The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 38
(Part 4 of 10)

Q. Why?

A. Every day we saw the transports which arrived. These were always people who came with their rucksacks, with bags, with strong clothing. For there were special instructions on behalf of the Reich Association of Jews about what was needed in the camps, what was worthwhile taking and what was worthwhile leaving behind, although these instructions were usually not observed. Everyone had more or less what was required in the camp - there were stout shoes and so on. Suddenly there appeared a group of people with top hats, frock coats, with patent leather shoes, with walking sticks, as if they were strolling on some promenade abroad. We could not bear to see this, we cried.

We said: "How can it happen that these people are being brought here unaided, without anything?" They had no idea at all what was happening to them. Later on they told us that they were literally dragged from the streets, that the Danish people helped them and objected to their being taken.

Thus it happened that, while people were attending to their affairs, going to court or some other place, they were actually kidnapped in the street and put into trucks, and they were no longer seen by their friends. Among them were two companions by the name of Rubin, who were together with me until they were moved to the building for prominent people. This was something special where only privileged people lived. Generally, the Dienststelle in Berlin gave orders that these people had to be kept separately.

Q. When did you hear for the first time that you would have to leave Theresienstadt?

A. I heard all the time that I would have to leave Theresienstadt. Everyone who was in Theresienstadt was included in the transports. One always found some reason to be released. We passed through a terrible experience at night - they were nights of fear. Here was a transport, they were preparing the coupons: "Have you received yours?" "No." "Did you receive one?" "No." "You have not received one? I have already received an order to report." They were thin coupons, those fateful vouchers. The number of the transport was written there, and the personal number.

Q. Who issued these vouchers?

A. They were sent by the Evidenz-Abteilung, a registration office, the department responsible to the SS for the condition of the Jews.

Q. When did you get such a coupon?

A. I received such a coupon, as I have mentioned, several times, but I was always released. I received my fateful coupon during the High Holidays in the year 1944.

Q. Were you the only one to you receive this coupon?

A. Almost all our comrades, almost all of them received coupons. But some of them were for earlier transports - there were three transports, one went after the other at intervals of only one or two days.

Q. When you talk about your comrades, are you talking of the youths that were together with you?

A. No! I did not remain in the youth hostel all the time. When I reached the age of sixteen I was obliged to leave the youth hostel, for I was no longer entitled to remain there.

Q. Where did you move to?

A. They transferred me to the Hanover Kaserne (Hanover Military Barracks).

Q. What was that?

A. The Hanover Kaserne was a residential building similar to all the barracks in the ghetto. It was never our practice to say Kaserne, we said Magdeburg, Genie, Hohen Elbe; similarly we never mentioned the days. We called the days of the week: Hirsetag (Millet Day), Buchtelntag (Buckwheat Day) - we gave them names according to the food. On a day we received Kneidel (dumplings), it was Kneideltag.

Q. What did you do at the Hanover Kaserne?

A. At the Hanover Kaserne we lived as a group of 15-20 young men from Czechoslovakia, Holland and Denmark.

Q. What was the work you had to do?

A. I myself worked in the "Proviantur" - this was the section that dealt with food.

Q. The transportation of food?

A. Both the transportation of food and cooking. Each one was engaged in different work.

Q. When you received your final notification on the High Holidays of the year 1944 to leave, did your mother also receive a notice to leave?

A. No.

Q. And so, what happened?

A. There was great excitement in our room, for all of us had tasks we regarded as being essential. Everyone, nevertheless, made a further effort perhaps to give convincing reasons. One of our companions, for example, worked in the Talmud-Hundertschaft. This was something unique; here they collected, sorted out and catalogued all the Jewish literature brought to Theresienstadt in hundreds of crates. Those were huts near the Hanover Kaserne....

Q. What was the origin of these books?

A. They came from Jewish congregations in the countries of Europe.

Q. How did they reach Theresienstadt? What do you know about this?

A. We knew that they had come from Rosenberg's office. We knew that he was collecting all this material.

Q. And your task, that of the Talmud-Hundertschaft, you say, was...?

A. I did not work there - only rabbis and learned men. There were very many in Theresienstadt who had an acknowledged international standing in scholarship.

Q. And they dealt there with the sorting out...?

A. They dealt with arranging, recording, writing a description of the contents of each book, and some of our comrades occasionally brought home lists such as these, and in this way I was able to learn about their duties.

Q. And this was regarded as essential work, releasing people from the transports to the East?

A. Yes.

Q. How was this carried out?

A. The policy in Theresienstadt, and this was the policy of Edelstein, and also of Eppstein who continued it afterwards, was to distribute the workers widely. That is to say, sometimes scores of people worked in one office on something which, let us assume, three to four people could manage efficiently; they aimed at dividing up the tasks, so that each one would be considered to be essential, in order to release him from the deportations to the East.

Q. But it did not help?

A. By then it did not help any longer in most cases, but earlier there were many more possibilities.

Q. What happened when you had to leave?

A. I was summoned to appear for the transport at the Hamburger Kaserne, they called the place the "Dwellings of the Dutch," despite the fact that there were Jews there from other places as well. Each barracks had its own kitchen. We were given a place on the floor to sleep on, and they told us we would have to wait, to wait for the next transport. And the transport was delayed from day to day.

Q. Were you in touch with your mother during these days of waiting?

A. Yes. I was still able to go out of the Hamburger Kaserne, and I went to my mother every day, to see her, to encourage and strengthen her.

Q. And on the day of the transport?

A. Again it was night - it was terrible, it aroused within us a feeling of fear and revulsion.

Q. The train always travelled at night?

A. In most of the cases, as far as I remember, the train went by night. And then, again - the projectors in the courtyard. Next came an order that we were not allowed to leave the Hamburger Kaserne. Then Rahm came.

Q. Who was Rahm?

A. He was the SS commandant of the camp.

Q. Do you know how to spell his name?

A. I know...I am not sure, I think it was with an 'H'.

Q. Did you ever see the name in print?

A. I saw it many times. I also saw the signatures of others.

Q. Which signatures did you see?

A. Haindl, Bergel, Seidl.

Q. Are these the signatures you remember?

A. Yes.

Q. Let us return to the Hamburger Kaserne.

A. The place was closed. There were also people from the Jewish Council. We were told: "You are now going to another labour camp. There you will build a new camp like Theresienstadt. It will be better for you, better than here. You will have food and good conditions. You have no cause for worry. We are proud of you, for there you will be able to build what you were not able to finish here."

Q. Whose speech was this?

A. This was the speech of Rahm or of another SS man; he passed it on to a member of the Jewish Council who later read it out to us - like his spokesman.

Presiding Judge: Was Rahm present?

Witness Ansbacher: Rahm was present all the time. After that the selection began. This was really not a selection, for they sent all of us. I decided that I would dare to approach an SS man who was there.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Was there a selection or not?

Witness Ansbacher: There were people who were taken out at the last minute for all kinds of reasons on the ground of their being essential - right at the last minute.

Q. And then you decided that you would try to remain behind?

A. While we were walking around in the courtyard of the Hamburger Kaserne, everyone had to pass in front of the SS man, to pass by Rahm or some other SS man. And if my memory serves me well, there were, apart from Rahm, two other SS men. Each one who passed by him had to remove his hat and go on walking. On occasion there was someone from the Jewish Council who would comment about a particular man: "His job is so and so. Perhaps, despite everything, it would be possible to leave him behind?," if he was an essential person. But at that stage they no longer had any influence, and it did not help.

Q. Go back to your own case. What did you do?

A. I then went up to the SS man and said: "My mother is critically ill - she cannot remain here without me, I would ask you to leave me here." And then he said: "Ho hop!" That was all - the next person had already come after me. Afterwards I reached a hall where they were assembling all of us, and there we already had no more contact with the people of the ghetto. I succeeded, nevertheless, in passing a note on to my mother, and I wrote: "Mother, make an effort, in spite of everything, as long as you have the strength, to come to a labour camp. Follow me. We are leaving, and I know you will be helpless without me. Come after me - I will surely be able to take care of you. Try." And I know from those who came from Denmark, who related this to me after the war, that Mother volunteered for the next transport, and I never heard anything further about her.

Q. Where did this transport take you?

A. To Auschwitz.

Q. How long did you remain there?

A. I stayed there about ten days.

Q. Then you left Auschwitz?

A. Correct.

Q. Where to?

A. I was sent to Dachau in October 1944.

Q. You reached Dachau and remained there until your liberation by the Americans?

A. Correct. We were in some of the subsidiary camps of Dachau. Dachau was an overall name. At the beginning we arrived there, and from there we were transferred to subsidiary camps.

Q. Please tell the Court, briefly, of your principal impressions of the Dachau camp.

A. By the time we reached Dachau, we had already passed through a kind of school in Auschwitz for a short period, albeit for only ten days, but we knew the first thing that had to be done was to learn about the situation in the camp.

Q. How old were you when you reached Dachau?

A. When I came to Dachau I was seventeen years old.

Q. And so you had to examine the situation?

A. Yes.

Q. What was the situation?

A. We had to get to know which were the places where you received blows, where you had to stand in line in order to get soup, or where you received more soup, where you had to line up to go out to work and so on. This took a little time, and meanwhile we were beaten up, left and right. We also received blows all the time we were walking from the train until we arrived at the camp. Again we arrived at night, they always sent people by night. And some group of SS men emerged out of the fog and darkness, and we heard them singing as they drew nearer: "Die Juden ziehen dahin daher, sie ziehen durchs rote Meer, die Wellen schlagen zu, die Welt hat Ruh." (The Jews move from place to place, they pass through the Red Sea, the waves close over them, the world has peace.)

We knew that there was something in store for us, and here the beating started. They simply struck out at the crowd at random, left and right, without looking; they hit us with rifles and with sticks and put us in the hands of the Kapos who had brought us to the camp. In the camp they made us stand in the Appell (roll call) grounds - in Auschwitz, too. We knew what the Appell was; we had to stand there on parade until they would tell us that we could be dismissed.

They left us there the whole night, and the SS went away. We had to stand under the supervision of the Kapos, after the SS men went away to eat. We stood there naked. They told us there would be a roll call, and each one's physical health had to be examined. Thus we stood in the terribly bitter cold, with ice all around us.

Presiding Judge: When was this? At what time of the year?

Witness Ansbacher: It was in November. We were not able to go out, you will excuse me, to relieve ourselves, and the people were standing there under terrible conditions.

State Attorney Bar-Or: For how many hours did you remain standing there?

Witness Ansbacher:We stood there throughout the night. In the morning the SS men arrived and began counting. They counted us time and time again, and each time they found there was some error. They said to us: "We shall not count you until you arrange matters yourselves," and they returned to their hut while we remained standing. Some of our people fell down, and nobody paid attention to this. In this way we had to go on standing in silence. Ultimately, they came back and said: "How many are still left?"

No one was allowed to say anything. Some started to speak, perhaps to say something to a neighbour, and then blows came raining down, and they shouted: "Get dressed - go to the barracks!" They urged us on with blows in the manner we had learned in Auschwitz. All the time we were running in groups of five: "Hurry, hurry, hurry to the barracks."

However, these barracks were not like those in Auschwitz, but underground, in other words everything was down in the ground, full of damp. They had actually burrowed into the earth; one could walk there along a narrow gangway in the middle of the barrack, and on either side of the gangway people were lying on thin boards, with very little space between them and the ground. We had no blankets - nothing. They said to us: "You will stay here until further instructions. Meanwhile we did not receive food, there was no water, the supply of bread had long since run out, for the journey from Auschwitz to Dachau had been without water, and most people were simply very weak.

Q. Did it take several days from Auschwitz to Dachau?

A. It took a few days.

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