The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/06/08

Attorney General: Your group, together with you, consisted
of your father, your mother, your brother, and also three
sisters - is that right?

Witness Hoch:   Yes.

Q. Were you, at the time, the eldest of all the children?

A. I was the eldest.

Q. Apart from you, have any of them survived?

A. To my great sorrow, not one of them has survived.

Q. After the selection, they separated you from the other
members of your family?

A. When we arrived at Birkenau, I was separated from my
father - first of all from my mother and the children, and
afterwards from my father.  My father still managed to put
his long raincoat that he had with him on me, so that I
should appear to be somewhat older.  They directed him to
the left and me to the right, amongst those who were left
behind to work.

Presiding Judge: In what year were you born?

Witness Hoch:   In 1928.

Attorney General: You also went through that selection with
the yardstick on the Day of Atonement, 1944?

Witness Hoch:   The selection with the yardstick was already
the second selection.

Q. But you passed this selection?

A. I passed this selection.

Q. We have already heard about that from another witness,
and we shall not trouble you with this matter.  I would ask
you to tell us what happened after the Day of Atonement,
when you attempted to take an additional ration of food.

A. I tried to receive an additional ration of food - I had
not yet got it, I merely tried.  They put the upper part of
my body into an oven - the kind they had at Auschwitz - and
they struck me on the lower part of my body with a thick
pole - like the poles with which they used to carry the
food.  They first gave me ten blows.  I fainted.  They
poured water over me.  They added another ten blows.  Again
I fainted, and they poured water over me - until they
completed the twenty-fifth blow.  Thereafter, I was unable
to move.  I was left there for a whole day.  To this day - I
ask the Court's pardon - I have to sit on one side, and I
cannot sit on my right side, as a result of these floggings.

Presiding Judge: Were any of your bones broken?

Witness Hoch:   No bones of mine were broken, but I have a
red mark on my flesh, like a wound, to this day.

Attorney General: What happened about three days before
Simhat Torah in 1944?* {*The Festival of Simhat Torah fell
on 14 October in 1944}

A. Three days before Simhat Torah, we were taken to Camp F,
for washing and disinfecting our clothes.

Q. Where were you taken from?  From the children's block?

A. We were taken from what remained of the children's block.
We washed ourselves, our clothes were disinfected, and we
were returned to the block where we had been that day.  The
next morning, there was a Lagerappell ( camp roll- call),
and as we were standing outside the barracks for the camp
roll-call, we were surrounded by SS men with machine guns,
and we were taken to Blocks 11 and 13 - or 9 and 11, I don't
remember exactly.  We were kept inside these blocks for two
days without food.  Our situation there was already well
known - it was four or five months, roughly, since we had
reached Birkenau.  With the first transport, when the
children were taken, we did not yet know where they were
being sent to; we thought they were being taken to work.  At
the second selection, the destination was already known to
us.  Since they had been shut in those blocks - 11 and 13
this time - the moment they put us into those huts, which
were notorious as a kind of quarantine before going on to
the crematorium, we already knew what awaited us.

On the second day, in the evening, it was the eve of the
Simhat Torah, we, ten children, planned some kind of a break
out from these huts, even if this break out were to be only
for the sake of demonstration.  We planned it; in this hut
the entrances on both sides were locked.

Q. How many boys were you in the block?

A. Roughly about one thousand, the survivors of the three
thousand who were originally in the two blocks.

Presiding Judge: How old were the boys?

Witness Hoch:   Between fourteen and sixteen; most of them
were from among the Hungarian children who were brought
there in May, June and July - in those months.

Attorney General: Did all the boys agree to the planned

Witness Hoch:   It was planned by ten only, but after it was
planned, it was also passed on to the others.  The plan was
that, since there were two guards - the Kapo and the
Blockaelteste at the two entrances - the main entrance and
the rear one - one of the boys would try to climb up the
central pillar up to the apertures which were in the roof,
and then surely the guard would come, either from the front
entrance or the rear one, in order to stop him; then some of
the boys would break out through the entrance from which the
guard had come.

Q. You did not have any weapons?

A. We had no weapons.

Q. You knew that this attempt had no chance of succeeding?

A. First of all, it was a form of demonstration, and we
hoped that, perhaps, some of them could be saved.

Q. Did you carry out the plan?

A. It was put into operation at midnight and went exactly as
we had planned.  The moment one of the boys tried to climb
up the central pillar, the guard came from the front
entrance to stop him.  Then some of the boys broke out of
the front entrance; after that, the guard at the rear
entrance came up, and some of the boys broke out of the rear

Presiding Judge: Do you know what happened to the boy who
climbed up the pillar?

Witness Hoch:   The boy who climbed up the pillar remained
in the gas chamber, on the same occasion that I was there,
but I shall come to that later on.  We broke out - it was at
night - some of the boys hid themselves in the other huts,
some of them hid in the latrines, in the toilets.  I myself
hid in the oven in the washroom.

Attorney General: Did all the boys break out?

Witness Hoch:   Almost all of them.  The next day, there was
a Lagersperre (camp curfew) from four o'clock in the morning
- those who used to go out to work were not allowed to leave
the camp.

Presiding Judge: Do you mean a curfew?

Witness Hoch:   Yes. a curfew.  Until they managed to catch
all of us together.  Round about ten or eleven o'clock, they
managed to gather us all, and they put us back into those
huts 11 and 13.

Attorney General: Did they catch everyone?

Witness Hoch:   They caught them all.  They did not end the
curfew until they caught everybody.  About noon, they
brought us two barrels of boiled potatoes (this was already
the third day - on Simhat Torah  - after we had not been
given food for two days) and two barrels of beetroot soup,
borsht.  Six of us lads, out of the ten who planned the
escape, went forward, and we spilled the two barrels of
potatoes and the two barrels of beetroot soup on to the
floor, in the presence of the camp commandant, who was there
in civilian clothes and who had accompanied the delivery of
the food.  If I may say so, it is still my opinion today
that this was to be a deception.  For we knew that all those
who left on a transport departing from this camp for other
camps used to receive better food on that day; and they were
going to deceive us in this way, so that we should believe
that we were leaving...

Q. While you really believed...?

A. ...while we knew, in fact, what was in store for us.  We
knew what awaited us in the evening.  But naturally, only a
short time passed, after the commandant departed, before we
fell upon the potatoes on the floor, and we ate them from
the floor.  This hunger strike was meant only as a
demonstration, in order to show them that we knew what was
in store for us and what it was all about.

Less than an hour passed - the front entrance was opened,
and we were told: "You are free - you can go out."  We began
running outside.  The moment we came outside the hut, we
encountered a curfew.  Outside, SS men with machine guns
surrounded us from all the huts, arranged us in groups of
five and took us outside the camp.  All this took place in
Camp Z, the Zigeunerlager.  As soon as they took us out of
the camp and led us in the direction of the camp with the
crematorium, with which we were already familiar, since we
had already been there five months previously, we stopped
and did not want to walk any further.  They began firing at
our legs - we continued walking up to the gate of
crematorium No. 3, around which there was a fence made of
wood, arranged in the form of cubes, of a height which did
not enable one to see what was going on inside.

We reached the entrance door of the inner crematorium room;
once again, we stopped and did not want to enter - again
they began shooting, but once again only at our feet.  We
went inside - we found ourselves inside a large hall which
resembled a bathhouse.  There were nails in the walls - each
nail had a serial number.  They asked us to hang up our

Q. They asked you?

A. They ordered us to get undressed.  We did not want to
undress, and then they began shooting inside the hall; they
then ordered us to get undressed and to hang our clothes on
the nails and to remember the serial number, so that, when
we came out, we would know where to find our clothes.
Naturally, this was a deliberate fraud, and we already knew
that.  We got undressed and threw our clothes on the floor
in the middle of the hall.  After that, we were drawn up in
rows of fives and then - I remember it as if it were
happening now - one of the Sonderkommando, who was working
there, came up to us and said: "Boys, at least don't show
them that you are worried - sing!"

Q. So that the Germans should not see your suffering?

A. I cannot say what his intention was.

Presiding Judge: Was he a Gypsy?

Witness Hoch:   No, he was a Jew.

Attorney General: What did he say to you - did he speak

Witness Hoch:   Yes, he spoke Yiddish.  He said: "Singt,
chevre, singt!" (Sing, fellows, sing).  Some of us were
petrified and could not utter a sound, like me; others began
to recite the prayer of confession, and yet others actually
sang.  They took us through a small vestibule and opened a
large door and put us into this hall.  There was absolute
darkness in this hall, apart from the light that entered
through the opening by which we had come in. We were inside,
they had already closed the door on us, and then, for the
first time, I heard crying.  After some time - perhaps a few
seconds, perhaps a few minutes - the door was opened again,
and we were told to return to the same hall where we had
been previously.  They directed us to one side of the hall,
and then a senior SS officer - today I assume that it was
Hoess, but I am not certain of that, since it was the same
officer who had first separated us when my father and I
reached Birkenau.  I am not sure, but it seems to me that it
was he.

Presiding Judge: Do you mean to refer to the camp
commandant, Hoess?

Witness Hoch:   Yes, but I am not sure - I assume that he
was the one.  He called the first boy, grabbed him by the
arms, examined his muscles and ordered him to fall to the
floor and to get up ten times, to run to the wall and back,
and then he sent him to the right-hand side.

Q. Where was that?

A. In the room into which we had been brought earlier, and
where we had undressed.

Next, he called a second boy, and that was the same lad who
had been seized while climbing the pillar.  By chance, he
was from my home town - his name was Salmonowitz - and he
asked him: "How old are you?"  He was a short boy.  He asked
him how old he was, and the boy replied: "I am eighteen
years old."   Then he said to him: "You swine, you are
eighteen?"  And he sent him back to the same side from which
he had been called.

The third boy was myself.  I was petrified.  I looked him in
the face - he ordered me to fall to the floor and to get up,
to run to the wall and back, and he sent me also to the
right-hand side.

In this fashion, he chose fifty boys.  In the middle of the
process of choosing, in the midst of this selection, the
remainder of the boys saw that some kind of selection was
being made, and they began moving to our side, to push
towards that side.  The SS men were stationed between us and
them and kept us apart, so that they could not cross over.
At that moment, before they were separated, the same lad
from the Sonderkommando, who had previously told us to sing,
came up, and we asked him what they wanted of us - to give
us a stronger gas?  Then he said: "This is the first
instance I have come across where someone has been taken out
of here alive."

Attorney General: From the gas chambers?

Witness Hoch:   Yes.  And he went on: "I wish that I could
be as secure as you fifty boys are."  After the selection
was concluded, we were ordered to turn around with our backs
towards the door through which we had come from the gas
chamber, and meanwhile, the other boys were taken into the
gas chamber.
Q. How many were there?

A. In my estimate nine hundred to one thousand boys.  The
door was closed, we heard it being closed, and we were
ordered to get dressed.

Q. All fifty?

A. Yes.

Q. And the others?

A. The nine hundred were inside.  As soon as we were told to
get dressed, each one began looking for his clothes, and
then the officer came up to us and said: "It does not matter
any more - take what there is."  They made us get dressed
and took us out along the way we had come - outside the
camp, to the railway station, and we were given orders.
There were freight cars with potatoes there - we had to off-
load the potatoes from the freight cars and bury them in the
ground.  And then we understood why we had been taken out
from there - on account of the fact that there was a
shortage of manpower, so that we could off-load the

Q. All the others were put to death at that time in the gas

A. Yes - I never met any of those boys afterwards.  Of the
fifty, there are, incidentally, three in Israel - two in
Haifa and one in Jaffa, two brothers.

Presiding Judge: Where?

Witness Hoch:   One in Jaffa and two in Haifa.

Attorney General: The whole episode is well known in
holocaust literature, Your Honour - it is described there.

Presiding Judge: There are two brothers, you say?

Witness Hoch:   I was not one of them - the two who are in
Haifa are brothers who were chosen at that time, two out of
the fifty.

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

Dr. Servatius:  No, I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mr. Hoch, you have concluded
your testimony.

Attorney General: I ask to call Mr. Gedalia Ben-Zvi.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Gedalia Ben-Zvi.

Attorney General: Do you live in Ein Hod, Mr. Ben-Zvi?

Witness Ben-Zvi:   Yes.

Q. You are a painter?

A. Yes, a teacher of painting.

Q. When the Second World War broke out, you were in

A. Yes, I was in Bratislava, in Slovakia.

Q. And from there you were deported to Majdanek?

A. I was taken from there to Majdanek.

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