Q. When was that?
A. It was on 25 March 1942.
Q. And after two months in Majdanek, you were transferred to
A. I was taken to Auschwitz in a transport that was
specially for that purpose.
Q. For what reason?
A. There was a rumour that workers were needed for a dextrin
factory in Germany and, on this pretext, they were looking
for experts, men of all sorts of professions, including
twenty-five doctors, and about fifty children as
apprentices. I was amongst those young people.
Presiding Judge: How old were you then?
Witness Ben-Zvi: I was sixteen.
Attorney General: Describe for us how you arrived at
Witness Ben-Zvi: After a long journey – I don’t know
exactly for how many days – inside freight cars, with about
forty persons to a car, we reached Birkenau – not Auschwitz,
but the railway platform at Birkenau, which I got to know
after that – later.
Q. Perhaps this is the occasion for me to ask you a
question, which possibly I have not yet clarified for the
Court. What was the difference between Auschwitz and
A. I can explain that briefly. The difference was that the
Auschwitz camp, which was called the Stammlager (original
camp) was near the town of Auschwitz, and the Birkenau camp
was six kilometres away from the Stammlager – in the fields.
That was in 1942, at the beginning of its construction, when
the barracks which later constituted Birkenau were not yet
Q. And what did Birkenau develop into, subsequently?
A. In the course of time, Birkenau developed into and became
the principal camp, containing most of the people who were
at Auschwitz. Compared with Birkenau, Auschwitz was a small
camp, containing roughly twenty-four buildings.
Q. Where was the crematorium?
A. The crematoria – all of them – were in Birkenau, but not
Q. But afterwards?
A. Yes, afterwards.
Q. Where were the gas chambers?
A. The gas chambers were inside the crematorium buildings in
Q. What were Auschwitz 1, Auschwitz 2 and Auschwitz 3?
A. Auschwitz 1 was the Stammlager, which was divided by a
high wall, a stone wall, into camps for men and women. Camp
2 was the women’s camp. Later on, they demolished the wall,
and all of it became a camp for men. Auschwitz 3 – I don’t
know what it was called. But I knew Birkenau as well as its
Q. You were in Birkenau?
A. Yes. For most of the time, I was in Birkenau.
Q. What was Birkenau?
A. Birkenau was a tremendous camp, which stretched over a
huge, a large area. They also had there the camps of the SS
who guarded the camps; that was the “SS Lager.” The Truppen-
Lazarett (German field hospital) of the SS was there. I
shall refer to it later in connection with a particular
Q. Would I be wrong in saying that people generally thought
that Auschwitz 2 was Birkenau?
A. I don’t know whether it is possible to describe Birkenau
as Auschwitz 2 – at any rate, Birkenau had its name as
Q. Please continue.
A. The camps were divided in the following way: The old
camp, which was in existence in my time, at the time when I
arrived at the camp, was called – later on, much later on –
the Frauenlager (women’s camp), from which the men had been
removed. It was divided into two: The men were on the right
side of the road, and the women were on the left side of the
road. On the other side of the road which separated the two
camps, they started building the camps of Birkenau, the
Pferdestallbaracken (the horse-stable barracks), which were
divided in the following way. There was a road which
separated the SS camp from the prisoners’ camp. After that,
there was Camp A, which was called the “Quarantine Camp,” to
which all people were brought first of all, after the
selection. After that, there was Camp B2 – that was a camp
for Czechs, for the Czech Jews who arrived there – the
Familienlager (the family camp).
Next there was Camp C, the Hungarian camp, to which were
brought, mainly, the Hungarian women; before this camp was
filled up, it became necessary to construct 3B, which was a
further camp, built in 1944, when the Hungarian transports
arrived. Next, there was a road which separated these camps
– that was the famous road leading from the railway station
to the gas chambers. And beyond that, there was the men’s
camp, Camp B.
Further on, there was the Zigeunerlager, the camp to which
the Gypsies were brought at a later stage, also at the time
when I was there. Then there was Camp F – that was the
Krankenbau (sick wards) or the Revier. That was a camp
where the living quarters were better – not the
Pferdestallbaracken; these were buildings with windows.
Presiding Judge: What is the meaning of
Witness Ben-Zvi: That was the description for buildings
without windows, with windows in the roof, with a stove in
the centre, with one opening in front.
Q. But it was intended for human beings, not horses?
A. No, it was meant for human beings. I was one of those
who constructed these buildings; each separate section was
marked: “Pferdestallbaracke Number so-and-so.”
Q. There were no horses there?
A. No. After Camp F, there was Camp Brzezinski – that was a
special camp before the sauna, where people were washed, and
crematorium No. 3 was on the one side and crematorium No. 4
on the other. Between these two crematoria, there was this
complex which I have just described.
Attorney General: And, apart from this, there were
subsidiary camps in the vicinity, many labour camps?
Witness Ben-Zvi: In the whole neighbourhood, there were
camps to which people were sent, who remained there for a
certain length of time – and from these camps people were
subsequently taken to the gas chambers – those people who
had been exploited and who were no longer able to work.
Presiding Judge: How is it that you know the topography of
the place so well? Or possibly, this question pertains to a
Attorney General: No, please answer.
Witness Ben-Zvi: I could say, perhaps, that it is because
I have a good memory. I worked in the Kommando which was
called Bauleitungsmagazin (Building Management Stores).
This Kommando had to repair hoes and various other work
tools and to hand them out to the various camps. Hence,
with this Kommando, I moved around throughout the area. The
Kommando was able to move in this area which was known as
“Die grosse Postenkette” (the large chain of sentries).
Q. You have a relatively low number?
Presiding Judge: How large, do you estimate, was the whole
area of Birkenau?
Witness Ben-Zvi: I cannot give you an exact evaluation,
but from Camp B3 up to the end of the former women’s camp it
could have been between eight and ten kilometres, and the
same in the opposite direction.
Attorney General: That means eight kilometres by eight
Witness Ben-Zvi: Eight to ten kilometres square.
Q. In each direction?
A. In each direction.
Q. That is to say, between 64 and 100 square kilometres?
Q. You went through quarantine when you arrived. How was it
A. At that time, the quarantine camp which I mentioned was
not yet in existence. Very simply, we were taken to one of
the stone blocks standing there. We were taken inside. We
were told: Since you have come from another camp, you will
have to live closed in here for four days and not come into
contact with the other prisoners, and not do any work other
than that within the camp. That was called a quarantine
camp, but it amounted almost only to the fact that we did
not receive food or drink.
Q. For how long?
A. For approximately four days.
Q. And after those four days?
A. Following those four days, we were taken out to work, to
various jobs. Amongst other tasks, there was work…they
detailed the men who had remained in the camp in order to
carry dead bodies – of people who had died in block 7 – into
the Leichenkammer (the mortuary) which was in block 21, and
from the mortuary to load them on the carts that were
waiting in front of the camp. And the Russian prisoners who
were still there – not in large numbers – they transported
them further; where to, I don’t know.
Q. Was your brother-in-law, who was a doctor, with you?
A. Yes. I was with my brother-in-law who was one of the
twenty-six doctors in that transport which had been sent to
the textile, dextrin, factory.
Q. And he helped you during the first stages. What happened
to him ultimately?
A. He was killed in the Tiefbau (earthworks). That was
actually a Kommando which was sent out daily with three
hundred men, and only a hundred and fifty returned. They
dug pits for burying the dead.
Q. And what happened to the others?
A. The others were killed by the guards, by men of the SS.
They were shot following all kinds of tricks. An SS man
would throw a cap away and would say: “Run and pick up the
cap”; a man would run and be shot. And so it was with all
sorts of abnormal deaths.
Q. The food was not sufficient for you. How did you try,
together with your brother-in-law, to obtain food?
A. I remember one instance – perhaps now it might seem
strange. But behind the old block, there was a large
wolfhound, on a leash; it belonged to the Blockfuehrer, an
SS man who was in charge of the block. This dog always had
a dish full of food, better food than that given to us. My
brother-in-law once proposed that we should go up to the
dog, he would divert him with a stick, while I would crawl
up and pull away the dog’s food dish. But this trick did
not succeed many times, since the dog became familiar with
it and afterwards would not move from the spot. These were
heavy porcelain bowls in the shape of a cone, white bowls.
Q. Were you engaged in loading bodies taken from the
A. Yes. It was the kind of work which was left to those men
who had not managed to get themselves into some Kommando or
other, in order to go out of the camp. At first sight, this
was rewarding work. After work, everyone was given
something to drink – and that was something of great value –
some kind of black liquid they called coffee.
Q. Did many remain alive after being engaged in this work?
A. At that time very few survived, because of the diseases,
lack of food, and the terrible conditions of 1942 – very few
men remained alive. Many were also killed by SS men who did
so wildly, and also by the Kapos who were extremely cruel at
Q. One evening, at a roll-call, did they call out your
A. One evening, they called out my number, together with
those of several other men, about another twelve. Usually,
the calling out of numbers was not a good omen. But, in our
situation, we always hoped it might be something better.
Q. Men were not called by their names?
A. No, only by number. I forgot to point out that, at the
time I came to Birkenau, we received a tattooed inscription
on our chest – and only afterwards on the arm.
Q. You have tattoo marks both on your chest and on your arm?
A. Yes. The next day, we walked for a distance of some six
kilometres and were taken to the Stammlager in Auschwitz,
the camp on whose gates there was a sign saying “Arbeit
macht frei” (work makes you free). As compared with
Birkenau, this was a much better equipped camp. After the
process of the sauna and disinfection and of an exchange of
clothes, we were transferred to block 11, the SK block, the
Strafkompanie (the punishment unit). There were Poles in
this block, apart from Jews. It was altogether a strange
block, a camp within a camp. It was a block which was
closed after the roll-call, and it was forbidden to leave
it, even to walk into the camp. There was also a scaffold
standing there, a gallows, and a wall against which people
were shot. There people used to be shot.
In that block that was a special status for Jews, both on
the part of the Germans, and also on the part of the Poles
who guarded us. The Poles called us “Zhidki”, and the
Germans, of course, called us “Saujuden” (Jewish swine).
And even when the whole camp moved around after roll-call,
we were still forced to stand outside, and we were let into
our rooms at nine or ten o’clock in the evening, when it was
dark – this was done as a kind of sport. It was called
sport – there were steps leading to this building, and after
people had been exhausted by a day’s work: “Hinlegen! Auf!
Rollen! Huepfen!” (Lie down! Get up! Roll over! Jump!), we
were made to hop into the block, and this was the way we
entered our rooms.
Presiding Judge: What do you mean by “hop”?
Witness Ben-Zvi: To hop was called “huepfen”.
Q. On one foot?
A. No. Hands on hips, and making short jumps on both feet.
Q. Why were you privileged to be sent to this Strafkommando?
A. To this day I don’t know, since we did not do anything in
particular. For them, that was a technical transfer, but we
were accommodated there. Some of our people also worked in
the Bunakommando, and also in other places.
Attorney General: What was the Bunakommando?
A. That was a very large labour detachment that went out
every day at three o’clock in the morning to work, to build
factories for synthetic rubber, not far from Auschwitz.
Q. Of I.G. Farben?
A. Yes. After work, I met the men who returned later at
night, and it turned out that they were taken to their place
of work, which was half an hour’s ride away, for three hours
in freight cars, 150-160 men, and they were also forced to
sing. They had shoes, but they were not allowed to wear
them, in order to preserve them. They were required to walk
barefoot on piercing gravel. Most of them died, for
everyone whose feet were swollen and injured went off on the
first selection for the gas chambers.
Q. When you were hopping and jumping in that way, was that
in front of the men of the SS?
A. Definitely. SS men stood on the steps, and it was they
who urged us on and also gave the orders.
Q. What was their reaction to the sight of the hopping, the
jumping, and the skipping?
A. Their reaction was usually one of anger, and accompanied
by lashes of the whips and the sticks that they had in their