The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. Tell us about the operation of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), 1943.

A. On that day, obviously, it was no Festival day, I do not need to stress this. But some of the Jews used to pray at night, actually at night in the dark; and there were some who, on that day, were engaged in other night work and so remained in the huts during the day in order to sleep. On that Yom Kippur of 1943, it was apparently the personal operation of Untersturmfuehrer Joren. He selected fifty men from the huts. These were mainly not young people, older people. And that Yom Kippur was their final Day of Judgment.

Again, Your Honour, if I may be permitted, the prayer "U- Netanneh Tokef"* {*U-Netanneh Tokef - 1(Let us declare the mighty importance [of the holiness of the day), a Hebrew prayer recited on the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement. The prayer begins with an enumeration of the manifold fates which may be decreed for a man during the coming year.} was observed by us, not once a year, but every single day and the "Who will live and who will die" was with us every single day, there was no "Who in the fullness of time," but there was only "Who not in the fullness of time" - for only few reached the "Fullness of time," but with only one difference. The poet author of "U-Netanneh Tokef" most certainly could not have conjured up in his mind the strange deaths of the kind which the Nazis devised in this labour camp.

Q. Were there cases where SS men used to come up and shoot Jews at random?

A. These things occurred daily. There were instances - and this will point somewhat to the regime in the camp - after we no longer went outside the camp, I worked for a few months in road-making and it fell to our lot to pave a road from the old section of the camp to the new section of the camp where factories were being erected, factories the products of which were required by the army - shoes, clothing, things of this kind. We built the road from the old camp to the new camp, which was on a hill. We worked on that sector where the elegant home of the Commandant stood. And this was a daily occurrence, I do not have to describe it, that when people came to work in front of the Commandant's house, on their own initiative they dragged stones, something which was far beyond human capacity, in order that, Heaven forbid, it should not appear that they were doing too little. But it used to happen every day that the Commandant would shoot at the people from the window of his house, and if someone fell - he fell, and if someone was wounded - he was wounded.

Q. Do you remember an incident where Amon Goeth once found a piece of white bread in the drawer of one of the office workers?

A. This was in October 1943. Some scores of people worked in the camp office on various tasks. And one day bread was found in someone's possession, bread that was not from the camp (and it could easily be distinguished what bread was not from the camp and what was camp bread, for its quality was such that it was not hard to see the difference). He then conducted a search and found food supplies in the possession of others - butter and other items. Then, if I am not mistaken, ten people were taken out from amongst the camp workers. (At that time people were killed in larger groups, not in the place where they were living, but in a special place which had been set aside and which was higher than any other place in the camp, and there was a valley there so that these occurrences could not be observed there. I shall still have to say a few words about this valley).

The group was brought up to that spot which served as a place for shooting people. Of this group only one woman survived, Henrietta Neuhauser, who lives in Tel Aviv at 5 Smolenskin Street. She was taken out at the last minute - this was a case of a special kind - after all of them had already undressed and the shooting had already begun. At the very last moment she was rescued not from the grasp of death but actually from death itself. She is the mother of two children in Tel Aviv.

Q. What used to happen in the area in front of the kitchen?

A. There were two permanent sources of trouble. The people were hungry, because the food was meagre - at all events not adequate, and at that time not everyone was able to buy a little bread or to purchase what was purchased outside, and there were some who had acquaintances working in the kitchen. And then they would go at an early hour in the morning, for if the ration of bread which was distributed once or twice in the week had already been consumed, they could go in the earlier hours of the morning to obtain a little of the soup that had been prepared for lunch. And naturally he was then guilty of two things: firstly that he was not at his place of work, and secondly that he dared to come to the kitchen. This was always a place of disaster.

Q. What did they do to the people?

A. Generally speaking, they used to shoot them.

Q. Do you recall the deportation of people from the camp to other places?

A. This began already in 1943. The camp was not static. People used to arrive at the camp from ghettos that had been liquidated. I can remember Tarnow, Bochnia, Nowy Sacz, and after that other camps - Shevnia and others.

Q. Did Jews from other countries also pass through Plaszow?

A. Yes. this was already in 1944. People were brought from Hungary. That was the most wretched transport that I ever saw. This was in the middle of 1944.

Q. Would you give us a brief description of the deportation from the camp?

A. I shall describe the deportation in which I participated. The deportation was on 15 October 1944. This was already after we had heard that the Russian front was advancing and that the liquidation of the camp had begun. But the deportation of the camp had begun before this. They sent people to all kinds of labour camps, such as Czestochowa, Gzesinska. I will not mention them all. But from time to time they used to send them to other labour camps. And in their stead people came from other ghettos and other liquidated camps. But beginning from the middle of 1944 deportations started, and it seemed to me that no newcomers would come in their stead any more. Perhaps it would be better to describe the case of the health parade.

Q. Yes, the health parade, if you please.

A. The health parade was on 7 May 1944. All the camp residents were taken outside.

Q. How many were there?

A. I presume, again I cannot speak in absolute numbers nor can I place reliability on the numbers.

Q. But approximately?

A. I presume there were approximately twenty thousand. The number in the camp at that time ranged between 18,000, 20,000 and 25,000.

Q. Were you lined up in front of the huts?

A. Not in front of the huts but on the parade ground. There was a parade ground on which all assembled twice daily, but this was a special operation.

Q. Were you lined up in your clothes?

A. At first in our clothes, but we were all ordered to undress - to be as naked as on the day we were born. The occupants of hut after hut passed in front of a table at which there sat someone who was called a doctor, Dr. Blanke, with the rank of Hauptsturmfuehrer of the SS. Incidentally, as I subsequently learned, both Goeth and Blanke had come to Plaszow from Lublin. It took seconds. Everyone was ordered to go to the right or to the left.

Q. Who gave orders to go to the left?

A. Again I cannot say for certain as to who had to go to the left and who to the right, but people went to one side or the other. The official explanation was that the separation was being made for the better organization of the work, that people able to work better were going to the one side, to more difficult work assignments, and people capable of light work were going to easier tasks.

Q. Were there also children?

A. At that time there were about 280 children in the camp. If I have to talk about the speed of the operation that was carried out on that day, 7 May, perhaps I shall describe it and this will provide the best example. I think that in the early hours of the afternoon this selection to the left and the right, when the entire camp stood naked, the men on the lower section of the ground and the women on the upper section of the ground. They were segregated, separated in the camp and they also stood there. I shall mention a little about the work of the women, if there is some interest in this.

Q. The question is whether we have the strength to listen - there is certainly interest. Would you please continue with your description.

A. Again they filed past, hut by hut and they assigned the people to one side or the other. We were ordered to get dressed. And then there was happiness and rejoicing in the camp - a parade like this had passed and nothing had happened. The sequel wasn't long in coming. Seven days later, exactly, on 14 May 1944, we were again lined up on the same ground. This time we were no longer told to undress. But they removed all those men who - this was already exceedingly clear - had been sorted out to go in one direction.

Q. Where were they removed to?

A. They were taken out in a particular direction. This was a picture of a special kind. On the same day there were brought into the area of the camp a number, at least three times as many SS men, and in addition to the surrounding barbwire fence, in addition to the machine guns on the observation towers, the parade ground was crammed full with SS men with machine guns.

When we saw these people standing there, and a train came along the railway lines which had been installed up to the gate of the camp, then everything became clear.

Q. Were there loudspeakers in the area of the camp?

A. Yes.

Q. What was said over the loudspeakers?

A. I am coming to that right away. At the time, when the persons who had been taken out a week previously to the one side were brought up, all the children of the camp, without exception, were taken to the other road which led down from the camp to the factories, and at that very moment a noise started up on the ground, and it was already becoming clear that the children were also going down towards the train. And that was the moment when the noise began in the camp. The mothers began shouting and screaming. This picture cannot be described any further, for everyone who knew he had a child in the camp knew that this was the time - there it would end. Of course, at that moment the machine guns were camouflaged, but they were being cocked and everyone heard the cocking of the machine guns. And then two lullabies were heard over the loudspeakers.

Your Honours, in 1947 I wrote an article in one of the papers connected with a particular Association, which was afterwards published and copied, about this perfidy of removing children while they were accompanied by lullabies in the course of being taken down into the camp.

And here, perhaps, I should refer to an incident which is indescribable. There was one boy on his own, aged 12 or 13, who, in a way that people are not aware of - his name was Yishai Schapiro - in a way that was hardly feasible - managed not to be discovered. I do not say that he managed to escape, for I cannot imagine to myself that it was possible to escape, but he succeeded in not being on the parade ground on 14 May, when the transport departed. And, of course, there were searches in the residential huts, in case people had hidden themselves in the upper bunks. And this boy, with his childish instinct, knew that there would be searches, and he evidently understood that the only place where he could hide would be the very large public latrine which was an important place in each camp. They found the boy and he related afterwards how he had jumped into the pit of excrement and remained there until that evening, when they took him out of there; it is difficult for me to say whether it was by chance or his instinct which saved him until after the War. I shall never know this.

Q. In the middle of October 1944 you were moved together with approximately 1,200 other persons to the camp of Gross- Rosen in Germany. Is that correct?

A. Correct.

Presiding Judge: In what part of Germany is Gross-Rosen?

Witness Beisky: In Lower Saxony.

Attorney General: You travelled for three days?

Witness Beisky: We left in a transport of which at first it was said that it was supposed to go to some ammunition factory. And again, it appeared that such was the case, that the transport would be taken there because they had put into it experts such as engineers, mechanical engineers and technical draughtsmen. I myself, at that time, was a technical draughtsman.

Q. You were transported like cattle?

A. They put us into cattle trucks. I suppose that in each waggon there were certainly 120-130 people. We were closely packed, which didn't allow all of us to sit down on the floor at the same time - only at intervals. We received food provisions for the road, packed for one day. The camp provisions for one day were not adequate provisions for one day. If my memory doesn't fail me, we travelled for three days or about two and a half days, since we halted frequently en route. The distance from Cracow to Silesia is not all that far. We stopped at stations. It was already, evidently, the time of the retreat, and the railway stations were crowded. This is my assumption. At any rate, we stopped many times at different stations.

Q. We shall pass over the Gross-Rosen episode.

A. Perhaps at this point, if the Attorney General will allow me, there is one incident worthwhile recalling. When we reached the Camp at Gross-Rosen, this was in the early evening hours and with everything that had been said to us at the beginning that we were travelling to an arms factory, but when we were sent there, we saw something that did not exist in our camp. This was the smoke from the furnaces. And then it was already clear to us that here were the crematoria.

Faith always remains, but round about dusk - this was on 17 or 18 October - and at that season in Silesia it was already cold - we were all ordered to undress, again naked as the day we were born, we were taken into a place covered with canvas, and we stood, 1,100 or 1,200 people - again I don't remember the exact number - who were in that transport, throughout the night from seven in the evening. I was given back my clothes at noon the following day. But when I say that I received my clothes, I didn't do so in order to say that I covered my body. This was the first sign that in fact we were not going to the crematoria. For when you stood naked the whole night, the first sign that we might possibly be going to a labour camp, as they called it, was the return of the clothes. We spent several days in that camp. This camp, from my point of view, seemed to me to be very much worse than anything that there was at Plaszow. It is simply beyond description.

Q. In order to sum up, may we say that in Plaszow the life of each and every Jew was at the mercy of each and every SS man?

Presiding Judge: This follows, Mr. Hausner, from the accounts that we have heard.

Attorney General: Was this, in your opinion, a labour camp?

Witness Beisky: I don't know what the significance of a labour camp is. A labour camp is a different concept. For us it was an extermination camp. If anyone remained alive, that was only because he worked on hard labour. If we use the expression "labour," its meaning was that everyone was compelled to work on hard labour - for now, it seemed that possibly by means of our labour, we would save our lives.

Q. Perhaps you would tell us something about the work of women?

A. Perhaps I would quote the classic example; when I previously mentioned the dragging of building materials, women, of course, were also not exempted from carrying parts of huts. Thus it happened at times that hour after hour, thousands of women would be going to and fro, bearing parts of huts on their backs.

But I would mention another unit, where only women worked. There was a quarry inside the camp. And in the quarry there were three categories of work. One category was of experts who blasted the rocks, and they used to drill holes for the explosives in order to blow up the rocks. These were the experts for whom this was - well, let's call it - normal work. But in the same quarry there was a penal unit and this was one of the forms of punishment.

The unit upon which any kind of punishment was imposed, such as punishment for committing the crime of bringing a little food, or for not performing some kind of work exactly in time, or merely arbitrarily - was placed in the quarry. And in fact, if we are talking about it, work at the quarry in the penal squad meant almost certain death. For there were very few who came out alive after penal work of some hours.

And now let me refer to the women. There was a third category of work in the camp which was performed solely by women, and this was the task of dragging stones from the quarry which was below that new area being prepared for building a road. And they used to load 8-10 waggons on the short railway tracks. At the end of the train there were long ropes and along the ropes on both sides,women of the camp, both Jewish and Polish, were harnessed. And in this way they would walk up a fairly steep road from the quarry below, for a distance of 2.5 kilometres, up the hill, under all weather conditions, for 12 hours.

And the most horrible thing was that the women were dressed like all of us, with wooden shoes which used to slip in the snow and mud. And in this way one could visualize the picture which I am unable to describe - and do not know whether others would be able to describe it - how the women walked for a whole night, stumbling and pulling these waggons.

Q. What was this operation called in the camp?

A. Operation "Rock Train."

Q. Where were you transferred to from Gross-Rosen?

A. To Brinlitz in Czechoslovakia.

Q. And you were liberated by the Soviet Army?

A. Until midnight the SS were in the Brinlitz camp.

Q. When were you liberated?

A. On 9.5.45.

Q. Did you have high-ranking Nazi visitors at Plaszow?

A. These were days of judgment, for high-ranking men used to arrive very frequently.

Q. Who came?

A. Of the names I am able to recall, there was the Governor General of Poland whose headquarters was in Cracow - he was Frank. There was Krueger, Obersturmbannfuehrer Scharner, who was the SS and Police Leader in Cracow. They used to visit us often. Then we knew that the whole camp was put on the alert, and in preparation, night operations and cleaning operations were carried out.

Q. Were there also officers from Germany, from Berlin?

A. I don't know. I cannot say whether one came from Berlin or another from some other place.

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

Dr. Servatius: No questions.

Judge Halevi: Who was the Jew who reached Palestine? You said that someone from the camp arrived in Palestine at the beginning of 1944.

Witness Beisky: No, Your Honour, if I may be permitted to correct something which I perhaps did not express accurately, it was a girl who was not from our camp, whose name was Frederika Gozik and whose name today is Frederika Maze, the wife of the principal of a school in Rehovot. She lived all the time with Aryan papers. She was a member of the group with which I was in touch, of Hanoar Hazioni. She managed to cross over and to reach Palestine at the beginning of 1944. I met her subsequently at a kibbutz, for from the time I arrived in the country, we were both members of the same kibbutz.

Q. Did she submit a report?

A. As far as I know she lectured frequently. She delivered a report on what was known at the time. She had met me in 1943 and at that time the position, even with us, was not yet clear in this way. At any rate, as far as I know, of the group with which I was connected, she was the only one who reached Palestine fairly early. Incidentally, she has written a book on that period, a book which is about to be published by Yad Vashem.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Judge Beisky, you have concluded your testimony.

Attorney General: I would request a ruling from the Court in regard to this afternoon's session. Such testimonies, if I may be permitted to say so, require no small emotional effort on the part of all of us. To my regret such are the testimonies awaiting us in the coming days. I simply hesitate to call, again this afternoon, the next witness who will have to describe that same awesome picture of Eastern Poland. Perhaps the Court will allow me to request a shorter sitting this afternoon, in which we shall merely submit a number of documents, relating to this stage of the extermination.

Presiding Judge: How much time do you require for the submission of these documents?

Attorney General: Not more than an hour.

Presiding Judge: I suggest that the afternoon Session commence exceptionally, at 16.00 hours, instead of 15.30.

You will submit your documents and after that we shall still have an hour to hear another witness.

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