JERUSALEM (Jun. 28)
Adolf Eichmann contended today, his seventh day on the stand, that his Gestapo department’s usually successful efforts to evade pressures of foreign governments for the release of their Jewish nationals represented simply another case of obeying orders from his superiors. He explained that SS chief Heinrich Himmler had forbidden the release of any Jews whatever, and interventions by the German Foreign Ministry were therefore in vain.
The court was treated again today to a self-portrayal by the defendant as a Nazi official whose “greatest interest” was to help the Jews of Austria to emigrate. He claimed he was responsible for saving Jews from arrest, for getting others released from concentration camps and for getting Nazi foreign currency restrictions relaxed so that Jews could emigrate. This took place, he testified, shortly before World War II when he was head of the Nazi Central Emigration Office in Vienna.
Aware that this portrait of active intervention for Jews was in sharp contrast with his repeated insistence on his lack of power to take any initiative, he told the court that even in this work he was acting only as a minor official who had to refer everything to his superiors.
SAID HE SECURED RELEASE OF VIENNA JEWISH LEADERS
Under questioning, he said that one of his first actions in Vienna was to ask local police to release Dr. Josef Loewenhertz, former head of the Vienna Jewish community, from jail. He said he also obtained the release of Loewenhertz’s predecessor, Dr. Paul Friedman, from the Dachau concentration camp.
He added quickly that he had no “executive authority” and could only ask the local police to release the two Jewish leaders. He said the general line of the Gestapo since 1933, when Hitler came to power, was to arrest and imprison all Jews. However, when he was sent to Vienna, a new approach was ordered. The Reich security head office wanted to promote the emigration of Jews and not to ban but to encourage such Jewish organizations as would advance this objective. He said he acted to obtain double the official rate for currency exchanges to make possible the financing of more immigration.
MEMORY SUDDENLY FAILS DEFENDANT
Eichmann was shown an exhibit from the prosecution on the conversion of the Lodz ghetto into a concentration camp. Eichmann’s name is on the document. The memory of the defendant, which has been demonstrated to be awesome in the recollection of minute details, suddenly failed him. He said he did not remember. He added that he had never acted as a representative of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the successor to Reinhardt Heydrich, as was stated in the document. He insisted that the person who had thus described him must have been unfamiliar with the structure of the SS. Then, in a dramatic example of his excellent memory for some details, he scanned the document recommending the conversion of the Lodz ghetto and said that the “Ja” written on the margin was “unmistakably” that of SS Gen. Oswald Pohl, acting on behalf of Himmler.
The defense testimony today went into a description by Eichmann, at the request of his attorney, of his alleged efforts to facilitate the transfer of the remains of Theodor Herzl from Vienna to Palestine in 1939. Eichmann said that Dr. Loewenhertz came to him, “knowing that no other official would listen to him. He knew my attitude toward Jewish problems. I had to busy myself with this matter which was not my concern, run around to various offices and I said to Lowwenhertz ‘if I bother about your troubles, you should bother about mine. You should obtain the possibility for emigration of an additional 8, 000 Jews in exchange for my enabling the transfer of Herzl’s remains.”
Eichmann said that he told the Jewish leader that such an arrangement “would give justification “–presumably to his superiors–”for my dealing with the Herzl affair.”
COURT CATCHES EICHMANN ON TESTIMONIAL
In another phase of the testimony today, Eichmann’s protestations of concern for his Jewish victims ran into an objection from Justice Moshe Landau, the presiding judge. This occurred in the course of testimony by the Nazi in which he cited a letter from the head of the Berlin Jewish community to the Vienna community. The letter said that arrangements for processing prospective emigrants in Vienna, as organized by Eichmann, were speedier and more efficient than in Berlin. This elaboration moved Justice Landau to remark that he recalled a prosecution document that the Berlin Jewish leader was compelled to write that letter.
Eichmann flatly denied the postwar testimony given by Siegfried Seidl, a commander of the Theresienstadt camp, who testified at his war crimes trial that Eichmann had signed an order for the execution of nine Jewish inmates of the camp for smuggling out letters warning other Jews of the Nazi genocide plans.
Eichmann insisted that he did not have authority to order executions in the camp. He also gave the version of prosecution documents that he visited the camp after the executions were carried out. He said that during that visit he learned that regulations forbidding correspondence from the camp was the cause of the smuggling and that the regulations should be eased. He added that he transmitted this request to his superiors.