The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 112
(Part 4 of 6)

As will be remembered from the testimonies of Mrs. Szenes, Dr. Freudiger and Dr. Brody, Eichmann took the first train out of Kistarcsa by stealth. Dr. Brody, who was a detainee at Kistarcsa, heard this from the Hungarian commander of the camp, Vasdenyei, Brody had permission to travel from the camp to Budapest, according to the document which he submitted. He travelled into town immediately, informed the Jewish leaders, and suggested intervention with Horthy. Immediately connections and influences were brought to bear, through various persons, particularly Dr. Petoe. Horthy did intervene. The immediate intercession by the Jews brought results: the train was detained en route in Hungarian territory and was brought back. There was much rejoicing, as Freudiger stated.

But a man like Eichmann would not give up. He behaved like a madman, he screamed at Janos Gabor, the liaison person of the Jewish Committee, in a fit of fury: "How dare the Jews interfere in a matter like this," and after that, he went into action. Two days later, all Jewish representatives were called together to Eichmann's office, in the Majestic Hotel. Hunsche kept them there, from 10 a.m. until he received a telephone call at approximately 7 p.m. His reply to the person who spoke to him on the telephone was: "Good, very good." This was heard by the Jews, and later on he told them: "Now you may go."

Dr. Brody was at Kistarcsa, and he told us how it looked from the inside during those hours. Novak, Eichmann's representative, arrived at the camp and informed Vasdenyei that nobody could leave the office any longer, that no one could use the telephone, and that Eichmann would not allow his orders to be disobeyed, not even by the Regent, Horthy. Then the SS people started throwing the Jews brutally into the cars, amongst them sick persons and old people. The SS men said that the invalids could leave behind their crutches, wheel chairs and walking sticks, because they would no longer need them.

Then there began bargaining between Vasdenyei and Novak as to whether they would take only the persons who had already been on the first train and were in the camp, or whether, instead of the 280 Jews who had been taken to another camp during those few days, 280 others would be taken. Novak insisted on the full quota of 1500 persons, barring not a single one, but in the end he yielded, and only 1220 were deported. Brody adds: "We were happy about the rescue of those 280." Even that was a source of joy for Jews in those days. But even that particular joy did not last long. On the next day, it was learned from the camp at Sarvar that the 280 had been taken from there.

Vasdenyei helped Brody elude deportation, and he went to Budapest immediately. At the office of the Jewish Committee, to his surprise, he found no one. During the night he got in touch with Petoe and Stern, but this was already after Hunsche's "Good, very good!" The train had already crossed the Hungarian border in the direction of Auschwitz, bearing its victims, among them the husband of Mrs. Reich, who had written her that heart-rending letter and postcard.

Novak was in charge of this deportation. His photograph was identified here by Dr. Brody, by Brand, and by Eichmann himself. Novak belonged to Eichmann's unit and acted under his orders.

The next day, Wisliceny told Freudiger: "Did you think that Eichmann would agree that this old fool, Horthy, would bring back his train?"

What did Eichmann have to say, when he was examined about this affair?: "Even if we assume that all this is correct, there is one thing which I cannot understand. This matter of the lorries at Kistarcsa. Why, I had no lorries at my disposal." When questioned by the Court, he admitted that the Hungarian gendarmerie did have enough lorries, and therefore the puzzlement came to an end.

This affair of the deportation from Kistarcsa sheds the proper light on the man and his work. The passionate zeal to send Jews to their death, even if not ordered to do so at that particular time, the tough way in which he carries out the task in spite of all difficulties and obstacles, the arrogance driving him to have his word respected, no matter what - that is the true Eichmann, as he was described by the witnesses who had come in contact with him, as he was described by his co-conspirators in crime, as his figure emerges from the written and oral evidence.

It was not in vain that he represented himself to Joel Brand as he did. And as he stated here in his testimony, Joel Brand reported things as they were. I will not deny that he was entitled to adopt the name of "the destroyer of European Jewry."

However, when he is brought to trial, Eichmann, the expert in camouflage, deception and subterfuge, knows how to make use of the same qualities which he had used in those years, and adopts a different style when he speaks in Court.

First he puts on an act during the police interrogation and says that Jewish children were not deported from Hungary, and he even claims that he reached the point of differences of opinion between himself and the Hungarian authorities in this matter. This is one of the lies from which he had to retreat during cross-examination. He then admitted that children were deported with their parents, and we heard from Hansi Brand that when she pleaded with him for the lives of these children and told him, "Do you have no children of your own, that you are so lacking in compassion?" he scolded her and ordered her not to come back to him any more. We read in the Kasztner Report that in Budapest Eichmann had said that many Jews from Carpatho-Russia could be loaded into the railway cars, because out there they have families with many children, and the children, naturally, occupy only very little room. About that there is the evidence of Hansi Brand.

Presiding Judge: I would like to announce the order of the coming sessions of Court. At the request of the representatives of the two parties, there will be no Session this afternoon. The Attorney General will complete his argument at tomorrow morning's session, then there will be a recess until Monday, and the Defence Counsel will probably begin and, at any event, complete his arguments on Monday. Apparently he will do so, as he has informed us, already at the morning Session of Monday.

Attorney General: And now, Your Honours, to the famous transaction of "Blood for goods." Negotiations about rescuing Jewish lives in exchange for paying money or handing over assets to the SS went on in various ways. The Kasztner Report deals with this at length, and in the written summary the Court will find quotations about the details concerning these developments. Freudiger has testified to you about the suitcases full of money and jewels which were handed over to the Germans. This was confirmed also by Krumey, when he was examined in Germany.

At a certain stage, Himmler saw - whether on his own initiative or upon advice by others - an opportunity to exploit these negotiations for personal and political purposes, and particularly that this might provide him with an opportunity of making contact with the Western Allies. This was also stated in the testimony by Kaltenbrunner, and in this matter there is no reason to doubt his veracity, because he is not saying that in order to defend himself. He adds:

"From this moment on, Himmler was totally out of favour in the eyes of Hitler, because this action was most damaging to the interests of the Reich abroad."
There was testimony about this also by Schellenberg. This evidence supports the version which Becher gave of the whole matter immediately after the War, in his examination at Nuremberg, as well as in his testimony for this trial, taken from him in Bremen. Becher does not hide the fact at all that the instruction which he received from Himmler was: "Promise the Jews what you will, what we shall keep of this is a different matter," and that the transaction was designed primarily to serve Himmler's political purpose.

Therefore, as we know from the Kasztner Report, he saw it as an important achievement that a meeting was arranged for him with McClelland, a personal representative of President Roosevelt. For that reason, Becher tried at that time to praise and glorify Himmler and to describe him, to Kasztner as well, as a trustworthy person and almost as a man who defends the Jews against the evil designs of Kaltenbrunner.

Therefore, the entire matter of this transaction was, as is well known, kept secret from the German Foreign Ministry, and Ribbentrop angrily asked his ambassador in Budapest what this matter was about, when he learned of it from Radio London two months after Joel Brand went on his way, and then Veesenmayer gave his reply with evident embarrassment, apologetically and with many excuses, basing himself on Winkelmann and Grell.

Neither did the German Foreign Ministry know about the dispatch of the "train of the notables," or the prominent persons, to Bergen-Belsen, and in a minute prepared for Ribbentrop it was explained that this matter was assigned by Himmler to Eichmann. Eichmann received an order to conduct these negotiations, apparently in order to give them proper weight, based on his experience in dealing with Jews. But he was not made privy to the political aspect of the matter, which appeared to him undesirable and strange, and he dealt with it because he was compelled to do so by order. In his police interrogation he had this to say:

"The order was given by Himmler. From whom the idea had come, from Becher or from Himmler or from myself, or whether it was formed in any other way, this I do not know."
In that same interrogation he further said that he could not at all remember a conversation with Brand, that he had no point of reference for this episode, and that for his part he could not take upon himself responsibility for such a matter.

This is also what he told Sassen in the passage that was read out in Court, in Session 103:

"A matter like that, with ten thousand lorries, I would not have considered at all. I could not have dared to consider such a thing, I would not have entertained the idea at all."
Parenthetically, let me comment here that contrary to his claim that the Sassen stories were designed to glorify his status, so that the book be interesting and a bestseller, this passage here proves the contrary, and the truth emerges from it, and the lie is given to his excuse for finding fault with other passages. It could be that Eichmann in fact is angry at Becher who interferes with him regarding Jewish affairs. He was always angry when anybody interfered in his affairs, or wanted to take them out of his hands, as had happened in Holland, when somebody from the local authorities wanted to interfere and to make his own decisions on Jewish affairs. At that time he called this, in public, foolishness (widersinnig), as he admitted in cross-examination. Perhaps he was similarly angry also with Becher who invaded his own sphere, but this fury did not stem from any consideration other than his desire to be the one and only person who dealt freely with Jewish affairs, at least on the executive level.

Hansi Brand has testified before you: "I can say with a quiet conscience with regard to that transaction that he was gratified that it did not materialize."

Wisliceny spoke of Eichmann's joy when Brand did not return, and in view of that Eichmann did not want to receive Kasztner either for any further talks and planned to liquidate him at an early opportunity. Eichmann anticipated that this transaction would fail, and for his part was prepared to contribute to its failure, without, of course, it becoming evident that he was openly contravening Himmler's instructions. In order to create a fait accompli, he began stepping up the pace of deportations at a dizzying rate, beginning on the day Joel Brand left, and from that day on, every day twelve thousand persons were dispatched to Auschwitz. His own attitude to this whole matter Eichmann divulged to Sassen, in a passage which you have before you in the typed copy.

"My heart was not with the enemy... I prefer to see a dead enemy rather than a live one... But when I have before me an order from the Reichsfuehrer to provide mechanized transport for the 22nd and 8th Divisions - ten thousand trucks - then let one million Jews go to hell... I did not consult my heart at all, I had to consult Germany... In case of dire need, we would have given them even two million in exchange for these ten thousand trucks, because I would have extracted from this transaction what was possible...and again this was proof that not all Jews were fed into the furnaces, because they were still there, the Jews."
Thus Eichmann to Sassen. In his examination he claims that it seems to him that his remarks were somewhat corrected and that they were "retouched," as he put it. But these very remarks are the ones that do describe his true attitude towards the transaction, and his wish to thwart it, as emerges from the Kasztner Report, from the testimony of Hansi Brand, and from the testimonies of Becher and Wisliceny. Have we not heard, once before, similar words from him which he admitted having said, when Brack, of Hitler's office, asked him for a few trains, which he had obtained so laboriously, only because Brack - I am now quoting Eichmann - "wants to stoke the furnace with a few idiots."

That is his language, and these are its fingerprints spread throughout the Sassen manuscript, including the typical swear-words, the vulgarities and other idioms of his.

People going up in the fires of the crematoria - they are material for stoking the furnaces. The dead Jew is always preferable to the live Jew. This is what he told Hoess, too. But when there is an order to let the Jew survive, and this is the way to obtain equipment for two divisions of the SS, and this is an hour of need - all right, let it be, said Adolf Eichmann. But this whole show which we heard from him here, that he, like Joel Brand, is full of sorrow to this day that the transaction failed - that is hypocrisy for which it is difficult to find words.

And, really, why should he show human feelings toward the Jewish enemy when he wanted to destroy even the enemies from among his own people? He did admit in his cross-examination that he had suggested to Mueller putting one hundred thousand Germans to the wall for lacking loyalty to the Fuehrer. He admitted that he had said that only after their own stables are cleaned could they make order with others. In the Sassen Document, which I read out to him, the reference is not to one hundred thousand Germans but to five hundred thousand.

The "gems" of his language in Hungary are known from the Kasztner Report and from other items of evidence. "I have to clean the provincial towns of this Jewish garbage," he said to Kasztner, "if no answer is received about the transaction within forty-eight hours, I shall give orders to throw out the entire Jewish dung heap of Budapest." And what testimony did we hear from the witness Friedman about Eichmann's visit to Majdanek, when he looked at the detainees and said: "Remove the dung heap from here!" That is the language of Adolf Eichmann.

He continued to scheme for the detention and deportation of the Jews of Budapest also when Horthy stopped the deportations, and made all necessary preparations for that. In a report sent to Ribbentrop, in the handwriting of Wagner, the official in charge says that Eichmann had arranged with Veesenmayer all the details concerning a lightning operation for the arrest of all Jews in the city. In his cross-examination, Eichmann in the end also admitted this.

The series of official correspondence reveals the bloodthirsty plot against the Jews of Budapest and the dramatic struggle to put their hands on the remaining Jews. All preparations were made, camouflage arrangements were discussed, but in the end it was apparently decided not to use camouflage. The proposed excuses apparently were not satisfactory. The Hungarian Council of Ministers decided on 13 August 1944, that the lightning arrest should be carried out on the 25th of that month. Eichmann did not agree. He demanded of the Hungarian Minister of the Interior that the date be advanced to the 20th of that month. The Hungarians said that this would require a new arrangement, and then went back to the 25th of the month as the date. The Jews, who got wind of the matter, continued their efforts in various directions, as we know from the Kasztner Report.

Suddenly Himmler, too, ordered that the operation be stopped. On the same day - in fact after receiving the order from Himmler - Becher telegraphed Himmler, making a request on the same subject. Eichmann did not give up, even in the face of the order from Himmler. He asked Winkelmann, Himmler's personal representative in Budapest, to keep Himmler's announcement secret, since in the meantime he had, as we know, already secured the consent of Horthy to the deportation of the Jews of Budapest. However, Wisliceny learned about the contents of Himmler's order and he informed Kasztner about it, in words recorded in the Kasztner Report: "You have won, Eichmann will go away."

Through the Jewish leaders, the existence of the order from Himmler became known to Horthy as well, and he became courageous and once again stopped the arrests. At this point, Eichmann became so furious that he suggested that he and his unit be withdrawn from Hungary.

The Germans still continued to try and win the Hungarians over, and at the end of August still conducted talks concerning the arrest and deportation of the Jews from Budapest, but this was not implemented. What caused the Hungarians to withdraw? Certainly the pressure on the approaching front, the fear of adding this further crime, the intervention of many persons and groups with Horthy. What influenced Himmler to halt the deportation? This cannot be answered with certainty, and it is a secret he took with him to his grave. Perhaps it was precisely the fact that Joel Brand was delayed on the way that may have caused it? Perhaps just the very fact that he did not return from his mission was preferable to having him return with empty hands. These are all plausible conjectures.

It seems that in the meantime the Germans believed that the Jews already had 250 trucks, as we know from Freudiger's testimony. Kasztner applied constant pressure to stop the deportations by arguing that they were hampering the transaction. Grell, the Embassy Counsellor, informed Veesenmayer that, in spite of the fact that the BBC had broadcast that the Allies would not agree to this transaction, there was still a chance that it might be carried out, because the broadcast was a smokescreen for the negotations.

Rudolf Hoess testified explicitly that when there was a sudden halt in the transports to Auschwitz, and he wanted to know what was happening and travelled to Berlin, they referred him, in turn, to Eichmann in Budapest, because in Berlin nobody was able to give him complete information. In Budapest he learned, he writes, that the negotiations about the transaction were the cause for halting the deportations, as the Jewish functionaries demanded an end to the extermination as a token of earnestness that the Germans were proposing this transaction seriously.

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