The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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

Attorney General: A Jew?

Witness Freiberg: A Jew. He headed the organization for revolt. And, at that time, there were some individuals amongst the Ukrainians whom we thought it was possible to talk to. They related all kinds of stories about partisans, and a conspiracy was established between him and the Ukrainians to organize a revolt. One of the Ukrainians apparently disclosed this; at a roll-call in the evening, they took him out and began to interrogate him as to who were the organizers of the planned escape. This man withstood beatings and endless tortures and maintained: "I was the only one who wanted to escape." He did not reveal anything. The Germans said that if he would not tell them, they would take all the people of the block - I don't remember how many there were in the block to which he belonged - they would take them to Camp 3, and there they would cut off the heads of all of them in front of him, and he would be the last to be killed. He said: "In any case, you do as you like - from me you will not learn anything."

Then an order was given to the entire block to move to Camp 3 - the block numbered eighty persons. The next day, we learned that the Germans kept their word, and all the people were beheaded. And, after the War, there was evidence from a young man who is now overseas, that he caught the German who was responsible, Novak - he was in the Russian zone - they searched his home and found all kinds of photographs; amongst the photographs they found was a picture of the decapitation.

Q. Later on, Jews arrived who were Russian prisoners of war, and they told you that it was possible to kill Germans?

A. Yes.

Q. This again revived amongst you the plans for revolt and escape?

A. As a matter of fact, despite failures, there were still attempts. I gave only a few examples, but all our thoughts, whenever we had a free moment, were concentrated on escaping. We were ready to do it, there was no fear, but simply we did not know the technique.

Q. I am going to ask another witness to describe the actual revolt, but perhaps you would tell us when the revolt took place, and when you escaped?

A. The revolt took place on 14 October.

Q. In what year?

A. In 1943.

Q. How many people escaped?

A. It is impossible to know exactly, for they fled in all directions, but according to an estimate, about three hundred people escaped. There were then six to seven hundred of us in the camp. Half of them managed to escape, and approximately half were killed during the revolt.

Q. Did they search for you?

Presiding Judge: Were you one of those who fled?

Witness Freiberg: Yes. The Germans searched - I think that they mobilized the entire surroundings. They searched, they used aircraft; for weeks, when I was still wandering in the forests, the Germans were still searching the whole neighbourhood.

Attorney General: After that, you hid in the forests?

Witness Freiberg: After that, I remained in the forests for another year.

Q. We won't talk about that. In this way, you were saved. How many remained alive after the War of the three hundred who escaped?

A. We met after the War in Lublin, all those who fled, and all of them were in the district - there were some thirty odd persons.

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

Dr. Servatius: Witness, how long were you in Sobibor, from when to when?

Witness Freiberg: I was there for seventeen months, from May 1942 until October 1943, 14 October 1943.

Q. Are you able to say how many people were exterminated there during this period, in your estimation, as far as you can?

A. I would like to say, I cannot estimate; I saw before my eyes, every day, hundreds and thousands of people. But, according to what people said at our meetings after the War, and what was said inside the camp, the number of one million was mentioned.

Presiding Judge: During the period you were there?

Witness Freiberg: During that period, which was, in reality, the whole period of the camp's existence, because afterwards the Germans liquidated the whole camp, after we had carried out the revolt.

Judge Halevi: But that is not your estimate - you did not estimate it thus?

Witness Freiberg: No. I cannot make an estimation.

Dr. Servatius: Can't you even mention a tentative number? Did you say a million or one hundred thousand?

Presiding Judge: He said that he heard from others, about one million; he himself did not know.

Witness Freiberg: It was impossible when one saw it, I did not think about counting people.

Dr. Servatius: I have no further questions.

Judge Halevi: Was this only an extermination camp?

Witness Freiberg: Yes. There were a number of single cases when, apparently on special instructions, they removed some carloads from some transport, they removed some carloads to labour camps - very few cases.

Q. But, apart from single cases, all the transports came to be exterminated?

A. Yes, on the same day.

Q. You said earlier that all the women and children were gassed immediately?

A. Yes.

Q. And the men, did they choose the fit ones amongst them for work?

A. In most of the transports, all the men went off as well, either before or after that. But there were cases, each time they used to remove men for work, for, in the meantime, our number was getting smaller - only a few people stayed on for a longer period. The men were there only for a month, sometimes only for two weeks.

Q. The work was only of the kind that was essential to maintaining the camp and the auxiliary work for the extermination?

A. Yes.

Q. That is to say, apart from extermination, they did not do anything concrete there?

A. Nothing else.

Q. That is to say, they left alive only the work crew?

A. Yes; in practice, it was replaced all the time.

Q. The composition of the work crew was changed?

A. It was changed constantly, but there were always some individuals who remained for a longer time, generally speaking, because they were given some additional work.

Q. The work crew was systematically replaced; were members of the crew liquidated deliberately or in a natural way?

A. This I don't know; I only know that every time they killed some of them - they used to come and take some of them out to be shot.

Q. Was the crew relatively small?

A. At the beginning, apart from skilled people, the whole crew amounted to about one hundred persons; but all the time it grew, as more huts were erected. The number grew also, because they began exploiting whatever they could, they began sorting out every single thing - which they did not do previously.

Q. What was the largest number?

A. Six to seven hundred, at the time of the revolt.

Q. Prior to that, it was smaller?

A. Yes. I wanted to add...

Presiding Judge: One moment. When did you become aware, when did it become clear to you for the first time, that these were not shower rooms, but gas chambers?

Witness Freiberg: In the first days. There were some doubts, but it was known.

Q. They did not allow you to go near there?

A. No. No one from Camps 1 and 2 went into Camp 3, and if he went in, then he did not come out.

Q. Could one see Camp 3 from there?

A. Yes.

Q. There were also crematoria, is that not so?

A. For a certain time, they used to keep the bodies in pits. Then, some kind of derrick, a crane, was brought there, and it was engaged for months in removing the bodies from the pits and burning them in piles.

Q. Was it possible to see Camp 3 from Camp 1?

A. Camp 3 was inside a forest.

Q. One thing I did not understand. You told us how the Germans tried to mislead the victims right up to the last moment. On the other hand, you told us that they used to maltreat them.

A. Yes.

Q. You spoke earlier about this preacher?

A. Yes.

Q. How can all these matters be reconciled with one another?

A. Apparently, the order was, in fact, to deceive people up to the last minute, so that there should be no problems. But the Germans wanted to maltreat people a little, so they found ways of doing so. For example, there were transports to whom they gave food and drink when they arrived, and they gave them writing paper and envelopes, in order to send letters home, and then they entered the yard, where they were undressed, and after Michel spoke, there would be applause. And it happened, on more that one occasion - there were many cases when people applauded the speech. But, with certain transports, they preferred to maltreat people, so that the process would not be so smooth.

Q. Did the Germans drink to the point of intoxication?

A. Yes.

Q. A lot?

A. Yes, they used to drink - at any rate, as far as I know, they drank - and this Paul was always drunk.

Q. Did you want to add something? If it is something important.

A. Yes, I wanted to describe a transport from Majdanek. This was something special.

Attorney General: This was a transport that reached the camp, all of them virtually skeletons. If the Court will allow the witness, it should only take a minute.

Presiding Judge: Very well, you may add this.

Witness Freiberg: Once a transport arrived from Majdanek. They were human skeletons, dressed in striped clothes. On that day, there had apparently been some breakdown in the gas chambers, and they spent the night with us, sleeping in the yard. They were people to whom nothing mattered at all. When they were struck - they did not shout, they merely moaned. We received an order to distribute food to them. We went to give them food, and then they expended their last ounce of energy. They were lying, one on top of the other, they rose up together, whoever was able to, they trod on each other, in order to obtain their piece of bread, and it became almost impossible to distribute the food to them.

The next morning, they were taken to the gas chambers. And in the yard, where they had been, several hundred dead were left behind during the night. There were even some who were not dead, and some who were dragged along. Then Untersturmfuehrer Fraenzel came and selected twenty men - I was one of them - and said to us: "Don't be afraid - you have to undress completely and carry the bodies that have remained in the yard to the carts." This was a distance of 150-200 metres. It is hard to describe what feelings this evoked to carry the corpses on our naked bodies. The Germans urged us on all the time with blows. Everything was done at the double. We could not hold a man. We had to drag him by the legs.

Halfway along the path, when for a moment I noticed that no one was there - it was a very hot day - I let go of the body and stood there to rest. Then the dead man - whom I believed to be dead - sat up and asked me: "Is it still far to go?" This was in a weak voice, apparently with a supreme effort. I could not drag him along any more. I raised him up, I put his arm around my neck, and I began walking with him. I myself was very weak, I could not walk far, but, at a certain moment, I felt lashes on my back. It was Fraenzel. He struck me all over my body. Of course, I threw the body down and again dragged this man and brought him to the carts.

Attorney General: My last question, if the Court will permit me, actually I should have done this before.

[To the witness] Can you identify the man who is in this picture?

A. Yes.

Q. Who is he?

A. He was the first camp commandant.

Q. What was his name?

A. Wirth. He always used to ride a horse - he also had a cloak. He generally went around on horseback. He had hardly any contact with us - he never came near us, I might say. He always used to gallop to Camp 3 and return at the time of the transports. He was there for a short time, and was followed by camp Hauptmann Reichsleitner, that is what he was called.

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1291.

Dr. Servatius, do you have any further questions in connection with the witness' concluding remarks?

Dr. Servatius: No, I have no more questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you very much, Mr. Freiberg, you have concluded your testimony.

We shall adjourn now. The next Session will be this afternoon, at 3.30 p.m.

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