The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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

The representative of Counsel for the Accused submitted Prosecution document No. 1021 with the request that it be shown to the witness. This document was thereupon shown to the witness, who stated:

On document No. 1021: I repeat that in the ultimate result I was never Reich Plenipotentiary. The telegram may have been worded in this way out of ignorance. I was at the time put on the train without any further instructions.

Prosecution document No. 1021 was returned to the representative of Counsel for the Accused. The latter then submitted the book, The Judgment in the Wilhelmstrasse Trial, Alfons Buerger-Verlag, First Edition, Schwaebisch- Gemuend 1950, with the request that the witness be shown the document signed by Adolf Hitler on 19 March 1944, reproduced there on page 307.

The book was shown to the witness, who stated the following:

I remember a great deal of dispute at Nuremberg between the prosecution and the defence about the issue of "Reich Plenipotentiary," "Plenipotentiary of the Great German Reich," "Plenipotentiary of the Foreign Ministry," and so on. In actual fact, I was never Reich Plenipotentiary. I am a layman in these matters. I did probably receive the sort of authority which played a role in the Wilhelmstrasse Trial. I had various powers in which my formal title varied as circumstances in Hungary changed. In my view, had I really been the Reich Plenipotentiary, I would have been directly answerable to the Reich Chancellery, and should have had the power to issue instructions to all German authorities in Hungary, as well as to the Hungarian Government. In actual fact, however, I belonged to the Foreign Ministry. That is where my superiors were, and from there I received my salary.

The documents submitted were returned to the representative of Counsel for the Accused.

(2): No. I had no authority to issue instructions to any SS offices. As far as I am aware, these were subordinate to Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler.

(3): No. Even if I used the phrase, "The Higher SS and Police Leader reports to me" in various telegrams or reports, this does not mean that I had any authority to issue instructions to him. This must not be understood as implying that he reported to me as to a superior. If I chose this expression, it was because, according to my background, I was not familiar with these matters. In actual fact, the Higher SS and Police Leader regularly drew up reports about the general security situation in Hungary, and these were sent, inter alia, to the German legation as well. Later, when controversy arose in Berlin as a result of one of these reports, their transmission to the German legation was discontinued. The "reporting" mentioned in my report referred to such reporting by the Higher SS and Police Leader, at least as to the greater part. Winkelmann did not belong to my staff. My staff consisted exclusively of the legation.

(4): If there were instructions from the Foreign Ministry, I had to pass them on. I would almost deny having negotiated with Horthy, as I had very few contacts with him. As Ambassador, I myself had to do only part of the negotiating, namely when I was instructed to negotiate directly with the Hungarian Government or its ministers. However, I believe that I always spoke to the premier only, who was also the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Negotiations with subordinate Hungarian authorities were handled by the Legation Counsellor, who could let Specialist Officers participate in that.

However, I had the impression that not all Jewish matters were being channeled through me, and that very little passed through my hands. I believe that the basis for most measures was Kaltenbrunner's direct agreements with the Hungarian authorities.

The legation itself dealt in particular with matters of nationality.

The representative of the Attorney General of Israel submitted Prosecution documents Nos. 161 and 182 with the request that they be shown to the witness. The documents were shown to the witness, who made the following statements:

On document No. 161: This matter is entirely new to me - nor is this my style. This would appear to be a telegram which was received and passed on by me. I cannot say who dealt with this matter, nor do I remember the facts to which the telegram refers, nor can I remember this being discussed at Nuremberg.

On document No. 182: I cannot say anything about this, either.

The copies of the documents were returned to the representative of the Attorney General.

The witness made the following supplementary statement:

Basically my deputy, Legation Counsellor Feine, would have been responsible for the matters referred to in the documents. As a career diplomat in the German Foreign Service, his duties were to handle everything which did not involve me directly.

As the situation at the front deteriorated, so did the ability of the German authorities to exert influence on the Hungarian authorities. My task was to keep Hungary on the German side. For that I was initially appointed as agent, becoming Ambassador later. I did not apply to become Ambassador. Even though we were interested in having governments in Hungary which were friendly towards Germany, this does not mean that they depended on us completely. My view was that we had to try and win back over to our side Horthy, who had put out feelers about negotiating as early as 1943. The pro-German governments established later in Hungary did, it is true, consist in part of people who affirmed the historical brotherhood in arms, were faithful to us, and did not think of betrayal. However, their attitudes were nationalist, and they strove for a Greater Hungary. It was in this sense that Szalasi, in particular, wished to preserve Hungarian interests.

I know that the SS offices had influence in Hungary. I know that this influence was great. I myself was an honorary Fuehrer in the SS, and my last rank was that of Brigadefuehrer.

As I see things, without the active co-operation of the Hungarians, it would not have been possible to carry out the anti-Jewish operations. It is only when you are strong that you can threaten and force things through. However, in 1943 we were no longer strong, and in 1944 we were weak. In October 1944 the Castle was occupied by soldiers, and Horthy had to leave for Reich territory on a special train. I myself was an eye-witness.

The representative of the Attorney General again submitted the book on the judgment in the Wilhelmstrasse Trial, with the request that the witness be shown pages 171 ff.

The book was handed to the witness, who perused the page and then said:

As things stood then, it was not obvious that the special position of the SS resulted from the necessity to suppress the subversive elements mentioned in my report, and more particularly the Jews, nor did I perceive this as the main purpose of occupying Hungary. Today, in retrospect, things look rather different. The SS most definitely provided increased protection against uprisings and so on. And that is what we were primarily concerned about. In Hungary there was also a danger of partisan activity, such as we were familiar with from Russia and Serbia. There were no major organized uprisings in Hungary. I only heard of individual instances of agents being captured, of explosives being seized, and later I was once informed that a larger-scale uprising was planned in Budapest by the entire anti-German camp.

The examination was continued after a lunch break from 13.15 to 14.30.

(5): No, this did not originate with me. However, it is possible that I provided further support for this, in view of the pressing military emergency.

As to whether Winkelmann instigated this, I am no longer able to say today. I no longer remember what was the cause of it. At the time, various authorities, including military ones, were involved in defence matters.

The representative of the Attorney General submitted a copy of Prosecution document No. 525. This was shown to the witness. He stated:

On Prosecution document No. 525: Today I am no longer able to say what was the source of my information about the events referred to in document No. 525. The matter was probably reported on by a Specialist Officer. By then I was no longer receiving the reports, which I have already referred to, of the Higher SS and Police Leader. The initial words of the telegram refer to the change of government in Hungary. Whether the Szalasi Government had already been set up by then, I am unable to say with any accuracy today.

The Prosecution document was handed back.

(6): I did participate in this - to what extent, it is difficult to say.

(7): I cannot say anything precise about this. I did not have any dealings with Eichmann about this matter, nor was I kept informed by him. As far as I know, I only saw Eichmann once, when he presented himself to me. This was not immediately after the entry of the German forces, but a little later. However, it cannot have been too late, as Winkelmann later ruled that it was no longer permitted for SS personnel (offices) to have direct dealings with the legation. I knew that the Eichmann Special Commando was engaged in the deportations of Jews. At the time, the concept of the "Final Solution" was completely unknown to me. I did not hear about this until Nuremberg.

(8): I am unable to give even an approximate figure. Later I heard that it was very small. I cannot say whether I only heard this in Nuremberg.

(9): As far as I know, in the main this was carried out by the Hungarian gendarmerie. I do not know whether the Eichmann Special Commando took part in it, and if so, to what extent. I do not know who was in charge. I know that security zones were fixed, because of the proximity of the front. Who caused this, and whether Eichmann participated in it, I do not know.

The representative of the Attorney General once again submitted Prosecution document No. 212. He asked that the witness' attention be called more particularly to point (4).

The witness stated:

On document No. 212. (4): This information came either from the Hungarian Government or from my Specialist Officer, Grell. I only transmitted it. I do not know whether I, as Ambassador, would have obtained such information. I would also like to point out that Grell had very strict instructions from the Foreign Ministry to record and report on all such matters, in order to keep the Foreign Ministry informed. The legation did not deal in any executive manner with the events referred to in Prosecution document No. 212 or any similar events. Our duties in this respect were of a reporting nature only. We did, however, in certain cases deal with questions of nationality of Jews. This related, above all, to Jews who lived in Hungary without being Hungarian nationals. In other borderline cases - for example, regarding Jews who were under the special protection of Horthy - we had also to report from time to time. The decisions about these special cases were conveyed to us from the Foreign Ministry. Which department took the decision there, I do not know. In some instances we were informed of the decision, insofar as we had to give an account to the Hungarian authorities. In other cases the decision taken in Berlin was sent directly - as I assume - to the local SS authorities. For example, in the documents it says that Mr. Eichmann negotiated with Hungarian offices. If he did this, I assume that he did it on the instructions of his superiors, because in the Third Reich it would have been very dangerous to undertake anything like this without instructions. If we learned about these negotiations, we reported on them. As to Eichmann's powers, I myself have no knowledge.

Prosecution document No. 212 was handed back.

The questions drawn up by the Attorney General of Israel, as they appear on pages two and three of the request for legal assistance, were now read out one by one to the witness and answered as follows:

(1): No.

(2): I do not know that.

(3): Not applicable.

(4): I cannot say any more about this than I have already mentioned in passing. I had no insight into the office, the relationships and its powers.

(5): No.

(6): I could not make that out.

(7): I do not know. However, I also do not know that he was not so authorized.

(8): I assume that the basic negotiations were conducted before Mr. Grell came to work in the legation. As far as I know, the special representatives from the Foreign Ministry who were with the legation previously did not provide me with information. They will naturally also have transmitted telegrams which I initialled.

(9): No. I never had anything whatsoever to do with the gendarmerie. What the situation with Eichmann or other German offices in Hungary was on that, I do not know.

(10): No.

(11): Not applicable.

(12): No.

Further on Question (12): I know that the SS (the Higher SS and Police Leader) dealt with matters concerning ethnic Germans, particularly with reference to recruiting ethnic Germans into the Waffen-SS.

(13): I do not know that.

(14): I know nothing of any special train. I only know that later a general halt was called.

(15): I cannot say that. I assume that it even took place with, at the very least, considerable participation by the Hungarian authorities. At that time, all German authorities, including the legation, had to release for service at the front anyone they could at all do without. Therefore, the German authorities would simply no longer have had the personnel to organize and carry through the foot march on their own. It was then one of their last attempts; nor did it have any real purpose. The foot march crumbled en route. As far as I remember, the matter was reported to me at the time. I made enquiries of the Hungarian authorities. I was told that there was no fuel, nor were any trains running. The Danube was mined. In my view, there was no point in sending tired people off in this way to act as labourers. I no longer remember what the weather was like at the time.

(17): I know nothing about this. Later I heard that peasants on the Austro-Hungarian border were used for these fieldworks. This may have been because insufficient numbers of Jewish labourers arrived, or because those who did arrive were unable to do anything useful, owing to exhaustion.

(18): No.

(19): Not applicable.

The representative of the Attorney General of Israel requests that the witness also be asked the following question:

Did the Rescue Committee for Hungarian Jews ever apply to you?

The question was put to the witness by the court and answered as follows:

No. Mr. Kasztner was confronted with me at the Nuremberg Trial and confirmed that he never spoke to me. As far as I know, Mr. Kasztner did not make representations to the legation either.

A further question from the representative of the Prosecution, "Were you involved in the confiscation of Jewish assets, and did you know about this?" was also passed on to the witness by the court and answered by him as follows:

No, with one exception. That was the case of the Weiss- Manfred Works. I only found out about this matter as the result of a complaint from the Hungarian Government to me. At approximately the same time, Standartenfuehrer Becher came to see me. The Works were to be transferred to the ownership of the SS. I was to obtain the consent of the Hungarian Government for this. The Hungarian Government objected in very strong terms. I passed on their protests to Berlin, as I thought it unwise, at this point in time, to annoy the Hungarians by such a measure which was totally insignificant for the War. I also wished at that time to notify Berlin of the contracts for the conveyance, and asked Becher to give them to me. He refused. As far as I remember, the Foreign Ministry intercepted a report from abroad to the effect that Manfred Weiss, with a number of members of his family, had been allowed to emigrate in return for the conveyance of the Works. It was said that they were brought to Portugal. There was a conference about this between Himmler, Ribbentrop and Sztojay, which took place somewhere on Reich territory, but I cannot say anything about the actual timing of the events. Later I was reprimanded for having supported the Hungarian Government in this matter. I did not know that in other instances Jews were allowed to emigrate in return for payment. About the exchange of Jews for trucks I only heard when the Foreign Ministry asked me to report on this affair.

The representative of Counsel for the Accused requests that the witness be shown Prosecution document No. 372. The copy of the document was shown to the witness, who stated:

On document No. 372: I assume that I received instructions in this matter from the authority in charge of me - the Foreign Ministry - to contact Sztojay and conduct negotiations. Without such instructions I could not have gone to see him. I could not contact the Hungarian Government on my own initiative. On my own responsibility I could only have social contacts with these gentlemen. If there was something I had to negotiate with them, I always needed instructions from the Foreign Ministry. The only exception was when the Hungarian Premier and Minister for Foreign Affairs asked me to come and see him, in order to discuss various matters with me. I was at first informed about the evacuation of the Jews by the regular reports of the Higher SS and Police Leader. When the legation no longer received these reports, I was no longer informed of it in as much detail, and only insofar as Grell got to know something and reported to me.

The document was returned. The witness was now handed exhibit T/797 at the request of the representative of Counsel for the Accused. The witness stated on this document:

I cannot say that I was informed in advance of an operation against the Jews of Budapest, and also cannot deduce this from the document submitted, as this only speaks of a planned operation, with the concrete details of which I am not familiar.

Document No. 797 was returned.

The representative of Counsel for the Accused asked for document No. 666 to be shown to the witness. The witness stated on document No. 666, page 4, which was shown to him:

I remember that there were fears of an uprising as a result of the great concentration of Jews in Budapest. The plan was to decentralize the Jews in camps in Western Hungary. Where this plan came from, I am unable to say. My visits to Lakatos were probably made in this connection. In such a case I could not receive instructions from any SS office, but only from the Foreign Ministry. It may be that for security reasons the security authorities in the Reich required the Foreign Ministry to take such measures. The only case where I was approached directly by an SS department to negotiate with the Hungarian Government was when Becher came to see me about the Weiss-Manfred works.

When asked by the court, the representative of the Attorney General of Israel and the representative of Counsel for the Accused stated that they did not intend to suggest any further questions. Whereupon the witness' testimony was read out to the witness from the record, approved by him and signed as follows:

(-) Edmund Veesenmayer

The court announced the following Decision:

The witness Dr. Veesenmayer will not be sworn.


The German Code of Criminal Procedure provides that persons who have already been convicted of the act which is the subject of the investigation are not to be sworn. These conditions exist in this case. The criminal proceedings against Adolf Eichmann concern, as far as they are of interest here, the persecution and deportation of Jews from Hungary by German authorities and offices in 1944. The witness was legally sentenced by the American Military Tribunal to a long prison sentence for the persecution of Jews in Hungary, Slovakia and Serbia. Where the questions asked of the witness in these proceedings concern the organization, structure and activity of the "Eichmann Special Commando," they are also designed to shed light on the persecution of Jews, so that also in that respect there exists a factual link with the act on account of which the witness was convicted. Therefore, in accordance with the provisions of the law, the administration of the oath to the witness in a form limited to this group of questions only is also to be rejected.

The witness was dismissed at 17.30.
(-) Kollatz, Assistant Judge
(-) Hunecke, Court Official as Authenticating Officer at the Court Office

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