The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 28
(Part 1 of 7)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Session No. 28

18 Iyar 5721 (4 May 1961)

Presiding Judge: I declare the twenty-eighth Session of the trial open.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

A. Avraham Karasik.

Attorney General: Do you live in Rehovot, at 196 Rehov Herzl?

A. Yes.

Q. By profession you are a locksmith, and you work at Sarafand?

A. Yes.

Q. At the outbreak of the Second World War, were you living in Bialystok?

A. Correct.

Q. When was Bialystok occupied after the outbreak of the war between Germany and Soviet Russia?

A. On 27 June 1941.

Q. Did the Germans then burn many buildings, including Jewish workshops, business premises and places of residence?

A. Thirty-six streets.

Q. Afterwards Jews were arrested in the streets and houses numbering about 5,000 persons?

A. Precisely.

Q. What were the ages of the men who were arrested?

A. From 17 to 50 years of age. The Germans examined their certificates, they asked every individual Jew for his papers. And if the age exceeded 50, they let him go free.

Q. What happened to these people?

A. They gathered these people together. This was on a Thursday, a Friday and a Saturday. They underwent an interrogation. Amongst other things they were asked what their profession was. Most of them answered that they belonged to a free profession, so that they should not be thought to be labourers, because that might make them suspect as Communists, so they believed. None of them returned home any more. These things were recounted later by the very few persons who came back after having been thus abducted.

Q. Where were the people taken to - according to the account of the few survivors?

A. We later learned that after an hour or two, they were transported to the sands of Pietraszek.

Q. And what happened there?

A. They were shot there.

Q. In the administrative sense was the Bialystok district incorporated in East Prussia?

A. Exactly.

Q. It was not incorporated in the Generalgouvernement?

A. No, no. All the instructions that came later concerning matters of work and matters of liquidation emanated from Koenigsberg.

Q. When was the ghetto in Bialystok set up?

A. A few days after the occupation, possibly a week or a week and a half after.

Q. In what area was it established? In a good neighbourhood?

A. The ghetto was established in a far-off neighbourhood, in a part which was not close to the city, the northern part of the city.

Q. How many Jews were there in Bialystok at the time?

A. 45,000, perhaps 50,000 or 60,000. The number of Jews in Bialystok changed all the time.

Q. Were workshop enterprises set up in your area, in which the Jews were employed?

A. Yes.

Q. What enterprises?

A. The enterprises worked for the Wehrmacht. They made all kinds of things there, ranging from carts and waggons to uniforms and shoes.

Q. How did people go out to work? Was it at their choice? Was each one able to go according to his own free will?

A. Going outside the ghetto was on an individual basis until 1942; that is to say, it was by means of a labour certificate - Arbeitsschein -which people received at first from the Judenrat and afterwards from the German Labour Exchange.

Q. And with an escort?

A. At the beginning, without escort.

Q. And later on?

A. After 1942, in September, when the Bialystok district was liquidated, people were required to go out only in labour detachments with an armed guard of Germans. The guard could have consisted even of a little boy but there had to be a German guard.

Q. What units did the guard belong to?

A. That did not matter - there were even civilians in the guard. The guard was mainly from the place of employment.

Q. What happened in November 1942 in the vicinity of Bialystok?

A. On 2 November 1942, if I am not mistaken, the ghetto was closed and there was talk of the children being taken away. After some days it turned out that the area of the ghetto had been reduced. Zamenhoff Street and the surrounding area were cut off from the ghetto, an area which at that time covered 26,000 sq. metres. And at that time the country towns around Bialystok were liquidated.

Q. Where were the Jews taken to?

A. To the camp of the notorious Tenth Battalion in Bialystok. This had been the barracks of the Polish army, ever since the days of the Czars.

Q. They were taken, first of all, to the barracks of the Tenth Battalion, and after that?

A. After that, they were taken to Treblinka, according to what we learned subsequently.

Q. What happened on 4 February 1943?

A. On 4 February 1943 the first "action" broke out. On 4 February the gates were closed, and the labourers who worked outside the ghetto and who came to the gates were not allowed to leave. On the 5th of the month, in the morning, the Jurowiecka gate was burst open, and SS men entered the ghetto and began rounding up Jews.

Q. How did they round them up?

A. They did so in all kinds of ways. First of all, they talked of 6,000 Jews that the ghetto was obliged to supply to the Germans through the Judenrat, those that were not working in factories. It was said that this would go on for five days. The labourers who worked outside the ghetto, including myself, hid themselves in all sorts of hideouts they had previously prepared. We already had information about such matters. It was said that the "action" would have to continue for several days and whoever would be saved from it would remain alive.

There were instances of resistance - amongst them the wonderful and well-known case of Yitzchak Malmed, at 49 Kupiecka Street. When they came to take him he poured sulphuric acid on to the face of an SS man - the SS man became confused and began shooting, and hit a second SS man and killed him on the spot. In the course of this confusion Malmed fled and hid himself. The Germans took 120 Jews from the street where Malmed lived and they were shot on the spot. Afterwards the Germans came to the Judenrat and said....

Q. Who was the commander of the operation?

A. The commander of the operation was Friedel,* {* Fritz Gustav Friedel (Gestapo) [Tenenbaum - Underground]} whom we knew, who was in charge of the ghetto on behalf of the authorities.

Q. This Friedel was subsequently brought to trial and executed in accordance with the sentence of a Polish court?

A. Yes. And there was another man, Inspector Magel, and another, who they said came from Koenigsberg, by the name of Guenther. This is what people said; I myself did not know him, for he was not a regular visitor to the ghetto, but they spoke of him.

Q. Did they talk about the fact that Guenther came there?

A. They said that a man from East Prussia had come especially to carry out the "action" in Bialystok. I would like to point out especially that, at the time the "action" was carried out, the Schutzpolizei, which guarded the ghetto all the time, was not allowed to come into the ghetto on that day, while the "action" was being carried out. The ghetto was guarded by a commando which had come specially for the liquidation.

Q. What did Friedel tell the Judenrat?

A. Friedel told the Judenrat that if this Jew was not discovered they would wipe out the whole ghetto. They passed this information on to Malmed and a day later he came and reported himself.

Q. And the Germans hanged him?

A. The Germans hanged him in Kupiecka Street, at Gate No 39. He was left suspended on the Gate for three days.

Q. How long did this "action" last?

A. The "action" lasted seven days.

Q. And when the "action" ended, what was found in the ghetto?

A. In the ghetto the bodies of approximately a thousand persons were found whom the Germans had killed on the spot, those who had not been willing to go out to the transports or who defended themselves.

Q. Then, also, you organized an underground and it took action on 16 August 1943?

A. Precisely. At the time of the destruction of the ghetto, of the Jewish community of Bialystok.

Q. Perhaps - but very briefly - you would tell us what happened?

A. On 16 August 1943, at 4 o'clock in the morning, we heard increased traffic outside the ghetto and some minutes later, the first of the soldiers burst into the ghetto.

Q. Soldiers or other units?

A. Other units, we did not notice, we did not look. It was not important to us at all who they were, but these were Germans with steel helmets, on motorcycles, in cars. In the course of a few minutes they filled the entire ghetto and took up positions in the factories. They set up their liquidation headquarters in the office of the Judenrat. The underground, which had previously prepared a different plan for an uprising, was somewhat taken by surprise. After several attempts to establish contact with the leaders of the underground, we received word that we were to meet together in a certain neighbourhood.

Presiding Judge: Who were "we" and from whom were you awaiting orders?

Witness Karasik: We were the members of the underground and we awaited an order from the command post.

Q. Where was the command post?

A. At that moment we did not know where it was. But it was in the neighbourhood of Ciepla Street, inside the ghetto.

Attorney General: You were a member of the underground?

Witness Karasik: Yes.

Q. You were not a member of the command?

A. No.

Q. Perhaps you would describe, in brief, the underground operation of that day?

A. Of that day? We received an order to gather together on Ciepla Street. We obtained arms and the sign was to be (and this was kept secret) - two piles of straw which were set on fire and which stood in the garden of the Judenrat. It was an open place.

Q. Please avoid the details and let us get to the main point. Did the underground take action?

A. Yes.

Q. What did you try to accomplish?

A. We attacked the fence, we wanted to break down the fence. Q. And did you manage to do so?

A. We managed to breach it but not to burst through, not to go beyond the fence.

Q. Why?

A. Because machine guns were placed outside the ghetto. And with each attempt to break through, they wiped out the leading ranks.

Q. The resistance cell was seized by the Germans, and you were taken to the garden of the Judenrat?

A. Not taken - there was a running battle.

Q. How long did it last?

A. About three hours.

Q. Ultimately you were overcome?

A. We were naturally overcome, for we could not prevail over an army with modern weapons, tanks, and aircraft that flew around all the time above our heads.

Presiding Judge: And what did you have, what kind of weapons?

Witness Karasik: We had mainly light arms, revolvers and rifles, hand-grenades we had made in the ghetto, of our own manufacture. There were also two light machine guns, one of which had been placed in my section.

Attorney General: After fighting for how many hours?

Witness Karasik: Some of the Jews went into the bunkers wherever they could - we were surrounded by the Germans. With raised hands we stood there for some hours - for approximately two hours. They also conducted a search on several people. We were roughly 60-70 men. Afterwards they made us join the mass of people who were streaming all the time towards the gate.

Q. Where were the crowds taken to?

A. To an assembly field near the railway lines, the goods railway station of Bialystok.

Q. You stood there all night?

A. We were there for several days.

Q. How many of you stood there?

A. The entire ghetto stood there, about 45 or 40 thousand.

Q. Together?

A. Yes. The road to the ghetto, the road to the field was strewn with packages, for in the notices the Germans stuck up on the door of the Judenrat it said that the Jews had to leave the ghetto by 9 a.m. If they caught any Jew in the ghetto after 9 o'clock - he would be shot. The Jews took small parcels with them, and it was these small parcels that they threw away along the road to the field because of the beatings they received from the Germans. On both sides of the road leading to the field stood Germans, close to each other, with arms at the ready. In the field itself, when I came, there was already a large crowd. All the time the Germans struck the Jews, the Germans who stood around the crowd. Understandably the Jews huddled together, no one wanted to receive these blows. Thus there was a terrible congestion. There were some who could not stand it and they resisted, if only with words. They were shot by the Germans on the spot and then trampled upon by the crowd.

Q. Do you recall that Friedel and others came there?

A. Yes.

Q. Who came together with them?

A. There was the SS General Halbreich. At a later stage we worked for him on the farm in Markovshchizno.

Q. Who else came with them?

A. Friedel and Magel and a number of other officers whom I did not know.

Q. Did they make a selection?

A. On the second day they demanded that all the children up to the age of 13 be handed over to them, on the pretext that they would give them lunch. They gathered about 1,200 children whom they removed from the field. All the time convoys were going to the railway station.

Q. Did the parents hand over the children?

A. The parents handed over the children against their will there were many who concealed them. The 1,200 were not all the children in the ghetto. There were many more.

Q. What happened to these children?

A. I do not know to this day.

Q. Was any one of them seen alive subsequently?

A. No.

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