The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 70
(Part 3 of 6)

Presiding Judge: [to witness] What else do you know about the incident?

Witness Kagan: This I know, of course, from the time after we left the camp - that the father of Ilona Brody, by chance, had contact with a very senior official whose family had, apparently, been converted to Christianity a hundred years ago, and he had the same name. He had asked for some information from Ilona Brody's father. Subsequently, Mr. Brody recalled this man and approached him, and Brody the Christian assisted him in submitting the application.

Q. He was a Hungarian Christian?

A. A Hungarian Christian.

Attorney General: Were there cases of the release of non- Jews from Auschwitz?

Witness Kagan: Non-Jews - of course.

Q. Was there any case of the release of a Jew from Auschwitz?

A. No.

Q. Not according to what you know from your work in the office?

A. No.

Q. And also not according to what you heard from your friends?

A. No.

Q. I am referring to your colleagues?

A. I understand.

Q. Did you know of applications for the release of some Jew or other received by the Auschwitz headquarters?

A. Yes, we heard about them, and then the answer was marked "Geheimnistraeger" (bearer of secrets), and for this reason it was impossible to release him.

Q. Do you remember the case of Mala Zimetbaum?

A. Yes. Perhaps I could relate the case of Lilly Toffler.

Q. Please do.

A. Lilly Toffler was one of our colleagues in the Kommando. She worked in the Politische Abteilung - she was even a Kapo for a time, a very decent one. There was another Slovakian woman there who had been appointed to be a Kapo; she was a collaborator, and hence simply threw her out. Through very great influence, she was not sent to Birkenau for extermination, but was transferred to the Pflanzenzug Kommando (unit for growing plants).

Q. Whose influence?

A. The influence of a cousin of hers who asked the Kapo to accept her. And this helped her. There, in the Pflanzenzug Kommando, relations were more or less human, and from there she wrote a letter to a Polish acquaintance of hers, who was in the Auschwitz camp. She used to correspond with him and, to her misfortune, one of the letters fell into the hands of the commandant. The commandant discovered it and made an investigation. The letter contained nothing out of the way, but, naturally, any excuse would do. She wrote there that she was concerned about him, that she had not come across him at their place of work, and that encouraging rumours were spreading in the camp. There were always these waves of inexplicable optimism. And she concluded: I ask myself how I shall be able to live after all that I have seen and known.

Then the commandant - first of all, of course, he objected to the fact that there were encouraging rumours in the camp which might keep up the morale of the unfortunate prisoners and, in addition to that, that this girl knew and had seen what was going on. Then he got to know that she had been in our Kommando, and they conducted a thorough investigation. Everyone was obliged to write something, so that the handwriting could be compared. Afterwards it emerged that not one of us had written the letter, and that it had been Lilly Toffler. They interrogated her very briefly, and she was executed - this lovely girl of twenty-three.

Q. What happened to Mala Zimetbaum?

A. I had known Mala Zimetbaum since the summer of 1942. At that time, she became a "Laeuferin" - a messenger between blocks and a liaison between the Blockfuehrerstube, the Kapo and the prisoners. She was a young girl, of Polish origin, but she had been living in Belgium and arrived with the Belgian transport. She was very decent. She was known throughout the camp, since she helped everybody. And her opportunities and the power, as it were, that she possessed were never wrongfully exploited by her, as was often done by the Kapos. She suffered like everybody else. However, she had better conditions - she was able to take a shower in Birkenau.

And suddenly, in the summer of 1944, I heard - I was sitting in the room of my superior - there was a telephone call - and suddenly, I heard them ringing and alerting all the Kripo and the Stapoleitstelle, all stations of the gendarmerie, and I heard the name of the prisoner, Mala Zimetbaum. She had escaped. The escape was organized. She fled in the uniform of the SS, of an Aufseherin (supervisor). The escape occurred on a Saturday afternoon when there was a reduced camp guard. Another Pole escaped with her. They met beyond the camp, on their way to Slovakia. We hoped - we had great hopes - every morning when we got up, that possibly she would succeed.

It is important to note that Mala had many opportunities - she had access to the documents. And it was said that she had stolen documents from the Blockfuehrerstube relating to the SD, and that she wanted to publish them abroad. I must remark here that her courage was well-known, but there was also a legend about Mala, and I am not sure whether it is correct that she managed to steal the documents, but it was said of her that she was capable of doing so. A fortnight later, we learned that they had been captured, they were caught in a very foolish way, right on the border, by customs officials. Apparently, they had lost their way and asked which way to go. There they had to cross mountains, to pass through the Carpathians. That was when they were captured. It seemed strange to the customs officers that a couple...

Q. At any rate, she was sent back to Auschwitz?

A. She was returned to Auschwitz. This Polish man was interrogated in our block, and not only in our block. Our hut, in which we worked, was close to the small crematorium which was already out of action, but it was a favourite place for our interrogators, mainly for Wilhelm Burger, who had invented his own forms of torture. There was a torture instrument there called a see-saw. That was where he took this Pole. We saw him there, passing by after terrible tortures. He was hanged in the Auschwitz camp. Mala was taken to Birkenau. Interrogations took place once again in Auschwitz, and we saw her.

Q. Did you speak to her?

A. Yes, I asked her how she was.

Q. You went in to her?

A. No. She was in a small hut - that was where people waited to be interrogated.

Q. What did she do?

A. Serenely and heroically she said, somewhat ironically: "I am always well."

Presiding Judge: In what language did she say this?

Witness Kagan: In German.

Q. What did she say?

A. "Mir geht es immer wohl."

Q. What happened to her in the end?

A. Eventually they brought her to Birkenau, they held a major roll-call, and Mandel, the Schutzlagerfuehrerin (leader of the protective camp), Marie Mandel, made a speech and demanded a spectacular and exemplary punishment for her. Mala had succeeded in placing a razor blade in her sleeve and, at the time of the roll-call, she cut open her veins. The the SS man went up to her and began mocking and cursing her. Then, with a hand covered in blood, she slapped his cheek and - again, this may be a legend - she said to him: "I shall die as a heroine, and you will die like a dog." After that, she was taken, in this very terrible state, to the Revier, and in the evening she was put on a cart and taken to the crematorium.

Q. When the large transports from Hungary began arriving, the method of tattooing was changed - is that correct?

A. Pardon me, I still wanted to add something important - in my opinion - on the question of the registration. As from 25 February 1943, we stopped registering Jews.

Judge Halevi: What did you stop registering?

Witness Kagan: We stopped registering Jews in the Beurkundung (documentation). The documentation, as far as Jews were concerned, was stopped altogether, except for cases where death was not normal, as it were, such as suicide or killing. In these cases, we did register them. But from that date...

Q. What was the date?

A. 25 February 1943.

Attorney General: What was the reason?

Witness Kagan: We were simply not able to register them. There were so many supposedly normal deaths. We worked during the autumn of 1942 and the winter of 1943 - we worked from five in the morning until nine-thirty at night.

Q. Who gave the order to stop the registration of Jews?

A. As far as we were concerned, it was the head of the department.

Q. Who was he?

A. At that time, it was still Walter Quackernack.

Q. Was he a member of the SS?

A. Of course.

Q. Did he hold a rank?

A. Yes, at first he was an Unterscharfuehrer, and then Oberscharfuehrer.

Q. When the Hungarian Jews arrived, the method of tattooing was changed?

A. Yes, very simply, once again in order to cover up and conceal the large numbers that had reached more than two hundred thousand - perhaps even more, but that was how we estimated it to be with the men, and over one hundred thousand in the case of the women - they added the letter "A". Because of this, everyone asks me where is my "A", for mine is a very old number - such numbers hardly exist.

Presiding Judge: So they started anew?

Witness Kagan: Yes, they started anew.

Q. With the addition of the letter "A"?

A. Yes. With the men it was series "A" and series "B".

Attorney General: Do you remember the revolt of the Sonderkommando?

Witness Kagan: Yes.

Q. Please tell us about it, briefly.

A. The revolt of the Sonderkommando began on...perhaps here I may...I only want to say that the revolt of the Sonderkommando was in co-operation with the entire general underground in Auschwitz.

Presiding Judge: I am sure the Attorney General knows what he is asking and what he is not asking. I would ask you to pay attention to that.

Witness Kagan: When the revolt broke out, it was at the beginning of October 1944. We received specific orders to leave our work and return to the camp.

Attorney General: What was the reaction that you noticed amongst the SS when you returned?

Witness Kagan: They were very frightened. They left us under one single guard - they all ran to Birkenau.

Q. After that, ninety-six death forms reached you for completion?

A. That is correct.

Q. What were you ordered to write in them?

A. Naturally - that this was an attempt to escape.

Q. Shot when trying to escape, or something like that?

A. Yes. Most of them were Jews from Grodno and Greece, and amongst them there were also some from Russia.

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

Dr. Servatius: Witness, do you know anything about the registration in Birkenau from 1942 to April 1944?

Witness Kagan: I do not know what you mean by "registration". If you are referring to the registration of deaths, I understand that this also came to us. I know that, with the arrival of Hungarian transports, this work was made shorter in the case of Jews; we did not use the original form, but a shortened one.

Presiding Judge: Perhaps the purpose of the question was not clear. We shall hear immediately what Dr. Servatius wanted from you.

Dr. Servatius: Perhaps you can answer me briefly. Please give me a short answer, not a long one, so that we may be able to clarify this more easily. Here, before me, there is Prosecution document No. 4, a document which was drawn up by two Slovakian Jews, young men who escaped. They talk about the situation in Auschwitz, in Birkenau, from April 1942. They report that the numbers of the prisoners at that time began round about - and I am giving you a round figure - 27,400, and it is reported there that there was numbering and registration, and afterwards they began not to register them, and this corresponds to your testimony. According to that document, up to April 1944, they reached a total - and again I quote round figures - of 174,000.

Presiding Judge: Is this a document which has already been submitted?

Attorney General: No, it will be submitted tomorrow, Your Honour.

Witness Kagan: I do not understand what this is about, after all, we received...

Presiding Judge: Perhaps we should show the document to the witness, so that she may be enabled to answer.

Dr. Servatius: I shall hand this document to you and explain my purpose. You said that in 1943 a new series of enumeration was begun, in which they added the letter "A" before the number.

Witness Kagan: That is not correct - I did not say that.

Presiding Judge: All right, we shall clarify that presently. I heard that the question of the letter "A" began in 1944, at the time of the Hungarian transports.

Witness Kagan: Exactly.

Presiding Judge: That is what she said.

Dr. Servatius: Perhaps matters have become confused in the process of translation. If that is the case, the wording of the document coincides with the evidence.

Presiding Judge: She said explicitly that she linked it to the Hungarian transports - she said it in her main evidence.

Dr. Servatius: If that is the case, I shall make a note of it and agree that there is no discrepancy. I have no more questions.

Judge Raveh: Mrs. Kagan, do you have with you the set of documents No. 1245?

Witness Kagan: No.

Q. Then, perhaps, I shall give it to you. [Passes it to the witness] Please take the fourth page. It says there "Medical opinion." Were there cases where the doctor did not allow punishment to be carried out?

A. For me, this is a bitter joke. The doctor at Auschwitz was a hangman - not a doctor.

Q. Did you witness any instance where he did not permit it?

A. No, he was a hangman.

Q. After this comes the section Dienstaufsicht (service supervision). Did you witness any instances where confirmation for carrying out the punishment was not given?

A. Also no.

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