The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 25
(Part 5 of 8)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Attorney General: I call Yitzhak Zuckerman, the witness wishes to make an affirmation, Your Honour.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness Zuckerman: Yitzhak Zuckerman.

Q. Please answer Mr. Hausner.

Attorney General: Do you live at Kibbutz Lohamei Ha-Gettaot?

Witness Zuckerman: Yes, Sir.

Q. You are the husband of Zivia Lubetkin?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. When the Second World War broke out, you were in Poland. In 1940 you came to Warsaw. In 1941, on the last day of Passover, you were taken to a labour camp?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Describe to us what happened in that labour camp.

A. It was on the last day of Passover 1941, in the evening. Together with a group of other people who were members of a collective at Dzielna 34, I was taken to the office of the "Arbeitsamt," and towards morning, at dawn, we were transported - a community of several hundred Jews, a weakened community, amongst them a Hebrew teacher, people who had not had enough to eat for a long time - we were transported through the streets of Warsaw to the railway station in closed waggons to a place which, as it subsequently transpired, was the camp of Kampinos.

This was a camp which they called a labour camp, on the plains of Kampinos. There was yellow sand there, and huts that had just been erected. When we arrived, there was apparently one group that had arrived before us, consisting also of several hundred Jews. We had to work on regulating rivers. At that place there was a tributary of a river - its name certainly does not appear on the map - and also on the draining of swamps. Since we were taken as we were, so we used to work, almost up to our necks in the water, ten hours, twelve hours.

Afterwards we were brought back and had to sleep in the same clothes. It was spring, cold, very cold. The same thing happened next morning, the food was meagre - a beverage that they called coffee, 15 or 20 deka of bread, and I need hardly add that, after two years of life in the Warsaw Ghetto, these Jews who had come to work, populated the cemetery of Kampinos already in the first weeks - they died.

Q. How many?

A. I think up to ten people died daily, together with those who were shot because they were suspected of being about to escape. I myself had become accustomed over a long period always to watch what was the condition of my cheeks. Death from starvation was a form of death which I encountered there for the first time, where people were talking amongst themselves and suddenly one of them, without any warning, would die. And I was thinking all the time how I was going to die. But I was younger, possibly also stronger, and I did not die of starvation.

Presiding Judge: How old are you today, Mr. Zuckerman?

Witness Zuckerman: I shall soon be forty-six. I merely wanted to state that this was a labour camp...

Attorney General: Who controlled and who was in charge of that labour camp?

Witness Zuckerman: Those whom we used to meet day by day, namely the leadership of the camp - this was the "Lagerschutz" (Camp Protection Unit) - this was a great variety of people speaking a medley of tongues, Ukrainian, German; from this I gathered, since in those days they went around in civilian clothes, that they were Volksdeutsche. We also heard Polish. But I do not know whether they were Poles or Ukrainians or others. On days of visits to the camp, Gestapo men would come.

Q. Will you tell the Court - and I presume that, in the light of your experience of the German occupation, which we still have to discuss, you had contacts with various German formations - tell us what uniforms the SS men wore?

A. I would only want to say one word, first of all; I do not believe that I had the opportunity of meeting more German formations than any other Jew. At no time was such a meeting pleasant.

Q. For whom - for you or the Germans?

A. For the Jews. But from day by day observation I recall the Gestapo in their black uniforms, I recall the "Schupo," men with their slightly dark green uniforms, with their brown collars. I recall the men of the SD - they had "SD" written on their sleeves, I recall the SS, and I believe, also the men of the Waffen-SS (Armed SS) with their badge on the collar and on the cap.

Q. How did you get out of the camp? Please tell us.

A. I would merely like to say that already in the first days (I shall to the best of my ability be brief on this subject, but this is a personal matter) - in those early days my comrades in the underground sent a woman messenger to me. I had become friendly at work with a commandant who was Polish, and evidently he favoured me. On one of those days he came into the camp and told me that a Polish girl had arrived. I asked him what she looked like and I understood who this Polish girl was. She was one of our girls, Lonka Pozhivieska, one of our best liaisons. She herself had been one of the Pruszkow deportees who had arrived in Warsaw. I was very happy about it - I waited all day.

This was the first day and I was not called. Towards evening I approached one of the men of the Lagerschutz saying that I had heard that someone had brought me regards. This was the first time that I was in a labour camp. They told me that, if necessary, they would call me. But they did not call me. In the middle of the night I was taken down from the place where I was sleeping. It was on the third level - a wooden bunk - and I was in my wet clothes; I was summoned to the headquarters of the Lagerschutz.

There I was taken away for interrogation. There is not much I can tell - I got a bad beating, they cracked my head open, they beat me on my hands and my face - they accused me. Firstly they wanted to know whether she was a Jewess or not. Since I knew that she did not have the badge, that she had come without it, I argued all the time that she was a non-Jewess; we had studied together at school and obviously she had got to know about this and had come. Afterwards they accused me of "Rassenschande" (Race Defilement), because she was not Jewish. They said they were going to execute me.

Q. Because you had relations with her?

A. Yes.

Q. You were violating the race?

A. Yes, although she was Polish. They did not execute me - they put me into a pit full of water. I did not remember much of that night. I felt hot and cold.

Towards morning I was taken out in front of the whole camp, and the camp commandant announced roughly in the following words: "This man knows when he was born, but he does not know when he will die." And he promised that for three days and three nights my body would be suspended from the gallows. I stood there and waited for death. But I was taken back to the pit. It was a bitter experience. I wanted to put an end to it all and I began knocking, and demanded that they should execute me.

Presiding Judge: From whom did you demand this?

Witness Zuckerman: From the guard of the Lagerschutz who guarded my prison. I do not know what happened; when they removed me at night, I heard that a commander of the Schutzlager - and there were officers there from various authorities - said "szoda chliopzaka" - "Pity this boy." I do not know why I was privileged.

Subsequently I found another explanation for myself why they did not execute me. And they did not execute me. When I returned to Warsaw four weeks later, I guessed what the reason was. This girl, Lonka Pozhivieska, was not in their hands. They did not capture her. She escaped. They were convinced that I, evidently, had contacts with the Polish underground - if one of them had come to rescue me. And since they left traces, they were unable to kill me, since there would probably be an avenging hand.

I returned due to something which was not pleasant and not nice - thanks to bribery, payment of money. The men of the Schutzlager took me to a nearby telephone. I got in touch with Warsaw and inquired whether there was sufficient money to redeem me and my companion. And they transferred the money and I was sent back.

Presiding Judge: Who paid the money?

Witness Zuckeman: Members of the headquarters of Hehalutz.

Attorney General: You returned to Warsaw. On the way to the train did they warn you that if anyone lagged behind he would be shot?

Witness Zuckerman: Yes.

Q. Who was the one who cautioned you?

A. I would like to say that, some days earlier a medical commission had arrived, and its doctor was a Gestapo man. All the camp people - those dwelling in the camp - were lined up in a row. Anyone who complained of an illness had to appear before the commission. Our group did not appear. There was no sense in it. We had nothing to say to them. But I saw how the doctor - this Gestapo man - examined them. There were kicks. I am not sure that there were people there who died from the kicks at this medical examination. But, nevertheless, a group of 100 people was taken back to Warsaw, those who, in fact, were of no use to them, who did not earn their keep.

At dawn the officer appeared in the camp, remembered me and said: "On your responsibility, those who break ranks and who do not have the strength to reach the railway station - a walk of seven kilometres - will be killed on the spot." I took this responsibility upon myself. I organized the younger ones, and we dragged them along. But many died, and not because we left them behind; several tens of people died this frightful death from starvation.

Suddenly, when we were close to the railway, almost on the point of rescue, these people lay down, uttered one or two more words, and they were no longer alive. They took them, recorded their numbers and their names on their arms, and loaded them onto a cart, and sent them back to the cemetery of Kampinos.

Q. You returned to Warsaw?

A. Yes.

Q. You went back to work in the Jewish underground, where you had previously started?

A. Yes.

Q. And then you decided on an operation of sending people across the borders of the Generalgouvernement?

A. This was after the German invasion into Russian territory.

Q. You set up stations for concentrating your people in Cracow, Tarnow and Nowy Sacz and you looked for a route to Palestine?

A. That was earlier. If we are talking of our contacts and of the attempts made by the Jewish underground, this started at the end of 1940. The Jews had certain hopes, faint hopes - until the middle of 1940 - that there were possibilities for the Jews to get out of the confines of the German occupation, to cross into Italy and then to Palestine. This ceased. In those days we did not really believe that, even if there would have been an opportunity for Jews to get out, we would have been amongst those departing; we were younger, and there were among us older and more respected people than we were, and it was due to them.

We thought about establishing illegal routes to Palestine. But we did not want to open the frontiers as long as we were not in touch with emissaries from Palestine in neutral countries not yet been occupied by the Germans. After we received information that they were aware of this, and they would see to it, we opened up ways to Slovakia. We had three main stations in the Generalgouvernement, in Cracow, Tarnow and Nowy Sacz, and it was there were we concentrated the young people of the Halutz movements, both from the Generalgouvernement and from the areas which had been annexed to the Reich, from Zaglebie. On the Slovakian side we opened the border at Berdichev. And after the first emissary Shlomo Tzigelnic succeeded and gave us the signal, we began transferring people there.

Q. Did you, at that time, also seek ways to neutral countries, to Geneva?

A. Yes.

Q. And to other places?

A. Yes.

Q. And also to Turkey?

A. With the Rescue Committee in Turkey and also with other countries in Europe. I think there was an emissary in one of the Balkan countries.

Q. This matter is of some importance because we shall submit documents of the underground which were seized by the Gestapo.

A. Some people managed to reach Palestine. Some were caught and returned with the deportees from Slovakia to Poland, and were murdered on Polish soil.

Q. You went around inside Poland from place to place with Aryan papers?

A. Often.

Q. What was the situation you saw in each of the places you came to?

A. On many occasions I went out on big missions. But once I spent a month travelling throughout the Generalgouvernement, in large cities and small towns.

A. Did you have forged Aryan papers?

A. My papers at that time were very dubious. There was a house in Warsaw that had been destroyed - we knew that it was destroyed - and by a miracle we had a rubber stamp in our possession. I had a piece of paper with my picture on one side, and on the other a certificate that my name was Antoni Vichinski. Afterwards, when it was impossible to use these papers, I was obliged to use other names and other documents.

Q. Your nickname in the underground was Antek?

A. That was my internal nickname, but not as far as the Poles or the Germans were concerned. For them I had other names.

Q. What did you see from time to time?

A. I travelled through Lublin and Zamosc, the town of Yitzhak Leib Peretz, and Hrubieszow and Kielce. It seems to me that on one of the journeys I went through close to twenty towns and encountered the wretched conditions of the Jews.

Q. What did you see at each place?

A. First of all, it depended on the attitude of the local authorities. I had the impression that in addition to the basic orders in regard to the general approach to the Jews, the state of affairs also depended on the local authorities.

There were places for example, like Lublin, in the ancient historic Ghetto of Lublin, with a large number of Jews in terrible fear, there the situation was far more grave than it was in Hrublieszow, which was a smaller town and in which the Jews managed to maintain business connections, and perhaps other connections, with the Poles. Therefore I say that the state of affairs depended much more on the situation in each place, although in every place, even where the conditions were best of all - it was very bad.

Q. What was the general picture?

A. Degradation, depression, helplessness. From the economic point of view, it was often easier than in Warsaw, for the townships were smaller, and they were nearer to the village. Sometimes the supervision was less effective than it was in Warsaw.

Q. Was it easier there to obtain food?

A. Yes - it was easier to obtain food. But all these settlements were organisms, each of which had its own separate existence. It was not a Jewish national organism which had contacts, normally, between Warsaw and the small towns, the small settlements. Each one lived its separate existence, each settlement, until it came to an end, went singly and isolated to its death.

Q. Did you try to establish contacts?

A. This was our function, my duty and that of the girls who maintained communication.

Q. And this was the function of the underground of which you were one of the leaders?

A. Yes. I was one of its members.

A. And it embraced all the Jewish national youth movements?

A. Almost without exception at a certain period, until death came and annihilated complete groups. There was no selection - it was a silent selection by fate. There were groups that suddenly disappeared. In Warsaw there were probably some not very large movements which suddenly vanished in the middle of 1942. Possibly they were amongst the first deportees. But in that period, when it still was relatively possible to do something, practically all the movements, Halutzic and others, and also the political parties, of all the political varieties, almost without exception, performed their tasks faithfully.

Q. All the Zionist movements?

A. All the Zionist movements and also the non-Zionist ones, including the "Bund."

Q. We have already heard from Zivia about Heniek and about the first tidings that reached the underground about the extermination. I shall pass over this part of your account. I understand that it was then that you began to organize the Jewish fighting force - is that correct?

A. Yes.

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