JERUSALEM (May. 15)
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael A. Musmanno, testifying here today in the trial of Adolf Eichmann, named Eichmann as “the” man in the Nazi apparatus responsible for everything having to do with Jews.
The American judge, who, after the fall of the Hitler regime, interrogated on behalf of the United States Government virtually every Nazi leader surviving the German debacle, testified under oath that the Nazi hierarchy affecting “the final solution” of the Jewish problem ranked as follows: Adolf Hitler; Martin Bormann, Hitler’s deputy; Heinrich Himmler, chief of the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police; Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister; Reinhardt Heydrich, chief of the Nazi security services and one of the principal planners of “the final solution”; and Eichmann.
The fact that Eichmann held only the rank of a lieutenant colonel in the Gestapo was meaningless, Justice Musmanno said. Actually, the judge testified, as head of Section IV-B-4, Eichmann’s responsibility was spelled out in the official directives with only one word: “Jews.”
Justice Musmanno quoted one top Nazi leader after another, as he occupied the witness stand as an expert testifying voluntarily for the prosecution. All the leaders he quoted had told him, the American judge said, that Eichmann was responsible for the atrocities implemented by the Hitler regime against the Jewish people.
Justice Musmanno quoted, among others, Brigadier General Walter Schellenberg, who was in charge of both military and civilian intelligence for the Nazi regime. General Schellenberg told him, the American Jurist said, that “Eichmann, as chief of the department in charge of Jews, personally supervised and directed the activities of einsatzgruppen (commando units) in the extermination of Jews.” From time to time, the intelligence chief told Justice Musmanno, Eichmann visited the einsatzgruppen in the field, and attended the execution of Jews.
The commando units constituted “a slaughterhouse on wheels,” said Justice Musmanno. While the official purpose of the commando units was “to protect the rear of the German army in occupied territories,” that duty was called by the American judge as “just a facade.”
“The principal purpose of the einsatzgruppen,” he said, “was to kill Jews and rob them of property.” Eichmann, he testified, attended the original Nazi meeting where that purpose was spelled out. Himmler, he said, recruited the staff of the commando units “according to recommendations by Eichmann.” Sometimes, according to Justice Musmanno, commando unit leaders made complaints, but these grievances concerned bad roads, bad weather, and the fact that frozen soil prevented them from digging mass graves for the executed Jews.
General Schellenberg told him, Justice Musmanno said, that commando unit leaders who refused to participate in the mass murder of Jews were excused from such assignments–not for reasons of humanity but because it would have been “inefficient” to try to force officers to do a job they were not willing to perform.
Justice Musmanno was the first witness called to the stand this morning by Attorney General Gideon Hausner, chief of the prosecution. But it was not until after a lengthy argument against the relevance of Musmanno’s evidence, entered by Dr. Servatius, that the American jurist was permitted to testify.
EFFORTS OF EICHMANN’S LAWYER TO DISQUALIFY THE U. S. WITNESS FAIL
Trying hard to get the court to disqualify Justice Musmanno as a witness, Dr. Servatius contended that anything the American judge would say would be irrelevant to the current proceedings. Dr. Servatius maintained that: Justice Musmanno was not in Germany when the events concerning the court here occurred; he is not a Jew “concerned either directly or indirectly with the case before the court”; the fact that he interrogated Marshal Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and other Nazi leaders is not valid as far as this court is concerned.
Mr. Hausner, replying to the defense objections, told the court that, since Eichmann’s Nazi superiors are dead, “it is important to hear what they said about the accused to a person who carried out an objective investigation.” The court ruled that Justice Musmanno could testify on all matters except those concerned with cases which he tried as a judge.
Justice Musmanno had personally questioned not only persons who had been close to Adolf Hitler, in an effort to ascertain whether Hitler had really died; he had also quizzed the leaders of the Nazi regime who had survived the fall of the Hitler Government; he had been the official United States observer at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials. Later, he was the Judge in the case trying former members of the Nazi commando units in charge of murdering Jews prior to the establishment of the annihilation camps.
The American Judge testified he was told by Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s Foreign Minister, that he resented Eichmann’s interference in foreign ministry affairs, declaring: “I am sorry that Hitler gave Eichmann so much authority regarding the program of Jewish extermination.” Justice Musmanno testified that Hans Frank, Nazi Governor in Poland, had told him under questioning that he had complained to Himmler, requesting that the slaughter of Jews cease. However, Frank had said, Himmler was very busy with military affairs and recommended that the Nazi Governor see Eichmann instead. Frank then told Justice Musmanno he had seen Eichmann on the Jewish extermination problem, “but Eichmann would not budge.”
Another of the top Nazi leaders, former Gestapo chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner, told him, Justice Musmanno testified, that Eichmann was among the men “who ran the Jewish extermination program.” When some “cooler heads” in the Nazi apparatus objected to the German Army’s shooting of captured Allied airmen, Justice Musmanno said, it was Eichmann who had insisted that fliers of Jewish descent be killed.
EICHMANN HAD UNLIMITED POWER ON DESTROYING JEWS, U.S. JUDGE TESTIFIES
Under cross-examination by Dr. Servatius, Justice Musmanno held his ground insisting that the main responsibility for the annihilation of the Jews was Eichmann’s, and that the latter “was practically unanswerable to anyone for the policy of Jewish extermination.”
“Did Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering try to divest himself of responsibility by placing the blame on a minor official?” asked Dr. Servatius.
“On the contrary,” replied Justice Musmanno, “he made it clear that Eichmann had unlimited power regarding the problem of the Jews. Chronologically, geographically and biologically, it was Eichmann who determined who, where, when was to be killed.”
When the defense counsel tried to get Justice Musmanno to concede that various documents, memoirs and judgments had blamed other Nazis for the annihilation of the Jews, the American Judge replied: “That is undoubtedly true; but the instrumentality was always Eichmann; he determined in what order and from which countries these executions were to be carried out…”
Dr. Servatius tried to break down the Musmanno testimony by asking whether some of the people he had interviewed might not have named Eichmann to absolve themselves. He also hinted that Musmanno might not remember accurately all details of the interrogations he had held after the war. Justice Musmanno insisted, however, that some of the Nazi leaders who incriminated Eichmann were not even defendants in subsequent war crime trials.