The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 64
(Part 4 of 7)

Dr. Servatius: Your Honour, the Presiding Judge, I have not yet seen the document. I should be grateful if at least those portions which have been translated into Hebrew were given to me, in some other language, and if I could be allowed to peruse the original.

Attorney General: The Polish original was certainly handed to Defence Counsel together with all the material - that constituted document No. 1427. I presume that Dr. Servatius received it when he received all the material of the interrogation of the Accused together with our documents. It is possible that he did not get a precis in German, as we were in the habit of doing in regard to documents which are not in a language familiar to him.

Presiding Judge: But he ought to receive it.

Attorney General: Yes, of course. The original is in the Court's possession.

Presiding Judge: I can return the original, so that Dr. Servatius can examine it, and then we can get it back afterwards.

Dr. Servatius: Your Honour, the Presiding Judge, I cannot check now whether it has been handed to me. I received the list of documents which were due to be submitted today, and this document is not mentioned in that list.

Attorney General: It does appear in the list.

Dr. Servatius: I see that now... [after perusing the documents in his possession.] Perhaps I can do that later; I do not wish at present to delay the proceedings.

Presiding Judge: At any rate, if you have not received at least a precis in German or in any other language with which you are familiar, you will receive it.

Attorney General: Yes, certainly.

I call Mr. Dov Freiberg.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Freiberg: Yes.

[The witness is sworn.]

Attorney General: Mr. Freiberg, you live in Ramle, in Shikun Amami 1b, and your profession is that of production inspector at a motor engine factory?

Witness Freiberg: Yes.

Q. When the Second World War broke out, you lived in Lodz?

A. Yes.

Q. Your family was starving and, in the case of your mother, there began a condition which was familiar in the ghetto, of swelling up from hunger?

A. That was in the Warsaw Ghetto. We ran away from Lodz - after we had been in the Lodz Ghetto for some days, we fled to the Warsaw Ghetto. And we were there, I was there, until 1942. The situation then got much worse, we sold whatever we possessed, and a stage was reached in the house where we had nothing to eat. My grandfather and my grandmother were confined to bed.

My mother - in order to give us something to eat - hardly ate, and then the bloated condition began. And then she urged me, since I was one of the weaker children, to escape from the Warsaw Ghetto, to flee to the Lublin district, where relatives of ours lived - a more distant family.

Q. And so you escaped to a townlet?

A. Yes.

Q. What was it called?

A. I fled to the townlet of Turobin, in the district of Krasnystaw.

Q. In May 1942, the Germans surrounded the townlet and began taking the Jews to the market area - do you remember that?

A. Yes. In May 1942, I got up one morning - I lived with one family and spent my time with another family. I got up in the morning, and I heard shouts and something unusual that was taking place. I tried to go to the other house. The Germans were leading groups of people from all directions, together with Polish police, and gathered them all together at the marketplace.

Q. We shall be brief on this part, Mr. Freiberg, because I want to come closer to the main point of your evidence. They took you to a place called Krasnystaw?

A. Yes. At the time, they transferred the whole district. It consisted of Sucha, Turobin, Zolkiew - right up to Krasnystaw - it was a string of villages.

Q. They crowded you into freight cars?

A. After we had slept for one night in Krasnystaw, in some courtyard, they crowded us into freight cars. It was impossible even to stand, it was impossible to breathe - people were fainting. In my car, too, two women died in the course of the journey, which was relatively short; it was a journey of three to four hours.

Q. And the train arrived at the concentration camp of Sobibor?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember what was written on the gate of the camp?

A. There was a sign at the entrance to the camp - actually I did not glance at it then, but subsequently, when I went out to work outside the camp, I saw it - SS Sonderkommando Umsiedlungslager - Camp for Resettlement.

Q. When you left the train, what was the sequence of events?

A. From the moment we entered the camp into which they brought groups of freight cars (the siding there was not a large one), from the very moment we entered the camp, we were enveloped by a regime of fear. Everything happened at a rapid pace - indeed, there was not even time to think - there were shouts from SS men, from Ukrainian SS men, "Raus, raus (Out, out), "Schneller! Schneller!" (faster, faster), and they forced us to run through the fences to a place where there was a small gate. "Links, rechts" (left, right).

Q. What was "links, rechts?"

A. In Sobibor, there were no selections for life and for death. Everyone who arrived - was exterminated. This was temporary - only for a few hours, or minutes. And "links, rechts" meant: men separately, and women and children separately. Afterwards, in the yard for undressing, there were separate sections for men, and for women and children. I stood amongst the men.

Q. Was there a band playing there?

Presiding Judge: Was this immediately after you arrived there?

Witness Freiberg: This was immediately after we came there. It was towards evening. The women and children went along the way which we got to know later. And since, in the early stages, as compared with a later period, the camp was a primitive one and operated only during the day and not at night, we, the men, remained on the spot all night, and the women and the children went off to the gas chambers. The following morning...

Attorney General: I asked you about a band that was playing somewhere; where was that?

Witness Freiberg: There was a band there; it was at Lager 1 (Camp 1). There was a band that was playing. The night when we arrived there and spent the night there, despite the fact that we did not yet know, rumours were already circulating, but the people did not believe them. That night, I had a very strange feeling.

Q. What was it that the people did not believe?

A. That there was any extermination at all. They knew that there were killings, we had previously been present at many situations, but total extermination - this they did not believe under any circumstances. Even when they were in the congested freight cars, the people were glad that they were not traveling in the direction of Lublin, the location of the Majdanek camp, which was regarded as a hard labour camp in those times, but that they were travelling towards the east. The "east" in those days meant, as rumour had it, that they were going to the Ukraine for agricultural work.

Q. When was this?

A. This was in May, 1942. I remember a case where a Jew came to this townlet where we were and said to us: "Don't believe it; people are not being taken to the Ukraine, but to Belzec, where they are put to death." I don't remember what they wanted to do to this Jew, they would not believe him, they thought this man had come to create panic, and that what he was saying was not possible.

Judge Halevi: He came to the townlet?

Witness Freiberg: Yes, into the townlet. And inside the camp, we were already a few hundred metres away from the gas chambers and, nevertheless, in the course of two weeks, or perhaps more, the Germans still managed to deceive even us. They said that in two or three weeks' time we would be reunited with our families. But we saw their personal effects, the following morning we were working with them. They maintained that they distributed other clothes, and that from Camp No. 3 trains were departing to the Ukraine.

Attorney General: Were there three camps in Sobibor?

Witness Freiberg: Yes.

Q. Were people living in Camps 1 and 2?

A. Camps 1 and 2 were, in effect, one camp, but from the point of view of their operation, of their purpose, Camp 1 was distinct from Camp 2. Camp 1 was a camp of artisans - tailors, shoemakers, carpenters and all kinds of craftsmen who worked in the camp. In Camp 2, there were people who dealt with the transports, with all kinds of work.

Q. What was in Camp 3?

A. In Camp 3, there were gas chambers, and, at first, they used to bury the people in huge pits; they put down layers of human beings and poured chloride on to them, and so on.

Q. We shall come to the extermination presently. Please describe to me your first day in the camp.

A. The Germans came along in the morning and began selecting artisans, tailors, shoemakers, and so on. I had the feeling that something was wrong there. In particular, I remembered the case of that Jew who had told his story. I was alone there, by chance, without family, and I had no trade. Afterwards, they selected the young and healthy lads in the following way: "Du, du!" (You, you!). I leaped up - we were sitting down - and stood amongst them. Approximately half an hour later, they took all the rest of the transport to the gas chambers, while we remained for work.

Q. How many of you remained?

A. The number remaining at the time was about a hundred to a hundred and fifty, something like that.

Q. Was it then that you met for the first time the SS Unterscharfuehrer Paul?

A. Yes. On that day, we were at work all day. We worked in groups. I was then working on removing from the courtyard the personal effects of the people who had undressed there. After they left the courtyard, we had to take away their belongings and arrange them in heaps. That was where I worked. Our people worked in all sorts of places, but in every place, after we returned, the maltreatment by the Germans was awful. Right from the first day, people were killed, shot, set on by a dog called Beri.

Q. Whose dog was it?

A. At first, the dog belonged to an SS man of Camp 3 who was called "Beider" (bathhouse attendant), because he was in charge of the bathhouses, the gas chambers. Afterwards, the dog was passed on to Unterscharfuehrer Paul, one of the greatest sadists in the camp. He used to call the dog and say: "Beri, my man, grab that dog - Beri, you are acting in my place." Generally speaking, very few of the people who were mauled by the dog remained alive, since the Germans could not stand injured persons, sick persons. I was bitten twice by that dog - I still bear the marks on my body. By chance - and everything was a matter of chance - I remained alive.

There was one other dog, but he was less powerful. The dog "Beri" I am talking about was the size of a large calf, and if he got hold of a man, that man was helpless. The dog would attack him, and he had to submit to it. There were latrines there. After work, people were afraid to sit there. The dog was very well trained; if he came to any place, he would finish off anyone who was there.

Q. Let us get back to your first day in the camp. So Paul came there, right?

A. In the evening, after everyone had returned from their work, they lined us up for an Appell, a roll-call. Then Wagner came. While he was with us, he rose in rank very rapidly. At first, he was an Unterscharfuehrer, and, if I am not mistaken, he ended up as Oberscharfuehrer. He came along and told us the tale that people were going to the Ukraine: "and you, if you work, will do well; if not - you will be put to death."

After that, Paul came up to us and asked: "Who is sick? Who is tired? Anyone not wanting to work should fall out." There were several cases of people who stepped out. Most of them understood the hint, and the others also understood the hint, but they were tired of living. Not all of them stepped out. He would come up and say: "You, it's enough for you, why do you want to work? You can live well. Fall out." He would choose the people. There was a long time when he used to do the same thing every evening, choosing ten to twelve persons.

There was a Ukrainian SS man by the name of Taras, and he used to tell him: "Taras, take him to the Lazarette (military hospital)." After that, they soon explained to us what the Lazarette was. He told us: "Do you know what the Lazarette is? It is a place from which anyone who enters does not return. He sits there quietly - he does not work any more. Well, if there is anyone else willing - please." This kind of thing continued for a whole month - it was the same routine every evening.

Q. What happened to the people at the Lazarette?

A. They were immediately shot. The Lazarette was a place in the forest, in the direction of two of the gas chambers - it was closer to the railway siding. And, at first, when people arrived, some of those who came were ill or had died on the way. Carts were not yet available - we built them later. This impeded the progress of the transports. Then these people were dragged closer to the site that was called Lazarette, which contained smaller pits, and were hurled into the pits, usually together with newly-born infants. We only saw this from a distance.

Q. Mr. Freiberg, at night, on your first day in Sobibor, when you were put into the barn, men who came back told you how people from the transport that had arrived were shot, is that correct?

A. Not exactly. They told us of incidents that happened to their comrades while at work. This did not happen to those from the transport who went off to the gas chambers - but this they did not see.

Q. Did they describe what happened to their comrades at work?

A. Yes. There were people missing everywhere, right from the start. Many people were missing. I can tell you that, in the course of one month, only fifty people remained out of one hundred and fifty.

Q. I am talking about your first day - let us stick to the first day. How old were you at the time?

A. I was fifteen years old, but I looked like a boy of ten, since I had been small and very thin already at home.

Q. You were lying there, crying, and a Jew comforted you?

A. I could not picture to myself what was happening in general. I was dazed. They crowded us together. There were people there who somehow managed, and I was sitting in the middle. One of the Jews said: "My boy, by behaving in this way you will not last a single day. Come, rest your head on mine, and go to sleep." And so I dozed off, one could say.

Q. After several days, transports began arriving at Sobibor, is that correct?

A. Yes.

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