The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Eberhard Von Thadden (Part 2 of 2)

In the course of my work in Department II Inland, I was continuously in contact with the Accused. During the period in question, I was initially Legation Counsellor, i.e., Government Counsellor, and subsequently promoted to Legation Counsellor, First Class, i.e., Senior Government Counsellor. As far as I am aware, Eichmann was an SS Obersturmbannfuehrer. To the best of my knowledge, this rank is equivalent to that of Senior Government Counsellor. I cannot make a comparison on the basis of an official position between my job as a Specialist Officer with that of Eichmann as a Specialist Officer in the Head Office for Reich Security, because I did not know what his official powers were. I also do not know how many subordinate officials worked in Eichmann's Section, which would give me some basis for comparison. I also do not know whether Eichmann's Section needed an entire building in Berlin. I am unable to reply to the question as to whether I know that Eichmann's Section had its own branch offices abroad, because I do not know whether offices abroad of the Head Office for Reich Security belonged specifically to this Section and were subordinate to Eichmann. I was not familiar with the working procedures of the Head Office for Reich Security.

I had constant dealings with the Accused and his office, particularly by word of mouth and by telephone with Guenther and Moes, or by written correspondence with his office.

I think it possible for a Specialist Officer of a central body to have had personal contacts with Ministers or Secretaries of State of foreign countries when he was abroad, but it was not customary. For example, while I was stationed in Greece, I once had dealings with the Greek Premier.

In the course of my consultations with the Accused and the Section of which he was in charge, I was authorized to decide myself only in the case of minor matters; otherwise I had to submit the matter for decision, either to the Head of another Section which was involved, or to my superior. By submission I mean the official procedure which passes through normal channels in order to reach the authority which finally takes the decision. In the case of the authorities superior to me, these were the Chief of Department, the State Secretary and the Minister.

I cannot say anything about the Accused's powers to take decisions; I do not remember any case in which the Accused took a decision about which I would say that it exceeded the competence of a Specialist Officer, according to the concept with which I was familiar in my own job. However, from the reports and opinions of the Accused, bearing his own signature, which I received, I was not always able to deduce whether he had taken the decision himself on his own responsibility, or whether he was acting in accordance with instructions. I also remember documents, the contents of which as such concerned Eichmann's Section, but which were signed by his superior, Mueller. For example, I remember a decree about the possibility of repatriating foreign Jews, signed by Mueller. This was a circular issued by the Head Office for Reich Security to the offices under its control, which was sent for information to the Foreign Ministry. This circular did not deal with individual instances.

Most of the documents which reached me from the Accused's Section were signed by him or by his subordinate assistants. I do not remember getting my Department Chief to deal directly with Mueller in matters which involved Eichmann's Section, in the disposal of which he was to be circumvented. I think that this would have been quite out of the question, because, if anything affecting Eichmann's Section was to be reversed, this, in my opinion, could only have been done by the top echelons (State Secretary or Minister).

I recollect more particularly now the case of the Bondi children. Sweden had requested exit permits for these children. Despite repeated representations, the Accused's office refused such exit permits. Shortly before the collapse - as far as I remember, it was in April 1945 - permission was nevertheless granted by Eichmann's Section. My impression of the whole case was that this was a decision which was handed down to the Accused by his superior, as a result of intervention by the State Secretary of the Foreign Ministry. I cannot right now remember other instances where a decision by the Accused's Section was reversed; by that I do not mean to say that this was the only case.

The Foreign Ministry demanded as a matter of principle to take part in questions affecting the treatment of Jews with neutral or enemy nationality. When it came to the power of decision between the Head Office for Reich Security and the Foreign Ministry, the seat of power was weighted clearly against the Foreign Ministry. However, I am unable to remember any case where a dispute arose because of this between the Foreign Ministry and the Head Office for Reich Security.

I was unable to discern from whom basic orders on the treatment of Jews emanated. I am also unable to state whether I received a basic order that was signed by Eichmann. However, even had it been signed by Eichmann, I would not have assumed that it had originated with him.

Requests from the Foreign Ministry for approval of exceptions to general rules were also directed through me to the Accused's Section.

As to whether the Accused was able to decide on his own initiative on these requests, I am unable to say. As I have already said elsewhere, it was not possible to determine from the position taken by his Section whether the decision in question had been taken by Eichmann himself. As part of my activities, I did learn of positive decisions as well - positive in the sense of members of the Jewish population - on the part of the Accused's Section. I do not know whether the Accused obtained these positive exceptions by intervening personally. Eichmann spoke in very negative terms about requests for approval of exceptions. I remember that when I approached Eichmann about approving an exception, he said my attitude was "weak-kneed." Eichmann did not mince his words.

As far as I know, the Foreign Ministry did not approach the Head Office for Reich Security through me with the request that measures be taken to eliminate stoppages which occurred in persecution of Jews abroad.

On being shown Prosecution document No. 967 by Counsel for the Accused present here, I wish to state that this concerns a matter which I transmitted to the Head Office for Reich Security. My aim was to get the Head Office for Reich Security to find out whether it was possible to prevent the flood of refugees. I also passed on to the Head Office for Reich Security other reports from our missions abroad, dealing with Jewish matters. The Head Office for Reich Security was the body in charge of the Jewish Question; consequently we provided the Office with reports we received from our missions, for their information. In passing on such reports, I was quite convinced that in any case reports on Jewish questions from our missions abroad reached the Head Office for Reich Security through other channels, so that otherwise it would only have aroused attention that I was not complying with my duty of reporting. To be honest, I must admit that by then I was already afraid that there would be unpleasant personal consequences if I had attracted attention in this connection.

What I have already said about general orders applies to correspondence as well. From the correspondence it was not always clear whether the statements made originated with the Specialist Officer or his superior.

As far as I know, the deportation of the Hungarian Jews was agreed upon between Hitler and Horthy when they met at Klessheim. In any case, while I was working in Department II Inland, I heard this either in a conversation with my superior or during a consultation between heads of departments. Ribbentrop and Himmler were present at the meeting at Klessheim between Hitler and Horthy. I know today that Horthy was given an ultimatum at the meeting; whether I heard this already at the time, I am unable to say today.

I received Veesenmayer's reports to the Foreign Ministry on the deportation of Jews from Hungary, for information. In the light of these reports, it is quite obvious that Veesenmayer played a decisive role in these deportations. I do not know to what extent he coloured his reports, in view of his position towards Ribbentrop. According to the reports, I also assume that he conducted the negotiations with the Hungarian Government. I cannot confirm whether the negotiations took place at Klessheim on 16 April 1944. I also did not know that, as it is stated, a special commando of Eichmann's Section had already left for Budapest before the meeting between Hitler and Horthy. I did hear later that Eichmann was in Budapest.

I do not remember any more today whether at that time I also knew whether - and if so with whom - Veesenmayer agreed on the details for evacuating the Jews from Hungary.

I believe that the copy of Prosecution document No. 157, just shown to me by the representative of Counsel for the Defence of the Accused, is a correct reproduction of the original.

Apart from Veesenmayer, the Reich Plenipotentiaries for Denmark and Greece were also subordinate to the Foreign Ministry. From what I know, the Reich Plenipotentiary for Norway, Terboven, was not subordinate to the Foreign Ministry.

Theoretically, the Reich Ambassador to for Hungary, Veesenmayer, acted on instructions from the Reich Foreign Minister. As I have already said, he was under his control. I also know only about his reports being sent to the Reich Foreign Minister. I do not remember his having addressed the Reichfuehrer-SS and Chief of the German Police directly on deportation matters. I also know that the Eichmann special commando operated in Hungary independently of Veesenmayer. But I am unable to say any more today, when I got to know about this - before the collapse or later. But from something Veesenmayer himself said, I know that the special commando acted independently of his office. It is correct that I did once make a journey to Hungary in the spring of 1944. On behalf of my organization, I visited then not only the Eichmann Special Operations Unit, but other offices as well. These were offices which concerned my Section. The real reason for this journey was that my superior wanted to give me a few peaceful days, because of the constant air raids on Berlin at that time. I wrote two reports about this visit: A copy of one report went to the Head Office for Reich Security, while the second report was for internal use in the Foreign Ministry. In these reports I indicated that the Eichmann Special Operations Unit in Hungary was acting in accordance with a definite plan. I could not determine to what extent Eichmann had co-ordinated this plan with other authorities. I myself was horrified at the plan which Eichmann had disclosed to me. I was in agreement with other staff of the Foreign Ministry that the implementation of the plan must be prevented, at least by gaining time. As far as I know, the plan was not implemented in the form disclosed to me originally by Eichmann when I saw him in Budapest.

According to the original plan, the Jewish population of Budapest was to be herded together one night on an island in the Danube and interned there, without adequate preparations. The photocopy of a telegram, Prosecution document No. 630, just shown me at the request of the representative of Counsel for the Defence of the Accused, was the direct result of an official consultation about my visit to Budapest. In this consultation, I was asked to pass on to Veesenmayer for his opinion a proposal from the Head of the Press Department, Schmidt. The content of the photocopy of the telegram with my signature conforms to Schmidt's proposal. I do not believe that the explanations I heard from Eichmann when I visited Budapest could have indicated that he intended to disguise his planned round-up of the Jews of Budapest in the same or a similar way as proposed for discussion in the telegram just shown here. The document shown to me in a photocopy as Prosecution document No. 629 served me as the basis for the telegram referred to. The plan which Eichmann disclosed to me when I visited Budapest concerned an operation against the Jews of Budapest only. Operations against the Jews in Greater Hungary were mentioned only as regards Jews with non- Hungarian nationality. These discussions centered largely on the repatriation decree and its implementation in Greater Hungary.

Regarding the evacuation of Jews from Hungary, it was always said that they were to be deported to the Eastern Occupied Territories. The name of the Auschwitz camp was also mentioned in this context.

As to who gave the orders for the anti-Jewish measures in Germany and the occupied territories, as well as in those areas where the Reich Government had influence, I know nothing at first hand.

I have already replied, as far as possible, to the questions about the position of the Accused as a Specialist Officer, and on his decision-making powers. I am unable to make any further statements about this, after having been referred to the questions of the Accused under numbers (2) and (3).

The statement I made on 11 June 1946 as a witness for the defence in the criminal proceedings against the SS, was made according to the best of my knowledge. I voluntarily made myself available as a witness. The reason why I did this was that through my work in the Foreign Ministry I knew a great deal, and nevertheless knew nothing at all until April 1945 of all the atrocities - i.e., the systematic destruction of the Jews.

I have just perused the photocopy of Prosecution document No. 984, shown to me by the representative of the Attorney General. As far as I can judge from this perusal, I can fully confirm the content of the solemn declaration which is the subject matter of photocopy No. 984.

I have now also perused the record of my interrogation dated 11.6.1946, shown by the representative of the Attorney General in Prosecution document photocopy No. 453. After this perusal I can confirm that the information I gave there is entirely accurate.

Having perused the photocopy of document No. 816, presented by the representative of the Attorney General, concerning a solemn declaration made by me on 16 April 1948, I wish to state that I no longer have any recollection of many of the facts mentioned in this declaration. I am therefore unable to confirm completely the accuracy of the contents of this declaration. In saying this, I am not trying to disavow the content of the declaration, but simply to state that from my own knowledge I can no longer testify today to all the facts contained in this declaration. I also do not remember any longer whether I made the solemn declaration now shown to me in photocopy in defence of former State Secretary Gustav Steenkracht [Steengracht] von Moyland. However, I think it is absolutely certain that I made such a declaration. In this connection, I should also point out that I also have no recollection today of making the solemn declaration dated 11 December 1947 in the criminal proceedings against Hoffmann.

The statement which, according to photocopy of Prosecution document No. 816, I made about the conditions after the imposition of a state of emergency in Denmark, and which I have just been shown (point 3 in the photocopy), is correct. I can also totally confirm it in the light of my knowledge today of this state of affairs, in terms of the description as such of the facts. However, today I no longer recollect the persons concerned. I remember to this day that I received the information referred to in the statement from a member of the staff of Eichmann's office. However, I cannot say today whether it was Guenther.

I also maintain my statement that in my opinion the plenipotentiary in Denmark was not in favour of the action against Jews in Denmark, the representative of Counsel for the Defence having shown me for perusal a photocopy of Prosecution document No. 39. I am unable today to state how the communication contained in photocopy No. 39 originated - i.e., what was the cause for drafting this document. I consider that the handwritten comments and the signature visible in photocopy No. 39 are genuine.

I became a member of the NSDAP in 1933 - to be precise, after 30 January 1939. I joined the Schutzstaffel when, as Secretary of the German-English Association, I was assigned the duty of accompanying guests to the Reichsparteitag (Reich Party Congress) in Nuremberg. I was given the rank of Oberscharfuehrer or Untersturmfuehrer. My last rank was that of Sturmbannfuehrer; I was still informed of my promotion to Obersturmbannfuehrer (in accordance with my last grade in the Foreign Ministry), but I did not receive the written certificate of promotion. Today, I no longer remember whether I was ever sworn in to the SS.

I did not consider that my membership in the SS imposed any special obligations on me in terms of fulfilling my official duties. I do not know whether as a member of the SS I was subject to SS and police jurisdiction.

I know that, in principle, any projects proposing the emigration of Jews to Palestine were foiled by the Foreign Ministry, in view of the Arab-oriented policy, insofar as such plans were made at all. I assume that the political department of the Foreign Ministry took part in foiling these projects, because this department was negotiating continuously with Arab representatives, such as the Grand Mufti.

Having perused the photocopy of Prosecution document No. 667, I also remember that, on instructions from the Reich Foreign Minister, talks were to be held with Antonescu on the ban of Jewish children leaving Romania. The Foreign Ministry had planned to deal with these children in accordance with the Feldscher Operation. I believe Prosecution document No. 667 to be genuine.

I remember that the Foreign Ministry corresponded with Eichmann's Section - it might have been in 1943 - about the internment of Jews with Spanish nationality who were in Salonika.

The communication from the Foreign Ministry, the contents of which I have just read through from the book shown to me by the representative of the Attorney General, called Kempner, Eichmann and Accomplices - published by the Europa Publishing House, pages 312-313 - I consider to be genuine. What I mean is that I believe the document to have been written in this form. I would also tend to assume that the document originated with me.

Read out, approved, and given under my hand
(-) Dr. Eberhard v. Thadden

The oath was administered to the witness, as prescribed.

One copy each of the above record was provided, on request, to the representative of the Attorney General and the representative of Counsel for the Defence, after both applicants had undertaken to ensure that no use would be made of the record before the return of the request for legal assistance to the Court in Israel in the criminal proceedings in open court.

The witness then asked to be given a copy of the record. He was informed that under the German Rules of Procedure which are applicable to the request for legal assistance, a witness in criminal proceedings is not entitled to inspect the record, so that a witness may not be given a transcript of the record either.

The witness then asked for the examining judge to ask the authorities who would in future still have to deal with the request for legal assistance to consider whether he might be given an ordinary copy of the record, in view of the exceptional nature of the circumstances.

The witness was then released.
(-) Kowarzik, Judge of First Instance
(-) Otto, Court Official

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