The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 32
(Part 4 of 5)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. How did Alois Brunner behave towards the prisoners in the camp?

A. Well, for the first ten, twelve, perhaps fourteen days, this team of Brunner's, all four of them, but particularly Brunner himself, Brueckler and Weisel, and to a lesser extent Koettler (who played a rather unobtrusive role) - these three sought by all means to terrorize the detainees and to impress them.

Q. Could you tell us what they did to the detainees?

A. Well, from the very first days, there were beatings. For example, there was a rather special torture which in the camps we called "the torture of the spinning top." There were abductions in the camp courtyard; there were blows. One of the amusements of these three SS men was...When they saw a group of detainees from a fair distance away, they either fired shots with their revolvers (I think always in the air, because not a single person was wounded, as far as I know), or else they picked up stones in the courtyard, sharp stones, and threw them with all their might into a group of people, and then I remember that many people were wounded in their faces, in their hands - in the parts of the body which are easily hit by a flying object.

Moreover, there was this: It was a specialty of Brueckler (who was a very strong, stout man, with a very unpleasant appearance and small, very nasty eyes, and a fat face with thick lips which were always moist) - it was his specialty to deal out blows. We called him "boxer." Two or three times a day he would come down into the basement of the camp where prisoners were kept - because within the general prison of the camp, there were special cells for those who were undergoing punishment - and he would exercise himself on them. That is why we called him "boxer."

Q. What was it that you called the "torture of the spinning top"? What was the reason for that?

A. It was a torture which was as follows: They placed a rod not very high - about that height - and then the victims were forced to touch it with the right hand, with their heads bent low and their left hand behind their backs, and, without letting go of the rod with the right hand, they had to spin around it; only, they had to do it fast and Brueckler and Weisel, who always walked around with sticks, hit them on the body in order to force them to spin around quickly. I have never undergone this torture myself, but it seems that it was very difficult to make more than three or four turns without fainting, because one's head was bent low and one was forced to spin around fast. Weisel and Brueckler were not satisfied unless they succeeded, with blows of the stick, in forcing the victims to make at least some ten turns before falling unconscious.

Q. When they played this so-called game of "the spinning top," where was Brunner at that period?

A. Brunner sometimes sat there watching this "amusement."

Q. Who ordered these tortures to be carried out?

A. I cannot say for sure, but I think...

Q. What are the facts upon which you base your opinion in this matter?

Presiding Judge: What opinion, Mr. Bach?

State Attorney Bach: He has not given it yet.

Presiding Judge: He does not know, he cannot know.

State Attorney Bach: It is hard to know what facts he wants to speak about, he has not spoken yet.

Presiding Judge: He began saying he did not know.

State Attorney Bach: That is why I am not asking him to tell what he thinks, but only the facts that led him to the conclusion...

Presiding Judge: To a conclusion he does not know?

State Attorney Bach: He said "I think" but was interrupted after that.

Presiding Judge: I have the impression he does not know, but we shall find out immediately.

State Attorney Bach: We can clarify the matter at once.

Presiding Judge: [ to the witness] What are the facts in this episode which are known to you, with regard to the question who gave the orders for this torture?

Witness Wellers: I cannot with certainty give any precise information.

State Attorney Bach: Were you personally interrogated by Brunner?

Witness Wellers: Yes, I was personally interrogated by Brunner on several occasions.

Q. For what reason?

A. When Brunner arrived in the camp, his first concern was to make a kind of card index of the camp, in his own way, so he created a number of categories, and it was he who put people in different categories. If I remember rightly, there was first of all Category A in which he placed those who were presumed not to be Jewish, those who were half-Jews and those who were married to Aryans - "partners of Aryans," as they were called at that period.

Q. Did Brunner engage in any special action with regard to your family?

A. Yes, for his classification he called everyone to an office where he himself asked the questions through a Jewish interpreter taken from the camp (he pretended not to understand French). The system was as follows: A number of people were called on such and such a day and such and such an hour. One entered the office. Brunner first asked very commonplace questions - family name, first name, address and age, after which he said "Heraus!" (out with you), and the next group was called in. Three or four days later one was again called before Brunner, who asked if one was married, if one had children, how many children, and once again it was "Heraus!"

A few days later, there was a third summons, and that is how his interrogation went on. This was obviously done to worry people, because it was always nerve- wracking to have to go and wait and answer Brunner's questions. One never knew what the consequences might be.

Presiding Judge: You asked a question about his wife and family, did you not?

State Attorney Bach: Yes. He is coming to it. Could you tell us what the connection was between this questioning by Brunner and the action he took against your family?

Witness Wellers: On 14 July (I remember the day very well because it is the French national holiday), on 14 July in the afternoon...

Presiding Judge: Which year?

Witness Wellers: 1943. I was called, I think for the third or fourth time, before Brunner to continue this interrogation, and he asked me questions about my wife. As I said, in 1940 I did not declare my wife as Jewish, and during all that time - three years had passed since then - my wife had a document from the Commissariat aux Questions Juives (Department for Jewish Questions), a creation of the Vichy Government, which gave her a paper stating that she was provisionally regarded as a non-Jew, and it was owing to this paper that I myself was able to remain in the camp until 1943, classified as the husband of an Aryan. I presented myself before him, and he asked me for the details about my wife, and I showed him this certificate. Now, the maiden name of my wife is Rappoport, and then Brunner tore the paper up in front of me and ordered somebody to go immediately and fetch my wife and children.

Here I must give a word of explanation. From the very day of his arrival at Drancy, Brunner did something which had never been known in Drancy before - he chose about ten people who were in the camp with their families, wives and children, recruited them, and every day gave each of them two or three addresses of Jews who lived in Paris, sending them out with an order to bring these Jews back to the camp. This office was called the "emissaries office," and we called those who did this work the "emissaries." It was one of these emissaries, whom I personally knew very well, who left the office in my presence in order to go and fetch my family.

State Attorney Bach: Could you in a few words tell the Court how you succeeded in saving your family?

Witness Wellers: It was owing to an altogether exceptional combination of circumstances which worked in my favour, as well as that of my wife. I had a friend who had been arrested in 1941 like me, so we had been together in the camp for two years. His wife, who was not Jewish, came every day near the camp of Drancy. There were houses around the camp.

Q. Please leave out the details, and confine yourself to telling us how you succeeded in saving your family.

A. I was able to warn my wife by telephone that they had gone to get her. She immediately left with the two children, and I subsequently learned that she got away a quarter of an hour before the emissary arrived.

Q. Do you remember that in September 1943 Brunner disappeared and left for Nice?

A. Yes, precisely.

Q. In Drancy did you see the consequences, the imprint, so to speak, of Brunner's activities in the south of France?

A. Yes, indeed. From the end of September and throughout the whole of October, groups of Jews arrested in the south of France began to arrive, principally from the former Italian-occupied zone, because Italy capitulated at that time. It was Brunner who conducted round-ups in this former zone of Italian occupation. The victims of these round-ups were brought to Drancy.

Q. Did you see people in Drancy who said that in Paris or in the Paris region they had been ordered to undress in order to show whether they were Jewish?

A. Yes.

Q. Among the detainees, did you see non-Jews arrested for demonstrating their solidarity with the Jews?

A. Yes, there was a whole group of non-Jews arrested in Paris on 8 June 1942. It was the day when all the Jews had to begin wearing the Jewish star. A group of young people particularly, but also older people, wished to manifest their disapproval and to ridicule this measure which had terribly shocked French public opinion. They went out that day and walked about in the streets of Paris with imitations of Jewish stars, made up as paper stars with the inscription "Papou" (Papuan) or "Negre" (Negro), or something of that sort, in order to ridicule this system. Some people even went around with dogs to whom they attached stars, in order to put this measure to ridicule. They were arrested and brought to Drancy. At Drancy I knew about thirty such people; they lived like us and wore the yellow star like us, with a little band above it with the inscription "Friend of the Jews." They were released on 1 September 1942, after three months of detention at Drancy.

Q. In the camp, did you also see Unterscharfuehrer Heinrichsohn?

A. Yes, several times.

Q. Is it correct to say that the people you mentioned earlier - Weisel, Brueckler, Koettler - were Austrians?

A. I believe so, and that was the belief in the camp.

Q. Now, Mr. Wellers, were you not taken out of Drancy at a certain period and given work in what was called "Dienststelle Rosenberg," or, more correctly, "Einsatzstab Rosenberg"?

A. Yes. the official name was Deutsche Dienststelle, and the address of that place was 43, Quai de la Gare. We were sent from Drancy on 30 October 1943. We were about 250 men, and two days later there were about 200 women also. They were solely half-Jews and persons married to Aryans. It was consequently the privileged who were regarded as non- deportable who were sent to that place.

Q. What type of work did you do with the Deutsche Dienststelle?

A. It was a place where every day trucks brought all the contents of the apartments of the Jews who had been arrested. They brought us their entire contents, everything that was found in the apartments of the arrested Jews. They brought us the furniture, the clothes, the linen, the knick- knacks, the books, the children's toys, the remains of food - it was all taken to this Dienststelle. We were instructed to sort all this out and to put it in order, and a few days later it was loaded on trains, and it was said that it was sent to Germany for needy Germans. In this Deutsche Dienststelle, the most interesting and precious objects - for example the objets d'art, pictures, books and vases, sometimes the furniture - were exhibited as though in a large store, and nearly every day there came some groups of highly-placed Germans. I well remember several generals of the Wehrmacht with their red lapels on their tunics who, sometimes accompanied by ladies, chose the objects they liked which were then sent to them at the addresses they supplied.

Q. Mr. Wellers, you say that cars arrived there. Can you tell us how many of these cars on an average arrived each day at the time you were doing this work?

A. It is hard for me to say, but there were certainly several dozens. I think that if one says fifty to sixty cars a day, that was probably the average. Trucks - they were trucks, not cars.

Q. Mr. Wellers, how do you know that these possessions were taken from Jewish apartments?

A. Because among these objects one often found books with names inscribed in them. There were several occasions when, among my comrades in the camp, there were people whose possessions had been brought back into the camp and they recognized them as the contents of their own apartments. Moreover, the workers who came with the trucks did not hide from us the fact that it was precisely the apartments of the Jews that they were evacuating for us.

Q. During this period when you worked at the Deutsche Dienststelle, did you sometimes see Brunner?

A. Yes, a number of times. He came more or less every day to look us over, to see how things were going. I certainly saw him at least twenty times.

Q. When were you deported to Auschwitz?

A. On 30 June 1944.

Q. How did you arrive there?

A. I arrived in Auschwitz on the 2nd or 3rd of July; I no longer remember. There was one small detail, but it was a very special detail, because I was in a waggon where there were only men. There were no women, and I had a group of friends; there were a dozen of us and we had decided to escape, to slip away in the course of our journey. We had already prepared this; we had sawed away at part of the waggon. To our misfortune, at a certain point, not very far from Paris, the train stopped and the Germans noticed what we had done.

Q. In what kind of train were you deported?

A. It was a goods train, as was always the case. Only one convoy left in a passenger train; the first convoy of 27 March 1942. All the others always left in goods trains. We were seventy and eighty in a waggon, shut in, and, throughout the whole journey, we were never given anything to eat. We were given something to drink once in the course of the journey.

Presiding Judge: How many days did the journey take?

Witness Wellers: Four days.

State Attorney Bach: How many people were there in the train altogether?

Witness Wellers: The convoy consisted of 1,000 people. If there were sixty to seventy people in a waggon, that means there were twenty to twenty-five waggons.

Q. How were you chosen for that particular convoy? Who decided that?

A. It was Brunner.

Q. When the convoy of 1,000 reached Auschwitz, was there any sort of selection?

A. Yes, of course. When the train arrived, the waggons were opened and everyone on the train had to get off. We formed a sort of column, or Indian file, and we had to pass before two officers in German uniforms who did not ask any questions. This happened very quickly. We hardly slowed our pace before these two officers, and one of the two officers made us a sign to go to the left or right.

Presiding Judge: Mr. Bach, you will be bringing special testimonies with regard to what happened at Auschwitz, will you not?

State Attorney Bach: I do not intend to ask this witness details about Auschwitz, just two or three questions in connection with himself.

[To the witness] In this selection, how many people out of the 1,000 have remained alive?

Witness Wellers: In my convoy, I think there are three or four of us.

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