The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 21
(Part 2 of 9)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust

Q. What happened in the synagogue?

A. They seized Jews with beards and began cutting them off with knives, sometimes to the point of drawing blood. After that they compelled those Jews to shave others. Whoever didn't want to do so, was beaten.

Q. To shave in such a manner as we see here in picture 13, on page 5?

A. Yes.

Q. Such as on page 6, in picture No. 16, for example? If no, say that you did not see it.

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. Did you see the picture on the right on page 7?

A. Yes, I saw it.

Q. Did you see these gymnastics?

A. No, I didn't see them.

Attorney General: I shall submit the album - I would merely ask that it be returned to me, since I shall submit a number of other pictures to future witnesses.

Presiding Judge: Meanwhile it will remain here. Please show this to Defence Counsel before it is submitted. Please indicate the pictures which the witness identified just now.

Attorney General: Did they mock these Jews?

Witness Pachter: Yes.

Presiding Judge: This book will be exhibit T/199.

Attorney General: What did they do, Mr. Pachter?

Witness Pachter: They dragged bearded Jews to the synagogue, a beautiful synagogue. They soon turned it into a warehouse, desecrating the synagogue. There they cut off their beards. They made other Jews dance and clap their hands. They forced Jews to shave off the beards of other Jews.

Q. Can you tell us something about the contributions?

A. Yes.

Q. What were they?

A. I have to relate here the story of a short march and how they behaved towards the people. We approached a place about five kilometres between Wodniki and Gorodenka, where the Bug river is situated. At the end of October the Gestapo came and announced that people would be able to cross to the Russian side of the border if they would go to the "Magistratura", and obtain a piece of paper. For this piece of paper they would pay 5 marks or 10 zlotys, and on Sunday they would be able to cross the border freely at Wodniki. Many people, hundreds, went and purchased these paper chits and on Sunday streamed in their hundreds in the direction of Wodniki. When they arrived there they were surrounded and beaten until blood was running from every one.

Q. And did they take their possessions from them?

A. They took everything they were carrying. After Wodniki they told them that they would have to pay a fine of 300,000 zlotys within seven days. When they came with the money in their hands, they told them that they were two hours late. This was completely untrue. And they imposed an additional fine of a further 200,000 zlotys. When on the second occasion, they informed them of the second fine, they called Rabbi Yochanan Twersky, the cousin of the Rabbi of Belz, and told him that he would be personally responsible for the matter. He fled to the village of Skrigin. This was on a Thursday. On Friday, the Sabbath eve, two armed soldiers arrived and shot him during prayers. That is all.

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

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.

Judge Halevi: You say that at the end of October the Germans announced a free passage to the Russian border?

Witness Pachter: Yes.

Q. In fact they didn't allow them to cross the border after they beat them. Did they turn them back?

A. Yes, they beat them severely, and thereafter they chased them back to the town.

Q. he Germans brought you back?

A. Yes.

Q. In this march, at the end of this march, this was after the end of October, this march to the bridge?

A. It was after that event.

Q. Then the Germans didn't force you, but allowed you to cross over to the Russian zone. Is that right?

A. Yes, there they forced us to cross over.

Q. To Russian territory?

Q. After the death march - yes.

Q. And it was the Russians who sent you back?

A. Yes, the Russians.

Q. And afterwards, you nevertheless crossed the river?

A. Yes.

Q. And the Jews on the Russian side received you?

A. Yes, exceedingly well.

Q. And who sent you back?

A. The Russians. When we crossed the first bridge...

Q. Not when you crossed the first bridge - after you swam?

A. On the second occasion, after we had already swum across, we remained in Sokal.

Q. In the end you remained in Soviet territory?

A. Yes.

Q. And the Russian soldiers allowed you, on the second occasion, to remain there?

A. I don't want to prolong this story - this was a separate tragedy - we, in fact, hid ourselves.

Q. When you infiltrated there and remained underground?

A. These were the handful who crossed the river out of the 29, we in fact stole across the border and joined the underground.

Q. Did you remain on the Russian side until the end of the war?

A. Yes.

Presiding Judge: Where do you live today?

A. In Meged, near Ramatayim.

Q. Thank you very much.

Attorney General: I call Mr. Ya'akov Gurfein.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Gurfein: Yes.

The witness is sworn.

Q. What is your name?

A. Ya'akov Gurfein.

Attorney General: What is your address, Mr. Gurfein?

Witness Gurfein: Tel Aviv, 33 Rehov Bloch.

Q. At the outbreak of the Second World War you were in Poland?

A. Yes.

Q. In which town?

A. In the town of Sanok.

Q. Where is that?

A. It is in Galicia.

Q. Do you recall the herding of the Jews of Sanok into a ghetto?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. When did this happen?

A. In fact they put the Jews of Sanok into a ghetto twice.

Presiding Judge: In what part of Poland is Sanok?

Witness Gurfein: In southern Poland which is called Galicia, in the vicinity of Przemysl.

Q. Western Galicia.

A. I would say Central, seeing that it borders on the San [river]. Immediately after the war between Germany and Russia broke out, they commanded the Jews to leave their dwellings and to concentrate in a small residential area. The others had to evacuate their apartments and to be confined within a number of streets, in a number of houses. But this was not yet a closed ghetto, we were not yet surrounded by a barbed wire fence. They took us out of there to all kinds of different tasks, forced labour and so on.

Sometime in the month of August or July 1942, the Gestapo ordered all the Jews of Sanok to report to the Gestapo offices for the purpose of registering and the insertion of special stamps into our identity cards. They called them "Kennkarten." Immediately after that they ordered the Jewish Community to collect all the Jews and gave them orders...

Attorney General: What was the Jewish Community? Who was in charge of the Community?

Witness Gurfein: The Judenrat.

Q. Appointed by whom?

A. Appointed by the Gestapo. They gave orders to all the Jews to assemble - also the Jews of the villages surrounding Sanok - in a camp built by the Jews on orders of the Gestapo. They called this camp Zaslav. At the beginning of September they collected all the Jews, both of Sanok and of the surroundings, and put them into this camp. It was well fenced off. It became apparent when a count was taken that there were then 13,000 Jews in Sanok and the environs.

Q. Let us go back for a moment, before the ghetto period, before they put you into the ghettos, were operations carried out against the Jews in Sanok?

A. Yes, there were.

Q. What happened?

A. They killed Jews immediately upon the outbreak of the War - that it to say, already in September 1939 they killed a number of Jews, burned synagogues. One Jew who wanted to rescue a Scroll of the Law from a synagogue was killed on the spot, and they threw him half alive into the burning synagogue. Similarly they killed many people whom they sought out under various pretexts. For example, they sought out Jews who were suspected of being Communists and since they didn't find them, they took others, people who had a similar name, or members of their family, and killed them in Sanok.

Q. How much time did they give you to move into the ghetto?

A. They ordered us to move into the ghetto within one day, that is to say, from one day to the next, all of us had to report. I myself worked in Sanok in the houses of the German police. We were constructing the buildings of the police and they allowed us, me and the members of my family, that is to say they allowed the workers and the members of their families to remain in this camp, closed off and guarded by the Gestapo. At night, that same night before the first deportations of Jews, the leaders of the Gestapo of Sanok came; I recall the name of the Gestapo officer, his name was Albert Schulz.

Q. What was his rank?

A. He was Hauptsturmfuerer. He came together with the Gestapo official in charge of Jewish affairs, Kratzmann, and Mueller. He stood us up in a line at night, removed from the line people who they considered not fit for work, that is to say old people and children, and transferred them to the camp at Zaslav.

Q. Describe how that separation took place, when children were taken from their mothers, what happened?

A. When the children were separated from their mothers and the parents from their children, the women began to cry and to wail and they begged the Gestapo men to leave them there since we were working there. Then they replied that this was nothing - that they were simply moving them to another residential area, and within a week we should be able to be reunited.

At Zaslav they subsequently put 10,000 people into railway waggons. The Gestapo men found that about 500 Jews had not reported, who had hidden themselves in their houses or sick people who had not been fit enough to walk to the railway waggons, or children - they put them into the local prison. There were about 500 people, amongst them my uncle.

And the next day, after the dispatch of the 10,000 people, they killed the 500 persons on the spot, at Zaslav. My uncle approached the Gestapo officer and promised him money if he would release him and the members of his family. They moved him together with the people to the edge of the pit and then shot about 500 people, and in the end they kicked him and told him to run away. He then returned to our camp, I remember this: he was covered with blood from head to foot.

Q. And he told you this story?

A. Yes. And he gave me the names of the people who were killed at that place. We still continued working. All this happened in the month of September, 1942.

Q. The railway line went into Zaslav?

A. In Zaslav there was once a paper factory - there was an old railway line there which was not in use. Several months before the deportation, the Gestapo ordered the Jews to build a new railway line there and to construct workshops. They told us that we might be going to work there, seeing that the German army had special need for clothing, furs and shoes. They also ordered us to prepare the workshops.

Q. And you believed them?

A. And we believed them, seeing that Gestapo men were coming all the time, calling on the Jews to report and they used to declare to them that the Fuehrer had already given orders not to deport any more Jews, that we were needed for labour, and that there would be no more deportations, there would be no more exterminations and there would be no more shootings.

Q. After each deportation they used to promise this?

A. Each time, that we should not be afraid, that we should not try to escape, that we should not create disturbances. Meanwhile we still continued working in the place until the month of December 1942. In the month of December they moved the remaining workers and concentrated them in several small homes within the town of Sanok, and from there they took us to work every day. After all the deportations, after the exterminations, we remained only 1,300 persons out of its population of 13,000 souls in June 1942.

Presiding Judge: 13,000 Jews in this town?

Witness Gurfein: In this town and its surroundings.

One morning, in the middle of January 1943, they woke us up. We saw that we were surrounded by SS men who were stationed around the ghetto. They ordered us to line up in the courtyard, allowed each one to take a blanket, and led us on foot to the Zaslav camp. At Zaslav they put everyone into one hall and kept us there for three days and two nights. On Friday morning they put us into railway waggons. In the morning we heard that a train was arriving and we saw that there were ten railway waggons. At the railway entrance SS men stood with dogs, and they commanded us to get into them, to crowd into these waggons.

Attorney General: How many people were there?

Witness Gurfein: We were 1,300 souls. And we were lucky. I counted the people in our waggon - there were 103 of us.

Q. In your waggon?

A. This was a French freight waggon, and there was a notice on the door: 8 horses or 40 people.

Q. In French?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you read French?

A. Yes. When they put us in all together into the waggons, there was no place to stand or sit. Some of the people sat on the floor, some stood, and then every hour we exchanged positions.

Q. Before you entered the train, how long were you closed off in that camp at Zaslav?

A. Three days and two nights.

Q. Did they give you food?

A. They didn't give us any food or drink.

Q. Did they allow you to go outside for your personal needs?

A. They didn't allow us to go outside.

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