The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 44
(Part 5 of 7)

State Attorney Bar-Or: Yes, it does, it comes to us from a third-hand source. I do not insist on my request. If the Court feels that this document has not much value, then I am prepared to do without it.

Judge Halevi: Only one preliminary question: The German Red Cross - were these German citizens?

State Attorney Bar-Or: They were German citizens. This is what I wanted to add to the reasons for my request, although perhaps the real value of the document is limited because of the remoteness of the source. Your Honour, the Presiding Judge, we shall prove, still in the course of today, that an official visit of the International Red Cross, as distinct from the German Red Cross, took place in June 1944.

It is clear that the information which reached Geneva from the German Red Cross is important (a) in order to appreciate the need for the International Red Cross to arrange its visit, and (b) in order to understand the special preparations made by the offices of the Accused, in order to prepare and, what is more important, to permit this visit to Theresienstadt, which was of course an unusual event. I should actually be content if the Court were to permit me to prove the first passage, which speaks of the impression of Theresienstadt gained by the representatives of the German Red Cross after a visit of 48 hours there. This is actually the part I wish to prove.

Dr. Servatius: Your Honour, the Presiding Judge, it is an expression of feelings, a mood is being passed on, from hand to hand; furthermore, it is of such a general nature that it can be said to have no value at all, since it contains no facts of any kind. It is well-known, is it not, that the German Red Cross belonged to the International Red Cross also during the War, so that it may be assumed that there exist direct reports where certain matters are mentioned. Little can be done with a simple conclusion that one was deeply impressed. I think that every person would be deeply impressed on coming from a peaceful home to visit, for the first time, any camp and spend 48 hours there. And he would probably be taken aback on seeing what goes on in the camp when he has not yet experienced such a thing.

Presiding Judge: Mr. Bar-Or, did you say in the end that you wish to submit only the first passage?

State Attorney Bar-Or: I shall base my argument on the first passage only. But I would ask you to permit me to submit the document as a whole.

Presiding Judge: If you are not going to base yourself on the remaining passages, this means that they are of no importance.

State Attorney Bar-Or: In the opinion of the Prosecution, the other parts are of no importance, and it will not refer to them.

Presiding Judge: What do you call "the first passage"?

State Attorney Bar-Or: From the beginning until the words "in Beruehrung gekommen sind" (came into contact).

Judge Halevi: But the details follow only after this.

State Attorney Bar-Or: For the details we have no need of this document. We have far more exact details in documents which I have submitted and in other sources. I do not have to learn from the German Red Cross that there were 43,000 Jews in Theresienstadt. I know this from Seidl.

Judge Halevi: If that is so, are you interested only in the impressions gained by the people of the Red Cross?

State Attorney Bar-Or: I am interested in the impressions gained by the people of the German Red Cross.

Presiding Judge: There will be an intermission for twenty minutes, and our Decision will be given after the interval.

Presiding Judge:

Decision No. 37

We accept Mr. Riegner's notes only as proof of the fact that, on the day mentioned, there was a visit of representatives of the German Red Cross in Theresienstadt. What is said about the general impressions gained by them has no probative value at all, in our opinion. This is signed by Judge Raveh and by me.

Judge Halevi: In my opinion, the impressions gained by the representatives of the German Red Cross on their first visit in Theresienstadt have also prima facie probative value, and I am of the opinion that the document should be accepted as proof of these impressions.

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/853.

State Attorney Bar-Or: I shall still submit the document bearing Prosecution Number 1598. This is a Heimkaufvertrag (Homestead Purchase Contract) form, about which you have heard oral evidence. It was issued in Berlin and is numbered 371/B. It is the form typically used for this purpose.

Presiding Judge: This will be Exhibit T/854.

State Attorney Bar-Or: I shall now call as witness Mr. Ernst Recht. I should like to explain why he is being called: He will give evidence about the Treuhandstelle (Trusteeship Office) attached to the Council of Elders in Prague. We do not have systematic proof from many places about what happened to the property of the Jews. In Prague, this was administered most punctiliously, and some documents were preserved as well, which I have also submitted. I shall therefore ask the witness to testify about this matter, about what he remembers of it. I understand that the witness will want to testify in German.

The witness is sworn.

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Ernst Recht.

Presiding Judge: Tell him that he may sit down.

Witness Recht: I do not feel well, but I will remain standing.

Presiding Judge: As you wish.

Witness Recht: I came out of hospital two hours ago.

Presiding Judge: Please be seated, there is no need to strain yourself.

State Attorney Bar-Or: I will ask you in Hebrew. If you understand my questions, reply directly in German. If you do not understand the question, wait for the translation.

Witness Recht: I request to be asked in German.

Q. Where do you live?

A. In Herzlia.

Q. Where were you born?

A. I was born in Pilsen.

Q. How old are you today?

A. Fifty-nine.

Q. Where were you at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939?

A. In Prague.

Q. What did you do in Prague?

A. I was director of the big printing house "Haase," and at the same time director of two paper factories - the Lukavitz and Wolfsdorf paper factories.

Q. Were you married in 1939?

A. Yes.

Q. You were cohabiting in a mixed marriage, were you not?

A. Yes.

Q. Until when did you remain in Prague?

A. The whole time, the entire period of the occupation.

Q. When Prague was liberated by the Russian army - were you there?

A. Yes.

Q. Until when did you continue to work in this printing house and in these factories?

A. As a Jew who was important for the economy, I was employed in the Haase printing house until 30 December 1941. The two paper factories were in the so-called Sudeten District, and in 1938-39 they were declared as no longer belonging to us.

Q. Who were the owners of these factories, Jews or non-Jews?

A. The owners of the paper factories were Jews. The owners of the printing house were Aryans until 1930. In that year, I was given the task of reorganizing the printing house. After I consolidated these factories in 1935, the Haase printing house became, in fact, a Jewish enterprise. Because of this, a German trustee was appointed in 1939.

Q. Were such trustees introduced into every Jewish enterprise?

A. Not only were trustees appointed, but in enterprises where trustees had been appointed, the Jews were partly still working. There was also a large number of enterprises which had been Jewish, where the owners, the managers, had been removed, and which were declared purely German enterprises.

Q. You told the Court that you continued directing these enterprises until December 1941?

A. This is not quite exact; not these enterprises, but one enterprise.

Q. My question is: Which of the regulations concerning the Jews enacted by the government of the Protectorate affected you, if any?

A. Until that moment - everything that affected the Jews.

Q. Can you give details in brief?

A. The first regulation against the Jews was the earliest possible seizure of their homes. Not only this, but my home, which was in a villa, was taken away from me and given to Dr. Ruehe, Professor at the German University in Prague, and I still had to prepare it for those people, to whitewash and to decorate it. The second thing happened on Yom Kippur 1939, when the radio receivers had to be handed over. Then people were forced to have all valuables, gold and precious stones valued, and to deliver them at certain banks, against receipt. Most Jews lost their sources of income, most officials in the various enterprises lost their jobs.

Luckily, I was found to be essential in the enterprise where I worked; Mr. Holub, at that time the trustee of the enterprise, stated to the Ministry of Labour and to its director, Mr. Fischer, that I was indispensible to the enterprise, despite the intervention by some of our employees who disliked the fact that I was still working there.

Q. In November 1941, you joined the staff of the Jewish Community, did you not?

A. It was not like that, I still continued to work secretly for the Haase firm, on instructions from the trustee Holub, and I used to go to the factory in the afternoon.

Q. And in the morning?

A. In the morning I was officially unemployed, and as officially unemployed, I was forced to join the work effort, the mobilization for work, that is to say, I was then taken to the Community in Prague to do administrative work.

Q. Did you regard this as punishment?

A. It was punishment and it was not. If I regard it as punishment, I can say that it worked to my advantage, because in this way I was protected.

Q. So, was it a punishment?

A. No, to be honest, it was different. After five or six transports had already been sent to Lodz, the Central Office for the Settlement of the Jewish Question, Prague, charged Mr. Kramer with the job of seizing the valuables left behind in the Jewish homes.

Q. Who was Kramer?

A. Salo Kramer from Maehrisch-Ostrau. He was the first so- called Head of the Trusteeship Office at the Council of Elders in Prague.

Q. I should like you, please, to explain to the Court the meaning of this term "Trusteeship Office at the Council of Elders in Prague."

A. I cannot explain what that was. Guenther ordered this institution to be set up and to be called the "Trusteeship Office."

Q. When you joined this institution, if I can call it that, at the end of 1941 - was Guenther there?

A. Yes.

Q. You did not know him before that?

A. I did not know him before that, and I did not get to know him for a long time after that. Only after the deportation of all the full Jews (Volljuden) from Prague, and after engineer Blitz, who was a full Jew, was appointed Head of the Trusteeship Office in the summer of 1944, it was only after that that I met Guenther.

Q. What I wanted you to explain to the Court was not the reason for the name, but the tasks, the functions, of the Trusteeship Office, what had to be done there?

A. During the last months of 1945, I removed various things from the Trusteeship Office.

Q. Mr. Recht, my question was what had to be done at that office. Please reply to my question. My question was simple: When you joined the Religious Community, or the Council of Elders, at the end of 1941 or the beginning of 1942, what did you find there, what was Kramer's job, and what was he authorized to do?

A. The Jews who were to be deported were concentrated in a certain place in Prague, in the Exhibition Hall. There the keys to their homes, which were now empty, were taken from them. These keys were brought to the Central Office, and from there to the Trusteeship Office, which was then called "Kramer's Operation." There, there was first of all the key department. The key department would give an order to the so-called "stocktakers." These were sent to the empty homes, wrote everything down and brought the lists back. After this stocktaking, the lists were transferred to a department which packed the various objects in suitable form and prepared them for dispatch. From there, the files went to the Transport Department.

The Transport Department ordered from the Holland Transport Firm in Prague often twenty lorries per day which made four to six transports per lorry. This is where I worked at first as a labourer, and the Transport Department carried all these articles away. Most of the time, SS officers and SS N.C.O.'s were present at this operation. Sometimes twenty lorries a day would be ordered, and since the Holland Transport Firm did not have that many lorries, it had to borrow lorries from other firms, often lorries for 80 to 100 transports were ordered for one day. This is how the property from the Jewish homes was taken to the different warehouses (Lager).

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