The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 50
(Part 5 of 7)

State Attorney Bach: He wrote a book on this subject. He is in Hungary; we have not summoned him as a witness in this trial. If Counsel for the Defence wishes to submit Levai's book in evidence - the book which, as I said, he wrote on this subject - there will be no objection to that by the Prosecution.

The rest of my argument I believe I have already put to the Court. I agree with Counsel for the Defence that large parts of the report are of no concern to us in this trial, but this, of course, does not invalidate the numerous other parts concerning Dr. Kasztner's direct contact with the Accused; these parts are extremely relevant, and they are supported and explained by many other documents we shall submit and which, no doubt, will shed much light on the background of this chapter and on the chapter itself, and will assist the Court in establishing the facts. Therefore, I ask the Court to accept this document as evidence.

I mentioned earlier that Kasztner had testified that he was actually the author of the report; in the declaration made by Mr. Tel, the Deputy District Attorney for Jerusalem, he also confirms that this was the report from 1946 which was written by the late Dr. Rudolf Kasztner.

Presiding Judge: Decision No. 5O

We admit as evidence the report which prima facie was prepared by Dr. Kasztner, who is no longer alive, concerning the activities of the Jewish Relief and Rescue Committee in Budapest, by virtue of our authority under Section 15 of the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law, 5710-1950. We shall accept as evidence those parts of the report which relate to the subject of this trial.

State Attorney Bach: As I have mentioned, this was marked T/37(237).

Presiding Judge: Are you now submitting it again?

State Attorney Bach: I am submitting it once again. I have attached a translation into Hebrew of those parts that are relevant to our case. I also wish to submit to the Court the Hebrew translation of the whole report, the same translation that served the Supreme Court in the case I mentioned, if it should be needed, together with a declaration by the person who made the translation.

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1113.

I understand that you only have a single copy. Actually we do not need it, if we have the translation.

State Attorney Bach: This is only in case the Court should want to refer to parts which have not been translated.

Presiding Judge: What is this? There is also a declaration here by Dan von Weisl.

State Attorney Bach: He made the translation at the time, and he declares that he made it from the original.

Presiding Judge: Dan von Weisl's declaration will be marked T/1114. Mr. Tel's declaration will be marked T/1115.

State Attorney Bach: The report contains a number of relevant parts. With the Court's permission, I shall refer to these parts when we come to a specific matter, when they will be relevant. At this stage, I wish to draw the Court's attention perhaps only to those parts of the report which deal with Gisi Fleischmann, who has already been mentioned.

The report begins with an introduction, and on page XI he describes Mrs. Fleischmann's assignment who, at the risk of her life, forwarded to addresses abroad the first authenticated eye-witness reports on the massacres and the use of gas. It was she who organized the rescue of Polish Jews to Slovakia. She was arrested twice and managed to be released; she did not heed repeated appeals to her to escape to Hungary and join her children in Palestine. She stayed on, unwavering.

She was arrested while fulfilling her task, writing her last report, which was to to be sent abroad. During the short time of her arrest, Gisi Fleischmann displayed the same courage, the same contempt of death, which had characterized her throughout her work. Gisi Fleischmann earned a special place of honour among the great women of Jewish history as a noble and wise woman, warmhearted, courageous, truly a Woman of Valour!

Of what happened to her, we first read on page 99; there we find a report on her meeting with Brunner, at which Brunner asked her for details about her contacts with Jewish organizations abroad and assured her that then nothing would happen to her. Her answer is: "I would do that gladly, if I were sure that this would help my poor brethren; but just to save myself is not worth that much to me." Brunner's reply was: "You better watch out, Fleischmann! Even if nobody else is taken away from here, I'll make sure that you are sent to Auschwitz by a special train!"

Presiding Judge: Pages 90 and 91 are missing in our copy.

State Attorney Bach: I will give you another copy.

Presiding Judge: Can we use it? It has your notes on it.

State Attorney Bach: This is the copy von Weisl used when he authenticated the translation; since this is the one that should have been submitted to the Court in the first place, Your Honour may use it.

To return to the Kasztner report. It reports an escape attempt by Gisi Fleischmann, but Brunner was careful and foiled it. She was deported to Auschwitz and taken to the gas chambers. On page 148 Kasztner states the following: "The letter I had with me, from Sally Mayer, addressed to Becher, contained at my request an inquiry about the fate of Gisi Fleischmann.

In response thereto Becher sent the following telegram to Eichmann, then in Berlin: 'Reichsfuehrer-SS wants to know the whereabouts of Mrs. Gisi Fleischmann of Bratislava.' On 8 January, Eichmann's telegraphic reply to Becher: 'The Jewess Gisi Fleischmann was caught by the Slovak police in the act of composing an atrocity report about Slovak measures against Jews, addressed to a Swiss Jew of the Joint, despite the fact that she, that Jewess, had been assigned by Brunner to the task of trust of looking after the Jewish detainees.

Moreover, the Jewess Fleischmann had also told the Swiss consul in Pressburg that the Germans were already so badly off as to require the economic assistance of the Jews'."

Dr. Kasztner adds: "The telegram is clear, but I pretend that I do not understand it, and I ask Becher to get a straight answer from Eichmann."

Judge Halevi: All this took place when she was already dead?

State Attorney Bach: Yes, Sir, I believe that at that point she was already dead.

These are the items I wanted to quote from the report at this stage. I will come back to it later on. By the way, the Accused commented on the parts of the report from page 2917 and following pages.

With the Court's permission, I will now call on Dr. Bedrich Steiner to take the stand.

Presiding Judge: [to witness] Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Steiner: Yes, I understand Hebrew.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Dr. Bedrich Steiner.

State Attorney Bach: Dr. Steiner, are you a native of Slovakia?

Witness Steiner: Yes, I was born in Nove Mesto nad Vahom.

Q. Up until 1939 you were in Prague, practising as a lawyer?

A. Yes.

Q. At the end of 1939 you went back to Slovakia?

A. In 1939 I went back to Slovakia, having received permission from the Gestapo to do so, in the form of a laisser-passer of the Gestapo, from the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Cechovice near Prague.

Q. Did you go through the regular process laid down by the Zentralstelle fuer Juedische Auswanderung in Prague?

A. Yes. We had to obtain questionnaires, fill them in and deliver them, each questionnaire consisting of some seventeen pages, with 15-20 questions a page. The questionnaires were divided into twelve parts. We handed them in, and two or three weeks later we had to report back, and then we were told whether or not the laisser-passer was being granted to us. Obtaining the documents was not always a pleasant experience.

Q. Were you allowed to take your money with you, or what were the rules on that subject?

A. We were allowed to take with us what at that time was the equivalent of 2,000 Czech kronen.

Q. What was the equivalent of that?

A. About 60 dollars.

Q. Later, when you were in Slovakia, did you work in the Jewish Centre?

A. Yes, I went back to Slovakia. When Czechoslovakia fell apart, I became a Slovak citizen, since my home country at birth was Slovakia.

Q. My question was whether you then worked in the Jewish Centre.

A. Yes, afterwards, after a while, I think in June 1940, I began working in the Jewish Centre, where I was asked to take charge of the statistical department.

Q. Were you at that time aware of Dieter Wisliceny's role in Bratislava?

A. The first time I heard about Eichmann...

Q. Not Eichmann, Wisliceny.

A. I heard about Wisliceny later on; this was, I think, at the end of 1940, although it may have been earlier. I cannot remember that exactly.

Q. When did you really first hear about Eichmann?

A. I had already heard about Eichmann in Prague, in 1938. Then Jews came back, mainly from Vienna, to Bohemia and Moravia, and told us about the Emigration Office there, and later in Prague.

Q. Did you have any personal contact with Wisliceny?

A. No.

Q. Dr. Steiner, in the course of your work in the statistical section, did numbers and lists of Jews who had been expelled from Slovakia come into your hands, during that period?

A. Yes, they did.

Q. So these lists did get to you. At a later stage, even while the War was still on, did you have an opportunity to verify whether the numbers you received were correct?

A. Yes, I was able to check these numbers as soon as the War ended, i.e., after the liberation.

Q. How did you have this opportunity? On what occasion? Please tell the Court.

A. After the War an institute was founded, or rather an operation for documentation, in Pressburg, Slovakia, by the Zionist Organization and the Union of Jewish Communities. I was asked to take charge of this operation. We undertook the task of collecting all the statistical data. We applied to various institutions, among them the National Court, the Prosecution, and asked them to put at our disposal all the documents they had relating to the Jews. I think we submitted that request in writing. Our request was approved, and I was able to read all the documents, also during court proceedings, and I was also permitted to photograph the documents.

I should add that I had the support of a committee which functioned during the operation, administered it, and laid down the guidelines for our work. The committee consisted of Dr. Tibor Kovacs, Dr. Oscar Krasnansky and the architect Andrej Steiner.

Q. In the course of this work, especially in the contacts with the Czechoslovak State Prosecution, after the War, did you see documents relating to the expulsion of the Jews from Slovakia?

A. Yes.

Q. Perhaps you could tell the Court in connection with which trial in particular you saw these documents?

A. In connection with the trial of Dr. Vasek.

Q. Who was this Dr. Vasek?

A. Dr. Vasek was director of Section 14 in the Ministry of the Interior, the section which was primarily charged with the implementation of what was called "The Final Solution of the Jewish Question."

Q. Based on this information, can you tell the Court what were the numbers of Jews deported from Slovakia, first of all in 1942?

A. Yes. May I consult lists?

Presiding Judge: Yes.

State Attorney Bach: You may refresh your memory with the help of lists.

Witness Steiner: In 1942, a total of 57,837 Jews were deported, by 57 transports, divided as follows: To Auschwitz, 19 transports with 18,746 Jews; to Lublin, four transports with 4501 Jews, and to the Opole area, 34 transports with 34,590 Jews. Each transport contained about 1,000 people.

Q. Do you know where Opole is?

A. I think it is somewhere near Warsaw, south of Warsaw, but I am not sure. There were children among the deportees.

Q. How many children?

A. 2,482 children up to the age of four, and 4,581 children between four and ten.

Q. On the basis of these figures, do you know how many of the deportees were exterminated?

A. Of those who were deported in 1942, 284 came back.

Q. Did you calculate how much that is percentage-wise?

A. About one half of one percent.

Q. Do you have the figures for the deportations in 1944?

A. Yes, in 1944 and 1945; it began in September and ended by the end of March. In 1944, or rather in 1944-45, 12,306 Jews were deported, in 11 transports, the first five of which with 7,936, and the other six to Sachsenhausen and Terezin - 2,732 to Sachsenhausen and 1,638 to Terezin. The transports were divided up on the way; they included women and men. The women and children were sent to Terezin and the men to Sachsenhausen. That, at any rate, was the case with my transport.

Q. Did you say how many went to Auschwitz?

A. 7,936 went to Auschwitz.

Q. Do you also have the figures for Jews who were murdered in Slovakia, by German Einsatzgruppen?

A. After the War about 150 mass graves were found inside Slovakia. It was determined that 12,000-15,000 persons were interred in those graves, amongst them women and children.

Presiding Judge: How many corpses were found, all in all?

Witness Steiner: 12,000-15,000. I had the record of all the graves before me, and I tried to estimate how many Jews were among them and arrived at the figure 3,500; this figure, I believe, is the correct one.

State Attorney Bach: Dr. Steiner, we have heard that before the War 89,000 Jews lived in Slovakia.

Witness Steiner: Yes.

Q. How many of the 89,000 Jews of Slovakia were murdered by the Germans during the Holocaust, by total estimate?

A. As I said, of the first deportations about 300 came back; 57,500 perished; 3,500 are estimated to have been killed in Slovakia; of the 12,000 who were deported in 1944-1945 about 8,000 perished - that is also an estimate. There is one other element that has to be taken into account. In 1942, especially in that year, 7,000-8,000 Jews from Slovakia fled to Hungary; some of these came back and were deported in 1944-1945 (also from Hungary). Of these 7,000-8,000 it is estimated that 2,000 did not come back. The total losses, therefore, add up to about 71,000 from among the 89,000, which means about eight per cent.

Q. Dr. Steiner, can you tell us what is the total sum, the total value of the Jewish property that was plundered in Slovakia?

A. In 1940, a census was carried out by the Government Bureau of Statistics, according to which the total assets owned by the Jews in Slovakia amounted to 4,300 million kronen; that includes economic assets, houses, factories and capital assets, all together.

Presiding Judge: Have we been told what the value of the Czech krone was?

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