The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Theodor Horst Grell (Part 1 of 2)

23 May 1961

The Competent Court of Justice, Berchtesgaden/Upper Bavaria,Germany
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:

Dr. Theodor Horst Grell, Berchtesgaden/Upper Bavaria, Hasensprung 31-32

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

(1) that the Special Operations Commando (Sondereinsatzkommando) headed by the Accused was exclusively responsible for the technical implementation of transports of Jews;

(2) that where difficulties arose, the Senior Commander of the Security Police and the Security Service in Hungary intervened;

(3) that the Reich Plenipotentiary for Hungary, Veesenmayer, also played a major role in instigating, planning and implementing the deportations.

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) Were you Adviser on Jewish Affairs at the German legation in Budapest?

(2) Is it true that your superior, the Reich Plenipotentiary for Hungary, conducted the negotiations with the Hungarian Government which were crucial for deportations?

(3) Is it true that he was also the person who insisted on deportations of Jews, which led finally to the so- called Fussmarsch (foot march)?

(4) Is it true that the Accused's Sonderkommando (special commando) only dealt with the technical implementation of transports?

(5) Is it true that when difficulties occurred in relation to the deportations, the Senior Commander of the Security Police took the necessary measures to deal with the problem?

(6) Who decided to disband the Eichmann Sonderkommando?

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

(1) Does your statement of 31.5.1948 (Document No. 216 in the criminal proceedings against Veesenmayer) represent the truth?

(2) Whose was the crucial influence in implementing the deportation of Jews from Hungary?

(3) Who conducted the negotiations with the Hungarian State Secretaries Endre and Baky on the deportation of Hungarian Jews and the other anti-Semitic measures in Hungary?

(4) What was Eichmann's attitude to the question of Jews with foreign nationality who were in Hungary?

(5) What do you know of Eichmann's trickery in order to deport Jews from the Kistarcsa camp in July 1944?

(6) From whom, at the time did, you hear details of this affair?

(7) Was your office involved in the negotiations with the Jewish organizations on exchanging some Jews in return for payment of money and providing goods?

(8) What did you hear from Eichmann himself as to his participation in the destruction of European Jewry and his attitude to what was called the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question?"

(9) What was Eichmann's attitude to the "protective measures" (Schutzmassnahmen) of the Hungarian Government and the Swiss and Swedish Embassies in respect of the Jews of Hungary?

(10) What do you know about Eichmann's attitude at the time to the activities of the Swedish consul, Raoul Wallenberg?

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

Record drawn up in a closed session of the Court of First Instance as Court of Legal Assistance - Berchtesgaden

Wednesday, 14 June 1961


Amtsgerichtsrat (Judge of First Instance) Senft as Judge

Justizassistent (Legal Assistant) Kain as Recording Clerk

In the criminal proceedings of the Attorney General of the State of Israel versus Adolf Eichmann (File No. 40/61), the following persons attended the hearing of witness Dr. Theodor Horst Grell:

1. for the Attorney General in the Jerusalem District Court, Advocate Erwin Shimron, who presented a certified photocopy of a power of attorney;

2. for the Accused, Advocate Wechtenbruch

3. the witness whose name appears below who, having been made aware of the significance of the oath and the penalties for perjury, and having been admonished to tell the truth pursuant to Section 57 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and instructed in accordance with Section 55 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, was examined as follows:

Personal Details: Grell, Horst Theodor, 52 years old, retired legation counsellor in Berchtesgaden, Hasensprung 31- 32, not related and not connected by marriage to the Accused.

On the matter in question: I am consciously not taking advantage of any right available to me, pursuant to Section 55 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, to refuse to give evidence; I am in principle prepared to give evidence on everything.

I am a trained lawyer, qualified for the senior echelons of the civil service. In 1936 I passed the Second State Examination in Berlin and first worked in the internal administration, as Regierungsassessor (State Assistant Judge). In April 1937, after a preliminary examination, I was called to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, where I was trained as an attache. In the next few years I worked at home and abroad in various offices of the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. In September 1939, I joined a Wehrmacht infantry division as a wartime volunteer, and was wounded in April 1940. As a seriously disabled soldier, I was again made available to the Foreign Ministry at the end of 1940, and from then on, until January 1945, I worked in various offices of the Foreign Ministry at home and abroad. In 1941 I was promoted to Legation Secretary and in 1943 to Legation Counsellor, second class. At the end of January or the beginning of February 1945, I returned to the German Wehrmacht of my own free will and was attached as a lieutenant and orderly officer to the staff of the Ninth Mountain Infantry Division. At the end of the War, I was sent to an American prisoner of war camp at Mauerkirchen, Austria, as a prisoner of war. In July 1945 I was released from captivity and went first to Marburg.

I joined the NSDAP (German National Socialist Workers Party) in May 1929, and the general SS (Schutzstaffel) in May 1933. My last rank in the SS was Obersturmführer.

From around the end of May or the beginning of June 1944 until the investment of Budapest in the late autumn of 1944, I worked as a legation counsellor and head of the legal section of the German legation in Budapest. This office was also the administrative seat of the Reich Plenipotentiary for Hungary.

Preliminary proceedings against me conducted by the Public Prosecutor's office of Frankfurt am Main on suspicion of having aided in murder have been in progress since 1950. I was detained in this case for the second time on 13 November 1959 and was conditionally released from further detention by decision of the Frankfurt District Court, Fifth Criminal Division (File No. 5/5 Qs 24/60) of 22 March 1960. I had already been arrested by the American Military Tribunal in Nuremberg in 1947 on the same charge. However, no criminal proceedings were instituted against me, and so, in August 1948, I was released from detention. The current preliminary proceedings have not yet been concluded, and also no criminal proceedings have as yet been instituted.

My answers to the questions in the Jerusalem District Court's request for legal assistance of 23 May 1961 are as follows:

Based on my knowledge of my own area of expertise, it was my opinion and impression that the Special Operations Unit led by the Accused was exclusively responsible for the technical implementation of transports of Jews. I also made this point in Prosecution document 640. Technical implementation of transports included organizing evacuation to Germany, providing transport trains from Germany, and giving notice of the transport trains due to arrive in the various camps in Germany. Technical implementation also included reporting to the Head Office for Reich Security. In accordance with the instructions of the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior, the concentration and rounding-up of the Jews in Hungary was carried out by the Hungarian gendarmerie. One of my duties was to exempt from transport to Germany Jews from neutral and enemy countries, and in order to carry out this task, I often visited the camps. The decision on singling out the Jews who, on my intervention, would not be transported to Germany was taken by either the Hungarian gendarmerie or the internal administrative authority. These Jews would be removed from the camps, transferred to the control of the relevant court of first instance, and provisionally kept in custody there. In the camps I visited, there were always one officer and two or three non-commissioned officers of the Eichmann Special Operations Unit. In my view, those men were present in the camps in an advisory capacity.

Legally speaking, these men had no powers to give orders, because otherwise they would have infringed domestic Hungarian sovereign rights, and I would have heard about this. The Special Operations Unit in Budapest had a merely advisory position also with the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior, more precisely with State Secretaries Endre and Baky. At the beginning of the deportations - which were earlier simply called evacuation - I do not believe that these powers were exceeded. When political difficulties arose subsequently, my impression was that the Special Operations Unit tried through the office in charge of it, and later directly as well, to exert pressure on the Hungarian authorities. I consider that this was done in accordance with instructions from the superiors of the commando. Later on, I had only a hazy idea of the powers of the Special Operations Unit and of the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior, and there were instances where the Hungarian Foreign Ministry complained to the German legation about incidents which had occurred because of the Special Operations Unit, in co-operation with, and with the approval of, the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior.

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