The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Presiding Judge: First of all, please explain. You say: "We called it a pogrom." What happened? What did they die from? We don't know what occurred there.

Witness Behrendt: They died because they were killed or died from starvation.

Q. Who killed them - this is what the Attorney General is asking.

A. I will come to that. Next to us there was a group which went every day to the ghetto.

Q. A group of whom?

A. Of Jewish workers.

Q. Who went out of the ghetto daily to work?

A. They went out and came back to the ghetto. One day they returned from the ghetto, back to this place where we were living, and they were not allowed to come into the ghetto. Then we asked: What had happened? And they said it was full of SS men over there - nobody could enter. All the commandos went back to their place of work. This went on for three days.

Attorney General: What happened there?

Witness Behrendt: They killed about 30,000 Jews there.

Q. Who killed them?

A. The SS.

Presiding Judge: Where was this?

Witness Behrendt: In Minsk, in our ghetto.

Q. Inside the ghetto?

A. Inside the ghetto. They sealed the ghetto off hermetically - our side, the Berlin side, of the Berlin Ghetto, and they killed everybody who was inside. Anyone who hadn't gone out to work was killed there.

Q. By shooting?

A. Yes. And also in the ghetto of the Russian Jews.

Attorney General: Do you know the names of the SS commanders who were there?

Witness Behrendt: I know Hauptsturmfuehrer Ruebe.

Q. Anyone else?

A. I don't remember.

Q. Do you remember that once three men escaped?

A. Yes. This, too, happened at the beginning.

Q. And then the SD demanded that they hand over to them 300 men in exchange for those three?

A. Yes.

Q. And the three were returned, correct?

A. They found them.

Q. What did the SD commander say then to the people of the ghetto?

A. He said it isn't worthwhile to escape. For each person escaping, we shall kill 100 Jews.

Q. What happened to the three who escaped?

A. They caught them - the SS - and they brought them in. A car full of SS guards arrived, brought them to the square of the Hamburg Ghetto and shot them there.

Q. Did people die of starvation?

A. Many.

Q. Do you remember your friend Gerhardt Hofmann?

A. Yes.

Q. Was he with you at Minsk?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened to his father?

A. In this pogrom, amongst the fifty, they also took the father of my friend. They took him in this operation, for extermination. On one of the three days there was a break, and they sent them - there were about fifty of them - to their homes to visit their families, for a break. He told his wife that what he had seen on that day and on the previous day he had never seen before in his lifetime. He had been a soldier in the German army in the First World War, but a thing like that he had never seen. Then his wife implored him not to go back. He didn't want to do this on account of the fact that possibly they would take the family as well. He said he had to go lest they impose sanctions. Then he went off again and didn't return any more. All of them didn't come back any more.

Q. In the autumn of 1942 several officers came to your huts - and amongst them was a sergeant whom all of you had known for some time. Do you remember this?

A. Yes.

Q. Who was he?

A. Schmidt.

Q. What did they call him?

A. Even the Germans called him "Judentoeter (killer of Jews).

Q. Did he once search you?

A. Yes.

Q. What did he find in your possession?

A. A plate, food utensils - these were what he found amongst my things. Everyone had some possessions, hence the search. He also came to my belongings and asked: Where did you get these utensils? I said: I received them. Then he hit me and gave me quite heavy blows. At that moment there were sounds of machine gun shooting in the next hut, an automatic machine gun, an automatic rifle. They were shooting into the hut. This was in the evening. After some time they drove off to their place. We then heard shouts, we went to see what had happened, and we saw that people had been wounded. All of them were women. It was a women's hut. One woman, who received a bullet in her lungs, died the following morning. Another woman received a shot in the upper arm, and she was given some aid - there was a dentist there and he rendered whatever aid he could - and some weeks later they amputated her arm. There was no suitable aid on the spot - there was no aid at all - and we had to send her to the ghetto. There they amputated her arm.

Q. Up to the end of the winter of 1942-43 you worked as a stoker?

A. Yes.

Q. How many of your entire group survived until the end?

A. I was the only survivor.

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

Witness Behrendt: Approximately twenty Jews - on one occasion thirty, on another occasion twenty. They went away but did not return.

Attorney General: In that summer two Jews from Western Europe came to your place of work. Do you remember?

Witness Behrendt: Yes, I remember.

Q. What did they tell you?

A. At first we didn't know exactly what was their country of origin, but they spoke German to us. We asked them where they were from. They came on some transport from Western Europe - I don't remember the country. They said that they were working with the SS some tens of kilometres from Minsk and they arrived with the transport. Other transports arrived after them and they were shot in lime pits.

Presiding Judge: Who shot them?

Witness Behrendt: The SS.

Attorney General: How many persons?

Witness Behrendt: Transports, only transports. He didn't say how many.

Q. On 1 September 1943 your commando was put into the concentration camp of Minsk?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you meet other Jews there?

A. Yes - there were some already.

Q. How many?

A. It is hard to say, the camp was already full.

Q. Roughly how many?

A. About 3,000.

Q. Was this all that remained of the ninety-odd thousand Jews of Minsk?

A. There were still some in the ghetto.

Q. How many were there in the ghetto at that time?

A. I don't remember exactly. They told me afterwards that at this time there are still about 9,000 Jews.

Q. What happened to this group, to the 9,000 and to the concentration camp?

A. We were in that camp ten days and Hauptsturmfuehrer Ruebe came to the camp and took a transport of single men, 2,000 Jews, and the rest of them remained. A few days later we travelled to Poland.

Q. Which camp did you go to?

A. First of all to Lublin.

Q. And after that?

A. To Budyzn.

Q. And after that?

A. To Mielec.

Q. And afterwards?

A. Afterwards? Flossenbuerg.

Q. And from there?

A. To Herzebrock and from there back to Flossenbuerg. And from there we went on foot to Dachau.

Q. All the camps that you mentioned were concentration camps?

A. Yes. At first they were labour camps and afterwards they were converted into concentration camps.

Q. Until you were released on 24 April 1945 by the American army?

A. Yes.

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

Dr. Servatius: No, I have no questions.

Judge Halevi: You were in Berlin until November 1941. At that time was there still any concentration of Jews?

Witness Behrendt: Prior to that there still was.

Q. Were the Jews concentrated or did each one remain where he had been previously?

A. Each one was in his own apartment. Only in places of work did we work in groups.

Q. You related that a street of Jews was sent to the east.

A. Some from the street.

Q. They conducted a search on the street and they sent people away?

A. Yes.

Q. What did you hear at that time concerning the fate of these Jews, and where were they sent to?

A. I heard, and I not only heard but I saw, a postcard at an acquaintance of mine in which it said that they should send them bread, even stale bread, but quickly. My friend, with whom I worked, was the one who received this postcard from acquaintances of his or from his family who were in Lodz.

Q. What did you understand from that?

A. If it said "Generally we are well, only send bread..."

Q. Did you believe that the Jews who had been sent there were well?

A. It was very strange for us to hear that they were fit, and, notwithstanding that, that stale bread should be sent to them. We believed that the situation was not so good. But, nevertheless, we were unable to understand why they were asking for bread to be sent from Berlin to Lodz.

Q. Did you believe that the Jews there had been sent to their deaths or not?

A. No, not that.

Q. When you went into hiding, when you moved to another apartment so as not to be sent away, you didn't know and didn't you think that these deportations were to death?

A. No - I didn't think it was so bad.

Q. What did you think?

A. I thought they were sending people to a concentration camp and we were afraid they would take us. But I didn't think about death.

Q. You told us that three Jews escaped from the ghetto in Minsk and then the Germans demanded that you hand over 300 to them?

A. 300 people.

Q. Who was supposed to determine which 300 persons?

A. The SS demanded 300 people and we could do this in any way we liked, or as we thought. But they wanted 300 souls. And, first of all, they took the sick and the elderly. The young people still remained.

Presiding Judge: Who decided that?

A. The Ghetto Administration.

Judge Halevi: Was that the SS?

Witness Behrendt: No, the Jews.

Q. That is to say, the SS demanded that the Jewish Administration of the ghetto should hand over 300 persons to them?

A. Yes.

Q. And when the three men returned and were shot, as you described, were the 300 released?

A. Yes.

Presiding Judge: Thank you Mr. Behrendt, you have completed your evidence.

We shall stop now. The following Session will be next Monday, at 9 o'clock in the morning.

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