The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 68
(Part 3 of 9)

Q. Did you see any connection between Yom Kippur and this method of selection?

A. We gained the impression that Mengele wanted to show us - there it was written in the prayer "He causes his flock to pass beneath his rod" - and he wanted to show the Jews of Auschwitz that he was the one who was causing us to pass, and no-one else.

Presiding Judge: Was Dr. Mengele so well-informed in such matters?

Witness Kleinman: Apparently he was well-informed in such matters, for there had never been such a selection in Auschwitz.

Attorney General: Did he want to prove that he was causing his flock to pass under his rod?

A. Yes. In this way one thousand boys remained. We realized that this was a method of exterminating on Festival days. We expected Mengele to come on the first days of the Succot (the Festival of Tabernacles). He did not come. We knew he would surely come on one of the last days of the Festival, and that he had deferred it until then. During those days transports arrived at Auschwitz from the Theresienstadt Ghetto.

During the first days of Succort I got to know that they were registering a transport to be sent to a labour camp. About one hundred of us youths immediately ran over there. We managed to register for that transport. We thought that perhaps a miracle would occur and that there would be no inspection, and in this way we would leave Auschwitz. First of all they stamped our arms with Indian ink, so that strangers and others should not mingle with us. The day after the registration a delegation, consisting of two doctors and a professor, appeared at the hut. They were all Jews. I think the professor was Prof. Epstein of Prague, the director of the hospital in the Gypsies' camp. He made a medical examination of the transport.

Q. Do you think Epstein was from Prague, or Oslo?

A. He was called Prof. Epstein, the director of the hospital in the camp of the Gypsies. I don't know where he came from. He gave everyone a medical examination, to see whether they were capable of working. When my turn came, he began feeling for the muscles of my arm. I did not have any. I saw that he was hesitating, I thought this was a critical moment. I looked at him straight in the eyes. He knew that if he removed me from the line, it was as if he was imposing a death sentence on me. Apparently he did not want to have this on his conscience. After hesitating for some time he left me with this transport. The same evening they took us to a bath-house, and gave us clean clothes to wear.

Q. You left Auschwitz with his transport?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened to those who were left behind?

A. I should like to explain something here. We were one hundred youths. We heard at the gate, before leaving the camp, that Mengele had arrived. We, the smaller ones, already knew why he had come. We began running away from the ranks - we fled as if from a sinking ship. Not one of the boys remained in the ranks. Mengele sat with two officials at a table in the middle of the road and the entire transport passed before him. There were a few tall boys who took the risk and thought they were sufficiently big for Mengele not to remove them from the ranks. But he took them out as well. Mengele was not going to let any youth leave Auschwitz.

In the end, while we were still circling around, most despaired and returned - each one to his own hut. But my brother and I and a few other boys wandered around in the vicinity and thought that perhaps it would be possible to steal into this transport. And this turned out to be so. Ten or twelve boys succeeded in stealing back into the transport.

Q. Did you leave Auschwitz with this transport?

A. Yes.

Q. Where did you go to?

A. To Camp Kaufering 4. That was in the Dachau area. Among the fifteen hundred men we were about twelve boys. Those who remained in the camp, about one thousand boys, were taken for selection on Simhat Torah. About eight hundred of them were brought, at mid-day, to the gas chambers. We arrived at the Kaufering camp.

Q. In Camp Kaufering 4 there were fifteen hundred men?

A. No. There were people there, before them.

Q. In your transport there were fifteen hundred?

A. Yes.

Q. Out of the entire transport, how many remained alive?

A. I estimate that it was about fifty.

Q. How many men were there in Camp Kaufering 4 altogether when you arrived there?

A. There were more than three thousand. On the first day we were lined up in rows and our names were recorded. They checked each one's teeth and made notes. They made a note of everyone who had gold teeth. Throughout the winter a dentist went around with his forceps and a little box in order to extract the teeth from the mouths.

We worked for six weeks in that camp. After that the Germans converted it into a hospital camp for all the Kaufering camps. There were seven camps.

Attorney General: With this I am ready to conclude the evidence regarding this chapter.

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

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions to the witness.

Presiding Judge: What work were these boys doing during this period?

Witness Kleinman: In Auschwitz?

Q. Yes.

A. We did not work at anything. They kept us idle for the entire summer. They told us we were still too young to be sent for physical labour, to be sent to a labour camp. They gathered together three thousand boys during the summer.

Q. Up to the age of sixteen?

A. Up to the age of sixteen.

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

Attorney General: I call Mr. Yehuda Bakon.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Yehuda Bakon.

Attorney General: You live in Jerusalem?

Witness Bakon: Yes.

Q. And you are an artist?

A. Yes.

Q. When the Second World War broke out, you were in Czechoslovakia?

A. Yes.

Q. Where?

A. In Moravska Ostrava.

Q. And from there you were sent to Theresienstadt?

A. Yes, in 1942.

Q. And from Theresienstadt you were transferred to Auschwitz?

A. Yes, in 1943.

Q. When in 1943?

A. In December 1943.

Q. Please describe the scene how you reached Auschwitz and how you alighted from the trains?

A. After two days' journey we reached Auschwitz at night. The freight-cars were opened and they shouted at us: "Leave everything and get out quickly!"

Q. How old were you?

A. I was then fourteen years old.

Q. Were you accompanied by any member of your family?

A. By my parents and my sister.

Q. By your parents and your sister; did any of them survive?

A. I was the only one.

Q. And so you were told to get out quickly. You got out and where were you transferred to?

A. We were transferred on to trucks, and we rode at great speed to a place which was not known to us. I still remember that when we arrived we saw very many SS men at the railway station and all of them had walking-sticks. At the beginning we thought that perhaps we had arrived at the vicinity of some recreation camp for SS men, but it soon became clear to me what was the purpose of these sticks.

Q. What was it?

A. They hit us and put us on to trucks. We came to the camp at night. We were tired. The next morning we were taken to the sauna.

Q. Was was the sauna?

A. It was the bath-house for disinfection.

Presiding Judge: Was this a Finnish sauna?

Attorney General: That's what they called it at Auschwitz.

Presiding Judge: It is a Finnish term - that I know.

Witness Bakon: We walked in rows of five and I was in the first row.

Q. How many of you were there, Mr. Bakon?

A. Two transports.

Q. How many people?

A. Together we were five thousand persons.

Q. Old people, women and children?

A. Yes, all of them together.

Q. And you all walked naked?

A. Yes, we all walked naked into the sauna. We had to take our clothes off, there, and to put them into a bag, and to sign some declaration.

A. What declaration?

A. That we had handed over all our things. Later on we also signed declarations that we had come to the camp of our own free will as "Schutzhaeftlinge" (protected prisoners).

Q. That is what you signed?

A. Yes.

Q. That you were there of your own free will?

A. Yes.

Q. Did it say for what purpose you had come there, of your own free will as protected prisoners?

A. Yes - to protect us against the fury of the people.

Q. To protect you against the fury of the people. Did all those who came to the sauna succeed in leaving it alive?

A. No. I remember that the whole disinfection process lasted a long time; it was cold and in the early morning we already saw that old people mainly, were lying dead on the floor. We received completely different clothing and people recognized one another with great difficulty. Then we were brought back to Camp B2, to the Czech Family Camp.

Q. That was a special arrangement of its own, in Auschwitz; is that correct?

A. Yes - it was a singular arrangement.

Q. Which was provided mainly for people from Theresienstadt?

A. Only for people from Theresienstadt.

Q. Weren't the Gypsies also in one place - in a family camp?

A. Yes.

Q. And these were the only two camps in the large Auschwitz camp where members of families lived together with their families?

A. Yes.

Q. I understand that it was called a Familien-Lager?

A. Correct.

Q. Please tell us what you, the children, did there?

A. When we arrived at the family camp there were still three thousand five hundred persons there, the remainder of the five thousand people who had arrived before us, in September 1943. Amongst them was an instructor from Theresienstadt, Fredy Hirsch, who had managed to organize and to set up a block for children. Children between the ages of twelve and sixteen were able to remain in that block during the day, and hence, relatively speaking, we had much better conditions than the other prisoners who were obliged to attend roll-calls. At the beginning we, too, had to attend roll-calls, mainly when we returned from the sauna, sometimes for four or five hours in the winter.

Afterwards, in the children's block, we were able to stand under a roof at roll-call, and also a daily programme was arranged for us. We were able to study, and that was apparently for the reason that was known to us, that six months later we would all be going together to the gas chambers.

Q. How did you know that you would be going to the gas chambers after six months?

A. On our card-index it said: "SB-nach 6 Monaten" (SB-after 6 months).

Q. What was "SB"?

A. Sonderbehandlung (special treatment) which meant to be sent to the gas chambers.

Q. In other words you were fated to live for six months, and after six months to receive special treatment, namely killing in the gas chambers?

A. Yes.

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