The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 34
(Part 4 of 8)

Q. What happened to the woman?

A. She was sent off immediately on the transport to Sobibor.

Q. Did she return?

A. She did not return, but the child remained with us.

Q. Where is this child today?

A. This child happens to be in Israel now. He is studying in the Overseas Youth Leaders' Institute and will be returning later on to Holland in order to be an instructor in the Hashomer Hatzair movement.

Q. Dr. Melkman, you said that you were transported in a waggon of a goods train to Westerbork?

A. Yes.

Q. How long were you in Westerbork?

A. I was there for eight months - until 15 February 1944, and then I left on the transport for Bergen-Belsen.

Q. How many people were there generally at Westerbork, at that time or perhaps at various periods?

A. It is hard to say. When we arrived, large transports of Jews came from Amsterdam - thousands - and then the largest trainloads consisting of 2,000-3,000 left on each transport for Eastern Europe. And, thereafter, in September, the last of the Jews of Amsterdam came, and then the camp was again heavily populated. But it was not constant all the time. The number of people in Westerbork varied from week to week.

Q. Who was the Commandant of Westerbork?

A. Gemmeker.

Q. Was he a German?

A. Yes.

Q. Were SS men there?

A. Yes.

Q. Which SS men were there? Do you remember the names of the SS men? The name of any one of them?

A. No. Our contacts were with the Jewish administration, and I do not remember the names of the SS men.

Q. Incidentally, did you ever see the person Slottke there?

A. Once, when we wanted to be registered for an exchange transport to Palestine, she came to register us. I asked about it. I wanted to join my mother-in-law who was already on one of the first lists. Mrs. Slottke was there but did not say anything at all. But Commandant Gemmeker said: "If you want to be together with your family, you will go to work in the East" (zu Arbeitseinsatz nach dem Osten).

Q. Did you know the function of this Mrs. Slottke?

A. We knew that she attended to the lists of the Jews.

Q. On whose behalf did she deal with them?

A. I only heard it afterwards - at the time I did not know exactly.

Presiding Judge: We heard a name.

State Attorney Bach: If the witness did not know then, I do not want to ask him about it.

Judge Halevi: Did he hear it afterwards?

State Attorney Bach: Perhaps as a result of your research you know who this woman was?

Witness Melkman: She dealt with the registration of Jews on behalf of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt.

Presiding Judge: On whose behalf?

State Attorney Bach: She was, in practice, the official who conducted the registration.

Presiding Judge: But at that time you did not know?

Witness Melkman: We did not know at the time - we got to know later. We knew only that she was dealing with it.

Presiding Judge: She was a non-Jewess?

Judge Halevi: Was she Dutch or German?

Witness Melkman: Not a Jewess, a German.

State Attorney Bach: I shall prove this afterwards in some other way. Apart from Westerbork, which other camp existed in Holland - camps where Jews were detained?

Witness Melkman: There was a large camp in the south which the Germans called Hertogenbosch. We called it Vught. It was a small village. It was intended that Jews could be brought there from the country towns, nearly all of whom were subsequently transferred to Westerbork, and also people who worked in the large factory of Phillips. There was also a camp by the name of Ellerkom. It was in existence for a short time only. It was a training camp for the SS. There they experimented with tortures on the Jews.

Q. This was a training camp of the SS?

A. Training how to be cruel.

Q. Whom did they instruct there, German SS men or others?

A. Dutchmen, as far as I knew. The people who were there suffered terribly. They were transferred subsequently to Westerbork. It was forbidden to come near them. Only members of the Jewish administration at Westerbork came to them and attended to them, but they were in a terrible state.

Q. In what sense?

A. They suffered horrible injuries, they had been beaten and had undergone other tortures, starvation. They were skeletons - they were no longer human beings. I believe that almost all of them were sent afterwards to Auschwitz. I do not think that any of them remained alive.

Q. They were sent, subsequently, from Ellerkom to Westerbork and from there onwards?

A. Yes.

Q. Please tell the Court in what manner the deportations to the East were organized. How was it determined? How did you know? How were the people selected? When did a person know that he or she was destined for deportation, and so on?

A. The commandant advised the Jewish administration of Westerbork that on the following day - this was always a Tuesday - a certain number had to be sent, 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000, and the Jewish administration was required to provide lists, the names of the people who were to be sent, slightly more than the quota, for there was the obvious possibility that some of them would die en route, and the number reaching Auschwitz always had to be exact. If they had to supply 1,000, they used to send 1,020. They started dealing with these lists already on Friday and Saturday.

Sometimes people were included in the lists who were in possession of documents which provided them with so-called protection against being deported, and if there was a lack of human material, this immunity was cancelled. This was already known by Saturday. And then, the closer it was to Tuesday, the greater the tension. And on Tuesday night, at three o'clock...

State Attorney Bach: Are you referring to Tuesday morning, on the night between Monday and Tuesday?

Witness Melkman: Yes - on the night between Monday and Tuesday. At three in the morning they closed the hut in which we were staying, they sealed it hermetically, it was forbidden to leave or come in. And then the hut-leader read out the names of the people who were condemned to deportation - an alphabetical list.

And I must say that all the terrible things that I saw even afterwards, in the camps, or murderous beatings and more than that, the most powerful impression that remained with me, and also with others, was of that night, three o'clock on Tuesday morning, when there was absolute silence and darkness, and they called out as if they were pronouncing a death sentence every night on those about to be deported. Sometimes you yourself could have been amongst them, and if not you yourself - then relatives, friends, acquaintances.

But every single week there would be a certain number of death sentences at that hour. This made such a horrifying impression on us, on all of us, on all those who also wrote about it, that we still feel some trepidations about a Tuesday, which was the day of the death sentences for the Jews of Holland.

Presiding Judge: Did you know then that it meant death?

Witness Melkman: We did not know that this meant certain death. I can tell you: At the beginning of 1943 I saw some official survey for the Judenrat, for the Jewish Council, and it said there that there were fewer Jews in Poland than there had been previously, and we knew, already at that time, that many Jews had been sent to Poland, but we simply did not know what had happened to them. It is quite possible that even if we had known, we would not have been able to believe that such a thing had occurred. I myself only heard about it when I was in Bergen-Belsen, when the first transports of women who had been in the women's camp at Auschwitz arrived; I spoke then to those who had returned from Auschwitz and I heard about the gas chambers.

State Attorney Bach: These people who were on the list of Tuesday morning - when did they depart?

Witness Melkman: The following morning, all of them had to come to the main road where a train was waiting, and they had to board it. The train usually left...

Q. Did the train actually enter the camp?

A. Yes, it came into the camp. It was able to pass through the camp, because there were railway lines there. The train arrived; members of the German police put the people inside and closed the freight cars. A particular group of members of the German police always came along specially, and then the people were sent off. The train departed about 11 o'clock in the morning.

Q. What kind of a train was it usually? A freight train or a passenger train?

A. A freight train. At first I had heard that they were passenger trains, but all the time I saw them - during these eight months - they were always freight trains.

Q. Do you know how many people there were in each waggon?

A. It varied. We knew the number of people that was required, 2,000 or 3,000 at the time of the large deportations, sometimes 1,000; we only got to know the exact number after the war, but this was roughly the position.

Q. Dr. Melkman, within your own family, what persons were in Westerbork and what happened to them?

A. Nearly all the members of my family were in Westerbork. My father died five days after we arrived there, since he was a heart case. My mother was deported on 13 July, as we subsequently ascertained, to Sobibor. And as was known, people hardly ever came back from Sobibor. Out of 33,000 people, only 19 returned, that is to say, a life expectancy of half a person per one thousand individuals. My sister was deported, on 25 January, to Auschwitz.

Presiding Judge: Was this in January 1944?

Witness Melkman: Yes, in 1944. She was seized because she had hidden herself, and since she had hidden herself, this was already a case for punishment. And despite the fact that she was a doctor, we did not manage to find a place for her in a hospital, for they did not allow people who were subject to punishment to work there...she was sent to Auschwitz and apparently also perished there. My brother-in- law was also deported in August 1943, and he died in Mauthausen in February 1945.

Apart from this, all my uncles and aunts, together with their sons and daughters - with the exception of those children who were concealed amongst Gentiles, including my sister's three children, are now all in Israel.

State Attorney Bach: Dr. Melkman, you stated that there were people who hid themselves and were caught. Are you able to say something, from the emotional point of view, about the effects on such people who hid themselves, or on children who hid themselves and were caught - how they behaved subsequently?

Witness Melkman: The conditions in a hide-out are somewhat known to the world through the diary of Anna Frank. But, perhaps, in order to give some impression of what it means to be in a hide-out I shall describe one child whom I saw. My wife and I worked in the children's home in Westerbork. They always brought to this place children who were seized by the Germans, children who did not have parents, who did not actually have parents, or whose parents had hidden themselves or who had already been deported. In practice they were orphans, and we attended to them, but of course, for a very short time, for they had no protection, and accordingly were deported, almost invariably, straight away.

I remember one case of a child whose name was van Dam - his first name I do not recall. He was ten years old. He had been cooped up for a whole year in a narrow room, he was not allowed to talk in a normal voice - and I do not mean talking loudly. He was not allowed to walk as a child would walk, lest the neighbours should hear him. When he came to Westerbork, he came to the children's home and also began speaking in whispers. When we told him that there was no need to do so and he understood that everything was permitted here, he began running round the grounds of the children's home all the time, he could not stop himself, and he shouted very loudly, for he had been forbidden for a whole year to speak and to walk. Thus, the sort of life in a hide-out, especially for children who had no understanding at all of their position, was terrible, and we often asked ourselves, when we were in the camp and we saw that as long as the children in the camp were able to live like children - perhaps it was better than living in hiding. Of course, when it became clear to us, later on, what the fate was of those who were sent to Poland and what was the fate of those who were hidden in Holland, the position of the Jews of Holland was, nevertheless, better, for many of them were saved by the Righteous Gentiles - about 4,000 children were saved. But it is hard to describe the mental agony of a child who was obliged to live through a long time such as this - for two years and sometimes more.

Q. What happened to the child you were describing?

A. He was sent, three days later, to Auschwitz.

Q. Please tell the Court what you know about the Apeldoornbos episode.

A. Apeldoornbos was a hospital for Jewish mental patients. It was a Jewish institution in one of the country towns. This institution had been in existence for a long time.

Presiding Judge: What was the name of the town?

Witness Melkman: The name of the town was Apeldoorn. "Bos" is a forest near Apeldoorn, and the institution was named after this forest. One day, on 22 January 1943, the German police arrived unexpectedly. Captain Aus der Fuenten himself came there, to Apeldoorn, and they removed all the inmates who were there in the hospital. They put them into freight cars. Men and women attendants were also there. There was one case of a woman, who was the daughter of the Chief Rabbi of The Hague, and she was one of the attendants - she was a nurse. She went inside only for a moment in order to hand over something, but as she entered, they closed the door and she, too, was deported, although she was not supposed to be deported. We were very upset by this incident, but afterwards we understood that it had made no difference - all the Jews were destined to die. It made no difference whether they took them to one place or another. This transport was dispatched straight away to the East. It did not pass through Westerbork - this we heard afterwards from Jews who were to come to Westerbork. There was some kind of service, a Jewish service, of young people who had to help at Westerbork with putting the people into these waggons.

Q. What was this service called?

A. Ordnungsdienst.

Q. And they were required to help in loading those people on to the train?

A. Yes.

Q. Are you aware, from your research and from reports of the Red Cross, what was the fate of these patients?

A. Not one of them remained alive.

Q. Where were they put to death?

A. In Auschwitz.

Q. Do you know how they were dressed when they were put into the train?

A. I don't know.

State Attorney Bach: Please tell me, Dr. Melkman, what was the number of Jews in Holland at the time of the German invasion?

Witness Melkman: According to the census carried out by order of the Germans, there were 140,000 Jews.

Q. How many Jews were deported from Holland?

A. 110,000.

Q. How many of these survived?

A. 6,000.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.