The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 37
(Part 4 of 5)

State Attorney Bar-Or: Was there any possibility to avoid joining the deportation transport?

Witness Henschel: Only suicide.

Q. What can you tell the Court about suicide attempts?

A. The suicides began immediately before the first transport to Litzmannstadt and increased very rapidly. People took Veronal, in part also cyanide, but more Veronal, because cyanide was much more difficult to get hold of.

Q. Cases of suicide came to your notice, didn't they?

A. Yes.

Q. Was every case of suicide taken to the Jewish hospital?

A. Yes.

Q. And the matter had to be investigated from the medical point of view?

A. Yes. The suicide cases were being treated. There were very strict instructions at what intervals they had to be given injections of Coramin, and if they did not die but were cured, they were deported more rapidly.

Q. Mrs. Henschel, I think you remember an approximate figure of suicide cases between October 1941 and the beginning of 1942, January and February 1942?

A. There were about 1,200.

Q. And this was among the Jews of Berlin alone?

A. Yes.

Q. Were these individual cases, or whole families, or entire flats?

A. It varied. There were few cases of families, because people did not have the courage, after all, to take the children with them. Most suicides were of old people, and also quite a number of persons - also employees of the Community - whose spouses had already been killed and who did not want to survive any longer, since they knew that they, too, would be evacuated.

Q. How many persons were in each transport which came to the assembly camp?

A. 1,000, sometimes 1,200.

Q. What can you tell the Court about objects which had to pass through the "Schleuse" (sluice)?

A. The Schleuse was the point where anything people had in their luggage, for which the Gestapo officials had a liking, was taken away. There was, for example, a Commissar Stubs in the Burgstrasse, whose speciality it was to pick out all bottles of Eau de Cologne, toilet water, and alcoholic perfumes, and to drink the contents on the spot.

Q. Was there a guard unit at the place?

A. Yes, there were Jewish orderlies who kept order, and there were also policemen and Gestapo officials.

Q. When the transport was ready - where was it taken?

A. This we did not know.

Q. Within Berlin - where were you taken?

A. the first transports started from the Grunewald railway station. And the later ones - ours as well - left from the goods station at Puttlitzstrasse.

Q. Were there escort units?

A. Yes, always with riding crops.

Q. Were these whips used?

A. Not during the first transports, only in February 1943.

Q. And in 1943, the Kultusgemeinde, or rather the Hilfsverein, still occupied itself with efforts at emigration?

A. Yes.

Q. Who were the persons who could still be considered for emigration at all at that time?

A. People who had everything ready, and who were over 60, or very young children.

Presiding Judge: What does "who had everything ready" mean?

Witness Henschel:: Who had their visa, whose luggage had been checked, and who had all their papers.

State Attorney Bar-Or: And were grown-ups under the age of 60 allowed to emigrate?

Witness Henschel: I cannot say exactly, but there was a limit which had to do with the age of 60.

Q. Mrs. Henschel, do you remember the last general transport which left for Lisbon?

Witness Henschel: Yes. It left about 24 hours before the first transport to Litzmannstadt.

Q. When the United States entered the war against Germany - was there any emigration after that?

A. No.

Q. Do you remember the transports in November 1943?

A. Yes.

Q. What were they told?

A. They were told that three or four transports would go to Riga, and there an organization similar to the kibbutz in Palestine would be established.

Q. Did three or four such transports really leave in the end?

A. Yes, but the Community found out that these were false pretences. It did provide these transports with supplies, but not of the kind that would have been required for a kibbutz-like organization.

Q. Did you try to remain in postal contact with the deportees?

A. The postal connection with Litzmannstadt functioned during the first few weeks. It was also possible to send small amounts of money, but very soon the postal orders, for instance, were returned, marked "moved to unknown address."

Q. Were you, in those years, in connection, perhaps secret connection, with the railway employees?

A. My husband was.

Q. Did you sometimes hear from them about the destination of the trains which carried these transports?

A. Yes. For instance the transport to Minsk, about which we never heard that it reached its destination.

Q. Let us now return to the question of the transports in Berlin itself. How were the people for each transport chosen, how was the transport organized? You had a card index of the Jews of Berlin, didn't you?

A. Yes, the so-called Community Register.

Q. Was this kept only at the Kultusgemeinde or also at the Gestapo, or only at the Gestapo? Where was it?

A. We knew that the Gestapo had an identical card index, a corresponding card index.

Q. When you speak of the Gestapo, do you mean the Gestapoleitstelle Berlin?

A. Yes.

Q. Were there objections to the selection of people for the transports?

A. There were even reasoned objections, since many of those intended for transport were still on work assignments - in munitions factories, in parachute sewing workshops, in ball- bearing factories, i.e., in war-important establishments, and these were extremely satisfied with the work of the Jews, so that more and more objections began to come in.

Q. Was this attitude taken by these places of employment helpful at first?

A. It was effective until an agreement between the military authorities and the Gestapo was reached, and the military authorities agreed to give up their claim to the Jews.

Q. You said that you worked in the Jewish hospital at that time. What do you know about patients being abducted to these transports?

A. Patients in the Jewish hospital were summoned to the assembly camp exactly like all the others.

Q. Let us assume that a woman was in the last months of pregnancy and that she received a summons - was it possible to save her from deportation?

A. Yes. If it was likely that the delivery would begin during the journey, yes, then they allowed the child to be born, and after six weeks it was evacuated together with the mother.

Q. In January 1942 there were again rumours about deportations?

A. Yes, there were transports all the time.

Q. Perhaps you remember 13 January, it was a Sunday, I think. It was freezing cold. Do you remember it?

A. Yes, I remember it exactly, because I took earwarmers for my husband to his office, as he had to go to the station. It was unusually cold for Berlin, and the Jewish Community did what it could in order to provide the people at the station with food, with hot drinks, with all kinds of things. But the people were loaded onto the train, partly into open goods carriages, partly into closed ones. Thus several people fell seriously ill, and two employees of the Community, who had been busy at the station for a long time, died as a result.

Q. You did not go to the station with your husband?

A. No, that was forbidden.

Q. Mrs. Henschel, when did the first train leave for Theresienstadt?

A. At the beginning of June, 1942.

Q. Who was deported at that time?

A. Disabled soldiers, men who had been awarded the Iron Cross, First Class, and very old ordinary citizens.

Q. The number of transports increased in the course of time?

A. Yes.

Q. And at the same time, the large-scale transports to the East continued?

A. Yes.

Q. Can you tell the Court something about special conditions in connection with the property of persons who were to be deported to Theresienstadt?

A. Yes. For deportation to Theresienstadt, there was later a different assembly camp in the Grosse Hamburgerstrasse. There were offices there which dealt with the property of people who were about to be deported. One had to sign two forms there, if I am not mistaken. One form - a purchase agreement for a home. After a person had taken this step, he was given a second form in which he was notified that all his property was confiscated. And this he also had to acknowledge by signing the document.

Q. Do you remember what it said? What was the purpose of the purchase agreement?

A. In this home purchase agreement, the Theresienstadt camp was described as a home for the elderly, an old age home. In order to acquire the right to live there in one's old age, one had to pay, to make over a certain sum, the rest of one's property, to the State.

Q. Do you remember that a comprehensive declaration had to be given about the property of every individual?

A. Of course, in great detail, with bank statements.

Q. Do you remember approximately within what time these declarations had to be given, approximately when this was?

A. I went through this in connection with my own deportation, and it was used as from the first Theresienstadt transport.

Q. I now show you a document entitled "Vermoegenserklaerung" (Property Declaration). Please look at it and tell the Court whether you can identify it.

A. Yes, we all had to fill this in, but already some time earlier.

Q. In all its details?

A. In all its details.

Q. How many coats, how many dresses, how many napkins, everything that is printed here?

A. That is correct.

Q. In each column?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened after that? What happened to all the things mentioned here?

A. When people were evacuated, they were allowed to take with them only 30 kg. of luggage. All the rest was left behind in the house. The jewellery one had declared was handed over at the pawnbroker's in Jaegerstrasse, in March 1939.

Presiding Judge: The property declaration form will be marked T/650.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Your husband was ordered to appear at Burgstrasse on 19 October 1942, wasn't he? Again before the same Pruefer?

Witness Henschel:: Yes.

Q. Did he leave anything on his desk?

A. Yes. Since it was dangerous to talk about such things on the telephone, he used to leave his watch, his wedding ring, his wallet, and any important documents behind on his desk, even when he was only called to Kurfuerstenstrasse. It was enough for the secretary to say that he had been gone for several hours, and all his things were on the desk - and I knew he had taken into account that he might not return.

Q. When you say "Kurfuerstenstrasse" - which office do you mean?

A. I mean Eichmann's office, Kurfuerstenstrasse 116.

Q. Do you remember the roll call of the employees of the Jewish Community on 20 October 1942?

A. Yes. My husband was told to assemble all the staff of the Community in one room, if possible and to present them to Mr. - I do not remember his title - Guenther. This could, of course, not be done fully, as it was not possible to leave a hospital without nurses or medical personnel. Therefore, everywhere in the Community, in all offices, emergency services were left behind. Each head of unit presented the members of his staff and mentioned their names. And the officials, the Gestapo officials, did the selecting: This way, that way.

Q. What does 'this way, that way' mean?

A. One side was deported, the other side could still remain.

Q. Were these Gestapo officials?

A. This is hard to remember because...

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