The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 62
(Part 5 of 6)

Q. And finally you reached a place where you stayed a little while longer. What was the name of the place?

A. In some of the places, there was still the local Jewry left, and the so-called Judenrat were able to provide us with very little food. Whatever we could find in exchange we had. Sometimes the Hungarian soldiers helped us with a loaf of bread, for money of course.

Q. But that was not my question. I asked: What was the place you arrived at? What was the name of the village where you stayed a little longer?

A. We stayed longer in Tluste and Buczacz.

Q. In Buczacz you were put to forced labour?

A. In Buczacz, I was captured after being there for five or six days, by two SS men, while I was searching for food for my family, which had already lost two of its members - one of my sisters and one of my brothers. They were lost, and we could never find them.

Q. When you were caught, what happened to you?

A. I was taken to a group of young men, about 25 or 30 young men. We were first given food, and then we were given shovels and other tools and were taken about two or three kilometres out of the town on a top of a hill or hills.

Q. What did you do there?

A. We had been taken up there, and they told us to start digging ditches. First we believed that this was for the tanks, that perhaps the Russians were coming back, and the size of the ditches had almost convinced us that this is what was going to be.

Q. Who were the people who ordered you to dig those trenches? What uniforms did they wear?

A. They had the SS uniform, and they had an SD on their sleeves, I believe.

Q. Did you call them by any name - do you know how they were called?

A. No.

Q. After you had dug some of those trenches, what happened next?

A. We finished one of the trenches at about late evening, I don't know the time. The size of that trench was about twenty metres long on both sides, and about five metres wide, and about two to two and a half metres deep. That night we were sent to our place to sleep. Before going to sleep, they gave us some food.

Q. What happened on the next day?

A. Next day, we started to dig another trench until about late forenoon, when we saw two cars are coming to the place. Stepping out were very high-ranking SS officers, about six or seven of them. They were talking to our commanders and to our guards. They were pointing, and we could not hear what they were saying, but they pointed to the trenches we had dug.

Q. To cut it short, finally people were taken down, is that correct?

A. Shortly after this, we saw the people coming up also with shovels and different tools in their hands, and they had been ordered to lay down their tools. In the meantime, there were some German trucks coming up as well, having a clear mark on their side: "Fuer die Deutsche Winterhilfe"

(For the German Winter Relief project).

Q. Were people executed there?

A. These people were ordered to take off all their clothes, they were put in order, and then they were all naked. They were sent to these ditches, and SS men - some of them drunk, some of them sober, and some of them photographing the scene - these people, numbering about three to four hundred, I don't know the exact number, were all executed, and most of them only got hurt and got buried alive.

Q. Quicklime was brought there.

A. Quicklime was brought there, too, four or five trucks of quicklime.

Q. What did they do with that?

A. Firstly, after the shooting, we were ordered to put some earth back on the bodies, some of them were still crying for help. We put the earth back on the bodies, and then the trucks were emptied of the quicklime.

Q. Who were the people executed there?

A. They were mostly men and women able to work, and, as we found out, the SS tried to cut the family ties and get the people who were able to resist perhaps separately killed.

Presiding Judge: Please listen carefully to the Attorney General's questions and reply to the questions.

Attorney General: Mr. Gordon, what was the nationality of these people?

Witness Gordon: Mostly Hungarians.

Q. No, were they Jews, Christians?

A. Oh, Jews. All Jews. I am talking about people who are all Jews, no exception. There were some Christians who were trying to hide some Jews, and they were hanged.

Q. Now, did the SS guards, or the SS men guarding you, say something about why they are doing this? Did you hear them talking?

A. I heard only one SS man, and the variety of their feelings was quite extensive, from one end to another. Some get almost hysterical, some get close to a nervous breakdown, some were just looking over in the scene, and some were shooting and killing. But, all in all, it was a massacre and a butchery.

Q. No, I asked you, Mr. Gordon, whether you heard them say something about what they are doing.

A. One of the SS men said: "Wer wird fuer das alles bezahlen?" (Who will pay for all this?).

Q. You stayed in Buczacz for twelve days?

A. Ten to twelve days.

Q. Did you witness more than this one execution?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. How many executions did you see?

A. Every day out of these ten to twelve days I was staying there, there were some murders, a massacre. Sometimes the numbers would rise from seventy to three hundred, sometimes more, sometimes less, just as many as the guards found in the streets and in other places.

Q. And all that time you were digging those trenches?

A. Yes. The trenches we digged, it was able to bury about 5,000 people. All I have seen was approximately from 1,000 to 1,500 during the period I was there. Where the rest was buried, I don't know.

Q. After those ten or twelve days you escaped?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And you arrived at Kamenets-Podolski?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. You were hiding there?

A. Yes. I was sleeping in the daytime and walking in the night.

Q. While you were hiding in a house outside Kamenets- Podolski, did you see any action against the Jews there?

A. I was seeing clearly from my hiding place - which was a bombed out house, and I was in the attic - when Germans- Nazis, that is SS, searched from house to house and, too, from what I heard, there were about twenty-six to twenty- seven thousand people executed in the same way in Kamenets- Podolski, and as well as in Tluste and Buczacz and all over the place.

Q. But there you did not see the actual execution?

A. I didn't want to go close to it.

Q. But what did you hear from the town?

A. Shootings, machine guns.

Q. You were hiding for about six days, is that correct?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. And then you left your hiding place, and you went to the river, to the Dniester?

A. I went to the Dniester. I was trying to cross the Dniester. There were no facilities to cross. At the Dniester, I saw hundreds and hundreds of bodies floating in the water. There were children mostly, and men and women alike.

Q. Well, you didn't cross the Dniester, so you went back, and you walked your way back to Hungary.

A. That's right. Yes, Sir.

Q. That was already August 1941.

A. That was perhaps later than that.

Q. When was it?

A. When I arrived back in Hungary, it was either late October or very early November.

Q. You were arrested and put in a concentration camp?

A. That is correct.

Q. But then you were released, and you were requested to call every month, or every three months?

A. When I was free, I had to check with the Hungarian Foreign Police - each and every 15th of the month.

Q. But then you were able to prolong your stay outside the camp?

A. Sometimes I was, sometimes I was not able. I spent close to thirty months in concentration camps, in different concentration camps in Hungary.

Q. After the Germans entered Hungary in March 1944, you were arrested?

A. I was arrested April 15th, 1944. I was trapped by people who wore the Jewish "Magen David" sign, and they turned out to be Christians trapping the Jews who should go check with the Foreign Office.

Q. With the Foreign Office?

A. Not the Foreign Office, the Foreign Police.

Q. Then you were taken to the Majestic Hotel on the Schwabenberg?

A. That is correct.

Q. Now, please tell us what happened to you there?

A. I was taken up to the Majestic, with about fifteen others, and asked if I knew anybody - Zionists, or any other Jews hiding - and where they were hiding.

Q. Yes.

A. I could not and would not answer their questions, and I was beaten up continuously for three days. In those three days, this man Crass, who had checked us, told us to face the wall, hands up, and then he ordered us to turn around. He expressed in his face the satisfaction over our beaten face.

Q. I didn't understand. Before he came, you were ordered to stand lined up against the wall, with your faces to the wall?

A. Right.

Q. Who ordered you to turn around?

A. Another SS man, whose name I do not know - he ordered us to turn back.

Q. And then you saw this man who is sitting here?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did he look as he looks now?

A. Now he looks much better than he should look.

Q. No, no, no, please, Mr. Gordon. No, no. I am asking you factual questions. Please answer them.

A. I'm sorry.

Presiding Judge: Did you understand the question?

Witness Gordon: Yes, Sir.

Presiding Judge: Then reply to it, please.

Attorney General: Did he then look as he looks now?

Witness Gordon: No. He was in uniform and was perhaps younger by fifteen or sixteen years; but he is the man.

Q. Was that the only occasion on which you saw this man?

A. No, I was taken from the Majestic on April the 17th, Monday, to the Rabbinical Seminary. From there, I have been taken to the Island of Csepel. There all the Hungarian Jewish newspapermen were arrested. Then Eichmann and some of his men came out, expressing their satisfaction over what they had seen in the crowded camp. That was in the Tsuk leather factory.

Q. What did he do there?

A. He inspected the camp.

Q. Did he take pictures of something?

A. Not him. Somebody else took pictures.

Q. Yes. Then you were selected with a group of other people and you were sent to a ghetto?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. Where was that?

A. 21 June 1944, we were smuggled out of Budapest to Kecskemet. That was the ghetto.

Q. Why do you say "smuggled out"?

A. To the best of our knowledge, there was no deportation from Budapest those days, and we came from the Rabbinical Seminary at five o'clock in the morning. We were driven on side streets to the West Station of Budapest, and we reached there about seven o'clock in the morning. There were not too many people in the street.

Q. There you were received by a man whose name was?

A. SS Zoeldi - Marton Zoeldi - and Takacs, also an SS man.

Q. Were there other people present when you arrived there?

A. You mean the ghetto?

Q. Yes.

A. The ghetto must have been occupied by about ten to twelve thousand people, mostly women, children and old men, since the young men were serving in the slave camps in the Hungarian army - labour camps.

Q. Did Marton Zoeldi wear a uniform?

A. Yes. An SS uniform. Also Takacs wore an SS uniform.

Q. Now, when this ghetto was about to be liquidated, a certain committee arrived from Budapest. Is that correct?

A. That is correct. When we entered the ghetto, all the papers we possessed were burned on an open fire in front of us, but some of the papers were owned by people who should be exempted according to their papers from the deportation - Bela Fabian, a member of parliament, who was the best- decorated Hungarian officer - and there were many others like him; and some members of the Jewish Council, the Judenrat of Budapest.

And this commission came June 27th, Tuesday morning, and we had not been told that there was a commission here that will take people out of the deportation, but whoever can dash and rush to that site, we went there. I went there. I had no reason to be exempted from this deportation, but there was not much I was risking. I went to Zoeldi, and I told him that I am a Volksdeutscher, I spoke German, and I was hiding Jewish treasures, and that is why I'm here. He slapped my face. "Why did you do it?" I said I thought he was going to die, I had to tell him a story.

Presiding Judge: I can't hear you. Please raise your voice a little. Speak louder.

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