The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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118. In connection with the Hungarian chapter, we will have
to deal with the Attorney General's contention that, while
in Budapest, the Accused took part in the murder of a Jewish
youth named Solomon, who was engaged in forced labour in the
garden of the house in which the Accused lived.  One of the
witnesses for the Prosecution, Mr. Avraham Gordon, testified
on this matter that the Accused and his servant Slawik beat
the boy to death in a tool shed at the house.  This charge
does not appear as a special count of murder in the
indictment, but the Attorney General wanted to bring this
incident as proof of the Accused's cruelty and his attitude
to the life of an individual Jew, apart from his attitude to
the lives of Jews in general.  Although we have no formal
accusation of murder before us, we think that we should
evaluate the evidence in this matter according to a
criterion befitting the nature of the deed attributed to the
Accused (see C.C. 232/55, Piskei Din 12, 2017, 2064).  We
have examined the evidence according to this criterion, and
although the impression made on us by Mr. Gordon's evidence
is positive, we do not consider it safe to find facts
against the Accused on the basis of this evidence alone,
without any corroborative evidence as to the details of the

Eastern Europe

119. We must now go back and consider the stage of the Final
Solution, from its beginning in mid-1941, and turn to
Eastern Europe - Poland, the Baltic countries and Soviet
Russia - the valley of death in which millions of Jews were
slaughtered by the order of Hitler.  This is where the Jews,
who had been hunted down for this purpose in the other
European countries, crammed into trains and brought to the
East, were done to death in many different ways.  Documents
were submitted describing the Holocaust in the East, but the
bulk of the evidence consisted of statements by witnesses,
"brands plucked from the fire," who followed each other in
the witness box for days and weeks on end.  They spoke
simply, and the seal of truth was on their words.  But there
is no doubt that even they themselves could not find the
words to describe their suffering in all its depth.  As one
of them, Judge Beisky (Session 21,  Vol. I, p. 346) said, in
trying to describe his feelings whilst being forced to watch
the hanging of a young boy in the presence of thousands of
Jewish prisoners:

First of all, I can no longer - and I acknowledge this -
after eighteen years I cannot describe this sensation of
fear.  This feeling of fear, today when I stand before Your
Honours, does not exist any longer and I do not suppose that
it is possible to define it for anyone... It is not
physically possible to present the conditions of those days
in the courtroom, and I do not believe, Heaven forbid, that
people will not understand this, but I myself cannot explain
it and I experienced this on my own person."
If these be the sufferings of the individual, then the sum
total of the suffering of the millions - about a third of
the Jewish people, tortured and slaughtered - is certainly
beyond human understanding, and who are we to try to give it
adequate expression?  This is a task for the great writers
and poets.  Perhaps it is symbolic that even the author, who
himself went through the hell named Auschwitz, could not
stand the ordeal in the witness box and collapsed.
Moreover, this part of the indictment is not in dispute in
this case.  The witnesses who gave evidence about this part
were hardly questioned at all by Counsel for the Defence,
and at a certain stage in the proceedings he even requested
that the Court therefore waive the hearing of these
witnesses.  To this we could not agree because, since the
Accused denied all the counts in the indictment, we had to
hear also the evidence on the factual background of the
Accused's responsibility, and could not break up the
indictment according to a partial admission of facts by the
Accused (see Decision No. 13, Session 23, Vol. I., p. 366).

Accordingly, we are obliged to sketch the background at
least in brief outline, so that a fitting picture may be
revealed of the crimes in which the Accused was a partner.
Here and there, we have interwoven verbatim passages from
the evidence.  We shall begin with a general description,
and afterwards examine the Accused's part in the events

Operations Units

120. The method used to put the victims to death varied
according to the time and place at which the mass butchery
was carried out.  The murderers used shooting, asphyxiation
by gas, fire, and such other cruel methods of killing as
came to their minds.  As has been mentioned already (section
69), the slaughter began by mass shootings to death right at
the beginning of the war against Poland in September 1939,
even before the order for total extermination was given by
Hitler in 1941.  Since the Accused's connection with
killings in the East at this early stage is not evident, we
shall pass over the descriptions of this period and come to
the slaughters carried out by the Operations Units, which
were set up on the eve of Hitler's war against Russia, and
acted in the rear of the advancing German army and in co-
ordination with the army.  The witness Avraham Aviel
testified to the mass murder of the Jews of his native
village of Dowgaliszuk, near Radom, between Grodno and
Vilna, in May 1942 (Session 29, Vol. I, pp. 496-497):

     "Germans arrived from the direction of Lida in
     battledress, equipped with automatic weapons, actually
     dressed as if they were at the battle front... I went
     outside.  At the entrance to the house, I saw that a
     crowd of Jews were walking from the end of the ghetto
     and were being forced along the road leading to
     Grodno... At that moment,  several Germans entered the
     house.  One stood at the exit while the others spread
     out into the rooms and began chasing out those who
     hadn't managed to conceal themselves.  Each one passing
     through the opening would receive a blow on the head
     from a rubber truncheon, and would fall down... I bent
     down and managed to get out without receiving this
     blow, and I joined the crowd which was being led in the
     direction along which the earlier groups had gone...
     Other Jews joined us on the way.  They removed more and
     more Jews from every house  ...about one thousand... I
     walked with my mother... I was on her right, my brother
     on her left.  This is how we went... They brought us to
     the marketplace in the centre of the village and forced
     us to kneel with our heads bent downwards.  We were not
     allowed to raise our heads.  Whoever did so received a
     bullet in the head or blows with sticks... We saw that
     anyone who slackened his pace was shot on the spot.  We
     sat in the centre of the village for about an hour...
     Afterwards they made us stand up and led us outside the
     town towards the cemetery - a kilometre and a half
     away.  When we neared the cemetery...they took us off
     the road and they made us kneel again, he down again
     with our heads down.  We weren't allowed to raise our
     heads nor were we allowed to  glance to the sides.  We
     only heard shots from the sides.  Since I was small I
     was able to lift my head a little without being seen.
     I then saw, in front of me, a long pit, about 25 metres
     long - perhaps 30 metres.  They began to lead the Jews,
     row by row, towards the pit.  They made them undress,
     and as they mounted the embankment, rounds of shots
     were heard, and they fell into the pit.  I saw one case
     of a Jewish girl who put up a struggle;, she did not
     want, under any circumstances, to undress.  They struck
     her and she too was shot.  Children, women, family
     after family. Each family went up together."
The witness Rivka Yoselewska (Session 30, Vol. I, p. 516)
gave evidence of the atrocities committed by an Operations
Unit against the Jews of the village of Powost in the Pinsk
district, about the same time as that to which the testimony
of the witness Aviel refers.  She, too, tells how the Jews
were led to the place of slaughter some distance out of the

     "There was a hill, and a little below they had dug
     something like a ditch.  They made us walk up the hill,
     in rows of four, and the four whom we likened to Angels
     of Death shot each one of us separately... They were SS
     men... When we arrived at this place, we saw naked
     people, standing there already... Parents took the
     children, took other people's children. This was to
     help get through it all; to get it over with and not
     see the children suffer.  Mothers took leave of their
     children, the mothers, the parents... We were lined up
     in fours.  We stood there naked.  My father didn't want
     to undress completely and kept on his underwear... they
     tore the clothes off his body and shot him.  Then they
     took Mother.  She didn't want to go, but wanted us to
     go first... They grabbed her and shot her.  Then came
     the turn of father's mother, a woman of
     father's sister.  She, too, was shot with children in
     her arms... My younger sister also.  She had suffered
     so much in the ghetto and yet at the last moment she
     wanted to stay alive... She was standing there naked
     holding on to her girl friend.  So he looked at her
     and shot straight at her and her friend.  Then another
     sister, then my turn came... I turned my head, and he
     asked me: "Whom do I shoot first, your daughter or
     you?"  I did not answer.  I felt them tearing my
     daughter away from me, I heard her last cry and heard
     how she was shot.  He grabbed  my hair and turned my
     head about... I heard a shot but didn't move.  He
     turned me around, reloaded his pistol. Then he turned
     me around and shot. I fell into the pit and felt

The witness continues this tale of horror and relates how
with the last ounce of strength she rose up from the grave,
from amongst the corpses heaped above her.

The Accused saw with his own eyes near Minsk a slaughter of
this kind at the edge of a pit, as he describes it in his
Statement to the police (T/37, p. 211 et seq.):

     "Young marksmen...were shooting into the pit... I can
     still see a woman, her arms behind her, and then my
     knees gave way, and I left the place...
     Q. Was the pit full of corpses?
     A. The pit was full."
And on his way back, he saw blood spurting as if from a
fountain out of another pit which had already been covered
over (supra, p. 215).

This was the fate which befell the Jews whom he sent to the
Operations Units commanded by Nebe and Rasch, knowing full
well that their end would be death at the hands of the
Operations Units (Session 98, Vol. IV, pp. xxxx29-31).  We
also know from the testimonies of Eliezer Karstadt (Session
29, Vol. I,  p. 490) and Haim Behrendt (Session 29, Vol. I,
p. 503) that Jews were deported from German cities to Riga
and Minsk (Behrendt himself was deported from Berlin to
Minsk in November 1941), there to be slaughtered in mass
actions immediately on arrival, or a few months later.  We
also heard from the witness Dr. Peretz about the deportation
of Jews from Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt, Holland and Belgium
at the end of 1941 to the Kovno Ghetto, where they were
immediately taken to the Ninth Fort - the place of mass
executions (Session 28, Vol. I, p. 481).

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