JERUSALEM (Jul. 5)
Adolf Eichmann presented at his trial today his version of the notorious “blood-for-trucks” proposal, portraying himself as a Nazi official who, on his own initiative, worked out the plan to offer 1,000,000 doomed Jews for 10,000 Allied trucks.
Eichmann, his voice showing emotion for one of the few times in his two weeks of testimony in his own defense, also asserted that it was his idea to propose the “10 percent clause” under which 100,000 Jews would have been released in advance, even before the first 1,000 trucks were handed over.
His testimony was clearly designed in part to offset the damaging effects of the proxy testimony against him from Kurt Becher, a former head of the economic department of the SS, the Hitler Elite Guard. Becher was one of a group of Eichmann’s Nazi associates who testified as defense witnesses in West German courts out of fear of arrest as war criminals, had they come to Israel to testify.
The Becher deposition submitted yesterday by the prosecution, described Eichmann as a “zealous anti-Semite.” In his deposition, Becher testified under oath that he had complained to SS Chief Heinrich Himmler that Eichmann tried to circumvent Himmler’s orders. Becher also testified that Eichmann had confided to him that he had countermanded an order for the sending of 1,700 Hungarian Jews to Switzerland. Becher testified that Eichmann had instead ordered the 1,700 Jews sent to the Bergen-Belsen murder camp.
DENOUNCES BECHER AS BLACK MARKETEER AND ‘MEDDLER’
Eichmann struck back today with a denunciation of Becher, accusing Becher of negotiating as a black marketeer with Dr. Rudolf Kastner, the Hungarian Jewish leader later assassinated in Tel Aviv. The former Gestapo colonel denied testimony by Becher that he had sabotaged the trucks-for-blood proposal.
He also cited extensively from Nazi Foreign Ministry correspondence, to demonstrate that the idea of marching Budapest Jews in the winter of 1944 to fortifications work in Austria, originated in Budapest. He sought to demonstrate that it was the Hungarian fascists who insisted that Hungarian gendarmerie, and not members of German units, should accompany the marchers, who died by the thousands en route. Therefore, Eichmann said triumphantly, he was not responsible for planning the terrible death march, in which large numbers of Jews died from exhaustion, freezing and hunger.
The idea for the exchange, Eichmann testified, developed because of his irritation when Becher arrived in Budapest as Himmler’s special envoy, with the assignment of “pumping” Hungary for every possible resource for Germany’s needs. Eichmann told the court that he “resented” Becher’s “meddling” in an area which he had been concerned for many years–the emigration of Jews. He testified that he felt strongly that, if there were to be any changes in the handling of the Jews, it should have been his Gestapo department “and not a total stranger not connected with the police” handling it.
GIVES GENESIS OF THE ‘BIG’ IDEA, TELLS OF 10 PERCENT OFFER
“My anger mounted,” he said, “that I had to cooperate in the miserable job of deportations with Becher standing over my head, continually reprimanding me for red tape and delays which were caused by the Hungarian gendarmerie and local authorities.”
It was from his pondering on how to frustrate such “interference” with his assignment and his authority that he developed the plan to release 1,000,000 Jews for 10,000 trucks, “something big” which would “overshadow anything Becher might concoct.”
He told the court that he chose the figure of 1,000,000 because, if he mentioned “mercy” or suggested 5,000, he would have been “ejected” from the office of Gen. Heinrich Mueller, his Gestapo superior. “I knew a large figure was needed to give the plan a chance of acceptance,” he claimed.
He contended that he developed the idea of a 10 percent “down payment” because he felt that Joel Brand, who came to him on behalf of the Hungarian Jewish rescue committee, and whom he selected to be his emissary for the negotiations, “would find it difficult to convince Jewish leaders that the offer was serious.”
Under that phase of the arrangement, he said, as soon as Brand returned from Istanbul with an acceptance in principle, the first 100,000 Jews were to be handed over the border, and the first 1,000 trucks would be turned over to Nazi Germany.
Continuing his version of one of the most fantastic tales to come out of the Nazi holocaust, Eichmann said that “I knew that once the first 100,000 Jews were across the border, this in itself would be enough to assure implementation of the whole deal.”
After several trips to Berlin, he said, “I could not believe my ears that the proposal was approved, including the 10 percent clause.” He said he gave Brand a “large amount” of foreign currency and letters addressed to Hungarian Jews from abroad, as Brand testified earlier as a prosecution witness, because he wanted to create confidence in the entire proposal.
Asserting he chose Brand for the negotiations because “he looked decent, trust worthy and idealistic,” Eichmann contended that the proposal was submitted by him to Berlin with the understanding that the deportations to the death camps would continue pending Berlin approval.
REJECTS SOME OF BRAND’S TESTIMONY; SERVATIUS FIGHTS BECHER DEPOSITION
Eichmann rejected Brand’s claim that he had told Brand he would halt the “mills” at the Auschwitz death camp while Brand was on his mission, with a specific deadline for resumption of the gassings and barnings. He also denied prosecution testimony by Brand’s wife that Eichmann did not keep his promise to halt deportations for the deadline period. He said in court today that “the only promise I gave was that the trucks would not be used on the Western front. ” He insisted: “I told Brand and Mrs. Brand that according to orders from Berlin, the deportations would continue until Brand brought from the Jewish organizations acceptance of the plan.”
Eichmann’s counsel, Dr. Robert Servatius, submitted reports and letters today from the German legation in Budapest on the exchange proposal. He entered other documents intended to demonstrate that it was the Hungarian Fascist Government which obtained the consent of Regent Horthy for resumption of deportations, and that it was Hungarian Jews only who carried out the rounding up of the Jews.
Before Eichmann began his testimony today. Dr. Servatius launched an effort to discredit the testimony of Becher and to prove that there was hostility between the two Nazis. He cited the deposition in which Becher reaffirmed earlier statements that he practically fell to his knees begging Himmler to come to terms with Eichmann, in Eichmann’s presence, to halt the extermination of Jews and to treat them with consideration. This presumably developed when it became clear to the Nazis that they were losing the war.
Dr. Servatius said sarcastically that it was “difficult to imagine Becher on his knees before Himmler on behalf of the Jews,” The defense attorney introduced other documentation in efforts to disprove the testimony given by proxy by other former Nazi associates.