The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 27
(Part 3 of 10)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. That is to say - they worked there as Poles?

A. As Poles, in the vicinity of Vienna and Dresden.

Q. In August 1942 the Jews were again ordered to have their papers stamped. Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Who assembled the Jews?

A. By order of the Germans, all the Jews in every district had to report, each one in his own town, at a place marked "place 1."

Q. And you reported?

A. In Sosnowiec there were then about 25,000 people and they were all ordered to assemble on a sports field. We, the youth, felt that this was a trap. We knew that once we were in their hands, they would do what they liked with us. And what they wanted to do, this we had already seen and understood. At that time news had already reached us of what was happening in Auschwitz, through someone who succeeded in escaping from there and who died in our town.

Q. So what happened - did the Jews in the district report?

A. The Jews reported - all of them.

Q. Who surrounded them?

A. The Germans surrounded them.

Q. Which unit?

A. I cannot say exactly what unit it was.

Q. Do you remember who was there - any German officer?

A. Yes. Dreier was with us.

Q. Which unit did he belong to?

A. He was the commissar for Jewish affairs in the Gestapo of Katowice, and he stood there with his stick which was inseparable from him, and was selecting people into those who would live and those who would die, to life and death, as he wished. He split up families, sending children to one place, and their parents - if they seemed to him still to be capable of work - to another place. And there were many who went, knowingly, to their deaths, because they did not want to part from their children. And young people went along who wanted to support their parents in their last moments.

Q. This selection began in the afternoon, I understand.

A. Yes.

Q. When did it end?

A. The selection began in the afternoon and ended in a downpour of rain in the late hours of the night. The Germans did not want to get wet despite the fact that they had raincoats. We did not have any.

Q. To what place were those people who were fit for work transferred?

A. The people who remained, all those who didn't manage to pass the selection and all those amongst them who were chosen as being destined for transportation, for the Umsiedlung (resettlement), as they called it - all these people were collected together in Sosnowiec in four large buildings. There were thousands of people there. I worked in one of the buildings as a nurse. It was impossible to pass from room to room, from place to place, without treading on people. There was no air, for the Germans didn't allow them to open the windows, since the shouts were likely to reach the street, and they did this quietly.

Q. What happened to those who were incapable of working?

A. All these were sent away later. All those who remained, there were then about 6,000 people from Sosnowiec and a similar number from Bedzin - all of them were sent to Auschwitz.

Q. At the end of September 1942 you were sent by the underground to the environs of Auschwitz in order to try and establish links with the underground - is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. You weren't successful?

A. No.

Q. You went back to Sosnowiec?

A. Yes.

Presiding Judge: Did you have papers of an Aryan woman?

Witness Masia: Yes. I lived as a Jewess, but when I left the ghetto, I had the papers of an Aryan. We had many - we used to prepare them.

Attorney General: In 1943 you escaped to Slovakia and in this way you were saved afterwards through a long series of wanderings?

Witness Masia: Yes.

Q. You said there were thirty thousand Jews in Sosnowiec. In your opinion how many remained alive after the War?

A. I think that if we were to say two hundred, that number would not be an exaggeration, if included in this number we were also to count people who were saved by the transports to Germany as Poles, and in other ways.

Q. Tell us about one final episode. Who was Harry Blumenfrucht?

A. Harry Blumenfrucht was a member of the Zionist youth movement. When we were making efforts to obtain arms - for with us the situation was of a special nature, we were in the district of Silesia, where when the Germans entered most of the Poles declared that they were Volksdeutsche,and there was no Polish underground in existence at all - and in order to obtain the arms one had to cross the border, and apart from the normal risk involved in this, one had to undergo the risk of a border check. However, even there it was impossible to purchase or to obtain arms easily. One could obtain a revolver with four bullets for a lot of money. It was impossible to examine whether the revolver was in working order. At the last moment when the revolver had to be put to use and to be fired, it emerged that we had been cheated and that the revolver did not work at all. We saw, therefore, that it was necessary to look for arms locally, too. Harry worked at his place of employment, in a plant where, according to his information, the owner of the factory possessed revolvers.

Presiding Judge: Was the owner of the plant a German?

Witness Masia: Yes. He came with a suggestion, since the German was not at home, to enter his apartment and steal the revolvers. The suggestion was approved and three people went out - a girl and two boys, one of whom has survived - and they succeeded in entering the apartment, and removed a revolver from the drawer of the night table. There were also both money and a gold watch. These things they did not touch. They managed to return safely. The following morning we read an announcement in the newspaper that Polish partisans had burst into the German's apartment and had taken weapons. It was obvious that a thief would not take only weapons. After this operation had succeeded, we thought that possibly this method was the easiest of all. And one of the boys who is today a lieutenant colonel in the Israel Defence Forces, came to us and said that the German with whom he worked was a hunting enthusiast, and he had a complete store of guns.

Then a group of five people was organized - this boy who initiated it, Harry, who had taken part in the previous action, and three others. They had to remove the arms from the apartment of the second German. In the German's home there were two women. One of them succeeded in making her escape and alerting the neighbours, and our boys fled without having taken a thing. In the course of their flight, after moving around a great deal, Harry Blumenfrucht was captured in the streets with the revolver he had stolen in the first operation in his pocket. He tried to shoot the German who attacked him. But this German was well-known in the area. They called him a "Hund mit Hund" for he always went around with a big dog. The dog jumped on Harry and seized his hand and he was unable to fire. Meanwhile help reached this German, and they took hold of Harry and arrested him. Harry was tortured in a horrible way.

News reached us from people who worked in the prison, for there were Jews who worked in the prison on various jobs. News reached us from Germans. That same German from whom the first revolver was stolen, was called to identify the revolver and to check whether he knew Harry. He came back astounded. He said: "This is superhuman heroism. This is not an ordinary man. This is a lad under whose fingernails they inserted pieces of wood which they set alight." They made him stand behind iron netting, on the other side of which was bread and water, and they questioned him for 48 hours on end and he shouted: "I will not tell you anything. I am a dead man anyhow." The Germans arrested his mother and brought her to him, and she pleaded with him "Harry, for the sake of cutting short your tortures whatever happens, you are not going to come out alive confess to something." Harry did not admit anything. He said to his mother as well: "I am a dead man anyhow. I will not say anything."

And the Germans held him, I think, for two weeks. They had a great admiration for this lad. They did not understand what this was. Generally they hanged people publicly and insisted that the Jews should come to watch this spectacle. But they hanged Harry at dawn, during the curfew, for they were afraid, for they had witnessed in him something superhuman.

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

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.

Judge Raveh: How old were you when the War broke out?

Witness Masia: I was 17 years old.

Judge Halevi: You said that the Poles in your district declared that they were Volksdeutsche?

Witness Masia: Many of the Poles declared that they were Volksdeutsche. They were close to the border, and this was near Silesia, but the majority were not Volksdeutsche - they had no connection with Germany, and did not even know one word of German. But it was easier to be a Volksdeutscher. Food rations were larger, their conditions were better, they were able to receive part of the plundered property.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mrs. Masia, you have completed your evidence.

Attorney General: I call Dr. Dworzecki.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Meir Mark Dworzecki.

Presiding Judge: Doctor?

Witness Dworzecki: Yes.

Attorney General: Are you a medical doctor by profession?

Witness Dworzecki: Yes.

Q. You work at Kupat Holim in Tel Aviv?

A. Yes.

Q. What is your address?

A. 89 Rehov Dizengoff, Tel Aviv.

Q. Do you also engage in research and lecture on the Holocaust?

A. Yes, at Bar-Ilan University, on the history of the Holocaust.

Q. In this trial I would ask you to describe what you experienced, what you saw with your own eyes and heard with your own ears, and not what became known to you as a result of your research. At the time of the War you were in Vilna?

A. Yes.

Q. And after the end of the War you wrote a book on your experiences entitled The Jerusalem of Lithuania in the Revolt and in the Holocaust. Is this the book?

A. This is it.

Attorney General: I apply to submit this book.

Presiding Judge: This book will be marked as exhibit T/275.

Attorney General: In 1939 you fought in the Polish army?

Witness Dworzecki: Yes, in the War against Germany.

Q. You were taken prisoner, escaped from the prison camp and came to Vilna?

A. Correct.

Q. When War broke out between Germany and Soviet Russia in June 1941, you were there?

A. Yes.

Q. What were the first days of the occupation like?

A. The Germans occupied Vilna on 24 June 1941. They entered the ghetto on 6 September. During these two and a half months, about 40,000 Jews disappeared from Jewish Vilna. It began with kidnappings. Already on the third day of the occupation of Vilna kidnapping began in the streets of the city. People, individuals, groups were caught and disappeared. Occasionally one used to see them being transported in a particular direction beyond Vilna, in the direction of the forest of Ponar. Afterwards they surrounded a house or a street, and the Jews would vanish from the house or the street, from a suburb of the city like Zarzecze.

Q. What did the Germans say - where were they taking the Jews?

A. The Germans said they were taking the Jews to the labour camp of Ponar. But the Poles were saying that they heard shots at Ponar. Ponar is a beautiful forest beyond Vilna. We, the Halutzic youth used to gather at Ponar for Lag baOmer* {*A Jewish holiday which youngsters celebrate by lighting bonfires in open fields.} celebrations. It was impossible to imagine at first that this lovely forest, the forest for Lag ba-Omer outings, would be turned into a forest for the extermination of Vilna Jewry.

Q. You did not believe it?

A. At first we did not believe it.

Attorney General: Do you recollect the incident when a woman with wild hair and barefooted appeared on the streets of Vilna?

A. I remember that day, it was 3 September 1941, three days after a strange "action" in Vilna which was called "the action of provocation."

Q. We shall come to that. Tell us about this woman, about Sonia.

A. I was, at that time, a doctor in Vilna, I lived near the square of Novigored Street. One morning I saw in the street, a woman with dishevelled hair, barefoot, walking with flowers in her hands and giving the impression of a woman who had gone out of her mind. The woman came into my room and said to me: "I have come from Ponar." I asked: "Have you come from the labour camp at Ponar?" She said: "No, it is not a labour camp. They are killing the Jews there." She described how, on the night of 31 August 1941, she was brought there together with her two children, from Shawneski Street, to the goal at Lukiszki, and from there, great masses of Jews, about ten thousand Jews, were transported to the large clearing in Ponar forest.

And there the Jews were taken out group after group and sounds of shooting were heard. Her little boy begged for a little water, and she wanted to give him a thermos flask with water. A German policeman came up to them - he threw away this flask. She began to comfort the boy, telling him not to be afraid, that he would soon ascend to a quiet place, to the Garden of Eden, where it would be good for him and all the children. After that they took her.

She saw how Jews were saying the confession prayer, how others were concealing memoir books, how others were tearing up bank notes so that they should not fall into the hands of the Germans. Afterwards she heard the sounds of shots. She fell into a pit together with the children, felt that the blood of the children was pouring, streaming over her, but she was alive. And she remained amongst the dead bodies until sunset. And that night when she heard the voices of the Lithuanian pogromists who carried out the murder, she got out from amongst the bodies. She crossed the barbed wire fence, escaped, ran through the forest until she came to a little valley, and there she found a simple Polish peasant woman.

The peasant woman made a bandage for her from a towel, gave her flowers in her hand and said to her: "Run away from here, but go with the flowers as if you are a plain peasant woman, so that they should not realise that you are a Jewess." And then she came up to me and opened the towel-bandage and I saw the wound, the bullet hole, and ants were crawling in the hole - ants of the forest.

Then I realized the truth about Ponar. I went out into a street in the suburb of Novigored. Not far off could be seen the house of Leckert* {*Lekert Hirsch - a member of the Bund who shot the governor of Vilna in 1902 because the latter had ordered a group of demonstrators to be flogged.} who, during the reign of the Czar, killed the Czar's commissioner - a simple hero. I turned to the Jews and said: "Jews, Ponar is not a labour camp - in Ponar they are killing Jews." And they said to me: "Doctor, you too are creating a panic? Instead of consoling us, instead of encouraging us, instead of giving us hope, you tell us horror tales - that there are killings in Ponar? How could it be that they should simply take Jews and kill them?" Afterwards I saw her in the ghetto - she had changed her name.

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