The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 62
(Part 3 of 6)

Q. Did you establish an underground organization by the name of "Ha-Sneh"?* {*Hebrew: "The Bush," referring to the Burning Bush in Exodus 3:2}

A. Correct. Actually, this organization took over the name "Ha-sneh" - previously that was an underground organization whose nucleus was the Jewish intelligentsia, especially the pupils and students of the Jagiellonien University. We maintained contact with our colleagues of the Polish student organization. There was also contact with some of the professors of the Jagiellonien University. Some of them were also exiled and subsequently killed by the Germans.

It became clear to us, later on, from some of the professors, that centres of resistance existed there around the Jewish Polish intelligentsia, most of whom, of course, were graduates of the Jagiellonien University. Within this underground, there was a political underground, because it was believed at the time that the War would not last long. We wanted to take part in this war, for which the citizens of Poland, both Polish and Jewish, had prepared, each according to his ability, in order that we could make our contribution to the struggle against Nazi domination. To the extent that the limitations of time will permit, I can also mention names of outstanding persons.

Presiding Judge: The limitation of time will not permit this - of that there is no doubt.

Attorney General: This organization included various Zionist bodies, Zionist youth of various circles?

Witness Zimmerman: Yes. In the main, the core of the groups were from the Zionist youth movements.

Q. I only wanted to know whether this was a roof organization common to the various bodies.

A. Yes, of all the youth movements.

Q. And you had an important function in this underground?

A. Yes, I was one of the leaders of this underground, and I was also the special liaison with the well-known group in the Cracow Ghetto of the "Fighting Halutz," with Dolek Liebeskind, who was also a friend of mine. Inside the Cracow Ghetto, naturally, we tried to prepare hide-outs, arms caches, and false Aryan papers and certificates, and we also maintained contact with the outside world.

Q. Rumours were spread in the ghetto of concentrations in the Lublin district?

A. Yes.

Q. And you attempted to go there and to see what was going on?

A. Yes. In March 1942, there was - as they called it - the first big "Aktion". Throughout, from time to time, they had been removing people by night from their homes and their places of work, according to lists.

Presiding Judge: I thought that this evidence was being led for a certain purpose.

Attorney General: We are just coming to it.

Presiding Judge: We have already heard a description of the Cracow Ghetto in general terms from Judge Beisky and...

Attorney General: From Mrs. Kuper.

Presiding Judge: Yes.

Attorney General: I am now asking not about the Cracow Ghetto, but what the witness saw in the concentrations in the Lublin district, which is an introduction to the chapter on extermination camps, which were, in fact, concentrated in that area.

Witness Zimmerman: I am grateful to the Court for helping me and making it unnecessary to tell of the things that were described here and of the horrors we underwent - it is not an easy matter for someone who went through the experience. And I should try to confine myself...

Presiding Judge: Mr. Zimmerman, I know that you are a lawyer. Therefore, please answer the questions put to you by the Attorney General. You do not need any explanations from the Court.

Witness Zimmerman: In March, 1942, there was the first large "Aktion", in which several thousand people were taken and transported to the east by train. It was the first large "Aktion" that we had ever heard of, and hence we were very apprehensive to know what had happened. We tried, also by means of our influence with the underground organizations, to find out what had happened to the people and where they were sent. Members of the Polish underground, particularly those who worked on the railways, told us that the train travelled to the east, in the direction of Lublin.

After many efforts through the organization, which was, in fact, a branch of the Joint in Poland - it was known by the name of J.T.S. (Jewish Social Self-Help) - it became possible to send a delegation to Lublin, a delegation consisting of three people, with the consent of the Nazi authorities in Cracow. I was one of the three.

Attorney General: What did you find when you reached the vicinity of Lublin?

Witness Zimmerman: We arrived in Lublin, and there we were told that those who had been deported from Cracow were in four or five locations - Hrubieszow, Dubienka, Uchanie, if I am not mistaken in the name, and Belzec. We visited these places and, indeed, in the forests we found the deportees and the refugees who had been taken from Cracow by force, in a terrible condition. In Belzec, we also heard from the populace that excavation works and other mysterious feverish activities were being carried out. But we still did not know what was being planned there, and what they were preparing in Belzec. At any rate, there were various rumours, terrifying rumours.

When we returned from this delegation - we were not certain that we would manage to get back, and also in the ghetto it was not believed that we would return - we delivered a report on what had happened to these Jews. Naturally, we tried to explain to our comrades that there was a grave danger to the physical existence of the Jews, although we did not yet believe that it was a matter of general extermination; this became clear to us only later on, at the end of 1942, when there was a very extensive "Aktion" with great cruelty, and thousands of people were again taken to Lublin, because they would not allow us to send help to them - even though the delegation went out for that purpose - they would not let us provide aid, they would not let us maintain any contact with these people.

At first, postcards actually arrived from there by some complex, mysterious route. Later on this stopped, and a death-like silence prevailed as far as all those people were concerned who were sent to the east.

Q. Did you have any contact with those people in charge of the Cracow Ghetto on behalf of the Gestapo?

A. We were interested in knowing everything that was happening and whatever they were preparing to do, and our comrades were working in all kinds of places, as officials and as stenotypists, and we tried to gather information and to listen.

Q. Were you also one of them?

A. I was also one of them, from time to time.

Q. From which Gestapo members in Cracow did you obtain information?

A. Especially those in charge of the ghetto used to come to the Cracow Ghetto, particularly Kunde and Heinrich, and others. These two made more visits than the others. They used to oversee the liquidation operations, but from time to time they felt the need to prove that they were also human beings and that they, too, had feelings. I do not know who were worse - those who wanted to prove such feelings from time to time, or those who were brutal all the time. At any rate, possibly this was merely a facade, almost certainly this was just a pretence, a kind of policy of deceiving us. They would pretend that they regretted what was taking place - it was not their fault - they were implementing a plan in charge of which there were special persons, there was a special department and special people in charge. And again, in their conversation they would mention this expert, whom, they boasted, knew Hebrew and Yiddish, had lived in Palestine, and sometimes also mixed with Jews who were afraid to do anything because they were afraid of him.

Presiding Judge: What unit did these two belong to?

Witness Zimmerman: These two were Gestapo men.

Q. Uniformed?

A. In uniform.

Q. In what uniform?

A. I believe it was the Sicherheitspolizei or the Sicherheitsdienst - at any rate, they were from that department which dealt with Jewish affairs.

Attorney General: Mr. Zimmerman, the Judge asked you what uniform?

Witness Zimmerman: An olive green colour.

Judge Halevi: Did they mention the man's name or simply describe him?

Witness Zimmerman: Later on, we again heard stories about this man. In particular, one man who was in charge of the exit gate from the ghetto told us a lot about him. His name was Busko - he was of Austrian origin. It turned out subsequently that he was one of the Righteous Gentiles; he tried to help us and also kept in touch with the Jewish underground. Afterwards, he was executed by the Nazis. He used to warn us and extend help to us to the best of his ability. And he, too, told us that there was a special department, headed by an expert, and they had studied this problem, and that there was a plan for the total destruction of the Jews - he warned us. I am almost certain that he mentioned the man's name, although I cannot say with absolute certainty that I heard the name from him. But there is one thing I can say with certainty, even before I reached Hungary - that is to say, in 1943: We, the survivors who had been in the forced labour camps knew, we had heard the name Eichmann.

Attorney General: What did you hear from Busko concerning Eichmann?

Witness Zimmerman: That the person in charge was a man who had been in Palestine, and that he knew Hebrew and Yiddish.

Q. You heard his name?

A. I am almost certain that I heard it, but after a long time, it is difficult, nevertheless, to be sure when and where we heard the name for the first time.

Q. Did Kunde and Heinrich say anything about Frank's powers in relation to the extermination programme?

A. Yes. When we spoke to them and tried to influence them to soften their attitude and to do something or change something, and there were also plans to exert influence through the higher Polish Christian clergy in Cracow, they told us there were no chances and there was no point in trying, that even Frank himself could not help to any extent in these matters...

Presiding Judge: Mr. Hausner, the value of this evidence is, shall we say, next to nothing. I believe you will agree with me. I did not want, by any means, to shock the witness; I am referring to this sentence, to these words that the witness heard from people who were apparently fairly junior Gestapo men. This is, in fact, gossip about Frank and, as we may assume, about the Accused.

Attorney General: Your Honour, I did not want to make comments in the middle of the testimony, but if I compare this with Frank's diary, and if I compare it with the Wannsee records, then it has some weight.

Presiding Judge: We have the actual diary of Frank.

Attorney General: But in this way, there is support, from a living witness, for the words that not only Frank wanted to cast [responsibility] on someone, but also persons on the spot...

Presiding Judge: But who knows through how many mouths this passed on the way? All of us here happen to be jurists. No one knows where he heard this; at any rate, I have not heard it - it was a general rumour.

Attorney General: I shall ask the witness right away, Your Honour.

[To witness] Did you personally hear this from Kunde and Heinrich?

Witness Zimmerman: I heard it from them, when they were telling this to people with whom they were in contact, and I was present as an official.

Presiding Judge: Yes, this I understood. The question is: From whom did they hear it?

Witness Zimmerman: This was a general rumour.

Presiding Judge: Well, there you are.

Judge Halevi: Perhaps it was inside information.

Witness Zimmerman: In this context, perhaps I may be permitted to make a comment?

Presiding Judge: If it will add weight to the evidence, please do so.

Witness Zimmerman: It seems to me that there are certain facts which would add substance to this matter. These facts are that, if there happened to be people in the ghetto - and if according to the racial laws there was some doubt as to their being Aryans or not - all these problems were forwarded from the ghetto to the central headquarters by the experts there, and one had to await decisions from elsewhere - not from the Gestapo in Cracow.

Attorney General: In the end, you escaped from Poland and crossed into Hungary in 1943, did you not?

Witness Zimmerman: Upon the liquidation of the Cracow Ghetto in 1943, I was transferred to Plaszow and its notorious branches, the forced-labour camp and afterwards the concentration camp, and in October 1943, I escaped from there. I worked as a forced labourer, I could listen to the conversations of those in charge of the work and also of the Gestapo men in charge, and they all talked about the same subject. And there is an interesting fact that I think ought to be pointed out - many of them used to say that they were performing these tasks for the reason that they did not want to go to the front, otherwise they would have to go to the front. And there were instances where Gestapo men in charge of the camps did not want to carry on with this work - and were transferred to the front. At all events, they were removed from the concentration camps.

Q. Do you know this from personal knowledge?

A. This I know from my personal knowledge. These things were well known. Most of them spoke about it. A large part of them performed this work willingly, and another part did so out of the clear knowledge that by this means they were being spared from going to the front. That was known also to the man in charge of the Plaszow camp, Amon Goeth, who was hanged at the end of the War. He, too, had not served at the front; he did not want to go to the front and hence specialized in these questions.

Judge Halevi: In what did he specialize?

Witness Zimmerman: In exterminating the Jews. He came to the Plaszow Ghetto from Lublin. He underwent training with Globocnik. This was a special detachment which specialized, which saw in it both a duty and a mission.

Attorney General: I understand that later you were in Budapest, and you lived there with Aryan papers?

Witness Zimmerman: Yes.

Q. There you also established contact with Kasztner and the Rescue Committee?

A. Yes. At the end of 1943, when I fled from this camp - this is not relevant for the present, it is a story of its own - I was in the forests, and, through Slovakia, I reached Hungary. There, I represented the Polish refugees at the Polish consulate. And since I had previously been in contact with the Polish underground, the consul in Budapest, Slavik, knew about me, got to know me. By this means, I was able to help a great deal in the work of rescuing refugees, and through me they obtained thousands of Christian papers, to the effect that they were Roman Catholics or others.

This was the situation until March 1944, when the Germans took control of Hungary. I was in contact with members of the Rescue Committee. I met with Brand, Kasztner, the late Komoly, Krausz, Freudiger and Stern. I told them of everything I had been through - I was in touch with the underground Zionist youth movements. Naturally, we organized units for rescue and defence, bunkers and arms. We were able to help much more in this matter, since, as Polish Christians, we also had strong links with the Hungarians. In the vicinity of Budapest, there was a large ammunition factory, where there were Polish officers, and through them we used to obtain weapons and organize the resistance movement.

Q. Mr. Zimmerman, I want to confine the evidence to the central points for which it is intended. Afterwards you escaped to Romania?

A. Yes. This was, in fact, to some extent, also with the aid of the Rescue Committee.

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