Judgment 48, Eichmann Adolf

153. The camp for Jews in Bergen-Belsen was set up because
of the desire of the German Foreign Ministry to concentrate
Jews of foreign nationality in an “Exchange Camp,” with a
view to their being exchanged for German prisoners in the
hands of the Allied Powers. Accordingly, the Foreign
Ministry, in a letter dated 2 March 1943 (T/762), which was
sent to the RSHA for the Accused’s attention, demands the
concentration of some 30,000 Jews regarded as suitable for
exchange, and states that these Jews are not to be evacuated
to the East. The RSHA dealt with putting up the camp. One
of its officials (from the police department dealing with
foreigners) reports confidentially to von Thadden in the
Foreign Ministry that,

“… although he had been informed that, from the point
of view of work, they would not treat these Jews
harshly enough for them to die, yet the impression to
be gained from the camp regulations which were in
process of being drafted, etc., was that at any rate
they would treat them with considerable harshness,”

and this disturbs von Thadden, because such an attitude
towards the prisoners is likely to defeat the purpose of the
camp (T/789). The history of the camp shows that there was
a sound basis for this anxiety.

The camp was set up at the beginning of July 1943. Seidl,
who until then had been the commander of Terezin, was
transferred to Bergen-Belsen (T/842, third record of
proceedings, p. 26). During the same period, a conference
took place at the Accused’s Section with the Advisers on
Jewish Affairs, at which representatives of the Section
announced that the new camp would have a capacity of 10,000.
“Jews in protective custody” would be housed there, as well
as Jewish communal leaders and Jews with contacts abroad who
could be considered for exchange, and also Jews of repute

Questions reached the Accused’s Section (T/555) and
instructions were sent out from it (T/557, T/558) in
relation to the categories of Jews to be sent to Bergen-
Belsen. On 27 January 1944, the Accused’s Section (over his
signature) orders the transfer to Bergen-Belsen of all Jews
holding Argentinian nationality (T/500), and on 29 February
1944 (over Guenther’s signature) the Jews of foreign
nationality in Greece (T/997). Seidl also testified (T/842,
third record of proceedings, p. 27) that the letters which
had been written by the camp prisoners were collected
together on the spot and sent to the Section of the Accused.

In the autumn of 1944, a representative of the International
Red Cross applied to the Foreign Ministry for permission to
visit Bergen-Belsen (T/799). Von Thadden promised to look
into the matter, but in an internal memorandum, he wrote
that there would be serious hesitations on the part of the
RSHA about such a visit. A similar request was presented to
the Accused in April 1945 by a representative of the Red
Cross (T/865), but,

“Eichmann stated that a typhus epidemic had broken out
in this camp, and that the Reich authorities
responsible for sanitation and health were fighting it
with all the means at their disposal. He promised me
that he would tour this camp with me in a few days’
time. This visit did not take place, because I could
no longer find Eichmann in Berlin.”

The witness Melkman (Session 34, Vol. II, p. 618) was in
Bergen-Belsen from 15 February 1944 until 9 April 1945. His
evidence makes it clear why the Accused opposed visits by
foreigners to the camp. This is what the witness said:

“When I came to Bergen-Belsen, the living conditions at
first were no worse than those in Westerbork, perhaps a
little better… In the course of time, the situation
at Bergen-Belsen became worse, and the situation
deteriorated terribly, until it received this horrible
and awful name, as many more people arrived. At first
the camp was intended only for some thousands, but in
the end there were tens of thousands there. There was
no food. The sanitary conditions – it is almost
impossible to describe them. In a hut for 400 people,
there was one toilet, and this was always out of order.
Everybody suffered from diarrhoea… In the end there
were tens of thousands of people. The dead lay in the
roadway… I also entered the concentration camp of the
women who had arrived at Auschwitz, I think that this
was in November 1944. And there I saw terrible things
– women who fell upon some barrel where a few remnants
of food still remained… There were even instances of
cannibalism there.”

Dr. Chen (Session 71, Vol. III) and Mr. Hoter-Yishai
(Session 73, Vol. III, pp. 1349-1350) gave evidence of the
terrible situation prevailing in the camp when the
liberators arrived. At the time of the liberation there
were 52,000 people in the camp, of whom 27,000 died from
weakness, in spite of the medical attention they received.
To illustrate this evidence, photographs taken at Dr. Chen’s
instructions were submitted to us (T/1347-T/1355), and a
film was shown to us which had also been taken after the
liberation of the camp.

It is clear from the documents we have mentioned that the
RSHA, and within it the Accused’s Section, controlled the
fate of the Jewish prisoners in the Bergen-Belsen camp. In
this regard, therefore, there is a resemblance between
Terezin and Bergen-Belsen.

154. We have also touched, in passing (for example, in the
Hungarian chapter), on the transportation conditions when
the victims were expelled from their homes and sent to the
concentration camps and to other deportation places. We
shall now add that the method of transportation in every
place resembled the transportation of cattle and worse –
sealed freight trucks, in intense cold or blazing heat,
without food supplies (except what the evacuees brought
along with them), a scant supply of drinking water, and at
times no water at all for days on end, the most terrible
sanitary conditions (one pail per truck to take care of
physiological needs), not less than 70 to 100 people and
even more in each truck.

In this matter, the line of increasing harshness is clearly
recognizable from the documents: In T/37 (the instruction
for evacuation to the Generalgouvernement area) of March
1942, it is still stated that it is forbidden to dispatch
more than 1,000 Jews in each train. Compare this with
exhibit T/765, dated 20 February 1943 (instructions for
evacuation to Auschwitz) where we read that every train must
transport at least 1,000 Jews. At a conference in his
Section on 9 September 1942, the Accused told his officials
that there was room only for 700 people on the trains, but
1,000 Jews would have to be transported in them. When
Superintendent Less put this statement to the Accused, he

“Mr. Superintendent, this does not alter the fact that
I was the person authorized and responsible for this –
this is clear.” (T/37, p. 774)

And so he continued right up to the deportations from
Hungary, when 100 people and more were packed tightly into a
single truck.

The police who accompanied the transports were generally
members of the Order Police. But the Order Police were not
responsible for the overcrowding in the trucks, nor for the
supply of food and water during the journey, nor for the
sanitary arrangements. Responsibility for these matters
rested solely upon the section which organized the
transports, namely the Section of the Accused. It is no
exaggeration to say that the very process of transporting
people under such conditions was the first stage in the
extermination of the deportees. Thus, it often happened
that when a transport reached its destination, or was still
at one of the intermediate stations, the bodies of persons
who had died en route were taken out of the trucks. This
applies not only to the period of the Final Solution, but
also to the second stage, when Jews were deported from the
Warthe zone, etc., and Stettin under disastrous conditions
of transportation.

Last-Modified: 1999/05/27