The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 41
(Part 3 of 5)

State Attorney Bar-Or: First, I beg to submit an amendment to the record of Session No. 38. The amendment is due to an error on my part, not on the part of the stenographer. After I had submitted Prosecution document 728, which was given the number T/676, it says in the record: "I now continue at the end of the page: Therefore, the Reich Ministry of Justice proposes." Here I erred. In the source from which I was reading, the English "I" looked as if it were a "J." It must, therefore, read: "Therefore, the Reich Ministry for the Interior proposes" - not the Ministry of Justice.

Presiding Judge: Was that at the Session dealing with matters of citizenship and property?

State Attorney Bar-Or: Yes. With the Court's permission, I should like to submit this amendment to the record.

I now call witness Heinrich Grueber.

Presiding Judge: You speak German and are a Christian?

Witness: Yes.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Heinrich Karl Ernst Grueber.

Presiding Judge: Address?

Witness Grueber: Berlin-Dahlem, Im Winkel 5.

State Attorney Bar-Or: You officiate as a dean (Probst) in Berlin at present?

Witness Grueber: Yes.

Q. How long have you held this position?

A. Since 1945.

Q. What was your occupation before the outbreak of the War in 1939?

A. In 1939 I was a parson in an eastern suburb of Berlin, at Karlsdorf.

Q. Did you have any links or connections with the Reich Representation of German Jews, and later with the Reich Association?

A. Yes, indeed, right from the outset of my work I established contact with the Reich Association. This contact became closer and more intimate after the events of November 1938.

Q. With which members of the Reich Representation or Association were you in constant contact?

A. First and foremost with Chief Rabbi Baeck whose friendship I have been honoured to enjoy, Ministerialrat (Ministerial Councillor) Dr. Otto Hirsch, and a Mr. Eppstein - these were the three gentlemen with whom I mainly had dealings.

Q. What were the subjects you discussed in 1938 and 1939 before the War?

A. They were all matters affecting the harassment of the Berlin Jews, not only questions of emigration, but also matters concerning legal protection, economic assistance, and so on.

Q. I gather you were asked to help. How did you wish to help the Reich Association?

A. The situation was such that the gentlemen from the Reich Association were in an increasingly difficult position. You see - to be honest - as Jews they were looked on as second- class citizens, so they did not have the opportunity or the ability to express their opinions as openly and freely as I could. I would like to refer just to one instance, when I made my first visit to Kurfuerstenstrasse 116. I do not remember if it was to the Accused or to his deputy, Guenther. At that time, I went with the three gentlemen from the Reich Association. There was one chair, which was offered to me. The three gentlemen had to stand. So I said: If the three gentlemen are standing, I shall also stand. So increasingly I had, as it were, to intervene in circumstances where the three gentlemen could not act freely.

I am sorry - I used to intervene primarily in contacts with all the government authorities, where my connections with the government agencies and departments gave me better access. In connection with questions of food or currency assistance or other such matters. Just to give an example: When, before Pesach 1940, there was a ban on importing wheat flour from Hungary - because for some reason or other the authorities did not want the Jews to have it - I went to see a Ministerial Councillor in the Ministry of Food with whom I was friendly and worked out a deal, so that the wheat flour could be imported in time for the baking of matzos, and so on. In other words, I would help wherever my friends from the Reich Association could not appear, or where they were not likely to be able to achieve the desired results.

Q. Dr. Grueber, you mentioned three names just now. You referred to Rabbi Baeck, as well as a Hirsch and an Eppstein. Do you remember if any of these gentlemen had a beard?

A. Yes, I remember Chief Rabbi Baeck had a Knebelbart (twisted moustache). The others were clean-shaven. Hirsch had a small moustache for a while. But Chief Rabbi Baeck had a Knebelbart.

State Attorney Bar-Or: [to the Presiding Judge] I would ask for the word Knebelbart to be inserted in the record in the original German. In the Accused's deposition, which I shall come to after the testimony, he speaks of a Knebelbart, but apparently he confused the witness with Rabbi Baeck. Consequently the word Knebelbart is of some significance, and should appear, perhaps in brackets.

[To the witness) You have referred to Pesach, using the Hebrew term for the festival of Passover. Are you familiar with Jewish festivals and customs, and if so, where from?

A. I knew something of the Jewish festivals from my theological studies. There is one thing I can say, which is that later on all the festivals there was particular chicanery, so that before all the festivals we trembled with our Jewish friends over "what will it be this time." Since then, not only do I have memories of the Jewish festivals, but bitter memories, and the question for us was always who is familiar with Jewish customs, so that it is precisely on those days that particular chicanery was perpetrated, and that is something which time and again caused us great distress. I can only say that before all the festivals my Jewish friends would come to see me and say, "What is going to happen again on this festival?"

Q. Dr. Grueber, do you know the Accused?

A. I know his name and I used to know him, but I would not be able to identify him now.

Q. When do you remember seeing Adolf Eichmann for the first time?

A. I would crave the Court's indulgence if despite my oath I answer in general terms, since the Court will understand that it is twenty years ago, and one does not remember everything perfectly. I cannot say what the precise date was, but it was shortly after the office was set up in the Kurfuerstenstrasse; I did go once to the Metropol Hotel in Vienna, if I have not got the name wrong, but I only went to the office and spoke to a subordinate, it was about releasing an old age home that belonged to a Swedish-Jewish community outside Vienna. I had no contact with the Accused in person, I only went to the office.

Q. You did meet him in Berlin, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. In his office at Kurfuerstenstrasse 116?

A. Yes.

Q. What were the subjects discussed when you appeared in Adolf Eichmann's office?

A. I went there very often and raised all the questions of importance to us. Questions about emigration, questions about treatment of the Jews and everything of importance - I raised them all in the office, unless they were matters concerning other authorities.

Q. Did you submit matters involving individuals to Eichmann, or matters involving the whole community?

A. I raised everything which I thought should be brought up, not only individual cases, but also in general cases.

Q. How did Adolf Eichmann behave?

A. Well, I had the impression - and I hope the Accused will not take it badly - but quite honestly, I must say, having come here without any hatred or feelings of revenge, the impression I had of him was that he was a man who sat there like a block of ice, or a block of marble, and everything you tried to get through to him just bounced off him, and also - and I was not the only one to think this way - among the Berlin Jews, including those who were trying to cope with the terrible things that were affecting them, the name of Eichmann had become a symbol, a sorry symbol. It was what we used to call the mercenary trooper (Landsknecht) - we distinguished between soldiers and mercenaries: the mercenary who, as he dons his uniform, doffs his conscience and his reason, and that was the impression we had then, not just myself, but also those I worked with, and my friends.

Q. Did you sometimes manage to achieve your purpose in going to see Eichmann?

A. As far as I remember, either I heard a "no," or I was told you will receive a reply, come back. But I do not ever remember being given a decision with a "yes," I do not remember any such instance where I left the room with a positive decision, normally it was a "no" or a reply to the effect "you must wait, you will receive a reply."

Q. Mr. Grueber, do you remember whether during these meetings or conversations the Accused ever referred to his superior's instructions, which he had to ask for or receive?

A. As far as I remember, everything was in the first person, i.e. I order, I say, and I cannot; whether that was an expression for - if I can put it this way - making himself more important, or whether he really did not only wish to give the impression but really was entitled to decide matters by himself, I am not aware of a single instance in which he may have said: I have to consult a superior authority. I certainly do not remember any such instance.

Q. Dr. Grueber, were you perhaps also in touch with other Gestapo offices, which were perhaps of lower rank than Kurfuerstenstrasse 116?

A. Yes, the Gestapo Regional Headquarters at Alexanderplatz kept me under surveillance, and I always received warnings and suchlike through the Gestapo Regional Headquarters. I also had contacts with the Burgstrasse office, which was the office responsible for Berlin, and I must say I found great understanding there for my work. There were two men who had a great deal of understanding for our work: one was Oberregierungsrat vom Rath, the father of the Legationsrat vom Rath who was assassinated. He was brought to Berlin because it was believed that he would be particularly severe against the Jews. I know all the circumstances, and I know that he helped us a great deal on the quiet, often trying to tone down orders that were received. The other one is still alive, and so I would rather not give his name. I would ask the Court's permission not to have to name people who are still living in Germany. That will not detract from my testimony. He was someone who as a young student had joined the SS, and as a result of conversations I had with him he came to recognize that everything he had to do was criminal. I must say that he never betrayed anything, but he very often asked me to call on him, and then he would yell at me, so that the people in the outer office could hear that, and then I would find on his desk the latest regulations which I could look at when he left the room, and in that way we were able to avoid certain things, various warnings could be given because of this man's help. I can only say that it was just in the lower echelons where I found more understanding for our work, and also for people's distress and suffering, far more than in the higher echelons.

Q. In which office did vom Rath work?

A. The Berlin office of the Jewish Section in Burgstrasse. According to my information, it was subordinate to the police headquarters, so that questions involving Berlin were dealt with at that office.

Q. Was that possibly the Jewish Section of the Berlin Gestapo Regional Headquarters?

A. Yes, we always classified that just as the Burgstrasse. I assume that it was the Gestapo Regional Headquarters for the Jewish Section, Berlin.

Q. Do you remember having a conversation with the Accused about his place of origin, and special customs of his place of origin?

A. In our circles gossip and rumour had it that the Accused was from the colony of the Templars, which was how he knew about Jewish customs and the Hebrew language. I did talk to the Accused about it on one occasion, and he did not deny it. In other words, he either pretended not to have heard the question or did not want to react. In any case, he left me believing it was true, and that is what I believed, so that it is only now that I have heard information about his personal affairs.

Q. When you refer to the colony of the Templars, in which country was this colony?

A. There used to be a Templar colony here in Sarona in Haifa, and we knew that there was strong anti-Semitism in that colony. And I kept trying to find an explanation for the Accused's virulent anti-Semitism. After all, you always try to understand people, don't you? Particularly if you have constant dealings with them. And that was what we could not understand - there was not the slightest stirring of emotion, except for a few cases, but just an unfathomable hatred which we encountered. What we could not understand, I managed to grasp after I had been in the concentration camp for a long time, later. Perhaps I can explain how things were.

It was always difficult for us to understand how someone could become entangled in hatred and intensify his hatred even more. I tried to explain that to myself later. In our Scripture there is a verse, "To him that hath shall be given, and from him who hath not shall be taken away." And once someone is in the grip of this demonic possession, it gets stronger and stronger and holds the person more and more tightly. I had the same experience in the camp later. Today I see things differently than at the time, when the whole matter, the Accused Eichmann and all the other men were a psychological problem for me. It is also my opinion that an occasional friendly mood - even friendly hours - would not have changed this attitude. A person cannot always act at the peak of sadism. I once made the point in a newspaper - it is something the Germans understand. "Every dissolute person has his oases of charity...everyone has moods and hours from time to time when he may be more genial, but that has nothing to do with his overall behaviour, the attitude which he has adopted." And when I look at the developments of recent years, I can see how these demonic powers are constantly growing and enslaving human beings.

Q. Dr. Grueber, do you remember an event shortly after the outbreak of the War which concerned the Jews of Stettin?

A. That was in February 1940.

Q. What can you tell the Court about your activities with regard to these Jews?

A. That same night a courier brought me news of what had happened. I would like to state that I had branches in all the major German cities, confidential agents, men and women, who did work for me throughout the country, and so the same night I was notified of what had happened. I assume that the Court is aware of those events. As soon as I heard that, I went to all the offices to which I had access. I went to the Fuehrer's Chancellery, I was at the Chancellery of the Fuehrer's Deputy, I also tried to contact Goering, but unsuccessfully, and then I wrote a very lengthy report to Goering, because I had two people who passed on all my correspondence to Goering. They were his secretary and his adjutant, General von der Gablenz.

Q. Were you also in touch with the Accused's office?

A. I did not approach the Accused and his office in these matters, because it was my opinion that it was no use. I had the feeling that it was this office which was directing matters.

Q. Did any of your approaches bear fruit?

A. I believe so. I heard later that Goering had intervened in the matter. I tried first of all to show him that this also affected persons who had been seriously wounded in the First World War, and received high military decorations in the First World War, as well as very old people, including war widows. And I know that two people came back. One was a war cripple with an outstanding decoration, and the other was an old woman for whom we already had a visa for England. We then tried to stay in touch with these people through the supply of medicines, with letters, and so on. I would like to say that a few days later, on a Sunday, the Stettin General sent me his adjutant and asked me to make representations, because it was general knowledge in Germany that I kept taking steps in such cases. I was unable to stop myself from saying to the gentleman that if I had been the Stettin Commanding General, not a single carriage would have left for Poland with Jews. You see, what always depressed me in those days above all was that persons who otherwise thought it their duty to act so courageously were conspicuously lacking in what we call the courage of one's convictions (Zivilcourage).

I should like to say that, as a result of this action, I was summoned to the Alexanderplatz Gestapo Regional Headquarters and told that I had protested without authorization against measures of the government and the party, and that this would be the last time, they would put an end to my machinations. To which I replied that as long as I could speak I would continue to speak out, and as long as I could work I would carry on working, at which point the gentleman said that one could also put an end to the machinations of men of your sort.

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