The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 52
(Part 4 of 8)

State Attorney Bach: Mr. Freudiger, you told us about the conversations you had with Krumey on the fate of the Jews who were deported from Hungary. Can you tell the Court about certain postcards which reached Hungarian Jews from those who were being deported?

Witness Freudiger: Yes. Before receiving this report we may have been aware that they were sending the Jews to Auschwitz. But we did not know what Auschwitz meant. When I spoke to Krumey, as I have said, he always maintained that they were being sent to work. Two weeks after the first transports were dispatched, possibly by the end of May - the time passed by, day after day - we obtained through our liaison officers who went to the Schwabenberg every day - Gabor, Petoe, they were our liaison officers responsible for routine duties - they brought a large quantity of postcards, postcards written by Jews who had been deported. They were dated and marked "Waldsee." It said there: We are at work here and send our regards. Things are not bad, we feel well, we are working here, greetings to this one and to that. All the postcards were worded in this style.

Q. And the address was always "Waldsee"?

A. It was marked "Waldsee such-and-such a date." There was no address.

Q. Did you endeavour to ascertain where this "Waldsee" was?

A. We went to Krumey and asked him where Waldsee was. At first he replied "in central Germany"; after that he said: "in Thueringen." We searched for it on maps, we found it, we did not find it. It may have been a small place. At any rate, the deception about Waldsee lasted for a long time, two weeks, three, four, until they realized it was not worthwhile to lie, that we knew the truth.

Presiding Judge: Was there a post office stamp on these postcards?

Witness Freudiger: There was no postal stamp.

State Attorney Bach: And how were they sent?

Witness Freudiger: They said the cards were brought from the SS command headquarters, the men who brought all the mail. Until a fortnight later, I once came across a postcard with an erasure. The postcards were written in pencil. I noticed that where "Waldsee" had been written, there had been an erasure. Since I was the owner of a textile factory and I always had a magnifying glass near me, I examined it and I saw that the letters "ITZ" were still visible on the postcard. Someone had made a mistake and had written "Auschwitz" instead of "Waldsee," as they had been told to do.

Afterwards he had erased it and had written "Waldsee." I took the postcard and, the next morning, I went to Krumey and said to him: "Our people are in Auschwitz and not in 'Waldsee'." He replied: "How can you say such a thing? And why are you angry at me?" I took the postcard and the magnifying glass and said to him: "Please, look." He looked at it and then said: "Freudiger, I know you to be a clever man - you do not have to observe everything" (Sie sollen nicht alles bemerken). After that no more postcards came from "Waldsee." In actual fact, there were no longer any people who could write.

Q. Was it clear to you that the postcards were written by people whose handwriting could be recognized by members of their families?

A. Yes.

Q. That report, that Auschwitz report, which you received through Rabbi Weissmandel - did you bring its contents to the notice of others?

Presiding Judge: Was it through Rabbi Weissmandel, or did he write the report?

State Attorney Bach: No, I think the report was written by the two Slovakians who escaped from Auschwitz, and Rabbi Weissmandel passed on this report to the witness.

And you brought this report to the knowledge of the members of the Judenrat?

Witness Freudiger: The next day I took the report with me and showed it not only to the members of the Judenrat, because the hands of the Judenrat were more or less tied, but there were other people who worked alongside the Judenrat, and we told them everything, and we decided to publish the report as far as we could, and we sent it to all the people, to all Hungarian politicians, to ministers of religion, to the Papal Nuncio, and it even reached Horthy.

Q. Did you also send the report abroad?

A. Yes.

Q. To which countries?

A. It went to Switzerland. Moshe Krausz sent it to Switzerland.

Presiding Judge: When was that? When did you distribute the report?

Witness Freudiger: In June.

State Attorney Bach: Mr. Freudiger, do you know anything from that period about attempts of Jews to escape illegally from Hungary by crossing the border?

Witness Freudiger: From the very beginning, and especially in Budapest, we had no contact with the ghettos in the provinces. For we were forbidden to travel, we had no telephones. All the contacts were indirect. But there were individuals who began to flee, first the Polish and Slovakian refugees who were in Hungary. The Slovakian refugees - some of them returned to Slovakia, and the Polish refugees began to escape to Romania, despite the fact that a day or two after the occupation of Hungary a law came out in Romania that anyone entering Romania illegally was liable to the death penalty.

Q. Do you know anything about the demand of the Sondereinsatzkommando of the SS regarding these attempts of Jews to escape?

A. Wherever they could, they seized the Jews and punished them, deported them, expelled them.

Q. Do you perhaps know of a particular instance of this kind that took place?

A. It was rather strange, for I read as if the SS men were giving people a chance to escape and had told the border police to shut their eyes to Jews who were escaping.

Presiding Judge: Who said that?

Witness Freudiger: I read it in Life.

Presiding Judge: There is no need to discuss matters here which are not before the Court.

State Attorney Bach: I asked you what you know about this case.

Witness Freudiger: I know, for example, about a family that was related to me, the family of Dr. Solomon Stern and Joseph Stern. This was a group of eleven persons - they were the family of the Rabbi of Srbobran, who had once lived in Jerusalem. They wanted to escape into Romania, and SS men caught them and brought them to the Schwabenberg, to the headquarters of the SS. And the next day they were sent away; since there was no deportation from Budapest and the Jews of Budapest were not isolated. They did not punish them but simply sent them to Komarom, and from there they were deported together with the Jews there.

And I even received a postcard from these people, a postcard which they had thrown out of the railway car, and someone had found it; it had my address on it, and it was brought to me. But by the time I received the postcard with the photograph of the children - the children were already ashes.

Q. May we see the postcard?

A. Yes, this is it [takes out a postcard and shows it]. It says here that "they are taking us from Komarom."

Presiding Judge: The children who appear in this picture - are they the children of that family?

Witness Freudiger: Yes, and there were two more - there were four children.

Q. And this is the postcard they threw from the train?

A. Yes.

Q. Who wrote these letters "S.O.S."?

A. One of the people who wrote the postcard.

State Attorney Bach: I would apply to submit this postcard.

Presiding Judge: [To witness]Are you able to read what is written on this postcard?

Witness Freudiger: Yes.

Q. Please read it for the record.

A. (reading) "We are on the train. We are passing through Budapest from Komarom."

Q. Where is Komarom?

A. Koma64rom is about 60 to 70 kilometres west of Budapest. [Continues reading] "We are passing through Budapest from Koma64rom. S.O.S." And after that there are the signatures "Mrs. Strasse, Mrs. Joseph Stern, Mrs. Solomon Stern and the children."

Q. Was this a family known to you?

A. Somewhat related to us, but distant. Personal friends.

Q. And how did the postcard reach you?

A. Someone brought it to my home. The postcard had my address in Budapest, and I found it in my apartment. It was dated 15 June, and I received it a week later.

Q. How did it come into the possession of that person? You surely do not know?

A. Either they threw it from the train or they gave it to someone. It could have been that somebody found it, or one of the Hungarian railwaymen passed on the postcard. There were still some decent persons.

State Attorney Bach: Were these people seized at the border, or before they reached it?

Witness Freudiger: I think it was in the course of their escape, while they were escaping.

State Attorney Bach: Your Honours, if we were to submit a photocopy of this postcard at a later stage, perhaps the witness would be able to receive back his postcard?

Presiding Judge: I will not mark it - the witness will get it back, and you should have a copy made.

[The Session was adjourned at 10.25 because of disturbances in the courtroom ].

[The Session was reconvened]

Presiding Judge: I want to announce that if, from now on, there is the slightest disturbance, I shall order the public to be cleared from the courtroom, with the exception of the journalists. I hope there will be no need for that. Those who have already caused a disturbance will, of course, not be permitted to return to the hall.

State Attorney Bach: Mr. Freudiger, you told us that you sent a copy of that report you received about the horrors of Auschwitz, to Horthy, amongst others. Was any particular change noticeable at any time in Horthy's attitude to the deportation of Jews from Hungary?

Witness Freudiger: At the end of June there was already the beginning of some resistance in Hungarian political circles to the deportation of the Jews from Hungary. Apart from that, to my knowledge, at the end of July, possibly on 26 June, a very strong ultimatum from Roosevelt and from the King of Sweden was received by the Swiss minister, Jaeger, addressed to the Hungarian Government and to Horthy personally, that they should immediately put an end to the deportations. And if they did not stop the deportations - thus the ultimatum was reported to have stated - Hungary would be treated in a way that a civilized nation had never been treated before. As far as we knew, the ultimatum expired on 29 or 30 June, and the Hungarian Government did not give any reply at all.

On 2 July there was a very heavy air raid on Budapest. British and American planes began arriving from early morning; there were roughly 500 casualties amongst the population of Budapest, including many Jews as well. Our house, too, was hit by a bomb, and my cousin, whom I have mentioned, died in our house after having been struck by the bomb.

Q. Do you know whether after that Horthy gave a particular order?

A. On the next day, 3 or 4 July, Horthy stated in his reply to Jaeger that, from 9 July onwards, there would be no more deportations from Hungary. In fact, perhaps he did not know, but he surely must have known, that, apart from Budapest, the deportation programme had been concluded by that date. The last stage was already due to take place that week. This was in Western Hungary.

Q. That is to say, the Jews of Budapest actually survived?

A. The Jews of Budapest survived.

Q. How many Jews were there in Budapest then?

A. I think there were approximately 200,000 or 150,000 persons.

Q. Mr. Freudiger, perhaps you will now tell the Court about the episode of the Kistarcsa camp, after this order from Horthy?

A. Yes. After Horthy's order to stop the deportations, this actually involved Budapest, for there was no longer a single Jew left in the rest of Hungary. As far as I was aware at the time, there was already contention between Horthy and Eichmann as to whether or not to deport from Budapest. Eichmann insisted strongly on carrying out the Final Solution to the full and deporting the Jews of Budapest as well. As opposed to this stood Horthy's order not to deport any more.

Presiding Judge: How did you come to know of this contention?

Witness Freudiger: On the one hand from Horthy's circles, and on the other hand Wisliceny, who told me this specifically - that there was a real duel between Eichmann and Horthy.

Judge Halevi: Did they tell you this at the time?

Witness Freudiger: He told me at that time. There was one instance near Kistarcsa where there were again about 1,500 Jews near the concentration camp.

State Attorney Bach: Inside the Kistarcsa concentration camp?

Witness Freudiger: Yes, there were people there once again, because there were continuous deportations. That was the entire capacity of Kistarcsa, 1,500 persons. There was an order to deport the Jews from Kistarcsa. The members of the central executive received the news from some people that they were being prepared for deportation. Meanwhile, they were taken in the railway waggons. Then, immediately, the members of the central executive, not I myself, found ways to contact Horthy.

Q. Do you know which member of your executive found the way to Horthy?

A. I do not remember, now, who it was exactly, Dr. Polgar and all the others...

Q. Do you know, in a general way, whether Dr. Petoe had contacts with Horthy?

A. Yes. Petoe especially was persona grata with the Hungarian Government.

Q. Did you and your colleagues manage to pass a message on to Horthy?

A. Yes, through his son. He sent his adjutant to the train and issued an order to return the train to Kistarcsa.

Q. Do you remember what was the date of this?

A. It could have been 7, 9, 12 July, something like that, 11, 12.

Q. That is to say, about two or three days before Horthy's order, the deportations were to proceed...

A. Definitely before 15 July. This was between 9 and 15 July.

Q. And the train, which was indeed already on its way, was halted?

A. It was returned to Kistarcsa. We received a phone call from the Hungarian officer, a police officer Vasdenyei, who was one of the good non-Jews, to the effect that they were bringing back "his" Jews. There was joy and happiness.

Q. Perhaps you can tell us - what was the actual duty of Vasdenyei?

A. He was the commander of the Kistarcsa camp.

Q. After the train had returned, you say, this gave rise to rejoicing amongst yourselves, and generally amongst the Jews of Budapest?

A. This was our only cause for rejoicing since 19 March, that for once we had actually succeeded in rescuing 1,500 Jews from the freight cars.

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