The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 38
(Part 6 of 10)

Q. Can you see SS men at the top?

A. Yes, I can see SS men at the top. This is what they looked like in Theresienstadt, and in every single place - these walls. But in this case I remember the incident well. At the end of 1943, an order was given in the middle of the night for everyone to leave the buildings. There was panic. Babies and children, the sick and the elderly, everyone had to leave without taking anything, apart from what they were wearing, and to run fast. If there was anyone who had a temperature of over forty degrees - and then, too, only if the doctor of the barracks confirmed it - he had to be transferred immediately on foot or by being carried bodily to the Hohen Elbe, the central hospital, and as fate willed, there was someone with us who was critically ill, and he was taken there. All the others were taken away in one direction. In every place, there were ghetto police and orderlies who directed us, saying: "That way!" Where we were bound for - no one knew.

Q. Where did you go to?

A. We arrived outside the ghetto, and we could not really believe our own eyes.

Q. Where were you?

A. At the place called Bauschewitzer Kessel. This was a huge field. Surrounding it, they had posted gendarmes and SS men. We had never previously seen so many of them at Theresienstadt.

Q. And you were standing there.

A. And we were standing there.

Q. Were you allowed to sit?

A. Not to sit, nor even to try to sit.

Q. How many hours did you remain standing at the Kessel?

A. We sat all day.

Q. You sat?

A. No, we stood the whole day. We arrived there during the night, and we stood all the time. Then they told us that everyone had to line up according to his residence in the ghetto, that is to say, according to buildings. There were the Hausaelteste and the Zimmeraelteste (the building and room seniors) who were always responsible to the authority above them in the ghetto, right up to the Judenaelteste, who was the head of the Jewish Council in the ghetto.

Q. Did they register you?

A. They did not register us, but they counted us. We did not know what they were going to do with us, but we were afraid. For we saw all the time that they were standing with machine guns and rifles at the ready all around us, and we thought they were going to fire at us. We said to each other: "Here they are about to finish with the ghetto." Apparently something special was happening, apparently the Russians were soon going to arrive.

Q. Ultimately, did you return to the ghetto?

A. During the afternoon, or more accurately, towards evening, SS men came with the Judenaelteste and passed through the ranks, counted several times with a stick, and left the place. We continued standing. Afterwards they came again, and again they counted us and started cursing us and giving a terrible beating to those who were responsible for the Evidenz (registration) with shouts: "How is this possible? There is no order here! Persons are missing!"

Q. How long did it take in all?

A. When it began getting dark, they sent us home.

Q. At the end of that day?

A. At the end of that day.

Q. How many people were standing there?

A. At least ten thousand.

Presiding Judge: And this shows the people standing there?

Witness Ansbacher: Yes - I am absolutely certain.

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/658.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Perhaps you will be able to identify these two unfortunate people in Court? [Shows the witness a drawing.]

Witness Ansbacher: This shows the psychiatric ward. Normally there was no access to the place. I remember that once I was walking in the ghetto near the Hohen Elbe Kaserne, the central hospital of Theresienstadt that I have mentioned previously. Suddenly I noticed a ruined stable. Inside there were people, they looked exactly like animals. They were stark naked, they were covered only with blankets, and they were filthy. They were staring with very large eyes.

Presiding Judge: This will be T/659.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Another drawing by Leo Haas from 1943. What does this depict? [Shows the witness a drawing.]

Witness Ansbacher: This drawing portrays a funeral in the ghetto.

Q. Do you see anything special here that you can identify?

A. People were able to walk up to a certain point in the ghetto. The cart next to the barrier shows the coffins which are being taken out of the ghetto. There were days when there were more than one hundred dead, so that there were several funeral ceremonies. Generally this was a ceremony where the cantor sang the "El Malei Rahamim" (O Lord full of Mercy) prayer and chapters from the Psalms.

Q. And they were able to walk only up to this limit?

A. They were able to walk up to this place, and they could not follow any further. I also participated many times in funerals like these, such as when my uncle died.

Presiding Judge: This will be Exhibit T/660.

State Attorney Bar-Or: I now show you a drawing portraying people being put into cattle trucks. [Shows the witness a drawing.]

Witness Ansbacher: This shows a transport of old people to the East. Generally people arrived there already at the end of their strength. There were those who were already dying, and the SS nevertheless shouted that the number had to be complete and that they should be put inside the freight cars.

Presiding Judge: This will be Exhibit T/661.

State Attorney Bar-Or: I still have two photographs, Mr. Ansbacher. What is this photograph? What does it show?

[Shows a photograph to the witness.]

Witness Ansbacher: This photograph shows the distribution of food at one of the places in Theresienstadt, apparently after the transport had arrived, or before it departed, for you can see the parcels. Everyone had a fixed ration which he received per day. The utensil with which they distributed the food illustrates the exact quantity they received. It was half a litre of liquid, sometimes a little more. Sometimes it was a deka - they used Czech measures mainly. They did not give more, but occasionally they gave "Zuschuss" (increment) - with luck they gave a little more, but the quantities were fixed.

Presiding Judge: This will be Exhibit T/662.

State Attorney Bar-Or: And finally I show you a photograph of a meeting of the Council of Elders at Theresienstadt. I believe that is what you told me. Perhaps you will identify it and tell me whom you recognize in the picture.

[Shows the witness the photograph.]

Witness Ansbacher: From right to left, I well recognize Murmelstein who is standing. Paul Eppstein in the centre and, on the left, Otto Zucker, whom I mentioned previously.

Q. You mentioned his wife.

A. I mentioned his wife and, I think, him as well.

Judge Halevi: The three men standing?

Witness Ansbacher: Yes, the three men standing.

Presiding Judge: Is this the Council of Elders?

Witness Ansbacher: This is the Council of Elders. These three were its leaders at a certain time. At first the head was Edelstein, but apparently he was then no longer the head. Paul Eppstein succeeded him - he is immediately next to Zucker. I cannot recognize the first man; the second I know well from his picture - that is Mr. Stahl, of Munich, who was responsible for the Central Provisions Office. As is commonly known, all the offices of self-administration were divided amongst members of the Council.

Presiding Judge: This will be Exhibit T/663.

Judge Halevi: Was Murmelstein a rabbi?

Witness Ansbacher: I do not know, Your Honour.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Thank you very much.

Presiding Judge: Were these photographs published in some form or another?

Witness Ansbacher: I do not know, Your Honour.

Q. And the drawings?

A. Possibly. All these have been taken from the archives of Yad Vashem.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions to the witness?

Dr. Servatius: I have some questions.

Can you say to what period these pictures belong, to what years? Was it 1943, before or later?

Witness Ansbacher: I do not know that.

Q. You said that at the end you were in Dachau. Were you able to find out anything at that time about the presence or location of gas chambers?

A. No, I saw nothing of the kind while I was there.

Q. You said that, in your youth, when you came from Belgium, you were taken for pioneering agricultural training at some place under the auspices of the Gestapo. What was the object of this pioneering agricultural training?

A. The actual initiative came from the Jewish community council in Munich. In this way they wanted to save young people, in other words, to rescue them from deportation to the East. They tried to have them placed in essential work for the Gestapo.

Q. At that time was emigration no longer possible?

A. To the best of my knowledge - no.

Q. Thank you, I have no further questions to the witness.

State Attorney Bar-Or: You were asked by Defence Counsel whether the pictures identified by you refer to the year 1941, 1942 or 1943. You replied that you did not know. My question to you is: Do the pictures which you saw remind you of the situation as you saw it during the time you were there, each one of them?

Witness Ansbacher: Here I would like...

Q. Perhaps you can answer yes or no?

A. Pardon me, there is something here which I have to explain. In the case of 1941 and 1942, I can definitely say that the picture of Paul Eppstein, for example, is not from 1941 or 1942, for Eppstein only arrived later.

Presiding Judge: What about the other pictures of conditions in the camp?

Witness Ansbacher: The other pictures depict the situation as I myself saw it, and I do not know whether it was 1943 or 1944.

Q. In other words: Was there any deterioration during that time according to these pictures, or was this the state of affairs from the first day you came there?

A. This was the state of affairs from the first day I came there. Each picture is only a particular moment in the life of the camp and describes a certain episode only.

Q. That is clear. When did you come there?

A. I arrived in September 1942.

Q. Do these pictures reflect the position as it was at the time you came, or when you left, or was there any change in the course of time?

A. The pictures reflect the position as it was when I came, and also when I left. There was no improvement at any rate.

Q. No one spoke about improvement. The question was: Was there possibly any deterioration? It seems to me that you understand the question - is that not so?

A. Pardon me, Sir, if I ask a question, but it is not altogether clear to me. Here, for example, there is a picture showing the Volkszaehlung at Bauschewitzer Kessel. I do not know what could be a deterioration here - I simply do not understand the question.

Q. Not particularly this picture. But let us take the first picture, the food distribution. Could this have been the position on the day you came and also on the day you left?

A. Yes.

Q. Or let us take, for example, the deportation to the East.

A. That I only saw beginning from 1943.

Q. This is what I wanted to know from you. Or this picture of the funeral?

A. That went on all the time, from the beginning to the end.

Q. Or this terrible picture of scrounging amongst the remnants of food?

A. From the beginning to the end, all the time.

Judge Raveh: I think that you recounted that in Theresienstadt you received several times the slip of paper which marked you for deportation?

Witness Ansbacher: Yes, Your Honour.

Q. How many times did you receive such a slip?

A. I can recall definitely only twice.

Q. Twice before the deportation. That means a total of three times.

A. Perhaps Your Honour would allow me to explain myself. At Theresienstadt, people first of all were entered into the lists of those destined for deportation, and this was the first stage. Then, as a rule, there was access to these lists in some way or other. If I knew that I had been included in a transport, this was the second stage before receiving the written notice. At that point it was still possible to remove me from the transport, and this is what happened in fact. Then I actually received the coupon for the first time, and I was released through the Proviantur (the Provisions Centre) where I was working. And later on, when I was in fact sent to Auschwitz, I received the coupon for a second time.

Q. And so, how many times were you on such a list, the list for deportation?

A. A total of at least four times.

Q. And how did you get off the lists?

A. I was stated to be essential. For at that time I was working on the transportation of food from place to place, I worked in the diet kitchen for the sick. They made efforts to free me.

Q. Who made the efforts?

A. My superior, who was responsible for the work - his name was Fachenbach.

Q. And on this occasion, when you actually received the notice, according to the final coupon, how were you discharged then?

Judge Halevi: How did he free you? To whom did he turn in order to have you freed?

Witness Ansbacher: I do not know. I remember only that the man who was in charge of the kitchen, who was also responsible for other work, would approach the Council of Elders, and there he would try to prove in all kinds of ways that, in fact, a particular man was essential, so that they should leave him behind in the camp. Sometimes he was successful, at other times not.

Q. So who decided finally?

A. The Committee of the Jewish Council.

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