Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Red Cross interview with Adolf Eichmann, April 1945

Source: The Red Cross and the Holocaust by Jean-Claude Favez, pages 305-306

Comment: Eichmann alludes to labour from Auschwitz being sent further East to dig trenches - gas chambers were not mentioned on either side.

Note dated 22 April 1945 by Otto Lehner about his meeting in Prague on 6 April with Erwin Weinemann, head of the SS in the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia, and Adolf Eichmann, Himmler's plenipotentiary in all matters concerning the Jews (see p. 268 above).

At a reception held in Hradschin I had the opportunity to talk to these two men until late at night and to discuss the various problems.  What the International Committee of the Red Cross particularly wanted information about was not really the living conditions and amenities of the Theresienstadt ghetto so much as whether the ghetto was simply a transit camp for the Jews and to what extent deportation to the East (Auschwitz) had taken place.  As I discovered while in the Theresienstadt ghetto, the camp's representative, Dr Eppstein, an older of the Jews, had himself, along with many others, been deported to Auschwitz.  So I asked Dr Weinemann directly when the deportations had occurred and what their exent was.  Dr Weinemann replied that the last deporations to Auschwitz had taken place 6 months before.  They involved 10,000 Jews.  They were employed to work on further extensions to the Auschwitz camp, he said, and were mainly workin gin the camp administration.  Some were being used as trench-diggers in the East.
  I asked whether there was any remaining communication between these people and Theresienstadt, to which replied that there was not.  He also said he knew nothing further about their fate, adding that they had probably been taken by the Russians who had advanced into the region.  Their transfer had not been at his command, he maintained; he received his orders from higher up.

In the course of the evening, Eichmann developed his theories about the Jewish question.  According to him, the Jews in Theresienstadt were in a much better position as regards food and medical care than many ethnic Germans.  He maintained that Theresienstadt was the creation of Reichsfuehrer-SS  Himmler, who wanted to give the Jews in the ghetto there the opportunity to create community, under Jewish leadership, with almost complete autonomy.  He said that in this way the Jews were to be given a sense of national community.  The Jews of Therensienstadt were to be transported later to some area where they would live separtely from the German people.

As regards the overall problem of the Jews, Eichmann maintained that Himmler was in favour of humane methods.  He himself was not completely in agreement with these methods, but as a good soldier he of course followed the commands of the Reichsfuehrer with total obedience.  At this meeting I made an agreement with Dr Weinemann that a delegation would be set up in Prague.  The delegates would be able to visit the camp in Theresienstadt at any time.  I also mentioned the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, which was next to the ghetto, and extracted a half-proise that this too could be visited.  I should of course have preferred it if the delegate could have actually lived in Theresienstadt.  Dr Weinemann contacted Obergruppenfuehrer Kaltenbrunner about this by telegraph but had received no answer by the time I had to leave. 

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