The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Testimony of Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl (Part 7 of 8)

(7): I have already indicated that only on one occasion, when he was preparing a lecture or presentation, did Eichmann ask me for information as to whether Napoleon had actually envisaged deporting Jews to Madagascar, to which enquiry I was, however, unable to reply, as I did not know.

(8): Here, too, I am only able to refer to what I have already said. I should, however, like to add that I have learned from what I have read since that, as is generally known, a special penalty was imposed on all Jews after November 1938, i.e., the Grynszspan attack in Paris, levied not by Eichmann's Central Office, but - as it did not apply only to the emigrants - by the competent finance offices. So the Accused can have had nothing to do with this.

(9): I have already stated on this that I was informed by Schellenberg in Salzburg about Operation Margarethe I, Hungary - this must have been in the middle of March 1944, when Hitler and Horthy were holding consultations in Berchtesgaden.

(10): Here I can only refer to the information I have already given and simply add, if this question about staff discussions should mean such matters, I did have discussions in Salzburg with Schellenberg, Dr. Kaltenbrunner and Ambassador Hewel.

It was my impression that the relevant operational plan had been worked out months earlier by the General Staff, and only then I was informed of part of it. I did not get to see the written plan itself, but was simply informed of its political sections.

(11): From what I remember of the part of the operational plan of which I was informed - its political part - the Jewish Question was not referred to in it. However, I do not consider it impossible that, just as Schellenberg informed me of the political part, he may have let other advisers participate on the Jewish problems; possibly that may have been the first Chief of the Special Operations Group of the Security Police and the Security Service in Hungary, SS Oberführer Dr. Achhammer-Piffrader. He was originally destined to be only the Deputy Chief of the Operations Group, which was to have been under the command of Schellenberg. However, since Schellenberg had shortly before that taken over the Counter-Intelligence Bureau from Admiral Canaris, he managed to make it clear to Himmler that, under the prevailing conditions, he could not leave Berlin. Thus, at the last moment, Dr. Achhammer-Piffrader became the head of the Operations Group. He might possibly have dealt especially with Jewish problems when the German unit entered Hungary.

(12): As far as I know, in 1934 Eichmann joined the Head Office for Security in Berlin, of which Heydrich was in charge, as a clerk. In 1939, when the Security Service Head Office, as I have explained elsewhere, was merged with the Police Offices into the Head Office for Reich Security, Heydrich remained in charge of this Head Office, and Eichmann worked for Department VI (Gestapo) as a Specialist Officer. In this way, therefore, until Heydrich's death in 1944,*{*Thus in the Report, but Heydrich was killed in 1942} Eichmann was always his subordinate.

(13): I have already reported elsewhere on this question and would like to add the following statement:

When I gave evidence to the Nuremberg court from 1945 to 1947, I had the opportunity of discussing this question as well with many of the senior and highest-placed officials of the Third Reich. As a historian with a professional interest, I wished first of all to identify the origin of the order to destroy the Jewish People. Although everybody I asked stated that they were not familiar with the ultimate context of this extermination order, they all, without exception, believed that the idea of physically exterminating the Jewish People came from Hitler himself, who, when he included the war against Russia in his programme, apparently believed that it would only be possible to destroy Communism if, at the same time, the entire Jewish People was also physically exterminated.

According to the reports available, the appointment in the Russian army of "Commissars," as they were known, was said to be restricted in the main to Jewish circles. In this instance, too, Hitler therefore doubtless equated "Communist official" with "Jew." That would be the explanation for his "Commissars Order" which, as I see it, is the initial foundation for the first mass destructions of Jews. Thus the beginning of these mass destruction operations can be taken to be the beginning of the Russian campaign in the summer of 1941.

I would understand the question about Heydrich's special assignment as his having received Hitler's order through Himmler, and being responsible subsequently for its implementation just like Pohl (SS Economic-Administrative Head Office).

On the question whether the extermination order I have spoken of in connection with the Russian Commissars was also given secretly, and if not - what was the reaction on the part of Russia or world opinion, my reply is:

I am not aware of this order ever having been made public at the time, or even reaching the general public. I do not know whether there were commanders in the German army who refused to fulfil the order in their area, and who treated the commissars as normal prisoners of war.

(14): I must answer this question in the negative; Eichmann never spoke to me about any executive assignments.

(15): While Baky's appointment to the Sztojay Government as State Secretary for Security was definite from the first day, and I believe the new head of government himself considered it most important to have this post filled by a former high-ranking officer of the gendarmerie, Endre was appointed as State Secretary probably more or less at the wish of the Germans. In fact, I believe that Endre was not appointed State Secretary until several days later.

In answer to the questions, I add further:

The correct spelling is Baky, not Baki, and Sztojay, not Stojai.

(16): I cannot give any details about this, but he definitely had close contacts with Endre in particular, who was the Hungarian Government official charged with Jewish affairs. There was necessarily collaboration with Baky, because he had to make available the requisite gendarmerie units for deporting the Hungarian Jews.

As to the practical details of such contacts - by phone, in writing, orally, through visits or some other form - I had no way of knowing, but I assume that, as a lower-ranking official, Eichmann probably called on the State Secretaries in question, presumably with an interpreter.

(17): I have to give a negative reply to this question.

(18): I have already stated above that Eichmann had to ask for the gendarmerie units he needed from the Hungarian authorities, since presumably he did not have sufficient personnel of his own available for such tasks. So there was certainly a connection between him and the gendarmerie also in this sense, either through the State Secretaries I have referred to, or they gave him authority once and for all to contact the relevant gendarmerie commander direct. In any case, I do not know any details about this.

I can only assume further that Eichmann and Endre worked out a "cleaning-up plan," and that this was applied in stages, according to komitat's or administrative areas, starting with the most northerly komitat and finishing in Budapest itself.

(19): At the end of August 1944, after the Romanian revolt, Eichmann came to visit me in my apartment in Budapest, in order to enquire about the most recent information on what was called the "enemy situation." A few days earlier, there had been a revolt by young King Michael against Prime Minister Antonescu, followed by an armistice with the Red Army on the part of the Romanian army, which until then had fought with the Axis. These events undermined the stability of the entire German front in the area, which until then had not reached Romania. If Russian troops were to cross the Carpathian arch, the whole of Hungary would be practically defenceless before the attacks of the Russians. As I have already said, Eichmann asked me for the latest information from the front and explained that he was interested because he was on his way to Romania. The information I had about the situation on the front was obtained not only from official German sources, but also from reports of our own agents who operated behind the Russian lines, as well as from monitoring Russian radio communications, for which I had, together with the Hungarian Counter-Intelligence service, established quite a large office in Budapest. The actual operation of the radio counter-intelligence or listening service was run by the Hungarian military authorities, but the entire undertaking was financed by me - or rather, by my Department - which therefore also took part in determining the entire set-up. Thus I was the right person for Eichmann to approach, in order to get such information, and in the previous months he had already come to see me several times, in order to obtain genuinely objective reports, rather than the coloured ones which were often the practice on the part of the Germans.

In reference to the related subsequent questions, I would give the following description of this conversation:

As far as I remember, Eichmann came to see me in the late forenoon. He was wearing battledress, i.e., not his dress uniform which he had worn on his other visits to me. He gave an impression of being very nervous, and this became even more marked when I told him about the disastrous situation on the German front. Doubtless I, too, was very dejected at the time, because I was afraid that there was nothing which would be able to stop the Russian advance through Hungary to my native Austria. Eichmann then swallowed several glasses of brandy, one after the other. As far as I remember, I set a bottle of arrack down with a glass, so he could help himself.

I was alone in the room with Eichmann and, as far as I know, there was no one from my or Eichmann's staff around. The conversation on which I testified in 1945 before the Nuremberg Tribunal developed as follows, as I remember it:

Eichmann stood up and said farewell with the following words: "We shall probably never see each other again," or something similar. Then apparently he felt obliged to explain this pessimistic attitude and indicated that he was convinced that, with the German defeat, which was now to be expected, he stood no chance any more. When I asked him why he thought this, Eichmann said that, in view of his role in the programme to exterminate the Jews, he was considered by the Allies to be a top war criminal. When he made this comment, I immediately grasped the opportunity to say that I had always wanted to hear reliable information about the extermination programme, and particularly about the number of Jews exterminated. To my surprise Eichmann responded to that, and said something along the following lines (in 1945, when I testified before the Nuremberg court, I obviously remembered the details more clearly than today, seventeen years later. I therefore apologize for any minor deviations):

He said that the number of murdered Jews was a very great Reich secret, but with the situation in which he, Eichmann, found himself today, he still could tell me something about it, particularly since I was a historian. Eichmann then told me that, according to his information, some 6,000,000 (six million) Jews had perished until then - 4,000,000 (four million) in extermination camps and the remaining 2,000,000 (two million) through shooting by the Operations Units and other causes, such as disease, etc.

I presumably reacted in a very shocked fashion to this figure, because Eichmann immediately commented that Himmler believed that the figure of six million Jews killed could not be correct, and that the overall figure must be higher.

I do not remember Eichmann making any form of personal statement or excuse. Eichmann also did not say that he felt himself guilty of the deaths of these six million Jews; as I have said, he simply answered my question as to how many Jews had actually been exterminated.

As for the words I used in testifying about Eichmann's statement that he was wanted as a war criminal, I should like to add the following explanation:

It was said that at that time the BBC was already reporting who on the German side was considered by the Allies to be a war criminal; a list of these persons was being drawn up and constantly updated, for use in later criminal proceedings against such war criminals. Dr. Kaltenbrunner had also once made the same sort of comment, i.e., that he was considered a war criminal by the Allies. I do not know where Eichmann found out that he was on such a list of top war criminals.

This conversation, including the first part, where I informed Eichmann about the situation at the front, went on probably, as far as I remember, for more than an hour, during which Eichmann drank at least four or five large brandies, if not more. The reason why I remember this fact so precisely is that, when I said goodbye to Eichmann, I asked him expressly not to drive his car himself. However, he did not give the impression of being drunk. In fact, I believe that at this time Eichmann was drinking a great deal all the time; in any case, there was quite open talk about that in German police circles in Budapest.

I cannot give any details as to where Eichmann was going on his journey or what his assignment was; I can only repeat that he said to me that he was leaving for Romania, which seemed to be confirmed by the fact that he was in battledress. I cannot state exactly when Eichmann's visit took place - at least not to the day.

Despite the fact that when we were having this conversation Eichmann was in a very bad state mentally, and drank a fair amount of alcohol in a short time, I did not have the impression that the figures Eichmann gave me were the result of something he had suddenly invented, but that he himself was, subjectively speaking, convinced that the figures were correct.

In reply to a question as to whether in this context I heard Eichmann use the term "six million murdered Jews," I should like to state that this term "murdered" was one which I used, while, as far as I remember, Eichmann used an expression such as "exterminated" or "liquidated" Jews.

I have no way of knowing how Eichmann arrived at these figures of the number of Jews murdered, and he also gave me no indications whatsoever about this.

I had never heard anything before that about the figures quoted by Eichmann, and there was also nothing along these lines which I could gather from the foreign broadcasts, which were available to me extensively in my official capacity. Later on as well, until the collapse of the Third Reich, I did not receive any information from any source about this, although this question was naturally of very great interest to me.

At this time, I was trying very hard to obtain statistical material about the Jews; I found out that at the beginning of the War there had been about fifteen million Jews in the whole world. If six million Jews had been murdered, that would have meant a proportion of forty per cent.

During these investigations of mine, it also struck me that the second-largest group of Jews, after those in Europe and Asia, lived in America, so that these would practically never have been within the grasp even of a victorious Germany. Even if one ignores the moral attitude to genocide, this fact shows how senseless was Hitler's order to destroy the Jews.

To conclude this point, I should like to add that the conversation with Eichmann did not indicate whether this figure of six million murdered Jews included only those who were Jews by race and religion, or whether it also included other categories, such as persons of mixed parentage, and perhaps also other ethnic groups, such as Gypsies, who were also within Hitler's extermination programme.

(20): I do not know anything about plans to deport Jews from the Romanian part of Transylvania. From my own observations I also do not know whether the journey which Eichmann said he was making to Romania was connected with this, nor whether he actually made the journey.

(21): Yes; as I have said, he expressed his doubts, saying that he did not know if we would see each other again, immediately after I had described the situation at the front.

(22): I have already spoken in detail about the hierarchical set-up.

(23): Eichmann did not say anything directly, but it could be assumed that he knew from the news broadcasts on the English radio that he was considered to be a war criminal.

(24): Eichmann did not concede that this charge was correct. I would refer here to my description of the conversation.

(25): I have already replied to this question as well. I cannot give any more details.

(26): These are the concluding sentences of a television interview which, as far as I remember, I gave in March of this year to the North German Radio. I therefore answer in the affirmative.

(27) and (28): I answer both questions in the affirmative.

As to whether the last sentence, quoted in the request for legal assistance of the District Court of Jerusalem, of my affidavit applies to Eichmann's activities generally or only to his activities in Hungary specifically, I have the following to say:

As can be seen from my statement so far, it was only in Hungary that I was able to observe deportations of Jews with my own eyes, and to ascertain who was responsible for them. My statement at Nuremberg at the time is therefore primarily based on Eichmann's activities in Hungary, but in the first months of captivity I discovered in the meantime that Eichmann had been active in other occupied countries in a similar manner.

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