Archive/File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Judgment/Judgment-039 Last-Modified: 1999/05/27 124. We shall now quote a description by a German of the extermination in the Belzec camp, which was very similar to that of Treblinka. The writer is an SS officer named Gerstein, whose conscience gave him no peace, and who, in 1942, tried to reveal the truth about extermination camps to the world. The description from which we are about to quote was written by him immediately after the War and handed by him to officers of the Allied Forces. We shall come back to Gerstein's statements later in another context. Here we shall only say that Gerstein's words are confirmed in detail by the evidence which we heard, so that these testimonies corroborate each other. We accept Gerstein's statement as a true description of what he saw with his own eyes. He writes (T/1309): "On the following morning, we left for Belzec. A small special railway station, with two platforms at the foot of a yellow limestone hill, immediately north of the road and the Lublin-Lemberg railway line. To the south, near the road, there are a number of service buildings bearing the sign: `Local Branch of the Armed SS, Belzec'...no dead were seen that day, but in the air all around, even on the road, there was a nauseating smell. "Near the small railway station, there was a large hut marked `Cloakroom,' with a wicket marked `Valuables.' There was also a room with a hundred barbers' chairs, and then a passage a hundred and fifty metres long in the open, fenced with barbed wire on both sides, with signs: `To the Showers' and `Inhalation Establishments.' We come to a house, the bath-house, which is flanked at the right and left by large concrete flower pots with geraniums and other flowers. After going up some steps, we come to three rooms to our right and three to our left, like garages, 5x4 metres in area, 1.90 metres high. At the back, not visible, there are piles of wood. A brass Star of David is on the roof. At the front of the building there was a sign which read: `The Heckenholt Foundation.' This is all I saw that afternoon. "The following morning, a few minutes before seven, I am told that the first train will arrive in ten minutes. And, indeed, the first train from Lemberg did come a few minutes later. It was a train with forty- five cars, carrying 6,700 people, of whom 1,450 were already dead when they arrived. Behind the small openings with barbed-wire netting, we saw children, yellow, scared children, and men and women. The train reaches the platform. Two hundred Ukrainians serving as forced labourers, push the doors open and lash the people with whips off the train. "Then orders are given over a large loudspeaker. They must undress completely in the open, some also in a hut, and also remove artificial limbs and spectacles. Shoes are to be tied together with a small piece of string, handed to them by a Jewish boy of four. All valuable objects and money must be handed in at the `Valuables' counter. No confirmations or receipts are given in exchange. Later, the women and young girls must go to the barber's, where their hair is cut off in two or three strokes. The hair disappears into large potato sacks `to be used for something special, for submarines as insulation, etc.' This is the explanation given by the Unterscharfuehrer on duty. "The march begins. Barbed wire to the right and to the left, and, at the end, two dozen Ukrainians with rifles. Heading the marchers is an unusually pretty girl - thus they approach. I am standing in front of the death chambers with Police Captain Wirth. Men, women, young girls, children, babies, amputees missing a leg - all naked, stark naked - they pass near us. An SS man stands in the corner telling the miserable people in the voice of a preacher: `Nothing will happen to you. All you have to do is to breathe deeply. This inhalation is necessary because of infectious diseases. It is a good disinfectant.' When they ask about their fate, he explains: `Of course, the men will have to work, to build roads and houses, but the women do not have to work. At most, if they wish, they may help around the house or in the kitchen.' In the heart of some of these doomed people, there is once again a spark of hope, enough to make them walk into the gas chambers without resistance. But most of them know: the smell carries the tidings of their fate. "Then they go up the small steps and see the truth. Nursing mothers with babies in their arms, naked; many children of all ages, naked; they hesitate but enter the death chambers, most of them without uttering a word. They are being pushed by those behind them, and the whips of the SS men keep them on the move. A Jewess of about 40, her eyes aflame, swears that the blood of her children may be visited upon the heads of their murderers. Police Captain Wirth himself brings his whip down on her face five times, and she disappears into the gas chamber. Many pray, and others say: `Who will cleanse us after death?' (Jewish ritual?) SS men cram the people into the chambers. Captain Wirth gives orders to `fill up well.' The naked people stand on each other's feet, seven to eight hundred people in an area of twenty-five square metres or forty-five cubic metres. The doors are shut. Others of the same transport remain waiting, naked. I am told that they are naked in the winter as well. `But they may die!' And the answer is given: `That is what they are here for.' At this moment, I grasp the meaning of the `Heckenholt Foundation.' "Heckenholt sets the diesel engine in motion, and the exhaust gases are used to kill the unfortunate people! SS Unterscharfuehrer Heckenholt exerts himself to get the diesel engine going, but it does not ignite. Captain Wirth comes up to him. One can see that he is scared because I am a witness to the mishap. Yes, I can see everything, and I wait. My stopwatch records everything. Fifty minutes, seventy minutes, no ignition. The people in the gas chambers wait in vain. We hear them cry. `Like in a synagogue,' says SS Sturmbannfuehrer Professor Dr. Pfannenstiel, Professor of Hygiene at the University of Marburg on the Lahn, after listening through the wooden door. Captain Wirth is furious. He brings the whip down eleven or twelve times on the face of the Ukrainian who is helping Heckenholt. "After two hours and forty-nine minutes - my stopwatch recorded everything - the diesel engine began to function. Up to that moment, the people are alive in the four gas chambers, which are filled to capacity. Four times 750 people are living in four times forty- five cubic metres. Twenty-five minutes more pass. It is true, many have died. This can be seen through a small window by the light of the electric bulb inside the room. Twenty-eight minutes later, only a few are still alive. Finally, after thirty-two minutes, they are all dead. At the other end, Jewish labourers open the wooden doors...the dead stand erect like basalt columns, for there is no room to fall or to collapse. Even in death, one can recognize the families, holding hands. It is only with difficulty that they can be separated to make room in the chambers for the next transport... From the report by the Polish Commission which investigated the Belzec camp (T/1316), it becomes clear that this camp was a place mainly for the extermination of Jews from south- eastern Poland, but Jews from Czechoslovakia, Austria, Romania, Hungary and Germany were also brought there for extermination (p. 13 of the Hebrew translation). The Commission estimated the number of those killed at Belzec as at least 600,000 (supra, p. 15). 125. Evidence about the Sobibor camp revealed a picture similar to that of the Treblinka and Belzec camps. Here, Jews from eastern Poland and from German-occupied territories in Soviet Russia, as well as from Czechslovakia, Slovakia, Austria and Germany were exterminated (evidence of Dov Freiberg, Session 64, Vol.III, pp. 1169; and the Polish Commission Report, T/1293, on page 78 of the Hebrew translation). This camp was liquidated after the revolt of the Jewish prisoners which broke out there in October 1943. The Polish Commission estimates the number of victims in this camp as at least 250,000 (supra, p. 7). 126. The Majdanek camp was a large concentration camp in Lublin, and also a place where Jews were exterminated by shooting and gassing. Witness Joseph Reznik gave evidence (Session 64, Vol. III, p.1160) about the mass slaughter in November 1943, when Jews were shot in the "fifth field" at Majdanek. The Polish Commission Report (T/1289, p. 5 of the Hebrew translation) gives the number of Jews killed on one single day - 3 November 1943, as 18,000. Gas chambers were also set up at Majdanek (supra, pp. 3, 5). Jews from Poland, Slovakia, Czechoslovakia and from western and southern Europe were brought to this camp (supra, p. 16). The Commission estimates the total number of Jewish victims in Majdanek at 200,000 (p. 118). Majdanek camp had branches, one of which was Trawniki camp, already mentioned as the destination for deportations of Jews from Germany. 127. The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was the largest of the extermination camps. Like Majdanek, this comprised a concentration camp where prisoners were worked to death, and had buildings for immediate physical extermination. We shall deal first with the second aspect of Auschwitz- Birkenau. On the extermination process, we shall quote from the notes made by the camp commander, Rudolf Hoess, when he was in Nuremberg Prison, and handed to us by the witness, Professor Gilbert, who received them from Hoess himself. Professor Gilbert was serving, at the time, as a psychologist in the American army, and it was his duty to observe the prisoners in Nuremberg Prison. After Hoess had testified at Nuremberg that the Accused told him that over two million Jews were exterminated at Auschwitz (see T/1357, p. 2), Goering maintained in a conversation with Professor Gilbert that this was technically impossible (Session 35, Vol. III, p. 1005). Then Professor Gilbert proposed asking Hoess himself about this matter, and that was done. In answer to the question, Hoess made notes which are undoubtedly an authentic description (T/1170), and tally with what we have heard from witnesses in regard to Auschwitz. He explains that the freight trains carrying the Jews destined for extermination reached a special platform in the camp, near the extermination structures. The Accused's Section, which dispatched them, sent word in advance, and the trains were marked with certain figures and letters, to avoid their getting mixed up with transports of other detainees. On the average, each train carried some 2,000 Jews. After the Jews were removed from the trains and counted (there were no lists of names), they all filed by two SS doctors who separated those fit for work from those who were unfit for work. The average number of those declared fit was only twenty-five per cent. The luggage of the Jews remained on the platform and was later brought to stores to be sorted out. The men amongst those unfit for work were separated from the women and children and taken to the nearest extermination installation that was empty. There they all had to undress in rooms which gave the impression of disinfecting chambers. Those who hesitated were made to hurry, so that those who came after them would not have to wait too long, and they were told to remember where they left their clothes, so that they could find them again after the shower. From there, they were taken to the gas chamber, which was camouflaged as a washroom with showers, pipes and water taps. Once they were all inside the chamber, the door was locked, and from above, Zyklon `B' gas was let in through a special aperture. This vaporized immediately and did its work. Death came from thirteen to fifteen minutes later. Half an hour later, the chamber was opened and the corpses were taken for burning, after the women's hair was cut off and gold teeth were removed. There were five crematoria there, in which it was possible to burn up to ten thousand corpses per day. The ashes were ground into dust and were thrown into the Vistula river and washed away with the current. Hoess calculated that if the average number of bodies cremated daily for 27 months was 3,000, the number of people killed totalled about two and a half million. In his opinion, one and a half million, at most, were exterminated, but he adds that he has no evidence with which to prove his figure, and we shall refrain from deciding which is the correct figure. As stated above, this horrifying description, given by the master butcher himself, in the language of a dry office report, has been fully confirmed by witnesses who testified before us (see the evidence of Yehuda Bakon, Session 68, Vol. 111, p. 1246-1248); the evidence of Nachum Hoch, Session 71, Vol. III, p. 1291-xxxx). The Jews exterminated at Auschwitz-Birkenau were brought there from all over Europe, and mainly from central, western and southern Europe, and amongst them were Jews from the German Reich (including annexed territories in the East), from the Czech-Bohemian Protectorate, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Greece, Romania, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, and also the Generalgouvernement area (see the above note by Hoess, T/1170; and the evidence of Rajewski in the Hoess trial, T/1356).
Site Map ·
What's New? ·
Home · Site Map · What's New? · Search Nizkor