The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 66
(Part 3 of 9)

Q. Where did the bullet come out?

A. Through my mouth.

Q. Do you have a mark on your mouth?

A. Yes, I have. It shot out two of my teeth.

Q. What happened to you after that?

A. I remained lying down. Each time he passed by, walking with his ear to the ground so that he could hear whether anybody was still moving. When there was some kind of movement, he would pull out his revolver and shoot once again. After several minutes, I regained consciousness, and when I saw him approaching, I held my breath - I did not breathe. I lay there. The second group of five came out. They were shot; there was a third group, and they were shot. There was a soldier standing near us to guard the dead; if there was still someone who was alive or who wanted to escape - then he would shoot him. Then I escaped.

I escaped and entered a stable belonging to some gentile there. I remained there until the liberation. When the Russians arrived, I was sitting there looking outside through a hole in the stable wall. I did not know whether this was a dream or reality; then someone came inside and opened the door - I did not have time to look.

He opened the door, he had a large moustache, and he said to me: "You can go out - the Russians have already arrived." I went out, and then the commander of the Russians who had occupied Dabie brought a doctor. The doctor said I had no chance of survival, I could live another twelve or twenty-four hours - "He has no chance of living, since he has received a bullet in his spine." At first sight, they thought that the wound had passed near the spine. Then they said: "He cannot live more than twelve hours." After thirty-six hours had passed and I was still alive, they realized that the bullet had penetrated not far from the spine.

Q. You were also wounded in the nose - is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. To this day you have a scar?

A. Yes. My nose was cut open in two places. I asked the doctors how this happened, and they told me that when the shot hit me, I must instinctively have raised my head, and afterwards it dropped downwards, and apparently there was some piece of glass there, and I received these cuts.

Q. What happened to your mother, Mr. Srebrnik?

A. In one of the sorting operations in which I was engaged - I used to sort bags which contained documents, gold and silver - I was examining a particular bag, and there I found photographs of my mother.

Q. Does this wound still bother you occasionally?

A. Yes.

Q. And have you managed to forget what you went through?

A. No. I don't sleep at night, I cannot sleep at night. I am constantly being haunted.

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

Dr. Servatius: No, I have no questions to the witness.

Judge Raveh: You said you were thirteen years of age. When were you thirteen? When you came to Chelmno?

Witness Srebrnik: When I came to Chelmno.

Q. Who were bound by chains on their legs, in the way they did with you?

A. All of them.

Q. What do you mean by "all"?

A. The entire Hauskommando and the Waldkommando. All of them were in chains, without exception.

Q. I understood that there were exterminations for about nine months while you were there?

A. Yes, but I don't remember exactly.

Q. You said that you arrived there at the beginning of 1944, and that you left at the beginning of 1945, and that they had ceased the extermination three months before that. According to this, I make it nine months. Is my calculation correct?

A. Correct.

Q. In your estimate, how many were exterminated during this period?

A. I don't know.

Q. How many, approximately?

A. I don't know approximately, either.

Judge Halevi: Did they kill them all in gas trucks?

Witness Srebrnik: Yes.

Q. And you built the crematorium?

A. Yes.

Q. How long were you in the stable until the Russians came?

A. Two days. I was completely bloated. Had they come one day later, I would no longer have been saved - I was already on the point of dying, on that last night.

Q. That is to say that the Nazis executed the last victims two days before the arrival of the Russians?

A. There were some tailors on top of the building. When the last ones were being killed, the tailors were still on top of the buildings; they saw what the Germans were doing and did not want to come down. The Germans brought petrol, poured it out and set fire to the building, burning the people alive. The bodies which were below, of people who had previously been killed by shooting, were also thrown into the fire.

Q. When was this?

A. In 1945, two days before the entry of the Russians.

Presiding Judge: Did they put 1,200 people to death every single day?

Witness Srebrnik: That was more or less every day. Sometimes they would have a break of one day, in order to grind the bones.

Q. From this it follows that they exterminated many tens of thousands there?

A. Yes, they exterminated many.

Q. One of the witnesses who preceded you gave much lower figures. Are you sure of your facts?

A. Yes.

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

Attorney General: With the Court's permission, I shall now submit the Polish Government's report on the extermination camp at Chelmno. The report deals with the two periods of extermination and states that in regard to the first period, it was possible to ascertain what had taken place from Podchlewnik, and in regard to the second period, from Srebrnik and Zurawski. These were the sole survivors - these three - of the extermination camp of Chelmno, according to the facts found by the Polish Government when it proceeded to draw up its official report.

Presiding Judge: This report will be marked T/1297.

Attorney General: The Accused's comments on Chelmno will be found by the Court on pages 37 and 1221-1222, and also on page 28.

We have in our possession a letter addressed to the Gestapo of Lodz which contains the order required for the construction of installations for Sonderkommando K. The Prosecution will submit that this referred to the acquisition of materials for the Sonderkommando Kulmhof (Chelmno). The date is 11 May 1943, close to the time when the operations in this extermination camp were about to be renewed, and the document specifies what was required for the executioners: the chains, the wheelbarrows, the hooks, sixteen ovens, one safe, twenty beds.

Presiding Judge: I would request one or two more copies of this.

Attorney General: I regret that this document was not catalogued. We selected it only at the end, and I shall prepare copies if the Court would kindly give me the exhibit reference number.

Presiding Judge: It does not bear any number.

[Dr. Servatius hands a copy of the document to the Attorney General.]

Attorney General: Defence Counsel has an extra copy - I can supply one more.

Presiding Judge: On this occasion, I ask whether we have received back the statements of Hoess and of Pohl which were submitted by Dr. Gilbert - those you wished to have copied.

Attorney General: We are duplicating them.

Presiding Judge: At any rate, as I understand, the matter is receiving attention.

Attorney General: We shall carry out what we undertook to do.

Presiding Judge: The letter to the Lodz Gestapo will be marked T/1298.

Attorney General: Our next document is No. 1550. This is a notification from the personnel officer of the Reichsfuehrer- SS, dated 29 March 1943, concerning the transfer of eighty- five men under the command of Hauptsturmfuehrer Bothmann to the "Prinz Eugen" volunteer division. The Reichsfuehrer requests that the Sonderkommando should "close the chapter" of their past experience - (einen Strich zu setzen) - and not talk any more about what they had witnessed. The letter is addressed to Gruppenfuehrer Dr. Kaltenbrunner.

Judge Halevi: How do you explain this letter? What is its significance?

Attorney General: Its significance lies in the fact that at a particular stage the extermination at Chelmno was suspended, and the entire team was transferred to Yugoslavia - to this unit. Later on, when the extermination was resumed, the team was brought back. There is a further significance to the document - that these men belonged to the RSHA, and not to the Economic-Administrative Head Office - the same Bothmann whose name is mentioned here.

Presiding Judge: This document will be marked T/1299. Please be good enough to provide us with an extra copy of each of the last two documents when you receive them.

Attorney General: We now come to the Treblinka extermination camp. I call Mr. Wiernik.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness: Yiddish.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Ya'akov Wiernik.

Attorney General: You live in Rishon leZion, 73 Rehov Nordau?

Witness Wiernik: Yes.

Q. And you are a carpenter?

A. Yes, and a construction worker.

Q. When did they bring you to Treblinka, Mr. Wiernik?

A. On 23 August 1942.

Q. And how long did you remain there?

A. Until 2 August 1943.

Presiding Judge: How old are you now?

Witness Wiernik: Seventy-two.

Q. And are you still a construction worker?

A. No. I am now living on a pension. In Israel, I worked for "Amidar".

Attorney General: Mr. Wiernik, when you came to Treblinka, the camp was not yet in existence?

Witness Wiernik: When I came there, there were only three gas chambers. The large kitchen was not yet there. I constructed various barracks, I built the guard room, I built the door, the entrance gate.

Q. You built that?

A. Yes, I and my companions.

Q. After the War, immediately following the War, you drew a sketch of Treblinka?

A. Yes. This is it, here. I drew it. I prepared it when I was still underground, after my liberation in 1943, I drew it. I was working in Warsaw, in the Tashitza Palace. I worked as a Pole.

Attorney General: I submit the sketch which the witness made at the time.

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1300.

Attorney General: At a later stage, when you were already in Israel, you built a copy, a model, after the sketch, and this exists in Kibbutz Lohamei Ha-Getta'ot?

Witness Wiernik: Yes.

Q. And the photograph of this model, which is kept in the museum of Kibbutz Lohamei Ha-Getta'ot, that is the photograph which you see on the wall of the courtroom? [Photographs of this model may be seen via knm, 99/06/08]

A. Yes. That is an exact photograph.

Q. And now, please tell the Court, what is in this picture? [He points to the photograph.]

A. That was the entrance.

Q. Is this where people entered?

A. Yes. This is where they remained standing. In the courtyard, there were the two large barracks, 1 and 2. They brought the women in to the left, and the men were kept outside. They made the women remove all their clothes.

Q. Did you say that the women went into the one barrack and the men into the other?

A. The men remained standing outside. On either side, there were two large written notices to the effect that money and valuables had to be handed over, and whoever failed to do so would be put to death.

Q. What happened to the women?

A. Over here [he indicates] their hair was cut off. At the end, a small area was fenced off. Here their hair was cut off, and then they were taken to the gas chambers. Here [points to it] was a building with three gas chambers; in the large building there were ten gas chambers. The doors were closed, and it lasted some forty to forty-five minutes.

Q. Were these the gas chambers? [Points to them.]

A. These were the ten gas chambers which they built when I was there, and these were the three gas chambers. The machines stood at the edge.

Q. Is this the same building which we see here?

A. That is the same.

Q. It is the same, but here we see the Shield of David?

A. That was the front, the side where people entered.

Q. Who made the Shield of David?

A. That was made by the metal-workers of the first camp.

Q. You say there were two camps, Treblinka 1 and Treblinka 2?

A. They were separated from each other.

Q. How were they divided?

A. Here was the entrance; here is the first camp [points to it]. All this belongs to the first camp. And here is the second camp. These were the barracks where we lived, and there were the gas chambers.

Q. And the gas chambers were here?

A. The gas chambers were in the second camp.

Q. What is this?

A. These are the barracks where we used to live, three hundred and fifty to four hundred men.

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