanting to raise any doubts about the just judgment of a German court, but it is by no means clear to me what is the legal status now in effect in the application of the law - of a person who in the past received orders, who was obliged to act in loyalty to his oath of service, and then had to carry out the orders and instructions which he received. I was none other than the subordinate of the SS and the Reich Security Head Office, faithful, honest, correct, diligent and only filled with idealistic sentiments towards my Homeland, to which I had the honour of belonging. I had never been a scoundrel and a traitor in essence.

"Despite the stringent criticism of myself, I must say for myself that I was neither a murderer, nor a mass- murderer. Just as my direct subordinates were not. But - in order to remain faithful to the truth, to the exactitude of a hairsbreadth, I would charge myself with being an accessory to the killing, for I in fact passed on the order for deportation, which I received at least some of those deported, even if by a completely different unit, were put to death.

"I said I must accuse myself of contributing to the killings, if I judge myself severely and without consideration. I just do not yet see clearly if I have such a right in relation to my subordinates.

"Thus, I am still involved here in an inner conflict since, of course, as a past minor recipient of orders, this must also be understood, I cannot be 'holier than the Pope.'

"My subjective attitude concerning the events that took place was my faith in the 'national state of emergency' preached by the Reich leadership at that time. Later on, when my confidence in the necessity for total war was increasing, I had to go on believing, in an increasing measure, in the constant declarations of the leadership of the German Reich at that time:'victory in that total war or the destruction of the German people.

"From this standpoint I fulfilled with a clean conscience and a believing heart the duty that was imposed on me?"

E. Yes, definitely.

L. Are these the words that you expressed - in your notes or...?

E. I cannot recall where I did this, but these are my words. I recognize the words. I don't know where I did so. This I don't know, where, where it...where it comes from, this I cannot clarify for myself...

L. And further, here, as follows:

"For the same Eichmann was neither a brute nor a man with blunted feelings, he was, according to his own trustworthy evidence, - even sensitive. And yet despite this, that same man knowingly and wittingly signed deportation orders, which meant death to many hundreds of thousands. A macabre example of the total misunderstanding, the total perversion of the original Prussian concept of duty which always placed the personal responsibility of the recipient of the orders alongside and above obedience, of which under the swastika there remained only the one half: blind inanimate obedience [Kadavergehorsam].

Accordingly, Eichmann relies on that mortal, murderous falsification in his attempt to justify himself my means of the 'allegiance to the flag' and 'fulfilment of duty.' This is a hopeless attempt. For Eichmann was not so foolish or so primitive, as not to be able to be aware of what he was doing - on the strength of an order or without one. He was an official for murder and he knew it - as long as he was this, he did not have any restraints, nor any urge to rely on the compulsion emanating from an order. And he will have to take the responsibility for this upon himself."

E. The last part is journalistic gossip. If my outlook was that I was faithfully obedient to my allegiance to the flag, then it is impossible to challenge this, or to explain it away.

Journalists, yes, they can do it. The writers of novels, they can also do so,that is all.

L. It is now 16.15 and we will stop here...

E. Yes, certainly.

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