The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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

Q. Do you remember making marginal notes in this book as well, as you also used to do in other books?

A. Yes, and this was also read out to me when I was making my Statement, and I said about this...

Q. Yes, yes - Boldt criticized Hitler's actions at various stages during the War, and now I will read from page 2670 of your Statement, where it said: "In January 1945, a young front-line officer." You deleted the words "front-line officer" and wrote "scoundrel," "traitor," or "blackguard." Is that correct?

A. I admit that that is correct, with the restriction and modification that one must also hear the text which led to my writing that.

Q. That can be understood, because elsewhere - page 2671 - you wrote the following: "The author should be flayed alive because of his baseness - with such scoundrels the War was necessarily lost." And this is because he dared criticize Hitler. You wrote this in 1955, did you not?

A. That is correct, but it is necessary to understand and read the entire text here, because I stated that an officer took an oath of loyalty; if this oath is broken, then this man is a scoundrel. In exactly the same way, I maintain the attitude that I have taken an oath here to tell the truth, and I take great care, and every evening I examine myself: Have I told the truth, or have I told just one untruth? In exactly the same way, at that time, I maintained the point of view that an oath is an oath.

Judge Halevi: So, in your opinion, the author of this book broke his oath of loyalty after Hitler's death and after the end of the War?

Accused: No, Your Honour, I do not believe that, but the text - I cannot think of it now, but somehow it shows that this happened during the events of the War, because otherwise I do not believe I would have written about breaking an oath of loyalty and treachery.

Q. Do you believe that someone who swore this oath of loyalty to which you have referred is released from his oath after Hitler's death or not?

A. After Hitler's death, naturally everyone is automatically released from this oath.

Q. You, too?

A. I, too, yes.

Judge Halevi: Thank you.

Attorney General: But as late as 1955 you were still sufficiently furious to call the author of the book by the names you used about him there?

A. Yes, because I consider oath-breaking to be the worst possible crime and offence a person can be guilty of.

Q. A greater crime than the murder of six million people, including one and a half million children? Is that correct?

A. No, of course, not, but I had nothing to do with that, I did not deal with the extermination. If I had been assigned to the extermination, then I probably would have shot myself at that time, I believe - obviously I cannot say for sure what my reaction would have been; but given my reactions that I do know about and what I knew, I believe that I would have put an end to myself and thus got myself out of this in this way.

Q. In your eyes, was someone who was involved with the extermination of the Jews a criminal?

A. He was an unhappy man.

Q. Was he a criminal? "Yes" or "no"?

A. I would not venture to answer this question, as I was never put or placed in such a situation.

Q. You saw Hoess doing this in Auschwitz. At that time did you consider him to be a criminal, a murderer?

A. I told him that what he was ordered to do I could never do.

Q. But that is not my question. My question is whether at heart you saw him as a murderer.

A. In my inner life?

Q. No, in your heart.

A. That is a question which affects me very personally, and if I did not express this then, I have no intention of articulating this today either, because what my inner life tells me is something which I have to carry with me on my own.

Q. You will have to reply to this now. How did you regard Hoess when you saw him as a murderer of Jews, how did you regard him - as a criminal or not? You will have to answer this now.

A. I pitied him and felt sorry for him.

Q. Did you regard him as a criminal or not?

A. I shall not reveal my innermost feelings.

Q. This is one question you cannot evade. You have to answer this question: How did you see the extermination process and those who engaged in it?

A. A man can get into a situation which can nearly make him go mad, and where it is just a tiny step, not even a considered act, to reach for his gun. How the person in question reacts to that depends on the individual. I can only say how I probably and possibly would have reacted to this. It is not up to me to give any form of personal opinion about others who received orders in this context, because these matters lie in spheres where every individual has to come to terms with himself.

Q. In other words, Hoess was not a criminal in your eyes?

A. No, I am not saying that either.

Q. In your police interrogation you said that if the Reichsfuehrer had told you that your father was a traitor, you would have shot him with your own hands. Is that true?

A. If he was a traitor, probably.

Q. No, if the Reichsfuehrer had told you, would you have shot him - your own father?

A. I would then assume that he would have had to prove it to me. If he had proved it, I would have been duty bound, according to my oath of loyalty.

Q. Was it proved to you that the Jews had to be exterminated?

A. I did not exterminate them. However, I would like to state here in this context that I am not trying to evade anything in this respect either, and it is my intention to ask for permission after the trial to put these matters down in the form of a book, say, in which I can express myself freely, and I am prepared to call a spade a spade, to serve as a deterrent example for today's generation and that of the future. I also made this point to Captain Less in my interrogation.

Presiding Judge: Mr. Hausner, from which page did you take the quotation about shooting his father?

Attorney General: I shall find this immediately.

Presiding Judge: Just one moment, Mr. Attorney General. I am now addressing the Accused:

I am telling you that it is your duty to say here everything which you would have written in your book - to call a spade a spade. That is your duty, just as you would have done in the book, or as you would do, and to hold nothing back.

Accused: Very well, then. Having been asked by you, Your Honour, to give a clear answer here, I must state that I consider this murder, this extermination of the Jews, to be one of the most heinous crimes in the history of mankind.

Attorney General: If we are agreed about that, perhaps we can agree on some further matter.

Judge Halevi: I have another question here. That is what you think today, but how did you think then?

Accused: Your Honour, I shall have to answer this in some sentences. This is a matter for the feelings of each individual. When I first saw dead people, dead Jews, I was terribly shocked. And this reaction, affecting my nerves, stayed with me, it continued to affect me. I continued to do my work in accordance with the inflexible duty which was imposed on me. Under the influence of these events, which I had to witness, I asked my Chief several times that he should, for God's sake, at last release me from it.

I have never before made this point as precisely as this, because it might all too easily have given the impression that I wanted to put myself in a better light and somehow influence the outcome of a judgment. That is far from me, and is not my intention; my intention is to tell the truth, and then it can be decided what should be done.

Finally, I wish to state that I myself already at that time did not consider this violent solution to be justified, already then I considered this to be a monstrous deed, where I regrettably, bound as I was by my oath of loyalty, had in my sector to deal with matters relating to transport aspects and was not released from this oath. That is what I wish to say about this.

Q. Did you consider it to be a crime?

A. What I said to myself was this: The Head of State has ordered it, and those exercising judicial authority over me are now transmitting it. I escaped into other areas and looked for a cover for myself which gave me some peace of mind at least, and so in this way I was able to shift - no, that is not the right term - to attach this whole thing one hundred per cent to those in judicial authority who happened to be my superiors, to the Head of State - since they gave the orders. So, deep down, I did not consider myself responsible and I felt free of guilt. I was greatly relieved that I had nothing to do with the actual physical extermination. The part I was ordered to deal with was quite enough for me.

Presiding Judge: Please continue, Mr. Hausner.

Attorney General: And I am telling you that you never ever tried to get out of the part which you did play, and that in 1957 in your conversations with Sassen you said the following: You were asked, "Did you not try - when this assignment of `physical extermination' appeared so dreadful to you - did you not try to get out of this assignment?" - and your answer was, "No, never."

Accused: No, that is totally untrue; no, that is not true. That contradicts the dozens of efforts I made to get away from Department IV. They included my repeated concrete proposal that I be given the post of a police chief which had become vacant in the General Administrative Police. There are even witnesses to that.

Q. And I am telling you that you said that you looked over this tape and read it, just as you noted in your own handwriting on tape 51 that you had gone through and read everything up to this tape. Look, this is in your own writing.

A. One moment, I just have to read this over.

Q. At the bottom - at the bottom, not everything, only what is at the bottom. "After all these months that I have seen it," etc. Read that!

A. "The impossible conditions in this assembly camp which are described here do appear to me, although I have no recollection at all of such things, to be definitely exaggerated. However, be that as it may, Section IVB4 of the Head Office for Reich Security was not responsible for local inadequacies. There were directives for all of this. If these were not complied with, that is the fault of the local authorities."

Presiding Judge: Is that what you meant, Mr. Attorney General?

Attorney General: He is, of course, reading something else.

Presiding Judge: So stop him. Why waste time?

Attorney General: [to Accused] Please give that to me, I will show you what to read.

Presiding Judge: It would be far easier if you were to read it out yourself.

Attorney General: That is a little difficult, because it is difficult to make out the handwriting.

Presiding Judge: But you have a transcript, do you not?

Attorney General: I do not have that, Your Honour. "In these months I have not kept anything back from you."

Presiding Judge: Very well, mark it, and the Accused will read it.

Attorney General: Read out what I have marked with a red line.

Accused: "I must be believed, in these months I have not kept anything back and I have said what I know. I would also admit this without hesitation if I could remember it. Quite often, when reading this through now, it was as if I was able to remember something from my childhood. The more I thought about things, the more confused my ideas became, so that it appears to me that it was the beginning of a type of auto-suggestion."

Q. So you will agree with me that you went over all the tapes and all the transcripts, at least up to this point?

A. I do not know. Here, for example, I cannot see any notes whatsoever written by me, and also, when I saw that this was an unsatisfactory, confused piece of trash, I just lost all patience with correcting it, and started writing out the whole thing as a first rough draft in my own handwriting. Unfortunately, only a small part of this is available, but the next paragraph does in fact say all sorts of things about how I thought about this. Perhaps I could...

Q. Did you receive the transcripts from time to time?

A. I believe I received them in batches, two or three times. I rejected them, as they were just impossible and not correct, and I myself was not sure about things.

Q. No, no - I want an answer: Did you receive them or not?

A. I received them a few times.

Q. A few times; that will do.

A. No, I must please make a statement on this: Because of these untruths and errors, I then made a contract, in order to protect myself, and I insisted that I had to sign every single page with my full signature. This was because of the substantive errors and untruths and defects. In addition, I also myself...

Q. No, no; please let us have no speeches, but replies to questions.

Dr. Servatius: Your Honour, I would ask that the Accused be permitted to read out this last handwritten paragraph, which he considers to be vital to clarify things.

Presiding Judge: Very well, please read this.

Accused: "...several times during our work this has already occurred; it is obviously really very difficult after such a long time to cast one's mind back to things. In order to preserve the truth, this point should also be made in the book. Something along these lines was also done by Joel Brand, or by his writer."

What I wanted to express here was that I did not just mean the untruths and impossible things which were introduced here by third persons, but also my own inadequacy of recall and the danger of confusing various matters...all of this has to be discarded. And that is why I concluded the contract with these people, the contract from those years is available, to the effect that only what I recognize as the truth is to be published - what I signed with my full name. I did not sign.

Presiding Judge: Yes, Mr. Hausner, you may proceed.

Attorney General: I take your hint, Your Honour. I am in fact in the middle of this matter and naturally shall not leave it there, but I can continue this afternoon, if it is time for a recess.

Presiding Judge: It is indeed time, but if it is very important, we can continue.

Attorney General: It is important, but I can continue this afternoon.

Presiding Judge: We shall stop here. The next Session will be this afternoon, at 3.30.

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