The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 45
(Part 4 of 6)

Q. Two hundred people?

A. Yes, two hundred people. The next morning we arrived at the last station - Trebenitz - between Berlin and Kuestrin. From there one group walked on foot along the road, and we came to a village by the name of Wulkov which was next to the forest. We entered the forest and immediately began to unload the timber for one hut. I had to give the measurements, the heights, and meanwhile the lorries arrived with the material, the huts and the parts, and we began to work.

Q. On the construction of your hut as well?

A. Our hut was only delivered in the afternoon, and we started to work on it as well. Every morning the Accused would come to us for the roll-call.

Q. The next day.

A. Every day, for six days; he gave us explanations about the work to be done and asked what we had done so far and how. After six days he disappeared, we did not see him any more. Someone else replaced him, a new chief, that is to say another officer, called Franz Stuschke.

Q. And did he remain with you until the end?

A. He remained with us not for six weeks and not for half a year, but for almost a year, until 3 February 1944.

Q. Mr. Engelstein, kindly tell the Court in brief about the most important events there during that year, and also what you remember about this Stuschke.

A. At first the work proceeded in an orderly manner. We worked from morning till evening; we also worked on holidays and on Sundays. We were given enough food, I would say.

Q. Where did the food come from?

A. The food came from Theresienstadt, one railway carriage every two weeks. We were given bread, potatoes, margarine, sugar, sausages and tinned goods. We were given food, and the work proceeded normally. Until one day, I do not remember exactly when, the situation in the camp changed for the worse. Something happened then. I do not know whether it started at that time, or earlier or later. We had three work places during the course of time. If I start with the road which traversed the forest, we worked at first to the right of this road, I do not know which side that was. When we started to work, the place was not fenced in. We were free, there were SS men there.

Q. How many men?

A. At first there were four men.

Q. Altogether?

A. Altogether four men.

Q. And at the end?

A. At the end there were fifty SS men for 240 or 250 persons. Two Jews escaped at that time from the place, and this was perhaps the reason for the situation getting worse after that. We were beaten, we did not get enough food. At one time we were given food, at another time not. During the first three months we had been allowed to write to our families in Theresienstadt, and we also received letters from there.

Q. Were the letters delivered to you?

A. During the first three months the letters were delivered to us. After this we wrote, but the letters did not arrive in Theresienstadt at all. They wrote to us, but we did not receive the letters. Stuschke showed us the letters which had arrived for us and said: "Here are the letters, but you will never get them, and you will not see anybody from there." When the huts were up, we built lavatories, sewers, telephone and electricity lines. It became a whole town.

Q. Perhaps you will tell the Court what was the actual plan, what was supposed to be built, and what was built.

A. As we learned afterwards, this was to become an alternative evasion site (Ausweichstelle) for the offices of the Head Office for Reich Security. Later we started to put up a prison on the same side of the road in the forest. We fenced in the place, which had huts in it. We built only the foundations for the prison, the concrete cellars. Afterwards we did not have enough construction workers. So they brought prisoners from another camp, and we put up a special hut for them with a special fence within the fence.

There was one thing from which I myself suffered very much. We had built a water reservoir for fire extinction, but of course we did not have all the necessary materials. The water seeped away, it did not remain there, and then one Sunday we were made to come, all the 200 men, with buckets and bowls, whatever we had, and to scoop up the water with our hands, and there were - I do not remember - several hundreds of liters of water. And for this I was beaten.

Q. Who beat you?

A. Stuschke himself. I was beaten with a stick, he beat me on my back, and this went on for two or three hours. In addition he demanded that I take a group of people, and that we clear the stones from the forest. This was of course impossible. We proceeded in a row, and the more we took away, the more stones there were. That was of course only Stuschke's malice, he wanted in some way...

Q. Did the 200 men remain the entire year?

A. No, the people were being replaced all the time. Maybe half of the 200 remained. After six weeks, there had already been exchanges of 35 persons.

Q. Where were the people sent to?

A. Back to Theresienstadt, but we never saw them alive again. That is to say, they went to Theresienstadt with instructions for deportations to the East. For example, Kirschner, the technician, who had been responsible for various jobs, was also sent away, and we did not see him again. This went on all the time. The last big transport was in July-August.

Q. Were there only men?

A. No. Twenty-five women arrived later.

Q. Also from Theresienstadt?

A. Yes, all from Theresienstadt. And then, in July-August we were about 265 people there, including the women, and 215 of us returned from there. The other 45 were sent to extermination camps directly from this place.

Q. Did you manage in the end to put up the buildings as planned by the Accused?

A. We did build them. Then we moved to a location opposite the big forest, and we also put up huts there. On one side there were finished huts, but we saw no movement there, we did not know whether anybody came there from the Berlin office.

Q. What was constructed there, finally? Perhaps you will mention the number of huts, the number of rooms?

A. We put up about 36 to 38 huts, each one 12 by 42 metres. That was the standard hut. In the middle there was a corridor, and on either side there were offices. We did not build the rooms of equal size, in accordance with the plan; we built them as we were asked, some big rooms, some small, and lavatories next to them.

Q. Who gave the building instructions, who supplied the plans?

A. We did not see the plans.

Q. Who did the supervising?

A. Stuschke.

Q. Did everything come through Stuschke?

A. Everything came through Stuschke. He was the overseer of the work, he was there every day, he lived there.

Q. Mr. Engelstein, you are an engineer by profession. Perhaps you can make an estimate how many officials could be housed in this complex of buildings?

A. I assume that in each such hut there might be twelve to fifteen rooms on either side, that is twenty-five to thirty rooms in each hut. In each room - I do not know how they were sitting - there might be two people or four. I assume that some 2,000 persons could be accommodated there in all the huts.

Q. Do you remember something special in connection with the women who came from Theresienstadt?

A. They worked very hard.

Q. What work did they do?

A. All kinds of things. They had to wash our clothes, too. But they were also employed on very heavy jobs. For instance, Stuschke made them carry big stones, too big for one person to carry by himself. I was also employed there sometimes, when I was punished, and I had to work as a labourer, and this was very hard because there was a slope in the forest. The women were employed in all kinds of jobs. They also carried parts of huts.

Q. For the construction work?

A. For the construction.

Q. What happened about the food sent from Theresienstadt during this second period?

A. During the second period, when we were on the other side, it was very bad.

Q. What is the other side?

A. I said that there were two locations where we worked. We worked on the other side at the end of 1944, and I can perhaps tell you one thing only about that period, something which I shall never forget. It was at the end of July or the beginning of August. I received an order from Stuschke to design on paper a scaffold for hanging people, three people at a time. I am an engineer, but I had never occupied myself with things of this kind. And I was ordered to complete this by 1 o'clock in the afternoon. I consulted my colleagues - there were two other engineers there. None of them knew what a scaffold for three people was.

Nevertheless we produced something, and I took it to Stuschke to his office. Scharfuehrer Hanke was there. I showed them what we had done, and he said: "Good, alright." And we discussed what was needed for this, iron for the rings and thick rope. And in the same manner as I am talking now, we talked about how to hang people. Finally he said to me: "Everything is alright, I accept this. Take your carpenters, and by tomorrow at 1.30 I want to see the scaffold." What kind of scaffold was this supposed to be? It was to be built in sections, so that it could be moved from place to place. We did not know exactly what was meant, but an order is an order.

At 6 o'clock in the morning, I took eight carpenters, and we built the sections from the timber that was in the forest. We made the preparations, but I realized that I would not be ready by 1 o'clock. I had to go and report this, otherwise there would be trouble, so I went to Stuschke and told him. He received me well and asked me: "When will you finish?," and I said: "Perhaps at 3 o'clock." We finished and tested the thing, and I went to inform Stuschke. But he did not come and did not look at it, and it was left lying next to our hut. But I cannot forget the feeling we had while we were building it. One of the carpenters who worked with us on the construction then, whom I know here [in Israel]asked me: "Do you remember how we built that scaffold?"

Of all those experiences, this was something special.

Q. Did you suffer from hunger, Mr. Engelstein?

A. Yes, at the end of the year we did not get enough food at all.

Q. Did the consignments from Theresienstadt stop?

A. No, they did not stop.

Q. Can you describe the state of the food store in Sossen camp before you left it?

A. Before we left, the Sossen camp was full of completely rotten bread, rotten sausage, everything there was spoilt. I saw my friends standing by the kitchen looking for potato peels which were already rotten. Everything we received was already rotten, and they were still looking for the peelings. I saw it, and I did it, too. We found weeds near the woods, near the road, I think it was a plant like chive or garlic, and we took it and boiled it. Later on, already after the War, we learned that it was wild garlic.

Q. You lived on this?

A. We lived on this, too. Our last place of work was a hut and another hut, and we built a concrete structure which was partly underground. This was apart from the two camps.

Q. Do you know the purpose of the place? To what end was it to be built?

A. They told us that this building was for the Fuehrer. This is what they said. When we were walking in the fields, we would sometimes find potatoes. If the SS guards were not looking, we would take them and eat them raw, as they were.

Q. Mr. Engelstein, did you return to Theresienstadt about 10 February 1945?

A. Already on 1 February we did not leave the huts.

Q. Why?

A. The Eastern front was already coming closer.

Q. Did you hear about the front?

A. We heard the shooting and the guns, and we sat in the huts for three days. We did not go to work any more. One night there was a fierce battle there. And on the 3rd of the month in the afternoon, about 5 or 6 o'clock, we received the order to take what we could and to report to the Appellplatz (roll-call square). We were standing there. It was 8 o'clock, it was 9 o'clock, we did not know what would happen.

Q. How many were there of you?

A. At that time we were still 215 people.

Q. For how long did you stand there?

A. We stood there till 8, 9 o'clock, when the Scharfuehrers came. We did not know what would become of us. We told them: "Euch ist es schon gut, Ihr geht nach Hause. Aber was wird mit uns geschehen?" (For you it is alright, you are going home, but what will become of us?) We thought the road to Theresienstadt was short - this was then our home. At 12 o'clock at night Stuschke came with his assistants. He had with him a gun, a revolver, hand grenades, and I do not know what other equipment. He told us: "We are going on to another job, similar to the one we did here." At midnight we set out on foot and walked the same road back to Trebnitz railway station.

Q. There was no train?

A. There was none. We had walked for rather a long time, and we saw that there were already German soldiers there. We came to Trebnitz, and there was a completely empty freight train.

Q. Did you get on it?

A. We got onto covered freight waggons. There were three waggons, on each waggon there were four SS people. We left in the morning, about 6 o'clock, and at 10.15 we had arrived almost at the outskirts of Berlin. At that moment Berlin was being bombed from the air. We stood for about an hour and a quarter and saw everything that was happening there. Later it became known that the railway track had already been smashed by the bombs.

Q. And it was impossible to go on?

A. It was impossible to go further. We turned back. I had not known Berlin before. I had never been in Berlin before the War, but there were workers from Germany and from Vienna who knew the region, and they told us, we are going South through Thuringia, along the River Saale. We passed Merseburg, and further south we came as far as Wuerzburg. This was the fourth day without food, without anything. We did not know what would happen. One man said, there is a concentration camp there. One man said it is good there, another said, it is bad.

We arrived in Wuerzburg and were taken off the train. Facing us were German soldiers who had also been in freight waggons, they were apparently going north. There, for the first time, I heard the name "Judenjaeger" (Jew hunters) applied to these SS men.

Q. Who said that?

A. The German soldiers said it about the SS. We were Jews wearing the sign...

Q. Were you dressed in the Sossen camp as in the Theresienstadt camp in ordinary clothes with the Jewish sign on your breast?

A. Yes. We stood there, not knowing what...At that moment there was also a bomb attack on Wuerzburg. Suddenly a freight train came and we boarded it. I do not know who was the first to find out that we are going back to Theresienstadt. We returned via Nuremberg, Pilsen and Prague to Theresienstadt, after nine days.

Q. What day did you arrive?

A. On 10 or 11 February 1945. We were interrogated.

Q. Who interrogated you?

A. The SS in Theresienstadt.

Q. Do you remember names of interrogators?

A. Heindl.

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