The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 27
(Part 10 of 10)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. You never saw him anymore?

A. Yes. We tried to smuggle cyanide to him. We did not succeed. Something strange happened meanwhile. He was tortured. He died. Historians will judge us as having acted either shamefully of justifiably. If I myself am entitled to express an opinion, today - even more than then - I suppose that Wittenberg's death at that time - and it was with the approval of the high command and with my approval that we delivered him into the hands of the Gestapo - was one of the greatest achievements of the revolt, one of the greatest acts of heroism of Jewish underground fighting in the ghetto; for there is no fighting which can match it, since between us and the enemy there was something more.

Q. My final question, Mr. Kovner. Up to the time that you established the Jewish fighting force - how many of the Jews of Vilna went to Ponar for extermination?

A. About 40,000. This went on intensively over a period of months.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions?

Dr. Servatius: No, I have no questions.

Witness Kovner: Your Honour, President of the Court, may I be permitted to relate something in connection with the oath, with the affirmation that I made at the beginning of my evidence?

Presiding Judge: What is it that you want to say?

Witness Kovner: I said that I would tell the truth, nothing but the truth and all the truth. I am certain of the fact that I have told the truth, nothing but the truth, the whole truth...

Presiding Judge: This provides me with an opportunity to say to you and, through you, to the Attorney General as well: "All the truth" means all the truth in answer to the question which you have been asked. It is obvious that this is not the whole truth. We, too, understand this.

Attorney General: In order that no doubt should remain in this matter I would like to ask the witness: In all that you have said, did you state the truth, nothing but the truth and the whole truth?

Presiding Judge: That is clear, Mr. Hausner.

Witness Kovner: Absolutely clear.

Presiding Judge: It is clear that this was not the purport of the witness' remark. Thank you Mr. Kovner, you have completed your evidence.

Pardon me, please come back, there has been a misunderstanding here.

Judge Raveh: I merely wanted to clarify one thing. You spoke at the beginning of your evidence of three walls. Do you remember? My question is a short one and the reply can also be very short. The first wall of the collaborators - to what were you referring?

Witness Kovner: They were those para-military organizations of local residents - Lithuanians, after that there were Estonians, Ukrainians, White Russians, who preferred to force a defenceless population to its death rather than to go to the front.

Q. The second wall, you said - were the incited masses, I believe. To whom were you referring?

A. I was referring to the local residents, having anti Semitic sentiments and outlooks, non-Jews.

Q. And the third wall - those who were planning. To whom did you refer?

A. To them, to the Germans.

Judge Halevi: At the end of your remarks you said: "Between us and the enemy there was something more," if I understood you correctly. What were you referring to?

Witness Kovner: The illusion that we all did not share the same fate. That until the last moment, even if one knew that there was a Ponar, they always gave us a spark, this distorted hope, that possibly you would be exempt. The frightful illusion produced frightful results of people wanting to prolong the life of some at the expense of others, and depriving the masses of any possibility of a different attitude. Only a minority that felt itself possibly less stricken, less misled, less under shock, due to its past, its education and its adherence to certain movements which trained people to give a personal example, perhaps only they could cope with it. And it is not, evidently, a matter of chance from where the people came in every ghetto who formed the fighting nucleus.

Perhaps it arose from the fact that they experienced less degradation, that they were less panic-stricken, and they knew better how to live in the ghetto as free men in every respect.

Q. This illusion was clearly deliberately fostered by the Nazis?

A. Yes.

Q. In a systematic fashion?

A. In a systematic way. In thousands of ways; however much we reveal, it will not be sufficient to depict it all.

Presiding Judge: Thank you very much, Mr. Kovner. Mr. Hausner, we have heard shocking things here, in the language of a poet, but I maintain that in many parts of this evidence we have strayed far from the subject of this trial. There is no possibility at all of interrupting evidence such as this, while it is being rendered, out of respect for the witness and out of respect for the matters he is relating. It is your task to prepare the witness, to explain matters to him, and to eliminate everything that is not relevant to the trial, so as not to place the Court once again - and this is not the first time - in such a situation. I regret that I have to make these remarks, after the conclusion of evidence such as this.

Attorney General: Your Honours, perhaps when my turn comes for a final summation of my arguments, it will become clear to the Court that these things are not of such a nature.

Presiding Judge: This was not the first time that I have mentioned this. The Court has a certain view of this trial according to the indictment, and we have stated this more than once - sometimes in a hint, sometimes more clearly, and the Prosecution must direct itself in accordance of what it hears from the Court.

Attorney General: This we do, undoubtedly.

Presiding Judge: Yet, nevertheless, I do not see that these matters have penetrated to the extent that they should penetrate.

Attorney General: Perhaps this is so, because Your Honours are not yet aware of everything which we still intend to bring before you.

Presiding Judge: We heard your opening address which, it seems to me, lays down the general lines of what you wish to place before the Court.

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