The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Eberhard Von Thadden (Part 1 of 2)

7 May 1961

The Competent Court of Justice, Duesseldorf

Re: Request for Legal Assistance

The main hearing of the criminal proceedings against the Accused Adolf Eichmann is at present taking place in this Court.

In the context of this main hearing, I request you to extend legal assistance to this Court by the examination on oath of the following witness:

Eberhard von Thadden, Duesseldorf, c/o Gollnow-Werke A.G.

The witness is to be examined on the following allegations of the Accused:

(1) that orders about anti-Semitic measures were given by the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler, and Chief of the Security Police and the SD Heydrich, in agreement with the supreme civilian and military authorities;

(2) that, as a Specialist Officer, the Accused did not have a special position or special authority in the Head Office for Reich Security, and that he became more prominent than other Specialist Officers only because of the significance of the measures adopted;

(3) that under the National Socialist government in Germany, as a Specialist Officer for Jewish matters in a department of the Head Office for Reich Security, the Accused had no independent powers to take decisions with regard to the basic measures adopted against the Jews.

To complete the testimony of the witness, I would request that the witness also be asked the following questions which were drawn up by Counsel for the Accused:

(1) From 1933 to 1945 did you work in the Reich Foreign Ministry?

(2) What were your functions, and during which periods of time?

(3) Under the organizational set-up existing from time to time, what were your duties?

(4) Did you have duties related to treatment of the Jews?

(5) Were you in touch officially with the Accused?

(6) As Specialist Officers in different central bodies, did you and the Accused hold equivalent ranks?

(7) Did you negotiate with the Accused or his deputy about anti-Jewish measures abroad?

(8) In such negotiations were you and your partners in the negotiations able to take decisions on your own initiative, or did you have to follow the orders of your respective superiors?

(9) Were basic arrangements for the treatment of foreign Jews co-ordinated by your office and the Head Office for Reich Security?

(10) Were the proposals for such basic arrangements made by the Accused himself or did they come from his superiors?

(11) Were requests from the Foreign Ministry for approval of exceptions to general rules conveyed to the Accused through you?

(12) Was the Accused able to decide on his own initiative on these requests?

(13) Did the Accused obtain a positive decision to such requests from his superiors?

(14) Did your office approach the Head Office for Reich Security through you with the request that measures be taken to eliminate stoppages which occurred in the persecution of Jews abroad?

(15) Were those Specialist Officers of the Foreign Ministry and the Head Office for Reich Security, through which written correspondence between these authorities passed, personally responsible for the contents of such correspondence, or were they bound by the instructions of their superiors?

(16) With whom originated the initiative for the deportation of the Hungarian Jews?

(17) Who conducted the negotiations about these deportations with the Hungarian Government?

(18) With whom did the Reich Plenipotentiary for Hungary, Veesenmayer, agree on the details for the evacuation?

(19) On whose orders did the Reich Plenipotentiary in Hungary, Veesenmayer, act? To whom was he answerable?

I would also request that the witness be asked the following additional questions which were drawn up by the Attorney General:

(1) Was your statement, made on 11.6.1946 in Nuremberg as defence witness to the Commission of the International Military Tribunal, true to the facts?

(2) Was the affidavit you swore to on 11.12.1947 before Advocate Dr. Otfried Schwarz, in defence of Otto Hofmann, accused in the criminal proceedings against Greifelt and others, true to the facts?

(3) Was the affidavit you swore to on 16.4.1948 before Advocate von der Trenck, in defence of Gustav Steengracht von Moyland, accused in the criminal proceedings against Weizsaecker and others, true to the facts?

I would request you to summon to the examination of the witness the representative of the Attorney General of the State of Israel, c/o H.E. Ambassador Dr. F.E. Shinnar, Israel Mission, Cologne, as well as Counsel for the Accused, Advocate Dr. R. Servatius, Hohenzollernring 14, Cologne, and to afford them, on their part, the opportunity to ask the witness any questions which might arise from his answers.

There is no objection on the part of this Court to the aforementioned representatives of the parties obtaining copies of the record of the examination.

Please forward the original of the record of the examination to this Court,

(-) Moshe Landau, President of the Trial Court
Neuss, 18 May 1961

Closed Session of the Court of First Instance

- 12 AR 1559/61 -


Amtsgerichtsrat (Judge of First Instance) Kowarzik as Judge

Justizangestellter (Court Official) Otto, as Authenticating Official at the Court Office

In the matter of an Israeli request for legal assistance in the criminal proceedings against Adolf Eichmann

When called up, the following appeared:

the witness whose name appears below: Dr. jur. Eberhard von Thadden,

as representative of the Attorney General of the State of Israel, Mr. Erwin S. Shimron of Jerusalem

as representative of Counsel for the Defence of the Accused, Advocate Dr. Servatius, Advocate Wechtenbruch of Munich.

The witness' attention was called to his obligation to tell the truth. He was duly admonished as to the penalties for giving false sworn evidence, false unsworn evidence, or incomplete evidence. The witness was made aware that he may refuse to give information relating to questions which, if answered, would render him, or any relative of his, liable to criminal prosecution.

The witness was informed of the subject matter of the criminal proceedings.

The witness then stated as follows:

Personal details:

I am Dr. jur. Eberhard von Thadden. I was born in Berlin on 17 November 1909; I live in Buederich, Kreis (District) Grevenbroich, von der Leyenstrasse 4. I am married, have two children, and am a businessman by profession. I am not related and not connected by marriage to the Accused in these proceedings.

On the matter in question:

Having been informed that according to the request for legal assistance I am to be examined with regard to certain questions which have been drawn up by the Court in Israel, the Defence and the Attorney General, and that, in addition, I shall have to reply to questions which, as part of the same request for legal assistance, are to be put to me by the representatives of the Attorney General and the Defence present here, I wish to state that in principle I am prepared to give evidence here. Before my evidence is used, however, I would ask all the authorities concerned with this request for legal assistance to verify whether, under the Grundgesetz (the Basic Law of the Federal German Republic) and the relevant German laws, it is at all admissible to examine me as witness in the criminal proceedings against Eichmann, both with regard to the request for legal assistance as such, and also with regard to my previous status as an official in the civil service.

At this point the witness was informed that the examining judge was not competent to rule on the admissibility of the request for legal assistance in question, but that, according to the documents available, such examination was carried out by the Federal Justice Minister, the Justice Minister of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Chief Senior Prosecutor in Duesseldorf, who are the sole authorities competent to rule on admissibility, in accordance with the guidelines on relations with foreign countries in criminal matters, and that, pursuant to Section 41 of the aforementioned guidelines, the prosecuting authorities can apply for a decision on admissibility by a court.

With regard to his previous status as an official, the examining judge informed the witness that in his view the approval of the request for legal assistance issued by the Federal Justice Minister must also be considered to be equivalent to the requisite permission to give evidence, as stipulated in civil service regulations, if any such permission to give evidence is at all required for him as a former official of the German Reich.

The examination of the witness was then continued.

In 1932 I passed my first state examination in law, and after preparatory service I passed the second state examination before the Reich Examining Board in 1937 in Berlin. On applying to the Foreign Ministry of the former German Reich Government, I was appointed as attache in the autumn of 1937. I was first employed in the Political Department, V. This section dealt with political affairs relative to Poland and Russia. While I was working in this section, I passed the Main Diplomatic-Consular Examination. Subsequent to this examination I should have been promoted to Legation Secretary. However, there was some delay in obtaining the promotion. In 1940 - as far as I remember - I was appointed Legation Secretary in the Foreign Ministry. Shortly after my appointment, I was transferred to the Personnel Department of the Foreign Ministry.

I stayed with the Personnel Department until January or February 1942. In January or February 1942 I entered the army and went to the eastern front as an armoured infantry rifleman. Shortly before that, I was assigned to a position authorized in the budget as a Legation Counsellor (Legationsrat). In April 1942, I was wounded, and after my recovery, I was granted leave from military service, in order to resume my duties in the Foreign Ministry. After that I worked with the Special Plenipotentiary for Economic Affairs in Greece, Envoy Neubacher. In the spring of 1943 - I think it was in April - I was ordered back to Berlin by telegraph and assigned to Department II Inland. The Chief of this Department was Legation Counsellor - subsequently Senior Legation Counsellor - Horst Wagner. The Department was subordinate to State Secretary Steengracht who in turn was directly subordinate to the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs. In 1943 or 1944, I became Legation Counselor, First Class. I was a member of Department II Inland until the collapse.

In Political Department V, I dealt mainly with the question of Danzig, as well as with German minorities in Poland. While I was working in Department V, I did not meet the Specialist Officer Veesenmayer; he was not working in this department at that time. As far as I remember, I did not hear of Veesenmayer until 1943.

In the Personnel Department, I dealt with a group of senior officials in the Foreign Ministry. At this time there were not yet Specialist Officers on Jewish Affairs or Advisers on Aryanization with the German diplomatic agencies, but there were Police Attaches positions created at that time. The Police Attaches were proposed and also appointed on the basis of proposals from the Head Office for Reich Security or the Ministry of the Interior - I cannot say today which of these two bodies was responsible for such appointments - after the approval of the host country had been obtained by the Foreign Ministry. The Police Attaches were subordinate to their organization at home. In accordance with service regulations, the Legation Head was the administrative superior of the Police Attache, but in matters of discipline his home organization was in charge of him. When it came to actual work, in practice the Police Attache received instructions from his home organization. In theory, as far as I am aware, the Mission Head was entitled to cause the recall of a Police Attache who did not prove amenable, or to ask for his recall.

When working with the Special Plenipotentiary for Economic Affairs in Greece, with headquarters in Athens, I dealt largely with ensuring supplies for the Greek population and for army units, although in the latter case only insofar as supplies came from Greece itself. I also had to negotiate with the International Red Cross about matters of supplies for the civilian population. For a while I also had to deal with aspects of financing fortifications on Crete. I had comparatively little to do with supplies for Saloniki. Once I took part, together with Neubacher, in a consultation at Major-General (Generaloberst) Loehr's office. I am not aware of having met Dr. Merten on official business.

I once saw Wisliceny in Athens in a bar, but I had no personal or official contacts at all with him. On this occasion, I got to know from the person who pointed Wisliceny out to me that he was dealing with Jewish matters in Saloniki. While I was working with the Special Plenipotentiary for Economic Affairs, I never heard of Eichmann visiting Greece.

In Department II Inland, I was mainly involved with maintaining contact with the various German offices of the SS, i.e., those offices which were subject to the Reichsfuehrer-SS and Chief of the German Police. My connections in the course of this activity of mine were with the central offices only, while my Department Chief reserved for himself any dealings with members of those offices who had the rank of an SS Gruppenfuehrer or Obergruppenfuehrer. In terms of rank, my Department Chief rated lower than the SS Leaders I have just referred to. As part of my job, I also had to deal with assignments which were really part of the duties of other specialist officers of the Foreign Ministry, but were concentrated in Inland II, because the offices under the Reichfuehrer-SS and Chief of the German Police were engaged in handling these assignments. As part of my duties, as described, I also had to make contact with German missions abroad and with foreign missions in Germany, in order to execute specific tasks.

I had my first contact with Jewish matters only after I was transferred to Department II Inland. Until then, including the period I spent in Greece, I had nothing to do with either Jewish questions or Special Operations Units. I heard for the first time about the existence of Special Operations Units as a systematic organization in the post- war trial in Nuremberg. While I was working in Department II Inland, I also never found out that there were Special Operations Units for destroying Jews, nor do I remember hearing at that time that there were Special Operations Units for shooting political commissars.

While I was working in Department II Inland, vast numbers of reports on Jewish questions crossed my desk, drawn up by the offices of the Reichfuehrer-SS and Chief of the German Police, as well as by German missions abroad and by the foreign representations in Germany. These included matters which I had to deal with in practical terms, e.g., if a report on Jewish questions had to be drawn up for the Foreign Ministry, or an instruction had to be drawn up for a mission abroad. As part of my activities in Department II Inland, I dealt with such matters as the foreign policy aspects of the deportation of Jews from occupied territories or friendly states, or, for example, the proposal that Jews be exchanged for internees, to the extent that the Foreign Ministry was concerned with that.

In the course of my duties I became aware of the extent of the deportations of Jews in the various occupied and allied countries. I only had access to the records existing in the Department relative to Jewish questions which originated before I joined the Department, when I had to use such records in order to deal with tasks with which I was charged. Rademacher, my predecessor, did not personally hand over the field of work to me, because when I joined Department II Inland, Rademacher was already in the army.

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