The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 95
(Part 3 of 5)

Attorney General: So let us return to your conversation with Guenther. What was this big ill-feeling between you and Guenther?

Accused: I have just said. When I may have heard about this at the time, and I am again assuming that this ill- feeling was because of the gas business, that I knew about the gas business, then this ill-feeling must have arisen entirely automatically - not only ill-feeling, but also rejection, because Section IVB4 did not deal with such matters, and simply could not and was not authorized to produce the necessary competence. And where it was not a question of special assignments for the Department, a Section Head, in addition to his purely ordinary work, also had to deal with and was responsible for ensuring that his section did not handle matters for which it was not responsible or competent.

Q. And then Guenther naturally, of course, said to you, "I am handling this gas matter by order of Mueller, by special assignment from Mueller," did he not?

A. I have not the faintest idea of the words Guenther used... Guenther was an exceptionally taciturn man, extremely sparing of words, but I myself may have seen matters this way, if it is correct that this gas business reached my ears at that time, and not later.

Q. Now look. At the beginning of your police interrogation, before you were shown the Gerstein Report, you said the following on page 387: "The first time that I heard anything about gas in my Section, the very first time was while I was in Hungary. Guenther somehow obtained some gas, I know that and I also said to Guenther..."

My question to you is: What did you say to Guenther?

A. The only thing I can have said at that point - that Section IVB4 is not competent for that, IVB4 has nothing to do with that.

Q. And Guenther's reply?

A. Mr. Attorney General, you are asking me about matters which I would now have to make up... I am quite prepared to say according to my feeling what I said then.

Q. No, no - according to the truth.

A. According to the truth, I must say that I am unable to remember. I could...more or less try to reconstruct how things were. But before an impression arises of my trying to evade this question of what I did or did not know, I should like to state perfectly frankly that I would rather take upon myself as a fact that I knew, rather than give rise to any doubts, since I have stated so much of my own free will of what I saw and what I knew, that I would also shoulder this as well without further ado. It is simply that I cannot remember precisely - and that is a fact. But if I can be of assistance, well then, I am prepared to take this matter upon myself in any case as one who knew about it.

Q. Look, this is a very serious matter, and you are not being asked to make a concession, but to tell the truth.

Presiding Judge: That will do.

Attorney General: We shall return to the conversation with Guenther and try to find out what you can remember. So you discovered that when you were in Hungary, Guenther had dealt with gas. That is what you told us. Is that correct?

Accused: If I said that, then it is definitely correct, too.

Q. And that was when you already knew that Mueller was issuing special assignments to all sorts of people, as you put it, behind the Section Heads' backs?

A. It was common knowledge that Mueller issued special assignments. That had been known years earlier.

Q. And, as far as keeping the gassings secret was concerned, that had not been a secret to you for a long time, and so it was not a question of withholding this from you for reasons of secrecy?

A. If someone received a special assignment, it did not matter what special assignment he received; in any case he had to keep quiet, since otherwise he would be liable to punishment.

Q. No, no, that was not my question. There cannot have been any reason to give someone from your Section a special assignment for gas deliveries, in order for you not to know about it, since after all you in any case already knew about the gases.

A. They* {* The Accused was asked about "Sie" (you) and replied about "sie" (they)} knew about the fact of gassing, but the fact of an order to procure gas - that was completely new.

Presiding Judge: The question was, why was there a special assignment at all to keep things secret? Since you yourself knew about the matter, why was this not assigned in the normal way to your Section?

Accused: Your Honour, these are matters which I myself cannot work out. First, I was not at all responsible for such matters, since otherwise my Section would have dealt with such matters as a matter of course, and then there would have been records to that effect. After all, the fact of the gassings extended over a considerable period and was not limited just to one month.

Attorney General: I shall rephrase my question. If, in actual fact, according to what you know, as you said on pages 933-934 [of the Statement], this was a special assignment given to Guenther by Mueller, what point was there in your reaction which you worded as follows: "since how am I now to submit this to the Department Chief? He will surely send me to the devil...!" This does not make sense!

Accused: From the position I took in my Statement, you can see my personal lack of confusion - how here I tried to reconstruct everything which I could, in order to contribute to any clarification...I was willing to do this.

Q. But you will agree that this does not make sense.

A. It is quite clear. After all, if he - Guenther - if Guenther had an assignment, and that is not a special assignment, then that must be notified to his superior. But if he has an assignment from his superior, then there is no point in informing the superior of this matter.

Q. But when you first found out about this, you did not see it as a special assignment. Otherwise these words would not have made any sense.

A. I cannot be charged today because of this in the shape of rigid, precisely defined questions, just as I cannot be expected today, to give a precise, definitive reply, as I do not know. And, therefore, I said that, in order not to allow any suspicion to arise that I want to evade something, I take it upon myself - and I repeat this yet again - that I knew of this fact at that time. However, I cannot say whether it is correct or whether it is not correct. But I would rather take this upon myself, than have it said of me that here I evaded something.

Judge Halevi: Did you apprise the Department Chief of this?

Accused: Your Honour, I no longer remember. I have lost all contact with that time. I have a very vague recollection of some gas business.

Q. Did you apprise the Department Chief of this?

A. I do not know.

Attorney General: But if you read the Gerstein Report in Buenos Aires, as you said you did, then you must have known that Gerstein referred to Guenther's first gas transaction as having taken place in 1942, and not in 1944.

Accused: I did not receive the complete Gerstein Report, and I did not read it at all.

Presiding Judge: Mr. Attorney General, there would seem to be some mistake here. I understood specifically that he said that he got to know about the Gerstein Report, in other words, that somebody told him about it.

Attorney General: Thank you, Your Honour.

So you knew that in his report Gerstein maintained that the transaction with Guenther was as early as 1942.

Accused: I cannot remember the date, but I do know that there was this link with gas and Guenther - that is what I know, but I do not know the date.

Attorney General: Let us turn to a different topic. Your Section was in direct contact with the Commanders of the Security Police and the Security Service in the various occupied countries, was it not?

A. Perhaps "in direct contact" is not exactly the right term, since the contact passed through Chief of Department IV...

Q. But there were direct exchanges of letters between yourself and the Commanders of the Security Police and the Security Service and from them to you, is that correct?

A. Yes, of course, that is clear.

Q. And you also gave instructions in certain special instances?

A. That is precisely the difference. I could not give any instructions to a Commander of the Security Police and the Security Service, while the Department Chief could give instructions, so I had to have the Department Chief's instruction in order to be able to draft a letter with regard to such instructions and sign it "by order."

Q. We have already heard this so many times and we are aware of this, and I can assure you - if I might be permitted to say so - that the Court knows that your argument is that the instructions came from Mueller. But they were drafted by you and issued through you, were they not?

A. I am sorry, I forgot, you made the point earlier this morning, Mr. Attorney General, but it is just impossible for me not to react when I hear that I am supposed to have instructed a commander, so I react immediately and automatically, as I cannot do otherwise. I shall try not to do so in the future.

Q. Yes, I entirely realize that that is a completely automatic reaction on your part. So, for example, when you write in T/851, document No. 546, "I have therefore instructed the Commander of the Security Police and the Security Service in Prague to leave the Jews in question in Theresienstadt until further notice," in any case you use the form "I."

A. I have already made the point that when I use the first person, that is not I myself, that is the Chief of the Security Police and the Security Service.

Q. Now look - I am telling you that even without the special powers which you were given as a result of your assignment for the Final Solution, you, as a perfectly ordinary Section Head, had the first decision about all matters which came under your Section. Is that correct? As a Section Head, even without any special assignment.

A. A decision...

Q. "The first decision about all matters which came under your Section," in accordance with common rules of office procedure "would be myself."

A. This expression "the first decision" is not at all familiar to me, I have never heard it, and I knew that the Section Head had a modest right of implementation in accordance with his status as Section Head. Right from the very first day when I was transferred to Department IV in Berlin against my will and my volition, the use I made of this right of implementation...

Presiding Judge: You do not need to repeat all of this.

Mr. Attorney General, I wanted to ask you what does "the first decision" mean?

Attorney General: This is what it says here. I am reading this from an official book. I shall find out in a moment. I am here quoting from an official book.

I shall now read to you from an official publication of the Federal Republic of Germany, dated 1958, in the introduction to which it says that it contains the instructions, which applied under the Weimar Republic, dated 2 September 1926 and 1 January 1927, and which have not changed. I should like to have your reaction as to whether what it says here is true or not.

Presiding Judge: Please read the text out in German.

Attorney General: "The ministry is made up of departments, which are sub-divided into sections. The basic unit in the organizational structure of the ministry is the section. A section head is an official in the upper echelons of the Civil Service, who immediately below the departmental head administers a section on his own responsibility. His is the first decision in all matters which fall under his section."

Is that correct?

Accused: I have already talked about "the first decision" - this is completely new to me, this is the first time I have heard that the section head has to take such a decision. "The basic unit in the organizational structure of the ministry is the section." I will grant that. "All work in a ministry must be allocated to a section." Right. "In so doing, whenever possible..." Right. "A section head is an official in the upper echelons of the Civil Service..." Yes. "On his own responsibility" - here I must once again say that because of the changes in the manner of issuing of orders, this was different under the Third Reich from what it was in the Weimar Republic, since here there were other regulations and orders which applied. That is why a whole series of basic ordinances in this area which were valid under the Weimar Repubic were revised by the Reichsfuehrer-SS and Chief of the German Police, and by the Chief of the Security Police and the Security Service.

In conclusion, with regard to this question of decisions, I should just like to say one more thing about the matter of "This is the first decision in all matters." I should like to say that a senior, very experienced administrative legal expert like Regierungsdirektor (Senior Government Counsellor) Huppenkothen, who was himself the deputy of Chief of Department IV, said - and I can but entirely agree with this - that the Department Chief reserved for himself all decisions of any significance whatsoever. It is my opinion...that is the difference, however things may have been under the Weimar Republic, or today in the Federal Republic, but as far as the affairs of Department IV were concerned - at the time in question - things were definitely different.

Presiding Judge: Are you submitting this?

Attorney General: Yes.

Presiding Judge: I mark this T/1423. Please return this to the Attorney General.


Attorney General: I want to try once more to understand your assertion about the powers of the Section Heads. Are you trying to say that the Section Heads did in fact have these powers, but that during your time Mueller did not agree that his subordinates should have such wide-ranging powers, or that during the Nazi period generally the Section Heads did not have any such powers?

Accused: I would not presume to assert the latter. I can only state here what I myself experienced personally.

Q. That means that a Section Head did in fact have the right to take decisions, but that you, as Mueller's Section Head, did not have the right to take decisions?

A. I believe that at that time it was definitely first and foremost a question of the personality of the superior - to what extent he developed any dictatorial features or characteristics.

Q. And did Mueller have such features or not?

A. As far as decisions were concerned, he was very precise, very fussy, very intolerant, and he made sure that he dealt with things himself. I can only confirm this and make this statement.

Q. For small details too, for really minor matters?

A. Mueller also decided on the most trivial minor matter. That continued up to Himmler, who surprisingly also intervened in the most detailed matters.

Q. Do you agree with me that Rudolf Hoess was probably in a position which made him familiar with Himmler's relationships with his subordinates and his attitude to decision-making?

A. Yes, I definitely do believe that, but he was from a different Head Office, not from the Head Office for Reich Security. I am only able to speak from experience about the sector in which I worked, after all.

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