The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Max Merten (Part 1 of 3)

7 May 1961

To the Competent Court of Justice, Berlin

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:

Advocate Dr. Max Merten, Berlin-Friedenau, Ceciliengarten 33

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

(1) that in 1944 in his capacity as Kriegsverwaltungsrat (Military Administration Counsellor) with the Salonika-Aegaeis military commander, he visited the Accused, Adolf Eichmann, at his office, in order to obtain his support in a matter of preventing the deportation of Jews from Salonika, and that the Accused indicated his willingness to help, but said that he could not decide on his own.

(2) that in order to obtain authorization to support the witness' proposal, the Accused immediately made a telephone call to a superior authority, but his request was turned down.

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) In 1944, were you employed as a military administrator in the administration of the Salonika-Aegaeis German military commander?

(2) Did you pay a visit to the Accused Adolf Eichmann at his office in 1944?

(3) What was the purpose of your visit?

(4) What did the Accused say in reply to your request that Jews be saved from deportations and be enabled to emigrate via Italy?

(5) Did the Accused take a decision himself, or did he obtain the authorization of a superior authority?

(6) Did he receive authorization?

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

(1) Were you put on trial before a Greek court?

(2) Did you then testify in your defence?

(3) Did what you stated then correspond with the facts?

(4) Is it true that on 27 November 1958 in Criminal Case 1/958 you made the following statement to the Greek court in Athens:

"Persecution of the Jews of Salonika did not begin until the arrival of the Wisliceny Commando, as confirmed by Wisliceny. Around the middle of January 1943, Eichmann, the originator of the project to exterminate the Jews, arrived in Salonika, with the sole purpose of implementing the project devised by Hitler in 1941.

"To this end, Eichmann called a conference on 15 January 1943 in the offices of the military commander. In addition to the military commander, the participants were the representatives of the 13th Army Group Counter-Espionage Bureau, the G.F.P. Counter-Espionage Police and the SS. Eichmann told us that Hitler had decided that, with immediate effect, the Jews had to wear the Yellow Patch, be concentrated in special camps, and also be subject to other restrictions; their economic power was to be broken. Various persons present at the meeting expressed objections to the implementation of the project, but in vain. They argued that supplies to Rommel, who was then in Egypt, came via Salonika, the harbour which was full of Jewish workers. If these workers were arrested, the harbour would be paralysed, and Rommel's supplies would be seriously restricted. Eichmann, however, dismissed these objections with a wave of his hand.

"...The conference did not deal at all with the question of deporting the Jews, but only with assembling them in camps (ghettos). During this conference Eichmann also informed us that a Security Ministry commando would shortly be coming to Salonika, and that the military commander was to provide all the assistance they might require. The office under my control was charged with the printing of all orders to be published by the commando. This led to a protest from the General who was the military commander, but Eichmann dismissed his objections with a gesture and showed us Hitler's order requiring the military commander to afford any assistance required by the commando in question."

(5) In preparing your defence in Athens, or during the proceedings, did you ever mention a conversation with Obersturmbannführer Eichmann in Berlin?

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

Tiergarten Court of First Instance Department, 353

Berlin NW 21, 29, 30 and 31 May 1961, Turmstrasse 91

353 AR 1680/61


Counsellor at Court of First Instance Stampe as Judge

Court Official Liese as Authenticating Official at the Court Office.

In the criminal proceedings against Adolf Eichmann, the witness whose name appears below appeared when summoned.

There also appeared:

Representing the Prosecution: Erwin S. Shimron, Jerusalem;

Representing the Defence: Advocate Wechtenbruch, Munich.

The witness was informed of the subject matter of the examination and the identity of the Accused. He was admonished to tell the truth and instructed that his testimony would be sworn, in the absence of any exception stipulated or permitted by the law. He was further instructed as to the significance of the oath, and the penalties in criminal law for giving sworn or unsworn evidence which is incorrect or incomplete, and he was further instructed that the oath also applies to replies to questions about personal data as well as other circumstances according to Section 68 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

As a precaution the witness was also informed of his right to refuse to give information in accordance with Section 55 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The witness was furthermore informed that neither the Land nor the Federal Justice Administrations have any objections to granting legal assistance, since the Federal Government has no doubts as to the jurisdiction of the Israeli court.

The deponent was examined as follows:

Personal data: My name is Dr. Max Merten, I am 49 years old, advocate, I am a German national and live in Berlin-Friedenau, Ceciliengaerten 33. I am not related and not connected by marriage to the Accused. On the matter in question:

Until 26 January 1942 I worked in the Reich Ministry for Justice. I was a Landgerichtsrat (District Court Counsellor).

My duties were those of an expert for the law of execution against movable and immovable property, and I worked in Department IV under Ministerial Director Dr. Volkmar. I was then called up into the German army of the time and was posted to Stettin with Anti-Aircraft Reserves Section 51. Around Whitsun 1942 I was transferred to the Regional Air Command III/IV. On 28 July 1942 I was transferred to the Recruitment and Discharge Office for Military Administration Personnel at Marburg an der Lahn. Throughout this period I held the military rank of bombardier. On the orders of the Army High Command I was transferred to the Salonika-Aegaeis command. I arrived in Salonika on 10 August 1942. On 12 August 1942 I took over the duties previously carried out by War Administration Assessor Heine, which included the internal administration of Macedonia in the narrower sense. At that time the head of this administrative department was Dr. Marbach.

I still held the military rank of bombardier; but for my administrative duties I wore an ordinary army officer's uniform with epaulettes which had green braiding and bore the letters HV. HV was the abbreviation of Heeresverwaltung (Army Administration). There were also two stars on the epaulettes, so, if the green braiding was ignored, it could look as if the person wearing this uniform held the rank of captain.

However, I was subject to military jurisdiction. I received orders from the military administration; in practical terms I received them from the Supreme Commander South-East, Senior Counsellor for Military Administration, Dr. Parisius. In military terms I was also subject to the authority of the Commander for Salonika-Aegaeis; at that time this was Lieutenant-General von Krensky. On the orders of the Armed Forces Commander South-East, I was appointed on 29 September 1942, effective as of 1 October 1942, as head of the Administrative and Economic Department on the staff of the Salonika-Aegaeis Commander. That meant my promotion into the position previously occupied by Dr. Marbach.

I held this post until the beginning of March 1944. I was then transferred, as a disciplinary measure, to Cetinje in Montenegro, where I stayed until Whitsun 1944. My duties were to ascertain whether a military administration should be set up in occupied Montenegro. Around Whitsun 1944 I was recalled to Belgrade to the office of the military commander, where I was to work on a study of the activities of the German military administration in the Balkans in the First and Second World Wars. After that I deputized in Tirana for a military administration official who was on leave, and from there, on 25 August 1944, I began the withdrawal from the Balkans. My last post was that of an official in the chief quartermaster's office with Army Group E in Agram. I was then taken prisoner of war by the Americans. On 20 November 1945, I was automatically arrested, as it was called. Already on 5 November 1946 I was released from internment, with the agreement of the Greek Government of the day. Two offers were made to the Greek Government of the day to extradite me. The Greek Government indicated that it would forego my extradition, stating that not only did it have nothing with which to reproach me, but that it was grateful to me for my activities in the area of the Commander of Salonika-Aegaeis. The same was confirmed, in a letter dated 11 November 1947 to the Bad Aibling Tribunal, by Mr. Ypsilanti, the head of the Greek military mission in Berlin, who is today Greek Ambassador in Bonn.

I was not a member of the SA or the SS. I was a candidate for membership of the Party. I was not finally accepted as a Party member.

It is true that proceedings in a court martial were instituted against me. The charge was aiding and abetting the enemy and subverting the fighting spirit. The proceedings were instituted by the Army Group Judge of Army Group E. I am unable to say when the proceedings were instituted. My first examination took place on 25 January 1945. The proceedings proper failed to reach a conclusion, owing to the prevailing situation of the war. They were instituted on the basis of reports by the Security Service. I received confirmation of this in 1954 or 1955 from Laskaris Papanaoum, when he visited my house in Upper Bavaria.

As I have already mentioned, I started working for the Commander of Salonika-Aegaeis on 12 August 1942. At that time, an operation was already underway against the Jews in Salonika-Aegaeis. By order of the Commander dated 7 July 1942, Jews from Salonika's intelligentsia were included in forced labour programmes. The action started on 11 July 1942, a Saturday. After a few days it covered eight to nine thousand Jews. They were employed on road building and railway works. They were housed in the most wretched conditions in forced labour camps. Owing to their previous occupations, these Jews were unaccustomed to hard physical labour. The work involved, however, was of the hardest nature. The result was a high mortality rate, and I consider that the figure of twelve per cent in two and a half months, given by Molcho in his book In Memoriam, is still too low.

I obtained my knowledge of how the operation was begun, the labour assignments and mortality figures, from the Commander's files and reports by the contractor, Miller, who carried out road building and railway construction projects for the German armed forces.

Representatives of the Jewish Community tried to intervene against what was going on. For that purpose, persons from the Jewish Community - Advocate Yekuel, Salomon Uziel, Isaac Angel and Saby Pelossof approached Miller, the contractor, who arranged for a meeting with me.

The facts described to me coincided with my own observations on my first journeys through the area of command. I reported in corresponding terms to the Commander. I was able to convince him that it would be appropriate to release the Jews concentrated in forced labour camps according to social criteria. In the main, those concerned were officials, members of the liberal professions, and then World War I ex-servicemen and veterans of the Greek-Albanian War, as well as university students and secondary school pupils, and also family men with dependent children.

This was done on the basis of an agreement between the Commander and the representative of the Jewish Community, dated 29 August 1942. Within a few days some 2,500 forced labourers were released and returned to their civilian occupations. The Jewish Community was given control over the labour allocation of the several thousand Jews still in forced labour camps.

The Head Office for Reich Security was informed both of the beginning of the operation on the basis of the order of 7 July 1942 and of the release operation, based on the agreement of 29 August 1942. The Commander was ordered to report through his military channels. The Commander instructed me to go to Berlin for a discussion with the appropriate Department in the Head Office for Reich Security. This Department was at 116 Kurfuerstenstrasse, Berlin. There were two oral examinations. No record was drawn up. I managed to justify the release operation largely by saying that some of those released were disabled, and therefore not able to work properly, and also by pointing out that there had been unrest among the Greek population, who feared that the same measures would be applied to them. At that time, almost all supplies for Rommel's Africa Corps went via Salonika. I pointed out that this was another reason to ensure that the Greek population should not become alarmed, because it was to be feared that such unrest would lead to hitches in transport and shipping.

I cannot say who heard my statement at the Head Office for Reich Security. I do not remember the names of those men. I cannot state one way or the other whether perhaps one of those who heard me was the present Accused. When two months later he made his first appearance in Salonika, I cannot be certain that I was aware that he was one of those with whom I had talked in September or October 1942.

By way of explanation I should like to add that during this stay in Berlin I myself was very worked up. I would say that I had gone to Berlin with a feeling of apprehension, and at the end of the hearing was relieved that there would be no further consequences for me personally.

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