The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 106
(Part 7 of 7)

Q. Confessed?

A. I would definitely do that, without keeping this to myself in secret; I do not believe I would have been able to do that.

Q. Is that a Catholic expression?

A. Then I would have had to worry about someone finding out what I had done, and then it would have been worse, and I would also have been kept under strict surveillance. I myself experienced this several times.

Q. So in individual cases Mueller could release you from your obligations under your oath of allegiance? In practical terms?

A. No, Mueller could not do that, but...

Q. It was something like a sin which you confessed.

A. Just as in Romania, in Romania the Hungarian border I did not follow orders, but also had to get my reprimand, and after I had confessed, it was over.

Q. Did you never feel any conflict...a - what is called an inner conflict between your duty and your conscience?

A. It would be better to call it a split state, a form of splitting, where one fled from one side to the other, and vice versa.

Q. One had to renounce one's personal conscience?

A. One could put it that way, yes, because one could not determine and regulate it oneself.

Q. Unless one accepted the personal consequences for oneself.

A. One could have shot oneself, or one could have simply said: "I am not going to do this any longer," but I do not know what would have happened then.

Q. But you also did not try that, did you?

A. I did it differently, in my normal standard - my continuous requests to be transferred. In another form it would have been interpreted as disobedience, and treated accordingly.

Q. So perhaps you would once more read something from this speech of Himmler's about the question of obedience, which you referred to previously. The second point. "Obedience."


"In a soldier's life, obedience is required and shown morning, noon and night. The small man in fact always or normally obeys; if he does not, he is locked up. Obedience in the case of higher office-bearers of the state, the Party and the armed forces is a more difficult question; here and there in the SS as well.

"Here I would like to say something clearly and unambiguously: It is self-evident that the small man must obey. It is even more self-evident that all the high-placed leaders of the SS, i.e., the entire Gruppenfuehrer corps, are an example of unconditional obedience. If someone believes that an order is based on an erroneous understanding by the superior officer, or on an incorrect foundation, it is self-evident that he, i.e., each one of them, has the duty and responsibility to bring this up, as well as to explain his reasons in a manly and truthful fashion, if he is convinced that they are in conflict with the order.

"But once the decision has been taken and the order given by the superior concerned, or by the Reichsfuehrer-SS, which is normally the case for the Gruppenfuehrer corps, or even by the Fuehrer, it must be carried out, not only literally in accordance with its letter, but also according to its spirit. The person who carries out the order must do this as a faithful agent, as a faithful representative of the power issuing the order. If they initially believed that this was right, and that was not right or even wrong, then there are two possibilities: If someone believes that he cannot take responsibility for carrying out an order, he must honestly report that - I cannot take responsibility for that, I request to be released from it. Then in most cases there would be the order, 'But still, you must carry it out, or one may think that the man has lost his nerve, that he is weak.' And then one might say, 'Very well, you will be pensioned off.' But orders must be sacred."

Judge Halevi: Stop there. There is a Hebrew translation of this passage, which can therefore be included in the record.

Accused: Perhaps I could say something about this, Your Honour. Naturally it was easy for the SS Gruppenfuehrer, the generals. For example, Six was not yet a general in the SS, but I believe he was an Oberfuehrer, at least an Oberfuehrer, not a Brigadefuehrer.

Q. You have already put that on record. I remember something along those lines: For these gentlemen it was easier, the higher someone was, the easier it was for him, and the lower, the harder.

A. The harder, because one word and one would be demoted, then one could not do anything about it. And here in this speech, Himmler had his Gruppenfuehrer all gathered together. Then one can easily talk about generals.

Q. You may in fact have heard that - I think - Dean Grueber - commented that there was an absence of the courage of one's convictions (Zivilcourage) in Germany.

A. That is quite true.

Q. So you can confirm that?

A. Yes.

Q. And he also said that if there had been more people with the courage of their convictions, everything would have turned out differently. Do you agree with this?

A. If this courage of people's convictions had also been structured hierarchically, then that would have been quite clear.

Q. So it was not inevitable destiny?

A. An expert would have to examine how it came about that a large proportion of the people discarded...

Q. Did not have...

A. ...left aside what is called the courage of one's convictions, without thinking at all about it, and on the other hand orders given were unthinkingly...

Q. Yes, yes. If you call that fate, then it is fate, yes. But it is a question of human behaviour.

A. It is a question of human behaviour, and definitely that is how things were, it was wartime, things were turbulent, every individual said to himself: "There is just no point in my being against it, it would be like a drop in the ocean, damn it, and there is no point, there is no sense, nor will it do any good nor any harm, nor anything." And so it must also be a question of the times, I think, times, education, that is ideological education, these matters.

Q. Yes, yes.

A. Because generally militarists, by definition, do not have the courage of their convictions.

Q. Well then, if you are now examining your conscience seriously, must you not then admit that you lacked the courage of your convictions?

A. I lacked this just as many others lacked it, in the entire army, just like most of those in uniform.

Q. Many others, right? And what here you call idealism, you call yourself an idealist also for that time; that meant carrying out what was ordered from above as well and as completely as possible?

A. Yes, I understood by this clinging to National Socialism which was preached, and as a nationalist to do my duty in accordance with my oath; that is what I understood by this. And today it is obvious to me that every nationalism if taken to extremes leads to brute egoism, and from there it is no longer any great distance to radicalism.

Q. At that time it was very difficult for an individual to take the consequences, if he did not want to follow the authorities.

A. In what form, may I ask? To shoot oneself, in the last resort?

Q. To have the courage not to participate in such a crime, to see what happened, to try to stay alive, and if not, then not. That was a hard thing to do then, but today I am asking you, today do you have the courage...

A. To what extent?

Q. To take responsibility for your actions?

A. I have already said this. In human terms it is quite obvious that I am reflecting, judging myself.

Q. Is that what you call "take responsibility"?

A. As far as... I must draw a distinction between what I have done and what I have not done - what was imposed on me, and then the issue must be clarified, since I was not a giver of orders, for example like Endre...

Q. We have already heard that...

A. ...and Winkelmann...

Q. Very well, we have heard that too...

A. ...but a receiver of orders. If today this is a punishable offence, then I must take the consequences and accept the punishment...

Q. But will you at least admit the facts - not the legal questions - leave that to the Court.

A. Yes.

Q. But the facts - do you at least admit the facts? The truth? The facts?

A. Which I was duty-bound to do.

Q. I mean the Sassen Document, for example. There you have all sorts of objections - you were drunk - and it is a forgery - and there were errors in the transcription...

A. Of what I have said, there is nothing untrue, either... there are many true things in it, which I accept readily, and which I must accept.

Q. For example, were you also drunk when you corrected the report?

A. No, on the contrary, at that time I sat down and made the corrections, but they are not final corrections.

Q. That is exactly what I mean. Here you are confusing two different things, you are confusing the final wording of these conversations with the fact that you said these things - not finally, but initially you dictated them into a dictaphone - provisionally!

A. I admit that at a late hour I simply prattled away freely, and then nationalism once again took over, what I call - my occasional internal relapses, until one picks up one's new threads. What, of all this, I was made to believe, what was cooked up, what is mine, what was incorrectly heard - all of this must of course also make itself felt in this document.

Q. But basically these are your words, even if it is not a definitive position, that is to say, quite obviously you could not have issued the book in this form, this is only the preparatory work? But to evade this and say: "I have - I was made to have too much to drink, or I do not know what I said, or it was forged" - I do not think this is worthy of this place.

A. Although none of these points are applicable, are proved not to be applicable, I wish to state here as well, Your Honour, I would rather accept responsibility in this matter than allow myself to be stained by any impression of wishing to evade this.

Q. Look, this is just empty talk, just like this business about your asking Mueller to transfer you to a different post, but not drawing any practical consequences when this was refused. It is exactly the same thing here. You are saying: "In order not to be suspected of wishing to evade things, I would rather accept responsibility for this." But you are really insisting that the Court should not read this document.

A. I am not insisting on this, Your Honour, but I myself am not in fact able to distinguish which is mine...

Q. This is precisely the practical consequence of your courage.

A. ...and which is not mine.

Q. Then do not say what you said before, that you prefer, in order not to be suspected of wishing to evade things, that you prefer to submit it as evidence; you are in fact not submitting it as evidence.

A. What am I to do, if I myself know, for example, from reading this that the first three pages already have nothing at all to do with me.

Q. You have not even read more than three pages.

A. Here I have...of the entire set of seventeen volumes, I read the seventeenth, then I read the first and second volumes, and I read some few pages of the rest. I myself have not actually read it right through.

Q. Well, as you wish, I am just saying how things are. Of course, you have all the rights of an accused. And what I said to you previously is self-evident: A judge cannot force an accused. It is simply a question of evaluating the truthfulness of the testimony. This concludes my questions.

Presiding Judge: This will also conclude this long session.

Dr. Servatius, do you wish to say something at this stage?

Dr. Servatius: Because I must say it now, because it might perhaps be too late at the next session. There was the question of numbers, which was asked by Judge Raveh, about when he took over this position in Berlin, whether he was still in Vienna at the time of this conference. There is another table, where the Accused has drawn up a detailed timetable. I have made a copy of this and wanted to submit it now. I shall submit it later, in accordance with procedure. It says here...

Presiding Judge: In any case, it will not make any difference whether you do this now or at the beginning of the next session. It is now already very late, so would you please repeat your request at the beginning of the next session.

Dr. Servatius: May I ask another question? In the interim may I speak with the Accused?

Presiding Judge: Certainly, I believe that you spoke with the Accused yesterday. Yesterday evening, according to my information.

Dr. Servatius: Apparently yesterday evening was a special exception, so I thought.

Presiding Judge: Oh no, you were given authorization yesterday, and you will obtain this authorization again from time to time, just as before the cross-examination.

Dr. Servatius: I see, thank you very much.

Presiding Judge: The next Session will be on Monday, 8.30 a.m.

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