Accessed 18 October 1999
Judgment in the Trial of Adolf Eichmann
120. The method used to put the
victims to death varied according to the time and place at which the
mass butchery was carried out. The
murderers used shooting, asphyxiation by gas, fire, and such other cruel
methods of killing as came to their minds.
As has been mentioned already (section 69), the slaughter began
by mass shootings to death right at the beginning of the war against
Poland in September 1939, even before the order for total extermination
was given by Hitler in 1941. Since
the Accused's connection with killings in the East at this early stage
is not evident, we shall pass over the descriptions of this period and
come to the slaughters carried out by the Operations Units, which were
set up on the eve of Hitler's war against Russia, and acted in the rear
of the advancing German army and in co-ordination with the army.
The witness Avraham Aviel testified to the mass murder of the
Jews of his native village of Dowgaliszuk, near Radom, between Grodno
and Vilna, in May 1942 (Session 29, Vol. I, pp. 496-497):
arrived from the direction of Lida in battledress, equipped with
automatic weapons, actually dressed as if they were at the battle
front... I went outside. At
the entrance to the house, I saw that a crowd of Jews were walking from
the end of the ghetto and were being forced along the road leading to
Grodno... At that moment, several
Germans entered the house. One
stood at the exit while the others spread out into the rooms and began
chasing out those who hadn't managed to conceal themselves.
Each one passing through the opening would receive a blow on the
head from a rubber truncheon, and would fall down... I bent down and
managed to get out without receiving this blow, and I joined the crowd
which was being led in the direction along which the earlier groups had
gone... Other Jews joined us on the way.
They removed more and more Jews from every house
...about one thousand... I walked with my mother... I was on her
right, my brother on her left. This
is how we went... They brought us to the marketplace in the centre of
the village and forced us to kneel with our heads bent downwards.
We were not allowed to raise our heads.
Whoever did so received a bullet in the head or blows with
sticks... We saw that anyone who slackened his pace was shot on the
spot. We sat in the centre
of the village for about an hour... Afterwards they made us stand up and
led us outside the town towards the cemetery - a kilometre and a half
away. When we neared the
cemetery...they took us off the road and they made us kneel again, he
down again with our heads down. We
weren't allowed to raise our heads nor were we allowed to glance to the sides. We
only heard shots from the sides. Since
I was small I was able to lift my head a little without being seen.
I then saw, in front of me, a long pit, about 25 metres long -
perhaps 30 metres. They
began to lead the Jews, row by row, towards the pit.
They made them undress, and as they mounted the embankment,
rounds of shots were heard, and they fell into the pit.
I saw one case of a Jewish girl who put up a struggle;, she did
not want, under any circumstances, to undress.
They struck her and she too was shot.
Children, women, family after family. Each family went up
The witness Rivka Yoselewska
(Session 30, Vol. I, p. 516) gave evidence of the atrocities committed
by an Operations Unit against the Jews of the village of Powost in the
Pinsk district, about the same time as that to which the testimony of
the witness Aviel refers. She,
too, tells how the Jews were led to the place of slaughter some distance
out of the village:
was a hill, and a little below they had dug something like a ditch.
They made us walk up the hill, in rows of four, and the four whom
we likened to Angels of Death shot each one of us separately... They
were SS men... When we arrived at this place, we saw naked people,
standing there already... Parents took the children, took other people's
children. This was to help get through it all; to get it over with and
not see the children suffer. Mothers
took leave of their children, the mothers, the parents... We were lined
up in fours. We stood there
naked. My father didn't
want to undress completely and kept on his underwear... they tore the
clothes off his body and shot him.
Then they took Mother. She
didn't want to go, but wanted us to go first... They grabbed her and
shot her. Then came the
turn of father's mother, a woman of eighty...my father's sister.
She, too, was shot with children in her arms... My younger sister
also. She had suffered so
much in the ghetto and yet at the last moment she wanted to stay
alive... She was standing there naked holding on to her girl friend.
So he looked at her and
shot straight at her and her friend.
Then another sister, then my turn came... I turned my head, and
he asked me: "Whom do I shoot first, your daughter or you?"
I did not answer. I
felt them tearing my daughter away from me, I heard her last cry and
heard how she was shot. He
grabbed my hair and turned
my head about... I heard a shot but didn't move.
He turned me around, reloaded his pistol. Then he turned me
around and shot. I fell into the pit and felt nothing."
The witness continues this tale
of horror and relates how with the last ounce of strength she rose up
from the grave, from amongst the corpses heaped above her.
The Accused saw with his own
eyes near Minsk a slaughter of this kind at the edge of a pit, as he
describes it in his Statement to the police (T/37, p. 211 et seq.):
"Young marksmen...were shooting into the pit... I can still see a woman, her arms behind her, and then my knees gave way, and I left the place...
Q. Was the pit full of corpses?
A. The pit was full."
And on his way back, he saw
blood spurting as if from a fountain out of another pit which had
already been covered over (supra, p. 215).
This was the fate which befell
the Jews whom he sent to the Operations Units commanded by Nebe and
Rasch, knowing full well that their end would be death at the hands of
the Operations Units (Session 98, Vol. IV, pp. xxxx29-31).
We also know from the testimonies of Eliezer Karstadt (Session
29, Vol. I, p. 490) and
Haim Behrendt (Session 29, Vol. I, p. 503) that Jews were deported from
German cities to Riga and Minsk (Behrendt himself was deported from
Berlin to Minsk in November 1941), there to be slaughtered in mass
actions immediately on arrival, or a few months later.
We also heard from the witness Dr. Peretz about the deportation
of Jews from Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt, Holland and Belgium at the end
of 1941 to the Kovno Ghetto, where they were immediately taken to the
Ninth Fort - the place of mass executions (Session 28, Vol. I, p. 481).
121. The Operations Units were
set up according to an agreement between Heydrich and the military
command. Their commanders
were selected from the ranks of the RSHA (T/312).
Their ostensible task was to defend the army's rear in the
Eastern Occupied Territories, but in fact they were murder units, and
their prime objective was to round up and execute Soviet Commissars and
all the Jews in those areas (T/177).
For this purpose, the military command agreed to allow Operations
Units "within the framework of their objective and on their own
responsibility, to take the necessary steps for the execution of their
plans as regards the civil population" (viz., to kill this
population), as we read in an order signed by General von Brauchitsch,
dated 2 May 1941 (T/175, p. 3). Four
Operations Units were set up, and the occupied areas from north to south
were divided amongst them. Stahlecker,
whom we already came across in Vienna and Prague as the Accused's
superior, commanded Group A in the north; and Nebe, Rasch and Ohlendorf
commanded the other Groups during the first period (T/312).
Reports on the activities of the Operations Units have been
submitted to us.
In one of the many reports which
reached the Accused at this time - a report dated 11 September 1941 - we
Kamenets-Podolski, 23,400 Jews were killed by shooting within three days
by the Group of the Senior Commander of the SS and the Police."
A report from Operations Group
A, in January 1942, about the actions in the north, states:
has already been purged of its Jews.
In Latvia, there are Jews left only in Riga and in Duenaburg.
The number of Jews left in Riga - 29,500 - was reduced to 2,500
by an action carried out by the Senior Commander of the SS and the
Ostland Police." (T/337)
On 15 October 1941, Stahlecker
reports the killing of 118,430 Jews to date in the area of Group A alone
(T/304). In two days, 29-30
September 1941, 33,771 Jews were killed in Kiev (T/327).
So the bloodshed continued month after month across the length
and breadth of the Eastern Occupied Territories.
In connection with a later period - the four months from August
to November 1942 - a report sent by Himmler to Hitler about the
execution of 363,211 Jews, was submitted to us.
This account is headed: "Accomplices of gangs or persons
suspected of taking part in gangs"
(T/338). During the
same period, the Reich Commissioner in Ostland (the Baltic countries)
emphasizes that the liquidation of the Jews is the task of the Security
Police and the SD (T/414).
122. Hundreds of
thousands, and perhaps a million, Jews were slaughtered by the
Operations Units by shooting, but this system alone could not have
achieved the Final Solution, which meant the extermination of millions,
were it not for an additional method, which made possible even more
efficient mass killings, and also in a "tidier" way for those
who actually dealt in the business of murder.
This was the system of mass killing by means of gas.
In his Statement to the police, the Accused mentions the first
use of gas in the Eastern Occupied Territories, as follows:
"Perhaps, in the Eastern Ministry circles, they said to themselves, `This must be done in a more elegant manner'." (T/37, p. 2339)
This system appeared at first in
the form of vans, in which the victims were asphyxiated by exhaust gases
from the engine. Evidence
was given before us of the existence of a mobile unit which transferred
such vans in 1942 to Belgrade and to various places in Russia, and which
murdered Jews in them (T/309). This
system of killing Jews was also used by the Operations Units (see T/216,
declaration of Blobel, p. 4). The
system was extensively and regularly used in the Chelmno (Kulmhof)
extermination camp in the Warthe district.
Only four Jews survived this camp, and three of them - residents
of Israel - gave evidence in Court about the Chelmno camp (T/1297,
remark on p. 4 of the Hebrew version).
The witness Michael Podchlewnik
was taken to Chelmno at the end of 1941 from the nearby village of Kolo.
He relates that, together with other Jews, he was put into a
building, at one time a manor house, and locked in the cellar.
Then he goes on (Session 65, Vol. III, p.1190):
truck came with people... I heard somebody come out
and say: `You are now going to the bathroom; then you will be
given other clothes and you will go to work'... They all passed through
the door and entered a corridor in the house ... We were sitting in a
basement. We did not know exactly what was happening. But we heard what
was going on outside ... A truck was waiting on the other side... When
they saw the truck, the people did not want to board it.
The SS men stood there with sticks and started beating them, they
set the dogs on them and forced them to go into the truck... These were
trucks into which they placed people, locked the doors, and let in
gas... We heard the screams from inside the trucks.
When they started the motor and let in the gas, gradually the
screaming subsided, until they could no longer be heard outside...
of us were taken from the cellar, and we had to collect what had been
left, the shoes... the rooms were already full of such articles and of
Later, the witness was taken to
a forest, to which trucks came from the same building, and put to work
together with other Jews on digging pits.
As the trucks arrived, the bodies of those asphyxiated on the way
were taken out and buried in the pits.
And the witness continues to relate these horrors:
"I had been working there for a few days, when people from my town whom I knew arrived... Among them were my wife and my two children... I lay down by my wife and the two children and wanted them to shoot me. The an SS man came up to me and said: `You still have strength enough, you can go on working.' He hit me twice with his stick and dragged me away to continue working."
During a later period, at
the end of 1943 and in 1944, two other witnesses, Mordechai Zurawski and
Shim'on Srebrnik, were held in Chelmno.
At that time, the victims were still being killed in gas vans,
but their bodies were burned in crematoria after the removal of their
gold teeth (Srebrnik's evidence, Session 66, Vol. III, p. 1198), and the
bones left unburnt were ground in a grinding machine (Zurawski's
evidence, Session 65, Vol. III, p. 1193).
Jews from the surrounding area, from towns and villages of the Warthe district and especially from the Lodz Ghetto, which was also part of the Warthe district, were brought to Chelmno for extermination. These were Jews not only from Lodz itself, but also from other countries, who had been first assembled in Lodz. We have already described the deportations of Jews from the Reich to Lodz, organized by the Accused and his Section. The witness Srebrnik mentions Czech and German Jews (Session 66, Vol. III, p. 1199), and according to the official Polish report, Jews from Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Luxemburg and Holland were exterminated in Chelmno (T/1297, p. 3 of the Hebrew translation). The total number of Jews killed in Chelmno, young and old, is estimated in this report at 300,000 (supra, p.3; 22).
The Accused visited Chelmno and
saw the victims being crammed into the gas vans, the removal of the
corpses from the vans, and the removal of teeth from the corpses (T/37,
123. Like Chelmno in the Warthe area, three camps were set up in the Generalgouvernement area. Their only function was the extermination of Jews. They were: Treblinka, near the railway line from Warsaw to Bialystok; Sobibor, to the east of Lublin; and Belzec, in Eastern Galicia. In each of these camps hundreds of thousands of Jews were put to death, asphyxiated by gas. We heard witnesses, survivors of these camps (except Belzec), and official reports were submitted to us from Polish Government Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, which examined the facts and reached reliable conclusions. From the evidence about Treblinka, this seems to have been the extermination process: The Jews destined for extermination were brought in overcrowded freight trains which entered the camp gate. To mislead the Jews to the very last minute, the place was given the form of a sham railway station, with a timetable, and arrows pointing in various directions to indicate trains to various towns. When the train doors were opened, the victims were ordered off the train, were beaten with rifles and whips, and made to run to the camp courtyard. Those who could not run as fast as the guards wished were shot immediately. In the courtyard, the people were told that, since they were going to wash and would be disinfected, all their documents, valuables and money must be deposited in the "camp safe" in a hut in the yard. They were also told that, after the shower, their belongings would be returned, and they would go out to work. They all had to undress. The men undressed in the courtyard, and the women were taken to another hut where their hair was shorn. In this naked state, the victims were led along a narrow path called by the Germans "the path to heaven" (Himmelstrasse), to a building partitioned into cells measuring seven by seven metres and 1.90 metres high. Eliahu Rosenberg stated in evidence (Session 66, p. 1213-1214):
"In the Himmelstrasse, SS men... stood there with dogs, with whips and bayonets. The people walked past in silence... They did not know where they were going. When they entered the gas chambers, two Ukrainians stood next to the entrance - one was Ivan, the other was Nikolai. They introduced the gas... The gas came from an engine, into which they put Ropa, which was a kind of oil, a crude oil, and the fumes entered the gas chambers. The people who were the last to enter the gas chambers, the very last, received stabs in their bodies from the bayonets, since the last persons already saw what was going on inside and did not want to enter. Four hundred people were put into one the small gas chamber... The outer door of the chamber was closed with difficulty. When they shut them in, we were standing on the outside. We only heard screams of `Sh'ma Yisrael,' `Father,' `Mother'; thirty-five minutes later, they were dead. Two Germans stood there listening to what was going on inside. Then they said: `They are all asleep' (Alles schlaeft)."
The corpses were taken out
of the chamber and buried in pits.
From 1943, after Himmler's visit to the camp, they began burning
the corpses on pyres and opened the graves to burn the bodies in them.
All this was done by Jewish labour units. About the gas which was let into the chambers, the witness
Wiernik, who worked on the setting-up of the camp (Session 66, Vol. III,
pp. 1205) adds that the gas was produced by the engine of a Soviet tank,
which stood near the gas chambers, and introduced through pipes and
valves into the chambers where the victims were.
One of the witnesses had to
remove gold teeth from the mouths of the dead after they had been taken
out of the gas chambers and before they were thrown into the pits
(Session 66, Vol. III, pp. xxxx93-95).
There was a special place in camp which the Germans nicknamed
"Lazarett" (hospital). This
was a pit where those who could not walk to the gas chambers were killed
One of the witnesses gave
evidence about two railway cars loaded with children, probably from an
children were in fact almost asphyxiated.
We had to remove their clothing, and they were led - that is we
led them - into the Lazarett. There
the SS men ... shot them." (Session 66, p. xxxx62.)
The Treblinka extermination camp
began to function in July 1942. A
revolt of the Jewish forced labourers broke out in August 1943, and
afterwards the camp was gradually liquidated.
The Polish Government Main Commission estimates the number of
those killed there during this period at over 700,000.
The victims were from Warsaw and from other cities in Central
Poland, from Bialystok, Grodno and Volkovysk, from Germany, Austria,
Czechoslovakia, Belgium and Greece (T/1304, p. 10 of the Hebrew
translation; and T/1305, minutes of the evidence of a Polish railway
worker named Zawetzky).
The Accused visited Treblinka.
In his Statement T/37, p. 229, he describes the sham railway
station and the naked Jews being led to the gas chambers along paths
surrounded by barbed wire and calls this sight "the most terrible
thing I ever saw in my life."
124. We shall now quote a
description by a German of the extermination in the Belzec camp, which
was very similar to that of Treblinka.
The writer is an SS officer named Gerstein, whose conscience gave
him no peace, and who, in 1942, tried to reveal the truth about
extermination camps to the world. The
description from which we are about to quote was written by him
immediately after the War and handed by him to officers of the Allied
Forces. We shall come back
to Gerstein's statements later in another context.
Here we shall only say that Gerstein's words are confirmed in
detail by the evidence which we heard, so that these testimonies
corroborate each other. We
accept Gerstein's statement as a true description of what he saw with
his own eyes. He writes
"On the following morning, we left for Belzec. A small special railway station, with two platforms at the foot of a yellow limestone hill, immediately north of the road and the Lublin-Lemberg railway line. To the south, near the road, there are a number of service buildings bearing the sign: `Local Branch of the Armed SS, Belzec'...no dead were seen that day, but in the air all around, even on the road, there was a nauseating smell.
"Near the small railway station, there was a large hut marked `Cloakroom,' with a wicket marked `Valuables.' There was also a room with a hundred barbers' chairs, and then a passage a hundred and fifty metres long in the open, fenced with barbed wire on both sides, with signs: `To the Showers' and `Inhalation Establishments.' We come to a house, the bath-house, which is flanked at the right and left by large concrete flower pots with geraniums and other flowers. After going up some steps, we come to three rooms to our right and three to our left, like garages, 5x4 metres in area, 1.90 metres high. At the back, not visible, there are piles of wood. A brass Star of David is on the roof. At the front of the building there was a sign which read: `The Heckenholt Foundation.' This is all I saw that afternoon.
"The following morning, a few minutes before seven, I am told that the first train will arrive in ten minutes. And, indeed, the first train from Lemberg did come a few minutes later. It was a train with forty-five cars, carrying 6,700 people, of whom 1,450 were already dead when they arrived. Behind the small openings with barbed-wire netting, we saw children, yellow, scared children, and men and women. The train reaches the platform. Two hundred Ukrainians serving as forced labourers, push the doors open and lash the people with whips off the train.
orders are given over a large loudspeaker.
They must undress completely in the open, some also in a hut, and
also remove artificial limbs and spectacles.
Shoes are to be tied together with a small piece of string,
handed to them by a Jewish boy of four.
All valuable objects and money must be handed in at the
`Valuables' counter. No
confirmations or receipts are given in exchange.
Later, the women and young girls must go to the barber's, where
their hair is cut off in two or three strokes.
The hair disappears into large potato sacks `to be used for
something special, for submarines as insulation, etc.'
This is the explanation given by the Unterscharfuehrer on duty.
march begins. Barbed wire
to the right and to the left, and, at the end, two dozen Ukrainians with
rifles. Heading the
marchers is an unusually pretty girl - thus they approach.
I am standing in front of the death chambers with Police Captain
Wirth. Men, women, young
girls, children, babies, amputees missing a leg - all naked, stark naked
- they pass near us. An SS
man stands in the corner telling the miserable people in the voice of a
preacher: `Nothing will happen to you.
All you have to do is to breathe deeply.
This inhalation is necessary because of infectious diseases.
It is a good disinfectant.'
When they ask about their fate, he explains: `Of course, the men
will have to work, to build roads and houses, but the women do not have
to work. At most, if they
wish, they may help around the house or in the kitchen.'
In the heart of some of these doomed people, there is once again
a spark of hope, enough to make them walk into the gas chambers without
resistance. But most of
them know: the smell carries the tidings of their fate.
they go up the small steps and see the truth.
Nursing mothers with babies in their arms, naked; many children
of all ages, naked; they hesitate but enter the death chambers, most of
them without uttering a word. They
are being pushed by those behind them, and the whips of the SS men keep
them on the move. A Jewess
of about 40, her eyes aflame, swears that the blood of her children may
be visited upon the heads of their murderers.
Police Captain Wirth himself brings his whip down on her face
five times, and she disappears into the gas chamber.
Many pray, and others say: `Who will cleanse us after death?'
(Jewish ritual?) SS
men cram the people into the chambers.
Captain Wirth gives orders to `fill up well.'
The naked people stand on each other's feet, seven to eight
hundred people in an area of twenty-five square metres or forty-five
cubic metres. The doors are
shut. Others of the same
transport remain waiting, naked. I
am told that they are naked in the winter as well.
`But they may die!' And
the answer is given: `That is what they are here for.'
At this moment, I grasp the meaning of the `Heckenholt
sets the diesel engine in motion, and the exhaust gases are used to kill
the unfortunate people! SS
Unterscharfuehrer Heckenholt exerts himself to get the diesel engine
going, but it does not ignite. Captain
Wirth comes up to him. One
can see that he is scared because I am a witness to the mishap.
Yes, I can see everything, and I wait.
My stopwatch records everything.
Fifty minutes, seventy minutes, no ignition. The people in the gas chambers wait in vain.
We hear them cry. `Like in a synagogue,' says SS Sturmbannfuehrer Professor Dr.
Pfannenstiel, Professor of Hygiene at the University of Marburg on the
Lahn, after listening through the wooden door.
Captain Wirth is furious. He
brings the whip down eleven or twelve times on the face of the Ukrainian
who is helping Heckenholt.
two hours and forty-nine minutes - my stopwatch recorded everything -
the diesel engine began to function. Up to that moment, the people are
alive in the four gas chambers, which are filled to capacity.
Four times 750 people are living in four times forty-five cubic
metres. Twenty-five minutes
more pass. It is true, many
have died. This can be seen
through a small window by the light of the electric bulb inside the
room. Twenty-eight minutes later, only a few are still alive.
Finally, after thirty-two minutes, they are all dead.
At the other end, Jewish labourers open the wooden doors...the
dead stand erect like basalt columns, for there is no room to fall or to
collapse. Even in death,
one can recognize the families, holding hands.
It is only with difficulty that they can be separated to make
room in the chambers for the next transport...
From the report by the Polish
Commission which investigated the Belzec camp (T/1316), it becomes clear
that this camp was a place mainly for the extermination of Jews from
south-eastern Poland, but Jews from Czechoslovakia, Austria, Romania,
Hungary and Germany were also brought there for extermination (p. 13 of
the Hebrew translation). The
Commission estimated the number of those killed at Belzec as at least
600,000 (supra, p. 15).
125. Evidence about the Sobibor
camp revealed a picture similar to that of the Treblinka and Belzec
camps. Here, Jews from
eastern Poland and from German-occupied territories in Soviet Russia, as
well as from Czechslovakia, Slovakia, Austria and Germany were
exterminated (evidence of Dov Freiberg, Session 64, Vol.III, pp. 1169;
and the Polish Commission Report, T/1293, on page 78 of the Hebrew
translation). This camp was
liquidated after the revolt of the Jewish prisoners which broke out
there in October 1943. The
Polish Commission estimates the number of victims in this camp as at
least 250,000 (supra, p. 7).
126. The Majdanek camp was a
large concentration camp in Lublin, and also a place where Jews were
exterminated by shooting and gassing.
Witness Joseph Reznik gave evidence (Session 64, Vol. III,
p.1160) about the mass slaughter in November 1943, when Jews were shot
in the "fifth field" at Majdanek.
The Polish Commission Report (T/1289, p. 5 of the Hebrew
translation) gives the number of Jews killed on one single day - 3
November 1943, as 18,000. Gas
chambers were also set up at Majdanek (supra, pp. 3, 5).
Jews from Poland, Slovakia, Czechoslovakia and from western and
southern Europe were brought to this camp (supra, p. 16).
The Commission estimates the total number of Jewish victims in
Majdanek at 200,000 (p. 118). Majdanek
camp had branches, one of which was Trawniki camp, already mentioned as
the destination for deportations of Jews from Germany.
127. The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp
was the largest of the extermination camps.
Like Majdanek, this comprised a concentration camp where
prisoners were worked to death, and had buildings for immediate physical
extermination. We shall
deal first with the second aspect of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
On the extermination process, we shall quote from the notes made
by the camp commander, Rudolf Hoess, when he was in Nuremberg Prison,
and handed to us by the witness, Professor Gilbert, who received them
from Hoess himself. Professor
Gilbert was serving, at the time, as a psychologist in the American
army, and it was his duty to observe the prisoners in Nuremberg Prison.
After Hoess had testified at Nuremberg that the Accused told him
that over two million Jews were exterminated at Auschwitz (see T/1357,
p. 2), Goering maintained in a conversation with Professor Gilbert that
this was technically impossible (Session 35, Vol. III, p. 1005).
Then Professor Gilbert proposed asking Hoess himself about this
matter, and that was done. In
answer to the question, Hoess made notes which are undoubtedly an
authentic description (T/1170), and tally with what we have heard from
witnesses in regard to Auschwitz. He
explains that the freight trains carrying the Jews destined for
extermination reached a special platform in the camp, near the
extermination structures. The Accused's Section, which dispatched them, sent word in
advance, and the trains were marked with certain figures and letters, to
avoid their getting mixed up with transports of other detainees.
On the average, each train carried some 2,000 Jews.
After the Jews were removed from the trains and counted (there
were no lists of names), they all filed by two SS doctors who separated
those fit for work from those who were unfit for work.
The average number of those declared fit was only twenty-five per
cent. The luggage of the
Jews remained on the platform and was later brought to stores to be
sorted out. The men amongst
those unfit for work were separated from the women and children and
taken to the nearest extermination installation that was empty.
There they all had to undress in rooms which gave the impression
of disinfecting chambers. Those
who hesitated were made to hurry, so that those who came after them
would not have to wait too long, and they were told to remember where
they left their clothes, so that they could find them again after the
shower. From there, they
were taken to the gas chamber, which was camouflaged as a washroom with
showers, pipes and water taps. Once
they were all inside the chamber, the door was locked, and from above,
Zyklon `B' gas was let in through a special aperture.
This vaporized immediately and did its work.
Death came from thirteen to fifteen minutes later.
Half an hour later, the chamber was opened and the corpses were
taken for burning, after the women's hair was cut off and gold teeth
There were five crematoria
there, in which it was possible to burn up to ten thousand corpses per
day. The ashes were ground
into dust and were thrown into the Vistula river and washed away with
the current. Hoess
calculated that if the average number of bodies cremated daily for 27
months was 3,000, the number of people killed totalled about two and a
half million. In his
opinion, one and a half million, at most, were exterminated, but he adds
that he has no evidence with which to prove his figure, and we shall
refrain from deciding which is the correct figure.
As stated above, this horrifying
description, given by the master butcher himself, in the language of a
dry office report, has been fully confirmed by witnesses who testified
before us (see the evidence of Yehuda Bakon, Session 68, Vol. 111, p.
1246-1248); the evidence of Nachum Hoch, Session 71, Vol. III, p.
The Jews exterminated at
Auschwitz-Birkenau were brought there from all over Europe, and mainly
from central, western and southern Europe, and amongst them were Jews
from the German Reich (including annexed territories in the East), from
the Czech-Bohemian Protectorate, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy,
Greece, Romania, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, and also the
Generalgouvernement area (see the above note by Hoess, T/1170; and the
evidence of Rajewski in the Hoess trial, T/1356).
128. Not all the Jews who were
sent to Auschwitz were killed immediately.
We have seen that on their arrival in the camp a
"selection" was generally carried out, and those who appeared
fit for work were put to hard labour until their strength gave out.
And if a person did not die from hard labour or as a result of
torture at the hands of the slavedrivers, then he was finally killed by
gas, or by the injection of poison into his veins (T/90, p. 11). The witness Ze'ev Sapir described a selection carried out in
Auschwitz thus (Session 53, Vol. III, p. 57):
I arrived there together with my parents.
Did you also have brothers and a sister?
I arrived there with my four brothers and one sister.
How old were your brothers?
One brother was born in 1929 - he was then 15; another brother was born
in 1933 - he was then 11; my sister was born in 1936 - she was then 8;
another brother was born in 1938 - he was then 6; and there was a little
baby brother who was born in 1941 - he was then three 3.
What happened to your parents and to all the brothers and sister whom
After the selection had been made...the selection was very simple.
A doctor stood there and, merely with a slight movement of his
hand, people were to go to the right or to the left.
My parents went to the right. I did not have time to take leave
of them. I was amongst
those sentenced who, for some reason, were destined to live; I went to
And your brothers and sister?
They all went with my parents.
Did you see them again, after this?
"A. No, I did not see them at all, after this."
Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences