The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 55
(Part 4 of 5)

Attorney General: In view of the Court's ruling, I will change my question, and I will ask you, Professor, whether you had any professional data on which to base any conclusions - I'm not asking you what the conclusion was - as to the veracity of Hoess' statement.

Witness Gilbert: Yes, I did. I would like to point out that as a scientifically trained psychologist I never jump to conclusion merely from hearsay evidence. There are two forms of validation - one is consensual validation, that is what other people in the same situation say about it. I had ample validation of that kind from the other SS Gestapo men...

Presiding Judge: Perhaps it is desirable that you should know exactly the terms of the Court's decision.

Witness Gilbert: Certainly.

Presiding Judge: We decided - to give you the essence of our decision - to agree to hear the scientific data which you had when you heard the statements from Hoess and the others there, and their mental state. However, we will not allow the conclusions which you drew in regard to the veracity of their remarks.

Witness Gilbert: I see. All right, Sir.

Attorney General: So it is only the data we are interested in.

Witness Gilbert: Very well, then. The data are formed by the psychological tests, the conversations that I had with them, the corroborational conversations I had with others on the same subject, and finally my own clinical impression as an experienced psychologist, as to their veracity, sanity, personality, and so on. Everything evaluated in totality and finally backed up by written documentary evidence and statements by the subjects of the study.

Q. I take it that, as a psychologist, you certainly understand that sometimes there is a state of mind of the accused which tends to drag down other people, as it were, and to incriminate them.

A. Yes, I certainly understand that. It's one of the common guilt defences.

Q. Would you say that Rudolf Hoess was in that particular state of mind when you were speaking to him?

A. No, definitely not. As I said before, he was a man who was just automatically telling the facts as he knew them. It apparently meant nothing to him that he had murdered millions of people, he had no hesitation in describing everything in detail, and without any attempt to share blame, or to prepare a defence or anything, quite spontaneously - certainly not with any urging on my part - the name of Eichmann came into his statements again and again and again, and finally I realized that this man was a key figure in the extermination programme.

May I amplify a little further? By contrast, I saw that Kaltenbrunner was a liar. When he tried to disclaim knowledge of the atrocities and shove the blame onto someone else, I could see - and I got corroboration from actual statements from the others - that this was outright perjury, false testimony, outright lies. So I was aware at all times that it is possible that any one of these men might be lying, but Hoess definitely was not.

Presiding Judge: This last part of your remarks is inadmissible, but, of course, that is not your fault.

Witness Gilbert: Oh, I'm sorry.

Attorney General: Did Rudolf Hoess tell you anything more about Eichmann in his conversation with you?

Witness Gilbert: Yes, the final statement that led to the conclusion which I'm not allowed to draw was...

Presiding Judge: You are entitled to draw your own conclusions, but we shall simply not accept your conclusions as evidence.

Witness Gilbert: Thank you, Your Honour, now it is clear. The final statement that Colonel Hoess made to me was in connection with trying to explain his actions as following orders, as they all did. This was the standard excuse for all of them. But in one of my last conversations he said that, after all, it was the same with Eichmann, who was the chief of the extermination program.

Attorney General: Professor Gilbert, you spoke with the leading personalities on the chapter of extermination. You spoke to Ohlendorf, Pohl, Kaltenbrunner, Hoess. I should like to know whether in your mind - the mind of the psychologist - you somehow crystallized a picture of the murderous personality of an SS officer? Whether you got that picture crystallized in your mind after having spoken to these people?

Witness Gilbert: Yes, that was one of the main challenges of this entire study, and I wrote an analysis of what I called "the murderous robots of the SS." This appears in my book The Psychology of Dictatorship. And I have a formulation in my mind as a result of all these studies.

Q. Is this the book?

A. Yes, Mr. Hausner. I recognize it.

Presiding Judge: What is the purpose of these questions, Mr. Hausner?

Attorney General: The witness, as an expert, has an opinion...

Presiding Judge: Perhaps I anticipated a little, ahead of the translation.

Attorney General: I believe it is my duty to provide the Court with some kind of explanation from the point of view of the personality of the Accused.

Presiding Judge: Is it your intention to state that, if all SS men were murderers, therefore the Accused is also a murderer?

Attorney General: No, Your Honour.

Presiding Judge: Of course, this is put in a very extreme way, in order to clarify the issue.

Attorney General: No, Your Honour. The question is: How can it be that a man born of woman can perform such acts? How can it be that a person can come to the stage of committing these deeds which are now being revealed to us, day by day? That is the purpose of my question. What is there lacking in this personality? I know that I, and possibly many others, have been looking at this glass cage for the past six weeks and asking myself the question: How could this have happened, from the point of view of the man himself? I know that Professor Gilbert fashioned for himself - and he is, perhaps, the most qualified expert in the world, for he came into contact with these major criminals, he spoke to them for months - he has fashioned for himself the pattern of a personality that is not normal, that is not usual, and he has a scientific explanation.

Presiding Judge: I naturally have the greatest respect for this witness as a scientist; my question is simply this: In the absence of this evidence - to turn the question around - will some legal proof be lacking in the Prosecution's case? Do we really need a psychologist, in order to clarify the question of the Accused's guilt?

Attorney General: But I must provide an explanation of the background, also the mental background of the man. I think I shall not be fulfilling my task completely, if I were to abandon the chance that has happened to come my way to attempt to provide an explanation.

Judge Halevi: It should be clear that this expression of opinion cannot serve as proof that this Accused indeed committed the acts.

Attorney General: Certainly not.

Judge Halevi: However, if it should be proved by other testimony, by evidence of a completely different nature, that murder on such a large scale must be ascribed to him, then, you maintain, there would still be lacking an explanation of how a man could be capable of acting in this way.

Attorney General: Precisely so, Your Honour. I thank you for your formulation. This is what I am attempting to obtain from the witness. He wrote about it - he researched this.

Presiding Judge: Is this a legal question which interests us here? It is a very interesting psychological question. But let us imagine that the facts have been established; we would be able to philosophize about the psychological aspect of the matter, in the same way as anyone could do. Professor Gilbert can do this much better than any of us. But is it relevant to the issues that we have to determine?

Attorney General: Perhaps this touches mainly on one question. How can one believe it? Because, ultimately, the cumulative significance, the cumulative effects of these matters, reach out to other qualitative considerations. Such a quantity of acts over such a long period of time, and to such a monstrous extent - all this is likely to give rise in the mind of the Court to the following question: Is it at all possible that a man can do such things? In respect of this question - I believe it would be most relevant to elucidate that this could be possible with a certain personality, the like of whom I doubt whether we shall ever have the opportunity of coming across again in our courts.

Presiding Judge: Very well.

Attorney General: This is the object of my question.

Presiding Judge: Let us hear Dr. Servatius' views on the subject.

Dr. Servatius: It is clear that there is noticeable here the desire to hear evidence from this witness on the central theme in this trial, and that is: Is it possible to imagine that the Accused committed the acts with which he is charged? This is the question which must be resolved, in the light of documents and other testimonies from which the responsibility for these acts emerges. This is not a question which can be put to an expert.

Furthermore, this expert served in the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg as one of the prosecution staff, he acted as an expert on behalf of the prosecution, and, as it appears from Reitlinger's book The Final Solution, with which the Court is surely familiar, he was an expert who was most useful to the case made out by the Allies. It must also be pointed out that leading questions were put to this witness; for instance: Was psychological pressure on the Accused possible? All these are not matters which have to be put, and the replies to which must be heard, in Court. Accordingly, I ask that the witness should not be heard, that we should not hear his replies to these questions.

Witness Gilbert: May I take exception to one statement - I believe that Dr. Servatius said that I was there at the behest of the prosecution. If that is so, it is false. I was the official prison psychologist for the International Military Tribunal - neither at the behest of the defence counsel, nor the prosecution. I was on the prison staff and, of course, as objective as it is humanly possible to be in these circumstances.

Presiding Judge: We have no alternative but to adjourn the session, in order to consider this matter.

Dr. Servatius: May I be permitted, Your Honour, the Presiding Judge, to add one sentence, and to point out that the witness said that he acted in the service of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. It may be assumed that his mission was restricted to the submission of reports concerning the mental condition of the accused. It cannot be supposed that the International Military Tribunal would have accepted the opinion of the witness in respect of the question of personal responsibility, and that on the basis of this opinion it condemned the accused men there.

Attorney General: Naturally, I am not asking the witness to speak about guilt or innocence. We are referring to people who were found guilty by the Tribunal and whose sentences were severe. I am asking the witness: Is he able to create for himself a picture of the personalities of those individuals? And the relevance of this matter in regard to the Accused is, as I have already said, that I shall endeavour to prove to the Court that the personality of the Accused here is like the personality of the accused there.

Presiding Judge: That is clear.

Attorney General: Therefore, there is no question here of guilt or innocence. This question is of no significance, if I do not succeed in proving guilt.

Presiding Judge: Obviously, all this is intended to show to the Court that the Accused was capable of committing these acts - either this is important for the proof of his guilt, or it does not affect the issue in any way. This is how it appears to me.

Attorney General: Yes, surely.

Presiding Judge:

Decision No. 60

We shall not permit evidence tending to show that the Accused was capable, from the point of view of his character, of committing the acts attributed to him in the indictment, because of his being a member of the SS. This we decide on the general grounds which limit the admission of evidence as to the character of an accused in a criminal trial.

Attorney General: If that is the case, I have no further questions, Your Honour.

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

Dr. Servatius: No, I have none, but are the Prosecution's questions finished? If so - yes, I nevertheless have questions. Witness, you said that the principal accused men in Nuremberg declared in your hearing that a certain measure of guilt rested upon the Accused here, and this allegation gradually gained emphasis. Did I understand you correctly?

Witness Gilbert: Yes.

Q. Was a common front of those who were accused in Nuremberg formed, so that no guilt should attach to any of them?

A. Do you mean to say that the principal accused men at Nuremberg created a united front, in order to cast the blame on Eichmann?

Q. No, I asked whether there was created in Nuremberg - if I may use this expression - a conspiracy? Did they conspire not to tell the truth? Would it be true to say that Goering told them, this was a political matter and no one will be convicted here? Was that the slogan?

A. No, it was a question of competence. It was clear to all that the extermination as such had nothing to do with the army but was exclusively in the hands of the SS.

Q. I put a general question to you. Is it true that the accused stood there united so that no one of the accused before the International Military Tribunal should bear the guilt?

A. Yes, this is what Goering tried to do but did not succeed at all. Because everybody tried to put his own case properly, and they did not want, because of Goering's self- serving views, to put the blame on others and exonerate him.

Q. Is there not a chapter in your book Nuremberg Diary with the heading "United Front"?

A. Yes, Goering tried to do just this. You will see this at the very early stages of the trial, but it failed, he did not succeed.

Q. Was the witness Hoess a dangerous witness for the accused Kaltenbrunner?

A. Yes, you are right. Many wondered why Hoess appeared at all to defend Kaltenbrunner.

Q. You said that he appeared as a defence witness for Kaltenbrunner? Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Did he impute charges to Kaltenbrunner in his evidence?

A. Yes. I do not wish to express a legal opinion, but it was very clear that he imputed blame to Kaltenbrunner, because he described the facts for which Kaltenbrunner was responsible.

Q. Yes, but would it not be true to say that he only mentioned the names of Heydrich and Mueller as those with whom he was in touch, and did he not carefully avoid mentioning the name of Kaltenbrunner?

A. This may be so.

Q. Thank you very much. Then I have no more questions.

Attorney General: Is there any explanation at all for the fact - if indeed it is true - that Hoess did not mention the name of Kaltenbrunner?

Witness Gilbert: It would certainly seem logical that the defence counsel would have coached him not to cause his client to be hanged because of his testimony before the court.

Dr. Servatius: May I be allowed to ask one more question regarding the contact: How was there contact between Kaltenbrunner and Hoess, so that he could know what Hoess was going to testify?

Witness Gilbert: They certainly discussed the matter with their defence counsel.

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