The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 46
(Part 2 of 6)

Q. The Germans - that means the German troops?

A. Yes. I was wearing the uniform of a Yugoslav officer, and I was again taken into custody. When I was caught again, I was taken to a large prison camp situated in the Kalemajdan fortress in Belgrade. In this camp there were already close to 10,000 prisoners of war from the Yugoslav army. While trying to find my bearings in the camp, I discovered that there was a clinic for wounded and sick prisoners of war, which was at that moment still under the management of Yugoslav doctors. I managed to gain a footing in this clinic, which was not easy, since there were already forty or fifty doctors - I do not remember exactly - for fifty to sixty prisoners, that is to say too large a ratio between them. But I was accepted into the clinic as a doctor.

In the office of this clinic my knowledge of the German language was very useful for me. The other doctors understood and spoke German, but not to the same degree as I did. Thus I made contact with a German doctor who came into the clinic for checking up, and I made myself useful in every respect. I succeeded...

Q. This was a German military doctor?

A. A German military doctor. I succeeded in making contact with the American Red Cross - America was then not yet at war - and to receive food from the American Red Cross for our prisoners who had no food already - the Germans were not particularly worried by this. I am talking about this at somewhat greater length, in order to explain thereby my position later on. A few days later - I believe it is irrelevant to describe the situation in the camp - some more doctors arrived, and the German doctor came and told us it was not necessary for so many doctors to be in this clinic, while the main military hospital of Belgrade, which had meanwhile been transformed into a hospital for prisoners of war, did not have a sufficient number of doctors.

Thus about thirty or forty doctors were transferred from the clinic to the prisoner-of-war hospital. In the hospital I was called on the very same day by a Yugoslav general, a chief medical officer, into his office. This was the internal administration of the prisoner-of-war hospital. Later I learned that the head of the clinic in which I had worked had recommended me to this general, as I might be of use to him. He therefore called me and asked me to take over a position in the administration of the hospital.

Q. And did you accept this position?

A. I accepted the position.

Q. Did you also act as liaison officer between the Yugoslav Medical Corps and the German Headquarters?

A. They were looking for somebody who knew German and was also a medical man, in order to sort out medical matters.

Q. During all this time you were wearing the uniform of the Yugoslav army?

A. Yes.

Q. What was your rank in the army?

A. I was an army medical lieutenant.

Q. Who was the German chief doctor in Belgrade?

A. The German chief medical officer was Garrison Physician Dr. Sprungmann.

Q. Were you in contact with him?

A. I was in contact with him officially as the functionary of the hospital who did all the written, and sometimes also the oral, work; on a personal basis he knew me slightly.

Q. How long did you continue in this job at that military hospital?

A. I should like to insert something here which is of importance: Although I was wearing uniform, I was ordered by my superior, the general, to report as a Jew with the Registration of Jews. The general, who was otherwise a decent person, was afraid to keep a Jew half-hidden like that, and I was given a yellow stripe with "Jew" written on it and, on the advice of my military colleagues, I wore it on my left sleeve, on my uniform, which was an anomaly. In order to diminish the impact of this stripe, I wore a red cross under it. What I have said is important for understanding what follows, because as a military person I was not obliged to wear the yellow stripe.

Q. Dr. Salz, I asked you how long you remained in the military hospital.

A. I remained there from about the middle of April until 31 July 1941.

Q. You were released from imprisonment in order to start working, were you not?

A. No, I was not taken to forced labour - the Jews of Belgrade were already being mobilized for forced labour at that time - as I was in this special position. One day, I cannot remember exactly when it was, the Staff Physician, Dr. Sprungmann, came to the prisoner-of-war hospital and arranged a roll-call for all the doctors there. By that time, about 150 doctors had collected at the hospital, which was too big a number. Dr. Sprungmann told us nicely and politely that he was very satisfied with the Yugoslav medical establishment, that it was on a high level, but that there were too many doctors who were prisoners of war, and that the civilian medical service was suffering from this.

He decided, therefore, to grant leave of absence from captivity to all doctors who were not on active military service. This is how he formulated it. I do not know whether I am not going too much into detail, but this explains my position. Do you wish me to be briefer?

Q. When did you leave the military hospital?

A. I left it after I had saved my life almost through a miracle. This cannot be understood, unless I tell the whole story. At the moment I received my paper like all the others who were granted leave, I had the feeling...because from the first moment it was clear to me that the Jews...the Jews were not yet sufficiently aware of what was going on - some tried to save their property, etc. - I was aware that this was a matter of life and death, the whole atmosphere was like that.

I therefore went to the Staff Physician, in order to take my leave of him after having been given leave from the hospital - and waited for a reaction, which was not short in coming. The Staff Physician was disappointed that I should be leaving and said: "I do not know whom to take in your place, do you not have someone else who could fill your position?" Whereupon I told him that I was prepared to stay on, but that I was asking him for a favour - and this is the crucial point - it was thus that I received a German paper which saved my life.

Q. What favour did you ask?

A. I asked him, since I was both prisoner-of-war and non- prisoner-of-war, to obtain for me a paper which would let me move freely about in Belgrade.

Q. Was it difficult to move about freely in Belgrade?

A. With a yellow stripe - yes, one was not allowed to use a streetcar, and other things which are well known. I feel I must now relate something, an experience: One day a German N.C.0. came to the hospital - I believe he was a sergeant from the military police - and said he had been ordered to issue special papers to some functionaries of the prisoner- of-war hospital, in order that it would be easier for them to solve the supply questions. I was proposed as one of these persons.

At that moment I said to myself that it would not be wise to disguise myself, would it, and to use the opportunity without proclaiming myself a Jew. I told the man that I was a Jew. Whereupon he said loudly: "Well, what does it matter, are you not a person if you are a Jew? You will also get a paper."

To make it short, I remember his name, he was called Willy Mueller, from Essen, Giessereigasse No. 4; he gave me his address, too. He became our friend, he used to take me home in his car, I was wearing the yellow stripe and he said: Sit so that the stripe cannot be seen. He became a friend of the family, he cried in our house because he had already seen terrible things. This is by the way, but I think it is something which illustrates the whole situation.

Q. Were you given this paper for the purpose of freedom of movement?

A. I was given a permit which said: "The prisoner-of-war, military physician Dr. Hinko Salz, etc." - this was in my pocket.

Q. Did anything special happen until 28 July 1941?

A. Yes, the death of my father. My father died in Belgrade as a result of maltreatment by an SS thug. He was 67 years old, and he had to work in a labour squad, clearing away the debris of the royal palace of Belgrade. He could not lift more than three bricks at a time, but according to the rule he had to carry six - perhaps I do not remember the number exactly - whereupon one of these hoodlums hit him with a truncheon, wounding him in the back. The wound festered, and he died of blood poisoning and erysipelas.

On 28 July 1941 I came home to my parents, about the same time as my uncle, a Belgrade lawyer, Dr. Max Laufer - he perished, he was murdered. He showed me a paper which had been issued by the Jewish authority, the Jewish Religious Community, which said the following: "All Jews between the ages of 14 or 15 to 60 or 65 - I do not remember exactly - have to report tomorrow morning, 29 July 1941, at 7 o'clock at a place called Tasmajdan. Every Jew who reads this paper is duty-bound to pass it on, because ignorance of its contents is no excuse. Anybody who will not come will be shot." We discussed whether to go or not. But since we were aware that our names appeared in a Jewish card index, and since we thought of the possibility that this registration could be used for control purposes, we decided to go.

Q. Dr. Salz, I show you here a document numbered 1340. Its date is 16 April 1941, remember it well, not July, but April. I ask you to look at it. The upper part is in German, the lower part in a language which I do not know. Look at the document, does it mean anything to you?

A. Yes, I know this placard. It was posted everywhere in Belgrade, on every wall and notice board, and I have read it.

Q. The upper part is written in German, and the lower part?

A. Yes, the lower part is in Serbian, written in Cyrillic characters.

Q. Please read the upper part, or the lower part, if you can.

A. Yes, I can; this is my mother tongue. [reads the Serbian text]

Q. Perhaps you can now tell us in German what you just read.

Presiding Judge: Is this not the same text in both languages?

State Attorney Bar-Or: Yes.

Presiding Judge: Then why not read the text in German?

Witness Salz: "All Jews have to report on 19 April this year at 8 o'clock in the morning to the municipal Security Police in the Fire Brigade Command Post at Tasmajdan. Jews who do not fulfil this obligation to report will be shot. Belgrade, 16.4.1941 - the Chief of the Special Operations Group of the Security Police and the SD."

Presiding Judge: This document is marked T/888.

State Attorney Bar-Or: Is this the text, or a similar one, which your relative showed you?

Witness Salz: No - as I recall it was stencilled, typewritten and stencilled. This is what I remember, more or less.

Q. And what did you do then? Did you go there?

A. And now I come to that moment. On 29 July, at 7 o'clock in the morning we were at the Tasmajdan. This was a square which could hold several thousand people, surrounded by wire, I think even barbed wire. At 7 o'clock in the morning there were in my opinion, - it is hard to estimate - between 1,000 and 1,500 Jews assembled there. The Secret State Police Commissioner for the Jews, who was known as Egon - whether this was his family or first name I do not know, he was a well-known personality - got up on a platform and made a speech.

Q. Was he a German? What language did he speak?

A. I cannot remember. But he spoke perfect Serbian, he came from Yugoslavia. He ordered us first of all to form groups, groups according to professions. Thus a group of doctors, a group of engineers, one of lawyers, businessmen, etc. were formed. Then he ordered a foreman to be elected in each group.

Q. You reported with the doctors' group?

A. Yes, I was in the doctors' group.

Q. What were you wearing?

A. I was already in civilian clothes. I remember, the foreman in the doctors' group was a well-known gynecologist in Belgrade, Dr. Bukispirade, a well-known personality. Then Egon announced that acts of sabotage had occurred, and it had been ascertained that a Jewish youngster, aged 16 or 17, had taken part in these acts of sabotage. I believe the boy was called Almoslino. He (Egon) explained to us that he regarded the Jews of Belgrade as collectively responsible and demanded that they extradite this boy.

As a security measure he would retain 100 of the Jews present. Should the boy not report by 6 o'clock in the evening, the Jews, and especially these 100 people, would have to take the consequences. Then he ordered the elder of each group to count off every fifth person in the groups, and these fifth persons to step out and form a group. The counting-off was carried out, and I was fifth. I was familiar with this method from the literature, and also otherwise. I knew more or less what was at stake. They did not mention the death sentence or anything else, everything was done very quietly, you see.

When the group had almost been completed I heard shouting. I was in a state where I did not take much notice of what was going on around me. One of those selected, of the chosen, began to scream he had a wife and four children, and another one began to scream like him. Was Egon moved or not? Egon had lived before, I believe, as fifth columnist in Yugoslavia, he had been born in Yugoslavia, had lived in Germany, etc. He had many acquaintances among the Jews. What sentiment it was I cannot tell - he ordered everybody back to their places, the unmarried to stand apart.

I was still unmarried at that time, and the counting-off agony started all over again. I was in special luck, I was again the fifth in this group. Now I was definitely in the group. The entire Jewish People is a chosen people, but we were now especially chosen. I wracked my brains, because I knew that this was the end of my earthly career.

Suddenly I remembered that I had a document in my pocket which might perhaps help me. I stepped out of the group - I should like to add that the psychology of the SS had something to do with this - I stepped out of the group, stood in real Prussian style in front of Egon and the other SS officers with him, and declared: "I protest, I invoke the Geneva Convention." One of the SS officers said: "What is the Jew protesting about? What do you want?" I answered again: "Invoke the Geneva Convention. I am an officer in captivity, I am under the protection of the Convention."

"Do you have proof of this?" I was asked. "Yes." I took out my wallet and showed the paper which I have mentioned, which said "he prisoner-of-war, Military Physician, Dr. Hinko Salz." He took the paper and passed it on to the SS man, and it was he who saved my life with his left hand, saying: "Fall out." I returned to my place as if in a trance, it had been a rather bitter experience - not compared to events of the times, but for me it was bitter enough.

Q. Was somebody else selected in your place?

A. In my place...Egon or somebody ordered somebody else to be taken, I do not know whom.

Q. Do you know what happened then to these people?

A. A few minutes after this procedure the others were told they were free to go, while a group of 100 to 120 people was kept behind in the square, among them a good friend of mine who was a pediatrician, and my uncle, Dr. Max Laufer.

Q. Did you ever hear what was the fate of these 100 or 120?

A. Rumours were heard, uncertain rumours. The families of these people intervened, among them my mother; my mother went to Egon's home in order to speak with him. People did not yet understand the situation, but nothing was ever heard again of these persons. It was said that shots had been heard the next morning in the village of Jajinci, or its vicinity, near Belgrade, and it was said that Jews were shot there.

Dr. Salz, on 31 July of that year you obtained confirmation from a Yugoslav chief physician that you came from Ljubljana, as it were.

A. Yes. After this event it was clear to me, or clearer still, that it was a matter of survival. I had managed to escape once, the next time I would not succeed. I had decided to flee, but how, from Belgrade which was closed? I no longer went home, I went to the hospital and slept in a room together with wounded SS people; I chose this in order to have a better cover. There were sick or wounded SS people in the room, and "Herr Doktor," as I was called, took a bed and slept there two or three nights. With the help of an impostor who had connections in various consulates, I obtained a document, a travel document, which was to help me escape from Belgrade. This paper proves...

Q. The paper says that you are on your way home? [shows him the paper]

A. It is a paper...I had mislaid it it can be seen that it was faked, the ink which had been effaced is visible now. But I saw immediately that the paper had no value, that one could easily fall into a trap with it.

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