The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 42
(Part 5 of 6)

Q. Now, Mrs. Salzberger, when did you and your sister leave Ravensbrueck, and how did you leave?

A. At one of the roll-calls, which were held in the small camp, too, we were ordered, my sister and myself, to report to the commandant's office. That was at the end of January, 1945. We thought - and at that time the atmosphere was already so depressing, so utterly hopeless - that this was the end, some kind of Sonderbehandlung (special treatment). When we arrived at the office, we were told that we were free. We did not believe this and did not take it seriously. But to our great surprise, we were taken to the clothing store, where each transport had to hand over all personal belongings, and from where everyone entered the camp naked. First of all we were given back what we call valuables, according to our personal number, personal file, documents. This is also why we possess...

Q. This is why you possess the documents?

A. Yes.

Q. Were all the documents returned to you?

A. Yes. The complete personal file, our documents of identification, a fountain pen, a watch, and all personal belongings.

Presiding Judge: What month was this?

Witness Salzberger: The end of January, 1945. They dressed us as best they could in the clothes that were there. And they attached three more women to us, to the same transport: A mother and daughter from Turkey, and a single woman whose nationality I do not remember.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Were they also Jewish?

Witness Salzberger: Yes. From the same transport from Holland.

Q. From Westerbork?

A. Yes. They put us under the supervision of an SS man and an SS woman, who accompanied us on an ordinary civilian train, first of all to Berlin.

Q. In an ordinary passenger carriage?

A. Yes.

Q. You travelled from Ravensbrueck to Berlin?

A. Yes. In Berlin we changed trains. The railway station was already destroyed. There was already panic. Germans were not allowed to enter the train. There was no room for them. Only soldiers and officers could travel by train. We were put on a train of German officers which went to Prague. We went to Prague on this train in the middle of the night, and the two SS people saw to it that we did not talk to anyone and that no one talked to us. I happened to see the papers in the hands of the SS woman, which she showed to the commander of the train, in order to prove our right to travel. Our names were written there, and also my mother's name.

Q. Your mother's name, too?

A. Yes. It said that we were being sent to Ghetto Theresienstadt, following an order of the Head Office for Reich Security in Berlin.

Q. From Prague you came to Theresienstadt?

A. We changed trains, and from there we were taken to Theresienstadt.

Q. What happened when you arrived in Theresienstadt?

A. We were handed over to the commandant's office in Theresienstadt. Our papers were handed over there. The two SS people disappeared. We were put into a room in an isolated house. All five of us were accommodated there. Outside the door of the room they put a Czech policeman. We were kept in isolation in this room for four weeks.

Q. Together? Both of you together?

A. Five women - my sister, myself and the three other women.

Q. With no contact with anybody else?

A. At first we did not understand what was happening. We had been told that we would come to Ghetto Theresienstadt, but in fact we did not enter Ghetto Theresienstadt, because care was taken that there should be no contact with us. We were actually not within the ghetto compound. Food was brought to us; Czech policemen, gendarmes, brought us food and guarded us day and night. We were there for four weeks.

Q. What happened then?

A. After the first few days, Rahm, the Commandant of Theresienstadt, paid us a visit, asked how we were, looked at us and asked if we had any requests. He came to visit again after two to three weeks.

Q. The same Rahm?

A. The same. We began to be very worried. We thought that there was a change of attitude of some kind, that they would not allow us to enter Theresienstadt. Theresienstadt was regarded as a very good place, comparatively speaking. We could not understand what was the real intention.

Q. In what month was that?

A. At the beginning of March, 1945. I think it was on 3 March 1945. In that month the policeman told us that he had to take us to the Dienststelle (office) - that is what it was called - in Theresienstadt. He said that at the Dienststelle we would have an interview with some very important people from the SS, among them the Accused.

Q. Did he mention Eichmann's name?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened?

A. When we came to the Dienststelle, all five of us were separated, and a separate interview was held with each of us.

Q. Now tell us please about the interview with yourself.

A. First of all, four very high SS officers were present.

Q. Do you remember their names?

A. First of all, there was Rahm, the Commandant of Theresienstadt.

Q. Did you see him after that, too?

A. Both after and before that. Then there were the Accused, Guenther and Moes.

Q. Which of them took an active part in the interview? Who conducted it?

A. The Accused spoke a lot, and we identified him actually by the manner of his speech.

Q. How was that?

A. We knew who Eichmann was.

Q. Why did you say "we"? You said that you had separate interviews?

A. We compared notes afterwards.

Q. Was the contents of the interview the same for you and for your sister?

A. Yes.

Q. You said it was possible to identify the Accused by the manner of his speech. What do you mean?

A. Already in Holland we had known who Eichmann was; he was known to use many Jewish and Hebrew expressions. We thought - and that was the accepted story - that he knew Hebrew perfectly, that he was born in Palestine. And in his speech this was immediately evident. He took an interest in all our past, the whole of our background, our experiences, also in Holland. He asked very detailed questions about synagogues, about Zionist matters - we had our certificate, too - about affiliation to the Zionist movement, etc. But the main subject of the interview was an attempt to find out what we knew about the extermination, and whether, in Ravensbrueck, we had come into contact with people who were brought there from Auschwitz, especially those coming from Theresienstadt.

Q. In what way did you answer these questions about what you knew in Ravensbrueck?

A. We immediately understood the purpose of the interview. It became clear that we were isolated, that they did not want to allow us to enter the ghetto, out of fear that we might know too much, and that we might talk about it with the inmates of Theresienstadt. We were reserved; we said that in Ravensbrueck we worked in the Siemens-Halske factory, that we were in a separate camp, and that we did not come into contact with the people who were brought to Ravensbrueck. We were very uncommunicative. On the other hand, we did not say that Ravensbrueck was a good place, as it was known that it was a very bad one. Apart from this, my mother's death was mentioned in the interview.

Q. Did he ask about your mother?

A. Yes.

Q. Did he have her papers?

A. Yes.

Q. Did the Accused have them in his hand or someone else?

A. This I do not remember.

Q. Was it a file or papers?

A. It was a file.

Q. Did he ask about her?

A. Yes.

Q. Did he not know that she had died?

A. Apparently not.

Q. Did you tell him about her death in Ravensbrueck?

A. Yes, we told him.

Q. What was the end of the matter?

A. The interview was conducted in very polite language, and our treatment was very polite, they addressed us as "Sie" (polite form of address in German). They treated us with courtesy.

Q. Did the Accused also address you as "Sie," politely?

A. Yes. He expressed his regret that my mother had died. But the essential meaning of the interview was not so polite. We were told that we would be allowed to come into Ghetto Theresienstadt - "Juedische Selbstverwaltung Theresienstadt" (Jewish Autonomous Administration Theresienstadt) was the term he used. But if we were to say anything about our past experiences in Ravensbrueck, about what we knew, then - and he used a very appropriate expression: "Dann werden Sie durch den Schornstein gehen" (then you will go through the chimney). Next day, we were actually taken into the ghetto.

Q. Do you have the so-called "Zentralevidenz" (Central Registry) card dated 8 March 1945, in the name of your sister?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you receive these cards from the Jewish Ghetto Administration?

A. Yes, that was the registry office of the ghetto.

Q. Was it run by the Jewish Ghetto Administration?

A. Yes.

Q. In the end you also received work cards, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you see the work card in your name?

A. Yes.

Q. Was this also issued on behalf of the Jewish Ghetto Administration?

A. Yes.

Presiding Judge: The card from the registry office will be marked T/703. The work card will be marked T/704.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Please open the work card in your name. What were the kinds of work in which you were employed during these months, March-April?

Witness Salzberger: I was a waitress.

Q. This is rather easy work?

A. All work connected with food was regarded as work with special privileges.

Q. Do you have any explanation why you were employed on such privileged work?

A. It seems that there was an instruction...I do not any rate, when we came to Theresienstadt, the treatment we were given was very favourable. First of all, it should be stated here that it hardly ever happened that anybody was transferred to Theresienstadt from another camp, certainly not from a concentration camp. And when we arrived, we caused some sensation. There were also many people from Holland there whom we knew.

Q. Whom you met again?

A. Yes.

Q. You promised the Accused that you would not tell what you knew from Ravensbrueck. Did you keep your promise?

A. No.

Q. You talked?

A. We talked immediately.

Q. To whom?

A. We talked about our experiences both to the responsible persons there, to the members of the Aeltestenrat (Council of Elders), and to our Dutch acquaintances, among them highly educated, intelligent people. As is well-known, especially intellectuals from Holland were sent to Theresienstadt, among others.

Q. Mrs. Salzberger, what was the reaction of the people when they heard your stories about Auschwitz, about the extermination campaign in the East and all the rest? What was the reaction of the Theresienstadt people?

A. They did not believe us; they said, in March 1945, that we were out of our minds; they did not believe us. It must be said here that transports from Theresienstadt went to Auschwitz already in 1944. We knew from people whom we met in Ravensbrueck from Auschwitz, or from Theresienstadt via Auschwitz, that people in Theresienstadt still volunteered for these transports in 1944. Wives volunteered to go with their husbands, and so on. And when we told them what was going on, people did not believe us.

Q. Could you please find your savings booklet, No. 77578, which was issued in your name in Theresienstadt?

A. Yes.

Presiding Judge: Mr. Bar-Or, what is the situation, do you have more questions?

State Attorney Bar-Or: I ask for a few minutes. I should like to complete the direct examination today. I am at the end of this testimony.

Presiding Judge: Do not take this as an attempt to rush you.

State Attorney Bar-Or: We can continue tomorrow. The witness lives in Jerusalem.

Presiding Judge: But if you want to finish, please (go on).

State Attorney Bar-Or: I think it would be worth while finishing, since we have reached the end of the direct examination.

Presiding Judge: The savings booklet will be marked T/705.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Did you also receive internal Theresienstadt money?

Witness Salzberger: We received monthly wages.

Q. Did you receive your wages in Theresienstadt money?

A. Yes.

Q. And did you preserve the banknotes from Theresienstadt?

A. Yes.

Q. Please point to a 100 Crown banknote.

A. Yes.

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