The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 65
(Part 4 of 6)

Q. And the Germans had not yet realized that this was an uprising?

A. No. One of them, Fraenzel, realized it after Neumann was killed, and he moved around with his whip, shouting. He always shouted. He realized what was happening, but he was afraid to enter the camp. In this way, thirteen Germans and several Ukrainians were killed - altogether perhaps eighteen. I saw how men arrived from the forest. Two of them who came on a cart were killed and put into the cart. Men were being killed at the SS shoemaker's shop.

Q. Who were being killed?

A. Germans, naturally.

Q. What did the others do, meanwhile?

A. In the meantime, the others waited for the signal to attack the ammunition shed, and I was to give the signal. But, at the last minute, Bauer arrived there with a truck of beverages for Camp 2, and he came to look for workers. He did not notice anyone, for they were all engaged in their tasks before the uprising. He dropped me together with David at Camp 2, for that was where the mess was, and the cash desk. We were taken there, and on the way there were more than one hundred persons working on the bundles, and in a few minutes, the revolt was timed to break out.

We came there; unloaded the first case of beverages and carried them into the building. We saw the cashier, Hermann Michel, as he was counting the cash, and he was not aware of anything. Since we were prepared, I had a knife and I stabbed him. David was also there. We shut him in behind the door of the cash office. We ran outside to bring in the second case. Meanwhile, we could already hear: "Hurrah, the revolt has begun!"

Q. Was "Hurrah" the code word?

A. Yes. The revolt had begun, and we could already hear shots. My companion, David, ran towards the revolt in Camp 1. Bauer drew his revolver, shot at him and ran after him. This was how the revolt began. Everyone started running and entered the ammunition store, held their ground as long as they could, and then fled.

Q. How did you break through the fence?

A. I could no longer run in that direction. I was already forced to run towards Camp 3.

Q. Why couldn't you run in that direction?

A. Because I was certain I would be killed. There were already too many shots in that direction for me to run there.

Q. How did you get out of the Sobibor area?

A. I remained near the Lazarette, that is inside the Lazarette, until after midnight. After jumping over the fence, which was two metres high, into the courtyard where people used to undress before going into the gas chambers, I ran near two high stores which I had helped to build for the bundles. A few shots were fired at me by the guard on the tower of Camp 3. Since it was already dark, the bullets missed me. I managed to reach the Lazarette. This was a small wood near Camp Nord.

Q. You said previously that there were pits in the Lazarette?

Presiding Judge: He said that it was a wood.

Witness Biskowitz: If Your Honour will allow me, I shall explain a number of camps and names.

Presiding Judge: As I understood it, there were pits among the trees.

Witness Biskowitz: But behind the Lazarette there was Camp Nord, where they kept ammunition. I lay concealed in the Lazarette until after midnight. I did not know how I would manage to get out. But luckily I was the only one who escaped in that direction. Later on, several SS men came by with Ukrainians and began firing in my direction. But they thought that no one had run out there, and they left the place. Only when night fell, I began to make my way through the barbed-wire fences, to tear these fences open with my hands, until I noticed that the gate was open near the tower in Camp Nord. By chance, the guard was not there. That was where they kept explosives and ammunition. There were bunkers in the ground.

Attorney General: And finally you managed to get past the barbed-wire fences?

Witness Biskowitz: Yes.

Q. You wandered around in the forests and you came across someone else who had fled from Sobibor?

A. Yes. I met the first Jew after four months, in the village of Ivanichi. He was Nehemia, the man who succeeded in getting into the ammunition store and in seizing a submachine gun, and in holding off our pursuers.

Q. After that, you both met Sasha?

A. After that, we met Sasha.

Q. And together you joined a group of partisans?

A. This is cutting it too short.

Presiding Judge: There is a lot to tell, but you understand our intention.

Witness Biskowitz: I would ask the Court's permission at least to describe how I found Sasha and Nehemia, or at least to complete the story how I got out of the camp.

Presiding Judge: With each witness this is an important part of his life. There are people who have not even come to testify, there are people who are not being brought here to give evidence, who would like to testify. You have to understand the limitations of this situation. Nevertheless, if there is something you wish to add in brief, please do so.

Witness Biskowitz: I met Nehemia in the village of Ivanichi. He gave me precise details of the revolt. He said he only regretted that we had been taken away from the spot which was not well protected, for, otherwise, the uprising would have been more successful, since at that moment there was a parade of the Ukrainians, and the SS man who was killed was the officer in charge of them. They stood there and did not know what was going on. Nehemia held the front with his submachine gun. And then Bauer and Fraenzel arrived. They burst into the ammunition store. He had no alternative. He grabbed a rifle with two hundred bullets and ran.

Q. Where was Nehemia from?

A. He came on a transport from Russia. He was also a military man, older, more or less middle-aged.

Q. Was he a prisoner of war?

A. Yes, a prisoner of war.

Q. Afterwards, the two of you wandered through the forests until you met Sasha?

A. The two of us wandered through the forests, until we met Sasha.

Q. What was Sasha's surname?

A. Pechersky. There were three of them whom I came across. One had weak legs. They wore white clothes made of hand- woven material. They had sunk into mud after escaping. After that, we met together. There were now five of us - we walked to the Skrodnitze forests. There we met the first Jewish partisans called "Yehiel's Group" - it was a group of Jews who had undertaken [partisan] action.

Q. Did they operate under the command of Yehiel Grynszpan?

A. Yes.

Q. You engaged in sabotaging railway lines, cutting telephone wires, hit-and-run attacks on German army units?

A. Yes - on those that were in the villages.

Q. Afterwards, you were called up into the Red Army?

A. Afterwards, I joined the "Ovadannio Dali Pochi" partisans. That was near Malorita. These were Russian partisans who came from the east. After that, when the Russians had already occupied the area, we all met at the partisan's assembly point. That was not far from Czishnervokom. When I returned home, I could not stay there - I did not find a single soul. I went to Lublin, and there I volunteered for the Polish army. Of course, I also was at the front at Modlin, Yablona, and also in Warsaw.

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

Dr. Servatius: Witness, did you say that Himmler arrived at Sobibor by plane? Did you yourself see him?

Witness Biskowitz: I saw Himmler, since I had heard about Himmler, Goering, Hitler, and I saw him from a distance. He wore a long brown overcoat and wore spectacles of a sort of crystal. I saw several other SS men, eight in number.

Dr. Servatius: I have no further questions.

Judge Halevi: Who were these Ukrainians you mentioned all the time? Which Ukrainians did you refer to constantly in your evidence?

Witness Biskowitz: These were Russian prisoners of war who went over to the German side. Of course, the Germans gave them the alternative either to be prisoners or to collaborate. They guarded the camp.

Q. In uniform?

A. In black uniforms. They were given rifles with five or ten bullets, and they guarded the camp and the labourers. They also ran away. I met two sentries who had guarded me and who had given me many beatings. I met them in the forest. They also fled during the revolt. Their names were Pavlosha and Holosna.

Q. Did they take part in the uprising?

A. They escaped at the time of the uprising.

Presiding Judge: You described the inside of the gas chamber. For example, you told us how the floor opened up and the bodies fell below into the railway waggons.

Witness Biskowitz: Into the hollow below.

Q. Did you see this with your own eyes, or are you talking of things that you heard from others?

A. I will describe a shocking scene here.

Q. But first of all - did you, in general, have an opportunity of seeing these things from the inside?

A. Not everybody had the opportunity, but I, by chance, did. By chance I was taken to bring a cart with a barrel of chloride. When I was passing by the two larger stores in Camp 2, I detached the cart and pushed it towards Camp 3. I was supposed to leave it near the gate, but I could not hold the vehicle back. The gate opened and it pushed me inside.

Since I knew I would not get out alive from there, I began to run back at top speed and managed to reach my place of work without anyone noticing. I kept this a secret - I am stressing this - even from the inmates of the camp who worked with me. From a distance, I saw the pit and the hollow and the small train that carried the dead bodies. I did not see the gas chamber from the inside; I only saw, from the outside, that there was a very prominent roof, and that the floor opened and the bodies fell below.

Q. You came to this conclusion from the nature of the structure?

A. Not from the nature of the structure - I saw it from afar even while I was running away quickly, although I cannot describe it exactly, after nineteen years.

Q. Please understand me. You are somewhat familiar with these matters. Did you see the floor when it had opened up?

A. I did not see that - I merely saw that underneath the gas chamber, there was a hollow which already contained bodies.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mr. Biskowitz, you have concluded your testimony. I know you have not told us everything. But there was no alternative.

Witness Biskowitz: There was another shocking case which I witnessed, and I should like to describe just this one further incident.

Presiding Judge: I am very sorry. I have already explained it to you. It is not only those who appear here who want to relate their story, and it is simply not possible. Thank you very much - and Shalom.

Let us now finish Mr. Moshe Bahir's testimony. Please enter the witness box. Whatever you say now is also under oath.

Witness Bahir: [Pointing to the book] Yes, it is not the same edition.

Presiding Judge: Is it the same book?

Witness Bahir: It resembles it. There are many similar photographs, but it is not identical, although the book bears the same name.

Judge Halevi: Can you bring us from Ramat Gan, the photograph you saw?

Witness Bahir: Definitely.

Dr. Servatius: Your Honour, the Presiding Judge, I attach great importance to the submission of the photograph, because the Accused says that he was never with Himmler or Kaltenbrunner in any place outside the camp.

Presiding Judge: Did you see the book in the Ramat Gan municipal library?

Witness Bahir: No, a neighbour showed me the book, from the library of the "Ohel Shem" Gymnasium in Ramat Gan.

Q. Will you try to get the book?

A. Yes.

A. When will you be able to appear here with the book?

A. Tomorrow.

Presiding Judge: Very well, please present yourself to the Prosecution tomorrow, and we shall look at the book.

Attorney General: I should like to submit a number of documents relating to Sobibor. Firstly, the Polish report on the Sobibor extermination camp, with a Hebrew translation, our No. 1379.

Presiding Judge: This document will be marked T/1293. What is the position regarding a translation for Dr. Servatius?

Attorney General: This is similar to the case of the other camp, Your Honour.

Presiding Judge: The same procedure?

Attorney General: Yes. We shall produce a German translation, or at least a suitable precis.

There are three documents which we intend to submit, in order to prove that SS Obersturmfuehrer Wirth was a member of the Head Office for Reich Security. We shall need this in connection with the question to whom the command of the camps belonged. If Your Honours will recall, the Accused had something to say about this, and we want to prove the position as we see it. There is a letter here, dated 19 April 1943 - I submit a photostatic copy with three additional copies. In the second part of the letter, there is reference to Christian Wirth who belongs to the Head Office for Reich Security.

Presiding Judge: Where did you obtain this document?

Attorney General: From Yad Vashem, Your Honour.

Presiding Judge: This document will be marked T/1294.

Attorney General: This is in connection with Wirth's promotion in rank.

The next document, dealing with the same subject, is dated 19 May 1943 - is also from Yad Vashem.

Presiding Judge: Does it say here that he belonged to the Head Office for Reich Security?

Attorney General: Yes, that is Department IA5, the Department for personnel and administration of the Head Office for Reich Security. The reference is to promotion in rank to that of SS Sturmbannfuehrer. On the following page, it says that after the Reichsfuehrer-SS had visited Sobibor, it was decided to promote the commanders and other suitable personnel: "Wirth was diligent and devoted to his special duties and, consequently, he must be promoted."

Dr. Servatius: Your Honour, the Presiding Judge, may I point out the fact that Department V was a department of the Reich Criminal Police and, therefore, it had no contact with the Accused's Section.

Attorney General: I think Defence Counsel has not followed my argument. I do not maintain that Wirth belonged to the Accused's Section. The question is whether the extermination camp belonged to the command of members of the Head Office for Reich Security or to the members of the Economic-Administrative Head Office. And I want to show that Wirth, who was identified here and whose photograph is before the Court, was a member of the RSHA. He was one of the commanders of Sobibor and after his visit to Sobibor, Himmler promoted him in rank. That was the object of my submission of the document.

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