Captain Avner W. Less was the Israeli police officer who interrogated Adolf
Eichmann, prior to his trial and subsequent conviction in Jerusalem.
Comments, designated by brackets , are those of the editor, Jochen von
Typos are mine, not the author’s.
LESS: Did your work bring you into contact with Ahnenerbe [Ancestral
Heritage], the Institute for Scientific Study of Ends and Purposes, in
EICHMANN: No, no, no!
LESS: Did you know SS-Standartenfu”hrer Dr. Sievers, the director of
[Ahnenerbe was a typical brainchild of Himmler’s, a faithful reflection of
his character. Its aims were at once chaotic and romantic. It encouraged
utter unscrupulousness on the grounds that the end justifies the means. Its
high-sounding title covered such diverse undertakings as experimentation on
living concentration-camp inmates and the study of Germanic pre-history.
Professor Dr. Wolfram Sievers was the director of this obscure institute.]
LESS: Did your duties bring you into contact with Dr. Sievers?
EICHMANN: No, no, no. Not that I remember. Not that I remember.
LESS: Did you know SS-Hauptsturmfu”hrer Professor Dr. Hirt of Strassburg
EICHMANN: Hirt? No, I didn’t know him either.
LESS: Did you or your department have anything to do with the transfer of
detainees from one concentration camp to another?
EICHMANN: No, no, no. From one concentration camp to another?
LESS: Let’s say from Auschwitz to Mauthausen. Or from Auschwitz to
EICHMANN: No, no. That wasn’t my department. That would have been the
Protective…the Protective Custody Bureau.
LESS: Did your duties bring you into contact with SS-Obersturmbannfu”hrer
Dr. Rudolf Brandt of the Reichsfu”hrer-SS’s personal staff?
EICHMANN: Dr. Brandt, the physician, oh yes, Brandt, he was somebody’s
personal physician. I don’t know if he was Hitler’s or …
LESS: Or Himmler’s?
EICHMANN: That’s it, Himmler’s. No, I never had any connection with him.
[Dr. Rudolf Brandt was not a physician. He was Himmler’s aide-de-camp,
but his influence was far greater than that title suggests. Dr. Karl
Brandt, no close relation, was a doctor, one of Hitler’s personal
physicians. See URL
http://www.almanac.bc.camanac.bc.ca/cgi-bin/ftp.pl?people/b/brandt.karl/] (Page doesn`t exist)
LESS: I have some photostats of documents that were submitted in the
first Nuremberg war crimes trial, the trial of the physicians. The
sender of this letter is the business manager of Ahnenerbe. I’ll read
it to you. “Berlin, November 2, 1942. Secret. To
SS-Obersturmbannfu”hrer Dr. Brandt. Dear Comrade Brandt: As you know,
the Reichsfu”hrer-SS gave orders some time ago to the effect that
SS-Hauptsturmfu”hrer Prof. Dr. Hirt should be supplied with everything
he requires for his research. For certain anthropological
investigations — I have already reported to the Reichsfu”hrer-SS on the
subject — 150 skeletons of prisoners or Jews are needed, and these are
to be made available by the Auschwitz concentration camp.” Etc. etc.
It’s signed: “With comradely greetings, Heil Hitler, Yours, Sievers.”
The second document is a report by this Professor Hirt. “Re:
Procurement of the skulls of Jewish-Bolshevistic commissars for
scientific research at the University of Strassburg.” I quote:
“Extensive skull collections from nearly all races and people are in
existence. It is only of Jews that so few skulls are available to
science that work on them admits of no secure findings. The war in the
East now offers us an opportunity to make good this deficiency. In the
Jewish-Bolshevistic commissars, who embody a repulsive and
characteristic type of subhuman, we have the possibility of acquiring a
reliable scientific document by acquiring their skulls. The smoothest
and most expeditious way of obtaining and securing this provision of
skulls would be to instruct the Wehrmacht to hand over all
Jewish-Bolshevistic commissars immediately to the military police. The
person charged with securing this material (a young physician or medical
student belonging to the Wehrmacht or better still to the military
police) is to prepare a previously specified series of photographs and
anthropoligical measurements. After the subsequently induced death of
the Jew, whose head must not be injured, he will separate the head from
the trunk and send it, immersed in a preserving fluid, in well-sealed
lead containers made especially for this purpose, to the designated
And now the next document. A letter of June 21, 1943. From
Ahnenerbe. Top secret. “To Reich Security Headquarters IVB4,
Attention: SS-Obersturmfu”hrer Eichmann. Re: Skeleton collection. With
reference to your letter of September 25, 1942, and the consultations
held since then regarding the above-mentioned matter, we wish to inform
you that Dr. Bruno Beger, our staff member charged with the
above-mentioned special mission, terminated his work in the Auschwitz
concentration camp on June 15, 1943, because of the danger of an
epidemic. In all, 115 persons, 79 male Jews, 2 Poles, 4 Central Asians,
and 30 Jewesses, were processed. These inmates have been placed, men
and women separately, in the concentration-camp sick quarters, and
quarantined. For the further processing of these selected persons,
immediate transfer to Natzweiler concentration camp is desirable and
should be effected as quickly as possible in view of the danger of
infection in Auschwitz. A list of the selected persons is appended.
You are requested to send the necessary instructions.”
And now for the last document. “The Reichsfu”hrer-SS Personal Staff,
Field Headquarters, November 6, 1942. Secret. To Reich Security Headquarters
IVB4. Attention: SS-Obersturmfu”hrer Eichmann. The Reichsfu”hrer-SS has
ordered that Dr. Hirt, head of the Anatomy Department in Strassburg, should
be supplied with everything needed for his research. In the name of the
Reichsfu”hrer-SS, I therefore request you to help establish the projected
skeleton collection. per. proc. SS-Obersturmbannfu”hrer Brandt.”
EICHMANN: I don’t remember those names. Anyway, it’s an order from the
Reichsfu”hrer-SS and chief of the German police. The whole correspondence
makes that clear enough. Of course, considerations of competence must have
made me turn the whole thing over to Administration and Supply. Where could
I have gotten all those skulls?
LESS: This is about skeletons, or rather, living people.
EICHMANN: Yes, that’s a fact.
LESS: In other words, living people, who are to be transformed into
EICHMANN: Yes, of course. The doctors are supposed to go to the
concentration camp and select them. Why they apply to me, I can’t make out.
And there’s no letter from me in the file, no answer or anything. So it’s
possible that I … not on my own authority, of course… submitted this
whole thing to Mu”ller and then, seeing it was an order from the
Reichsfu”hrer, turned it over to Administration and Supply. Nothing else is
conceivable, because I can’t… I can’t deliver skeletons… or living
people. I… didn’t have any camp… any camp where they could be selected.
That could only have been done in a concentration camp.
LESS: Yes, but you did give instructions to send those people to Natzweiler.
EICHMANN: No, I can’t do that either. The Protective Custody Bureau has to
LESS: It’s clear from Siever’s letter to you … that … he was writing on
the basis of a conversation with you.
EICHMANN: Yes, that’s a fact…
LESS: What sort of conversation?
EICHMANN: It’s definitely true; I can remember discussing some such thing.
But I didn’t know … anything about skeletons. You see, I knew about
skulls. Once I knew that this order came from the Reichsfu”hrer-SS and chief
of the German police in person, I had to pass it on to the competent
authority. That sort of thing wasn’t in my department.
LESS: So you carried out the order?
EICHMANN: I couldn’t carry it out, Herr Hauptmann…It had to be carried out
by Administration and Supply Headquarters; it wasn’t up to me.
LESS: So what did you do?
EICHMANN: Undoubtedly, I passed it on to Administration and Supply, because
they were competent. Not on my own initiative, but because it was an order
from the Reichsfu”hrer. I can’t believe that I wrote to Camp Commandant
Ho”ss – Ho”ss – in Auschwitz about it. I couldn’t write to Ho”ss directly
about a thing like that. It’s simply not true that Section IV, the Secret
State Police, supplied those skeletons.
LESS: Those people…
EICHMANN: Supplied those people. Because in Auschwitz…in
Auschwitz…because this was in Auschwitz, wasn’t it? …So this doctor goes
there and selects people. But there were tens of thousands of people in
Auschwitz. I had no need to give any orders in Auschwitz if the
Reichsfu”hrer-SS and chief of the German police had given them.
LESS: I beg your pardon. Herr Sievers informs you that his man has gone
there and selected his people, and he asks you to see about…
EICHMANN: …having them sent to Natzweiler.
LESS: …about…about giving instructions.
EICHMANN: But, Herr Hauptmann, what sort of instructions was I expected to
LESS: I’m asking you. I’m very curious to know.
EICHMANN: Well…you see…I myself…I…I don’t know…I…I…I…What
instructions could I have given? To kill them? I wouldn’t have had to give
any instructions for that, Herr Hauptmann; Ho”ss already had full powers to
kill. I didn’t have to give any instructions for a hundred and sixty people
– I can only explain this by telling you something gruesome…hmm…very
gruesome… It’s the only way…Ho”ss, you see…er…every week he’d get so
and so many shipments, and the Fu”hrer had given orders to kill…so why
would I have to give Ho”ss, who killed thousands of people each week in line
with the Fu”hrer’s Order, why would I have to give him special instructions
– which I couldn’t have given in the first place, because it’s a different
outfit, he belonged to a different outfit – to kill a hundred and sixty
LESS: They weren’t killed in Auschwitz; they were sent to Natzweiler.
EICHMANN: Or Natzweiler. People were killed… in every concentration camp
if they were scheduled to be killed. The concentration-camp commanders…got
those orders from the competent headquarters, from Administration and
Supply. But I can’t conceive of us, Bureau IV B4, IV B4, ever giving the
Auschwitz concentration camp any orders. We probably passed the whole thing
on to Administration and Supply for jurisdictional reasons. Basically, it
comes to the same thing anyway, because the order came from the
Reichsfu”hrer and chief of the German police. Whatever I may have done, I
had no responsibility whatever, because the oath I had to take obligated me
to loyalty and obedience. The order came from my highest hierarchical
superior. That would have put me in a compulsive situation, I’d have had to
obey. That’s as plain as day. (von Lang, 167-174)
von Lang, Jochen, ed., in collaboration with Claus Sibyll. Eichmann
Interrogated: Transcripts from the Archives of the Israeli Police.
Translated from the German by Avner W. Less. New York: Farrar, Straus &
Subject: Holocaust Almanac – Eichmann on medical experimentation
Summary: Eichmann discusses Ahnenerbe and medical experimentation with
Captain Avner Less, of the Eichmann interrogation team, along with
the acquisition of skulls and skeletons for ‘research’ purposes.
Organization: Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Archive/File: holocaust/germany/eichmann eichmann.006
XRef: Index eichmann, index auschwitz