The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Archive/File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Sessions/Session-037-03
Last-Modified: 1999/06/01

State Attorney Bar-Or:  The late Mr. Henschel said inter alia:

     "From 1940 until 1943, I was the last president of the
     Jewish Community in Berlin, succeeding Heinrich Stahl.
     Before that I had also been a member of the Reich
     Representation.  But this body had ceased to exist on 9
     November 1938.  All Jewish organizations were closed
     down at that time, and later the Reichsvereinigung der
     Juden in Deutschland came into being as a new
     organization.  The Reich Association was - in contrast
     to the Reich Representation - a compulsory organization
     set up by order of the state, which absorbed all other
     offices.  Nevertheless, the Berlin Community remained
     active until its dissolution on 10 June 1943."

Further on he says:

     "On Yom Kippur 1941 we were informed that the
     evacuation of Berlin was beginning.  The number of
     members of the Community did not decrease by as much as
     one might have thought, because Berlin was rightly
     regarded as a comparatively convenient place.  There
     was a tendency to move to Berlin from other places,
     especially from the smaller communities..."

On page 2 he says: "In 1940 the Community still had 80,000
members."  Then he describes the difficulties of organizing
regular religious services because the number of religious
functionaries had decreased through emigration.... "Ritual
slaughtering had been forbidden long ago.  The import of
kosher meat from abroad was forbidden later on.  The
communities had nothing to do with that.  Very valuable
religious objects were accumulated, which were being brought
to us from the Reich.  The Nazis were very interested in
them."  Then he goes on to say "we received detailed
information that the tactic used by the Nazis was one of
complete camouflage.  Even among the Nazis the disguise was
so strict that no one was allowed to let any other person
know about an order received, and the person executing it
always received only that one order.  Often Nazis in the
same department did not know what was going on next door."

Presiding Judge: The copy is blurred here, and this may be
important.  Do you have Dr. Ball-Kaduri's original
manuscript there, or was that left at Yad Vashem?

State Attorney Bar-Or:  The original is at Yad Vashem.

Presiding Judge: There are some blurred lines here which are
hard to read, and it may be that precisely this is

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Are you referring to the top of page
3, Your Honour?

Presiding Judge: Yes.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  I see.  I undertake to obtain the
original for the Court from which the photographs of the
document were made at Yad Vashem.  I assume that tomorrow,
or at the latest on Monday, the original will be in the
hands of the Court.

Presiding Judge: Very well.

State Attorney Bar-Or:

"Often Nazis in the same department did not know what was
going on next door.  But for those who were in leading
positions, the situation was clearly discernible, as living
space for the Jews was reduced to such an extent that they
could not keep them there.  They took away the real estate
(old age homes, hospitals, schools); they took away the
institutions, so that there was no possibility left to take
care of matters.

"The first piece of property to be confiscated was the old
age home Berkaer Strasse.  Lilienthal and myself were called
to the Gestapo and asked by when we would be able to
evacuate the old people.  At that time, there was still some
respite; later on it was only 24 hours.  The same was true
for the expulsion from Berlin.  The notification about it
came on Yom Kippur 1941.  At 1 o'clock I was summoned from
the synagogue, together with Kozower and with Miss Dr.

     "The notification about the evacuation of 1 October
     1941, was as follows: Partial evacuation, nothing bad
     in character, not to the Generalgouvernement, but to
     Litzmannstadt (Lodz).  On 4 October, transports of
     1,000 persons each left Litzmannstadt.  There was a
     ghetto there, there were packages, money, news; luggage
     was permitted; the first transports left in passenger
     "One may ask: How could you agree to cooperate in any
     way.  We cannot decide whether we acted in the right
     way.  But the idea that guided us was: If we do these
     things, they will be carried out better and more
     humanely than if they do them, and that was correct;
     direct transport by the Nazis was always extremely
     brutal.  The point of assembly was the synagogue at
     Levetzowstrasse.  There was food there.  The clothes
     depot gave out everything it had...
     "When these four thousand had been deported, it was
     announced that three or four more transports were to go
     to Riga or Minsk.  Near Riga, so it was said, a
     Palestine 'Kvutza' was to be established; we called for
     our specialist on agriculture, Gerson, in order to
     purchase agricultural implements, but soon we realized
     that all this was deceit.  So we only bought sewing
     machines and sent them along.  The people lived in
     Riga, news came from the ghetto, finally they were
     moved from Lodz and Riga to Stutthof, and there they
     perished.  But the transport to Minsk was a matter of
     great worry for us right from the beginning, as we
     never received any news from it."

And on page 4, it says:

     "The Berlin community became progressively smaller
     owing to the deportations.  Then, from Vienna, there
     came Brunner, who tried to introduce the much harsher
     methods used in Vienna, but he left again soon.
     However, things were still not moving fast enough for
     the Nazis because industry did not want to release the
     Jews.  There were protests from industry, and at first
     it was stronger than the Gestapo.  But then the Gestapo
     made a counterstrike, between 18 February and 10 March
     1943, removed the Jews from the factories in one swoop,
     took them to five preconstructed camps, and from there
     straight away to deportation.  The resistance of
     industry had been broken.  Simultaneously, a street
     razzia was staged, anyone caught on the street wearing
     the Star was deported immediately.  These days were the
     most gruesome of all, so I shall not tell you any more
     about this."

Then he speaks about the situation of the sick:

     "Dr. Lustig, whose character was much in doubt and who
     was later indeed arrested by the Russians, did a great
     deal for the Jewish hospital.  In particular, he
     intervened with Sturmbannfuehrer Guenther in order that
     the hospital's nurses might stay on, but to no avail.
     Eighty-nine nurses were selected and had to leave, and
     then the Nazi there said to the chief physician, Dr.
     Schoenstadt: 'And you are number 90'..."

And he continues:

     "Once there was an exhibition in Berlin called 'Das
     Soviet Paradies.'  Its object was to ridicule the
     Soviet Union.  An act of sabotage occurred at this
     exhibition and Jews were among those involved in it.
     Five Germans met their death through it.  In the
     sequel, large-scale arrests took place.  We were
     ordered to come from the Community Executive Committee
     to the Head Office for Reich Security, where we found
     all the leaders of the Reichsvereinigung, headed by
     Baeck and also Loewenherz from Vienna.  We were put
     against the wall of a great hall and had to stand there
     from 9 o'clock on; only Baeck and Loewenherz were
     allowed to sit down for a quarter of an hour.  At 1.30
     p.m. Gruppenfuehrer Mueller, who was directly under
     Heydrich, arrived and said he was sorry he had kept us
     waiting so long, he only wanted to tell us that 250
     Jews had just been shot (50 Jews for every dead
     German).  Next time it would be 250 for each one.  Then
     we were dismissed.

     "In the end only a small number of Jews were left in
     Berlin.  On 10 June 1943, Gestapo commissars came to
     the Reichsvereinigung, and also to us, and declared
     that our activities were over.  I was the last one to
     leave the office of the Community and the grounds.  We
     were kept in the camp at Grosse Hamburgerstrasse until
     16 June, and from there we were deported to

I should now like to request the Court to hear Moritz
Henschel's widow, Mrs. Hildegard Henschel.

Presiding Judge:  Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness: Not very well, German is preferable.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Hildegard Henschel.

Q. Where do you live?

A. In Yad Eliyahu, Ahva House 5.

Presiding Judge: Please answer Mr. Bar-Or's questions.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Mrs. Henschel, you are the widow of
the late Moritz Henschel, are you not?

Witness Henschel: Yes.

Q. You lived in Berlin?

A. Yes.

Q. From the beginning, since your marriage?

A. Since I was born.

Q. Till when did you remain in Berlin?

A. Till 16 June 1943.

Q. What were the public functions which your husband
fulfilled in the Jewish life of Berlin?

A. My husband was an advocate at the Kammergericht (Superior
Court) and notary.

Q. What was your husband's Jewish activity?

A. He was for many years a member of the Presidency of the
Jewish Community, and Head of its Department for Homes for
the Aged and Sick.

Q. Was your husband head of the Community for a certain

A. Yes, from March 1940 until 10 June 1943.

Q. Whom did he replace?

A. He succeeded Mr. Stahl.

Q. And was your husband also active in the Reichsvereinigung
until the end?

A. Yes.

Q. Mrs. Henschel, do you remember the order which compelled
you to wear the Jewish Star?

A. Yes, we wore the Jewish Star for the first time on 19
September 1941, the day after Yom Kippur.

Q. What happened on this Yom Kippur?

A. During the morning sermon by Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck in the
synagogue in the Joachimstrasse, my husband was called to
the telephone to speak to the Gestapo and was told to go
there at once.

Q. Who was the man at the Gestapo who was in charge of
Jewish community affairs?

A. It was a man called Pruefer.

Q. Were you in contact with this Mr. Pruefer throughout the
period between 1940 and 1943?

A. Yes.

Q. And on this Yom Kippur your husband went to see him?

A. Yes.

Q. What was he told there?

A. He was not alone there; the deputy president of the
Community, Philip Kotzover, and Dr. Martha Mosse were called
in at the same time, and all three were told that the
partial evacuation of Berlin would begin in a few weeks'

Q. What can you tell the Court about the evacuation of
Jewish homes?

A. The evacuation of the Jewish homes began together with
the first evacuation measures.  It was presented as an
operation of vacating Jewish homes, and we knew that this
would benefit the Nazis.  One received a letter from the
Jewish Community, in which notice was given that one's flat
would have to be vacated on such and such a date; the Jewish
Community would do its best to provide alternative

Q. That is to say, implementation of the evacuation was in
the hands of the Community?

A. At that time - yes.

Q. Do you remember the opening of a Sammellager (assembly
camp) in Levetzowstrasse?

A. Yes.  The first Sammellager to which Jews were taken
before the evacuation was the synagogue in Levetzowstrasse,
which was transformed into an assembly camp in 1941, shortly
after the Succot holiday (the Feast of Tabernacles).

Q. Mrs. Henschel, what was the purpose of this camp?  What
were its special characteristics?

A. The synagogue was not transformed somehow; the Jews who
were concentrated in order to be taken to camps later were
housed there: The healthy and the younger ones had to spend
the night on the chairs, for the children there were
separate rooms with mattresses, and also for the aged and
the sick.  There were separate kitchens for grown-ups, for
children, and for the Gestapo officials.  And there was also
a first aid station which was very well equipped by the

Q. All this in Levetzowstrasse?

A. Yes.

Q. Mrs. Henschel, where were you working in October 1941?

A. In the Jewish hospital.

Q. And what was your field of work?

A. I was secretary of the doctors who examined people from
the point of view of their fitness for transport.
Q. Mrs. Henschel, we have come to 15 October 1941.  What

A. That was the day before the first transport to

Q. How was this put in motion?

A. The Jews who had been concentrated in Levetzowstrasse
were brought out, the sick and the aged were loaded onto
Gestapo lorries - some open, some covered - and all those
who were fit to walk were made to go on foot through the
streets of Berlin.

Q. Were people allowed some time to prepare for the

A. It was like this: During the delay given for vacating the
dwellings, orders to report at Levetzowstrasse were already
sent out, and the rumour circulated already about a week

Q. At the time of this transport, what did you know then, in
October 1941, about earlier evacuations?

A. There was the first deportation from Stettin, then

Q. When was that?

A. That was in the summer, but I do not remember exactly.
Then Gurs.

Q. Gurs was a camp in the Pyrenees, in France, wasn't it?

A. Yes.

Q. Who were the Jews who were sent to Gurs?

A. Mostly Jews from the province of Baden.

Q. Mrs. Henschel, what was the mood in this October of 1941?
Did anything special happen in the town?

A. During the first days when we had to wear the Star, there
were manifestations of sympathy for the Jews everywhere.
Despair began only when one realized that the transports
were beginning in earnest.

Presiding Judge: Who manifested sympathy for the Jews?

Witness Henschel: For instance, my husband went to the
post office where he had to collect something, and the post
official said: "Mr. Henschel, you wear that like the Iron
Cross, First Class!"

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