The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 38
(Part 1 of 10)

Session No. 38

26 Iyar 5721 (12 May 1961)

Presiding Judge: I declare the thirty-eighth Session of the trial open. Mr. Bar-Or, if you please.

State Attorney Bar-Or: With the Court's permission, I call Mordechai Ansbacher.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Ansbacher: Yes.

[Witness makes an affirmation.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Mordechai Ansbacher.

Presiding Judge: Where do you live, Mr. Ansbacher?

Witness Ansbacher: I live in Jerusalem.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Does Your Honour want the address in Jerusalem?

Presiding Judge: This is sufficient.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Mr. Ansbacher, you are now working at Yad Vashem?

Witness Ansbacher: That is correct.

Q. You were born in Wuerzburg in 1927?

A. On 11 January 1927.

Q. Did you go to school in Wuerzburg?

A. Yes.

Q. Jewish, or non-Jewish?

A. To a Jewish school.

Q. When you began going to school in Wuerzburg, did you hear the name Hitler?

A. When I went to school, we already heard the name Hitler and also already felt it.

Q. Was this in 1932 or 1933?

A. In 1933.

Q. You remained in Wuerzburg until January 1939?

A. I remained in Wuerzburg until January 1939.

Q. What happened then?

A. In January 1939, I was sent to Belgium with a transport of Jewish children organized at that time by the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland in other words immediately after the "action" of November 1938.

Q. Did you stay with relatives in Brussels?

A. Yes.

Q. You remained there until the occupation of Belgium by the German army?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened after the occupation?

A. After the occupation, all German Jewish refugees were sent to Gurs, which is in the South of France. I remained in Brussels for a day or two and escaped with most of the Jews of Belgium via Dunkirk and St. Omer to Calais.

Judge Halevi: Who sent the refugees to Calais?

Witness Ansbacher: The Belgian gendarmerie.

State Attorney Bar-Or: What happened in Calais?

Witness Ansbacher: We tried to escape to England but we did not succeed, because that was the time the English were retreating and the Germans advancing at great speed, the Blitzkrieg. The Germans caught us in the basement where we were hiding, shouted "Raus" (get out!) and sent us back.

Q. Where did they send you back to?

A. We were returned, for the time being, to a camp near Calais, a small concentration camp, where there were reasonably good conditions. Afterwards they sent us back, with the aid of the Belgian Red Cross, to Belgium, to Brussels.

Q. Until when did you remain there?

A. I remained there until January 1941.

Q. In January 1941 you were returned to Wuerzburg?

A. Yes.

Q. How did that happen?

A. My parents, who lived in Wuerzburg, re-established postal communication which had been interrupted owing to the invasion, and made an application, since they knew that the economic situation in Belgium was very critical, terrible hunger prevailed there at the time, and they saw that there was no chance of saving me - they applied for me to return to Wuerzburg.

Q. Who was at home then?

A. Only my parents.

Q. Brothers and sisters?

A. My brother, because of special problems, which perhaps I shall describe later, was sent to Neuendorf - a sort of agricultural training centre which was under the control of the Gestapo of Berlin.

Q. And, at the end of 1941, he was still at Neuendorf?

A. Yes, he was still at Neuendorf, and he was there until 1943, until he was sent to Auschwitz.

Q. Who organized your journey from Belgium to Wuerzburg?

A. My journey to Wuerzburg was organized by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. At that time there were not yet any special Referenten for Jewish affairs. The Germans were still trying to ensure that there would be no contact between the invading Germans and the local Jews.

Q. Did you travel with an escort or without?

A. We travelled with an escort.

Q. You reached Wuerzburg?

A. I arrived at Wuerzburg together with another boy who had been sent with me in 1939 from Wuerzburg to Belgium - Manfried Krieger. He was also sent back with me to Wuerzburg.

Q. Was he also a native of Wuerzburg?

A. He, too, was born in Wuerzburg.

Q. When did you reach Wuerzburg?

A. We reached Wuerzburg at the end of January 1941.

Q. Did you find your parents?

A. Yes.

Q. Where were they living?

A. They lived in one of the buildings where Jews were concentrated - all the Jews were then concentrated in certain buildings. They lived in a building called the "Wohnheim Bibrastrasse" (the Bibra Street Home). All the Jews lived in one building, and they conducted the administration of this building jointly - there was a central kitchen, all economic matters were conducted in common.

Q. Was this by the community council - or how was it done?

A. By order of the Gestapo, these Jews had to be concentrated in the buildings. Everyone had a particular task there, everyone worked. The younger ones went outside to work; they had to report in the morning, in order to receive work instructions, and the older ones, including my father, had duties inside the house.

Q. What were your father's duties? What was he engaged in during that year?

A. He attended to the religious affairs of the community. He was given the task of conducting prayers, and he also gave lessons in the Gemara and in the Mishna.

Q. When you returned to Wuerzburg, you continued going to school?

A. When I got back, I went to school. "School" - perhaps it would be an exaggeration to call it such. The school was inside that same building on Bibra Street, and it had a room containing several grades together. The Bibra building once served as a dormitory for students of the Jewish Teachers' Seminary.

Q. Was that the Jewish Seminary for Teachers of Wuerzburg (Israelitische Lehrbildungsanstalt)?

A. Yes.

Q. When you returned to Wuerzburg, was it still in existence?

A. No. Already in 1938 they had destroyed the Seminar, which had not been at that place. The new Seminar was also in Seelberg Street.

Q. What do you mean by "destroyed"?

A. They burned the archives and arrested all the students. Community life continued in Wuerzburg, for it possessed cultural and spiritual forces of the highest standard, first and foremost the students of the seminary, some of whom remained in Wuerzburg as teachers.

Q. They organized classes of Jewish children for regular tuition?

A. Yes, for regular tuition.

Q. During 1941-1942?

A. Yes, in 1941.

Q. Until when did the regular lessons continue?

A. In spring 1941, this school had to be closed down. It was not an official order, but they said that the small schools should be closed and be concentrated in much larger centres. At first this was also the situation regarding the villages and country towns. In this way, all the children of the surrounding area were already concentrated in Wuerzburg before 1938, where there was a central school, and the schools in the country towns and the villages were closed at that time. This was also the position in 1941. We were no longer able to study. They then tried to transfer me to Munich. In Munich a school still existed until a later date - I do not remember until when.

Q. And for this reason your parents made an application to transfer you to Munich?

A. Not only for this reason. When I returned to Wuerzburg from Belgium, my brother - as I have said - was not there. I asked my mother what the explanation was for this, for my brother had been together with our parents all the time. She explained to me that he had been one of the few youths who had remained in the town, and because of the compulsory labour, they had taken him, too, to do exceedingly difficult work. They had to build railway lines, roads, and most of the workers there were already elderly, and he was the only young one amongst them. Thus the all the German overseers exploited him, and he received terrible beatings from them.

On one occasion he came home bleeding and said that he would not be able to bear this any more, and that he would die at work under such conditions. The Gestapo in Wuerzburg - this I heard from my mother - especially wanted to retain him, for he was one of the younger labour force, and they took advantage of him to the limit of his strength, and they knew that he could no longer succeed in escaping abroad from there. But application was made to the Reichsvereinigung in Berlin, and then they managed to transfer him, through the Gestapo and under its supervision, to Neuendorf.

Q. And what happened to you?

A. My mother feared that they would take me, too, to forced labour of this kind, and I was transferred to Munich.

Q. When did you reach Munich?

A. I reached Munich in the spring of 1941.

Q. You travelled by train?

A. Correct.

Q. Was this a simple matter?

A. No.

Q. What were you obliged to obtain?

A. Every Jew travelling by train in those days had to submit an application for special authorization. This authorization was given only very seldom and in urgent cases.

Q. By whom was the authority given?

A. By the Gestapo in Wuerzburg.

Q. When did you arrive in Munich?

A. In the spring of 1941.

Q. What was your work there?

A. In Munich they attached me to the "Werkstaetten." These were trade schools for vocational training, and we studied for half a day. It was only for a short period. Thereafter we could not study at all, and we were obliged to work all the time, and we had to undertake special duties as compulsory labour.

Q. How old were you then?

A. 14 years old.

Q. And you commenced working?

A. Yes. At the beginning we worked for the Jewish community. We had to do all kinds of work, sometimes for the Gestapo as well. We had to erect installations for them. Thereafter, we were required - they did not release anyone from it - to assist in constructing the camp for assembling Jews before they were deported to the East.

Q. The Sammellager?

A. Yes, the Sammellager in Milbertshofen, a suburb of Munich.

Q. How long did you work there?

A. For a few months. First in construction work, and later helping with the transports.

Q. How many transports left from Munich?

A. I personally helped with two or three.

Q. How many people were included in such a transport?

A. I cannot actually say, approximately one thousand.

Q. Did the people, or you, know where the transport was being sent to?

A. We did not know. They merely told us it was going to the East. The people for the transports were of completely different categories - there were old people, sick people, and there were also younger people.

Q. What was the sort of help you were required to give?

A. We were required to bring food to the camp, and sometimes, at a later stage, to those who were being deported. We were required to help the weak and the sick when they were taken to the trains. Generally speaking, the trains left at night, and those were frightful days and nights; the departures were carried out under projectors. Generally speaking, these were sick and feeble people, because most of the people then in Munich were aged and sick, for in the main there were no longer any young people left in Germany at that time. They were transferred under terrible conditions. I am ready to describe them.

Q. Please do so, but briefly.

A. They usually transferred the people from the concentration camp at Milbertshofen a day or two before the transport left. In Munich, too, there were centralized dwellings. Some of them were located in the community council building. There was one on Trippet Street where I lived, and there was one in the place where there was the synagogue.

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