The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Sessions/Session-023-03

Archive/File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Sessions/Session-023-03
Last-Modified: 1999/05/31

Q. But the man who was in charge knew, of course, that you
were there much longer...?

A. Yes, he did.

Q. Why did he spare you?

A. First of all, he was now having trouble in getting new
people again and again - because we were the last remaining
Jews in the city, in the concentration camp only; and
secondly, he had had a lot of trouble - every three days
they used to shoot them before we came and they never made
any headway with the work. So they decided that if he was to
do his job he would have to keep these people a little

Q. That was against his orders - he maintained that it was
against his orders?

A. Yes - he said we shouldn't tell anybody, that it was a
secret between us.

Q. Then you moved - in September, I believe - to another
place. Is that correct?

A. At the end of September I moved to Krzywicki - at the end
of Lyczakowska Street. Again the SD men knew exactly where
the graves were located. And here, the first graves were
uncovered where the graves of the people shot in the first
week on Pelczynska Street.

Q. Which street did you say?

A. Shot at Peleczynska Street.

Q. Among them were also Poles?

A. In one grave we uncovered Poles and in a few graves we
uncovered on the top of the graves some...the Black Corps
that were the Ukrainian Militia that took part in the
shooting and they were often shot and buried on the top of
the graves in their uniforms.

Q. You found one grave where Professor Bartel and other
prominent Poles were buried?

A. Yes, that was on the eve of Yom Kippur, 8 October,  on
Friday night - not on the eve of Yom Kippur, but Yom Kippur
night, 8 October,  we were taken out to Wulka Street in Lvov
and there uncovered 38 bodies. Between these bodies was
Professor Bartel's body.

Q. How did you know that it was his body?

A. Because next day when we put up on the big pyre the
people for burning, we uncovered, they were buried in their
clothing and from their documents and from their other
identification cards we found out their names.

Q. Professor Bartel, Dr. Ostrowski...and others.

A. Yes.

Q. Prominent people?

A. All 38 were prominent. They were all dressed in black
tuxedos, having been at a big reception or dinner. All of
them in black ties and white shirts, tuxedos. Dressed
completely for a big dinner.

Q. Names known all over Poland. The cream of Polish society.

Presiding Judge: Who was Professor Bartel?

Witness Wells: Professor Bartel was one of the leading
mathematicians known all over the world. He was also Prime
Minister of Poland at one time, and he was also Dean of the
Lvov Polytechnic.

Attorney General: Now Yom Kippur, 9 October...

Witness Welkls  On a pyre with over two thousand bodies,
these 38 bodies were burned too.

Q. Did you fast on that Yom Kippur?

A. Yes, most of us fasted. A big percentage, over fifty
people kept it strictly and fasted.

Q. And you did fast that Yom Kippur while burning those

A. Yes, most of us.

Q. On 25 October, what happened early in the morning?

A. Normally when we brought in new victims they would call
and say there is an air raid that we have to stay in the
barracks and nobody of us can get out or look out through
the windows or through the cracks in the walls. But this
morning they got us up at four o'clock in the morning - all
these six SD men, Scharfuehrer Yadliko, Scharfuehrer
Mozaiko, Hauptsturmfuehrer Ulmer, Untersturmfuehrer
Scherlocki, Hauptsturmfuehrer Rauch and Sturmmann Reiss,
arrived at four o'clock in the morning. Some of them seemed
to have been drinking because they were nearly drunk. They
took us down the road and there they closed us up for the
day, saying that there is something going on that we cannot
be near by.

Q. Yes?

A. And on this day, around 2,000 people, the next to last
group of people from the Janowska concentration camp, were
brought over to be liquidated there.

It was interesting - at this time at the Janowska
concentration camp, Hauptsturmfuehrer Warzog was the head.
In the morning they brought into the concentration camp new
clothing and everybody got clothing for the winter because
they are going to work in some colder weather.

Q. Where did you hold your secret meeting in which you
talked over your plans to escape?

A. We had plans to escape all the time, and all the time the
secret meetings were going on but...because...we still had
Jews left in the concentration camp. In addition to it, our
foreman's mother and bride were still in the concentration
camp and they were kept there and not yet taken out to be
shot. We were afraid that by doing anything - and our
chances were very slim - that these people would be killed
and only due to us. And so we were continuing and our plans
became actual when the final liquidation of the Janowska
concentration camp was on November...18 November,  19
November 1943 was the final liquidation of the Janowska
concentration camp. And on 19 November, we started our

Q. Yes - we will come to that uprising.

Presiding Judge: I note with some concern...

Attorney General: I shall finish by the recess, if the Court
will be ready to give me an extra ten minutes after eleven

Presiding Judge: This is much more than you mentioned to us
yesterday. naturally, I understand the difficulty.

Attorney General: This is a formidable difficulty, and this
is material about which there are hardly any people who are
able to tell us anything. I have only one other witness from
Bialystok, who was also in a unit such as this. But apart
from them I don't know how many remained alive, and I have
to prove this operation of removing the traces - for when a
murderer wishes to cover up his tracks, this proves his
guilt and his intention. At any rate, this is my feeling.

Presiding Judge: My remark did not refer to this - that
should be clear.

Attorney General: Now - tell me. What does a massacre of
2,000 people look like?

Witness Wells: To make it a little bit more clear, I would
like to describe the location - how the "Death Brigade" was
built, so that you see...An area of about two miles radius -
which is about six kms, in diameter - was closed off, and on
each edge was put up a big sign that in this place
trespassing is forbidden - under sharpshooting - under order
of General Katzmann. He signed all such notices.

We were normally allotted to a ravine. All around us were
mountains and on top of the mountains were standing guards,
and our small tent, where we lived, was surrounded again by
wire. In this ravine was also the Brandstelle as well as the
Aschkolonne - all the work was done in the ravine. But even
in this deep ravine, normally the fire could be seen for
quite a few kilometres away when we started the fire. At the
time of the uprising there were already a hundred and
eighteen of us and we were guarded by a hundred and twenty
Schupos (Security Police) of the 23rd Battalion with
Headquarters in Tarnopol. These two thousand people were
brought to the top of the hill in trucks, fifty people to a
truck - sometimes forty to fifty people. They climbed down
and first had to take off their spectacles, shoes and socks;
then they went a few hundred feet farther and had to take
off their clothing; afterwards they were brought to a place
near the they didn't have to be carried too far
to the fire; and there they stood in a line and were mowed
down by a machine gun. Most of them were dead...

Q. Who did the shooting?

A. The shooting was usually done by the SD.

Q. Now tell me - there weren't many guards for two thousand
people: why did all these people go to be shot - why didn't
they try at least, to injure their murderers before they
were killed?

A. First of all, the two thousand people were not together -
they would bring them in groups of forty, thirty-five or
fifty, shoot them, and then the next truck would come with
another forty...There were a lot of guards in proportion to
each group, not against the two thousand. But secondly, in
the beginning one always has somebody to lose, a family to
worry about...At this time, in 1943, nobody cared anymore -
he was always one of the last, had lost everybody; and just
to be tortured longer - the tortures were so more real to
these people than their death, because life didn't mean any
more to them...

Q. You mean they wanted death without torture?

A. To finish with it. Because in certain cases, when we used
to bring women and children, very often the women would
throw in the children and jump in after them, into the fire
- even before it was time to shoot...Once a mother came with
her child, and when she undressed she spat in the face of
the SD guard - they took the child by the legs, knocked its
head against a tree and put it in the fire, and hanged her
by the feet...The other women, seeing this, thought -
"What's the use..." This happened quite a few times -
especially for mothers not to undress children.

Presiding Judge: You said that mother was hanged by the

Witness Wells: With the head down...

Attorney General: Was this the only case?

Witness Wells: No - there were many cases...

Q. Do you remember Kessler?

A. Yes - he was one of the "living corpses."

Q. What were the "living corpses?"

A. @0As I mentioned before, some of the people weren't
killed - they fell down because of a slight injury or under
the pressure of other people, or sometimes they thought that
maybe they would escape by falling down and pretending to be
dead; but normally, when there came bigger groups, this was
quite a big percentage, quite a few people who were alive
still. And one of them that was between these people was a
man from Tarnopol by the name of Kessler. The group was from
the concentration camp, with 2,000 people. And we at that
time seeing that a lot of them were alive, we left some
sugar and some of our working clothes that we dropped there,
so that they can escape in the night. There were many of
them, but unfortunately only Kessler escaped to be brought
back the next day. He was caught and brought back. Under
torture and all kinds of promises, he never told who helped
him and he was burned the next day.

Q. Now, with the permission of the Court, I'll shorten your
evidence, Dr. Wells. Let's go to the point where you
escaped. Tell the Court how you escaped and how you managed
to survive.

A. After the final liquidation of 19 November 1943, of the
Janowska concentration camp, we felt that we are not any
more responsible with our deeds to anybody, that nobody can
suffer, or hasten their deaths by any time. We at this night
decided that we will break out.

Because of the time of the year, we used to make fires
outside our camp for the Schupos while they were standing
guard to warm themselves during the night. For weeks already
we were starting in the night to arrange loud singing and
the orchestra playing so it seems that we are happy, because
we arranged it in this way that in this night the orchestra
and the rest of the people have to sing so that if any noise
comes from the outside due to some misfortune in our
uprising, this will cover the noises from any Schupos or
from any SD man.

On this night we decided that a certain group of people and
also the musicians must stay till the last minute, and be
killed, because they will be cover for the other people. And
they all accepted it very willingly because none of us had
the interest who has to survive. The only idea was that one
of us survives and tells the world what happened here.

Because that day there came in a lot of clothing from the
people that were liquidated from the concentration camp when
they were unclothing themselves, all the boots and clothing
were in our tents to be the next day delivered back to the
SD people who will decide where they will go. But some of
the Schupos wanted some boots and shoes, and were asking us
to give it to them, because none of them had the right to
touch it. Two people had to go out through a small door with
the wood to make a fire for one of the Schupos and one of
them will have a pair of boots for him. At this time, the
men had to drop the boots and the Schupo will bend down
quickly to pick up the pair of boots because he wouldn't
like that the other Schupo see that he is taking away
certain things.

Presiding Judge: All right, Dr. Wells, I am very sorry but
we can't go into these details.

Attorney General: Could you try to be a little more brief?

Witness Wells: We cut the neck and choked these two people.
While he bent down for the pair of shoes, one of the men cut
his neck, choked him, but he - this man who tried to choke
him - was a little too weak and the Schupo screamed out
loud. The other Schupos started to run and he started
shooting and before they knew anything had happened, we were
out of this place and started to run; but not all of us;
some of them wanted to die right there.

Q. There were those who refused to join you?

A. Yes. One man, Yehuda Goldberg, he was an ex-Polish
legionnaire - he was in the underground; he said, "what good
is it for me even to try to live, I've lost my wife, my
seven children and I would like to die here at the place
where they were buried." He even got undressed and he lay
down waiting until they would shoot him.

Q. Now, my final question, Dr. Wells. Could you give the
Court an approximate figure of the number of bodies burned
by your brigade?

A. A few hundred thousand.

Q. Could you tell us how many were executed in front of
those fires, approximately?

A. About 30,000 during the time that I was there. That was
after the liquidation because there were no more Jews.

Q. When did you come to know that this Kommando was known as

A. I knew it during the time that I was there because every
time it came in under an order, or it was sent, it was from
Sonderkommando 1005.

Q. Now, my last question. I believe that when introducing
you yesterday to the Court I forgot that you were given a
scientific award this year. Is that correct?

A. I was given the International Award for the engineer who
contributed most in the field of Cinematography and Optics,
for 1960; International Congress in Mar del Plata,

Q. International Congress of which Society?

A. Of the Cinematic Film Society in Mar del Plata, in
January, 1961.

Q. Do you happen to know how many Jews of Lvov survived the

A. Two weeks after the liberation we were registered - 212
men in Lvov. They weren't all from the city of Lvov; they
were also from neighbouring cities.

Attorney General: Thank you.

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

04Dr. Servatius:  I have no questions.

Judge Raveh:   These pictures in the book, do they show the
same places where you worked, or are they places similar to
those in which you worked?

Witness Wells: They are not from my place.

Q. And are you able to identify these places?

A. No, except in one picture that I could see exactly like
our place, but I cannot identify the people, because of the
poor quality of the picture itself. I at this time, when the
book was published, I wasn't in Poland any more, so I never
saw the original.

Attorney General: The book was compiled on behalf of the
Historical Commission by Mrs. Rachel Auerbach. She has been
called to give evidence tomorrow, and then I shall be able
to put the question of His Honour Judge Raveh.

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