The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 29
(Part 5 of 8)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Presiding Judge: And you - how old were you?

Witness Aviel: I was between fourteen and fourteen and a half.

Attorney General: And your brother Pinhas?

Witness Aviel: My brother Pinhas. We passed several dreadful hours. We didn't know what to do. I myself - I was then the oldest in the house - tried to hide my brother and my mother, and those who were together with us in the house, in the attic. I covered them with boxes and old rags, and went downstairs, alone, to see what was happening. I had hardly got down from the attic when I heard a terrible sound of many motorcycles and shouts.

Q. Who arrived on the motorcycles?

A. Germans arrived from the direction of Lida in battledress, equipped with automatic weapons, actually dressed as if they were at the battle front. Their uniforms were different from those we had seen. It was more or less the same uniform as worn by those who had come to kill the forty refugees from Lida. I went outside. At the entrance to the house I saw that a crowd of Jews were walking from the end of the ghetto and were being forced along the road leading to Grodno - the same direction in which the groups had gone with the spades. We knew that this wasn't going to end well. At that moment several Germans entered the house. One stood at the exit while the remainder spread out into the rooms and began chasing out those who hadn't managed to conceal themselves. Each one passing through the opening would receive a blow on the head from a rubber truncheon, and would fall down. I didn't want to receive a blow. I jumped quickly on my own, bent down and managed to get out without receiving this blow, and I joined the crowd that was being led in the direction along which the earlier groups had gone.

Q. Tell us more about what was happening on that road.

A. I joined the crowd of Jews. I tried to hold back in order to see what was happening to the family, whether they had discovered them or not. I thought that I would wait and see, so that if they found them, at least I would join them. To my misfortune I saw that my mother and my little brother, my uncle and other Jews were amongst those whom they had found. My little brother told me that they had given him cruel blows, and we walked together in the direction in which they were taking us.

Q. And did other Jews join you on the way?

A. Other Jews joined us on the way. They removed more and more Jews from every house. And they joined the throng.

Q. How many were you?

A. About one thousand.

Q. How many altogether were there in Radun?

A. About two thousand souls, of whom one thousand were in Radun before the War and one thousand were Jewish refugees, some of whom had arrived from the ghettos of Eisiskes, Orany, and Olkeninkai, those who had managed to escape the slaughter that had previously taken place in the Lithuanian zone.

Q. So that there were one thousand of you walking?

A. We were one thousand walking.

Q. Did you find yourself next to your mother?

A. I walked with my mother - we walked together, mother and children.

Q. Your mother in the middle and your brother and yourself on either side?

A. Yes, I was on her right, my brother on her left. This is how we went.

Q. What did your mother say?

A. Say: "Hear O Israel." Let us die as Jews.

Q. And so the congregation walked on, saying "Hear O Israel?"

A. Yes. I repeated it after her, but unwillingly. I felt an inner resistance to it. They brought us to the marketplace in the centre of the village, they forced us to kneel with our heads bent downwards. We were not allowed to raise our heads. Whoever did so received either a bullet in the head or blows with sticks. Of course, on our way there we saw that anyone who slackened his pace was shot on the spot. We sat in the centre of the village for about an hour, perhaps more - I cannot estimate the time accurately. They addressed us. I didn't follow what they were saying to us there. I was thinking: how is it possible to escape, how is it possible to get out of this? Afterwards they made us stand up and led us outside the town towards the cemetery a kilometre and a half away.

When we neared the cemetery, roughly about a hundred metres away, they took us off the road, made us kneel down again with our heads down. We weren't allowed to raise our heads nor were we allowed to glance to the sides. We only heard shots from the sides. Since I was small I was able to lift my head a little without being seen. I then saw, in front of me, a long pit, about 25 metres long - perhaps 30 metres. They began to lead the Jews, row by row, group by group, towards the pit. They made them undress, and as they mounted the embankment, rounds of shots were heard, and they fell into the pit. I saw one case of a Jewish girl who put up a struggle; she did not want, under any circumstances, to undress. They struck her and she, too, was shot.

Q. Children, women?

A. Children, women, family after family. Each family went up together. At that moment I noticed a group of Jews who were digging the pits. Since I knew that my brother was also amongst the group...

Q. Were these the first ones?

A. The second. We didn't see the first ones. We didn't know what happened to them.

Q. Which of your brothers? Pinhas?

A. My brother, Pinhas. I peered to see if he had remained alive, and I noticed that he was there. At that moment there welled up within me the desire to join him, for there had always been the idea that at least one of us would remain and would be privileged to "ueberleben," (to come through alive) so that he would be able to tell the story if he survived. I didn't consider it very long - I said goodbye to my mother. I began jumping over the heads of those sitting near me. I jumped and fell, jumped and fell. I didn't care what would happen. And so, I don't know how, by some miracle they didn't notice me. I managed to reach the edge of the road at the rim of the ditch. I lay down and was afraid to get up and continue lest they notice me. Standing near me at that moment was Zelig, the carpenter of the town. He was a skilled worker and worked for the Germans in the Gestapo. He held a special certificate providing that he had to remain alive, he and his family.

Q. A work permit?

A. A special work permit. Altogether there were ten such men who had certificates at that time. He was holding this certificate in his hand and wanted to take out his family whom he had noticed in the large group being led to their death. At that moment a German came up to him, and thrust a revolver in his neck. I heard a shot. He turned dark all over, and continued saying: "I have a certificate." The German fired another bullet into him and he fell down near me, half a metre away. I waited a little and then continued crawling back to the road. I succeeded in reaching the group which was part of those digging the pits. At that moment a German approached and asked me: "Who are you, what are you doing here?" I had a certificate to the effect that I was a sort of locksmith. I said to him: "I am a good locksmith, I am a blacksmith," and he went away. I remained there, lying down. I went forward towards my brother and I joined him in this group.

Q. What happened to your mother and your little brother?

A. My mother was killed - she was shot together with all the other Jews in the pit.

Q. And your brother Yekutiel?

A. He, too, together with her, on that same occasion. Only afterwards did I learn that I had been the only one who somehow managed to escape from that situation.

Q. You returned to the village with the group?

A. We heard the shots, they kept on firing. We saw groups being led away. They took them away, a distance of 100- 200 metres in the direction of the village. We remained lying down, we didn't know what our fate would be, whether they were keeping us in order to cover over the pit or not. Afterwards they took us back to the village. We were a group of approximately 90-100 persons. And so we returned to the deserted ghetto. We knew that there was no one at home, but nevertheless we went to the house where the family had been previously, some hours beforehand. We took a siddur prayer book), phylacteries, and a piece of bread that happened to be there. We left the house and walked over to join those Jews who still remained alive, those who had been digging, so as not to be so alone.

Q. On the morning following the slaughter you were ordered by the Germans to report again for work?

A. They immediately drew up a register. They registered us that day - all those who had been in the group which had been digging. We were registered. The next day they issued orders to us right away to go out to work. I began to work as a locksmith. I requested another Jew who was a locksmith to take me with him to work, since I had apparently managed to save my life with that certificate. Thus I worked for a few days, two or three.

Q. What did you do after these two or three days?

A. We returned, we were alone, we sat there, crying. There was nothing to do. We decided that we had nothing more to do in the ghetto. We could no longer look at the faces of those who had shot our dear ones. We couldn't look at the paths which were drenched in blood, and we resolved to escape from the ghetto. We hoped that perhaps Father was still alive. We didn't know whether he had succeeded in escaping or not.

Q. Your brother Pinhas and you fled to the forest?

A. We left for the forest.

Q. And some days later you met your father?

A. Yes. We wandered around, alone, in the forest for a few days, we managed to make contact, we learned that Father was alive and then we joined him.

Presiding Judge: Where was he at that time?

Witness Aviel: He had succeeded in fleeing from those who had to dig and who had revolted; they were fired upon and he managed to escape. At the time about 17 persons, who had revolted and had succeeded in escaping, were saved.

Q. Was he alone in the forest?

A. He was alone in the forest. There were not yet any Jews in the forest at that stage. It was only after the slaughter that Jews began fleeing to the forests. Until then there was not a single Jew in the forest. The three of us wandered around in the forest.

Attorney General: Afterwards your father was killed?

Witness Aviel: Yes. But first my brother Pinhas was killed. Q. In the battles of the partisans?

A. There were no battles at that time. We went to establish the first contact with the partisans who were then beginning to organize themselves. This was on 10 Heshvan 5703 ( 21 October 1942).

Presiding Judge: Who were these partisans?

Witness Aviel: They were Jewish groups. In our area there were, as yet, no partisans at all. In those days, Jews, and others as well, who had moved around in the ghetto, began leaving; the younger ones, also adults as well as women and children, left for the forests. In this courtroom there is a woman whose family, Schlosberg, also fled to the forest, and at that period there were no partisans at all. We organized ourselves into small groups of two or three persons, first of all, in order to preserve our lives.

Attorney General: Was this a region of many forests?

Witness Aviel: It was a region of forests.

The first operation the Jewish partisans carried out against the Gestapo was roughly two weeks after the slaughter, an operation by young Jews. Some of them have survived. In Haifa there is a man named Rogowski who took part in this operation. They went out and, at a short distance from the pit, they laid an ambush for the gendarmerie which was in the village, for the Gestapo head of the town - if I am not mistaken he was called Kopke; they managed to wound and also to kill some of them. One Lithuanian lad, was called Yudka the Lithuanian, who was also a member of this group, was the only one to fall in this engagement. Later on, on 10 Heshvan, when we were walking...

Q. In what year?

Q. This was still 1942 - when we were moving around amongst Gentiles, we knew we would not be able to exist, although it could be said generally that the population was especially friendly to us, they knew us from our village - this was in the vicinity of the village where we had lived previously - they knew us as honest Jews, we had good relations with them, they were ready to help, to give us food and clothing, but this was not necessary, for the Jews sold their clothes and bought food. However, they were afraid to let us into their homes, although there were some cases when they did so. For a certain time I, too, was staying with a non-Jew his name was Ancilowitz - who accommodated us for a few months. And I must stress that, during that time, the Germans came to his home - I saw them and we thought he might hand us over, but he stood up to this test. This was after my brother had already been killed.

Q. What was the test? You said they stood up to the test. I should like to understand what would have happened to him if he had handed you over?

A. They would have burned him together with his family and all his property, his children and so on.

Q. If what?

A. If they had found Jews in his house. He would have been killed, destroyed. No trace of him would have remained. And, naturally, in such circumstances people were afraid to take us in. Still there were some who even gave us support and help.

There were three of us, my father, my brother Pinhas and I. I went out with my brother Pinhas to establish contact with the partisans and to get to the dense forests, for we knew that in these surroundings we would not be able to last long. There were smaller forests near us. And in our village, next to our house, in the middle of the night, at approximately 1.OO a.m. - evidently people had informed on us - on the corner behind the house about twenty or twentythree Germans and policemen awaited us.

When we were about one metre distant they pointed the muzzles of their rifles at us. We started to flee. My brother fell on this occasion. I managed to escape. Then I decided to go to Puszcza.

Attorney General: Was this a dense forest?

A. Yes. It was the scene of quite serious partisan resistance. It began with the Jews. Afterwards we were joined by Russians who had been prisoners and who were with the peasants. We also had arms, part of which we had bought and part we had seized. My father still remained in the vicinity of the village of Dowgaliszuk, so that he could be a contact in case of need. He also had difficulties in walking at that time. I set out for Puszcza with a party of seven men. I came to fetch him on two occasions, but he still did not want to go. Only afterwards, about a fortnight later, I heard that all in that area had been killed, after they were betrayed.

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