The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/06/07

Q. What was the method of dealing with these people, from
the moment they arrived at Sobibor, at the railway station?

A. In 1942, in the middle of the year 1942, transports
arrived from Poland; others came from Czechoslovakia, from
Slovakia, Austria and Germany.  Most of these people did not
know or suspect anything but were incredulous.  The
treatment was like this: They arrived, the freight cars were
brought in, the people were taken off rapidly and made to
run to this place where they separated the men, women and
children.  That was a kind of half-way station.  The people
were put into a closed-in yard.  The entire path lay between
barbed wire fences, and, on the way, there were signs "To
the Showers."  Inside the yard,there were also large signs
"To the Showers," and there were also signs "To the Cash
Desk."  The cash desk stood in a corner.  There was a door
there, and that was where the people assembled.

Then Oberscharfuehrer Michel would appear, whom we called
"the preacher," and he addressed the people.  His speeches
were usually adapted to each transport.  But, at that time,
he would repeat the same story about what would happen
there.  They were going to the Ukraine where they would
establish farms, they would have to work - work hard.  And
sometimes people used to ask questions: "What is going to
happen to the women?"  And he would reply: "If they want to
live under better conditions, they, too, will have to work."
After that, he would add: "You have to get undressed, but
you must leave your belongings in order - we don't have much
time - so that when you come out of the showers, it will not
take long."

The people believed him.  They undressed, they arranged
their possessions: money, gold and securities - these they
handed over at the cash desk.  In most cases, people handed
over their money, but, at any rate, there were also some who
buried the money and the gold in the sand - there was sand
there - or in all sorts of corners, in the hope that on
their return they would have some money.  And then they
walked through this narrow door, passing between two barbed
wire fences, for a distance of three hundred metres.

Attorney General: I have, here, a plan of Sobibor, sketched
by one of the later witnesses, Biskowitz.  I don't have a
copy but, with the Court's indulgence, I should like to ask
the witness to point out various places on the plan.  He has
seen it, he has identified it, and he says it is accurate.

Presiding Judge: Very well.  It is going to be a little
difficult - for either he will see the plan, or we will.

Attorney General: If the Court will permit the witness to
come closer...

Presiding Judge: In that case, I would ask you also to
approach the bench.

Attorney General: If the Court will allow us.

Presiding Judge: Certainly.  Dr. Servatius, as well, if he
wants to see it.

Attorney General: [To witness] You arrived by train - at
what point?

Witness Freiberg:  It was a kind of siding into the camp.

Q. This place that is marked with the words "SS, Train into
the Camp"?

A. Yes.  It is not drawn accurately, it was a little further
away, and here there were, apart from the external barbed
wire fences of the camp, additional interior barbed wire
fences.  It was along this path that the people walked and
reached this place...

Q. Please look here, in the centre - do you recognize this

A. Yes.

Q. What is this, here?

A. To begin with, they came to this spot.  There was a kind
of covered shed here, which was the first stop for the
people, and there they were sorted.  At first, they would
sort out the men, women and children.  After that, they
continued walking along this path, until...

Presiding Judge: It is impossible to proceed in this way.
Let the witness return to his place.  Without our seeing it,
let him give a general description.

Attorney General: Thank you very much.  [To witness] Please
point out the spot where that speech was made to the people.
Mark it in pencil with some kind of sign and tell the Court
how you have marked it.
Witness Freiberg:  I shall write it here.  The people walked
from the yard where they undressed along the path between
two fences.

Q. Is the path marked here?

A. Yes, the path is marked, "To the gas chambers."  That was
at the beginning.  Afterwards, the situation was slightly
changed - I don't know whether I should talk about that now.

Q. We shall talk about that later.  That is how it was at
the beginning?

A. Yes.

Q. Did the Germans also use violence, sometimes, on these
victims before they were gassed?

A. In most cases.  I believe this was only a question of
time!  If they had time to be brutal, they maltreated them
as much as they could.

Q. In what way were they maltreated?

A. I saw very shocking instances.  They would stab them, cut
off people's limbs, hit them continuously.  They would urge
them on with whips.  All the time they kept them on the run.
They did not allow people a moment to think of what was
happening at all.  But there were cases where they
especially kept people behind for their amusement.  They
used to leave behind the last ones of the transports.  We
were on the outside of this yard and heard what was going on
inside.  The shrieking was terrible.  And, afterwards, when
we went in to remove the belongings, we saw enough horrors
and a great deal of blood.

Q. What were you engaged in at the time you were in Sobibor?

A. I was involved in many kinds of work.  Most of my work
was in the stores for sorting out personal effects.  But I
was also employed in erecting the camp, in all possible
aspects of maintenance.  I used to clean the living quarters
of the Ukrainians.  And, for a short while, I also used to
cut off the hair of the women before they entered the gas

Q. You had to cut off the hair of women before they went
into the gas chambers?

A. Yes.

Q. Who ordered you to do this?

A. There was a time, after they made substantial
improvements to the camp, after there had been an interval
in the transports, and trains arrived full of building
materials; they put up huts, they enlarged everything, they
enlarged the guards' positions, additional SS men arrived...

Presiding Judge: Did you hear the question?

Witness Freiberg:  Yes.

Q. Who ordered you to do this?

A. After that, they built three...

Attorney General: Who gave you the order to cut the hair?

Witness Freiberg:  It was the SS man Gumerski.

Presiding Judge: Men and women?

Witness Freiberg:  Only women.

Attorney General: What happened to the hair?

Witness Freiberg:  When we returned from the place, we
dragged the sacks along with us to the stores.

Q. Do you know what they did with the hair later?

A. We loaded the sacks on to freight cars.

Q. What happened to your group of 100-150 people?

How many survived after one month?

A. About fifty persons.

Q. What happened to the one hundred?

A. All of them were killed, in all kinds of ways - some of
them committed suicide, some went out of their minds, some
were injured in various ways and the Germans shot them on
the spot.

Q. Did you try to commit suicide?

A. Yes.  I made an attempt.  I did not sleep that night.  It
happened after an incident in which a friend of mine - in
all these troubles, we immediately found friends - also
committed suicide.  Anyone who committed suicide or was
killed in any way whatsoever was envied by everyone;
everybody said: "Oh, how good for him - how wonderful that
he is now beyond all this.  What are we still here for, to
await certain death, and before that to suffer so much, and
to a certain extent still to assist the Germans?"  Everyone
said it, but carrying it out was difficult.

That night, I decided to end my life.  I took a belt, I
tried again - yes and no.  I must admit that I felt certain
signs, hopes - I don't know...If I was not killed here, if I
was not killed there - perhaps this is it.  In the end, I
couldn't continue any longer, I gave up the idea.  I also
went out once, I made my way into the Lazarette to be shot.
Somehow, the German there sent me back - that was in the
first period...

Presiding Judge: If, as you say, it was in the first period,
would you complete this part of your story?

Witness Freiberg:  This was in the first period, in the
first month or months, with the old-timers who were there.

Q. And after that?

A. We simply did not know what was happening.  It is quite
indescribable.  Everyone awaited death.  And, when another
transport arrived, of course we sat there and wept, all of
us.  We did not talk about food or anything.

But, later on, there were cases where some
extent, we became accustomed to it.  We acquired another way
of thinking.  We saw what was going on, but thought the
whole world was being destroyed.  We saw that transports
were arriving in all kinds of ways, the people were well
dressed, as if they had gone on a visit somewhere, people
from France and Holland, from all sorts of countries, and
all this went on, day after day, day after day.  We became
used to the nature of the internal regime.  In some way, we
became accustomed to it.  To some extent, we got used to the
way of life.

I must also point out that new victims were always arriving.
These suffered more than those who were called old-timers.
In certain cases, the old-timers obtained particular jobs.
I also received such a job, afterwards.  I worked as a
cleaner of the living quarters of the Ukrainians.

Relatively speaking, I was not involved in all this
business.  Then, too, I was given beatings, but in a
different way, in a way which could be tolerated.

It was like this, on the one hand.  On the other hand, we
began thinking of a possible escape, perhaps of revolt.
That began to give us hope.  People who arrived on the
transports shouted at us: "Take revenge," they threw gold at
us: "Perhaps you will save yourselves."  Meanwhile, everyone
of us had undergone all kinds of experiences and survived;
that gave him some kind of hope that, perhaps, someone would
get out.

Attorney General: Where did the band which you mentioned
play, and what was its role?

Witness Freiberg:  The band was at Camp 1; it played in
various places and on various occasions.

Presiding Judge: Who were the members of the band?

Witness Freiberg:  Jews.  When the transports were moving,
they used to play.  They used to play inside our yard.  The
band also played when the Germans came in the evening and
told us to play and to dance.  And we danced - everybody

Attorney General: Did they order you to sing?

Witness Freiberg:  Yes.  At the end of each day's work,
which began early in the morning, sometimes in the middle of
the night - it went on until the middle of the night or
later into the night.  And then the Germans came.  Then
exercises began, Strafexerzierung (punitive exercises), and
we had to sing songs, and if the singing was not as it
should be, there would again be exercises, and yet more
exercises, and again blows, blows.  And so this went on, for

Q. Someone composed some kind of hymn that you were required
to sing there - is that correct?

A. Yes, that was Untersturmfuehrer Weiss.  Once he came to
us after work.  We were lined up - all of us - on the roll-
call ground.  First of all, he read out the words to us.
Then he taught us the tune.  There were two songs in German
against the Jews.  I remember the words.  Perhaps, here and
there, it is a little inaccurate.

Q. Perhaps you would recite to us one or two typical verses
from these songs that you were obliged to sing?

A. "Oh, gib uns Moses wieder.  Zu Deine Glaubensbrueder soll
sich das Wasser wieder teilen, stellen auf Wassersaeulen,
fest stellen wie eine Felsenwand; dass in die schmale Rinne
die ganze Judenschaft drinne.  Mach die Klappe zu, und alle
Voelker haben Ruhe.  Jerusalem, Halleluja, Amen." (Oh, send
Moses back to us.  Let the waters again part for the members
of your faith and erect columns of water, firm as a rock, so
that in the narrow channel the whole of Jewry is inside.
Close the hatch, and all the nations shall have peace.
Jerusalem, Hallelujah, Amen.)

This was accompanied by movements, raising the hands,
bending the knees, with all kinds of grimacing.  It lasted
three to four hours.

Q. Was there another song you had to sing, the content of
which was that all the Jews are swindlers?

A. Yes.

Q. Repeat one verse to us.

A. The final part ended as follows: "Von Israel abstamme
ich.  Die Ehrlichkeit verdamme ich.  Zwei sind wie eins.
Dann esse ich nicht vom Schwein.  Ich bin eich Jude, will
ein Jude sein."  (I am of Jewish stock.  I damn honesty.
Two are like one. I don't eat pork.  I am a Jew, I want to
be a Jew.)

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