The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 21
(Part 1 of 9)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Session No. 21

15 Iyar 5721 ( 1 May 1961)

Presiding Judge: I declare the twenty-first Session of the trial open. The Prosecution will continue.

Attorney General: I call the witness Zvi Pachter.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Pachter: : Yiddish.

Presiding Judge: Can you take the oath in Hebrew?

Witness Pachter: : Yes. I have a request. If I shall not be able to stand, that I may be allowed to sit.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness Pachter: Pachter, Hirsch.

Presiding Judge: In Hebrew - Zvi?

Witness Pachter: Yes.

Presiding Judge: Please reply to Mr. Hausner.

Attorney General: When the Second World War broke out, you were in Poland?

Witness Pachter: Yes.

Q. Tell us about the march from Hrubieszow and Chelm on 2 December 1939.

A. On 1 December 1939 the beadle of the synagogue, Dovidel Shmerl announced in all the streets and houses that on the following day, 2 December 1939, a Sabbath, at seven in the morning all men from 15 to 60 years of age were to come to Rigon Square, that is the cattle market place.

Q. In what town was this?

A. In the town of Hrubieszow, 50 kilometres from Chelm and 120 kilometres from Lublin.

Q. Were the Jews of Chelm then in Hrubieszow?

A. We didn't know anything.

Q. Did they bring Jews from Chelm to Hrubieszow?

A. We did not know this at that time, for we stood for four hours on the Sabbath morning in the open, and then we heard that the Jews of Chelm had come.

Q. Please continue with your account of what happened on that Sabbath.

A. On the Sabbath morning all the men aged 15 to 60 gathered in their masses. Children under the age of 15 and men over the age of 60 also came, out of curiosity.

Q. How many men were there?

A. When we reached the top we were surrounded by guards so closely that I have seen the like of it only at the war front. After they had us rounded up, they told us to stand in a semicircle. When we were all standing in a semicircle, then a certain Volksdeutscher from the village of Strykow who happened to be staying with us, acted as the spokesman on our behalf, and began reading out to us what we were supposed to do. He began by reading a list and to see whether people who were not on the list, had appeared. They saw that more people had arrived than they had anticipated, more people than there were supposed to be there. They told us that we were going on a march and that we had to hand over everything in our possession: coins, gold, silver, watches, and they left us with 20 zloty.

Q. How much was this, 20 zloty, in pounds or dollars?

A. It was worth 10 marks.

This went on for several hours. Our progress was accompanied by shouts and crying of women and children, all of whom ran to join us, for no one knew that this was a death march. They used force on them, they pushed them, and their shouting was heard at a distance of two to three kilometres.

It wasn't so easy to ward off these shouts. Then they announced: everyone who had not yet reached the age of 15 must leave the ranks and go home. After that they added: anyone whose age was over 60 years should leave the ranks and go home. Thereafter they asked artisans to leave - not to march - carpenters, shoemakers, tailors and people like that. They sent half of them home, and half they put back into the ranks.

Q. When you say "they," to whom are you referring? Who did this?

A. These were the SS, the Gestapo, men in black uniforms and in dark green uniforms.

When they sent all these people home, things calmed them down, also the women and the children, the cries died down and we also calmed down, since we thought that, in fact, this was only a march.

Afterwards they lined us up in four columns, one after the other.

Then they told every second and third man in each row to step forward, so that the first and the fourth remained. When, as a result, an empty space was left between the first and the fourth in each row, which they filled with the men of Chelm, who had been brought there the previous day. The men of Chelm did not fill a very large area. They were not so many, they closed the ranks and there were now rows of four.

Q. How many men were there in your opinion?

A. They gave an order not to speak, not to look around and not to be in contact one with the other. Anyone violating the order would be shot. They gave the order to march forward. We began walking, and in the direction in which they took us there were no roads. We walked in this way until we reached the village of Holotoshins. A young girl managed to run after the column and to shout all the time until we reached that village: Daddy, Daddy! Near Holotoshins the girl was removed. We didn't know what happened to her - we only heard a shot.

On that first day we didn't witness any killings with our own eyes. Only from time to time anyone who became tired and stopped, anyone who paused to arrange his clothes, was told to leave the line, and thereafter we heard behind us the sound of a shot. For the whole of that day we didn't see any killings - but we heard the shots behind us. And so we marched to the village Tyszowce, a distance of 12 kilometres from Hrubieszow. From there we walked to another village, walking in the mud. Our legs sank because this was the season of the heaviest rains. This was in the month of December. They had told us to sit or lie down, for we were going to sleep there.

When we had already sat or lain down on the ground, they came to argue with us and to tell us that we were responsible for the war.

Q. Who came?

A. The SS men.

They told us that it was difficult to argue there - perhaps we should go inside a room and continue the discussion there. They took all our religious officials, the two judges of the Rabbinical Court, Hershele Rosenzweig and Naftali Rokach, the two beadles, Moshe Koshuk and Kurchev and a number of bearded men, about 90 people all told. From time to time we heard that they had also taken men from other groups. We estimated that on that evening about 200 men were taken. We didn't see what happened to these people, but there still remained a hope in our hearts that perhaps this was not a death march. The next morning they again formed us into ranks, but in each row there were only three men.

Q. Did the Rabbis and the beadles return?

A. When we returned to the road, we saw blood on the sides of the road - we didn't see bodies. When we reached the village of Tchechovitz we saw, on the side of the road, a burnt-out car that had remained from the battles. We stood there for about five minutes, while the senior man in charge of the march, the man who led us on his horse, and two of his assistants on either side of him, consulted together. After this consultation they told us that it was forbidden for us to gaze to the right or to the left or backwards, but only forwards.

First of all they removed two Jews, one of them with a yellowish beard, Shmuel Hirsch Kuperstock and another Jew with a beard, Benjamin Rosenberg, and a third - Lewenfuss. When they took Lewenfuss there was a great tragedy. His son jumped up and said: "Leave my father alone - I will go in his stead." They said: "You come too." They took him with the other Jews. They shot all four in the back of the head, and the bullets came out through their forehead.

Q. Did you see this with your own eyes?

A. They took hold of a man and removed him from the line - they hit them on the head with their rifle butts. For instance there was a man by the name of Noah Wartman - they took hold of him, he wanted to remove their hands, they struck him on his shoulder, they broke his hand with a blow, they hit him on his head with the butt and immediately thereafter he was shot.

Those who were shooting were exchanged all the time, every half-hour, for it was difficult for them to keep up with the march - they were making us run all the time. They were unable to say "predzej" (in Polish "faster"), they said "branze." All the time they egged us on. They kept changing those who were shooting all the time, until we reached the village of Malkow. They kept on asking each other: "How many did you manage to kill by shooting?" One said 89, another said 102, and so on. And each half-hour they replaced one another throughout the day.

That evening we entered Malkow, no longer in the mud but into a hall. But the hall was so small that it could not accommodate all the people, and they began throwing people inside one on top of the other. We were so closely packed that we couldn't move. It could be said that we were almost lying one on top of the other. The rest were in the corridors and the adjoining rooms for there was no room to place all this great mass of people in the hall.

Q. How many people were there?

A. I think that there were more than 2,000 people. The distance from the head of the queue to its end extended for about four kilometres. Afterwards they started teasing us in a way. They let it be known that anyone wishing to buy a roll should send out three golden zlotys.

In my pocket there were about 15 zlotys. I gave them to the nearest man standing in the direction of the corridor. They threw us five rolls. These five rolls we divided amongst ourselves; each one received a small piece. But we couldn't manage to swallow it, for our throats were parched from the excessive thirst and marching - we simply couldn't swallow - we were cold and tired.

In the morning, we again went out on a march; this time we were three in a row. We walked to the village Golovishov. On the third day it went on without stop, they were shooting every second. They would place their hands on a man, tell him to lie down and shot him. Whoever didn't want to do so would receive a blow on the head from a rifle butt until blood was drawn. But most of the people were so tired that they couldn't resist. They were merely shadows of themselves. The slaughter was terrible on the third day of the march.

When we reached the village of Golovishov they ordered all of us to lie on the ground and began shooting into the air above our heads in order to terrorize us even more.

After these shootings, they divided us into two groups and told us that one group would go to Sokal and the second group to Belz. That group went in the direction of Belz and we...

Q. Which group were you in?

A. I was in the group that went in the direction of Sokal. When we reached a distance of four kilometres from Sokal, they told us in the morning that they would stop this business of shooting. We continued marching...

Q. Who was the senior officer in this march?

A. He had a dark green uniform. I think that he had black insignia on the lapels of his jacket. The senior officer of the march approached one of the boys. He threw a piece of bread in his direction, and the boy bent down to pick up the piece of bread - it was one of the sons of Pinia Nadel, possibly 15 years old - when the boy bent down to pick up the bread, the senior officer of the march himself shot him. He shot him but didn't kill him with his shot and ordered someone else to finish the job. He, as it were, justified himself and said he wasn't responsible, for the youth had jumped out of line. "If he hadn't jumped out of line, I wouldn't have shot him," he said. And then we went on to a suburb of Sokal, Gvushe.

This was the border between the territory of the Generalgouvernement and Soviet Russia at the time. This was near the River Bug which was the boundary. When we reached the outskirts, they told us to sit down and start singing, for the sun was coming up. "Whoever does not sit down and sing - will be shot!" They told us to sing Jewish songs.

When it got dark they told us what we were about to do. They told us that we were about to advance across the frontier and that there was a bridge there. This bridge was divided into three sections. The first part belonged to the Germans, and the furthest section to Soviet Russia. The middle section was called "no-man's land" or "neutral." And this is how they instructed us to walk: on the first section of the bridge we should walk slowly, on the middle section we should accelerate our pace, and in the third section they told us we should raise our hands and shout "long live Stalin!", they told us this in German, and explained that this would persuade the border guards not to fire on us.

When we came to the Soviet side, it confused the Russians very much, for they were forbidden to allow any crossing of this border. But our hands were raised so they asked what was happening and said that one person who spoke Russian should step up and explain. I came out of the ranks and began relating the whole story of this march from Chelm to Hrubieszow, from the first day, and of all the victims who fell, of the thousands who were shot. They told us to lie down on the ground, and they would go to see if it were possible to accommodate us in the hospitals, for we were all injured from this march, our feet were torn. Moshe Moskal's leg was completely cut open, and one could see the bone...for the people had hesitated to rest on the way lest they be shot.

I don't want to go into the details of the tragedy, for they are not relevant to this trial - but they sent us back there.

Q. What do you mean by "there" - to the area of the Generalgouvernement in Germany?

A. Yes, to this bridge, for this was the bridge between Sokal, the town that belonged to the Soviet Union, and the suburb that belonged to the German Generalgouvernement. Thus they returned us to the Germans - yes, to the Germans. The Germans no longer took any notice of us and didn't attack us, and we entered the houses. This village was full of zoological anti-Semites, but without taking that into account, the people were nevertheless so confused that there were some who hastened to our aid and helped us; they gave us money and clothing, and they assisted some to re-cross the border I was one of a group of 29 persons who went into a school.

Q. Were these Poles?

A. These were Poles, perhaps some Ukrainians.

Q. Of the two thousand who began the march, how many reached the border?

A. Few, very few, perhaps one hundred persons. I, of course, don't know what happened in Belz, for they were divided into two sections. When we entered the school, we began to settle down so that we could warm ourselves somewhat. We began removing our shoes and taking off our clothes so that we could warm ourselves and rest. But at 10 o'clock at night the Germans appeared again - I don't know whether these were SS men or others - and they forced us to cross the border again. We approached another bridge, part of which served as a crossing to a Christian monastery. Half of that bridge was still intact, the first half which served as a crossing. And after that one had to jump into the river and swim to the other side. We were caught in the river, and after a struggle for at least an hour, we managed to emerge on the other side of the river, on the side of Sokal. The Jews of Sokal attended to us and gave us all possible help.

Presiding Judge: Was this on the Russian side?

Witness Pachter: This was on the Soviet side.

Attorney General: I shall put a number of further questions to you. Mr. Pachter wishes to relate something more. You write that you want to describe something that happened before the march. I shall therefore put a number of questions to you. Actually Mr. Pachter's request is addressed to the Court.

Presiding Judge: Please deal with it.

Attorney General: Please tell us, are you able to remember what happened in your town before the march. Tell us a few episodes.

Presiding Judge: Has he concluded his main evidence?

Attorney General: He was called in order to describe the march, but he wants very much - and in point of fact he had previously asked me and I didn't comply with his request in deference to the Court's instruction - to tell also of several things that happened in his village, beforehand. If the Court permits, I shall ask him to describe them.

Presiding Judge: If you think it is relevant.

Attorney General: This can be important. With his aid I perhaps might be able to do what I didn't manage to do on Friday - to identify a number of pictures of the maltreatment of Jews that took place at that time. I was thinking of doing so with the aid of another witness, but, since he is here, he may describe it. May I go over to the witness in order to show this album to him?

[To the witness] Are you able to remember scenes, such as these, that took place, pictures Nos 1, 2, 3 and 4? Where did this happen? Did you witness things such as these in your village?

Witness Pachter: This happened with us, in our synagogue.

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