Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Eichmann Regards ‘extermination of Jews Gravest Crime in Human History’

July 14, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Adolf Eichmann declared under oath today, to a tense and rapt court: “I regard the extermination of the Jews as the gravest crime in human history.”

The statement came after he first refused to answer a question from Prosecutor Gidoen Hausner. He was asked whether he considered Rudolf Hoess, the Auschwitz commandant who directed the gassing and burning of several million victims, and others who participated in the mass slaughters, as criminals.

Pressed for a reply as to how he “really felt” about the Nazi genocide, he said “this is a most personal question” which he had not answered until now and did not intend to answer because his “private thoughts were not for sale.” He said also he had no right to give an opinion as to how a person who received orders for mass killing should react.

Previously, Eichmann told the prosecutor that his personal feelings were a private matter but that he hoped, after the trial, to write a book in which he would “call a spade a spade” as a warning to the coming generations. After he had repeatedly evaded Mr. Hausner’s questions on whether he considered Hoess and others involved in the slaughter of the Jews as criminals. Presiding Justice Moshe Landau told the 55-year-old Nazi that it was his duty to reply exactly as he proposed to in the book he hoped to write. Eichmann then made his dramatic declaration.


Judge Binyamin Halevi then asked if that opinion was merely “an afterthought” or whether he felt the same way when he was head of Department 4 for Jewish Affairs in the Gestapo bureau in Berlin. Eichmann replied by reiterating with a previous assertion. He said the first sight of mass-murders had shocked him deeply, and that he had frequently asked his superiors to relieve him of his transport assignment.

Mr. Hausner worked hard at the afternoon session, the fifth day of Eichmann’s cross-examination, to link Eichmann with direct responsibility for the mass murders. The prosecutor cited a statement attributed to Eichmann by Willem Sassen, the Dutch Nazi journalist who interviewed Eichmann in Argentina, that Eichmann had never tried to obtain a transfer. Eichmann insisted that the statement was incorrect. He said there were so many inaccuracies in the Sassen transcript, given him to verify when he was brought to Israel, that he finally insisted that only those pages could be published which were signed by him.

In a discussion of his statement to Israeli police interrogators before the trial, that he would have killed his father if ordered to do so by his superiors, Eichmann said that a breach of loyalty was the worst crime a person could commit. He said his honor required him to tell the truth and that he was convinced he had been telling the truth in the court proceedings.

Under further questioning, Eichmann said that regrets could not revive dead human beings and there was therefore no point in expressing regrets over the killing of 6, 000, 000 Jews. Mr. Hausner then quoted from a portion of the Sassen interview, a portion which the court did not accept as evidence. The prosecutor read out this Eichmann remark: “If we had killed all 10, 300, 000 Jews, I could have said with satisfaction we had destroyed an enemy. I have no regrets. I don’t want to stoop and cringe.” Eichmann denied the portion about killing the Jews, and said the main thing was not regrets but to make sure that such things never happened again.


Earlier, Eichmann declared that he had no part in a Gestapo order for the delivery of poison gas to the Nazi death camps, despite the fact that the gas deliveries were arranged through one of his deputies.

Attorney General Hausner hammered away at the former Gestapo colonel for two hours but failed to shake his stand. The prosecutor produced evidence that Rolf Guenther, an Eichmann deputy in the Gestapo Bureau 4 for Jewish affairs, worked with a combat SS major, Kurt Gerstein, to get and deliver tons of the special Cyklon B gas developed by Nazi chemists for the gassing of millions of European Jews.

Eichmann insisted that General Heinrich Mueller, his chief, must have arranged the assignment for Guenther without notifying Eichmann about it. Judge Halevi asked the defendant whether he reported this to Mueller. Eichmann replied that “this is a blank in my mind.” Pressed by the prosecutor, Eichmann insisted that he did not remember and that all that he could do was “to try to reconstruct the facts.”

When he added that since he had acknowledged “knowing about so many things, this will not add much more” and that he was ready to say “I had foreknowledge of the gassing,” Mr. Hausner replied: “We don’t want any gesture from you, just the truth.”

Despite evasive answers, Mr. Hausner, aided by the judges, succeeded in extracting from Eichmann the admission that, in his Gestapo office in Berlin, he or a surobdinate presided in 1942 over many sessions of Germany’s “Jewish experts” in occupied countries to coordinate anti-Jewish measures. Eichmann admitted that among the measures was the wearing of the yellow Star of David which facilitated roundup of Jews for deportation.

Recommended from JTA