The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Otto Winkelmann (Part 2 of 2)

In accordance with my last rank, General of the Police, I was given the title of Obergruppenführer in the SS. After my secondment to Hungary in April 1944, my official title was Higher SS and Police Leader.

In July 1943, I had a meeting with Reichsführer Himmler. At that time, Reichsführer Himmler was in bed, due to illness. At the meeting I made it extremely clear that I was only prepared to be given duties which belonged to my area as a professional police officer in the Order Police. I stated explicitly that I wanted to have nothing at all to do with Jewish matters. I stated that my mind was so firmly made up about this that I was prepared to take any consequences of it. During our conversation, which sometimes became rather loud and lasted several hours, Reichsführer Himmler said to me that I was the typical civil servant, who had not come from the National Socialist movement. However, he did promise me that he would respect my wishes in the future.

In my view, Reichsführer Himmler kept this promise after I was assigned to Hungary. I say this because in the service instructions to the Reich Plenipotentiary in Hungary, Dr. Veesenmayer, it was noted that the Higher SS and Police Officer - this was the post I occupied after I was assigned to Hungary in April 1944 - was to join the legation. During the time I was in Hungary I was never informed of this service instruction. I only became aware of this service instruction during an examination this year, when I was shown a photocopy of it. The service instruction stated that the Higher SS and Police Officer was to handle the Jewish Question in the legation. I was therefore never instructed to handle the Jewish Question in Hungary.

When Reichsführer Himmler informed me that I was being assigned to Hungary, I asked him to refrain from this measure. Thereupon he told me that he considered it important to assign to Hungary not someone from the Party or the SS, but a professional officer. In this connection he mentioned that the Hungarians were sensitive and should not "get the wind up," i.e., be shocked.

According to the description by Reichsführer Himmler, when he described the sphere of duties for my assignment, I was in a position similar to that of a military attache or a senior commander in the field. That, in any case, is how I understood Reichsführer Himmler's explanations about my sphere of duties. He told me expressly that it involved co-ordination between his departments, of these departments with other German departments, and also with Hungarian departments. That meant that I had to iron out differences of opinion between departments, particularly personal differences and frictions, and to ensure that the different authorities were able to work smoothly with one another and with the Hungarian authorities. I am not familiar with the Reichsführer-SS's directives of 1939. I do not know what these directives say. It is possible that earlier I was informed about these directives. Today I have no recollection of these directives. I can only assume that these directives could not have applied to me, because I assume that the 1939 directives were issued for a Higher SS and Police Leader in the areas occupied at that time, where there was no foreign government. There, the only authority was that of a German occupying power. However, in Hungary there was a sovereign government under Regent Horthy. Even though Hungary's sovereignty was considerably restricted, nevertheless the entire administration was subordinate to Regent Horthy and his ministers, who controlled all administrative bodies, including the police.

I received my instructions for my work only from Reichsführer Himmler. I did not receive any instructions from the various head offices, nor did I receive any reports from the commanders to the head offices. The only thing I did get was copies from the Leadership Head Office of orders for setting up of new SS units. I received daily reports from the Commander of the Security Police and the Security Service. These reports were also received by the Reich Plenipotentiary, Dr. Veesenmayer, who passed the reports on to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ribbentrop. This he did in order to create the impression that I was subordinate to him. To do this, when passing on these reports, the Reich Plenipotentiary, Dr. Veesenmayer, would write: "The Higher SS and Police Leader in Hungary reports to me..." That gave the mistaken impression that I was subordinate to him. Dr. Veesenmayer wished to create this misleading impression with the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

I thus did not receive any other reports in my area of responsibility from the other head offices, nor did I read or see any orders which were issued by the various head offices, except for the orders mentioned about setting up new SS units. Naturally, I was also informed of orders which led to changes in the competent German authorities in Hungary.

I should like to stress once again that I was not subordinate to the Reich Plenipotentiary, Dr. Veesenmayer, either. Dr. Veesenmayer incorrectly informed Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ribbentrop - as I saw later, after the collapse - that I was subordinate to him in all matters. All statements by witnesses to this effect are incorrect. I did not participate in any official discussions in the office of Reich Plenipotentiary Dr. Veesenmayer, in order to receive orders from him, as someone subordinate to him. If I did have any official discussions with him, we discussed things as partners on an equal footing, since I was not a member of his legation.

Before I came to Hungary, as far as I know I was not acquainted with Eichmann. I can definitely say that at that time I knew nothing of his duties, nor do I remember when I made Eichmann's acquaintance. It is supposed to have been in a Budapest restaurant, when Kaltenbrunner addressed Eichmann. However, I am unable to remember any such incident. I do not believe that such a confrontation took place. Given the prevailing circumstances, it is unlikely that we would have been in this restaurant with other guests, particularly with many Hungarians. Gradually, I found out through the Hungarian premier, Sztojay, and the Hungarian Minister of the Interior, Jaross, something about Eichmann's duties. I had known Premier Sztojay already earlier. In Hungary I knew them, or got to know the two of them, well. This familiarity led both of them to tell me repeatedly what was bothering and worrying them. I had frequent confidential, friendly conversations with the two of them. Both of them told me that Endre had been appointed State Secretary at the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior at the express request of the Regent, Horthy. There he was allocated Jewish matters as his special sphere of duties. They also told me that State Secretary Endre had gone to Berlin with Eichmann to the Head Office for Reich Security. This fact showed me clearly that Eichmann was working together with the Hungarian authorities, and more particularly with Endre, and was therefore active in Jewish affairs.

In the course of time, Eichmann paid several visits to me. As an SS officer, he had to report off-duty to me when he left Hungary. He also had to report back to me when he returned to Hungary. He came to see me for this reason. On these occasions I learned from him that the Jews in a particular district had been rounded up by the Hungarian gendarmerie. I took note of what he told me and reflected on it. Eichmann was, however, not subordinate to me. He received his orders directly from the Head Office for Reich Security.

On the testimony given by witness Grell and shown to me - this is an affidavit dated 26 May 1948 - I should like to make the following comment: The allegation that Eichmann was subordinate to me, with regard to disciplinary or technical support on the spot, is not true in this form. Eichmann belonged to the Berlin Head Office for Reich Security. Whenever he received orders, it was from this body. There was no change from that in Hungary, either. I never gave Eichmann any practical support for carrying out the duties assigned to him in such a way as to put him under my control in the performance of these duties.

I cannot give any figures about the size and extent of the Eichmann Special Commando. As far as I remember, I never visited Eichmann's office, which was some distance from my office.

In describing Eichmann, I should like to say that I did not like this officer's snappish manner. I considered him to have the nature of a subaltern. By this I mean someone who uses his authority unreservedly, without evolving moral or mental restraints upon the exercise of his power; nor does he have any scruples about exceeding his authority, if he believes he is acting in the spirit of the person giving him his orders.

In contrast to Eichmann, I consider State Secretary Endre to be someone who performed his duties according to his own views, and not in order to please someone. In Endre's case, there may have been a certain amount of fanaticism. My impression of Endre developed particularly during the criminal proceedings against him in the Budapest People's Court. There I found confirmation of my view about Endre. Endre in no way denied guilt on his part: He accepted responsibility for everything he had done and acknowledged it to the Court. I cannot imagine that Endre could have been decisively influenced by an Eichmann, as far as his attitude and beliefs were concerned.

In this connection I would mention that Reichsführer Himmler told me, when he gave me my assignment to Hungary, that there was no interest in the Jewish Question in Hungary. He said that Hungary was being occupied for military reasons.

I am unable, on the basis of my official findings in Hungary, to say definitively with whom the initiative to deport the Jews originated. I can only draw conclusions on the basis of statements made to me and my observations of men who were in Hungary. In that respect I can only confirm the accuracy of testimony I gave earlier in the criminal proceedings against Weizsaecker and others. I believe that there was an agreement between the Head Office for Reich Security and the Hungarian authorities. Dr. Veesenmayer will have received orders from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ribbentrop, to implement these agreements. The agreements were then implemented largely by the Hungarian police. In this connection I would mention that a Hungarian lieutenant of the gendarmerie told me that he himself heard that Hungarian Lieutenant-Field Marshal Faragho stated to the People's Court in Budapest that he had been responsible for planning the ghettoization and deportation of the Jews in Hungary.

On 25 August 1944, I received a teletype from Reichsführer Himmler. The teletype said that there must be an immediate halt to all deportations of Jews to Germany. I passed on the teletype which had come to me to the Reich Plenipotentiary, Dr. Veesenmayer, by telephone. His office was to be informed of it.

In June 1944, Regent Horthy had already told me at some stage that he had received a telegram about the Jewish Question from the President of the USA, Roosevelt. He had received bitter reproaches. Regent Horthy had then prohibited deportations of Jews in the future. These facts cannot give rise to the conclusion that my department dealt with deporting Jews. This was a private comment to me by Regent Horthy during the course of a discussion.

As to labour service on the so-called Ostwall, I can indicate that one day, when I was ill in the summer of 1944 - or it may have been at the beginning of the autumn of 1944 - I received a visit from a Leader in the Reich Labour Service who wanted labourers for work on the fortifications. I referred him to the legation, to Dr. Veesenmayer. After that I heard that large numbers of people had been set in motion on foot towards the border between Austria and Hungary. I saw these groups of people and found that they had to continue moving, although they were completely exhausted. Utterly exhausted people sat or lay around by the roadside. I remember Obergruppenführer Juettner coming to me to make representations to me. I am able from my own observations to confirm as correct his description of the march and the condition of the exhausted people, which he gave in his examination on 3 May 1948 in Nuremberg, which description has been read out to me. I am unable to say whether the name Eichmann was mentioned in this context.

I made representations to Reichsführer Himmler on account of these foot marches. Reichsführer Himmler immediately, in my presence, contacted Gruppenführer Mueller from the Head Office for Reich Security on the matter. I myself heard Reichsführer Himmler ordering a ban on all further foot marches. Those who had been sent off on these marches were to be removed by vehicle. I gathered from this conversation of Reichsführer Himmler with the Head Office for Reich Security - Mueller - that the foot marches had taken place with the knowledge of the Head Office for Reich Security.

I cannot say anything about the other questions from my own knowledge.

Read out, approved, signed:
(-) Otto Winkelmann

The witness was sworn.

Present at the examination were:

1. For the Attorney General, representing the Prosecution: Mr. Erwin S. Shimron;
2. For the Defence: Advocate Wechtenbruch, Munich

(-) Muenchhoff
(-) Berndt

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