The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 75
(Part 5 of 7)

Presiding Judge: [To the interpreter] Tell the Accused to stand up.

[The Accused rises.]

You may remove your earphones. The case for the Prosecution has now been concluded, and the case for the Defence will begin. Do you wish to make a statement in your defence? If you wish to do so, you may do so without being sworn or on oath.

The Accused: I wish to be sworn.

Presiding Judge: Should you make a statement on oath, the Attorney General or his representative will be entitled to cross-examine you.

Accused: Yes, Your Honour.

Presiding Judge: You are also at liberty not to make a statement at all and to remain silent. You have, therefore, three possibilities: To make an unsworn statement, a statement on oath or to remain silent. What do you choose?

Accused: A statement on oath.

Attorney General: May I call the attention of the Court to Section 5 of the Courts (Offences Punishable by Death) Law, 5721-1961 as to the place from which the Accused will give his testimony after having elected to make a statement on oath.

Presiding Judge:

Decision No. 84

By virtue of Section 5 of the Courts (Offences Punishable by Death) Law, 5721-1961, I hereby order that, in order to reinsure the personal security of the Accused, he will testify from the accused's box.

[To the Accused] Put your right hand on the New Testament.

Accused: I do not swear by the Bible. I swear by God, for I am not bound by any confessional creed, but I do believe in God.

Presiding Judge: We shall permit you to take the oath in the form which you consider binding upon you. Therefore say: "I swear by God that my evidence in this trial will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Accused: I swear by God that my evidence in this trial will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Presiding Judge: Now you will answer the questions put to you by your Counsel.

Dr. Servatius: Your Honour, may I be permitted to make some short introductory remarks to show how the evidence will be produced.

Presiding Judge: Please do. The Accused may meanwhile be seated.

Dr. Servatius: Your Honour, the Presiding Judge, Your Honours, Members of the Court. In this case two worlds are opposing each other - the world of the sufferers and the world of the rulers, the victims and the machinery of the dictator, those above and those below. Tears are unknown in the world of the Caesars. The Defence will describe the dictator's machinery and the place held therein by the Accused.

It will be shown that the insertion of the Accused into the process of persecution of the Jews was the necessary and, as far as the Accused is concerned, inevitable result of the political intention of the State's leadership. It will become clear that the accusation of the Accused having been worse than Hitler, is a construction made ex post facto. It will emerge that the allegation of the Accused having wilfully sabotaged the orders of his superiors calling for moderation, is as untrue as the patent fairy tale that even Himmler had trembled with fear of the Accused.

The examination of the Accused will not be carried out at random, but will rely upon the documents produced by the Prosecution itself. On the strength of these documents, the Accused when examined as a witness, will give an account of his position and his activities. He will be ready to be examined, with the full knowledge of the consequences of cross-examination. He will testify, knowing that during his interrogation in the preliminary proceedings held by the police, he has given a candid description of the events which conforms to the truth.

The main facts, namely the personal knowledge of the events of extermination, have been disclosed by the Accused himself, on his own motion. A proper illumination of the documents by the Defence, will show that the responsibility for the events is to be attributed to the political leadership alone. It will appear that the highest authorities of the State had created the basis for the persecution and the extermination, as for instance the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministries of Economics and Finance and others.

These authorities made the laws, regulations, orders and directives, and these provisions were the legal basis for the measures of persecution, in the absence of which the Accused could not have taken a single step, and in fact he has not done so, without them. The whole machinery of the State was involved in sowing the seed which germinated later on. And if the Accused is guilty, then the authors who held the highest offices, are more guilty, whether they were active as fighters, or as clandestine fighters in the resistance movement. In this respect, the Defence will show that the Accused precisely did not belong to the dominant political leading class of the commanders, but he was a recipient of orders on a lower rank.

The evidence to be led is not intended to prove the guilt or the complicity of others; it was also the guilt of other states. It is not incumbent upon the Defence to explain the historical background. This cannot be done; the necessary time and means are not available to the Defence. The elucidation of the historical process must be left to research. A courtroom is also probably the least appropriate place for the research of historical truth.

First of all, the Defence will show, by the Accused's testimony, that the latter has not submitted voluntarily to be tried in Israel. Thereafter, the Accused will state in the witness box, his position as to what had caused him to join a Party which advocated, in one of the items of its program, the fight against Jewry.

Subsequently, the Accused will explain his status and activities; he will do so mainly on the strength of the documents produced by the Prosecution. In this respect, the Defence, for practical reasons, will follow more or less the order in which the Prosecution has produced its evidence.

Then the Accused will comment on the organization of the administrative machinery; he will do so in the following order: At first the Head Office of the Security Services, with the exception of the field offices in Prague and in Austria, which will be dealt with later on.

Secondly: the Head Office for Reich Security, and in particular the functions of its Department IV; furthermore, clarification will be given of the measures which had been taken already before the Accused joined the Head Office for Reich Security, and thereafter evidence will be produced concerning the measures taken after the Accused entered the service of the Office. This includes: deportations, the marking of Jews, the proposal for the use of devices for gassing, the Wannsee Conference of the State Secretaries, sterilization, collection of skeletons at the University of Strasbourg, the fate of the Lidice children, and measures taken against Jews of foreign nationality.

Afterwards, the events in various countries - in chronological order, from France to Hungary - will be dealt with.

A special chapter will be devoted to the allegation that the Accused had been directly involved in the exterminations. The Defence will prove that the Accused does not bear any responsibility for the exterminations which were carried out. It will become clear that they had neither been ordered nor executed by the Accused himself.

Finally, the Accused will state his position on the alleged murder of a young Jew in Budapest described by the witness Gordon; it will appear that the description is untrue.

The Accused will comment on the alternative open to him to refuse the execution of orders given to him. It will emerge that for him no such alternative existed. On the other hand, it will appear that the Accused made efforts to have the measures of persecution stopped, by the only way which he could have been expected to adopt - namely by proposing through official channels that a million Jews be permitted to leave.

With the Court's permission I shall now begin the interrogation of the Accused as witness.

Presiding Judge: Please do, Dr. Servatius. You may also, Dr. Servatius, if it is more convenient, remove your headphones since the translation will also be given consecutively in Hebrew...

Dr. Servatius: I want to see whether the Accused can understand...

Presiding Judge: The Accused can testify while seated. Also, Dr. Servatius, if you wish you may sit, if you feel tired, and interrogate while seated.

Dr. Servatius: Your Honour, it is a question of expediency. There is no desk here, which can cause problems with the documents, if one has to stand.

Presiding Judge: Naturally, that can be changed; it is no problem. We can provide a desk for you. I shall at once give instructions for the provision of a suitable desk. In the meantime you may sit down, if it is more comfortable for you. And, in general, you may remain seated while interrogating, but I leave that to your discretion...

Dr. Servatius: [To the Accused] The Prosecution has presented a document in which you declared that you have voluntarily come to Israel in order to subject yourself here to a Court of Law. Did you make such a declaration?

Accused: Yes, sir.

Presiding Judge: Can you hear the Defence Counsel clearly?

Accused: Yes, sir.

Dr. Servatius: Did you make this declaration voluntarily?

Accused: No.

Dr. Servatius: What were the circumstances in which this declaration was made?

Accused: After the attack on me in Buenos Aires, I was handcuffed to a bed and called upon to make a voluntary declaration of willingness to be tried by an Israeli court. I replied that I would prefer being handed over by my captors to the Argentinian police. That was refused. My handcuffs were then removed. I was told what to write, and after I finished I was again handcuffed to the bed. In my view that can't really be called "voluntarily."

Dr. Servatius: You joined a Party which inscribed the persecution of the Jews in its program. Can you explain briefly why you joined this Party, and what you have to say concerning the Jewish Question.

Accused: The National Socialist German Workers Party inscribed on its banner the struggle against Versailles. At that time, Versailles was the catchword around which all the distress in Germany revolved. Versailles was the reason for the loss of territory, deprivation of the means of defence, deprivation of rights and economic misery, that economic misery which found its expression in seven million unemployed in 1932.

At the beginning of 1932, when the interparty struggle was at its height, when I joined the NSDAP, the program of combatting Jewry at that time slipped back into a stage of secondary importance, because the Party could never achieve power with the struggle against the Jews. At that time, the lever had been thrown which meant struggle against the ruling system, the system as executor of the dictate of Versailles.

Hitler became the head of the government, and on account of the Enabling Act and the death of Hindenburg soon thereafter, be became the absolute ruler of Germany; this happened not least of all because of the support, the conspicuous support of German heavy industry, of German wholesale trade, and the big German banks. After the first quick victories in the war that was forced upon Germany, the State leadership of that time, carried away by these victories on the presumption of a supposed invincibility, went awry, and then, because of this attitude went on to stupid, senseless, unrestricted measures brought about a tragedy which nobody could have foreseen, including me; for that my rank was too low, and my position too insignificant... This is my answer to your question.

Dr. Servatius: Your Honour, at this point I would like to present a table of the Accused's assignments at various times, the various posts he held, which was drawn up by him. It is partially incomplete, but is so indicated at the requisite places.

I ask the Accused: Did you draw up this table?

Presiding Judge: Please, let him see the document which you wish to present to the Accused, so that he can identify it, and I can then mark it as an exhibit.

Accused: I did not actually draw up this table; it was copied by a professional draughtsman from a sketch supplied by me. But I have checked the entries and they accord with my sketch.

Presiding Judge: This table is marked as exhibit N/2. It would be desirable to submit the documents as far as possible in four copies, as the Attorney General has done, so that one is the original text and each of the three judges has a copy for his personal use; see to this in the future, please.

Dr. Servatius: I shall see to this. I shall supply the copies. From now on I shall conduct the interrogation on the basis of documents. I have given the Clerk of the Court a list; I shall shortly provide the list also in several copies, so that each judge has a copy before him.

Presiding Judge: Regarding this table, do you wish to question the Accused further?

Dr. Servatius: Not for the time being. It is more an aid and means of checking, if during the proceedings something has to be cleared up in case of doubt.

Judge Halevi: Dr. Servatius, I believe there is a clerical mistake here. It says the "September 1939, trip to Palestine." Should it not be "September 1937"?

Presiding Judge: On page 1, that should probably be "Autumn 1937," in the last paragraph on the last page.

Dr. Servatius: Regrettably the copyist made a number of errors. I now refer to document No. 22, that is T/37(5). Has the witness the text before him?

Accused: Yes.

Dr. Servatius: The text contains promotions. Now my question relates to the last promotion of 9 November 1944. How is this promotion to be explained? You said that you received no further promotion after 1941.

Accused: From 1941 to 1945 I was Obersturmbannfuehrer in the Security Police. I made repeated requests to my superiors to be transferred to the front. When this proved not to be successful, I used my membership in the Waffen-SS to clarify my rank in it, in order to a certain extent to present my superior with a friendly fait accomplit, in the hope that as a SS Untersturmfuehrer my transfer to the front would be approved, the more so since my friend and comrade, the Commander of the Twenty-Second Cavalry Division, Brigadefuerer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS Zehender, had discussed this matter with me in a promising way. Thus I was promoted from the rank of Standarten Oberjunker of the Waffen-SS to that of Obersturmfuehrer of the Waffen-SS in the reserves.

Dr. Servatius: I come to document No. 26. On the page before last is the confirmation of this promotion, exhibit T/37(59).

Presiding Judge: One moment, I have not found it yet. You say T/37(59)?

Dr. Servatius: Yes.

Presiding Judge: But that is something entirely different.

Dr. Servatius: I received these numbers and assumed that they were correct; they can easily be checked. The document is there. I must correct it accordingly.

Presiding Judge: The Clerk of the Court says it is T/37(292).

Dr. Servatius: I have corrected it.

Judge Raveh: Dr. Servatius, may I ask something in connection with document No. 22? What is the exact meaning of the abbreviation regarding the promotion of 29 November?

Dr. Servatius: That is the lowest officer rank; it corresponds to the rank of lieutenant. I shall ask the Accused; he should say it himself. He has the page before him.

What does the notation under "rank" in the last promotion mean?

Judge Raveh: Service, type of service.

Dr. Servatius: I have to ask the Accused again.

Do you wish to comment on the meaning of the entry "Bef. Res." in column 5?

Accused: After distinction was made in the Wehrmacht during the Reich as to whether one was a police officer or an officer in the Wehrmacht, this applied to my rank of Obersturmbannfuehrer, which therefore was on a par, I would like to say, with Oberstleutnant within the Security Police. Particular emphasis was given here, because I find here the entry regarding the last promotion as Untersturmfuehrer of the Waffen-SS; and as to the type of service that means "Befoerderung zum Reservefuehrer," that is to say, promotion to be an officer in the reserves.

Dr. Servatius: I have before me document No. 27 which is designated T/37(60). I hope that it is correct. It is on page 2, a proposal for promotion. It says there that you secured huge properties for the German Reich.

Presiding Judge: The numbering is apparently incorrect here as well. Mr. Bodenheimer, what is that now? Apparently it is T/37(36).

Accused: Before coming to document No. 27, may I say a few words in completion of the questions which remain open regarding document No. 22.?

Dr. Servatius: Yes, please.

Accused: In document No. 22, under the heading 4: "Units in the year 1933-34" there is an entry: SS Camp Dachau, until 28.9.1934. The indictment stated that the commandant of Dachau was a man named Eicke. Now I should like to clarify an error. Eicke was the commander of the Dachau concentration camp, at a time when my service unit had nothing to do with the concentration camp. I belonged to the SS organization, that was a battalion of the First Regiment of operational units, the regiment which later became known as the Regiment Deutschland.

The external difference is also very easily confirmed, inasmuch as the troops under Eicke's command wore their Death's Head symbol on the right side of the collar, whereas we members of the Regiment Deutschland had the runic SS, with a 1 underneath it, on the right side of our collars, indicative of the SS First Regiment. That means that this First SS battalion had nothing to do, either as regards personnel, or as regards the Death's Head units, which were in charge of the concentration camps. On the contrary, this First SS Battalion was a purely military formation, which served independently of the concentration camp administration.

Dr. Servatius: Do you wish to clarify the matter further?

Accused: Yes, Sir.

Dr. Servatius: Do you wish to refer to document No. 27, exhibit T/37(36)?

Accused: Yes, Sir.

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