The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 65
(Part 5 of 6)

Presiding Judge: What, then, is your contention regarding the Economic-Administrative Head Office - in your view, was there any contact with it?

Attorney General: Certainly, there was administrative contact, but the dispatch of prisoners and their release was a matter for the Head Office for Security, and the command, and the command personnel, belonged to the Head Office for Security. The extermination in the extermination camps was also carried out by men of the RSHA and not by members of the Economic-Administrative Head Office, but that will still be clarified in the course of our argument.

The last document is the announcement concerning Wirth's promotion, dated 19 August 1943. The Court will notice that in it names appear of men already known to us: Franz, Schwarz, Stangl, Reichleitner - names that have already been mentioned in evidence.

Presiding Judge: Schwarz, too, about whom the witness spoke favourably?

Attorney General: Schwarz, too.

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1296.

Attorney General: We move on to the extermination camp Chelmno. I call Mr. Michael Podchlewnik.

Dr. Servatius: May I make up for some omission. In the last document, the official title is described as "Kriminalrat" (Detective Superintendent), since 30 January 1943, at the Headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department, Stuttgart, on temporary service to the Generalgouvernement for special assignments. I believe this is of importance for determining the question of jurisdiction.

Attorney General: But this is in writing; it is pointless to dispute matters that appear in writing.

Presiding Judge: You also sometimes read matters that appear in writing.

Attorney General: Yes. I say only there is no point in disputing them; we certainly do read from documents.

Presiding Judge: [to the witness, Mr. Michael Podchlewnik] Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Podchlewnik: No, Yiddish.

[Witness is sworn.]

Attorney General: Where do you live?

Witness Podchlewnik: In Benei Berak.

Q. What is your occupation?

A. I work in a chocolate factory, making chocolate wafers.

Q. When the War broke out, you were living in a town named Kolo, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And it was from there that you were first expelled by the Germans?

A. Yes.

Q. Where did they tell you were to go?

A. It was said we were being taken to Chelmno for work.

Q. When were you taken to Chelmno?

A. They took me to Chelmno late in 1941.

Q. You alone, or were there other people as well?

A. There were thirty of us.

Q. Who took you to Chelmno?

A. The police.

Q. What police?

A. Of the SS, these were the German police.

Q. Which people were they taking? Any particular people?

A. They were taking healthy people, those selected; there were not many at that time, most had already been deported to the camps. A few strong ones still remained, and all these were taken out of bed at night and brought to the German police.

Q. And you were taken to Chelmno?

A. To Chelmno.

Q. Where did they take you to from there?

A. They led me into a palace at Chelmno. It was a country estate, and before the War was the mansion.

Q. And where did they take you to in that palace?

A. They brought us into the yard and put us on a truck. We sat there, and in the back rode SS men with machine guns who brought us straight to Chelmno.

Q. You arrived at Chelmno. Where did you go in Chelmno?

A. As soon as we arrived in Chelmno, we alighted from the truck. Some thirty SS men came up and took up positions on both sides. Then they counted us as we got down from the truck. They opened a door into a house, that place which used to be the palace. In the back there was a cellar, and they led us all into the cellar and locked us in.

Q. Was there writing on the walls of this cellar?

A. When we arrived in the afternoon, we did not yet see anything.

Q. But later, did you see writing on the walls?

A. Later I saw whatever happened.

Q. What did you see?

A. Later we saw everything. When they took us to work in the morning, they led out twenty-five of us.

Presiding Judge: Mr. Hausner, may I suggest that you question him in Yiddish?

Attorney General: I shall try.

Presiding Judge: If this leads to a better understanding, it might perhaps be more practical.

Attorney General: What inscriptions did you see?

Witness Podchlewnik: As soon as we came in, we saw there were signs "To the bathroom."

Q. I mean in the cellar.

A. In the cellar one could see various inscriptions on the wall.

Q. That's it, this is what I would like to know. What was written there?

A. It said: "No one comes out of here alive; whoever can, should save himself. Each day, two or three of us go and do not return. Nobody lives here for long. When they take people to work, some of them are shot." On the first night, we lit a small candle and saw the writing on the wall.

Q. Next day, when you were still in the cellar, did you hear a German make a speech?

A. I heard it already on the morning we arrived. A truck came with people. I did not know how many people. I heard somebody come out and say: "Now you go to the bathroom; then you will get other clothes and go to work."

Q. Did the people applaud?

A. Yes, some applauded. They were glad that they had come to work. They alighted from the truck and entered a corridor in the house. There was a sign: "To the bathroom." They all went in. They undressed. We were sitting in the basement. We did not know. At first one just sat; one did not know what was happening. We only heard what they were saying there. They said: "Alle heraus zum Badezimmer" (all out to the bathroom). They went through the corridor. On the other side, a truck was waiting for them.

Q. And did the people climb on that truck?

A. When they saw the truck, the people did not want to get on. The SS men stood there with sticks and started beating them and drove them into the truck.

Q. What were these trucks?

A. They were all closed with iron sheets, with two doors at the rear.

Q. Do you know what these trucks were?

A. At first we did not know.

Q. Do you know now?

A. I know now, yes.

Q. What were they?

A. These were trucks into which they placed the people, locked the doors, and let in gas.

Q. What happened to you the next day?

A. The next day, I worked the whole day. They forced the people into the truck. We heard the screaming from inside the trucks. When they started the motor and let in the gas, gradually the screaming subsided, until they were no longer heard outside, and the truck drove away. So it went on the whole day.

Q. But what was it that you did?

A. when the truck drove away, they took us out - five men, from the cellar - and we had to collect what had been left, the shoes, and to carry them into the third or fourth rooms which were already full of such things and shoes.

Q. And, in the evening, the people came back from work in the forest?

A. They came back, but already two or three were missing, the ones who did not have enough strength to work. They had been shot immediately.

Q. So they came back and told you what was happening there?

A. Yes.

Q. Mr. Podchlewnik, next day you yourself went to work in the forest and saw what was going on there. Is that so?

A. The next day I did not want to remain there, so I already knew where to stand. I stood amongst the first five who were taken to work in the forest.

Q. Why did you wish to go to work in the forest? This I cannot understand.

A. Why should I stay there? Sit all day in the cellar?

Q. Well, go on, what was being done in the forest?

A. In the forest, the pits were being dug. There were twenty-five men, and all were digging pits. We went out at half past six in the morning in winter; this was two days before the New Year, at the end of 1941.

Q. You were digging pits, and later the truck arrived - one of the trucks into which they put the people?

A. When the trucks arrived, we were not yet allowed to go near them. We had to wait two or three minutes. Fumes came out of the truck, from the people that were inside. We had to wait. Then five or six men came up and opened the doors and laid the bodies on the ground. Not into the pit, but beside the pit.

Q. The people were dead already?

A. They were all dead already. None of the people who had been inside the trucks were still alive, except in one case. That was a man from my town who was hefty and strong. He was still jerking. That was the only one, during the whole time that I worked there. His name was Chazkel Jakubowicz.

Q. After that, Ukrainians would come up and extract teeth and gold rings from the bodies?

A. After that, they were laid down in a row. And a Ukrainian and a German, who spoke so poor German that nobody could understand him, had tongs in their hands with which extracted the gold teeth and removed the gold rings. If they could not remove them, they cut off the whole finger.

Q. And thus two trucks arrived. Is that correct?

A. Two, one behind the other.

Q. And you buried the bodies?

A. The bodies, just as they were lying there, we had to throw down into the pit, and there were special men standing there who had to place them exactly one beside the other, so it should not be higher, here a head, there a foot.

Q. And in the third truck someone arrived whom you knew?

A. I had already been working for a few days, when people from my town whom I knew arrived.

Q. And who was among them?

A. Among them were my wife and my two children.

Q. And you saw them when they were taken out of the truck?

A. I lay down by my wife and the two children and wanted them to shoot me. Then an SS man came up to me and said: "You still have strength enough, you can yet work." He hit me twice with his stick and dragged me away to continue working.

Q. And that evening you tried to hang yourself?

A. I came back at night and wanted to hang myself. But my companions wouldn't let me. They said: "As long as one is alive, there is still some hope; maybe you will yet have some hope to save yourself."

Q. And some days later you escaped from there?

A. Then there was New Year, and we did not work on those days. We started to think, some of my companions and I, how to get away from there. Anyhow, we could not stand it any longer. We thought we must try - either we would succeed in escaping or not. On the first day after the holiday, we went to work, after New Year. We returned from work at night, we were travelling in a bus and in trucks. And we were sitting, fifteen workers from our group and fifteen SS men in the bus, and the same in the truck, fifteen, with fifteen guarding us. When one sat in the back of the bus, one could lower a small window. So we lowered the small window, but it was too late already, we were already in the yard. So we agreed that the next day we would risk it as soon as we went out to work. We would lower the window, and whoever could do so, would quickly jump down and get away. They put my companion in the bus, and me they put in the truck.

Q. And when the truck was in the forest, you turned to an SS man and asked for a cigarette?

A. I was in the truck, and I was certain that the other one who was in the bus, would jump from there. So now I had to find a way so that I, too, could jump down from the truck. The SS men were sitting in the back. I got up and asked one of them to give me a cigarette. He gave me one. I do not smoke cigarettes, but I lit it. On my way back I said to my friends who were sitting there: "Look, he gives cigarettes. Get up and ask him for one." So all of them stood up and came over. They all stood up and I stayed behind. I had a small pen-knife and cut the canvas on the side and jumped down from the side. I hurt my knees and got away into the forest.

Q. They shot after you and missed?

A. Before they could turn around and start shooting, I was already in the forest. They started shooting into the forest.

Q. And you hid with a peasant who helped you? Is that so?

A. I was running, but I knew where I was. I knew the forest and the whole area well. I could not help crossing the road. When I was crossing the road, I saw a SS man, about a hundred metres away, and I recognized him. I wanted to run up the hill, but he opened fire from afar. So I ran into the forest on the other side. I did not want to go back to my town. So I came to a peasant's house. It was snowing. I hid there for forty-eight hours. He did not know that I was in the barn. I heard people talking in Polish that two Jews had escaped from Chelmno and they were searching for them.

Q. Later, you met the other person who escaped, whose name was Weiner?

A. Yes, I met him later.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.