The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 38
(Part 2 of 10)

Q. Where did they transfer them from these centralized dwellings?

A. They transferred them to Milbertshofen. They took them in closed trucks. Normally these were trucks for moving furniture. They were inside with no air. These were very large trucks - they closed them and the people were left without air or light, and only at Milbertshofen were the trucks opened and the people taken out. In the beginning there were still people who were "arbeitsfaehig" - that is to say, fit to work; later on they also took the cripples and the patients of the Jewish hospital in Munich. When the patients were transferred from the hospital, I was still in Munich. I saw how they carried the sick people, still in their beds, to the train. All this was under the glare of projectors.

Q. All of it by night?

A. All of it by night.

Q. Was it always at night?

A. Most of the transports, both from Wuerzburg and from Munich, were at night.

Q. When you talk about projectors, are you talking of a projector inside the assembly camp?

A. No. Inside the assembly camp there was a projector all night, but also outside the trains.

Q. At the railway station?

A. It was not a station. It was a square. There everything was lit up. That created a terrible feeling, for people were generally afraid of the night. They were terribly afraid then. There was nausea, vomiting and frightful shouting. In the course of all the chaos, they later brought the sick people who themselves did not know where they were; they carried them to the trains on their beds. And then shouts would be heard "Faster, faster!," and blows rained on those who were assisting the transports and who threw the people into the trains.

Q. Was there an escort of guards? Who was in charge of maintaining order?

A. They had men of the Gestapo there, they also had members of the police, and there were also SS men. Apart from this, as a rule, representatives of the community council were present. Each one had always to be checked against lists, in stages. They forced them to go through another list, alongside the railway waggon. At the start in the camp, they marked them off on the list, where each one was located. As a rule there were people at the camp in reserve. They were constantly in a state of panic, for they never knew if they would be sent or not.

Q. What did it depend on?

A. It depended upon a last-minute decision, when a number of people had died, or when the quota was not full. The number to be dispatched always had to be full, that is to say full of living people.

Q. Those people who were kept in reserve - were they kept in reserve in the camp or were they sent on the next train?

A. Yes, they remained as a reserve in the camp and were sent on the next train.

Q. Did you help, on behalf of the community council, in the loading of the transports? During what period did you do so in Munich?

A. I do not remember.

Q. Half a year?

A. I think less - some months.

Q. From there you returned to Wuerzburg?

A. Yes.

Q. You continued with this work in Wuerzburg also?

A. Yes, also in Wuerzburg for a certain period. At first I worked in the Jewish hospital. This was, at that time, the largest Jewish centre in Wuerzburg. And here they brought sick Jews from the entire region, even from Frankfurt and further afield, for this was a well-known hospital and a large one. It had several blocks of buildings. These contained those Jews who had not already succeeded in escaping from Germany, mainly people such as those whose children were already abroad and they - the parents - were left behind on their own. The assistance we were able to render them was moral support, help in serving the food, and so on. In addition, I also worked in the Jewish community council office in all kinds of tasks that they assigned to me.

Q. Did you see in Wuerzburg also how the transports left from the town?

A. Yes. I was also present at one transport when they brought the people from the assembly point in Wuerzburg to the train. There were two concentration points at the beginning. At the end of 1941 the Jews were sent off from the Standhalle (Town Hall). This was a site adjoining the central theatre of Wuerzburg. Later on, the place of assembly was in the Platscher Garten. This had once been a large theatre and cafe. They had halls there which suited the Gestapo's needs. They brought the people there, as a rule, a day or two before departure. There were special arrangements in these places, and they were strict in maintaining those arrangements - so that people should not be able to pass from one room to another.

There was a tight control. People were sometimes left without any medical aid at all. I was also present in the Platscher Garten when one transport was sent from there. It was not far from the Jewish hospital, and we helped in moving the hospital patients there and also helped to bring food. I, too, was deported from the Platscher Garten.

Q. When a transport such as this came into the assembly camp in Wuerzburg, did you see the people or help them before they went through the control? Was there a control?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you see them before the control?

A. Some had been expelled from the country towns and the villages in the area, and had been transferred from there to the Jewish hospital. This was the first concentration point. They told us how the villagers had actually driven them out of their beds. These were generally organized operations by the party branches in the villages. They expelled them, and people arrived at the assembly camps without possessions, with only their shirts on their backs. Generally, clothes were subsequently distributed to them from the Kleiderkammer (clothing store). This was a special place from which the community council distributed clothing to the needy.

Q. Was this in Wuerzburg?

A. Yes, at the community council.

Q. They came with nothing?

A. Without anything at all.

Q. Were these your first contacts with people who had been deported to Wuerzburg?

A. Yes.

Q. When the transport to the East was organized, were you at the railway station to help?

A. I was at the railway station only when I myself left from there.

Q. Were you at the assembly camp?

A. Yes.

Q. Where was it?

A. It was at the Platscher Garten.

Q. Did you arrive there with the people [who were being deported]?

A. I saw these people at the Platscher Garten, for we were able to spend some time with them - even an entire day. But later on, when they entered the large hall in the Platscher Garten, after they had already passed through the control, further contact was forbidden.

Q. Did you see them again after they passed through the control, when they boarded the trains?

A. We were usually sent back; we were not allowed to accompany them to the railway station.

Q. As soon as they entered the large hall, you were no longer able to have contact with them?

A. It was forbidden. But we tried in all sorts of ways to be in touch with them, occasionally to pass on medicines or special items they needed.

Q. What happened inside the hall?

A. I can only tell you what I saw when I left. Perhaps I should give you a general description of when I was deported.

Q. Please do so. But at this point I want to know what happened in the hall.

A. In this hall, the people were kept apart. Each one sat with the little bundle he was allowed to take - 50 kilograms. To go to the toilet, you will excuse me, they could only go with permission of the Gestapo. There were guards outside, or there were SS men in their black uniforms, something which I had not seen in Munich.

Q. How were they dressed in Munich?

A. In Munich they were in green, all of them in green, in green uniforms. The police were also in green. But here I saw SS men in black uniforms. I knew one who had actually been the one who had expelled us, years before, from our apartment in Wuerzburg. His name was Stup or Stumpf. I remember him well. As a rule, I did not look at the faces of these people, for they all looked the same, similar to each other. By chance I remembered him well, for he caused us a lot of trouble in the years 1935, 1936, 1937. When it came to our transport, an order was received that one transport should be sent to Theresienstadt. This was one of the last transports from Wueerzburg.

Everyone wanted to go to Theresienstadt. While they did not know exactly what it was, for some reason they were convinced that it would be better than places in the Osten, in the East. All of us had, in fact, serious doubt as to what exactly there was in the East, for people who were sent there were not, as a rule, able to send mail. We waited for a sign, and no one responded. Questions were asked in the community council, and they were told that there were "kriegswichtige Betriebe" there (enterprises essential for war needs), and this was the only reason they were not allowed to write. Their situation was good, and everything was fine.

We also wanted to be in a transport to Theresienstadt, especially as most of the hospital's essential medical equipment was being assembled and it had been decided that it would all be sent to Theresienstadt. For days food parcels were being prepared. All the food, all the reserve supplies in the hospital were packed into parcels, in sacks. Food parcels were prepared for each one individually. A bag for each was sewn from sheets and old clothes, into which the food could be placed. Then we knew that perhaps it would be worthwhile for us to be included in this transport.

Q. When you were getting ready for the deportation to Theresienstadt, was your father still alive?

A. No, my father died in Wuerzburg in November, 1941.

Q. You remained alone, with your mother?

A. I came back from Munich at the end of 1941. Important things occurred meanwhile. In Munich, we were then obliged to wear the badge.

Presiding Judge: Mr. Bar-Or, perhaps you would guide the witness? You surely are acquainted with his evidence - perhaps he can be directed to the more essential matters.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Perhaps you would return to your father. When you were in Munich, he was still alive?

Witness Ansbacher: I returned as the result of a telegram sent from Munich informing me that my father was seriously ill, and that I should return immediately, most urgently. In the course of half a day I obtained authorization from the Gestapo on account of the telegram. When I arrived, they took me immediately to the hospital. My father was in a very grave condition. He was extremely ill. It happened suddenly. My brother, who was living in Neuendorf, also obtained special authorization from the Gestapo to come. I only heard my father's words, the concluding words of Sh'ma Yisrael ("Hear O Israel"). He was not altogether conscious, and I merely heard the words: "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children," and then he lost consciousness. And then we began crying, we realized that these were his last moments. We actually arrived at the last moment. We were led out of the room, and on the same day, a Sabbath, he passed away.

Q. When you were preparing for the deportation to Theresienstadt, were you alone with your mother?

A. I was with my mother.

Q. And your brother?

A. My brother was in Neuendorf.

Q. And he did not join you?

A. He applied to join us. We also requested this of the Gestapo in the normal way. We were not successful, and he remained in Neuendorf.

Presiding Judge: Where is Neuendorf?

Witness Ansbacher: Near Berlin. Actually we were only added to this transport because of the fact that my mother was working as a nurse at the time. She was sent along in this capacity, and I went together with her on account of my age. My brother, who was older, was not included.

State Attorney Bar-Or: When did you reach Theresienstadt?

Witness Ansbacher: If I remember correctly, it was on 23 September 1942, or 24 September, in the morning.

Q. Were you able to keep together, your mother and you?

A. They took my mother together with the people she was treating, the sick and the aged, and I went with another group.

Q. When you arrived at Theresienstadt, were many Jews from Germany there already?

A. When I arrived at the ghetto?

Q. Yes.

A. When I arrived at the ghetto, Jews from Germany were already there. They were not normally kept separately. They were living together with Jews from various countries.

Q. Please describe to us the state of those Jews whom you found when you reached Theresienstadt?

A. In Theresienstadt, there were Jews from Germany, mainly old people, feeble people who had been left by themselves, without children, without family assistance; as a rule, all their relatives had left Germany, and they were left behind without help. They adjusted to the conditions at Theresienstadt with great difficulty.

There were cases of quarrelling between them and persons from other countries. They generally lived in a house, or in one room, together with people from various countries - one from Austria, one from Czechoslovakia, one from Germany, one from this town and another from some other town, one religious and another not religious. They performed their bodily functions in the room itself, for they no longer had the strength to stand on their feet.

Particularly the Jews from Germany - it can be said - fell like flies. Many of them died already within the first months of arriving there. Nevertheless, it was very strange to see with what form of address, with what respect, one spoke to the other, particularly amongst those who came from Germany.

It was strange, for example, that people who were very hungry and were mostly dying from starvation, from dysentery, when they fell upon the remnants of food, upon potato peels, you heard occasionally: "Please excuse me, Herr Sanitaetsrat (Medical Councillor); Herr Staatsanwalt (Mr. State Attorney), please allow me to get to the potato peels for a little while." It was really shocking.

Generally speaking, with all these niceties of behaviour, people cared for themselves, and owing to the starvation, they did not observe the sanitary regulations according to which it was forbidden to go near the remnants, but one would push the other and help himself. What would he find? Perhaps a few peels in the dirt, and he would swallow them unwashed.

Q. During the time you were in Theresienstadt - until October 1944 - did you notice whether these people knew about the deportations to the East from Theresienstadt?

A. We knew about the transportations to the East, each transport was called the "Eastern Transport."

Q. Were there deportations like these all the time?

A. From 1943, as far as I remember, all the time. Usually there were transports whenever SS men arrived from the Dienststelle (office). One usually saw them going to the military barracks, and then, after they left, there were transports.

Q. Did these people from Germany believe that, possibly, they would not be included in the transports to the East?

A. Yes.

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