The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 21
(Part 7 of 9)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. Kindly look at picture 7 on page 3. Does this remind you of anything?

A. It was more or less similar.

Q. I shall show you one other picture of the photographs of the gymnastics, picture 18 on page 7.

A. This is even identical, with the difference that these were religious people with side-curls and beards, as I have said: the majority of them were like these. On that night there were many shootings, as I have said: On the following day, in the morning and the early hours before the afternoon...

Presiding Judge: Please show the picture to Dr. Servatius.

Witness Beisky: Zone after zone of the town was ordered to assemble in that square of the marketplace, and I, together with the members of my family, including my parents, my sister, two brothers and I myself and a further five aunts and uncles (we were not all of us together on the same transport - only with my parents and the nearest family), and at four o'clock in the afternoon we were taken in a train that passed by this town at a distance of some twenty odd kilometres to a nearby town called Miechowitz. In this town and in the fields outside the village Jews had already been assembled beforehand and we were also put there.

Attorney General: How many Jews were there?

Witness Beisky: I cannot say, but there were certainly more than twenty thousand. And we were also not the last.

Q. How were the people brought there?

A. From the neighbouring towns and villages - in carts. From the more distant town - in trains, and also on foot.

Q. What were the people ordered to do?

A. We waited. We arrived, as I have said, in the evening. And that night we slept out in the open, twenty thousand or more. There was one particular detail that I cannot forget: Next to me, in the same transport was a woman, elderly, Mrs. Lazar, the wife of Shimon Menachem Lazar, who was previously the editor of Hazefirah, and the mother of David Lazar of the newspaper Maariv. She was next to me, together with her daughter, and there was one other brother, a doctor from Miechowitz, with all of whom I was on very close terms of friendship.

On the following morning, after sleeping the whole night, we sought the Lazar family of Miechowitz, and then, in the distance, we saw two girls who were taken to that same site, and we heard from the girls, that the father, who was a doctor, had injected himself and his wife with poison, and the children were brought to the site the next morning and remained with us until our departure.

It turned out afterwards that the dose of poison, in the case of Mrs. Lazar, had not been adequate, and she recovered; and when I came back a second time to the village, she was in hospital, for the doctors who were the friends of that Dr. Moshe Lazar admitted her and hid her. And one day she was taken out of the hospital and shot near the fence.

Q. By whom was she shot?

A. By the commando unit that was there. The following day, as I have said, we were a large number of people, we were ordered to stand in formations of five, and the first row was commanded to raise its hands. One of the men of the Sonderkommando passed by each row, and according to the look of their hands, they were ordered to go to the right or to the left.

Q. What was meant by going to the right or the left?

A. Approximately two thousand people went to the right. These were the young and the physically strong. To the left went all the others - the others went away, amongst them all the members of my family - except for two brothers - and I never saw them again. My two brothers were with me.

Q. Where were they taken to?

A. We learned after the War that they were taken to Belzec. The transport of the young people to which I referred, was moved to a camp near Cracow, called Prokocim. On arrival there, we were subjected, first of all, to a thorough search. Naturally, each one had taken with him, to that presumed place of work, as it had been described, whatever he could carry of his most valuable possessions.

Q. When you say: a "thorough search," what are you referring to?

A. There were Ukrainian soldiers there. Every one was ordered to take out his meagre luggage, which was generally in a knapsack on the back packed in such a way as to be convenient for travelling. And a search was made on the body of each person.

Q. Also on the private parts of the body?

A. No, not at that camp. This came later on. At that camp I spent only a few days in all. Most of the people were divided up among the labour camps in the vicinity of Cracow. I together with my two brothers, moved to a camp on Kobierzyncka Street, which belonged to that same firm of Richard Strauch. While I was in the camp, I went out every day to the municipal gas factory in Cracow and from that time I worked in loading coal at that factory, both during the period when I was in that small labour camp, and also during the period thereafter when I had been transferred to the Plaszow camp.

Again a small episode - after we had been moved to another camp on Zatorska Street. I escaped from that camp because a rumour had reached the town that more Jews had returned,who at the time of the first deportation managed to conceal themselves in the nearby villages. And in fact it was so. I escaped from that camp, I returned to the town and again, very briefly - for these things cannot be expressed otherwise on this occasion - I reached this town where there was a Polish acquaintance, together with whom I had worked, before the War. He came and removed utensils from the house which were then hidden, and afterwards, from time to time, he helped me and brought me money and food.

Presiding Judge: What kind of work did you do together with him?

Witness Beisky: Before the War I was a clerk in one of the business houses in Cracow, and he also worked in the same office - that Polish Christian who helped us a great deal. I only regret that he, too, was killed in the course of the War owing to those activities.

Some weeks later, it was already towards the end of the autumn of that year....

Attorney General: 1942?

Witness Beisky: Everything we are talking about was still in 1942. One night the town was again surrounded, and this time people already did not know. Evidently it was difficult to hide; but a large part of the people had prepared hiding places in order to hide, if it should happen again. Together with a group of 15 people, I immediately took shelter in a particular place which had been prepared for this. We lay down there. We had some provisions. We lay in that place for about three days. It was in an attic.

On the fourth day we heard shots in the town all the time - this time people were no longer hauled to other places but were shot in their hideouts where they were caught. On the third day we heard that they were conducting searches near our hiding place and on that same night, it was decided that we must get out, for in any case there was no point in our remaining there. It was snowing. We divided amongst ourselves the little food that remained, in groups, two by two. I and my companion Katzengold went out through the Polish Christian cemetery of the town, and we walked to a neighbouring village. There we hid. We had the address of a certain farmer. (I would ask you to point out whether I am being too lengthy on a particular topic.)

Attorney General: I would ask you to come to the camp at Plaszow. I understand that was where you went to. When did you leave the camp?

Witness Beisky: I left in the last days of the month of December 1942, or in the first days of January 1943.

Q. And then you were transferred - where to?

A. This small camp was dismantled and we were transferred to Plaszow.

Q. Where was Plaszow?

A. In one of the suburbs of Cracow. The precise locality where the camp was situated was the old Jewish cemetery. There was a new Jewish cemetery, in the centre of the Jewish district, and this here, was the old Jewish cemetery.

Q. When you arrived there, what was in the camp?

A. The whole camp consisted only of a few huts, but I found some of those people who had originally been released from the camp at Prokocim, because we had left as a group of 120 people for the small camp, but some of them, possibly nearly 100 people, were already at that camp at Plaszow, and they were already engaged in destroying the cemetery, that is to say, in actually removing the graves.

Q. Who was the commander of the Plaszow camp?

A. At that time the commander was Obersturmfuehrer Mueller.

Q. Of what unit?

A. SS. He was the commander of two camps. On the other side of the boundary of Plaszow there was "Judenlager 1." He was the commander of "Judenlager 1" and of the Plaszow camp. In this camp there used to be an area of the cemetery on which there were huts, and it was there they demolished the cemetery. It was surrounded by a barbed wire fence, not yet electrified.

Q. You say "not yet." Afterwards was an electric current passed through it?

A. I shall come to that.

Q. Please continue.

A. I continued working with the same group until the middle of 1943. Several men and I used to go out to that camp in Cracow. But there were also squads who used to go out to places of work in localities of so-called essential labour for the Germans. The rest of the people inside the camp worked on the erection of huts.

Q. How many people were there in the camp?

A. At the beginning of January there were two thousand. Those who went outside the camp went under armed guard. During the first period, the guard was not so heavy, but there was no great fear that people would escape, for a simple reason, namely that where in a particular group that went outside the camp someone escaped, the penalty was the killing of some or most of the group, I shall quote some such cases.

Presiding Judge: How many people were there in the group?

Witness Beisky: In the group to which I belonged it varied. There were days when we went out in a group of 70-90. It depended on the work. That same firm, Strauch, had 700-800 men whom it was entitled to divide up amongst the places of work which it managed in Cracow. The work was from the early hours and it consisted of loading coal.

Attorney General: What do you mean by "early hours"?

Witness Beisky: Rising time was 4:30 in the morning. Before we left for work there was a morning roll call. All the occupants of the hut were lined up on the camp ground, until the person in charge of the camp, the commander, appeared, and was given a report on the number of people alive, and the number of whom had died - if there were deaths - how many were killed, what was the state of the sick and the state of the healthy.

Q. Where did they die and where were they killed?

A. In the course of these events, it is difficult for me, and I am also thinking of the others who were in the same camp, to remember the days on which people did not die or were not killed. I now pass to our lot, that is to say the lot of those who went outside to work. It might be thought to have been easier, for at least from the moment that we left the precincts of the camp until the moment when we returned to it, we were involved in work. Although the work was hard, it was work. But at the same time the people of the camp who remained inside were subjected to things which I later on experienced personally - for I myself had to endure them.

They had to set up a camp. Only afterwards did we know the reason for this. The work went on from the early hours of the morning until the late hours of the evening, always under supervision and of course very hard labour. When it was necessary to lift heavy stones from the tombs they were not given more people for it than the number who could carry this out only with supreme efforts. And if something was not done properly by such groups, then individuals and also complete groups of 30 to 40 people were executed in various ways.

I said earlier: "It might be thought that our lot was good." The food in the camp was bad and scarce, and therefore the people who went outside could not resist the temptation to obtain some food from outside for themselves and the members of their family. And since for a considerable part of the people this was close to Cracow where they had friends, they used to buy things. The danger arose daily when they came back, for on their return they were searched at the gate. If food was found, it ended - in the best of circumstances - with whippings, between 25 and 100 lashes on the naked body.

Q. How many did you suffer?

A. I was flogged, not because of this, but for a different reason. I was whipped twenty-five times. A certain part of my body, which out of respect for Your Honour I shall not mention, was crushed, and for weeks I could not walk, but I had to go out to work, for there was no alternative.

Q. Who administered these beatings?

A. In my case Hauptscharfuehrer Druyewski, the man against whom I was also invited to give certain evidence a year ago.

Q. An SS man?

A. Yes, an SS man.

Q. Please continue.

A. A group that appeared with food in its possession - and I shall quote a concrete instance - that was a particular group of the Ablade-Kommando a unit that was in charge of the offloading of goods from the railway station - when this group returned and food was found in its possession, the camp commander came up (at that time it was Untersturmfuehrer Amon Goeth) and asked whose food it was. When no one answered, he took a gun from a guardsmen standing next to him and shot a young man whose name was Nachmansohn - his brother lives in Tel Aviv - he shot him.

On the same occasion he shot another man, Disler. And then someone had a brilliant idea and said that he had brought the food. Then everyone in the group received 100 lashes. It was a group of 20 men or more. One of the men is living today in Tel Aviv - his name is Mandel, who was wounded in the course of the shooting and remained lying there until the group was taken to the parade ground and there everyone received his "deserts." He himself had to count the blows and if he made an error in the counting, he had to go back to the beginning and start all over again. There was an instance with that group where one of the older men was beaten and cried out a great deal, and after that had to go the camp commandant and to inform him that he had received his punishment and he thanked him for it. When he turned around, he shot him and he, too, was killed.

Q. Was this an order that one had to go and express thanks?

A. Yes. Every one was obliged to go and do this, to say "I have received my punishment." There were cases of collective punishment, when someone escaped, for example. I can remember the case of a factory in Bonarku. This was a brick factory which before the War had belonged to a Jew, who is also in Israel today, and a group of people worked there. This group in its entirety - 49 men and one woman - were killed as they returned to the camp. This was still at the beginning of March - a man from one of those working parties which belonged to Strauch, but which were working at another place, escaped. He came from the town where my parents lived, and he escaped. This was the first time the new camp commandant, Amon Goeth, appeared.

Presiding Judge: What was his name?

Witness Beisky: Amon Goeth.

Attorney General: Amon Goeth, Your Honour, was tried before a Polish court and executed, in 1946. [To witness] Perhaps you would describe the living conditions in Plaszow?

Witness Beisky: There were various periods. In the first period there was a little more space. We lived in huts. There were bunks on three levels. In a regular hut there were, generally speaking, between 200 and 250 persons, according to the size of the hut. There was no mattress. But it is true that each one took with him some kind of blanket and that was spread out on the bunk. For those who went outside there was always the danger of being killed on their return, for someone would always smuggle in something on reaching the camp. Those who were inside were in a situation of working always on the run.

Q. What do you mean by "on the run?"

A. The "Vorarbeiter" (workers in charge) and SS men stood there and kept you running: "Run, do it on the double, hurry." And I will give you the example of the two engineers who owing to the fact that a hut was not erected quickly enough - it was the late Mrs. Reiter, an engineer from Cracow, and the engineer Ingber - were shot dead, and killed because of that fact. And there were also other methods of punishment - there was the punishment of standing.

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