The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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

Q. German officials?

A. Yes.

Q. Did they all wear uniform, or were there also some in civilian clothes?

A. I cannot tell you.

Judge Raveh: Where was this roll call held?

Witness Henschel: In the great hall of the Jewish Community, Oranienburgerstrasse 29.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Do you remember a special name for this roll call or for a similar one?

Witness Henschel: At this roll call we were, for the first time, turned into hostages.

Q. What does this mean?

A. We were told: If you don't come, someone else will come in your place, and what was supposed to happen to you will happen to him.

Q. Did this threat become reality on 9 November 1942?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened?

A. Eight out of twenty hostages disappeared, and later it transpired that they were shot.

Q. What happened to their families?

A. Their families were put on a transport to the East at the same time.

Q. Do you remember the name Brunner from Vienna?

A. Yes.

Q. In what connection?

A. When it became clear to the authorities that the evacuation was not proceeding with the desired speed, they brought Brunner from Vienna, since he had achieved there, through fast work, what the authorities also wanted to achieve in Berlin.

Presiding Judge: Who used this expression?

Witness Henschel: This was talked about. The whole of Berlin talked about it. He brought with him the notorious Judenpolizei (Jews Police).

State Attorney Bar-Or: Where did these Jupo people end up?

Witness Henschel: They were also deported to the camps later on, and I remember some of them in Theresienstadt; they were cruelly massacred by the other Jews there after the liberation.

Q. Those people who came with Brunner - which town did they come from?

A. They came from Austria, whether all of them were from Vienna, that I cannot tell.

Q. Did the methods really change after the arrival of Brunner?

A. They changed radically, because the SS in Berlin did not fully cooperate in the evacuation of the Jewish homes.

Q. Do you know anything about arrests in the streets, about round-ups?

A. Yes. In order to speed up his work, Brunner began to comb the streets in broad daylight and to arrest persons wearing the Star. Only employees of the Community were exempt, as they were, after all, still needed. They were designated in such a way that the arresting policemen knew: This person must not be touched. The Star was worn here, on the left, and on the left forearm an armband made of red ticking cloth marked with a number and stamped with the Jewish Community stamp. They had a yellow permit, the size of a postcard, which had to be shown in the tramway or the bus together with the Jewish identity card. And these people were, in fact, not arrested.

Presiding Judge: Who is this Brunner, is that Alois Brunner?

State Attorney Bar-Or: No, this is his brother. He is no longer alive; he was sentenced in Vienna.

[To the witness] What happened with the cases of suicide? Did Brunner's appearance influence the number of suicides?

A. The rate increased to a frightening extent.

Q. When Brunner went on vacation in December 1942 - who took his place?

A. Gerbinger or Gerblinger, I am not quite sure, but he was not as rigorous.

Q. At the end of January 1943, people from the leadership of the Community and the Jewish Organization were sent; who were they?

A. What do you mean by "sent"?

Q. Deported.

A. Oh, yes, that was Dr. Eppstein. He did not have a post in the Community but in the Reichsorganisation; Rabbi Dr. Baeck, Philip Kotzover, the Deputy President of the Community, with three children, the youngest of whom was ten weeks old.

Q. Philip Kotzover was deported together with his children, wasn't he?

A. He was deported with his three children, the youngest of whom was ten weeks old.

Q. What can you tell us about the yellow slip ("der gelbe Schein")?

A. The yellow slip was connected with "Operation Brunner." They were interested in keeping a staff of officials of the Jewish Community, in order to wind up everything that could not be done without them. These people were given a yellow slip of paper which said that, for the time being, they were indispensible officials of the Community, and which also contained exact details of birth, address, number of persons in the family - signed by the President of the Community and stamped with the Community stamp. It was recommended to post this on the wall at the entrance to one's dwelling, so that the evacuation squads and the house search squads would know: This family has still to remain.

Q. Mrs. Henschel, on 27 February 1943 mass arrests of Jews began at their work places, did they not?

A. Yes, of those who were assigned to work, and this operation was called "Operation Concert House Clou."

Q. What is the meaning of "Clou Operation?"

A. "Clou" was an amusement hall, an enormous concert house and amusement hall in Berlin which could hold several thousand people, and which was not in use at that time.

Q. Please tell the Court details about the events of that day, 27 February.

A. The events began already the day before when my husband was ordered to the Gestapo and told to assemble several sets of equipment for small offices, and also a large contingent of medical personnel.

Q. Office equipment - people or furniture?

A. Typewriters, desks, secretaries. He was to have the office equipment and the staff contingents ready for the next day, so that they would be on call, to be taken to where they would be needed.

Q. And this was done?

A. This was done.

Q. For how many people was the place prepared?

A. For about 8,000.

Q. Was this for Clou only or also for other places as well?

A. No, there was another camp, Rosenstrasse, for those married to non-Jews.

Q. Were barracks also used?

A. No.

Q. Only those two places?

A. I think so. I never heard of any other.

Q. And the next day?

A. The next day, quite early in the morning, SS lorries with lots of SS people arrived at the factories and work places. The SS took control of all the telephones, and the people working there were chased into the street without their coats, without anything, in their work clothes, their coloured aprons, men and women, as they were.

Q. Where were they taken?

A. The majority doubtless to Konzerthaus Clou. Some, who said immediately that they had Aryan spouses were perhaps taken to Rosenstrasse. I cannot remember the other places; there may have been some, but I do not remember their names.

Q. What happened to these 8,000 people?

A. The 8,000 persons were detained in these places, and they began, of course, to ask questions: What is happening to my children, my children are at home, and where is my husband, he works in the factory, he is not here! The Jewish Community began to organize its staff, in order to gather the families together at least. The children were brought from the homes, where some of them had been locked in by their parents, since there was no school any more and many people did not know where to leave the children. Attempts were also made to unite husbands and wives. These efforts were almost completely successful, as far as the children were concerned, but with the grown-ups it was more difficult.

Q. Where did these people finally end up?

A. Insofar as they were not entitled to go to Theresienstadt or were married to Aryans - in the East.

Q. This was in March 1943, wasn't it?

A. No, February 1943.

Q. Were there additional transports in March?

A. Yes, of Community employees.

Q. Please tell us in brief what happened.

A. After the majority of the Jews of Berlin had been deported in February, there was no longer a need for so many officials, and in March two large transports of Community employees were recruited, one of which went to the East, and the other to Theresienstadt.

Presiding Judge: How many Community employees were there before these transports?

Witness Henschel: I cannot say.

Q. Was it a matter of hundreds or thousands?

A. Certainly thousands, since hundreds could not have managed to do the work in the many different institutions.

State Attorney Bar-Or: What happened on 10 June, 1943?

Witness Henschel: On 10 June 1943, at 10 o'clock in the morning, an SS man came to my husband's office at Oranienburgerstrasse 10 and told him he was under arrest since the Jewish Community had ceased to exist.

Q. When were you sent to Theresienstadt?

A. On 16 June 1943, we were taken from the Grosshamburger assembly camp to the Puttlitzstrasse station.

Q. Together with how many people?

A. Together with about 300 bedridden patients and some who could walk.

Q. Are many of those who went with you then alive today?

A. No, very few of our transport survived.

Q. Did those who went with you remain in Theresienstadt?

A. No, the majority were deported to the East, e.g., in October 1944 alone - 18,000 persons.

Presiding Judge: When you and your husband went - were these the last Jews of Berlin?

Witness Henschel: No.

Q. Who stayed behind?

A. When we had been in Theresienstadt for two or three months, another full Jewish transport arrived, and then, much later, in 1944, the mixed couples also came.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have questions?

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: I did not quite understand what you told us about the lack of cooperation on the part of the SS people in Berlin. Would you perhaps explain what you meant by this?

Witness Henschel: To put it simply, the SS in Berlin did not show the same exceptional cruelty as the Viennese.

Judge Halevi: You mentioned the deportation of 18,000 Jews from Theresienstadt in October 1944.

Witness Henschel: Yes. This was spread over three weeks approximately. These were the so-called "voluntary" work transports.

Q. Where were they sent?

A. Without a doubt to Auschwitz, all of them.

Q. I read in the lecture by your late husband, which was presented here, also about 18,000 Jews, and I understood that, in October 1944, 18,000 people arrived in Theresienstadt, so that it became so crowded.

A. That was much later. On 15 April 1945, many thousands arrived in Theresienstadt from other camps which had been liberated.

Q. Your husband also mentioned that gas chambers were built in Theresienstadt.

A. Yes.

Q. Do you also know about this?

A. Yes. At the time it was not known to me, but there were people in Theresienstadt who knew about it. They were inmates of Theresienstadt who had to build them. That was on the so-called Bastei (bastion).

Q. When did they build this?

State Attorney Bar-Or: We shall submit more direct proof on this matter.

Judge Halevi: Only the date, if she knows it.

Witness Henschel: What date?

Q. Of the building of the gas chambers.

A. This was going on all the time. When I arrived, it was already beginning.

Presiding Judge: Thank you very much, Mrs. Henschel. You have completed your evidence. We shall end the Session now. The next Session will be tomorrow at 9 a.m.

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