The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/05/31

Q. Tell us about the operation of Yom Kippur (Day of
Atonement), 1943.

A. On that day, obviously, it was no Festival day, I do not
need to stress this. But some of the Jews used to pray at
night, actually at night in the dark; and there were some
who, on that day, were engaged in other night work and so
remained in the huts during the day in order to sleep. On
that Yom Kippur of 1943, it was apparently the personal
operation of Untersturmfuehrer Joren. He selected fifty men
from the huts. These were mainly not young people, older
people. And that Yom Kippur was their final Day of Judgment.
Again, Your Honour, if I may be permitted, the prayer "U-
Netanneh Tokef"* {*U-Netanneh Tokef - 1(Let us declare the
mighty importance [of the holiness of the day), a Hebrew
prayer recited on the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement.
The prayer begins with an enumeration of the manifold fates
which may be decreed for a man during the coming year.} was
observed by us, not once a year, but every single day and
the "Who will live and who will die" was with us every
single day, there was no "Who in the fullness of time," but
there was only "Who not in the fullness of time" - for only
few reached the "Fullness of time," but with only one
difference. The poet author of "U-Netanneh Tokef" most
certainly could not have conjured up in his mind the strange
deaths of the kind which the Nazis devised in this labour

Q. Were there cases where SS men used to come up and shoot
Jews at random?

A. These things occurred daily. There were instances - and
this will point somewhat to the regime in the camp - after
we no longer went outside the camp, I worked for a few
months in road-making and it fell to our lot to pave a road
from the old section of the camp to the new section of the
camp where factories were being erected, factories the

products of which were required by the army - shoes,
clothing, things of this kind. We built the road from the
old camp to the new camp, which was on a hill. We worked on
that sector where the elegant home of the Commandant stood.
And this was a daily occurrence, I do not have to describe
it, that when people came to work in front of the
Commandant's house, on their own initiative they dragged
stones, something which was far beyond human capacity, in
order that, Heaven forbid, it should not appear that they
were doing too little. But it used to happen every day that
the Commandant would shoot at the people from the window of
his house, and if someone fell - he fell, and if someone was
wounded - he was wounded.

Q. Do you remember an incident where Amon Goeth once found a
piece of white bread in the drawer of one of the office

A. This was in October 1943. Some scores of people worked in
the camp office on various tasks. And one day bread was
found in someone's possession, bread that was not from the
camp (and it could easily be distinguished what bread was
not from the camp and what was camp bread, for its quality
was such that it was not hard to see the difference). He
then conducted a search and found food supplies in the
possession of others - butter and other items. Then, if I am
not mistaken, ten people were taken out from amongst the
camp workers. (At that time people were killed in larger
groups, not in the place where they were living, but in a
special place which had been set aside and which was higher
than any other place in the camp, and there was a valley
there so that these occurrences could not be observed there.
I shall still have to say a few words about this valley).
The group was brought up to that spot which served as a
place for shooting people. Of this group only one woman
survived, Henrietta Neuhauser, who lives in Tel Aviv at 5
Smolenskin Street. She was taken out at the last minute -
this was a case of a special kind - after all of them had
already undressed and the shooting had already begun. At the
very last moment she was rescued not from the grasp of death
but actually from death itself. She is the mother of two
children in Tel Aviv.

Q. What used to happen in the area in front of the kitchen?

A. There were two permanent sources of trouble. The people
were hungry, because the food was meagre - at all events not
adequate, and at that time not everyone was able to buy a
little bread or to purchase what was purchased outside, and
there were some who had acquaintances working in the
kitchen. And then they would go at an early hour in the
morning, for if the ration of bread which was distributed
once or twice in the week had already been consumed, they
could go in the earlier hours of the morning to obtain a
little of the soup that had been prepared for lunch. And
naturally he was then guilty of two things: firstly that he
was not at his place of work, and secondly that he dared to
come to the kitchen. This was always a place of disaster.

Q. What did they do to the people?

A. Generally speaking, they used to shoot them.

Q. Do you recall the deportation of people from the camp to
other places?

A. This began already in 1943. The camp was not static.
People used to arrive at the camp from ghettos that had been
liquidated. I can remember Tarnow, Bochnia, Nowy Sacz, and
after that other camps - Shevnia and others.

Q. Did Jews from other countries also pass through Plaszow?

A. Yes. this was already in 1944. People were brought from
Hungary. That was the most wretched transport that I ever
saw. This was in the middle of 1944.

Q. Would you give us a brief description of the deportation
from the camp?

A. I shall describe the deportation in which I participated.
The deportation was on 15 October 1944. This was already
after we had heard that the Russian front was advancing and
that the liquidation of the camp had begun. But the
deportation of the camp had begun before this. They sent
people to all kinds of labour camps, such as Czestochowa,
Gzesinska. I will not mention them all. But from time to
time they used to send them to other labour camps. And in
their stead people came from other ghettos and other
liquidated camps. But beginning from the middle of 1944
deportations started, and it seemed to me that no newcomers
would come in their stead any more. Perhaps it would be
better to describe the case of the health parade.

Q. Yes, the health parade, if you please.

A. The health parade was on 7 May 1944. All the camp
residents were taken outside.

Q. How many were there?

A. I presume, again I cannot speak in absolute numbers nor
can I place reliability on the numbers.
Q. But approximately?

A. I presume there were approximately twenty thousand. The
number in the camp at that time ranged between 18,000,
20,000 and 25,000.

Q. Were you lined up in front of the huts?

A. Not in front of the huts but on the parade ground. There
was a parade ground on which all assembled twice daily, but
this was a special operation.

Q. Were you lined up in your clothes?

A. At first in our clothes, but we were all ordered to
undress - to be as naked as on the day we were born. The
occupants of hut after hut passed in front of a table at
which there sat someone who was called a doctor, Dr. Blanke,
with the rank of Hauptsturmfuehrer of the SS. Incidentally,
as I subsequently learned, both Goeth and Blanke had come to
Plaszow from Lublin. It took seconds. Everyone was ordered
to go to the right or to the left.

Q. Who gave orders to go to the left?

A. Again I cannot say for certain as to who had to go to the
left and who to the right, but people went to one side or
the other. The official explanation was that the separation
was being made for the better organization of the work, that
people able to work better were going to the one side, to
more difficult work assignments, and people capable  of
light work were going to easier tasks.

Q. Were there also children?

A. At that time there were about 280 children in the camp.
If I have to talk about the speed of the operation that was
carried out on that day, 7 May, perhaps I shall describe it
and this will provide the best example. I think that in the
early hours of the afternoon this selection to the left and
the right, when the entire camp stood naked, the men on the
lower section of the ground and the women on the upper
section of the ground. They were segregated, separated in
the camp and they also stood there. I shall mention a little
about the work of the women, if there is some interest in

Q. The question is whether we have the strength to listen -
there is certainly interest. Would you please continue with
your description.

A. Again they filed past, hut by hut and they assigned the
people to one side or the other. We were ordered to get
dressed. And then there was happiness and rejoicing in the
camp - a parade like this had passed and nothing had
happened. The sequel wasn't long in coming. Seven days
later, exactly, on 14 May 1944, we were again lined up on
the same ground. This time we were no longer told to
undress. But they removed all those men who - this was
already exceedingly clear - had been sorted out to go in one

Q. Where were they removed to?

A. They were taken out in a particular direction. This was a
picture of a special kind. On the same day there were
brought into the area of the camp a number, at least three
times as many SS men, and in addition to the surrounding
barbwire fence, in addition to the machine guns on the
observation towers, the parade ground was crammed full with
SS men with machine guns.

When we saw these people standing there, and a train came
along the railway lines which had been installed up to the
gate of the camp, then everything became clear.

Q. Were there loudspeakers in the area of the camp?

A. Yes.
Q. What was said over the loudspeakers?

A. I am coming to that right away. At the time, when the
persons who had been taken out a week previously to the one
side were brought up, all the children of the camp, without
exception, were taken to the other road which led down from
the camp to the factories, and at that very moment a noise
started up on the ground, and it was already becoming clear
that the children were also going down towards the train.
And that was the moment when the noise began in the camp.
The mothers began shouting and screaming. This picture
cannot be described any further, for everyone who knew he
had a child in the camp knew that this was the time - there
it would end. Of course, at that moment the machine guns
were camouflaged, but they were being cocked and everyone
heard the cocking of the machine guns. And then two
lullabies were heard over the loudspeakers. Your Honours, in
1947 I wrote an article in one of the papers connected with
a particular Association, which was afterwards published and
copied, about this perfidy of removing children while they
were accompanied by lullabies in the course of being taken
down into the camp.

And here, perhaps, I should refer to an incident which is
indescribable. There was one boy on his own, aged 12 or 13,
who, in a way that people are not aware of - his name was
Yishai Schapiro - in a way that was hardly feasible -
managed not to be discovered. I do not say that he managed
to escape, for I cannot imagine to myself that it was
possible to escape, but he succeeded in not being on the
parade ground on 14 May, when the transport departed. And,
of course, there were searches in the residential huts, in
case people had hidden themselves in the upper bunks. And
this boy, with his childish instinct, knew that there would
be searches, and he evidently understood that the only place
where he could hide would be the very large public latrine
which was an important place in each camp. They found the
boy and he related afterwards how he had jumped into the pit
of excrement and remained there until that evening, when
they took him out of there; it is difficult for me to say
whether it was by chance or his instinct which saved him
until after the War. I shall never know this.

Q. In the middle of October 1944 you were moved together
with approximately 1,200 other persons to the camp of Gross-
Rosen in Germany. Is that correct?

A. Correct.

Presiding Judge: In what part of Germany is Gross-Rosen?

Witness Beisky: In Lower Saxony.

Attorney General: You travelled for three days?

Witness Beisky: We left in a transport of which at first it
was said that it was supposed to go to some ammunition
factory. And again, it appeared that such was the case, that
the transport would be taken there because they had put into
it experts such as engineers, mechanical engineers and
technical draughtsmen. I myself, at that time, was a
technical draughtsman.

Q. You were transported like cattle?

A. They put us into cattle trucks. I suppose that in each
waggon there were certainly 120-130 people. We were closely
packed, which didn't allow all of us to sit down on the
floor at the same time - only at intervals. We received food
provisions for the road, packed for one day. The camp
provisions for one day were not adequate provisions for one
day. If my memory doesn't fail me, we travelled for three
days or about two and a half days, since we halted
frequently en route. The distance from Cracow to Silesia is
not all that far. We stopped at stations. It was already,
evidently, the time of the retreat, and the railway stations
were crowded. This is my assumption. At any rate, we stopped
many times at different stations.

Q. We shall pass over the Gross-Rosen episode.

A. Perhaps at this point, if the Attorney General will allow
me, there is one incident worthwhile recalling. When we
reached the Camp at Gross-Rosen, this was in the early
evening hours and with everything that had been said to us
at the beginning that we were travelling to an arms factory,
but when we were sent there, we saw something that did not
exist in our camp. This was the smoke from the furnaces. And
then it was already clear to us that here were the
crematoria. Faith always remains, but round about dusk -
this was on 17 or 18 October - and at that season in Silesia
it was already cold - we were all ordered to undress, again
naked as the day we were born, we were taken into a place
covered with canvas, and we stood, 1,100 or 1,200 people -
again I don't remember the exact number - who were in that
transport, throughout the night from seven in the evening. I
was given back my clothes at noon the following day. But
when I say that I received my clothes, I didn't do so in
order to say that I covered my body. This was the first sign
that in fact we were not going to the crematoria. For when
you stood naked the whole night, the first sign that we
might possibly be going to a labour camp, as they called it,
was the return of the clothes. We spent several days in that
camp. This camp, from my point of view, seemed to me to be
very much worse than anything that there was at Plaszow. It
is simply beyond description.

Q. In order to sum up, may we say that in Plaszow the life
of each and every Jew was at the mercy of each and every SS

Presiding Judge: This follows, Mr. Hausner, from the
accounts that we have heard.

Attorney General: Was this, in your opinion, a labour camp?

Witness Beisky: I don't know what the significance of a
labour camp is. A labour camp is a different concept. For us
it was an extermination camp. If anyone remained alive, that
was only because he worked on hard labour. If we use the
expression "labour," its meaning was that everyone was
compelled to work on hard labour - for now, it seemed that
possibly by means of our labour, we would save our lives.

Q. Perhaps you would tell us something about the work of

A. Perhaps I would quote the classic example; when I
previously mentioned the dragging of building materials,
women, of course, were also not exempted from carrying parts
of huts. Thus it happened at times that hour after hour,
thousands of women would be going to and fro, bearing parts
of huts on their backs.

But I would mention another unit, where only women worked.
There was a quarry inside the camp. And in the quarry there
were three categories of work. One category was of experts
who blasted the rocks, and they used to drill holes for the
explosives in order to blow up the rocks. These were the
experts for whom this was - well, let's call it - normal
work. But in the same quarry there was a penal unit and this
was one of the forms of punishment. The unit upon which any
kind of punishment was imposed, such as punishment for
committing the crime of bringing a little food, or for not
performing some kind of work exactly in time, or merely
arbitrarily - was placed in the quarry. And in fact, if we
are talking about it, work at the quarry in the penal squad
meant almost certain death. For there were very few who came
out alive after penal work of some hours.

And now let me refer to the women. There was a third
category of work in the camp which was performed solely by
women, and this was the task of dragging stones from the
quarry which was below that new area being prepared for
building a road. And they used to load 8-10 waggons on the
short railway tracks. At the end of the train there were
long ropes and along the ropes on both sides,women of the
camp, both Jewish and Polish, were harnessed. And in this
way they would walk up a fairly steep road from the quarry
below, for a distance of 2.5 kilometres, up the hill, under
all weather conditions, for 12 hours. And the most horrible
thing was that the women were dressed like all of us, with
wooden shoes which used to slip in the snow and mud. And in
this way one could visualize the picture which I am unable
to describe - and do not know whether others would be able
to describe it - how the women walked for a whole night,
stumbling and pulling these waggons.

Q. What was this operation called in the camp?

A. Operation "Rock Train."

Q. Where were you transferred to from Gross-Rosen?

A. To Brinlitz in Czechoslovakia.

Q. And you were liberated by the Soviet Army?

A. Until midnight the SS were in the Brinlitz camp.

Q. When were you liberated?

A. On 9.5.45.

Q. Did you have high-ranking Nazi visitors at Plaszow?

A. These were days of judgment, for high-ranking men used to
arrive very frequently.

Q. Who came?

A. Of the names I am able to recall, there was the Governor
General of Poland whose headquarters was in Cracow - he was
Frank. There was Krueger, Obersturmbannfuehrer Scharner, who
was the SS and Police Leader in Cracow. They used to visit
us often. Then we knew that the whole camp was put on the
alert, and in preparation, night operations and cleaning
operations were carried out.

Q. Were there also officers from Germany, from Berlin?

A. I don't know. I cannot say whether one came from Berlin
or another from some other place.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions
for the witness?

Dr. Servatius:  No questions.

Judge Halevi:  Who was the Jew who reached Palestine? You
said that someone from the camp arrived in Palestine at the
beginning of 1944.

Witness Beisky: No, Your Honour, if I may be permitted to
correct something which I perhaps did not express
accurately, it was a girl who was not from our camp, whose
name was Frederika Gozik and whose name today is Frederika
Maze, the wife of the principal of a school in Rehovot. She
lived all the time with Aryan papers. She was a member of
the group with which I was in touch, of Hanoar Hazioni. She
managed to cross over and to reach Palestine at the
beginning of 1944. I met her subsequently at a kibbutz, for
from the time I arrived in the country, we were both members
of the same kibbutz.

Q. Did she submit a report?

A. As far as I know she lectured frequently. She delivered a
report on what was known at the time. She had met me in 1943
and at that time the position, even with us, was not yet
clear in this way. At any rate, as far as I know, of the
group with which I was connected, she was the only one who
reached Palestine fairly early. Incidentally, she has
written a book on that period, a book which is about to be
published by Yad Vashem.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Judge Beisky, you have concluded
your testimony.

Attorney General: I would request a ruling from the Court in
regard to this afternoon's session. Such testimonies, if I
may be permitted to say so, require no small emotional
effort on the part of all of us. To my regret such are the
testimonies awaiting us in the coming days. I simply
hesitate to call, again this afternoon, the next witness who
will have to describe that same awesome picture of Eastern
Poland. Perhaps the Court will allow me to request a shorter
sitting this afternoon, in which we shall merely submit a
number of documents, relating to this stage of the

Presiding Judge: How much time do you require for the
submission of these documents?

Attorney General: Not more than an hour.

Presiding Judge: I suggest that the afternoon Session
commence exceptionally, at 16.00 hours, instead of 15.30.
You will submit your documents and after that we shall still
have an hour to hear another witness.

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