Q. Would you describe your first encounter and where it took
A. My first encounter was in one of the camps – or let me
put it this way – in the first of the refugee camps I
visited. Perhaps I should begin by saying a few words by
way of clarification. The whole of Europe was covered with
such camps, in which there were close to eight million
displaced persons. There were ten to twelve categories
amongst them, which were all defined in a particular
document which was called “Administrative Memorandum No. 39,
June 1944,” which laid down how all those found in camps in
Germany were to be dealt with. Amongst them, there were
people of various categories, from all the nations, and the
Allied armies accepted it as their first objective to send
all of them home with the greatest possible speed.
By day and by night, convoys were moving by all means of
transportation: in trains, planes, carts, on horse, on foot,
to all countries, from the central point, from Germany and
its occupied territories, homewards. And, of course, we
went into those camps in order to search for the Jews. Our
truck remained standing in the huge area of the camp –
extending over several kilometres – and on it a little flag
fluttered, the size of the palm of a hand. After I had
approached camp headquarters for a few moments to ask if
there were Jews in the camp, I returned and saw that,
suddenly, the truck was surrounded by a mass – something
which, to this day, it is difficult to forget – it was
impossible to call them human beings. They were creatures,
but they were not human beings. At first, I thought that
some altercation had broken out between the four or five
soldiers who had remained in the truck and the inmates of
Presiding Judge: What camp was that?
Witness Hoter-Yishai: Freimann Flak-Kaserne (anti-aircraft
barracks) – not far from Munich.
When I came nearer, I saw that these hundreds of people were
fighting with the little strength they had – each one wanted
to get nearer to the soldier who was standing in the middle,
in order to touch with their hands the Jewish Brigade’s
emblem, the Shield of David that was embroidered on his
sleeve, and, naturally, these four soldiers were not able to
reach the hundreds who were surrounding them, and there were
some who bent down and kissed the Shield of David which was
painted on the mudguards of the truck, as was usual with a
military vehicle. And those who could not manage to reach
either the soldier or the truck crawled among the people on
the ground and embraced the feet of the soldiers and kissed
their dusty shoes.
Attorney General: Were those Jews?
Witness Hoter-Yishai: They were Jews. We – if the Court
will allow me to speak in the plural, since the operation
was carried out not by one individual, it was performed by
hundreds of soldiers. The Jewish Brigade passed through all
the camps. And everyone who visited a camp gave the same
description of his encounter with the people.
Q. Did you visit the blocks in which these people lived?
A. We visited them in all these camps, since people were
housed in national blocks; and this, too, was the result of
that same murderous system of detention which the Nazis
employed, because every person – I think the Court is better
informed of this than I am – was arrested without any
documents or, more correctly, all his documents were
Presiding Judge: Yes, we have heard about this.
Witness Hoter-Yishai: For this reason, it was impossible
to obtain a list from the camp commandants, it was
impossible to get to them then, it was impossible to know
where they were to be found. In order to reach them, it was
necessary to concentrate them in national camps, as a Jewish
camp, something which was, of course, objected to by the
directors of all camps which were run on national blocks, by
national officers, and also the camp managements; and I
believe that no other force in the world would have been
able to get them, or – more correctly – to provide them with
the spiritual and physical strength to get them out of these
blocks and to concentrate in one place, other than a Jewish
Force, which gave them the impression, as if the entire
Yishuv [Jewish community of Palestine] had appeared there
and had brought them the power, as well as the authority,
and had also provided them with the miracle.
However miraculous these happenings might seem to me today,
it was sufficient to take a sheet and paint a Shield of
David on it with ink and, after attaching it to a
broomstick, to give it to two to three hundred persons –
each of whom looked like a skeleton – and then they would
feel themselves linked suddenly to a certain centre, and
they had the strength to congregate and to refuse to allow
the officers of the country to which they had previously
belonged, in whose block they had previously been – to
refuse to allow them to take them out of there.
Attorney General: And that was how you took them out of
their anonymity, is that so?
Witness Hoter-Yishai: That was the way we gathered them
together. To take them out of their anonymity was a much
more difficult task. For there were hundreds and thousands
who had meantime been in hospitals, also in farmhouses, who
had wandered in the forests without an identity, and the
problem of all of them was whether they still had surviving
relatives. And since it had meanwhile become known that in
certain camps women had been saved, hundreds of women,
hundreds of children, this entire community – it was natural
for each one to hope that perhaps his wife was amongst the
survivors, perhaps his child was amongst the survivors, and
they broke out of the camps, in order to return to their
countries, precisely to the place where they were separated
– perhaps they would find one of them alive.
Q. Do you remember an encounter in Camp Saint Ottilien?
A. Saint Ottilien was a monastery which had been converted
into a hospital by the physician, Dr. Greenberg, and a
number of other leaders from Kovno, who gathered the wounded
from houses, from the forest, from the roads, and
concentrated them into one building.
When we came there, I remember, about four hundred of them
were lying on stretchers, without even having the strength
to tell us their names. In order to hear their names, each
one of us had actually to stoop down and place our ears next
to their lips, so that they would be able merely to whisper
their names. It became necessary to try immediately to
publish the names of each one of these Jews in all the
camps, for there were instances where a father and a brother
and a son were in the same camp, without their being aware
of it, and they tried to steal across borders and to walk
thousands of kilometres to search for one another, while
they were actually only a few blocks away.
Q. What was the position of those who were not lying on
stretchers, who were fit, as it were?
A. They had nowhere to turn to. It was natural that both
the Allied armies, and also the countries to which they
belonged, should see it as their first duty to speed up the
repatriation, and obviously this was some kind of an order,
to return them to their country, or, more correctly…in a
particular camp in Styria, not far from Graz…
Presiding Judge: Where was Saint Ottilien?
Witness Hoter-Yishai: St. Ottilien, Your Honour, is
seventy kilometres from Munich. I entered Styria solely in
order to obtain a permit to cross the Russian border to
Theresienstadt. I found about three thousand persons being
forcibly loaded on to trucks, in order to be returned to
Hungary, and it transpired that all three thousand were
Jews. It was only due to the fact that I referred the
commandant to a particular order issued by Eisenhower, that
permission was granted not to repatriate those who refused
to go back, that they were taken off for forty-eight hours,
so that I could procure a specific order from Frankfurt,
from Eisenhower’s main headquarters, which I brought there.
Had the Jewish Brigade not been there, it could not have
found immediately every small Hebrew printing press or
others it was able to lay its hands on – and it must be
remembered that the area was a European battle-zone which
had been totally devastated by the bombs of both sides.
The Jewish Brigade began publishing the names. I have with
me a small, original pamphlet of the sort published, and
from it one can see that everything we were able to know
about the man, or everything the man was capable of
supplying about himself, consisted only of his name, his
year of birth, and the town where he was born. And not all
of them remembered, were even able to remember, in which
town they had lived. There is not even one address here –
of a street or house – at most it is the town where they
were born. These pamphlets were passed immediately from
camp to camp, and they were sent at once to Palestine and
printed in a newspaper in twenty-five thousand copies, and
sent back to all the camps – it put an end to this wandering
about. Still, the question remained: What next? Or,
more correctly – where to? Or, still more correctly – was
there anyone to attend to them? I shall never forget the
question asked by a senior official in the Government of
Israel today, the Registrar of Co-operative Societies in
Israel, Mr. Goren – Gorfinkel – at his first meeting with
the Jewish Brigade: Where have you been up to now – two or
three weeks after the liberation? Where were you? Or, more
correctly – where was anyone at all of the civilized world?
Obviously, I could answer him in the name of the Yishuv, to
say where we had been and tell him about the effort the
Yishuv had made to go forward and to save what could be
saved. But even those three weeks which had passed since
the day of liberation, without anyone bothering to enquire
who they were, what they were, what had happened to their
families, whether any of them had remained alive, what was
happening to them today, why they were being sent back, what
would happen to them when they returned, would they be
accepted on their return, whether anything had remained
there, whether they would not be deported again?
Within one month of the liberation, we saw people who had
begun to drift homewards and who had returned from there.
In one camp in Linz, I found a couple who had returned to
their town – out of six thousand people, close to fifteen
returned. And, on the night that the fifteen had met
together, four of them were murdered by the inhabitants who
had received their education during those years or months
under the Nazi regime, which had taken them from their homes
and handed over the homes in the way it did. And they found
that even these fifteen were superfluous, for they, too,
were likely to come along and demand something back.
They returned from their home, from their birthplace, back
to the camp, in order to seek a refuge – a camp which, of
course, was still surrounded by a barbed-wire fence, with a
ban on leaving it, with the food that was provided according
to a list in the camps.
Attorney General: Mr. Hoter-Yishai, did you also cross to
the Eastern zone of Europe in your search for Jews?
Witness Hoter-Yishai: In Theresienstadt, there were thirty-
two thousand survivors. When we came there after some
weeks, we found only four thousand, for twenty-eight
thousand had gone back or been returned. Those four
thousand whom we found – of course, not one of them went
back, for, in the meantime, they had understood what awaited
It can be said that we delivered many speeches. I would say
that we spoke to them, but my shortest speech consisted of
two sentences which, I think, on one occasion, took me one
hour, for all that I was able to say to a group of seven to
eight hundred persons who, as I gathered in the course of a
personal meeting with many of them, included some who had
stood in a gas chamber for close to eight hours. They were
taken out of the gas chamber because the gas cannister had
not been prepared. And so, what could I say other than “the
entire Yishuv”? Had we been eight hundred men standing on
the platform in one place, each one of us would have
descended from the platform and taken each one of them into
his arms, and certainly would have uttered not only words of
comfort – he would have brought him closer to himself and
embraced him as a brother who had been redeemed. But, since
I was only one person, I was only able to say that I was the
special emissary of the Yishuv – and that is what everyone
would be feeling in Palestine.
All this, of course, could be said in two minutes, but it
took close to an hour, for there was a hysteria of crying,
but it was not only they who wept – those four soldiers who
were there together with me also wept.
Presiding Judge: When was this? When did you arrive at
Witness Hoter-Yishai: In the first days of June 1945.
Q. You found four thousand Jews there?
A. Yes, we found four thousand Jews, and, on the following
day, one thousand of them left for Berlin, or, more
correctly, left via Berlin, for they were hoping to find
relatives. They left in trucks – naturally those belonging
to the Jewish Brigade. There was a great outcry in the
whole camp, as soon as that redeeming truck, containing
these four soldiers, left the camp. There was amazement:
Was there only one truck? Did not a complete convoy come
right away to take them, all of them – immediately – from
that place, from the grounds of death to the Jewish
Brigade’s camp? And, obviously, all that the truck was able
to take were those children, or, more correctly, it did not
take the children, for they asked no questions – they got
into the truck and left on it. And I do not believe that
any section of the King’s regulations or of the Army Act
could have persuaded any officer to tell such a child to get
off the truck, because we were not allowed to take them;
they simply sat inside the truck and left.
Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions?
Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.
Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mr. Hoter-Yishai – you have
concluded your evidence.
With this we have come to the end of the testimonies – so I
Attorney General: This was the last of our witnesses. We
shall have to submit one document which I will ask my
colleague, Mr. Bar-Or, to submit in the afternoon. That is
the document which we called the “Duesseldorf Document.”
Presiding Judge: Why not submit it now? We want to know
that, as far as possible, we have concluded.
Attorney General: Within ten minutes, Your Honour, we shall
be ready to submit it. I understand that the Court will not
be prepared to wait for us for ten minutes. After that, we
shall have to await the Court’s decision in the matter of
the Sassen Ddocument.
Presiding Judge: We shall give our decision on this document
at five o’clock this afternoon. We would only ask that if
the Court, or one of the judges, should wish to peruse the
material himself, we should be able to get in touch with you
here, in “Beit Ha’am,” with a representative of the
Prosecution, and then you will be able to produce the
material to us in the shortest possible time.
Attorney General: From what time should we be here, Your
Presiding Judge: Let us say – from four o’clock. So that
you may receive such notification – is that what you meant?
Attorney General: Yes.
Presiding Judge: The next Session will be this afternoon, at