The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 34
(Part 3 of 8)

Q. 1941?

A. 1941. But it was actually established after the strike, and then apparently together with another decision, to set up in Amsterdam a Zentralstelle fuer Juedische Auswanderung - a Central Office for Jewish Emigration. This name aroused many hopes in the hearts of Jews. They believed that "Auswanderung" meant outside Holland, and many hoped they would also be allowed to emigrate. There were other cases of very wealthy Jews who were indeed given the opportunity to emigrate in exchange for huge sums of money. But later on it turned out that the same so-called "service," at the head of which was a German captain, Aus der Fuenten, was the main instrument for deporting the Jews from Holland.

And so, there was an example, as we have seen on many occasions, of camouflage, of deceit, or, as they called it in German, "Tarnung," in order to cover up the true intentions by the use of names purporting to say something else.

Q. Dr. Melkman, you have not yet explained the connection between the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, on the one hand, and the Jewish Council, on the other. When was this Jewish Council established and who helped to set it up?

A. The Jewish Council was established in February, and at the time the Commanding Officer in Amsterdam, Boehncken, helped to set it up. But the links of this Council with Amsterdam were, afterwards, principally with the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, and the authority of the Council was later extended to the whole of Holland. This was in October.

Q. Did you know Mr. Edelstein?

A. Yes.

Q. Where did he come from and what, in fact, were his duties in connection with the Jewish Council?

A. Edelstein came from Prague in March, and his task was to show the Jews how to set up a "Judenrat" and how they had to cooperate with the Germans. We had a meeting...

Q. Cooperation in what sense?

A. How the relations with the Germans ought to be, for the Jews of Holland apparently did not know. I participated with him in the meeting of the Executive of the Zionist Federation in the house of the President of the Federation who died, later, in Bergen-Belsen.

I would like to say that Edelstein impressed me as an honest and dedicated Jew, as a very loyal Jew. He depicted the position in Czechoslovakia for us in very black colours, of forced labour, and told us that the Germans wanted to kill us. He apparently did not know how, but he said they intended to murder us, and the important thing for us was to stand firm. He complained that the Jews of Holland did not understand the gravity of the situation. They were encouraged by the strike that had taken place a month before, and believed that the population of Holland would not allow the Germans to carry out their designs in Holland as well. He warned us that we faced very grave danger. And nevertheless we did not accept his remarks in the way which he expected.

Q. Dr. Melkman, what about the wearing of the yellow star - when was this introduced?

Presiding Judge: You said, in regard to Edelstein, "He impressed me as an honest man." Do you want to add something to this? For it is impossible to leave this as it is.

Witness Melkman: I made this remark because a research paper on Theresienstadt has been published and it contained statements which are contrary to the impression I obtained. I did not get to know him afterwards. I said that he made an impression on me. I believe that he was a dedicated and trustworthy man.

Q. At any rate you personally did not find any reason to change your mind about him?

A. No, on the contrary. The more I think about this man, and about what he said to us, I think that we did not understand his words, and that he had only good intentions.

Judge Halevi: Who sent him to Holland from Czechoslovakia?

Witness Melkman: The German authorities. Otherwise he would not have been able to come.

State Attorney Bach: When was the order given about wearing the yellow badge, the yellow star?

Witness Melkman: At the end of April - on 27 April 1942 - and many Jews wore it with pride. For they said: We are not ashamed of being Jews; and there were also many non-Jews who, in the early days, greeted us when we were walking in the street with this yellow star, and who also distributed samples of this yellow badge, and wrote on it that Jews and non-Jews were united in the war against Fascism.

Q. You, yourself, wore the yellow badge?

A. Yes. Every child from the age of six upwards was obliged to wear the yellow badge.

Q. From June 1941, after June 1941, were there additional arrests, and if so, when?

A. There were constant arrests of people who committed offences, but...

Q. I am talking about the arrests of Jews, about organized and mass arrests.

A. Before the deportations began?

Q. Yes, before the deportations began.

A. It is impossible to define it exactly as arrests, but Jews were sent to camps for forced labour. The order was that everyone who had no occupation and had no income had to be transferred to a forced labour camp. But what did they do? They withdrew people's licences. For example, there were pedlars who possessed licences, and only if they had such licences were they permitted to sell their wares - they cancelled their licences and in this way they obtained human material for the forced labour camps.

I remember one case, of a doctor who now lives in Beersheba, who was required to examine such a man. The man came to him, and the doctor said to him: "You are not able to work at all." And he said to him: "Doctor, Sir, please don't disqualify me, for I have no means of livelihood, and it will be better for me to be in the camp, for my licence was taken away from me yesterday."

Q. Approximately how many people went to these labour camps?

A. I don't know.

Q. What was the position of the Zionist youth movements at that time?

A. In most of them, the position was the same as that of all the Jews of Holland, but there was one group, a group of Halutzim who were, perhaps, the first to be affected by the German decrees, because they were in distant places and worked on a farm in order to prepare themselves for immigration to Palestine. When the order was received that they had to vacate these farms, they met and discussed the situation, and that was the beginning of an underground Hehalutz movement and also the "Union of Religious Halutzim," firstly in order to hide the Halutzim with farmers, and later in order to smuggle them out via Belgium and France, and from there even across the Spanish frontier.

If I am not mistaken, seventy of them got to Palestine still during the War. Two very well-known men took part in this operation, Joop Westerweel, a non-Jew, a teacher, who several times brought groups like these up to the Pyrenees, and we even came to know of a speech of his there, a farewell speech to the Halutzim who went to Palestine. On one of his return journeys he was arrested and tortured terribly.

Q. Who arrested him?

A. He was arrested by the SD. He was tortured in a terrible way and thereafter executed. And the second was a Jew named "Schuschu," or Joachim Simon. He, too, took groups three times to the borders of a free country, and when he came back and was interrogated, he was afraid that he might reveal details, and so he committed suicide in his prison cell in Breda.

Q. Dr. Melkman, when did the deportation from Holland start?

A. On 14 July 1942.

Q. Which Jews were the first to be deported, and where from?

A. The Jews who were stateless, that is to say, in fact, German Jews whose German citizenship had been annulled. They were amongst the first, mainly the young ones. I know that, on the first transport, there were pupils of mine.

Q. Where were they deported from?

A. At first they were brought to the railway station of Amsterdam, and from there deported to the transit camp at Westerbork. Later on, in Amsterdam, an assembly point of some kind was set up in the Jewish Theatre, and there, all the time, they kept collecting the Jews until there was a sufficient number to be deported to Westerbork. Westerbork was a transit camp.

Presiding Judge: Is Westerbork in Holland?

Witness Melkman: Yes. It is in the east of Holland.

State Attorney Bach: Actually, it was a camp which had existed, already before the German invasion, for Jewish refugees from Germany.

Witness Melkman: Westerbork was established by the Netherlands Government, actually from Jewish funds, in order to accommodate these Jews who had fled from Germany, after 1938, without passports or legitimate entry visas.

State Attorney Bach: And afterwards the SS used the same camp as a transit camp for deportees to the East?

A. That is correct.

Q. During this period, between 1941 and 1942, what was the situation of the Dutch Jews? Or let us put it this way: After the first deportations of these German Jews, whom you mentioned - what was the position of the Dutch Jews, or what were their fears?

A. The deportations of foreign subjects, let us call it, did not last long. Immediately afterwards there were also Dutch Jews amongst them. It was already understood that it was aimed not only against people who were not Dutch.

Q. When did the Jews of Holland understand that they, too, were the target?

A. Possibly they understood that all of them were being aimed at, but it already began in July.

Q. In other words, the arrests of the Jews of Holland began already in July?

A. Yes.

Q. In what way were these arrests effected?

A. In various ways, but in the main they had lists and they came to the houses to take the deportees.

Q. When you say "they," please make a point always of saying who "they" were.

A. They were the German police, the "Gruene Polizei," as we called them, and it was they who came to arrest the Jews. There were cases of people who received letters at home instructing them to report. But, in the course of time, the Jews - at all events the majority - did not show up after receiving such a letter. Then they used to go from house to house. There were also certain instances of a large round- up, when they closed off entire neighbourhoods. For example, the first occasion of such a large round-up was on Simhat Torah 1942, when the families of all those who were in the forced labour camps were seized. There were about 14,000 people. They were transferred to Westerbork. At that time they went from house to house.

The second round-up was in May 1943. Then they raided the old Jewish quarter in Amsterdam - this was the neighbourhood which they also called the "Jewish Quarter"; they blockaded it, that is to say the German police put up a blockade around this quarter on the bridges - there were many bridges over the canals - and then they arrested the Jews. There were also trucks which went through the streets and announced that the Jews should prepare themselves for being taken away.

Q. When were you arrested?

A. On 20 June 1943.

Q. What was the actual reason why you were able to hold on until that date?

A. The reason was that I was a teacher at the Jewish Gymnasium and they released me. However, there were also instances where I, too, was almost given an order to leave, but this was not carried out.

Q. Dr. Melkman, I understand that meanwhile you had married and a child was born to you?

A. That is right.

Q. Please describe briefly to the Court how you were arrested.

A. This was again a round-up of the quarter in June 1943, like the one of May 1943. We had then moved to another home. We had to do so on the orders of the authorities - and then they imposed a blockade around the quarter. The police came, accompanied also by plain-clothes men. They searched all the apartments to see if there were still Jews in them, and took us to a central place, and conveyed us by train to Westerbork. There were 5,000 of us.

Q. You and your wife?

A. My wife and me. We hid our child.

Q. With whom did you conceal your child?

A. There was a woman, one of the Righteous Gentiles, who was willing to accept the child. At first we did not want this. But this was the time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in the year 1942 when a cousin of my wife, who was a Rabbi in Amsterdam, was arrested with all his family, and this influenced us to such an extent that we decided that at least the child should be saved. And on Yom Kippur of that year my wife handed over the child to a lady colleague of mine at the school, and she delivered him to that woman, and he remained there until the end of the War. He was 14 months of age.

Q. Dr. Melkman - another question: Did you try at that time, or even before, to secure an opportunity of coming to Palestine?

A. I tried, even before then, to obtain a certificate. But this was very difficult, at the time, for the Jews of Holland. During the War there were lists of well-known Zionists who tried to secure entry visas into Palestine for themselves. These lists were recognized by the Germans. These people were candidates for exchange with Germans abroad, and those who were on the lists were not, at first, sent to Westerbork. Afterwards, it happened that nearly all of them were deported. Those who appeared on the first two lists were not deported, but most of those who appeared on later lists were in fact deported. Only for us there was some sort of good luck.

Q. That you were sent only to Bergen-Belsen?

A. Yes.

Q. And it can be said that actually in this way you were saved?

A. Yes.

Q. On that list were included both you, your wife and also the child. Was that not so?

A. Yes.

Q. Now please tell the Court, having regard to the list, as the Germans knew it, namely that you were three persons on this list, you, your wife and the boy, and yet the boy was not there with you and he was hidden amongst non-Jews - how did it happen that the Germans did not notice this?

A. It was not such a great problem, because it was still possible at Westerbork to talk to the Jews who were there. But something else happened with us. When we were transferred on the night of 20 June in a waggon for horses to Westerbork, a young woman of 19, with a little child, sat next to us.

Q. What happened to the husband of this woman?

A. Her husband had already been arrested before this because of some offence and had been sent to a concentration camp. He had already been put to death there. Thus she was left alone with the child. At night, in the middle of the night, we started to talk with her and she related her experiences. Since the boy lay right next to us and he was exactly the same age as our son - there was a difference of three days, we asked her: "Will you be able to remain in Westerbork? Do you have the right papers?" She said: "I have been left alone, and I have no chance."

Hence we suggested to her that we should take the child, since we believed that our papers referring to the list of immigrants to Palestine were valid - the child would be registered in our names, and she would remain there as long as she could. And, indeed, it turned out that we reached Westerbork in this way.

Q. What happened to the woman?

A. Nine days later she was sent away, despite the fact that she was on her own. Usually, at Westerbork, a complete family was in greater danger than a person who was alone, for they constantly had to fill the quota, and it was always easier to take a complete family (this was also the problem with us).

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