The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 64
(Part 2 of 7)

Q. After taking out the corpses from the grave, what did they tell you to do there? What did you do in the pit? You burned the bodies, you already told us that.

A. After removing the bodies, chloride was spread in the pits.

Presiding Judge: You mean the disinfectant, chloride?

Witness Reznik: Yes, the disinfectant, something white. Chloride was spread in the pit. It was an operation to obliterate the traces; they did not want it to be known what was there. They spread chloride, we filled in the pit, and we put soil on top. Over those pits, after filling them up, we also sowed grass.

Attorney General: And you burned the bodies?

Witness Reznik: The corpses were burned, one thousand at a time. There were two such stacks for burning. Such a mound of corpses burned for two or three days.

Q. You escaped from there in February 1944, right?

A. Yes, in 1944. I can tell you about it.

Q. That is not so important. Important to me is that you dug a tunnel. Is that correct?

A. We were put in fetters in our hut. In all four corners there were machine guns. For every sixty or sixty-five of us, there were forty-five Security Police, not counting the SS who were there. And later, they put chains on us, each one ninety centimetres long, with shackles around our legs. We were deep down in a bunker, with a heavy iron door on it, barred with a heavy iron bolt - all this to prevent our escape. We dug a tunnel, at a depth of 2.10 metres, fifty metres in length. This took us over two months of work, and the tunnel led to the new trench which was to receive fresh corpses. Our chains were inspected every day. One day, immediately after the inspection, we decided to break our chains. I do not want to brag. I broke the chains of eight men, with a kind of tool that could twist the chain, and it broke. Many ran away with the shackles on their legs. I managed to remove the shackles and fled through the trench. I remained alone.

Presiding Judge: What happened to the others?

Witness Reznik: The others - four people saved themselves together with me. Two others are here in Israel, and one is in America.

After the War, I went to the Russo-Polish Prosecutor's Office together with a companion of mine who is here in this country, and gave them a description of what happened there. We travelled with the Polish Prosecutor's men to that forest. We had written a testament in Russian, in Polish and in Yiddish, and that testament we buried inside a bottle like this [shows an ordinary bottle]. When I came there with the entire Russo-Polish Prosecutor's Office to find it, we came upon a place where there was concrete, big blocks of concrete. So we understood right away that the others did not manage to escape, because we had drawn lots who should go first and who should go later, and it appears that the concrete was poured so as to prevent them from getting out.

The Russo-Polish Prosecutor's men started hammering away at the concrete, but could not crack it because it was very thick, so they left off. I showed them the places where new grass had been sown, and where the bodies had been burned, and where the bones had been ground, and at that time heaps of small bones still remained which had not been fully ground.

Attorney General: Mr. Reznik, later you were hiding with some Poles. There was also a Polish priest who helped you to hide, and thus you were saved, until the Soviet army arrived?

Witness Reznik: Yes, and later...

Presiding Judge: You have answered this already. Did you understand the question - for it was a long one?

Witness Reznik: Yes.

Q. Is what the Attorney General said true?

A. Yes, all I said is true.

Q. Did you confirm this?

A. Yes.

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

Dr. Servatius: No, I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you, Mr. Reznik, you have concluded your testimony.

Attorney General: The next witness is Mr. Ya'akov Friedman.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Friedman: Yes.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Ya'akov Friedman.

Attorney General: Mr. Friedman, you live in Tel Aviv at 42 Aminadav Street?

Witness Friedman: Yes.

Q. What is your occupation?

A. I am a clerk in the Tel Aviv municipality.

Q. In 1942, you were in the district of Lublin, and you were regarded as a Polish Aryan - is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And you worked for a Polish Christian farmer?

A. Yes.

Q. And on one occasion Germans came, taking you for a Pole, and arrested you on the grounds that this was a reprisal for a partisan attack in the neighbourhood - is that so?

A. Yes.

Q. And, as a Polish Christian, you were transferred to the camp at Majdanek?

A. Yes.

Q. When did you arrive at Majdanek?

A. At the end of 1942 - it was September, I believe.

Q. Can you describe for us the morning roll-call at Majdanek?

A. Yes. A roll-call took place twice daily, in the morning and in the evening. In the morning, all the prisoners had to report and stand in line. At the beginning it was accompanied by orders: "Muetze ab!" and "Muetze auf!" (Muetze ab - remove the cap from one's head; Muetze auf - place the cap on one's head). And this had to be done in rhythm, and if it was not so - the SS would deal out blows.

Q. Muetze ab, Muetze auf - you had to remove and replace your caps. How long did these orders go on for?

A. Until we were dismissed.

Q. How long, approximately?

A. It could continue for an hour or more. After that, we were divided up for our assignments.

Q. We shall still come across this matter of Muetze ab and Muetze auf - that was practiced at all the camps. You used to go out to work. What tasks did you perform at Majdanek?

A. These were also unproductive tasks, transferring rolls of paper used for covering roofs from warehouse to warehouse. It was also accompanied by blows, such as laufen (run), or schneller (faster). It depended on what kind of guard we encountered. And I also worked on scraping off plaster from bricks. I was also employed in the erection of huts inside the camp.

Q. Were there serious illnesses in the camp?

A. Yes.

Q. First and foremost - dysentery?

A. Dysentery prevailed there. We also assumed that the food there was not altogether clean, for otherwise it could not have happened that people contracted dysentery in such a short time.

Q. Was there a heavy rate of mortality?

A. Very heavy. At every morning roll-call, we were obliged to bring out the bodies of those who had died during the night.

Q. We have already heard of this from Mr. Gutman. I want you to describe some aspects about which the Court has not yet heard.

Presiding Judge: Was this a unit of Poles - these prisoners?

Witness Friedman: I was with a group of forty-seven Poles.

Q. Polish Christians?

A. Polish Christians. But we occupied a hut together with Jews. In this hut, there were about three hundred men, mostly Jews.

Q. This roll-call, for example, did it encompass the entire hut?

A. The entire hut.

Attorney General: You did not acknowledge your being Jewish to the Jews?

Witness Friedman: No.

Q. What was the bread ration?

A. The bread ration was one loaf of bread for five men over two days. The loaf of bread weighed about 800 grams.

Q. Was there an electrified fence surrounding Majdanek?

A. Yes.

Q. Were there instances of people committing suicide by deliberately touching the fence?

A. Yes.

Q. Were there many such cases?

A. Very many. It usually happened at night, when people ran directly to the electrified fence in order to commit suicide. But the sentries used to prevent a prisoner from approaching the electrified fence before he could touch it, not because they were concerned for his life, but because it gave them a lot of work to switch off the current and remove the bodies. When we got up in the morning, there would be bodies around the fence which we were obliged to clear away - to remove them from there.

Q. Do you remember a mass execution during 1943? When was it roughly?

A. Yes. It must have been in November - the end of 1943. We were taken out to work. That day, I remained inside the camp. This entire Polish group remained in the camp, and, in fact, all the huts were emptied out. But that did not last very long, for, on the following day, they were again filled with people, but these were not the faces I had previously got to know.

Q. Did you see how transports of Jews arrived at Majdanek?

A. There were men who were working with us - they were called "Sonderkommando" - and they used to attend to the transports.

Q. You did not see it yourself?

A. No, I did not.

Q. But you heard about it from your fellow inmates in the hut?

A. Yes.

Q. And, from what you were told, what do you know about what happened to the people who arrived on these transports - to these Jews?

A. They were ordered to undress and hand over their clothes - it was as if they were undergoing a disinfection by cleaning themselves. They had to enter shower rooms. And, indeed, the gas chambers resembled shower rooms, and, from there dead bodies were brought out.

Q. Did you witness the execution of people in Majdanek?

A. Yes, by hanging.

Q. How many times?

A. It happened every day.

Q. Every day?

A. Every day. The parade, or roll-call, was usually at six o'clock, and then punishments were inflicted. It was sufficient for the guard to write down the number of the Haeftling (prisoner) and to pass it on as a report to the Lageraeltester (camp elder). Then, in the course of the roll-call, the prisoner would be called out. There was punishment by hanging, and there was punishment by means of flogging - it all went according to the offence.

Q. For what offences were people hanged? And for what offences were they flogged?

A. It could have been hanging for slackness in work, absence from work - that is to say, absence from work for a few minutes, for there was to be no such thing; or, simply, if he took a dislike to him. And then, in the presence of the whole camp, without explanations, they would hang him. He was obliged to undress, to climb on a chair and...

Q. They would call upon a man to leave the ranks and announce to him on the spot that he was going to be hanged?

A. Yes.

Q. Did he know about it beforehand?

A. He did not know about it beforehand.

Q. Who hanged him?

A. The SS. There was also punishment by flogging. There was a special chair designed for that. The prisoner had to get into this chair, with his hands and legs in such a position that the lower portion of the body was conveniently placed, and then two SS men stood on either side with whips, and they would flog him, and the prisoner had to count the blows.

Q. You also had an experience of being flogged?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you receive blows in this way?

A. Yes.

Q. How many blows?

A. I was only flogged three times. On one occasion when I was flogged, I was told later that I did not have the "privilege" of reaching twenty-five blows, for I fainted, and apparently my bowels also emptied during the flogging.

Q. And then they stopped?

A. Yes.

Q. The same thing happened on the second and third occasions?

A. The same thing.

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