German Church Leader Testifies Against Eichmann at Jerusalem Trial
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German Church Leader Testifies Against Eichmann at Jerusalem Trial

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The Reverend Dr. Heinrich Gruber, 69-year-old dean of the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Berlin, who tried futilely from 1939 to 1943 to save Jews from Adolf Eichmann’s persecutions, told the Eichmann trial court here today that Eichmann was personally responsible for the actions against the Jews.

Dean Gruber, who was sent to two concentration camps himself after 1943, and was subjected to physical torture, told of his many meetings with Eichmann during a four year period. Looking apologetically at the prisoner in the glass dock, the old German clergyman assured the court he was not seeking personal revenge.

Countless times, said Dean Gruber, he tried to help the Jews. But, he declared, “Eichmann never said ‘yes’ to anything. Always he said either ‘no’ or kept the question in the air. I had the impression,” the Christian minister stated, “of a man who sat there like a block of ice or marble, not feeling anything at all. His name became a symbol oblivious to the call of justice and his own conscience.”

Dean Gruber said that he, as well as other Christians and Jews in Berlin who tried desperately to aid the Jews, often wondered how Eichmann “knew so much” about Jewish holidays. “We trembled with our Jewish friends the night before every Jewish holiday,” he testified. Special persecutions were always carried out on those holidays, he said.

Dean Gruber refused to describe his own sufferings, first at Sachsenhausen, where Eichmann had sent him, then at Dachau. Casually, he mentioned, that his teeth had been knocked out and that he had suffered a heart attack. But, he added quickly, “I don’t want to talk about my sufferings, but about the sufferings of my Jewish friends.”

He told the court how he increased his activities on behalf of the Jews, working with the late Chief Rabbi Leo Baeck of Berlin and with the Jewish community, after the Crystal Night pogroms carried out by the Nazis in November 1938. He described Nazi medical experiments upon Jews at Dachau, saying “many of my friends were used as guinea pigs” in experiments with cold-water endurance, the injection of malaria, and air injections.

Dr. Gruber told how, once, he narrowly escaped an ordeal of torture because he suffered a heart attack. He lay among the dead and, that afternoon, succeeded in saving one Jewish friend whom he found still breathing and whom he “sneaked off” to the hospital.


After hours on the witness stand, the clergyman was subjected to sharp, sometimes angry cross-examination by Dr. Robert Servatius, chief of Eichmanris defense counsel. Dr. Servatius tried to tangle the minister by picking up some of the terms Dean Gruber had employed, attempting to show semantic inconsistencies. When one such exchange failed to clarify matters to Dr. Servatius’ satisfaction, he flared up at the witness by commenting: “If you cannot reply to my questions, just say so.”

“If you will make it clear,” replied the minister gently, “I’ll try to answer. I am an old man and haven’t your quick grasp.” Spectators applauded. This was the first time such a demonstration had been staged in the courtroom. Presiding Justice Moshe Landau mildly upbraided the spectators, and there were no further outbursts.

Prior to calling Dean Gruber to the stand, Attorney General Hausner read into the court records statements from three former Nazi officers about the persecutions of Jews in Hungary under the Hitler regime.

One document introduced by Mr. Hausner showed that, at one time, Heinrich Himmler, chief of the Gestapo, summoned Eichmann and reprimanded the colonel for flouting an order to halt the deportation of Hungarian Jews to annihilation camps.

The paper showed that Himmler had acted on a complaint filed by Col. Kurt Becher, the Nazi officer who, in 1944, headed the SS Economic Office at Budapest. It was Becher who had negotiated the infamous “trucks for lives” deal with the late Israel Kastner, a leader of Hungarian Jewry, under which Jews would have “paid” the Nazis trucks and other goods for their lives. While that deal was under way, the court was shown through documents, Eichmann double-crossed his own Nazi apparatus by smuggling 1,500 Hungarian Jews from a camp outside Budapest to the Auschwitz death factory.

Another document showed that SS General Hans Juetner, Himmler’s chief adjutant, was “shocked” by anti-Jewish atrocities he witnessed and by the death march of the Hungarian Jews, Juetner was shown to have tried to ease the situation but was “shunned” by Eichmann.

Dr. Servatius, chief of Eichmann’s defense, objected to some of the documents and requested of the court that men whose names figured in the papers–Gen. Guetner, Becher and a former Nazi official named Horst Grell–be permitted to testify in the trial here. When Mr. Hausner told the court the men would be subject to prosecution as war criminals if they came here, Justice Landau ordered that they be interrogated in German courts.

At the afternoon session, Mrs. Charlotte Salzberger, a former inmate at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, testified that she saw Eichmann when he visited that camp. She said that she, and four other Jewish women were questioned by Eichmann as to whether they knew anything about the fate of those Jews who were being deported. The Jewish women, she said, feigned ignorance before Eichmann; however, Eichmann warned them if they bruited any news about the fate awaiting deportees “our fate will be the chimney.”

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