Tibor Ferencz on the Hungarian Jews 1944

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Tibor Ferencz on the Hungarian Jews 1944

Post by David Thompson » 20 Apr 2004 08:56

This testimony was given 26 May 1961 in the trial of Adolf Eichmann. The complete proceedings of this trial are available on line, courtesy of the Nizkor Project. An index to the proceedings may be found beginning at:

http://nizkor.com/hweb/people/e/eichman ... ex-01.html
State Attorney Bach: With the Court’s permission, I should now like to present the evidence of Dr. Tibor Ferencz.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Ferencz: A little.

Presiding Judge: Do you want to speak in Hungarian?

Witness Ferencz: Yes.

The witness is sworn.

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness. Dr. Ferencz Tibor.

Q. Is Ferencz your first name?

A. Ferencz is my surname - Tibor is my first name.

Q. Where do you live?

A. In Bnei Brak, on Rashi Street.

State Attorney Bach: Dr. Ferencz, when did you immigrate to Israel?

Witness Ferencz: On 22 May 1957.

Q. Where were you until then?

A. In Budapest.

Q. During the Second World War, where were you and what was your occupation?

A. Prior to the War I was a lawyer in one of the provincial towns. In 1942 I was mobilized for the labour service. I served in the labour force with longer or shorter intervals.

Q. In the Hungarian labour service?

A. Yes.

Q. After the War, in what were you engaged in Hungary?

A. When I returned home at the end of March 1945, I didn’t find anything there, nor any members of my family. My wife, my mother-in-law - all of them had been taken to Auschwitz. Similarly my apartment had been robbed, and I didn’t find anything there, except for one thing which was in the garbage - and that was my diploma. I decided to discontinue my law practice and to dedicate myself solely to the service of the Jewish People.

At that time I volunteered - I offered my services to the People’s Prosecution Office. At the time this office was devoted to bringing to trial those who were responsible for war crimes. Within a short time I had risen to the position of Prosecutor with the General People’s Prosecution Office, and also Deputy Chief Prosecutor. All matters were concentrated in my hands, in my office, all the trials against war criminals and of those who had committed crimes against the people. Thus I directed all these matters which were within the competence of this office.

Presiding Judge: Was this the General Prosecution that was attached to the special courts that dealt with war crimes?

Witness Ferencz: Yes.

State Attorney Bach: What are these documents?

Witness Ferencz: These documents are photostats of my letters of appointment. I have the original documents, bearing the seal of Ministers and of the Prime Minister.

State Attorney Bach: I apply to submit these letters of appointment in the
Hungarian language.

Presiding Judge: With or without a translation?

State Attorney Bach: I think it will be without a translation. Perhaps the
witness will be able to tell us what they certify. This is our document No. 671.

Presiding Judge: This will be exhibit T/1167.

Perhaps the interpreter can glance at the documents and tell us what they
contain. Without a detailed translation. Is that possible?

State Attorney Bach: It should not be necessary to translate the whole document.

Interpreter: The first document is dated 15 June 1945, signed by the Hungarian Minister of the Interior, Agoston Valentin. In this certificate he appoints Dr. Tibor Ferencz, advocate, to be a People’s Prosecutor with the General Prosecution in Budapest. He requires him to report immediately to the Director of Prosecutions. The second document is from Prime Minister Miklos, dated 25 September 1945. He advises him that the Council of Ministers has appointed Dr. Tibor Ferencz as deputy to the General People’s Prosecutor on behalf of the government. The third document is dated 28 December 1946, and in essence it is identical with the previous one, except that it is from another Minister of Justice. In the fourth document he is released from his appointment, on 26 May 1948. But at the same time he is appointed to another post with the Chief State Prosecutor’s office.

State Attorney Bach: Did you also, by virtue of this office appear personally in trials, or were you present at the trials of Hungarian war criminals?

Witness Ferencz: In the proceedings of the trials I directed the material for the prosecution and in most cases I also appeared personally. Of course, I also had assistant prosecutors, who prepared the files.

Q. Were you present at the trial of the deputy ministers Endre and Baky?

A. On a few occasions I went in and out of the court-room, a few times.

Q. What were the sentences given to Endre and Baky?

A. Death by hanging for both of them.

Q. Was the punishment carried out?

A. It was carried out.

Q. Do you remember when the sentence of death on Endre and Baky was carried out?

A. I am sorry - I can’t remember now exactly when it happened, since there were many cases of the execution of the principal war criminals in those days. At any rate, I remember that it was in the summer, but when exactly, even if I make a special effort, I can’t recollect.

Q. In the summer of roughly what year?

A. Either 1946 or 1947. I would prefer to say 1946. I don’t remember exactly.

Q. Do you remember whether Endre and Baky were hanged on the same day or on different days?

A. Yes, on the same day, I saw to it that they should be hanged on the same day.

Q. Did you see them on the day of the hanging?

A. The court rejected their application for clemency. Accordingly they knew that there was no way out and that the death sentence would be carried out. And then, after consultation with my Minister of Justice, Istvan Reiss, and on his instructions, I went into the death cell and questioned Endre and Baky separately, approximately an hour or an hour and a half before their execution.

Q. Were they together or in separate cells?

A. They were separated.

Q. Was it only on that day that they were separated, or in fact were they
generally kept apart from each other during the whole of that period?

A. All the main war criminals were kept in separate cells.

Q. Including these two?

A. Yes.

Q. What was the object of your meeting them?

A. Endre, the proceedings of whose trial I remember in particular, defended himself throughout the trial by saying that he had acted in accordance with instructions and on this ground he based his request for clemency - that we should pardon him because he had acted according to instructions. As a result of the consultation with my Minister of Justice, I wanted, once again, before the death sentence was carried out, to determine finally, perhaps for the sake of history, what was the nature of the instructions he had received and from whom he had received them.

Perhaps I may be permitted to add that Endre had previously been the head of a small administrative district in Goedoelloe. He was a most consistent anti-Semite. He did everything he possibly could against the Jews. Subsequently he was promoted to the post of deputy district governor for the district of Pest. He was equipped with all the attributes necessary in order to be in charge of Jewish affairs in Hungary. Also on the occasion of this, our last meeting - and this I definitely recollect - he referred to the fact that the plans for carrying out the deportations and for the “ghettoization” - that is to say the placing of the Jews in ghettos - came to him in ready-made form. He told me that it was the Accused who gave him these orders and he was obliged to give an account to him of every deportation and on each operation of placing Jews inside a ghetto.

State Attorney Bach: Perhaps, here, I am bound to ask the Court for a decision which will enable me to question the witness about the statements that were made to him by Endre and Baky.

It is clear from the evidence of the witness that his conversation with them actually took place very shortly before these two men were executed, after their application for clemency had been rejected and they did not have any more hope of achieving anything as a result of the statements that they made to him. It seems to me that this is the closest case of a dying declaration that it is possible to find, although from the legal point of view a dying declaration is an exception from the rules of hearsay evidence only in cases of murder trials, when the reference is to the words uttered by the victim before he died. For this reason I would not be able, according to the normal rules of evidence, to produce this evidence.

But it seems to me that, from the point of view of its real significance, when a man no longer has any hope and he then says certain things that have greater weight, it seems to me that there is an analogy between the present instance and a dying declaration.

The Court will also recall its decision in connection with the evidence of Judge Musmanno, who also testified about statements made to him by various war criminals. Defence Counsel responded to that by asking a number of questions, in which he tried to show that, in the case of some of the offenders at least, there could have been contact between the cells, which would have enabled them to co-ordinate their stories, and so on. Naturally the more we shall be able to point to a larger number of instances of this kind, when we have one instance in a goal in Nuremberg, and when we submit the statements of Hoess in Cracow and
Wisliceny in Slovakia, and the statements of war criminals in Germany, and these two in Budapest, then the extent of the consistency between these statements is greater, to that extent it will be more difficult to believe in coincidence or chance and in collusion between all those people who, as it were, decided to shift the whole guilt on the Accused, while he is innocent. Accordingly I
request the Court to permit the witness to quote the last words of these two men, Endre and Baky, who throughout the final Hungarian period had the closest connections with the Accused.

Presiding Judge: If you please, Dr. Servatius.

Dr. Servatius: Only one other analogy is possible. This is not a dying
declaration but the declaration of a man anticipating execution. I agree with the Prosecution that there was no co-ordination here. But, without doubt, there was an intention to justify themselves morally before their people and that is how they arrived at the Accused, Eichmann.

Presiding Judge: But what is your view, Dr. Servatius?

Dr. Servatius: I have no formal objection.

Presiding Judge:
Decision No. 57

We allow evidence of the witness Dr. Ferencz about remarks he heard from Endre and Baky before they were executed. (See our Decisions Nos. 7 and 29).

State Attorney Bach: Which one of them did you see first - Endre or Baky?

Witness Ferencz: First Endre.

Q. Did you go to him in his cell?

A. Yes.

Q. How long did the conversation last?

A. Between a quarter-of-an-hour and half-an-hour.

Eichmann trial - The District Court Sessions
The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 54
(Part 9 of 9)

Q. Was it clear from what he said that he understood that he had no longer any hope of staying alive?

A. Yes. According to Law No. 81/45 and also under Regulation 1440/45 of the Prime Minister, both the instigator and the accomplice to a crime are punished in exactly the same way as the principal offender. Therefore he knew from what he heard from me - and he noted it and understood it - that he, being one of the major war criminals and liable to such punishment, could not in any way escape the penalty of hanging, and he took note of that and understood it.

He told me not only that he had been the Commissar for Jewish Affairs, but that he had also been State Secretary in the Ministry of the Interior, that is to say the holder of one of the highest offices in the land. From time to time, when for some technical reasons he had been unable to fulfil orders, the Accused rebuked him on account of these matters in the severest terms.

He complained about this also to his Minister, Andor Jaross and Andor Jaross replied: “We have been delivered up into the hands of the Germans and we have to do what they order us to do.” I don’t remember whether Baky met with the Accused or spoke with him. Possibly there had been no meeting between them. But on the other hand, I remember Endre always passed on the orders that he received from the Accused.

Q. Can you tell us, perhaps by way of summing up, what Endre said to you about his relationship with the Accused, what was, in fact, the administrative or operational connection between the Accused and him?

A. I did not doubt for a moment that the Accused gave the orders. He (the Accused) supplied him with the plans and he was but the one to carry them out, as a representative of the Hungarian Government.

Presiding Judge: Who is that speaking now?

Interpreter: The witness.

Presiding Judge: This is unimportant for us - what is important is what he heard from Endre.

State Attorney Bach: I understand that the question in Hungarian was not put in such a way that the witness could understand it in the sense it was asked.

Perhaps I can ask him once again: What did Endre say to the witness about his operative and administrative relations with the Accused?

Witness Ferencz: He said not only to me but also in his interrogation that it was the Accused who gave the orders, and subsequently he reported to the Accused.

Q. Who decided, according to what Endre said, from which ghetto, and when, the Jews had to be evacuated and in what order?

A. I am not certain, I don’t remember exactly, that Doeme Sztojay, on his return from Germany, already brought with him the whole plan for the evacuation of the Jews. But I don’t know this with absolute certainty.

Q. Is this what Endre told you?

A. Not only Endre told me this, but it also came out in the trial of Doeme
Sztojay who was hanged.

Presiding Judge: Please confine your remarks to what you heard from Endre, without drawing conclusions on the basis of something else you heard.

State Attorney Bach: The question is: What did Endre tell you - who in Hungary decided from which ghetto Jews had to be deported, when they had to be deported and to what place they had to be deported?

Witness Ferencz: It was the Accused, and he (Endre) also reported to the

Q. For how long did you converse with Baky?

A. Very briefly.

Q. Can you tell us only what he said to you about the Accused?

A. He said that the orders which Endre received from the Accused - were given to him to carry out. He reported the results to Endre. This was the procedure by which the events took place. I don’t remember whether Baky ever said that he had spoken face to face with the Accused.

Q. What were Baky’s duties in the Hungarian Government?

A. Baky was also State Secretary in the Ministry of the Interior. He was in
charge of the gendarmerie, he controlled the gendarmerie and he passed on orders for implementation to the commanders of the gendarmerie.

Q. By the way, were these matters, the contents of your conversation with Endre and the contents of your conversation with Baky, recorded by anyone?

A. We prepared a minute which was placed in the secret archives. First I showed the minute to the Minister and afterwards it was placed in the secret archives.

Q. Did you also speak to Peter Hain at a certain stage?

A. Yes, I also spoke to Peter Hain before he was put to death by hanging, not before he was hanged. This was a complicated affair, for he was hanged twice. On the first occasion, when he was being led to the gallows, he escaped from his guards and jumped from the third floor, and broke his spine, so that they had to take him to the prison hospital, where he lay for some time, and only after that was he hanged.

Q. At any rate, you spoke to him at a time when he believed that he was about to be executed?

A. I spoke to him, when his application for clemency had been rejected before the first so-called hanging, inside the death cell.

Q. I do not remember whether I have already asked you what were the duties of this Peter Hain?

A. Peter Hain was an Inspector of Police, who did everything, interfered in
everything, in political matters. Officials in his department or his
subordinates in his department seized high-ranking persons from the first day the Germans entered Hungary, on 19 March 1944; they seized Jews, mainly. When the Germans arrived, he transferred his office from the police headquarters to the Majestic Hotel.

When I questioned him before his execution, he told me for the record, that he was in the closest contact with the Accused and with the Accused’s Section, with his office. He received orders for implementation partly from the Accused and partly from the Accused’s Section and also, according to the reports which he delivered to the Accused, it was the Accused who gave instructions for the arrest of various people.

Q. Can you tell us who Gabor Vajna was?

A. I believe that it was on 16 October 1944, when members of the “Arrow Cross” took control of the regime in Hungary, after the Sztojay Government left and was replaced by the Szalasi Government. And then, after Andor Jaross, Gabor Vajna, a member of the “Arrow Cross,” was appointed to be Minister of the Interior in his stead.

Q. Was he also placed on trial, and if so, what happened to him?

A. Yes. He was sentenced to death and executed by hanging.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions to the witness?

Dr. Servatius: Yes. Witness, you said that in the proceedings against them, both Endre and Baky pleaded in justification that they were acting under superior orders. In this way they wanted to exonerate themselves. Is that correct?

Witness Ferencz: When I questioned them in the death cell, they no longer pleaded in justification or used this as a defence, for their lives were about to end.

Presiding Judge: The question referred to their defence at the trial.

Witness Ferencz: Yes, in Court they defended themselves on the ground that they acted under orders. All of them defended themselves in this way.

Q. On whose orders did they base this?

A. I can no longer remember exactly to whose orders they referred in the Court proceedings, since I came and went and also received reports from the Prosecution. These were long proceedings and hence today I can no longer remember exactly to whose orders they referred.

Q. Who was likely to have issued orders to them? Not the Minister? Not the authorities of their Hungarian Government?

A. It was common knowledge that both the Minister and the authorities during those times did what the Germans ordered.

Q. Wasn’t the German Ambassador Veesenmayer the man who maintained contact with the Ministers and issued orders to them on behalf of the Germans?

A. He, too, was in contact with the Ministers. But, for example, at the Royal Hotel on Arzibt Road there was a particular department of the Gestapo which also gave instructions independently.

Presiding Judge: In the Royal Hotel?

Witness Ferencz: This department in the Royal Hotel also gave instructions independently.

The Germans, for their part, had no need - not at government level or at a lower administrative level - for any seal or rubber stamp in order to issue instructions or in order to act.

Dr. Servatius: Witness, I presume that an official can receive orders from one authoritative source only, namely his superiors. If that is the case, the statement which Endre made later on that Eichmann gave him the orders, was a false one.

Witness Ferencz: This is nothing but the opinion of Defence Counsel. But I am a witness testifying under oath, and I am telling the truth.

Dr. Servatius: I have no more questions to the witness.

Presiding Judge: Mr. Bach, do you have any questions?

State Attorney Bach: I do not wish to re-examine, Your Honour.

Judge Raveh: I understand that in the trial of Endre and Baky, you did not know whether they mentioned Eichmann or not. Did I understand you correctly?

Witness Ferencz: As I have already said, I was the head of the General
Prosecution, and in every important case I was in charge of its conduct. I was assisted by 112 lawyers and a huge staff, who conducted the proceedings. So that I would enter the court-room, sit down, listen, and leave and give instructions.

I cannot testify - for I am on oath - whether Eichmann’s name was mentioned in the course of the proceedings in court, since I can only testify to the truth.

Q. What was your purpose in wanting to talk, after the trial, to them - to Endre and Baky?

A. It was the opinion of my Minister that it was necessary, prior to the death sentence on war criminals, to hear the views of these accused, not only of the war criminals I have spoken about, but of all the criminals in this category, to determine their views once again, finally.

Q. Does any kind of verbatim record exist of the case against Endre and Baky?

A. Certainly.

Q. Did you read this record after the case was over?

A. I surely read all these records, since my lawyers presented me with reports, particularly of the trials of the main war criminals, since I myself exercised control over them.

Q. Also from reading the record you do not recall whether Endre and Baky mentioned Eichmann in the course of the trial?

A. I don’t remember, since this prosecution was a kind of routine matter and since I myself didn’t conduct these trials. It didn’t seem all that important.

The records are there. They are preserved in the Budapest Court, which succeeded the People’s Court, in a special place in the archives which are in the basement.

Judge Halevi: Does a record still exist of the conversations you conducted with Endre and Baky?

Witness Ferencz: These records were dealt with separately, and secretly. In the autumn of 1956 there was a revolution in Hungary. A substantial number of the war criminals, who were serving their sentences in various prisons, were freed, and many documents were then destroyed by them. Therefore, I don’t know now, for sure, whether this record is extant. For by then I had already, some time previously, terminated my duties in the People’s Prosecution office and I had no influence over affairs.

Judge Halevi: Did the Prosecution take any steps to obtain the record from the Hungarian Government?

State Attorney Bach: No, Your Honour. With regard to this record, I asked the witness and he said that he was unable to give me a reply as to where this record was kept. As far as the records of the trials are concerned...

Judge Halevi: I am not referring to the records of the trials, but only to the specific record of these conversations on which the witness has testified before us orally.

State Attorney Bach: No; we did not approach the Government in this matter for we could not even say where this record was being kept.

Judge Halevi: In general, did the Hungarian Government extend any help in this trial?

State Attorney Bach: We submitted a list of a large number of documents
mentioning them specifically, various documents of whose existence we were aware from various books, and also asked for the records of the trials. We received some material, not precisely according to the list we submitted, and more than that we did not receive.

Judge Halevi: At any rate, the best proof of these conversations would surely be the verbatim report, to the extent that it is possible to secure it.

State Attorney Bach: This would certainly be more desirable. I was simply not especially optimistic in regard to this matter when the witness was not able to give us even some hint as to where it is being kept.

Judge Halevi: He told us something about its being placed in a secret archive. Perhaps he can tell us in which secret archive?

Witness Ferencz: This is a special archive, a secret one, in which items were kept which had been marked with a double ‘O’, and even if the record were to be found - they would not supply or even disclose any material from this archive.

Only very few persons had authority to examine material in this archive.
State Attorney Bach: In view of Your Honour’s observation, I am prepared to ask our Ministry for Foreign Affairs again to request the Hungarian Government to make an effort to discover the material, and if we shall receive it up to the end of this trial, we shall submit it to the Court.

Judge Halevi: If the reply is in the negative, we shall have to be satisfied
with the oral evidence. [To witness] Did Endre mention, in his conversation with you, only the name of Eichmann, or other names as well?

Witness Ferencz: He mentioned various other names of members of his Section. For instance, I recall the name of Krumey. He also mentioned other names, but I don’t remember them.

Q. Anyone else?

A. Yes, he also mentioned various names, but I don’t remember them.

Q. Did he mention the names of Hungarians?

A. He did not mention the names of any Hungarians who gave orders and to whom they had to report - with the exception, of course, of his Minister - Jaross - to whom he reported.

Q. Was Jaross the Minister of the Interior?

A. The Minister of the Interior.

Q. Was he a minister in the government of Sztojay or in which government?

A. Yes.

Q. You say that he told you that he was obliged to give a report to Jaross as well?

A. Whether he had to report to him or not - about this he did not speak clearly. But, amongst other things, he also said that he had turned to Jaross and had complained about the Accused because he had rebuked him, had been annoyed with him; after all he was a State Secretary - what was he to do? In reply to this Jaross had said that the Germans were the masters and they gave the orders.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mr. Ferencz, you have concluded your evidence.

We shall adjourn now. The next Session will be held next Monday, at 9 o’clock in the morning.

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