The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 86
(Part 3 of 5)

Accused: Now, I know that it is hard...I know that it sounds incredible, or at least hard to believe, but the documents show that I am right.

Dr. Servatius: That means, then, that things were totally quiet in your office, except for these things you have referred to just now? How big was the office, how many staff were employed in it?

Accused: Including the guards, fifteen or twenty men, including the typists.

Dr. Servatius: So no one came to your office, and things were totally quiet there?

Accused: The fact that things were still very quiet at this time is shown, for example, by Krumey's testimony a few days or weeks ago, where he says that he was struck by the fact that my typist, for example, had nothing to do for most of the day.

I will now explain why this was so. During the first days after my arrival in Budapest, I was housed in a hotel, and it was not until - I would estimate today ten or fourteen days later - that I was ordered to move to the Schwabenberg, to the Majestic Hotel, a hotel right next to the hotel where the Senior Commander and some of his departments were housed - in other words, all of this row of hotels were Security Police and Security Service offices.

When I was still at the hotel, one day Becher - at that time an Obersturmbannfuehrer - came to see me. This Becher told me that he was Himmler's Special Plenipotentiary and had been ordered to get out of Hungary any available economic assets for the Reichsfuehrer-SS or the Waffen-SS.

And during my talks with him, and in his frequent visits to me, I found that this man was trying to do something which had been prohibited by Himmler, and could only be done in totally exceptional cases - that is to say, issuing exit permits if - as we put it - there was a positive Reich interest, while for Becher the interest existed if, in return, he got foreign exchange or equipment, and at that time he was already negotiating, he was paving the way for the negotiations with the island of Csepel.

The way I saw things, in Department IVB4 I myself was not able to decide as to whether there was a positive Reich interest or not - after all, in many instances neither could Mueller, my immediate superior; things had to go up to the Chief of the Security Police and the Security Service, and here there was someone who was alien to police work, who was able to take a decision about an area which I myself considered to be my field, because I had fair knowledge - after all, I had become intimately versed in matters of emigration over all these years.

I was furious that Becher was able and allowed to deal with matters related to emigration. I was to help and take part in deportations, and now what I considered myself to be responsible for, dealing with emigration matters, was not assigned to me. On the other hand, there was another fact - that this Special Plenipotentiary subsequently breathed down my neck almost daily and wanted to speed up the evacuation in an unbelievably pressing manner, in order to create a climate of deportation, a nervous climate, because, as he put it, in such a climate it was possible for him to push through the Reichsfuehrer's order both more elegantly and faster. I had enough of that: Here someone who had nothing to do with a police department was pretending to try and give me instructions, or put pressure on me.

In this connection it is of interest to consider document No. 681, N/75, which was dealt with at the beginning of today's session, where Veesenmayer is asked to say that he had done everything on his part, but that the fault lay with the offices dealing with transport matters. That is not quite true, because it was not my fault, nor anyone else's fault, that these delays occurred; it was simply a result of the bureaucratic procedures of the Hungarian gendarmerie who needed a certain period of time, in order to conclude their work on these plans - tactical plans.

Dr. Servatius: Witness, did you draw any conclusions from your experience with Becher?

Accused: Certainly. I have already referred to my indignation at the fact that I had to help and co-operate in this miserable work, the deportations, and then I found out through some of the officers who at that time were under my orders, that the German counter-intelligence was also applying the same methods - I was absolutely furious. I had tried for years, from the autumn of 1939 on, to get away from Department IV; there I was in Hungary, I was to carry out deportations, and now people were messing around with the area which I had worked on up until then - so I started thinking about things and sent Krumey or Wisliceny - I forget which - to find out what could be offered for 100,000 or 200,000 Jews who were to be allowed to emigrate.

Come what may, I had to outbid the activities of these two agencies, Becher and also the counter-intelligence people. That was quite obvious to me. And when my people came back and said that, after all, there were all sorts of things that could be done, I continued to chew things over and realized that it must be some large offer which my superiors would accept. That would then make it possible to snatch back for myself these matters which Becher and the counter- intelligence were running, these emigration matters.

One day Joel Brand came to see me. As to how he came to see me, where he came from, who brought it about - I do not remember and therefore can no longer say. But there is one thing I do remember. I can still see Joel Brand sitting in front of me...and what I said to...roughly what I asked him...what Joel Brand also said here in his testimony, as to how it began.

In the meanwhile, I had simply changed the figure of 100,000 or 200,000, which was to help me remember, into a million, because that was a figure I could - let us say for psychological reasons - bring up with my superiors without running the danger of being ordered out of the room immediately. Because if I had offered sympathy or compassion, or five thousand or ten thousand, Mueller would not have heard me out. He just would not have listened to what I had to say. But this whole business of one million was something new. It was too big for Mueller to be able to reject on his own initiative.

Then I hit on a ten per cent clause, because I knew that it would be very difficult for Brand to be successful abroad, unless he could bring some sort of guarantees along, since he could not do business abroad with a letter, or a word of honour. So I said to myself, once these first 100,000 Jews are across the border, then these 100,000 Jews will - not in person, but the fact, the very fact, will ensure that the whole business will go on in some form or other. As to how, where and what - I was not at all interested in that as yet. And so I went to Berlin. Altogether I went to Berlin several times on this matter and presented it to Mueller.

My Department chief, General Mueller, was also not able to take a decision on the matter on his own initiative, and doubtless passed the matter on through the official channels. I went back. I was called to Berlin two or three times, as I have already testified, and the result - I found this difficult to believe myself - was that it was approved. It was approved as far as the number was concerned, the ten per cent clause was approved, and I heard that, as a result, Himmler aimed at motorizing the 22nd and 8th SS Cavalry Divisions, something on which Becher was also working.

In the meanwhile, in between my various trips to Berlin, I kept holding consultations with Joel Brand, and when Joel Brand said in his testimony that he was amazed when a large amount in foreign currency was handed over to him...these were donations from abroad, as I know now from the documents. As far as the statement is concerned, I only knew that there was money which went back and forth across my desk from time to time, and the reason was that at that time I did everythng possible for Brand to make things easier, because everything I could do to facilitate things served to give credit to my intentions - if I can put it that way.

That also included making up a transport at that time which originally was several hundred men strong, and I was really surprised when I read about this in Brand's book here in Israel, where Brand described this matter very truthfully When I gradually came to the end and heard the positive news from Berlin, and when my superiors came up with their final order, then I, in turn, said to Brand in this matter, well, it is all approved, and he was really amazed and could not understand why everything had been approved, why these six to eight hundred thousand had not made any difference. It was all connected to this business, and I had received approval for that, precisely because something greater and bigger was forthcoming.

Here it was Becher who got in the way by putting the brakes on this transport, which has become known, I believe, as the transport of the seventeen hundred. He started haggling, he wanted...things did not work out with the foreign exchange, and so the transport was delayed; there are testimonies about this matter, the details of which I do not remember, because I was not in sole charge. At that time the centre of activity was with Becher, but they know precisely and best what went on with this matter. And I should like to return to the matter of Joel Brand.

One day the order arrived, and obviously now I started to put my shoulder to it, pushing and shoving to get this matter authorized. We got hold of a courier airplane, a Luftwaffe one, I believe, which was to take Brand to Turkey. I forget how the matter of his companion was sorted out, but a few weeks ago Krumey testified that in this connection he had been instructed by the Senior Commander of the Security Police and the Security Service in Hungary - at any rate, by a Specialist Officer of this Senior Commander of the Security Police and the SD in Hungary - to take Bandi Grosz along.

As to why I came across Brand and took him for this mission, this really is clear from Brand's testimony: at that time Brand impressed me as being an honest man, an idealist, so that sufficed for me as to his integrity, and I personally was very happy to see Joel Brand take the witness stand here and say truthfully what happened at that time, except for a few minor points, to which I shall now turn by way of conclusion.

When the matter was approved by Berlin, further orders were given to the effect that the planned evacuations, which were to proceed in accordance with the timetable arrangements and the preparations of the Hungarian gendarmerie, were to get underway and could not be delayed. This was another reason why I really rushed Brand; this was also the reason why I sent along Obersturmbannfuehrer Krumey himself, to take Brand to Vienna and put him on the plane, in order to avoid some mishap or incident delaying things.

There is no truth in what Joel Brand says about my having said to him, "Then I shall shut down the mills in Auschwitz" or "I shall let the mills in Auschwitz continue running" - I never said anything like that. Quite apart from the fact that I neither ordered it nor could I have stopped it - that was not within my competence and I had no such authority.

If Mrs. Hansi Brand testified that I did not keep my word, I must say that that is not true. I did not break my word in any way, I only promised one thing, that is what I was authorized to do, that is to say, that any trucks received would not be used on the Western Front. But I said to Joel Brand, as also to Mrs. Hansi Brand, as well as to Dr. Kasztner, that the order from Berlin said: "Deportations will continue in the meanwhile and will not be stopped until Joel Brand returns with a statement to the effect that these matters have been accepted by the Jewish organizations abroad." That was an order I had received and was unable to change. Had I changed it in any way, it would have been meaningless, because there would not have been any powers behind me to accomplish such a thing.

Presiding Judge: Please stop here. We shall now have a break. I should like to inform the representatives of the parties that, in the meanwhile, we have received the official record of Hoettl's statement, and that there is also an accompanying letter from the examining court, which you will probably wish to peruse; it is available to both parties. We shall now recess for twenty minutes.


Presiding Judge: Please proceed.

Dr. Servatius: Witness, continue with your statement.

Accused: I really have nothing further to add to this matter, other than the following. In the subsequent days and weeks, I of course harried and harassed and pressured Dr. Kasztner constantly to find out something of what was going on. After all, the only thing I could think of was that things would come out right, and I myself was very happy that I had thus managed to get back on my previous track. And in terms of my work and planning, every single day now I would be busy considering how to organize the one hundred thousand.

As to the idea that it was possible that nothing would come of this business, that was something I just did not allow myself to think about - because paper, which is normally so patient, seemed in this case to be inadequate. As to why this matter went wrong, I really heard the actual reason for the first time here when the secret documents were read out. I myself went back to my beaten track in which I had been moving according to orders since 1939, and the small dealers and hucksters could once again happily attend to their handiwork.

And if today I read, for example, that someone claims that I took money from the Jews, and he bought saddles and harness with this money, then I am overcome with holy rage, because it was precisely the other way round. For example, this sum in foreign currency - which was a fairly large sum - I did not touch this but handed it over right down to the last dollar.

And I did not hand it over - how shall I put it - because of some exaggerated feeling; I handed it over as proof that I intended the matter honestly. In any case, I submitted this matter to the authorized powers in a totally legal fashion, through official channels. I had it authorized in a totally legal fashion, through official channels, and if circles abroad brought things to nought, this was something which hurt me at the time, and I think I can fairly claim to be one of the few who could understand Joel Brand's fury and anguish. And in reverse, I believe that Joel Brand, now he knows from these documents that I had nothing to do with the annihilation, can also, for his part, understand my anger about this affair, about this matter going wrong. I have nothing further to say about this.

Dr. Servatius: Witness, in your negotiations with your superiors, did you point out that you felt compassion for the Jews, and that they should be helped?

Accused: I am on oath, and I must testify according to the truth. I did not pursue this matter out of compassion; I would also have been thrown out on the spot, if I had even touched upon that subject. As for the reasons which inspired me with these thoughts, I already described them at the outset.

Dr. Servatius: I refer to exhibit T/1191, document No. 448. This is a report from Veesenmayer to the Foreign Ministry, dated 22 July, and it refers to this operation. I shall simply refer to the text, without quoting it.

I submit as evidence document No. 518. This is a letter from Veesenmayer to the Hungarian Minister of the Interior, dated 12 August 1944. The point is made that there must be sufficient provisions and clothing, and that in this respect there are critical observations about the transports arranged for by the Hungarians.

Presiding Judge: I mark this exhibit N/81.

Dr. Servatius: Exhibit T/1218, document No. 976. This is a telegram from Grell to the Foreign Ministry, dated 19 August 1944. At the beginning it says: "Hungarian Ministry of the Interior has notified Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann that with approval of Regent Hungarian Government will start evacuation of Jews from Budapest city area on 25 inst." Further down, at the end of the paragraph, it says: "Concentration carried out only by Hungarian gendarmerie, gathered specially for this purpose."

I offer the next document as evidence - No. 847. This is a communication from Grell to the Foreign Ministry, dated 29 June 1944. The beginning reads:

"Since cleaning-up of the Jewish Question in Hungary has entered acute phase, there has been an increase in steps undertaken from abroad to improve their position. As Prime Minister Sztojay had informed me, the following three operations have recently been carried out which, apart from general humanitarian purposes, are designed to benefit the Jews in particular."
Then there is a list of the proposals we are familiar with from the Feldscher Operation. At the end of the communication it says:
"Since agreement with Reich Government most important for Hungarian Government, they wish urgently for an early reaction from the former on the entire complex of questions."
Presiding Judge: I mark this exhibit N/82.

Dr. Servatius: I also submit document No. 680, Ribbentrop's reply to Veesenmayer on these moves from abroad. This is dated 3 July 1944. The short text reads: "Please inform the Hungarian Government that it is not opportune to agree to the various proposals from abroad for the benefit of the Jews in Hungary. I ask that arrangements be made to ensure appropriate treatment of matter. Ribbentrop."

Presiding Judge: I mark this exhibit N/83.

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