The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 29
(Part 7 of 8)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
I call the witness Haim Behrendt.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Behrendt: Yes.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your name?

Witness: Haim Behrendt.

Attorney General: You are a member of Kibbutz Na-an?

Witness Behrendt: Yes.

Q. You were born in Berlin in 1919?

A. Yes.

Q. When the War broke out you remained, alone out of all the members of your family, in Berlin?

A. Yes.

Q. You were then engaged in a working party on road construction under the control of German foremen?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened to you at the time of the deportations from Berlin to Lodz in 1939?

A. In 1939 there were incidents in our street - where I lived, when Jews were seized and deported. I got to know a certain family, to whom I was to bring merchandise from the factory.

Q. What happened to you - you were not deported?

A. Not yet.

Q. I understand that you hid yourself.

A. For some days we had heard that they were searching for people to send them away. I went to friends, to acquaintances, to every place I could and I hid there, until I heard that these searches were over.

Q. In 1940 you were married and went to live with your wife's parents?

A. Yes.

Q. In Berlin?

A. Yes.

Q. You and your wife worked in a factory?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened at the end of October 1941?

A. In October? In October, yes. We received some letter, that is to say I did, and in this letter there was a list and they wanted to know what possessions we had in the house. We confirmed it as required. We had to send it to the district police on Jostystrasse.

Q. Were you also told that you had to report with your wife?

A. After this, ten days later, a fortnight later, we received an order to report, to hand over the keys of the flat to the district police, and on 12 November we were to report at the synagogue in Levetzowstrasse. In the evening, we came there about 8 o'clock and we remained there.

Q. What were you allowed to take with you according to the instructions you received?

A. We were allowed to take fifty kilos. We had to take the clothes that we would need.

Q. How long did you remain at that synagogue?

A. Two days.

Q. Who guarded you?

A. The police and the SS, the SS inside the synagogue, and the police outside.

Q. Were searches conducted?

A. Yes.

Q. Were personal effects confiscated?

A. They opened our belongings and removed the medicines. They also searched for money. Actually we had already been required to hand this over before. We also handed over our identity cards, that is to say the Kennkarten, also documents in our possession. We walked in rows. We passed by a line of tables. At each table sat an official of the SS, both in civilian dress and also in uniform, until we later reached a room in which there were body searches.

Q. Were the identity cards returned to you two days later?

A. Yes, in the evening.

Q. But was there a rubber stamp on it?

A. On it was the stamp evakuiert nach Minsk (evacuated to Minsk). There was of course a date.

Q. And then you were taken to the railway station and put into the railway waggons?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you first go to Warsaw?

A. On this route, yes.

Q. There you received food from the community council?

A. Bread and water.

Q. And on 14 November 1941, you left and reached Minsk on 18 November 1941?

A. Yes.

Q. Who waited for you in Minsk?

A. The Latvian SS were standing at the railway station.

Q. Tell us what happened.

A. There they opened the waggons and immediately began beating us and chasing us quickly out of the waggons. Immediately there was chaos. Everyone who emerged through the door received blows: women, children and men.

Q. Where did they take you to?

A. We had to form up there in rows. They told us that those who were unable to walk should enter the trucks that were standing there. The old people went into the trucks and whoever was able to walk went on foot.

Q. Where did they take you to?

A. To the ghetto.

Q. Was this ghetto together for you and for the Jews of Minsk?

A. No, on the right-hand side...first of all, we entered the gate and two SS men stood there. On the right was the Russian Ghetto - of Russian Jews. They looked at us and said: "Deutsche Juden" (German Jews). At first I didn't understand Yiddish. In the course of time I learned some Yiddish. Then they moved us to the left-hand side. On the left was the German Ghetto - of German Jews. They called it for short: the Hamburg Ghetto.

Q. Why?

A. Apparently, the first transport to reach Minsk was from Hamburg. Above the gate of this ghetto it said: Sonder Ghetto (Special Ghetto).

Q. Were Jews from other places brought there?

A. Yes. By the time we arrived, there had already been transports from Frankfurt, from Hamburg, Bremen and the Rhineland.

Q. In 1941 did a transport arrive from other countries as well?

A. After us.

Q. Where from?

A. There was one transport from Bremen, from Berlin and from Vienna. I think that was all.

Q. What was the total number in your ghetto, the ghetto of German Jews, at the end of 1941, approximately?

A. All of us together? They told us that there were 90,000 Russian Jews. With us I can tell you that there was a total of 97,500 altogether.

Q. Did those aged people who were driven off in trucks arrive at the ghetto?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened next?

A. The ghetto was already full, comparatively very crowded. They brought us, the transport of 1,050 Jews from Berlin, they brought us to the corridors - there was no more space in the rooms. It was in a school.

Q. Did an SS officer say anything to you, about what had happened before you came?

A. Yes. It was at the railway station when we off-loaded the food from the waggons. He said: In order that there should be room for you, we shot and killed 28,000 Russian Jews a few days ago. Afterwards he spoke to us some more and we were curious to know what would happen to us. We asked him: "What is going to happen?" And he said: "You will settle down in this place, in Minsk."

Q. What was the state of affairs in the ghetto? Did you have places to live in?

A. They subsequently set up a ghetto for the transport from Berlin, a special ghetto adjoining the Hamburg Ghetto. The boundary was a street. It took ten minutes to walk from the one ghetto to the other. They took a party of Jews to put up a barbed wire fence. After several days we had to move there, to this ghetto. They put people from the Berlin Ghetto in charge, and each one received a place to live in.

Q. How many persons were you to a room?

A. In our room there were seven people.

Q. You, your wife and five others?

A. My wife and I and five others.

Q. What food did you receive?

A. Two hundred grams of bread and half a litre of soup. The soup was more water than soup.

Q. Did you go to work?

A. At first this wasn't organized, but there were places where we could go to work, and people wanted to change the situation, for we were unable to live on the bread and soup. We reported for work of our own accord.

Q. Did those who worked receive better food?

A. Yes - at first they received for a week two kilograms of bread, two loaves of bread, and the soup, too, was thicker. Apart from this, the conditions were such that, while even this was not sufficient, we could still buy something or exchange something for belongings which we still had.

Q. With whom did all of you work - where did you yourself work?

A. I worked at first in the M district of the Air Force. We worked there. I worked in the Kesselhaus (the boiler house), we had to chop the wood which they had brought for the ovens to warm this large building.

Q. Were there places where they stood guard over you, or did they guard you everywhere? Did they stand guard over you at work?

A. Certainly.

Q. Who guarded you?

A. They were railway workers - they were supplied with arms.

Q. Who guarded the ghetto from outside?

A. The SS and also the Jewish police.

Q. Were there work parties where the attitude of the employers and of the German foremen was humane?

A. Only a few.

Q. What happened when the men of the SD came to know about this?

A. I remember an instance when they transferred us, when they saw that the Germans were unduly good to us, and they thought that the conditions were too good for Jews, and they transferred us elsewhere, where the conditions were not so good.

Q. Did all your people survive?

A. In the ghetto?

Q. In the ghetto.

A. It would be difficult to reply in the affirmative.

Q. Tell us what happened.

A. They were there in the spring - it was not yet spring, it was still winter - they told me afterwards that it was exactly on Purim; we came back from work, column after column, and we noticed that something was wrong. In front of the ghetto there was a street which was full of people men and women. In our party there were German Jews. We passed by and entered the ghetto but we saw that, behind us, they were taking groups out. It turned out later that these were Russian Jews.

Q. They took them out - where to?

A. To a street near the ghetto. And they executed them. The next morning we heard that they had killed fifteen Jews from the Russian Ghetto during the night. In the third stage, it may be described as such, this was at the end of June 1942, then I was already working elsewhere near Minsk, in the barracks of the armoured corps, a military camp. I worked there from June 1942. We were living in huts; inside the camp there was a small camp for the group of Jews only.

Q. You are not answering my question. I asked whether these people survived, or whether they died - and what did they die from?

A. I can tell you that almost all the Jews died in Minsk. There was only a very small number, I think thirty - maximum fifty - who came out alive.

Q. Out of the whole of this ghetto?

A. Of the whole ghetto.

Q. How did these people die?

A. We called it a pogrom, and apart from that - from starvation.

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