The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 49
(Part 4 of 5)

State Attorney Bach: How many Jews were transported in October 1942?

Witness Abeles: Some 60,000-65,000 Jews were transported in the first deportations.

Q. Do you know about a special transport on the Day of Atonement?

A. As a result of our various interventions with the help of Wisliceny, with the help of a Slovak senior official, the deportations were temporarily halted. It was therefore quiet until the autumn. According to what Wisliceny told us, he was subjected to great pressure by various persons, particularly engineer Karmasin, to continue with the deportations, and therefore in the autumn another two or three transports left, one of them on Yom Kippur.

Q. Did you sometimes receive mail from the deportees?

A. We would always receive several hundred postcards at once, which were sent to the UZ for distribution. They came from Auschwitz, Birkenau and the expulsion sites in Poland: Majdanek, Opole, Sobibor.

Q. What did these postcards say?

A. They all said almost the same thing: "We are working, we are well."

Q. Did you yourself once receive such a postcard?

A. I once received a postcard from Majdanek from Dr. Lustig (he was a doctor who was deported in a transport of single people), and then from Eduard Blumenkranz, who was deported with his wife and small child. Neither returned.

Q. Do you remember that in 1942, 1943, an article appeared in the Grenzbote by a journalist called Fiala about the conditions of the deported Jews?

A. Fiala published an article on Auschwitz, in which he wrote that he had himself spoken to several deported Jews, and he listed names as well, people who could be identified, and he said that they were well, and he also published a photograph in the newspaper showing some Jewish girls in pretty white dresses and with white bandeaux. Some of these girls could also be identified.

Q. When did you first find out about the extermination in the extermination camps?

A. We were visited by German and Slovak businessmen who had transacted business with Poles and told us of the horrors and the hunger, and also brought letters for us, and said that, in return for very minor expenses, they were prepared to take with them jewellery, money and other items for the deportees. What they said proved in part to be true. They also brought back some of these things, because in the meanwhile the deportees had died. They told us that the people there were suffering dreadfully from hunger, had to sell their remaining possessions to the Poles for food, and that many had vanished, no one knew where to.

Q. Could you please tell the Court what was the plan known as the "Europe Plan"?

A. As part of the negotiations with Wisliceny, Rabbi Weissmandel and Andrej Steiner, who later conducted these negotiations, suggested to Wisliceny that in return for an enormous sum of money, the deportations be halted from all over Europe. At that time Wisliceny went to Germany, returned and said that in principle there was such a possibility, except for Poland. Poland was definitively lost to the Jews, but for an amount of two or three million dollars, payable in instalments and in goods, in monthly instalments - not in money but in goods - the matter could be negotiated.

Presiding Judge: When was that?

Witness Abeles: That was probably at the end of 1943.

State Attorney Bach: You said earlier that you were able to smuggle several hundred children to Hungary. What was the fate of these children?

Witness Abeles: When the deportations began in Hungary, the first to be seized were the stateless Jews, who could be identified. These children could easily be identified, because they were all legally registered. The parents were mainly still in Slovakia and offered everything to bring them back, because at that time there was relative quiet in Slovakia for persons who had protective identity papers. No intervention, including even the personal intervention of the Slovak envoy in Budapest, was effective, since it was alleged that these children had to be deported in accordance with German orders.

Q. Did you yourself take steps in connection with the matter?

A. Yes, in the Slovak Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Q. And there you were told that the children had to be deported on the basis of the German order?

And now would you please tell the Court what was the fate of the Jews when the revolution broke out in Slovakia in the summer of 1944.

A. In August 1944 there was an uprising among the Slovak population. The result was that the country was occupied by the German army and the SS. Immediately all protective identity papers were declared invalid, and a wild hunting down of the Jews began. The whole of the Vyhne camp and many of our young people had joined the insurgents and fought against the Germans in the mountains. The uprising was put down, the people found in the mountains, the Jews, were shot on the spot, and hardly anyone survived from the entire Vyhne camp.

Q. Do you know how many of those who took part in the uprising perished?

A. I cannot say exactly, but it was a large number, because several times I had before me the list of those who died.

Q. What happened to the children and the women?

A. If they were found in the mountains, they were immediately butchered.

Q. What happened to the Jewish Central Office?

A. The Jewish Central Office was of course closed down, and the Jews - except for Mrs. Gisi Fleischmann and Dr. Kovacs - went into hiding. These two remained in their office, in order to look after the interim supply arrangements for the Jews.

Q. What happened to the Sered camp?

A. The Sered camp was destroyed in the course of the uprising. After the uprising - after the uprising was put down - the Sered camp was set up as a concentration camp for all Jews and was a temporary camp prior to deportation.

Q. Who was the head of this concentration camp?

A. I don't know nor remember the names of the first commanders. Later on it was Hauptsturmfuehrer Alois Brunner.

Q. What happened to you?

A. I was in hiding in a cellar with a group of 22 persons. We stayed there until 1 January 1945, when we were given away by someone informing on us. Eight or ten German SS forced their way inside, brandishing their weapons, and immediately started maltreating us. We were sent to a temporary camp in Bratislava, to the ex-UZ central office, and from there, a few days later, we were sent to Sered.

Q. When did you first meet Alois Brunner?

A. I originally met him in the Pressburg camp - transit camp; there I proposed to him that in return for several million Swiss francs, the few - the very few - left in Slovakia be left alone. I said to him: "The Jews are in any case tired of Europe, after the War no one will remain here, he should just leave them here now until the end of the War." Brunner said to me...

Q. Did he then introduce himself as Brunner?

A. "My name is Mueller," he said. But I knew him. He said to me: "I like what you say very much, `tired of Europe,' yes, this is a nice phrase. I like it, and you will go to Switzerland."

Q. At that time, did he also want to find out something from you?

A. He wanted to find out from me the whereabouts of Dr. Kovacs who in the meanwhile had gone into hiding, and he said, "If you give me Kovacs' address, you will be released immediately." In addition, he also wanted to get from me the pass I had received from Hauptsturmfuehrer Gryson, so I could move about freely and obtain goods for the German Waffen-SS.

Q. For whom? Would you please explain to the Court what happened when Gryson came to you? On what occasion and for what purpose did Gryson come to see you?

A. At that time the negotiations were already underway in Hungary about buying off further deportations by providing supplies. Dr. Kasztner came to see us on numerous occasions with Gryson, who was an assistant of Becher's and apparently a very benevolent person, and asked us for help. Rabbi Weissmandel naturally promised to help, and we got involved in this operation, but with very little success.

Q. Now, it was from Gryson that you had received this pass allowing you freedom of movement?

A. At that time Gryson drew up a list of people, amongst them also persons not involved in the work. We gave names at random of people who wanted such papers. He went to Budapest and brought back a considerable number of these papers from the Eastern Special Staff of the Waffen-SS.

Q. When did you receive these papers?

A. Around 1944, in the main before the beginning of the Slovak uprising. At that time we were in fact - in principle - still able to help.

Q. Did Brunner want you to hand in these papers?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you give him these papers?

A. No. It was quite clear to me that he wanted them in order to harm Gryson or someone else.

Q. Did Brunner also talk to you about it being possible to halt the transports in return for payment?

A. He said to me: "One cannot believe you Jews. Not a word of what you are saying is the truth. But we shall talk about this in Sered. Report to me as soon as you get to Sered."

Q. Do you know anything about Brunner's promise to the Red Cross representative, Dunant, about Jews of foreign nationality in Marianske?

A. There was a large number of Jews with foreign passports, who until then were of course protected. There were many South American states, and also passports of convenience. Dunant came to Bratislava as the representative of the Red Cross in Geneva. He negotiated with Brunner for these foreigners to be allowed to leave for Switzerland. Brunner promised to allow this, subject to the condition that of course they would first have to be concentrated, in order to organize transport. Whereupon all of these people in hiding went voluntarily to an abandoned castle, Marianske, and from there they went to Auschwitz. Not one of these came back.

Q. You and your family were in Sered?

A. I went to Sered together with my elderly mother, my wife, and my two young children. I immediately reported to Brunner, but he refused to see me.

Q. Can you tell the Court what happened to your mother in Sered?

A. In Sered, before the transport left, Brunner carried out the selection, using a cane. The able-bodied men separately, the able-bodied women separately, old people and women with small children separately. Unlike the other old people, Brunner put my mother in the transport for able- bodied women, although my mother and my wife begged him... My mother said, "But I am Dr. Abeles' mother," whereupon he said to her, "Even if you were the mother of the emperor of China, you are not going to Theresienstadt." She went to Ravensbrueeck, and shortly afterwards she died there.

Q. How old was your mother?

A. 78.

Q. Were you yourself present during this exchange?

A. I watched from some distance away.

Q. Do you know anything about what happened to Mrs. Gisi Fleischmann in 1944?

A. She was deported with a transport to Auschwitz. Later, after the War, others from the transport who survived told me that, immediately after the train reached Auschwitz, the call went out, "Gisi Fleischmann, Gisi Fleischmann." She identified herself, waved "Farewell, Jewish children," and after that no one ever heard anything more of her.

Q. What happened to Rabbi Weissmandel?

A. Rabbi Weissmandel was deported on another transport with his wife and eight children. On the urging of others in the carriage, he said he was prepared to jump out of the carriage if his youngest child would be handed down to him. He did in fact jump, but in order to make it easier for him to escape, the others did not hand the child to him. He managed to reach Pressburg, and later he reached Switzerland on a transport with a Gestapo or SS escort which Dr. Kasztner organized for Jews in hiding in Pressburg.

My wife and my young daughter were sent to Theresienstadt. I and my son, who was then fourteen years old, were sent as forced labourers to Sachsenhausen, and from there we went to a branch camp in Lichtenrade. When we were deported, we were 400 Jews; of this number, without gassing, just from labour and starvation, 200 died within a short time; of the 400, 200 survived.

Q. Do you perhaps know how many persons were deported from Slovakia still in 1944?

A. I cannot say, but I believe over 10,000.

Q. And you were liberated from Sachsenhausen?

A. I was saved from Sachsenhausen.

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

Dr. Servatius: No, I have no questions for the witness.

DJudge Raveh: I do not know whether I understood you correctly, but when you spoke at the beginning of your testimony about the "relocation," what did you mean by this?

Witness Abeles: Relocation was to be carried out under the motto of making "Bratislava free of Jews." Jews were "relocated" or displaced to provincial towns; this was before the deportations - they were not allowed to continue living in Bratislava.

Q. How many Jews were sent in this way to the provincial towns?

A. Out of 20,000 Jews, some 7,000-8,000 Jews must have been "relocated."

Q. And were these Jews also deported later?

A. They were the easiest to round up for deportation, because they had no protection whatsoever.

Q. What does "they had no protection" mean? What do you mean by that?

A. Jews who had a work permit were initially protected against deportation, but those who were "relocated" obviously could not have any work permits, and they lost their jobs.

Q. Was Wisliceny the person who initiated these resettlements?

A. I do not know; in any case, it happened during Wisliceny's period in office.

Q. And he carried it out?

A. Yes.

Q. You testified about your conversation with an SS officer who told you that you would not have any time to think it over. What did you understand by that?

A. I understood that I would be killed.

Q. That is to say, you did not understand that it had anything to do with a transport or deportation?

A. Either on the spot - that did not require much there - or by deportation.

Q. You told us of this proposal - I do not know whether one can call it a proposal - about two to three million dollars, which Wisliceny made. Did you take it seriously?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you take any action?

A. We sent calls for help to the whole world. When we saw the first two live witnesses from Auschwitz, two Slovak youngsters who had escaped and who told us for the first time about gas chambers, about dogs, we - and in particular Rabbi Weissmandel - sent reports out to the whole world. And in fact they reached their destinations throughout the whole world. And we called for money.

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