The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Max Merten (Part 3 of 3)

To the observation by the representative of the Prosecution as to how, after my bad experience on my first visit to the Head Office for Reich Security I dared to suggest to the Accused that I should come to Berlin for a further discussion of the question of transporting ten thousand Jewish women and children to Palestine, I would reply as follows:

Already when the Accused came to Salonika with Guenther before Christmas 1942, I had the impression that, of the two of them, only the Accused was somehow approachable, at least approachable by me, because of my direct way of striving for my aim. I know that other witnesses have claimed that it was impossible to talk to the Accused in a desirable form, because he confronted them like a block of ice. I am convinced that these witnesses were absolutely telling the truth. However, I also believe that these witnesses approached him in a different fashion, and that my approach, unlike theirs, got through to him.

In my opinion, it was quite impossible to have any dealings with Guenther, because he was so much the German master type, as it was called. Similarly, it was impossible to negotiate with Wisliceny, because when we met, after a few minutes a violent disagreement would erupt. That is why I never paid him a visit at his office in Salonika.

I should like to illustrate my success in managing several times, before and after the discussion on the evacuation of ten thousand Jewish women and children, to impress Eichmann even by telephone and get him to change measures already adopted, by means of the following examples.

In accordance with the measures practiced in the other occupied areas, Wisliceny had forced the breaking up of mixed marriages - of which there were only eighty or ninety in Salonika - in those cases where he was able to get his hands on the Jewish partner. This led to major protests by the Metropolitan of Salonika, the Minister-Governor General, Dr. Simonides, charity organizations, and a large number of individual cases in the families concerned. I still remember particularly the case of a tobacco merchant, Christoph Tsannides, whose sister was married to a Jew called Brudo. Tsannides came to see me, extremely agitated, and demanded Brudo's immediate release. I replied that I had no authority at all in this matter. In a state of agitation such as I have rarely experienced, Tsannides then declared to me that he would awaken Greek public opinion, as a well-known Greek figure, by joining the same train on which his brother-in-law would be deported. Since these protests continued to mount up, I decided to call Eichmann and ask him to rescind this order of Wisliceny's about mixed marriages. I pointed out to him that by these forced separations I considered Wisliceny to be totally overstepping his authority, without any legal foundation whatsoever. I also drew his attention to the agitation actually existing among the population. Eichmann told me he would examine the matter. A few days later, forced separation was rescinded.

On another occasion, two families were arrested on the demarcation line with the Italian occupation zone of Greece and brought back to Salonika. Wisliceny had ordered all the members of these two families to be publicly shot in the deportation ghetto. The Metropolitan and the Chief Rabbi intervened. I told both of them I could not do anything. However, I did telephone the Accused. I informed him again of the general agitation among the population, and among other things asked him whether there was now to be confirmation of the World War I tale about hacked off hands of women and children. At first the Accused did not reply, nor did I ever get a ruling addressed to me personally. But I did hear that "only" the two men were shot, and the women and children were released.

For some reason which today I no longer remember, Wisliceny had ordered the shooting of fifty Jews. Today I am unable to say when this was. In any case it was during the deportations. There were interventions with me, by the tobacco merchant already mentioned, Christoph Tsannides, and his brother-in-law, Jacques Brudo. Since neither the Commander nor I had any authority over Wisliceny, I once again called the Accused. I explained to him that this was a measure which had no legal basis and was unlawful, and it should be prevented, in order to avoid agitating the whole of Greek public opinion. The shooting did not take place.

There was also the case of the textile merchant, Alexander Blumenfeld. He held the Iron Cross, First Class, from the First World War, and was therefore in a privileged position. That did not stop Wisliceny and Brunner from locking him up in the Special Commando's own prison. They accused him of sabotaging the Special Commando's orders. His wife, who was living with him in Salonika as a refugee, intervened with all sorts of German authorities to try and help her husband. Courageously, she also went in person to Wisliceny and Brunner, and then Brunner maltreated her physically. As far as I remember, she was also hit in the face with a riding crop. Mrs. Blumenfeld asked me, too, to do something to help her husband. I called Eichmann about him and pointed out to him that Wisliceny and Brunner had overstepped their authority, because being the holder of the Iron Cross, First Class, from the First World War, Blumenfeld was in a privileged position. Two or three days later the Accused's office informed me that Wisliceny had been instructed to release Blumenfeld immediately. However, he was not released. In the meanwhile Blumenfeld had been killed. Mrs. Blumenfeld now lives in Berlin and is familiar with the details of the case.

In an audience which the Greek premier of the time, Rallis, had with Colonel-General Loehr and his Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant-General Foertsch, there were no positive results as far as the Jews were concerned. Rhallis had tried to persuade the Supreme Commander to call a halt to deportations. When Rhallis reported to the Greek National Council at the residence of the Metropolitan on his failure to obtain positive results, Chief Rabbi Dr. Koretz also spoke and requested further interventions. Wisliceny heard about this and had Koretz arrested. He also wanted to arrest a Greek minister, Dr. Simonides, and his State Secretary, Dr. Panos. I was able to save these two gentlemen from that by taking them into "protective custody." In the meanwhile, Greek Security Service agents had notified the Head Office for Reich Security of the visit of Premier Rhallis, by means of direct telegrams, and protested against it. In the middle of the unrest caused thereby in the Head Office for Reich Security, there came my call to Eichmann to help Simonides and Panos. The next morning, at 4 a.m., I was finally able to release Simonides and Panos from my office; Eichmann sent information sent to me that Wisliceny had received orders to the same effect.

With Eichmann's approval, a food depot was also opened in Agram for the deportation trains, against Wisliceny's opposition, who, when I spoke to him about this, told me that if the Jews peg out on the way, we won't have to do away with them. When he gave his approval, the Accused was clearly impressed, as in other cases, by the fact that the International Red Cross was behind this operation and actually operated the food depot in Agram.

On being told further that it seems hardly credible that Eichmann did not try to prevent the operation for the ten thousand women and children, I can only imagine that the reason why he did not oppose this was that he himself was content not to have to bother about them any more. In all cases where I talked to Eichmann, I advanced weighty political and practical arguments.

With regard to the question from the Defence as to whether in all the cases mentioned above the Accused had the power to decide by himself, or whether he had to obtain approval from some higher authority, I cannot give a definitive reply, because in no instance was there an immediate decision - any decision always came later; the fastest decision was in the case of Rhallis. The fact that the Accused called me or had me called that night from Berlin, and mentioned in our conversation that there was uproar in Berlin because of the telegrams from the agents, indicated to me that there were other personnel present at the office as well. When I intervened in connection with the intended shooting of the two families, about which I have already spoken, he answered to the effect that he would try to do something. I would almost tend to assert that he said, "I have to ask my `big bosses' about that."

The Prosecution representative has just shown me Documents 235 and 584,* {* T/992 and T/57} which are Wisliceny's statements in Pressburg and Nuremberg, respectively. Where such statements do not coincide with my statements today, these statements of Wisliceny's are not true. On being asked to describe Wisliceny's character, I can only say that I considered him to be a brutal sadist. I would like to illustrate this by means of the following two examples:

There was an order that the Jews being deported had to hand over money and jewellery to the Special Commando. Naturally, some of them tried to save something. When the first transport was due to leave and was standing at the platform in Salonika, Wisliceny repeated the order and threatened that SS personnel would carry out a search. At that, some Jews handed over more money and jewellery. Wisliceny then ordered that a carriage be searched. Valuables were found on an old Jew. These valuables were not of any great worth. Wisliceny had this old Jew taken from the train. He himself shot him on the spot.

On another occasion, Wisliceny wanted potatoes for the kitchen in his house. He called on the Jewish Community to supply him with these potatoes. He then also ordered that the potatoes be delivered on a handcart, and that this handcart be drawn by four rabbis. However, they were not allowed to use their hands for this purpose but had to pull the cart with their long beards. It was a small cart, which was used to transport about half a hundredweight (25 kg) of potatoes. The rabbis tied their beards round the cross- piece and thus managed to pull the cart along under the supervision of an SS non-commissioned officer. The rabbis had to walk bent down.

In reply to the other questions of the representative of the Prosecution, I would state the following:

In preparing my defence, and also at the main hearing in Athens, I mentioned at least one conversation with Obersturmbannführer Eichmann in Berlin.

I never tried to get a transfer to Hungary, although my wife was living in Budapest, nor did I ever try to get Guenther to employ me in the Eichmann Special Commando.

It is true that I am trying to rehabilitate myself with regard to the proceedings against me in Athens. My statements here are not influenced by the thought that this might contribute somewhat to my rehabilitation. While I was still in detention in Athens, I caused proceedings to be brought against me in Berlin. That was in the autumn of 1957. These proceedings are File No. I VU 37/57, under Examining Magistrate I in the Berlin District Court.

I never belonged to the SA or the SS.

In reply to the question as to whether it is true that organizations or persons approached me in connection with the criminal proceedings against Eichmann, my reply is that this did happen. There was an organization of the Federal Government which wanted to contact me on 24 June 1960 for "comradely help." On the same day a gentleman actually came to see me. There was only a short conversation in the presence of my wife. After that there was an exchange of correspondence. I stipulated that, at a planned meeting in Munich, one of my defence counsels must be allowed to be present as well. This was declined in writing. I was then in Munich between 7 and 9 July 1960. Yesterday, in my oral statement for informative purposes, I talked about this in detail. However, in the light of the criminal proceedings re-instituted against me, to which I have referred on page sixteen of the record of today's examination, I do not wish to say anything further about this in today's written formulation.

It is correct that Professor Kaul may also have wished to approach me, by means of a telegram dated 8 October 1960. In this telegram the official reason indicated was a consultation about a tax matter of one of my former clients, who was now represented by Dr. Kaul. Whether this telegram was a pretext for contacting me in connection with the proceedings against Eichmann, I cannot say. I myself telegraphed a reply the next day, saying that in order to avoid a misunderstanding, I proposed that the planned meeting be held in the presence of my defence counsel. Professor Kaul turned down this meeting, which was to take place in Essen, asking why he should go to Essen for such a trifling matter. I then replied that I considered his telegram to be a trick, but was at his disposal for a factual discussion at all times in Berlin. Professor Kaul did not reply to this communication.

I had two meetings with my colleague, the advocate Eichmann, brother of the Accused, in Salzburg.

I am neither able to evaluate the Accused's actions - not even as they related to Northern Greece - nor am I entitled to do so. However, I can say with absolute assurance that the horrors which befell the Jews of Macedonia could definitely not have come about without the existence of German anti-Jewish legislation which "legalized" the brutal treatment of Jews and gave it a basis.

Read, approved and signed
Dr. Max Merten

The witness took the witness' oath.

The representative of the Prosecution then applied to obtain a certified German translation of the shorthand record of the proceedings before the Special Military Court in Athens against the witness Dr. Merten, as well as the certified translation of the official Greek report on the proceedings and a certified translation of the judgment of the Special Military Court for War Criminals in Athens, which exist before Examining Magistrate I of the Berlin District Court for the preliminary investigation against the witness.

The representative of the Prosecution also requests to obtain the orders about the introduction of anti-Jewish legislation in the area of the Commander of Salonika- Aegaeis. The witness is to indicate in detail and in writing whether these documents presented are correct or have been changed.

If the witness can do so, he is also to produce Greek Law No. 4016 of 3 November 1959.

The Defence applied for a photocopy to be provided of the communication from the ex-chief of the Greek military mission in Berlin, the present Greek Ambassador to Bonn, Ypsilanti.

Note by the examining judge:

The examination of the witness was carried out in accordance with the German Code of Criminal Procedure, according to which the witness has to make his statement in a continuous form. The questions asked by the Prosecution and Defence representatives were already used throughout the preceding oral testimony. In accordance with the German Code of Criminal Procedure, the questions themselves were not included as such in the record.

Stampe, Counsellor at Court of First Instance
Liese, Court Official

The preceding record of the examination of the witness Dr. Max Merten is hereby certified for the Jerusalem District Court, Israel

Berlin NW 21, 2 June 1961, Turmstrasse 91
Tiergarten Court of First Instance, Department 353
(-) Stampe, Counsellor at Court of First Instance

Certified Copy
Tiergarten Court of First Instance, Turmstrasse 91
Department 353, 353 AR 1680/61
Berlin NW 21, 7 June 1961, Tel.: 35 01 11


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 Dr. Max Merten appeared again.

He stated:

I have just been shown photocopies headed "Ordre I - X." I was informed that these photocopies were made from an appendix in the book "In Memoriam - Hommage aux Victimes Juives des Nazis en Grece - Publie Sous la Direction de Michael Molho, Rabbin de la Communaute Juive de Salonique - Tome I, Salonique 1948," of which only a photocopy is a available. As I am aware, the actual original orders are kept in the archives of the Government General of Macedonia, in Salonika. Only if these original orders are made available will it be possible to check whether the orders reproduced in In Memoriam coincide with these original orders. I believe that in fact there are even more orders than those reproduced in In Memoriam. I therefore applied already at the beginning of 1961 to Examining Magistrate I of the Berlin District Court with a request that he obtain these original orders.

I have considerable doubts as to whether I actually signed the orders which, according to the signature were allegedly signed by me, because in my opinion at least the orders marked "Ordre I" and "Ordre IX" must have been signed by the Commander or his Chief of Staff.

On the question whether the content of these reproduced orders might have been changed, I can no longer react in detail because of the length of time which has elapsed.

Read, approved and signed
Dr. Max Merten

Stampe, Counsellor at Court of First Instance
Liese, Court Official

The preceding record of the re-examination of the witness Dr. Max Merten is hereby certified for the Jerusalem District Court, Israel.

Berlin NW 21, 8 June 1961
Turmstrasse 91, Tiergarten Court of First Instance,
Department 353
(-) Stampe, Counsellor at Court of First Instance

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