The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 30
(Part 7 of 7)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. What happened to Gershon Willner in this "action"?

A. I returned home at 3:30 from my forced labour assignment. From a distance I saw two Gestapo men entering the house, wearing black uniform and the skull sign on their caps, together with a Polish policeman. I didn't go home but went to a house nearby and waited until they left. They left with my brother-in-law Gershon Willner.

Q. Did you see him after that?

A. I did not see him after that. My father followed him to the nearby town of Zarshin and asked the Polish police there to set him free. They immediately arrested him, too. That same evening they took both of them to the Sanok prison, where they remained for one month. Then they transferred them to Rzesow and from there to Tarnow. We didn't know what happened to them from then on.

Q. When did you get news about him again?

A. The next time I heard of him was on 25 June 1942.

Q. Did you receive a notification about him?

A. We received a telegram from the Grenzpolizei (Frontier Police) Gestapo in Sanok: "The Jew Gershon Willner died in Auschwitz of a heart attack. You have to obtain a permit to travel to Auschwitz and receive the ashes against payment." Nobody went, of course, because we were afraid. Everybody was afraid that he would not come back.

Q. Was he in good health?

A. Yes.

Q. He never suffered from heart disease?

A. I don't remember his having done so.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius do you wish to question the witness?

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mr. Silbermann, you have finished your testimony.

Attorney General: I submit the documents concerning Gershon Willner, first our No. 721 of 17 April 1942. The Argentine embassy makes enquiries regarding the fate of Gershon Willner. He was arrested according to the note. In Lvov it was known that Willner was Argentinian. On June 4 1942, the representative of the Foreign Ministry of the Governor General of Poland writes to the Foreign Ministry that it is intended to transfer the Jew Willner to Auschwitz concentration camp. On 16 June 1942 the Foreign Ministry applies to the Reichsfuehrer of the SS with the urgent request - on the strength of foreign policy considerations - not to transfer the Jew Willner to a concentration camp. Enclosed with the letter are a copy of the memorandum of the Argentine Embassy and copy of the report of the representative of the Foreign Ministry of the Governor General in Cracow. "Of course, he is not to be allowed to go abroad in order to prevent him from propaganda activity against us."

Presiding Judge: This is exhibit T/346.

Attorney General: On 9 July 1942 Adolf Eichmann informs the Foreign Ministry that "the Argentinian Jew Gershon Willner died on 12.4. of heart failure, in spite of plentiful administration of stimulants. For your information, please".

Presiding Judge: This will be exhibit T/347.

Judge Halevi: As for the date...

Attorney General: Yes, I know that the death as reported by him occurred in April. He also lied in this respect.

Judge Halevi: The previous document shows that he was alive on 4 June, if that letter is correct.

Attorney General: We also hear when the notice of his death was received.

Judge Halevi: After the Argentinian enquiry, after the intervention.

Attorney General: After the intervention.

Judge Halevi: The first intervention is dated 17 April. Then in June it says they intend to transfer him to Auschwitz, and in July the Accused quotes 12 April as the date of his death, which is five days before the Argentinians intervened.

Attorney General: Yes, already before the Argentinians intervened at all.

And now some documents concerning the bitter fate of Jenny Cozzi, a Jewish woman who was married to an Italian. Since he was an army officer the Italian authorities were interested in her. I shall submit the letters in chronological sequence. Our document No. 744 - letter of 10 November 1942 addressed by Guenther of IVB4 to the Foreign Ministry, reporting that in the course of evacuations in the occupied regions of the East the Jewess Cozzi was transferred to the Riga Ghetto. She was married to an Italian who has died and claims for herself the rights of an Aryan, under the Italian laws.

"She managed to contact the Italian Consul General in Danzig, who is urging us to release Cozzi from the ghetto and to facilitate her travel to Italy. It is worthy of mention that the Jewess Cozzi has not mastered the Italian language. For Security Police reasons I consider it inappropriate to grant the Italian Consul General's request. There is reason to fear that the Jewess Cozzi will make use of conditions prevailing in the Riga Ghetto for the purpose of atrocity propaganda. I shall be grateful if an undertaking could be received from the Italian Embassy ensuring that Consul General Guiriati refrains from such further requests or from lending further assistance to the Jewess Cozzi."
This letter was written by Guenther, Eichmann's deputy, on a IVB4 letterhead.

Presiding Judge: This is exhibit T/348.

Attorney General: But the matter did not rest there. On 15 March 1943 Eichmann writes again to the Foreign Ministry: "I still consider that the release of the Jewess Cozzi from the Riga Ghetto for repatriation to Italy is not to be advocated (nicht vertretbar). I therefore, request once again to urge the Italian Embassy in Berlin to refrain from further support for the woman Cozzi."

Presiding Judge: This is exhibit T/349.

Attorney General: But the Italians persisted and continued in their fight for the life of that woman. The representative of the Foreign Ministry with the Reich Commissioner for Ostland writes to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin on 20 April 1943: " let off (Abschiebung) Jews of foreign nationality who are interned in the ghetto causes considerable misgivings from the point of view of the police security." The Senior Commander of the Security Police in Latvia is also of the opinion that the Italian Embassy should be prevailed upon to refrain from any further support of Cozzi.

Presiding Judge: This is exhibit T/350.

Attorney General: The fight for Cozzi's life continues.

Presiding Judge: Do you have another copy of the previous letter?

Attorney General: In Hebrew, if it can be of some help. I have this document in German and in Hebrew. The foreign Ministry writes to the "Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD, attention of S.S. Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann" that Cozzi is the holder of an Italian passport. She is not Italian but a Jewess from the East; only by marrying an Italian officer, an Aryan, who has died in the meantime, she obtained Italian nationality. They appreciate our fears based on Security Police considerations if Cozzi would be set free; yet the Embassy Secretary declared that he would look into the matter in response to a request submitted by the Foreign Ministry.

Early in June, Embassy Secretary Lanza raised the subject again and expressed the Italians' surprise at not having received a final reply. Von Thadden adds that Lanza appreciated our attitude but did not believe that our request would be complied with, since Mrs. Cozzi was in possession of an Italian passport; the principles underlying their legal concept compel Italy to intervene on her behalf unconditionally. In view of the foregoing it will not be politically possible to reject the Italian demand, unless most weighty considerations do not favour the granting of an exit permit to Mrs. Cozzi and the arrangement will meet with the approval of the Italians."

Presiding Judge: This is exhibit T/351.

Judge Halevi: This took place shortly before the invasion of Italy, before the landing of the allies?

Attorney General: Yes. The story has not yet come to an end. On 6 July 1943 Guenther writes to von Thadden in the Foreign Ministry about Cozzi. The High Commissioner of the Fascist Party for the occupied Eastern territories applied to the Head of the Ostland Department of the NSDAP in Berlin for authorization of the transfer of the Jewess Cozzi to Italy. The Fascist Party turns to the National-Socialist Party in order to save a Jewish woman of Italian nationality from the ghetto in Riga.

Presiding Judge: This is T/352.

Attorney General: On 28 July 1943 the representative of the Foreign Ministry expresses his apprehensions in the event of her being permitted to leave.

Presiding Judge: T/353.

Attorney General: Now to the conclusion of this episode. The person who puts the final touch to it is Adolf Eichmann. In his letter of 25 September 1943 his final answer to von Thadden reads: "In view of the changed political conditions in Italy, further steps in this matter are to be dispensed with. I have issued instructions for the Jewess Cozzi to be accommodated in the Riga concentration camp."

Changed conditions are to be interpreted as Italy's exit from the War. No attention has to be paid any longer to the Italians' wishes. The fate of the Jewish woman Cozzi is sealed.

Presiding Judge: T/354.

Attorney General: There are another three documents on this subject. The Hungarian authorities enquired about a Hungarian national, Reszoe Sillec, a journalist who lived in Warsaw. He was the leader of a Hungarian national group in Warsaw.

Presiding Judge: Is he a Jew?

Attorney General: A Jew. Department IVB4 serves notice that they are opposed to his departure with his wife for reasons of weighty Security Police considerations. "I intend to transfer him to a concentration camp for the duration of the War. Before doing so, I would ask for your opinion."

Presiding Judge: Who signed it, Novak?

Attorney General: Krischak. On the margin of the letter a note has been added, probably by the Foreign Ministry. "Krischak told me that his office is strictly opposed to the departure of Sillec. His transfer to the concentration camp is the easiest of all possible solutions." This is Dept. IVB4.

Presiding Judge: The note on the margin is by von Thadden?

Attorney General: It may be assumed that it is by von Thadden. It is his handwriting and his signature.

Presiding Judge: T/355.

Attorney General: The Rumanian nationals, the Zuckermann family, on whose behalf the Foreign Ministry also intervened, were not saved. Department IVB4 reports that they were transferred to Ravensbrueck concentration camp and that the Consulate General of Rumania should be advised accordingly.

Presiding Judge: T/356.

Attorney General: The last document of this series, concerning the same family - von Thadden remarks in an internal note of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that a reopening of the Zuckermann case by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt would serve no purpose.

Presiding Judge: T/357. The court will now adjourn. The next Session will be this afternoon at 15:30.

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