The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Sessions 14
(Part 6 of 7)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. Do you remember one specific reaction by the Zionist Organization in Berlin in those days?

A. It may be worth while to add one more observation, which also applies to that preceding period. In the early days, early months there were many cases of suicide amongst German Jews. From all the towns the stark news was reaching us, about this lawyer and that physician and such a great merchant and that other industrialist having put an end to his life. They had been unable to stand the misery of having lost their standing, of having lost their honour. They could not understand what had happened to them, so they chose this way out.

Presiding Judge: Please reply now to the previous question.

Witness Cohn: In Germany, the first impact was very depressing. But, thank God, I think that the Zionist Organization, and especially its printed organ Die Juedische Rundschau did stand up quite well to the test. State

Attorney Bar-Or: You mentioned the Juedische Rundschau. What was that?

Witness Cohn: The weekly, the official organ of the Zionist Organization in Germany.

Q. Why do you refer to this weekly paper at this point?

A. Because it was the first newspaper, perhaps even the only one, among all the numerous German newspapers, that spoke out against the authorities.

Q. With regard to which event?

A. ...with regard to the Jews!

Q. With regard to which event?

A. With regard to what had happened on 1 April.

Q. I am showing you a photostatic reproduction - can you identify it?

A. Yes, this is a copy of the Die Juedische Rundschau which was our "daily bread."

Q. Could you please tell the Court what you see?

A. I see here the caption "Tragt ihn mit Stolz den gelben Fleck" (wear it with pride that yellow badge) We subsequently translated it here when we organized an "appeal day" in the 'forties.

Q. Who wrote that article?

A. Robert Weltsch, the editor of Die Juedische Rundschau.

Q. In 1933 he was the editor of the official organ of the Zionist Organization?

A. Yes.

State Attorney Bar-Or: I should like to ask the Court for permission to submit this reproduction, certified by the librarian of Yad Vashem to be a true copy together with the Hebrew translation of three passages.

Presiding Judge: Yes. This will be T/60.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Could you, Mr. Cohn, read out to the Court two passages which you consider as most typical of this article and of the attitude of the Zionist Organization in those days?

Witness Cohn: Yes a few passages - in the German original?

Q. Please.

A. Or should I translate?

Presiding Judge: No - it will be translated by the interpreter.

A. "The fact that the boycott leaders ordered that yellow patches on black background be affixed to the boycotted businesses, constitutes a mighty symbol. This was a measure taken to mark us, to make us despicable; we accept it and wish to turn it into a badge of honour. Many Jews had a painful experience on Saturday." [In Hebrew]:(The paper appeared on Wednesday.)

"Not as a result of an inner consciousness,

"not because of being faithful to their own community,

"not that they were proud of a magnificent past and human endeavour, but rather because a red label with a yellow patch had been stuck on them, were they suddenly to stand up and be counted as Jews."

"The troops went from house to house, sticking labels on shops and on signs and name plates, daubing shop windows with paint. During twenty one hours German Jewry was, as it were, put in the pillory. Among other graffiti one saw, on those shop windows, many a large Magen David, the Shield of King David. That had been meant as an abuse. Jews, take it up, that Shield of David, and carry it with all the honour due to it."

State Attorney Bar-Or: Please read to the Court the last passage now.

Witness Cohn:

"Only 30 years ago it was considered bad form, in an educated society, to speak about the Jewish Question. Zionists were, at that time, considered as troublemakers who had an 'idee fixe.' Now, however, the Jewish Question is so very topical that any small child, any schoolboy as well as the man in the street has no other topic of conversation. On April the 1st the designation 'Jew' was stamped on all the Jews throughout the whole of Germany. According to the new instructions issued by the boycott committee, to meet the eventuality of a renewal of the boycott, all businesses are to be marked in uniformity, either as 'German business' in the case of Non-Jews or in the case of Jews simply with the word Jew (Jude). One knows who is a Jew. No more dodging or hiding. The Jewish reply is obvious. It is the short sentence spoken by Moses to the Egyptian:'Ivri Anokhi!' (A Hebrew am I).

The moral meaning of what is happening at present is the positive reply to the question as to whether the Jew is prepared to give recognition to his Jewishness. These times are much too turbulent for us to argue and reason. Let us hope for more placid times. Let us hope that a movement that takes pride in being honoured as the pacemaker of national awakening, does not take pleasure in dishonouring others, even if it is of the opinion that it must fight them. But we Jews, we are able to defend our honour. We remember all those who over the last 5,000 years have been called Jews, have been stigmatized as Jews; we are being reminded that we are Jews; we say 'aye' and shall carry our Jewishness with pride."

State Attorney Bar-Or: During those years, from 1933 until you left Germany, were you in touch with the authorities in Berlin?

Witness Cohn: Yes.

Q. All the time in fact?

A. Yes, especially with the Ministry for Propaganda (Reichspropagandaministerium), since I was the deputy chairman of the Kulturbund der Juden in Deutschland (Cultural Federation of the Jews in Germany).

Q. I should like to ask you to explain to the Court what were, from your point of view, the aims and objectives of the Nazi regime towards the Jews during those weeks in the spring and summer of 1933? What were they after?

A. That was not clear to us at all. And I know that to this day historians are still asking themselves - what were the Nazis' intentions at that stage? It might be of interest to quote from the official platform of the Nazi Party in 1922, one of the paragraphs there addresses itself to the Jewish question. But I am afraid I do not have that document here with me.

Q. Could you possibly remember the contents, approximately?

A. The aim of the National Socialist movement, it said there, was to see to it that any non-German who had come to live in Germany after 2 August 1914 should be made to leave Germany. But there was a further paragraph, covering what was eventually carried out literally at Nuremberg. But that is a separate matter.

Q. Why do you see it necessarily relevant to the Jewish Question, when the party programme deals with non-Germans who had migrated to Germany after the 2nd of August 1914?

A. That was evident. Those were the Ostjuden (East European Jews) notorious in German eyes, the "Polish Jews" whom they hated. They used to say they had nothing against the German Jews, they were opposed only to the Ostjuden. That was a sort of tactic, a trick of theirs.

Q. Do tell me how all these aims came to be expressed after the boycott day on 1 April 1933?

A. Excuse me, I did not understand the question.

Q. How were these aims expressed after 1 April?

A. Even before April the First, "Aryanization" of shops had begun. Not by virtue of legislation, but through Einzelaktionen. Groups of SA would appear (those were the SA at the time, not SS) SA they were called, they would appear before the shops, shut down the shops, detain the shopkeeper, and put him in a concentration camp. Then, when he came back, he would be ready to sell his belongings, his shop to the "Aryan" competitor who had been his next-door neighbour for many years. Now this whole trend of forcing the Jews out of German economic life gathered momentum and acquired a new dimension in the weeks and months following the 1st of April. If I am not mistaken, already in April 1933 a first set of rules was published, to revoke the licences held by the liberal professions, lawyers and physicians.

Q. Was that done by way of legislation, by statute or by way of ministerial decree?

A. I don't remember now. Many years have passed since then. I believe it was done by way of ministerial decree, "secondary legislation" as it is called here, or...

Presiding Judge: Administrative rules, Sir. Yes?

Witness Cohn: ...delegated powers.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Mr. Cohn, I show you here the German Official Journal (Reichsgesetzblatt03) part 1, number 34, of 7 April 1933. Can you identify it?

Witness Cohn: Yes. Shall I read out the title?

"Die Reichsregierung hat verkuendet...

Q. Please. What is the title of the law?

A. Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums. (A Bill to re-establish a professional civil service.)

Q. Dated?

A. Dated 7 April 1933.

State Attorney Bar-Or: If it pleases the Court. There will be a number of laws published in the Reichsgesetzblatt which I intend to submit through the witness. Not that the witness need confirm anything. These are official publications I am submitting here. These volumes are heavy and may be considerably burden the Court, however they are, I am told, required for research. I have prepared photostatic copies of all the pages to which I would like to draw the attention of the Court. Could the Court allow me after due consideration to substitute these photostatic copies certified by Yad Vashem to be true copies, for the original volumes? Presiding Judge: Yes, certainly.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Thank you, Your Honour. Please continue, Mr. Cohn.

Witness Cohn: Authority was derived from the Government of Germany the Reichsregierung. By virtue of the Ermaechtigungsgesetz (empowering statute) of 23 March 1933 the German Parliament (Reichstag) had vested all its legislative powers in the Government (Reichsregierung). Thus there was no longer any separation of powers.

Q. And from now on these laws are carried out by the Government?

A. By the Government, by virtue of powers delegated to it by the German Reichstag.

Q. I draw your attention to paragraph three. Please read it.

A. "Beamte, die nicht arischer Abstammung sind, sind in den Ruhestand zu versetzen. Soweit es sich nicht um Ehrenbeamte handelt, sind sie aus dem Amtsverhaeltnis zu entlassen."

Interpreter: "Civil servants who are not of Aryan descent, are to be retired. Honorary civil servants are to be released from the service."

State Attorney Bar-Or: deals with a special attitude towards those who had seen service on the front in the First World War, does it not?

Witness Cohn: And with those who were civil servants already on 1 August 1914.

State Attorney Bar-Or: May I now submit the photostatic copy?

Presiding Judge: That will be T/61.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Mr. Cohn, on page 195 of that volume you can find the regulation "Erste Verordnung zur Durchfuehrung des Gesetzes zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums." What is the name of that regulation?

Witness Cohn: First regulation for the implementation of the Bill to re-establish a professional civil service.

Q. Perhaps you could read paragraph 3/2 ?

A. "Als nicht arisch gilt wer von nicht-arischen, insbersondere juedischen Eltern oder Grosseltern abstammt. Es genuegt, wenn ein Elternteil oder ein Grosselternteil nicht arisch ist. Dies ist insbesondere dann anzunehmen, wenn ein Elternteil oder ein Grosselternteil der juedischen Religion angehoert hat." (Non-Aryans are considered to be those persons who have had non-Aryan, especially Jewish parents or grandparents. It suffices for one parent or one grandparent not to have been Aryan which is to be assumed in particular whenever one of the grandparents had belonged to the Jewish religion.)

Q. Please, before you read on, paragraph two, here again, deals with a special status for front line soldiers of World War I, doesn't it?

A. Yes, and with those who already had been in the civil service before 1 August 1914.

Q. Correct, and with the evidence required to prove service on the front. Could you now read paragraph three of article 2.

A. "Ist die arische Abstammung zweifelhaft, so ist ein Gutachten des beim Reichsministerium des Inneren bestellten Sachverstaendigen fuer Rasseforschung einzuholen." (Whenever there is any doubt as to the Aryan extraction, expert opinion is to be obtained from the expert on race research, at the Ministry of the Interior.)

Presiding Judge: That will be T/62.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Mr. Cohn, These were the first laws and regulations directed against Jews?

Witness Cohn: Yes, Yes, there were other laws or rules against lawyers and physicians.

Q. You have already mentioned those. You said that those were actually made as ministerial implementation orders.

A. Yes. The physicians only lost their Sick Fund (health insurance) affiliation, they remained physicians until 1938.

Q. How did matters develop?

A. In those years matters developed in Germany in a wave fashion. There would be a thrust, a heavy blow. And then there would be a period of calm, even with the authorities, the pressure would quite naturally relax. There were at that time three periods. I may perhaps be allowed to give my own view of those three periods; I myself have only witnessed the first of these periods. It began with the burning of the Reichstag Building, with regard of the Jewish Question. Only with regard to the Jewish Question. It lasted till the middle of 1935.

The second period, to my mind, again with regard to the Jewish Question, there were the Nuremberg Reichstag, the Nuremberg Laws, the absolute political and racial segregation of the Jewish People from the German People. That period ends more or less in 1938. In 1938 there begins the last of these three pre-war periods. In that period the Jews have already been completely removed from the German economy, and their middle class had already been completely destroyed. Those are the three periods.

Q. May we now go back to 1933. You will undoubtedly remember the directive on the slaughter of animals. I am showing you here the Reichsgesetzblatt of that year, page 212.

A. "Order regarding the Slaughtering of Animals of 21 April 1933" signed by the Minister for the Interior Frick.

Q. And what happened to "shehitah"? Before you answer my question, would you perhaps read the first part of the first paragraph.

A. "Warmbluetige Tiere sind beim Schlachten vor Beginn der Blutentfuehrung zu betaeuben." (Warm-blooded animals are to be stunned before their blood is drawn, as part of the slaughtering process).

Q. Does this have any bearing on kosher shehitah of meat for Jews?

A. In my opinion this directive is diametrically opposed to the Mosaic Law, to Jewish Law.

Q. As from April 1933, what happened then to Jewish ritually proper (kosher) slaughter (shehitah) in Germany?

A. There was no more kosher shehitah.

Q. There was no longer any possibility to have kosher shehitah from 1933 onwards?

A. But I must admit I myself was not really closely involved.

Q. That remained the situation until you left Germany?

A. As far as I can remember. I repeat that that was not my own field of activity.

Presiding Judge: This exhibit will be T/63.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Would you please look at the Verordnung in the Reichsgesetzblatt dated 21 April, on page 212. This is the directive to implement that law on the slaughter of animals, isn't it?

Witness Cohn: Yes.

Presiding Judge: That will be exhibit T/64.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Could you now please turn to Reichsgesetzblatt no.81, page 479.

Witness Cohn: Which page?

Q. Page 479. Please find on that page the law on the reversion of property inimical to Nation and State ("Einziehung volks-und staatsfeindlichen Vermoegens") dated 14 July; and immediately after that, there is the publication of a further law, could you read its title?

A. "Gesetz ueber den Widerruf von Einbuergerung und die Aberkennung von deutscher Staatsangehoerigkeit." (Law on the Revocation of Naturalization and the Annulment of German Citizenship) dated 14 July 1933.

Q. Please read the first sentence of the second paragraph of the second Law dated 14 July.

A. From the Revocation Law (Widerrufgesetz?)

Q. Yes, please read slowly.

A. "Reichsangeh7rige, die sich im Auslande aufhalten, koennen der deutschen Staatsangehoerigkeit fuer verlustig erklaert werden, sofern sie durch ein Verhaltendas gegen die Pflicht zur Treue gegen Reich und Volk versto267sst, die deutsche Belaenge geschaedigt haben." (German subjects may be declared to have forfeited their German citizenship insofar as they have harmed the German interests by behaviour in breach of their duty of loyalty towards state and nation.)

State Attorney Bar-Or: May I submit this too? As a matter of fact on the same photostatic copy there are reprints of both laws.

Presiding Judge: Those further copies will be for the completion of the record if we do not have it all translated here. Is there much more of it?

State Attorney Bar-Or: There will be a few more. But the record can be completed if I may with respect suggest, Your Honour, by using the original books that have remained with us and that will have been put at the disposal of the translator.

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