The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 52
(Part 6 of 8)

Q. Mr. Freudiger, do you know where the Accused lived in Budapest?

A. No.

Q. When did you leave Budapest?

A. On 10 August.

Q. Can you tell us where you went to and how you managed it? I would ask you to do so briefly - there is no need for all the details. Where did you go to - and by what route?

A. We left Hungary and escaped to Romania as Romanian Jews. I cannot say that the passports were forged - the passports were not forged, only the names were forged. I did not state my name, and I obtained the passport. It was not only for me. We secured, through Dr. Fildermann and friends who lived in Budapest, the means for 130 non-Romanians to travel to Romania. The genuine Romanian Jews simply had the right to return to Romania.

Q. Did Wisliceny know about your plan to escape?

A. Yes. I was also supposed to go on that train to Bergen- Belsen, in the same way as the greater part of the Jewish public functionaries of Hungary. At the last minute, Wisliceny notified me that I had to remain in Budapest, because Krumey, on his own initiative or that of Eichmann - this I do not know - anyhow did not allow a member of the Judenrat to abandon his job, and I had to remain. I prepared myself, in case he would allow me to do so later on.

We began to take steps to arrange the passports, because I got news from my friends in Bucharest. Approximately in the middle of July, possibly on 20 or 15 July, Wisliceny said to me, suddenly, without any preamble (we had been talking about other matters): "Freudiger, go away now!" After that, a day or two after this, he told me about the possibility of Romanian Jews returning to Romania. I did all the rest.

Q. Did you reach Romania safely?

A. The following day, on 11 August, we went by the ordinary train from Budapest to Romania. They wanted afterwards to arrest the whole group - it was not only my family and I, there were other people there as well. But we had already crossed the border. By the time they came to arrest us, we had already crossed the border.

Presiding Judge: And from there, from Romania?

Witness Freudiger: We remained in Romania for 14 months, and from there we came to Palestine.

Q. Were the Russians in Romania then?

A. On 11 August Romania was still under the rule of Antonescu. The Russians entered on 23 August.

State Attorney Bach: Thank you very much.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions?

Dr. Servatius: Yes, I have a number of questions.

Sir, you spoke about the ban on using the railway, about the ban on leaving the country, and about many other prohibitions. Who issued these prohibitions?

Witness Freudiger: The instructions appeared in the official Hungarian Gazette.

Q. Thank you. Who set up the camp at Kistarcsa, the Hungarians or the Germans?

A. This camp had been in existence previously. I said yesterday that it had been in existence before 1944.

Presiding Judge: Was it a Hungarian camp?

Witness Freudiger: Yes.

Dr. Servatius: Thank you, that is sufficient for me. You said at one time that, at the end, there was a Hungarian camp commandant. Was this the case also at the beginning?

Witness Freudiger: Yes, it was always a Hungarian.

Q. At the time of the operations or the steps that were taken, did the Hungarian police or gendarmerie appear?

A. What operations?

Q. I shall not enumerate the operations in detail, but the question is directed to whether these arrests were carried out by the Germans, or whether the Hungarian gendarmerie did that.

A. When hostages were taken at the beginning of the occupation in Budapest, the Budapest police went together with an officer or soldier of the SS or a German soldier. The deportation itself was always carried out by the Hungarian gendarmerie together with a small contingent of the SS. On the train, after they were already in the railway waggon, there were only SS officers who were in charge of the train.

Q. You spoke about the Jewish laws enacted by Hungary. Were these laws more severe than in Germany?

A. Before 1944 or during the occupation? Before 19 March or after 19 March?

Q. Were the laws more severe before that date or thereafter?

A. Before - no. The laws before 19 March were certainly not stricter, perhaps even less so than in Germany. After 19 March, there were laws against the Jews. I am not familiar with the German laws. They deported Jews from there, and they deported Jews from Hungary.

Q. Do you not know whether the subsequent laws were more severe than in Germany itself?

A. I do not know the German laws that existed in 1944.

Q. Did you once make a report - on 18 August 1960 - in which you also described that which you have recounted here?

A. Yes, I gave my account to the police.

Q. Is everything in that written account on this question accurate?

A. I did not write that account in August 1960. We wrote that account in September 1945. A large part of that account accords with the truth. When we wrote it, we were under the impact of what had happened - this was a month or two after we escaped.

Judge Halevi: 1944 or 1945?

Witness Freudiger: Yes, 1944. We wrote it in Bucharest at the request of Dr. Fildermann, the director of the Joint in Bucharest. When I read the report some years later, it was almost entirely correct, but there are matters there which I see today in a somewhat different light. But at the time I knew it that way and felt that way.

Presiding Judge: Was it written by you?

Witness Freudiger: It was written by the three of us.

Q. Who were they?

A. Myself, Alexander Diamant, and Yohanan Link.

Q. And in 1960, I understand, you gave that to the police.

A. And in 1960 I confirmed that I stood by it.

Dr. Servatius: Your Honour, the Presiding Judge, it appears here that this is the account of Pinhas Freudiger about the events from 19 March to 10 August 1944, whereas at the end it says "Jerusalem, 18 August 1960" and signed by Philip von Freudiger.

Presiding Judge: That is the same name, Dr. Servatius.

State Attorney Bach: I should like to explain. On 18 August 1960, the witness identified the account, and therefore that date appears there. The account was written then [in 1944], and not in 1960.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you wish to submit this account?

Dr. Servatius: Not for the present. I merely want to put forward an argument to the witness. [To Witness] It says here, on page 21, in the copy in my possession, that "In Hungary the racial laws were much more rigorous than in Germany, the more so than in Slovakia, and they included a wide range of Jews who had been converted for a long time, and their descendants, and also a large number of half-Jews who were the offspring of mixed marriages." Is that correct?

Witness Freudiger: We felt it in this way. But I think, according to all that I have read from 1944 to this day about the events in Germany - I think that was a mistake. In Germany, too, they seized Jews who had converted out of the faith, and so on.

Q. Sir, I asked you only whether you wrote the account, and whether the correct version is what you wrote there or what you have stated here as a witness.

A. I wrote that, and that was what I thought then. Meanwhile I learned that this was erroneous, and that in Germany, too, the situation was severe.

Q. I have another question. How did the Hungarian gendarmerie behave - did it treat you with greater consideration, or did the Hungarian police behave in the worst manner?

A. The Hungarian gendarmerie, particularly in the provincial towns, was not any better. They were very cruel.

Q. Allow me to read out to you what you wrote then, in your account, on page 11 in the lower part. "The Hungarian Gestapo was created entirely according to the model of the German security service, a state within a state, without control, endowed with full authority, and seeking to outbid in brutality and shamefulness the body in whose image it had been established. Thus there was imposed upon Hungarian Jewry an arm which took upon itself the orders of the German rulers and the Hungarians.

A. So what is your question?

Q. Which is correct? The statement which I have just read, or the account which you gave here previously?

A. Earlier I said that the Hungarian gendarmerie was no better than the SS, and here we are talking of the Hungarian Gestapo. First of all, these are two separate matters. The Hungarian gendarmerie was part of the Hungarian police, a special part of it, and they were always more aggressive than the police. And the Hungarian Gestapo was not yet in existence. The Hungarian Gestapo was set up upon the demand of the SS. And the head of the Hungarian Gestapo, Peter Hein, was the one who handed over Horthy to the Germans; he was the head of the Hungarian secret police.

Q. Sir, that is sufficient for me.

What was Endre's role? Was he the authority upon whom everyone's fate depended?

A. Upon whom everyone's fate depended? Endre was the Director General of the Ministry of the Interior, and his function was - he took this upon himself - to help, to work hand in hand with the Sondereinsatzkommando. He aimed at - and this was his aim - securing the consent of the Hungarian Government for this plan. He was directing the affairs in the Ministry of the Interior.

Q. Sir, was he the person upon whose word depended the fate of every single Jew - for life or death?

A. If Endre wanted to stop the deportations and not to help, he would either have had to find someone else in his place, or really to implement it a little more slowly and with somewhat greater difficulties.

Q. Sir, that is enough. I shall now permit myself to read from page 13 of your account. "The man who had it in his power to decide on matters of life and death in regard to the fate of the Jews was Endre." Is that correct?

A. That was correct.

Dr. Servatius: I have no further questions.

State Attorney Bach: I have no questions in re-examination.

Judge Raveh: How did you arrive at that figure of 600,000 which you mentioned?

Witness Freudiger: As I said previously, there were 800,000 Jews in Hungary and, in my estimation, there remained in Budapest after the deportations only the Jews of Budapest and the young Jews who were in labour service. I believe they numbered more than 200,000 - possibly some tens of thousands more. As against this, I did not include in these 800,000 those who converted out of the faith.

Q. Were the numbers of those who remained based on statistical data or upon your estimate?

A. We knew how many Jews there were in Budapest according to the statistics. Possibly there was a difference of 10,000, not more than that.

Judge Halevi: Mr. Freudiger, with regard to the figures you mentioned, that in the Auschwitz report that was sent to you by Rabbi Weissmandel and drawn up by two Slovakian prisoners of Auschwitz, a total was mentioned of 1,450,000 Jewish victims.

Witness Freudiger: Yes.

Q. This was before the deportation of the Jews of Hungary.

A. Yes.

Q. Is there another copy of that report? Did you duplicate it at the time.

A. The report was printed in a book by the late Rabbi Weissmandel, which was published some months ago in New York, entitled Out of the Distress. The report is included there.

Attorney General: This book is in our possession. We are able to submit it to the Court.

Judge Halevi: The question is: Who would be able to verify the report? The witness? After all, he duplicated it and dealt with it.

Attorney General: Perhaps he can do so. We did not intend to submit it, since we have no way of verification, unless the witness can do so.

Judge Halevi: The witness obtained it, dealt with it and duplicated it.

Attorney General: We can do so immediately. We have the report right here.

Judge Halevi: I think it is a sufficiently first-hand source relating to Auschwitz. Did you tell us who sent this report to Switzerland?

Witness Freudiger: Moshe Krausz.

Q. When did he send it?

A. At once. Already in June. Possibly it was also sent directly from Slovakia to Switzerland.

Q. Did you see any letters in Rabbi Weissmandel sounded the alarm; did Rabbi Weissmandel's call for help also pass through your hands?

A. Yes. The letters for help which he sent to us, or...?

Q. No, a call to the free world.

A. A call to the free world - I did not see the actual letter, because he sent it to Switzerland, to Istanbul, and perhaps also to America; but I know about the letters and also about the outcome of these letters. The Rabbinical Rescue Committee of America was established as a result of these letters in 1943.

Q. Did he ask only for financial help or for military help as well?

A. He asked for everything. From the Jews he asked for financial aid - he asked the Jews to undertake all kinds of activities, to persuade the British and American armies to help, to bomb Auschwitz. And we sent letters, and I know that they reached their destination, describing the route, the direction in which the trains were going. Weissmandel sent a plan of Auschwitz - where the crematorium was located.

After the report was received, we asked that they be blown up and I do not know what else, but they did not do so.

Weissmandel had a further plan. There was a large railway tunnel - I don't know how you call it in Hebrew - a tunnel between Kassa and Presov - his plan was to blow it up. Nothing came of all these suggestions.

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