The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 68
(Part 5 of 9)

Q. Was Fredy Hirsch still with you?

A. No. Fredy Hirsch belonged to that transport which came before us, in 1943, in September. And when all of them were transferred, that is to say, the three thousand five hundred, and Fredy Hirsch knew what was in store for him - the instructors also knew what awaited them, and most of the instructors had poison - he did not want to witness the murder of those children whom he had attended to and to whose rescue he devoted his life, and therefore he committed suicide.

The people who were brought to the gas chambers were not taken there in the usual way, since the SS men were afraid of them. We were better organized than the other people in Auschwitz since we did not go to work outside, and consequently they took them on a truck and instead of their going to the left, they took them to the right. They were aware that anyone going to the left was going to the gas chambers and anyone going to the right was going to work. Nevertheless they took them to the right and drove them around the camp twice.

Q. Why?

A. In order to break their power of resistance, in order to mislead them. And when they brought them to the gas chambers, so we were told by members of the Sonderkommando, they sang the Hatikvah and the Czech national anthem, and many of them managed to write farewell notes in poems, which the members of the Sonderkommando delivered to us afterwards.

Q. Did Fredy Hirsch once have a plan to set Auschwitz on fire - do you remember?

A. Yes. Our instructors were in contact with the Maennerlager that is to say, the men who worked in the Maennerlager and whose job was also to visit our camp, got in touch with them, and, on a particular Sabbath day, they wanted to set all the huts alight and to escape. Why on the Sabbath? Because on the Sabbath the children's block was empty - the children were with their parents. But the plan did not succeed.

Q. Why?

A. Most of the older people did not want to believe.

Presiding Judge: What did they not want to believe?

Witness Bakon: That they would be sent to the gas chambers. Only the younger ones believed it.

Attorney General: Inside Auschwitz, they did not want to believe? Why? You saw the crematoria, you saw the fire rising from them, why did you not believe?

Witness Bakon: They received this special treatment, so to speak, by which they arrived with the children and the old people, and with all of them, and they refused to believe. It is the nature of man to believe.

Q. Let us go again to the men's camp to which you were transferred at the end of June 1944. Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. You were attached to a kind of special commando which was called - what was it called?

A. "Rollwagen" (platform cart).

Q. What was this Rollwagenkommando?

A. It meant a cart which instead of being drawn by horses, was drawn by some twenty children. There were two such carts.

Q. Who gave you the orders where the cart should go?

A. The Blockaelteste (block elder) always went with us and he knew what we had to do. Our tasks were quite varied: sometimes we had to collect papers, sometimes we had to transfer blankets, sometimes we had to go to the women's camp to which other people did not have access. With the Rollenkommando we went through all the camps of Birkenau, A, B, C, D, E and F, as well as the crematorium.

Q. You went inside the crematorium?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you see the crematorium from inside?

A. Yes. We had to take wooden logs that were in the vicinity of the crematorium for the fire. Sometimes these had to be taken for regular heating in the camps. And when we finished our work and it was cold, the Kapo of the Sonderkommando took pity on us and said: "Well, children, outside it is cold, warm yourselves in the gas chambers! There is nobody there."

Q. And you went to warm yourselves inside the gas chambers?

A. Yes. Sometimes we went to warm ourselves in the Kleidungskammer, sometimes in the gas chambers. It sometimes happened that when we came to the crematorium, we were told: "You cannot enter now - there are people inside." Sometimes, it was in crematorium number 3, after they had been burned, we took the ashes, and in winter the ashes were to be used for the roads.

Q. Did you use human ashes to spread on the roads?

A. Yes.

Q. For what purpose?

A. So that people could walk on the road and not slip.

Presiding Judge: Inside the camp?

Witness Bakon: It was in Camp C. We took the ashes from crematorium number 3.

Q. Who gave you instructions to do this?

A. We came with one of the Blockaelteste There we received the ashes and we scattered them in Camp C.

Q. Was the Blockaelteste a Jew?

A. Sometimes, not always. Usually the Blockaeteste who worked with us was not a Jew.

Q. And they - from whom did they receive their orders?

A. They apparently received their instructions from the work roster.

Q. If the Blockaelteste was not Jewish, what was their nationality - were they Germans?

A. I remember several Blockaelteste and their names. The Blockaelteste of Block 29 - which was also a kind of block for young people - his name was Hans Euringer; he always used to say, as we passed through the gate: "73325 naughty people are leaving the camp temporarily." That was how he put it.

Q. Were they prisoners?

A. Yes. The Blockaelteste were prisoners. Sometimes the Blockaelteste Bednamek, from the punishment block No. 13, went with us, and also other Blockaelteste. When we went beyond the bounds of Birkenau, we also reached the SS Lazarette, the SS camp, and also to Auschwitz. When we went past the Postenkette (guard post), an SS man joined us.

Attorney General: You, the children, lived next to the block where punishments were carried out?

Witness Bakon: Yes.

Q. What was the block called?

A. Block 13 Strafkompanie, S.K. for short.

Q. What was in there?

A. Inside there was the mobile wooden gallows and also this table, on which prisoners had to bend over in order to receive their punishment, the floggings.

Q. Did you see floggings being administered?

A. Sometimes we saw them, sometimes we didn't, but we saw most of them. We could also peep into the hut.

Q. Did you witness executions, hangings?

A. Yes. They always removed the people from our midst, that is to say, if someone escaped or committed some offence, he was placed, first of all, in the Strafkommando and there he was given a severe beating; and when he recovered, he was executed.

Presiding Judge: When he recovered?

Witness Bakon: Yes. When he was ready he was hanged. I remember a case were they caught three Russians, and brought them to our block - it was approximately at noon. One of the Russians managed to cut his veins. As soon as they realized what he had done, they immediately summoned medical aid, all the help necessary - from Auschwitz which was quite far, several kilometres away. And an SS man said: "This man must live until four o'clock," that is to say, until the men returned from work, so that they might witness the execution. I remember that they carried him, he was completely pale and covered with bandages, and two men had to support him, and the band, the Musikkapelle played. The men returned from work at 4 o'clock and then they hanged the three of them.

Attorney General: You say that a band played. Was there a band in the Auschwitz camp?

Witness Bakon: Yes.

Q. Who organized it?

A. I think it was a Jew whose name was Weinmann, from Vienna or Germany.

Q. Who gave the order to organize it?

A. The German SS men.

Q. When did it play?

A. Generally before people went out to work, and when people returned from work and at special operations.

Q. Such as?

A. Before a hanging, at special tortures.

Q. Before a hanging, at special tortures! Did you see the selection of Hungarian women in 1944?

A. Yes. We saw most of the selections. In view of the fact that we were able to move around with the Rollwagen in most of the quarters, I saw the selections in Camp C when I was still in 2B, in the family camp. The women were forced to pass naked from block to block, and afterwards to a new place, to Camp Mexico, as they called it, B2b.

Q. What was Mexico?

A. Mexico was a very large section of the Birkenau camp when they had just begun building.

Q. Was it there they handled the personal effects of the prisoners?

A. No. Mexico was only used for accommodation. The personal effects were in the Effektenkammer between the crematorium and the Krankenlager (sick persons camp), between F and G.

Q. Why did they call it Mexico - do you know?

A. This is the name the prisoners gave it.

Q. Someone else will explain what it was. Do you remember the revolt of the Sonderkommand?

A. Yes. It was some time in October 1944, at one o'clock one day. I was then in the camp. I saw that flames were bursting forth from crematorium number 3. These were not the usual flames we saw every day. The usual flames only issued from the chimneys or the pits; although sometimes the flames from the chimneys reached a height of four metres. But we had the impression that on that day the entire crematorium number 3 was alight. Later on we noticed a lot of commotion near the road between Mexico and Section B, and after some time we were told that it was members of the Sonderkommando who had planned a revolt, and the revolt had not exactly worked according to plan. Nevertheless men escaped. They managed to throw an SS man and the German Kapo into the flames.

Q. Did they blow up part of the crematorium?

A. They blew up part of the crematorium. But most of the members of the Sonderkommando who had escaped were caught and killed. However, those who were in crematoria Nos. 1 and 2 and remained behind, survived - that is to say, for the time being.

Q. Did they also remain alive afterwards?

A. No. Afterwards, I remember that in Block 11 in B2b about two hundred members of the Sonderkommando were locked up. They were given a red stripe to put on their sleeve and some time later a truck came and took them away.

Q. Were you given anything to eat at Auschwitz at that time?

A. The food wasn't all that bad. We received approximately 20-25 grams of bread a day, a little soup and sometimes a little cheese.

Q. 20 grams or 200 grams?

A. I am sorry, 20 deka which was 200 grams.

Q. And that was all your food?

A. Yes, that was the food. When the transports from Hungary arrived, the men of "Canada" succeeded occasionally in smuggling food into the camp and gave it to us. This was also done by the members of the Sonderkommando, who were allowed to take anything except gold, diamonds and valuables.

Q. After this you were transferred from Auschwitz and ultimately you ended up in Mauthausen?

A. Yes.

Q. When was that? When did you reach Mauthausen?

A. I left Auschwitz on 18 January 1945, I took part in that march which was so terrible that the children amongst us said that it was a good thing that our parents had been killed by gas and did not have to undergo all the suffering we endured, since we saw that they were shooting all those who did not have the strength to keep on walking. That was in winter.

Q. For how long did you march?

A. We marched for several days. Afterwards we were conveyed in freight-cars; a long time after, we arrived in Mauthausen. Very many died on the way. We reached Mauthausen at the beginning of February.

Q. How did you find the conditions at Mauthausen?

A. Although in Mauthausen there was not the fear of being gassed, but we were already so exhausted and weak, that people died of starvation and weakness. And there was great congestion. We had no opportunity of washing. Sometimes we would kill two hundred lice at a time. We could only pick out the lice. We were full of lice and filth. When I was sitting down and wanted to get up, I became dizzy, and for several minutes I could not see a thing. This is how weak we were.

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