Eichman in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt - HTML preview
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IV : The First Solution: Expulsion
Had this been an ordinary trial, with the normal tug of war between prosecution and defense to bring out the facts and do justice to both sides, it would be possible to switch now to the version of the defense and find out whether there was not more to Eichmann's grotesque account of his activities in Vienna than meets the eye, and whether his distortions of reality could not really be ascribed to more than the mendacity of an individual. The facts for which Eichmann was to hang had been established "beyond reasonable doubt" long before the trial started, and they were generally known to all students of the Nazi regime. The additional facts that the prosecution tried to establish were, it is true, partly accepted in the judgment, but they would never have appeared to be "beyond reasonable doubt" if the defense had brought its own evidence to bear upon the proceedings. Hence, no report on the Eichmann case, perhaps as distinguished from the Eichmann trial, could be complete without paying some attention to certain facts that are well enough known but that Dr. Servatius chose to ignore.
This is especially true of Eichmann's muddled general outlook and ideology with respect to "the Jewish question." During cross-examination, he told the presiding judge that in Vienna he
"regarded the Jews as opponents with respect to whom a mutually acceptable, a mutually fair solution had to be found.
. . . That solution I envisaged as putting firm soil under their feet so that they would have a place of their own, soil of their own. And I was working in the direction of that solution joyfully. I cooperated in reaching such a solution, gladly and joyfully, because it was also the kind of solution that was approved by movements among the Jewish people themselves, and I regarded this as the most appropriate solution to this matter."
This was the true reason they had all "pulled together," the reason their work had been "based upon mutuality." It was in the interest of the Jews, though perhaps not all Jews understood this, to get out of the country; "one had to help them, one had to help these functionaries to act, and that's what I did." If the Jewish functionaries were "idealists," that is, Zionists, he respected them,
"treated them as equals," listened to all their "requests and complaints and applications for support," kept his "promises" as far as he could - "People are inclined to forget that now." Who but he, Eichmann, had saved hundreds of thousands of Jews? What but his great zeal and gifts of organization had enabled them to escape in time? True, he could not foresee at the time the coming Final Solution, but he had saved them, that was a "fact." (In an interview given in this country during the trial, Eichmann's son told the same story to American reporters. It must have been a family legend.)
In a sense, one can understand why counsel for the defense did nothing to back up Eichmann's version of his relations with the Zionists. Eichmann admitted, as he had in the Sassen interview, that he "did not greet his assignment with the apathy of an ox being led to his stall," that he had been very different from those colleagues "who had never read a basic book [i.e., Herzl's Judenstaat], worked through it, absorbed it, absorbed it with interest," and who therefore lacked
"inner rapport with their work." They were "nothing but office drudges," for whom everything was decided "by paragraphs, by orders, who were interested in nothing else," who were, in short, precisely such "small cogs" as, according to the defense, Eichmann himself had been. If this meant no more than giving unquestioning obedience to the Führer's orders, then they had all been small cogs - even Himmler, we are told by his masseur, Felix Kersten, had not greeted the Final Solution with great enthusiasm, and Eichmann assured the police examiner that his own boss, Heinrich Müller, would never have proposed anything so "crude" as "physical extermination." Obviously, in Eichmann's eyes the small-cog theory was quite beside the point.
Certainly he had not been as big as Mr. Hausner tried to make him; after all, he was not Hitler, nor, for that matter, could he compare himself in importance, as far as the "solution" of the Jewish question was concerned, with Müller, or Heydrich, or Himmler; he was no megalomaniac. But neither was he as small as the defense wished him to be.
Eichmann's distortions of reality were horrible because of the horrors they dealt with, but in principle they were not very different from things current in post-Hitler Germany. There is, for instance, Franz-Josef Strauss, former Minister of Defense, who recently conducted an election campaign against Willy Brandt, now mayor of West Berlin, but a refugee in Norway during the Hitler period. Strauss asked a widely publicized and apparently very successful question of Mr.
Brandt "What were you doing those twelve years outside Germany? We know what we were doing here in Germany" - with complete impunity, without anybody's batting an eye, let alone reminding the member of the Bonn government that what Germans in Germany were doing during those years has become notorious indeed. The same "innocence" is to be found in a recent casual remark by a respected and respectable German literary critic, who was probably never a Party member; reviewing a study of literature in the Third Reich, he said that its author belonged with "those intellectuals who at the outbreak of barbarism deserted us without exception." This author was of course a Jew, and he was expelled by the Nazis and himself deserted by Gentiles, people like Mr. Heinz Beckmann of the Rheinischer Merkur. Incidentally, the very word "barbarism," today frequently applied by Germans to the Hitler period, is a distortion of reality; it is as though Jewish and non-Jewish intellectuals had fled a country that was no longer "refined" enough for them.
Eichmann, though much less refined than statesmen and literary critics, could, on the other hand, have cited certain indisputable facts to back up his story if his memory had not been so bad, or if the defense had helped him. For "it is indisputable that during the first stages of their Jewish policy the National Socialists thought it proper to adopt a pro-Zionist attitude" (Hans Lamm), and it was during these first stages that Eichmann learned his lessons about Jews. He was by no means alone in taking this "pro-Zionism" seriously; the German Jews themselves thought it would be sufficient to undo "assimilation" through a new process of "dissimilation," and flocked into the ranks of the Zionist movement. (There are no reliable statistics on this development, but it is estimated that the circulation of the Zionist weekly Die Jüdische Rundschau increased in the first months of the Hitler regime from approximately five to seven thousand to nearly forty thousand, and it is known that the Zionist fund-raising organizations received in 1935-36, from a greatly diminished and impoverished population, three times as much as in 1931-32.) This did not necessarily mean that the Jews wished to emigrate to Palestine; it was more a matter of pride:
"Wear it with Pride, the Yellow Star!," the most popular slogan of these years, coined by Robert Weltsch, editor-in-chief of the Jüdische Rundschau, expressed the general emotional atmosphere. The polemical point of the slogan, formulated as a response to Boycott Day, April 1, 1933 - more than six years before the Nazis actually forced the Jews to wear a badge, a six-pointed yellow star on a white ground - was directed against the "assimilationists" and all those people who refused to be reconciled to the new "revolutionary development," those who "were always behind the times" (die ewig Gestrigen). The slogan was recalled at the trial, with a good deal of emotion, by witnesses from Germany. They forgot to mention that Robert Weltsch himself, a highly distinguished journalist, had said in recent years that he would never have issued his slogan if he had been able to foresee developments.
But quite apart from all slogans and ideological quarrels, it was in those years a fact of everyday life that only Zionists had any chance of negotiating with the German authorities, for the simple reason that their chief Jewish adversary, the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith, to which ninety-five per cent of organized Jews in Germany then belonged, specified in its bylaws that its chief task was the "fight against anti-Semitism"; it had suddenly become by definition an organization "hostile to the State," and would indeed have been persecuted - which it was not - if it had ever dared to do what it was supposed to do. During its first few years, Hitler's rise to power appeared to the Zionists chiefly as "the decisive defeat of assimilationism." Hence, the Zionists could, for a time, at least, engage in a certain amount of non-criminal cooperation with the Nazi authorities; the Zionists too believed that "dissimilation," combined with the emigration to Palestine of Jewish youngsters and, they hoped, Jewish capitalists, could be a
"mutually fair solution." At the time, many German officials held this opinion, and this kind of talk seems to have been quite common up to the end. A letter from a survivor of Theresienstadt, a German Jew, relates that all leading positions in the Nazi-appointed Reichsvereinigung were held by Zionists (whereas the authentically Jewish Reichsvertretung had been composed of both Zionists and non-Zionists), because Zionists, according to the Nazis, were "thèdecent' Jews since they too thought in `national' terms." To be sure, no prominent Nazi ever spoke publicly in this vein; from beginning to end, Nazi propaganda was fiercely, unequivocally, uncompromisingly anti-Semitic, and eventually nothing counted but what people who were still without experience in the mysteries of totalitarian government dismissed as "mere propaganda." There existed in those first years a mutually highly satisfactory agreement between the Nazi authorities and the Jewish Agency for Palestine - a Ha'avarah, or Transfer Agreement, which provided that an emigrant to Palestine could transfer his money there in German goods and exchange them for pounds upon arrival. It was soon the only legal way for a Jew to take his money with him (the alternative then being the establishment of a blocked account, which could be liquidated abroad only at a loss of between fifty and ninety-five per cent). The result was that in the thirties, when American Jewry took great pains to organize a boycott of German merchandise, Palestine, of all places, was swamped with all kinds of goods "made in Germany."
Of greater importance for Eichmann were the emissaries from Palestine, who would approach the Gestapo and the S.S. on their own initiative, without taking orders from either the German Zionists or the Jewish Agency for Palestine. They came in order to enlist help for the illegal immigration of Jews into British-ruled Palestine, and both the Gestapo and the S.S. were helpful.
They negotiated with Eichmann in Vienna, and they reported that he was "polite," "not the shouting type," and that he even provided them with farms and facilities for setting up vocational training camps for prospective immigrants. ("On one occasion, he expelled a group of nuns from a convent to provide a training farm for young Jews," and on another "a special train [was made available] and Nazi officials accompanied" a group of emigrants, ostensibly headed for Zionist training farms in Yugoslavia, to see them safely across the border.) According to the story told by Jon and David Kimche, with "the full and generous cooperation of all the chief actors" (The Secret Roads: The "Illegal" Migration of a People, 1938-1948, London, 1954), these Jews from Palestine spoke a language not totally different from that of Eichmann. They had been sent to Europe by the communal settlements in Palestine, and they were not interested in rescue operations: "That was not their job." They wanted to select "suitable material," and their chief enemy, prior to the extermination program, was not those who made life impossible for Jews in the old countries, Germany or Austria, but those who barred access to the new homeland; that enemy was definitely Britain, not Germany. Indeed, they were in a position to deal with the Nazi authorities on a footing amounting to equality, which native Jews were not, since they enjoyed the protection of the mandatory power; they were probably among the first Jews to talk openly about mutual interests and were certainly the first to be given permission "to pick young Jewish pioneers" from among the Jews in the concentration camps. Of course, they were unaware of the sinister implications of this deal, which still lay in the future; but they too somehow believed that if it was a question of selecting Jews for survival, the Jews should do the selecting themselves. It was this fundamental error in judgment that eventually led to a situation in which the non-selected majority of Jews inevitably found themselves confronted with two enemies - the Nazi authorities and the Jewish authorities. As far as the Viennese episode is concerned, Eichmann's preposterous claim to have saved hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives, which was laughed out of court, finds strange support in the considered judgment of the Jewish historians, the Kimches: "Thus what must have been one of the most paradoxical episodes of the entire period of the Nazi regime began: the man who was to go down in history as one of the arch-murderers of the Jewish people entered the lists as an active worker in the rescue of Jews from Europe."
Eichmann's trouble was that he remembered none of the facts that might have supported, however faintly, his incredible story, while the learned counsel for the defense probably did not even know that there was anything to remember. (Dr. Servatius could have called as witnesses for the defense the former agents of Aliyah Beth, as the organization for illegal immigration into Palestine was called; they certainly still remembered Eichmann, and they were now living in Israel.) Eichmann's memory functioned only in respect to things that had had a direct bearing upon his career. Thus, he remembered a visit he had received in Berlin from a Palestinian functionary who told him about life in the collective settlements, and whom he had twice taken out to dinner, because this visit ended with a formal invitation to Palestine, where the Jews would show him the country. He was delighted; no other Nazi official had been able to go "to a distant foreign land," and he received permission to make the trip. The judgment concluded that he had been sent "on an espionage mission," which no doubt was true, but this did not contradict the story Eichmann had told the police. (Practically nothing came of the enterprise. Eichmann, together with a journalist from his office, a certain Herbert Hagen, had just enough time to climb Mount Carmel in Haifa before the British authorities deported both of them to Egypt and denied them entry permits for Palestine; according to Eichmann, "the man from the Haganah" - the Jewish military organization which became the nucleus of the Israeli Army - came to see them in Cairo, and what he told them there became the subject of a "thoroughly negative report"
Eichmann and Hagen were ordered by their superiors to write for propaganda purposes; this was duly published.)
Apart from such minor triumphs, Eichmann remembered only moods and the catch phrases he made up to go with them; the trip to Egypt had been in 1937, prior to his activity in Vienna, and from Vienna he remembered no more than the general atmosphere and how "elated" he had felt.
In view of his astounding virtuosity in never discarding a mood and its catch phrase once and for all when they became incompatible with a new era, which required different moods and different
"elating" phrases - a virtuosity that he demonstrated over and over during the police examination -
one is tempted to believe in his sincerity when he spoke of the time in Vienna as an idyll.
Because of the complete lack of consistency in his thoughts and sentiments, this sincerity is not even undermined by the fact that his year in Vienna, from the spring of 1938 to March, 1939, came at a time when the Nazi regime had abandoned its pro-Zionist attitude. It was in the nature of the Nazi movement that it kept moving, became more radical with each passing month, but one of the outstanding characteristics of its members was that psychologically they tended to be always one step behind the movement - that they had the greatest difficulty in keeping up with it, or, as Hitler used to phrase it, that they could not "jump over their own shadow."
More damning, however, than any objective fact was Eichmann's own faulty memory. There were certain Jews in Vienna whom he recalled very vividly - Dr. Löwenherz and Kommerzialrat Storfer
- but they were not those Palestinian emissaries, who might have backed up his story. Josef Löwenherz, who after the war wrote a very interesting memorandum about his negotiations with Eichmann (one of the few new documents produced by the trial, it was shown in part to Eichmann, who found himself in complete agreement with its main statements), was the first Jewish functionary actually to organize a whole Jewish community into an institution at the service of the Nazi authorities. And he was one of the very, very few such functionaries to reap a reward for his services - he was permitted to stay in Vienna until the end of the war, when he emigrated to England and the United States; he died shortly after Eichmann's capture, in 1960.
Storfer's fate, as we have seen, was less fortunate, but this certainly was not Eichmann's fault.
Storfer had replaced the Palestinian emissaries, who had become too independent, and his task, assigned to him by Eichmann, was to organize some illegal transports of Jews into Palestine without the help of the Zionists. Storfer was no Zionist and had shown no interest in Jewish matters prior to the arrival of the Nazis in Austria. Still, with the help of Eichmann he succeeded in getting some thirty-five hundred Jews out of Europe, in 1940, when half of Europe was occupied by the Nazis, and it seems that he did his best to clear things with the Palestinians. (That is probably what Eichmann had in mind when he added to his story about Storfer in Auschwitz the cryptic remark: "Storfer never betrayed Judaism, not with a single word, not Storfer.") A third Jew, finally, whom Eichmann never failed to recall in connection with his prewar activities was Dr. Paul Eppstein, in charge of emigration in Berlin during the last years of the Reichsvereinigung - a Nazi-appointed Jewish central organization, not to be confused with the authentically Jewish Reichsvertretung, which was dissolved in July, 1939. Dr. Eppstein was appointed by Eichmann to serve as Judenältester (Jewish Elder) in Theresienstadt, where he was shot in 1944.
In other words, the only Jews Eichmann remembered were those who had been completely in his power. He had forgotten not only the Palestinian emissaries but also his earlier Berlin acquaintances, whom he had known well when he was still engaged in intelligence work and had no executive powers. He never mentioned, for instance, Dr. Franz Meyer, a former member of the Executive of the Zionist Organization in Germany, who came to testify for the prosecution about his contacts with the accused from 1936 to 1939. To some extent, Dr. Meyer confirmed Eichmann's own story: in Berlin, the Jewish functionaries could "put forward complaints and requests," there was a kind of cooperation. Sometimes, Meyer said, "we came to ask for something, and there were times when he demanded something from us"; Eichmann at that time
"was genuinely listening to us and was sincerely trying to understand the situation"; his behavior was "quite correct" - "he used to address me as `Mister' and to offer me a seat." But in February, 1939, all this had changed. Eichmann had summoned the leaders of German Jewry to Vienna to explain to them his new methods of "forced emigration." And there he was, sitting in a large room on the ground floor of the Rothschild Palais, recognizable, of course, but completely changed: "I immediately told my friends that I did not know whether I was meeting the same man. So terrible was the change. . . . Here I met a man who comported himself as a master of life and death. He received us with insolence and rudeness. He did not let us come near his desk. We had to remain standing." Prosecution and judges were in agreement that Eichmann underwent a genuine and lasting personality change when he was promoted to a post with executive powers. But the trial showed that here, too, he had "relapses," and that the matter could never have been as simple as that. There was the witness who testified to an interview with him at Theresienstadt in March, 1945, when Eichmann again showed himself to be very interested in Zionist matters - the witness was a member of a Zionist youth organization and held a certificate of entry for Palestine. The interview was "conducted in very pleasant language and the attitude was kind and respectful."
(Strangely, counsel for the defense never mentioned this witness's testimony in his plaidoyer. ) Whatever doubts there may be about Eichmann's personality change in Vienna, there is no doubt that this appointment marked the real beginning of his career. Between 1937 and 1941, he won four promotions; within fourteen months he advanced from Untersturmführer to Hauptsturmführer (that is, from second lieutenant to captain); and in another year and a half he was made Obersturmbannführer, or lieutenant colonel. That happened in October, 1941, shortly after he was assigned the role in the Final Solution that was to land him in the District Court of Jerusalem.
And there, to his great grief, he "got stuck"; as he saw it, there was no higher grade obtainable in the section in which he worked. But this he could not know during the four years in which he climbed quicker and higher than he had ever anticipated. In Vienna, he had shown his mettle, and now he was recognized not merely as an expert on "the Jewish question," the intricacies of Jewish organizations and Zionist parties, but as an "authority" on emigration and evacuation, as the "master" who knew how to make people move. His greatest triumph came shortly after the Kristallnacht, in November, 1938, when German Jews had become frantic in their desire to escape. Göring, probably on the initiative of Heydrich, decided to establish in Berlin a Reich Center for Jewish Emigration, and in the letter containing his directives Eichmann's Viennese office was specifically mentioned as the model to be used in the setting up of a central authority.
The head of the Berlin office was not to be Eichmann, however, but his later greatly admired boss Heinrich Müller, another of Heydrich's discoveries. Heydrich had just taken Müller away from his job as a regular Bavarian police officer (he was not even a member of the Party and had been an opponent until 1933), and called him to the Gestapo in Berlin, because he was known to be an authority on the Soviet Russian police system. For Müller, too, this was the beginning of his career, though he had to start with a comparatively small assignment. (Müller, incidentally, not prone to boasting like Eichmann and known for his "sphinxlike conduct," succeeded in disappearing altogether; nobody knows his whereabouts, though there are rumors that first East Germany and now Albania have engaged the services of the Russian-police expert.) In March, 1939, Hitler moved into Czechoslovakia and erected a German protectorate over Bohemia and Moravia. Eichmann was immediately appointed to set up another emigration center for Jews in Prague. "In the beginning I was not too happy to leave Vienna, for if you have installed such an office and if you see everything running smoothly and in goody order, you don't like to give it up." And indeed, Prague was somewhat disappointing, although the system was the same as in Vienna, for "The functionaries of the Czech Jewish organizations went to Vienna and the Viennese people came to Prague, so that I did not have to intervene at all. The model in Vienna was simply copied and carried to Prague. Thus the whole thing got started automatically."
But the Prague center was much smaller, and "I regret to say there were no people of the caliber and the energy of a Dr. Löwenherz." But these, as it were, personal reasons for discontent were minor compared to mounting difficulties of another, entirely objective nature. Hundreds of thousands of Jews had left their homelands in a matter of a few years, and millions waited behind them, for the Polish and Rumanian governments left no doubt in their official proclamations that they, too, wished to be rid of their Jews. They could not understand why the world should get indignant if they followed in the footsteps of a "great and cultured nation." (This enormous arsenal of potential refugees had been revealed during the Evian Conference, called in the summer of 1938 to solve the problem of German Jewry through intergovernmental action. It was a resounding fiasco and did great harm to German Jews.) The avenues for emigration overseas now became clogged up, just as the escape possibilities within Europe had been exhausted earlier, and even under the best of circumstances, if war had not interfered with his program, Eichmann would hardly have been able to repeat the Viennese "miracle" in Prague.
He knew this very well, he really had become an expert on matters of emigration, and he could not have been expected to greet his next appointment with any great enthusiasm. War had broken out in September, 1939, and one month later Eichmann was called back to Berlin to succeed Müller as head of the Reich Center for Jewish Emigration. A year before, this would have been a real promotion, but now was the wrong moment. No one in his senses could possibly think any longer of a solution of the Jewish question in terms of forced emigration; quite apart from the difficulties of getting people from one country to another in wartime, the Reich had acquired, through the conquest of Polish territories, two or two and a half million more Jews. It is true that the Hitler government was still willing to let its Jews go (the order that stopped all Jewish emigration came only two years later, in the fall of 1941), and if any "final solution" had been decided upon, nobody had as yet given orders to that effect, although Jews were already concentrated in ghettos in the East and were also being liquidated by the Einsatzgruppen. It was only natural that emigration, however smartly organized in Berlin in accordance with the
"assembly line principle," should peter out by itself - a process Eichmann described as being "like pulling teeth . . . listless, I would say, on both sides. On the Jewish side because it was really difficult to obtain any emigration possibilities to speak of, and on our side because there was no bustle and no rush, no coming and going of people. There we were, sitting in a great and mighty building, amid a yawning emptiness." Evidently, if Jewish matters, his specialty, remained a matter of emigration, he would soon be out of a job.
V : The Second Solution: Concentration
It was not until the outbreak of the war, on September 1, 1939, that the Nazi regime became openly totalitarian and openly criminal. One of the most important steps in this direction, from an organizational point of view, was a decree, signed by Himmler, that fused the Security Service of the S.S., to which Eichmann had belonged since 1934, and which was a Party organ, with the regular Security Police of the State, in which the Secret State Police, or Gestapo, was included.
The result of the merger was the Head Office for Reich Security (R.S.H.A.), whose chief was first Reinhardt Heydrich; after Heydrich's death in 1942, Eichmann's old acquaintance from Linz, Dr.
Ernst Kaltenbrunner, took over. All officials of the police, not only of the Gestapo but also of the Criminal Police and the Order Police, received S.S. titles corresponding to their previous ranks, regardless of whether or not they were Party members, and this meant that in the space of a day a most important part of the old civil services was incorporated into the most radical section of the Nazi hierarchy. No one, as far as I know, protested, or resigned his job. (Though Himmler, the head and founder of the S.S., had since 1936 been Chief of the German Police as well, the two apparatuses had remained separate until now.) The R.S.H.A., moreover, was only one of twelve Head Offices in the S.S., the most important of which, in the present context, were the Head Office of the Order Police, under General Kurt Daluege, which was responsible for the rounding up of Jews, and the Head Office for Administration and Economy (the S.S.-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt, or W.V.H.A.), headed by Oswald Pohl, which was in charge of concentration camps and was later to be in charge of the "economic" side of the extermination.
This "objective" attitude - talking about concentration camps' in terms of "administration" and about extermination camps in terms of "economy" - was typical of the S.S. mentality, and something Eichmann, at the trial, was still very proud of. By its "objectivity" (Sachlichkeit), the S.S. dissociated itself from such "emotional" types as Streicher, that "unrealistic fool," and also from certain "Teutonic-Germanic Party bigwigs who behaved as though they were clad in horns and pelts." Eichmann admired Heydrich greatly because he did not like such nonsense at all, and he was out of sympathy with Himmler because, among other things, the Reichsführer S.S. and Chief of the German Police, though boss of all the S.S. Head Offices, had permitted himself "at least for a long time to be influenced by it." During the trial, however, it was not the accused, S.S.
Obersturmbannführer a.D., who was to carry off the prize for "objectivity"; it was Dr. Servatius, a tax and business lawyer from Cologne who had never joined the Nazi Party and who nevertheless was to teach the court a lesson in what it means not to be "emotional" that no one who heard him is likely to forget. The moment, one of the few great ones in the whole trial, occurred during the short oral plaidoyer of the defense, after which the court withdrew for four months to write its judgment. Servatius declared the accused innocent of charges bearing on his responsibility for "the collection of skeletons, sterilizations, killings by gas, and similar medical matters," where upon Judge Halevi interrupted him: "Dr. Servatius, I assume you made a slip of the tongue when you said that killing by gas was a medical matter." To which Servatius replied: "It was indeed a medical matter, since it was prepared by physicians; it was a matter of killing, and killing, too, is a medical matter." And, perhaps to make absolutely sure that the judges in Jerusalem would not forget how Germans - ordinary Germans, not former members of the S.S. or even of the Nazi Party - even today can regard acts that in other countries are called murder, he repeated the phrase in his "Comments on the Judgment of the First Instance," prepared for the review of the case before the Supreme Court; he said again that not Eichmann, but one of his men, Rolf Günther, "was always engaged in medical matters." (Dr. Servatius is well acquainted with "medical matters" in the Third Reich. At Nuremberg he defended Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler's personal physician, Plenipotentiary for "Hygiene and Health," and chief of the euthanasia program.)
Each of the Head Offices of the S.S., in its wartime organization, was divided into sections and subsections, and the R.S.H.A. eventually contained seven main sections. Section IV was the bureau of the Gestapo, and it was headed by Gruppenführer (major general) Heinrich Müller, whose rank was the one he had held in the Bavarian police. His task was to combat "opponents hostile to the State," of which there were two categories, to be dealt with by two sections: Subsection IV-A handled "opponents" accused of Communism, Sabotage, Liberalism, and Assassinations, and Subsection IV-B dealt with "sects," that is, Catholics, Protestants, Freemasons (the post remained vacant), and Jews. Each of the categories in these subsections received an office of its own, designated by an arabic numeral, so that Eichmann eventually - in 1941 - was appointed to the desk of IV-B-4 in the R.S.H.A. Since his immediate superior, the head of IV-B, turned out to be a nonentity, his real superior was always Müller. Müller's superior was Heydrich, and later Kaltenbrunner, each of whom was, in his turn, under the command of Himmler, who received his orders directly from Hitler.
In addition to his twelve Head Offices, Himmler presided over an altogether different organizational setup, which also played an enormous role in the execution of the Final Solution.
This was the network of Higher S.S. and Police Leaders who were in command of the regional organizations; their chain of command did not link them with the R.S.H.A., they were directly responsible to Himmler, and they always outranked Eichmann and the men at his disposal. The Einsatzgruppen, on the other hand, were under the command of Heydrich and the R.S.H.A. -
which, of course, does not mean that Eichmann necessarily had anything to do with them. The commanders of the Einsatzgruppen also invariably held a higher rank than Eichmann. Technically and organizationally, Eichmann's position was not very high; his post turned out to be such an important one only because the Jewish question, for purely ideological reasons, acquired a greater importance with every day and week and month of the war, until, in the years of defeat -
from 1943 on - it had grown to fantastic proportions. When that happened, his was still the only office that officially dealt with nothing but "the opponent, Jewry," but in fact he had lost his monopoly, because by then all offices and apparatuses, State and Party, Army and S.S., were busy "solving" that problem. Even if we concentrate our attention only upon the police machinery and disregard all the other offices, the picture is absurdly complicated, since we have to add to the Einsatzgruppen and the Higher S.S. and Police Leader Corps the Commanders and the Inspectors of the Security Police and the Security Service. Each of these groups belonged in a different chain of command that ultimately reached Himmler, but they were equal with respect to each other and no one belonging to one group owed obedience to a superior officer of another group. The prosecution, it must be admitted, was in a most difficult position in finding its way through this labyrinth of parallel institutions, which it had to do each time it wanted to pin some specific responsibility on Eichmann. (If the trial were to take place today, this task would be much easier, since Raul Hilberg in his The Destruction of the European Jews has succeeded in presenting the first clear description of this incredibly complicated machinery of destruction.) Furthermore, it must be remembered that all these organs,` wielding enormous power, were in fierce competition with one another - which was no help to their victims, since their ambition was always the same: to kill as many Jews as possible. This competitive spirit, which, of course, inspired in each man a great loyalty to his own outfit, has survived the war, only now it works in reverse: it has become each man's desire "to exonerate his own outfit" at the expense of all the others. This was the explanation Eichmann gave when he was confronted with the memoirs of Rudolf Höss, Commander of Auschwitz, in which Eichmann is accused of certain things that he claimed he never did and was in no position to do. He admitted easily enough that Höss had no personal reasons for saddling him with acts of which he was innocent, since their relations had been quite friendly; but he insisted, in vain, that Höss wanted to exculpate his own outfit, the Head Office for Administration and Economy, and to put all the blame on the R.S.H.A. Something of the same sort happened at Nuremberg, where the various accused presented a nauseating spectacle by accusing each other - though none of them blamed Hitler! Still, no one did this merely to save his own neck at the expense of somebody else's; the men on trial there represented altogether different organizations, with long-standing, deeply ingrained hostility to one another. Dr. Hans Globke, whom we met before, tried to exonerate his own Ministry of the Interior at the expense of the Foreign Office, when he testified for the prosecution at Nuremberg.
Eichmann, on the other hand, always tried to shield Müller, Heydrich, and Kaltenbrunner, although the latter had treated him quite badly. No doubt one of the chief objective mistakes of the prosecution at Jerusalem was that its case relied too heavily on sworn or unsworn affidavits of former high-ranking Nazis, dead or alive; it did not see, and perhaps could not be expected to see, how dubious these documents were as sources for the establishment of facts. Even the judgment, in its evaluation of the damning testimonies of other Nazi criminals, took into account that (in the words of one of the defense witnesses) "it was customary at the time of the war-crime trials to put as much blame as possible on those who were absent or believed to be dead."
When Eichmann entered his new office in Section IV of the R.S.H.A., he was still confronted with the uncomfortable dilemma that on the one hand "forced emigration" was the official formula for the solution of the Jewish question, and, on the other hand, emigration was no longer possible.
For the first (and almost the last) time in his life in the S.S., he was compelled by circumstances to take the initiative, to see if he could not "give birth to an idea." According to the version he gave at the police examination, he was blessed with three ideas. All three of them, he had to admit, came to naught; everything he tried on his own invariably went wrong - the final blow came when he had "to abandon" his private fortress in Berlin before he could try it out against Russian tanks.
Nothing but frustration; a hard luck story if there ever was one. The inexhaustible source of trouble, as he saw it, was that he and his men were never left alone, that all these other State and Party offices wanted their share in the "solution," with the result that a veritable army of "Jewish experts" had cropped up everywhere and were falling over themselves in their efforts to be first in a field of which they knew nothing. For these people, Eichmann had the greatest contempt, partly because they were Johnnies-come-lately, partly because they tried to enrich themselves, and often succeeded in getting quite rich in the course of their work, and partly because they were ignorant, they had not read the one or two "basic books."
His three dreams turned out to have been inspired by the "basic books," but it was also revealed that two of the three were definitely not his ideas at all, and with respect to the third - well, "I do not know any longer whether it was Stahlecker [his superior in Vienna and Prague] or myself who gave birth to the idea, anyhow the idea was born." This last idea was the first, chronologically; it was the "idea of Nisko," and its failure was for Eichmann the clearest possible proof of the evil of interference. (The guilty person in this case was Hans Frank, Governor General of Poland.) In order to understand the plan, we must remember that after the conquest of Poland and prior to the German attack on Russia, the Polish territories were divided between Germany and Russia; the German part consisted of the Western Regions, which were incorporated into the Reich, and the so-called Eastern Area, including Warsaw, which was known as the General Government. For the time being, the Eastern Area was treated as occupied territory. As the solution of the Jewish question at this time was still "forced emigration," with the goal of making Germany judenrein, it was natural that Polish Jews in the annexed territories, together with the remaining Jews in other parts of the Reich, should be shoved into the General Government, which, whatever it may have been, was not considered to be part of the Reich. By December, 1939, evacuations eastward had started and roughly one million Jews-six hundred thousand from the incorporated area and four hundred thousand from the Reich - began to arrive in the General Government.
If Eichmann's version of the Nisko adventure is true - and there is no reason not to believe him -
he or, more likely, his Prague and Vienna superior, Brigadeführer (brigadier general) Franz Stahlecker must have anticipated these developments by several months. This Dr. Stahlecker, as Eichmann was careful to call him, was in his opinion a very fine man, educated, full of reason, and "free of hatred and chauvinism of any kind" - in Vienna, he used to shake hands with the Jewish functionaries. A year and a half later, in the spring of 1941, this educated gentleman was appointed Commander of Einsatzgruppe A, and managed to kill by shooting, in little more than a year (he himself was killed in action in 1942), two hundred and fifty thousand Jews - as he proudly reported to Himmler himself, although the chief of the Einsatzgruppen, which were police units, was the head of the Security Police and the S.D., that is, Reinhardt Heydrich. But that came later, and now, in September, 1939, while the German Army was still busy occupying the Polish territories, Eichmann and Dr. Stahlecker began to think "privately" about how the Security Service might get its share of influence in the East. What they needed was "an area as large as possible in Poland, to be carved off for the erection of an autonomous Jewish state in the form of a protectorate. . . . This could be the solution." And off they went, on their own initiative, without orders from anybody, to reconnoiter. They went to the Radom District, on the San River, not far from the Russian border, and they "saw a huge territory, villages, market places, small towns,"
and "we said to ourselves: that is what we need and why should one not resettle Poles for a change, since people are being resettled everywhere"; this will be "the solution of the Jewish question" - firm soil under their feet - at least for some time.
Everything seemed to go very well at first. They went to Heydrich, and Heydrich agreed and told them to go ahead. It so happened - though Eichmann, in Jerusalem, had completely forgotten it -
that their project fitted very well in Heydrich's overall plan at this stage for the solution of the Jewish question. On September 21, 1939, he had called a meeting of the "heads of departments"
of the R.S.H.A. and the Einsatzgruppen (operating already in Poland), at which general directives for the immediate future had been given: concentration of Jews in ghettos, establishment of Councils of Jewish Elders, and the deportation of all Jews to the General Government area.
Eichmann had attended this meeting setting up the "Jewish Center of Emigration" - as was proved at the trial through the minutes, which Bureau 06 of the Israeli police had discovered in the National Archives in Washington. Hence, Eichmann's, or Stahlecker's, initiative amounted to no more than a concrete plan for carrying out Heydrich's directives. And now thousands of people, chiefly from Austria, were deported helter-skelter into this God-forsaken place which, an S.S. officer -Erich Rajakowitsch, who later was in charge of the deportation of Dutch Jews -
explained to them, "the Führer has promised the Jews as a new homeland. There are no dwellings, there are no houses. If you build, there will be a roof over your heads. There is no water, the wells all around carry disease, there is cholera, dysentery, and typhoid. If you bore and find water, you will have water." As one can see, "everything looked marvelous," except that the S.S. expelled some of the Jews from this paradise, driving them across the Russian border, and others had the good sense to escape of their own volition. But then, Eichmann complained, "the obstructions began on the part of Hans Frank," whom they had forgotten to inform, although this was "his" territory. "Frank complained in Berlin and a great tug of war started. Frank wanted to solve his Jewish question all by himself. He did not want to receive any more Jews in his General Government. Those who had arrived should disappear immediately." And they did disappear; some were even repatriated, which had never happened before and never happened again, and those who returned to Vienna were registered in the police records as "returning from vocational training" - a curious relapse into the pro-Zionist stage of the movement.
Eichmann's eagerness to acquire some territory for "his" Jews is best understood in terms of his own career. The Nisko plan was "born" during the time of his rapid advancement, and it is more than likely that he saw himself as the future Governor General, like Hans Frank in Poland, or the future Protector, like Heydrich in Czechoslovakia, of a "Jewish State." The utter fiasco of the whole enterprise, however, must have taught him a lesson about the possibilities and the desirability of "private" initiative. And since he and Stahlecker had acted within the framework of Heydrich's directives and with his explicit consent, this unique repatriation of Jews, clearly a temporary defeat for the police and the S.S., must also have taught him that the steadily increasing power of his own outfit did not amount to omnipotence, that the State Ministries and the other Party institutions were quite prepared to fight to maintain their own shrinking power.
Eichmann's second attempt at "putting firm ground under the feet of the Jews" was the Madagascar project. The plan to evacuate four million Jews from Europe to the French island off the southeast coast of Africa - an island with a native population of 4,370,000 and an area of 227,678 square miles of poor land - had originated in the Foreign Office and was then transmitted to the R.S.H.A. because, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther, who was in charge of Jewish affairs in the Wilhelmstrasse, only the police "possessed the experiences and the technical facilities to execute an evacuation of Jews en masse and to guarantee the supervision of the evacuees." The
"Jewish State" was to have a police governor under the jurisdiction of Himmler. The project itself had an odd history. Eichmann, confusing Madagascar with Uganda, always claimed to having dreamed "a dream once dreamed by the Jewish protagonist of the Jewish State idea, Theodor Herzl," but it is true that his dream had been dreamed before - first by the Polish government, which in 1937 went to much trouble to look into the idea, only to find that it would be quite impossible to ship its own nearly three million Jews there without killing them, and, somewhat later, by the French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet, who had the more modest plan of shipping France's foreign Jews, numbering about two hundred thousand, to the French colony. He even consulted his German opposite number, Joachim von Ribbentrop, on the matter in 1938.
Eichmann at any rate was told in the summer of 1940, when his emigration business had come to a complete standstill, to work out a detailed plan for the evacuation of four million Jews to Madagascar, and this project seems to have occupied most of his time until the invasion of Russia, a year later. (Four million is a strikingly low figure for making Europe judenrein. It obviously did not include three million Polish Jews who, as everybody knew, had been being massacred ever since the first days of the war.) That anybody except Eichmann and some other lesser luminaries ever took the whole thing seriously seems unlikely, for - apart from the fact that the territory was known to be unsuitable, not to mention the fact that it was, after all, a French possession - the plan would have required shipping space for four million in the midst of a war and at a moment when the British Navy was in control of the Atlantic. The Madagascar plan was always meant to serve as a cloak under which the preparations for the physical extermination of all the Jews of Western Europe could be carried forward (no such cloak was needed for the extermination of Polish Jews!), and its great advantage with respect to the army of trained anti-Semites, who, try as they might, always found themselves one step behind the Führer, was that it familiarized all concerned with the preliminary notion that nothing less than complete evacuation from Europe would do - no special legislation, no "dissimilation," no ghettos would suffice. When, a year later, the Madagascar project was declared to have become "obsolete," everybody was psychologically, or rather, logically, prepared for the next step: since there existed no territory to which one could "evacuate," the only "solution" was extermination.
Not that Eichmann, the truth-revealer for generations to come, ever suspected the existence of such sinister plans. What brought the Madagascar enterprise to naught was lack of time, and time was wasted through the never-ending interference from other offices. In Jerusalem, the police as well as the court tried to shake him out of his complacency. They confronted him with two documents concerning the meeting of September 21, 1939, mentioned above; one of them, a teletyped letter written by Heydrich and containing certain directives to the Einsatzgruppen, distinguished for the first time between a "final aim, requiring longer periods of time" and to be treated as "top secret," and "the stages for achieving this final aim." The phrase "final solution"
did not yet appear, and the document is silent about the meaning of a "final aim." Hence, Eichmann could have said, all right, the "final aim" was his Madagascar project, which at this time was being kicked around all the German offices; for
a mass evacuation, the concentration of all Jews was a necessary preliminary "stage." But Eichmann, after reading the document carefully, said immediately that he was convinced that
"final aim" could only mean "physical extermination," and concluded that "this basic idea was already rooted in the minds of the higher leaders, or the men at the very top." This might indeed have been the truth, but then he would have had to admit that the Madagascar project could not have been more than a hoax. Well, he did not; he never changed his Madagascar story, and probably he just could not change it. It was as though this story ran along a different tape in his memory, and it was this taped memory that showed itself to be proof against reason and argument and information and insight of any kind.
His memory informed him that there had existed a lull in the activities against Western and Central European Jews between the outbreak of the war (Hitler, in his speech to the Reichstag of January 30, 1939, had "prophesied" that war would bring "the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe") and the invasion of Russia. To be sure, even then the various offices in the Reich and in the occupied territories were doing their best to eliminate "the opponent, Jewry," but there was no unified policy; it seemed as though every office had its own "solution" and might be permitted to apply it or to pit it against the solutions of its competitors. Eichmann's solution was a police state, and for that he needed a sizable territory. All his "efforts failed because of the lack of understanding of the minds concerned," because of "rivalries," quarrels, squabbling, because everybody "vied for supremacy." And then it was too late; the war against Russia "struck suddenly, like a thunderclap." That was the end of his dreams, as it marked the end of "the era of searching for a solution in the interest of both sides." It was also, as he recognized in the memoirs he wrote in Argentina, "the end of an era in which there existed laws, ordinances, decrees for the treatment of individual Jews." And, according to him, it was more than that, it was the end of his career, and though this sounded rather crazy in view of his present "fame," it could not be denied that he had a point. For his outfit, which either in the actuality of "forced emigration"
or in the "dream" of a Nazi-ruled Jewish State had been the final authority in all Jewish matters, now "receded into the second rank so far as the Final Solution of the Jewish question was concerned, for what was now initiated was transferred to different units, and negotiations were conducted by another Head Office, under the command of the former Reichsführer S.S. and Chief of the German Police." The "different units" were the picked groups of killers, who operated in the rear of the Army in the East, and whose special duty consisted of massacring the native civilian population and especially the Jews; and the other Head Office was the W.V.H.A., under Oswald Pohl, to which Eichmann had to apply to find out the ultimate destination of each shipment of Jews. This was calculated according to the "absorptive capacity" of the various killing installations and also according to the requests for slave workers from the numerous industrial enterprises that had found it profitable to establish branches in the neighborhood of some of the death camps. (Apart from the not very important industrial enterprises of the S.S., such famous German firms as I.G. Farben, the Krupp Werke, and Siemens-Schuckert Werke had established plants in Auschwitz as well as near the Lublin death camps. Cooperation between the S.S. and the businessmen was excellent; Höss of Auschwitz testified to very cordial social relations with the I.G. Farben representatives. As for working conditions, the idea was clearly to kill through labor; according to Hilberg, at least twenty-five thousand of the approximately thirty-five thousand Jews who worked for one of the I.G. Farben plants died.) As far as Eichmann was concerned, the point was that evacuation and deportation were no longer the last stages of the "solution." His department had become merely instrumental. Hence he had every reason to be very "embittered and disappointed" when the Madagascar project was shelved; and the only thing he had to console him was his promotion to Obersturmbannführer,, which came in October, 1941.
The last time Eichmann recalled having tried something on his own was in September, 1941, three months after the invasion of Russia. This was just after Heydrich, still chief of the Security Police and the Security Service, had become Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. To celebrate the occasion, he had called a press conference and had promised that in eight weeks the Protectorate would be judenrein. After the conference, he discussed the matter with those who would have to make his word good - with Franz Stahlecker, who was then local commander of the Security Police in Prague, and with the Undersecretary of State, Karl Hermann Frank, a former Sudeten leader who soon after Heydrich's death was to succeed him as Reichsprotektor.
Frank, in Eichmann's opinion, was a low type, a Jew-hater of the "Streicher kind" who "didn't know a thing about political solutions," one of those people who, "autocratically and, let me say, in the drunkenness of their power simply gave orders and commands." But otherwise the conference was enjoyable. For the first time, Heydrich showed "a more human side" and admitted, with beautiful frankness, that he had "allowed his tongue to run away with him" - "no great surprise to those who knew Heydrich," an "ambitious and impulsive character," who "often let words slip through the fence of his teeth more quickly than he later might have liked." So Heydrich himself said: "There is the mess, and what are we going to do now?" Whereupon Eichmann said: "There exists only one possibility, if you cannot retreat from your announcement.
Give enough room into which to transfer the Jews of the Protectorate, who now live dispersed."
(A Jewish homeland, a gathering - in of the exiles in the Diaspora.) And then, unfortunately, Frank
- the Jew-hater of the Streicher kind - made a concrete proposal, and that was that the room be provided at Theresienstadt. Whereupon Heydrich, perhaps also in the drunkenness of his power, simply ordered the immediate evacuation of the native Czech population from Theresienstadt, to make room for the Jews.
Eichmann was sent there to look things over. Great disappointment: the Bohemian fortress town on the banks of the Eger was far too small; at best, it could become a transfer camp for a certain percentage of the ninety thousand Jews in Bohemia and Moravia. (For about fifty thousand Czech Jews, Theresienstadt indeed became a transfer camp on the way to Auschwitz, while an estimated twenty thousand more reached the same destination directly.) We know from better sources than Eichmann's faulty memory that Theresienstadt, from the beginning, was designed by Heydrich to serve as a special ghetto for certain privileged categories of Jews, chiefly, but not exclusively, from Germany - Jewish functionaries, prominent people, war veterans with high decorations, invalids, the Jewish partners of mixed marriages, and German Jews over sixty-five years of age (hence the nickname Altersghetto). The town proved too small even for these restricted categories, and in 1943, about a year after its establishment, there began the "thinning out" or "loosening up" (Auflockerung) processes by which overcrowding was regularly relieved -
by means of transport to Auschwitz. But in one respect, Eichmann's memory did not deceive him.
Theresienstadt was in fact the only concentration camp that did not fall under the authority of the W.V.H.A. but remained his own responsibility to the end. Its commanders were men from his own staff and always his inferiors in rank; it was the only camp in which he had at least some of the power which the prosecution in Jerusalem ascribed to him.
Eichmann's memory, jumping with great ease over the years - he was two years ahead of the sequence of events when he told the police examiner the story of Theresienstadt - was certainly not controlled by chronological order, but it was not simply erratic. It was like a storehouse, filled with human-interest stories of the worst type. When he thought back to Prague, there emerged the occasion when he was admitted to the presence of the great Heydrich, who showed himself to have a "more human side." A few sessions later, he mentioned a trip to Bratislava, in Slovakia, where he happened to be at the time when Heydrich was assassinated. What he remembered was that he was there as the guest of Sano Mach, Minister of the Interior in the German-established Slovakian puppet government. (In that strongly anti-Semitic Catholic government, Mach represented the German version of anti-Semitism; he refused to allow exceptions for baptized Jews and he was one of the persons chiefly responsible for the wholesale deportation of Slovak Jewry.) Eichmann remembered this because it was unusual for him to receive social invitations from members of governments; it was an honor. Mach, as Eichmann recalled, was a nice, easygoing fellow who invited him to bowl with him. Did he really have no other business in Bratislava in the middle of the war than to go bowling with the Minister of the Interior? No, absolutely no other business; he remembered it all very well, how they bowled, and how drinks were served just before the news of the attempt on Heydrich's life arrived. Four months and fifty-five tapes later, Captain Less, the Israeli examiner, came back to this point, and Eichmann told the same story in nearly identical words, adding that this day had been "unforgettable," because his "superior had been assassinated." This time, however, he was confronted with a document that said he had been sent to Bratislava to talk over "the current evacuation action against Jews from Slovakia." He admitted his error at once: "Clear, clear, that was an order from Berlin, they did not send me there to go bowling." Had he lied twice, with great consistency? Hardly. To evacuate and deport Jews had become routine business; what stuck in his mind was bowling, being the guest of a Minister, and hearing of the attack on Heydrich. And it was characteristic of his kind of memory that he could absolutely not recall the year in which this memorable day fell, on which "the hangman" was shot by Czech patriots.
Had his memory served him better, he would never have told the Theresienstadt story at all. For all this happened when the time of "political solutions" had passed and the era of the "physical solution" had begun. It happened when, as he was to admit freely and spontaneously in another context, he had already been informed of the Führer's order for the Final Solution. To make a country judenrein at the date when Heydrich promised to do so for Bohemia and Moravia could mean only concentration and deportation to points from which Jews could easily be shipped to the killing centers. That Theresienstadt actually came to serve another purpose, that of a showplace for the outside world - it was the only ghetto or camp to which representatives of the International Red Cross were admitted - was another matter, one of which Eichmann at that moment was almost certainly ignorant and which, anyhow, was altogether outside the scope of his competence.
V I : The Final Solution: Killing
On June 22, 1941, Hitler launched his attack on the Soviet Union, and six or eight weeks later Eichmann was summoned to Heydrich's office in Berlin. On July 31, Heydrich had received a letter from Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring, Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, Prime Minister of Prussia, Pleinipotentiary for the Four-Year-Plan, and, last but not least, Hitler's Deputy in the State (as distinguished from the Party) hierarchy. The letter commissioned Heydrich to prepare "the general solution [Gesamtlosung] of the Jewish question within the area of German influence in Europe," and to submit "a general proposal . . . for the implementation of the desired final solution [Endlosung] of the Jewish question." At the time Heydrich received these instructions, he had already been - as he was to explain to the High Command of the Army in a letter dated November 6, 1941 - "entrusted for years with the task of preparing the final solution of the Jewish problem" (Reitlinger), and since the beginning of the war with Russia, he had been in charge of the mass killings by the Einsatzgruppen in the East.
Heydrich opened his interview with Eichmann with "a little speech about emigration" (which had practically ceased, though Himmler's formal order prohibiting all Jewish emigration except in special cases, to be passed upon by him personally, was not issued until a few months later), and then said: "The Führer has ordered the physical extermination of the Jews." After which, "very much against his habits, he remained silent for a long while, as though he wanted to test the impact of his words. I remember it even today. In the first moment, I was unable to grasp the significance of what he had said, because he was so careful in choosing his words, and then I understood, and didn't say anything, because there was nothing to say any more. For I had never thought of such a thing, such a solution through violence. I now lost everything, all joy in my work, all initiative, all interest; I was, so to speak, blown out. And then he told me: 'Eichmann, you go and see Globocnik [one of Himmler's Higher S.S. and Police Leaders in the General Government]
in Lublin, the Reichsführer [Himmler] has already given him the necessary orders, have a look at what he has accomplished in the meantime. I think he uses the Russian tank trenches for the liquidation of the Jews.' I still remember that, for I'll never forget it no matter how long I live, those sentences he said during that interview, which was already at an end." Actually - as Eichmann still remembered in Argentina but had forgotten in Jerusalem, much to his disadvantage, since it had bearing on the question of his own authority in the actual killing process - Heydrich had said a little more: he had told Eichmann that the whole enterprise had been "put under the authority of the S.S. Head Office for Economy and Administration" - that is, not of his own R.S.H.A. - and also that the official code name for extermination was to be "Final Solution."
Eichmann was by no means among the first to be informed of Hitler's intention. We have seen that Heydrich had been working in this direction for years, presumably since the beginning of the war, and Himmler claimed to have been told (and to have protested against) this "solution"
immediately after the defeat of France in the summer of 1940. By March, 1941, about six months before Eichmann had his interview with Heydrich, "it was no secret in higher Party circles that the Jews were to be exterminated," as Viktor Brack, of the Führer's Chancellery, testified at Nuremberg. But Eichmann, as he vainly tried to explain in Jerusalem, had never belonged to the higher Party circles; he had never been told more than he needed to know in order to do a specific, limited job. It is true that he was one of the first men in the lower echelons to be informed of this "top secret" matter, which remained top secret even after the news had spread throughout all the Party and State offices, all business enterprises connected with slave labor, and the entire officer corps (at the very least) of the Armed Forces. Still, the secrecy did have a practical purpose. Those who were told explicitly of the Führer's order were no longer mere "bearers of orders," but were advanced to "bearers of secrets," and a special oath was administered to them.
(The members of the Security Service, to which Eichmann had belonged since 1934, had in any case taken an oath of secrecy.)