The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 27
(Part 6 of 10)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. And above all - typhus?

A. Typhus. We organized an all-out campaign. The entire medical team concentrated on the fight against typhus, so that typhus should not spread. We set up a house for disinfection, for cleansing from the infection. We went from courtyard to courtyard, from house to house, from apartment to apartment and spoke to the Jews; we used to turn to them and say: "Jews, go of your own free will to this disinfection post," because the disease of lice, scabies, had spread in the ghetto, to such an extent that people were covered by lice as if with a shield. It was terrible. And people became apathetic and anaemic. From the time that this compulsory disinfection was introduced, the disease of scabies began to diminish until it disappeared from the ghetto. But we subsequently experienced it in the concentration camps.

Q. Did the people in the ghetto know the identity of the main tyrants, apart from those you have mentioned?

A. Apart from those I have mentioned, we apparently heard the names of those who had come to us, from German policemen or work-captains. We heard the name Lohse, we heard the terrible name of Stahlecker, whom the Germans mentioned in awe; evidently he was the ruler of the whole district, of our entire region.

Presiding Judge: From which units were these Germans?

Witness Dworzecki: At the time we were in the ghetto - I was asked not to relate to what I know now - we knew the name Einsatzkommando, Einsatzgruppen but we did not know whether it was A or B or C or D.

Attorney General: No, but generally these were policemen, soldiers?

Witness Dworzecki: We saw around the ghetto mainly SS men, but evidently there were also other units. And also around the ghetto were Lithuanian collaborators, many Lithuanians, Estonians, Ukrainians.

Q. Do you remember what was called "Operation Kovno?"

A. Yes.

Q. What was that?

A. These were already the days when we felt that the end was approaching, the underground was active. It was already known that at its head stood Wittenberg, Yosi Glazman, later on one heard the name of Abba Kovner, and it was already known who belonged to the underground. And then Jews were brought in from the townships, from the townships in the vicinity of Vilna. There the ghettos were wiped out. We already knew this from underground emissaries who reached us from Warsaw, Lonia Kozibrosku and Anita Schneidernman, that the transport of Jews from the surrounding townships to the ghetto meant the extermination of the Jews and that this destruction was likely to come shortly to the ghetto.

One day they came and told us that they wanted to transport 5,000 Jews from the Vilna Ghetto to the Kovno Ghetto. We were not sure but we heard that in the Kovno Ghetto life was quieter, the "actions" were over, there were no more "actions," the oppression was not of the same extent. Perhaps we did not know for certain, but this is what we believed. And so the Jews from the townships agreed to proceed to Kovno, together with young people from Vilna. Perhaps there they would improve their chances for remaining alive. And so they left for the railway station together with the police; they took with them doctors and nurses whom they would bring to Kovno where they would give medical supervision.

Afterwards we were suddenly informed that they told the doctors to go back, they told the nurses to go back, they told the policemen to go back. Thereafter we got to know that in the railway-waggons that were going to convey them to Kovno barbed wire netting was being placed over the windows, so that nobody would be able to excape. This aroused a feeling of apprehension among us. The whole night the ghetto remained awake in order to know what was happening. By morning news began to reach us that instead of conveying these people to Kovno, they took them to Ponar, and there they shot about 5,000 people, except those who resisted - they resisted with their hands against the Germans and they fled. Subsequently, near Ponar, hundreds of murdered Jews were found who would not allow themselves to be transported to death.

Q. Tell me, Dr. Dworzecki, afterwards, at the time of the liquidation, you were transferred to camps in Estonia?

A. Yes.

Q. Tell us briefly what you found in the concentration camps in Estonia, when you were taken there?

A. I was taken there on 1 or 2 September 1943; it was the day after the commander of the partisans Yechiel Scheinbaum was killed. They then entered the hospital of the ghetto and ordered all the doctors to go outside in their gowns. We thought that this was an inspection. Then they gave the order: "Remove your gowns, turn right, go out of the hospital gate into the street and from the street to the gate of the ghetto." There they loaded us on waggons and conveyed us, together with thousands of other Jews, to the concentration camps in Estonia.

In Estonia I went through the concentration camps of Narva, Kureme 1, Kureme 2, Goldfilz, Kureme, Lagedi, until the day arrived when we felt that they were about to remove us from the concentration camps of Estonia. There, too, an underground was created; amongst the members of the underground was Hirschke Glik, the same young man whom I mentioned as the composer of the partisans' anthem.

One night we agreed between us that every hour we would leave in groups for the forest. On the sound of the watchword, the first group went out - amongst them was Hirschke Glik. An hour later there came the watchword and the second group left. The third time the watchword did not come, nor the fourth, nor the fifth. We had to remain behind. The following morning they removed us from the camp to a transit camp, and we were there for several weeks. All the time we were out in the open. From there they moved us via the Baltic Sea.

Presiding Judge: What season of the year was this?

Witness Dworzecki: It was approximately in the autumn. This was at the Lagedi camp. Several thousand Jews were out in the open all the time, day and night. Subsequently they moved us in a large ship through the Baltic, and there, when we were already aboard, we heard that one ship had been blown up, and all its passengers killed, they had met their deaths at sea. We were ready for such a death. I still recall that Rabbi Smogon stood there, and read verses of the confessional prayer and "Vayechal." They brought us from there to a large concentration camp, Stutthof, where there were approximately 60-70 thousand persons of various nationalities.

And from Stutthof they brought us later on to a concentration camp in Dautmergen. This was the camp for torture and for pseudo-scientific medical experiments, Natzweiler.

Presiding Judge: Where was this, in what vicinity?

Witness Dworzecki: Our camp was 83 kilometres from Stuttgart. From there they took us to Dachau. We saw that this was already 1945. We felt that the War was ending and we decided that we would escape on the way. We selected a watchword for ourselves - "Lehayim" (To Life); whenever Lehayim was called out, that would be the signal that we had to make off. We were walking along the road and heard them giving us an order to turn off the paved road and to walk towards the forest. Suddenly I saw a large lake - later on it turned out that this was Baden-Baden. We understood that here they were leading us to be drowned at Baden-Baden.

We walked in rank and then we shouted Lehayim, and the Jews scattered in every direction. We were thousands of people. By evening we found ourselves in a forest - 83 people. Evidently others had also scattered in the forests. Many lay there, victims of the German bullets that had struck them. We were in the forest without weapons, in a German forest.

Presiding Judge: Where was this?

Witness Dworzecki: Near Baden-Baden.

Q. What date was this?

A. At the end of March or the middle of March 1945. During those days we knew neither hours nor dates: By night we attacked the forest guards there. They were two or three men and we were 83. They were already afraid even of prisoners who were Muselmanns and they used to give us, under compulsion, a piece of bread. The next day we would go elsewhere so that they wouldn't catch us. Until one night we heard shots and we realised that we were between two fronts and we didn't know who was fighting whom. In the morning the shooting stopped and we understood that this was the end of that battle.

One young man climbed up a tree and saw three tanks advancing, with tricolours. We understood that we were in the hands of the French army. We went down and began shouting towards the tanks: "Fraternite, Egalite, Humanite!" They took us inside the tanks. The tanks entered the German town of Saulgau and in them entered 83 Jews, with the French army. I remember a tragi-comical thing. We immediately approached the French army command in order to volunteer for the army - as volunteers for the French army. I volunteered for the French army. They weighed me and I weighed 39 kilograms. So they sent me to a hospital instead of the army. But there I did not obey orders and I escaped from the hospital and made my way to Paris for my first meeting with Jewish survivors from the Nazis.

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

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Dr. Dworzecki, you have completed your evidence.

Attorney General: The next witness is Abba Kovner - who wishes to make an affirmation.

[The witness makes an affirmation.]

Presiding Judge: Your name?

Witness: Abba Kovner.

Attorney General: You are a member of Kibbutz Ein- Hahoresh?

Witness Kovner: That is correct.

Q. You are a poet and a writer?

A. That is correct.

Q. On 13 July 1944 you entered Vilna with a group of partisans?

A. Correct.

Q. Before that, in the same place, you were the commander of the underground of Vilna?

A. Correct.

Q. An underground that united all the movements from Betar to the Communists?

A. Correct.

Q. Perhaps you would permit me, at the outset, to ask the ultimate question: What did you see when, on 13 July 1944 you entered that place, the "Jerusalem of Lithuania," Vilna?

A. We had actually stood at the entrance to that place some days previously. We were together with shock troops of the Red Army who were fighting for Vilna. And it was there that the enemy had dug in and made a stand for three days.

Our role was to close off the withdrawal routes, and also to help the forward units of the army find ways of crossing the river. And when we burst into the city I saw myself and my companions leading columns of enemy officers and men. They didn't resist.

Q. Which unit did they belong to?

A. To the Wehrmacht and to the SS. A group of my friends and I sought first and foremost to get to the place from where we had set out, to our city. What can I say? I saw a desert of walls, empty streets, and when I came to a certain street, a woman suddenly ran towards us, and the woman held a little girl in her arms. At first she stopped and uttered a cry, and sought to conceal herself. A few of us were dressed in German uniforms which we used to wear with the partisans; possibly she thought that the German army had returned again. But when she understood, she ran forward towards us and began, in a hysterical voice, to tell her story.

What I understood from her was that she and the child who looked like a girl who was three years old, but who was certainly four or older, had been hiding in an alcove for more than 11 months. How they were able to exist in that alcove and to live for 11 months - I couldn't understand. She poured out her story. She burst out crying, bitterly. At that moment, the child in her arms, who had seemed to be dumb, opened her mouth and said: "Mama, men darf shein weinen?" (Mother are we allowed to cry already?). We were told that she had taught her, the baby girl, for 11 months that she wasn't allowed to cry when she was hungry, because someone outside might hear them and discover them. Now, when she heard her mother crying she asked the question. I can tell of other things I saw. But this question by the little girl says more than enough. However, I don't know whether the innocent question of a baby is evidence at a trial.

Q. Let us go back to the days when you were in Vilna. Do you remember the document of which this is a photocopy?

A. Yes.

Q. What is it? Read it.

A. Since a magnifying glass would be needed in order to read it, I have a Hebrew translation with me.

Q. First of all, the Court will admit this as an exhibit.

Presiding Judge: This will be exhibit T/279. Please read the document. Did you translate it into Hebrew?

Witness Kovner: Yes. It can also be read. I shall read an extract from it. The document was published in three languages.

Presiding Judge: In Polish, Lithuanian and German?

Witness Kovner: Yes. German, Lithuanian and Polish. They wrote from left to right. This is what is stated in this document:

"Yesterday, on the first day of the week, in the afternoon, shots were fired from an ambush in the city of Vilna at German soldiers. Two of the cowardly brigands were identified. They were Jews. The aggressors paid with their lives. They were shot right away on the spot. In order to avoid such cases of hostility in future, an order has been issued to adopt new means of punishment, more severe ones. The responsibility must be borne by all the Jews, of both sexes, and the implementation will be immediate. In the first place, in consequence of this, all Jews, men and women, are forbidden from today to leave their houses from three in the afternoon until 10 in the morning...

The above regulations have been promulgated for the safety of the population and for their security. It is the duty of every fair-minded citizen to contribute to the rule of public order and quiet in this place.

Vilna, 1 September 1941. (----)Commissar for the urban district of Vilna, Hingst"

Presiding Judge: What was the date of this document?

Witness Kovner: It is dated 1 September 1941. It is possible to read this with the naked eye. This notice was published in this form on the city walls on 1 September.

Attorney General: The notice states that something occurred on the previous day - that is to say on 31 August 1941?

Witness Kovner: Yes. I witnessed what happened.

Q. What happened?

A. On 31 August in the afternoon hours I left my home to reach the place which was then the Jewish Community Council on Straszuna Street, and to ascertain the fate of several of my comrades who had been seized weeks before in a round-up for labour and hadn't returned, and we still presumed that some or most of them would return. I entered the office, and then half-an-hour later, one of the officials came in and, in a state of alarm, told us that the government radio had announced that German soldiers had been shot at in Szklanna Street, a street close by, and three hundred Jews had been executed in reprisal. This was in the afternoon.

In order to reach that place [the Community Council], I had passed through Szklanna Street, had heard neither shots nor the fact that three hundred Jews had been put to death. Nobody had heard it. Confusion and panic prevailed in the room which was full of people - everyone felt that something was about to happen, and only a few hours elapsed before it became clear that the radio had anticipated, by 5-6 hours, what was about to occur.

This was on 31 August, only a few hours elapsed. And then rumours reached us that the Germans and the Lithuanians were concentrating around those streets, those lanes. The entire quarter was surrounded by Germans and by "Ypatingi" (this was Lithuanian and its translation is "the chosen ones"). This was a para-military armed unit of Lithuanians in the service of the Einsatzgruppen, under the command of a German officer of Schweinberger's SS men.

They surrounded the entire quarter and announced that they were conducting a search for those guilty of firing from an ambush on a German soldier, and anyone leaving his home would be punished by death; that no one should be found outside the houses. The streets were surrounded, and nothing further happened for several hours. As dusk fell something shocking began: people were taken out of their homes, some of them with part of their personal effects and others without possessions, men, women, children, from all the courtyards, from all the apartments, with cruel blows.

I don't know whether it was deliberately, or out of instinct or helplessness, that I found myself close to a niche of a stairwell. At first I attempted to go somewhere, but I remained standing there and through a hatch on the stairway I saw what was going on in this narrow street. The "action" was still at its height until one o'clock after midnight.

During these hours, in the middle of the night, I saw that, from the opposite courtyard - 7 or 9 Straszuna Street - a woman who was holding something in her arms, was being dragged by her hair by two soldiers. One of them shone a torch in her face, and the other pulled her and threw her to the pavement. At that moment a baby slipped out of her arms. One of the two - I think it was the one with the torch took hold of the baby and raised it by its legs over his head. The woman grabbed his boot and begged for mercy. He lifted the baby again, and then he knocked its head on the wall, once, twice, and kept on doing it.

One day, years later, when I was a commander of partisans in the forest, I remember that one day - here I appear to be deviating but I am coming back to that same scene - I was summoned to the commissar of the partisan division, to the brigade commander, to report to him. I reported and I noticed that his remarks amounted to some kind of serious allegation against me. He told me that from that point on they were forbidding us, me and those under my command in the Jewish battalion, to take prisoners and to subject them to interrogation and trial, as was customary with each partisan battalion, which was autonomous to a certain extent.

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