The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 48
(Part 6 of 8)

Q. Dr. Safran approached the Catholic clergy. What were Dr. Filderman's activities?

A. Dr. Filderman approached the Romanian Minister of the Interior, and he was told, by the minister among others, that this was German pressure. The minister told Dr. Filderman that his power extended as far as the river Prut. Several embassies also intervened - the Swiss ambassador, Rene de Weck, the Swedish ambassador, the Turkish charge d'affaires, as well as the representatives of the International Red Cross, Charles Kolb and von Steiger.

Q. What did these people do?

A. First of all they approached Queen Helena, the mother of King Michael I. They also turned to some ministers, and to Antonescu. After a short while, after a few hours, both Dr. Safran and Dr. Filderman were informed that the deportation had been stopped.

Q. Perhaps you will tell the Court again who was Dr. Filderman?

A. Dr. Filderman was the president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Romania and also the president of the Board of the Jews of Romania. He had great political experience. He was also a deputy in the Romanian parliament.

Q. What was his position in general in Romanian political circles?

A. He had been at high school together with Ion Antonescu. Antonescu once told him that he was the only politician within the Axis powers who still received a Jew. Filderman was constantly sending memoranda to Antonescu, also to Mihai Antonescu, on all matters.

Q. Are you aware that at a certain stage Dr. Filderman was arrested and deported?

A. Yes, he was finally deported to Transnistria at the initiative or Radu Lecca, or Richter. Radu Lecca was all the time in league with Richter. Dr. Filderman had been in a meeting with Radu Lecca. He objected to a tax of four billion Lei. He said that it was impossible - this was 1943 - to collect such an amount from the Jews; it was a very big sum.

Presiding Judge: How much is four billion Lei?

Witness Loewenstein: It is a huge sum.

State Attorney Bach: About how much, compared to our money?

Witness Loewenstein: I am unable to tell you now.

Q. Comparatively, at that time?

A. Several million dollars. With all their pressure they collected no more than seven million Lei, they did not get even one billion.

Q. And because of his objection to this, Filderman was arrested and sent to Transnistria?

A. Yes.

Judge Halevi: When was this?

Witness Loewenstein: In 1943, in May 1943.

State Attorney Bach: We shall submit more detailed documents about Dr. Filderman and about the activities of Richter and Lecca with respect to this matter.

[To the witness] At the beginning of your evidence, you mentioned a visit to your office by Richter and Lecca, when you actually saw them. Can you give the Court details about this visit?

Witness Loewenstein: This was in the summer of 1942. Suddenly Richter and Radu Lecca came into my office. Richter did not speak to me, only Lecca said a few words. I heard that they had visited all the offices of the Jewish Centre. Some time later a very strongly-worded article against me appeared in the Bukarester Tageblatt. It spoke of "Dr. Loewenstein - Juedischer Scribent und Gegner des Nationalsozialismus" (Dr.Loewenstein - Jewish penpusher and enemy of National Socialism). That same day I was forced to leave my work there.

Q. Perhaps you will explain why you had to leave your work on the same day?

A. Dr. Gingold, the head of the Jewish Centre, said that after that article, it was impossible for me to continue.

Q. What were you accused of in the article, what did it say about you?

A. It quoted all the articles I had written against the National Socialists, and also my book against National Socialism, and said that my place was not in the office of the Jewish Centre, but in a concentration camp.

Presiding Judge: When did you write the book against the Nazis?

Witness Loewenstein: In 1939. But I wrote articles against Nazism even before Hitler came to power, not only in the Jewish press, but also in leftist democratic papers of that time.

State Attorney Bach: How long were Richter and Lecca in your office?

Witness Loewenstein: Fifteen minutes, I think, not more than fifteen minutes.

Q. What was your occupation after you had to leave your work?

A. I returned to my position of school director and teacher.

Q. Can you also tell the Court something about the underground halutzic activities of the Romanian Jews during that period?

A. After the liquidation of the Zionist Organization, the Zionist leadership also went underground, and so did the "Brit Hanoar Hahalutzi" (Federation of Pioneer Youth), in other words, all the youth organizations. They started by organizing assistance for Transnistria, and then they organized different work places. It was possible to have special groups of halutzim within the forced labour batallions. It is interesting that one of these groups worked on Radu Lecca's estate, naturally without payment.

Later on, rescue points were organized on the Hungarian border and also on the border with Poland. Several of the halutzim crossed the border into Hungary and also into Poland, wearing German uniforms, and returned with refugees from there. They paid the drivers of the "Todt Organization" for these trips and brought back the refugees. In 1944 Antonescu's Law was published - the death penalty for every refugee from Poland or Hungary. The president of the Aliyah Committee, Sissu, then went to see Mihai Antonescu, and he repealed this law in a secret circular. From Hungary there came about two thousand refugees - and we have figures - and from Poland even more. There was a constant stream, even before the occupation of Poland, there was a stream of refugees.

In the spring of 1944, the halutzim organized for self- defence. They bought weapons from the Germans and the Italians and prepared strongholds, in order to defend the Jewish quarter.

Presiding Judge: In Bucharest?

Witness Loewenstein: Yes, in Bucharest. There were almost 200,000 Jews in Bucharest at that time, and they were concentrated there. We heard that the final operation by the Germans would be some pogrom in Bucharest.

State Attorney Bach: Dr. Loewenstein, I still have two questions for you: Can you tell the Court what was the scale of Jewish forced labour in Romania, what was the size of the forced labour camps, what was the extent of recruitment for this labour?

Witness Loewenstein: At first this was introduced without a law, that is from September until January 1941 the Greenshirts organized such batallions. Then the law appeared: Instead of the army, instead of belonging to the Romanian army, one had to be in these camps. But some of these batallions worked for the Germans, for example, in the Danube ports or on German airfields.

Q. One final question: Was there a large Jewish population in Arad?

A. Yes.

Q. About how many Jews lived there?

A. I have no idea now, I don't know.

State Attorney Bach: Thank you very much.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions for the witness?

Dr. Servatius: I have only one question. At the beginning of your interrogation you said that the first pogroms were started by the Iron Guard. Can you say what was the origin of the anti-Semitic mood in Bucharest?

Witness Loewenstein: Even before Hitler came to power many anti-Semitic newspapers began to appear suddenly, with German financing, that was clear. And all the time there was a lot of incitement and defamation.

Q. Were there also before, prior to this, excesses against the Jews?

A. There were persecutions, but pogroms on such a scale did not occur in Romania. I do not remember any.

Dr. Servatius: I have no more questions.

State Attorney Bach: Were the earlier persecutions which you have mentioned organized by the government?

Witness Loewenstein: What period are you referring to?

Q. To the pre-German period.

A. Yes, there were cases when the government organized these pogroms in order to divert public opinion from some difficult social or economic problem. But that was anti- Semitism of quite a different kind.

Q. Thats what I wanted to ask you: What is the difference between various kinds of anti-Semitism?

A. Anti-Semitism has always existed in Romania. That is the truth. That is correct. But Romanian anti-Semitism was in particular economic anti-Semitism, based on a sense of competition, of envy, not to let the Jews get ahead in the professions, etc. And even after Hitler came to power, the race theory was almost non-existent. The Iron Guard also used religious superstitions. They were a Christian nationalist movement. That was also the name of Professor Cuza's movement, but without the race theory.

State Attorney Bach: Thank you very much.

Judge Raveh: Dr. Loewenstein, you have mentioned Hoettl's memoirs. Have they appeared as a book, or in any other form?

Witness Loewenstein: As a book. I have a page from it here.

State Attorney Bach: The book appeared under the name 5Die geheime Front (The Secret Front), ostensibly by Willi Hagen, but in fact the author was Hoettl; he published the book.

Judge Raveh: When was the book published?

Witness Loewenstein: Some years after the War.

Q. Do you know when he wrote these memoirs?

A. I presume it was after the War.

Q. I should like to hear if you know whether he wrote the book immediately after the War or after many years had passed.

A. I do not know.

Q. Can you tell me what period these memoirs cover, to what years they refer?

A. He was the commander of South-East Europe.

Q. The commander of what?

A. Of the Security Service.

Presiding Judge: That is, in fact, the counter-espionage.

State Attorney Bach: Actually he was in Department VI of the Head Office for Reich Security.

Witness Loewenstein: He says, more or less, that in October 1940 they sent instructors to organize the Greenshirts.

Judge Raveh: Perhaps one can see in the book when it was published. Perhaps it says when it appeared?

Witness Loewenstein: I do not have the book here.

State Attorney Bach: We have the book, and we shall gladly put it at the disposal of the Court.

Judge Raveh: You have used the expressions SA and SS of the Iron Guard. What did you mean by this?

Witness Loewenstein: I meant the military arm of the Iron Guard party.

Q. All of them Romanians?

A. Yes.

Q. You did not mean Germans?

A. No, the Greenshirts were the SS of the Romanians, of the Iron Guard.

Q. The information which you yourself, or all of you, received from Transnistria - when did you receive it?

A. Still during the War.

Q. How?

A. We also managed to send representatives of the Assistance Committee. There was an official Assistance Committee in Transnistria, and the Zionist Organization also sent representatives to this committee who travelled to Transnistria. That was in 1943. Members of the youth movement as well as adults were on this committee. I remember what they told us when they returned.

Q. Were they allowed to travel?

A. Yes, officially.

Q. Who gave the permission?

A. The government of Romania. The heads of the International Red Cross, Charles Kolb and von Steiger, also received permission, and the Nuncio, Umberto Cassulo, was also in Transnistria. And then - this is very interesting - the Romanian Ministry of the Interior transmitted a million and a half Lei to the Central Board of the Jews from the Pope for the Assistance Committee, for the purpose of assistance activities in Transnistria.

Q. Did they have free access there?

A. Yes.

Q. My last question: You said about the losses in the Holocaust in Romania that your estimate is 300,000, but you also said that there is a dispute about the figures. Perhaps you can tell us what is the lowest estimate and what is the highest?

A. The lowest estimate is a quarter of a million. Where does the difference stem from? From the fact that we use the last demographic count, of 1930. Obviously, the number of Jews must have grown over the ten-year interval.

Q. Is there an estimate of more than 300,000?

A. No.

Q. Is this the highest estimate?

A. Yes, this is the highest estimate.

Judge Halevi: Dr. Loewenstein, you said that you received Jewish refugees from Poland and from Hungary. I assume that those from Hungary came only in 1944 and that those from Poland arrived already earlier?

Witness Loewenstein: They arrived after the occupation of Poland in 1939, and there was always a great struggle with the Romanian Government, or rather with the Germans. The Germans wanted to receive these refugees and return them to Poland. That is when Filderman and the other Jewish leaders intervened. They said that these were political refugees, and that the government of Romania was responsible for them as political refugees.

Q. Did the refugees bring you information about the Holocaust?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you know exactly what was happening in the area occupied by the Germans?

A. We not only knew, we also sent [information]. There are copies in Richter's file. We sent information through a messenger from the Swiss embassy about the operations in Sugatin, Kolomyia, Lemberg, and also about the revolt in the Warsaw Ghetto.

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