The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 40
(Part 3 of 4)

Q. I now come to the hearing of evidence in Trial No. 9, in which you, Sir, sat. There you spoke about the accused Bieberstein, Ohlendorf and Blobel. Did any of these accused allege that Eichmann was the one who caused him to perform the acts that he committed? Did he allege that in his favour, against his conviction or to mitigate his punishment?

A. They were accused of actual, premeditated murder. You mention only three - there were twenty-three. They were charged with having killed one million unarmed human beings - men, women and children; and their defence was directed along the line of exculpating themselves in the best fashion they could. Now, in that respect Ohlendorf introduced as part of his case all the testimony that Wisliceny had given in the I.M.T. trial, so that there was an attempt on the part of Ohlendorf to indicate that, to a certain extent, he was under the domination of Eichmann.

Q. Would it be correct to say that no such argument of any one of the accused was included in your judgment, and that you yourself did not mention Eichmann in your judgment by so much as one word?

A. That is true. I did not mention Eichmann in my judgment because I did not see any necessity to do so. Eichmann's power came by speaking through Himmler and through Heydrich, so in my judgment I referred to what Heydrich did, what Himmler ordered, and I did not mention Eichmann in my judgment because Eichmann was not on trial - he was not a defendant. There was no point in...

Presiding Judge: Excuse me, Justice Musmanno, the question also was whether you mentioned any such defence on the part of any of the accused, that they had acted under orders from Eichmann or under the influence of Eichmann.

Witness Musmanno: I did not.

Dr. Servatius: Judge Musmanno, you said later that there had been a possibility of being released from these Einsatzgruppen, that a man was freely able to get out of this duty and be transferred, let us say, to another department. Do you know what the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg said on this question? I shall quote it to you:

Here it states as follows:

"Throughout the war men of the security police and the SD had no chance to clarify for themselves their position and their duty, and if there were anyone who refused to take upon himself any duty at all, mainly in the occupied zone, the matter was likely to result in heavy penalties."
Do you concur with this determination of the facts by the International Military Tribunal?

Witness Musmanno: This is a general statement made by the I.M.T. I sat for seven months presiding over the Einsatzgruppen Trial and we took up case for case, and I told you about Erwin Schultz who refused to go along with his superior orders and asked that he might be released. And he was released by no one less than Heydrich. And not only was he released from carrying out these onerous, bloodthirsty deeds as a colonel, but later on he was even promoted to general. So, therefore, he did not suffer by refusing to obey these orders to kill in cold blood.

The same thing was true with Franz Six - and a document has been introduced along that line. The same thing was true with regard to Noske. Noske was in the East as a leader of an Einsatz-Kommando, and then returned to Germany. In Germany he was assigned to Duesseldorf and there he was ordered to kill the Jews and half-Jews. He refused to obey the order because he felt something quite revolting from his point of view, at killing a person at one German camp. But he refused the order and nothing happened to him seriously. He was subjected to some inconvenience, but he was not even degraded; certainly he was not shot.

Ohlendorf himself stated that he could have gotten out of this assignment by simulating illness, but that he felt that he should not do that. And - well - I can give you a number of illustrations. I do not know just how far Dr. Servatius has asked me to speak on this subject...

But if there is one thing that was demonstrated in this trial of the Einsatzgruppen, it is that, if one really did not feel capable of killing in cold blood, he could be released. That was stated a number of times.

Q. You said this morning that it was possible to extricate oneself from the Einsatzgruppen. Would it not be correct for me to say that there were various ways of doing so: Either a man had good connections or he had already acquired many privileges in the course of his past work in this field, or a man could have feigned illness. But there was no possibility to declare: I object to this on principle; this is an enormous crime and I protest against it. Would you agree with me?

A. I do not agree with you, and the facts are to the contrary. There are many ways to evade performing these horrible deeds. There was one instance where a man got out of it by becoming drunk all the time.

Presiding Judge: Excuse me Justice Musmanno, the question was not about feigning all sorts of excuses, making excuses, for being excused from this service. But the point of the question was, if I understand it correctly, perhaps it did not come through in translation, that you could not say: "I object to this on principle, to killing Jews on principle, because this is a crime." Nobody got out, or tried to get out of the Einsatzgruppen or any other service on such a ground.

Witness Musmanno: I thank you Mr. Presiding Judge for clarifying the question. Certainly in military discipline no subordinate officer or soldier could say outrightly to his superior officer: "I absolutely refuse to carry out this order!" But he could say to him, and there were many who did say that: "I am incapable of shooting anybody down in cold blood, and so I would like to be excused." And that of course is what I had made reference to. One of the defendants, Willi Siebert, Colonel Willi Siebert, who was in Ohlendorf's Einsatzgruppe, began his testimony by saying that he had to obey his superior's orders. His attorney put the question to him, Dr. Raul, that isn't it a fact that the Kaiser once declared that if a soldier is ordered to shoot his own parents, that he must obey. And Siebert agreed with that. He said: "Yes, that is what we understand in the German Armed Forces."

After he had made that statement, then I said to the defendant: "Let us assume that you are ordered to shoot your mother and your father. Would you shoot them?" He did not reply directly. He said: "I'll have to think this over a while." I said: "Take as much time as you wish." Then he gave some tentative, ambiguous response and he indicated that he still wanted a great deal more time to deliberate, and so I said: "We will adjourn court and you reflect on this as much as you wish and then tomorrow morning we would like to have your answer, because after all it was not the tribunal who put this question, it was your own attorney and you accepted that that was the norm and the criterion, that you had to obey superior orders regardless even if it meant killing your own parents." The next morning he arrived and the question was put to him. "Let us suppose a military situation where you are ordered to shoot your parents, your mother and your father, will you do it?" He said: "No, I wouldn't do it."

Dr. Servatius: The reply of the witness is sufficient for me. I have a few questions on another subject. You certainly knew very well the conditions in the Nuremberg gaol. You were there on repeated occasions for interrogations. Who was in charge of security there? Soldiers or prison guards?

Witness Musmanno: Soldiers.

Q. Did the witnesses and the accused have a chance to talk to one another and were they able to try and reach mutual agreement concerning the evidence to be given by them?

A. Sometimes they could shout across the corridor - Schellenberg told me of an episode when Goering admitted to him when they were in the Nuremberg Gaol that Schellenberg was correct in some division of opinion that they had before as to who was right or not, so that evidently at times they could communicate with each other.

Q. Did not a very strict discipline prevail between the accused which ensured that no one could take a line of his own, and if someone had been found taking a line of his own, was there not someone there who would see to it that reprisals would be taken against members of his family and that vengeance would have been visited upon them?

A. Are you speaking of conversations between...

Presiding Judge: No, that there was discipline in the sense that everybody had to toe the general line.

Witness Musmanno: Is he speaking of the prisoners now?

Presiding Judge: No, the accused at the Nuremberg Trial or Trials.

Witness Musmanno: I was thinking about the prison itself. I did not quite understand. Would you please repeat that question then?

Dr. Servatius: Would I be correct in saying that among the prisoners in Nuremberg there was a general strict agreement as to the taking of one line. If anybody would not take that line in his defence, his relatives outside would be made to pay for it.

Witness Musmanno: I do not know of any such thing.

Q. On another occasion I shall submit to the Court a document from which it will appear that such things happened - it is specifically stated there.

When an accused passed from the accuseds' wing to the witnesses' wing, was there any advantage in that? Would he receive any privileges? Did they regard this as one step towards liberty? Do you know anything about that?

A. I know nothing about the prison regulations. I could not comment on that.

Q. On this point, too, I shall submit a document to the Court at a later stage.

You wrote a book, if I understand correctly, about the last days of the Reich Chancellery?

A. The book was called Ten Days To Die.

Q. When was this book published?

A. I think in 1950.* {*First published by Peter Davies in 1951.}

Q. Did you interview many witnesses with a view to obtaining the relevant material?

A. Oh yes, yes. I testified this morning there were over one hundred. It was really over two hundred.

Presiding Judge: The question was, did you bring before you many witnesses in order to obtain material for your book? That was the question.

Witness Musmanno: Well, in this investigation I saw many witnesses and it ran into about two hundred of them.

Dr. Servatius: This was a private research, so to speak, for writing your book, was it not?

Witness Musmanno: My situation was very similar to that of Trevor Roper. Trevor Roper, a professor at Oxford University was in the British Air Corps during the War and he was directed by his General to conduct an investigation regarding the circumstances surrounding the disappearance or death of Hitler. I was not aware that he was conducting an investigation about the same time that I was. After he had made his report to the British Government, he then published a book and it was called The Last Days of Hitler. My situation was quite similar.

Presiding Judge: But if I may ask, did you make additional investigations with a view to publishing your book, in addition to what you had already investigated on behalf of the United States Navy?

Witness Musmanno: That is true, Mr. Justice.

Dr. Servatius: Is its true to assume that you especially invited all the secretaries of all personalities concerned and that you questioned them?

Witness Musmanno: Oh yes. I spoke to the secretaries, the dentist, the barber, the housekeeper, the butler - all of them, because I wanted to get information about Hitler.

Dr. Servatius: Thank you very much. I have no more questions.

Attorney General: Shall I begin at the end? With regard to the alignment of the accused in the case of the main war criminals at Nuremberg; is it true that there were several groups among the accused, one of which wanted to put the blame on Hitler and another which wanted to keep faith with him to the end?

Witness Musmanno: You are speaking of the I.M.T. trial?

Q. The I.M.T., that is correct.

A. That is correct.

Q. And you spoke to people of all these groups?

A. I was not interested in any schism between the witnesses, and at the time I was not aware of it - and after all - these visits were not long ones: I would go to them, I would put to them two or three questions, three or four, and that was it. Some volunteered information.

Q. No, I am driving at another point. Who was the exponent of the "faithful and loyal" group to Hitler? - Goering?

A. Yes.

Q. And the exponents of the group which denounced Hitler were Frank and Speer?

A. Yes.

Q. These were the two main exponents, weren't they?

A. Also von Schirach, Schacht...

Q. I see. Now, you wanted to add something, Justice Musmanno?

A. Yes. I spoke to Goering shortly after he had testified, and in his testimony had defended Hitler throughout. I asked him why he did this, in view of the fact that Hitler had degraded him, ordered his arrest and, in fact, was on the verge of ordering him to be shot; and I said to Goering: "Marshal, I do not understand why you would defend a man who would have shot you had we, the Allied troops, not captured you; and you know that he has mistreated Mrs. Goering..." And he said to me: "Commander, I stood with Hitler when he was alive - I'll stand with him when he is dead." And the remark was so insincere, to me, and so pompous and so utterly...annoying, that I could not restrain myself - I laughed in his face. Then he looked about furtively, and he said: "Commander, some day I'll tell you the real truth."

Q. Now, Justice Musmanno, did any of those accused people you spoke to, who were awaiting their judgment and sentence at the I.M.T. - did they stand to gain anything by what they told you or by what they said to Professor Gilbert?

A. No. Nothing whatsoever.

Q. You said you did not mention in your judgment the instructions or orders of Hitler to Ohlendorf, but did you mention in your judgment anything about RSHA?

A. I did.

Q. What was that?

A. Well, I indicated, of course, that the Einsatzgruppen were a special operation of the RSHA.

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