The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 26
(Part 2 of 6)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. You have there four boxes containing your manuscripts on Treblinka? [To the Court] I do not intend to submit them - I only want the Court to know about them.

A. Yes.

Presiding Judge: What is it? Is it microfilm?

Witness Auerbach: There are microfilms and photostats.

Attorney General: Is this your handwriting?

A. This is my handwriting, of the first testimony I think. In 1942 I wrote the first testimony of a man who had spent 18 days in Treblinka. I interviewed him, and on 320 pages of exercise books I recorded that testimony, and stage by stage I passed it on to our liaison men who delivered it to Dr. Ringelblum. And part of what I passed on was found in 1946, when I was still in Poland.

Presiding Judge: Where?

Witness Auerbach: Under the ruins of the house at 68 Nowalipski Street.

Q. What was in this house?

A. The centre of these archives. I was in Poland when two milk jars were uncovered and in them was found the material which had been buried by the archives workers in the period between the first great "action" and the revolt.

Attorney General: Even on the Aryan side you continued to keep a record, and the exercise books which are here with you are notes of the history of the Holocaust which you continued to record in Aryan Warsaw?

Witness Auerbach: I wrote in the winter of 1943...

Presiding Judge: When did you cross to the Aryan side?

Witness Auerbach: I crossed to the Aryan side on 9 March 1943, a few weeks before the outbreak of the revolt. And in August 1943 I succeeded in obtaining an apartment in a house which was half German. My name was then Ancila Dovrotchka.

Q. Did you have forged papers?

A. I had a forged birth certificate and I arranged all the rest myself, so that they were both forged and not forged, that is to say there were also certificates which the authorities issued.

Attorney General: Mrs. Auerbach, later on you worked with the Jewish Historical Committee which existed in Poland, you collected evidence?

Witness Auerbach: After we remained alive. Ringelblum was one of the last of the literary world to perish, of the world of writers on the Aryan side. They discovered him in his hiding place with the last 36 persons, and to his beautiful life was also added the crown of martyrdom. But we - allow me also to say that of all the workers of the archives only three people survived, but amongst them there was the secretary of the archives and they were discovered according to his directives.

Q. Who was he?

A. Hirsch Wasser and his wife Bluma who was engaged in Hebrew education within the Tekuma organization.

Presiding Judge: What was the last question, Mr. Hausner?

Attorney General: The question was: what did the Jewish Historical Committee do after the liberation?

Witness Auerbach: The few persons remaining from amongst those who were active before the War, and the historian, the late Dr. Friedmann, and Dr. Ben-Shem and Dr. Kermish who is working today at Yad Vashem and some others had got together already in 1944 in Lublin after the liberation, and they established the "Historical Committee" which was but a resurrection of the Ringelblum enterprise, of that secret Institute.

Presiding Judge: Was that a Jewish institution?

Witness Auerbach: It was a Jewish institution.

Attorney General: But one that received official support?

Witness Auerbach: This organization cooperated with the chief Polish Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland.

Q. You published many writings on aspects of the Holocaust, amongst them Weliczsker's book on the Death Brigade?

A. That is right.

Q. You actually edited this book, so it says there?

A. Yes, I edited it. After the liberation of Western Poland this Historical Committee moved to Lodz and there its activity expanded. Again there were one hundred people, approximately like the secret Institute in the Warsaw Ghetto. We also had editorial offices and archives, and we carried out various activities, and in the course of two or three years our publishing house published 36 books, which to this day constitute an important basis for the study of the Holocaust. I myself, together with Dr. Kermish and a government commission, visited the fields of Treblinka - this was the name of the book I wrote after this visit - in other words, we began conducting research in a thorough manner into the events and the manifestations and we arrived at the first syntheses.

Attorney General: Thank you very much.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions?

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mrs. Auerbach. I would like you to understand: you have abundant material, there is much to tell, there is much to write about, but we are compelled to restrict ourselves within our limits.

Witness Auerbach: I understand.

Attorney General: I call Dr. Adolf Berman. The witness wishes to make an affirmation.

[The witness affirms.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Adolf Avraham Berman.

Attorney General: Doctor?

Witness Berman: Yes.

Q. Do you live in Tel Aviv at 11 Rehov Bar Kochba?

A. Yes.

Q. You are a doctor of psychology?

A. Yes.

Q. Before the Second World War, you were the director of the head office of the Jewish psychological and psychotechnical institutions in Poland - :"Centos"?

A. Yes.

Q. After the outbreak of the Second World War you were one of the directors of "Centos" in Warsaw?

A. Yes.

Q. "Centos" attended to tens of thousands of Jewish children?

A. Yes.

Q. Tell us what the position was of children in the Warsaw Ghetto in those years in which you served as director of the institution?

A. The tragedy of the Jewish children began on 8 September 1939, on the day Hitler's forces entered Warsaw, the capital of Poland. Then the position was such that the authorities conducted a policy of systematic and planned starvation, they conducted a policy which led to epidemics, first of all to typhus and also to the spread of tuberculosis.

Q. Is it true that the incidence of death amongst the Jewish children reached thousands per month?

A. Yes. This process of pauperization, of continually increasing poverty of the masses, cast a multitude of children on to the streets.

What did they turn into?

To street-children and little beggars.

Q. How many were there?

A. Several thousands.

Q. Can we say tens of thousands?

A. One can say tens of thousands.

Q. How many of them needed the help and care of "Centos"?

A. Generally speaking it may be said that within the Jewish population of the Warsaw Ghetto, which at its peak period reached almost half a million Jews - 450,000 to half a million - there were more than 100,000 children. Of these 100,000 children, at least 75 percent were in need of aid.

Q. To how many of these did you manage to extend help in the institutions of "Centos"?

A. As soon as we saw that a huge disaster was coming, we decided to mobilize ourselves for an extensive operation for the rescue of children, thanks to a great effort on the part of the organized Jewish community in the Warsaw Ghetto, thanks to the unity in this matter of all those involved, from the left to the right, we managed to set up a large network of institutions for the aid of children. We had about one hundred institutions and we succeeded in giving help to 25,000 Jewish children.

Q. Amongst these institutions there was one headed by the well-known pedagogue Janusz Korczak - is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. You established tens of dormitories and kitchens for children and day shelters and kitchens for children and youths?

A. We set up 30 orphanages and dormitories also for the street-children. In these dormitories and orphanages there were about 4,000 children. Amongst these institutions there was also the the well-known orphanage headed by that genius educator and distinguished writer, children's writer, Janusz Korczak, whose name used to be Dr. Henryk Goldszmidt, whose books and whose methods were both exceedingly famous in Poland. Apart from this, we established about 20 day shelters, especially for the small children. In addition to this, we set up about 20 kitchens for children. We also established about 30 children's and youth clubs for the children of the refugee' houses. We wanted to take advantage of every corner of vegetation for the children who had never known what greenery was, what a forest was, what a flower was.

Q. You maintained a widespread education network in the underground, since education was forbidden?

A. Yes.

Presiding Judge: Was all education forbidden?

Witness Berman: Vocational education was possible to some extent, but general education was banned. Under cover of the children's kitchens and other institutions, we maintained a large network of secret underground schools, of all trends - from the secular to the religious, from the left to the right, in complete unity.

Attorney General: You observed children's festivals under the slogan: "Give the child a little joy." Is that correct?

Witness Berman: Yes. I would like to say a few words about this. We saw what the situation was, and we wanted to make the melancholy and terrible life of tens of thousands of children easier. We then decided to organize a month of the Jewish Child in the ghetto and also a Jewish Children's Festival in the ghetto. The last festival before the awful "action" which commenced on 22 July 1942, we had already celebrated on 5 May. And on that day - I remember this well - in all our institutions, in all the orphanages, in all the dormitories, in all the kitchens, there were celebrations. There were performances of children, on that day the children were given slightly more food, some sweets. And our slogan was: "Give our children a little joy."

Q. But all this was in vain, Dr. Berman. You kept the children busy so that they would be the victims of the "actions," isn't that so? And the children were the first victims of the "actions," is that correct?

A. Correct. I would like to say that almost from the outset the tragic race began between the efforts of the Jewish community in the Warsaw Ghetto and the policy of mass impoverishment and general decline - the race between social aid and starvation. Our watchword was naturally to save our children from hunger and from death. We did not save them. We did not succeed in saving them.

Q. Do you recall attacks especially directed against children, on the part of German units?

A. Yes.

Q. Which units?

A. First of all, SS units. This I would like to describe somewhat in detail. As is known, the first large "action" of the extermination of Jews began on 22 July 1942. On that day, the first victims of the "action" were the Jewish children and I shall never forget the shocking, the frightful scenes, when SS men together with their collaborators cruelly fell upon the children, on the street- children, and dragged them onto carts. And I remember, how these children defended themselves. To this day I can hear the crying of the children - I hear the screams "Mama, Mama! Rette, rette!" (save us). They put up a struggle.

Q. Did they burst into your institutions?

A. On the same day also the expulsion from the refugee homes commenced and especially from the death houses, as they called them then, where there was the greatest mortality rate. And amongst them they deported many, many thousands of children to Treblinka. The inferno lasted thus for about a week.

Q. What happened to your institutions, those of "Centos"?

A. After one week the SS men and their collaborators began to attack our institutions as well, including the orphanages and the dormitories. We then informed all the institutions in the name of the "Centos" management - all the institutions in the ghetto and also Police Headquarters in the ghetto, that the orphans must be saved, the children must be saved. No entreaties on our part, no requests of ours, saved them, and during these days long columns of the children of our institutions, institution after institution, together with their tutors, with their teachers began to march through the streets of Warsaw.

Q. Where were they marching to?

A. To the Umschlagplatz, to the death waggons, and from there to Treblinka.

Q. Do you remember Janusz Korczak marching at the head of the procession?

A. Yes, I remember that well. One of those institutions which they were leading off to the Umschlagsplatz, was this outstanding and exemplary institution, the orphanage of Janusz Korczak. It was a shocking procession.

Presiding Judge: You saw this with your own eyes?

Witness Berman: Yes. He walked at the head of the procession, and next to him there were two small children. Behind him was the chief woman tutor, Stefania Wilczynska, together with little children. They marched together with the huge crowd of Jews who had been caught in this blockade, in this terrible siege in this quarter. When they reached the Umschlagsplatz, there were certain policemen there who ran to free Janusz Korczak. He was very well-known and beloved.

Attorney General: Polish policemen?

Witness Berman: Jewish. But then he said that he didn't want to be separated from the children whom he had taught. The sole worry of Janusz Korczak then was that the children who were forced to get the shouts I remember to this day:"Alle herunter, alle herunter, schneller, araus" ( Everybody down, everybody down, faster, out) - this I shall never forget, the "alle herunter;" at that time Janusz Korczak's concern was that the children did not have enough time to get dressed - they were barefooted. Stefania Wilczynski told the small children that they were going on an outing, that at long last they would see the fields and the forests, and the flowers that they had never seen in the ghetto. And there was a smile, a faint smile on her lips. Of course, after he refused, after several hours, they made them enter the death waggons, and this was the last journey of this great educator.

Q. Dr. Berman, at the end only a few children remained in the ghetto. There were many parents who also tried to hide their children on the Aryan side of Warsaw - is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And the children there were scattered, as little peddlers, engaged in the sale of cigarettes, newspapers, begging, but even there the SS pursued them. Is that correct?

A. Correct.

Q. And when their fate overtook them, that, too, was extermination?

A. Correct. I should also like to add that, apart from these institutions, our dormitories and our orphanages, within a number of weeks all these one hundred institutions of ours were liquidated and destroyed together with all the tutors and teachers - and in the peak period we had about 1,000 workers, teachers, tutors, doctors, psychologists, nurses and so on. All of them, all of them were killed, together with the children. There were 4,000 children in the dormitories and orphanages alone. But the tragic total was - and this can be said without any exaggeration - 100,000 children of the Warsaw Ghetto were killed by the Nazi murderers. More than 100,000 children met their bitter death in the gas chambers.

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