The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 28
(Part 3 of7 )

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. Who were these people accompanying you?

A. SS men and the Motor-Gendarmerie (the motorized gendarmerie). Evidently they were there only to keep guard over us.

Q. Do you know the names of those who were in charge?

A. The name of the man who was apparently in charge - I do not know exactly - they called him Haman - I don't know if this was his real name.

Q. Apparently it was. There was one Haman, exactly according to the pattern.

A. This is what we heard from the Germans when they spoke, for we saw them a number of times. On the first day that we began digging...

Q. One moment, Mr. Karasik. You began digging?

A. Yes. First of all we fenced in the place with a barbed wire fence, and we made a camouflage of young trees in order to disguise the nature of this place.

Q. After that you began digging in the place where they ordered you to dig?

A. Yes.

Q. Did they tell you that you were digging in order to lay foundations for a building?

A. From the minute we commenced digging, they did not tell us anything.

Q. They told you to dig?

A. They simply told us to dig.

Q. You dug?

A. Yes.

Q. What did you discover?

A. We struck something hard. And each one who struck something hard moved a little, but it was the same thing there - at a depth of approximately 25 centimetres we discovered the remains of bones. We told the Germans that something was buried there and they answered: Never mind, these are the carcasses of horses - remove them. We began whispering to one another, since for us this was a complete surprise. And then the Germans came into the pits and began hitting us. This Haman came directly to me and began giving me blows, and ordered me to throw the earth on to his feet. I dug and threw it and he did not stop hitting me. One of the motorized gendarmerie saw this - afterwards we had a nickname for him: "The Boxer" - and called out to me to fetch wood, and in this way he saved me from certain death. All the SS men were drunk at the time.

Presiding Judge: The motorized gendarmerie - were they SS men?

Witness Karasik : No.

Presiding Judge: You said "SS men."

Witness Karasik : Yes. There were SS men and there were the motorized gendarmerie: they took some of the men to saw trees. We sawed wooden planks of a length of eight metres, and they commanded us to make a square pyre, and afterwards we had to take out the remains of people, the remains of the bodies of people, and place them on this pyre.

Attorney General: What you were seeing was a mass grave, in other words?

Witness Karasik : Yes, this was a mass grave.

Q. What was its size?

A. Each grave was eight metres long and two metres wide. In such a grave there were normally 250 - 300 bodies.

Q. And you were ordered to exhume the bodies?

A. We were ordered to exhume the bodies and to place them on the wooden planks. On each layer they added more wood, one metre in length, and in this way we built the pyre.

Q. How many bodies did you exhume on that day - on the first day?

A. On the first day we exhumed about 1,700, for the Germans gave us orders to count each body, and if the body was decomposed, they ordered us to count the skulls.

Q. Did you also find inside the graves bags which had been preserved, and which contained talitot (prayer shawls and tefillin (phylacteries)?

A. That is right. There were all kinds of graves. It depended on the soil. If the ground was sandy the corpses were better preserved, and if the earth was black, the corpses were more decomposed.

Q. What did you do with the bodies?

A. The Germans subsequently set the pyre on fire and burned the bodies. We had to beat the residue of the pyre that remained with the iron beaters, until no bone was left. We had to pass it through a sieve. Naturally the gold, teeth as well as rings, chains and so forth remained - and the Germans ordered us to give these to them.

Q. I understand that this shocked you and you all wanted to commit suicide?

A. That was a very human reaction.

Q. But you did not do so.

A. Because we could not - they did not allow us to do so. They watched over us inside and guarded us in the open. Even if someone went to the toilet, a guard immediately came in and watched what he was doing there.

Presiding Judge: How many Jews were there in this unit?

Witness Karasik: In this unit there were 40 Jews - a few more were added later.

Attorney General: In course of time did you get to know what the unit was called?

Witness Karasik: No, they called it Sonderkommando. They pointed out all the time that on the last pyre we, too, would go up, for the secret was not allowed to be known. This is what the German gendarmerie said. We came to Grodno...

Q. Not so fast. The next day you carried on with the same work?

A. We continued with the same work. We even unearthed a special grave outside the barbed wire fence that we had erected. In this special grave there were eight bodies and before we uncovered them one of the gendarmerie said, on top there ought to be a woman with a floral dress. Later on it turned out that this was correct, it was so. And they further joked amongst themselves: "Do you remember how this woman made somersaults, turned over, rolled over (I believe that this is the proper translation) when she received the first bullet?"

Presiding Judge: What was the word in German?

Witness Karasik: Saltos. We exhumed these bodies and added them to the pyre.

Attorney General: When you finished digging into a pit, in order to exhume the corpses, what were you ordered to with the open pit?

Witness Karasik: We were ordered to cover it and afterwards to camouflage it with trees and greenery.

Q. Who showed you from time to time where to dig?

A. The SS men who were with us inside.

Q. When you finished the work at one place were you taken to another?

A. We were taken to another place, not far from the first one, this was still in Augustov, not far from the railway lines. There were eight or nine such graves.

Presiding Judge: How many graves such as these did you open in the first place?

Witness Karasik: At the first place there were also seven or eight. A year later I wrote down all the numbers, for I still remembered each single place. Later on, when I lay wounded in hospital, I recorded this on paper, hence I have the numbers.

Attorney General: How long were you in this Sonderkommando?

Witness Karasik : Until its dissolution on 13 July 1944.

Q. That means how much in all?

A. Two months, a little over two months.

Q. And how many graves did you open during that time? A. I did not total up the graves.

Q. How many corpses did you burn?

A. 22,000 bodies, according to the data which I have of every place.

Judge Halevi: Was all this in the region of Bialystok?

Witness Karasik: Bialystok, Augustov, Grodno.

Attorney General: Afterwards you reached the environs of East Prussia?

Witness Karasik: Yes. Our place there was in the courtyard of the Gestapo in Grodno. From there we would go out into the countryside around Lida, in the Grodno area. We dug near an ancient citadel and there we found bodies with gold rings on their fingers. Evidently these were not Jews, but people who had been seized in the street and put to death.

Presiding Judge: Was this on Polish territory or in East Prussia?

Witness Karasik: I cannot state this exactly. On one occasion we saw the post marking the border. On this border post there was the sign of Prussia.

Attorney General: Did you find the bodies of children?

Witness Karasik: Of children, of old men and of women. We also found the bodies of Polish officers, and in the case of these officers the hands were tied behind their backs with telephone wires. We once took 750 officers out of one such grave.

Presiding Judge: Were they in uniform?

Witness Karasik: In uniform, precisely. In uniform and boots, so that we were even able to distinguish between their ranks.

Attorney General: On one occasion did they also kill people next to bonfires?

Witness Karaski: Yes, it was exactly on the Festival of Shavuot, and this was the second time I saw this Haman. They took the truck during work and went somewhere. An hour later, approximately, they brought back eight persons, farmers, and shot them on the spot.

Presiding Judge: Poles?

Witness Karasik: Yes, Poles.

Attorney General: And you had to burn them?

Witness Karasik: Yes, we had to burn them. And they further told us to take off their clothes - whatever we needed. But, of course, no one touched them. I witnessed this spectacle, and if I may describe it - it would be worthwhile doing so. At the time that they brought the truck - the truck was closed, it was the same truck that conveyed us to work and carried hundreds and thousands of people to their death - naturally in the driver's cabin sat Haman, the driver and another Gestapowitz (Gestapo man); they opened the doors and the persons started coming out. Evidently they were not expecting this kind of thing. Then Haman took a submachine gun and began firing at the people. They were taken unawares by the shots and began shouting and begging for mercy, but further bullets put an end to their convulsions. This Haman approached them and with his fingernails grabbed the flesh of a young woman whose dress had lifted somewhat.

Presiding Judge: Were they women or men?

Witness Karasik: Two women and six men, apparently a complete family. Afterwards we asked what it was all about. Then the Germans told us that they had gone to fetch pigs for us, for the Feast, for them and for us, and these people had apparently resisted or did not want to give them, and then they brought them to the forest and liquidated them.

Attorney General: Throughout the time that you worked in this unit did they give you food?

Witness Karasik: Yes, as much as we wanted, and also brandy to drink - this was the well-known Samogon. They also drank, but not Samogon but liqueur.

Q. Now, tell us, were there many graves of Jews which you discovered with the "Shield of David?"

A. Yes, there were also graves we discovered with the armband and the Shield of David on the arms. For us this was a surprise. In these graves the eyes of all of them were tied with a piece of cloth. In all the other graves we had not found this. We found it in one grave.

Q. Mothers?

A. Yes. There was one case where we unearthed a grave in the vicinity of Lida. The grave was close to what had once been a village. At that time it was no longer a village but chimney stacks which stood on the site of the village. In this grave there were only women and children; there were no men there at all. Afterwards we learned, according to what the Germans said, that the men had escaped to the partisans, to the forest. When we discovered this grave, we saw on top one woman who lay there with a baby in her arm and a little girl at her side and a baby on her back, bound to her with cloth. It was a shocking picture. And this "Boxer" began to cry, tears welled up in his eyes, but the rest of his comrades started mocking him...

Q. Which comrades?

A. His comrades, they started to mock and laugh and that is how it ended.

Q. Mr. Karasik, you did this work up to the date that you mentioned?

Presiding Judge: This means up to July 1944?

Witness Karasik: On 13 July 1944 they liquidated us.

Attorney General: And on that day?

Witness Karasik: That day we passed by Zalonka, near Bialystok - this was about six to eight kilometres away.

Q. Let me guide you with my questions; please simply confirm to me if I am right or not. In the middle of the work they ordered you to stop work, and to burn the stretchers?

A. Yes.

Q. You asked the guards whether this meant the end of all of you?

A. Yes.

Q. They, too, were nervous?

A. Very nervous.

Q. They took all the implements from you, they ordered you to line up in threes, and to walk in the direction of an open pit?

A. Precisely.

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