The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Dr. Edmund Veesenmayer (Part 1 of 2)

9 May 1961

To the Competent Court of Justice, Darmstadt

Re: Request for Legal Assistance

The main hearing in the criminal proceedings against the Accused Adolf Eichmann is at present taking place in this Court.

In the context of this main hearing, I request you to extend legal assistance to this Court by the examination on oath of the following witness:

Dr. Edmund Veesenmayer, Darmstadt, Rosenhoehweg 25 b.

The witness is to be examined as to the following allegations of the Accused:

(1) that the Accused did not propose or plan the deportation of Hungarian Jews;

(2) that the deportations took place on his (the witness') initiative and on the initiative of the former Higher SS and Police Leader in Hungary, Winkelmann;

(3) that the concentration of the Hungarian Jews and their transport was organized and carried out by the Hungarian authorities; and that the Accused's duties were only to provide technical supervision and to manage the transports;

(4) that the foot march of a large proportion of the Jews of Budapest to the Austrian border was the result of intervention on the part of Winkelmann, who demanded fifty thousand Jews for the construction of fieldworks on the Ostwall.

To complete the testimony of the witness, I request that the witness also be asked the following questions which were drawn up by Counsel for the Accused:

(1) What were your powers and duties as the Reich Plenipotentiary for Hungary?

(2) Were all the SS offices in Hungary under your control?

(3) Was Higher SS and Police Leader Winkelmann attached to you?

(4) Did you hold negotiations with Regent Horthy and the ministers of the Hungarian Government about implementing the deportations of the Jews?

(5) Is it true that at the instigation of Higher SS and Police Leader Winkelmann you managed in October 1944 to have, initially, twenty-five thousand Jews set out on foot from Budapest for the Austrian border?

(6) Is it correct that it was above all due to your influence that the Arrow Cross Party took over the government in Hungary?

(7) What was the assignment of the Eichmann Special Commando?

(8) How many men did the Eichmann Special Commando comprise?

(9) Who carried out the concentration and the transport of the Hungarian Jews?

I also request that the witness be asked the following additional questions which were drawn up by the Attorney General:

(1) During his posting in Hungary, was the Accused subordinate to you?

(2) If not, were the Accused and the so-called "Eichmann Special Commando" in direct, regular contact with some superior authority in the Head Office for Reich Security in Berlin?

(3) If so, which Department was this in the Head Office for Reich Security?

(4) What were the special reasons for the Accused's appointment as commander of the Operations Commando in Hungary?

(5) With reference to the evacuation of Jews from Hungary, was the Accused in any way dependent on instructions from your own office?

(6) If not, to what other German authority in Hungary was the Accused subordinate in his functions?

(7) Was the Accused authorized to conduct negotiations directly with the State Secretaries in the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior?

(8) If so, did he conduct such negotiations?

(9) Were you, the Accused, or another German authority in Hungary entrusted with co-ordinating the duties of the Eichmann Operations Commando with the activities of the Hungarian gendarmerie?

(10) Do you know of orders issued directly by the Reichsfuehrer-SS to the Accused?

(11) If so, what was their content?

(12) Do you know anything about the Accused's activities with the Waffen-SS on the Hungarian-Romanian border?

(13) If so, when and for what purpose was the Accused detailed to the Waffen-SS?

(14) Are you aware of any intervention by the Regent, Admiral Horthy, in order to halt a train transporting Budapest Jews to Reich territory?

(15) If so, what do you know of the Accused's activities in circumventing this intervention and preventing it from taking effect?

(16) Which German authority was concerned in organizing the so-called "foot march" of Jews from Budapest in the direction of Austria?

(17) What do you know of directives about labour service on the so-called "Ostwall," particularly with reference to age and fitness for labour?

(18) Did you or any other German authority speak to the Eichmann Operations Commando about this foot march?

(19) If so, what was the content of these comments?

I would request you to summon to the examination of the witness the representative of the Attorney General of the State of Israel, c/o H.E. Ambassador Dr. F.E. Shinnar, Israel Mission, Cologne, as well as Counsel for the Accused, Advocate Dr. R. Servatius, Hohenzollernring 14, Cologne, and to afford them, on their part, the opportunity to ask the witness any questions which might arise from his answers.

There is no objection on the part of this Court to the aforementioned representatives of the parties obtaining copies of the record of the examination.

Please forward the original of the record of the examination to this Court,

(-) Moshe Landau
President of the Trial Court

The Court of First Instance, Darmstadt, 23 May 1961
File number: 24 AR 334/61


Assistant Judge Kollatz as Judge

Court Official Hunecke as Authenticating Official at the Court Office

In the Criminal Proceedings of the Attorney General of the State of Israel against Adolf Eichmann for murder and other offences before the Jerusalem District Court, File Number 40/61, there appeared at the time set, as a result of the request for legal assistance dated 9 May 1961, for examination the witness Dr. Edmund Veesenmayer of Darmstadt, before the Court of First Instance, Darmstadt:

1. The witness Dr. Veesenmayer;

2. Dr. Erwin Shimron, representing the Attorney General of Israel;

3. Advocate Dieter Wechtenbruch with a sub-power of attorney to represent Counsel for the Accused, Advocate Dr. Servatius.

The sub-power of attorney was presented, perused and returned.

It is determined that in an Order dated 13 May 1961 (93 E - 2982), the Prosecutor General in Frankfurt am Main, by the powers vested in him by the Federal Government in the Government of the State of Hessen, in accordance with an agreement on jurisdiction, and transferred by the aforesaid State to be exercised by the Prosecutor General, ruled that the request for legal assistance was to be acceded to. The representative of the Prosecution was informed that the Prosecutor General of Frankfurt am Main, Dr. Bauer, had by the powers vested in him, authorized the presence in his official capacity of the representative of the Attorney General of the State of Israel at the session of the Darmstadt Court of First Instance. This authorization was notified by telephone to the officiating judge by the Prosecutor General at 12 o'clock on 20 May 1961.

The counsels for the Prosecution and for the Defence were informed that the witness, Veesenmayer, would, in accordance with German criminal law, be examined by the Court on the questions posed in the request for legal assistance, but that they would have the opportunity to propose further questions to the court.

The witness was then instructed that he was obliged to give complete and truthful testimony, that he was not permitted to add or withhold anything, and that his obligation to tell the truth included his personal details.

The witness was informed that he would have to take an oath on his testimony, if no exception was laid down or permitted by the law. He was instructed that perjury could be punished by hard labour, and negligently taking a false oath by imprisonment, and any deliberately false unsworn testimony could also be punished by imprisonment.

The witness was further informed that he could refuse to provide information by way of reply to questions, answering which would expose himself or a close relative to the danger of criminal proceedings.

The witness was instructed that no further proceedings could be instituted before the German courts for those crimes for which the American Military Tribunal had already punished him.

The witness was notified that, according to the request from the Jerusalem District Court in the criminal proceedings against Adolf Eichmann, he was to be examined more particularly on questions which related to deportations of Jews in Hungary. It was ascertained that, in a communication dated 16 May 1961 to the Federal Minister of Justice (101 - 80.13/1), an authenticated copy of which is in the court file, the Foreign Ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany has permitted the witness Dr. Veesenmayer to testify where such testimony may refer to matters arising from his employment in the former Foreign Ministry. A copy of the permission to testify was given to the witness for his inspection.

Whereupon the witness gave the following personal details when questioned by the judge:

My name is Dr. Edmund Veesenmayer, general agent, resident in Darmstadt, Rosenhoehweg 25, 56 years of age, not related and not connected by marriage to the Accused. I was sentenced by the American Military Tribunal to ten years in prison for the occurrences in Hungary. The sentence was originally for a longer period, but was subsequently reduced.

The allegations of the Accused Eichmann listed in the request for legal assistance were then read out in turn by the judge to the witness and answered as follows by the witness:

(1) I cannot say anything about this. I did not know Eichmann earlier and am not aware of such relationships.

(2) As regards myself, this allegation is not correct; as far as Winkelmann is concerned, I am unable to say anything.

(3) According to my information at the time, the Hungarian police and Hungarian gendarmerie were deeply involved in deporting the Jews. I am unable to say who initiated and organized the deportations. In the beginning, SS Obergruppenfuehrer Kaltenbrunner negotiated independently with Hungarian authorities. These were probably the basis for the later measures. The negotiations, I assume, were more particularly with the Ministry of the Interior. I was informed subsequently, only very superficially, and did not hear of things until weeks later. I know that Eichmann was there, but I had no idea about the nature of his duties.

(4) Whether this was Winkelmann, I do not know. I know about the foot march, but who issued orders or directives for it, I do not know.

The representative of the Defence submitted to the court copies of Prosecution documents Nos. 675 and 871. The representative of the Attorney General submitted to the court copies of Prosecution documents Nos. 212 and 973. Both proposed that the copies of the documents submitted by them be shown to the witness to refresh his memory. These documents were shown to the witness. The witness perused the documents and then stated:

On document No. 675: I should first like to make the point - and this applies to the other documents as well - that what happened occurred seventeen years ago. What took place in Hungary has already been discussed in great detail at Nuremberg. At that time impressions were still relatively recent. Today, however, the environment is different, with a different assessment of matters, and I, too, have been subject to the effects of this lapse of time.

In a legation, things are organized in such a way that most of the so-called routine work is prepared and drafted by Specialist Officers, then first submitted for control to the Legation Counsellor who deputizes for the Ambassador, for his approval, and only then submitted by the Counsellor to the Ambassador for signature. At the beginning, the legation did not have a special expert official for so- called Jewish Affairs. Special representatives would be sent by the Foreign Ministry, and these would change relatively quickly. These special representatives were not part of the legation. They were directly subordinate to the Foreign Ministry.

Later a Mr. Grell was sent to us, and he was made a member of the legation staff. I no longer remember what rank he held. I only remember vaguely that earlier he had been consul somewhere or other. He had been badly injured in the war. His face was disfigured. I believe he had been shot in the head and had suffered serious burns. Grell suffered from severe depression and had regular attacks. He would then tend to drink. Legation staff repeatedly informed me that he behaved improperly when he had been drinking. I therefore tried to get rid of him. He met me half-way by volunteering time and time again for combat duty. He was quite a military sort and wanted to overcome his inferiority complex by more combat duty. I remember how once he cried like a child and said, "Let me go to the front." However, whether this was connected with his actual duties as the person in charge of Jewish Affairs, or with private problems, I do not know any more.

Grell had nothing to do with Prosecution document No. 675, because he definitely had not yet arrived. Whether he had anything to do with the other documents (Nos. 212, 871, 973), I also cannot say definitely. He was later sent to the front, but I no longer remember when that was.

The legation was partially evacuated relatively early on, and also distributed among various locations, owing to the danger of air raids.

If today my comments on the various documents differ from what I may have said about them previously in Nuremberg or on other occasions, the reason is that, with the best will in the world, I can no longer recall details. However, I am endeavouring to be truthful, just as I was when giving previous testimonies.

With regard to document No. 675, I only remember that, right from the beginning, the Foreign Ministry was demanding manpower from the Hungarian Government. These demands, too, went only partly through myself. There also came special representatives sent by the ministry responsible for armaments, and these were addressed to Hungarian authorities directly. As the Ambassador, it was my duty to report to the Foreign Ministry about every such instance. I had problems in doing so, because often I did not hear of the activities of such special representatives until later. That undermined my position as Ambassador.

I am unable to say anything about the particular matter dealt with in exhibit T/675, nor am I able to identify the exhibit as a genuine document exchanged in diplomatic correspondence. I am not familiar with the internal details. I was not a career official in the Foreign Service. I was conscripted in 1939 and in the main worked in conjunction with the Canaris Department for the Foreign Ministry.

The following supplementary question was suggested by the Defence representative:

"The document says that the witness demanded fifty thousand Jews from the Hungarian Government. Does the witness remember, in this instance or in other instances, making representations to the Hungarian Government with reference to large-scale contingents of Jews?"

This question was addressed to the witness by the court, and he answered as follows:

If I made such demands or representations to the Hungarian Government, they would have had to have been preceded by corresponding instructions from the Foreign Ministry. The telegram says "also for Ambassador Ritter"; when I was posted to Hungary as Ambassador, I was made subordinate to Ambassador Ritter's special right to issue instructions. Today I can no longer say whether I received special instructions to demand Jews from the Hungarian Government. I do know whether there were special Jewish labour battalions set up earlier with the Hungarian armed forces.

The representative of the Attorney General proposed to the court to ask also the following supplementary question:

"Does the witness know that until October 1944 Jews were de facto demanded by the German authorities not as manpower, but for deportation to concentration camps or extermination camps, the term `manpower' simply being used as a pretext? If not, did the witness learn of this later?"

This question was addressed to the witness by the court and answered as follows:

I was told that the men were urgently needed as labourers, mainly in Austrian plants. At that time I did not know anything about extermination camps. I was aware of the existence of concentration camps and [other] camps. It was not until Nuremberg that I found out the full extent of matters. Partly I got to know that women and children, as well as people too old to work, were also deported. When I asked about this, I was told that this was done in the interest of the families, because they would otherwise fall prey to starvation. I did not, however, obtain any official information about this. I am unable to say which German body dealt in detail with supplying "manpower." There were so many German authorities in Budapest which were not subordinate to me.

On documents Nos. 212, 871, 973: The only thing I still remember is that around this time (October, November 1944), manpower was required for fieldworks on the so-called Ostwall. As far as I remember, practically the entire population of Budapest was employed on this, at two locations: a wall on the outskirts of Budapest, to protect the city, and another wall on the Austro-Hungarian border. This was connected with military decisions. The wall on the outskirts of Budapest was to be erected first, and then the one on the Austro-Hungarian border a few weeks later. However, the Budapest population was, in general, employed only for the Budapest fieldworks.

For the reasons already mentioned, I cannot properly identify the documents submitted to me for inspection. It is probable that they are correct.

The copies of the documents were then returned by the court to the parties to the proceedings.

After the statement by the witness on these allegations by the Accused, the questions conveyed by Counsel for the Accused on page two of the request for legal assistance were addressed to the witness one by one, and answered as follows:

(1) The question contains an error. I was never Reich Plenipotentiary.

The representative of Counsel for the Accused submitted a copy of document No. 272, with the request that it be shown to the witness. Prosecution document No. 272 was shown to the witness, who made the following statement on it:

The document does apply to me. I can only repeat that I was never Reich Plenipotentiary. When I was seconded to Hungary as Ambassador, the occupation of Hungary occurred at the same time. Developments were initially not clear. When a new government could be set up, the structure of things changed. The German occupation forces were withdrawn, as they were needed more urgently elsewhere. As the German Ambassador I duly - but later, in April - submitted my credentials to Horthy. However, I had been introduced to him on 19 March on the special train bringing him back to Hungary from Salzburg.

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