The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 70
(Part 2 of 6)

Q. How did you register the deaths?

A. We received the files of the people who died from the Registratur. I worked at the first stage. For this reason, I also received the complete files, together with everything that was connected with them. In the case of Aryans, it was sometimes more interesting, since the file contained all sorts of confidential matters, which the prisoner had probably not dreamt of; for example, correspondence which was not delivered to him, his letters which were not passed on to his relatives.

In addition, there were all kinds of reports on enquiries, which were attached. There were persons who had come after investigations. There was a statement attached from the Gestapo to the effect that investigations had been made. There were cases where the enquiries had been made in Auschwitz by the Gestapo of Katowice, and then the enquiry form would also be attached. In this way, it was possible to learn a great deal from the file.

Q. How were you ordered to record the cause of death?

A. We were given the cause of death together with the death notice. In a very short time, it became clear to us that all this was only camouflage, and that none of these causes of death could, under any circumstances, be genuine.

Q. What did you write on the forms?

A. We wrote in the forms various kinds of illnesses.

Q. Such as?

A. Catarrh of the intestines, pneumonia, erysipelas (an inflammation of the skin), general debility, dysentery, and all kinds of other kinds. In addition, in brief, I learned to draw conclusions, in the case of people where the cause was stated to be "ploetzlicher Herztod" (sudden death from a heart attack), that this was a case of killing, and not death from so-called natural causes. We then recorded it in such a way that it was clear from the entry that the person had not died from illness, and not even from floggings and tortures, but that he had been shot.

Q. Did you sometimes note down "shot" or "executed"?

A. Never.

Q. "Hanged"?

A. Never, never.

Q. As far as the card index showed, nobody was ever hanged or shot in Auschwitz?

A. Nobody.

Q. What happened to the people who were taken to the gas chambers for extermination? What happened to their personal cards?

A. These were the cards of the Sonderbehandelte (special treatment). I wanted to stress here that, of course, we were aware that "actions" were taking place and selections were being made in the camp, and that people were being taken away to be gassed. With us, such cases were marked only by two letters: SB (Sonderbehandlung - special treatment). When one of my colleagues working in the Registratur said to the chief, "Herr Unterscharfuehrer, sie ist doch tot" (Mr. Unterscharfuehrer, but she is dead), he would reply, "Mensch, Sie sind wohl verrueckt, sie ist SB" (You, are you crazy? She is SB - she has received special treatment).

Q. What used to happen to the personal cards of those people who were transferred to "SB"?

A. Their cards were removed, they were marked "SB" and destroyed.

Q. The cards were destroyed?

A. Yes.

Q. There was no routine death notice concerning those people?

A. Never.

Q. If I understand you correctly, the death notice concerned people who died in Auschwitz in other ways, and not those who were put to death by gassing.

A. Not those killed by gassing.

Q. Who removed the cards of the people who were put to death by gassing?

A. By the member of the Registratur, by Kirschner, and he gave orders...

Q. By one of the prisoners?

A. Yes, by one of the prisoners.

Q. To whom did the prisoner hand them?

A. To Kirschner.

Q. What happened with the people who were brought directly to the gas chambers? Did they undergo registration?

A. There was no record in the camp.

Q. As if they had not come there?

A. No record.

Q. They were not registered at all?

A. They were not registered at all.

Presiding Judge: That is to say - straight from the train?

Witness Kagan: Straight from the platform.

Attorney General: Were there also Jews who were sent there by the "Kripo" - the criminal department?

Witness Kagan: Yes.

Q. How were they registered?

A. That was the great paradox of Auschwitz: People who had been arrested for supposedly committing some criminal offence were treated in a better way, for they were not included in the transports of the RSHA, and they were not regarded as "Transportjuden" (transport Jews). And this manifested itself in the fact that when selections were made, the cards of these Jews were not included in the selections.

Q. And what happened to the cards?

A. They remained alive.

Q. The criminal offenders?

A. The so-called criminal offenders. We knew that their crimes were possibly that they had used the telephone, or were found in the street after curfew time. That, too, was a criminal offence. That was one of the paradoxes of which there were so many in Auschwitz.

Q. What number did you receive when you entered Auschwitz?

A. 7984.

Q. And where did you live?

A. I came to Auschwitz at a time when the Birkenau camp was not yet in existance, except the first ten blocks of the men's camp, of the first principal camp. They were separated from the men's camp by a wall. We lived in those blocks. At first, I lived in a hut, when I came there, but afterwards, due to the fact that I went to work in the office, I was moved to Block 4.

Q. Together with other women prisoners who worked in the office?

A. Yes.

Q. How many of you were there?

A. In the Standesamt, we were ten girls, in the Registratur, there were a few more. But the Kommando grew. There were times when there were sixty women. Apart from that, there were also Polish men, who were so-called Volksdeutsche.

Q. What was the reason for their allowing you to live in your place of work, and not inside the camp?

A. It was inside the camp, but in another block.

Q. Why did you not live in the regular women's block, the place where the women prisoners lived? Was there a reason for this?

A. No. They simply wanted to concentrate the office workers in one block.

Q. Was it not because of a fear of disease?

A. Not at that time. But when we were transferred to Birkenau, and I was in Birkenau for seven nights and seven days - it seemed like seven hundred or eight hundred years, each day was like a hundred years - then the SS men became alarmed and suddenly transferred us from Birkenau to Auschwitz.

Q. Why did they become alarmed? At what?

A. Because there were epidemics there, and they, these "heroes", were also afraid for their own skins.

Q. You worked together with them, and they feared that you were likely to infect them?

A. Clearly.

Q. And then they brought you in a hurry to other living quarters?

A. That was in the headquarters building - the "Stabsgebaeude". But I wanted to add how I was received at the Standesamt - what a welcome I received.

Q. Please do.

A. I should like to describe the welcome I was given by Untersturmfuehrer Grabner. Two of us entered, together with an SS supervisor. He rose, looked at us, and said: "You are now in the office of the Political Department; you will have to carry out your work precisely and to maintain strict confidence, not only in what you say; you are forbidden to gossip, you are forbidden to talk among yourselves about the work, you are forbidden to reveal anything of what you are doing here in the camp, and if we get to know that even by means of your Mienenspiel (facial expression) something has leaked out into the camp, we shall not treat you lightly." One of the political SS men once told the girls, in a moment when he was in a good mood: "Under the best of circumstances, you will die here of old age, bowed down by age."

Q. In the prisoner's personal file, was there also a record of the condition of his teeth?

A. Definitely. I also went through that - I was required to open my mouth and to show them the state of my mouth.

Q. And what did they note down?

A. In the file, they kept a record of good teeth, artificial teeth, anything that could be of value.

Q. Did you meet women who worked in the Aussenkommando (external command)?

A. When I was in the Auschwitz camp, before we were transferred to Birkenau (this was on 9 August 1942), we were in the company of these women. I still managed, at that time, to see the Slovakian women intelligentsia, not merely the Kapos, and not only the wild Blockaelteste (block elders), but Slovakian women intelligentsia - the entire Slovakian intelligentsia which was exterminated in the summer of 1942.

Q. Were there also fair and honest women amongst the Blockaelteste?

A. Yes. There were Kapos like that, but that was exceptional.

Q. Were there women who were fair, both in the role of Kapos and the role of Blockaelteste?

A. More in the role of Kapos. There, the temptation in the distribution of food was very great.

Q. And is this what you heard from people who worked in the Aussenkommando?

A. I had friends in the camp prison about whom I was worried, and, whenever I had a free moment, I rushed to see how they were.

Q. Did you hear from members of the SS that there was a quota of dead persons that had to be produced?

A. I knew that, I was told that, before the Kommando left in the morning for "Aussenarbeit", the SS escort would go up to the Blockfuehrerstube (office of the block leaders), and there he would be given the number of dead that they wanted him to bring back. He was also interested in that, since then he was given leave, with all sorts of benefits.

Q. That he should bring back from work a fixed quota of dead people after a day's work?

A. Yes.

Q. You said it was forbidden to react even by making a facial expression at some news. What happened when someone would come across a notice of the death of a person she knew?

A. We had such cases. My colleague suddenly came across a death notice of her brother. We were so terrified that she was afraid to cry. She did, in fact, sob, but in such a way that one could see that she was close to having a heart attack.

Q. Do you remember Himmler's visit to Auschwitz?

A. Yes.

Q. When?

A. It was in the second half of July 1942, if I am not mistaken. There was a roll-call, and we heard the shouted orders Achtung! (attention!) - hysterical shouting from the men's camp which was nearby. After that, he came to us. In his entourage, there were also people dressed in mufti, and one of them went up to a Slovakian colleague of mine, a tall and beautiful girl, and asked her: "Where do you come from?" And she replied: "I am a Jewess from Slovakia." He jumped, as if he had been bitten by a snake, for making such a mistake in not recognizing her to be Jewish.

Q. Shortly after this visit, you were transferred to Birkenau?

A. After this visit, we saw the reason, the direct connection between Himmler's visit and our transfer to Birkenau.

Q. You did not stay there long, for the reason which you have already stated?

A. Yes. The whole transfer was horrible. For two days we did not work, and for two days preparations were made for this transfer. At the last minute, we were informed that the sick women were to remain, including those who had recovered from illness, but in the block there were some who could not work - they also stayed behind. We were mortally afraid that they would have a bitter end. And, indeed, some of them were liquidated.

Q. Do you remember a Jewish girl named Ilona Brody?

A. Helena Brody. "Ilona" - that was her name in Hungarian.

Q. What happened to her?

A. She was a very good friend of mine, a girl who came to Auschwitz close to the age of nineteen - she had parents and a family in Kezmark, in Slovakia. Her parents were very much concerned about her. Once, at the beginning of 1944, she was suddenly summoned to the Political Department, to Kirschner. We were trembling, for it was never certain how an appearance before Kirschner would end. When she came back, she reported that Kirschner had asked her what her nationality was. She told him that, in fact, she herself did not know - only that her father was Hungarian. He looked at her for a long time and did not utter a word. Later on, he asked who her father was, and so on, and then told her to go.

Q. Did she remain alive?

A. She remained alive, to our good fortune. But we subsequently got to know that this had been some outside intervention - there was a demand that the camp should release her. But we knew how easy it was to kill her and then to say that she was not there.

Judge Halevi: But she survived?

Witness Kagan: Yes, she survived. She is now in Canada and visited Israel a month ago.

Attorney General: I should like to draw the Court's attention to exhibit T/1133, relating to Ilona Brody - the reply of the Accused's office to the Foreign Ministry, in connection with an application that had been received to permit the transfer of this woman to Hungary, where he says that for reasons of security the return of Ilona Brody should not be approved.

Presiding Judge: What was the application - on what grounds was it made?

Attorney General: This we do not know.

Witness Kagan: But I know.

Attorney General: He refuses to release her. Meanwhile, conditions in Hungary have also changed.

Presiding Judge: Was that after the coup d'etat?

Attorney General: The letter is dated 24 April 1944, after the German entry. This is T/1133.

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