The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl (Part 2 of 8)

Hs 65/61

The Court of First Instance, Bad Aussee

To the President of the District Court, Jerusalem

Re: Your request for legal assistance

I hereby return your request for legal assistance in the criminal proceedings of the Attorney General of the State of Israel against Adolf Eichmann, File No. 40/61, addressed to the District Court, Bad Aussee, dated 26 May 1961, together with the Decision of your Court in the same criminal proceedings, dated 28 April 1961 (No. 11), attached to the request for legal assistance, and I enclose the original record, with copies, taken of the examination of witness Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl, in compliance with your request, in Sessions held on 19, 20 and 21 June 1961.

I should like to add the following comments:

I have been able to comply with your request, as shown in this record, insofar as I examined the witness myself on the basis of the questionnaire contained in your request. I also questioned him as far as I was able about all circumstances which seemed to me of significance in this connection, and where I believed that clarifying them would be likely to serve the cause of uncovering the truth. And here I was perhaps aided by the fact that I am to a large extent familiar with the circumstances in question, both as observer and as someone affected by them.

Although I therefore feel that I considered and asked everything that I could, and may possibly in certain respects have shed further light on the background to this genocide generally, and Eichmann's role in particular, I am nevertheless aware of the fact that I am insufficiently familiar with the material of the proceedings. I therefore regret that adverse circumstances prevented me from asking even more exhaustive questions and from being more active in checking the answers, as I would have been able to do had I succeeded in complying with that part of your request for legal assistance in which you asked for the representatives of the parties to be present.

I was unfortunately unable to arrange effectively for the representative of the Attorney General of the State of Israel and Counsel for the Defence to be present. The reasons for this are stated in the record, where the witness is advised and instructed as to why he must remain available in the future.

Record of the Court of First Instance, Bad Aussee, Austria, held on 19 June 1961 (5721), in the presence of the following court personnel:

His Honour, Dr. Egon Kittl, Oberlandesgerichtsrat (Senior Judge of First Instance), as Judge,

Recording Clerk: Edeltraud Fritz, contractual employee

Substitute: Gabriele Koeberl, Rechtspraktikantin (legal clerk)

The witness, Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl, of Alt Aussee, appeared.

At first, the public was not excluded, when the following general statement was made:

It is ascertained that a request from the President of the Jerusalem District Court in the criminal proceedings of the Attorney General of the State of Israel against Adolf Eichmann, File No. 40/61, dated 26 May 1961 was sent through diplomatic channels and received on 9 June 1961, to which request there is attached a copy of the Decision No. 11 given on 28 April 1961 by the same Jerusalem District Court in the same criminal proceedings in the 20th session. The request for legal assistance is signed by the Presiding Judge, Moshe Landau, himself, and bears an authentication from court official Y. Eisenberg; the seals are not suspect, and therefore there are no doubts as to the genuine and authentic nature of this request for legal assistance. The aforementioned Decision of the Jerusalem District Court of 28 April 1961 also includes a confirmation of accuracy by Sworn Interpreter Pinchas Dayan, dated 31 May 1961. This copy of the Decision does not bear a seal.

Whereupon the request for legal assistance of 26 May 1961 and the aforementioned Decision of 28 April 1961 were read out in court.

In this respect, the following must be added:

On the same day that these documents arrived, the judge to whom the request was addressed caused the witness Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl to be summoned to the hearing. He also caused the addressees named in the request for legal assistance of the Jerusalem District Court to be notified - through the Federal Austrian Ministry for Justice in Vienna, which notified the Israeli Embassy in Vienna accordingly, in order to ensure that the information would be forwarded - of the date of the hearing, which was timed to begin at 10.30 a.m. on 19 June 1961, together with the information that, under the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure, the examination of witnesses apart from the main hearing may not take place in the presence of the parties, including those of the prosecutor, but only in the presence of the court personnel. According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, the court personnel includes not only the judge and the recording clerk, but also so-called witnesses for the courts, and in addition, inspectors, doctors and interpreters may be admitted.

The persons duly informed, i.e., Ambassador Dr. F. Shinnar and the office of Dr. Robert Servatius, attorney-at-law, both of Cologne, have, however, not made an appearance to date, as far as can be ascertained. (A further oral announcement of the criminal proceedings against Adolf Eichmann has again not resulted in the appearance of any of the representatives of the parties referred to.) Subject to any subsequent appearance of one of the aforementioned, it is therefore noted that thus it is unnecessary to examine or discuss the question of whether, in accordance with principles of international criminal procedure, there might be some possibility of complying with the request of the Jerusalem District Court that the witness Dr. Hoettl be examined in the presence of the representatives of the parties in such a way as to allow these representatives to ask him questions, and in particular to present supplementary questions to questions already answered, and whether they would be allowed to do so directly or through the examining judge (to whom the letter of request was addressed), and whether they could be granted the opportunity of studying the files, and whether the record or copies of the record could be handed to them.

Whereupon an announcement was made of the Decision to exclude the public for the purpose of carrying out the examination of the witness itself.

The witness was then instructed that he was obliged to tell the truth, the truth completely and purely about everything on which he would be questioned by the court; and also that it was intended to comply with the request from the Jerusalem District Court to put the witness on oath - that is to say, according to the Austrian practice, on conclusion of his testimony - and also that the oath would not be administered if during the examination of the witness any suspicion were to arise that he (the witness) had himself participated in the criminal activity (of Adolf Eichmann) - in which case the record would have to be submitted to the Leoben State Prosecutor's office.

The witness was also instructed on the right of refusal to testify, to the effect that under circumstances to be determined by the court, he be released from his obligation to testify.

In his evidence the witness stated:

My name is Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl, I am forty-six years old, Roman Catholic, married, administrator of the Bad Aussee Private Secondary School (Privatmittelschule).

I was born on 19 March 1915 in Vienna, Esterhazygasse 1, Vienna 6, the son of Johann and Maria Hoettl, nee Renner. My father was an employee in the private sector, and my mother was a housewife. In Vienna I attended four classes at primary school, eight at secondary school (Reinprechtsdorferstrasse 24, Vienna 6, Natural Sciences Trend) and obtained my Certificate of Maturity in the summer of 1933. I then studied History, German and Geography at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Vienna, graduating in the autumn of 1937 with a doctorate in philosophy. I then taught German, mathematics and correspondence at the Vienna Technical School until, in the spring of 1938, I received a grant from the German Research Association which was to permit me enough time to qualify as a lecturer at the University of Vienna. My academic pursuits were interrupted in the spring of 1938 when the Historical Institute at the University of Vienna was looking for experts on South-Eastern Europe. In reference to my activities at that time on behalf of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party), I would refer to the content of the de-Nazification proceedings opened for me by the Salzburg authorities. In any case, I can state definitely that until spring 1938 there was no connection with Adolf Eichmann, and at that time I also knew nothing of him.

In the course of my subsequent activities in the Foreign Secret Service, I met Adolf Eichmann, as far as I remember, in March or at the beginning of April 1938. In order to obtain an exit permit to Hungary for a Jewish colleague of mine, Dr. Kauders, a lawyer who, I believe, had his office in Mistelbach, I was directed by the Vienna Secret Police (Geheime Staatspolizei: hereinafter - Gestapo) to Eichmann, who was said to be able to issue such exit permits expeditiously. Subsequently, I had frequent dealings with Eichmann in similar cases, and on each occasion he granted my requests.

My academic pursuits, which had been made possible by a grant from the German Research Association, were also designed to carry out purely historical research on South-Eastern Europe, and in this context I made several trips to Hungary and Romania, in the first half of 1938, particularly to the areas of German Folkdom (Volkstum) there (Banat, Transylvania). In the course of this work, I received a great deal of support from Professor Dr. Heinrich von Srbik, who held the Chair in Modern History at the University of Vienna. However, this academic activity became of minor, merely supplementary, importance, as compared with my new task: research of the states of South- Eastern Europe for the Secret Service. The grant I have referred to had nothing to do with political matters. The German Research Association was not a political institution.

What actually happened was that, because of my prior knowledge of the area, I was approached by the Bureau of the District Office of the Security Service in Vienna 4, Theresianumstrasse, with an offer to work with them. I then became an employee on contract and gave up my university career, or rather as of then worked mainly for this office as my chief occupation.

Eichmann also worked in the Fourth District, in a similar office, situated in Prinz Eugen Strasse. It was in this building that Eichmann at that time set up the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, with which I intervened on various occasions over the following year, including contacts with Eichmann himself. I was basically interested in enabling Jews with Austrian nationality, with whom I had become acquainted both officially and privately, to leave the country expeditiously.

On one of these occasions - I should think it was in the autumn of 1938 - Eichmann outlined to me his plan which he had implemented by setting up the Central Office. He explained to me that, because of the red tape of the various authorities, and particularly their lack of co-ordination, Jews who were prepared to emigrate found it extremely difficult to leave the country. For example, when the Revenue Office had issued the requisite certificate of lack of impediment, the exit visa from the passport police would, in the meanwhile, have expired, or it was no longer possible to obtain passage by sea. It was because of such experiences that he (Eichmann) had for the first time set up in Vienna such a Central Office for Jewish Emigration, at which all authorities and offices which had anything at all to do with emigration, but also travel agencies, shipping companies and so on, had to have a representative. He claimed that in this fashion he had managed to do away entirely with all red tape in connection with the emigration of the Austrian Jews and to speed up such emigration immensely. This field of Eichmann's activity extended certainly beyond Vienna, probably covering the whole of Austria, particularly since, as far as I am aware, there were no such Central Offices in other regional capitals.

Eichmann presented himself to me as an Austrian - from Linz; but he spoke with a marked north German accent, in a very cheeky style. At the time, as far as I remember, Eichmann was an SS Untersturmführer or Obersturmführer (second lieutenant or lieutenant), and wore the appropriate uniform with the relevant insignia. The office, which was housed in a large mansion, probably had a staff of some thirty or forty, including numerous female clerks and some civilians who, in my opinion, were representatives of travel agencies, shipping companies and so on. The only name I remember of the staff or others who worked there is that of Guenther, with whom I intervened later at a similar office for Jewish emigrants in Prague, and also in Berlin. However, judging from his manner of speech, he was not from Vienna, but rather from Saxony or Thuringia.

At this Central Office for Jewish Emigrants in Vienna, I met the owner of a Hamburg travel agency by the name of Schlie. During my talks with Eichmann, I gained the impression that he considered it to be his main task to de-Judaize Austria, but obviously without any idea of using actual force. At that time in Vienna nobody, and particularly also not Eichmann, had thought of any physical extermination of Jews, or even considered such a thing. At that time, as far as I remember, there was as yet no mention of deportations either.

As far as Eichmann as a person is concerned, I can state the following in answer to questions from the Court:

I can only base myself on what he told me, according to which he was from Linz (but apparently, as I gathered later, he himself did admit that he was from Solingen in Germany). In any case, never having completed his education properly, he worked in the private sector (his brother was a lawyer in Linz), I think as a representative of an oil firm. Somehow, he must have been active in politics in Austria in 1932 or 1933, because he told me that in 1933 he fled Austria, going to Germany to the Legion (the Austrian Legion), and was then transferred by it to Berlin, where he was attached to the Head Office of the Security Service. In order to obtain promotion by way of specialization, he studied Jewish subjects, and when German service units went to Austria, following the entry of German troops on the Anschluss in 1938, he accompanied them to Vienna and set up the office already referred to in Prinz Eugen Strasse.

He also told me that he had made an official trip to Palestine in 1937, and that he could speak some Yiddish and Hebrew.

In reply to the Court's questions:

Whether Eichmann is of Jewish descent, I do not actually know. I can confirm that already in his earlier years that was the impression he gave, and because of that he was teased by his colleagues, which always made him angry; but I never discussed this matter with him.

The circumstances I have described, which applied to Eichmann as much as to me, prevailed until November 1938, at which point, as is common knowledge, considerably severer measures were taken because of the attack on the German Embassy Counsellor in Paris. Up till then, my relationship had basically been a personal one only, not one between offices; it is true that his department and mine were subordinate to the same authority, i.e., the Head Office of the Security Service in Berlin, and also in some measure to the District Office of the Security Service in Vienna. But the development of these authorities was still in a state of flux. Therefore, during this first period in particular, there can be no question of collaboration between Eichmann and myself. The information I was providing had nothing at all to do with Jewish questions.

In answer to the questions, I should like to add that in that first period of activities I heard nothing at all about Eichmann using coercive methods or causing such methods to be used, in order to compel Jewish emigration. If you had to go on business to that office building, you saw queues of Jews all eager to emigrate.

I myself remember having such dealings with Eichmann in Vienna until the end of 1938, or the beginning of 1939 at the latest. I would assume that he remained in Vienna when the rest of Bohemia was occupied, i.e., March 1939, whereupon he was transferred to Prague, where he set up the same type of Central Office for Jewish Emigration. I am not sure who was his successor in Vienna, and whether this was Guenther, whom I referred to above.

As far as I myself was concerned, at the beginning of 1939 my activities increasingly tended towards Berlin, where at that time the Foreign Secret Service was being reorganized on a large scale. That was also when the Head Office for Reich Security (RSHA) was set up, including the previous Head Office of the Security Service, the Secret State Police Office and the Criminal Police Office. This was probably when Eichmann joined Department IV (Gestapo) as a Specialist Officer, so that this Central Office for Jewish Emigration - in the meanwhile, apart from the Prague office, one had also been set up in Berlin - was subordinate to the Head Office for Reich Security, and, as I assume, more particularly to Department IV (Gestapo). The chief of Department IV was SS General Heinrich Müller; the head of Department VI (Foreign Secret Service) was SS General Jost. Because of the different duties of the two Departments, there was obviously no direct official collaboration between their personnel.

Whereupon at 12.45 the session was adjourned, and the time for the new session was set at 2.30 p.m.

The witness Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl continued his testimony on examination.

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