The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 63
(Part 7 of 8)

Attorney General: And finally, two more documents. The famous speech of Himmler before senior SS officers at Posen on 4 October 1943.

Presiding Judge: Is that the same speech by Dr. Serafim?

Attorney General: This is the one that Dr. Serafim relied on, partly. Incidentally, this was submitted at the major Nuremberg Trial, and the Court will be able to find it under the heading PS 1919.

Presiding Judge: But here there are other sections. Here it deals with the Jewish question.

Attorney General: The speech was a very long one and lasted several hours. We copied extracts from it. It is printed in full in vol. 29 of IMG on pages 110-159.

Presiding Judge: This document will be marked T/1288.

Attorney General: On the subject of the Jews, Himmler says the following to his officers:

"In all frankness, I want to make mention to you here of a subject of a special difficulty. Amongst ourselves, let us speak openly for once, although we would never do so in public, in the same way as we did not hesitate to carry out our duty as we were ordered on 30 June 1934, and we stood our transgressing comrades up against a wall and shot them; we never spoke about it, nor shall we ever talk about it."
The Court will recall that this was the famous purge of the SA in which Roehm and his comrades were killed. "Thank God, it was a matter of innate self-understood tactfulness that, at no time, did we discuss it amongst ourselves, nor did we ever talk about it. Everyone was horrified, and yet it was clear to everyone that he would do the same thing again, if he were ordered to do so, and if it would be necessary.
"I now mean the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. This is one of those things which are lightly uttered. `The Jewish people will be exterminated,' says every member of the party. `Clearly, our programme stipulates elimination of the Jews, extermination - this we shall do.' And then all those eighty million brave Germans come along, and each one has his particular decent Jew. Of course, they say, it is clear that the rest are swine, but this one is an excellent Jew. Not one of those who speak in this way has ever witnessed that, not one of them has ever experienced this.

Most of you will know what it means when a hundred corpses lie together, when five hundred or when a thousand are lying there. To go through all this and to remain decent men, apart from human foibles - this is what has hardened us. This is a glorious page in our history, a page which has never been written and which can never be written. For we know how we would be making things difficult for ourselves, if we were to have in every town, still today, the Jews as secret saboteurs, propagandists and inciters, in addition to the bombings, the burdens, and the deprivations of the War. If the Jews were still residing within the body of the German nation, we would probably have got today to the stage of 1916-1917. Whatever treasures they had, we took away from them. I gave a strict order that these treasures should, of course, be transferred in their entirety to the ownership of the Reich. This was carried out by Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl. We have not taken any part of it for ourselves. Individuals who have transgressed against this will be punished in accordance with the order given by me."

And now, in the chapter on discipline:
"In military life - morning, noon and night, discipline is demanded and observed. The little man obeys it constantly - or almost always. If he does not conform, he will be incarcerated. The question of discipline is more difficult in the case of the higher ranks in the state, the party and the army, as well as - here and there - in the SS. There is something I want to say there clearly and unambiguously: the little man must obey - that is taken for granted. It is even more to be taken for granted that all the senior leaders of the SS - that is to say, the whole corps of Gruppenfuehrer - should provide an example of unconditional discipline.

If anyone thinks that some order is based upon a mistaken view of his superior officer or arises out of an incorrect principle, then it goes without saying - and this applies to each one of you - that it is his duty and his responsibility to give expression to it, and he must also give his reasons in a manly and frank manner, if he is convinced that they militate against the order.

But, as soon as the superior officer or the Reichsfuehrer-SS - and in most cases that would apply to the corps of Gruppenfuehrer - or even the Fuehrer himself, has given his decision and the order, then the order must be carried out not only according to the letter, but also according to the spirit. Whoever carries out the order must do so as a loyal commander, as a faithful representative of the commanding authority. If, at first, you thought this was right, and that was not right or even mistaken - then there are two possibilities: If someone thinks that he cannot shoulder the responsibility for carrying out an order, he must report that frankly: 'I cannot take the responsibility, I ask to be relieved of it.' Then, in most cases, an additional order will be given: `Nevertheless, you must carry it out.' Or one may think, this man has had a nervous breakdown, that one is weak. Then one can say: 'All right, you leave on pension'."

Presiding Judge: You have not submitted the party programme that is mentioned here.

Attorney General: No. If the Court wishes to peruse it, the entire document has, in fact, been presented in this way. It is true that I only submitted these passages...

Presiding Judge: Not the entire speech, but the programme of the National Socialist party mentioned here.

Attorney General: We have not submitted it but, obviously, if the Court is interested, we can submit Mein Kampf; that would not be a problem.

Presiding Judge: I meant the programme of the National Socialist party, but...very well.

Attorney General: If the Court will still allow me to consider this comment, I shall examine exactly what has been submitted, and what it is still necessary to submit.

Presiding Judge: Because he mentions it here: "Ganz klar steht in unserem Programm Ausschaltung der Juden, Ausrottung machen wir." (That is clear, it says so in our programme; elimination of the Jews, extermination - this we shall do.)

Attorney General: Yes. According to our plan, we ought now to have the first witness on Majdanek.

Presiding Judge: Do you prefer that he should not be heard now?

Attorney General: No, actually, I would prefer him to be heard, since he has come from far away. He comes from a settlement in the north of the country. If I may ask the Court to sit possibly until 12.45 instead of 12.30, then we can finish. The witness is Mr. Yisrael Gutman.

Witness Gutman: I wish to make an affirmation.

Presiding Judge: Why do you want to make an affirmation? It is my duty to ask you this question.

Witness Gutman: I can only do things that I believe in with perfect faith.

[The witness makes his affirmation.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Yisrael Gutman.

Attorney General: You are a member of Kibbutz Lahavot Habashan in Upper Galilee?

Witness Gutman: Yes, since my arrival in Israel.

Q. You were active in the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto, and, with the suppression of the uprising, you were taken out of the bunker where you were wounded?

A. Yes. I was a member of the fighting organization in the Warsaw Ghetto, and I came out after the uprising was crushed on 5 May 1943.

Q. What led you to leave the bunker?

A. I was wounded. And I was lying in one of the bunkers that had been prepared - there was a doctor there as well. They discovered the bunker and introduced poison, chlorine, into it. I was not aware of when and how I got outside. I, and all the people who came out of this bunker, were affected by the poison.

Q. And then you were transferred to the assembly square, which was known in Warsaw as the Umschlagplatz?

A. I was transferred through the streets of Warsaw for the last time, I saw the town in its ruins. I saw corpses in the streets, I saw the destroyed houses. And they took me to the Umschlagplatz. Nor was this for the first time.

Q. And railway freight cars were standing there?

A. Railway freight cars waited there, ready. We were put inside right away, and the train started off.

Q. How many people were there in that transport?

A. I cannot state numbers. I can only say that it was actually impossible to stand up in the freight car.

Q. Why was it impossible to stand?

A. Since the congestion was so great. It was one block of human beings. And when members of families lost contact with one another in this dense crowd, they were unable to find one another again.

Q. Where did the train come to?

A. We thought that the train was going to Treblinka, but it went to Majdanek. We were later told by veteran prisoners at Majdanek that all the victims could not be absorbed in Treblinka, and, therefore, some of the transports were sent to Majdanek.

Q. Describe to us what happened when you reached the railway station at Majdanek.

A. When we got there, they were already awaiting us.

Q. Who were "they"?

A. They, the SS brutes. They lined us up in rows of fives. By shouting and hitting us with whips, they began to spur us on, to make us run towards the camp. We walked from the railway station in Lublin to the gates of the camp.

Q. How long did the walk last?

A. I am unable to state how long it was. We arrived there, and they made us lie down - they told us that we could lie down on a lawn. At first, we did not know where we were. We lay there for several hours. Afterwards, it was towards evening, it began getting dark, and they took us to the bathhouse. I was not aware then - although I did not believe that it was a bathhouse - I did not know where I was - I knew what they were doing. But the man who shaved my hair at the bathhouse told me that people remained alive here - but he could not tell me how long I would remain alive.

And when I came out of there, I noticed that many of those who had come with me were no longer there. I was not at all aware that a selection was taking place there. After that, I went through very many such selections, when I knew and saw that this was in the classic Nazi style.

Q. Where were you housed in Majdanek?

A. At that time, in May 1943, Majdanek was divided into five fields - they called them "fields." These fields were separated. Each field constituted a camp in itself. Each one had its administrative authorities, and the regime also differed from field to field. I found myself in field No. 4.

Presiding Judge: How was the field called in German?

Witness Gutman: Feld. That was field No. 4. I was told - and afterwards I knew - that this was the worst field in Majdanek. It had been opened in our honour. Until we arrived there, it was empty. It was constructed in such a way that in the centre there was a large parade ground, a square for roll-calls. On either side, there stood very long huts, stables for horses, and this was where we were housed.

Attorney General: Was there anything written on the huts?

A. Yes. It was written that their capacity was fifty-two horses. They placed us inside - as far as I remember, I cannot be one hundred per cent accurate - we were about eight hundred people in this hut. It was hut No. 18. There were twenty-two such huts. Only in one hut were there veteran prisoners; they had been brought there to train us, to introduce us to that way of life in the camp, a way of life which we knew as the realm of the SS, the way of life that the SS prepares for human beings.

Q. Mr. Gutman, I know this must be difficult for you, but it would make it simpler for all of us if you would kindly merely answer my questions.

A. Certainly.

Q. Thank you. Now, how many floors were there in a hut such as this?

A. These bunks that we slept in were of three tiers. I should imagine that the width of such a bunk was about 80 cm., perhaps 60.

Q. For one person?

A. It was for one person, formally, I might say.

Q. And in practice?

A. At the time of our arrival, many transports were brought in. They made two people lie down in one bunk of this kind.

Q. What was the work like at Majdanek?

A. Our work schedule was as follows: They made us get up at 4.30 for a morning roll-call. After that, if the roll-call was in order, if they were satisfied that all were present - if people had died, or if there were sick or injured persons, they had to be dragged from the block and laid down next to those standing - the important thing was that the total should be correct, it was important that everyone should be there. If they found that the number was correct, we were dismissed, and work would begin.

Q. What sort of work was it?

A. At that time, there was no work for us at Majdanek, and hence they sought to have us occupied. Perhaps it was something which they regarded as work - we used to carry stones from one place to another. We were divided into sections. One group would carry the stones, a second group would crush these stones into gravel, while a third would pave a road with this gravel. Conditions were better for those who were paving the road, since the work had to be done at the double. The stones had to be placed inside the folds of our clothes, and they used to check whether we had taken enough stones. The work had to be done at the double. This was our work. I did not perform this work for long.

They gave us wooden clogs for our feet - plain pieces of wood which had a strap of cloth one and a half centimetres, maybe one centimetre wide, and that was a valued possession. I was not aware of that. And, on one of the early nights, one of these clogs was stolen from me, and at these roll- calls, at 4.30 in the morning - it was extremely cold at the time - I had to stand barefoot, with one foot bare. Some days later, I ran a high temperature. When I got up in the morning, I fainted, and I was dragged by my companions to a sick roll-call - it was called a sick roll-call - and I was taken to the Revier at Majdanek.

Q. What was the meaning of "Revier"?

A. That was what was supposed to be a hospital. It is impossible to use this term, but in the language of the camp we used this expression Revier.

Q. How long were you there?

A. I contracted pneumonia, with complications caused by gas poisoning. I was not the only one to be sick with an illness like that.

Q. Are you referring to the chlorine poisoning in the Warsaw bunkers?

A. Yes, I am talking of the chlorine poisoning we contracted already in Warsaw. I was not the only one suffering from this illness, but a very great number of those who came on the transport together with me contracted this illness. And, in general, I could say that all my acquaintances died. I was fortunate. Some doctor who examined me found grenade splinters in my face, he noticed the wound I had under my eyes and decided to give me medicines, something which nobody received - at any rate not the Jews in Majdanek. I would like to say that I was told there that I was a lucky man because, only a short time before I came to Majdanek, they were not admitting Jews to the hospital at all. A Jew who fell ill was shot. And this liberal practice, whereby Jews were admitted to the hospital - this was a new regulation.

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