JERUSALEM (Jun. 20)
Adolf Eichmann took the stand in his own defense today against charges of master-minding the wholesale slaughter of 6,000,000 European Jews. He began the presentation of a well-rehearsed version of his activities depicting him as a lower-echelon Nazi official deeply concerned for the welfare of the Jews being thrust out of the German economy by orders of superiors which he had no option but to obey.
The courtroom was jammed again with correspondents, many of whom had departed on other assignments after the first days of testimony against the former Gestapo colonel. Security precautions as tight as those under which the trial began on April 11 were reimposed.
An air of high drama marked the courtroom as Presiding Judge Moshe Landau set the stage for Eichmann’s testimony by ordering him to stand up in his glass-enclosed prisoner’s dock. As the defendant stood at ramrod-stiff attention, Judge Landau told him he had four choices as a witness. He could make a statement in his own defense or decline to testify. If he chose to speak, he could do so under oath or without it but if he chose to testify under oath, the prosecution was thereby given the right to cross-examine him. Eichmann replied: “I wish to testify under oath.”
The defendant, obviously thinner than in his appearance while listening to the prosecution’s case, said he did not wish to take an oath on the Bible since he did not belong to any church but that he was a “believer in God.” Judge Landau ruled Eichmann could take the oath in any form “which you consider binding.” Eichmann thereupon swore “by God,” bringing a rumble of surprise and resentment from an audience made up mainly of survivors of Eichmann’s Gestapo labors.
SERVATIUS SAYS DEFENSE WILL ESTABLISH EICHMANN’S LACK OF AUTHORITY
Dr. Robert Servatius, chief defense counsel, prefaced his direct examination of Eichmann by an introductory statement to the effect that “two worlds face each other here–the world of the sufferers and the world of the rulers, the sufferings of the victims and the power of tyranny.” He added that the machinery of the Nazi dictatorship would be described in Eichmann’s testimony, which would also cover the status and position of Eichmann in that machinery. Dr. Servatius continued that “the defense will show that the defendant’s activities followed from orders of the leadership and, from the point of view of the defendant, were the inevitable result of those orders.”
Dr. Servatius also asserted that the defense would prove that there was no truth in prosecution charges that Eichmann had been more extreme in his anti-Jewish activities than Hitler and that in his zeal he violated orders of his superior officers.
Dr. Servatius announced that the defense would be based on the same documents as those used by the prosecution. He said he would prove, by the same documents, that the responsibility for the Nazi program rested on the Nazi political leadership and that the various Reich ministries had provided the legal basis and preliminary preparations for the persecution of the Jews without which Eichmann could not “take a single step.” He contended again that Eichmann was not among the leaders who gave orders but in the lower ranks of those who took orders. He added that he would seek to prove that Eichmann neither ordered nor carried out the executions of the Jewish victims and that he would disprove a charge of direct murder of Jewish boy in Budapest.
The West German attorney said the defense would also prove that Eichmann was unable to refuse to carry out his orders but that he did try to alleviate the persecutions by recommending to the German Foreign Ministry the rescue of 1,000,000 Jews, presumably a reference to the Eichmann proposal for the exchange of 1,000,000 Jews for 10,000 winterized trucks for the collapsing Russian front near the end of the war.
EICHMANN SAYS HE WAS FORCED TO SIGN ‘VOLUNTARY’ CONFESSION
One of Eichmann’s first statements was a charge that he had been kidnaped by Israelis in Buenos Aires and forced to sign the statement that he voluntarily accepted trial in Israel. He testified that he had been chained to a bed by his captors and asked by one of the “commandos” to sign the statement. He said he countered with a request to be turned over to Argentine police and that this request was refused. He added that he was then released from his bonds and again told to sign. “This,” he said, “cannot be regarded as an act of free will.”
Eichmann spoke in lengthy, complicated but grammatically correct sentences in marked contrast to his confused and ungrammatical phrasing in his unrehearsed interrogation by Israeli police after he was brought to Israel. He described the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party to power. After Nazi Germany began to win victories in the war “which was forced upon Germany,” the Nazis began to think of themselves as all-powerful and initiated evil actions. He asserted that this was “a tragedy over which I had no influence because of my lowly rank and position.” He said he could not foresee what the Nazis intended to do to the Jews at the time he joined the party.
Under questioning by Dr. Servatius, Eichmann said he repeatedly sought to be transferred to the front line but was refused. The questioning was based on documents in Eichmann’s personal SS file which had been submitted by the prosecution. One of them was a recommendation for a promotion for Eichmann in the SS becausd he “secured valuable property for Germany,” a reference the prosecution had said meant the billions in property stolen from the Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust. Eichmann said “this was a mistake by my superiors.” He described as “a standard sentence” a comment in another document on his “toughness” in carrying out his duties.
SOUGHT TO APPLY HERZL’S TEACHINGS, EICHMANN ASSERTS
Under careful questioning by Dr. Servatius, Eichmann proceeded to spell out a picture of his Gestapo activities as one of overriding concern for Jews being forced to emigrate and to help them get a secure foundation for the future. He testified that “a realistic solution” required an autonomous territory for the expelled Jews, a half-way house. This idea came to him, he said, after reading Theodor Herzl’s book on the Jewish State. He said that while Herzl preferred Palestine as a Jewish homeland, he had agreed to an alternative, namely Madagascar. Eichmann said he had recommended Madagascar to his superiors as an answer.
Acting under orders to effect Jewish emigration at all costs, he said, he saw no contradiction between aiding Zionism, which also fostered emigration, and expulsion of the Jews from Nazi Germany.
He described himself as advancing the cause of Zionism by speeding the process of emigration “and no Zionist can complain I ever was a hindrance.” Showing a manner of pained innocence, he added that he regretted to say that some departments in the Nazi Reich not only did not cooperate but even torpedoed his efforts at “benevolent emigration” of the German Jews.
Eichmann cited the stand of Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Nazi Foreign Minister, as a major obstacle because the latter refused to allow the emigres to transfer funds without which other countries refused to accept them. At this point in the testimony, Dr. Servatius cited a report by Joseph P. Kennedy, then United States Ambassador to Britain, quoting von Ribbentrop as asserting that Jews were without exception pickpockets, murderers and thieves and that all of their assets and properties had to be returned to Germans to whom it “properly belonged.” The Kennedy report had been previously introduced by the prosecution.
EICHMANN TOOK HEBREW LESSONS FROM RABBI
In testimony designed to demonstrate his humane attitude, Eichmann said he applied for permission to study Hebrew under a rabbi so that he could read a Yiddish paper published in Warsaw. He said it would have been simpler to have had the rabbi arrested and ordered to teach him Hebrew “but I wanted it otherwise.” He said he applied to his superiors for an allocation of three marks an hour for such instruction.
Next Eichmann quoted from a report on a conference dealing with Der Sturmer, one of the most viciously anti-Semitic Nazi publications. The report included disparaging remarks about participants in the conference, proving that he “disliked” such methods, Eichmann said.
Dr. Servatius again took part in the defense testimony with extensive quotations from documents showing the division of labor in the Reich Security Office, apparently in an effort to bolster the Eichmann cog-in-the-Nazi-wheel theory.
The attorney referred to an order designating some official mail as “for Eichmann’s hands” and said this was intended only to “make the work of the messenger boys easier” and that it did not mean that all such documents were handled by Eichmann personally.
Under questioning, Eichmann claimed that he was named director of a special office in charge of transportation after Heinriah Himmler, the Gestapo head, was named “Commissioner for Strengthening the Foundations of the German People” and in that capacity issued orders for the deportation of Jews and Poles with complete confusion ensuing.
“The main sufferers were the people about to be deported” under that order, Eichmann testified, because sometimes they had to wait for days at railroad stations. He said his special department was set up to coordinate transport and timetables.
DENIES HIS DEPARTMENT HAD SAY ON ALL JEWISH MATTERS
Eichmann also argued that Jewish matters belonged to his department only as part of general emigration affairs. He said that later, when his Department IV-B-4 was made responsible for Jewish affairs, this was to the degree that the division was responsible