The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 17
(Part 4 of 5)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. Who was the first Gestapo man whom you recall from those meetings?

A. Already at the beginning, when I came to Berlin, he was one of the veteran officials, if I am not mistaken; he had already been an official in the Weimar Republic under Naske. His name was Kuchmann. He continued in the service of all the Governments of all various kinds. At that time he was also the representative of the Gestapo, he came to us in the office and dealt with us. First of all he interested himself in what was happening with us, afterwards with control and with supervision of meetings and he demanded information; this was the way he worked.

Q. I understand that there was frequent contact.

A. Yes.

Q. When you say "he interested himself in us," what are you referring to - the Reichsvertretung, the Zionist Organization, or to both?

A. I refer to the period in which I was engaged in the office of the Zionist Organization.

Q. In the Palestine Office?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember anyone else?

A. I was also invited to the central office of the Gestapo in Prinz Albrecht Strasse and there I encountered from time to time many officials whose names I did not know and they did not tell me who they were. I do remember the name of Assessor Freitag.

Q. Did you see him on Prinz Albrecht Strasse?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember where he was situated?

A. Freitag was situated in the central building - Kuchmann sat in a building in the garden. One had to go through the central building, and afterwards to go through the garden and to enter a building which previously had an exit to the street. If I am not mistaken this would have been Wilhelm Strasse.

Presiding Judge: Are all these details important?

State Attorney Bar-Or: Yes, they will be important.

Witness Meyer: This was closed. Kuchmann had a room there.

Q. He sat there. Could one reach Kuchmann only through the main building?

A. This I don't know. As far as I was concerned I was obliged to enter only through the main building.

Q. Do you recall meetings with Eichmann during these years?

A. Yes.

A. More than once?

A. Yes.

Q. When was the first meeting?

A. Generally speaking I am unable to give the date - this I have already forgotten. It seems to me that this should have been in the years 1936-1937, but not regularly. There were also times when I did not find Eichmann. He was on some journeys. I imagine that later I read where he had been, but then we did not know.

Q. When you met with Eichmann, where did you meet him - where was his office?

A. I found him in the same building in Prinz Albert Strasse.

Q. In the central building or in the building in the garden?

A. No; there in the building where Kuchmann was located. In the same part of the building where Kuchmann was.

Q. What did you talk about when you met, what were the subjects, what did he want to know?

A. There were all kinds of matters. Sometimes we wanted something, and sometimes he wanted something.

Q. Let us divide the answer. What were the matters that caused you to meet with Eichmann of your own will, and what where the things that you wanted from him?

A. After I knew that he was located there, and I gained the impression then that he used to listen to the issues and wanted - as I then thought - to understand the situation with us, I then also passed on to him, in the course of such conversations, requests and complaints that had arisen. In general I also dealt within the framework of the Reichsvertretung with the training of Halutzim. They were spread all over Germany, also in places where there was a youth somewhat different from that of Berlin, where riots or other disturbances took place under the direction of local institutions. I told him that this could not go on if we were to continue with our work. And I asked him to intervene and to ensure that matters were settled.

Q. And he promised?

A. He promised. I should state that from time to time he also did something. But I must mention that almost each time he said: "I must first of all ask my superiors." And afterwards he would telephone me, or I could also call him by telephone to ask if there had been a decision. Naturally I also received negative replies. But generally speaking there was a certain possibility of exchanging views.

Q. Why in fact didn't you turn to Kuchmann whom you knew previously?

A. I felt - that I didn't know whether his position - I never heard what powers were possessed by this man who was opposite us - but I felt that the powers of Kuchmann were limited to matters of Berlin, and we were interested to deal as well with the questions which I previously mentioned. I thought that perhaps in this way it would be possible to influence other bodies with whom I had no contact.

Q. What were the things that he Eichmann wanted from you? What interested him at these meetings? Did he occasionally invite you?

A. Yes. But this was also connected with a particular matter. Supposing we asked for a certain privilege for a person from outside Germany, an emissary from Palestine, to come to Berlin - then we submitted an application. In regard to such applications he would invite me in order to obtain information as to who and what the person was. Apart from this I had the impression at the time that he wanted to learn something, to become acquainted with details. Naturally each one of us knew that the affairs of the Jews were not so simple, and there were many matters which were difficult to explain even to ourselves, and I would not add an extra word. And he would ask me: "What is this?" And I had to explain it to him. For example, why the Orthodox were outside the framework of the official communities, what were the issues of the Zionist parties, the Poalei Zion, what was this and what was that.

Q. Did he take a special interest in the affairs of these organizations?

A. Yes.

Q. What general impression did you form of his interest?

A. The impression that I gain from any official who says: "Listen, I want to get to know something - explain it to me."

Q. How did he behave?

A. I used to think then that he was a quiet person, behaving in an ordinary manner. To be sure no personal relations - simply cold, but correct.

Q. The relations at these meetings were correct?

A. Yes. He addressed me "Herr Dr." and allowed me to be seated. This is how it was.

Q. These meetings continued in this way until when?

A. I cannot state this accurately.

Q. Approximately.

A. I said before that I think this was until the end of 1937.

Q. Was there any break?

A. There was some interval. I remember that after I had seen Eichmann subsequently in 1939, I recalled that I hadn't seen him for a long time, that is to say, roughly more than a year.

Q. Do you recollect the month of October 1938 in regard to operating against Polish Jews?

A. Certainly. These were terrible events. Naturally in the Reichsvertretung we received all the information immediately. I don't remember the exact date. I only know that this was connected with the Sabbath day, for then our offices were obviously closed, and we immediately obtained from Rabbi Baeck his approval to open the office and deal with this matter. And on the same evening, after I had also telephoned to the late Dr. Hirsch, it was agreed that I would travel to Beuthen in Upper Silesia. I had connections with this district in particular, since I had dealt previously with the political questions of minority rights, which were about to be terminated in the year 1937. We made a special effort to obtain assistance to extend the date but we did not succeed.

Q. You failed in this?

A. Yes.

Q. For this reason you examined the situation in Beuthen?

A. Yes.

Q. You went to Beuthen?

A. Yes.

Q. What did you find there?

A. I travelled there by night train. I arrived in the morning. The expulsion of Jews from Poland had taken place in a most terrible way. They had taken these people from the trains, and had forced them to cross the border during the night through the forest that was on both sides of the border. They forced the people on with shots and with dogs. I received the first report from one of the men of the community in Beuthen, who had had the courage that night to go with the emblem of the Red Cross or another such organization in order to help the people there. And he even succeeded in getting to the scene of events and he told me what had happened there that night. I even found the rest of these refugees who had to return from the border to Beuthen. I found them in the synagogue and in other rooms of the community there in a terrible condition. And I heard from all of them the story of that night.

Presiding Judge: In other words, the Poles chased them back?

Witness Meyer: Yes, the Poles obviously chased them back. They were between the two sides and the Polish gendarmerie drove them back.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Back to the border?

Witness Meyer: Yes.

Q. During this period, in the years 1937 and 1938 you travelled outside of Germany frequently?

A. Yes. Then I was still able to do so. It seems to me that I was abroad for the last time in 1937. After that they took away my passport.

Q. Do you remember this letter that you received from the State Police Central Office in Berlin dated 1 September 1938?

A. Yes, of course. By chance I received such a letter. Usually they did not write letters. This means that there is not much material. But they wrote them to the Reichsvertretung.

Q. And in this letter they wrote that they would not extend your passport except for purposes of emigration?

A. Yes, but this was not the whole truth, for on the other hand, they did not want me to leave Germany at this stage, after the events of November.

Q. November 1938?

A. Yes.

Q. They detained you?

A. Yes.

State Attorney Bar-Or: I request permission to submit this letter.

Presiding Judge: This will be T/91.

State Attorney Bar-Or: You returned from Beuthen?

Witness Meyer: Yes.

Q. Please tell the Court about what you remember regarding the 10th November, 1938.

A. Yes. Do I have to relate this in general terms or what I...

Q. When did you reach Berlin? More correctly, where did the news reach you of the death of vom Rath?

A. During those days I was not in Berlin but in Cologne in connection with my work.

Q. In connection with your work?

A. Yes.

Q. Was it there that this news reached you?

A. Yes. I read this in the newspaper. I had to be there on the Tuesday of that week, and I returned from Colgne on the Wednesday morning. This was 9 November. And in the office of the Reichsvertretung they had already heard of cases where members of the Community Council had been arrested, and they did not know why. They had not yet heard the speech of Hitler, if I am not mistaken, or of Goebbels - this I am not able to recall - with which all the rioting started. But there were already rumours that something was in the air.

And I, for my part, already felt that this time it was very serious, and that night I did not sleep at home. I should say that I did not have an apartment at that time. We were in some boarding-house, and I moved to another apartment the same night. The apartment was not in a building connected to the street, but in a back building, as was customary in Berlin. And there I did not hear anything that night of what had taken place. But in the morning, when I left the building, I saw first of all one shop opposite my home where the windows were broken - but I still did not know what had happened. This could have been a case of robbery, or something like that. Would you like to hear the details?

Presiding Judge: Dr. Meyer, it would be better to limit yourself.

Witness Meyer: Afterwards Benno Cohn found me in a certain place, it is not important where, and told me what had occurred. Then I saw, firstly, the offices of the Zionist Organization, and the state they were in. Afterwards I went to the Reichsvertretung - and to my office - and there naturally we heard from all the places and from all the communities.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Did you see the synagogue on Fasanen Strasse?

Witness Meyer: Yes.

Q. What did you see there?

A. The window of my room faced the synagogue, and I saw the fire bursting forth from the synagogue roof and afterwards smoke as well, and this lasted for hours.

Q. You travelled once, on duty, to Vienna, is that correct?

A. Yes. I don't want to say that it was on duty, because I did not choose this opportunity. In February 1939 we suddenly received an invitation - more correctly an order, to appear in Vienna as a delegation of representatives of Jewish institutions.

Q. You went?

A. Yes.

Q. With whom did you travel?

A. I have tried to recall the names of all the participants but without success.

Q. Did you travel together with someone else or did you travel by yourself?

A. I know that part of the delegation travelled by sleeping car to Vienna, despite the fact that there was already a ban on Jews travelling by sleeping car. But Mr. Heinrich Stahl, chairman of the community, had still managed to obtain the consent of the Gestapo, which gave him permission to use the carriage on this occasion. I think it was not a German carriage, but an international carriage.

Q. You reached Vienna together?

A. Yes.

Q. Where did you go to?

A. We went to the Palace of Baron Rothschild.

Q. And what happened?

A. There, at the gate, was an SS man, of course. We approached him and said: "We are the delegation from Berlin." He telephoned inside, and I still remember the grotesque situation where he did not know by which name to describe us. He stammered a little and said: "Here are the gentlemen from Berlin." He obviously wanted to use another expression.

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