The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 30
(Part 3 of 7)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust
Q. There, they ordered you to lie down. Please answer my questions, Mr. Horowitz.

A. Yes.

Q. Then they called out people by names, one by one?

A. They called over five people, one after the other.

Q. What did they do to them?

A. I went over to one of the pits; as soon as I saw it I gave a loud scream and jumped in among the dead, and until he called the next five from behind and shot them I hid between two graves. They searched for me everywhere, and their shouting reached high Heaven: "Donnerwetter (damn it!), where did this fellow disappear to?" The Ukrainian militia started swearing and used obscene expressions which I cannot repeat here. I could hear more people being brought up and shot. I lay there until noon; I raised my head and heard nothing. I saw nobody. I went to the wall of the cemetery, climbed over and lay there. Then I went to the Christian cemetery and hid there until night fell.

Attorney General: Thank you very much.

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

Dr. Servatius: No.

Judge Halevi: Who of your family survived?

Witness Horowitz: None of my family survived. One woman, a lawyer's wife who had lost her husband and two children came to me on the last day and asked me to let her stay. I consented; it was my duty. Then she asked whether there was a bunker in the house in which she could hide. I told her that there was one, where people went into hiding during the "action." But when I came back from the cemetery I told her to run away and save her life, because it would be no good to stay here. She went to a Christian woman and hid there for two weeks, and after two weeks, she came back at night and asked me to hide her.

Q. Excuse me, I asked about your own family.

A. None of my family. Only the woman survived.

Q. In what year did this occur in the cemetery?

A. It happened on Purim 1943.* {*The Purim festival fell on 9 March 1943.} Purim was Sunday: they took us away on Saturday.

Q. You spoke about the hospital you were allowed to set up in the ghetto, which people knew to be a trick and refused to enter. Why did the thirty Jewish women enter it nonetheless?

A. Women who didn't have any choice went in, they didn't have husbands, they were down and out. Where else could they go? They had no choice, so they went there; there they had a bed to lie in.

Q. Did you write down the names of all the criminals and did you give them to the police?

A. I did. I was able to testify against two who were caught: Knackendoffel and Weissman.

Presiding Judge: Did you give them to our own police?

Witness Horowitz: Yes.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mr. Horowitz.

Attorney General: I call Mrs. Rivka Yoselewska.

Presiding Judge: Is this the witness who was unwell on Friday? Has a doctor examined her?

Attorney General: She came here yesterday and said she was able to testify.

Presiding Judge: And is it your own impression that she is capable of testifying?

Attorney General: My impression is that she is able to testify if the Court will permit her to sit down.

Presiding Judge: Certainly. [To the witness] Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness: Yiddish.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: Please be seated and speak as calmly as you can.

Attorney General: You live in Ramat Gan, 57 Bialik Street?

Witness Yoselewska: Yes.

Q. Were you born in the townlet of Powost in the Pinsk district?

A. Powost-Zagorodski.

Q. In Yiddish it was called Powost?

A. Yes.

Q. Your father had a leather goods shop there and was considered one of the notables of the townlet?

A. Yes.

Presiding Judge: How many Jews lived in the townlet?

Witness Yoselewska: About five hundred families.

Attorney General: You also had two sisters, Chaya and Feige?

Witness Yoselewska: Yes.

Q. And you have a brother named Moshe who was saved and lives in the United States?

A. Yes.

Q. You were married in 1934?

A. Yes.

Q. And you had a daughter named Marka of this marriage?

A. Yes.

Q. Mrs. Yoselewska, when the Germans entered in 1941, what happened to your synagogue?

A. They turned it at once into a stable for horses.

Q. When you say "they," who were they?

A. Germans, for the most part they were SS men.

Q. What happened on 15 Av 5701 (8 August 1941)?

A. One Saturday evening gentiles from nearby villages came to our town and said, in view of what they had heard and also seen, that the Germans were killing Jews - we better flee, disperse and hide.

Q. What did your grandfather say?

A. We asked grandfather: What shall we do, run away? He consulted with some of his acquaintances, the rabbi, the ritual slaughterer, and other important people, and then said not to run away, to remain where we are, nothing will happen. Perhaps young people will be taken to work, but killing - it can't be.

Q. What happened on the following day?

A. Next morning, at dawn, the town was in an uproar. A Jew came running from the nearby village of Borki. His name was Seidel. He shouted "Jews, run away, the Germans are coming to kill us."

Q. And what did your grandfather say then?

A. Grandfather said...That very moment we saw the Germans driving into town; they snatched that Jew at once. He barely got into town and was shot on the spot. All the Jews who had heard it began to run away and tried to hide. Grandfather said: "You children get away. I shall stay and I will not go; nothing will happen to me." To my father he said: "You stay with me. I shall hide some place, but nothing will happen to me."

Q. And what happened that day?

A. That day we made our escape, those who could manage, because the Germans had seized the town. We found refuge in a small forest, where we could hear shooting. In the beginning only single shots. The next day at daybreak we heard a lot of shooting and we thought that when the Germans enter a town, they start shooting when they leave; so we thought that was what they were doing now.

Q. And then you returned to the town?

A. When the shooting stopped, we began to make our way back. The gentiles we met told us that we could go ahead; the Germans had left. They killed everyone they found. Nobody was left.

Q. And when you returned, you heard that some 150 Jews had been assembled, amongst them the rabbi and the ritual slaughterer?

A. They had got hold of the rabbi, the ritual slaughterer, all the important people and children from twelve and up.

Q. And what did they do with them?

A. The rabbi's wife told us. She had ten children. She couldn't run away with them. When we came back she told us that the rabbi had been ordered to take the prayer shawl with him. They drove the Jews into the centre of town and lined them up. They ordered the rabbi to put on his prayer shawl and address the people. As he did so they beat him and told him to dance and to sing, but he refused. A lot more were beaten. They cried: "Shma Yisroel".* {*"Hear, O Israel!" - The supreme affirmation of the unity of God in Jewish thought, signifying the readiness of a person to die for his faith.}

Q. What did they do with them?

A. Then they were chased and hunted them right up to the old cemetery, where a shallow ditch had been made ready.

Q. What did they do to them?

A. And there - that's what the gentiles who had seen it told us - they were ordered to lie down in the ditch and were shot.

Q. Did those who were left alive stay in town?

A. They stayed in town.

Q. Your father was registered as a shoemaker?

A. My father stayed after the first "action," as a skilled worker. We had a leather store and he was a shoe seamster.

Q. And you would go out to work outside the ghetto?

A. Not every day were we taken out. It was good for us to be let out to work outside.

Q. Once you returned from work with a few lumps of sugar for your girl concealed in your hair?

A. Naturally we would try to bring some food back to the ghetto for the small children, when we worked outside. We had to hide the stuff, since it was forbidden. Once I hid some cubes of sugar in my hair. I was caught by a policeman; next to him was a German; otherwise maybe he would have let me pass.

Presiding Judge: The guard was a Belorussian (White Russian)?

Witness Yoselewska: Yes.

Attorney General: With the Belorussian was there a German?

Witness Yoselewska: A German was standing there. He searched me and discovered the sugar in my hair. He began to beat me. At the gate my mother and the children - together with other children - were anxiously waiting for us, the parents, to return from work. When one left for work one couldn't tell whether one would return. When my mother saw that they were beating me she started screaming and told them to beat her instead of me. So they beat her, too. The children covered their eyes. They knew it was bad to scream because they once saw that my mother and I were beaten because they cried.

Q. Meanwhile, Germans would enter and remove from you every piece of jewellery, earrings, house utensils?

A. Whatever they found or could lay their hands on, and also things somebody tried to hide.

Q. And the girl who had been crying - they pointed their weapons at her?

A. Yes.

Q. You remember Saturday, the first of the month of Elul, 1942?

A. I remember quite well. It was forbidden for Jews to pray. But people risked their lives and in the early morning went down to a cellar in the ghetto. There was noise in the ghetto, a constant coming and going of Germans during the night. We knew that something was about to happen. We looked around. We didn't want Father to go down to the cellar. We saw a lot of German policemen surrounding the ghetto. We went out and asked everybody. They were policemen we knew. We asked them what all the excitement was about; why so many Germans had turned up.

Presiding Judge: What sort of policemen?

Witness Yoselewska: Belorussians. They said that a group of partisans had come to the ghetto, to be together with us in order not to be caught alive by the Germans. If they mixed amongst Jews, they would not be caught. But it wasn't so. At once, we were chased out of the houses. We couldn't speak to Father. He came up from the cellar from prayers. He gave us his blessing for a propitious month, for salvation. I remember the date precisely, since it was the first of the month of Elul. We were told not to take anything with us, not even the children, when we had to leave. We had got used to leaving the ghetto, because from time to time they made us leave our houses for counting and recounting, in order to make sure that no one was missing from the ghetto. We realized that this time it wasn't a matter of counting us. Four Angels of Death were standing in front of us. A lot of Germans were there. Four or five Germans for every one of our people. This was not in order to count us.

Attorney General: They drove you all to the town square?

Witness Yoseleska: No, we weren't taken to the square, but remained standing in the ghetto. Then we were told: "Death is threatening you. You will be shot; whoever wants to buy his way out should bring in whatever he owns in money or jewels that he has hidden." They tormented us right till the end of the day.

Presiding Judge: Did the Jews hand over jewellery and valuables?

Witness Yoselewska: No, we did not have anything, nothing at all. We had handed over everything before.

Attorney General: What happened towards evening?

Witness Yoselewska: Children began screaming. They couldn't help it. They wanted to eat and drink. We were left standing all day. We were used to such things, because more than once they chased us out of the ghetto. On one occasion they kept us 24 hours without a drop of water or bread, also small children, and didn't tell us why they did it. They were looking for something. Later we found out, they were looking for things we might have buried. Then the gate of the ghetto opened and a truck moved in. Those who were strong enough climbed up by themselves, but the weak ones were thrown in. They were piled into the truck like cattle.

Q. Did they count the Jews beforehand?

A. They counted all of us. Some were missing. They went back into the ghetto and searched. They tormented us this way until afternoon.

Q. They filled up the truck. What happened to those who had no room on the truck?

A. The rest they made run after the truck.

Q. And you were running with your little girl?

A. I was holding my little girl and running after the truck, too. Many mothers had two or three children. All the way we had to run. When somebody fell down, they wouldn't let him get up; they shot him on the spot. All my family was there. We arrived at the place. Those who had been on the truck had already got down, undressed and stood in a row.

Q. Where was it?

A. It was about three kilometres away from our town. There was a hill and a little below it they had dug something like a ditch. They made us walk up to the hill, in rows of four, and the four whom we likened to Angels of Death shot each one of us separately.

Q. What German unit did these four belong to?

A. The SS. They were SS men. They carried several guns with plenty of ammunition pouches, real Angels of Death.

Q. What did you see when you came there?

A. When we arrived at this place, we saw naked people standing there already, so we thought maybe they are being tormented, perhaps there was still hope we would remain alive. To get away was impossible. I was curious to see whether anybody was below that hill where the people had to stand and I made a quick turn. I saw three or four rows, twelve people already killed.

I wish to add that when they lined us up in the ghetto my little daughter asked: "Mother why are you wearing your Sabbath dress, they are going to kill us." Even when we stood near the ditch she said: "What are we waiting for, come let's escape." Some of the younger ones tried to run away. They hardly managed a few steps, they were caught and shot. Then came our turn. It was difficult to hold the children, they were shaking. We took turns. Parents took the children, took other people's children. This was to help us to get through it all; to get it over with, and not see the children suffer. Mothers took leave of their children, the mothers, the parents.

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