The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 48
(Part 5 of 8)

Presiding Judge: The way it was asked, at any rate, it could be something else, let us hear it.

State Attorney Bach: I am entitled to ask this witness also in his capacity as a researcher also about conclusions, in particular as they are not his conclusions alone. It seems that both the literature and other researchers have reached the same results.

Presiding Judge: I would suggest, at any rate, to keep this as brief as possible.

Judge Halevi: In what year was this pogrom?

Witness Loewenstein: At the end of January 1941.

State Attorney Bach: How did Richter's influence, or Richter's arrival, make itself felt in practice? What was the change which you felt?

Witness Loewenstein: First of all, after the revolt of the Iron Guard, there came a new wave of laws against the Jews. Previously there had been no laws; now laws appeared, all kinds of laws, against the professions, against Jewish tradesmen, against Jewish officials, full Aryanization in all fields of economic and public life. Apart from this, the Jewish Centre.

Richter appeared there openly, and he was all the time in contact with the secretary general of the Centre.

Q. Dr. Loewenstein, before we continue describing the functions of the Jewish Centre, what can you tell us about the physical measures taken against the Jews in Romania in the broad sense, including the districts of Bessarabia, Bukovina, etc.?

A. After the pogrom in Bucharest in January 1941, there was the pogrom in Jassy following the outbreak of the War. Over ten thousand people were killed. We know this also from the trials of the war criminals held after the War. The murderers were units of the German army, together with Romanian soldiers. But it must be assumed that the men of Einsatzgruppe D were also involved. This is where they crossed into Bessarabia.

Q. In addition to the pogrom in Jassy?

A. During the course of the conquest of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, an almost complete extermination took place. Only from Bessarabia do we have the reports of the Romanian local constabulary: From the beginning of June 1941 until September 1941, 160,000 persons were killed in Bessarabia. Then there followed a second wave in Bukovina.

Q. What was the nature of this second wave?

A. Those who remained alive were deported to Transnistria.

Q. Do you know about an operation in Czernowitz?

A. We know that in Czernowitz large-scale slaughter took place from the moment the Germans entered, and after that - the deportation.

Q. The deportation to Transnistria?

A. Yes, the deportation to Transnistria.

Q. What can you tell us about the deportation to Transnistria and about the life of the Jews in this district of Transnistria after the deportation?

A. Transnistria was Auschwitz for us, it was the grave of the Jews of Romania. Almost all the deportees, that is to say the majority of the deportees, were liquidated. I do not know how many local Jews there were, but there were Ukrainian Jews, too. Conditions were the very worst. There were camps, extermination camps, forced labour camps, and then there were camps such as Bogdanovka.

Q. Where was the Bogdanovka camp?

A. In Transnistria. In Bogdanovka animal fodder peas were given out as food, and all the people became paralysed. That was in the German sphere of influence. There were Germans, SS men, also on the other side of the Bug, the border. And we have reports from the constabulary - I know this also from witnesses who told me - that the Germans crossed the Bug, seized Jews and killed them. Many of the Jews were sent to the other side of the Bug to forced labour. They knew that there would be no choice, only death. Hardly anybody returned from the other side of the Bug.

Q. What were the living conditions of the Jews in Transnistria and the sanitary conditions?

A. There were epidemics all the time, there was no food, and only during the later period were the Jewish institutions able to send help, both medicines and money.

Presiding Judge: When was that?

Witness Loewenstein: In 1943, 1944.

Q. Where was this sent from, from Romania?

A. From Romania, yes.

State Attorney Bach: Dr. Loewenstein, I know that it is very difficult to talk of exact figures where such things are concerned, but can you give us an approximate estimate of the extent of the extermination of this Jewish community during that period, how many perished according to the estimates you have?

Witness Loewenstein: There are various estimates, but I can state that almost half the Jews of Romania perished during that period.

Q. What does this mean in figures - approximately?

A. Almost 300,000, not counting Northern Transylvania.

Q. Without Transylvania?

A. The part that was under Romanian rule. But these figures do not include the local Ukrainian Jews in Transnistria.

Q. As far as you know, were there many Jews who managed to escape to USSR territory at the time of the deportation, for instance from Bessarabia?

A. There was no time. The deportation was carried out so fast that there was no time. And we know that there were those who returned. There were some thousands who returned from the other side of the Bug, from the other side of the Dniester, to Romania, to Bessarabia. The Germans caught them.

Q. Let us now return to the subject of the Jewish Centre. When was it actually established?

A. In January 1942.

Q. Who ordered it to be created, how was it set up, at whose initiative?

A. At the initiative of Radu Lecca. There was also a law which appeared in the official government gazette.

Q. Who was at the head of this Centre, and did you have any function within it?

A. At first Streitman, a well-known journalist, headed the Central Board, and later on the secretary-general was Dr. Gingold.

Q. Did you have any function in the Central Board of the Jews?

A. I held the post of director of the Department for Education and Culture, in accordance with a decision by the Zionist leadership in Romania, the Zionist Organization.

Q. Were you an active member of the Zionist movement in Romania?

A. Yes, I was also a member of the Zionist executive.

Q. Were you also on the executive of the Zionist movement in Romania?

A. Yes.

Q. And, in accordance with a decision by the executive, you were given this post on the Central Board of the Jews?

A. Yes.

Q. What was the nature of your function on the Central Board?

A. There were difficult problems at that time, because all Jewish students, from elementary school to university level, including the students at the university, were expelled from the official schools. So there was, first of all, the problem of organization. Then there was another important matter: In the course of time the Jewish population dwindled, and there were also fewer children.

We also dealt with assistance to the pupils; at that time we founded the Mother and Child Centre, which, after the War, became OSE in Romania, with soup kitchens, canteens, also a hostel for Jews, and all kinds of aid, such as clothing, etc.

Q. Did the Zionist movement also organize emigration to Palestine during that period?

A. Yes, and now I should like to tell you about all the activities of the Zionist Organization.

Q. Perhaps you will first answer the question I asked you: Did the movement actually deal with emigration to Palestine, and how? Perhaps you can say something about this in brief?

A. We sent about fifteen or eighteen ships. The interesting and important thing was that the Romanian government insisted on this policy of Aliyah from beginning to end. And finally, in 1944, the chairman of the Aliyah Committee also received official confirmation from the government.

Furthermore, at that time there was the most difficult problem of refugees from Poland and from Hungary. In May 1944 a law was promulgated by Ion Antonescu, the dictator Antonescu - the death penalty for every refugee from Poland or Hungary. It was then that the chairman of the Aliyah Committee obtained the official confirmation from Mihai Antonescu. That same month he took part in two meetings of the government and was given permission to provide the refugees with identity papers from the Aliyah Committee, the Palestine Office, as it was called then.

Q. Do you know how Richter reacted to this matter of the Zionist movement and the emigration to Palestine, and what he did about it?

A. We always felt the involvement of Richter and of Lecca. In 1944 Lecca almost agreed, and there was some kind of consent that he should be given fifty per cent of the money received for the voyage. He said that this was for charitable works of Mrs. Antonescu.

Presiding Judge: I do not understand: What expenses for the voyage are you now talking about?

Witness Loewenstein: Not expenses for the voyage.

Q. This is what you said.

A. I made a mistake. I meant the receipts for the voyage. Everybody had to pay for his place...

Q. To whom?

A. To the Aliyah Committee.

State Attorney Bach: Did every Jew who wanted to leave the country pay?

Witness Loewenstein: Not every Jew, only those who had means.

Q. Did they pay this to the Aliyah Committee?

A. To the account of the Aliyah Committee.

Q. And Lecca demanded fifty per cent of these sums?

A. Yes.

Q. You said that Richter's influence made itself felt. What was this influence which you felt, with regard to the Zionist movement in general, to the Zionist office in general, and especially with regard to Aliyah?

A. First of all, in the spring of 1941 Richter officially invited representatives of the Zionist Organization to the German embassy. Those who went were the chairman of the Zionist Organization, Advocate Misu Benvenisti, and Dr. Yancu Coronel, the chairman of Keren Hayessod in Romania and chairman of "Tarbut" (Cultural) Association for the Hebrew language. At the German embassy Richter told them expressly: "The German Reich is opposed to emigration to Palestine, and we are also against the activities of the Zionist Organization in Romania."

Following this, the Bukarester Tageblatt, the official organ of the German embassy, began to attack the Zionist Organization. I have it here [shows the paper].

And in August 1942 the Zionist Organization was dissolved. The Romanian Government dissolved the Zionist Organization.

Q. Did you think at that time that the liquidation of the Zionist Organization was initiated by the Romanian Government?

A. No. We read the German papers, and we knew what Richter's position was. He told us, the Jewish representatives, quite explicitly.

Q. What was the Bukarester Tageblatt?

A. The Bukarester Tageblatt was the daily newspaper of the German embassy. In it there appeared certain articles in 1941, and especially in the summer and autumn of 1942. There is one article here about the programme.

Q. Please look at this newspaper and tell us whether you can identify it.

A. There is an article here, dated 8 August 1942: "Rumaenien wird judenrein" (Romania is being cleansed of Jews). It contains the complete programme of the deportation. One month later we came to feel it.

Q. In September 1942 you actually felt it. Just one more question about the Bukarester Tageblatt: What was the meaning for you of an article which appeared in the Bukarester Tageblatt, any article, not this one in particular?

A. We knew, when an article appeared in the Bukarester Tageblatt, we knew that unpleasant things would happen to us.

Q. I did not quite understand: When something was written in the Bukarester Tageblatt, when it said that something would happen, you knew that this particular thing was likely to happen to you?

A. Yes. This was 1942, when the Germans had not yet reached Stalingrad.

Q. How were these articles signed in the paper?

A. There was only the initial "R," but everyone in Romania said that this was Gustav Richter personally. Once there also appeared an article signed "Gustav Richter."

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1040.

State Attorney Bach: Dr. Loewenstein, you have told us about an article of August 1942 in the Bukarester Tageblatt which spoke of the deportation abroad of the Romanian Jews. By the way, did it say in that article where the Jews were going to be sent?

Witness Loewenstein: I don't quite remember now - but to Poland.

Q. Were you actually aware of an intention to expel the Romanian Jews at that time or shortly thereafter?

A. Yes. In September, or at the end of August, we received several indications: Benvenisti, the chairman of the Zionist Organization, happened to be at a meeting with Radu Lecca when he overheard a telephone conversation about the deportation. After this Dr. Filderman also received some information and, in addition, a Jewish engineer who worked for the Romanian railways saw the detailed plans, stating that the deportation was to begin in western Romania in the towns of Timisoara, Arad and Turda.

Q. That is to say, southern Transylvania?

A. Southern Transylvania. (The information) reached the Jewish leaders, and steps against the deportation began immediately.

Q. Steps taken by whom?

A. By the Jewish leaders. Dr. Safran...

Q. Who is Dr. Safran?

A. Dr. Safran was the Chief Rabbi of Romania. He approached the Apostolic Nuncio, Monsignor Cassulo, and the Metropolitan of Transylvania, Nicolae Balan, that is the highest-ranking Romanian clergy. Nicolae Balan was an anti- Semite himself, but nevertheless he extended his help at that time.

Q. We shall perhaps submit further proof of this. So what you said is that Dr. Safran took active steps.

A. And also Dr. Filderman.

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