The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/05/31

Q. Perhaps you could tell us something more about this?

A. Perhaps you will allow me merely to add a few words.  The
news the Polish scout Heniek Grabowski brought - he lived in
Poland - was hard on us, on all those who heard it. I heard
it from him the same night he arrived. I was then about to
travel to Opatoshow (Apte) to the Jewish community there and
to Ostrowiec Kielecki. And I heard this report - I am from
Vilna. I was born in Vilna. I left my parents and my family
in Vilna. And here he brought such news from Vilna. As a
child, I played nut games in Ponary. And here, this was
Ponary! They were putting to death Jews of Vilna in Ponary
which had been a scene of my childhood.

I merely wanted to begin with this in order to explain the
terrible shock that overtook me. That night I did not know
what to do. I decided to travel to Ostrowiec. I wanted to be
alone. But I returned from this trip a changed man. Here was
a total indiscriminate death to the Jews, with the German
occupation coming in the wake, or preceding it by a few
days, the total liquidation of the Jews. We had got used to
it in some way. We had experienced it by stages, for them it
overtook them suddenly - the occupation, the murdering, and
then the plunder of their property. Apparently we did not
act so quickly, within hours. We could not, then regain our
equilibrium, at any rate, I could not.

Before I recovered from this shock of Ponary, came Chelmno,
Kulmhof, the "Spezialwagen" - hermetically sealed trucks
into which they were loading Jews and taking them from an
abandoned palace of a Polish nobleman, to a wood, some
kilometres, I think about 15 kilometres, away. And when they
brought them back, they were found to be dead. This was
related by a gravedigger from Chelmno who escaped, but he,
too, was murdered afterwards. If I am not mistaken, efforts
were made from Warsaw to save him, when Warsaw was
surrounded and they took him to Hrubieszow or to Zamosc. And
there he, too, fell.

On the one side, in the East, it burned and it burned on the
other side from the West. Chelmno was in the Warthegau. We
were in the middle. Could we think that the fire would not
come upon us? In what way were we any better, we the Jews of
Warsaw, the Jews of the Generalgouvernement, that they
should treat us differently. There were arguments we put
forward concerning ourselves and concerning others,
concerning the Jewish community. Ours was a good, naive and
honest people.

It was impossible to believe that such a thing could occur -
that they would arise in their masses on the multitude of
the House of Israel and would massacre them. Already prior
to this, after the outbreak of the War, with the invasion of
the Soviet Union, we believed that it was necessary to begin
the establishment of a Jewish military organization.

In general, I would like to say, if I may be permitted, that
it is impossible to evaluate the Jewish underground in its
isolation from the general underground, without seeing what
was happening in the world. I am not referring to wider
aspects. But if we were to view ourselves, despite the fact
that we were isolated in the ghetto and not to view the
influences, the mutual interaction between the factors in
action, we would miss the point. Until the Jews of Warsaw
were murdered there was no sign of light in the world. El
Alamein and Stalingrad happened when there were no longer
Jews in Warsaw, when the Jews of Warsaw had gone to their
deaths - they did not even know that there would be a first
victory. They were isolated. It seemed to me that the whole
world had collapsed. The underground movements of the world
had not begun to fight during those days. In Paris they did
so on the eve of the approach of the Allies. In Warsaw it
happened in August 1944.

Attorney General: Mr. Zuckerman, allow me to guide you by my
questions now. You remember the deportations; do you
remember anything special in regard to elderly people at the
time of those deportations?

Witness Zuckerman: Yes.

Q. What do you remember?

A. During the days of the deportation, commencing on 22 July
1942 the Germans would, especially during the early period,
remove weak and elderly people from the line when they were
sorting them out, in order to kill them, by explaining that
such people were not suitable for work. The impression was
created amongst the younger people that those who were, in
fact, suitable for work would really be taken to work.

Q. And then you established the Jewish fighting force?

A. The Jewish fighting force was established six days after
that, on 28 July 1942.

Q. At its head stood Mordechai Anilewicz?

A. Not yet.

Q. Who headed it at that time?

A. At that time there was a headquarters of four people.
Shmuel Breslaw, Josef Kaplan, Zivia Lubetkin and I.

Q. When did Anilewicz take over the command?

A. Mordechai Anilewicz received the command in September,
after the "Rounding up."

Q. All of you were without any military experience?

A. Generally speaking most of us were people lacking
military training.

Q. Meanwhile you also got to know about the extermination
camps, about Treblinka, about Chelmno - did you know about
these earlier?

A. We heard about Treblinka for the first time during the
week of Passover 1942, without really knowing what it was.

Q. Afterwards you knew?

A. Yes, already in the first days, possibly on the first day
we already knew what Treblinka meant.
Q. Did you make the information public?

A. We published leaflets: "Aussiedlung  (resettlement) means
Treblinka, and Treblinka means death"; we called upon the
Jews to hide.

Q. In December 1942, in persuance of your role in the Jewish
fighting force, you were in Cracow. There some underground
activity was taking place. Cracow was the place of residence
of Frank. The Jewish fighting force attacked the Ziganera
Cafe which the German officers used to patronize?

A. Yes, this and other operations.

Q. Were you there at the time?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened to you there?

A. In the course of my duty I set out to visit a number of
towns, Cracow, Czestochowa. I never reached Czestochowa. I
was held up in Cracow. I set out actually for one purpose:
after the Jews of Cracow had been done to death, there
remained a small, reduced ghetto. The Jewish underground was
known there; as in the case of every group, there was a
collaborator, an informer or traitor, who informed on the
heads of the underground movement and these members had no
alternative but to leave the ghetto and set up bases on the
Aryan side of Cracow. They carried out some very important
tasks there. There were valuable groups there and an
outstanding leadership.

Q. Do you want to mention some names?

A. Yes. There was Dolek Liebeskind, there was Shimon

Q. Who wrote the book known as Memoirs of Justina03?

A. This was written by Draenger's girlfriend, when she was
in goal in Cracow, afterwards, at a later date. There was a
debate. We did not agree that the Jewish fighting force in
Cracow should be located outside the ghetto and we decided
to send the members of the Jewish fighting force, through
certain operations, back in the ghetto. They were to leave
their base on the Aryan side and go back to their stand. For
this purpose it was necessary to prepare a plan and it was
for this reason that I was sent - fortunately for me and to
their misfortune, although I do not regret the action that
was taken, but only its consequences. But in those
operations - it was Christmas eve 1942, when the German
population was getting ready for the holiday - on the same
day that I came I learned that they had prepared three or
four operations for that very evening. They had decided to
attack, with hand-grenades and revolvers, a cafe which was
frequented by SS and Gestapo men.

Q. Did they do it?

A. Yes. They decided to attack individual Gestapo men in the
streets of the city and to disarm them. They decided to burn
down a garage of military vehicles, and a fourth group was
to distribute leaflets amongst the populace.

Q. Was the operation carried out?

A. The operation was carried out with exceptional success;
but we, that is to say I and the members of the
headquarters, who were meeting later that night and decided
to meet the members of that base, did not know that they had
been caught by the Gestapo that very night.

Q. Were Tennenbaum and Leibowicz amongst them?

A. Yes. I was together with Leibowicz. Both of us were
seized by the Germans. I was wounded then and escaped.

Attorney General: Perhaps at this stage I shall submit a
document to the Court. This is our No. 1246 - a notice that
was sent by SS Gruppenfuehrer Mueller, the Accused's
superior, to the "Fuehrer-Hauptquartier" (Fuehrer's
Headquarters) - the matter seemed to have been of some
importance - giving information about the capture of three
Jewish bandits: Abraham Leibowicz, Adolf Liebeskind and Yuda
Tennenbaum, who organized the Jewish underground operations
in Cracow. Liebeskind's widow will give evidence this

Presiding Judge: This will be T/254.

Attorney General: The Court should kindly take note that
there is also reference to arms that were confiscated. [To
witness] In Cracow did the command also consist of members
of all the youth movements?

A. That is difficult for me to say, but they came from many
movements, not only one. The organization was many-sided.

Q. As in Warsaw?

A. Somewhat less. This was a smaller city. Warsaw was a city
of half a million Jews.

Q. We shall shortly come to the problem why it was so in
Warsaw and not in other places. You went back, after that
December, to Warsaw?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you physically fit?

A. No, I was badly hurt.

Q. Where?

A. This was on one of the days of the German attacks...

Q. Where?

A. In Cracow, when, accompanied by Laban Leibowicz, I came
into the base. It was an abandoned Jewish hospital, not far
from the windows of the Gestapo. When we entered, they let
us come in, but would no longer let us leave. It turned out
that on the previous evening members of the Jewish fighting
force were captured by the Germans. When we entered, we were
ordered to raise our hands. Both of us raised our hands.
Since Leibowicz was the first, he remained there, unable to
move. I still managed to throw myself in the direction of
the door and to open the door, but I fell, with injuries to
my leg. It was my luck that I was walking with boots, and
the blood streamed into the boots.

Q. And then you recovered?

A. A weeks later, I reached Warsaw unaided.

Q. Meanwhile economic enterprises were established in Warsaw
where Jews were employed?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember which enterprises these were?

A. There were many. The region was divided into four zones.
There was the area of the brushmakers, who made brushes for
the army. After that there was the area which they called
"Toebbens-Schultz" where there were German industrialists -
the elder Schultz, K.G. Schultz who was apparently less rich
than the other, Walther Zaesar Toebbens, Hallmann and

Q. Did the Jews work there for wages?

A. They were happy that their wages consisted of their
working and remaining alive. In the Toebbens complex there
was also a ghetto further away. This was in Prosta. Apart
from that there was a ghetto which was called the "central
ghetto" or the "wild ghetto" or the "Mexican Ghetto." It
contained those who were not working.

Q. Were you in charge of the area of the Toebbens-Schultz

A. Yes. I was the commander of Toebbens-Schultz from January
1943 until I left for the Aryan side in April 1943.

Q. Were 22 groups of the Jewish fighting forces set up

A. In all the zones of the ghetto there were 22 groups, nine
in the central ghetto, eight in Toebben-Schultz and five...

Q. Did you also have links with the underground in other
towns? In Vilna?

A. At that period the links were rather weak. We actually
had strong links until the end of 1942 or the beginning of
1943. After that we renewed the links later on.

Q. Was Abba Kovner in Vilna?

A. In Vilna, before him it was Itzik Wittenberg - and
afterwards Abba Kovner.

Q. The commander of the underground?

A. The commander of the Jewish fighting force.

Q. Did you have any connection with the Polish underground?

A. Yes.

Q. With the Armia Ludova and the Armia Krajowa?

A. Yes.

Q. Who gave you help?

A. We received help; after the operations we carried out on
20 August 1942 in setting buildings on fire, before we had
arms - after these operations we received help. In those
operations we obtained petrol and set Jewish houses on fire,
firstly in order that Jewish property should not fall into
the hands of the Germans and also in order that the fires
should alert the world to the fact that we were being
exterminated. It was a great night for us, for on that night
the fires attracted the Soviet pilots who were passing over
Warsaw. On the same night we also attacked a Jewish police
officer. After this, some of our comrades, Frumka Plotnicka
and Arie Wilner, secured hand grenades and revolvers on the
Aryan side and brought them into the ghetto, and we got
ready for the final act.

Q. There was another organization, the N.S.T.?

A. Yes.

Q. What was this?

A. This was an organization which consisted of the Fascist
elements of Poland. At any rate, in regard to the Jewish
question they collaborated with the Germans.

Q. That is to say, they too exterminated Jews?

A. They exterminated Jews.

Q. Please tell us about the operations of January 1943.

A. On 18 January the poet Yitzhak Katzenelson paid a visit
to us and was about to return to his home. When he left in
the morning, he came back after a short while with his only
remaining son and said that all was lost, that the walls
were surrounded, that massive detachments of Germans were
besieging the ghetto and had actually penetrated into it.
This was after several months of comparative quiet, which we
had exploited in order to get organized. And on the same
morning I was still wounded, I was standing together with my
comrades. We had a base at 56-58 Zamenhof, the windows of
which faced the Umschlagsplatz. This was at a crossroads and
for that reason we had chosen this place. Elsewhere, in
Mila, there was Mordechai Anilewicz together with his unit.
There were some other units, but they were not armed; all
our attempts to communicate with the other units were in
vain, and each commander had in fact, in January and
afterwards also during the operations of April, to make his
own decisions.

Q. And what happened in January?

A. They began to penetrate. There were men of the SS and the
Waffen SS. I am sure of this. There was a transport carrying
men to the front, but it was summoned to return to Warsaw,
to speed up help to the German forces. But they didn't
imagine that this was the beginning of an attempt at Jews
organizing themselves. Everything had gone so smoothly
during those months. And in the morning they surprised
Mordechai Anilewicz' unit. Comrades succeeded in concealing
their few arms in their clothing. Mordechai Anilewicz and
his unit were taken by the Germans and went with a silent
oath in their hearts that they would not reach the
Umschlagplatz - in fact this was something which was common
to very many young people - and they did not reach it:
either they got free or they fell. They came to Zamenhof
Street- and this we could see from far off. We, from our
base, saw that our comrades were walking amidst a large
collection of Jews, and surrounded by Germans, in the
direction of the Umschlagplatz. We were astonished, for this
was a most important group that we had counted on. But,
evidently, they knew what they were doing. We couldn't open
fire, for we would also have hit Jews. We certainly couldn't
use hand grenades. But, upon a signal given by Mordechai
Anilewicz, the members of his unit who were amongst the
ranks, attacked the Germans and threw a hand grenade. At
first there was great panic. The Germans scattered, and so
did the Jews. But, ultimately, we were dealing with an army.

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