The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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

(29): The answer to this question is yes. The book was originally published under my pseudonym, Walter Hagen, but later in my own name, Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl, particularly for the English and American editions.

In reply to the question as to whether I wrote the book primarily as an historian or more as literature, I would state the following:

As a responsible historian, I maintain to this day that Die Geheime Front (The Secret Front) is historically sound as far as all the essentials are concerned; it was of course necessary to add minor literary embellishments, since that is the only way to sell enough copies, purely historical works not being known as commercial successes. Just at the time when this book was published I had to depend on it for my income.

Asked in this connection about the nature of the book, Unternehmen Bernhard (Operation Bernhard), my reply is as follows:

Unlike my first book, The Secret Front, Operation Bernhard is to a large extent a piece of journalism, which can best be compared with the so-called documentary reports which are common today. Although the background to this book - the counterfeiting of Sterling during the Second World War - is historically genuine, and some details I give in the report are based on actual events, the literary make-up is far stronger than in The Secret Front.

The Secret Front appeared in Austria and Germany, and also in licenced editions in Italy, France, Spain, England and America; extracts were also published in the general press in most of these countries. The literary success - and thus its material success for me - was considerable. What is interesting is that Operation Bernhard, which I thought I had to write more for the popular taste, was less successful, although this book also appeared in almost all Western countries and newspapers. I would tend to conclude from that that the reader all over the world who is interested in contemporary history has a general preference for a serious account of events in that regard.

I would conclude from criticism of my book that most of the readership (and here I am speaking about The Secret Front only) consists of people who today reject National Socialism and are most interested in familiarizing themselves fully with the negative aspects as well. The critics in the other camp predominantly reproached me, mainly for having published such details about the Third Reich, and took the position that such matters should not be talked about for the sake of national consciousness. There were very few people who totally denied the whole thing, and they went so far as to, so to speak, "haggle" as to whether six, five, four, three, or even fewer million Jews were murdered.

In reply to a question:

I have no indications as to whether today there is still any organized form of former prominent National Socialists at home or abroad. Insofar as I ever had any information on that, only a few former prominent National Socialists managed to escape from Europe, taking refuge at first in Argentina. However, after the overthrow of Peron, most of these probably left Argentina, and the main countries to receive them were those of the Middle East, particularly Egypt. Without having any detailed knowledge, I would tend to think that today most of these people are integrated citizens rather than the political fanatics they used to be.

(30): I am sure that the term "organized" does not appear in my book, and it is also out of place in this context. However, what is true is that some of the German Secret Service officers in Romania supported the Iron Guard (Green Shirts) and tried to assist it. However, Hitler had decided in favour of General Antonescu and thus against the Iron Guard. It was not until after the events of August 1944 in Romania, which I have described elsewhere, that the Iron Guard started to take over. But in actual fact it was too late for them to exercise their domination, because within a few weeks the country was occupied by the Red Army.

In reply to a question, I wish to state that I myself have thus replied to all the questions asked in the questionnaire of the Trial Court, including my interpretation of their implied meaning, as far as I can gather it.

The examination was adjourned at 12.30, to be continued at 14.30 p.m.

The session continued at 14.30. Present: As before.

The court announced that the act of registration referred to by the witness when asked about his personal data and personal record had meanwhile been asked for, and that a copy of Record Sheet 60-3217 (160-716) A.V. of the Salzburg City Magistrate had arrived, showing that the petition for exemption submitted pursuant to Section 27, Paragraph 1, of the Law on Prohibitions (Verbotsgesetz) of 1947 was granted on 24 January 1950, by decision of the Federal President dated 10.11.1951, number 15.145/51.

The witness stated:

"That is correct."

No proceedings were instituted on account of offences under the Austrian Law on War Criminals.

For the sake of expediency, and because of today's press reports about the proceedings in Jerusalem, the witness was also asked whether he knew anything about SS Hauptsturmführer Gustav Richter - of whom mention was made there - who was an Adviser on Jewish Affairs at the German legation in Bucharest, with particular reference to Eichmann.

Yesterday I already stated what I know about the post of Adviser on Jewish Affairs; I have indeed heard the name of Gustav Richter before, but I do not know him and know nothing of his activities.

Asked, in conclusion, whether in organizational terms there were not perhaps some kind of connections between my office and Eichmann's, whenever and wherever, I must reply in the negative.

In reply to questioning, the witness stated further:

The last time I saw Eichmann was on 6 or 7 May 1945 in Alt Aussee - when I was interrogated by the Nuremberg Court I was also unable to give the precise date. I might have seen Eichmann in Budapest in October 1944. After Regent Horthy proclaimed an armistice on 15 October 1944, the leading SS officials in Budapest were summoned to a briefing by the Senior Commander of the Waffen-SS, General Keppler, where evacuation measures which might become necessary were discussed. I took part in this discussion, and I believe that Eichmann was also there, but I am not able to state that as a definite fact.

The background to the last meeting mentioned above, on 6 or 7 May 1945 in Alt Aussee, is as follows:

On my return journey from Switzerland, where I had held negotiations with American personages, I was arrested by the Gestapo in front of the hotel "Oestereichischer Hof" in Salzburg and imprisoned in the Gestapo gaol in Salzburg. However, I was able to escape with the connivance of Dr. Hueber, who was then the head of the Gestapo in Salzburg, and to whom I had once done a favour. I made my way to Alt Aussee to Dr. Kaltenbrunner, who had known about my trip to Switzerland, in order to call him to account. In the middle of the talk we were having, in which I was not mincing my words, Kaltenbrunner's adjutant came in, an SS Obersturmbannführer Scheider, and informed his chief that Eichmann had come to take his leave. Dr. Kaltenbrunner made it quite clear to Scheider that he had no intention of receiving Eichmann, and he also said to me that he considered that this man no longer stood any chance. When I left Kaltenbrunner, I met Eichmann, with some of his people, whom I did not know personally, at the so-called Donner Bridge in Alt Aussee. Eichmann complained bitterly to me about Kaltenbrunner's faithlessness and said that he intended to try to get through to Bad Ischl over what was called the Blaastrasse, as the Poetschen Pass was blocked solid with German army units which were flooding back. That was my last meeting with Eichmann. I myself returned from American captivity in November 1947, having been taken prisoner of war in Alt Aussee on 14 May 1945.

Since then I have had no further contact with Eichmann, and no indirect contact either has been attempted or established by any third party.

At 14.50 the criminal proceedings against Adolf Eichmann were again announced in the court corridor.

It was ascertained that once again no one had made an appearance on behalf of the representatives of the parties referred to in the request for legal assistance (Attorney General or Defence).

Whereupon the witness was notified that, due to the non-appearance of the representatives of the parties the court considered his examination as having been concluded only provisionally, so that until the conclusion of the main hearing in Jerusalem he should remain available to the Bad Aussee Court of First Instance, i.e., if he intends to leave the district for an extended period, he must provide his address, in order to enable an early response to be made to any supplementary request which the Jerusalem District Court may yet transmit.

This is particularly important since, in view of the failure of the aforementioned representatives to appear, there is no absolute guarantee that all questions have been asked in their entirety, and it cannot be assumed with certainty that the truth has been disclosed completely, having regard to the importance of the Eichmann Trial.

While the court to which the request for legal assistance was addressed, i.e., the Bad Aussee Court of First Instance, has fully complied with the request of the Trial Court in respect of the questionnaire provided by it, it was nevertheless unable to fulfil the request as to that part in which it was expressly requested that the hearing of the witness be carried out, so as to allow the aforementioned representatives of the parties the opportunity to ask questions or to supplement the testimony.

The failure of these representatives to appear must be interpreted as indicating that the notifications sent by the Court which requested the legal assistance, through the Federal Ministry for Justice, either failed to arrive in time or were transmitted in such a form as to lead their recipients to assume that it was impossible to ask any supplementary questions. This legal position, adopted by the Federal Ministry for Justice, is not shared by this court which renders the legal assistance: It intended to make the point that, even with a strict interpretation of the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure, provisions could be found - such as granting permission to examine the records or the calling of third parties as witnesses for the court - which would make it possible to comply with the wishes of the Trial Court.

In the opinion of the court to whom the request for legal assistance was addressed, the Eichmann Trial is of such importance in terms of world history that it is vital to exhaust all means for ascertaining the truth, and those are definitely available under Austrian positive legal provisions. It would therefore be highly regrettable if everything had not been done in this respect due to the failure to appear of the parties who are doubtless familiar with the proceedings being conducted before the Jerusalem District Court.

On the other hand, the Court and case law are bound, in accordance with prevailing doctrine and court decisions, by regulations - and decrees of the central authorities are also to be considered as regulations - until such time as they are revoked by the Constitutional Court. Thus, the court was, and is, not able to redress the presumed defect, because under the general provisions of the decree on requests for legal aid in criminal proceedings and the specific position taken by the aforementioned authorities, issued in the form of a decree on the request in question, it is barred from dispatching documents abroad, particularly to an embassy situated in a foreign country, such as the addressee in Cologne, who it was requested be informed. In accordance with the aforementioned decree on requests for legal aid, such notification can only be made through the aforementioned Ministry. However, this provision appears to be objectionable on legal grounds because it may, as in the present case, inhibit the exercise of the court's powers, which is to be considered as a judicial act.

Under the Austrian Federal Constitution, in the case of such disparity of views, or if there are objections as to the legality of regulations, and decrees with the character of regulations, a petition must be submitted to the Constitutional Court for the annulment of these regulations. This is a mandatory provision, of which use is to be made in the present case.

It is therefore intended to submit such a petition to the Constitutional Court at the same time as the act of compliance with the request is dispatched, in the hope that if the Trial Court should transmit a supplementary request for legal assistance, such impediments will then be avoided.

The witness was instructed that, pursuant to the law of 3 May 1868 (Official Gazette of the Austrian Empire, No. 33) laying down the procedure for administration of oaths before a court, he will be required to take the following form of oath, in accordance with Section 1: "I swear by Almighty and All-knowing God, that I have said the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about everything about which the court has questioned me; so help me God."

Moreover, that before administration of the oath the judge is required to remind the person taking the oath in accordance with Section 3 of this law of the sanctity of the oath from the religious viewpoint, the importance of the oath for the legal order, and the temporal and eternal penalties for perjury, as well as enjoining the aforesaid person that for the court the oath must therefore be taken without any reservations or ambiguity whatsoever.

Lastly, that under Section 4 of this law, persons who profess the Christian faith when taking the oath should raise the thumb and the first two fingers of their right hand and take the oath before a crucifix and two lighted candles; while persons of the Jewish faith, when taking the oath are obliged to cover their head and lay their right hand on the Torah, Second Book of Moses, chapter 20, verse 7.

Whereupon the witness was apprised in detail of the eternal and temporal penalties for perjury.

Whereupon the judge covered his head with his cap, had the candles lit, and pronounced the abovementioned form of oath to the witness, who repeated it after him.

Whereupon the Record was signed by the witness and the members of the court.

It was further announced that the act of completion will probably be dispatched tomorrow through the Federal Ministry for Justice in Vienna to the Jerusalem District Court, together with a letter of completion addressed to the president of the Trial Court.

The session ended at 15.20

Witness (-) Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl
Judge (-) Dr. Kittl

Recording Clerk
(-) Koeberl

In view of the comparatively great length of the record (73 pages in the original), I should like briefly to explain, for your guidance, the system I followed in examining the witness:

Generally speaking, I followed the order in your questionnaire, so that I also made a distinction between the three groups, i.e., allegations on the part of the Accused, questions by the Defence, and questions by the Prosecution - although, for reasons of expediency, I took the questions of the Defence before the allegations of the Accused. I allowed the witness from time to time to give as coherent a description as possible (often dictated by him in his own words), which appeared to me expedient for replying in principle to the ideas underlying the various groups and sub-groups of questions. That made it possible for quite a few questions to refer to what had already been said in general, instead of replying to the individual question.

The drawback of this procedure, i.e., that the reader, if not totally familiar with the subject matter, might have to consult the questionnaire in order to identify the reference, or would at times have to pick out the statement looked for from the general account, was something which I considered to be acceptable, since I considered it to be offset by the greater advantage of providing an overall view and condensing scattered, and therefore confusing, details.

If any other defects should be discovered, it should be borne in mind that I felt obliged to relegate, in case of doubt, certain matters of form because of the need for expedition, in the light of the particular urgency implied in the request for legal assistance, and more particularly the attached Decision of your Court. For the same reasons of expedition, I had the pages typed on one side only (in principle the witness and members of the court signed on the back, while in principle I had the court seal stamped on the front), and any typing errors which were discovered subsequently, and will always occur in such a text, were corrected under my personal supervision by the sworn Recording Clerk in black ballpoint pen.

As shown in the Record, I am ready to receive a supplementary request for legal assistance, and have therefore retained copies of your documents; in any case I shall consider my task to be complete only when I am notified by whatever means that the Jerusalem District Court no longer requires my legal assistance.

Bad Aussee, 22 June 1961
(-) (Dr. Egon Kittl)
Oberlandesgerichtsrat (Senior Judge of District Court)

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