The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 105
(Part 4 of 4)

Presiding Judge: Well, what is your reply?

Dr. Servatius: The question was whether you remember there also being passages in the Sassen Memoirs where you have a more positive attitude to Judaism?

Accused: I have already explained that I did not belong to the group which I called anti-Semites. For various private reasons I could not have been an anti-Semite. And because I did not belong to this group, the upshot automatically was that, as far as I was concerned, I did not, in fact, see a personal enemy in the Jews, and that leads to this attitude which can perhaps be called positive. I do not know.

Q. I would like to get the witness' reaction to a quotation from the memoirs. In the first volume, at the bottom of page 27, it reads:

"...and I did in fact frequently tell the Jewish political functionaries, personally I have no hatred against a Jew, I have never personally had a bad experience with a Jew, and when I changed now from a militant to a political officer, I had after all to carry out the orders I was given. Now, I was one of those men who carried out orders without reserve, in accordance with my oath of loyalty."
Does this observation correspond with your convictions?

A. Yes, the sense of it is correct, and I also said this time and again to Loewenherz, in fact I also told this to the other Jewish functionaries.

Presiding Judge: I mark this exhibit N/102.

Now would the Accused please tell me - I would like to understand this - "changed from a militant to a political officer," what does this mean?

Accused: By this I mean when I went from service in the forces to service in the police.

Presiding Judge: Yes, but you were a military officer before that, were you not?

Accused: No, this is badly put here, that is why I said that the sense of that is correct, but of course not literally so.

Presiding Judge: So militant means from a soldier, a political...

Accused: It would be better to say, "when I came from military life to police life," that would be the right way to put it, and that is why I said that the sense of it is correct, but literally it is not correct.

Presiding Judge: All right.

Dr. Servatius: That concludes my re-examination, and I have no further questions to the witness.

Presiding Judge: The Accused will now answer questions from the Judges.

Judge Raveh: I shall ask you a few questions in German. Do you remember at one point in your police interrogation talking about the Kantian imperative, and saying that throughout your entire life you had tried to live according to the Kantian imperative?

Accused: Yes.

Q. There is no need to show this to you; do you remember it clearly?

A. Yes, I remember it clearly.

Q. What did you mean by the Kantian imperative when you said that?

A. I meant by this that the principle of my volition and the principle of my life must be such that it could at any time be raised to be the principle of general legislation, as Kant more or less puts it in his categorical imperative.

Q. I see, therefore, that when you said this you were precisely aware of Kant's categorical imperative?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. And so, do you mean to say by this that your activities in the course of deporting Jews corresponded to the Kantian categorical imperative?

A. No, certainly not, because these that time I had to live and act under compulsion, and the compulsion of a third person, during exceptional times. I meant by this, by this living according to the Kantian principle, to the extent that I am my own master and able to organize my life according to my volition and according to my wishes. This is also quite obvious, in fact it could not be meant any other way, because if I am subjected to a higher power and a higher force, then my free will as such is eliminated, and then, since I can no longer be master of my free will and volition, I cannot in fact adopt any principles whatsoever which I cannot influence, but, on the contrary, I must, and also may, build obedience to the authorities into this concept, and then the authorities bear the responsibility. In my judgment, that also belongs to it.

Q. Do you mean to say by this that following the authorities' orders blindly signifies realizing the Kantian categorical imperative?

A. Since the Kantian imperative was laid down, there had never been such a destructive and unprecedented order from a head of state. That is why it was new, and that is why there is no possibility of comparisons, and cannot have any idea of how it was. There was the War. I had to do just one thing. I had to obey, because I could not change anything. And so I just placed my life, as far as I could, in the service - I would put it this way - of this Kantian demand. And I have already said that in fact others had to answer for the fundamental aspect. As a minor recipient of orders, I had to obey, I could not evade that.

Q. I understood from the first part of your answer that you meant that these years in which you were a blind recipient of orders would be excluded from life according to the Kantian imperative. And I intended to ask you about this, from when till when did it last? But then you added something, and that again changed the whole thing. Now I do not know what your final position is on this.

A. Killing people violently cannot be according to the spirit of the Kantian imperative, because in principle it is not something God-given.

Q. That means that there was a time when you did not live by the categorical imperative?

A. Could not live, because higher powers made it impossible for me to live by it.

Q. From when to when was this?

A. Strictly speaking, that was from the moment when I was transferred against my will, and against my wishes, to Berlin.

Q. Till when?

A. Until the end.

Q. And throughout this time it was clear to you that during that period you could not live by the categorical imperative, although you had in principle arranged actually to live your life by it?

A. During this time I read Kant's Critique of Practical Reason.

Q. For the first time?

A. Then was the first time.

Q. So that it was only then that you encountered the idea of the categorical concept?

A. I had come across this earlier, but I had not concerned myself particularly with it; instead, the Kantian categorical imperative was disposed of shortly as follows: "True to the law, obedient, a proper personal life, not to come into conflict with the law." This, I would say, was the categorical imperative for a small man's domestic use.

Q. From where had you taken this definition of the categorical imperative for the small man? When you read Kant later, did you find it corresponded to his definition?

A. No, I sensed this earlier on, because for someone like myself it is not possible to understand all of the subject of Kant completely; instead, I only took from these writings what I could understand, and what my imagination could somehow grasp.

Q. So I understand that you learned the true concept at the time you were dealing with the deportation of Jews?

A. As to whether it was the genuine complete concept of the categorical imperative, I am still not able to grasp even today, but I have grasped one thing - that giving such orders by a supreme head of state cannot accord with the spirit of a divine order. But now I was trying to come to terms with myself, and I saw that I was unable to change anything and unable to do anything.

Q. What interests me more now is whether then, in the years when you came to Berlin - against your will, as you put it - until 1945, whether during that period you were aware, or became aware, that you were not living according to Kant's categorical imperative?

A. I first became aware of this in Kulm. But it would not be right for me to say I became aware that I was not living according to this Kantian requirement, but I said to myself: I cannot for the present live entirely according to it, although I would like to do so.

Q. And this realization remained with you up until the end? Until the end of 1944?

A. I did not think of it every day, but when I travel, it is my habit not to speak a lot, but to reflect.

Q. All right, then: When you thought it over, then did it become clear to you?

A. In fact, in the end that was also the direct reason for my approaching Mueller from time to time.

Q. Now let us look at some figures. Tell me who wrote T/43 (6).

A. I wrote this.

Q. When did you write it?

A. I do not remember, I have to check. I must have written this in Israel.

Q. Would you please read it out?

A. "At this time I said to my subordinates..."

Q. Just a moment, what does "at this time" mean? To what period is the reference?

A. This was the time of the collapse.

Q. Please continue.


"I said to my subordinate commanders, who were going about with very gloomy, depressed-looking faces, that since the War, in my opinion, was now definitely lost and there was no longer anything to be salvaged, I myself was looking forward to the Battle for Berlin - I knew my defence system, part of which was designed very cunningly, and for me there was nothing of interest to me left in the world other than to fight to the last, and think only of finding my death in this struggle. Millions of German women, children and the aged, millions of soldiers had been killed in this War; for five years millions of enemies had assailed Germany, and millions of enemies had also been killed. And I estimate that the War had cost five million Jews. Now it is all over, the Reich is lost, and if it is all over, then I will also jump into the pit - in brackets: (in view of the false-papers operation, which I find ridiculous)."
The rest does not belong to it - the rest does not belong to it.

Judge Raveh: Very well. Would I be correct in assuming that you wrote this before you made a statement to Captain Less about the same subject, and that you made these notes for yourself, having regard to what you would say in your police interrogation? Do you want to compare this with what is stated in your interrogation?

A. I wrote this down here as I thought of things at that time, in 1945.

Q. And as you put it in 1945?

A. As I put it in 1945.

Q. Then I would like to show you something else which you wrote. Here, at the bottom, the part which is underlined.

Presiding Judge: This is T/44, page 118.

Accused: I assume that is correct.

Judge Raveh: One moment, have you read it?

Accused: Yes, I have read it.

Judge Raveh: Please read this passage out.


"As far as I still remember, at that time Korherr came up with a total number of around five million Jews, made up of migration, natural decrease, concentration camp inmates, ghetto inmates, and those who were put to death."
Judge Raveh: Korherr was the statistician who drew up this report - when?

Accused: I think it was the end of 1942 to the end of 1943.

Q. And that was the figure he came up with then.

A. This is an approximate figure, which I had accepted intuitively at that time during the questioning. I do not now know whether it is correct or not.

Q. Not during the questioning - these are memoirs.

A. Oh yes, or memoirs - all the time before I was able actually to read the documents - as far as the Korherr report is concerned, I do not know if I have it in my files, I cannot say for sure. But I remember something like this, that the overall figure would be about five million.

Presiding Judge: The Court will now adjourn. The next Session will be tomorrow morning, at 8.30, when the Accused will continue to be questioned by the Judges. After that, we shall be able to commence the submission of the Defence testimonies taken abroad. I hope we will also be able to conclude this tomorrow.

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