The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 20
(Part 1 of 7)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Session No. 20

2 Iyar 5721 (28 April 1961)

Presiding Judge: I declare the twentieth Session of the trial open. The Court hands down Decision No. 11

The Attorney General has applied to submit in evidence affidavits and written notes by Hoettl, Huppenkothen and Thadden on matters relating to the subject of this trial. The two first-mentioned were members of the SS, and the third was the person dealing with Jewish questions in the German Foreign Ministry. The application is based on Section 15 of the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law (5710- 1950). Generally speaking, what we stated in our Decision No. 7, concerning the reports of Wisliceny, applies also to the nature of these documents, but with an important distinction: the three aforementioned men are still alive. One of them lives today in Austria, and the two others in West Germany. Defence Counsel objects to the submission of the documents. In his view, the three witnesses must be brought here to give oral evidence before this Court, so as to enable him to cross - examine them.

We are of the opinion that these documents should be admitted in evidence by virtue of our authority under Section 15 of the aforementioned Law. We rule thus on the general grounds mentioned in our Decision No. 7. But nevertheless, Defence Counsel must be enabled to examine these witnesses on his part, whether before us or in some other manner, as will be specified below. This right of examining a living witness whose declaration the opposing side wishes to submit, is a fundamental right, the importance of which also emerges from Section 16 of the Evidence Ordinance, which deals with the admission of evidence taken abroad in a criminal trial taking place in Israel. We do not think that Section 15 of the aforementioned Law permits the abrogation of this right in regard to these documents.

Of course, the appearance of these three witnesses before this Court depends upon their ability and their willingness to come here in order to testify - and their ability to appear also depends upon whether they will receive entry visas into Israel. We do not find that it is within the competence of this Court to instruct the executive authorities to guarantee the personal safety of the witnesses upon their entering the country, if these authorities determine that they are unable to do so, nor does the witness have immunity from arrest or a charge of having committed an offence against the laws of the State of Israel while the witness is on his way to or from the Court. See: In Re Preston 11 Q.B.D.545. The granting of an entry visa, or the refusal to grant it because of suspicion of a criminal offence, is surely a matter within the province of the executive authorities.

According to the statement of the Attorney General in Court, any application for granting an entry visa to a witness will be considered on its merits by the competent authorities. In principle, the appearance of the witness before this Court is to be preferred; but a witness who does not wish, or is unable, to come here in order to testify can be examined by a representative of the Accused and by a representative of the Attorney General, in a Court in the place of his residence, according to the arrangements for a mutual legal assistance existing between the State of Israel and the countries where the witnesses reside.

We are ready - and the Attorney General has also agreed to allow the examination of these witnesses before a foreign court, whether by means of questionnaires, or by oral interrogation by representatives of the parties, or by both methods.

What we have decided here will also apply to those witnesses whom Defence Counsel may wish to bring as witnesses for the Defence, mutatis mutandis.

We expect that the necessary enquiries and, where required, the preparation of the documents to be despatched abroad will be carried out as quickly as possible, and, at any rate, let it be clear that should depositions have to be taken abroad, the protocols thereof should be in the hands of this Court in good time when the taking of the evidence to be admitted to us will be completed.

[To Interpreter] Mr. Dayan, please be good enough to prepare a German translation of this Decision and let us have it, if possible, during the course of the day.

Interpreter: When will I be able to receive it?

Presiding Judge: That is, indeed, a very good question. You will be able to get it from the stenographer after she has typed it - and let us have it, for we want Dr. Servatius to get a particularly exact translation of this Decision. You should be able to do that in the course of the day.

Dr. Servatius: Thank you.

Presiding Judge: We should like to have an idea, Mr. Hausner, how much time it is likely to take to clarify this question of granting or refusing entry visas, after Dr. Servatius notifies you which persons he wishes to bring here.

Attorney General: I will endeavour to limit this, Your Honour, to between seven and ten days at the most.

May I also be permitted to take this opportunity, Your Honours, following upon the Court's decision of yesterday, of informing you how the Prosecution envisages the time- table of the presentation of its case?

Presiding Judge: Let us return to the previous matter. You say - between seven and ten days. Supposing there should be a witness who does not receive an entry visa, would you be able, let us say, within one more week, provided you can agree between you on questionnaires, to prepare these questionnaires?

Attorney General: I believe there will be no difficulty in doing so. For our part, at any rate, we shall be at the Defence Counsel's disposal.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, does this also seem reasonable to you?

Dr. Servatius: I would suggest that the application to the German authorities be submitted forthwith. In the event of one of the witnesses securing an entry visa, it would be very easy to cancel his summons to appear before the German court.

Presiding Judge: But, for this we need to know - at least in general terms - what method the parties intend to adopt. If it is to be by way of questionnaires - the questions must be prepared, each party will have to draw up its questions for the questionnaires. As far as it depends on this Court, I can promise you that there will be no delay. It will be done promptly. But perhaps the time for that will be after you will have prepared the list of questions, or if you wish to adopt the alternative procedure - an oral examination - then there would be no need to draw up specific questions. I suppose that we will still have to discuss how to go about this.

Attorney General: Certainly. I think it is up to Defence Counsel to decide whether he wants a questionnaire or whether he prefers an oral examination, or any other method.

Presiding Judge: You, too, may have something to say on the matter.

Attorney General: We are ready for consultation on this matter; either in Court or in chambers, or privately.

Presiding Judge: Perhaps you should first examine the various possibilities between yourselves.

Attorney General: We shall do so.

Presiding Judge: The Court is naturally interested that it should be settled in good time according to the time-table.

Attorney General: We, for our part, will make every effort.

Judge Halevi: With regard to Dr. Servatius' observation that it would be desirable to submit the necessary applications abroad immediately, I gather that it would be his concern that he should submit them forthwith.

Attorney General: No. Dr. Servatius proposes that we should request the German Foreign Ministry to apply to the German authorities to conduct the examination; and the same applies to Austria. There would be no difficulty in that. We shall prepare the application. However, a normal application must be accompanied by a specific request as to whether oral examination or questionnaires are desired. There is no point in making a vague, general application. For this reason we have to obtain from Dr. Servatius the details of his request, what he requires, in which manner he wishes to examine the witnesses, and then we shall forward the application without delay.

Presiding Judge: Of course, the application goes via this Court - the applicant is this Court. This usually proceeds through our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and thereafter goes abroad.

Attorney General: Exactly. It will go via the Court administration to the Foreign Office.

Presiding Judge: We shall act in this matter as in any other case.

Attorney General: May I inform the Court how the Prosecution views the time-table of its evidence? That may also be of value in the matter we have just discussed, and will also be for the benefit of the Defence. From the outset, we allocated for ourselves - for the purpose of submitting our evidence - a period of two months. In other words, we want to conclude our proof roughly by the middle of June. This is based upon our own internal division of the partial estimates of the time required for the submission of the material, and the date of 15 June represents the end of the various stages that we have to go through. So far we have managed to abide exactly by our time-table, without lagging behind. On the contrary, at the moment, we are ahead of our time-table by half a day.

Presiding Judge: That is not enough, Mr. Hausner.

Attorney General: Maybe. We shall do our best. We would also ask the Court to appreciate the difficulties which confront us.

Presiding Judge: Certainly.

Attorney General: We have to prove the details of the specific counts in the indictment. We have to prove not merely an isolated act of the Accused, but a major project which extended over twelve years. And we are called upon to prove events that occurred not in one isolated place but in a long list of countries, and we simply would not be able to do justice to our case; any further limitation would not only be harsh - it would, in fact, obfuscate the true picture, if we should reduce it beyond that.

For the period of these two months, we have made allowances for the bare minimum of reading extracts, and we shall certainly follow yesterday's directive of the Court when it requested us to read out only the most essential passages. But, according to our assessment, the difference between the reading of those passages which we intend to request and the total omission of their reading can amount to 4-5 sessions of the Court, that is to say, 2-3 days. When one takes into account two months, perhaps that would not be so much. The difficulty that confronts us is that we apprehend that, if we do not quote certain passages - even extremely isolated ones - several of the testimonies, or the significance of several testimonies will not be adequately appreciated until we arrive at the summing-up stage.

Presiding Judge: You were not present when we discussed this.

Attorney General: But I have read what was said.

Presiding Judge: I am sure you have read it. What was said here was, of course, carefully considered - as we have mentioned, we have left an opening to you - albeit a narrow one - and with regard to appreciating the significance of the evidence, something was said about that, as well. If you are concerned lest the evidence will not be conprehended without reference to a document, and I imagine that these instances will be very rare, you will be able to make reference to this document, and to draw the Court's attention to this document at the time the evidence is presented. This is the customary procedure, and we shall act accordingly in this case as well.

Judge Halevi: May I add to the remarks of the Presiding Judge? The Presiding Judge: yesterday stressed especially that the time required was prolonged by the translation after the reading. You could even save much of the time, if you did this to the least possible extent, and when it becomes necessary to quote - to quote only in Hebrew, so that it would take less than half the time.

Attorney General: This we shall certainly do, from now on, in respect of all documents where this can be done. Whenever the document has not been translated, we shall endeavour to translate it on the spot and to read it out in Hebrew only, in order to save the time of the translation. We are naturally bound by the Court's decision and will act accordingly. I only wanted to explain the general set-up, and the Court will guide us from time to time.

Presiding Judge: At any rate, it is clear to all of us that the intention here is that matters should be understood by the Court. We also said something about bringing documents to the notice of the public. But that is an entirely different question.

Attorney General: Certainly. We do not have the staff for that, but if we cannot do it - we won't do so. That was not the main reason motivating us to apply for reading them out in Court. The means by which we bring these passages to the knowledge of the public is by way of quoting them in Court.

Presiding Judge: But it is not the Court's duty to give you advice on this question. You will be able to find another way.

Judge Raveh: In the course of 2-3 days we would be able to read much more than we can listen to, as far as the documents are concerned.

Attorney General: We shall, of course, act in accordance with the Court's decision, and we hope to conduct these matters to the Court's satisfaction.

Presiding Judge: We shall always be ready to take a fresh look at the matter, if we see that it is not going well.

Attorney General: Thank you very much, Your Honour.

I now submit the affidavit of SS Sturmbannfuehrer Hoettl - our exhibit No. 7. This is to be found in I.M.G. Vol. 31, pp. 85-87; that is for the purpose of verification.

Presiding Judge: That will be T/157.

Attorney General: Dr. Hoettl, who describes himself as acting head (Gruppenleiter) in Department (05Amt) VI of the Head Office for Reich Security, says in this document that according to knowledge, Eichmann was entrusted with the task of rounding up the Jews from all the countries of Europe and transporting them to Germany. He says that Eichmann told him...

Presiding Judge: Mr. Hausner, pardon me, I would really now ask you to follow the guidelines. We said that the contents of the document should be given briefly, with the opening wording of the paragraph of the document, so that we might mark it and read it for ourselves.

Attorney General: That is it - I have finished with it, Your Honour. He says that Eichmann told him that, to his knowledge, about four million Jews were put to death in the extermination camps, while about two million others died in other ways. Most of these were shot to death by the Einsatzgruppen.

Presiding Judge: I should have thought that, in the case of this document, you would have put it, more or less, as follows: this document relates to Eichmann's activities in Department IV and to the number of Jews who were killed. That would have been sufficient. Forgive me for pointing this out. And after that: I draw the attention of the Court to such-and-such a paragraph, the statement beginning as follows.

Attorney General: That is already a question of style, Your Honour.

Presiding Judge: Not exactly. But of course, we are not going to be rigid. I only wanted you to know what I had in mind.

Attorney General: Very well.

I now submit our document 334, which is PS 2615, for the purpose of authenticating another statement by Dr. Hoettl, which repeats the same facts regarding Eichmann's status, his functions and the number of Jews put to death - the same figures which were mentioned in the previous document.

Presiding Judge: This document will be marked T/158.

Attorney General: I submit the affidavit of Walter Huppenkothen, Prosecution Document No. 874. This was also submitted in the Nuremberg Trials. It appears in Vol. 42 of I.M.T., pp 315-323. The statement is known as "Affidavit Gestapo No. 39" of the I.M.T. In this statement Huppenkothen, who himself belonged to Department IV, refers to the Accused's special status as being directly responsible to the Department Chief, Mueller.

Presiding Judge: This document is marked T/159.

Attorney General: I submit the two affidavits of von Thadden. One of these bears our number 984.The authentication is through the Nuremberg Trials. That is one of Hoffmann's* {*...Hoffmann - one of the Accused in Subsequent Trial No. 8 at Nuremberg.} documents, it was shown to the Accused. Von Thadden maintains that he did not know what was going on in Auschwitz and that he pressed Eichmann to reveal the truth to him. On pages 9-95 he describes the harm caused to Germany abroad by the news of the extermination of the Jews, the complaints made by the Slovakian Government and their demands from Eichmann in this respect, and he concludes this paragraph with the following sentence: "Now that I know what has been happening at Auschwitz, I have the impression that Eichmann downright deceived me and did so quite cleverly."

Presiding Judge: This document is marked T/160.

Attorney General: Von Thadden's second affidavit is our document No. 453. The authentication is by Case No. 4 at the Nuremberg Courts. Von Thadden describes the handling of the Jewish question in the Foreign Ministry on the basis of interventions by foreign diplomats, the notifications which he received from Eichmann and other authorities, the visits he paid to various places which did not arouse his suspicion as to the mass exterminations of Jews, the methods of camouflage which Eichmann employed against him and against other Reich authorities in connection with the extermination campaign.

Presiding Judge: This document is marked T/161.

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