The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 26
(Part 4 of 6)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust

Attorney General: Please read from page 140 at the bottom - the Sabbath day of Hanukka.

A. "As we know from the Rabbi - may his righteous and holy memory be blessed" (this was evidently his father) "that therefore even the lowly man in Israel is ready to sacrifice himself to the Almighty at a time of trial." And afterwards, at the end, he writes: "Therefore, even if everyone had paid heed, that it was not because we had robbed or committed evil to any man that we were being persecuted, only because we were the sons of Israel, closely attached to our Heavenly Father and to His Law for which He is to be blessed and it is not enough for them, our adversaries merely to quench the Divine spark that is in our midst, they wish to destroy both the body and the soul of the Jewish individual - then on the contrary, verily, our faith and our dedication to Him and His Law would be strengthened."

Attorney General: Please turn to page 169, that is to the portion of the law "Zkhor" - "Remember that which Amalek did unto you." Please read what is written there in large letters.

Witness Duvdevani [reads]

"And behold it is an exceedingly difficult matter that when the tribulations are too hard to bear, the Lord will have mercy. But at a time when members of the Jewish community are burned alive for the Lord's sake and are killed and slaughtered just because they are Jews, we also should in all circumstances stand up to this trial and with this absolute devotion strengthen ourselves and hold on to the Almighty."
Attorney General: On page 185 at the bottom, a sermon on the portion "Hukkat."

Witness Duvdevani [reads]

"Israel's eternity in this world also depends only upon her sons. Therefore, it was the babes of Israel that the first hater of Israel, Pharaoh, attacked. 'Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river.' And thus it was always with the cruelty of the enemies of Israel, they have been especially cruel towards the children of Israel, whether - Heaven forbid - in killing them or forcing them to renounce God, as is known from the evil decrees hundreds of years ago, Heaven forfend - and as we now see also, to our deep sorrow, that far in excess of all the acts of cruelty and the terrible murders that were perpetrated upon us, the House of Israel, were the murders and the acts of cruelty perpetrated on our sons, daughters and the little ones. Woe to us for what happened to us."
Attorney General: Please read the last passage on the following page, the part that is written in large letters.

Witness Duvdevani [reads]

"And verily it is wondrous how the world stood aside after so many such cries. Concerning the ten martyrs it is said that when the angels cried out: 'This is the Torah, and this is the reward' a voice answered from Heaven 'If I hear another sound I shall turn the world into water.' And now innocent children, pure angels, also older ones, the martyrs of Israel, are being killed and slaughtered simply because they are Jews, who are greater than angels, who fill the entire universe with their cries and the world does not turn into water, it merely stands there as if it is of no concern to them, Heaven forbid."
Attorney General: Thank you very much.

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

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mr. Duvdevani.

Attorney General: I call Mrs. Rivka Kuper.

Presiding Judge: [to the witness] Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Kuper: Yes.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Rivka Kuper

Attorney General: You are a member of Kibbutz Maayan Zvi?

Witness Kuper: Yes.

Q. Your previous name was Liebeskind, you were the wife of Adolf Liebeskind, known as Dolek Liebeskind?

A. Correct.

Q. He was the leader of the Hebrew underground in Cracow?

A. Yes, the organizer of the underground.

Q. The Second World War found you in Cracow?

A. Yes, I went through all the stages of ghettoization in Cracow.

Q. Tell us in short, for the Court has already heard this from other sources, what the change-over to the ghetto seemed like in Cracow, the capital of the Generalgouvernement.

A. It took place in stages. The first stage was when all of us were still in our places and apartments which we had before the War, and then began the searches, acts of persecution, the marking of the apartments and the marking of Jewish enterprises, the wearing of the Jewish badge, the blue shield of David on a white background. Thereafter came instructions that only some of the Jews would receive permits ("Ausweis") and would be able to remain in Cracow; the others would have to leave. And then began the first deportations of the Jews of Cracow towards the East and towards Lublin. We still received some sort of news about the first groups, naturally tragic news, since they had been sent to desolate places, crowded together, lacking everything: they were plundered on the way and they lacked a livelihood and the ability to maintain themselves. But they were still alive. The second stage commenced with the decision to establish a ghetto in Cracow.

Q. When was this?

A. This was at the beginning of 1941. It had already begun at the end of 1940, but the entry into the ghetto was in March 1941, and then there remained a total of 13 thousand out of 60 thousand Jews in Cracow and out of the 80 thousand who were there at the beginning of the War. Natuarlly the ghetto was very crowded.

Q. In what neighbourhood was the ghetto set up?

A. In the neighbourhood beyond the Vistula river, Podgorze, which always belonged to the poor quarters, and the streets that were selected were the streets of old and ramshackle houses, wooden houses or ruined houses about to collapse. Three or four families were put into tiny flats of a room and a kitchen. Naturally, under such conditions, diseases spread very rapidly, particularly amongst the children. It was also difficult to maintain sanitary conditions, with all the goodwill and efforts exerted by the doctors, by social welfare and by social workers.

Q. Did the youth movements establish underground organizations? Were you a member of a Jewish-Zionist youth movement?

A. Yes. From the moment when Jewish youth were not allowed to attend school and to study, our purpose was to keep the youth together and look after them. Firstly we continued with our studies in small groups, we organized them into Hadarim.* {*(Lit. "rooms") Traditional elementary schools for religious instruction in Judaism.}

The teachers were from Hebrew schools, and they were many in Cracow, for the community was very well organized and rich in all kinds of general social institutions - and at the beginning the teachers were closely involved in the work. Very quickly the teachers disappeared, for they were deported, one in this direction and another in the other direction. Thereafter the older ones taught the younger ones.

We also continued with the activities of our movement and all the movements continued their activities in general, that is to say they met for Sabbath eves, for Festivals, they continued with their Bible lessons, they continued with their lessons in Jewish history. We tried to get the children to ignore what was happening in the street - for it was simply impossible to go outside without seriously endangering oneself. There were seizures of people, kidnappings for work - naturally into unknown directions; they would kidnap a Jew on the street when they found him, and, after he had received some blows, would throw him into some vehicle, transporting him for a whole day. He would either come back after a night or several nights, or he didn't come back at all.

If he came back - he usually came back in such a state that he was in need of serious hospital treatment. In addition to this, there were attacks, and also breaking into private houses, robbery and plunder of everything of any value. There were assaults on the streets. Religious life of the Jews was almost totally stopped right from the beginning - all the synagogues were seized.

Q. You nevertheless maintained Divine worship in the underground?

A. Yes, in every second house there was a room in which they concealed a Scroll of the Law, prayer groups used to assemble, with a guard outside.

Q. Why a guard? If they were caught, what would happen?

A. Not if they were caught - they were caught quite often.

Q. When they were caught, what would happen?

A. There were scenes of atrocity that are difficult to describe. Jews possessing beards were, of course, in danger of their lives, they used to shave them or pluck out their hair together with the skin. They used to hit them until they drew blood. When someone fell down and could no longer rise again - they would trample on him. Despite all this, they observed...

Q. They observed the Sabbaths and the Festivals, and prayers?

A. They observed the Sabbaths, the Festivals, the prayers and the holidays.

Q. And the reading of the Book of Esther on Purim?

A. Everything - we didn't omit any Festival. On the contrary, it was our ambition to preserve this as we would a dying ember. And we preserved this not only in the ghetto - we did so in prison, we did so later on in the extermination camps - even in Auschwitz.

A. You were in Auschwitz - I see the number on your arm?

A. Yes, I was in Auschwitz, after I was arrested by the Gestapo.

Q. There, too, you continued to observe the Holidays, the Festivals and the Sabbath?

A. If I may be permitted, I can describe the first instance which moved me personally despite the fact that for me it was clear that wherever I would find myself I would preserve the Hebrew tradition.

Presiding Judge: Very well, please tell us.

Witness Kuper: We were brought to Auschwitz on a Wednesday. After they had left us for an entire day in a hut...

Q. When did you arrive at Auschwitz?

A. On 18 January 1943. They put us into the blocks at Birkenau - these were formerly horses' stables. We received wooden planks on which we were supposed to sleep, to lie down. One of the first things we did, I and my friends who arrived with me, was to find acquaintances amongst those who survived, amongst the prisoners who were there in Auschwitz. And we found them. One of the first things we asked them for were two candle-stubs. On the Sabbath eve we assembled on the top shelf in our block. We were then some 10 to 12 girls. We didn't stay there long, in total darkness we kindled the lights - at that time there was no electricity at all in Auschwitz, there was no floor and there were no sanitary facilities - these were ultimately put in. We kindled the candles and began quietly to sing Sabbath songs.

We didn't know, since we were blinded by the light of the candles, we didn't know what was happening around us. After a short interval we heard the sound of stifled crying around us, on all the bunks surrounding us. First of all the crying terrified us, but it also moved us. It emerged that from all the places, and it was possible to move from bunk to bunk, Jewish women, who had been there for months and even for years, collected together around us on the nearby bunks and listened to the singing. Among them were some who came down and asked us to allow them to say the blessing over the candles.

Q. What youth movement did you belong to?

A. The Hebrew youth movement Akiva, a general Zionist youth movement.

This was the first moving incident. Afterwards, those of us who were in the bloc became accustmoned to the fact that every Friday night we lit candles. We didn't have bread, sometimes there was nothing to drink, but we somehow procured the candles. And the same on all the Festivals. We fasted on Yom Kippur in Auschwitz. We did not eat bread on Passover. From the non-Polish women prisoners we collected - during the week we gave them part of our food rations and in this way ensured for ourselves some potatoes so that we might be able to fulfill the precept: Thou shalt not eat unleavened bread on Passover.

Attorney General: Let us come back to Cracow. The youth movements organized an underground under the command of your husband Dolek Liebeskind?

Witness Kuper: Yes. At a very early stage the situation became clear to us. From the first deportations the first rumours reached us about the destination of the deporations, of the deportation trains, particularly to Belzec. And then the resolution took shape that we could not go like cattle to the slaughter, that we could not stand with our hands down and watch how every time parents, children, brothers and sisters were taken away, without being able to react, without being able to do anything. Of course it is easy to relate this today; it was very hard to carry out. The first thing we did after the matter became known to us was to carry out warning operations among all the Jews.

This was not only in the place where I was, but our girls, all those who owing to their not-so-Jewish, Aryan, appearance could leave the ghetto, used to go out and make contact with other ghettos. I also did this. We came to the ghettos, got in touch, first of all, natuarally, with people we knew, for there was a risk: in time of war to approach a strange person was not at all safe. But through them we advised everyone it was possible to inform, what was the destination of the deportation trains, and that there were no chances of rescue for Jews freely reporting for deportation.

Q. Allow me to direct you somewhat by means of questions. I believe that you also organized an underground network throughout the area in Western Galicia?

A. We set up central points in Bochnia, Czestochowa, Tarnow, Rudnik, Radom, Tomaszow Mazowiecki. In some of these we worked from Cracow, and in others we also had messengers who journeyed between Warsaw and Cracow.

Q. Did you attempt to supply forged documents?

A. Yes, we dealt with the preparation of forged documents, firstly those which would enable people to leave the ghettos. Secondly, so that they could move around. And we arranged papers that enabled people to travel on trains; and in this way, from the moment it became known that a deportation was expected in Cracow, for example, we used to supply papers to people so that they could travel, get out and enter the Ghetto of Boleckow or Bochnia, and the moment it became known that there was danger of deportation from Bochnia or Boleckow, one of the girls - and on most occasions they were girls, although there were also some boys - would travel there and transfer papers in order to enable the people to escape from there to Cracow or to other places.

Q. Did you have contact with the Warsaw Ghetto by means of these girl runners?

A. Yes.

Q. Was it mainly the girl courier Hela Schipper?

A. Yes, she is here now, Hela Rufeisen, she was the link between Dolek and the Warsaw Ghetto.

Q. Do you know the book Justina's Diary by Gusta Dawidson?

A. Both the book and the writer.

Q. Who wrote this book?

A. Gusta Dawidson-Draenger, one of the leaders of our movement.

Q. Where did she write it?

A. She wrote it in the prison at Montelupich on toilet paper that all her friends, imprisoned together with her, stole for her.

A. Did she remain alive?

A. No.

Presiding Judge: "That they stole it for her?"

Witness Kuper: Yes, for it was also difficult to obtain toilet paper. It was also difficult to write. There they used to organize a complete underground, they used to conceal her at the time she was writing, since one had to beware of the spyhole in the prison door.

Q. How was it subsequently discovered and how was it published?

A. The papers were found by one of our comrades after the War. Some of the girls were executed, and some were dispatched in one of the transports to Auschwitz, a few remained alive and are now in Israel. The girls, before leaving the prison - and incidentally Justina escaped from the prison, organized an escape from the prison together with all the girls who were taken out to the transport which was supposed to carry them to extermination. She then succeeded in fleeing and operated afterwards until the end of 1943.

On the same day our boys also organized a break-out from the men's prison. And her husband, Szymszon Draenger, one of the leaders of the underground, also succeeded in escaping. Subsequently they met and operated in the Wisnicz forests. They published a newspaper calling for revolt, both to Poles and Jews. The name of the paper was The Fighting Pioneer, and the last issue appeared in November 1944, if I am not mistaken. They were afterwards captured and, of course, put to death.

Q. Both of them?

A. Both of them.

Q. She was the Polish Anna Frank. I shall submit it.

A. The papers were discovered by one of our members - the papers were hidden in the doorpost of the cell, behind the wooden frame. It was smuggled out. Not everything was found. There was another hiding place in the oven, but nothing was found there. Consequently a number of chapters are missing; particularly the story of the greatest and most serious operation in December 1942.

Presiding Judge: This will be exhibit T/259.

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