The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 50
(Part 4 of 7)

Judge Halevi: Is this a sworn statement by Wisliceny? What is it?

State Attorney Bach: This is actually not a sworn statement. Before the day is over we will call to the stand a witness who was in Bratislava during and after Wisliceny's trial; as a matter of fact, the documents that we have submitted "Cell 133," "Cell 106," were brought to Israel by this witness who, through the Czechoslovak prosecution, asked Wisliceny to reply to questions concerning certain specific subjects, such as the Mufti; one of these questions was: "What do you know about the Fiala affair and the article in the Grenzbote?"

Wisliceny gave his replies to these questions in writing; the original document is in our possession, here.

Presiding Judge:

Decision No. 49

We accept Wisliceny's statement concerning the article that appeared in the newspaper Grenzbote, on the grounds mentioned in our Decision No. 7.

State Attorney Bach: Wisliceny states here that he has known the editor of Grenzbote, Fritz Fiala, since 1940. In the spring of 1942, during the deportation of the Jews of Slovakia, he met Fiala who asked him for information where the Jews were being expelled to, and said that it would reassure the population if at some point a newspaperman would be able to see a labour camp in Poland and would then publish appropriate articles in the Slovak press. Wisliceny mentioned this to Eichmann, who at that point did not take a stand on Fiala's request, but in the summer of 1942 Eichmann called Wisliceny and told him that Himmler, with Ribbentrop's agreement, had ordered that articles be published in the foreign press about the Jewish labour camps, as counter-propaganda.

Eichmann was considering a visit to Theresienstadt, but still he asked what sort of newspaperman that Slovak was. Wisliceny then gave Eichmann the details, and Eichmann decided that they would also visit Auschwitz and said that he would tell Hoess that Fiala be permitted to talk to Slovak and French Jews in the labour camp. The program for the journey was drawn up by Eichmann. Wisliceny then describes the journey. First they went to Zilina, where Fiala made a tour of the place, and from there they proceeded to Katowice, where they had to report to the Stapo post, to meet with a Kriminalkommissar whom Eichmann had appointed to be their guide.

From there they went to Sosnowiec, and finally to Auschwitz. There they were received by Hoess who showed them a sleeping hall, a wash room, a very modern kitchen, and a hall in which the camp orchestra was just at that time having a rehearsal. Fiala was also given the opportunity to talk with some Jews from Slovakia and France, and to take their photos. The tour ended in the afternoon. Wisliceny adds: "We did not see anything in Auschwitz that gave even the faintest hint of the existence of gas chambers and crematoria." On their return to Bratislava Fiala mentioned to Wisliceny that he was an honorary member of the Security Service, something that Wisliceny had long been aware of.

The articles Fiala wrote were sent to Eichmann by courier, and Eichmann passed them on to Himmler; Eichmann then sent Regierungsrat Bosshammer, a member of the staff of his Section, to Vienna, where he met with Wisliceny and demanded that certain changes be made in Fiala's articles. But Fiala, as a well-known journalist, was reluctant to accept stylistic changes, and Bosshammer waived most of the objections. The articles were then published in the Slovak press. Wisliceny is of the opinion that Fiala thus was a victim of deception.

The next document is No. 143 which was handed to the Accused and given No. T/37(70). This is the Accused's reply to the letter I submitted earlier, on the deportation of Slovakia's Jews, the pastoral letter of the Slovak bishops. In his letter Eichmann informs von Thadden of the tour in which the editor-in-chief of the Grenzbote, Fiala, had taken part on the Slovak side, and of the article which was published in a large number of newspapers; Eichmann lists them and adds that the newspapers can be obtained from the Adviser, Hauptsturmfuehrer Wisliceny. He then adds: "In addition, in order to counter the atrocity legends about the fate of the Jews who had been evacuated from Slovakia, one can also point to the postal communication of these Jews with Slovakia which pass centrally through the Adviser on Jewish Affairs at the German legation in Bratislava which, e.g. in February-March this year, added up to to over 1,000 letters and postcards, for Slovakia only."

To quote the original German: "Im uebrigen kann zur Abwehr der ueber das Schicksal der evakuierten Juden in der Slowakei umgehenden Greuelmaerchen auf den Postverkehr dieser Juden nach der Slowakei verwiesen werden, der zentral ueber den Berater fuer Judenfragen bei der Deutschen Gesandschaft in Pressburg geleitet wird und fuer Februar-Maeerz ds. Jrs. beispielsweise ueber 1,000 Briefe und Karten allein fuer die Slowakei betrug." He adds that, on the part of the Accused's office there are no objections to these letters and postcards being read. Signed: Eichmann.

The Accused's reaction to this document appears on page 1222. On page 1230 Inspector Less asks him: "Was it not the practice that the expelled Jews who were brought to extermination camps were forced to write postcards in which they said that they were well, and then the Jews were killed and the postcards arrived?" The Accused answered: "I, too, have heard about that, but it was not done in every case." Question: "But such things were done?" Answer by the Accused: "Yes, yes."

Judge Halevi: The pastoral letter, the "Hirtenbrief, which was attached to the document that you submitted - is that here?

State Attorney Bach: The pastoral letter itself is not here, only its contents are given in that letter. Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1108.

State Attorney Bach: Next is our document No. 144, which was also handed to the Accused and given No. T/37(71). This is a response to Eichmann's above-mentioned letter, from Ludin, who reports to the Foreign Ministry that Eichmann's letter, dated 2 June 1943, the last Exhibit, was not satisfactory, and that Dr. Tuka insists on a visit to the camps; Ludin asks whether it is nevertheless possible to arrange for a visit to the camps in the East, in one way or another.

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1109.

State Attorney Bach: Ludin writes that Tuka told him that many of the members of the Council of Ministers are of the opinion that sending Jews to camps outside Slovakia means their physical liquidation. And now the final reply on this subject, a letter signed by Eichmann - our document No. 145, which was handed to the Accused and given No. T/37(72). In this letter to von Thadden, in reply to the latter's letter of 30 November 1943, Eichmann states:

"Wisliceny, the Adviser on Jewish Affairs at the German legation in Bratislava, who had been temporarily sent to Greece, has been ordered to resume his duties in Bratislava without delay. He has received appropriate instructions and will again raise with Minister of the Interior Mach the implementation of the deportation of Slovakia's Jews. After results of these talks will be reported, the possibility of a Slovak Commission visiting the Jewish camps will be reexamined."
This is not the last letter on the subject; it is an interim reply, in which Eichmann says that he will again look into the matter.

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1110.

State Attorney Bach: The next document is our No. 1017. This is again a reply by von Thadden to Eichmann's letter, in which he states that refusal to permit visits to the camps or delay in giving a reply to that request will hamper the further deportation of Jews and may put an end to any further deportation of Jews to the East.

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1111.

State Attorney Bach: And now the final document I referred to earlier, our No. 146, which was handed to the Accused and given No. T/37(73). Here the Accused says that a visit to the Jewish camps would be difficult to arrange, but there would be no objections to a visit by a Slovak commission elsewhere, for example to Theresienstadt, and the date for such a visit could be fixed. Let me quote the final sentence, which is characteristic:

"It may be assumed that this will allay the concerns voiced by various members of the Slovak Government - which in themselves are completely unjustified - and that the negotiations that are now envisaged will be brought to an appropriate conclusion" (entsprechenden Ziel).
Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1112.

State Attorney Bach: I had intended to call a witness, but perhaps first I should like to submit as evidence at this stage the report of the Budapest Relief and Rescue Committee, by Dr. Kasztner.

Presiding Judge: Are we now dealing with Hungary?

State Attorney Bach: Actually no; that report contains very many facts relating to the Slovakian chapter. I am submitting this document at the present stage for a further purpose. The witness whom I intend to call next will be asked to submit to the Court another Wisliceny document, which contains Wisliceny's comments on that report of the Relief and Rescue Committee. I do not intend to submit that document in order to confirm or contradict the report, but the facts as related by Wisliceny add to the Kasztner report and complement it.

Logic dictates, however, that before submitting to the Court comments on a report, the report itself should first be submitted. The report, of course, deals primarily with the Hungarian chapter, but it contains many facts on the course of the negotiations with the Germans that began in Slovakia, Rabbi Weissmandel's negotiations, of which we have heard, and the entire chapter of Gisi Fleischmann, her activities, her ultimate fate, and the efforts made by various quarters to save her life.

The report was also handed to the Accused, and he commented on it; it is already before the Court and was marked as Exhibit No. T/37(237). The Accused made comments on certain parts of the report that were pointed out to him. I believe it is hardly necessary for me to ask the Court to base itself on Section 15. We are speaking of the author of a report which was actually submitted by the person heading that committee, by virtue of his office, to the Zionist institutions who had appointed him, and who is no longer alive. The only thing that could perhaps in the ordinary way make the report not admissible as evidence is the fact that the law demands that such a report has to be contemporaneous with the events it describes.

Presiding Judge: When was this report written?

State Attorney Bach: The report was written in 1946, and it contains a wealth of details - first of all, of course, about Dr. Kasztner's own activities, but also about the activities of the German authorities, the activities of the Accused and of Wisliceny and all those who operated in Hungary and Slovakia, about the struggle against these forces, and about the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry. With the help of the report, we shall endeavour to present to the Court a very broad and exceedingly detailed description of those events, all the more so because the documents that we shall submit to the Court accord with the facts contained in the report. I will mention, for example, something to which I had not attached importance on first reading. For example, Dr. Kasztner mentions that Wisliceny came to see him on a certain day and made a certain announcement to him; we have in our possession telegrams that the German authorities had received that same morning - telegrams that Kasztner could not have known about, but which together illustrate Wisliceny's trustworthiness, and also the meaning of the events that were taking place at the time.

I mentioned earlier that generally such a report is accepted as evidence. I should now like to quote from Archbold, 33rd Edition, page 396: "Declarations by deceased persons in the course of duty or business," where it says that such declarations and reports are admissible as evidence. "But such statement or entry is only admissible to prove those acts which it was the duty of the person making the statement or entry to include in it."

There is no doubt that it was Dr. Kasztner's duty to report on his mission and the actions that he took; but, as I said, it is there stated that the report actually has to be contemporaneous. It is always a question of appraisal and of the discretion of the Court, what exactly does the term "contemporaneous" mean, and there, in order to be sure, I am asking the Court here, too, to base itself on the authority it has under Section 15 of the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Law.

Actually, in a decision in Criminal Appeal to which the attention of this Court has already been called, the Supreme Court has held that in crimes of this nature hearsay evidence and other types of evidence are admissible, which otherwise would not be admissible. That decision concerned this very report, by Kasztner himself.

Presiding Judge: On which page is that?

State Attorney Bach: I refer to Piskei-Din, Volume 12, pp. 2084-2088. The Court also considered the date of the report and found that the date was close enough to the actual events, and that there was therefore no risk in admitting it as evidence. The Court decided to accept it. If this applied in a case of libel, it applies all the more in the case of crimes of the kind we are dealing with here, when the reference is to the very same activities, the same events, that Dr. Kasztner's report deals with, and when the Accused has already commented on very important portions of the report. I am therefore asking the Court to admit the report as evidence.

If the Court will accept the report in principle, I will also submit a Certificate by a Public Official, made by the Deputy District Attorney, Jerusalem District, Mr. Tel, who had submitted the report in the case I mentioned, Criminal Case No. 124/53, before the District Court of Jerusalem. Mr. Tel, through me, passed a copy of the report on to Bureau 06.

Presiding Judge: Where is the original now? Is it T/37?

State Attorney Bach: The copy that was handed over to Bureau 06 by Mr Tel - which is a photostatic copy of the original - is the one that is now in the Court file, under T/37, the original that was submitted to the District Court at the time is still in that District Court's file, but the Court will note that the photostatic copy, which bears Mr. Tel's signature on many of its pages, was delivered to Bureau 06, which fact is certified by the Certificate by a Public Official that was submitted to the Court together with the statement made by the Accused.

Presiding Judge: Did Mr. Tel appear in Criminal Case..?

State Attorney Bach: Mr. Tel appeared in Criminal Case 124/53 in the District Court of Jerusalem, and there the report was submitted as an exhibit; Mr. Tel confirms that the report that was submitted to this Court is a correct copy of that report.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any comment to make?

Dr. Servatius: I have doubts about this document being admitted as evidence. First, it is not clear from the report itself who is the person making this report. It says in the introduction that the Budapest Committee is hereby submitting a report on its activities. I do not know who bears the responsibility for the whole of the report. I hear from the State Attorney that it was Dr. Kasztner only; it also says in the document "presented by Dr. Kasztner." But it is not a report that was made at the time in the performance of a duty, but it appears to me that the report was prepared rather in order to justify one single person. This is also borne out by the last pages of the report, which mention other reports by Philipp von Freudiger and Ludwig Levai - which are said to contain contradictions to this document of justification.

These two reports should be produced here, so that it can be established whether Dr. Kasztner was authorized to submit such a report as a report on behalf of a committee. In addition, it is my opinion that this report is largely irrelevant to these proceedings. We are not concerned here with disputes between various groups on the Jewish side - we are concerned with the Accused Eichmann and not with disputes and differences that may have arisen at a time of distress. I therefore think that it would be better to do without this report in large measure, and to rely on the other testimonies that are supported by documents. In any case, I object to the admission of this report.

Presiding Judge: [ to State Attorney Bach] We do not usually hear you in reply.

State Attorney Bach: That was an objection, and I wish to reply.

Presiding Judge: Only by way of exception, if you have something to observe.

I have a question, Mr. Bach: Do you have any proof that this document was composed by Dr. Kasztner and not by anyone else?

State Attorney Bach: Dr. Kasztner testified on that point in that trial. We can submit evidence on that, too. Apart from that, there is clear evidence that he was chairman of the committee, and that the report was submitted by him - not only submitted, but that he also bore the reponsibility for it. When a committee submits a report, then it is clear that, whether or not he wrote the report in its entirety or in part, it is the chairman who, of course, bears the responsibility for the report as such. He submits it, and he is responsible for it.

Moreover, we know that he did, in fact, write the whole report. Counsel for the Defence admits as much. I do not want to touch upon the question of credibility. Counsel for the Defence mentioned the report by Philipp von Freudiger. Mr. Freudiger will be a witness in this Court, maybe already today, and Counsel for the Defence will have the opportunity, of course, to question him also about the credibility of the report - so that he should have no problem with that.

Presiding Judge: What about Levai?

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