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Eichmann to Speak for Eight Days in His Own Defense at Jerusalem Trial

June 8, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Adolf Eichmann will begin testimony in his own defense on June 19 and will testify during morning sessions for about eight days under an informal agreement reached today between the defense and the prosecution in the trial of the former Gestapo colonel.

The morning sessions at which the man charged with primary responsibility for the slaughter of 6,000,000 European Jews is to testify will be extended. There will not be any afternoon sessions so that Dr. Robert Servatius, Eichmann’s chief defense counsel, will have time to prepare Eichmann for the daily testimony. After Dr. Servatius completes presentation of the defense case, the prosecution will cross-examine Eichmann.

Eichmann will do all of his testifying from his glass-enclosed prisoner’s dock. Regular morning and afternoon sessions will be resumed when cross-examination of the defendant gets underway.

Documentary films taken by the Nazis in the concentration camps and by Allied photographers after liberation of the camps will be shown tomorrow. Since the courtroom must be darkened for that purpose, only the press will be allowed to attend as a security precaution.

The prosecution submitted documents yesterday afternoon to prove that Eichmann’s department in the Gestapo arranged for providing death gas to the varbus extermination camps. One of the exhibits was a set of invoices from the Degesh Chemical Company of Frankfurt for enough lethal gas supplied to the SS to kill 8,000,000 persons.


Three survivors of the Auschwitz murder factory were called today to testify about their frightful life there but one of them, who has achieved anonymous fame as a chronicler of Auschwitz infamy, suffered a stroke and collapsed after a few minutes of testimony.

Yechiel Dinur, who wrote “The House of Dolls” under the pseudonym, “Ka-tzetnik 135633,” was scheduled as the first witness. Taken to the hospital, he regained consciousness but his re-appearance was postponed. The pseudonym is an abbreviation for concentration camp inmates and the number is the camp number tattooed by the Nazis on the arms of inmates.

The other two witnesses were Yosef Kleinmann, a 31-year-old Jerusalem carpenter, who testified about the selection for the Auschwitz gas chambers made by Dr. Josef Mengele, and Yehuda Bakon, a Jerusalem artist, who told about the devices used by the Auschwitz officials to camouflage the purposes of the murder factory.

Both Eichmann and his defense attorney, Dr. Robert Servatius, appeared shaken by Dinur’s brief testimony delivered with evident tremendous effort. The witness indicated even before his collapse that he was suffering enormous stress when he suddenly stopped talking, rose and took a step down from the witness stand. He returned to his post, however, and continued to talk, either unheeding or unhearing the court’s suggestion that he halt his narrative and simply reply to questions from the prosecution.

The witness began by replying to a question from the prosecution as to why he had chosen the pseudonym rather than using his own name. He replied:

“I did not see myself as a writer of literature but only as one recording impressions I cannot suppress and cannot forget. I was in Auschwitz about two years–time there wasn’t like time is measured here. There every fraction of a minute revolved on wheels of another time measurement. We had no names, no parents, no children. We did not wear things as things are worn here. We didn’t live, we didn’t die. The rules there were not the rules of this earth. Our names were numbers.” At this point, the witness rolled up the sleeve of his Jacket to show his number.

He continued: “We were on another planet called Auschwitz.” At this point, he displayed the striped pajama-type garb worn by Auschwitz inmates. He handed the garment to the prosecution to submit as an exhibit. Correspondents who were able to pull their gaze away from the witness said later that both Eichmann and Servatius turned pale. The three judges held their breath and a deep sigh arose from the audience.

The witness spoke again, saying: “I believe with perfect faith”–he said this in the Hebrew of Maimonides used frequently by Orthodox Jews at the end of the daily prayer–“that I have to carry on under this pseudonym as long as the world fails to react to the crucifixion of our nation to eradicate this evil. If I stand before you and relate what happened on this planet, if I could be heard now, then I believe, with perfect faith, that this is due to a solemn oath that gave me this strength. This oath was my armor. It girded me with superhuman strength during the two years at Auschwitz. This oath was–to chronicle should I survive”–at this point the witness, who is in his forties, collapsed.


Court proceedings were suspended for 15 minutes. The prosecutor, Attorney General Gideon Hausner, then introduced Mr. Kleinmann after announcing that Dinur was unable to continue. Mr. Kleinmann told the court that Mengele, who fled to South America after the collapse of the Hitler regime, had been nicknamed “the Angel of Death” by the prisoners. He regularly chose boys for the gas chambers, with the younger ones usually chosen to die.

He said that the method used on one Yom Kippur Eve was particularly grim. About 2,000 boys were ordered to assemble on a field. Mengele selected a taller boy and nailed a strip of wood to a post to indicate his height. The other boys were then ordered to measure themselves by the marker. Everyone understood that boys shorter than the marker would be sent immediately to death.

Half of the 2,000 boys were gassed. The general feeling in the camp, the witness said, was that the Nazis chose Yom Kippur for the murder of the boys with knowledge of the Yom Kippur prayer, “Unesaneh Tokef,” which describes all mankind as passing under God’s rod, and with Mengele demonstrating that he was the one who decided who should live and who should die.

Mr. Kleinmann described a savage whipping of a 14-year-old boy who took 50 lashes without a whimper. Asked by other inmates what his offense had been, he replied, “I smuggled some prayerbooks to the boys.” The witness added that there was half of a set of phylacteries in his barrack, and that it was in constant use.

Mr. Bakon, who was sent to Auschwitz when he was 14, testified that when prisoners arrived, they were forced to sign a statement that they came voluntarily and were being protected from “the people’s wrath.” He told how the inmates were forced to write postcards to friends in another camp, Theresienstadt, saying that all was well. This was designed to calm them, since most of them too were destined for Auschwitz. He said he organized a group of boys who risked torture by including the Hebrew word for death in the postcards which were written in Hebrew.


The afternoon session today opened with the testimony of two witnesses which was given in camera the first since the trial opened April 11. This testimony was the only proceeding not covered by television. The witnesses were victims of sterilization procedures at Auschwitz and the unusual procedures were set up to guard their anonymity.

Their names were withheld from the translators handling translations into German, who were the only persons, other than judges and counsel, attending the sessions. Names of the two witnesses were submitted to the judges on slips of paper handed to them by the prosecutor.

Another of the outbreaks from the audience marked the afternoon session. A bearded spectator shouted out in Yiddish at Eichmann: “Murderer.” Screaming hysterically, the spectator roared “Goebbels, Goering, Eichmann–let them all burn. Sixteen of my family were killed.” The outburst occurred during the testimony of Dr. Aaron Beilin, who was deported to Auschwitz from Bialystok. He testified that his mother, who, along with his wife, was sent to the gas chambers, made him swear that if he survived, he would go to Palestine to settle.

Mr. Bakon, the Jerusalem artist, told the court that the SS men forced the surviving inmates to use the ashes of the burned Jews to pave paths to avoid winter mud. He said that those scheduled for public hanging displays were nursed back to health carefully after undergoing a routine beating.

He was sent to Mauthausen which, though unequipped with gas chambers, was a death factory nevertheless, mainly through congestion so bad that many of the prisoners preferred to sleep in the mud outside the barracks. Undernourished, starving, lice-ridden, scores simply faded out and died.

Alfred Oppenheimer, a former Luxembourg Jew, told how the Nazis wiped out the 2,500 Jews of that community. When the Germans entered, there were also 2,000 Jewish refugees in Luxemberg., who were in transit to other countries. The Government’s readiness to permit such transit made possible the saving of the lives of 10,000 Jewish refugees.

After spending some time at the Theresierstadt camp, Oppenheimer was sent to Auschwitz where he and 200 others claiming to be artisans were allowed to live, while others in the transport were killed., He described the daily torture in which prisoners were compelled for hours to “exercise.” Those who exercised “badly, ” and those who looked sick were sent to death.

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