The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 49
(Part 5 of 5)

Q. Did you also say something about this concrete proposal of two to three million dollars?

A. Yes.

Q. To whom?

A. Reports went to Istanbul, where Haim Barlas and Mendel Bader were at that time. Reports went to Switzerland, where Nathan Schwalb, our confidential agent, was, and he sent the letters on to Sali Meyer in St. Gallen. From there the letters were passed on to London.

Q. And did you receive any replies?

A. We received support all along, otherwise we ourselves would not have been able to carry out this work. We received money from Switzerland, and we received money from Istanbul.

Q. Yes, but my question is: Did you receive any reply to this specific offer from Wisliceny?

A. No.

Q. Did Wisliceny ask anything about this?

A. Wisliceny later went to Greece, but he often visited Bratislava. He received treatment there for an eye ailment; he also had a wife - no, a fiancee - there. Every time he came he received our representative, and also Mrs. Fleischmann, and these deals were talked about. We kept pointing out to him that these things did not proceed so fast, there had to be negotiations.

Q. And in all these discussions, did you have the impression that it was a serious offer?

A. I cannot answer that.

Q. Why can't you answer? Weren't you present?

A. Rabbi Weissmandel was someone who always worked with large sums, and he wanted to dazzle with large amounts. I cannot say that I myself had any great hopes for this plan.

Q. What was your personal attitude to this offer?

A. I would say that my opinion about this matter was of no importance whatsoever.

Q. But what was your opinion then?

A. I was never an optimist about this matter.

Judge Halevi: Was this Weissmandel's idea or Wisliceny's idea?

Witness Abeles: This was undoubtedly Rabbi Weissmandel's idea.

Q. I previously understood that Wisliceny received $40,000- $50,000, and then Wisliceny returned from Berlin with the proposal for saving the Jews of Europe.

A. We handed over $40,000-$50,000 far earlier, of course; this was the initial payment. The $40,000-$50,000 were intended for stopping the deportations in Slovakia.

Q. Are you sure that this was a down payment, an initial payment? Are you sure that Wisliceny received more than the $20,000 to which he admitted?

A. Hochberg, whom I have already mentioned, had to hand this sum over to him. Hochberg was executed by Jews as a Jewish traitor during the partisan uprising. I cannot judge whether Wisliceny lied or whether Hochberg lied.

Q. You also said that you were released after your wife gave a bribe for Wisliceny to an ethnic German.

A. I cannot state as much, either. I do not know what happened to these thirty thousand kroner, what became of this sum. In any case, that was the preliminary to later operations. Our group saw from that that one could use money to work with the Germans, too.

Q. How much was thirty thousand kroner at that time?

A. At that time it was around one thousand dollars.

Q. Are you sure that this sum reached Wisliceny?

A. I cannot say so for sure.

Q. Your statement shows that at the beginning you believed Wisliceny, you described him as a more or less pleasant man; but later he proved to be nasty.

A. I am not sure that I have understood this question properly.

Q. Is that what you meant? You first said that Wisliceny was someone who did Jews favours; later he was very cruel to you and to others. You first of all described him as being benevolent to the Jews, but then he became cruel.

A. I do not believe that I said "benevolent," he acted properly. He acted politely, when I went to his office, he gave me a chair and asked me to be seated. That is difficult to understand for one who has not met these officers; in any case, the relationship between myself and Wisliceny changed drastically after this reprimand to him from Eichmann which was caused by me.

Q. Why was Wisliceny reprimanded?

A. Being cruel, carrying out transports, that was his position. He was reprimanded when I stated that he was not making sufficient money available for the workers who had to carry out compulsory labour with nothing whatsoever to live on.

Q. You said at first that the Accused did not accept your opinion.

A. He said, "stop your blathering," but still, he then asked Wisliceny, "is that humanly possible?", and he expressed his disapproval.

Q. In other words, in this matter his attitude to the Jews was better than Wisliceny's?

A. Possibly in this matter it was.

Q. And from then on Wisliceny hated you?

A. Yes.

Q. And Brunner hated you, too?

A. Quite independently of my difference with Wisliceny.

Q. How is it that you know something about Brunner's promise to Dunant about the Marianske matter?

A. At that time I was already in hiding, and so to say the only one of the Jewish leaders who could somehow be reached in Bratislava. Dunant sent a woman to me in my cellar and told me I should take over the leadership of the foreigners in Marianske, as I also had a foreign protective passport, and should leave the bunker with my family and go to this Marianske. I replied to Dunant that I did not want to leave the bunker with my family, I was prepared to visit him at noon, in broad daylight, at his hotel, and discuss the matter, but I would not sacrifice my family. I knew what Brunner's promises were worth.

Q. You said that Brunner himself carried out the selection at Sered.

A. There were not enough people for three transports, so he put a transport together going in different directions, and en route the women's and children's transport - altogether one wagon - was uncoupled and sent to Terezin, and then the wagons for Ravensbrueck were uncoupled, and finally it finished up at Sachsenhausen. We were put in separate wagons right from the beginning.

Q. What I did not understand is this: You spoke about your elderly mother and you said that Brunner had sent her together with the able-bodied. Normally, we know that the selection was as follows: For anyone who was not able-bodied - death; anyone who was able-bodied was better off. According to what you have related, it was the other way round.

A. At this time the gassing in Auschwitz had already stopped. It was either death through labour or Theresienstadt.

Q. It was safer to remain in hiding in Bratislava than to rely on SS promises?

A. Yes. It was safer to be in hiding in Bratislava than to rely on confirmation by any SS General.

Q. When Rabbi Weissmandel came out of his hiding place and relied on the promise of the SS man that he would reach Switzerland - was that safe?

A. I must point out here that Dr. Kasztner also came to see me - rather, sent someone to see me - and invited me to join the transport together with my family. Although I had a high opinion of Dr. Kasztner, I was afraid to take part in this transport.

Q. That was shortly before the Russians entered Bratislava, was it not?

A. In any case, it was still in 1944, and I believe Bratislava was liberated in April 1945.

Q. Did Rabbi Weissmandel not leave Bratislava in 1945 shortly before the Russians arrived?

A. No, he never came back.

Q. You did not understand my question. Did he escape from Bratislava shortly before the arrival of the Russians in 1945?

A. No, he went to Switzerland already in 1944.

Q. You said that two persons returned from Auschwitz and related the whole sad story about the gassings and the dogs. When did these two witnesses appear?

A. They came in 1943, about the summer of 1943, and at that time a major operation started with the clergy, and it was precisely then that these letters were written. In this connection I should like to relate an episode - I do not know whether I might be permitted to do so.

Q. In other words, in the summer of 1943 you in Pressburg knew the truth about Auschwitz, and you informed Istanbul, Geneva and Zurich of the truth?

A. Yes.

Q. You also said that from there it went to London?

A. Yes.

Q. But from there it did not reach the United States?

A. I do not know. Rabbi Weissmandel had a brother in London, and from Zurich this letter was sent on to him. At that time we used diplomats in order to convey letters and money. The letter did, in fact, reach London.

Q. And in this letter, which reached London, Rabbi Weissmandel spoke about the plan to save the Jews who were still alive for two million dollars?

A. This was probably not in the letter.

Q. This proposal of the two million dollars, you said that this proposal was circulated to various countries.

A. But that occurred later, after this report.

Q. When did it occur?

A. Unfortunately, I have a poor memory for dates.

Q. You said that after this proposal of two million dollars Wisliceny went to Greece.

A. Yes.

Q. So that means that the first conversation about two million dollars occurred before Wisliceny's departure for Greece?

A. Yes.

Q. So that the date can be determined on that basis?

A. Yes.

Q. Did Wisliceny bring any decision about this proposal?

A. He said, in principle we could negotiate on the matter, the whole of Europe, with the exception of Poland.

Q. But no practical steps were undertaken?

A. Events followed in rapid succession; later Hungary took up these threads and continued negotiating along these lines.

Q. In Pressburg there was a joint commission of the Orthodox and the Zionists.

A. Orthodox, Reform and Zionists jointly set up this so- called second government.

Q. Neologues, too?

A. Yes.

Q. When Fiala's article appeared in the Grenzbote, the article you referred to earlier, this was an article about Auschwitz, was it not?

A. Fiala brought the report from Auschwitz.

Q. This was of course a lie; or did I not understand you properly?

A. At that time we already realized that it was a barefaced untruth. No one believed in it.

Judge Halevi: Thank you very much.

Presiding Judge: You spoke about a conversation with Eichmann. You see the Accused here before you: Can you identify him as the same Eichmann?

Witness Abeles: No, I cannot recognize him.

Q. You said that there were 95,000 Jews in Slovakia before the War, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know how many remained, how many survived after the War?

A. After the War there were some 20,000 Jews in Slovakia, including those who had returned from emigration, from the camps, and then there were others who did not return from the camps to Bratislava at all, but went straight on to Palestine or other countries. Consequently, no statistics can be drawn up. Rabbi Weissmandel, for example, never returned to Slovakia.

Presiding Judge: Thank you very much, Dr. Abeles.

State Attorney Bach: I have another question which I should like to ask, if it pleases the Court: The witness said that before the War there were 95,000 Jews. Perhaps he might be asked how many Jews were there before the beginning of the transports?

Presiding Judge: Did you understand the question?

Witness Abeles: Yes, I understood the question. It is estimated that five to six thousand Jews left Slovakia for Hungary and other countries of emigration.

Q. Before the transports?

A. Yes, before the transports.

Q. So that actually, when the transports started, there were 85,000-90,000 Jews there?

A. Yes.

Presiding Judge: Thank you very much, Dr. Abeles, that concludes your testimony.

The Court will adjourn until 9 a.m. tomorrow.

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