The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Kurt Becher (Part 1 of 4)

23 May 1961

The Competent Court of Justice, Bremen

Re: Request for Legal Assistance

The main hearing in 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:

Kurt Becher, Bremen 1, Slevogt Strasse 56

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

(1)that the orders for the foot march (Fussmarsch) in November 1944 of part of the Jewish population of Budapest (more than 25,000 persons) were not given by the Accused;

(2) that in November 1944 the Reich Plenipotentiary in Hungary, Ambassador Veesenmayer, induced the Hungarian Government to move thirty to fifty thousand Jews to the Austrian border, to be used for labour, and that the foot march of this population which was to be used as labour was the result of an order by the Hungarian authorities;

(3) that the foot march referred to was guarded by Hungarian Honved soldiers;

(4) that, as Reich Plenipotentiary in Hungary, Ambassador Veesenmayer had unlimited powers for the implementation of all measures by German military, Party and civilian authorities;

(5) that in implementing measures, all units of the Security Police and the Security Service in Hungary were, for tactical purposes, under the orders of the Higher SS and Police Leader Winkelmann, to whom the Chief of the Security Police and the Security Service, Geschke, was also answerable;

(6) that the office of the Accused Eichmann in Budapest was not able to issue instructions or orders to either Ambassador Veesenmayer or to the Chief of the Security Police and the Security Service, Geschke, nor did it issue any such orders, and that these office-holders received their instructions and orders directly from the German Foreign Ministry or from the Reichsführer-SS;

(7) that the Accused Eichmann was the first person to propose through the official channels to his superior, Obergruppenführer Müller, that the deportation of Hungarian Jews be halted until negotiations were concluded on the supply of military equipment in return [for freeing Hungarian Jews];

(8) that, in order to implement the projected plan, the Accused made arrangements for sending a Jewish negotiator to Constantinople, and that he proposed Joel Brand for this role;

(9) that the Accused did not obstruct implementation of the operations referred to, but tried to facilitate things by proposing to his superior a lesser consideration than that demanded by Reichsführer-SS Himmler;

(10) that later the Accused did not do anything to thwart implementation of the plan;

(11) that also in other instances the Accused did not adopt any measures designed to obstruct transfer abroad of the Jews;

(12) that the Accused did not refuse to implement orders to halt deportations.

To complete the deposition 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) What rank did you hold in the SS at the beginning and at the end of the War?

(2) Were you in a fighting unit? If so, which one?

(3) Did you take part in actual fighting? If so, when, where and in what capacity?

(4) Were you wounded?

(5) Did you receive the Kriegsverdienstkreuz (Distinguished War Service Cross)?

(6) Is the Kriegsverdienstkreuz an important decoration?

(7) Is this decoration a more important one than that which you received?

(8) After the fall of Stalingrad and the retreat of the German army from the Dnieper in January 1944, were you of the opinion that Germany had lost the war?

(9) What special assignment in Hungary were you given by Reichsführer-SS Himmler?

(10) Were you convinced that the implementation of your assignment was of considerable importance?

(11) Did you carry out your assignment?

(12) Did you endeavour to have the management of the Weiss-Manfred Works in Hungary transferred to yourself?

Did you intend that the management of the concern should remain in your hands also after the War?

(13) Did you confiscate factories and other enterprises?

(14) Did your measures - particularly your efforts to be put in charge of the Weiss-Manfred Works - serve to carry out the assignment given to you?

How did this serve the war aim?

(15) Are you familiar with what is known as the Brand Operation, under which, subject to certain conditions, one million Jews were to be sent abroad?

Did the Accused Adolf Eichmann suggest this plan and submit it to his superior, Gruppenführer Müller, through official channels? Did the Accused travel several times to Berlin for this purpose?

(16) When and how did you become involved in this operation, and at whose initiative?

(17) When and under what circumstances did you meet Mr. Joel Brand? When did you first talk to him?

(18) Were the Accused's proposals for implementing the operations more favourable than those of Reichsführer- SS Himmler, with whom you talked?

(19) Did Eichmann subsequently prevent implementation of the Brand Operation? If so, by what means?

(20) Did Eichmann attempt to obstruct other measures concerning the departure of Jews? If so, by what means?

(21) After the War, did you act as interpreter during the interrogation of fellow detainees in internment or prison camps or prisons?

(22) Did you thus have the opportunity to hear the testimony of other prisoners?

(23) During the time you were imprisoned, did you speak about the persecution of the Jews and the responsibility for such persecution with your fellow detainees Veesenmayer, Winkelmann, Geschke, Juettner and others?

(24) Did you meet the above-mentioned persons also after the end of your imprisonment, or did you make any other contact with them, and did you talk to them about the subject of the Jews? When did this occur last?

(25) During your imprisonment, did you talk to Dr. Kasztner about Jewish matters? If so, when was this and who initiated such discussions? Did Dr. Kasztner make efforts towards this end?

(26) After you were released from prison, did Dr. Kasztner come to see you? If so, how often did you meet and for how long?

(27) What was the purpose of these visits?

(28) After you were released from prison, did Mr. Joel Brand come to see you, and did he talk with you about Jewish matters? If so, when, how often, and how long did his visits last? What was the purpose of the visits?

(29) When were you last in touch with Mr. Brand?

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

(1) Did you have general conversations with the Accused about the Solution of the Jewish Question in Hungary, and what was the Accused's attitude?

(2) Do the statements and evidence which you gave in 1944,* {* sic. Should probably be 1946} 1947 and 1948 in the witnesses' prison in Nuremberg, on oath and not on oath, conform to the truth?

(3) With whom did the proposal originate that Jews be exchanged for goods?

(4) How did you meet Dr. Rudolf Kasztner?

(5) When did you suggest to Himmler that a stop be put to the deportation of Jews?

(6) What was the result of your efforts to intervene with Himmler?

(7) How did Eichmann sabotage your activities?

(8) Who supported Eichmann in this affair?

(9) Did you inform Eichmann of Himmler's orders, and what was his reaction?

(10) What do you know of the "foot march" of the Jews of Budapest to the Austrian border?

(11) Who was responsible for the foot march?

(12) What impression did this foot march make on General Juettner?

(13) How did Eichmann react to your intervention in order to put an end to the foot march?

(14) Why did you complain to Himmler about Eichmann?

(15) Describe in detail the joint discussion between Himmler, Eichmann and yourself.

(16) How do you explain the fact that by awarding Eichmann a decoration Himmler tried to mollify him, although Eichmann had not followed his orders?

(17) What was the relationship between Himmler and Kaltenbrunner?

(18) Where did Eichmann live in Budapest?

(19) Were you acquainted with Slawik, Eichmann's caretaker, and can you say what sort of a person he was?

(20) Did you know the name of Eichmann's driver in Budapest?

(21) Did you know SS Obersturmbannführer Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl?

(22) Did you know of any connections between the Accused and Dr. Hoettl, and what type of connections were they?

(23) Did you serve in Hungary as plenipotentiary of the SS Leadership Head Office?

(24) Were you engaged in the purchase of war and other equipment for the SS?

(25) How were Jewish assets in Hungary taken into safekeeping for the SS and transferred to Germany?

(26) Did you yourself take part in carrying out such safekeeping operations?

(27) What German personnel were available to you for carrying out your special assignment for the SS Leadership Head Office?

(28) Which were the German authorities other than the SS to which Jewish goods and assets from Hungary were transferred?

(29) What do you know about monies paid by Jews to the SS in order to be allowed to leave Hungary?

I 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, Dr. R. Servatius, Hohenzollernring 14, Cologne, and to afford them, on their part, the opportunity to ask the witness 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

The Court of First Instance, Bremen, 20 June 1961, Department for Criminal Cases

File Number 19 AR 1851/61


Gerichtsassessor Elias (Assistant Judge) as Judge, Justizangestellte (Clerk of the Court) Schriefer as Clerk of the Court

In the criminal proceedings against Adolf Eichmann on a charge of murder, there appeared:

The witness whose name appears below, as well as Mr. Erwin S. Shimron representing the Attorney General of Jerusalem, and also Advocate Dieter Wechtenbruch representing the Defence.

The witness was instructed to tell the truth, and was informed that he would have to swear to his testimony in the absence of any exception laid down or permitted in the law. He was instructed as to the significance of the oath and the penalties for giving false or incomplete evidence. The witness was then examined as follows:

Personal Details: My name is Kurt Andreas Ernst Becher, I am 51 years old, a businessman by profession, and live in Bremen, Schwachhauser Heerstrasse 189. I am not related and not connected by marriage to the Accused.

On the matter in question:

In order to make my answers clearer, I should first of all like to sketch my personal history.

After concluding my business apprenticeship in 1928 in a Jewish firm of good repute dealing in the import of cereals and foodstuffs, Herm. Simonis of Hamburg, I worked for a year each in two firms in the same field as a commercial clerk, and then, from 1930 until the outbreak of the War, I worked first as a clerk and then as a managing clerk in the firm of Friedrich Heins of Hamburg, cereals and foodstuffs brokers. Through my employer at the time, Mr. Heins, I became interested in the sport of riding, and from 1932 to this day I have been an active horseman.

In 1934 the horsemen of Hamburg with their own horses joined forces to create an SS Reitersturm (mounted unit). After this SS Reitersturm was set up, my riding instructor persuaded me to join it. In 1937 the Reitersturm was received into the Party. At the outbreak of War, I had the rank of SS Unterscharführer in the Mounted SS (Reiter-SS).

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