The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 45
(Part 3 of 6)

Q. Were there transports from the ghetto after you had appeared before the commission?

A. Yes, more transports left.

Q. For how many days did these transports continue after you had reported?

A. I cannot say this with certainty, but it was between 21,000 and 24,000 who were sent off; I am not certain today. I was more or less in the middle of those who were brought before the commission.

Q. Do you remember, from the lists of your friend Pollack, how many Jews were left in Theresienstadt after these deportations?

A. A little over 11,000.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Thank you.

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

Dr. Servatius: I only wanted to make sure whether this selection was made in September 1944.

Witness Diamant: Yes.

Q. Did I understand you correctly to say that this selection extended over almost a month?

A. As I said, I cannot state exactly how long it was, but it lasted for about a month. It was in 1944, and one can look up in the calendar on what day Rosh Hashana fell that year, and this lasted for approximately one month.

Q. And was Eichmann always present?

A. I was there only once, but the people who went up to the commission said that he was there. But, of course, I do not know this.

Q. Do you stand by your testimony that it was certainly Eichmann, if you are told that Eichmann was in Hungary at that time?

A. He did not introduce himself, of course; people said so. Those who were upstairs at the commission told me that this was Eichmann.

Dr. Servatius: I have no further questions.

Witness Diamant: I wanted to talk about something else that happened in January and February 1945.

Presiding Judge: There is no need for this, if you were not asked.

Judge Halevi: Mr. Sever told you that you would live and that his two brothers would not live - if I understood you correctly?

Witness Diamant: Yes.

Q. And when did he tell you that the transports were going to Auschwitz?

A. This was no secret at all. Everybody knew this at the time. And besides, I was in the workshop, wasn't I. There was a young man there whom I had already known in the army. He told me that the trains were going to Auschwitz or to Birkenau. The people from the railway, who were not Jews, they told him that. And there, in Auschwitz, these people were to be killed by gassing - that was said.

May I add something more? I knew it because my mother-in- law and my father-in-law were sent to Auschwitz. And I still have the postcard which I received from my late father- in-law from Auschwitz, where he tells me that he arrived there. I did not get this postcard in the mail; the Germans used to bring these postcards to Theresienstadt and to distribute them there. This was in the summer of 1944.

Q. Did you say that there had already been deportations before?

A. I was there from 14 December 1941, and the first transport left Theresienstadt for the East, as it was called, on 9 January. I still remember this exactly, because I had a friend who told me. I do not remember the others exactly, but there were transports again and again.

Q. Was this on 9 January 1942?

A. Yes.

Q. When did you know that this went to Auschwitz?

A. Later on. This friend told me about it for the first time. He was a Christian, a Czech nationalist, and he told me that the transports go to Lithuania and Latvia, and that there the people are shot. He had connections with the railway workers, and these railway workers were in touch with the other railway workers who were all against the Germans, and from them I heard about the matter.

And then, later - I do not remember exactly when - it was said that the transports were bound for Birkenau and Auschwitz, and that there the people were gassed, etc. I told this to the people who were with me, and they did not believe me. I also told it to the members of the Jewish Council of Elders, and they, too, did not believe me.

Q. But Sever was a member of the Council of Elders, and he told you that his two brothers were being sent to Auschwitz and that they would not live; if so, he did believe it, he knew.

A. That was in 1944. By that time it was already an open secret. By that time everybody knew it. Earlier on nobody knew this, we did not know a thing.

Q. What was the new procedure on the occasion when you reported. You said that this was new, that it happened for the first time. What was new about it?

A. Previously it had been the Camp Commander Rahm, before him Burger, and before him Seidl. They used to pass an order to the Jewish Council of Elders saying: 1,000 or 5,000 have to be made ready for transport, and then those were the ones who were sent off. That was without having to appear before somebody. A selection of this kind - that was new, that was the innovation. It was bad because, within one month more than 20,000 persons were sent off. That was by being brought before the commission.

Q. For the earlier transports, the persons to be deported were chosen not by the SS but by the Council of Elders, and this time they were chosen personally by the commission of the SS?

A. Yes. This time they appeared before this SS commission, and notes were taken, and the people were deported.

Q. And on the commission SS officers were sitting, and also members of the Council of Elders?

A. I knew only Sever from the Council of Elders. Apart from him, I do not know if there was anybody else. I do not think so.

Presiding Judge: You said that this selection - let us call it that - began two days before Rosh Hashana and continued for a month after that. Is this correct?

Witness Diamant: It began two days before Rosh Hashana and lasted a month. Whether it was 30 or 32 days - this I no longer know today.

Q. Do you see the Accused in front of you?

A. Yes.

Q. Can you identify him as the man about whom it was said at that time that he was Eichmann?

A. I would not recognize him any longer today; he was in uniform, he was young.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mr. Diamant, you have completed your evidence.

State Attorney Bar-Or: With your permission, I shall call Mr. Adolf Engelstein.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Engelstein: Yes.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Adolf Engelstein.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Mr. Engelstein, you were born in 1903?

Witness Engelstein: Yes.

Q. In Czechoslovakia?

A. Yes. In Stonova, a town near Ostrava.

Q. You are an engineer by profession?

A. Yes.

Q. You now live in Herzlia?

A. Yes.

Q. Where were you living at the beginning of the War, from 1939 on?

A. In Moravia.

Q. What were you doing there?

A. I was a director, an engineer in the construction of a railway in Moravia.

Q. Until when did this work continue?

A. Until August 1942 I was employed there by the firm which had earlier belonged to a Jew, and which was later handed to the Germans in the course of the Aryanization.

Q. When did this work come to an end?

A. The work did not come to an end. In August 1942 they took me off this job...

Presiding Judge: Who are "they"?

Witness Engelstein: That is to say, the company...and I had to work as an unskilled labourer on various jobs in that town.

State Attorney Bar-Or: In the end you came to Theresienstadt, did you not?

Witness Engelstein: Yes.

Q. When was that?

A. That was on 23 January 1943.

Q. You remained in Theresienstadt till when?

A. I remained in Theresienstadt until 1 March 1944.

Q. What work were you employed in during this period?

A. All kinds of jobs. First of all, as a new immigrant - this is what they used to say there - also I was employed on all kinds of unskilled jobs. I was an unskilled labourer in the Sanitation Department, I worked in sewerage and other jobs of this kind. After a while, I think it was three months later, I was transferred to the technical department and employed as an engineer. We did not do much building there, but I was occupied designing huts and various small projects.

Q. Within the Theresienstadt camp?

A. Yes, within the Theresienstadt camp.

Q. You remained in this job until 28 February 1944?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened on that day?

A. On that day it was my task to supervise the loading of building materials, huts, and all kinds of things, which were to be sent to Germany with some transport. This is what I heard. By ten o'clock at night I was feeling unwell outside, and I told my colleague that I was going to sleep, and that he should take over the job and supervise these things. At midnight, at 12 o'clock exactly, I received word from the secretary of the technical department that I was to come to his office.

Q. Who was this?

A. He was a man by the name of Sussmann. There I was told that I was to join a transport - they called it "Sossen" - of 200 people at 7.30 the next morning, going to a new job in Germany.

Presiding Judge: What does "Sossen" mean?

Witness Engelstein: That was a name. I do not know whether they called it Sossen with any particular purpose in mind, but later on I learned that this was some village in Germany, south of Berlin.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Close to which town? What is the nearest town?

Witness Engelstein: I do not know, we did not reach this Sossen, but all the time the transport, and the people on it, were called "Sossen."

Q. Were you given more details about this project?

A. No. I objected at first, when I heard that they had prepared the transport several weeks in advance, while I was thrown in at the last moment. Because this is what had happened: They had taken off one person and supplied another Jew for the transport - and I was that victim. I had no other choice than to go, otherwise they would have told me: You can go to the East.

Q. Mr. Engelstein, we have now reached at 1 March 1944. What happened on that day?

A. In the morning we reported at the train. We sat in ordinary carriages. There were freight carriages also. I do not know how many. We took sixteen huts with us to Germany which we had dismantled in Theresienstadt. We left about 9 or 10 o'clock in the morning from Theresienstadt for Germany in the direction of Dresden and Frankfurt an der Oder.

Q. Were you accompanied?

A. I saw two SS officers in our carriages.

Q. Were there more SS men in the carriages?

A. Maybe, I do not remember. I saw two officers, who also talked to us and told us that we were going to good place of employment, and that we would be well off there.

Q. Did you recognize them, or any one of them?

A. I think I recognized one of the SS officers afterwards, when I came back to Theresienstadt; that was Bergel, the deputy of the camp commandant. The other one, I think, was Moes, a short officer, small.

Q. Not tall?

A. No, no. Before the last stop, as we learned later, the leader of the transport, or somebody else whom I do not remember today, shouted to us to get off the train; there was our transport commandant, the engineer Kosina, a technician named Kirschner, and myself. And facing us was an SS man; he either introduced himself, or maybe our foreman or one of the officers told us, at any rate we were told that facing us was the Accused. We entered a closed automobile, a large one. Q. The three of you?

A. The three of us.

Q. What kind of automobile was this, a private car?

A. I do not know.

Q. Was it a lorry?

A. It was not a lorry, it was a private car. I thought you meant a military vehicle.

Q. No.

A. We entered the closed private car together with the Accused, and the three of us drove towards the forest. We arrived fifteen minutes later. There was still snow in the forest; this was on the 1st of March. He said to us: "This is your place of work, here you will work, you will be well- off here; this will not be for six weeks only" - as our commandant had told us - "it will take much longer, you will work, and you will still be here well into the summer. And it will be very good here." Then he explained to us what he wanted us to do.

Q. What did he want you to do?

A. He wanted us to put up the huts we had brought with us, scattered in the forest, to unload the timber and to place the huts where we thought best; they were not to stand in a straight line, one next to the other, but to be dispersed in the forest. For ourselves we were to put up another hut, which we had also brought along on the freight train. Then we returned to the train, and there we remained all night.

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