The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Herbert Kappler (Part 1 of 2)


To the Competent Judicial Authority for Prisoners in the Military Prison of Gaeta

Re: Request for Legal Assistance

The main hearing of 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 of the following witness:

Herbert Kappler who is apparently under arrest at Gaeta.

You are requested to take the testimony of the above-mentioned witness concerning the following allegations by the Accused:

a. that, while serving as an Obersturmbannfuehrer of the SS, the witness was charged with the deportation of eight thousand Jews from Rome;

b. that the initiative for the deportation of these Jews came from the German Foreign Ministry;

c. that the Specialist Officers for Jewish Affairs and the Police Attaches at the diplomatic representations of the Reich received instructions for their activities from the German Foreign Ministry;

d. that the final order for deportations was given by Hitler through the German Foreign Ministry.

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

(1) Where was the witness in October 1943?

(2) What was his position at that time?

(3) What was his rank in the SS?

(4) Which office gave him the order to deport eight thousand Jews from Rome?

(5) How did he react when he received this order?

(6) At that time, who was his direct superior?

(7) Was the witness subject to instructions from the German Embassy in Rome?

(8) What were his official relations with the Higher SS and Police Leader and with the Commander of the Security Police and the Security Service?

(9) How was the deportation carried out, and what was the final destination determined for this deportation?

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

(1) When did the witness join the Security Service, and what positions did he hold in it?

(2) When did he assume his duties in Rome?

(3) What was his official title?

(4) What were his tasks?

(5) Did his tasks change after the surrender of Badoglio?

(6) What were the tasks of the Commander of the Security Police in Rome (KdS)?

(7) Were instructions received from Berlin during the period when the witness was Police Attache at the German Embassy in Italy, and if so, from which office and from which department in that office did these instructions originate?

(8) Did he, as part of this position, receive instructions in matters of substance for the discharge of his police duties from the Ambassador or his assistants, which did not originate in the Head Office for Reich Security (RSHA)?

(9) Was he subordinate, in his duties as Police Attache in Rome, to anybody in the Head Office for Reich Security?

(10) Were there any changes in the chain of command and the channels for giving instructions, in matters of substance, after the appointment of the Commander of the Security Police in Rome?

(1) Does the witness know the Accused? What were the relations between him and the Accused in matters concerning the Jewish Question in Italy, and particularly in Rome?

(12) Who was the Commander of the Security Police in Italy? Was the witness subordinate to him?

(13) Who was the Specialist Officer for Jewish Affairs at the office of the Commander of the Security Police in Italy?

(14) Did the witness receive guidance, in matters of substance, from the Specialist Officer for Jewish Affairs in any way at all?

(15) Did the Specialist Officer for Jewish Affairs belong to his staff?

(16) Who was in charge of the Jewish Affairs Section in Rome?

(17) Who gave instructions, in matters of substance, to the Jewish Affairs Section in Rome?

(18) From whom did he receive the order to demand fifty kilograms of gold from the Jews of Rome?

(9) When was the gold handed to the witness?

(10) To whom did he deliver the gold he received from the Jews of Rome?

(21) When did he receive the order to deport the Jews of Rome to Northern Italy?

(22) Who determined the number of Jews to be deported?

(23) Why did the witness turn to the military commander of Rome, General Stahel, and to the consul, Moellhausen, after receiving the order to deport the Jews of Rome?

(24) What was the fate awaiting the Jews of Rome being deported under the first order he received?

(25) After he made an inquiry, was he informed about another purpose of the deportation?

(26) Who gave him directives to arrest Jews in Rome?

(27) How many Jews were arrested in the operation of October 1943, and where were they deported?

(28) Who determined the purpose of the deportations?

(29) Did the witness carry out additional arrests of Jews between October 1943 and June 1944?

(30) Who gave the order for these operations?

(31) Where were the Jews arrested in the operations between October 1943 and June 1944, and where were they transferred to?

(32) Does he know Ullmann and Gassner of the Security Service.

(33) What was the division of duties in his office?

I would request you enable the representatives of the Attorney General and the Counsel for Defence to address additional questions to the witness, if necessary.

This court has no objection to the above-mentioned representatives receiving copies of the record of the examination of the witness.

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

(-)Moshe Landau
Presiding Judge

At the margin of the page: Seals and authentication of signatures.

Court of Appeal of Rome, Department of Preliminary Investigations

Record of Interrogation Under Oath

[Section 357 of the Criminal Procedure Law]

27 June 1961, 10:55 hours - at the Military Prison of Gaeta

Before me, Dr. Pietro Pascalino, Associate Judge, representative of the Department for Preliminary Interrogations, and in the presence of the Secretary of the Court, Alberto Boggiani, and in the presence of the Prosecutor General represented by the Deputy State Attorney, Dr. Leopold Baumgartner.

Also present: Dr. Erwin Shimron, representative of the Attorney General of the State of Israel; Attorney Roberto Ascarelli, representative of the Attorney General's office of the State of Israel; Attorney Rinaldo Taddei and Guiseppe Mundula, representatives of Attorney Servatius, the Defence Counsel of the Accused, Adolf Eichmann; Dr. Manfredo Mingazzini, appearing as interpreter.

In pursuance of an order from the Court of Appeal of Rome to accede to the request for judicial assistance by way of taking testimony, received from the District Court of Jerusalem, with the object of interrogating a defence witness at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, to wit Herbert Kappler, a prisoner in this military prison.

After being asked about his identity and about possible ties of kinship or commerce with any of the parties in the above- mentioned trial, and having been warned of the obligation to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and having been reminded of the penalties laid down in Section 372 of the Criminal Procedure Code against those guilty of false testimony, the witness responded:

"I am Kappler, Herbert, son of Ernst, aged 54, born in Stuttgart."

The witness was then asked to take the oath according to the requisite formula, and he responded: "I swear."

Having been asked the questions prepared for this purpose by Counsel for the Defence representing the Accused, the witness gave the following replies.

(1): In October 1943 I was in Rome, with the exception of brief absences.

(2): In October 1943 my position was head of a special office: Field Office of the Security Police and the Security Service. My position was in fact identical with that of Commander of the Security Police.

(3): I cannot say exactly what my rank in the SS was in October 1943. However, I do remember that I received, some time before the round-up of the Jews of Rome, a notification by telephone informing me, among other things, that I had been promoted to Obersturmbannfuhrer. In that same telephone message, I was urged to prepare the round-up.

(4): I do not remember from whom I first received the order to proceed with the round-up and the deportation of the Jews of Rome, but I remember well that I never received an order to seize and deport a specific number of Jews. There was reference only to "the Jews of Rome." My vague recollection of these details is due to the fact that there was a very frequent exchange of instructions, orders and inquiries from the different offices regarding this operation. The large number of notifications and clarifications was caused chiefly by objections that I myself raised. All I can say clearly is that the order did not reach me from the Foreign Ministry, nor from the German Embassy in Rome, neither did it come from the Commander of the Security Police in Italy, General Harster. I think the order did not reach me by way of the above-mentioned General Harster, because at that time his office was just being formed or had been in existence for just a brief period.

On the other hand, I do remember well that the contacts proceeded between myself and the central offices, and I remember particularly a telegram signed by Himmler, in which the need was stressed to solve the Jewish Question also in the city of Rome. I remember this because on that occasion I heard for the first time the term Endloesung der Judenfrage (the Final Solution of the Jewish Question). This term was new to me, and I did not manage to understand its exact meaning. In fact, I did not try very hard to understand this expression, since I was used to complex and hardly comprehensible terms, both on the part of Hitler and on the part of Himmler. I remember that at that time a captain of the SS came to my office and introduced himself as Dannecker, and presented an authorization to carry out the round-up of Jews. This authorization gave him full powers and instructed the local police commanders to give Dannecker every assistance he required for this operation. The power and authority for a search operation against Jews (and not only in Rome, since the authorization was not restricted in any way) was signed by SS General Mueller.

Finally, I remember that I received a telephone message from someone attached to Himmler's general staff. This announcement came directly from headquarters, which at that time used a cover name - I do not remember the name - but anyhow, it was located in East Prussia, near Rastenburg. In that telephone message - the message I spoke about previously - he informed me that I was being promoted, and I was told that the Reichsfuehrer-SS, Himmler, was urging me to decide, once and for all, to carry out the round-up of the Jews.

(5): When the order for the round-up was transmitted to me, I was very angry at the superior commanders for their lack of understanding. I remember that I wrote several reports addressed to those who had given the order, to try and convince them to desist from the proposal and to cancel the arrangements which had already been made. I remember that I addressed anybody who was in a position to help me to prevent an action which, in my view, was another act of great political foolishness (eine neue grosse politische Dummheit).

In order to convince my superiors, I used just this expression, by which I referred very clearly to past mistakes which had been committed by the central authorities. It is also true that on that occasion I tried to bring around to my side General Stahel, whom I admired very much, and Consul Moellhausen. I turned to the latter because I knew that he was not a Nazi and that he had close relations with a non-Aryan person. But all of that was in vain, because the order was not cancelled. Nonetheless, together with Consul Moellhausen, I went to Kesselring, and he promised he would not allot a single man to carry out the round-up which perturbed us. By means of this pretext, I tried to take objection to the instructions from Berlin. My pretext was the absence of manpower, as Kesselring was unable to put a single soldier at my disposal.

As for Prosecution document No. 1604, which is the telegram sent by Moellhausen to the Reich Foreign Minister, I was not aware of its existence. No, I stand corrected. I did know that Moellhausen had intended to do something, because he had promised me to do so, but I did not see this telegram before, and I would not have recognized the text. More precisely, let me add that I did receive information about the existence of this telegram in 1948, at the time of my own trial. I must also add that I did not take part in drafting the telegram, and that I never spoke with Moellhausen about the number of Jews that were to be deported. It was also news to me that the Jews were to be deported to Northern Italy, in order to be liquidated there.

A photocopy of the above-mentioned telegram, bearing the signature of the examining judge, as well as the signatures of the representative of the Prosecutor General's office and the witness Kappler, was attached to the present file.

(6): I think that in October 1943 my direct superior was the Befehlshaber Harster. I cannot speak with any more accuracy because I do not know exactly the date on which General Harster assumed his duties. His functions resulted from the fact that, after the armistice of 8 September, Italy was placed under a regime of occupation. However, I do well remember that this general first came to Rome only on 26 September and then he informed me that I was one of his subordinates, since he was the Commander (Befehlshaber ) for Italy. This date I remember, because it was my birthday.

(7): Prior to 10 September, I was Police Attache at the Embassy. For that reason I was subordinate - and that is customary for military, commercial and other attaches - in the formal sense to the Ambassador, but in fact both the Ambassador and the Ministry of the Interior were my superiors. After 8 September, instead of returning to Germany with the rest of those subordinate to the diplomatic mission, I presented myself to General Kesselring and put myself at his disposal. Kesselring assigned me to the position of assistant to Stahel when he appointed the latter as military commander of the Rome area. Subsequently, an order came from Berlin instructing me to set up the office of the Security Police. This I did in a formal sense only, because I did not have personnel at my disposal. After that, as I have already indicated, General Harster informed me that I had been placed within the framework of the Security Police for Italy.

(8): In the hierarchy, I was directly under orders of the Befehlshaber of Verona. The latter was subordinate to the Highest [sic] SS and Police Leader in Italy, General Wolff.

There is very little that I can say about the manner of the round-up or the final destination chosen for the Jews who were seized. The operation was organized and carried out by Captain Dannecker, who, as I have stated, arrived in Rome with a dozen persons, equipped with full powers from Mueller. The practical implementation of the operation was assigned to three squads of the Order Police which were brought to Rome at the onset of the operation. I do not know where they were brought from.

I remember that I tried to block Dannecker's operation up to the last moment. First of all, I told him that I did not have at my disposal the manpower to be placed under his command. When he asked me for the topographical information which he required to organize the operation plan, I told him that I did not have under me persons who knew the city well, and therefore he ought to turn to the Italian police.

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