The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 52
(Part 5 of 8)

Q. What happened to those Jews afterwards?

A. A day or two after the Jews were returned to Kistarcsa, we received an order that all the members of the Judenrat were to come to the Hotel Majestic, to the offices of the SS. I came around 9:00, 9:30 to the office of the Judenrat.

All were nervous, because all of us, the whole of the Judenrat, had never before been summoned to come together.

Q. Where was the Hotel Majestic?

A. At the Schwabenberg, that was actually the headquarters of the Sondereinsatzkommando. There it said: Sondereinsatzkommando IVB4.

Q. Who were the German officers working there?

A. I did not know them all - Eichmann, Krumey, Wisliceny, Hunsche, Novak. Later on I met Klages on one occasion - he belonged to the SD - who was located elsewhere. He took the place of Krumey, because at the beginning of July they transferred him to Vienna from Budapest. Some other officer came in his stead, I think his name was Krueger.

Q. Were the offices of Eichmann, Wisliceny and Hunsche in the same place, in the Hotel Majestic on the Schwabenberg?

A. Yes.

Q. In the same place to which all of you were summoned?

A. We were all summoned to come on that one day.

Presiding Judge: When was that?

Witness Freudiger: It was two days after the train was brought back to Kistarcsa, it could have been, perhaps, 12 or 13 July.

State Attorney Bach: Did all of you actually go?

Witness Freudiger: At the beginning we all went, with one exception. Berend was not in the office at the time. Eight of us came, instead of nine. We came to the office on the Schwabenberg. We went in. They asked us whether everyone was present. I was somehow the spokesman. I said, Berend is not here. He was a young member - he had not been a member of the executive for long. They said he, too, must come here. We had a taxi, and they said: Send the taxi to fetch him. We sent the car back - it was six or seven kilometres from town. An hour later, Berend was also there. I told the officer there, Hunsche: Our complement is full.

Q. Was it mainly Hunsche who spoke to you on that day?

A. Yes.

Q. What did he talk to you about, and how long did he keep you there?

A. This could have started roughly at 10 or 10.30. He said a few words to us and told us to wait, and that soon he would take us into his office. We waited an hour, an hour- and-a-half, two hours. Our members were extremely nervous.

Eventually Stern, who was seventy years old and not in good health, said to me: "Freudiger, go to Hunsche and ask him why they summoned us here." I went to Hunsche and said: "We are all waiting, what is going to happen?" He replied: "Soon, soon." And another hour passed. After an hour, our nervousness grew. I said to Hunsche: "What is going to happen? We would like to telephone our office to tell them we are here." And he said: "No, do not telephone, I will phone right away."

Then I asked him to provide something to eat. I said I was able to fast, I was an Orthodox Jew, but he should give food to the others. Stern was there, and he gave him a slice of bread and a cup of coffee. The others did not receive anything.

At approximately two o'clock, he took us to his office and began speaking about various subjects - that the life of the Jews had to be organized, how to organize the Burial Society, and all sorts of matters. That would have been an interesting subject for discussion, if there had been Jews in Hungary, but not when there were no longer Jews in Hungary. Thus the time passed.

Then he again sent us down, and we waited for him. By now it was six p.m. I said to him: "We are allowed to walk in the streets until eight o'clock only." All of us, by now, had the yellow Shield of David. The whole Jewish population, as I have previously said, had permission to be in the streets from 2-5 p.m.; we had special permission - from eight in the morning until eight in the evening. I pointed out that it was now six o'clock, that we were up there on the Schwabenberg, and that we had to get home. He answered: "Don't worry, I will provide you with an escort, and everyone will reach his home." He said there was something we had to arrange.

After that, at seven o'clock, the telephone on his table rang. He began speaking. Then he stopped and went into another room. Apparently he did not want us to hear, that we should hear what he was saying. We heard him saying: "Well, very well." After that he returned to the room. We were left in the middle of a sentence when the telephone rang. Then he came back and said: "All right, now you may go." We went home.

Q. During all this time, from ten in the morning until seven in the evening, was anything at all discussed which seemed to you to be a matter of importance?

A. No. If there had been Jews in the country, it would perhaps have been important, but to talk about the Burial Society when the Jews had already been killed in Auschwitz?

Q. What did you find out when you returned home?

A. I, of course, could no longer go back to my home, for it had been destroyed by a bomb. I was living in the Old Age Home of the Orthodox community. It was not far from the Schwabenberg. It still had a telephone, because in institutions, in hospitals, the telephone was allowed to remain. I got back at eight o'clock, a little before eight, and I received a telephone call from Kistarcsa to the effect that SS men, a special contingent with Hauptsturmfuehrer Novak, and thirty trucks had arrived. They shut out the Hungarian police force under Vasdenyei and the remaining police who were in the Kistarcsa camp.

They took the Jews who had been on the train before, put them on the trucks, and left the place in a hurry. As I learned afterwards, the phone call Hunsche received was a message that a train had brought them to Hatvan, in a direction opposite to that of Budapest. They had transferred them to a town closer to Kistarcsa in another direction, and sent them in an express train beyond the borders, to Auschwitz. The call to Hunsche was to the effect that they had crossed the border. It was after this that they allowed us to go home, for they thought that if we got to know about it, we would again intervene and run to Horthy.

Q. Did you speak to Wisliceny about this episode?

A. Yes, definitely. On the next day or the day after I spoke to Wisliceny - I described the whole incident to him. Wisliceny said to me...

Q. Perhaps you would quote what Wisliceny said in German?

A. He explained the meaning of the telephone call. I told him the whole story. Then he said: "You stayed there until Hunsche received the telephone call that everything was in order." And he said to me in German: "Was glaubt denn der alte Trottel, Eichmann wird diese Ohrfeige einstecken, dass er seinen Zug hat zurueckholen lassen?" (Does that old fool really believe that Eichmann would keep quiet at this slap in the face that his train was sent back?)

Q. To whom was he referring with the words "der alte Trottel" (the old fool)?

A. To Horthy.

Q. Was it only from Kistarcsa that Jews were later taken away by force, as you described?

A. There was one other place, about a week or ten days later, another concentration camp, at Sarvar, from where they also took away 1,000 or 1,200 Jews. But there they had already begun with the second stage. They did not begin deporting them in trains, but came immediately with trucks and locked up the police. What they had done at Kistarcsa on the second occasion was the model for Sarvar. That we knew only after it was done.

Q. When you said "they came," to whom were you referring?

A. Novak and his men.

Q. Did you also discuss this matter with the commandant of Kistarcsa - Vasdenyei?

A. Yes.

Q. Did he also confirm it to you?

A. He was really an honest man and apologized. He said: "What could I do?"

Presiding Judge: Who was this man?

Witness Freudiger: He was the Hungarian police chief of Kistarcsa.

State Attorney Bach: Did he express his regrets at this incident?

Witness Freudiger: Yes.

Q. By the way: What is the distance between Budapest and Sarvar, that second camp you mentioned?

A. It is further away. Sarvar is in the west of Hungary - it could be at least 120 kilometres away.

Q. After this occurrence, when you returned to the Schwabenberg and saw Hunsche and his comrades, did they again refer to the incident when you were held at the Schwabenberg?

A. Actually I did not have much to do with Hunsche, but he knew me. A day or two after I had been in the office there, when he saw me, he asked laughingly: "Sind Sie noch immer nervoes? Stern hat sich schon beruhigt?" (Are you still nervous? Has Stern already calmed down?)

Q. Mr. Freudiger, I shall not question you on details of the negotiations that were conducted between Brand and Kasztner and the Germans. We shall hear about this directly from Brand. I would ask you only this: Did you occasionally receive reports about these discussions from Dr. Kasztner?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember that he once expressed himself on a certain matter concerning the wording of a draft proposal for a deal made by Eichmann?

A. Yes. He always reported on something when it was already done. He always confronted us with a "fait accompli," and informed us that there had been such negotiations. He said that people would be sent to Bergen-Belsen, and after that also to Strasshof, there had been some haggling, trucks would be delivered, etc. He asked him whether they were sending these people to Germany? Perhaps only to Bergen- Belsen. There had been no talk as yet of Bergen-Belsen, but only that the train was to proceed to the Spanish frontier - this was what was afterwards called the Bergen-Belsen train, instead of to the Spanish frontier.

It was after 6 June, after D-Day. Major battles had already taken place in France. We then asked what would happen if some disaster occurred, for the route was not all that safe? To that Eichmann once replied: "Nu, es ist keine grosse Sache. Getoetete oder beschaedigte Juden werden mit anderen ausgetauscht." (Well, that is nothing of importance. Killed or injured Jews will be replaced by others.) This is what Kasztner told me that Eichmann had once said to him, that he was an honest man, and if he sold 3,000 Jews, he would have to supply him with this number, and if they should be killed or injured, there would be others. He would supply other merchandise. His expression was: "This is nothing of importance, dead or injured Jews will be replaced by others."

Q. The main thing is this expression "Vernichtete oder beschaedigte Juden werden mit anderen ausgetauscht" (exterminated or injured Jews will be replaced by others). Please tell the Court about your last meeting with the Accused on 21 July 1944.

A. As I have said, the whole of Hungary, with the exception of Budapest, was already judenrein by the beginning of July. A duel was being fought whether or not to deport the Jews from Budapest. We hoped that Horthy would be the stronger - we had some indication that, on the German side, too, that Veesenmeyer was also not so rigorous and was opposed to Eichmann's plan to expel the Jews from Budapest at all costs.

On 21 July - I remember that day well, it was a Friday - I received an urgent telephone call from Wisliceny saying that he wanted to speak to me, and that I should come to him right away. I went to his private apartment on the Schwabenberg. He told me that a day or two before he had been in Bratislava, where he had spoken to Rabbi Weissmandel and with all our Jewish friends; they had heard the B.B.C. broadcast which reported on Brand's programme to exchange a million Jews for 10,000 trucks, and that the B.B.C. added that a guarantee had been required that these trucks would not be used except on the western front, but not on the eastern front against the Russians, and His Majesty's Government could not do anything against its allies, the Russians.

Presiding Judge: I think you have made a mistake here. They wanted to say that the trucks would be used only on the eastern front, and not on the western front.

Witness Freudiger: That they should guarantee not to use them on the western front.

Q. You simply interchanged "east" for "west."

A. His Majesty's Government was very sorry - it could not accept this offer.

Q. Were those his words in English?

A. Yes, as far as I remember, he said that in English. But it may be that I am mistaken. Afterwards the press, the Hungarian newspapers, also reported it. Rabbi Weissmandel told him that this was clear proof that the matter would now be carried out. It had already been going on for a month and a half. Throughout this month and a half we had not heard a word about the whole matter. Now it was of no value. And why were the English disclosing such a matter, because they were seeking an alibi against the Russians? And now they would do it.

State Attorney Bach: Was this what Rabbi Weissmandel said to Wisliceny?

Witness Freudiger: Yes. Rabbi Weissmandel said this to Wisliceny, and the proof of it was that Mr. Freudiger already had 250 trucks which they could begin to deliver on account of the 10,000.

Presiding Judge: Were they already in the possession of the Germans?

Witness Freudiger: No, in the possession of Mr. Freudiger.

State Attorney Bach: Wisliceny said to Mr. Freudiger that he had learned from Rabbi Weissmandel that he (Mr. Freudiger) had 250 trucks?

Witness Freudiger: Yes. And he summoned me and asked whether this was true. I said it was true. Of course, I had neither 250 trucks, nor even one, but since he asked me whether I had them, I told him that I did - the Almighty would help me. After that he said to me: "Fine, if Eichmann calls you - I have spoken to him - confirm this, and in this way the question of the deportation of Jews from Budapest will be removed from the agenda." "Very well," I said to him, "I am going to Eichmann." It was about five to ten minutes from there. He was living at the Hotel Majestic. He said to me: "Eichmann must not know that I have spoken to you - do you know that he is angry with you and also with me? We have not spoken to each other - go down into town, and he will call you."

I returned to the offices of the central executive, where there was already an uproar. They asked me: "Freudiger, where have you been? They are looking for you all over the city - Eichmann has already telephoned for you twice." Of course, I was unable to tell them where I had been. I went back to the Hotel Majestic. Eichmann was not in his office. I waited outside, and some minutes later he arrived in his car. He saw me waiting outside and came up to me and said: "Come in." I went to him and stood there at attention. He said to me - perhaps I may repeat this, too, in German: "Ich habe die Verstaendigung bekommen, dass Sie 250 Lastautos zu Ihrer Verfuegung haben?" (I have received information that you have 250 trucks at your disposal). I replied: "Yes."

After that he said to me: "Go to Obersturmbannfuehrer Becher, tell him about it and arrange with him for their delivery." I said: "Very well." He then said: "And see that he is satisfied," and then - this was the first time that he had not shouted at me - "you, too, will be satisfied" (Schauen Sie, dass Sie ihn zufriedenstellen, Sie werden auch zufrieden sein.) (Endeavour to satisfy him; you, too, will be satisfied.)

Q. Mr. Freudiger, one other question connected with the matter of Kistarcsa. You said before that you had a member of the executive named Janos Gabor. A day or two after the incident which you recounted to us about the return of the train and its seizure for a second time, were you also informed of something by Janos Gabor?

A. I said that Janos Gabor was a liaison officer before he was appointed to be a member of the second executive, but after he was appointed as a member, he continued in that role, and day after day he used to go to the Hotel Majestic in order to deal with current matters. He came back and said that he had spoken to Eichmann and had received a telling-off - it was something awful. Eichmann shouted at him and said: "What is this - you people are interfering in my affairs, you are here to assist us and not to meddle in our business." He said that Eichmann was very nervous, and after that there were days when he did not want to go to the Schwabenberg any more, and he said that Eichmann had shouted at him in such a way that he was afraid to go. After that, nothing happened in this connection.

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