The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 37
(Part 3 of 5)

State Attorney Bar-Or: The late Mr. Henschel said inter alia:
"From 1940 until 1943, I was the last president of the Jewish Community in Berlin, succeeding Heinrich Stahl. Before that I had also been a member of the Reich Representation. But this body had ceased to exist on 9 November 1938. All Jewish organizations were closed down at that time, and later the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland came into being as a new organization. The Reich Association was - in contrast to the Reich Representation - a compulsory organization set up by order of the state, which absorbed all other offices. Nevertheless, the Berlin Community remained active until its dissolution on 10 June 1943."
Further on he says:
"On Yom Kippur 1941 we were informed that the evacuation of Berlin was beginning. The number of members of the Community did not decrease by as much as one might have thought, because Berlin was rightly regarded as a comparatively convenient place. There was a tendency to move to Berlin from other places, especially from the smaller communities..."
On page 2 he says: "In 1940 the Community still had 80,000 members." Then he describes the difficulties of organizing regular religious services because the number of religious functionaries had decreased through emigration.... "Ritual slaughtering had been forbidden long ago. The import of kosher meat from abroad was forbidden later on. The communities had nothing to do with that. Very valuable religious objects were accumulated, which were being brought to us from the Reich. The Nazis were very interested in them."

Then he goes on to say "we received detailed information that the tactic used by the Nazis was one of complete camouflage. Even among the Nazis the disguise was so strict that no one was allowed to let any other person know about an order received, and the person executing it always received only that one order. Often Nazis in the same department did not know what was going on next door."

Presiding Judge: The copy is blurred here, and this may be important. Do you have Dr. Ball-Kaduri's original manuscript there, or was that left at Yad Vashem?

State Attorney Bar-Or: The original is at Yad Vashem.

Presiding Judge: There are some blurred lines here which are hard to read, and it may be that precisely this is interesting.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Are you referring to the top of page 3, Your Honour?

Presiding Judge: Yes.

State Attorney Bar-Or: I see. I undertake to obtain the original for the Court from which the photographs of the document were made at Yad Vashem. I assume that tomorrow, or at the latest on Monday, the original will be in the hands of the Court.

Presiding Judge: Very well.

State Attorney Bar-Or:

"Often Nazis in the same department did not know what was going on next door. But for those who were in leading positions, the situation was clearly discernible, as living space for the Jews was reduced to such an extent that they could not keep them there. They took away the real estate (old age homes, hospitals, schools); they took away the institutions, so that there was no possibility left to take care of matters.

"The first piece of property to be confiscated was the old age home Berkaer Strasse. Lilienthal and myself were called to the Gestapo and asked by when we would be able to evacuate the old people. At that time, there was still some respite; later on it was only 24 hours. The same was true for the expulsion from Berlin. The notification about it came on Yom Kippur 1941. At 1 o'clock I was summoned from the synagogue, together with Kozower and with Miss Dr. Mosse...

"The notification about the evacuation of 1 October 1941, was as follows: Partial evacuation, nothing bad in character, not to the Generalgouvernement, but to Litzmannstadt (Lodz). On 4 October, transports of 1,000 persons each left Litzmannstadt. There was a ghetto there, there were packages, money, news; luggage was permitted; the first transports left in passenger carriages.

"One may ask: How could you agree to cooperate in any way. We cannot decide whether we acted in the right way. But the idea that guided us was: If we do these things, they will be carried out better and more humanely than if they do them, and that was correct; direct transport by the Nazis was always extremely brutal. The point of assembly was the synagogue at Levetzowstrasse. There was food there. The clothes depot gave out everything it had...

"When these four thousand had been deported, it was announced that three or four more transports were to go to Riga or Minsk. Near Riga, so it was said, a Palestine 'Kvutza' was to be established; we called for our specialist on agriculture, Gerson, in order to purchase agricultural implements, but soon we realized that all this was deceit. So we only bought sewing machines and sent them along. The people lived in Riga, news came from the ghetto, finally they were moved from Lodz and Riga to Stutthof, and there they perished. But the transport to Minsk was a matter of great worry for us right from the beginning, as we never received any news from it."

And on page 4, it says:
"The Berlin community became progressively smaller owing to the deportations. Then, from Vienna, there came Brunner, who tried to introduce the much harsher methods used in Vienna, but he left again soon. However, things were still not moving fast enough for the Nazis because industry did not want to release the Jews. There were protests from industry, and at first it was stronger than the Gestapo. But then the Gestapo made a counterstrike, between 18 February and 10 March 1943, removed the Jews from the factories in one swoop, took them to five preconstructed camps, and from there straight away to deportation. The resistance of industry had been broken. Simultaneously, a street razzia was staged, anyone caught on the street wearing the Star was deported immediately. These days were the most gruesome of all, so I shall not tell you any more about this."
Then he speaks about the situation of the sick:
"Dr. Lustig, whose character was much in doubt and who was later indeed arrested by the Russians, did a great deal for the Jewish hospital. In particular, he intervened with Sturmbannfuehrer Guenther in order that the hospital's nurses might stay on, but to no avail. Eighty-nine nurses were selected and had to leave, and then the Nazi there said to the chief physician, Dr. Schoenstadt: 'And you are number 90'..."
And he continues:
"Once there was an exhibition in Berlin called 'Das Soviet Paradies.' Its object was to ridicule the Soviet Union. An act of sabotage occurred at this exhibition and Jews were among those involved in it. Five Germans met their death through it. In the sequel, large-scale arrests took place. We were ordered to come from the Community Executive Committee to the Head Office for Reich Security, where we found all the leaders of the Reichsvereinigung, headed by Baeck and also Loewenherz from Vienna. We were put against the wall of a great hall and had to stand there from 9 o'clock on; only Baeck and Loewenherz were allowed to sit down for a quarter of an hour. At 1.30 p.m. Gruppenfuehrer Mueller, who was directly under Heydrich, arrived and said he was sorry he had kept us waiting so long, he only wanted to tell us that 250 Jews had just been shot (50 Jews for every dead German). Next time it would be 250 for each one. Then we were dismissed.

"In the end only a small number of Jews were left in Berlin. On 10 June 1943, Gestapo commissars came to the Reichsvereinigung, and also to us, and declared that our activities were over. I was the last one to leave the office of the Community and the grounds. We were kept in the camp at Grosse Hamburgerstrasse until 16 June, and from there we were deported to Theresienstadt."

I should now like to request the Court to hear Moritz Henschel's widow, Mrs. Hildegard Henschel.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness: Not very well, German is preferable.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Hildegard Henschel.

Q. Where do you live?

A. In Yad Eliyahu, Ahva House 5.

Presiding Judge: Please answer Mr. Bar-Or's questions.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Mrs. Henschel, you are the widow of the late Moritz Henschel, are you not?

Witness Henschel: Yes.

Q. You lived in Berlin?

A. Yes.

Q. From the beginning, since your marriage?

A. Since I was born.

Q. Till when did you remain in Berlin?

A. Till 16 June 1943.

Q. What were the public functions which your husband fulfilled in the Jewish life of Berlin?

A. My husband was an advocate at the Kammergericht (Superior Court) and notary.

Q. What was your husband's Jewish activity?

A. He was for many years a member of the Presidency of the Jewish Community, and Head of its Department for Homes for the Aged and Sick.

Q. Was your husband head of the Community for a certain period?

A. Yes, from March 1940 until 10 June 1943.

Q. Whom did he replace?

A. He succeeded Mr. Stahl.

Q. And was your husband also active in the Reichsvereinigung until the end?

A. Yes.

Q. Mrs. Henschel, do you remember the order which compelled you to wear the Jewish Star?

A. Yes, we wore the Jewish Star for the first time on 19 September 1941, the day after Yom Kippur.

Q. What happened on this Yom Kippur?

A. During the morning sermon by Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck in the synagogue in the Joachimstrasse, my husband was called to the telephone to speak to the Gestapo and was told to go there at once.

Q. Who was the man at the Gestapo who was in charge of Jewish community affairs?

A. It was a man called Pruefer.

Q. Were you in contact with this Mr. Pruefer throughout the period between 1940 and 1943?

A. Yes.

Q. And on this Yom Kippur your husband went to see him?

A. Yes.

Q. What was he told there?

A. He was not alone there; the deputy president of the Community, Philip Kotzover, and Dr. Martha Mosse were called in at the same time, and all three were told that the partial evacuation of Berlin would begin in a few weeks' time.

Q. What can you tell the Court about the evacuation of Jewish homes?

A. The evacuation of the Jewish homes began together with the first evacuation measures. It was presented as an operation of vacating Jewish homes, and we knew that this would benefit the Nazis. One received a letter from the Jewish Community, in which notice was given that one's flat would have to be vacated on such and such a date; the Jewish Community would do its best to provide alternative accommodation.

Q. That is to say, implementation of the evacuation was in the hands of the Community?

A. At that time - yes.

Q. Do you remember the opening of a Sammellager (assembly camp) in Levetzowstrasse?

A. Yes. The first Sammellager to which Jews were taken before the evacuation was the synagogue in Levetzowstrasse, which was transformed into an assembly camp in 1941, shortly after the Succot holiday (the Feast of Tabernacles).

Q. Mrs. Henschel, what was the purpose of this camp? What were its special characteristics?

A. The synagogue was not transformed somehow; the Jews who were concentrated in order to be taken to camps later were housed there: The healthy and the younger ones had to spend the night on the chairs, for the children there were separate rooms with mattresses, and also for the aged and the sick. There were separate kitchens for grown-ups, for children, and for the Gestapo officials. And there was also a first aid station which was very well equipped by the Community.

Q. All this in Levetzowstrasse?

A. Yes.

Q. Mrs. Henschel, where were you working in October 1941?

A. In the Jewish hospital.

Q. And what was your field of work?

A. I was secretary of the doctors who examined people from the point of view of their fitness for transport.

Q. Mrs. Henschel, we have come to 15 October 1941. What happened?

A. That was the day before the first transport to Litzmannstadt.

Q. How was this put in motion?

A. The Jews who had been concentrated in Levetzowstrasse were brought out, the sick and the aged were loaded onto Gestapo lorries - some open, some covered - and all those who were fit to walk were made to go on foot through the streets of Berlin.

Q. Were people allowed some time to prepare for the deportation?

A. It was like this: During the delay given for vacating the dwellings, orders to report at Levetzowstrasse were already sent out, and the rumour circulated already about a week before.

Q. At the time of this transport, what did you know then, in October 1941, about earlier evacuations?

A. There was the first deportation from Stettin, then Schneidemuehl...

Q. When was that?

A. That was in the summer, but I do not remember exactly. Then Gurs.

Q. Gurs was a camp in the Pyrenees, in France, wasn't it?

A. Yes.

Q. Who were the Jews who were sent to Gurs?

A. Mostly Jews from the province of Baden.

Q. Mrs. Henschel, what was the mood in this October of 1941? Did anything special happen in the town?

A. During the first days when we had to wear the Star, there were manifestations of sympathy for the Jews everywhere. Despair began only when one realized that the transports were beginning in earnest.

Presiding Judge: Who manifested sympathy for the Jews?

Witness Henschel: For instance, my husband went to the post office where he had to collect something, and the post official said: "Mr. Henschel, you wear that like the Iron Cross, First Class!"

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