The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 41
(Part 4 of 5)

Q. Dr. Grueber, some six months later, after the defeat of France, a transport of Jews arrived from Baden and the Palatinate, do you remember?

A. Yes, I remember, the armistice with France contained a passage to the effect that, as we were told, Alsace- Lorraine, which was to be handed over to France, should be handed over to France judenrein. Now the Jews from Alsace- Lorraine and France had left the area earlier, and then the people from Baden and the Palatinate and the Saar were all arrested one night, packed into waggons on which was written "Jews from Alsace-Lorraine," and they were sent off to France.

Presiding Judge: Was it really true that Alsace-Lorraine was to be handed over to France after the armistice?

State Attorney Bar-Or: I did not go into that. I have not found the treaty.

Presiding Judge: It seems to me that the opposite was the case. Until the outbreak of war it was French. I know it is a secondary matter, but please ask again.

State Attorney Bar-Or: [To the witness] Did I understand you to say that after the armistice Alsace-Lorraine was to be handed over by Germany to France?

Witness Grueber: Alsace-Lorraine belonged to France. It was a slip of the tongue on my part. France was to hand over Alsace-Lorraine, but in a judenfrei condition. Until then it had belonged to France, France had to hand it over to Germany, but without the Jews.

Q. Dr. Grueber, did you play any role regarding these transports to France?

A. I had a confidential agent in this area who was particularly devoted, my friend Hermann Maas in Heidelberg. He looked after the entire area: Baden, Pfalz (Palatinate) and the Saar. He was the one who informed me. I then notified the French general on the Armistice Commission via a courier of the facts which had been passed on to me. I assume that he raised objections.

Q. Before we continue, you have referred twice to confidential agents. Perhaps you could explain to the Court: Were there people, non-Jews, who were in the public service or exercised official functions and who also helped you?

A. My relief agency was organized - it was an idea which I carried into effect in conjunction with the Church, I never received authorization to give this relief agency any official title. So it ran all along under the name of the Grueber Bureau. Perhaps that was designed to show that it was a special activity run by an outsider.

Q. You said that the agency was known as the Grueber Bureau, in order to stress something.

A. Well, this bureau of mine operated in the context of the Bekenntniskirche (the Confessional Church).* {*Bekenntniskirche - the name of that section of the Protestant churches in Germany that opposed organizational and theological coordination by the Nazis (forming a counterfront to the Nazi-oriented German Christians [Deutsche Christen]).} We frequently asked for this work to be expanded as an official church activity, but we never received any such authorization; it was always run under my own name only, and that was certainly not always very pleasant.

Q. Dr. Grueber, as far as your efforts were concerned to give your bureau a certain status, on whom did such a decision depend, who was responsible for granting such a status?

A. We first applied to the Gestapo Regional Headquarters and then to the Kurfuerstenstrasse, to the Jewish Section.

Q. In this matter did you yourself submit an application to the Accused?

A. I do not remember whether I did so or only submitted it to the Section, but in any case the application was certainly made, that I remember.

Q. If you could return to my previous question. Apart from the people with whom you were in touch because of their religion, did you not have contacts with governmental officials as well?

A. I was fortunate to have at least one person in more or less every ministry, in whom I could have confidence and who also informed me of what had been decided in the ministries. So for the Ministry of the Interior, for example, there was a certain Oberregierungrat Loesener, who was a member of the party, but who suffered so much, as a matter of conscience, from the whole situation that he often said to us: "If only I could get out of here, but there is only one way I can get out of here, and that is via a concentration camp." He helped us a great deal and later did actually leave his work, and after 1945 he came to see me and asked me to give him a certification for de-Nazification purposes, which I was happy to do.

Q. Dr. Grueber, can you think of any cases in which the civil servants or departments interpreted their superior's hard-line instructions? I am referring to the police and the Gestapo.

A. Yes, indeed. The fact of the matter is that all my helpers, the men in the government departments, helped in secret and could not expose themselves too much. But I did have the impression that quite a few had the courage - and this was probably true also of Loesener - either to delay things which were planned or already ordered, or to the extent that they were able to do so, to moderate them.

Q. With regard to Dr. Loesener, what was his special area of activity, and who was his superior in the Ministry of the Interior?

A. His immediate superior was Secretary of State von Stuckart.

Q. What was his area of activity or of competence?

A. He was the expert in charge of Jewish affairs and others. He was the person to whom we had access. There was another department in the Ministry of the Interior, the Auswanderungsstelle (Emigration Office), which was included in the Ministry of the Interior, where we often received information, and who were more than kind towards us.

Q. This Emigration Office did not deal exclusively with Jews, did it?

A. No. There was a special emigration office for Jews earlier on, run by someone called Dannecker, but I forget what rank he held. At first I used to deal with him. This department dealt with emigration of persons of all kinds and had the opportunity of hearing about things affecting Jews and helping us with our large-scale emigration plans.

Q. Is it true that Dannecker's department was not connected administratively with the Emigration Office which you have already mentioned?

A. Officially there was no connection. As far as I am aware, one was subordinate to the Reichsfuehrer-SS, while the Emigration Office was responsible to the Minister of the Interior.

Q. Towards the end of 1940 you were arrested, Dr. Grueber, were you not?

A. I was arrested on 19 December 1940. I assume that it was in conjunction with the Gurs action. I was never interrogated, nor did I give a deposition. I was simply taken away and put in a concentration camp.

Q. When you refer to the Gurs action, you mean the Jews of the Baden, Palatinate and Saar areas?

A. These Jews were brought to the "Camp de Gurs." It is in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It was a cantonment previously used for Red Spanish prisoners. The accommodation was under the most terrible hygienic and sanitary conditions, and the treatment meted out by the French guards was no better than that of German guards.

Q. Dr. Grueber, you connected your arrest with the Jewish Camp de Gurs action? Were you in touch later with the Jews from there?

A. Of course not after I was arrested. It was too... We received the most terrible reports from the Camp de Gurs, much worse than the reports about the people deported to Poland. There was absolutely nothing there - above all no medicines, no medical supplies - and then, with the help of two friends from the Counter-Intelligence, Colonel Oster and Dohnanyi - both of whom were hanged after the 20th July attempt on Hitler's life - I was able to send money, medicines and so on via foreign countries to the Camp de Gurs. I have met someone in Israel who was saved by these medicines. I had another plan as well which I wanted to carry out with the help of people I knew in the Counter- Intelligence. Using documents which the Counter- Intelligence would get for me, I wanted to go by a roundabout route to the Camp de Gurs, in order to be close to the people. Perhaps I can explain. Some time ago...

Q. When you refer to people in the Counter-Intelligence, what do you mean?

Q. I am referring to Canaris' command which carried out counter-intelligence operations on orders from the Wehrmacht. They were mainly people who were not particularly enthusiastic about Hitler. I would like to add something else. Once, just before the Pesach festival, an alarming piece of information circulated amongst the Jews of Berlin: That barracks were being built at Weissensee, at the cemetery, and then they were all to be put in the ghetto. People came to see me in tears, asking what could be done. I said, "I do not know what can be done, but I can promise you one thing: If you have to go to the ghetto in Weissensee, I shall come with you." And then I saw how relieved they were by what I said, and I said to myself, even if you cannot do anything, if you are at least there at the Camp de Gurs, perhaps that will give the people some strength. And that is what I wanted to do, to go there.

Q. You were not successful in reaching the Camp de Gurs?

A. No, I was sent to Sachsenhausen instead. Whether there was a causal relationship, I do not know. Because I was not interrogated or anything, one engaged in all sorts of speculations - "why was my bureau closed down, why were you brought to Sachsenhausen?"

Q. Where were you arrested? Where were you first detained? In Berlin?

A. My office was in a street called "An der Stichbahn," which was behind the palace. I had two appointments in the morning and came to the office somewhat later than usual. The whole place was surrounded by detectives. When I entered, one came up to me and said, "You are under arrest. You may no longer speak to anyone." I was taken to a room.

Q. You told the Court that you were transferred to the Sachsenhausen camp. Was that an SS concentration camp?

A. Yes, all concentration camps were under the SS.

Q. Are you still not aware of the reason for your transfer to Sachsenhausen?

A. To this day I am not aware of the reason. I was never told why I was arrested, nor why I was released.

Q. How long did you remain in the Sachsenhausen camp?

A. I remained there until around October, and then all clerics were transferred to Dachau.

Q. We heard of other clerics in Sachsenhausen. Who were they and why were they interned there?

A. At Sachsenhausen there was my friend Niemoeller, who is doubtless known for his resistance to the Hitler regime, and there were others too, Germans, Dutch, Poles - all of whom the SS found equally unbearable.

Q. How were you treated in Sachsenhausen?

A. I would ask the Court not to insist on my talking about what I went through in Sachsenhausen. I had teeth knocked out and heart trouble, but I can only say that what I suffered was a trifle compared with the sufferings of my Jewish friends. And I have always found that my sympathy for my friends' suffering has always been much harder to bear than my own sufferings. The wounds in the heart always bleed more profusely than those on the lips. My teeth were knocked out, but that was not the worst that happened. Perhaps I may talk about the sufferings of my Jewish comrades there...

Q. Please go ahead.

A. The first impressions were after I was admitted: One night, when I was on guard duty in my barracks, I heard screaming, I heard two drunk SS - they were always at their worst when they were drunk - make the occupants of the Jews' barracks - they were in a special barracks, just like we clerics - come out, into the deep snow, in the cold winter weather, and roll around in this snow, wearing their shirts, and then - perhaps it was too cold for the SS - they were sent back to their barracks, unheated barracks, wet and frozen through, under their thin blankets. You see, people who died of pneumonia did not have to be shot or gassed. So you can understand how these things hurt us far more than what we went through ourselves.

I would also like to say that there has been a great deal said about the great sufferings, I have followed this in part in the press, but we can only assume that what has come out into the open is only a fraction of what actually went on. The worst, the most terrible atrocities and brutalities have never come out into the open. There were no witnesses, no documents, everything went on in the bunkers, people were buried alive and cannot speak, they will speak in eternity, and that is why I must ask you to understand that I cannot speak about these things. Dante's inferno was a hell, but people could still cry and lament about Dante's inferno, but millions have perished who could neither cry nor lament, who went through more than Dante's inferno.

Q. When did you leave Sachenhausen?

A. October 1941.

Q. Where were you transferred to?

A. To Dachau.

Q. And you stayed there until...?

A. Until I was released, on 23 June 1943.

Q. Who were the people with you in the Dachau camp?

A. Do you mean the people in charge, or my fellow prisoners?

Q. Your fellow prisoners.

A. There were about 700 clergy in the special camp: The Jews and the clergy were isolated from the other prisoners.

Q. My first question about the Dachau camp concerns the conditions in which you and your fellow clerics lived.

A. Just like everywhere else, it was an existence of utter uncertainty, because we were totally at the mercy of the SS troops, without any protection or rights. If someone was shot, it was of no consequence, but if a spade was missing, or some other implement, a report had to be made.

Q. Can you tell the Court about transports of prisoners from Dachau for killing by gas?

A. I had already experienced that in Sachsenhausen, particularly with a theologian with whom I was friendly, who was with one of the first "transports of invalids," i.e. of people not capable of working. People were selected, usually some 300 for each transport, they were taken to the gas installation; the relatives were notified shortly afterwards that the person in question had died, and in spite of all medical efforts it had not been possible to save him, and that it was particularly sad because he had been on the point of being released. I have read many such letters to the relatives of people who were gassed.

If I can continue: This commission for invalids suddenly came to the camp and selected some 300 or 350 people - they normally made things easy for themselves, they went to the infirmary and had the numbers copied, and those persons were immediately transferred to the special barracks, and then that night or the next night they were taken away in the transport. I have put something in writing about this, about my best friend, my deputy in my office, Parson Suelten, about his sufferings. It was like a nightmare constantly hanging over us, we dared not fall ill. My friend just had a sore on his neck and did not want to report sick, he had the feeling, he said, if I am in the dispensary, if he was there, then along would come the commission, and that would be it. But eventually he had to go to the dispensary, and that is where he was caught, there was a transport of 700 who were taken away. He was a healthy man, he just happened to go to the infirmary because of a minor ailment.

Presiding Judge: What was the parson's name?

Witness Grueber: Werner Suelten, he was a Protestant clergyman, he was my deputy in my office and was arrested shortly after me.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Dr. Grueber, do you know whether the extermination transports went elsewhere in Germany or outside Germany?

Witness Grueber: We assume that they were all gassed in Germany, in Hademar and other installations, because the return of personal effects, clothing and so on, normally occurred within two weeks, so we assumed that the transports could not have gone very far. The guards accompanying them, the SS, obviously never said where these people were taken to.

Q. When you were in Dachau, did you hear of Majdanek and Auschwitz?

A. Not only did we hear about them, we also saw something of them, lots of clothing of those gassed in Auschwitz was sent to Dachau for sorting. There was great economy about things, materials, and whole waggon loads arrived. I would just like here to relate something which affected me very deeply at the time. When in the first consignment we found a pair of tiny children's shoes, we were all shocked to our inner souls by this, and we men, for all that we were used to terrible things, had to struggle with our tears, because it brought all the suffering of these children before us. Then more and more children's shoes arrived, and that was something which was part of the most bitter suffering we went through. This suffering along with the suffering of others.

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