The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 69
(Part 1 of 5)

Session No. 69

23 Sivan 5721 (7 June 1961)

[The first part of the Session - testimonies on sterilization - was heard in camera.]

Attorney General: I call Dr. Aharon Beilin.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Beilin: Yes.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Dr. Aharon Beilin.

Attorney General: Dr. Beilin, you live in Tel Aviv, at 33 Louis Marshall Street?

Witness Beilin: Yes.

Q. You are a doctor?

A. Yes.

Q. In February 1943 you were deported from Bialystok, which at that time was incorporated into the Third Reich, to Auschwitz?

A. Yes.

Q. How many people were there in this transport, together with you?

A. About five thousand. I should like to point out that there were two transports, one following the other. There were ten thousand people at the assembly place; on one train there were five thousand of us, and the next day, the other five thousand arrived on the second train. And they were added to the block where we were, in Auschwitz - in Birkenau.

Q. Were they all Jews?

A. They were all Jews from the ghetto.

Q. Did you try to hide yourself at the time of the round up?

A. Yes.

Q. Successfully?

A. No.

Q. Why?

A. A child's crying revealed our hiding-place.

Q. And then you were caught, together with your mother?

A. Yes. My wife went to another bunker since we were afraid that if many of us were together the danger would be greater, so we decided to separate. I remained with my mother, and my wife went to another bunker.

Q. Did your wife and your mother survive?

A. No.

Q. You reached Auschwitz and underwent a selection?. A. Yes. The doctor who conducted the selection was Dr. Rohde.

Q. What unit did he belong to?

A. He was an SS doctor, with the Death's Head symbol on his cap, and Schwartzhuber - both of them. Perhaps it would be of interest to point out that while the selection was going on, he had a dog at his side, and he whistled the aria from "Rigoletto" - "La Donna e mobile." About one hundred and fifty men and one hundred and fifty women were selected from the first rows. The remainder were sent off in a group without undergoing selection. Large trucks came to take them away - amongst them my mother as well.

Q. Where were they sent to?

A. They were sent along the road which as I subsequently learned when I was in Auschwitz, led to Birkenau, which was the road leading to the crematorium - but I had a better sign. Three or four hours after I entered the camp, I saw these trucks through the barbed-wire fence - we were then still on the other side of the barbed-wire fence, we had not yet gone inside the camp - I saw these trucks returning with coats, and I saw my mother's coat. I then understood that she was no longer alive.

There is one other matter I want to mention here. When I was with my mother, she said to me - she was an observant Jewess - she said that she would pray for my survival, but, she told me, I would have to promise to take an oath, that was how she put it to me - she said it in Russian so that the SS men should not understand, because there were some of them who understood a little Yiddish - that if I should remain alive, I should go to Palestine. And I promised her, and I kept my promise, I fulfilled this obligation. And I think I owe this observation to all the mothers who were taken before their time and to all the children who were snatched from their mothers for destruction, for annihilation.

Q. What happened to those who were left alive?

A. All of us, the one hundred and fifty men - and I amongst them - waited three to four hours in front of the barbed- wire fence. After that we entered the camp and waited there until the evening. We had actually arrived in the morning, and there was frost - it was at the height of winter, in February 1943. And they made us do the famous gymnastics of Auschwitz, the "knee-bend" and "roll." And the guard who accompanied us remained with us until the commander of this division came and said: "I have brought 150 figures from the transport of the RSHA from Bialystok."

Q. You heard that with your own ears?

A. I heard it with my own ears. And I asked the old-timers who were around there what this RSHA stood for - I had heard these initial letters for the first time. One of them told me they stood for Reichsicherheitshauptamt.

Q. Can you tell us how it was said in German?

A. Yes. "150 Figuren aus dem RSHA-Abtransport Bialystok."

The block into which we were placed was supposedly a quarantine block. There we came across people who had arrived on another transport from Plonsk and Mlawa. Since at the time of our arrival there were no Jews there from Eastern Europe, only from Western Europe, and since Plonsk, Mlawa and Bialystok had been annexed to the Reich, they brought us there as "Reichsdeutsche Jews." I took advantage of this, later, and I was the only one also who wrote a postcard to the ghetto in Bialystok, and the postcard was received.

Q. We shall come to the episode of the postcard later. You wrote it to your wife, I understand?

A. Yes, I wrote it to my wife.

Q. We shall come to that. You were transferred to a certain block and there you were divided up according to occupations?

A. They had a standard list there, in which as a rule all the prominent functions - as they were called in Auschwitz - were in the hands of "S. Ver. und B. Ver.," that is to say, the Berufsverbrecher und Schwerverbrecher (professional criminals and men guilty of serious crimes). They were Germans who had been in gaol, who had been sentenced to imprisonment, and who had been released for concentration camp duties. They had a prepared list, and classified the new arrivals (der frische Zugang) according to this list into members of the liberal professions, on the one hand, and criminal elements arriving there, on the other hand.

Those who were not members of the liberal professions and who were not criminals were divided equally into two groups. Those who were criminals and were able to prove that they had spent some time in prison, who, for example, had broken into safes or stolen, were given these duties. What were these duties? Distributors of food, room-attendants (Stubendienst) and so on. I did not know about that and I said that I was a doctor - this served to my disadvantage, together with the whole group of teachers, of writers, and actors; apparently there was a whole standard list and we always received the worst tasks, hard labour, for example, cleaning the toilets or carrying food.

Carrying food in Birkenau involved mortal danger, for there was no meal where the Essen-Kommando (the unit for bringing food) reported to the kitchen and where its Rapportfuehrer (the man in charge), whose name was Schillinger, did not kill two or three people with a huge wooden spoon used to stir the food in the pots; he would pull it out and strike people on the head. This work was given to us.

Q. How long did you remain in this block?

A. Four weeks.

Q. What were your living quarters like?

A. It was terribly overcrowded, sixteen of us lay on a ledge which was intended, more or less, for six people. We could only lie on our side, for, if one of us wanted to turn over, everyone had to turn over. If someone got down during the night in order to relieve himself, he could not come back, and had to lie down on the concrete floor of the block.

Presiding Judge: Why could he not come back?

Witness Beilin: Since it was too crowded, and he would annoy all the others because he would be disturbing their sleep. I remember a case where - since it was winter and the block was not heated, it was cold - a man got down and froze. This crowded condition also had an advantage - we kept each other warm. That man lay the whole night on the concrete - he had diarrhoea. I must point out that seventy per cent of the people in this block died in the course of these four weeks.

Q. Dr. Beilin, are you a physician?

A. Yes.

Q. And you were a physician at that time?

A. Yes. I completed my university studies in 1934.

After the cold shower we were given, and after we were made to run naked, both in order to be tattooed and be registered, and thereafter in order to receive clothing, naked all the time, it was obvious that pneumonia and all other kinds of sicknesses arising out of exposure to cold developed rapidly. In the course of four weeks seventy per cent died.

Attorney General: Was it a procedure in this block that anyone whose temperature rose above a certain degree was taken away from there?

Witness Beilin: Yes. That was the famous temperature-taking; in every block there were groups of medical orderlies under the control of the "SDGH" - he was an SS lance-sergeant, the assistant of the SS doctor, and it was under his supervision that temperatures were taken. He himself checked the thermometer reading and supervised the registration, and if anyone had a temperature of over 37.5, and it did not matter whether the temperature was due to a cold or to a throat infection, he was considered as a potential carrier of germs and was put to death the next day by being loaded, together with all those who had been recorded for this the previous day, on to the trucks, naked and wrapped in blankets. And for us this was a sign that they were on their way to the gas chambers.

Q. When you came to Auschwitz did you encounter people from various countries?

A. Yes. As I said earlier, these were Jews from Western and Central Europe. There were no Jews from Eastern Europe. These Jews were from Czechoslovakia, Holland, from France - all had foreign, not French citizenship, that is to say they were Polish and Romanian Jews who had been brought from France; later on there were Jews from Belgium and from Luxembourg, and amongst them also one German Aryan who said that he was from Luxembourg and that he was a political prisoner.

Q. Did you also see people from Greece?

A. Yes, they began arriving in March-April 1943. When the Greek Jews arrived, I saw yellow cheques in their hands; at that time I did not know the value of the drachma, but they came to the veterans - we were the old-timers, as it were - and asked when they would be receiving their money from the bank, for "we deposited our drachmas over there and were given these cheques to be redeemed at the Polish banks to enable us to live here." Obviously our answer was: Nil. This I remember, I remember what the cheques looked like; they were yellow and it said in German: "The Jewish bearer deposited such-and-such a number of drachmas in the bank." And the amount was written both in figures and in words.

Q. Were there also Jews from Zagreb?

A. Yes, there were Jews from Zagreb. I know this from the fact that on this transport a doctor arrived whose name was Bier; he possessed two diplomas - in medicine and in chemistry. One fine day Dr. Bier was taken away as a chemist, and rumour had it - the rumour reached the camp in some way or other - that the chemists were taken to forge Allied banknotes.

Q. Were there also Soviet prisoners?

A. Yes, there were twelve thousand Soviet prisoners, including privates, but there were also officers amongst them, some officers with academic training, despite the fact that in Auschwitz, until the Gypsies were gathered together and exterminated in the gas chambers, Aryans were not generally brought to be gassed, but they died a so-called natural death, from diseases. Of these twelve thousand Russians, many - the majority - died of tuberculosis.

Q. Which they contracted in Auschwitz?

A. In Auschwitz, for most of them were from rural and not from urban populations, and apparently for this reason, owing to the crowding and the starvation, tuberculosis spread amongst them with greater intensity than in the case of an urban population.

Q. Were there Germans in charge of the clinic on behalf of the SS?

A. Yes.

Q. Who were they?

A. I remember three doctors in the clinic - apart from those who used to come for short periods and then disappear. I remember Dr. Rohde - he was the first to make the selection, also when I reached the camp. There was Dr. Helmersen - again, as it was rumoured, Dr. Helmersen was the son of the police commander of Berlin.

Q. Let us talk of facts, not rumours.

A. Afterwards, of course, there was Dr. Mengele, who used to come there - he was one of the last - and I had already got to know him in the Gypsies' camp.

Q. What was the fate of the Jewish doctors, including your own?

A. Generally speaking, in Auschwitz, in Birkenau, we were not doctors. Our official title was "Pfleger" - male nurses. They said of us: "A Jew is not a doctor, a Jew performs abortions and is a pharmacist, thirsty for poison." We were the Pfleger - and these male nurses did not only administer medical treatment, which was virtually useless since we had neither medicines nor bandages; the bandaging material which we received was made of paper only. Hence if we applied this kind of bandage in the clinic, both because of the discharge from the wound and also for the reason that if, for example, the bandage was on the foot, the patient would immediately put on this shoe and the bandage would disintegrate.

Presiding Judge: What kind of shoes were they?

Witness Beilin: I also received a pair; they were wooden clogs which were called "Holz-Pantinen." But we were obliged to perform all the work, that is to say, moving the mattresses and distributing the Muselmannn, the under- nourished.

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