Archive/File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Sessions/Session-071-06 Last-Modified: 1999/06/08 Attorney General: How did this transport differ from any other? Witness Ben-Zvi: How did this transport differ from any other? In that these people knew, more or less, where they were bound for. These were people who throughout the journey, tried to jump from the windows of the train, and who were being shot at all the way. When the train approached, we noticed that people were hanging out of the barred windows. They were also given special treatment. This we heard from an Obersturmbannfuehrer who was there at night, at that time; he shouted out that they were all going to the camp. There was not going to be any selection that day. Usually they were sorted out, and 150-200 people out of the transport were sent to the camp. Presiding Judge: What was the German word for "selection"? Witness Ben-Zvi: Selektion. I don't remember any special term. Q. Do you remember Sortierung (sorting out)? A. Yes. Q. Was that selection? A. "Sortierung" was when they reached the clinic. The selection was usually carried out amongst inmates of the camp, among those who were inside the camp. I want to describe this transport and to compare it with other transports: Whereas on the others people arrived with their personal belongings, these people arrived virtually without any possessions; crowded into the freight cars, about one hundred and fifty people in each car. When the SS men opened the freight cars, the people actually fell out, and there were others who were piled up within, inside the cars. And only those who had been trampled on and suffocated inside the freight car itself still remained inside, dead or half dead, emitting tremendous heat. They were alive - how should I say - fumes arose from the dead bodies. These people did not notice that there was a slope immediately beyond the freight cars, and they rolled down this incline. This naturally caused wild laughter on the part of the SS men, who waited for this scene and who were amused by it. Attorney General: Were there many of them? Witness Ben-Zvi: There were so many in this transport, more than we had ever seen on a normal transport. Evidently, they were aware of the kind of transport that was likely to arrive - but which came as a surprise to us. The guard was also larger than usual. Q. There were more SS men this time than was usual? A. More than on the normal transports, of people who arrived from Holland or Czechoslovakia, where they relied on the naivete of the people coming from their homes. Q. Please continue. A. We stood aside until the order came: "Get inside, you filthy Jews!" And then amidst shouts and blows, we went into the freight cars to remove the dead bodies. That was not an easy task, since one held on to the next, and they were interlaced. And sometimes, when we pulled an arm or a leg, the skin would come off, owing to the great heat. The work was arduous, and it took many hours until we were able to clear the freight cars. Teams of four people worked in each car. Some shocking things also happened: Naturally, as in all places, the SS men went around with drawn revolvers all the time and shot enfeebled people who were not even able to go up to the trucks and climb up the steps - wide steps had been placed next to the trucks which would take the people, later on, to the gas chambers. I remember one case where a girl, approximately ten years old, emerged from a pile of corpses - we did not know how - and started walking and floundering, until one of the SS men "took pity" on her and shot her in the back of the neck, and she fell down. There was also a case of a boy sitting down in the middle, where all of them were walking around, with the dead lying on one side and the dying on the other. At the side, people were being loaded on to the trucks, and right in the middle, this little boy was sitting - half naked (they had all evidently taken their clothes off, owing to the great heat inside the freight cars), and one of the SS men whom I knew - he was Hauptscharfuehrer of the Kommando where I worked... Q. What was his name? A. I did not know him by name, but by his nickname. We called him "Zeide" (in Yiddish: grandfather), a sort of grandfather. He was an older man; he approached this boy from the rear and was about to shoot him in the neck, and the boy turned around and still managed to call out "Shema Yisrael," before he was shot. Afterwards, he was thrown on to the trucks amongst the living people who were there. Q. Did one of your group recognize his brother? A. There was a man there whose name I also don't remember, but we called him by the nickname "Duck". This young man recognized his brother amongst the people of the transport, and on his knees he implored the Hauptsturmbannfuehrer to allow him to go to the camp. Q. Hauptscharfuehrer. You said "Hauptsturmbann-fuehrer". A. I said Hauptsturmbannfuehrer - I cannot say definitely, since I did not understand the ranks, according to what I heard, according to the way SS men addressed him. Q. Please proceed. A. He begged for mercy for his brother, but was told with indifference in a pleasant tone: "Sie koennen ja mitfahren" (If you like, you can join him). That was the reply. Of course, after this, when all the living people had been taken away, we still worked for hours loading those people whom the SS men had killed with their own hands, with their revolvers, that night, in order to "spare their suffering" - that was how they explained it. Q. People who were suspected of swallowing diamonds or other valuables - what happened to them? A. This story came to me from a friend who worked in the Sonderkommando and who was later killed. He told me that before the people went into the gas chambers, an SS man would look at them before they entered and try and see whether anyone had swallowed some object. And he would go up to them and put a chalk mark either on their foreheads or their hands. The people did not understand the significance of this, and it was not possible to erase the mark. Later on, when the Sonderkommando removed the bodies from the other side out of the crematorium - and I saw the gate with my own eyes - those people bearing the chalk marks were moved to a special place, a sort of abattoir built according to all the principles of a butcher's shop, with all the butcher's implements, which were used to carve up these people on the spot, in order to search their stomachs for the valuables they had hidden there - in other words, which they had swallowed - and they extracted very many valuable articles, mainly diamonds, which were easy to swallow. Q. Do you remember the summer of 1944, when the large transport from Hungary arrived? A. Yes, I remember it. By that time, I had already left "Canada", using various subterfuges which were also difficult in those days. In order to raise their temperatures, people took medicine which they obtained from the male nurses in the Revier, and they were transferred to this Revier in Camp F, and, with the aid of friends, they tried to be admitted there. I did not use this method - I very simply vanished from that Kommando, from "Canada", for some days and went out with another Kommando. And at this stage the whole Kommando was transferred to Brzezinski, to that camp, where they were shut up in a camp within a camp in Birkenau. Presiding Judge: You said, "in order to raise their temperatures." Witness Ben-Zvi: Yes. Q. For what reason was it necessary to raise the temperatures? A. So that they could move over, more or less legally, to Camp F - that was the sick camp. At that time, I was working in the Bauleitungsmagazin, which I have already described, and I saw the transports which arrived then. Large masses of people arrived, so many that we lost all hope that some day we would somehow get out of this thing. Day after day, thousands were put to death, tens of thousands of human beings, and the bodies could no longer be concealed from the prisoners. They were piled up behind the crematorium and kept out of sight beside the building, only from those people who had arrived and were waiting in line for death in front of the crematorium. And when we went out to work, we saw them; they were sitting and waiting, and people were chosen from amongst them who could play musical instruments, in order to entertain the others. They did not see the rear of the crematorium - they sat at the front entrance of the building. Attorney General: What happened at the rear? Witness Ben-Zvi: At the rear, piles and piles of bodies were heaped up in equal numbers, so as to facilitate the counting and to estimate the number of the bodies. In the adjacent forest - I don't know whether one could call it a forest, for the crematorium No. 4 was there - the old system at Birkenau was reintroduced, and they began digging pits and burning the bodies in these pits, and the fire from this could be seen throughout the entire camp - I thought it could be seen, possibly, throughout the country. Q. And the entire camp smelled and breathed the odour of the burned flesh? A. That was so also before that; the smell coming from the four crematoria working at full speed was also sufficient to poison the air. Q. And the whole of Auschwitz breathed this air...? A. The whole of Auschwitz was full of black smoke that issued forth, smoke and fire, these large chimneys belched forth fire and smoke. Q. You breathed this during all these months? A. Yes, during all these months. Q. You lost all hope, and you described these days as "The Last Days of Pompeii"? A. Yes. I remember that, when I was lying down in the evening, on this famous Koje (bunk), we said with full conviction, that if the Hungarian Jews had also arrived - those who knew, or we assumed that they knew, about the holocaust, who knew what was going on - if they had come too, then there was no longer any hope for us. Q. Afterwards, you were transferred to Stutthof? When was that? A. I cannot remember the exact month - it was when the first transports began leaving Auschwitz. I believe it was in September or October, perhaps even later, in 1944. Q. Where was Stutthof? A. Stutthof was a camp, as we got to know afterwards, at a distance of about fifty kilometres from Danzig, in Poland. Q. What was there in Stutthof? A. I can tell you that, when we were travelling on the way to Stutthof, it seemed strange to us that they were conveying us in open carriages, in regular carriages, and under comparatively comfortable conditions. Presiding Judge: In passenger coaches? Witness Ben-Zvi: Yes. We travelled for a long time through forests, and there were some of us who tried to organize an escape and an attack on our guards, for we were not closely guarded. But all of us hoped again that we were on our way to a better place - we had been told that we were travelling to Germany to work - we also knew that the end was approaching, and again there was hope in our hearts, as happened each time we moved to some place, that indeed it was going to be better. Of course, these hopes were dispelled as soon as we reached this camp at Stutthof. We had scarcely alighted from the coaches when we were welcomed by blows from the same Haeftlinge (prisoners) whom we had known from Auschwitz; but there, they looked different, and their clothing was different. Most of them were Germans, not men of the SS - although some SS as well - but Berufsverbrecher (professional criminals), who were largely a type of the real Kapo with a green Winkel (triangle) pointing downwards. There was also a Verbrecher (criminal) who had not yet served his full term of punishment, who still had some period of imprisonment to run - he had the point of the Winkel facing upwards. But perhaps these are details which are no longer important. When we got there, although we were accustomed to all the hardships of the camp, and the evasions and seeking of ways how to exist, we lost our bearings; there we were newcomers. And out of roughly 1000-1500 men, by the time of the registration, which took place three days later, five hundred men were left. These five hundred survivors were taken out to various jobs, difficult tasks, which it is impossible at all to define. We had to unload ships, barges with gravel and cement, which arrived at a particular branch of a brick factory, not far from Stutthof. And then, in a very bitter frost, in the threadbare clothes we had on our backs, we had to offload these barges, accompanied by threats and beatings. The SS men made fires and warmed themselves not far away. And there were some who tried to come near them - of course, they were shot immediately by the guards. There was another trick the Germans used during that period. They would come over to a man who they could see was exhausted and no longer able to lift his shovel; they would say to him: "Why not sit down here sir? Be seated and rest a little." Naturally, this man would freeze on the spot, in the midst of a pool of mud, and he would no longer be capable of getting up. Anyone who did not work - froze. In that camp, sanitary conditions were also appalling. People died from dysentery, typhus and other diseases, they died daily in tremendous numbers. Opposite us was a women's camp which was not separated from the men's camp by an electrified fence - there they had more primitive external security arrangements than in Auschwitz. We were able to get close and to see what was going on inside this women's camp. And there, in the midst of the snow and the frost, women sat there covered only with a blanket. And, furthermore, the block did not have a roof, it had no roof at all, there was merely a pile of snow. And hence, as they sat there, they froze and died where they were. Q. And the food? A. The condition of the food was even worse than that in Birkenau in 1942. It was given in such small quantities. The price of food there was quite fabulous; even the best of friends divided up between them very meticulously that thin slice of bread which we were given for the whole day. And, of course, this caused people to become Muselmann and be transferred to the crematorium, which was not far away, fenced in by clusters of reeds which we could see as we went out to work. Q. In January 1945, you walked with the first marchers from Stutthof towards the West? A. At that time, there was already a rumour that they were going to evacuate the camp, owing to the approach of the Russians. And we were all lined up in groups in the courtyard and were told that we had to move to another camp, and owing to lack of transport, we would have to go on foot. We were not given any provisions for the road, we did not get other clothes. And it was a very harsh winter. We began marching towards Lauenburg. That is what we were told - we had to reach Lauenburg, which was a hundred and fifty kilometres from Stutthof. In this march, which certainly must have been similar to all the marches of this kind, the number of people diminished from day to day. At that time there were severe snow storms, and we did not walk along the open road. That route was reserved for the retreat of the German armies. We walked on paths in the field, through the fields, sometimes hip-deep in snow. The SS men, who were also not accustomed to these conditions, were very angry, and sometimes they shot people for no reason whatsoever, merely for their entertainment. People who lagged behind were shot and covered up immediately by the snow, which was falling continuously throughout those five days during which I walked with this transport. When evening was falling, the Germans searched for a place where they could let us sleep. Usually such places were in Polish villages: They emptied out any kind of large barn or simply any open place, provided it was fenced off, as long as it was suitable from the security point of view. I remember that we once slept somewhere, and when we got up in the morning, we were completely covered in snow - despite that, we slept. One evening, they put us up in a small village, in a church, a wooden church. We were all tightly pressed into this church. It was also a convenient place to guard. They posted Poles from that transport to stand watch over us. In those transports, there were both Polish and German prisoners, and they posted them as guards. SS men stood guard surrounding the church. Suitable conditions for escaping existed there, since the Polish population in that neighbourhood observed the suffering of these people and helped them to the best of their ability. Presiding Judge: I don't think there was a large Polish population there at that time. Witness Ben-Zvi: It was a small village, and the villagers came up to the fence and with the consent of the SS who were on guard there, threw slices of bread to the people. Naturally, people pounced upon the bread and ate it - that was the only food which we received throughout that time. This happened towards evening. The light was failing, and snow began falling. The SS men were occupied with their guard duty. I jumped over the low fence which surrounded this church - together with a friend of mine who, as I happened to learn by chance today, is at present in Canada.
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