The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. But at that first moment, at that first selection, how many were sent to the side of the living?

A. I misunderstood the question. Well, if I am not mistaken - I don't exactly remember the number - I think we were about 200 men. As for the women, I don't know exactly; I saw the women's group and I think there must have been about seventy or eighty.

Q. And where were all the others sent?

A. Well, all I can say is that I saw them getting into trucks, into a number of trucks. There was also a closed vehicle with the sign of the Red Cross. I saw them all go off. I know they were sent to the gas chambers, but I did not see that.

Q. When did you leave Auschwitz? Perhaps you could tell us briefly where you were until your liberation?

A. I left Auschwitz on 18 January 1945, when the camp of Auschwitz was liberated because the Russian front was approaching, and I finally ended up at Buchenwald.

Q. And where were you liberated?

A. At Buchenwald.

Q. You mentioned that at Drancy you met Mr. Rene Blum, brother of Leon Blum. What happened to Mr. Rene Blum?

A. This is what happened to Rene Blum. At the beginning of September 1942 - I think 1 September 1942 - they sent from Drancy to Pithiviers and to Beaune-la-Rolande all the French who were in the camp, because at that period the French - the French Jews - were considered as not liable to deportation. There were 2,000 of them, and Renee Blum left with the others. I myself stayed behind at Drancy for personal reasons.

On 22 September, if I am not mistaken, a group of about sixty people arrived at Drancy, including Rene Blum. This is what they told us: About mid-September, these French people were deported directly from Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande in two groups, but after the departure of the first group, the Prefect of the Loiret, the department in which these two camps were situated, seeking, on his own initiative, to save Rene Blum and a number of other well-known personalities, took them away from Pithiviers with the intention of transporting them to Beaune- la-Rolande, hoping that in that way they would be forgotten. But the Germans got to know about this stratagem, and they went to fetch Rene Blum and his whole group and brought them to Drancy with orders that they were to be deported immediately. On their arrival in the camp, they were all immediately searched and added to the convoy which left, if I am not mistaken, on 23 September.

Q. What happened to Rene Blum finally?

A. All I know about the ultimate fate of Rene Blum is this. When I myself arrived in Auschwitz in 1944, I found someone who had been deported from Compiegne on 27 March 1942 and who was very well acquainted with Rene Blum who had also been at Compiegne. I asked this sole surviving comrade whom I met for news concerning a certain number of people whom we had both known in France. I also asked him if he knew anything about Rene Blum. He told me that when Rene Blum's convoy arrived, he was separated from all his comrades, tortured and killed.

I must say that I spoke of this in my book, but I did not mention Rene Blum's tortures. I refrained from doing so out of consideration for the family and for Leon Blum, who was still living at that time, but the comrade told me that Blum had died after being tortured.

Q. I will now ask you a final question. In 1946 you wrote a book about all the events you have just briefly described. What is the name of the book?

A. From Drancy to Auschwitz.

State Attorney Bach: Thank you, Mr. Wellers.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions to ask the witness?

Dr. Servatius: No, I do not have any question.

Judge Raveh: We heard that you were arrested in December 1941. Roughly how long before that did the registration of Jews you mentioned take place?

Witness Wellers: The registration of Jews, as I said was in compliance with a German ordinance of 27 September 1940; and then there was another ordinance, this time of Vichy, in the spring or the beginning of summer 1941.

Q. Have I understood rightly that apart from this registration, your life until your arrest in December 1941 was the same as that of the non-Jewish population in France?

A. Yes, apart from the fact that there was a very intense and violent propaganda in the daily press. Every day there were articles; every day defamatory articles, stupid articles - if you will excuse the expression - appeared in the press, to such a degree that it gave rise to a form of rejection by French public opinion, for anything excessive is absolutely contrary to the French spirit.

May I ask to clarify one point. I understand that the question refers to the period up to 12 December, what were the consequences until 12 December.

Q. Yes, until December 1941.

A. In that case, excuse me, I misunderstood the question. Where I personally was concerned, there were two other German ordinances - one which appeared in October 1940, and the second, if I am not mistaken, in April 1941. They were ordinances forbidding Jews to pursue certain professions. Where I personally was concerned, from October 1940 onwards I was forbidden to publish scientific work in scientific periodicals, in periodicals which are by no means intended for the general public, so that from that period I continued to work in the laboratory, but the results of my work were never published in that period.

Q. I understand that at Drancy you belonged to the prisoners of group A which you told us about.

A. In Brunner's time I belonged to group A. That is how I was able to continue until 1944.

Q. And that was also the reason why you had freer contact with the children and were able to reach them. That is what I understood.

A. Well, there were two different periods in the camp at Drancy. There was the first period until the arrival of Brunner. During that period, the whole of the Jewish administration of the camp was recruited solely from those not liable to deportation - these non-deportables consisting above all of those married to Aryans - which, after all, gave us a certain independence towards our Commandant because we were able to oppose certain measures. With Brunner's arrival, all this changed, and the administration of the camp and the Jewish administration of the camp were chosen by Brunner, and it was one's task which prevented one's deportation. In this way, Brunner always had the means of blackmailing those who were in the camp by perpetually threatening them with deportation, and it was by means of this blackmail that in five weeks he was able to set in motion the abominable office of "emissaries" staffed with people who were in the camp with their families and children. They were warned that if they refused to do this work, they would immediately be deported. I must add that finally, as far as I know, they were nevertheless all or almost all deported.

Q. You were sent to Auschwitz a month and a half before the liberation of France?

A. That is so.

Q. Do you know roughly how many Jews there were in the camps in France at the time of liberation?

A. I can't say for all the camps, but I can say that at Drancy at the time of the liberation - that is, 17 August 1944 - I think there were still 1,700 people.

Judge Halevi: Were your wife and children saved in the end? Did they remain alive?

Witness Wellers: Yes, they were saved and they are alive. From July 1943 until the liberation of France they lived in hiding with French friends.

Q. When you tried to escape from the train, did you know where the train was going?

A. No, I had no idea, and I had no idea what was going on at Auschwitz itself.

Q. Until you actually reached Auschwitz, you had no idea that the deportations to the East were for the purpose of extermination?

A. No, I did not know this and we did not know it. We knew very well that the London radio spoke about the gas chambers, but we didn't take it at all seriously. We thought it was propaganda; we thought it was fitting to say this during the War, but we didn't believe it - we didn't believe it was really so. We had many reasons to think it wasn't true, particularly from the time of Brunner who transformed the camp into something typically German which had not existed before him.

There were all sorts of ways of deceiving us. For instance, in Brunner's time, each prisoner, on leaving, could deposit in an office in the camp the money he possessed. He was given a receipt and told that the sum of money he had deposited would be refunded to him by a local Council of Elders, if I am not mistaken, at his place of arrival, in zlotys. Consequently, we knew we were going to somewhere in Poland, but we were sure that, since the money would be refunded on arrival, it was undoubtedly a place where something could be bought. Thus, we were going to live in conditions which were difficult or disturbing, perhaps, but we were not about to be exterminated immediately or in the near future. We were encouraged to take a lot of baggage with us, and we were informed that we were going to work in camps where the Jews were grouped together. These are the ideas with which I myself arrived in Auschwitz in 1944 after having been acquainted with the camps in France for nearly three years.

Q. You mentioned that the Vichy police participated all the time, or at least during the first period, in the actions of the Germans. Did the Vichy police act in this way also in the parts of France occupied by the Germans?

A. Of course. In the occupied zone the Police was under the orders of Vichy, but in view of the fact that it was a zone militarily occupied in consequence of the armistice between Petain and Hitler, the Germans had the right of directly policing their zone, so that the Vichy police was directly under the orders of the Germans.

For example, when there were various German ordinances, usually, a short time afterwards, the ordinances of the Vichy authorities appeared which referred specifically to the German ordinances. For instance, when the German ordinance of 27 September 1940 appeared, it was signed by the "Militaer-Befehlshaber Frankreich," and the first phrase in all the German ordinances was: "In virtue of the full powers which have been conferred on me by the Fuehrer and Commander of the Army, I order the following..."; and, a few days later, there appeared an ordinance of the Paris police saying: "In execution of the ordinance of the Military Commander of such and such a date, such and such a thing must be done." Consequently, they did not even trouble to conceal the fact that the Police were acting on German orders.

In addition, from the beginning of 1941, the Vichy Government set up a Commissariat for Jewish Questions which was specifically responsible for questions concerning the Jews. This Commissariat had its own Police which was called the Police for Jewish Questions, which I knew at a certain period at Drancy, because, in 1942, at the moment of departure, the searching of the deportees was done by this Police for Jewish Questions. This police was recruited from people of the lowest kind; they were despised by everyone, and I know that even the official Police, on the orders of Vichy, sabotaged the work of this Police for Jewish Questions as far as it could, and at the end of 1942 it was suppressed because its work only provoked a more and more violent reaction in both zones of France against the measures concerning the Jews.

Q. Who collected the Jews from their homes. Who searched for them?

A. Well, as for arrests, there were various arrests. I will speak of large-scale arrests, major round-ups - most of the major round-ups were carried out by the Vichy police. The round-up of 12 December was carried out by the German Feldgendarmerie. Now, in addition to the major round-ups, every day they brought to Drancy, every evening, groups of twenty-five, thirty, fifty people who had been arrested in town, and on these occasions it was sometimes the Police for Jewish Questions, sometimes the Vichy police and the official police, and sometimes the Germans themselves, who brought them. All of them made arrests, without much difference between them. As for the searches, one was searched on entering the camp, and at a certain period it was the Police which conducted the searches, but after the arrival of Brunner, who organized everything in his own manner and on the model of camps which I have known, such as Auschwitz and Buchenwald, there was a group of Jewish prisoners who searched the arrivals.

I should just like to add something.

Presiding Judge: Please make it as brief as possible.

Witness Wellers: I wanted to say that there were two totally distinct periods. During the first period, until the round- up of 16 July 1942, the French Police several times participated in these "actions." On 16 July, however - as I know very well from many people who have confided in me - there was a very large number of Vichy policemen who allowed people whom they were supposed to arrest to escape, so that scarcely half of those who were to have been arrested that day were actually taken because the others had been warned, and the Police had very clearly sabotaged this measure, so that afterwards - and particularly in Brunner's time - the Germans no longer turned to the Vichy authorities, or as little as possible, and Brunner attempted to conduct the round-ups himself. The result was that in Roethke's time roughly four times more people were deported from Drancy than in Brunner's time.

Presiding Judge: Thank you Mr. Wellers, you have completed your testimony. I think we will now have to conclude.

State Attorney Bach: I have about five more brief documents directly connected with the evidence of this witness, but I am willing to present them in the afternoon.

Presiding Judge: If so, present the documents at the beginning of the afternoon sitting. The Session will be continued at 3:30 in the afternoon.

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