The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl (Part 3 of 8)

After my general comments on Eichmann's activities in Vienna, I shall now add, in reply to the specific questions asked by the representative of the Accused Eichmann in the criminal proceedings, i.e., Nos. 1 to 45, the following:

(1): In accordance with my rank, I was taken on as SS Untersturmführer on a full-time basis, and then, at the end of 1939, I was promoted to SS Obersturmführer, in 1940 or 1941 to SS Hauptsturmführer, and in November 1943 to SS Sturmbannführer. At the end of the war in 1945, I was also demobilized with the rank of Sturmbannführer in the Waffen- SS (the Armed SS). The reason was that, while I was given the first ranks within the SS (Security Service), I received the last rank as part of the Waffen-SS, because in the meanwhile - and I shall return to this later - legal proceedings had been taken against me in the SS and Police Court, as a result of which I was transferred to the Waffen- SS. The rank of a Sturmbannführer in the SS, including the Waffen-SS, corresponds to that of a major in the army.

(2): As to whether I worked in an official capacity in the Head Office for Reich Security, my answer is as follows:

While my initial activities, described this morning, did not belong directly to this area (the Security Service District Office was merely subordinate to the Head Office for Reich Security), as of the autumn of 1939 I was transferred to the Head Office for Reich Security in Berlin, to Department VI (Foreign Secret Service); this office was located at Berlin W., Berkaerstrasse. I worked there until October 1941. In October 1941 my activities were interrupted, or rather terminated, as a result of the legal proceedings mentioned before. I shall return to this later.

(3): My first position in Department VI of the Head Office for Reich Security was that of a "Delegate South" (Beauftragter Sued). In practical terms this meant secret service activities in South and South-Eastern Europe. My last position, from 1 February 1943 until the end of the War, was that of a Specialist Officer (Referent) and deputy group leader (department head) in Department VI, with almost the same duties.

In answer to the questions:

Because of the distance from Vienna (or Prague, where, as has been mentioned, Eichmann was transferred in March 1939), I was no longer in touch with him as I had been in Vienna, and also our respective official duties did not give occasion for any further contacts.

In terms of rank, my position in Berlin was equivalent to that of an Oberregierungsrat (senior government counsellor), and my pay was in accordance with the position; thus, it was a position provided for in the office work plan. Such posts required, in principle, an academic degree; in the case of special services to the Party, however, this requirement could be waived. Neither in Vienna nor in Berlin did I receive an official dwelling, but made my own private arrangements.

As to( 4): I assume that the question about the Abteilungsleiter (department head) relates to the Amtschef (bureau chief), because, as far as I know - at least in Department VI - department head was a purely honorary title for Specialist Officers (Referenten) who had a particularly large scope of duties. My Department Chief was SS Brigadeführer and Major-General in the Waffen-SS, Walter Schellenberg.

(5): On this question, when did I become acquainted with the Accused, I have already given a detailed statement.

(6): As far as I know, Eichmann was a Specialist Officer in Department IV of the Head Office for Reich Security, but in the meanwhile there was a change in the names given to the departments. I must here state that Eichmann was also transferred to the Head Office for Reich Security, but independent of my transfer to Berlin, and not to Department VI like myself, but to Department IV, Gestapo. A department such as Eichmann had there, for Jewish Affairs, was more or less an office or section of its own. His superior chief, as has already been mentioned briefly today, was SS General Heinrich Müller, but it is possible that there was another group leader between them. Several Sections would be subordinate to a single Group Leader, and there must have been four or five Groups altogether. Jewish Affairs was dealt with exclusively by Eichmann's Section, for the whole of Germany.

(7): As I have said, there were several groups, and several sections in each group; each individual section dealt with a particular category of people: one, for example, would deal with Communists and another with political suspects, and so on. I am not aware of Eichmann having special powers for the running of his Section, or whether these differed from the powers or authority of other Specialist Officers in their work. I consider it highly improbable that Eichmann would have received any written power - some official appointment or whatever - authorizing him as a Specialist Officer to exterminate the Jews, just as other Specialist Officers were most definitely not authorized to liquidate or exterminate the groups they were called upon to monitor. If any orders to such an effect were given, then, at the very most, they would have been given orally and in complete secrecy. But I do not know anything about such secret assignments.

(8): I have already answered this question in my general description of Eichmann's activities in Vienna.

However, I know nothing about the time after the period I have referred to, i.e., from March onwards, and so cannot provide anything concrete from March to July 1939. I can only understand the question about dates by assuming that the person asking the question was perhaps not aware of the fact that the actual date of the transfer to Prague and the date of the order for the transfer were at variance. Whatever the explanation behind the question, I am unable to provide any more information in this context.

(9): In Vienna, Eichmann was a Specialist Officer with the Inspector (Inspekteur) of the Security Police and the Security Service. In the first phase (from March 1938 on), this office was actually called the SD Oberschnitt (Security Service District Office).

(10): This morning I gave an affirmative answer to the question as to whether he was in charge of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, with full details.

(11): I answered this question also this morning, i.e., about the duties of this Central Office.

(12): It is not simple to answer this question; the main point is that I do not know how long the Central Office in Vienna set up by Eichmann continued to operate, and I would tend to assume that, in the nature of things, it was closed down at the beginning of the War, i.e., in September 1939, because when the War broke out, any legal emigration had to stop. As I have said, however, I am not sure about this. I only know that also after Eichmann left for Prague, the Central Office in Vienna carried on its work. I would assume that also after he was moved to Prague he continued to be in overall charge of the Vienna Central Office, and occasionally may have come to Vienna, where a deputy of his ran the office. I would also assume that a similar relationship existed between him and the Berlin Central Office for Jewish Emigration, which I referred to this morning, and which was set up later than in Vienna.

If you take this assumption or restriction up to September 1939 (the beginning of the War), I can only say that, according to my own personal observations, there was a rapid emigration of those Jews who were interested in emigration. I do not know what this would be in terms of numbers; I can only refer to the relevant publications which have been published since the end of the War.

(13): The developments in Germany actually followed the relevant developments in Austria, because as far as I know, despite the Machtergreifung (Hitler's coming to power) in 1933, there was no such furtherance as yet of emigration in 1933, but that took place in Berlin only, so to speak, after the Viennese example. Moreover, since I had almost no private connections in Berlin, unlike in Vienna, where I had friends from former times, I know nothing from my own observations about the activities and results of the Berlin Central Office.

(14): That also replies to this question.

(15): This question was dealt with in detail and fully this morning.

(16): On this point as well I have already indicated everything I know about the period in Vienna. Insofar as this question may relate to any later conversations, I shall come back to it later.

(17) to (20): The only thing I can say about these four questions relative to a territorial solution of the Jewish Question, is to answer in the negative - that I have never heard of any "Judenstaat Nisko" - but in the affirmative that Eichmann did once ask me in Vienna, at the end of 1938 or the beginning of 1939, whether, as a historian, I could tell him on what occasion Napoleon proposed the plan of shipping the Jews off to Madagascar. I replied to him, according to the truth, that I was not aware of any such historical fact.

Did he develop any activities in this respect? I know only that he said he needed the reply for some lecture or presentation he was to make. I have no first-hand information about anything else which Eichmann did in order to implement a Madagascar Plan.

(21): This question has already been answered.

(22): Subject to more detailed statements about Eichmann's activities in Hungary, when the relevant subsequent questions will be asked, I can here state that I know nothing about Eichmann's having participated at all in the seizure of Jewish property in Hungary.

(23): I can reply in the affirmative to the first part of the question insofar as Eichmann, as I have said, was the head of the Central Office which co-ordinated a number of authorities and offices, including the Finance Offices, in relation to Jewish emigration. So if, as I gathered from hearsay, Jews who needed to emigrate had to obtain a certificate from the competent Finance Office, attesting to their having paid a special levy, this aspect of financial administration would definitely have been under the control of the Central Office run by Eichmann.

However, I am not aware that beyond this, on a personal level, Eichmann had anything to do with imposing these levies on Jews, or even being the initiator of this levy on Jews; as far as I know they were decreed by Goering after the murder, I have already mentioned, of the legation counsellor in Paris. As I have said, I only know of this levy on assets from hearsay; and also from hearsay I know that the assets handed over were to be used to finance the emigration of propertyless Jews. In fact, I am not entirely sure whether the levy on assets decreed by Goering - i.e., the generally known penalty applied to German Jews for the murder of that legation counsellor by Grynszpan - was the same as that special levy which I heard about, which, as I have said, was supposed to be used to finance the emigration of propertyless Jews. As to whether the levies, paid in money or valuables or whatever, went to Eichmann's office as the central body, or whether they were passed on, I do not know.

(24 ff): Since what follows concerns matters related to conditions in Hungary, I shall, at the request of the Court, make a short general presentation - as I did this morning with regard to the situation in Austria - of the main circumstances in Hungary which are of importance to the questions that follow.

First of all, I would like to state that from October 1941, that is when I was removed from my post, until the invasion of Hungary by German troops in March 1944, I had practically no contact at all with Eichmann. During that period I became involved in proceedings before the SS and Police Court in Berlin, where the three points of the charge against me were as follows: (a) ideological unreliability; (b) religious commitment; (c) association and friendships with Jews.

In the course of these proceedings, I joined the Waffen-SS as a simple soldier, and it was not until after Heydrich's death - who had in the main been the cause of these legal proceedings against me - that my chief, Schellenberg, took me back into his bureau, but until the end of the War I remained a member of the Waffen-SS. The proceedings were stayed in January 1943 with a warning. At the Nuremberg Trial, Lieutenant-Colonel Brookhart showed me the original documents of my trial.

I trust that the preceding comments make it sufficiently clear that I had nothing at all to do with Eichmann's activities during this phase.

At the end of February 1944, the German Secret Service in Hungary found out that the then Hungarian Government under Kallay was trying to arrange discussions with authorities of the Western allies designed to get Hungary out of the War through a separate peace. The Operations Division of the German General Staff drew up a plan providing for such a case, a plan for the military occupation of Hungary by German troops, which bore the code name "Margarethe I". (At the same time, a plan called "Margarethe II" was drawn up to deal with a similar suspected defection of Romania.)

Around the middle of March 1944, when I was in Vienna, my chief, Schellenberg, summoned me to Salzburg, where he disclosed to me the plan for "Operation Margarethe I." Like me, Schellenberg considered that it was absurd in military, political and economic terms to occupy Hungary - in other words, to treat this country as an enemy power - and agreed, therefore, that efforts should be made to reach an agreement with Regent Horthy to set up a different government in Hungary, under a premier who would be acceptable to Germany. Schellenberg asked me to draw up a memorandum on the matter, which he wanted to submit to Hitler, but not through official channels. According to what Schellenberg himself said, at this point it was no longer possible to inform Hitler of such a compromise solution.

So I drafted this memorandum that night in my hotel room in the Oesterreichischen Hof in Salzburg, and then I personally supervised the preparation of the final version in Himmler's special train which had stopped at Hallein, and then finally, in the evening of 17 March 1944, I handed it over to Ambassador Dr. Hewel in Schellenberg's presence, and he, as we found out later, was in fact able to give it to Hitler in private.

The result of this memorandum - but obviously also of Ambassador Dr. Hewel's presentation - was that the plan for "Operation Margarethe I" was not implemented in the original form of occupation by German troops, but was simply carried out by agreement with Regent Horthy, who indicated his readiness to set up a new government agreeable to Germany, under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Doeme Sztojay, who at that time was the Hungarian envoy in Berlin.

I myself was instructed by Schellenberg to represent the interests of Department VI in Budapest and the "Mil." Office, which had meanwhile also been put under his charge (that was the former Military Intelligence which, until February 1944, was under Admiral Canaris), in Budapest. More particularly, I was assigned to work together with Department II of the Hungarian Honved General Staff (Counter- Intelligence), and to undertake joint secret service operations.

I immediately left Salzburg for Budapest, where I arrived during the night of 18 March, and in the morning of 19 March I reported to the head of Department II, to whom I have referred, a colonel on Kuthy's General Staff. Regent Horthy, whom Hitler had invited to his Berchtesgaden headquarters, arrived in Budapest on the morning of 19 March. In his train there were the new German Ambassador to Hungary, Dr. Edmund Veesenmayer, as well as the chief of the Head Office for Reich Security, Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner.

The meeting at Berchtesgaden referred to above between Hitler and Horthy was the reason why the urgent action I mentioned seemed expedient in order to revise the plan for "Operation Margarethe I." This was to be done before Horthy's return to Budapest, so as it would serve as the basis for impending German operations in which I was to play the aforementioned role, and which were to be approved by Hitler.

From then on, except for minor interruptions, I remained in Budapest until November 1944 and then moved to my offices in Oedenburg on the Hungarian border, from where, in March 1945, I moved to alternative emergency quarters at Steyerling in Upper Austria.

As I have already said, my activities in Hungary were only of a secret service nature. Schellenberg had assigned as my main duty the setting up, together with the Hungarian counter-intelligence services, of what were called "message centres," units of intelligence agents infiltrated behind the Russian front. My office had a very small staff: three male employees, a chauffeur and a secretary. It was located in a private house in Disz-ter. The Hungarian counter-intelligence services arranged this accommodation for me.

My activities there were limited to collecting and passing on information about domestic conditions in Hungary, except for the special assignment I have referred to. My duties certainly did not include developing positive activities in order to influence Hungarian policy, nor did I try to do anything like that, except indirectly, when I urged the German Ambassador not to support the Arrow Cross people's plans to come to power.

I can, therefore, state in advance here that I was not involved in any way, and certainly not actively, in the subsequent Arrow Cross revolt. The opposite is true: When Veesenmayer did not listen to me and ignored a detailed memorandum, I broke off contact with his office, already before the Arrow Cross revolt took place. From then on I only maintained normal contacts with Berlin and Schellenberg. Because of the events which began at that time, Veesenmayer's plan was implemented anyhow, since, in view of the ever worsening military situation, Horthy had contacted the Western Allies - and even Russia - and, since this was never a secret as far as the Germans were concerned, it gave rise to the taking of energetic measures, and thus to approval of Veesenmayer's intentions.

In practical terms, the mitigated version of "Operation Margarethe I," as approved in March 1944, was now implemented, with all the attendant consequences. Horthy was put under pressure to resign and to appoint the leader of the Arrow Cross Party, Major Ferenc Szalasi, to the post of premier. A few days later, Szalasi let himself be elected Leader of the "Hungarian Nation" by the Hungarian parliament (the upper and lower houses).

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