The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 26
(Part 5 of 6)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Attorney General: You were arrested in the middle of November 1942?

Witness Kuper: At the end of November 1942.

Q. After you returned from a mission on behalf of the headquarters to the Rudnik Ghetto?

A. Not to the Rudnik Ghetto but to our central post. We had a central post, and I was sent there to stand guard, to reestablish the links with our boys.

Q. Who interrogated you at the time of the arrest?

A. The Gestapo men whose names I remember, they were notorious - Kunde and Koerner. There was another one but I am not sure of his name. But these two were well-known figures. And any appearance of theirs in the ghetto spelt catastrophe.

Q. Was the interrogation accompanied by blows and torture?

A. Yes. I was severely beaten, but I didn't lose consciousness - but I was severely beaten.

Q. When were you released from the prison?

A. I wasn't released from the prison. I was transferred to Auschwitz. I was there until the end of November, 1944; thereafter they transferred me to five or six other camps, and at each place, of course, for hard labour. In many of the places we also tried to commit sabotage, to undermine the work. I also want to point this out - even at Auschwitz there was an underground. At Auschwitz, too, we tried to disrupt matters and to interfere wherever we could. I point this out because the role of the revolt in the story of the Holocaust is a relatively small one, but the effort that was made by those who rebelled was above anything imaginable.

Presiding Judge: What work did you perform in Auschwitz?

Witness Kuper: The destruction of buildings. I worked in drainage operations. I stood in water up to my hips - I had to dig canals. Afterwards I was caught inside the camp for maintaining communications with our boys and for passing on information. I mentioned that we had an underground, and we had a conspiracy in Auschwitz.

And then I was transferred to the Strafkommando (penal detachment) inside Auschwitz. I had to wear a distinct garment with a red patch on the back. I was in prison inside the camp. We went out to do exceedingly difficult work. They woke us up at three o'clock in the morning. We stood until six in the frost, in rain, in snow. They brought us back at sunset, and sometimes even later, always with an escort of dogs. They set a dog upon anyone who fell. Food they did not give us, they gave us less than to the other prisoners. I was rescued from this abyss with the aid of friends in Auschwitz who smuggled me from Auschwitz into a transport going to Berchenbach.

Q. When you were in prison, did you get to know that your husband had fallen in underground operations?

A. Yes. Prisoners who had taken part in the "operation" of Christmas Eve, in December 1942, came to me. This was, in fact, one of the largest, not the first, but one of the largest operations for which they prepared for a long time, and for the execution of which we endeavoured to acquire arms, to manufacture bombs, to issue leaflets and calls to the public. And on the night of Christmas, on Christmas Eve, a group of our members approached the German cafe "Cyganeria," a cafe for Nazi officers, and threw a bomb into it which exploded and a score of Germans were killed and wounded.

Q. According to what you heard, there were exchanges of fire with the Germans, and the hiding place, in which Dolek was concealed, was discovered?

A. Before Dolek's hiding place was found, they discovered the hiding place of the members who took part in the "operation" and returned from it. And after all of them were captured, they also came to the hiding place of Dolek. This was the hiding place of the command post, where there were arms, money, a duplicating machine for printing leaflets, all kinds of other materials; there were also uniforms which we used. And when it was attacked there were two of our comrades, Dolek and Juda Tenebaum, inside. They were surrounded, and they resisted, and only after exchanges of fire in which Germans were also shot - the two committed suicide; they were neither killed nor captured, they committed suicide with their last bullets. But the underground did not cease. Some members still remained and they worked beyond the confines of Cracow.

The aim of the rescue movement was to erect bunkers, to set up hiding places, to operate in the forests and to give Jews an opportunity to hide. For it was hoped that the end of the War would come after all and at least it would be possible to save someone, the remnants, who would be able to tell the story of these terrible events.

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

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions to the witness.

Judge Raveh: In what year were you born?

Witness Kuper: In 1920.

Presiding Judge: Thank you very much, Mrs. Kuper, you have concluded your testimony.

Attorney General: I would ask to call the witness Batsheva Rufeisen.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your name?

Witness: Hela Batsheva Rufeisen.

Attorney General: You are a member of the settlement Bustan Hagalil?

Witness Rufeisen: Correct.

Q. On the outbreak of the Second World War, you were in Cracow until the ghetto was set up. You didn't enter the ghetto and acted as courier on behalf of the underground of the Zionist youth movements then operating in Cracow?

A. Correct.

Q. And you maintained liaison between Dolek Liebeskind in Cracow and the underground command in Warsaw?

A. Yes, I was the contact.

Q. What instructions did you obtain, from time to time, from the underground in Cracow?

A. I came to Cracow in the period after the deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto had begun. I went out on a mission for my movement in order to be in touch with the leadership then located in Cracow. In Warsaw the "action" was at its height. The Jews rushed from the small ghetto to the large ghetto without knowing where it would be possible still to remain alive a little longer. Our group at that time immediately lost its apartment owing to the fact that the side of the street with even numbers on Nalevki Street was cut off from the ghetto. Our people remained without a roof over their heads and with difficulty we found cover inside a cellar. Together with us there was also a totally paralysed girl whom we took out of a hospital, since the inmates of hospitals were the first to go to the "action." I was helpless, without a roof over the heads of our people and almost without food - the fighting force was then only in its infancy.

Q. To which places did you go as an emissary of the undergound?

A. On underground missions I travelled mainly from Warsaw to Cracow and from Cracow to Warsaw. In additon to this I also went to other places. I went to Rzeszow in order to rent an apartment there and to maintain it as a centre of refuge for people who operated in the forests in the neighbourhood.

Q. Did you go to Sanok?

A. I went to warn Sanok and to call the people to join the revolt.

Q. Did you also go to Lvov?

A. I went to Lvov as well in order to be in contact with the Jews in the ghetto and also to seek a rescue route, an outlet to Hungary.

Q. You conveyed arms and ammunition and documents, such as Aryan papers, labour certificates, and you delivered all these to Dolek Liebeskind and to Draenger?

A. I conveyed many documents and certificates to Warsaw and I didn't always succeed. Once they even caught me with these papers, but I managed to destroy them. I transferred the arms successfully.

Q. Did you transfer the explosives used to manufacture bombs for the attack on Cafe Cyganeria?

A. Yes, that is correct. I transferred them.

Q. Where were you when the underground struck at Cafe Cyganeria?

A. When the undergound struck at Cafe Cyganeria I was at Rzeszow, as I was waiting there for the boys who were in the forest. I was to wait for them there.

Q. And there you were told that the group had fallen?

A. The messanger came to me there and told me what had happened. He told me that Laban had been captured there, and they had found documents in his clothes containing his address.

Q. Laban was Avraham Leibovich?

A. Yes.

Q. This was the name mentioned by Yitzhak Zuckerman. By what name was Zuckerman known in the underground?

A. Antek.

Q. You continued your activities in communications until beginning of 1943 when you were arrested while leaving the Warsaw Ghetto?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. What happened to you?

A. At that time I had come to Warsaw in order to obtain money. Then Szymszon Draenger was captured in Cracow and Laban also, and we had information that with the aid of money we would be able to rescue them from prison. But we had no money. There was still a small band of people who had remained in the underground. I went to Warsaw and managed to secure this money. I tried to get out with a group of Jewish workers. When I reached the checkpoint, it turned out that the policeman was especially cruel and the whole group began to go back one by one, for each of us had something, a little money in order to buy food outside. And I remained there and was arrested by the policeman. He began making a thorough search and in my haversack on my back he found my identity certificate. Then an argument began as to whether I was a Jewess or a non-Jewess.

Q. Which policeman was this?

A. A German policeman Schutzpolizei. I had one address with me, that of Linka Dozhivrotzki; she was in Auschwitz at that time, and I was supposed to obtain help for her. At the last moment I managed to throw the address into the oven.

Presiding Judge: Where was the oven?

Witness Rufeisen: In the guard room, in a small hut, there was an ordinary oven, and I managed to throw away the piece of paper with the address into it. They subjected me to a thorough search by a policewoman. I asked her to take the large sum in my possession, for I didn't want it to fall into the hands of the Germans. She was afraid to do so, and then a young man came into the room whose task was simply to sweep the room. I forcibly put the money into his pocket and he went out. And then I was left alone, with the Germans doubting as to whether I was a Jewess or a non-Jewess.

Attorney General: Towards morning you escaped?

Witness Rufeisen: Towards morning I decided that I would have to escape. The ghetto was on the eve of the "action," and I was afraid that when my comrades learned that I had been arrested (for these were comrades who had come with me), I was afraid that they would do something in order to rescue me, and I didn't want that as a result the time of the "action" would be advanced. I decided that I had to escape, and at four o'clock in the morning I managed to run away, to penetrate into the ghetto. The place was very well illuminated by a large reflector. Four German and two Polish policemen pursued me and fired at me incessantly.

Q. You were wounded in your leg?

A. Yes, I was wounded in the leg, but I managed to get into the ghetto and once again return to my comrades.

Q. Did you participate in the operations of the revolt?

A. Yes.

Q. On 8 May 1943, together with an underground group you passed through the sewage canals and reached the Aryan side of Warsaw?

A. Yes.

Q. You remained hidden for some time and afterwards you were sent with a group of Jews of foreign nationality to Bergen- Belsen and you remained there until you were liberated by the American Army?

A. Yes.

Presiding Judge: How did you join this group of foreign nationals?

Witness Rufeisen: I simply had no strength. I was crushed. After I had seen the Warsaw Ghetto in flames, and not one of my dear ones remained, there was no longer anything to fight for. At any rate I was broken. There was also little hope that I would be taken into the forest. Although this was what I wanted...

Q. That was not my question. My question was: How was it that they attached you to this group of foreign nationals?

A. It was simple. I went there and they included me.

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

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you Mrs. Rufeisen, you have concluded your testimony.

Attorney General: These were our witnesses for today. With the Court's permission, I shall now submit a number of documents.

Presiding Judge: Please proceed.

Attorney General: I didn' want to interrupt the continuity of the evidence of the witnesses. Consequently I shall now submit a number of documents referring to the evidence of yesteday's witnesses and to part of today's evidence. The first document is No. 1113. This document is a complaint of the security police in the city of Przemysl against a German army officer to the effect that he prevented members of the police from making use of a bridge on the San river and thus sabotaged the deportation operation from the Przemysl Ghetto.

Presiding Judge: This will be T/260.

Attorney General: The following document in connection therewith is our No. 1114 - the police command passes on the complaint on the same subject to the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht - (high Command of the Armed Forces).

Presiding Judge: This will be T/261.

Attorney General: Would your Honour kindly note - the person referred to in this document is SS Obersturmbannfuehrer With, who was the SS liaison attached to the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. Here it says that it almost came to an exchange of shots between the Army and the Police, and it was only because of the caution on the part of the police in refraining from opening fire on the German army that there was no shooting. The affair enraged the Reich authorities to such an extent that Himmler notified Reichsleiter Martin Bormann that after the termination of the War he was going to bring that officer, Dr. Albert Battel, who had been responsible for this sabotage, before a party court and that he would demand his expulsion from the party.

Evidently while the War was on, even Himmler lacked the authority to harm an officer of the Wehrmacht, despite the fact that he helped Jews.

Presiding Judge: This will be T/262.

Attorney General: The next document is our No. 1531. These are the office bearers in the Generalgouvernement who were placed there by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt. I draw the Court's attention to the following names which will be of importance to us in connection with other documents. In "List A" SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Witiska Commander of the Security Police in Lvov, BdS of Lvov. In "List B" Birkner, Wolfgang, whose name we shall encounter in connection with the extermination of the Jews in Bialystok; Otto Burger who was a member of Eichmann's Department; Kraus, Johannes, whom we shall come across in Auschwitz; Leideritz, Peter, whom we shall meet in the Kolomyia Ghetto in connection with the extermination of Jews; Walter Liska, a member of Eichmann's Department; Otto Mohl whom we shall encounter as the man in charge of the incinerators at Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Presiding Judge: This will be T/263.

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