The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 22
(Part 3 of 3)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. What happened to you?

A. This time they took these 150 people and started - among these 150 people was included I and my father - we had started to run in a circle and they started to beat us until we fell down - we could not move any more. At this time they left us and went away. My father and I came home on Friday night and I was in hiding all Saturday, and Sunday morning I was arrested again. My father was not arrested Sunday morning because when coming back from Pelczynska Street he started to get up blood from his lungs and when the SS came at this time to arrest him they saw blood coming out. They were good scared and got out from the house. They thought it's because of tuberculosis or something else. But it wasn't. It was from the lungs due to the beating on Friday night.

Q. Then you were taken to work?

A. Yes, Sunday morning. Yes, I was taken to the railroad to unload artillery from the railroad.

Presiding Judge: What do you mean by artillery?

Witness Wells: Guns and so on. To unload artillery guns.

Attorney General: You say "we." How many were there?

Witness Wells: At this time we were about 110, 112.

Q. Jews?

A. Yes, only Jews.

Q. Please continue.

A. The unloading of these artillery guns was more or less a way that we could not, that it was not made even possible for us to unload them. Like for example we could not take out a piece of wood that was under the wheel to hold it back. We had to get it, to rip it out which was practically an impossibility. Due to this some people had to catch the wheel and when we got it up a little bit it slipped and most of them were crushed under the wheels of these artillery guns.

Q. How long did you work there?

A. I worked there until about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, or ten to four o'clock. And by this time we were about 40 people left alive.

Q. Forty left of the 112?

Presiding Judge: What happened to the other 70?

Witness Wells: Most of them were crushed under the wheels or under the railroad cars. Because most of them due to the beating tried even to hide under the wheels. Once we lifted a little bit, due to the heavy weight it slipped back down and these people who tried to hide were right away killed.

Attorney General: Where did you go at 4 o'clock?

Witness Wells: I went...I got home and I got right father and my family had in the meantime made a hiding place right in the sewage canal of the house. It was a wet dark place and after four, instead of going to bed or something, I went to that sewage canal to lie down there until it would be later at night, because I was still afraid that there might be another corporal coming to get me.

Q. Were you able to hide for a long time?

A. I was now hiding for quite a while and going through all sorts of other actions such as the bridge action in Lvov or the action in November...[they] didn't really get me.

Q. What was the bridge action?

A. The bridge that time they started to make Jewish quarters and it was about October/November 1941. On the Zamarstynowska Street there was a big bridge and from this bridge the Jewish quarters started. Other people living in other quarters had to move over and pass, normally, through this bridge into the other quarters.

Q. Yes, please continue.

A. The action started there...they started to take people away with their belongings, because they carried their belongings to these Jewish quarters and they disappeared at this time...they tried to tell stories that they were taken away to work...

Q. Who were trying to tell stories?

A. One doesn't know who spreads stories, but they were taken away because they were even taken away with their linen...

Q. With what?

A. With their linen, because they were taking it over to the Jewish quarter - the bed linen and pillow-cases which the people carried into the Jewish quarters.

Q. Did many people disappear during this bridge action?

A. A few thousand, I wouldn't be able to say exactly.

Q. What happened in the other action which you mentioned?

A. The other action in November was called "the old-age action." They were catching, in the streets, people in the forty-fives, fifties, fifty-fives. They went out, they had their work permits, went to work and then they were caught in the streets and never returned home.

Q. How many people disappeared during this action?

A. It was about two to three thousand people.

Q. Who did all this work? Which German unit?

A. It was always under the SS and also with the help of the Ukrainian Police.

Q. When did you come out of hiding?

A. I went out of my hiding at the end of December and I joined the Working Brigade on the Railroad and on March 2nd 1942 I was taken from this Working Brigade into the Janowska Concentration Camp.

Q. What was the Janowska Concentration Camp?

A. It was on the outskirts of Lvov. It was a place which had sand mountains and it was a completely sandy place. A few barracks were put up there and the work consisted of, practically, carrying stones back and forth. By this time we were 140 people in this Concentration Camp.

Presiding Judge: In other words, carrying stones without purpose and uselessly.

Witness Wells: Yes. The Chief at this time was Obersturmfuehrer Fritz Gebauer and we didn't have any conditions. We couldn't get any water. We used to get about a quart, which means about a litre of water a day, coffee water. From this we used to have to drink, wash ourselves and to keep ourselves, as the main motto was "sauber" (clean). It is obvious that there was sickness and that the standard of cleanliness was very low.

The first day I came, I witnessed a case where six people were taken out of a group because they - so called - looked sick and so that we shouldn't get sick from them they were put out of the barracks. It was "for our good," so-called. These people couldn't move in the night because after eight o'clock it was forbidden to move around the barracks and anybody that moved would be shot. The temperature was at freezing point, because at May 2nd there are still, in Poland, some freezing cold nights and in the morning, all six people were frozen lying down where they were put out the night before: completely white like long balls of snow.

Two days later, early in the morning, eight of the strongest of us were picked out; and because - according to the words of Gebauer "they didn't look too clean," he ordered a big barrel of water to be brought, and they had to get undressed in the barrel of water and stand in this cold water for twenty-four hours - next morning we had to cut off ice from it. It was frozen.

Presiding Judge: What happened to these people?

Witness Wells: The men were frozen to death. That was finished. They were together with the ice.

A week later SS Untersturmfuehrer Wilhaus joined the concentration camp. At this time a shooting competition was begun between Gebauer and Wilhaus: they would stand at their window, and while the people were marching to and fro with stones, they would shoot out of their windows, it would be like hitting them at the...aiming at the tip of a nose or a finger...After the shooting had finished, in the evening they would go around picking out what they called "kaput" people, those who were injured, and give them the last shot, because as injured people they were no good any more, and finish them off with a last shot.

Gebauer really had a name for enjoying strangling people, and so it happened that in my group a man who was working alongside me happened to look away, didn't look so very busy; Gebauer approached, took him and strangled him with his own hands on the spot right there.

Wilhaus, on the other hand - who as far as we knew was the brother-in-law of SS General Katzmann (since Wilhaus' arrival in the camp Katzmann started to visit it very often, sometimes once or twice a week) - Wilhaus enjoyed more of shooting, so-called "sharp-shooting."

In March, there started the action in Lvov, which was so called, on poor people. Most of them - also women and children - some of these people were brought to our concentration camp in numbers of forty to fifty people a day.

Q. Did the number of 140 prisoners in this camp stay fixed or did it...

A. A hundred and fifty people a day, on an average - the number increased by about twenty a day; because thirty people would normally be killed each day, or die...I shouldn't say "die," because - excuse me - because I really don't remember a single case of someone dying a normal death...

At the end of April an action started in East Galicia. From every city a few hundreds or thousands of people were brought to the concentration camps. The normal segregation of fitness in these concentration camps was to put the people up for three days without any food - most of them started to eat grass because they would sit on grass lawns - and after three days they started to be checked out to see how fit they were to be taken into the concentration camp - the unfit ones were taken right out to the back of the concentration camp on the site and were shot.

Q.. What happened to the fit ones?

A. At this time the fit ones would start building a bigger concentration camp because the numbers were increasing every day.

And so by the beginning of May during the building of this concentration camp, it was impossible any more even to take any kind of beating and a small uprising occurred and quite a few of us were killed.

Presiding Judge: 03What does the expression "a small uprising" mean?

Witness Wells: We started one evening when we were marching from this camp to the other camp. We had to carry still picks, pieces of wood, you know for the building. We used to have to start work about five in the morning. During the day we worked and the night was called going to build for ourselves a camp, so it was our own work to build for ourselves our own camp. We, at this time started...people that had been carrying the stones, the wood or any other pieces...start to throw at the SS and we started to run. Unfortunately, in a few minutes a lot of us were shot dead and the rest went back to the concentration camp, to so- called peace. By end of May we were 2,000 prisoners in this concentration camp.

Typhus started to spread very quickly. And to clean out the typhus, they burned our barracks and got new tents from the city. But while they burned our barracks and we got new tents, we had to be undressed because also they burned our clothing so the typhus doesn't spread, and we were lying for three days and three nights in the nude with our heads down and anybody that had to raise their head they would shoot at. So it was no wonder that being burnt in the day from the sun and at night catching cold from the cold damp air. One day it was even raining in the night, and out of the 2,000 after the cleaning was over, over 500 had typhus and pneumonia, and I was amongst them. The whole idea was to try with typhus and pneumonia, to move around during the day and nobody recognizes that you are sick.

Attorney General: Why was that Dr. Wells, why did you have to pretend that you were not sick?

Witness Wells: Because it would happen like it happened to me after I collapsed after four days. I couldn't move anymore and during the reveille I collapsed. I collapsed and was taken in between the wires - the death wires. At this time we were between the wires, 182 people. I fell asleep, I lost consciousness and in one minute somebody kicked me in the side and it was Untersturmfuehrer Wilhaus. He asked my name, wrote it down and told us all to line up and to march. Two hours before I collapsed and I was unconscious, but this time I was somehow marching in this line. Fifty feet farther the burying brigade with their shovels joined our group and we knew that we were marching into the direction to be buried.

When we got to the sand we found there was no grave prepared for us. We got undressed, again registered every name so to know for sure that no one disappeared on the marching road. Everybody got a shovel and we started to dig our own grave. When the grave was finished they started to read from these registration lists and by two walked down the grave, had to lay down side by side with their faces down and were shot.

The next two had to cover a little sand over the first two and lie down in the other direction, line by line, and were shot again, and so it went ahead.

My dream at the moment was, as I was standing there, to get my own blood out, to have something to drink, because of my great thirst due to the high fever in pneumonia and typhus. To drink my own blood - that was my vision, what I was looking forward to.

The leader of this group who took us to be shot was SS Sturmfuehrer Bloom. When I came on the list and I started to walk down towards the grave, I was told to come back upwards and to go with one SS man back to the concentration camp. The reason was that a man was shot at the concentration camp and they wanted me to go over, together with this SS man, to bring over his body to our grave too, so that they could bury him now. I got my pants back so I could go back to the concentration camp, but no shoes, nothing else, only my pants. I took the shot body from the concentration camp, pulling it by its legs to our grave. I with high fever and on a hot day surely only could walk, and dragging that body, very slowly. Pulling the body very slowly, the SS was not counting on my reactions any more. He was walking a few steps forward, stopped, waiting until I went forward. Nearby was a bigger group working on the building of this camp, building barracks, and seeing him at a distance of a few feet before he turned around, I dropped the body and I disappeared between these people.

It seemed the SS man was afraid that he lost me, afraid of his superiors. Because according to the rule, anyone that was already once at the sands, would never return anymore to the concentration camp.

But it seems that he was to a certain degree either lazy to look for somebody was near already to his lunchtime too. I disappeared between these people in the concentration camp.

I was still afraid that maybe somebody saw me escaping. To get out of the concentration camp at this time, to escape from the concentration camp was no problem at all. One could escape easily. The only thing that was a problem was that if one escaped they shot ten people from our brigade and they brought all our family and relatives and hanged them in the streets. At this time still, most of us had family in the city. So when I escaped, I couldn't move. I was hidden in the barracks, under the bed.

And I told my friends that in case during the evening parade that they will read out that of these brigades one man was shot, not to say anything. But in case they say, one man disappeared, to tell right away that I am lying in the barrack under the bed - that they can come to shoot me.

After the evening parade, and again at the next morning parade, it was repeated that I was shot - I was dead. It never was said that I was "shot" or something like this, but I am dead. I knew that now I am on the death list - officially I am dead - and I can escape without endangering any of my colleagues and my family at home.

The next day I escaped and when I got home, I told only my family not to say anything and I passed out and was unconscious for the next nineteen days.

At this time, I saw the first time what happened to my family by me being in the concentration camp. My father was completely grey, and my mother didn't have any more of her teeth. The reason for her teeth was that due to some people saying that Webber who was the Arbeitsleiter (Labour Commissionar) of Lvov at that time for a certain sum of money, he can get out somebody from the concentration camp under pretence of death - she took out all her golden teeth to sell them to collect some money to get me out.

I am afraid to stay home due to somebody maybe seeing me and start rumours that I escaped, and still endangered my family. Three days after I regained my consciousness, I left Lvov to wander around in small towns and especially to maybe join my other members of the family in Stojanow.

Presiding Judge: Which place?

Witness Wells: Stojanow.

Presiding Judge: Where is that?

Witness Wells: Stojanow is 100 kms east of Lemberg (Lvov).

Presiding Judge: We will now interrupt your evidence, and we shall adjourn until tomorrow morning at nine o'clock.

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