Q. Who were these people accompanying you?
A. SS men and the Motor-Gendarmerie (the motorized
gendarmerie). Evidently they were there only to keep
guard over us.
Q. Do you know the names of those who were in charge?
A. The name of the man who was apparently in charge – I do
not know exactly – they called him Haman – I don’t know if
this was his real name.
Q. Apparently it was. There was one Haman, exactly
according to the pattern.
A. This is what we heard from the Germans when they spoke,
for we saw them a number of times. On the first day that
we began digging…
Q. One moment, Mr. Karasik. You began digging?
A. Yes. First of all we fenced in the place with a barbed
wire fence, and we made a camouflage of young trees in
order to disguise the nature of this place.
Q. After that you began digging in the place where they
ordered you to dig?
Q. Did they tell you that you were digging in order to lay
foundations for a building?
A. From the minute we commenced digging, they did not tell
Q. They told you to dig?
A. They simply told us to dig.
Q. You dug?
Q. What did you discover?
A. We struck something hard. And each one who struck
something hard moved a little, but it was the same thing
there – at a depth of approximately 25 centimetres we
discovered the remains of bones. We told the Germans that
something was buried there and they answered: Never mind,
these are the carcasses of horses – remove them. We began
whispering to one another, since for us this was a
complete surprise. And then the Germans came into the
pits and began hitting us. This Haman came directly to me
and began giving me blows, and ordered me to throw the
earth on to his feet. I dug and threw it and he did not
stop hitting me. One of the motorized gendarmerie saw
this – afterwards we had a nickname for him: “The Boxer” –
and called out to me to fetch wood, and in this way he
saved me from certain death. All the SS men were drunk at
Presiding Judge: The motorized gendarmerie – were they SS
Witness Karasik No.
Presiding Judge: You said “SS men.”
Witness Karasik Yes. There were SS men and there were
the motorized gendarmerie: they took some of the men to
saw trees. We sawed wooden planks of a length of eight
metres, and they commanded us to make a square pyre, and
afterwards we had to take out the remains of people, the
remains of the bodies of people, and place them on this
Attorney General: What you were seeing was a mass grave,
in other words?
Witness Karasik Yes, this was a mass grave.
Q. What was its size?
A. Each grave was eight metres long and two metres wide.
In such a grave there were normally 250 – 300 bodies.
Q. And you were ordered to exhume the bodies?
A. We were ordered to exhume the bodies and to place them
on the wooden planks. On each layer they added more wood,
one metre in length, and in this way we built the pyre.
Q. How many bodies did you exhume on that day – on the
A. On the first day we exhumed about 1,700, for the
Germans gave us orders to count each body, and if the body
was decomposed, they ordered us to count the skulls.
Q. Did you also find inside the graves bags which had been
preserved, and which contained talitot (prayer shawls and
A. That is right. There were all kinds of graves. It
depended on the soil. If the ground was sandy the corpses
were better preserved, and if the earth was black, the
corpses were more decomposed.
Q. What did you do with the bodies?
A. The Germans subsequently set the pyre on fire and
burned the bodies. We had to beat the residue of the pyre
that remained with the iron beaters, until no bone was
left. We had to pass it through a sieve. Naturally the
gold, teeth as well as rings, chains and so forth remained
– and the Germans ordered us to give these to them.
Q. I understand that this shocked you and you all wanted
to commit suicide?
A. That was a very human reaction.
Q. But you did not do so.
A. Because we could not – they did not allow us to do so.
They watched over us inside and guarded us in the open.
Even if someone went to the toilet, a guard immediately
came in and watched what he was doing there.
Presiding Judge: How many Jews were there in this unit?
Witness Karasik: In this unit there were 40 Jews – a few
more were added later.
Attorney General: In course of time did you get to know
what the unit was called?
Witness Karasik: No, they called it Sonderkommando. They
pointed out all the time that on the last pyre we, too,
would go up, for the secret was not allowed to be known.
This is what the German gendarmerie said. We came to
Q. Not so fast. The next day you carried on with the same
A. We continued with the same work. We even unearthed a
special grave outside the barbed wire fence that we had
erected. In this special grave there were eight bodies
and before we uncovered them one of the gendarmerie said,
on top there ought to be a woman with a floral dress.
Later on it turned out that this was correct, it was so.
And they further joked amongst themselves: “Do you
remember how this woman made somersaults, turned over,
rolled over (I believe that this is the proper
translation) when she received the first bullet?”
Presiding Judge: What was the word in German?
Witness Karasik: Saltos. We exhumed these bodies and added
them to the pyre.
Attorney General: When you finished digging into a pit, in
order to exhume the corpses, what were you ordered to with
the open pit?
Witness Karasik: We were ordered to cover it and
afterwards to camouflage it with trees and greenery.
Q. Who showed you from time to time where to dig?
A. The SS men who were with us inside.
Q. When you finished the work at one place were you taken
A. We were taken to another place, not far from the first
one, this was still in Augustov, not far from the railway
lines. There were eight or nine such graves.
Presiding Judge: How many graves such as these did you
open in the first place?
Witness Karasik: At the first place there were also seven
or eight. A year later I wrote down all the numbers, for
I still remembered each single place. Later on, when I
lay wounded in hospital, I recorded this on paper, hence I
have the numbers.
Attorney General: How long were you in this
Sonderkommando? Witness Karasik Until its dissolution on
13 July 1944.
Q. That means how much in all?
A. Two months, a little over two months.
Q. And how many graves did you open during that
time? A. I did not total up the graves.
Q. How many corpses did you burn?
A. 22,000 bodies, according to the data which I have of
Judge Halevi: Was all this in the region of Bialystok?
Witness Karasik: Bialystok, Augustov, Grodno.
Attorney General: Afterwards you reached the environs of
Witness Karasik: Yes. Our place there was in the
courtyard of the Gestapo in Grodno. From there we would
go out into the countryside around Lida, in the Grodno
area. We dug near an ancient citadel and there we found
bodies with gold rings on their fingers. Evidently these
were not Jews, but people who had been seized in the
street and put to death.
Presiding Judge: Was this on Polish territory or in East
Witness Karasik: I cannot state this exactly. On one
occasion we saw the post marking the border. On this
post there was the sign of Prussia.
Attorney General: Did you find the bodies of children?
Witness Karasik: Of children, of old men and of women.
We also found the bodies of Polish officers, and in the
case of these officers the hands were tied behind their
backs with telephone wires. We once took 750 officers out
of one such grave.
Presiding Judge: Were they in uniform?
Witness Karasik: In uniform, precisely. In uniform and
boots, so that we were even able to distinguish between
Attorney General: On one occasion did they also kill
people next to bonfires?
Witness Karaski: Yes, it was exactly on the Festival of
Shavuot, and this was the second time I saw this Haman.
They took the truck during work and went somewhere. An
hour later, approximately, they brought back eight
persons, farmers, and shot them on the spot.
Presiding Judge: Poles?
Witness Karasik: Yes, Poles.
Attorney General: And you had to burn them?
Witness Karasik: Yes, we had to burn them. And they
further told us to take off their clothes – whatever we
needed. But, of course, no one touched them. I witnessed
this spectacle, and if I may describe it – it would be
worthwhile doing so. At the time that they brought the
truck – the truck was closed, it was the same truck that
conveyed us to work and carried hundreds and thousands of
people to their death – naturally in the driver’s cabin
sat Haman, the driver and another Gestapowitz (Gestapo
man); they opened the doors and the persons started coming
out. Evidently they were not expecting this kind of thing.
Then Haman took a submachine gun and began firing at the
people. They were taken unawares by the shots and began
shouting and begging for mercy, but further bullets put
an end to their convulsions. This Haman approached them
and with his fingernails grabbed the flesh of a young
woman whose dress had lifted somewhat.
Presiding Judge: Were they women or men?
Witness Karasik: Two women and six men, apparently a
complete family. Afterwards we asked what it was all
about. Then the Germans told us that they had gone to
fetch pigs for us, for the Feast, for them and for us, and
these people had apparently resisted or did not want to
give them, and then they brought them to the forest and
Attorney General: Throughout the time that you worked in
this unit did they give you food?
Witness Karasik: Yes, as much as we wanted, and also
brandy to drink – this was the well-known Samogon. They
also drank, but not Samogon but liqueur.
Q. Now, tell us, were there many graves of Jews which you
discovered with the “Shield of David?”
A. Yes, there were also graves we discovered with the
armband and the Shield of David on the arms. For us this
was a surprise. In these graves the eyes of all of them
were tied with a piece of cloth. In all the other graves
we had not found this. We found it in one grave.
A. Yes. There was one case where we unearthed a grave in
the vicinity of Lida. The grave was close to what had
once been a village. At that time it was no longer a
village but chimney stacks which stood on the site of the
village. In this grave there were only women and
children; there were no men there at all. Afterwards we
learned, according to what the Germans said, that the men
had escaped to the partisans, to the forest. When we
discovered this grave, we saw on top one woman who lay
there with a baby in her arm and a little girl at her side
and a baby on her back, bound to her with cloth. It was a
shocking picture. And this “Boxer” began to cry, tears
welled up in his eyes, but the rest of his comrades
started mocking him…
Q. Which comrades?
A. His comrades, they started to mock and laugh and that
is how it ended.
Q. Mr. Karasik, you did this work up to the date that you
Presiding Judge: This means up to July 1944?
Witness Karasik: On 13 July 1944 they liquidated us.
Attorney General: And on that day?
Witness Karasik: That day we passed by Zalonka, near
Bialystok – this was about six to eight kilometres away.
Q. Let me guide you with my questions; please simply
confirm to me if I am right or not. In the middle of the
work they ordered you to stop work, and to burn the
Q. You asked the guards whether this meant the end of all
Q. They, too, were nervous?
A. Very nervous.
Q. They took all the implements from you, they ordered you
to line up in threes, and to walk in the direction of an