The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl (Part 6 of 8)

(36): Like the NSDAP, the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party had a pronounced theory of "Masterman" (Herrenmensch). The founder and leader of the party, a former major with the General Staff, Ferenc Szalasi, had put forward the thesis, in speeches and writings, that south-eastern Europe belonged to the sovereignty of the Magyar people, and later, after he seized power, despite the prevailing situation on the war front, he actually demanded that Romania, and also Bulgaria, should somehow be declared as coming within the Hungarian sphere of interest. In accordance with the origins of the Magyar people, Szalasi pursued pronounced pan-Turanian ideas, and in certain Turkish circles he naturally found a great deal of sympathy for these. It is worthy of mention that these pan-Turanian ideas received a great deal of support from Japan, and here Szalasy took advantage of playing the Japanese envoy in Budapest off against the German partner in the Axis.

In domestic policy terms, this programme meant that the Magyars were the master nation, and the minorities, including the German allies and the Slovaks, had to submit to them. That was one of the main reasons why the German and Slovak Folkdom Leaders (Volkstumsführer) were so violently opposed to the men of the Arrow Cross.

Where the Jewish Question was concerned, Szalasy, with whom I had several in-depth discussions before he seized power, had rather vague ideas. I would tend to believe that he would have been willing to recognize the Jewish minority, had they been prepared to allow themselves to be thoroughly Magyarized. By the time he seized power, I believe that a considerable proportion of Hungarian Jewry had already been deported from Hungary, so that Szalasy, in the main, dealt only with the problem of the Jews of Budapest. In his approach he wanted, on the one hand, to preserve the considerable assets involved, but, on the other hand, to obtain apartments, furniture and other assets for his supporters who, to a large extent, were from the rabble proletariat. In any case, I know that the most difficult thing in the diplomatic moves of the neutral states which I have already mentioned was ejecting members of the Arrow Cross Party who had on their own taken over Jewish apartments and other Jewish property, because the new leaders of the state did not feel themselves able to take energetic steps against their "meritorious fighters."

Apart from this, I was able to make just one observation of my own, which would allow me to answer question (36) in the affirmative. On one of my trips to Vienna at the end of 1944, I also saw transports of Hungarian Jews who were being taken to Austria - on foot. What struck me was that, in contrast to the transports I had seen in Upper Hungary, the guards were now only in part Hungarian gendarmes; quite a considerable number of the guards were Hungarian civilians wearing Arrow Cross armbands. From this I concluded that the Arrow Cross Party had been made an active part of the deportations programme.

I am not aware that the Arrow Cross Party had made the exclusion of the Jews a special point in its programme, similar to the German NSDAP. The Arrow Cross men were thought of rather as over-valuing the Magyar element.

In contrast, the aims of the Iron Guard (Legion), also known as the Green Shirts, were very different again. I shall return to this point when I discuss the Romanian situation.

(37): I believe this question has already been answered adequately.

(38): I have already given a general answer this morning as to the question of who controlled the concentration camps. If this question is asked specifically for Hungary, I can only say that I know nothing of the existence of concentration camps on what was then Hungarian territory. The only thing along these lines that existed, on a smaller scale, was at Kistarcsa, about the same size as the detention camp of Woellersdorf, Austria, from 1933 to 1938, where both right- and left-wing extremist opponents of the Hungarian Government were kept in custody until the events of March 1944. However, if what is meant are the concentration camps set up by the Germans, i.e., outside Hungarian territory, I can state the following as to who gave the instructions to exterminate the Jews in these camps: This morning I already indicated that I know no details about the use of German concentration camps specifically for the concentration of the Jews as racially persecuted persons.

I am quite unable to say who was empowered to give the actual orders for the killings in the various concentration camps. I am also unable to guess how the relevant orders were passed down the line from Hitler's basic order on the matter right down to the last implementing body concerned.

(39): I cannot give an unqualified answer of yes or no to the question as to whether Kaltenbrunner had any influence on this order - and here I understand this question to refer primarily to Kaltenbrunner's last position (Chief of the Head Office for Reich Security). Quite understandably, very many investigations on this were carried out in the Nuremberg Trials, but to this day no totally clear picture has been produced, and my own impression is that he did have some influence, being able to order detention in concentration camps, and made actual use of that power.

(40): I have already given a statement in this morning's session concerning to whom the Operations Units were subordinate.

(41): This is not an easy question to answer. From my knowledge of the circumstances, Eichmann should have been fully able to issue official instructions to the Specialist Officers responsible for his field, i.e., Jewish matters or deportation. As for his being able, in addition, to direct Operations Units as well, I consider this impossible.

In this context I should like to observe the following: As far as I know, in the first phase of the Russian campaign various men were the heads of these Operations Units, who not long before had been Eichmann's superiors in Berlin and Vienna, as well as in Prague. For example, I quote the names of SS Generals Ohlendorf, Dr. Stahlecker, Dr. Rasch and Naumann. It would appear to be highly unlikely that Eichmann, as an SS Major or Lieutenant-Colonel - if he already possessed that rank - would have given basic orders to these SS Generals, who were each in charge of large commandos. He can also not have had any particular influence on the assignment of personnel.

(42): I cannot say anything about this question. The only thing I know from Nuremberg is that Stahlecker sent activity reports to Berlin, but I do not know whether Eichmann should also have received copies of these reports through a distribution list.

(43): As I mentioned already yesterday, in the (1938-1939) period, Eichmann definitely did not feel any desire to destroy the Jews, and I also did not hear any reports from third parties about any comments by him along these lines; so the impression I had was simply that of someone who was obsessed by the Jewish problem, but not of a potential exterminator of Jews.

Later on, when I, and subsequently he, were serving in Berlin, I would not have been able to hear anything of this nature from him, because I had practically no contact at all with him.

The same is true, to be accurate, also for the final period, i.e., in Hungary; that is to say, I did not actually hear him say anything about his harbouring any intentions to exterminate the Jews; anyhow, I shall later come back to my conversations with Eichmann about this subject in Budapest. As far as the Moser case is concerned, I would here like to add that from the outset I did not appeal to any moral feelings, but based my request on official or Reich interests, in which cases Eichmann always immediately met my requests.

When asked whether Eichmann was guided by certain unusual motives, such as seeing the Jewish Question in terms of Christian salvation - particularly since he was purported to have studied Hebrew and Yiddish - I can state that that was not my impression. I really considered him to be a genuinely uncomplicated person who was concerned only with getting on in his career, and who only selected Jewish Affairs - and thus the study of Hebrew and Yiddish as well - because that enabled him to achieve his special position relatively easily. According to him, he did his linguistic studies with a rabbi.

(44): The adviser to the German legation in Budapest was a certain Mr. Grell. Who appointed him to his job as Adviser on Jewish Affairs I do not know, but I do know that Grell also had a rank in the SS. If I compare this case with the Adviser on Jewish Affairs in the German legation in Romania, I would tend to assume that Grell was appointed to his job as Adviser on Jewish Affairs by agreement between the Foreign Ministry and the Head Office for Reich Security, but I can say nothing authentic on this.

Moreover, in reply to a question, I cannot actually explain why an "Adviser on Jewish Questions" was assigned in those years to the Hungarian, and, as far as I know, to the Romanian diplomatic missions of Germany. I can only assume that the creation of this post had some sort of connection with the notorious rivalry which I know for a fact existed between Ribbentrop = Foreign Ministry, and Himmler = SS. In other words, Ribbentrop wished, so to speak, to show that he could dispense with the co-operation of Eichmann's Section when it came to his offices abroad.

(45): I know nothing about Eichmann's having received an order from Kaltenbrunner to cease deportations of Jews, nor about his having ignored this order to terminate operations. I have only read of such allegations in reports about the current trial in Jerusalem.

Whereupon the examination proceeded to the group of questions: Allegations of the Accused, Nos. 1 to 11.

(1): I can answer this question in the affirmative and would refer here to my comments yesterday, insofar as the Central Office for Jewish Emigration set up by Eichmann really did lead organizationally to a functional integration, simplification and improvement of the possibilities and speed of emigration.

At all events, I was able to ascertain from my own observations that once this Central Office started operating, Jewish acquaintances of mine who had previously waited in vain for their emigration papers, received all the requisite documents for their departure within a matter of days. In this connection I think I should also mention the fact that the foreign consulates had links with this Central Office and were doubtless extremely accommodating in the issuing of visas. According to my sources, the treatment in this Central Office was completely decent.

(2): Whatever I know about this I indicated yesterday. In reply to questioning:

Anyhow, I know of nothing, from any of Eichmann's postings in Vienna, Berlin or Hungary, which would indicate that he obtained any personal advantages, particularly of a pecuniary nature. As far as I know, neither did he buy any property at his last place of residence in Austria, i.e., Alt Aussee. His family lived in very simple lodgings.

Conversely, I have not heard anything, and therefore am unable to confirm, that the quantities of assets taken from the more affluent Jews were actually allegedly in accordance with regulations, used to assist poor Jews to emigrate.

Moreover, I can hardly believe that the German authorities prevented poor Jews from leaving by prescribing a fee they were unable to pay: I should imagine that their financial difficulties were rather that they found it difficult to find the money for the ticket for the passage by sea.

(3): This afternoon I have already mentioned that, according to the literature I have seen since the War, allegedly two thirds of the Jewish population of Austria were able to emigrate or emigrated by 1939. To what extent Eichmann was responsible for or contributed to this, by means fair or foul, I am unable to judge. In any case, his main concern was definitely to make Austria as free of Jews as possible.

(4): I cannot say anything more about this than I said yesterday.

(5): Yesterday I said that, as far as I know, the administration of the concentration camps fell under the jurisdiction of the Economic-Administrative Head Office, and that today I do not know who was responsible for the orders to exterminate the inmates of the concentration camps, particularly the Jews, or who actually issued these orders.

(6): As for the subject of this allegation, I have today already indicated everything I know, particularly in this afternoon's session, and as I have said, I actually consider it unlikely that he (Eichmann) would have been able to give orders to the Operations Units which were under the command of officers senior to him.

(7): If today I were to say definitely that perhaps Eichmann considered Hungary to be sufficiently important so ask Müller, his chief, that he be personally detailed to Hungary, this is simply an assumption; however, if he (Eichmann) is claiming that he did not receive this command at his own instigation, I can neither confirm nor contradict this. As to the question of why Eichmann has cited me as witness for the Defence, if I do not know anything about these matters, I cannot explain this.

(8): I have already given a sufficiently detailed reply to this question.

(9): I have also replied to this question that I know nothing about it.

(10): I have dealt with this question today precisely and in detail.

(11): This question also has already been answered in detail.

In reply to a question from the judge conducting the examination:

I myself did everything in my power to help individual Jews, and in addition I did not refrain from asking for foreign diplomats to intervene. What I have mentioned briefly in this connection today was discussed in detail in Nuremberg and was checked in great detail, and thus proved to be true.

In provisional conclusion to the examination up to now, I again affirm that I did not in any manner work together with Eichmann.

It was decided to adjourn the examination until 21 June 1961, 9.30 a.m. The session ended at 5.00 p.m.

The examination on 21.6.1961 at 9.30 a.m.

The proceedings now arrived at the third group of questions, i.e., the questions from the Attorney General, Nos. 1 to 30.

The witness states:

(1): As I have already indicated, I have never previously heard the name Nisko mentioned, and therefore I cannot say anything more about this. I have also otherwise no explanation as to what Nisko is supposed to stand for, and I also do not know of any destination for deportation with a similar name, or any such destination at all.

(2): I have already spoken on the background to the deportations of Jews from Hungary. I know nothing more about deportations to Nisko-on-San - see my answer to question 1.

(3): Dr. Stahlecker, who, as far as I know, was a career policeman, came to Vienna in 1938 as the Inspector of Security Police and the Security Service, a post which, as far as I remember, he held for a few months. I did not know Dr. Stahlecker before that. I had no more official dealings with Dr. Stahlecker, but I remember meeting him again in Vienna in 1942, when he was on a private visit. With several other gentlemen, we went to a pub and had lengthy conversations in which Stahlecker spoke very negatively about German methods in Russia. At this time Stahlecker was the leader of an Operations Unit in Russia and must have been in Vienna on leave.

In reply to a supplementary question: I am not aware of any instance - Rudolf Hess' well-known flight to England also was not of that nature - where senior functionaries of the establishment of the time, particularly the top SS echelons - although they might have occasionally expressed some criticism - committed direct acts of insubordination or even took refuge abroad; it is necessary to bear in mind the mentality of those days, where, increasingly, to express or show any critical attitudes was dangerous for the person concerned. The fact that I managed to get off with demotion to the Waffen-SS as a simple soldier, was an exceptionally mild way of dealing with such cases.

I know that quite a few SS leaders, including high-ranking officers, were transferred to penal units, usually in the ranks, because they had criticized, or failed to follow, orders which they considered it wrong to carry out. The most notorious of these penal units was the Dirlewanger Brigade which, I believe, saw action mainly in Poland and Russia. Heydrich in particular liked to threaten transfer to this Dirlewanger Brigade, because it had the worst possible reputation. In the legal proceedings against me, I was also originally supposed to have been transferred to the Dirlewanger Brigade, but as a result of intercession by SS General Sepp Dietrich, head of the Leibstandarte (Hitler's own unit), a personal acquaintance of mine, I was able to be transferred to a normal unit serving at the front.

(4): To the best of my memory, as Inspector of the Security Police and the Security Service in Vienna, Stahlecker gave a great deal of support to Eichmann in realizing his plan to set up a Central Office for Jewish Emigration. If I am not mistaken - although I can only state this with due reservation, later - in Prague, Stahlecker was Eichmann's superior again. In any case, I do remember Dr. Stahlecker telling me most indignantly of an order from Heydrich to keep under surveillance Freiherr (Baron) von Neurath, who was appointed Reich Protector for Bohemia and Moravia in 1939, because of his connections (I believe that Mrs. Stahlecker was related to Neurath or to his wife).

(5): I have already indicated that I heard nothing about putting the Madagascar Plan into effect.

(6): I am therefore unable to answer this question, either.

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