The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 27
(Part 2 of 10)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Judge Halevi: What happened to him?

Witness Masia: This Max Bejeski obtained a job in an approved German enterprise, and later was deported to Auschwitz. As eyewitnesses who were there in Auschwitz told me, he said to the Germans at the time of a roll call "You won't kill me, I shall kill myself," and ran to the electrified barbed wire fence and remained on it, dead.

Attorney General: What was the full term of the "Dienststelle"?

Witness Masia: "Der Sonderbeauftragte des Reichsfuehrers der SS und des Chefs der deutschen Polizei fuer fremdvoelkischen Arbeitseinsatz" (The Special Commissioner on behalf of the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police for the mobilization of foreign nationals for labour).

Q. Who was its head?

A. At the beginning General Schmelz, but he very seldom came to the district, and in his place there were Lindner, Knoll, Kutschinski and others.

Q. What was Lindner's rank?

A. We did not distinguish between ranks - for us all of them were the same Germans.

Q. But to what unit did he belong?

A. To the SS.

Q. And Kutschinski and Knoll?

A. Also the SS.

Q. When were the workshops established?

A. The workshops were established in 1940-1941. When deportations to Germany began, people saw that those employed locally for the time being and who were apparently useful to the German Reich by their work, remained there, and consequently large workshops were set up. People handed over their machines, supplied manpower almost for nothing, for it was impossible to exist on the money they received, it was even impossible to buy the official and meagre rations which could not be sufficient. A large part of the official pay which they obtained was taken by the "Sonder" who received a certain percentage of the pay.

Presiding Judge: Who took that?

A. This is an abbreviation of the long name which I quoted earlier. We called it in short "The Sonder." Attorney General: Do you remember how these labourers used to return from their work in Germany?

A. There were still people who returned from the first transports - very few men returned, more women returned. The girls in most cases were swollen from hunger, sick, often suffering from tuberculosis, ill with arthritis. They spoke of very hard conditions, of long roll calls, of work from the first light of day to sunset and of starvation rations. Afterwards, at a later period, the Germans established a recuperation camp for the sick, a camp where they treated the sick. After some time, the first death notices arrived; later on these didn't arrive either.

Q. Do you remember how the Germans began telling you about transfers to the East?

A. Yes.

Q. When was that?

A. It was at the end of 1939. The Germans informed us that it was necessary to collect a group of 300 Jews who would be sent to the East. These 300 Jews were actually sent, and thereafter news arrived that they had reached a point near the Soviet border. This was already in the period when the Soviets had advanced and occupied part of Poland. The Germans placed them along the border and told them to run forward and shot at them. The Russians didn't know who was running there and also attempted to shoot, but they very quickly grasped the situation and most people were saved in this way. A few of them returned at a later stage, when these areas were reoccupied by the Germans - they returned in this way to be reunited with their families in Sosnowiec, and they gave an account of this period.

After this, a second transport had to leave for the East, a transport of 1,500 or 1,300 - I don't remember the number - but a transport the total of which reached four figures.

This transport was prepared but at the last minute it was cancelled. What the reason was - we did not know.

Q. Do you remember execution by hanging in Sosnowiec?

A. Yes.

Q. How many times?

A. Twice.

Q. How many people were hanged?

A. Once two were hanged, and once four were hanged, including a father and his son.

Q. Did you witness it?

A. The Germans insisted that the Jews should watch this "show," but many tried to avoid it. At our home the shutters were closed and we didn't leave the house, but they left the bodies in the centre of the town (the distance from our home was six to seven large houses) - in the central square in the town area.

Q. How long were the victims left hanging?

A. Two or three days. We had to go out of the house and it was impossible to leave the house without seeing them.

Presiding Judge: What was the reason for hanging them, what did the Germans say?

Witness Masia: Concerning the four, they said that they were hanged because of transactions on the black market. But the black market - that was an egg, one egg they found in the possession of a mother who had obtained it from a Pole for her little girl so that she shouldn't die of hunger. With them that was black market. The two were hanged because of assistance they rendered to people who had returned to us from the occupied areas, who had managed to cross over to us. One had to cross the border that divided us. They were in the zone of the Generalgouvernement, and we were annexed to the Reich. They crossed the border and were illegally with us, and those helping them were executed.

Attorney General: Do you remember that a story circulated in the town about a German of whom one had to beware if he came?

Witness Masia: Yes.

Q. What did they tell you about that man?

A. I know that there was a time, approximately in 1940, when we knew, generally speaking, that when high-ranking Germans came to the town, it was advisable to hide, it was advisable not to be in the streets. The streets were empty. In offices also, clerks who were not required to be at their desks, endeavoured to get away. There was a story that one had to beware of coming into contact with them, and that amongst them there was someone who was a native of a German colony in Palestine, who knew Hebrew and Yiddish, and who was well acquainted with Jewish customs.

Q. Was the name mentioned of the colony where that person was born?

A. Sarona.

Q. His name was not mentioned?

A. Possibly it was mentioned, but I don't remember it now. The name didn't mean anything to us.

Q. In April 1942 an order was issued by the Gestapo to conduct a registration of the Jewish citizens?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened?

A. We had special identity cards. In April 1942?

Q. In April - May 1942.

A. In April 1942 the Germans announced a registration of citizens, marking out those who were not working. These people, the aged, the sick, those who did not have permanent places of work - were to be sent elsewhere as an unproductive element. During this period the first transports for deportation departed. We didn't know, then, where the transport was bound for. There were rumours - the Germans spread rumours - that this transport was leaving for Theresienstadt, a place where they were collecting all the Jews. About 1,200 people from Sosnowiec left on this transport.

Q. Do you know where this transport went to?

A. No news was received from anyone.

Q. Were there also deportations from other towns in the vicinity?

A. Generally the deportations were on the same day or a day or two before that. It was known that if there was a deportation in Sosnowiec today, and it was quiet in Bedzin that was a sign that tomorrow or the next day the deportation would be from Bedzin, and so on.

Q. Do you recognize the name of a German, Lindner?

A. Yes.

Q. Who was he?

A. Lindner was the Gestapo Chief in Katowice. We saw Lindner at deportation points near the trains which were loading people. I met Lindner when I was a prisoner in goal in Katowice and when I was interrogated by the Gestapo.

Q. In June there was a second "action" in Sosnowiec?

A. Yes. In June 1942 there was a second "action," but in this "action" the total number was not reached, there was not a sufficient number of people according to the quota which the Germans laid down. I worked as a nurse at the deportation point.

Presiding Judge: A nurse on whose behalf?

A. I worked as a nurse in the hospital, and we organized a first-aid station at that point...

Q. Who ran the hospital?

A. The hospital was run by Dr. Liebermann, a Jew.

Q. Was it a private hospital?

A. It was a public hospital, the only Jewish hospital in the district, which was maintained by the Jewish community; it was forbidden for Polish or German doctors to treat Jews.

Q. They rounded up people on the street?

A. They rounded up people from the street, and when this number was not enough for them, we saw that they were beginning to transport carts with aged people, with people who were paralyzed. They emptied out the Old Age Home which was in the town, and transferred it to the assembly point. We got to know - we heard the Germans talking amongst themselves that someone had to go to bring the sick from the Jewish hospital. Adjoining the hospital, in the building next door, there was also a Jewish orphanage. Those of us who were working in this place, some nurses, a few of us ran to the hospital to inform them and to try and save them and a few ran to the orphanage. They managed to take the older children from the orphanage to a field and to hide them in the bushes. The sick people, those who could walk, tried to escape. Not many of them succeeded. They took women after childbirth, men after operations, removed all the children from the babies' room, and threw them down from the second floor, put all of them together into large vehicles, and sent them to a new place, a new settlement.

Q. Do you know where to?

A. At that time we did not know.

Q. Do you know today?

A. But when we stood beside the trains, and I was alongside the train until the last moment, until it was almost in motion, when we saw the people, we realized that it was not life they were bound for. What place it was - we did not know. But we knew this was not a place where people lived, for many of them were dead, and they also threw the dead ones inside. The first rumours reached us about the camp in Auschwitz. The fact that a camp existed at Auschwitz we already knew before, since before Passover 1941 all the Jews of Auschwitz had been deported to us.

Presiding Judge: What is the distance between Sosnowiec and Auschwitz?

Witness Masia: I think it is about 50 kilometres.

Attorney General: Mrs. Masia, did you belong to the Jewish underground?

Witness Masia: Yes.

Q. You were a leader in the Zionist youth movement and you were a member of the underground?

A. Yes.

Q. And did Mordechai Anilewicz of Warsaw and also Eliezer Geller come to you after the second "action" and tell you about Belzec and about the extermination by gassing?

A. Yes.

Q. And they also brought you news about the underground organizations that had been set up in Warsaw and other places?

A. Yes. Mordechai then brought the tidings about Nowogrodek and the news about the first Jews to raise the banner of the revolt in Novogrudok.

Q. And then you organized an underground in Sosnowiec as well?

A. From the first moment something rebelled within us but we could not give expression to it. There were many reasons for this and we were spurred on by this thought. But from the moment we saw that we were not alone in feeling this way, that there were others, that in almost every Jewish community there was the same thought - this was some kind of encouragement, some kind of force which gave us courage, possibly the feeling that we had to organize ourselves in anticipation of something. We still did not know, then, what we were organizing for. We felt that here there was need for some sort of response, but it was very difficult to react since the Germans imposed collective responsibility upon us.

Q. Judge Beisky, in his evidence here, mentioned your name. Were you in contact with Mr. Beisky when he was in Cracow?

A. Yes. Should I briefly describe this?

Q. No. I merely wanted to establish the fact that your name was mentioned in his evidence. You succeeded in obtaining a quantity of arms from the Polish underground, after you were in contact with the people of the underground in Cracow?

A. Yes.

Q. And also in this way you managed to smuggle out a number of girls in connection with the transports - do you remember?

A. Yes. I remember it well. We sent girls as young Polish women to Germany, girls and boys, and today they are in Israel, about fifty of them.

Presiding Judge: You sent girls in the guise of Aryans to Germany?

A. Boys and girls in the guise of Aryans to Germany; since the Germans were also deporting Poles for labour, we managed to find a way of securing the papers for transport for labour for our people in the guise of Aryans. And afterwards, when everything was already over, when the ghetto was no more and only a few remnants remained, we succeeded in saving these remnants.

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