The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 46
(Part 4 of 6)

Q. You talked about contributions. Did these have to be handed over to the authorities in bills, or coins, or in any other form?

A. The police in Zagreb, which had been charged with this, nominated two assessors who had to collect the money. It could be given in gold, gems, diamonds, etc., precious metals.

Q. Did you come into contact with the Gestapo in Belgrade?

A. Since the Jewish Community had been closed immediately during the first days after the entry of the German troops, I had reason to appear before the Zagreb office of the Directorate for Public Order and Security with a request for permission to open the Community offices.

Q. My question was this: Side by side with this Directorate, which was set up in accordance with the legal Regulation I have submitted, alongside the Croatian Directorate, was there also a German Gestapo office?

A. In this connection I wanted to say that the official concerned of the Directorate later brought me to the Gestapo. This was my first contact with the Gestapo.

Q. You had to obtain the Jewish Stars for the population of Zagreb, Mr. Arnon, did you not?

A. The Gestapo official, whose name was Mueller, had charged me with having 10,000 of these Jewish badges manufactured.

Q. What can you tell the Court about later drastic measures against the Jews in Croatia?

A. At the end of April 160 Jewish youngsters were arrested and taken to the Baniza camp near Koprivnica.

Q. What happened there?

A. The youngsters were required to do agricultural work there. They remained there for a few weeks only, and after that they were sent to that notorious place, Jadowna, in the Licca district. In the meantime there were arrests, people were removed from streetcars, from homes, offices and enterprises. They were arrested and also sent to Jadowna in groups.

Q. Who headed the camp?

A. They were Ustashi people.

Q. What happened to the people in that camp?

A. A few months later the Italians wanted to occupy this district. The Ustashi shot all the inmates, among them also hundreds of thousands of Serbs, and threw them into a pit. Only a very few youngsters were able to save themselves by staying behind in the town of Bosnice as street sweepers, while they were on their way to Jadowna. Later on they joined Tito's partisans, and some of them were proclaimed national heroes.

Q. Mr. Arnon, on 16 June arrests were made, of whom?

A. On 16 June all the members of the B'nai B'rith Lodge were arrested.

Q. Where were they sent?

A. A few days later - the date is well-known because on 22 June Croatia declared war against Russia - all members of the Lodge were deported to the Jadowna camp in Licca, together with 450 other people who had in the meantime been arrested.

Q. What can you tell us about killings by shooting in Zagreb following what was called acts of sabotage?

A. Masses of Jews were arrested and carted off to nearby Miximir, where they were shot.

Q. Did this have anything to do with so-called acts of sabotage?

A. Not directly, because at that time the Jews did not take part in acts of sabotage.

Q. On 26 June 1941 placards appeared in the streets of Zagreb, did they not?

A. Yes, an order was issued, which was also posted up, about the setting up of concentration camps. The order was signed by the so-called Poglavnik and by Minister of the Interior Artukovic, who lives now in America.

Q. Where were these camps set up?

A. Apart from the first camp already mentioned in Jadowna, a large camp was established in Jasenovac, where 60,000 people perished, among them 20,000 Jews. Apart from this camp in Jasenovac, camps were also put up in Stara Gradiska with 2,000 Jews, mainly women and children; in Djakovo, in an abandoned mill, for 3,000 women from all parts of Croatia; in Peniek near Ossetz, especially for Jews from the environs of Ossetz, with 3,000 Jews; and lastly Kruschnitze in Bosnia, where about 3,000 women and children were arrested, who were afterwards deported to Jasenovac and Stara Gradiska. I visited the following camps: The youth camp in Koprivnica, the camp in Loborgrad, and the camp in Djakovo several times.

Q. What kind of permission did you have in order to visit these camps?

A. The camps could only be visited with the permission of the Gestapo, and I always received this permission on condition that I was accompanied by someone from the Directorate for Public Order and Security.

Presiding Judge: In what capacity did you receive this permission, as head of Joint or as what?

Witness Arnon: As Secretary of the Jewish Community in Zagreb.

State Attorney Bar-Or: What was the purpose of these visits to the camps?

Witness Arnon: To look at the situation of the people, to see to it that sanitary installations were put up and that food and clothing were sent to the camps.

Q. What was the situation, what kind of regime was there in these camps?

A. The camps I visited were crammed full with people. In one camp, which could hold a few hundred persons according to any humane estimate, 3,000 women and children were crowded together. In Djakovo typhoid fever broke out. People were starving, and many died of illness and hunger.

Q. Who was in charge in the camps?

A. The camps were under the command of the Ustashi, except the camp in Loborgrad, where the ethnic Germans had the command.

Q. Did the internees remain in these camps?

A. There were changes. For instance, the camp in Stara Gradiska was dismantled, and the women were sent to Loborgrad. I was arrested on 15 August, and after I was released, the officials at the Jewish Community informed me that the deportations to the East had begun.

Q. What can you tell us about the desecration of synagogues in your region?

A. The first synagogue to be destroyed was in Osijek where there were several thousand ethnic Germans. The second was the great, magnificent synagogue in Zagreb on Zrinijevac. Then came the turn of the big Sephardic synagogue in Sarajevo, and after that all the synagogues in the country.

Q. Was there another synagogue in Sarajevo which was not destroyed? What happened to it?

A. In Sarajevo, on the bank of the Miljacka, there stands until this day the beautiful Ashkenazi synagogue which the Ustashi turned into a warehouse.

Q. Mr. Arnon, later on trains arrived in Zagreb from Bosnia and Slovenia. Do you remember the Trade Fair Grounds? Tell the Court about these things.

A. About 15,000 Jews lived in Bosnia and about 8,000 in Slovenia. In the course of June, and a few months later, trains full of Jews from these regions arrived day after day and every night at the Zagreb Trade Fair Grounds, which was the point of concentration of the Jews arrested in Zagreb.

Q. Were there transports, deportations, from the Trade Fair Grounds?

A. Transports to the East left from the Trade Fair Grounds a few days later.

Q. Mr. Arnon, when the Jews from Bosnia and Slovenia were concentrated in Zagreb, as you described...

Presiding Judge: Is there a difference between Slovenia and Slavonia?

Witness Arnon: Slavonia is part of Croatia. Slovenia is an independent province which was at that time under Italian control.

State Attorney Bar-Or: When the Jews of Bosnia and Slovenia were concentrated in Zagreb, as you described, did you hear of protest actions from any source? Did you learn about objections to the transports from any quarter?

Witness Arnon: Unfortunately there were no protests. Croatia was definitely a Catholic state. Not even the Catholic Church in Zagreb said one word against the deportations and sufferings of the Jews.

Q. As far as you know, was there any connection - and if there was, what was the connection - between these occurrences and the Germans?

A. I know. As I had to be at the Gestapo every day and to report daily to the Directorate for Public Order and Security, we knew approximately when the deportations would begin, and we also knew that this was done at the order of the Germans.

Q. You have told the Court about your connections with the Joint. Did these connections take you to Hungary?

A. When the situation, especially in the Jasenovac camp, became catastrophic, the Representative of the Gestapo in Zagreb, Mueller, ordered me to get in touch with the Joint, and when I said that there was no Joint in Zagreb and that the nearest connection was in Budapest, I was ordered to go to Budapest.

Q. When did you arrive in Hungary?

A. I was in Budapest three times. I was in Budapest in June, when I obtained funds for food for those deported to Jasenovac. I was in contact by telephone with Portugal, with the Representative of the Joint, Dr. Joseph Schwartz (now the Vice-President of the Bond Drive), and from there I obtained money for the camps. Then I was in Budapest again at the beginning of January and at the end of April 1942, always for the same purpose.

Q. Did you organize food consignments for the detainees in the camps?

A. We bought up waggonloads of food in Zagreb, of course at exorbitant prices, and sent them on to the camps. Unfortunately the deportees or the detainees in the camps were those who benefited the least, because the Ustashi pillaged most of the consignments.

Q. Mr. Arnon, what do you know about a plan to send fifty children to Palestine?

A. In July 1941 the council of the Jewish Community decided to submit an application to Minister Artukovic in which we asked to send fifty children to Palestine, whose parents had already been deported or were about to be deported. I also talked with Gestapo Representative Mueller about this matter, and within 48 hours we received a positive reply, on condition that we state the children's addresses. We prudently gave the address of the Jewish Community. Within another 48 hours we were ordered to give the real addresses, and we had to comply.

On 22 November 1941, when I was released after 100 days of detention, I learned that only eleven children could be sent off, the others had been caught and put to death.

Q. You were arrested on 15 August, Mr. Arnon?

A. Yes.

Q. Why were you arrested?

A. From the very beginning we made efforts to supply the Jasenovac camp with food and other supplies. So I was engaged in dispatching the first boxes, together with Dr. Breier, the Community physician. While we were thus occupied, a young man in Ustashi uniform came to the Community offices and told us that he had visited Jasenovac. Conditions in Jasenovac were such that one had to see to it that food parcels were sent, especially sanitary supplies for women, and he offered to help us with this.

Q. What happened next?

A. He actually left with two big boxes - and a few days later I was arrested.

Q. What was the connection?

A. In the course of five hours of examination during the night, under terrible ill-treatment, I learned that this person was a communist who had smuggled thousands of communist leaflets into these same boxes. In answer to the question from the examining official where he obtained the boxes, he said, of course, from me, and so it had to be assumed that he also received the leaflets from me.

Q. Where did you spend the 100 days of your detention?

A. In the well-known Zarzecze prison in Zagreb.

Q. How did it happen that you were freed after 100 days?

A. As was to be assumed, there were also some leftist elements among the Ustashi, partisans, communists, etc. I had constant contact with them, and thus I could also keep in touch with my office in Zagreb. When the Jewish Community asked for more funds from the Joint in Budapest during my arrest, the Joint, which I had represented in Yugoslavia for years, made it a condition that I be released, in order that I might resume its representation.

Q. And thus you were liberated?

A. I was also liberated because there was no proof against me. On the other hand, my cellmate, whose guilt could not be proved either, was nevertheless taken to Jasenovac and killed there.

Q. Mr. Arnon, in the end you managed to escape to Ljubljana which was then in Italian-occupied territory?

A. Yes.

Q. Tell us about the circumstances of the escape, please.

A. May I mention...

Presiding Judge: You have to answer the question. If it concerns the questions you may tell us about it, otherwise - not.

Witness Arnon: I think - yes. My friends in Ljubljana, together with some well-meaning Slovenes, first made it possible for my children to flee, then, a little later, for my wife. And after that my friends, together with my wife, found a Gestapo man who could be bribed, as well as an ethnic German who could be bribed, and these people came to Zagreb with an order to arrest me as a spy and took me to Ljubljana, which was under Italian occupation.

Q. When did you arrive in Ljubljana?

A. On 4 May 1942.

Q. Were the living conditions for the Jews there different from the living conditions in Zagreb?

A. If by this you mean the refugees who had fled from Croatia - because in Ljubljana itself there lived only a few Jewish families - the Jews could move about freely there and only had to register with the Italian occupation authorities.

Q. Mr. Arnon, until the date of your flight to Ljubljana - and this is, by the way, the capital of...?

A. Of Slovenia.

Q. All the time while you were still in Zagreb, you were in underground contact with other parts of Yugoslavia, were you not?

A. We had contacts with Serbia.

Q. Can you tell us something about the fate of the Jews in Serbia during these months?

A. Several days after the Germans occupied Serbia, we received confidential information through refugees - German Jews who lived as refugees and who wanted to leave again and escape via Croatia to Italy - that anti-Jewish measures and mass arrests had begun. Thus we learned about the establishment of transit camps for arrested Jews in Banice, Topovske Supe, Jabuka, etc. Some months later the large concentration camp Sajmiste was set up near Belgrade. About 90,000 persons, including 7,000-8,000 Jews, were detained there - and in the course of time starved to death - were killed or sent to the East, among them my sister and her two children.

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