The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 40
(Part 2 of 4)

Q. If I understood you rightly, he denied his own responsibility for the persecution of the Jews and the deportations?

A. I had not accused Ribbentrop of exterminating Jews. I was there talking with him about Hitler - and whether Hitler was alive or dead. And he immediately began to defend Hitler, that Hitler wasn't responsible for these terrible conditions which were found in the concentration camps and he was not responsible for the terrible things that the SS men did and the man who was really responsible, he said, was Adolf Eichmann and his great regret was that Hitler had placed this unlimited faith in Adolf Eichmann. That was the motif of his entire monologue.

Q. You were in Nuremberg for a long time during the hearing of the trial before the International Military Tribunal and long afterwards. Do you know whether documents were submitted from which it appears that Ribbentrop himself insistently demanded these measures?

A. I do not question that at all.

Q. If so, could I refresh your memory and read to you an extract from a document dated 17 July 1944 - a message from Ribbentrop that was sent to Ambassador Veesenmayer?

Presiding Judge: Has this already been submitted to us, Dr. Servatius?

Attorney General: This apparently refers to the subject of Hungary.

Dr. Servatius: No, this has not yet been submitted. It says here:"The Fuehrer expects that the Hungarian Government will now implement, without any further delays, the measures aimed against the Jews in Budapest, with the exceptions which have been agreed upon, in principle by the Government of the Reich on the suggestion of Ambassador Veesenmayer. But these exceptions should not be allowed to give rise to any delay in the practical steps directed against the Jews in general, for otherwise it would be necessary to cancel the consent to these exceptions which was given by the Fuehrer."

Do you read this as something done by the Minister at Eichmann's urging?

Witness Musmanno: I certainly do not know the history of the entire Foreign Ministry of the Third Reich, but I do know this, Dr. Servatius, that in Ribbentrop's attempt to exculpate himself - as you apparently assume - by accusing Eichmann, he failed in this - because he was hanged. Now, what gave verisimilitude to the reply of Ribbentrop and the reply of Goering and the reply of Hans Frank and all the others that I mentioned this morning, in which they say that Eichmann was the man who headed the extermination programme of the Jews, was that they did not select - and if they were really clever in that respect and were not spontaneously speaking the truth - they did not select the man who might have been more obviously acceptable as the culprit, and that was General Mueller who was at the head of the Gestapo.

So therefore it was not a matter of logic; it was a matter of telling just what the facts were; and it does not follow that just because a criminal is accused and even convicted, that everything he states must be erroneous and a falsehood, because - as you well know, Dr. Servatius - in Nuremberg practically all of the men who were convicted on their own words, on their own statements, on their own confessions.

Q. If I understood you correctly, you spoke of Eichmann as an SS General?

Presiding Judge: He was speaking about General Mueller, head of the Gestapo. These were expressions of opinion - not evidence.

Witness Musmanno: Yes - I was attempting to show that what these men said was to me true, because if they were merely trying to exculpate themselves...

Dr. Servatius: Sir - that is sufficient for me. I should like to read to you a portion of the Nuremberg Judgment and to hear your opinion as to whether the statements made here are correct or not.

"He (von Ribbentrop) played an important part in Hitler's Final Solution of the Jewish Question. In September 1942 he ordered the German diplomatic representatives accredited to various Axis satellites to hasten the deportation of Jews to the East. In June 1942, the German Ambassador to Vichy requested Laval to turn over 50,000 Jews for deportation to the East. On 25 February 1943 Von Ribbentrop protested to Mussolini against Italian slowness in deporting Jews from the Italian occupation zone of France. On 17 April 1943 he took part in a conference between Hitler and Horthy on the deportation of Jews from Hungary and informed Horthy that the 'Jews must either be exterminated or taken to concentration camps.' At the same conference Hitler had likened the Jews to 'tuberculosis bacilli' and said if they did not work they were to be shot."* {*Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 1947, Vol. I, p. 287.}
Presiding Judge: After quoting this passage, what is your question? What do you think of this, Judge Musmanno?

Witness Musmanno: There is no doubt, I think, about the veracity of what has been read. There is no doubt whatsoever about the wisdom which dictated those words. There is no doubt about the justice embodied in all those words and there is no doubt about the correctness of the decision that was rendered against Ribbentrop which took him to the gallows. He was hanged for what he did, as pointed out in that judgment.

Presiding Judge: It seems to me that Defence Counsel's question was something else: How do these remarks fit in with the questions that were asked about Eichmann's pressure on Hitler, and so on?

Witness Musmanno: Ribbentrop was speaking in the quicksands of irrefutable guilt, and he tended to pull down those who were guilty with him.

Dr. Servatius: I understood that you spoke to Kaltenbrunner, who was Chief of the Security Police of the SD after Heydrich, and I believe that he, too - according to what you stated - said that he had no connection whatever with the persecution of Jews, that this was the responsibility of someone else. Is that correct?

Witness Musmanno: I did not say that he said that he was not guilty. I said that he said that the men mostly responsible for the extermination of the Jews were Hitler, Himmler, Bormann, Heydrich and Eichmann. After all, I was not accusing these men. They were merely talking to me, and telling me and, perhaps, out of a guilty conscience, protesting that they were not the ones - although they did not put it that way. They merely referred to Eichmann; they all seemed to agree that Eichmann had a very powerful and authoritative hand in this programme of the extermination of the Jews.

Presiding Judge: You say they did not speak about their own guilt regarding the extermination of the Jews. Is that right? None of them?

Witness Musmanno: Yes.

Q. None of them?

A. No. They did not go into that.

Judge Halevi: Did you talk to them before their trial, or after their trial?

Witness Musmanno: It was during the trial.

Q. During their own trial.

A. Well, yes. But it was not at the trial. You see, I arrived there to enquire about the facts regarding Hitler. And so I went from one to the other, trying to find out when they saw Hitler last, what was his attitude and that time there was a great deal of discussion about the...

Q. Before judgment was given by the International Court?

A. Oh yes.

Q. Thank you.

Dr. Servatius: And this was when judgment had not yet been passed, but you were there during the interrogations and you were present at the sessions as an observer?

Witness Musmanno: Yes, I was an observer at the first trial.

Q. Were you present at the interrogation of Kaltenbrunner?

A. You mean at the trial?

Q. Yes.

A. Yes.

Q. Did Kaltenbrunner not allege all the time that he had never himself signed any order for executions and did he not persist in that allegation when his own signature on such orders were shown to him?

A. Yes, he did. And he was proved to be a liar over and over.

Q. You also spoke to Frank, who was Governor General of Poland?

A. Yes.

Q. If I understand correctly, Frank, too, declared that he had nothing whatever to do with the persecution of Jews and deportations?

A. No, no! He did not say that. No - the contrary, he admitted his guilt on the witness stand.

Q. How do you, then, account for the fact that the same Frank who wrote a diary extending over 39 volumes, did not at all mention Eichmann in one of them?

A. There were many things that Frank did not mention in his diary. I remember reading the able speech of the Attorney General in this very trial, in which he stated that Frank made no reference to the forced march of the Jews into Poland, of the tortures that they underwent, the privations that they suffered. Of course his diary was quite extensive, but I have no way of knowing what he put in or what he left out.

Q. And you said that Frank did not deny his guilt before the American Tribunal at Nuremberg, but do you know what the Tribunal itself said about this in the judgment? I am now going to quote part of the judgment...

I.M.T. vol. 1, p. 298:

"At the beginning of the testimony, Frank stated that he had a feeling of 'terrible guilt' for the atrocities committed in the occupied territories. But his defence was largely devoted to an attempt to prove that he was not in fact responsible."
Q. Was this a true admission of guilt or a false account, which merely served to relieve him of the moral burden when he saw that there was no way of escape for him because of his own diary.?

A. Frank was a very volatile individual. He kept changing his view. Professor Gustav Gilbert in his book Nuremberg Diary tells how one day he would be very contrite and very penitent and then the next day or a few days later he would be defending what he did and would even in a way be defending Hitler. I spoke to him in Italian. He spoke very good Italian and he said to me that the greatest regret that he would have as long as he would live was that he did not shoot Hitler when he had the chance to do so. And yet later on he would be defending Hitler. So I do not know what you attempt to derive from these quotations.

Dr. Servatius: This is not the moment for drawing conclusions from the evidence. This should take place at a later stage in the trial.

You spoke to the General of the Air Force, Koller, and he said that during the last days he was together with the Fuehrer Adolf Hitler in the bunker underneath the Reich Chancellery. Is that correct?

A. Well, I do not mean by the last days right up to the day that Hitler actually shot himself in the mouth and took poison. But he was with Hitler in the bunker during the last period. He left the bunker, I think, before General Ritter von Grein arrived to supplant Goering. He travelled all over Germany attempting to summon airplanes and so on. He was not up there at the last moment, no.

Q. These were at any rate the last days of the battle for Berlin. Therefore, I take it that military problems were probably the focal point of the conversations?

A. Not when he was starting with me. It was all over.

Presiding Judge: No, no, he was referring to the conversations between Koller and Hitler; that they would have been likely to be talking about military problems.

Witness Musmanno: Hitler assumed this to be very much a military problem to execute the flyers, to deter other flyers from dropping bombs on Germany.

Dr. Servatius: Was it not strange that precisely at that time they should talk about the Jewish problem, as if it was the most burning and pressing, at a time when the end was upon them, because they were talking about Jewish pilots?

Witness Musmanno: The Jewish Question was uppermost in Hitler's mind all the time. In his last will and testament, with his very final breath he blasphemed the Jews. There was never a time when he had any vacation from his main object in life to kill Jews.

Dr. Servatius: And the Air Force General Koller, who was, in those days, so close to Hitler, did he have any different ideas? Was he a friend of the Jews? How am I to understand that?

Witness Musmanno: I do not know Koller's feelings. I did not know them, but certainly in my conversations with him he made it very clear that he looked upon the shooting of the Allied pilots, men in uniform, as sheer murder. And that when Eichmann said, and mind you he had the approval of Kaltenbrunner, even Kaltenbrunner went along with him and said: Yes, it is not right to kill these men in uniform." And then Kaltenbrunner said: "But you know Eichmann is very jealous of his prerogatives and his job is to kill Jews, and if you are going to protect these fliers and save them you cannot save those who are Jewish born, had Jewish parents, were of Jewish lineage, were of Jewish blood.

Q. Who was then responsible for the war prisoners, was it the civil authority, the party authority or the military itself?

A. I would say the military. But so far as executing prisoners, that was a matter of the SD and was incorporated into Hitler's orders, so regardless of where the competence lay, when Hitler declared what should be done, that for them at that time was the law.

Judge Halevi: Excuse me, Justice Musmanno, did I understand you correctly that the subject of Jewish pilots, this specific Jewish Question of pilots, did not come up in the conversation between Koller and Hitler himself?

Witness Musmanno: No, no. Koller of course was very brave in refusing to go along with this order and knowing that there was the order, that the prisoners had been turned over to the SD, he went to see Kaltenbrunner. And of course he was very much surprised that Kaltenbrunner went along with him.

Dr. Servatius: Was that not courage after the defeat? Could not Koller who was constantly with Hitler have stated his position to Hitler himself? Do you not believe that this was a process of thought worked out by Koller after the War, in order to shift the guilt on to Eichmann?

A. Koller was not accused of any crime - he did not have to shift any guilt. I was talking to Koller about Hitler, and I must repeat that that was the primary object of my conversations with these various individuals whom I have mentioned.

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