Q. What happened to Gershon Willner in this “action”?
A. I returned home at 3:30 from my forced labour assignment.
From a distance I saw two Gestapo men entering the house,
wearing black uniform and the skull sign on their caps,
together with a Polish policeman. I didn’t go home but went
to a house nearby and waited until they left. They left
with my brother-in-law Gershon Willner.
Q. Did you see him after that?
A. I did not see him after that. My father followed him to
the nearby town of Zarshin and asked the Polish police there
to set him free. They immediately arrested him, too. That
same evening they took both of them to the Sanok prison,
where they remained for one month. Then they transferred
them to Rzesow and from there to Tarnow. We didn’t know
what happened to them from then on.
Q. When did you get news about him again?
A. The next time I heard of him was on 25 June 1942.
Q. Did you receive a notification about him?
A. We received a telegram from the Grenzpolizei (Frontier
Police) Gestapo in Sanok: “The Jew Gershon Willner died in
Auschwitz of a heart attack. You have to obtain a permit to
travel to Auschwitz and receive the ashes against payment.”
Nobody went, of course, because we were afraid. Everybody
was afraid that he would not come back.
Q. Was he in good health?
Q. He never suffered from heart disease?
A. I don’t remember his having done so.
Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius do you wish to question the
Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.
Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mr. Silbermann, you have
finished your testimony.
Attorney General: I submit the documents concerning Gershon
Willner, first our No. 721 of 17 April 1942. The Argentine
embassy makes enquiries regarding the fate of Gershon
Willner. He was arrested according to the note. In Lvov it
was known that Willner was Argentinian. On June 4 1942, the
representative of the Foreign Ministry of the Governor
General of Poland writes to the Foreign Ministry that it is
intended to transfer the Jew Willner to Auschwitz
concentration camp. On 16 June 1942 the Foreign Ministry
applies to the Reichsfuehrer of the SS with the urgent
request – on the strength of foreign policy considerations –
not to transfer the Jew Willner to a concentration camp.
Enclosed with the letter are a copy of the memorandum of the
Argentine Embassy and copy of the report of the
representative of the Foreign Ministry of the Governor
General in Cracow. “Of course, he is not to be allowed to
go abroad in order to prevent him from propaganda activity
Presiding Judge: This is exhibit T/346.
Attorney General: On 9 July 1942 Adolf Eichmann informs the
Foreign Ministry that “the Argentinian Jew Gershon Willner
died on 12.4. of heart failure, in spite of plentiful
administration of stimulants. For your information,
Presiding Judge: This will be exhibit T/347.
Judge Halevi: As for the date…
Attorney General: Yes, I know that the death as reported by
him occurred in April. He also lied in this respect.
Judge Halevi: The previous document shows that he was alive
on 4 June, if that letter is correct.
Attorney General: We also hear when the notice of his death
Judge Halevi: After the Argentinian enquiry, after the
Attorney General: After the intervention.
Judge Halevi: The first intervention is dated 17 April.
Then in June it says they intend to transfer him to
Auschwitz, and in July the Accused quotes 12 April as the
date of his death, which is five days before the
Attorney General: Yes, already before the Argentinians
intervened at all.
And now some documents concerning the bitter fate of Jenny
Cozzi, a Jewish woman who was married to an Italian. Since
he was an army officer the Italian authorities were
interested in her. I shall submit the letters in
chronological sequence. Our document No. 744 – letter of 10
November 1942 addressed by Guenther of IVB4 to the Foreign
Ministry, reporting that in the course of evacuations in the
occupied regions of the East the Jewess Cozzi was
transferred to the Riga Ghetto. She was married to an
Italian who has died and claims for herself the rights of an
Aryan, under the Italian laws. “She managed to contact the
Italian Consul General in Danzig, who is urging us to
release Cozzi from the ghetto and to facilitate her travel
to Italy. It is worthy of mention that the Jewess Cozzi has
not mastered the Italian language. For Security Police
reasons I consider it inappropriate to grant the Italian
Consul General’s request. There is reason to fear that the
Jewess Cozzi will make use of conditions prevailing in the
Riga Ghetto for the purpose of atrocity propaganda. I shall
be grateful if an undertaking could be received from the
Italian Embassy ensuring that Consul General Guiriati
refrains from such further requests or from lending further
assistance to the Jewess Cozzi.” This letter was written by
Guenther, Eichmann’s deputy, on a IVB4 letterhead.
Presiding Judge: This is exhibit T/348.
Attorney General: But the matter did not rest there. On 15
March 1943 Eichmann writes again to the Foreign Ministry: “I
still consider that the release of the Jewess Cozzi from the
Riga Ghetto for repatriation to Italy is not to be advocated
(nicht vertretbar). I therefore, request once again to urge
the Italian Embassy in Berlin to refrain from further
support for the woman Cozzi.”
Presiding Judge: This is exhibit T/349.
Attorney General: But the Italians persisted and continued
in their fight for the life of that woman. The
representative of the Foreign Ministry with the Reich
Commissioner for Ostland writes to the Foreign Ministry in
Berlin on 20 April 1943: “…to let off (Abschiebung) Jews
of foreign nationality who are interned in the ghetto causes
considerable misgivings from the point of view of the police
security.” The Senior Commander of the Security Police in
Latvia is also of the opinion that the Italian Embassy
should be prevailed upon to refrain from any further support
Presiding Judge: This is exhibit T/350.
Attorney General: The fight for Cozzi’s life continues.
Presiding Judge: Do you have another copy of the previous
Attorney General: In Hebrew, if it can be of some help. I
have this document in German and in Hebrew. The foreign
Ministry writes to the “Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des
SD, attention of S.S. Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann” that
Cozzi is the holder of an Italian passport. She is not
Italian but a Jewess from the East; only by marrying an
Italian officer, an Aryan, who has died in the meantime, she
obtained Italian nationality. They appreciate our fears
based on Security Police considerations if Cozzi would be
set free; yet the Embassy Secretary declared that he would
look into the matter in response to a request submitted by
the Foreign Ministry. Early in June, Embassy Secretary
Lanza raised the subject again and expressed the Italians’
surprise at not having received a final reply. Von Thadden
adds that Lanza appreciated our attitude but did not believe
that our request would be complied with, since Mrs. Cozzi
was in possession of an Italian passport; the principles
underlying their legal concept compel Italy to intervene on
her behalf unconditionally. In view of the foregoing it
will not be politically possible to reject the Italian
demand, unless most weighty considerations do not favour the
granting of an exit permit to Mrs. Cozzi and the arrangement
will meet with the approval of the Italians.”
Presiding Judge: This is exhibit T/351.
Judge Halevi: This took place shortly before the invasion
of Italy, before the landing of the allies?
Attorney General: Yes. The story has not yet come to an
end. On 6 July 1943 Guenther writes to von Thadden in the
Foreign Ministry about Cozzi. The High Commissioner of the
Fascist Party for the occupied Eastern territories applied
to the Head of the Ostland Department of the NSDAP in Berlin
for authorization of the transfer of the Jewess Cozzi to
Italy. The Fascist Party turns to the National-Socialist
Party in order to save a Jewish woman of Italian nationality
from the ghetto in Riga.
Presiding Judge: This is T/352.
Attorney General: On 28 July 1943 the representative of the
Foreign Ministry expresses his apprehensions in the event of
her being permitted to leave.
Presiding Judge: T/353.
Attorney General: Now to the conclusion of this episode.
The person who puts the final touch to it is Adolf Eichmann.
In his letter of 25 September 1943 his final answer to von
Thadden reads: “In view of the changed political conditions
in Italy, further steps in this matter are to be dispensed
with. I have issued instructions for the Jewess Cozzi to be
accommodated in the Riga concentration camp.”
Changed conditions are to be interpreted as Italy’s exit
from the War. No attention has to be paid any longer to the
Italians’ wishes. The fate of the Jewish woman Cozzi is
Presiding Judge: T/354.
Attorney General: There are another three documents on this
subject. The Hungarian authorities enquired about a
Hungarian national, Reszoe Sillec, a journalist who lived in
Warsaw. He was the leader of a Hungarian national group in
Presiding Judge: Is he a Jew?
Attorney General: A Jew. Department IVB4 serves notice that
they are opposed to his departure with his wife for reasons
of weighty Security Police considerations. “I intend to
transfer him to a concentration camp for the duration of the
War. Before doing so, I would ask for your opinion.”
Presiding Judge: Who signed it, Novak?
Attorney General: Krischak. On the margin of the letter a
note has been added, probably by the Foreign Ministry.
“Krischak told me that his office is strictly opposed to the
departure of Sillec. His transfer to the concentration camp
is the easiest of all possible solutions.” This is Dept.
Presiding Judge: The note on the margin is by von Thadden?
Attorney General: It may be assumed that it is by von
Thadden. It is his handwriting and his signature.
Presiding Judge: T/355.
Attorney General: The Rumanian nationals, the Zuckermann
family, on whose behalf the Foreign Ministry also
intervened, were not saved. Department IVB4 reports that
they were transferred to Ravensbrueck concentration camp and
that the Consulate General of Rumania should be advised
Presiding Judge: T/356.
Attorney General: The last document of this series,
concerning the same family – von Thadden remarks in an
internal note of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that a
reopening of the Zuckermann case by the
Reichssicherheitshauptamt would serve no purpose.
Presiding Judge: T/357. The court will now adjourn. The
next Session will be this afternoon at 15:30.