The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Presiding Judge: So we have reached exhibit T/65 - revocation of naturalization as well as confiscation of inimical property.

State Attorney Bar-Or: I am now showing the witness the volume of the Reichstagsgesetzblatt for 1934. May I draw your attention to just one law of that whole year. It is published on page 213. Please look at it and read the title of that law.

Witness Cohn: "Gesetz ueber die Reichsverweisungen (Law regarding Exclusion from the Reich) dated 23 March 1934, signed Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler, Der Reichsminister des Inneren (Minister of the Interior) Frick, Der Reichsminister der Justiz (Minister of Justice) Dr. Kuertner.

Q. Please read article 1.

A. "Verweisung eines Auslaenders aus dem Reichsgebiet." (Exclusion from the territory comprises the order to leave and the ban from re-entering the national territory.)

Q. In article 2 you find 11 headings under which an alien may be deported from German territory. Isn't that correct?

A. Correct.

Presiding Judge: That will be exhibit T/66.

State Attorney Bar-Or: We now come to the year 1935. Would you like to dwell on some particular development up to Summer 1935?

Witness Cohn: I should only like to add another word about the previous period, about Jews being evicted from cultural life. I was connected with that field of activity. Among other activities I was active in the "Reichsverband juedischer Kulturbuende" (Reich Association of Jewish Cultural Union) which was a public body sanctioned by the government. All the Jewish artists in Germany were banned from joining the national Chamber of Culture ("Reichskulturkammer") which was the official body of the new German culture. Anybody not admitted to that Chamber of Culture was prohibited from being active in the cultural field of the German people.

Priot to this was the expulsion of many famous composers and of many Jewish poets and writers. It is well known that the notorious "Burning of the Books" took place in May 1933. The Jews had thus been excluded from German cultural life. Amongst them were distinguished writers whose fame was world-wide, and I do not wish to go into details. So we felt it as a duty incumbent upon us to offer the Jews who had remained in Germany some sort of a substitute. And on that issue we found a sympathetic readiness for co-operation . One of the senior officials of the German Ministry for Propaganda, Hans Hinkel, who was (and I wouldn't know how to render that in Hebrew) Reichskulturwalter (Trustee for National Culture) in charge, that is, of culture, was also in charge of Jewish activities within the cultural union (Reichskulturbund) which we set up for the Jewish artists to join and thus to be able to appear in concerts. One day we were summoned to the Ministry of Propaganda, to be told that we were no longer allowed to play music of German composers, such as Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Haydn or Mozart.

Q. You were undoubtedly allowed to continue playing Mendelsohn?

A. Yes, undoubtedly.

Q. Does any particular event stand out in your memory in connection with cultural life in those days?

A. Perhaps the "Burning of the Books"?

Q. Please describe it.

A. By pure accident I saw the torchlight procession near the Brandenburg Gate. Young people marching in the direction of the Imperial Palace. Next day the newspapers reported in large bold letters on the events of the previous evening. Goebbels had been master of ceremonies. The books of the most famous Jewish authors were hurled into the bonfire to the sound of shrieks and applause by the students who were present. And there is one aspect that I kept remembering for many years. Goebbels' speech ended on a peroration which to us was full of irony. "German youth,"' that is how it went, more or less, "can be proud to have lived to see this day" (something like that). "O century, o science! What bliss to be alive!"

Q. Could we now address ourselves to 1935?

A. That year saw the beginning of a recrudescence of persecutions. This time the persecutions passed from the field of economics to the political and racial field. We had known for some time before that, about Nazi circles getting ready to formally expel the Jews from among the German people - which had already been implemented de facto.

Q. You will certainly remember the meeting of the Reichstag in Nuremberg on 15 September 1935. I am showing you here two laws in the Reichstagsgesetzblatt for 1935. They are to be found on pages 1146 and 1147. Could you tell the Court what the titles of those two laws were and what they dealt with?

A. The first of those laws bears the title Reichsbuergergesetz (German Citizenship Law) and is dated 15 September 1935.

Q. And what is its significance?

A. Its significance is a differentiation between a German subject and a citizen of the German realm (deutscher Staatsangehoeriger Reichsbuerger.)

Q. Could a Jew be a "citizen of the German realm" Reichsbuerger?

A. Only citizens who had German or kindred blood were citizens of the realm.

Q. What is the second law of that same date (15.9.1935)?

A. "Gesetz zum Schutz des deutschen Blutes und der deutschen Ehre." (A Law to protect German Blood and German Honour.)

Q. Where were these two laws signed?

A. The first of the two was signed by...

Q. Not by whom, but where?

A. Oh, I see! Well, then, in Nuremberg, on 15 September 1935, at the National Party convention of Liberty (Reichsparteitag der Freiheit).

Q. And the second Law?

A. Same date, same place.

Q. Please read the preamble to the second Law.

A. I could give an approximate translation.

Presiding Judge: Let's leave that to the interpreters.

Witness Cohn: "Durchdrungen von der Erkenntnis, dass die Reinheit des deutschen Blutes die Voraussetzung fuer den Fortbestand des deutschen Volkes ist, und bewegt von dem unbeugsamen Willen, die deutsche Nation fuer alle Zukunft zu sichern, hat der Reichstag einstimmig das folgende Gesetz beschlossen, das hiermit verkuendet wird."(Firmly convinced that the purity of German blood is a condition for the continued existence of the German people, and impelled by the indomitable will to secure the German nation for ever, the Legislature has unanimously decided on the following Law which is hereby promulgated.)

State Attorney Bar-Or: What is the meaning of this second Law?

Witness Cohn: Its meaning - first, an absolute ban on intermarriage between Aryan Germans and Jews; secondly, an absolute ban on any extra-marital sexual relations between Jews and Germans; and thirdly, a ban on German women under the age of 45 serving or being employed in Jewish households.

Presiding Judge: This exhibit is marked T/67.

State Attorney Bar-Or: I now draw your attention to page 1333 of the Reichsgesetzblatt. Can you see the "first decree to implement the Law on Citizenship of the German Realm?" (erste Verordnung zum Reichsbuergergesetz) What is the date of the decree?

A. 14 November 1935.

Q. Signed by whom?

A. Signed by the Fuerer and Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler, by the Minister of the Interior Frick and by the Deputy of the Fuerer, R. Hoess, Minister without Portfolio.

Q. Please read a few passages of the decree, to begin with, article 4, para. 1.

A. "Ein Jude kann nicht Reichsbuerger sein. Ihm steht ein Stimmrecht in politischen Angelegenheiten nicht zu. Er kann ein oeffentliches Amt nicht bekleiden." (A Jew cannot be a citizen of the realm. He is not entitled to vote on political matters. He may not hold public office.)

Presiding Judge: Thank you. That should be enough.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Will you please read the whole of the fifth paragraph of that regulation.

Witness Cohn: "Jude ist wer von mindestens drei der Rasse nach volljuedischen Grosseltern abstammt. Als Jude gilt auch der von zwei volljuedischen Grosseltern abstammende Mischling - (a) der beim Erlass des Gesetzes der juedischen Religionsgemeinschaft angehoert hat oder auch dannach in sie aufgenommen wird;

(b) der beim Erlass des Gesetzes mit einem Juden verheiratet war oder sich danach mit solchen verheiratet;

(c) der aus einer Ehe mit einem Juden im Sinne des Absatzes 1 stammt, die nach dem Inkrafttreten des Gesetzes zum Schutze des deutschen Blutes und der deutschen Ehre am 15.September 1935 geschlossen ist;

(d) der aus dem ausserehelichen Verkehr mit einem Juden im Sinne des Absatzes 1 stammt, und nach dem 31. Juli 1936 ausserehelich geboren wird."

(A Jew is a person who is descended from at least three grandfathers fully Jewish by race. Article 2, paragraph 2, applies. A Jew is considered also a half-breed descended from two grandfathers fully Jewish by race.

(a) who belonged to the Jewish religious community at the time of the promulgation of this law or who joined thereafter;

(b) who was married to a Jew at the time of the promulgation of this law, or married a Jew thereafter;

(c) who is the offspring of a marriage with a Jew within the meaning of paragraph 1, concluded after the entry into force of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour of 15 September 1935.)

Presiding Judge: That will be T/68.

State Attorney Bar-Or: When approximately would that Law have been according to the Jewish calendar? 15 September 1935?

Witness Cohn: I have not checked that - but approximately: shortly before the Jewish New Year.

Q. Does my question remind you of a special event connected with those days after the promulgation of the Nuremberg Laws?

A. This elicited reactions. I remember, the very same evening, there was a Zionist meeting. The late Eliezer Kaplan was our guest at the Zionist Organization. I chaired that meeting. And all the speakers, Kaplan, Prinz and the others - we all spoke against what had happened. It was from the day before and we all protested strongly against these measures. That was the first reaction.

Presiding Judge: "Protested" - to whom?

Witness Cohn: An internal protest in the presence of Jews in our closed Zionist circle.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Was anybody else present there?

Witness Cohn: Yes. Two Gestapo officials.

Q. Was that a routine matter, to have Gestapo officials at your meetings?

A. Yes. Usually. We had to seek permission or to report any meeting planned. Mostly the Gestapo sent somebody along.

Q. Was that for public meetings or for executive committee sessions? Or what was it about?

A. Originally we were obliged to report plans for public meetings only. But as the years went on, in 1937 or 1938, as the situation became worse, it was extended to any Session of any Jewish society: the executive of the Zionist Organization, the Reichsvertretung, the Council of the Reichsvertretung, and the like. And the Gestapo official would appear and sit with us at the table.

Q. How were the Jewish communities organized in the situation prevailing in 1935, how were they represented externally?

A. The whole of Jewry was at that time represented by the "Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland." (The Reich Representation of the Jews of Germany). All the Jewish organizations, Zionists and non-Zionists, Liberals and others, decided in that difficult hour to join together and to set up this representative body called "Reichvertretung der Juden in Deutschland" which was appointed to be the address for all Jewish matters in those years.

Q. Who was at the head of this association, this Reichsvertretung?

A. The late Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck was the President, and the late Dr. Otto Hirsch was the director.

Q. Do you remember an event of those days, in September 1935, when those two names were linked together - Baeck and Hirsch?

A. I remember something which was not widely known because of the danger involved. With the Day of Atonement approaching in 1935, Tishri of 1935, shortly after the Nuremberg Laws had been passed, the director of the Reichsvertretung Otto Hirsch sent out the text of a prayer to all the Rabbis in Germany.

Q. Who wrote that prayer?

A. Leo Baeck was the author. And the suggestion was for this prayer to be read out on the evening of Kol Nidre, on the holiest of all evenings in our Jewish calendar, from the pulpits in all the synagogues.

Q. What happened?

A. To our great regret the letters sent out by post were intercepted and confiscated. Baeck and Hirsch were arrested and taken to the Berlin detention centre of the SS - Columbia House. Baeck was released after a few days. Hirsch was kept in detention for a longer time, I do not know exactly for how long. He had a difficult time. I was there when he was released; and he told us about his experiences during all those weeks of anguish.

Presiding Judge: What were the contents of this prayer?

State Attorney Bar-Or: Could you read this prayer as it was printed?

Witness Cohn: I shall read it as it appears in this little book by Professor Ernst Simon Aufbau im Untergang (Building up whilst perishing). Since this is a prayer, I must cover my head.

In this hour, all Israel stand before their God, the God of Justice and Forgiveness. Standing before Him we are to examine our ways, what we have done and what we have left undone, whither we have turned and whence we have turned away; where we find ourselves wanting, we will freely state "We have sinned," and with the firmest resolution for repentance, we shall offer up prayers to God and ask Him: "Forgive us!"

We stand before our God. With the same fortitude with which we confessed our sins, the transgressions of the individual and the transgressions of the community, do we proclaim with a feeling of abhorrence at those lies proclaimed against us, that wanton calumny brought against our religion. We stand by our Faith and by our Future.

Who was it that announced to the world the mystery of the Eternal, of the One God?

Who was it that aroused the world to a sense of purity in conduct, of purity of family life?

Who was it that endowed the world with respect for man created in the image of God?

Who was it that voiced the precepts of justice and social equity?

The spirit of the prophets of Israel, the manifestation of God to His people Israel, brought about all this.

It is in Judaism that all this came to be and does still grow. These steadfast facts repulse and will fend off any injurious assault.

We stand before our God, in whom we will take refuge. In Him lie the truth and the honour of our ability to survive throughout the ages and our steadfastness when we were in dire straights.

Our history is a history of moral greatness, of spiritual dignity. It is to our history that we turn, when assault and aggravation close in on us, when misery and suffering press all around us. God has led our forefathers from generation to generation; and He will also see us and our children through these days.

We stand before our God. His command which we heed, gives us strength. Before Him do we bow. Before men we stand upright. Him do we serve, remaining firm in the whirlpool of change. Humbly in Him we trust and our path lies clearly ahead.

All Israel stand in this hour before their God. Our prayers, our confidence, our declaration - is that of all the Jews on earth. We look at one another and we are confident of each other. We look up to our God and we know: Lo, he neither sleeps nor slumbers, He who guards Israel. He who maketh peace in His heights will make peace for us and for all Israel.

B. Cohn (I am sorry, I am a little hoarse...)

Now the last passage.

Our hearts are full with mourning, with pain.

Our soul is full to the brim. We shall give expression to all this by our silence, by our moments of silence before our God, by that silence that must speak out in silent prayer more loudly than any uttered words could do."

Presiding Judge: That will be T/69.

Mr. Bar-Or, could we break at this point?

State Attorney Bar-Or: Yes, Your Honour.

Presiding Judge: The Court will take a recess now. We shall convene again at 3.30.

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