The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 63
(Part 5 of 8)

Q. In Szubin were all of you in uniform?

A. Yes, in Szubin we all wore uniforms.

Attorney General: From Szubin you were transferred to Czestochowa?

Witness Buchman: No, to Lubliniec.

Q. And from Lubliniec to Czestochowa?

A. Yes.

Q. When was this?

A. At the beginning of February 1940, about the 5th or 6th of the month.

Q. And where were you taken from Czestochowa?

A. To Lublin.

Q. Who met you at the Lublin railway station?

A. A German officer in grey SS uniform, with the death-head symbol on his cap.

Q. Did they make any announcement there, at the Lublin railway station?

A. When we stood there being counted, the soldier or officer who was in charge of our column announced our number and handed us over to another officer, who announced that he was receiving a group of prisoners of war. With our own ears, we heard him saying: "I am handing over to you a group of prisoners of war." The man who received us told us that we were about to enter a detention camp, and if anyone escaped from the camp, ten other prisoners would be shot on his account. This was said to us when we arrived at the railway station at Lublin.

Q. Did he say anything about your still being regarded as prisoners of war?

A. He did not say that.

Q. Where did they take you to?

A. To a camp in Lublin.

Q. In what locality?

A. I don't remember - it was a large camp.

Q. Perhaps you can remember the name of the street?

A. I don't remember the name of that street.

Q. Do the words "Lipowa 7" mean anything to you?

A. Yes, yes. Lipowa 6.

Q. 7.

A. I don't remember the number.

Q. This is a well-known place in the literature as well. How long did you remain in that camp, Lipowa 7?

A. About two days.

Q. What happened after two days?

A. We were some three hundred people there - the group that had arrived from Stalag 21b. But, in the course of time, further groups of prisoners arrived there from other places; amongst them there was one group, also prisoners of war, whose military uniforms had been removed and who were dressed in blue tunics and who were shod with wooden shoes.

Q. How many were you all together?

A. On the parade square, when we marched away from there, there were 627 prisoners. I do not remember whether it was seven - at any rate it was 620 and a few more.

Q. And then they made you march - where to?

A. To a place which was, as yet, unknown to us. On the way, they did not tell us where we were bound for.

Q. What happened on the way?

A. We left that day - I don't remember whether it was a Thursday or a Friday - at two or three o'clock in the afternoon, in the direction - as it later turned out - of Lubartow. After walking for an hour or more, we heard shots. We did not know exactly what it was; when it got dark, our guards led us into some kind of barn.

Q. To one barn or more?

A. One barn.

Q. What happened next?

A. This barn, this hayloft, was so small that there was no room inside for all of us, so we sat down on the stones. They ordered us to sit down, and so we sat down, without being allowed to get up. We sat there all night long. There was no room for anything else but sitting. And in the middle of the night, they would come in and shoot above our heads, so as to make sure that we were really sitting down and not standing up. So we passed the whole night, and, in the morning, they marched us further.

Q. In the morning there were still 627 of you?

A. No. During the night, a rumour spread that some of our group had been shot.

Q. But you did not see it?

A. No, not at the time.

Q. And so, they took you further on foot?

A. Early in the morning, they again made us march, and we were on our way. We were not given any food. After a few kilometres, after we had gone in the direction which afterwards turned out to be the direction of Lubartow, they began distributing food, bread which they had taken along all the way from Lublin. The bread was carried on a cart. Instead of distributing the food in the usual way as it was done in prison camps, in an orderly fashion, they began throwing it into the snow. We were so starved for bread, that we kept running about trying to grab the bread. They dealt with the disorder which resulted from this, by using their truncheons. The bread had been supplied by the Jewish community in Lublin. The bread was frozen like a piece of ice. Whoever managed to grab a piece of bread in such a way - managed. The rest remained in the snow. We had to continue on our way. They made us march on.

Q. Did you reach a place called Biala Podlaska?

A. Not yet. We reached Lubartow.

Q. Very well, tell the story in your own words.

A. In Lubartow, they housed us for a time in a synagogue. This synagogue had been totally looted. The window panes were smashed. There was nothing left in the synagogue. There was very little room in this synagogue. We sat on each other, and our feet were still aching from the previous night. We were squeezed together. We were not given any food. A very meagre portion of food was distributed which did not suffice for such a large number of people.

Q. Mr. Buchman, please answer my questions. Tell me, were there afterwards shots directed at some of these prisoners? Were some of them shot?

A. On the way until we reached Lubartow, tens of people were shot. I don't remember exactly how many, but people were shot.

Q. After that, where else were they shot?

A. After Lubartow, when we had advanced in the direction of Biala Podlaska, the shooting became more frequent.

Q. Whom were they shooting at?

A. At us, the prisoners, the prisoners of war, at us.

Q. Who was shooting?

A. The German guards who escorted us.

Q. Do you know to which unit they belonged?

A. I do not remember the precise unit, but I know one thing: These were SS men wearing the death's head symbol on their caps.

Q. Did you not try to claim that you were prisoners of war, and that you were entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war?

A. There was nobody to turn to or to speak to. Afterwards, there was a man named Grauer, the commander of a detachment who knew German, and he approached the German SS officer.

Q. Was he one of the prisoners?

A. He was one of the prisoners and interpreted between us and that German SS officer. We reached Biala Podlaska. Before that, we had been in Parczew. On the way there, when the shooting got heavier, they divided us into two haylofts, and from one of the lofts they took a group away and shot them later in the forest. We knew this, for we heard frequent shots all the time. We peered through the chinks in the wooden boards in the direction of those trees, and we saw a group of prisoners from amongst us prisoners walking with the German guards. We continued looking and we saw how the same German guards returned, and our Jewish soldiers were no longer with them.

In the end, darkness fell, and we heard how the door of the loft where we were was opened. Those who remained, the remnants of that group, returned and described to us how they took them out there, in order to beat them up and to shoot them.

Q. There were also war invalids amongst you. What happened to them?

A. The war invalids were the first to be shot, for they were weak and not able to walk. There was one man who was shot in his lungs.

Q. Of the 627 who left Lublin, how many reached Biala Podlaska?

A. About 280 or 284.

Q. What happened to the rest?

A. They were shot on the way. Many were shot in groups in the forest.

Q. In Biala Podlaska, did they employ you in the construction of an airfield?

A. This was a detention camp, where we were held for the construction of an airfield which the Germans were planning to build, not far from Biala Podlaska.

Q. My last question, Mr. Buchman. You started saying something about the translator Grauer, who spoke to one of the SS men. He came back and said something to you. What did he say?

A. This Grauer approached the German officer, pleaded with him and told him that we were prisoners of war, and that, by all international laws, it was forbidden to shoot us. Then the officer replied that an order had been received from Berlin to shoot all of us, but the Germans needed labour to construct that airfield and, therefore, they were leaving some alive.

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

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mr. Buchman, you have concluded your testimony.

Attorney General: I return to the special chapters - a letter from the Reichsfuehrer at the last stage of the War, on 21 March 1945, to his doctor and Swedish friend, Dr. Kersten. This letter also appears in Dr. Kersten's book, Totenkopf und Treue (Death's head and Faithfulness). This is what Himmler has to say - I begin with the second paragraph:

"During the years of our lengthy acquaintanceship, we had conversations on many problems, and your approach was always that of a doctor who, apart from political considerations, always showed a yearning for the greatest possible welfare for each individual person and for all humanity. It will be of interest for you to know that in the course of the past quarter year, the idea which we discussed several times has come to fruition. Two thousand seven hundred Jewish men, women and children have been transferred to Switzerland.

This is a practical continuation of the method consistently adopted by my assistants and myself, until the War, and the stupidity which prevailed in the world in its wake, rendered it no longer possible. For you know that in the years 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, and 1940, I set up, together with American Jewish organizations, an organization for emigration which did excellent work. The departure of two trains for Switzerland, despite all the difficulties, proves the revival of this beneficial goes without saying that I wish you, as I have done in the past, in good years and bad, to advise me in regard to a possible release from the camps, so that I may be able to make decisions in a generous spirit."

Presiding Judge: It does not say "release from the camps."

Attorney General: Earlier in the same letter, Bergen-Belsen is referred to.

Presiding Judge: It says here: "It goes without saying that, as in the past, in good years and bad, I shall take a decision on your requests which you will submit to me on the human level; I shall gladly study them and, as far as possible, I shall take a decision on them in a generous spirit."

Attorney General: This is what Himmler writes in a foolish attempt at an alibi, on the sending of trains from Hungary to Switzerland just prior to the final defeat.

Judge Halevi: Was it only from Hungary?

Attorney General: It mentions 2,700 persons.

Judge Halevi: One from Hungary and one other.

Attorney General: These were trains from Bergen-Belsen. Perhaps I may be permitted to draw the Court's attention to an earlier paragraph:

"I am convinced that, after we put aside the demagogy and extraneous considerations, and all mutual wounds, wisdom and logic will prevail on all sides, and also that the human heart and the wish to help will reign once more."
Presiding Judge: This will be exhibit T/1277.

Judge Halevi: This is, of course, one of the most hypocritical documents.

Attorney General: The most hypocritical and the most cynical.

Judge Halevi: For the sake of accuracy, I think that one of the trains was the one you mentioned, and the second train was the other one which Nitzi, in Switzerland, secured through negotiation.

Attorney General: Both of them started out from Bergen- Belsen.

Judge Halevi: But not necessarily containing Hungarian Jews.

Attorney General: One consisting of Hungarian Jews, and one other. If the Court is interested in the book, I am ready to make it available.

Judge Halevi: But not as an exhibit.

Attorney General: For general reading. It is an interesting book, and it is at the Court's disposal.

We now pass to the chapter of the camps and, first of all, a number of documents.

Our document No. 413 is a letter to the Head Office for Reich Security, signed by Mueller, concerning the responsibility for detentions in concentration camps: On 30 May 1942, it was decided that the administration of the concentration camps was to be transferred to the Economic- Administrative Head Office, but - so it says in the last paragraph - this does not affect the authority of the Head Office for Reich Security, as had been the case hitherto, for the taking into custody and the release of prisoners. That is to say, the administration of the camps belongs to Pohl's office; dispatching people there and releasing them remain within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Head Office for Reich Security.

Judge Halevi: That means Heydrich and Kaltenbrunner. Or was it still Heydrich?

Attorney General: This was May 1942 - still before the assassination of Heydrich. Yes, Heydrich was still there.

Presiding Judge: Who was, at that time, the IV C which is mentioned at the top of the letter?

Attorney General: This was the department that dealt with protective detainees.

Presiding Judge: This document will be marked T/1278.

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