Q. Did you see your mother after that?
A. In the Chelmno camp.
Q. They took you to Chelmno?
Q. What happened when you got down from the trucks?
A. We got off the trucks, and then they brought a sort of
chair and told us to put our feet on the chair, and they put
chains on our legs.
Q. The chains were on your legs from that time, until when?
A. Until the end, until liberation.
Q. When was that?
A. In 1945.
Presiding Judge: Your legs were in chains?
Witness Srebrnik: Yes.
Judge Halevi: On what date did you reach Chelmno?
Witness Srebrnik: In 1943, close to the year 1944.
Presiding Judge: How were you able to move, to walk?
Witness Srebrnik: I could not walk – I only moved my feet;
Q. What was the length of chain between your two legs?
What do you estimate the length was?
A. Forty centimetres.
Attorney General: Were the chains on your legs at night as
Witness Srebrnik: Yes.
Q. Was there a building there which had been blown up, when
Q. Did you know what had been there previously?
A. I did not know what had been there previously. When I
arrived, the building had been blown up, and we were told –
by the people in charge of the camp – to clean it. When I
came there, I was the first. There was nobody in the camp.
We began cleaning the stones and everything. We found bones
there, and all kinds of things – skulls, hands and legs. We
did not know what it was.
Q. Afterwards, was it explained to you what it was?
A. Afterwards, it was explained to me that there had been a
magnificent villa there, a beautiful building, and there had
been Jews inside. They had contracted some sickness. They
put them inside, and blew up the building together with
Q. This happened before you arrived?
Q. This had been during the first period of operation of the
extermination camp at Chelmno?
Q. Afterwards, you met Obersturmbannfuehrer Bothmann, is
Q. What did he say to you?
A. He came to us and said to us: If you are unable to work,
tell me; whoever cannot work will go out into the fresh air.
This was on the second day – we were still able to work, and
no one wanted to go out into the fresh air. Two or three
days after that, he returned and said: “Are you still able
to work?” One of us stood up and said: “It is a little
difficult for me, if I can go out to rest a little, I would
appreciate it.” And then he said: “I cannot send one person
– I must send several men to the recreation home.” A few
more men left the ranks, and he asked them to follow him.
They accompanied him, he told them to lie down, and he took
out his revolver and shot them.
Presiding Judge: Did you see this?
Witness Srebrnik: Yes.
Attorney General: When did transports of Jews reach Chelmno,
after your arrival?
Witness Srebrnik: About three months after my arrival.
Perhaps it was two months after, I don’t remember exactly.
Q. What did you do during those two or three months?
A. We put up huts, we put up tents, there was work in the
Waldkommando and in preparing the crematorium.
Q. When did the gas trucks arrive?
A. The gas trucks arrived when the crematorium was ready – a
few days before that.
Q. Afterwards, people began arriving. Where did they come
A. From Lodz.
Q. Did you see how they loaded the people on to the trucks?
Q. Describe it to the Court.
A. They gave them soap and a towel and told them they were
going to wash. Eighty to a hundred people entered each
truck. They went inside, and the doors were closed behind
them. On the way, the gas from the motor penetrated inside.
In this way, they were poisoned.
Q. What happened to the gold teeth and rings of the bodies?
A. I worked on this almost all the time. I worked together
with another Unterscharfuehrer.
Q. What was his name?
A. His name was Walter. We worked on sorting the teeth. I
sorted the teeth alone, but the rest, the gold, the silver
and other items – these I sorted together with him. I sat
there and extracted the gold from the front teeth.
Q. You did this inside the camp?
A. Yes, inside the camp.
Q. Who brought the teeth there?
A. Sometimes he took me to the forest, and I helped him
bring all the gold to the camp; sometimes they brought it
Q. Who were “they”?
A. The men of the Waldkommando.
Q. Did you belong to the Hauskommando (House Detachment)?
Q. Were the men of the Hauskommando left alive?
A. No. Every fortnight he made a selection and asked each
one: “How long have you been here?” If someone said he had
been there eight days, he said to him: “You come to the
forest tomorrow.” Once he came when I had been there three
months. He asked me: “How long have you been here?” I said
to him: “Two days.” He began cursing me in German, saying I
was lying to him, and I began crying. I wept and I shouted,
and then Walter, with whom I had been working, went outside
and said something to him, and he left me alone. I don’t
know what he said.
Q. Did they arrange physical exercises for you, for the
members of the Jewish unit?
Q. Please describe it.
A. He used to do it specially…
Q. Who was “he”?
A. Obersturmbannfuehrer Hans Bothmann, he did it on the
Presiding Judge: Obersturmbannfuehrer or Obersturm-fuehrer?
Witness Srebrnik: Obersturmbannfuehrer.
Presiding Judge: That is a very high rank.
Attorney General: Are you sure of his rank?
Witness Srebrnik: I once heard him speaking on the
telephone, and he answered “Obersturmbannfuehrer”.
Q. Is that how you know?
Q. Actually, he was of a much lower rank, as far as is known
to us. Please continue.
A. On Sabbath days, he would come whenever he was in the
mood for a little fun. He would come, call out four men – I
was always the fifth – and say to us: “You see this finger?”
(He pointed to his thumb.) We answered: “Yes.” He would
ask: “What is this?” “A finger.” He would say to us: “No,
that is not a finger. If I do this (he pointed his thumb
downwards), you lie down; if I do this (he pointed his thumb
upwards), you stand.” And he moved it this way and that, in
either direction, and we lay down and we got up, we lay
down, and we raised ourselves up, until we had no more
breath left. I always used to watch him, and if I saw that
he was not looking, I did not get up. If I saw he was
looking in my direction, I lay down. If I saw that he was
watching, I began to get up. The others were getting up and
lying down all the time. Once he told them to get up, and
they were no longer able to do so, they had no breath left.
He said to them: “You cannot get up?” They were not even
able to speak. He asked me: “Spinnefix” (this is what he
called me) “you, too, cannot stand up?” I answered, “Yes, I
can,” and I got up, for I had not done all these exercises.
He pulled out his revolver, went up to them and killed them.
Q. How many people were brought to Chelmno for
extermination, after they began arriving?
A. About 1,000-1,200.
Q. Every day?
Q. They set a dog on you? Is that correct?
Q. Who did that?
Q. Do you still have the scars of the bites on your body?
Q. You say that Jews arrived from Lodz. But were all these
Jews residents of Lodz originally?
A. No, amongst them were Czechs and Germans.
Q. Who had previously been concentrated in Lodz – in
Litzmannstadt, as the Germans called it – and from where
they were sent for extermination to Chelmno?
Q. Do you remember an escape of one of the boys of the
Q. Please describe it to the Court.
A. The day before it happened, a transport arrived. He was
working in the Waldkommando. His sister was one of those
who arrived. He was engaged in casting the bodies into the
fire. He saw his sister. In the evening he asked to remove
Q. He saw his sister’s corpse?
A. Yes…and he threw her inside the crematorium. In the
evening, he asked to go outside with the garbage cans.
Q. To go out where?
A. With the garbage cans of our hut, of our building. Every
evening we used to go out to empty the refuse buckets, and
we used to take it in turns. He asked whether he could go
outside and was given permission. When we went outside to
empty the refuse – they did not watch too closely – six men
went outside together with a Wachmeister (an N.C.O), a
soldier. He ran away and they did not notice him. He had a
chain. He was able to remove the chain from one leg, and he
tied it to the other leg. He could not take it off the
other leg. He tried to cross the water, the Ner River,
which one had to cross by boat.
The gentile, who was to ferry him across in a boat, saw that
a chain had been removed from one of his legs. He went off
immediately, left him on the boat, and went back on to land
and ran inland. In his house there was a German. He said
to him: “There is a Jew there, a Jew who is escaping.” The
German went out and killed him.
We did not know about this. In the evening, at eight
o’clock, Sturmscharfuehrer Alois Hoefle came and said to us:
“Get out, form up, number off!”
We numbered off – there was one missing. He asked us,
“Where is the missing one?” We answered, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Four men fall out.” Four of our men went
out. They went down to the place where this murdered man
was lying and brought the body up to our camp. He said:
“You see, he escaped.”
The next morning, at six, Walter came and took me out of the
camp, took me to the camp of the Gestapo and told me to wash
the floors. At 9.00, Obersturmbannfuehrer Hans Bothmann
arrived and said: “Fifteen men – fall out!” Fifteen men
fell out – he pulled out his revolver, loaded it three times
and killed them. After that, he said to us: “You know what
this is for?” We said: “No.” He said: “Because he escaped.
If someone should escape again, I will lay you all flat.”
When I returned from the Gestapo, they told me that he had
been looking for me.
Q. What did the men of the Waldkommando look like after they
had been working for some time?
A. They were black and they were smelling – they never
Q. Were they able to remove their clothes?
A. No – only their shirts. They never took off their
Q. When did they begin to dismantle the camp of Chelmno?
A. Three months before the liberation. We were then seventy-
eight men. Then Alois Hoefle came to us and told us that
forty men would be going to another camp, that they would be
well off there, and that they would have everything, they
would get everything under better conditions than here.
Forty men were taken out and were loaded on to a truck. But
we said to them that if they noticed that they were riding
in the direction of the forest, they should write some kind
of a note. The truck returned to the Hauskommando. I was
sent to the Tankstelle (filling station) to look for a note
in the truck. I walked around, I boarded the truck, and I
found a note. I could not read it – I did not understand
Hebrew. It said: “To death.” I gave it to my colleagues.
Then we knew already that they had been taken to the forest
and put to death.
Q. What happened to the others?
A. The rest of us – we worked. There were twenty artisans
who worked for them, there were twenty-seven members of the
Hauskommando…of the Waldkommando and Hauskommando
together. We dismantled the camp, all the huts, we cleaned
everything, and in the winter – this was in January 1945 –
they opened the door. Meister Lenz said: “Five people out!”
I always used to run – I was the youngest, so I ran. I did
not even put on my trousers – I went in underpants and vest
only. I went outside, together with another young man from
Czechoslovakia. He was a doctor. He immediately went into
a state of shock – he began to sing and dance. Then Meister
Lenz asked Hans Bothmann where they should be made to lie
down. Bothmann replied: “A little further away.” He then
told us to lie down. I lay down. The first five of us lay
down. We lay there with our backs upwards, I heard the
first shot, and then I began moving my head. There was a
second shot and suddenly, with the third, I was hit by a
Q. Where did the bullet strike you?
A. Here [the witness points to his neck].
Q. Is there a scar?
Q. Show it to the Court.
A. [The witness shows the Court the spot where he was