The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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

State Attorney Bach: In Budapest when did you first come into contact with the leaders of Slovakian Jewry, Gisi Fleischmann, Rabbi Weissmandel, in connection with rescue operations for the Jews?

Witness Freudiger: I myself was already in contact with them at the end of 1941, since they were my personal friends, and I knew them all. My wife is from Bratislava - she was the daughter of the late Rabbi of Bratislava - I knew them all personally. But in 1942, when the restrictive decrees began in Slovakia, in the summer of 1942, Dr. Abeles and the late Gisi Fleischmann came as a delegation to Budapest to seek funds for the labour camp there - I think this was in Sered and a few other places.

They asked for money, since they did not have any. It would have cost a large amount in order to supply them with food and other necessities at the labour camp. They did not meet with much success in Budapest, since official Jewry could not - I do not want to say that it was unwilling - but it was unable to help them, for as I have said, there was a strict law against this.

Presiding Judge: What do you mean by "official Jewry"?

Witness Freudiger: The leaders of the community, the heads of the Union of Communities, the Zionist Organization, for example, who had funds and were unable to hand them over. I gave them, from the funds of my congregation, the Orthodox congregation, 100,000 pengoe. This is what they received after their first visit.

Q. How much was 100,000 pengoe?

A. Then it was worth 40,000 Swiss francs. I remember that, since at the time we made the calculation.

State Attorney Bach: Were you also in contact with Dr. Abeles?

Witness Freudiger: Yes. He was my guest for the Sabbath. I can still remember that he told me that they were building bunkers in Bratislava. I simply could not understand it. I asked, "What is a bunker, and why do you have to make one?" Subsequently, in September 1942, we already had the Wisliceny affair.

Q. When did you first know about the negotiations with Wisliceny?

A. Then, in September 1942.

Q. Who informed you about it?

A. Rabbi Weissmandel informed me. He asked us for money and said that they had made a promise to him. I do not remember any more if the amount discussed was 40,000 dollars.

Q. To whom did they promise?

A. To Wisliceny.

Q. For what?

A. To stop the deportations. They had already deported 58,000. But there were another 1,000-3,000 Jews awaiting deportation. They had made a deal with Wisliceny to the effect that, if they gave him 40,000 to 50,000 dollars, he would stop the deportation.

Q. At that stage had you already heard of the name Adolf Eichmann?

A. Yes. I heard at that time that Adolf Eichmann had come to Bratislava and had given instructions to Wisliceny; he had remained there with Wisliceny to carry out the deportation of the Jews and had spent two or three days there in Bratislava, and that he had left thereafter.

Q. And now, Mr. Freudiger, please tell the Court what happened on 19 March 1944, as far as your experience went.

A. On 19 March 1944 I received a personal telephone call at six in the morning - it was a notification which came from one of the senior officials of the Hungarian police. He had phoned my cousin with the information that the German army had crossed the Hungarian border during the night. He phoned my cousin, and my cousin phoned me. I simply did not want to believe him, and I said: "What are the Germans doing in Hungary? And did the Hungarians allow the Germans to come in?" In the afternoon I wanted to go to the offices of our community, the Orthodox congregation. At the bottom of the stairs I saw a German army car with machine guns. I did not go up - I went to another congregation. I saw the same thing there.

The next morning we received a message that we had to come to the office of the Neologue community - that was the largest community in Budapest - all the community heads of Budapest had to assemble there, together with the rabbis and the community leaders. As far as the Orthodox community was concerned, I did not want our rabbis to go. So two of us went, Dr. Emil Deutsch and I.

Q. Where did you go to?

A. To the office of the Neologue community.

Q. Did you know what was the purpose of this meeting?

A. They told us that we would meet the Germans there. I know that Hofrat Stern had telephoned from the office of the Neologue community to the Ministry of Religions, which was in charge of all the communities, in order to enquire: "We have received the order - what are we to do?" They said they were unable to give an answer. They telephoned to the Prime Minister's office, where they were told that we would receive a reply the following morning through the police. The next morning, Monday, 20 March, they telephoned the police. The reply was: "Whatever the Germans say - do." We understood that they were going to hand us over to the Germans.

Q. Did they hand you over?

A. When they replied that we should do whatever the Germans told us to do, and that the Hungarians did not want to intervene, this meant that they were handing us over.

Q. You say that you, together with another person, represented the Orthodox community. How many Jews altogether appeared at that meeting?

A. I think about fifteen. The whole executive of the Neologue community and of the Buda community. There were two rabbis from the Neologue community - about fifteen men.

Q. This meeting took place on 20 March?

A. On 20 March, at 10:00-10:30 in the morning.

Q. What did you fear would actually happen to you?

A. We were not afraid.

Q. Did some of the Jewish representatives come along with suitcases? Do you remember anything about that?

A. No.

Q. Who represented the Germans at that meeting?

A. Three officers came, one man in mufti, and a girl typist. There was one soldier with an automatic pistol. They sat along one side of the table. One of the officers opened by saying:

"You ought to know that, as from this moment, all the affairs of Hungarian Jewry, of the Jews, have been transferred to the authority of the SS."
Presiding Judge: Were these army officers or SS?

Witness Freudiger: I did not know at the time. Later on I got to know that he was from the SS - I did not know the German army then.

State Attorney Bach: Who was the person who said that?

Witness Freudiger: Krumey. In a conversation he said there would certainly be some economic regulations, but everything would be fine. It would be possible to proceed with cultural and religious life. We should ensure that people remained quiet and maintained order, and everything would be fine - apart from certain things that would occur, for it had to be understood that there was a war on, and that in war sacrifices had to be made. After that he demanded to be given the structure of all the communities; he wanted a profile of all the communities, who their leaders were.

We were to send it to him. Hofrat Stern, who was at the meeting, agreed. I sat by his side - I did not even know with whom we were talking. I asked: "May I be permitted to ask to whom this must be sent." Then he said: "Obersturmbannfuehrer Krumey." I then asked: "Where should it be sent to?" And he replied: "To the Astoria Hotel." This was one of the best hotels in Budapest. I asked: "Perhaps we may also be permitted to know who the other officers are?" One of them said: "Hauptsturmfuehrer Wisliceny" - the other did not give his name, but I know who he was, he was Hauptsturmfuehrer Hunsche - I met him subsequently.

Q. The soldier who held the automatic pistol - where did he point it during the meeting?

A. He pointed it at us.

Q. For the whole duration of that meeting?

A. All the time.

Q. Were you seated or standing at the meeting?

A. We were seated.

Q. How long did this meeting last?

A. Half an hour at the most.

Q. I gather from your remarks that the general tone was reassuring?

A. Yes, definitely.

Q. Did it also have an effect on you people?

A. On us? I do not know how to answer that. I can say how it affected me.

Q. How did it affect you? Was it possible also to sense how it influenced the others?

A. No, no, these are two different matters - for as soon as I heard Wisliceny's name, my approach to the whole affair was different.

Q. If that is so, what was your attitude?

A. My attitude was that, after what had happened in Slovakia, where Wisliceny expelled all the Jews from Slovakia, now he had come here, to Hungary - they had not sent him for a sight-seeing tour of Budapest. On the other hand, I knew that he had ultimately received the money I had sent to Slovakia. I knew that we had to find a way to enable us to establish contact with Wisliceny. I informed Dr. Karl Wilhelm, one of the intelligent people of the Neologue community, of this fact - he was a clever lawyer.

Q. At this meeting, were further meetings arranged?

A. Yes. That was on Monday. At the end of the meeting Krumey told us to arrange a larger meeting, with more participants, for Tuesday afternoon at 4:00-4:30, and to invite all the leaders of the Jewish institutions of Budapest - possibly 40-50 people - for he wanted to meet them.

Q. Was anything arranged at that meeting about the setting up of a central Jewish committee?

A. Not at that meeting, as far as I remember. I do not know any more whether it was at the first or the second meeting when they told us that all the community institutions would be abolished. They wanted to have a centralized address, a responsible one, with which they could be in contact.

Q. It is not important, for the moment, whether this happened at the first meeting or the following one, but how many people, how many representatives were supposed to be on that committee which was to be responsible to the Germans?

A. They said there ought to be four or five persons. They did not call it a "Judenrat." They wanted to reassure us, for we knew what a Judenrat meant. They called it the "Central Committee" - the Central Committee of the Jewish Community. In the end, on the following day, the Central Committee was appointed (let me also use this term), consisting of seven persons. At the head of this committee was Hofrat Stern. There were seven of us, and I was one of them.

Q. Were you one of the members?

A. There were two representatives of the Orthodox community, and I was one of them.

Q. When were the first Jews arrested by the Germans?

A. They began making arrests already on the night of the first day they came. But, as far as I recall, on that first day the action was not against Jews. Anti-Nazi politicians were seized, Social-Democratic leaders, certain journalists - they began with them. On the second and the third nights, they commenced detaining hundreds of prominent, distinguished Jews in all spheres - industrialists, financiers, anyone who was well-known in the Jewish community of Budapest - they arrested almost all of them.

Q. Do you know anything about searches and arrests conducted and carried out at the railway stations?

A. Yes. They had entered on 19 March, and forthwith - I was informed of this on the following day - all the Jews who were found at the railway station that night - the night of 19 March - and thereafter on the Monday morning - all of them were arrested and sent, first of all, to the police station. At the police station there was a temporary gaol.

Later on, a day or two later, they were sent to Kistarcsa. They numbered about 1,500. My brother-in-law was also amongst those seized. He was arrested simply because he had with him a Slovakian Jew whom he was accompanying to the railway station, and whom he thought he could smuggle out to Oradea. The Slovakian Jew was in the forests together with non-Jews - he left, but my brother-in-law was arrested.

Q. Mr. Freudiger, you wanted to say something about your brother. When did they arrest him?

A. On Tuesday morning, they wanted to arrest my cousin - they came to him at night but did not find him. They came to our factory where they found my brother, Shmuel Freudiger; they seized him and took him to the Rabbinical Seminary, which they had converted into a temporary gaol.

It was a very large building, and it also had a dormitory - which could be turned into a prison building. This actually brought me to the beginning of my contact with Wisliceny.

Q. This is really my next question: When, and under what circumstances, did you have your first private conversation with Wisliceny?

A. This was on the Tuesday when my brother was arrested at the factory. I was also at the factory, but they did not find me.

Q. Mr. Freudiger, perhaps you can tell us briefly, when did you go to Wisliceny, and what was the object of your meeting?

A. I went to Wisliceny because I wanted to do something for the sake of my brother. I said to myself that I would go to Wisliceny.

Q. Where did you go to?

A. I went to the Hotel Astoria. An SS soldier was standing outside and asked me - I was wearing a beard, which was still red then, and not white, and he could see I was Jewish - he asked me: "What do you want here?" I told him that I wanted to speak to Hauptsturmfuehrer Wisliceny. He allowed me to enter. I came up to him and said that I wished to speak to Hauptsturmfuehrer von Wisliceny, to Baron von Wisliceny.

Presiding Judge: Baron von Wisliceny?

Witness Freudiger: He knew that we had written about him in letters from Slovakia in a code, either as "Baron" or "Willi" - that was his cover name.

State Attorney Bach: Was he actually a Baron?

Witness Freudiger: I do not know - I think he was Dieter von Wisliceny. Later on, after he had looked at me, he said: "Didn't I see you yesterday at the meeting?" I told him I had been there, my name was Philipp von Freudiger, I had come to tell him that I would not be able to come to the meeting in the afternoon, as they had arrested my brother.

My brother had left a note for me to the effect that I, too, had to come to the Rabbinical Seminary, and if I failed to come, he did not know what they would do to him. He had written this at the demand of the SS which had taken him into custody, and they had demanded that he should leave a note for me that I should also come. I informed Wisliceny that I could not come to the meeting in the afternoon, since I had to go to the Rabbinical Seminary. Then Wisliceny said to me: "They will not do anything to your brother - I am the commander there. Come to the meeting this afternoon, and I want to speak to you after the meeting."

Presiding Judge: Mr. Bach, is this evidence going to continue?

State Attorney Bach: Yes, Your Honour, it is still going to continue.

Presiding Judge: We shall adjourn the Session now. The next Session will be tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock. The witness must also be present.

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