The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 15
(Part 6 of 6)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. Did you know when you stood there in front of the steel helmets why you had been asked to come to Vienna?

A. No.

Q. Nobody had informed you?

A. Nobody informed us what the purpose was. One of the guards took us to the headquarters of the Accused in the Palais. We passed through a courtyard. It was a rainy day, I remember; hundreds of Jews were standing in the rain waiting for the clearance of their passports. It was a depressing sight.

Q. How did you know they were waiting for the clearance of the passports?

A. I heard this later from the officials in the Palestine Office, that that was where passports were distributed, visas. Then we went upstairs. Behind the courtyard there were more stairs, we walked up and came to a large hall, a very beautiful one in the Rothschild Palais. There the Accused was sitting at a handsome desk in civilian clothes.

Presiding Judge: You say: the Accused. Do you see him here, in this hall?

Witness Lindenstrauss: Yes, I see him, he is facing me.

Judge Halevi: Was he in civilian clothes?

Witness Lindenstrauss: On that occasion he wore civilian clothes. Opposite him a young man was sitting whose name I didn't know. Next to them another man was standing, I think even two, one of whom I got to know afterwards, that was the head, or a senior official, of the Palestine Office in Vienna.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Do you remember his name?

Witness Lindenstrauss: I think his name was Dr. Gruen, I cannot say for certain today. There was one more person from the Jewish Community whom I saw once more later on, but I do not remember his name. We were immediately struck by something peculiar: We were not used - in spite of the troubles and the despair in the Altreich (the old Reich) after the pogrom - at any rate, we saw an enormous difference between our situation in the Altreich and the situation in Vienna at that time. I remember that these officials of the Jewish Community and the Palestine Office seemed to me like disciplined soldiers who stood to attention all the time and dared not utter a word. I had the impression that the situation was very difficult for them and that they were afraid to move.

These two men were standing next to the desk, then there was the Accused and opposite him another man from the Gestapo. We were standing next to the desk in a row, the four of us, maybe there was one more, I don't remember exactly, after all this time it is difficult to remember all the details. But I know that we were standing next to the desk.

Q. Where were you standing?

A. I was the first one on the right. If the Accused was sitting here, I was standing there - that is how the line was arranged. This was very awkward for the Accused and he shouted that I should step back three or four metres, that I was too close to him. I did so of course and thus a strange situation was created: It was a large hall - for those who do not know it - one of the finest I have seen in any palace, and I was now standing almost at the end of it.

Q. How far from the Accused?

A. Three, four, five metres. Even before, there had been a distance but it had been too small and I had been the first one in the line. So the strange situation was that we had to straighten the line in order to adjust our position, so that he would not have to talk to me there, while the others were standing in line here.

Then Eichmann began: he said the situation in the Altreich was not good, he was very dissatisfied with it, things were not working properly, that the whole thing was moving too slowly.

Presiding Judge: What situation? With regard to what?

Witness Lindenstrauss: With regard to emigration. The situation was not as it should be. In his absence matters were being held up. It seemed we were in collusion with the officials in Berlin and the emigration had to be speeded up.

Q. With what officials?

A. Officials with whom we had day-to-day contacts, government officials, police officers. He had the impression that, because he was not on the spot, we could have had an understanding with them and thereby hold up the process.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Was this really so?

Witness Lindenstrauss: Not at all.

Q. Did you have an understanding with anybody?

A. None whatsoever. The situation was objectively most difficult. All the Jews in Berlin wanted to emigrate, and from the provinces also we were under enormous pressure; day and night we received telegrammes and telephone calls and I had to work round the clock in order to cope. The demand for emigration was enormous, but we could not meet it for lack of possibilities. Then he said: "This has to be changed, the emigration has to be speeded up by all possible means." His words were: Ihr muesst auf Touren kommen (You have to go into high gear). "I demand a thousand passports every day, that is the minimum." The Head of the Jewish Community, the late Dr. Stahl, explained, or tried to explain to the Accused that there were many objective reasons which made this impossible and that it was not lack of good will, on the contrary, there was a fervent wish for emigration. The Accused replied that this made no difference to him, that he was not interested in this and did not concern himself with details, that was our affair. If there were no possibilities for emigration, we had to find solutions, we had to submit the passports to him.

After this he passed on to another subject, the financial aspect, and said: "If we correct the situation in Berlin you have to accept in future some tax for fleeing the Reich, an emigration tax." We said that, as we understood this, we had to use these funds in order to finance the emigration of the Jews from Germany. To this he answered shouting loudly: "This is out of the question!" and here, too I want to quote his words although they were very rude: "How should we pay for keeping your old bags alive?" he shouted.

Then he said that the system in Vienna was very efficient. He suggested that we stay one or two more days in Vienna in order to get to know the conditions and to study the system of which he was very proud and which led to much better results in his opinion than ours. That was the end of the meeting.

Q. What was his way of speaking, how did the Accused behave during the conversation you have just described?

A. The whole conversation was most vulgar. This was my impression from the outset. The whole atmosphere was very uncomfortable. All of us, the members of the delegation, were disappointed, discouraged and very worried, because we realized that the idea was that he wanted to introduce the Vienna system in Berlin and we saw this as a change of direction, affecting the future of emigration from Germany. We looked at this with much concern.

At the conclusion of the meeting he said:"I invited you here as representatives of the German Jews. You who are present here, you will in future be responsible for carrying out the operation in the spirit I have indicated. Otherwise you will certainly understand what fate awaits you." Thus the conversation ended.

We stayed another half day or a day in Vienna. We contacted the Jewish Community and also the Palestine Office in order to get some impressions and then we travelled back to Berlin. We were actually all under the impression that, however hard and desperate the situation was in the Altreich there was an enormous difference in every respect between the situation of the Jews in Vienna at that time and the situation of the Jews in the Altreich. We had seen this at every step. From further conversations too, we learnt with how much force the Accused put his intention into effect. While in the Altreich there had been a process lasting from 1933 until that time; there had been fairly quiet phases and also less quiet ones.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Thank you very much.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, have you any questions?

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions to the witness.

Judge Raveh: I didn't quite understand the matter of the emigration tax. I am not interested in the actual words that were used, but what was the idea?

Witness Lindenstrauss: The idea was that every person receiving a passport from the new institution - which already existed in Vienna and which he wanted to introduce in Berlin - that this institution should exact a special tax from every Jew receiving a passport at the time of emigration. And we requested that we should be able to use...

Q. Every emigrant? What was the purpose? Wasn't that discussed?

A. An emigration tax. He did not mention the purpose. This is why the Head of the Community asked: "I assume that you agree to our using this tax for emigration purposes, e.g. in order to enable persons without means to finance their emigration overseas."

Presiding Judge: I want to understand one more thing: You said you regarded the idea to establish a central office in Berlin according to the Vienna pattern, that you saw this as a worsening of the earlier situation?

Witness Lindenstrauss: Yes.

Q. Wasn't there also a positive side to this - if one can speak of a positive side at all - since it would mean centralization of all the activities connected with emigration and a speeding-up of the process?

A. No. We realized at the meeting with the Accused that there was no longer any consideration for objective factors and that, on the contrary, there was an atmosphere of deportation. We realized that this institution wouldn't lead to dealing with orderly emigration, but to deportation. We realized that the period of expulsion was approaching in all earnest and this had not been on the agenda before in the Altreich. During all my years in the Palestine Office we had worked for selective Aliyah as we wanted to send the most suitable people. Now we saw that this era had come to an end. This was the serious impression at the end of the Vienna visit, that the intention now was to bring about organized deportation.

Presiding Judge: Thank you very much, Mr. Lindenstrauss, you have concluded your evidence.

[To State Attorney Bar-Or] Do you suggest that we finish for today?

State Attorney Bar-Or: With the permission of the Court, we could perhaps do one more thing before adjourning: I propose to keep our promise and submit to this Honourable Court the 42 volumes of the Proceedings at Nuremberg.

Presiding Judge: As an exhibit?

State Attorney Bar-Or: It is an official publication. Actually, I do not know whether it is necessary. I propose, for the purpose of our evidence, to submit to this Honourable Court that part of the judgment of the International Military Tribunal which refers to organizations mentioned as criminal organizations under paragraph 3, or organizations referred to under Section 3 of our Law. These passages could perhaps be marked as exhibits in the Record together with their Hebrew translation, so that the other volumes do not have to appear as exhibits.

Presiding Judge: Will they be put at the disposal of the Court?

State Attorney Bar-Or: They will be put at the disposal of the Court until the end of the Trial.

Presiding Judge: Very well. Do submit the...

State Attorney Bar-Or: I propose to submit the part of the judgment of Nuremberg which refers to the conviction of the three organizations: the Gestapo, the SD and the SS.

I have to ask the indulgence of this Honourable Court with regard to one point which might perhaps be confusing at first sight. I said that we propose to the Court to accept the set in the German translation, but the Hebrew translation is based on the English edition of the I.M.T., pages 262-273.

Presiding Judge: Very well. I think we shall be able to sort it out.

State Attorney Bar-Or: The first volume of the English edition will be at the disposal of the Court.

Presiding Judge: We have it. Does this contain the pages referring to the three organizations?

State Attorney Bar-Or: Referring to the three organizations mentioned in the indictment.

For the sake of completeness of the record I shall add that in Bureau 06 the document was numbered 268.

Presiding Judge: This will be exhibit T/83.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Your Honour, the 42 volumes of the German edition are on the table next to the witness stand.

Presiding Judge: Do you need them?

State Attorney Bar-Or: No. From now on they are at the disposal of the Court.

Presiding Judge: We shall transfer them to the Judges' Chambers.

We shall adjourn now, and the next Session will be tomorrow, at 9 a.m.

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