I gave myself up to the Americans under an assumed name. I knew the Allied investigators were searching for Eichmann, but luckily I was always just a shade more clever than the CIC officer who interrogated me. I started off in one small American prison camp, posing as a Luftwaffe corporal named Barth.
After studying the psychology of the American CIC, however, I changed my rank from corporal to second lieutenant in the SS. Lieutenant Eckmann, Otto Eckmann, became my name. I moved my birthday back one year to March 19, 1905, and the place to Breslau. I did this so I could remember the figures more easily, avoiding the fiasco a momentary lapse of memory when I was filling out their forms.
Ultimately I was transferred to the large POW collection center at Weiden. By coincidence, my former aide, Lieutenant Jaenisch, had been sent to the same place. I volunteered to head a work detail and in this capacity I was moved to Oberdachstetten in Franconia. It was then August, 1945. I remained there until the beginning of January, 1946.
In these months we were being interrogated by the CIC office in Anbach. I knew that if the interrogations continued I might come under suspicion. So I decided to escape. Due to the fear of reprisals there existed an unwritten code of honor that no officer would escape from a camp without his fellow officers' approval. Since there were about ten officers in the camp, I asked the camp leader, a major, to call an officers' meeting.
I had revealed to the major my real name, rank, and official position. "My dear comrade Eckmann," he said, "I have known that for a long time. Your Lieutenant Jaenish told me about it in confidence. As long as you said nothing to me, I kept the information locked in my heart."
At the officers' meeting I explained merely that I was probably wanted by the Americans because I had been politically active. Nobody asked many questions in those days and the major, as camp leader, gave his approval. It was simply a matter of form. After all, I could hardly imagine that my group of SS officers would have withheld their approval knowing one of their leaders found it necessary to get away.
After leaving the prison camp I managed to procure papers which gave my name as Otto Henninger. I lived on one of the wooded heaths in the Celle area. I was shown a pile of newspapers with articles about me. They were under headlines like "Mass-murderer Eichmann" or "Where is Lieutenant Eckmann hiding out?" The articles noted that I had escaped from the camp.
I started to think about who could have given the name Eckmann to the CIC. There seemed to be only two possible sources for the information. One was my Lieutenant Jaenisch. The other possibility, which seemed highly unlikely, was that the CIC had interrogated the major, who probably reasoned that I was far enough away by then to be safe. I rather think it was Jaenisch who told them. He had a type of pigheadedness peculiar to Lower Saxons.
Through the intervening years since then people searched for me in vain. I would like to find peace with my former opponents. And I would be the first to surrender myself to the German authorities if I did not always feel that the political interest in my case would be too great to lead to a clear, objective way out.
If there had been a trial in 1945, I would have had all my subordinates with me. Today I am not so sure. Some of them maybe serving with the new police. Others may have had a hard life through these years, each damning the stupidity that led him to become a Nazi in the first place. And prosperity and democratic re-education have borne their fruit in Germany, so I would not know today what witness an attorney for the defense might properly call. I believe, in fact, that if I brought on Jews as witnesses for the defense, I would come out almost better than with my own men as witnesses, sad though it may sound. Dr. Kastner, Dr. Epstein, Dr. Rottenberg, Br. Baeck, the entire Council of Elders in Theresienstadt ghetto, all of them I would have to summon. After all, there were also relatively harmless actions which took place under the general heading "Final Solution of the Jewish Problem."
But to sum it all up, I must say that I regret nothing. Adolf Hitler may have been wrong all down the line, but one thing is beyond dispute: the man was able to work his way up from lance corporal in the German army to Führer of a people of almost 80 million. I never met him personally, but his success alone proves to me that I should subordinate myself to this man. He was somehow so supremely capable that the people recognized him. And so with that justification I recognize him joyfully and I still defend him.
I will not humble myself or repent in any way. I could do it too cheaply in today's climate of opinion. It would be too easy to pretend that I had turned suddenly from a Saul to a Paul. No, I must say truthfully that if we had killed all the 10 million Jews that Himmler's statisticians originally listed in 1933, I would say, "Good, we have destroyed an enemy." But here I do not mean wiping them out entirely. That would not be proper - and we carried on a proper war.
Now however, when through the malice of fate a large part of these Jews whom we fought against are alive, I must concede that fate must have wanted it so. I always claimed that we were fighting against a foe who through thousands of years of learning and development had become superior to us.
I no longer remember exactly when, but it was even before Rome itself had been founded that the Jews could already write. It is very depressing for me to think of that people writing laws over 6,000 years of written history. But it tells me that they must be a people of the first magnitude, for lawgivers have always been great.
April 18, 2002