The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/06/01

Q. And then you said there came a very senior officer of the SS?

A. Yes.

Q. What was the function of this officer?

A. He spoke to me and asked how our life was there.  He was
also accompanied by a man in civilian clothes.  And when he
finished talking to me, the man dressed in mufti spoke to
me, saying that his name was Kastner, that I did not know
him, possibly I knew other people, he mentioned to me the
names of two people whom I actually knew, one was Nathan
Schwalb, who was in Switzerland, and Dr. Abeles, who was
with us on the train, and he said: "I promise you that you
are going to be sent to a good place."

Q. And who was the second man?

A. He was Kastner.

Q. One was Kastner, and the second one?

A. A senior SS officer, SS Standartenfuehrer.

Q. You don't remember his name?

A. I can imagine who he was, but I did not know at the time.

Q. But at that time two trainloads were sent onwards to
Germany, to the East?

A. Yes.  Because of breakdowns on the lines we were unable
to travel directly.  We went, then, via North Germany.  For
a whole day we travelled about 40 kilometres, not more.
Sometimes there was no coal, sometimes there were bomb
attacks and so on, and then we could not make so much
progress.  And finally, I remember, we even turned back -
evidently there was a battle going on, we heard cannon fire,
and the following morning we travelled back.  In this way we
moved around until we were liberated at Truwitz.

Q. That is to say - you arrived at a place other than the
one the train was supposed to reach?

A. Certainly, since it was a little village where no one
knew about our coming.  It was a very remote village.

Q. What were the functions of that youth who you said was
interrogated and committed suicide in gaol?

A. He was a leader in the Hehalutz youth movement, he was an
instructor there, he taught, he performed all the duties of
a leader.  But he also carried out cultural activity - he
issued brochures.  Apart from that he began to occupy
himself, in the underground movement, with forged papers and
the transfer of people - first of all the concealment of
people with non-Jews, and afterwards with smuggling them out
to France.  Some of them worked in the "Organization Todt";
this was the largest individual enterprise in the whole of
Western Europe, and they were accepted, because many of
them, who were members of Hechalutz, had come before from
Germany and spoke a good, correct German, and hence they
were able to find a place for themselves there.

State Attorney Bach:  I believe that it may be possible to
identify the incident in connection with the question of His
Honour, Judge Halevi.  [To the witness] That
Standartenfuehrer who was with Dr. Kastner - what was the
colour of his hair?

Witness Melkman: I don't remember.

State Attorney Bach:  We have other evidence of this visit,
which we shall reach at a later stage.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Dr. Melkman, you have completed
your evidence.

Mr. Bach, I shall now, for the time being, hand back to you
this collection of Belgian documents.

State Attorney Bach:  Thank you, Your Honour.  Perhaps we
shall photocopy separately the document that I wanted to
submit, and then it can be put into the file.

Presiding Judge: The Court gives its decision No. 18

Decision No. 18

Mr. Bach applies to submit an affidavit of a Belgian citizen
on the general background of the persecution of the Jews of
Belgium. The contents of the statement do not refer, as we
have been told, to the personal liability of the Accused.
Dr. Servatius does not oppose the submission of the
declaration, and from this position of his it appears that
it is not his intention to cross-examine the witness.
Accordingly, we allow the submission of the affidavit as
evidence, by virtue of our authority under section 15 of the
Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law, 5710-1950.

State Attorney Bach:  This was our document No. 1257.

Presiding Judge: T/524.

State Attorney Bach:  We have here, Your Honour, many
passages which we shall prove in more detail through other
witnesses, and hence I would not want to refer to them.
Perhaps the Court will permit me merely to read extracts
from this affidavit.

Presiding Judge: Within reason, I assume?

State Attorney Bach:  Yes.

     "My name is Felix Gutmacher, I was born in Brussels on
     31 January 1926, and I am a Belgian citizen.  I serve
     as a lawyer at the Appeals Court of Brussels.  My
     parents were natives of Poland and immigrated to
     Belgium in 1923.  They were traders.  I had two
     "At the time of the declaration of war, we - my elder
     brother and I - were studying in high school.  On 10
     May 1940 we left for France, like most Belgians, but we
     had to return to Belgium, since we were surrounded in
     northern France by the advancing German army.  In the
     years 1941-1942, the persecutions commenced in the
     sense that Jewish commercial houses were closed on the
     orders of the German authorities.  My parents were
     compelled to close their clothing business..."

Presiding Judge: Does "within reason" mean the whole

State Attorney Bach:  No.  I thought of reading this
paragraph only.  When he talks, later on, of the situation,
I intended to leave that out and merely to mention what is
referred to in those papers.  But I only want to state who
the man was, who his family were.

Presiding Judge: Very well.

State Attorney Bach:  "...As we were Jewish, we were
forbidden to visit certain institutions, to be found in the
street after a certain hour in the evening...our liberty was
very restricted.  The summonses to the assembly camp of
Malines began in June-July 1942."  Then he describes what
happened to his father and his brothers, how his mother died
as a result of all the excitement, and afterwards he
describes how he was arrested by men of the SS, with blows
and threats, how he was brought to the Gestapo camp,
together with others.

      "Here they undressed us completely, first of all, in
     order to search us.  At that time I witnessed very
     cruel scenes on the part of the Nazi guards.
     Particularly shameful was their behaviour towards the
     young women who were there in our midst, naked, because
     of their being examined and because of the degrading
     posture in which we were forced to stand."  Thereafter
     he recounts that they did not receive any news from the
     family all the time he was under arrest, how the
     Germans regularly arranged transports of one thousand
     Jews each.
     "I myself was deported in the ninth transport in the
     middle of September.  Very early one morning, we were
     taken to cattle waggons that were close to the camp
     exit, and we were loaded on them, one on top of the
     other, with the few effects with which we were still
     left.  This departure gave rise to heart-rending
     scenes, for we knew, more or less, what awaited us.  In
     the course of the journey, they gave us practically
     nothing to eat or drink.  In order to sleep, we had to
     find a corner where we could sit down and recover, so
     that in particular the women and children could get
     some rest."
After that he describes how they reached a particular place
where all the men from 16 to 45 were required to alight from
the train.  Those who were unwilling to do so were removed
by force.  Only afterwards did it become known that all the
others - those who were not taken off the train - were
brought to Auschwitz and exterminated.  He himself, together
with those who were fit for work, was transferred to the
Sakrau camp.  And here, one day, a German came to the camp
whom they called "Judenhaendler" (the trader in Jews).

     "He proceeded to classify the prisoners in order to
     arrange transports destined for the concentration
     camps.  He questioned each one about his profession and
     tested them carefully, in order to find out what was
     their physical stamina.  One could plainly observe that
     he actually took pleasure in being able to select
     prisoners who were to be sent to an extermination camp,
     those prisoners who said that they were members of the
     intellectual professions or introduced themselves as
     industrialists.  I announced that I was an agricultural
     worker, and thanks to this statement of mine I was able
     to remain, for the time being, in the transit camp."

     "But afterwards he was sent to another place called
     Koenigshuette.  He describes the place, the terrible
     conditions, the illnesses, the pneumonia and the
     furuncles, which he contracted from the absence of
     hygienic conditions.  Later on, in 1943, that same
     "trader in Jews" came again and announced that he
     needed volunteers who would have to perform labour
     which was not too heavy, that he required 500
     volunteers, and many volunteered.  Subsequently it
     emerged that those were sent to do work in an arms
     factory, where they worked in rooms where sulphur
     products were being prepared.  The Jews were forbidden
     to wear protective masks which the other prisoners
     used.  They were soon poisoned by the sulphur, and
     almost all 500 died within a short time.  "These
     details were given to me by one of the few survivors of
     this group whom I saw afterwards in the camp at
     Blechhammer.  He no longer had any fingernails, he had
     lost his eyelashes and his eyebrows, the skin of his
     whole body was completely yellow, and he was truly in a
     corpselike state. Incidentally, he died after some time
     in Blechhammer."

After this, the witness describes what happened in that camp
at Blechhammer.  Again the tortures and the living

     "Often we were called together in this way in order to
     be present at hangings of comrades who had been accused
     of various 'crimes,' such as corresponding with their
     families through the non-Jews in the factory, or
     because they accused them of acts of sabotage, or
     because they found a piece of barbed wire on their
     person which they wanted to save for themselves, in
     order to bind their shoes together, and which, the
     Germans contended, came from telephone wires that had
     been cut."

Subsequently, in the summer of 1944, a plague of dysentery
broke out, and he, too, was stricken with this illness, and
all those who became ill were sent to Auschwitz for
extermination.  He himself was saved by the fact that he
took the advice of his doctor and stopped eating altogether.

Later on came a plague of typhus which claimed many victims.

     "In the end, in January 1945, after the Russian attack,
     we were forced to leave the camp."  Here he describes
     the well-known "death march," "when, with our torn
     clothing and wearing shoes with wooden soles, we had to
     march for several days and nights in the snow and in
     the cold wind, without food all the way.  Soon some of
     the prisoners could not keep up with the others, and
     they were obliged to lie down along the way.  SS men
     travelled by car behind the long and sorry column of
     prisoners and killed all those who fell down with shots
     from their rifles or revolvers."

He describes the days and the nights of that march which
ultimately reached a huge barn where they had to crowd in,
one on top of the other.  And when the Germans wanted to
take them out of the place where they had spent the night
under indescribable conditions, without air, and in
particular without room to stretch their limbs or even to
sit down -

     "since we had no strength left because of our great
     weariness, they shot at us with their revolvers and
     killed and wounded many of our comrades in order to
     frighten us and to urge us to get out more quickly.
     When we were outside, we realized that the interior of
     the barn was strewn with dead bodies and with prisoners
     who had become stiff from weariness and who were
     immediately killed."

Thereafter he describes the agonies of the march in the snow
and the cold.  They did not receive food, they were thirsty
and swallowed some snow in order to assuage their thirst.

     "The salts within the snow acted on our exhausted
     bodies and caused a swelling of the body, especially in
     the legs - something which added to the numbers of
     victims who were killed along the way."

"I myself," he says, "was completed enfeebled.  I walked
barefoot for I could no longer endure the shoes with the
wooden soles - which interfered with our progress."

Sometimes they received a little food.

     "At the end of a fortnight we arrived at the camp at
     Gross-Rosen."  And next he describes the deep mud
     through which they had to wade and in which they sank
     up to their knees.  "Thus people fell in a heap, many
     of whom were left stretched out in the mud into which
     they had sunk.  They were trampled upon by those coming
     after them and perished in this way."

They then came to some huts, were forced with blows from
rifle butts, to enter these huts, which were completely
bare, and they found themselves lying down with a number of
prisoners who had still remained alive.

The following morning, SS men brought them out, again with
blows.  Some of them were afraid to go out, but they were
removed by force.

     "These scenes of slaughter were repeated during the
     three or four days we remained in this hell; I remember
     particularly having to remain for several hours on end
     on the roll call parade ground, with bare feet in the
     mud and snow. Once such a roll call even lasted for ten
     hours on end.
     "Eventually, we were piled into railway waggons, where
     we were kept for eight hours, and from time to time we
     received a slice of dry bread from the SS men.  After
     an eight-hour journey under these conditions, we
     reached Buchenwald.  There they conveyed us to a small
     camp which contained many Jews who had arrived in
     recent days from camps in the East.  They crowded us
     into the huts.  We slept on wooden bunks of three or
     four tiers."

And there they regarded him as a "Muselmann," that is to
say, unfit for work, and he was sent to the hut of those who
were destined for extermination.

     "Afterwards I learned that there was no more fuel for
     the incinerator.  This saved us at that time.  With the
     approach of the American army at the end of March 1945,
     the Germans gathered the Jews of the Buchenwald camp
     and loaded them on to waggons.  We learned that most of
     them were put to death in the nearby forests.  Others
     were sent to labour camps on the Czech border."

     "I myself was rescued from this new extermination when
     I pretended to be dead.  I weighed only 33 kilograms.
     I was dragged to a pile where bodies were stacked up,
     and I remained there for several hours."

Subsequently, when the roll call was over, he dragged
himself into a nearby hut.  There he met a fellow prisoner -
a non-Jew - and told him what had happened to him.  "This
friend hid me under the board which he used for sleeping and
he shared with me the 200 grams of bread and the litre of
soup that he received daily."  He stayed there for more than
a week, until the Americans liberated him.  And he adds:

     "Afterwards I was informed that out of the 5,000
     prisoners of Blechhammer only 750 reached Buchenwald
     alive - most of whom, incidentally, died a short while
     thereafter.  Out of the 1,000 prisoners who were
     deported from Malines and who were in the same
     transport as I was, nine survived.  Tuberculosis had
     made its mark on almost all of them, and they had to be
     treated for years in sanatoria.  I myself remained for
     four years in a sanatorium, for both my lungs were
     affected.  I should add that after my deportation both
     my father and my elder brother were arrested by the
     Gestapo and deported.  My father died there, and my
     brother returned miraculously.  But he, too, bore the
     cruel signs of torture and deprivation."

     "The details I have recounted are only the more salient
     facts of the persecution which I underwent.  The
     gravity of the acts of torture lies perhaps still more
     in details which cannot be described.  I would need
     three years in order to describe the three years of my

I now intend, Your Honours, to support by means of documents
what we have heard today from the witness Dr. Melkman, and
at the same time to prove by means of documents the direct
link between the Accused and each one of the stages of the
process of the extermination of the Jews of Holland to which
we have been listening.

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