Judgment 39, Eichmann Adolf

124. We shall now quote a description by a German of the
extermination in the Belzec camp, which was very similar to
that of Treblinka. The writer is an SS officer named
Gerstein, whose conscience gave him no peace, and who, in
1942, tried to reveal the truth about extermination camps to
the world. The description from which we are about to quote
was written by him immediately after the War and handed by
him to officers of the Allied Forces. We shall come back to
Gerstein’s statements later in another context. Here we
shall only say that Gerstein’s words are confirmed in detail
by the evidence which we heard, so that these testimonies
corroborate each other. We accept Gerstein’s statement as a
true description of what he saw with his own eyes. He
writes (T/1309):

“On the following morning, we left for Belzec. A small
special railway station, with two platforms at the foot
of a yellow limestone hill, immediately north of the
road and the Lublin-Lemberg railway line. To the
south, near the road, there are a number of service
buildings bearing the sign: `Local Branch of the Armed
SS, Belzec’…no dead were seen that day, but in the
air all around, even on the road, there was a
nauseating smell.

“Near the small railway station, there was a large hut
marked `Cloakroom,’ with a wicket marked `Valuables.’
There was also a room with a hundred barbers’ chairs,
and then a passage a hundred and fifty metres long in
the open, fenced with barbed wire on both sides, with
signs: `To the Showers’ and `Inhalation
Establishments.’ We come to a house, the bath-house,
which is flanked at the right and left by large
concrete flower pots with geraniums and other flowers.
After going up some steps, we come to three rooms to
our right and three to our left, like garages, 5×4
metres in area, 1.90 metres high. At the back, not
visible, there are piles of wood. A brass Star of
David is on the roof. At the front of the building
there was a sign which read: `The Heckenholt
Foundation.’ This is all I saw that afternoon.

“The following morning, a few minutes before seven, I
am told that the first train will arrive in ten
minutes. And, indeed, the first train from Lemberg did
come a few minutes later. It was a train with forty-
five cars, carrying 6,700 people, of whom 1,450 were
already dead when they arrived. Behind the small
openings with barbed-wire netting, we saw children,
yellow, scared children, and men and women. The train
reaches the platform. Two hundred Ukrainians serving
as forced labourers, push the doors open and lash the
people with whips off the train.

“Then orders are given over a large loudspeaker. They
must undress completely in the open, some also in a
hut, and also remove artificial limbs and spectacles.
Shoes are to be tied together with a small piece of
string, handed to them by a Jewish boy of four. All
valuable objects and money must be handed in at the
`Valuables’ counter. No confirmations or receipts are
given in exchange. Later, the women and young girls
must go to the barber’s, where their hair is cut off in
two or three strokes. The hair disappears into large
potato sacks `to be used for something special, for
submarines as insulation, etc.’ This is the
explanation given by the Unterscharfuehrer on duty.

“The march begins. Barbed wire to the right and to the
left, and, at the end, two dozen Ukrainians with
rifles. Heading the marchers is an unusually pretty
girl – thus they approach. I am standing in front of
the death chambers with Police Captain Wirth. Men,
women, young girls, children, babies, amputees missing
a leg – all naked, stark naked – they pass near us. An
SS man stands in the corner telling the miserable
people in the voice of a preacher: `Nothing will happen
to you. All you have to do is to breathe deeply. This
inhalation is necessary because of infectious diseases.
It is a good disinfectant.’ When they ask about their
fate, he explains: `Of course, the men will have to
work, to build roads and houses, but the women do not
have to work. At most, if they wish, they may help
around the house or in the kitchen.’ In the heart of
some of these doomed people, there is once again a
spark of hope, enough to make them walk into the gas
chambers without resistance. But most of them know:
the smell carries the tidings of their fate.

“Then they go up the small steps and see the truth.
Nursing mothers with babies in their arms, naked; many
children of all ages, naked; they hesitate but enter
the death chambers, most of them without uttering a
word. They are being pushed by those behind them, and
the whips of the SS men keep them on the move. A
Jewess of about 40, her eyes aflame, swears that the
blood of her children may be visited upon the heads of
their murderers. Police Captain Wirth himself brings
his whip down on her face five times, and she
disappears into the gas chamber. Many pray, and others
say: `Who will cleanse us after death?’ (Jewish
ritual?) SS men cram the people into the chambers.
Captain Wirth gives orders to `fill up well.’ The
naked people stand on each other’s feet, seven to eight
hundred people in an area of twenty-five square metres
or forty-five cubic metres. The doors are shut.
Others of the same transport remain waiting, naked. I
am told that they are naked in the winter as well.
`But they may die!’ And the answer is given: `That is
what they are here for.’ At this moment, I grasp the
meaning of the `Heckenholt Foundation.’

“Heckenholt sets the diesel engine in motion, and the
exhaust gases are used to kill the unfortunate people!
SS Unterscharfuehrer Heckenholt exerts himself to get
the diesel engine going, but it does not ignite.
Captain Wirth comes up to him. One can see that he is
scared because I am a witness to the mishap. Yes, I
can see everything, and I wait. My stopwatch records
everything. Fifty minutes, seventy minutes, no
ignition. The people in the gas chambers wait in vain.
We hear them cry. `Like in a synagogue,’ says SS
Sturmbannfuehrer Professor Dr. Pfannenstiel, Professor
of Hygiene at the University of Marburg on the Lahn,
after listening through the wooden door. Captain Wirth
is furious. He brings the whip down eleven or twelve
times on the face of the Ukrainian who is helping

“After two hours and forty-nine minutes – my stopwatch
recorded everything – the diesel engine began to
function. Up to that moment, the people are alive in
the four gas chambers, which are filled to capacity.
Four times 750 people are living in four times forty-
five cubic metres. Twenty-five minutes more pass. It
is true, many have died. This can be seen through a
small window by the light of the electric bulb inside
the room. Twenty-eight minutes later, only a few are
still alive. Finally, after thirty-two minutes, they
are all dead. At the other end, Jewish labourers open
the wooden doors…the dead stand erect like basalt
columns, for there is no room to fall or to collapse.
Even in death, one can recognize the families, holding
hands. It is only with difficulty that they can be
separated to make room in the chambers for the next

From the report by the Polish Commission which investigated
the Belzec camp (T/1316), it becomes clear that this camp
was a place mainly for the extermination of Jews from south-
eastern Poland, but Jews from Czechoslovakia, Austria,
Romania, Hungary and Germany were also brought there for
extermination (p. 13 of the Hebrew translation). The
Commission estimated the number of those killed at Belzec as
at least 600,000 (supra, p. 15).

125. Evidence about the Sobibor camp revealed a picture
similar to that of the Treblinka and Belzec camps. Here,
Jews from eastern Poland and from German-occupied
territories in Soviet Russia, as well as from Czechslovakia,
Slovakia, Austria and Germany were exterminated (evidence of
Dov Freiberg, Session 64, Vol.III, pp. 1169; and the Polish
Commission Report, T/1293, on page 78 of the Hebrew
translation). This camp was liquidated after the revolt of
the Jewish prisoners which broke out there in October 1943.
The Polish Commission estimates the number of victims in
this camp as at least 250,000 (supra, p. 7).

126. The Majdanek camp was a large concentration camp in
Lublin, and also a place where Jews were exterminated by
shooting and gassing. Witness Joseph Reznik gave evidence
(Session 64, Vol. III, p.1160) about the mass slaughter in
November 1943, when Jews were shot in the “fifth field” at
Majdanek. The Polish Commission Report (T/1289, p. 5 of the
Hebrew translation) gives the number of Jews killed on one
single day – 3 November 1943, as 18,000. Gas chambers were
also set up at Majdanek (supra, pp. 3, 5). Jews from
Poland, Slovakia, Czechoslovakia and from western and
southern Europe were brought to this camp (supra, p. 16).
The Commission estimates the total number of Jewish victims
in Majdanek at 200,000 (p. 118). Majdanek camp had
branches, one of which was Trawniki camp, already mentioned
as the destination for deportations of Jews from Germany.

127. The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was the largest of the
extermination camps. Like Majdanek, this comprised a
concentration camp where prisoners were worked to death, and
had buildings for immediate physical extermination. We
shall deal first with the second aspect of Auschwitz-
Birkenau. On the extermination process, we shall quote from
the notes made by the camp commander, Rudolf Hoess, when he
was in Nuremberg Prison, and handed to us by the witness,
Professor Gilbert, who received them from Hoess himself.
Professor Gilbert was serving, at the time, as a
psychologist in the American army, and it was his duty to
observe the prisoners in Nuremberg Prison. After Hoess had
testified at Nuremberg that the Accused told him that over
two million Jews were exterminated at Auschwitz (see T/1357,
p. 2), Goering maintained in a conversation with Professor
Gilbert that this was technically impossible (Session 35,
Vol. III, p. 1005). Then Professor Gilbert proposed asking
Hoess himself about this matter, and that was done. In
answer to the question, Hoess made notes which are
undoubtedly an authentic description (T/1170), and tally
with what we have heard from witnesses in regard to
Auschwitz. He explains that the freight trains carrying the
Jews destined for extermination reached a special platform
in the camp, near the extermination structures. The
Accused’s Section, which dispatched them, sent word in
advance, and the trains were marked with certain figures and
letters, to avoid their getting mixed up with transports of
other detainees. On the average, each train carried some
2,000 Jews. After the Jews were removed from the trains and
counted (there were no lists of names), they all filed by
two SS doctors who separated those fit for work from those
who were unfit for work. The average number of those
declared fit was only twenty-five per cent. The luggage of
the Jews remained on the platform and was later brought to
stores to be sorted out. The men amongst those unfit for
work were separated from the women and children and taken to
the nearest extermination installation that was empty.
There they all had to undress in rooms which gave the
impression of disinfecting chambers. Those who hesitated
were made to hurry, so that those who came after them would
not have to wait too long, and they were told to remember
where they left their clothes, so that they could find them
again after the shower. From there, they were taken to the
gas chamber, which was camouflaged as a washroom with
showers, pipes and water taps. Once they were all inside
the chamber, the door was locked, and from above, Zyklon `B’
gas was let in through a special aperture. This vaporized
immediately and did its work. Death came from thirteen to
fifteen minutes later. Half an hour later, the chamber was
opened and the corpses were taken for burning, after the
women’s hair was cut off and gold teeth were removed.

There were five crematoria there, in which it was possible
to burn up to ten thousand corpses per day. The ashes were
ground into dust and were thrown into the Vistula river and
washed away with the current. Hoess calculated that if the
average number of bodies cremated daily for 27 months was
3,000, the number of people killed totalled about two and a
half million. In his opinion, one and a half million, at
most, were exterminated, but he adds that he has no evidence
with which to prove his figure, and we shall refrain from
deciding which is the correct figure.

As stated above, this horrifying description, given by the
master butcher himself, in the language of a dry office
report, has been fully confirmed by witnesses who testified
before us (see the evidence of Yehuda Bakon, Session 68,
Vol. 111, p. 1246-1248); the evidence of Nachum Hoch,
Session 71, Vol. III, p. 1291-xxxx).

The Jews exterminated at Auschwitz-Birkenau were brought
there from all over Europe, and mainly from central, western
and southern Europe, and amongst them were Jews from the
German Reich (including annexed territories in the East),
from the Czech-Bohemian Protectorate, France, Belgium,
Holland, Italy, Greece, Romania, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia,
and also the Generalgouvernement area (see the above note by
Hoess, T/1170; and the evidence of Rajewski in the Hoess
trial, T/1356).

Last-Modified: 1999/05/27