Account from a Jew and a medical doctor, the Auschwitz prisoner
Miklos Nyiszli -
"In number one's crematorium's gas chamber 3,000 dead bodies
were piled up. The Sonderkommando had already begun to untangle the lattice of flesh. The noise of the elevators and the sound
of their clanging doors reached my room. The work moved ahead double-time. The gas chambers had to be cleared, for the arrival
of a new convoy had been announced.
The chief of the gas chamber kommando almost tore the hinges
off the door to my room as he arrived out of breath, his eyes wide with fear or surprise.
"Doctor," he said, "come quickly. We just found a girl alive
at the bottom of a pile of corpses."
I grabbed my instrument case, which was always ready, and dashed
to the gas chamber. Against the wall, near the entrance to the immense room, half covered with other bodies, I saw a girl
in the throes of a death rattle, her body seized with convulsions. The gas kommando men around me were in a state of panic.
Nothing like this had ever happened in the course of their horrible career.
We moved the still-living body from the corpses pressing against
it. I gathered the tiny adolescent body into my arms and carried it back to the room adjoining the gas chamber, where normally
the gas kommando men change clothes for work. I laid the body on a bench. A frail young girl, almost a child, she could have
been no more than fifteen. I took out my syringe and, taking her arm - she had not yet recovered consciousness and was breathing
with difficulty - I administered three intravenous injections.
My companions covered her body which was as cold as ice with
a heavy overcoat. One ran to the kitchen to fetch some tea and warm broth. Everybody wanted to help as if she were his own
child. The reaction was swift. The child was seized by a fit of coughing which brought up a thick globule of phlegm from her
lungs. She opened her eyes and looked fixedly at the ceiling. I kept a close watch for every sign of life. Her breathing became
deeper and more and more regular. Her lungs, tortured by the gas, inhaled the fresh air avidly. Her pulse became perceptible,
the result of the injections.
I waited impatiently. I saw that within a few minutes she was
going to regain consciousness: her circulation began to bring color back into her cheeks, and her delicate face became human
again .. I made a sign for my companions to withdraw. I was going to attempt something I knew without saying was doomed to
From our numerous contacts, I had been able to ascertain that
Mussfeld had a high esteem for the medical expert's professional qualities. He knew that my superior was Dr. Mengele, the
KZ's most dreaded figure, who, goaded by racial pride, took himself to be one of the most important representatives of German
medical science. He considered the dispatch of hundreds of thousands of Jews to the gas chambers as a patriotic duty. The
work carried out in the dissecting room was for the furtherance of German medical science ...
And this was the man I had to deal with, the man I had to talk
into allowing a single life to be spared. I calmly related the terrible case we found ourselves confronted with. I described
for his benefit what pains the child must have suffered in the undressing room, and the horrible scenes that preceded death
in the gas chamber. When the room had been plunged into darkness, she had breathed in a few lungfuls of cyclon gas. Only a
few, though, for her fragile body had given way under the pushing and shoving of the mass as they fought against death. By
chance she had fallen with her face against the wet concrete floor. That bit of humidity had kept her from being asphyxiated,
for cyclon gas does not react under humid conditions.
These were my arguments, and I asked him to do something for
the child. He listened to me attentively then asked me exactly what I proposed doing. I saw by his expression that I had put
him face to face with a practically impossible problem.
It was obvious that the child could not remain in the crematorium.
One solution would have been to put her in front of the crematorium gate. A kommando of women always worked there. She could
have slipped back to the camp barracks after they had finished work. She would never relate what had happened to her. The
presence of one new face among so many thousands would never be detected, for no one in the camp knew all the other inmates.
If she had been three or four years older that might have worked. A girl of twenty would have been able to understand clearly
the miraculous circumstances of her survival, and have enough foresight not to tell anyone about them. She would wait for
better times, like so many other thousands were waiting, to recount what she had lived through.
But Mussfeld thought that a young girl of sixteen would in
all nai 'vete' tell the first person she had met where she had just come from, what she had seen and what she had lived through.
The news would spread like wildfire, and we would all be forced to pay for it with our lives. "There's no way of getting round
it," he said, "the child will have to die." Half an hour later the young girl was led, or rather carried, into the furnace
room hallway, and there Mussfeld sent another in his place to do the job. A bullet in the back of the neck."
Marc Berkowitz and his twin sister Francesca were two of Mengeles
victims. Arriving at Auschwitz from Czechoslovakia in March 1944 with their mother, 12-year-old Marc and his twin sister,
Francesca, were singled out by Mengele for medical experimentation:
"Before the experiments began, Mengele came and tattooed my
number personally. They put us in freezing baths, smeared chemicals on our skin, but it was the needles we were most afraid
of. After the first 150 injections I stopped counting ... One morning in July 1944 I spotted my mother among a long line of
women moving toward the gas chamber. Mengele called me in and gave me an errand to the crematorium. He knew I would see my
mother go to her death. A couple of days later he asked me if I still believed in God."
Years later, Marc Berkowitz still suffered from pains due to
When the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944, Isabella Leitner and
her family were herded in a ghetto and finally sent to Auschwitz where her mother and baby sister were gassed immediately.
Isabella, the author of several books about the Holocaust, was exposed to horrors that words cannot describe, tortured, used.
She later remembered the arrival at Auschwitz:
"I packed for my journey to Auschwitz on May 28, 1944 - my
20th birthday. As we alighted from the cattle car - my mother, my brother and my four sisters - there was Mengele, looking
magnificent with his dog, his pistol, his riding crop. He sent my mother to the crematorium immediately. She was too old to
live. And my youngest sister, Potyo, she was too young for him at 13 ...Mengele
was as smooth, as civilized, as elegant as you can imagine, good-looking even. You would never suspect the evil. He was the
genius of death. I have a sort of revenge. It would kill Mengele to see that I gave birth to two of the most magnificent,
beautiful, intelligent children ... "
Isabella Leitner survived - not as a destroyed soul, not as
a person utterly crushed by suffering, but as a wonderful, open woman with pure delight in life.
A surviving Mengele twin, Moshe Offer, later recalled the death
of his brother:
"Dr. Mengele had always been more interested in Tibi. I am
not sure why - perhaps because he was the older twin. Mengele made several operations on Tibi. One surgery on his spine left
my brother paralyzed. He could not walk anymore. Then they took out his sexual organs. After the fourth operation, I did not
see Tibi anymore. I cannot tell you how I felt. It is impossible to put into words how I felt. They had taken away my father,
my mother, my two older brothers - and now, my twin ..."
The Auschwitz Children
Irene Hizme and her twin brother, Rene Slotkin, were born in
Czechoslovakia and were only four years old when they were taken with their mother to Theresienstadt. Shortly afterward, they
were sent to Auschwitz, where they were separated. They never saw their mother again. They survived for almost three years
in Auschwitz where they were experimented on by Josef Mengele as part of his twins research. Irene later recalled:
"I remember the first time I saw Mengele he was wearing green,
dark green. And I remember his boots. That was probably the level my eyes were. Black, shiny boots. He was asking fortwins, twins..."
"The first time we went to the infirmary, he took blood. It
was very painful ... They gave me injections in the arm and the back, and X-rays. I'd be extremely sick for a while."
After the war, Irene was adopted by a family on Long Island
and spent several years tracking down Rene, who was still in Europe. In 1950, the family was finally able to bring him to
the United States and reunite the twins. And both got married with children.
Courage And Survival
Frank Klein was interned at Auschwitz-Birkenau for seven months.
He later recalled how he and his family arrived at the Auschwitz railhead:
"The first time I saw Mengele was the day I arrived at the
camp with my twin brother, Otto, my mother, my aunt and my sister. One of the men on the train platform asked my mother if
Otto and I were twins. When my mother said, "Yes," he said, "I'll be right back." A few minutes later, he took us to Mengele.
For the next hour we watched the selection process. My mother was sent to the gas chamber, and so was my aunt.
My brother and I survived and I've had a nightmare ever since
the camp. I dream that Mengele is taking my brother away to kill him ..."
At 19, in March 1943, Ernest Michel arrived in Auschwitz after
five days and four nights in cattle cars. He was born in Mannheim, Germany, in 1923 to a Jewish family which had been living
in Germany for over 300 years. He was arrested on September 3, 1939, three days after the outbreak of World War II, and spent
the next five-and-one-half years in slave labor and concentration camps.
Ernest Michel, Auschwitz number 104995, worked as an orderly
in the Auschwitz infirmary and later recalled Mengele:
"One day in the summer of 1944 we took eight women, mostly
young and all healthy, into the room where the experiments would take place. I saw Mengele standing there in his uniform,
surrounded by three or four others. As we brought in each girl, an officer would strap her down. After a while the screaming
inside stopped. When we took them out two of the eight were dead, five were in a coma, one was still strapped to the cot.
Mengele was standing there, discussing it very casually. The only word I could hear was 'experiment'."
Ernest Michel's parents, grandmother, uncles, aunts, cousins
were all murdered by the Nazis, gassed in Auschwitz. He survived and arrived in the United States in 1946. He was active in
the survivor community for many years and served as Chairman of the World Gathering of Holocaust Survivors in Israel in 1981.
As surviving Mengele victim Alex Dekel later stated:
"Mengele ran a butcher shop - major surgeries were performed
without anesthesia. Once, I witnessed a stomach operation - Mengele was removing pieces from the stomach, but without any
anesthetic. Another time, it was a heart that was removed, again, without anesthesia. It was horrifying. Mengele was a doctor
who became mad because of the power he was given. Nobody ever questioned him - why did this one die? Why did that one perish?
The patients did not count. He professed to do what he did in the name of science, but it was a madness on his part ..."
TESTIMONY OF FATHER LEO MIECHALOWSKI
Father Miechalowski was a Polish priest imprisoned by the Germans
concentration camp from 1940 to 1945.Nazi doctors at Dachau intentionally infected Miechalowski with malaria in order to determine the effectiveness
of various anti-malarial compounds.Doctors at the camp also forced him to endure
low temperatures to test the effects of hypothermia on the human body.
Now, father will you tell the Tribunal what happened to you
after your arrest?
When I was arrested I was first kept in prison for two months
and from there we were sent into a cloister and from there still other priests were assembled until about ninety priests had
been assembled altogether, and from there were sent to Strutthof near Danzig into the concentration camp which was located
there. And, from there on the fifth or ninth of February we were transferred to Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg which is located
near Berlin. On the 13th of December 1940, we were transferred again to Dachau.
I was confined in Dachau until the
arrival of the Americans -- until we were liberated -- that
was on the 29th of April 1945.
Now, father, were you a political prisoner in Dachau?
Yes. I wore a red insignia which all those who had been arrested
for political reasons had to wear this insignia.
Now, father, did there come a time when you were experimented
on the concentration camp at Dachau?
Yes. Malaria experiments and also on one occasion we were engaged
in high altitude experiments.
Did you say high altitude experiments, Doctor?
No, I said aviation experiments.
And what do you mean by aviation experiments?
Well, I have said it because we were dressed in aviator's uniforms
and then we were put into containers full of water and ice.
Now, father, will you tell the Tribunal just what happened
when you were experimented on with malaria? That is, when it happened and how you happened to be selected?
I was that weak that I fell down on the road because everybody
was hungry in the camp. I wanted to be transferred to another assignment later on where we got some bread to eat between meals
so my health could improve by the additional food. One man arrived and selected about thirty people for some easy labor. I
also wanted to be selected for this assignment and those who had been selected for this work were led away. We went in the
direction where the work was located and at the very last moment instead of going to the place of work we were lead to the
camp hospital. We did not know what was going to be done with us there. I thought to myself that perhaps this was going to
be some detail for easier work in the hospital. We were told that we should undress and after we had undressed
ourselves our numbers were taken down and then we asked what
was going on and they told us, smilingly, "this is for air detail." But we were not told what was going to be done with us.
Then the doctor came and told us all to remain and that we
were to be x-rayed. Now that our numbers had already been taken down we were supposed to go to our blocks. I sat for two days
in the block and afterwards I was again called to the hospital and there I was given malaria in such a manner that there were
little cages with infected mosquitoes and I had to put my hand on one of the little cages and a mosquito stung me and afterwards
I was still in the hospital for five weeks. However, for the time being no symptoms of the disease showed
themselves. Somewhat later, I don't exactly recall, two or
three weeks, I had my first malaria attack. Such attacks recurred frequently and several medicines were given to us for against
malaria. I was given such medicine as neo-salvasan. I was given two injections of quinine. On one occasion I was given atabrine
and the worst was that one time when I had an attack, I was given so-called perifer. I was given nine injections of that kind,
one every hour and that every second day through the seventh injection. All of a sudden my heart felt like it was going to
be torn out. I became insane. I completely lost my language -- my ability to speak. This lasted until evening. In the evening
a nurse arrived and wanted to give me the eighth injection. I was then unable [sic] to speak and I told the nurse about all
of the complications I had had and that I did not want to receive the injection. The nurse had already poured out the injection
and said that he would report this to Dr. Schilling. After approximately ten minutes another nurse arrived and said that he
would have to give me the injection after all. Then I said the same thing again, that I was not going to have the injection.
However, he told me that he had to carry out that order. Then I replied that no matter what order he had, I would not be willing
to commit suicide. Then he went away and returned once again after ten minutes. He told me, "I know you know what can happen
if you don't accept the injection." Then I said in spite of everything, "I refuse to receive a another injection and that
I would tell that to the professor. "I requested that he himself know that I would not be willing to receive the injection.
So that the nurse would not have any further difficulty after twenty minutes Dr. Ploettner came with four inmate nurses and
he talked to my comrades. "There is going to be a big row here." Then I said, "If I have resisted for such a long time I will
continue to do so." Dr. Ploettner, however, was very quiet. He only reached for my hand and he check my pulse, then touched
my head and asked me what complications I had had. I told him what I had had after that injection.
And then he told the nurse to give me two tablets in order
to remove the headache and the pains in my kidneys. When I had been given that Dr. Ploettner was about to leave and told the
nurses that they were to give me the rest of the injections. Then I said, "Hauptsturmfuehrer, I refuse to be given that injection."
The physician turned around after I had said that and looked at me and said, "I am responsible for your life, not you." then
when the injection he told the nurse -- the nurses complied with his order and it was then they gave me this injection. It
was the same one to whom I had previously told that I did not want to have another injection. It was only strange that after
the eighth injection no results happened as they had done previously so that, in my opinion, I think that the nurse gave me
some other injection. On the morning I was given the ninth injection -- when I woke up in the morning the results were then
as usual. I became sick and I began to feel cold and I had a high fever.
Father, do I understand you to say that you were injected with
malaria in the middle of 1942?
It was approximately in the middle of 1942 when I was infected
And you were not asked your consent to the malaria experiment?
No. I was not asked for my consent.
And you did not volunteer for this experiment?
No. I was taken in the manner which I have just described.
Did you make any protest?
In 1942 it was very difficult in the camp to lodge any protest.
When I protested with this eighth injection which I was to be given, I clearly realized that it would have the most serious
consequences for me. Later on such things could be risked, but in that year I still think that I would have been unable to
do that, and I don't think it would have been to any avail.
Now how many people were experimented on with you, that is,
In the hospital when I had my attacks, there were approximately
fifty to sixty people; the numbers changed.
And do you know the approximate total number of inmates experimented
on with malaria in Dachau?
Towards the end I heard that approximately one thousand two
hundred prisoners were subjected to these experiments.
Do you know whether or not any of those inmates died as a result
of the malaria experiments?
Several have died, but if this was the direct result of malaria,
I do not know. I know of one case when the patient died after having been given Perifere injections. Then I still know another
priest who died, but afterwards -- and prior to his death he was sent to another room.
Was it customary to transfer patients out of the block in which
there were conducting the malaria experiments if it appeared that they might die?
It looked to me as if this patient of whom I have just spoken
had been moved for the reason so it could not be seen that it happened in the case of malaria, but I do not know if people
died as a result of malaria because I am not an expert on the subject.
How many recurrences of malaria fever did you have, Father?
I cannot give you the exact number any more. However, those
attacks recurred frequently, I think about five times, and then I still had treatment in bed for some time, and then there
were several more, and altogether I had ten attacks, one every day. Then I reached a temperature of 41.6.
Do you still suffer any effects from the malaria?
I still have had some after effects, but I do not know if this
is only of malaria because I was also subjected to another experiment.
Well, will you tell the tribunal about this other experiment?
During those malaria attacks on one occasion I was called by
Dr. Prachtol and I was examined by a Polish physician, and Dr. Prachtol told me, "If I have any use for you, I will call you."
However, I did not know what was going to be done with me. Several days later, that was on the seventh of October, 1942, a prisoner came and told me that I was to report to the hospital
immediately. I thought I was going to be examined once more, and I was taken through the malaria station to block 5 in Dachau, to the fourth floor of block 5. There -- the so-called aviation
room, the aviation experimental station was located there, and there was a fence, a wooden fence so that nobody could see
what was inside, and I was led there, and there was a basin with water and ice which floated on the water. There were two
tables, and there were two apparatus on there. Next to them there was a heap of clothing that consisted of uniforms, and Dr.
Prachtol was there, two officers in Air Force uniforms. However, I do not know their names. Now I was told to undress. I undressed
and I was examined. The physician then remarked that everything was in order. Now wires had been taped to my back, also in
the lower rectum. Afterwards I had to wear my shirt, my drawers, but then afterwards I had to wear one of the uniforms which
were lying there. Then I had also to wear a long pair of boots with cat's fur and one aviator's combination. And afterwards
a tube was put around my neck and was filled with air. And afterwards the wires which had been connected with me
-- they were connected to the apparatus, and then I was thrown
into the water. All of a sudden I became very cold, and I began to tremble. I immediately turned to those two men and asked
them to pull me out of the water because I would be unable to stand it much longer. However, they told me laughingly, "Well,
this will only last a very short time." I sat in this water, and I had -- and I was conscious for one hour and a half. I do
not know exactly because I did not have a watch, but that is the approximate time I spent there.
During this time the temperature was lowered very slowly in
the beginning and afterwards more rapidly. When I was thrown into the water my temperature was lowered very slowly in the
beginning and afterwards more rapidly. When I was thrown into the water my temperature was 37.6. then the temperature became
lower. Then I only had 33 and then as low as 30, but then I already became somewhat unconscious and every fifteen minutes
some blood was taken from my ear. After having sat in the water for about half an hour, I was offered a cigarette, which,
however, I did not want to smoke. However, one of those men approached
me and gave me the cigarette, and the nurse who stood near
the basin continued to put this cigarette into my mouth and pulled it out again. I managed to smoke about half of this cigarette.
Later on I was given a little glass with Schnaps, and then I was asked how I was feeling. Somewhat later still I was given
one cup of Grog. This Grog was not very hot. It was rather luke warm. I was freezing very much in this water. Now my feet
were becoming as rigid as iron, and the same thing applied to my hands, and later on my breathing became very short. I once
again began to tremble, and afterwards cold sweat appeared on my forehead. I felt as if I was just about to die, and then
I was still asking them to pull me out because I could not stand this much longer.
Then Dr. Prachtol came and he had a little bottle, and he gave
me a few drops of some liquid out of this bottle, and I did not know anything about this liquid. It had a somewhat sweetish
taste. Then I lost my consciousness. I do not know how much longer I remained in the water because I was unconscious. When
I again regained consciousness, it was approximately between 8 and
in the evening. I was lying on a stretcher covered with blankets, and above me there was some kind of an appliance with lamps
which were warming me.
In the room there was only Dr. Prachtol and two prisoners.
Then Dr. Prachtol asked me how I was feeling. Then I replied, "First of all, I feel very exhausted, and furthermore I am also
very hungry." Dr. Prachtol had immediately ordered that I was to be given better food and that I was also to lie in bed. One
prisoner raised me on the stretcher and he took me under his arm and he led me through the corridor to his room. During this
time he spoke to me, and he told
me, "Well you do not know what you have even suffered." And
in the room the prisoner gave me half a bottle of milk, one piece of bread and some potatoes, but that came from his own rations.
Later on he took me to the malaria station, block 3, and there I was put to bed, and the very same evening a Polish prisoner
-- it was a physician; his first name was Dr. Adam, but I do not remember his other name -- He came on official orders. He
told me, "Everything that has happened to you is a military secret." You are not to discuss it with anybody. If you fail to
do so, you know what the consequences will be for you. You are intelligent enough to know that." Of course, I fully realized
that I had to keep quiet about that.
On one occasion I had discussed these experiments with one
of my comrades. One of the nurses found out about this and he came to see me and asked me if I was already tired of living,
because I was talking about such matters. But, in the way these experiments were conducted, I do not need to add anything
further to it.
How long was it before you recovered from the effects of those
It took a long time. I also have had several (pause) I have
had a rather weak heart and I have also had severe headaches, and I also get cramps in my feet very often.
Do you still suffer from the effects of this experiment?
I still have a weak heart. For example, I am unable to walk
very quickly now, and I also have to sweat very much. Exactly, those are the results, but in many cases I have had those afflictions
Were you in good physical condition before you were subjected
to Malaria and Freezing experiments?
Since the time of this starvation I weighed 57 kilograms in
Dachau. When I came to the camp I weighed about one hundred
kilo; I lost about one half of my weight. In the beginning, I was weighed, and I was in bed for about a week. And then my
weight went down to forty-seven kilo.
How much do you weigh now, father?
I can not tell you exactly but I have not weighed myself lately
but I think at this time I weigh fifty-five kilogram.
Do you know how you were pre-warmed in these freezing experiments?
I was warmed with these lamps, but I heard later that people
were rewarmed by women.
Do you know approximately how many inmates were subjected to
the freezing experiments?
I can not tell you anything about this, because it was kept
so secret; and because I was in there quite individually, and I was quite single during this experiment.
Do you know whether anyone died as a result of this experiment?
I can not give you any information about that, either. I have
not seen anybody. But it was said in camp that quite a number of people died there during this experiment.
TESTIMONY OF VLADISLAVA KAROLEWSKA
[Vladislava Karolewska, a former schoolteacher and member of
the anti-German resistance in Poland,
was arrested in 1941 by the Germans and deported to Ravensbrueck concentration camp near Berlin.At Ravensbrueck, Karolewska was forced to participate in bone regeneration experiments.
She testified for the prosecution at the Doctors trial on December 22,
Now, Witness, were you operated while you were in Ravensbrueck
Yes, I was.
When did that happen?
On the 22nd
July 1942, 75 prisoners from our transport that came from Lublin
were called, summoned to the chief of the camp. We stood before the camp office, and present Kogel, Mandel and one person
which I later recognized Dr. Fischer. We were afterwards sent back to the block and we were told to wait for further instructions.
On the 25th of July, all the women from the transport of Lublin
were summoned by Mendel, who told us that we were not allowed to work outside of the camp. Also, five women from the transport
that came from Warsaw were summoned with us at the same time.
We were not allowed to work outside the camp. The next day 75 women were summoned again and we had to stand before the hospital
in the camp. Present were Schiedlauski, Oberhauser, Rosenthal, Kogel and the man in when I recognized afterwards Dr. Fischer.
Now, Witness, do you see Oberhauser in the Defendants' dock
The witness ask for permission to go near the dock and to be
able to see them.
MR. MC HANEY:
to Dr. Oberhauser.)
MR. MC HANEY:
to Dr. Fischer)
MR. MC HANEY:
I will ask that the record show that the witness properly identified
Defendants Oberhauser and Fischer.
The record will show that the witness correctly identified
the Defendants Oberhauser and Fischer.
I think at this time the Tribunal will take a recess for fifteen
minutes. . . .
The Tribunal is now in session.
Witness, you have told the Tribunal that in July 1942, some
seventy-five Polish girls, who were in the transport from Lublin,
were called before the camp doctor in Ravensbrueck?
Now, were any of these girls selected for an operation?
On this day we did not know why we were called before the camp
doctors and on the same day ten of twenty-five girls were taken to the hospital but we did not know why. Four of them came
back and six stayed in the hospital. On the same day six of them came back to the block after having received some injection
but we don't know what kind of injection. We did not know what kind of injection. On the 1st of August those six girls were
called again to the hospital; these girls who received injections, they were kept in the hospital but we could not get in
touch with them to hear from them why they were put in the hospital. A few days later, one of my comrades succeeded to get
close to the hospital and learned from one of the prisoners that they were in bed and their legs were in casts. On the 14th
of August, the same year, I was called to the hospital and my name was written on a piece of paper. I did not know why. Besides
me, eight other girls were called to the hospital. We were called at a time when usually executions took place and I was going
to be executed because before some girls were shot down. In the hospital we were put to bed and the hospital room in which
we stayed was locked. We were not told what we were to do in the hospital and when one of my comrades put the question she
got no answer but she was answered by an ironical smile. Then a German nurse arrived and gave me an injection in my leg. After
this injection I vomitted and I was put on a hospital cot and they brought me to the operating room. There, Dr. Schidlauski
and Rosenthal gave me the second intravenous injection in my arm. A while before, I noticed Dr. Fischer who went out of the
operating room and had operating gloves on. Then I lost my consciousness and when I revived I noticed that I was in a regular
hospital room. I recovered my consciousness for a while and I felt severe pain in my leg. Then I lost my consciousness again.
I regained my consciousness in the morning and then I noticed that my leg was in a cast from the ankle up to the knee and
I felt a very strong pain in this leg and the high temperature. I noticed also that my leg was swollen from the toes up to
the groin. The pain was increasing and the temperature, too, and the next day I noticed that some liquid was flowing from
The third day I was put on a hospital cart and taken to the
dressing room. Then I saw Dr. Fischer again. He had an operating gown and rubber gloves on his hands. A blanket was put over
my eyes and I did not know what was done with my leg but I felt great pain and I had the impression that something must have
been cut out of my leg. Those present were: Schildauski, Rosenthal, and Oberhauser. After the changing of the dressing I was
put again in the regular hospital room. Three days later I was again taken to the dressing room, and the dressing was
changed by Dr. Fischer with the assistance of the same doctor,
and I was blindfolded, too. I was then sent back to the regular hospital room. The next dressings were made by the camp doctors.
Two weeks later we were all taken again to the operating room and put on the operating tables. The bandage was removed, and
that was the first time I saw my leg. The incision went so deep that I could see the bone. We were told then there was a doctor
from Hohenlychen, Doctor Gebhardt, would come and examine us. We were waiting for his arrival for three hours lying on our
tables. When he came a sheet was put over our eyes, but they removed the sheet and I saw him for a short moment. Then, we
were taken again to our regular rooms. On the eight of September I was sent back to the block. I could not walk. The puss
was draining from my leg; the leg was swollen up and I could not walk. In the block, I stayed in bed for one week; then I
was called to the hospital again. I could not walk and I was carried by my comrades. In the hospital I met some of my comrades
who were there for the operation. This time I was sure I was going to be executed because I saw an ambulance
standing before the office which was used by the Germans to
transport people intended for execution. Then, we were taken to the dressing room where Doctor Oberhauser and Doctor Schidlauski
examined our legs. We were put to bed again, and on the same day, in the afternoon, I was taken to the operating room and
the second operation was performed on my leg. I was put to sleep in the same way as before, having received an injection.
And, this time I saw again Doctor Fischer. I woke up in the regular hospital room and I felt a stronger pain and higher temperature.
The symptoms were the same. The leg was swollen and the puss
flowed from my leg. After this operation, the dressings were changed by Dr. Fischer every three days. More than ten days afterwards
we were taken again to the operating room, put on the table; and we were told that Dr. Gebhardt was going to come to examine
our legs. We waited for a long time. Then he arrived and examined our legs while we were blindfolded. This time other people
arrived with Dr. Gebhardt; but I don't know their names; and I don't remember their faces.
Then we were carried on hospital cots back to our rooms. After
this operation I felt still worse; and I could not move. While I was in the hospital, cruelty from Dr. Oberhauser was performed
When I was in my room I made the remark to fellow prisoners
that we were operated on in very bad conditions and left here in this room and that we were not given even the possibility
to recover. This remark must have been heard by a German nurse who was sitting in the corridor because the door of our room
leading to the corridor was opened. The German nurse entered the room and told us to get up and dress. We answered that we
could not follow her order because we had great pains in our legs and we couldn't walk. Then the German nurse came with Dr.
Oberhauser into our room. Dr. Oberhauser told us to dress and come to the dressing room. We put on our dresses; and, being
unable to walk, we had to hop on one leg going into the operating room. After one hop, we had to rest. Dr. Oberhauser did
not allow anybody to help us. When we arrived at the operating room, quite exhausted, Dr. Oberhauser appeared and told us
to go back because the change of dressing would not take place that day. I could not walk, but somebody, a prisoner whose
name I don't remember, helped me to come back to the room.
Witness, you have told the Tribunal that you were operated
on the second time on the 16th of September, 1942? Is that right?
Yes, I did.
When did you leave the hospital after this second operation?
After the second operation I left the hospital on the 6th of
Was your leg healed at that time?
My leg was swollen up; caused me great pain; and the pus drained
from my leg.
Were you able to work?
I was unable to work; and I had to stay in bed because I could
Do you remember when you got out of bed and were able to walk?
I stayed in bed several weeks; and then I got up and tried
How long was it until your leg was healed?
The pus was flowing from my leg till June, 1943; and at that
time my wound was healed.
Were you operated on again?
Yes, I was operated on again in the Bunker.
In the Bunker? That is not in the hospital?
Not in the hospital but in the Bunker.
Will you explain to the Tribunal how that happened?
May I ask permission to tell something which happened in March,
1943, March or February 1943?
At the end of February 1943, Dr. Oberhauser called us and said,
"Those girls are new guinea-pigs"; and we were very well known under this name in the camp. Then we understood that we were
persons intended for experiments and we decided to protest against the performance of those operations on healthy people.
We drew up a protest in writing and we went to the camp commander.
Not only those girls who had been operated on before but other girls who were called to the hospital came to the office. The
operated on girls used crutches and they went without any help.
I would like to tell the contents of the petition made by us.
We, the undersigned, Polish political prisoners, ask Herr Commander whether he knew that since the year 1942 in the camp hospital
experimental operations have taken place under the name of guinea-pig (das sind Meerschweine), as explaining the meaning of
those operations. We ask whether we were operated on as a result of sentences passed on us because, as far as we know, the
international law forbids the performance of operations even on political prisoners.
We did not get any answer; and we were not allowed to talk
to the commander. On the 15th of August, 1943, a police woman
came and read off the names of the ten new prisoners. She told us to follow her to the hospital. We refused to go to the hospital,
as we thought that we were intended for a new operation. The police woman told us that we were going probably to be sent to
a factory for work outside the camp. We wanted to make sure whether the Arbeitsamt was open because it was Sunday. The police
woman told us that we had to go to the hospital and be examined by a doctor before we went to the factory. We refused to go
then because we were sure that we will be kept in the hospital and operated on again. All prisoners in the camp were told
to stay in the blocks. All of the women who lived in the same block where I was were told to leave the block and stand in
line before the Block ten at a time. Then overseer Binz appeared and called out ten names and among them was my name. We went
out of the line and stood before the ninth block in line. Then Binz said: "Why do you stand so in line as if you were to be
executed?" We told her that the operations were worse for us than executions and that we would prefer to be executed rather
than to be operated on again. Binz told us that she might give us work, there was no question of our being operated on but
we were going to be sent for work outside the Camp. We told her that we must know that prisoners belonging to our group are
not allowed to leave the camp and go outside the camp. Then she told us to follow her into her office, that she would show
us a paper proving that we are going to be sent for work to the factory outside the camp. We followed her and
we stood before her office. She entered her office for awhile
and then went to the canteen where the CampCommander
was. She had a conference with him probably asking him what to do with us. We stood before the office a half an hour. In the
meantime one fellow-prisoner who used to work in the canteen walked by us. She told us that Binz asked for help from SS men
to take us by force to the hospital. We stood for awhile and then Binz came out of the canteen accompanied by the CampCommander. We
stood for awhile near the camp gate. We were afraid that SS men would come to take us so we ran away and mixed with other
people standing before the block. Then Binz and the camp police appeared. They drove us out from the lines by force. She told
us that she put us into the bunker as punishment; that we did not follow her orders. In each cell were put five prisoners
although one cell was intended only for one person. The cells were quite dark; without lights. We stayed in the bunker the
whole night long and the next day. We slept on the floor because there was only one couch in the cell. The next day we were
given a breakfast consisting of black coffee and a piece of dark bread. Then we were locked again in this dark room. We were
only troubled by people walking in the corridor of the bunker. The answer was given us the same day in the afternoon. The
watch-woman from the bunker unlocked our cell and got me out of the cell. I thought that I was then to be interrogated or
beaten. They took me and they went down the corridor. She opened one door and behind the door stood SS man Dr. Trommel. He
told me to follow him upstairs. Following Dr. Trommel I noticed there were other cells, and those cells were with bed clothing.
He put me in one of the cells. Then he asked me whether I would agree to a small operation. I told him that I did not agree
to it because I had undergone already two operations. He told me that this was going to be a very small operation and that
it will not harm me. I told him that I was a political prisoner and that the operation cannot be performed on political prisoners
without their consent. He told me to lie down on the bed; I refused to so. He repeated it twice. Then he want out of the cell
and I followed him. He went quickly downstairs and locked the door. Standing before the cell I noticed a cell on the opposite
side of the Staircase, and I also noticed some men in operating gowns. There was also one German nurse ready to give an injection.
Near the staircase stood a stretcher. That made it clear to me that I was going to be operated on again in the bunker. I decided
to defend myself to the last moment. In a moment Trommel came with two SS men. One of these SS men told me to enter the cell.
I refused to do it, so he forced me into the cell and threw me on the bed.
Dr. Trommel took me by the left wrist and pulled my arm back.
With his other hand he tried to gag me, putting a piece of rag into my mouth, because I shouted. The second SS man took my
right hand and stretched it. Two other SS men held me by my feet. Immobilized, I felt that somebody was giving me an injection.
I defended myself for a long time, but then I grew weaker. The injection had its effect; I felt sleepy. I heard Trommel saying,
"Das ist fertig", that is all.
I regained consciousness again, but I don't know when. Then
I noticed that a German nurse was taking off my dress, I then lost consciousness again; I regained it in the morning. Then
I noticed that both my legs were in iron splints and were bandaged from the toes to groin. I felt a strong pain in my feet,
and a temperature.
In the afternoon of the same day a German nurse came and gave
me an injection, in spite of my protests; she gave this injection on my thigh and told me that she had to do it. Four days
after this operation a doctor from Hohenlychen arrived, again gave me an injection to put me to sleep, and as I protested
he told me that he would change the dressing, I felt a higher temperature and stronger pain in my legs.
Now witness, when was it that you were removed from the bunker
after this operation?
Ten days after the operation performed in the bunker I was
taken -- in the night time -- to the hospital.
Well, that must have been around the latter part of August,
is that right; August 1943?
Yes it was.
Now, was another operation performed on you in September 1943?
15th of September 1943 I was again taken to the operating room and a further operation was performed on my left
Now, in the operation in the bunker they operated on both legs,
is that right?
Yes in the bunker I was operated in both legs.
In the bunker operation, were your legs dirty the next morning
after you woke up; that is, following the operation?
When I woke up after the operation that I underwent in the
bunker, I noticed that my feet were dirty, covered with mud, that they had not been wasked before the operation.
Who performed this operation around the 15th of September 1943 in the camp hospital, do you know?
The doctor from Hohenlychen arrived. I was taken to the operating
room, I was given an injection, and an operation was performed on my left leg.
Do you know the name of the man who performed the operation?
A German nurse told me that this was a doctor from Hohenlychen,
assistant to the Chief doctor, whose name was Hartmenn--Dr. Hartmann. However, I don't know whether he actually performed
Did the nurse tell you that Hartmenn was assistant to Dr. Gebhardt?
She told me only that this was a doctor, an assistant, from
All right. Now, after this operation on your left leg the middle
of September 1943, did they, several weeks later, operated on your right leg?
Two weeks later a second operation was performed on my left
leg although pus was draining from my former wound, and a piece of shin bone was removed.
Now, witness, I'm a little bit confused. I thought you said
that on 15 September 1943 they operated on your left leg. I
asked you if two weeks later they performed an operation on your right leg.
On 15 September
1943 my right leg was operated on, in spite of the wounds, and two weeks later my left leg was operated on.
Now, do you say, witness, that they removed a piece of shin
bone from you legs in these operations.
Yes, I do.
Now, how long were you in the hospital after these operations
in September 1943?
I stayed in the hospital six months. I was in bed. I could
not stretch my legs. I could not move them. I could not walk either.
When were you removed from the hospital?
At the end of February, 1944.
Were you able to walk then?
I tried to walk at that time but couldn't walk.
What sort of work did you do then?
When I arrived at the block I stayed in bed for a time and
then I used to work knitting stockings.
Have you received any treatment to either of your legs since
you were liberated from Ravensbrueck?
Do you still suffer any effects from those operations?
I'm weak, I have no strength to work and my legs get swollen
up very easily.
Witness, I am having handed to you two pictures. These are
Documents Nos. 108 1A and 108 1B. Are these pictures taken of you here in Nurnberg?
Yes, they were.
I submit these pictures as Prosecution Exhibit 211. Now, witness,
will you please remove the shoes and stockings from both of your legs. Now, will you step out from behind the witness box
and let the Court see the scars on your legs.
Now turn around once, please. Just turn around slowly. Thank
you. Sit down now.
Were you ever asked to consent to any of these operations which
you underwent at
How many times did you see Gebhardt?
I will ask you to step down and walk over to the defendant's
dock and see whether or not you find the man Gebhardt in the dock.
(The witness complied
and pointed to the Defendant Gebhardt)
Thank you. Sit down.
I will ask that the record show that the witness properly identified
the defendant Gebhardt.
The record will show that the witness identified the defendant
Gebhardt in the dock.
MR. MC HANEY:
I have no further questions at this time.
Only about 60 managed to survive the horrors of Sobibor and
give evidence of the death camp. One of them was Kalmen Wewryk - the following are excerpts of his story To Sobibor and Back.
An Eyewitness Account:
I remember a certain transport from Holland
- ach, this was horrible! There were too many Jewish children to be 'processed' rapidly so they were in a long, steadily shrinking
circular line from morning to night. Such beautiful children, gorgeous little blonde girls with pigtails, decently dressed.
These poor unfortunates were well-fed, with pretty, round little faces. Their parents must have loved them so, must have lavished
such care on them, and now ...
Many of them carried small suitcases or bags. It was pitiful,
so sad! The SS men were watching over them. We weren't supposed to even glance at those Berelach and Yosselech and Estherlech;
saying one word to them was out of the question! Some of the kids were crying; they probably understood. The soil was sandy,
so some children made circles in the sand and they played with pebbles and branches. After all, they were only children.
If an SS man would have caught one of us glancing, even sideways,
at those children, showing any interest at all in them, we would instantly have been taken to the gas chamber. But we managed
to see what was going on. The Ukrainians and the SS were very nervous and wild that day. They were usually wild, but now they
outdid themselves. Some children's eyes were full of fear - they were wide-eyed with fear. It was a day straight out of hell!
And every minute less and less of them, less and less. The line got shorter and shorter. And my Berelechs and Yosselechs and
Estherlechs became smoke in those accursed skies.
After it was all over, the SS men went to get drunk in their
Once a transport of ultra-Orthodox (Hassidic) women was brought
to Sobibor. The poor women were shrieking horribly. When they were ordered to get undressed with their children, they were
yelling 'Shma Yisroel' at the tops of their lungs. You could have heard them kilometers away.
All of them, with their children, were gassed. Not a single
one was spared. I remember a group of Dutch Jewish women who had been brought in a transport. They kept yelling nervously
and, in some cases, semi-hysterically, 'It's impossible! It's impossible! It can't be! It can't be!' They couldn't believe
that such a place could exist in the middle of the 20th century ...
Many SS men were present at the roll calls. They went around
with their whips and looked at people's faces. When an SS man didn't like a prisoner's face, he took him out of the line-up.
Whoever had displeased an SS man, for one reason or another, or no reason at all, was taken out. The SS men would shout, 'Let
your pants down!' The other SS would join 'the party', and they would beat the prisoner mercilessly. The blood would flow,
and we were strictly ordered to look at the scene attentively and laugh.
If a German saw that a Jew was not looking, the Jew would get
beaten too. The beaten Jews were thrown into the barracks after the beatings. However, the next day they couldn't go to work
- they were in such bad shape. They were then taken straight to the gas chamber. These incidents happened almost every day.
Women were not spared this treatment too.
Every day brought new horrors. I remember when the Germans
even arranged a 'wedding' of two Jewish prisoners. This was a complete wedding celebration, with rabbis, festivities, music,
etc. They picked a Jewish singer dancer from France as the chief soloist at the festivities. Ach, did she sing! So beautifully,
and with such expression! The Germans had prepared this wedding celebration for their own grotesque propaganda purpose. They
filmed the wedding completely, and right afterwards all the participants, including the French soloist, were taken to the
gas chamber ...
On April 7, 1942, the Nazis brought in 2,500 Jews from the
medieval Polish town of Zamosc, killing 2,499. The sole survivor, 14-years-old Moshe Shklarek, was put on the Corpse Commando.
He miraculously survived and later recalled one of the SS men of Sobibor, SS Unterscharfuehrer Paul Grot:
Grot had a trusted assistant in this work: his dog, Barry,
a wild beast the size of a pony, well trained and obedient to the short, brutal orders of his master. When he heard Grot cry
'Jude', the dog would attack his victim and bite him on his testicles. The bitten man was, of course, no longer able to continue
his work, and then Grot would take him aside and ask him in a sympathetic voice,"Poor fellow, what happened to you? Who did
such a thing to you? .. Come with me, I'll go with you to the clinic!"
And, sure enough, Grot accompanied him, as he accompanied scores
of workers every day, to the Lazaret, to the giant grave behind the worn-out hut, where armed Ukrainian bandagers greeted
the sick and bitten men.
In most cases, these men would place buckets on the heads of
the victims, after they made them get into the pit, and would practise shooting, along with Grot, who was, of course, always
the most outstanding shot.
Among the transport of 7,000 men with whom Ada Lichtmann arrived
in the year 1942 and who went on the same day to the gas chambers only three women survived chosen to work in the laundry.
The SS-officer took her out of the line and asked for her profession. When she answered that she was a teacher he broke out
in laughter: "We will teach you to be a laundress .. Choose two other girls." Her closest friends Bela Sobol and Sarka Katz
were already beyond the gate on the way to the gas chambers, but she managed to get them out of the line:
We heard word for word how SS-Oberscharführer Michel, standing
on a small table, convincingly calmed the people; he promised them that after the bath they would get back all their possessions,
and said that the time had come for Jews to become productive members of society. They would presently all be sent to the
Ukraine where they would be able to live and work.
Older people, the sick and invalids, and those unable to walk
were told that they would enter an infirmary for medical treatment. In reality, they were taken on carts, pulled by men or
horses, into Camp II, straight to the open ditches where they were shot ..
Generally the transports arrived during the day. Once on a
hot summerday a transport arrived with thursty people as it had been for several days since they had tasted a drop of water.
The SS-officer allowed some to go and fetch water, but there the SS-Oberscharführer Michel was already waiting for them and
he made them run to a dug uphole which served as a privy and forced them to smear their body and face with the excrement.
And thus he brought them back to the thursty people of the transport ..
From another transport young men were forced to beat each other
to death. The last one remaining from this terrible battle was shot by the Germans.
By the summer of 1943 Eliezer Karstatt was a witness to the
arrival of a transport of Jews:
They were human skeletons really. On that day there was some
kind of a malfunction apparently in the gas-chamber and they spent the night with us outside in the open courtyard. These
people didn't care about anything. They were beaten, they just sighed. They could not even speak ..
On the next morning they were taken to the gas-chambers and
in the courtyard where they had been during the night were several hundred dead ..
The Sobibor survivors told of endless tortures, such as marksmanship
competitions among SS men, using live men as targets.Dov Freiberg told at the
trial of Adolt Eichmann (Session 64, Vol. III, p. 1171-1172 ):
I can talk about one of the many days that passed. We were
then working in the sorting camp in Sobibor. We began sorting out the piles that had been heaped up in the course of time.
We finished taking out personal belongings from one of the sheds. Paul was then our commander. It so happened that, between
the rafters and the roof, a torn umbrella had been left behind.
Paul sent one of our boys to climb up and bring the umbrella
down. It was seven to eight metres high - these were large sheds. The lad climbed up though the rafters, moving along on his
hands. He was not agile enough, fell down and broke his limbs. For falling down, he received twenty-five strokes of the whip
and Barry [Paul's dog] dealt with him. This appealed to Paul, and he went and called other Germans.
I remember Oberscharfuehrer Michel, Schteufel.He called out to them:`I have discovered parachutists amongst the Jews. Do you want to see?'They burst out laughing, and he began sending people up, one after the other, to go on to the rafters.
I went over it twice - I was fairly agile; and whoever fell from fear fell to the ground. When they fell to the ground, they
were given murderous blows, and the dog bit them incessantly ..
After that someone invented something else .. When the personal
effects were piled up, there were a lot of mice. The order was given:`Five men were to go outside, the others were to catch
the mice. Everyone had to catch two mice; whoever failed to do so would be put to death' .. They tied up the bottoms of the
trousers of five men and we had to fill them with mice. The men were ordered to stand at attention. They could not stand that.
They wriggled this way and that, and were given murderous blows.
The Germans roared with laughter ..
On September 18, 1943, a transport with 2,000 Jews left Minsk
for Sobibor. First Lieutenant Alexander "Sasha" Pechorsky, a prisoner of war who was with this transport and one of the leaders
of the revolt, later recalled in his Memoir The Uprising in Sobibor:
The women and children were taken to the station in trucks,
the men by foot .. We were pushed .. seventy people in a freight car .. On the fifth day of travelling, we arrived in the
evening at an isolated station. A white sign bore the name: Sobibor .. We were kept in the closed freight cards overnight.
On September 23, in the morning, a locomotive pushed the train into the camp ..
Tired and hungry we left the cars. Oberscharfuehrer Gomerski
shouted: Cabinetmakers and carpenters without families, forward. Eighty men, most of them war prisoners, reported. We were
rushed into a fenced yard inside a barrack ..
A Jew from the camp who returned from some work approached
up. During the conversation I noticed grey smoke rising in the northwest direction and a sharp smell of burning hovering in
the air. I asked: `What is burning there?' `They are burning the bodies of your friends who arrived with you,' the Jew answered.
I was shocked ..
The gas chambers of Sobibor were one of the Nazis' best kept
secrets. Sobibor killed an approximate total of 260,000 Jews, and only a few managed to survive and give evidence of the existence
of the deathcamp. The vast majority of the escapees did not live to witness the day of liberation. Some were killed at later
stages of the escape, and others died as fighters in the ranks of the partisans.
The number of survivors is variously reported, but it is estimated
by most authorities that only about fifty survived until the day of liberation.
This list contain 50 names:
Chaim Engel and Selma Wijnberg-Engel
Mordechai and Josel Goldfarb (brothers)
Itzhak and Eda Lichtman
Ulla Stern (Now Ilana Stern-Safran)
Stanislaw (Shlomo) Szmajzner
Erich Bauer testified to the gassing procedure at the Sobibor camp, where he served from April 1942 to November 1943:
Perhaps 3 or 4 times I also led certain groups through the
tube to the gas chambers. After all no member of the permanent staff in Sobibor could exempt himself over the course of time
from having to perform this and all other functions occuring during the destruction process.
It may sound astonishing that the Jews went unsuspecting to
their death. Resistance occurred extremely seldom. The Jews only became suspicious when they were already in the gas chambers.
At this point in time, however, there was no turning back. The chambers were densely packed. .. The doors were sealed airtight
and immediately the gassing procedure commenced. After some 20-30 minutes there was complete silence in the gas chambers;
the people were gassed and dead. Then the chambers were opened, work Jews dragged the people who had been killed out of the
gas chambers and transported the victims by means of lorry to the graves. Later the victims were cremated.
Testimony of SS-Unterscharfuehrer Erich Fuchs, in the Sobibor-Bolender
We unloaded the motor. It was a heavy Russian benzine engine,
at least 200 horsepower. we installed the engine on a concrete foundation and set up the connection between the exhaust and
the tube. I then tested the motor. It did not work. I was able to repair the ignition and the valves, and the motor finally
started running. The chemist, who I knew from Belzec, entered the gas chamber with measuring instruments to test the concentration
of the gas. Following this, a gassing experiment was carried out.
If my memory serves me right, about thirty to forty women were
gassed in one gas chamber. The Jewish women were forced to undress in an open place close to the gas chamber, and were driven
into the gas chamber by the above mentioned SS members and the Ukrainian auxiliaries. when the women were shut up in the gas
chamber I and Bolender set the motor in motion. The motor functioned first in neutral. Both of us stood by the motor and switched
from "Neutral" (Freiauspuff) to "Cell" (Zelle), so that the gas was conveyed to the chamber. At the suggestion of the chemist,
I fixed the motor on a definite speed so that it was unnecessary henceforth to press on the gas. About ten minutes later the
thirty to forty women were dead.
Testimony of SS-Oberscharfuehrer Kurt Bolender:
Before the Jews undressed, Oberscharfuehrer Michel made a speech
to them. On these occasions, he used to wear a white coat to give the impression that he was a physician. Michel announced
to the Jews that they would be sent to work, but before this they would have to take baths and undergo disinfection so as
to prevent the spread of diseases ... After undressing, the Jews were taken through the so-called Schlauch. They were led
to the gas chambers not by the Germans but by the Ukrainians ... After the Jews entered the gas chambers, the Ukrainians closed
the doors. The motor which supplied the gas was switched on by a Ukrainian named Emil and by a German driver called Erich
Bauer from Berlin. After the gassing, the door were opened and the corpses removed ...
Testimony of SS-Unterscharfuehrer Herman Lambert:
As I mentioned at the beginning, I was in the extermination
camp of the Jews for about two to three weeks. It was sometime in autumn 1942, but I don't remember exactly when. At that
time I was assigned by Wirth to enlarge the gassing structure according to the model of Treblinka. I went to Sobibor together
with Lorenz Hackenholt, who was at that time in Treblinka ...
We reported to the camp commander, Reichsleitner. He gave us
exact directive for the construction of the gassing installations. The camp was already in operation, and there was a gassing
installation. Probably the old installation was not big enough, and reconstruction was necessary.
The Austrian Franz
Stangl was in charge of Sobibor until September 1942, when he was transferred to the deathcamp Treblinka. Stangl gained a
reputation as an efficient administrator and according to SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Odilo Globocnik, Franz Stangl was "the best
camp commander, who had the greatest share of the entire action...."
At the end of the war Franz Stangl managed to conceal his identity
and although imprisoned in 1945 he was released two years later. He escaped to Italy with his colleague from Sobibor, Gustav
Wagner, where he was helped by the Vatican network to Syria on a Red Cross passport. Stangl was joined by his wife and family
and lived in Syria for three years before moving to Brazil in 1951. With the help of friends Stangl found work at the Volkswagen
plant in Sao Paulo, still using his own name.
For years his responsibility in the mass murder of men, women
and children had been known to the Austrian authorities but Austria did not issue a warrant for Stangl's arrest until 1961.
It took another six years before he was tracked down by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and arrested in Brazil.
After extradition to West Germany he was tried for the deaths
of around 900,000 people. He admitted to these killings but argued:"My conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty .."
Found guilty on 22 October, 1970, Stangl was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died of heart failure in Düsseldorf prison
on 28 June, 1971.
Franz Stangl was interviewed by the author Gitta Sereny in
1970 and his comments later appeared in the book Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience (1983):
"Would it be true to say that you got used to the liquidations?"
He thought for a moment. "To tell the truth," be then said,
slowly and thoughtfully, "one did become used to it."
"In days? Weeks? Months?"
"Months. It was months before I could look one of them in the
eye. I repressed it all by trying to create a special place: gardens, new barracks, new kitchens, new everything; barbers,
tailors, shoemakers, carpenters. There were hundreds of ways to take one's mind off it; I used them all."
"Even so, if you felt that strongly, there had to be times,
perhaps at night, in the dark, when you couldn't avoid thinking about it?"
"In the end, the only way to deal with it was to drink. I took
a large glass of brandy to bed with me each night and I drank."
"I think you are evading my question."
"No, I don't mean to; of course, thoughts came. But I forced
them away. I made myself concentrate on work, work and again work."
"Would it be true to say that you finally felt they weren't
really human beings?"
"When I was on a trip once, years later in Brazil," be said,
his face deeply concentrated, and obviously reliving the experience, "my train stopped next to a slaughterhouse. The cattle
in the pens hearing the noise of the train, trotted up to the fence and stared at the train. They were very close to my window,
one crowding the other, looking at me through that fence. I thought then, 'Look at this, this reminds me of Poland; that's
just how the people looked, trustingly, just before they went into the tins..."'
"You said tins," I interrupted. "What do you mean?" But he
went on without hearing or answering me.
"... I couldn't eat tinned meat after that. Those big eyes
which looked at me not knowing that in no time at all they'd all be
dead." He paused. His face was drawn. At this moment he looked
old and worn and real.
"So you didn't feel they were human beings?"
"Cargo," he said tonelessly. "They were cargo." He raised and
dropped his hand in a gesture of despair. Both our voices had dropped. It was one of the few times in those weeks of talks
that he made no effort to cloak his despair, and his hopeless grief allowed a moment of sympathy.
"When do you think you began to think of them as cargo? The
way you spoke earlier, of the day when you first came to Treblinka, the horror you felt seeing the dead bodies everywhere
- they weren't 'cargo' to you then, were they?"
"I think it started the day I first saw the Totenlager in Treblinka.
I remember Wirth standing there, next to the pits full of blue-black corpses. It had nothing to do with humanity, it couldn't
have; it was a mass - a mass of rotting flesh. Wirth said, 'What shall we do with this garbage?' I think unconsciously that
started me thinking of them as cargo."
"There were so many children, did they ever make you think
of your children, of how you would feel in the position of those parents?"
"No," he said slowly, "I can't say I ever thought that way."
He paused. "You see," he then continued, still speaking with this extreme seriousness and obviously intent on finding a new
truth within himself, "I rarely saw them as individuals. It was always a huge mass. I sometimes stood on the wall and saw
them in the tube. Bu t- how can I explain it - they were naked, packed together, running, being driven with whips like ..."
the sentence trailed off.
"Could you not have changed that?" I asked. "In your position,
could you not have stopped the nakedness, the whips, the horror of the cattle pens?"
"No, no, no. This was the system. Wirth had invented it. It
worked and because it worked, it was irreversible."
Deputy Commandant of Sobibor, ordered the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews as chief of the selections. He was sentenced
to death in absentia by the Nuremberg Tribunal, but escaped with Franz Stangl with the help of the Vatican to Brazil, where
Wagner was admitted as a permanent resident on April 12, 1950.
He lived openly in Sao Paulo until his arrest on May 30, 1978,
but the Brazilian Supreme Court refused to extradite him to Germany. According to his attorney Gustav Wagner comitted suicide
in October 1980.
Eleven of the SS men who had served at Sobibor were brought
to trial, accused of crimes against humanity. The proceedings took place in Hagen, West Germany, from September 6, 1965, to
December 20, 1966.
One of the accused, Kurt Bolender, the former commander of
extermination Camp III, committed suicide. SS Oberscharfuehrer Karl Frenzel was sentenced to life imprisonment, five were
given sentences ranging from three to eight years, and four were acquitted.
SS-Unterscharfuehrer Erich Fuchs had helped in the construction
of the gas chambers at the deathcamps Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. He was convicted for having directed experimental gassings
that killed at least 3,000 Soviet prisoners - he was sentenced to four years in prison. He died in 1984.
In a 1962-63 trial in Kiev in the Soviet Union ten of the Ukrainian
guards received death sentences, one was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. In June 1965, three other Ukrainian guards
were sentenced to death.
Most of the SS men who served in the Aktion Reinhard death
camps of Sobibor, Belzec, and Treblinka were never brought to trial.
The Sobibor camp area was designated by the Polish government
as a national shrine, and a memorial was erected on the site.