The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 51
(Part 5 of 6)

Q. What did this factory produce?

A. Textiles and clothing.

Q. Was your grandfather one of the founders of the Orthodox community in Budapest?

A. Yes. Moshe Freudiger.

Q. Were you also active in the Orthodox community in Budapest?

A. Yes. After my grandfather, my father, of blessed memory, was the head of the community for approximately 26 years. When he died, in 1939, I occupied his place until 1944.

Q. What kind of relations were there between your family and Hungarian ruling circles before the outbreak of the Second World War?

A. In view of the fact that my family had been Hungarian for over a hundred years, that we manufactured goods in the factory, that we worked for the government and manufactured clothing goods for the Hungarian army and for other government institutions, we were on very good terms both with the Ministry of the Interior, the Police Ministry and the Defence Ministry. We had many friends there.

Q. In fact, your grandfather received the title of nobleman in Hungary?

A. Yes, from King Franz Joseph.

Q. You also inherited this title?

A. Yes.

Q. How many Jews were there in Hungary on the eve of the outbreak of the War?

A. In 1939 there were approximately half a million, a little less than that, perhaps 480,000 Jews.

Q. Perhaps could you tell this Court what were the changes that occurred regarding the borders of the state, and also how these affected the number of Jews in Hungary?

A. I do not remember the dates exactly, but after Munich, after an independent Slovakia was set up, Hungary regained - this was at the end of 1938 - the southern portion of Slovakia. And thereafter, gradually, Hungary received the north-eastern territory which was called Carpatho-Russia, later on it received the northern part of Transylvania, and later still, a small area, the northern part of Yugoslavia. All this occurred between the end of 1938 and 1940. By this means the Hungarian population was increased, let us say, from eight or nine million to twelve or thirteen million Hungarians, and the number of Jews from half a million to 800,000.

Q. When did Hungary enter the War on the side of the Axis powers?

A. In June 1941, Hungary declared war on Russia, and afterwards also on the United States. As far as I remember, the United States did not declare war on Hungary.

Q. By the way, you said there were 800,000 Jews. Was there, in addition, also a certain number of Jews who had converted out of the faith?

A. Yes.

Q. How many were there in this category?

A. I cannot say exactly, but more than 100,000; one hundred to one hundred and fifty thousand.

Q. Can you tell the Court what was the attitude of the Hungarian Government to the Jews, up to March 1944?

A. The waves of anti-Semitism, which began after the end of the First World War, in 1919, gradually subsided. And in 1927 the economy was also put in order, more or less. There was prosperity, then, in the whole of Europe, in the whole of central Europe, and also in Hungary. This, too, was the reason why the life of the Jews was more or less normal in the years 1927-1928, and of the anti-Semitic laws of 1920 there remained actually only two: One was the "numerus clausus," by which not more than 6per cent - I think it was 6 per cent - of students admitted to the university could be Jews.

And even if we acknowledge that this, in itself, was not a great disaster, since our students went abroad to France, Italy and Germany and studied there, and came back with their diplomas, it nevertheless remained in effect and was the only law that, in fact, ran counter to the Hungarian constitution. According to the Hungarian constitution Judaism was a religion, and they were not admitted because they were of the Jewish religion.

In the "numerous clausus" law nothing was said to the effect that this was against the Jews; it was to "divide up the possibility of studying at the university according to race." And hence there remained the concept that Jewry was already an alien body, the Jews began to be an alien body in Hungary. And the other factor that remained was the use of anti-Semitism as a political weapon. Of course, there were always anti-Semites, both in Hungary and throughout the world.

But this was the first time that there were political parties in Hungary established on the basis of anti-Semitism. There was the party - the organization of the "Awakening Hungarians," and there was the party which called itself simply the "Party for the Defence of the Race."

Q. Of what period are you speaking now?

A. Of the years from 1920 to 1925, 1930, the period between the two World Wars. And in this way the concept was gradually created that the Jews of Hungary were alien. And if you wanted a "pure Hungarian," this meant a "non-Jew."

Q. What was the attitude to the Jews from the outbreak of the Second World War until March 1944?

A. The most vicious anti-Semitic line began actually before the outbreak of the War. This was after the "Anschluss" of Austria. In March 1938, the anti-Semitic line of the government began. Then they passed the first anti-Jewish law. This law - it was not yet described as an anti-Jewish law - was called "The Law for the Restoration of Social Equilibrium." This was after the "Anschluss" of Vienna. Whether or not this was under the growing influence of Nazism, which was approaching nearer to the borders of Hungary - it certainly was self-understood. That was in April 1938.

In December of that year, 1938, after Hungary regained part of Slovakia, as I mentioned previously, the government already presented the second Jewish law, which was much more severe than the first, but which was not yet based on the concept of race, not yet based on the Nuremberg laws. The number of Jews had been increased and their rights reduced. And in 1941, a month after Hungary had declared war against Russia, came the third law, and by now it was based on the Nuremberg laws.

Q. You mentioned the year 1941. Do you remember a particular event that occurred in 1941 and which caused harm to many Jews in Hungary?

A. Yes. This was the first deportation from Hungary. As I said, the second Jewish law, of December 1938, curtailed the rights of the Jews on account of their citizenship as well. Many Jews, of the areas which Hungary regained, did not receive Hungarian citizenship. In principle, anyone who did not possess Hungarian citizenship, did not have the right to reside in Hungary. And they were deported - they were deported as a matter of principle. They were given a deportation order, and afterwards regularly received an extension of six months, and a further extension of six months, to remain in Hungary, since there was no possibility of deporting them anywhere.

But in 1941, after the German army occupied Wolhynia, Ukraine and White Russia, one of the Hungarian leaders, Martinides* {*Oedoen, Martinides} - one may say: "May his name be blotted out!" - came forward with the suggestion that now it was already possible to expel the Jews, to deport them, those Jews who, in principle, did not possess the right to remain in Hungary. He took advantage of the opportunity, when the Hungarian Minister of the Interior was on his summer vacation, it was exactly on 17 Tammuz, and extracted a decree from his deputy, the head of the department, to deport the Jews to Galicia.

Q. Were these Jews stateless?

A. Stateless.

Q. How many Jews were affected by this deportation, and where were they sent to?

A. The object was to seize at least 100,000 Jews, or even more. They began deporting them to Koeroesmezoe, a small town near the border, and in the course of two or three weeks 17,500 Jews were deported to Galicia.

Q. Did these Jews come from particular places in Hungary, or in fact from all parts of the country?

A. Actually, they came from all parts of Hungary. Thus, for example, a woman clerk who worked in my factory, and who had been born in Budapest and had never, at any time, been outside Budapest, but who possessed Austrian, not Hungarian, nationality, was taken, and she, too, was sent off to Galicia. But naturally the greatest number came from the north-eastern areas, Munkacs, Maramaros, Szeged, and all that region.

Q. Mr. Freudiger, can you tell us where these Jews ultimately got to and what happened to them?

A. They came to Galicia, and afterwards a large number of them reached Kamenets-Podolski.

Q. Where was this place?

A. Between Galicia and Wolhynia. Previously this had been Russia, not Austria. Out of 17,000-18,000, two persons returned by special permit - two. Approximately 2,000 came back via the Carpathians by an illegal route - they escaped and returned. The others remained in Galicia - they moved them more and more towards the east. Thereafter, we received information that in Kamenets-Podolski about 12,000 of them were killed on one day. Apparently, all the residents of Kamenets-Podolski were killed at that time, and together with them all the Hungarian Jews.

Q. By whom were they killed?

A. By the Germans.

Q. Mr. Freudiger, you told us of the anti-Jewish legislation, which at that time was mainly economic, which hit the Jews in their economic life. Between 1941 and March 1944, did a radical change come about in these laws, in the anti-Jewish legislation?

A. From 1941 to 1944, no. They were the outcome of the law of 1941. For example, I cannot say that Jewish farmsteads, forests, and so on were confiscated, although they were exploited. But more severe laws - there were none. Perhaps I could say this - that despite all the difficulties we had undergone since 1941, those that I have described, such as the deportation of part of Hungarian Jewry, we were still given the right in those years to help the Slovakian refugees in 1942 and, at the end of 1941, to help the refugees from Galicia and Poland who were brought to Hungary, and we took care of them.

Q. When were the labour camps set up for the Jews of Hungary?

A. Labour camps or labour service?

Q. I understand that it was called "labour service." But as I understand it, the people were also kept in certain camps. Tell us about the labour service.

A. The labour service was based on a law, I think it was No. 2, of the year 1939, which gave the Hungarian army the right to avail itself of people to whom it was unwilling to give arms, because it did not trust them, and to demand that they serve the state with their labour. In that law as well, there was not a single word about its being against the Jews, but in practice this was a severe decree against Hungarian Jews. Labour service began in 1940. At the beginning they exploited these people only for work within the state, in the country itself, to build roads and for all kinds of work. Assuredly this was not pleasant, but it still did not endanger the lives of the people.

In 1941 they began sending them outside of Hungary, as the German army advanced. The Hungarian Government under Horthy did not want to supply Germany with soldiers, but provided them with soldiers in the occupied areas, the areas which had been occupied by the Germans; they sent Hungarian soldiers there, and also Jews for labour service. As far as I know, approximately 60,000-80,000 Jews were dispatched for labour service in the year 1941-1942 - and possibly 45,000- 50,000 died.

Q. Do you know anything about roughly 60,000 Jews who were sent to Galicia and the Ukraine - to labour camps?

A. That is what I was talking about.

Q. Now, Mr. Freudiger, when were detention camps established - such as Kistarcsa?

A. This was in connection with what I said earlier - namely that Jews were sent away but were not deported beyond the borders. Where there was something against them, the government set up four to five concentration camps, such as Kistarcsa, Goron, Riesa and others. In each of these places there were several hundred Jews. Generally it was the practice at that time to judge Jews administratively. If they had brought a Jew before a Court of Law, the Court would have found him to be either guilty or not guilty, but by administrative means it was possible to send him to a concentration camp.

Presiding Judge: Also, at that time, Jews possessing Hungarian nationality?

Witness Freudiger: Yes, also Jews possessing Hungarian nationality: For instance, there was a law which provided that, if anyone helped a Jew who was in Hungary illegally, his penalty would be to be sent to a concentration camp.

State Attorney Bach: What did they do with the Jews who escaped from Slovakia and reached Hungary and were captured by the Hungarian authorities?

Witness Freudiger: If they were caught - if they were lucky, they were sent to one of the concentration camps we mentioned, and if they were not lucky - they were sent back to Slovakia.

Q. Mr. Freudiger, you told us that there had always been a good relationship between your family and the Hungarian authorities. When there were anti-Semitic measures, did you occasionally try to contact those Hungarian officials and ask for an explanation, why they were adopting anti-Jewish legislation and anti-Jewish measures?

A. It was not only the Freudiger family that had a good relationship. There were also other Jews in Hungary who were on good terms with the government. Officially, Hungarian Jews still had their formal institutions, and they used to complain and to take all kinds of steps with the government.

Q. What was the reply that you received?

A. At first the reply was that they wanted to take the wind out of their sails.

Presiding Judge: Whose sails?

Witness Freudiger: Those of the anti-Semites. They said: If we promulgate a few anti-Jewish decrees, it is possible in this way to avoid some kind of anti-Semitic explosion. After the War had broken out, after 1940, they said that they were being subjected to German pressure. They said that the Germans were insisting on the application of the Nuremberg laws and the liquidation of Hungarian Jewry, and that what they were doing - we could count ourselves lucky that they were doing it - amounted to a stand against the strong pressure of the Germans. For instance, the last Prime Minister of Hungary, Kalai, said this specifically on more than one occasion.

Q. The last Prime Minister before the revolt?

A. He was Prime Minister from 1938 until March 1944.

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