Former SS General Karl Wolff continued to insist today, at his trial on charges of complicity in the wartime slaughter of 300, 000 Jews, that he had no idea that his fellow-Nazis were carrying out plans to exterminate European Jewry.
Testifying in his own defense, he told the Munich court that he thought the purpose of removing Jews to camps was to arrange for their eventual settlement on reservations. The 64 year-old former chief of staff to Gestapo Chief Heinrich Himmler insisted that Himmler had lied to him about the real purposes of the transport of Jews.
He told the court that, at the beginning of 1942, Himmler had told him that increasing guerilla warfare behind the German lines made it necessary to break up the Jewish ghettoes. According to his account, Himmler said that the occupants would first be removed to other areas and that, after the war, they would be settled in such places as Palestine or Madagascar. Wolff told the court he had left Himmler in no doubt that he would have “firmly rejected” giving even the slightest assistance in the extermination of the Jews.
The court presented a letter which Wolff had written to Albert Ganzenmuller, State Secretary in Hitler’s Transport Ministry. In that letter, Wolff wrote that he had learned “with particular pleasure that every day for the last fortnight a train containing 5, 000 members of the Chosen Race has made the journey to Treblinka, and that we are now in a position to carry out expeditiously this movement of population. The smooth accomplishment of the entire operation appears assured.”
COURT PRESIDENT CHALLENGES HIS TESTIMONY AT THE TRIAL
Wolff retorted that the phrase “movement of population” proved that he was unaware of the real purpose of the operation and that, even so, he had not actually written the letter but merely signed it after a “cursory glance.” He asserted he had never been a Jew-hater of any kind, and that he had given some Jews an opportunity to get away with false papers.
The court president again challenged his testimony, saying that Adolt Eichmann, during his trial in Jerusalem, had called Wolff one of the “saloon officers” of the SS who “put on white gloves” and did not want to know anything about the “Jewish question. “
The former SS general replied that only a small clique of Nazis were aware of the planned “final solution.” of the “Jewish problem,” which had been a matter for the Reich Security Department. The prosecutor denied this, asserting that orders for the actions against Jews came directly from Himmler, and that Wolff, as a close colleague of Himmler, must have known about it.
Wolff also related that Eichmann once had “the impertinence to challenge me to a duel” when Wolff “demanded” the release of a Jewish “protege. ” Wolff said that Eichmann, then only “a small SS lieutenant, ” had refused to give up the Jew, and that a quarrel had developed in which Wolff had showered Eichmann with insults.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.