Little Grey Rabbit's Historical Skepticism Blog

Correction Corner: David Cesarani on Adolf Eichmann

Posted in Correction Corner, Miscellanous by littlegreyrabbit on March 16, 2010

David Cesarani, who wrote a very readable biography on Arthur Koestler, has also written a slightly less favorable treatment of Adolf Eichmann. He provides one of the most extraordinary, albeit not of major importance, misinterpretations of a historical document I have ever seen. David Cesarani gives an anecdote illustrating Eichmann’s early, extreme antisemitism.

“An incident in a cafe shows that the indoctrination had an effect on his attitude towards Jews. On the evening of 22 April 1934 he was enjoying a pass from the camp and sitting in the Kaffehaus Schlossrondell in Nymphenburg when two other SS men on leave and in civilian clothing entered. The cafe had a record player and they asked the proprietor to play records of Richard Tauber singing. a local Nazi party member called Fritz Schaub remonstrated with them for listening to “jewish music” and tempers frayed. Eichmann took the side of the party man and explained Party doctrine to his erring comrades. It is not clear if the row developed into a brawl, but by the end Eichmann had lost his SS card and faced disciplinary action. Fortunately for him the affray was witnessed by an SS officer, who reported that nothing serious had occurred, and Eichmannn suffered no ill consequences. In fact, in May he was promoted to SS Scharfuehrer, the equivalent of a sergeant. This rare insight inot Eichmann’s off-duty activity shows that in addition to a coarsening of his anti-semitism he could be hot-tempered and prickly – characteristics that would meld and strengthen as he got older.”[1]

This anecdote appears to be derived from a report in Eichmann’s personnel file held in the Berlin Document Center, copies of which are replicated in various archives around the world. The report in full is below, followed by a translation.

München, den 23. April 1934

Bericht

des SS-Sturmführers Fritz Birzer, im Sturm R I/1, an den Sturmbann R I auf dem Dienstwege.

Sonntag, den 22.4.34 wurde mir von 2 SS Männern in civil gemeldet, dass im Kaffeehaus am Schlossrondell in Nymphenburg Schallplatten von Tauber aufgespielt werden. Die beiden dort anwesenden SS Männer verbaten sich jüdische Musik, worauf der Amstwalter Namens Schaub Fritz, wohnhaft Schlossrondell 4 gegen die Beiden vorging. Der im gleichen Lokal anwesende SS-Charführer Eichmann Adolf im SS-Sturm M/I/37 der SS-Sta.d.Ö.L. stellte sich ebenfalls gegen die SS-Männer und erklärte er sei dienstlich anwesend. Bei meinem Kontrolle stellte sich lt. beiliegendem Ausweis heraus, dass derselbe verfallen ist. Den Ausweis habe ich deshalb eingezogen.

Ein ernsterer Zwischenfall kam nicht vor.

Mit Heil-Hitler

Fritz Birzer

SS-Sturmführer

1 SS-Ausweis Nr.45 326.

Report:

Of the SS Sturmfüherer Fritz Birzer, to the Sturmbann R I through official channels

On Sonday, 22 4 34 2 SS Men in civilian clothing reported to me, that in the cafe on Schlossrondell in Nymphenburg there were records of Richard Tauber being played. The two SS men there refused to tolerate Jewish music, where upon the two were confronted by an official Fritz Schaub, living in Schlossrondell 4. In the same cafe the SS Scharführer Adolf Eichmann of SS-Sturm M/I/37 of SS-Sta.d.Ö.L. was present and also opposed the two SS men and declared he was there on duty. Upon my examination I ascertained that the attached SS identity card had expired, I therefore confiscated the ID card.

Nothing more serious occured.

Extraordinarily, Cesarani has completely inverted the incident. There can be no mistaking the term “verbaten sich jüdische Musik” on behalf of the two SS men, as anything other than refusing to tolerate or rejecting and certainly not requesting records being played. Eichmann, far from demonstrating rigid anti-semitism, was standing up to two SS men intent on making scene. There is no explicit description of Fritz Schaub as a Nazi party member. Eichmann is described as already of the rank SS-Scharführer.

Cesarani’s description is so far removed from what is described in the report, that one wonders if he is relying on an alternative source. Cesarani gives a wide variety of references for this incident in his footnote, which it is scarcely possible to check out. However, the possibility exists that Eichmann in one of his long sessions with police in Israel may have given a description that inverted the roles in order to please his captors and this may be Dr Cesarani’s source; however it was still incumbent on him to mention the discrepancy. To those who migh wonder at Eichmann’s motivation for such cooperativeness, I can only say it would certainly not be the first time that Eichmann showed himself to be extremely helpful for his captors.

A prime example might be his testimony regarding “fountains of blood”. A witness, Mrs Yoselewska, at his trial gave a very emotive testimony about watching her family shot in a mass grave and concluded her testimony thus:

“When I saw they were gone I dragged myself over to the grave and wanted to jump in. I thought the grave would open up and let me fall inside alive. I envied everyone for whom it was already over, while I was still alive. Where should I go? What should I do? Blood was spouting. Nowadays, when I pass a water fountain I can still see the blood spouting from the grave. The earth rose and heaved.”[3]

While no one necessarily expects a witness to give an absolutely concrete description of an emotive event, fountains of blood would strain anybody’s credibility. Eager to help out, Adolf Eichmann a few weeks later, gave his own description with language mirroring Mrs Yoselewska:

“But I also remember today driving through Lemberg, on the outskirts, and seeing for the first time something I had never seen before, namely a fountain of blood. I passed a site where Jews had been shot some time before and where – apparently as a result of the pressure of the gasses – the blood was shooting out of the earth like a fountain.”[4]

And Eichmann presumably didn’t have the excuse of emotional trauma. I will contact Dr Cesarani seeking clarification on the Richard Tauber discrepancy and update this post on any answer.

[1]  David Cesarani; Eichmann: His Life and Crimes, page 37
[2]  BA Lichterfelde West, SSO-Eichmann
[3]  Trial of Adolf Eichmann, Session 30
[4]  Trial of Adolf Eichmann, Session 87
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