The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 28
(Part 4 of 7)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. You noticed that the Germans were walking behind you with cocked automatic rifles?

A. Not behind us, but in a semicircle, spread out.

Q. You reached the open pit?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened then?

A. I was in the first row. I saw that Magel was approaching from the side, together with someone whom the trees concealed, I did not see him properly, and he took out a small revolver and fired a shot. At the same time we heard a cry: "Comrades, run!"

Q. In what language?

A. In Yiddish. One of our comrades shouted it. I jumped into the pit, afterwards I jumped out of it, I fell, I jumped once again and went over the fence, and I began running with all my strength.

Q. Were you wounded?

A. Yes, suddenly I was hit several times.

Q. And you were wounded?

A. Yes, I was wounded.

Do you, to this day, have a scar of this injury?

A. Yes, here (in the shoulder) I received a bullet.

Q. In the end you crawled towards the Soviet lines?

A. Yes, during the course of nine days. On the first night I had another comrade with me, we walked all night. Towards morning we saw a light, we approached the light very slowly, and this turned out to be once again the place from which we had set out. The fire was burning. We lay on the ground all day and, on the following day, at night, we began walking through the forests in an easterly direction. In the course of nine days, with all kinds of adventures, we crossed the border. My comrade was killed and I was taken to a Soviet hospital.

Presiding Judge: Killed by whom?

Witness Karasik :We do not know - this was at night, on the last night.

Attorney General: You were drafted into the Soviet army, and you also took part in battles in Czechoslovakia?

Witness Karasik : Yes, thanks to an acquaintance, the director of the hospital where I was.

Q. At the end of 1945 you were released from the Soviet army and in 1947 you immigrated to Palestine, you were exiled to Cyprus, and in 1949 you immigrated to the State of Israel?

A. Correct.

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

Dr Servatius: I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you very much, Mr Karasik, you have completed your evidence.

Attorney General: I shall now submit a number of documents relating to matters concerning Bialystok. The first is our document No. 192. The date is 16 December 1942. This is an instruction mentioning 45,000 Jews. The date of dispatch is 11 November 1943. 30,000 of them were from the district of Bialystok and the rest from other districts. At the end of the cable it is stated that, owing to practical considerations the general guidelines would apply to these Jews, during their classification on their arrival at Auschwitz, and at least 10,000-15,000 would have to be a labour force. The cable was sent from Department IVB4 and signed by Mueller.

Judge Halevi: What did you say about Auschwitz?

Attorney General: This was a transport to Auschwitz and a classification for work. It refers to the deportations from Bialystok.

Presiding Judge: This document will be T/292.

Attorney General: Our next document is No. 1505. This is the evidence of Fritz Friedel, written in his own handwriting in the prison of Bialystok in the year 1949. He describes the liquidation of the ghetto. He refers to the Jewish resistance and speaks of the visit of Guenther of Eichmann's Department. He does not say this. I am adding this. Guenther was Eichmann's man.

Presiding Judge: Was he his deputy?

Attorney General: Yes. In February 1943, and in consequence of this visit 10,000 Jews were deported from there. On page 4 it says that "the evacuation did not pass off quietly. There was shooting on both sides and both sides sustained killed and wounded. I also know that Globocnik brought in an armoured car in order to break the Jewish resistance." On page 21 of the original, it says: "Approximately in the second half of October, 1942, an additional order of the R.S.H.A. came into effect in the form of a 'secret Reich matter' - I have not read this order either - which ordered the evacuation of the Jews from the district of Bialystok."

There is a reference to Guenther on page 22: "At the beginning of February 1943, Sturmbannfuehrer Guenther of the R.S.H.A. called on Dr Altenloh. Guenther explained that he had instructions from the R.S.H.A. to carry out an investigation in the Bialystok Ghetto in order to discover a sabotage organization, and also an organization for counterfeiting money and an organization for the forging of passports. Nothing at all concerning organizations of such a kind was known to the Bialystok command. Undoubtedly their aim was to obtain in this way a partial evacuation of the Jews and found it necessary to disengage Dr Altenloh from that, because of his stand in favour of the maintenance of the ghetto. I know nothing about the success of Guenther's investigation. He arrested and deported, on his own, about 10,000 Jews and nobody knew where to. In the ghetto there was great unrest."

On page 16 Friedel writes, in the upper part of the page, that in February 1943:

"Ob aus Bialystok im Februar 1943 durch den Sturmbannfuehrer Guenther Juden nach Treblinka geschickt worden sind, weiss ich nicht, da Guenther die Transporte selbst abgefertigt hat. Die Moeglichkeit besteht aber." (I do not know whether in February 1943 Jews were sent from Bialystok to Treblinka by Sturmbannfuehrer Guenther, since Guenther himself was dealing with the transports. However, that is possible).
Presiding Judge: This will be T/293.

Attorney General: And now, I shall submit a number of documents relating to another subject, before we hear the following witness, who will give evidence about the Kovno Ghetto. The first document is our No. 1193. These are the minutes of a meeting on 10 October 1941. Participating in it were Heydrich and other SS officers, amongst them Eichmann and Guenther. The subject was - the solution of the Jewish question.

Presiding Judge: Where did this meeting take place?

Attorney General: In Prague. We shall come back to this document when we talk about Theresienstadt, for this is a basic document. But for purposes of the matters which are about to be produced now, I would draw the Court's attention to what is stated on page 3: "Now, during the coming weeks, we must evacuate the 5000 Jews from Prague, SS Brigadefuehrer Nebe and Rasch are ready to absorb Jews also into the camps for communist prisoners in the operational area. They have already started this operation, according to the report of SS Sturmbannfuehrer Eichmann."

Nebe and Rasch were the commanders of the Einsatzgruppen 3B and C which were engaged at that time in killing Jews. And Eichmann, as we contend, when he proposed at that meeting to send Jews to Nebe and Rasch, knew very well that he was sending them to certain death at the hands of the Einsatzgruppen.

Presiding Judge: This will be T/294.

Attorney General: Now I shall call the witness Dr. Aharon Peretz.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your name?

Witness: Aharon Peretz.

Presiding Judge: Doctor?

Witness Peretz: Dr. Aharon Peretz.

Attorney General: Do you live in Haifa, at 14 Rehov Netiv Haofakim?

Witness Peretz: Yes.

Q. Do you work at the Rambam Hospital where you are the head of the Gynaecology Department?

A. Yes.

Q. When the German-Soviet Russian war broke out, you were in Kovno?

A. That is right.

Q. In August 1941 you were put to work both as a forced manual labourer as well as a doctor?

A. That is right.

Q. You were there until the liquidation of the ghetto in 1944, when you were transferred to the Stutthof camp?

A. That is right.

Q. What were the first weeks of the German occupation like, from the point of view of the Jews?

A. The Germans entered Kovno on 24 August 1941. Already in the early days they began something which we called pogroms. There was a reason for that. These small operations in those days were different from the "actions" which came afterwards, in their ferocity and their spontaneity. Then came the notorious pogroms in Slobodka, which was a suburb of Kovno, where there was the well- known Yeshivah. And then, in one night about one thousand people - Yeshivah students and heads of the Yeshivah - were killed. The civilians jumped from the Vilna bridge, and the Germans learned how to shoot at a target floating on the river. There they had to dig their own graves. This was the first pogrom.

Q. When was that?

A. Three to four days after the occupation. That is to say, on 26 or 29 June and at the beginning of July. After that there was a pogrom in the streets of Kovno, where they assembled the Jews in a garage; they placed hose pipes into their mouths, and they burst from the water. There were 40 victims there. Thereafter they collected Jews at the cemetery and killed them there. Of course, at the time the Jews hid themselves in their houses. They removed them from their houses. At the beginning of July they collected the Jews from those streets; family by family, and took the men to the Seventh Fort.

Q. What was this Seventh Fort?

A. Kovno was a fortified city from the times of the First World War. There were fortifications there, which were stone buildings with large courtyards. And the Fourth Fort, the Seventh Fort and the notorious Ninth Fort became a place of mass slaughter, not only for the Jews of Lithuania, but also for Jews from other countries. In the Seventh Fort they collected Jews, men only, who had to lie on the sand in the burning sun for several days. And then they removed group after group, they themselves dug pits, jumped into them and were shot. Only a few survived that place, and they later recounted the shocking events to us.

Q. How many people were killed?

A. In the Seventh Fort 7,000 were put to death.

Q. At once, in the early days?

A. At once, in the early days.

Q. How many Jews were there in Kovno?

A. There were more than 40,000 Jews in Kovno. When we entered the ghetto the number was already only 32,000.

Q. When did you enter the ghetto?

A. On 15 August 1941 we completed the fence and the ghetto was closed off.

Presiding Judge: You yourselves?

Witness Peretz: The Jews built the fence themselves, and they built the bridge that linked the small ghetto with the large ghetto. And on 15 August they closed the gate. This decree to go into the ghetto then appeared to us as some sort of rescue, for the Jews wanted to shut themselves off into some closed space in order to free themselves of the daily atrocities, from the daily beatings. But evidently even this fence did not save us. Several days before the closing off of the ghetto, when the Jews were proceeding in convoys, on foot and in carts, dragging their personal effects with them, on a Thursday - it was also known amongst us as "the black Thursday" - more than 1,000 persons were taken away from among us and disappeared. This was several days before the closing of the ghetto.

A number of days after the closing of the ghetto, when we were hoping that there, within the fence, we would get some rest, to breathe, already in those early days the Aeltestenrat, the Council of Elders, received a request to gather people of the intelligentsia in order to sort out the archives in the city. They requested specially that these people should be young, intelligent, with an academic education, welldressed.

Naturally it did not occur to us that we were being cheated, and we assembled the best people in the city. There were many such people who volunteered, since they thought that this would be interesting work, suitable to their training. More than 500 persons, 530 persons, left the ghetto, left their families, their wives - most of them were married. We waited for their return. We waited a day or two, but they did not come back. Afterwards we learned that they were taken out of the city of Kovno, and there all of them were shot. This was already the first blow, after the fence had been put up..

Q. And then you realized that this fence would not protect you?

A. Yes. After this "action" of the intelligentsia - and each "action" had its own wretched name - many women were left in a miserable state, alone with their children, and theirs was all the time a difficult fate.

Q. Was there food?

A. During the early stages when we were shut in the ghetto, the situation was very bad. First of all, we were stunned, every day a fresh blow descended on our heads, and we lacked orientation and the ability to adapt ourselves - which later turned out to be an outstanding ability to adjust to lack of livelihood and to hunger, to finding and discovering ways, finding sources of livelihood and sources of food - this strength we did not have at first. For the restrictive regulations kept coming, and the searches, and the plunder, and the units that came into the ghetto and caused havoc all this gave the Jews no opportunity to think of food, and in the early months and in the first half-year the hunger was severe.

Q. Do you recall a case of girls who went out to dig for potatoes?

A. Yes. In the early stage the ghetto was a part of the township of Slobodka, and they crowded us more and more into a small area. But within this area there were gardens where there were potatoes and vegetables. The women, at times of hunger, used to go out and try to find potatoes and vegetables in those gardens. Then they were shot at by the guards behind the fence. The shots were of dumdum bullets I treated them in the hospital - these were bullets which exploded inside the body, tearing the body apart. These shootings happened close to each other, at the beginning of the existence of the ghetto, and each day another victim was brought to us in the hospital. Once it was the case of a rabbi who passed by and failed to raise his hat on meeting a German; once it was a doctor, a friend of mine, who did not notice the SS man in time and did not raise his hat; he got a bullet in the kidney and died a day later. Naturally, shootings such as these caused alarm. Later on searches began, and the robbery, in organized fashion, and then, of course, there were victims every day in order to frighten us, to induce the Jews to hand over whatever they possessed. Special orders were issued concerning the handing over of valuables, gold and silver, as in all the ghettos. We received orders to hand over everything, and in order to reinforce this order they used to fire at people from time to time. They would search, they would undress the women naked.

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