The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 41
(Part 1 of 5)

Session No. 41

1 Sivan 5721 (16 May 1961)

Presiding Judge: I declare the forty-first Session of the trial open.

Attorney General: With the Court's permission, my colleague, Mr. Bach, will now give the Court the names of the other declarants, whose statements have not yet been submitted, since their turn has not yet been reached at the stage of submitting the evidence, but the Prosecution intends to make use of them. If the Defence wishes to make any comment, we would ask the Court to decide whether they should be heard in the same way as was decided in the case of other declarants.

State Attorney Bach: We have, in fact, reduced the number of these witnesses - whose affidavits, or the record of whose interrogations, we should like to submit; we have reduced their number to three, and these three witnesses, in fact, belong to the chapter of the holocaust of Hungarian Jewry.

The first of the three is Kurt Becher, a former SS Standartenfuehrer. He was interrogated a number of times by the American military authorities at Nuremberg, and these interrogations have been included by us in two documents, bearing the Prosecution numbers 774 and 827. Document No. 774, which actually contains the majority of these interrogations, was, in fact, also shown to the Accused, and he made his comments on these interrogations. Hence the document is already before you. It was given the number T/37(235). He made his comments on these interrogations from page 2888 onwards, and later on again from page 2903 onwards.

Kurt Becher was, in 1944, the head of the economic office of the SS in Budapest, and he was also Himmler's accredited representative in the negotiations with the Jewish institutions in Budapest, in connection with the proposal to grant exit permits to a certain number of Jews from the German occupied areas, mainly Hungary, in exchange for the payment of money and the supply of goods to the SS. He did that while maintaining a measure of contact with the Accused, as we shall prove. This statement, these interrogations, of Becher are most relevant from a number of points of view.

With the aid of what he stated, we want to prove, firstly, that Himmler was the one who initiated this proposal. We shall also see what were Himmler's motives, mainly political, for this plan. We shall show that, in fact, Becher was required - as he himself put it - to promise the Jews anything he liked; what would be fulfilled was a totally different question. More important, as we shall see, the Accused was opposed to this deal right from the beginning and was very glad when it failed.

We shall show what were Himmler's motives in August 1944 in giving orders to stop the deportations and, in fact, to prevent the deportation of the Jews of Budapest - what caused it, and what preceded it; what caused Himmler's order to stop the extermination of the Jews in October 1944. We shall be able to prove the attempts by the Accused to contravene and, indeed, to sabotage this decision of Himmler's.

We shall also prove here, by the same statement, that Becher actually complained to Himmler about this conduct on the part of the Accused and that Himmler, in fact, summoned the Accused before him and rebuked him in the presence of Becher. I do not wish to go into details here, but this episode is exceedingly interesting in order to prove in which way the Accused exercised the initiative which was open to him.

This evidence also has ample probative value, for we shall be able to link it at almost each and every step, with all sorts of other evidence, whether oral evidence or documents we have discovered, mainly documents which have reached us from Himmler's personal archives, and those we have received from the United States. We have here an exchange of telegrams between Becher and Himmler, during those decisive days, with the aid of which, and with the aid of this interrogation - if the Court will admit it - and with the aid of other reports we shall ask to submit, we shall be able virtually to reconstruct the events of certain days almost hour by hour, during those decisive days.

Presiding Judge: Is Becher alive?

State Attorney Bach: Becher is alive, and already at this stage I wish to say that we shall not agree to summon Becher to come to the State of Israel in order to appear here. We shall not summon him to come here as a witness, and in fact he will be treated in the same way as the Attorney General has declared before you regarding other witnesses, such as von Thadden, Bach-Zalewski and others. For our part, there would be nothing to prevent the man from coming here, but he will not be granted immunity.

Presiding Judge: I do not understand - there would be nothing on your part to prevent him from coming; does that mean that he would be given an entry visa?

State Attorney Bach: Actually, the Attorney General has declared this in regard to other witnesses - that we shall not object to their coming here, but we shall not promise them immunity. He will be treated like all those others, except for Hoettl and Huppenkothen, who fall into a special category. The position of Becher in our opinion is exactly the same as that of all the other witnesses whose examination in Germany the Court has requested.

Presiding Judge: Has he been charged with having committed offences?

State Attorney Bach: Yes, with offences under the Nazis (Punishment) Law, both under section 1 and under other sections as well.

Judge Halevi: Not only for membership of the Nazi organizations?

State Attorney Bach: Not only for his membership. I should like to add here that, although we shall ask the Court to consider Becher's statement to be trustworthy, namely that he was interested in the success of the notorious transaction "life in exchange for goods," and at a certain stage also to the point of stopping the deportations, we nevertheless see no reason to remove him from the list of Nazis whom we regard as criminal offenders against the Jewish people, as persons who committed crimes against humanity. In our opinion, the difference between him and the Accused lies in the fact that, whereas the murder of an additional several hundred thousand Jews would have done credit to the Accused as part of his task, in Becher's case this would not have been regarded actually as a success on his part, but the plunder of further large sums of money from the victims who were destined for extermination, and the extortion of monies and goods - that would have been regarded as an achievement.

And we shall see, when we shall ask the Court to admit the report of the Head of the Committee for Relief and Rescue, Kasztner's report, we shall see how he mentions, for example, that when there were negotiations about payment per head for each Jew allegedly to be saved, then the Accused mentioned a sum of money even smaller than Becher. It is true that the Accused was opposed to the entire deal, but as long as he had to negotiate in this sense, the amount of money was not so important; it was important to Becher. For these reasons we do not regard Becher as not being a criminal under our law, and therefore we cannot promise him immunity.

Presiding Judge: Where does he live?

State Attorney Bach: I understand that he lives in Germany, I believe in Bremen. If Defence Counsel so wishes, there will be no objection on our part to his examination before a German judge, in accordance with the arrangement which the Court laid down in its Decision No. 11. Accordingly, I would ask you at this stage - I think that would in fact be the correct procedure - to admit these two documents in evidence, and to give your decision along the lines of Decision No. 11.

Presiding Judge: Perhaps you would first complete your whole list?

State Attorney Bach: The second witness is Horst Grell. That is our document No. 985. Here, too, there is an affidavit which was shown to the Accused.

Presiding Judge: Were both statements of Becher sworn affidavits?

State Attorney Bach: In part, Your Honour. Here we have interrogations, partly on oath, partly not. I believe that, in fact, the interrogations that were tendered to the Accused, for his comments, are - for the most part - not sworn, whereas the second document contains sworn interrogations.

The second document is that of Horst Grell, an affidavit under oath, Prosecution document No. 985. It was submitted to the Accused and was given the number T/37(267). The part of the Accused's statement referring to that document begins on page 3193. Grell handled Jewish affairs in Budapest at the agency of the German Foreign Ministry in Budapest. He was a kind of liaison officer between Veesenmayer and the Accused's Section IVB4.

Presiding Judge: Under what circumstances did he make this sworn statement?

State Attorney Bach: He made this statement at the trial of Veesenmayer, at the trial of members of the German Foreign Ministry, in defence of Veesenmayer. This man, as I have said, was the liaison officer between Veesenmayer and the Accused. He describes in this statement the division of authority between the holders of various posts, the camouflage efforts of the Accused vis-a-vis the German Foreign Ministry.

And, most important of all, he mentions an episode to which we shall attach special importance when we come to the chapter of the holocaust of Hungarian Jewry. That is the chapter of the Kistarcsa camp. That was an episode which came after an order had been given by the Regent Horthy, who forbade any further deportation of Jews from Hungary. The Accused then made use of a ruse, and we shall bring its details before the Court, mainly through Jewish witnesses. By means of this ruse he succeeded in taking 1,500 Jews from this camp, and in bringing them to Auschwitz, despite the fact that they had previously been returned to the same camp in compliance with Horthy's order.

As I have said, these are witnesses from the Jewish side, and we shall produce them before you. But Grell, in this affidavit, mentions this trick of the Accused, and it proves the existence of this trick. Details of the implementation of this special operation were also known to some of the Germans, and even to members of the German Foreign Ministry.

Presiding Judge: What was the name of that camp?

State Attorney Bach: Kistarcsa. That is, in brief, the contents of this affidavit, and hence it is relevant; it also has probative value - it links up with many of the testimonies and documents, and the Court will be able to assess its weight at the end of the trial.

Presiding Judge: Is his name Horst or Theodor Horst Grell?

State Attorney Bach: It says in the affidavit: Dr. Theodor Horst Grell.

Presiding Judge: Where does he live today?

State Attorney Bach: I think he lives in Germany. I am told that he lives in Frankfurt.

Judge Halevi: What would be his position in Israel?

State Attorney Bach: His position would be the same as that of Becher and the other witnesses. There is no doubt that he participated, very actively, in the operations that brought about the deportation of the Jews of Hungary.

The last witness is Hans Juettner. He was an Obergruppenfuehrer in the SS. He was a general in the Waffen SS. He was Chef des Fuehrungshauptamts SS - that was actually the same office of the SS as that of the Reichsfuehrer SS, of the Fuehrungshauptamt.

Presiding Judge: The chief of Himmler's secretariat.

State Attorney Bach: The chief of Himmler's secretariat. He was also the "Chief Adjutant" of Himmler himself. I think that this is sufficient to substantiate our claim that his position is similar to that of the two previous witnesses as regards granting, or declining, immunity to him. He also made an affidavit at Nuremberg. That is the document which was given the number NG 6216.

Presiding Judge: What is your number?

State Attorney Bach: Our number is 1297; and this affidavit, in fact, is submitted in respect to a limited episode. This man, in November 1944...

Presiding Judge: For what purpose was it submitted at Nuremberg?

State Attorney Bach: This is not so apparent here. I think it was one of the interrogations that was also conducted - so I presume - in relation to the Foreign Ministry, but not necessarily so; it is very likely that they used it for a number of cases. At any rate this does not emerge from the body of the document itself.

Presiding Judge: Is this statement sworn or not?

State Attorney Bach: It is a sworn statement.

Judge Halevi: Was he sentenced at Nuremberg?

State Attorney Bach: No. I do not think he was sentenced - I think he was not brought to trial. This man, in November 1944, visited Hungary in the course of his duties, and saw, en route, the notorious "foot march" - that forced march with the direction and execution of which we have charged the Accused. He relates here that he was shocked by what he saw, how his attention was directed to these atrocities by Becher, how he tried to stop this thing, how he turned to Winkelmann, and how he realized that Winkelmann was unable to intervene, but referred him to the Accused and said that only the Accused would be able to change matters. He also described that he went to the Accused's office, the contemptuous attitude that he experienced on the part of the Accused's subordinates, and his reply.

This evidence is important, because it links up with other evidence, with the statement of Hoess, which we are still going to submit (Hoess is no longer alive, and no question about submitting his statement arises). That was the testimony of the commandant of Auschwitz, who also witnesses this "foot march," and he also gives his reaction to that episode. Kasztner's report also refers to that episode, and he mentions the same Juettner, so that Juettner's intervention was known already then. Wisliceny also says the same in his examination, in that statement which we have already submitted. So that here, once again, it has become possible to present the Court with a complete picture by means of these testimonies, which is more reliable and more weighty than is the evidence of witnesses who are able to come here and testify as to what occurred sixteen years ago. Accordingly, I apply to have this affidavit accepted in evidence.

Judge Raveh: Where is he now?

State Attorney Bach: Juettner, as far as I know, is in Germany. I do not know where.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, what observations do you have on these applications?

Dr. Servatius: I request to summon the witness Becher here for the following reasons: Firstly, he was a leading figure in the negotiations with Brand. Amongst the documents, there is one of a special character. That is an examination - I do not remember at the moment whether it is 774 or 827 - the strangest examination that I have come across so far. It is a conversation between Becher and Brand, in which they exchange mutual compliments about their achievements in rescuing Jews. Thereafter, each asks the other: Do you remember that this is how it was? No? Perhaps you could make a special effort? And so it goes on, over many pages.

Therefore, it becomes necessary to confront these witnesses with each other.

Forgive me - I have been made aware of a mistake. The document refers to Becher and Kasztner - and not to Becher and Brand. Hence, what I have said about confrontation is invalid. At all events, in my opinion this document should not be admitted, but the witness Becher must be heard here.

With regard to the other witnesses, with regard to the witnesses Grell and Juettner, their examination in Germany will be sufficient for me, and I have submitted the appropriate applications. It will not be worthwhile to bring them to this Court, and in the known circumstances we should not demand this of them.

State Attorney Bach: May I be permitted to add a certain clarification? These interrogations of Becher were conducted in the normal way by the American military authorities, as appears from the transcript itself, by Curt Ponger and other interrogators of the American army. The fact is that some of these interrogations took place in the presence of Dr. Rudolf Kasztner, upon the request of Becher who said that Dr. Kasztner might know a substantial number of facts that would be able to serve in his defence, since he was present during some of Becher's activities; and therefore he asked the interrogator that Dr. Kasztner be present, and Dr. Kasztner was actually present at some of these interrogations.

Since, at a later stage, we are also going to ask the Court to admit the report of the Head of the Rescue Committee, namely Dr. Kasztner, it seems to me that the questions which were put by Dr. Kasztner can only add to explaining the background and establishing the weight of Becher's evidence. At any rate, it was a perfectly regular interrogation and a confrontation in the normal manner.

Judge Halevi: What kind of interrogation was that? Was he being interrogated as a suspect or an accused?

State Attorney Bach: He was being questioned both as a suspect and as a witness. Here they question him both about his own activities and also about the activities of others. He covers the whole field and describes events that took place during that period in Budapest. He did not ask at that time to be confronted with the Accused - it was impossible at that stage to have such a confrontation. And, as I have said, it seems to me that this presence of Dr. Kasztner at the time certainly does not detract from the value...

Presiding Judge: Let us not discuss now the weight of the matter.

State Attorney Bach: It surely does not rule out the admissibility of the document as evidence.

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