THE COURT: Go ahead, Mr Griffiths.
MR GRIFFITHS: Thank you, Your Honour.
Q. Dr Vrba, you were explaining the camp enclosure, Birkenau, when you were there.
Q. All right? Carry on. Now ....
A. This means this was Birkenau I. Here are women and here were men.
Q. We are looking at the left side of the drawing and on the bottom --
A. On this side of the drawing were women and here were men. And to make the geography clear, south on this map is in this direction, and this I know because on clear days from this place where I lived -- I lived here in this place, but when I go as far as this and could look through the wires, I could see mountains, and I knew that those are the Bezkydy. These were Slovak mountains.
Q. Slovak mountains. And these were ---
A. In the south.
Q. Now, I put to you another one, and this is three-dimensional, tilted; another one that we have seen before as a flat plan.
A. Yes. So this would be the flat plan similar to that one which I drew after my escape, and this means that Birkenau I was two -- this was "A" and this was "B". In "A" were women; in "B" were men. This complex was Birkenau II, and it was not built up at that time.
Q. When you first move in.
A. In January 1943. And this complex did not exist whatsoever in January 1943.
Q. Now, where were you living in January of 1943?
A. I was living in this building here. And this building was called Block No. 16.
Q. And where were you working after January '43?
A. After January '43 I was working
back in Kanada. This means by daytime or by nighttime I was transported to the ramp, and by daytime to the Kanada storehouse in Auschwitz I.
Q. All right.
A. I was marched there. In other words, I was only changing my barrack from Auschwitz I into a barrack in Birkenau. That was a change on January 15th. And here I stayed until January 8th.
Q. I'm sorry?
A. June 8th, 1943.
Q. All right. During that next six months ....
Q. ....can you tell us whether you saw any of the truckloads or lorries of people coming from the direction of the train ramp into Birkenau that you described for us yesterday?
Q. Can you tell us where they went?
A. Because when I finished my work, if I may call it that way, when this Kommando finish the work on the ramp, the Kommando went home. Now, when I was home and somebody else was on the ramp, when I was in the day Kommando, then I would see that those trucks with those who were not marched into the camp, the healthy men and the healthy women went, so to say, in front of my nose by this main entrance, by this road, into this region, which was surrounded by barbed wire, electrified barbed wire, and unloaded in this yard. So that it was my privilege and right of the prisoners that when they are not working, they can walk. This is the
Furthermore, here, this is Block 27, and next to the Block 27, here, it was a wooden structure.
Q. Is it shown on this plan?
A. It is not shown on this map because it was only made fro wood, and this was called Leichenkeller, which means mortuary. And this was a mortuary for prisoners who died by daytime in the prison compound, and in this mortuary there was a very close check on the numbers of the prisoners so that one knows who died, who is not dead. So considerable administration was being kept.
Q. Were you ever in that mortuary?
A. I was frequently in the mortuary, because Registrar in the mortuary was Fred Wetzler, with whom I escaped later who was from the same town I was, who I knew from home, and with whom I escaped from Auschwitz. This means if I may have this main picture, if I was not working, I used every occasion to go to the mortuary, because there was the company of Wetzler, who was my closest friend.
Secondly, we conspire from the very start with Wetzler the conspiracy of escape. Wetzler by that time lost three brothers in the Sonderkommando. And it gave me safety, because by staying in the mortuary, this Wetzler, it usually contained two hundred, three hundred, four hundred bodies. The S.S. didn't like the stench which accumulated there, so we had a peaceful teatime in that place, and if I may have the picture, also naturally from this place I could see perfectly what was happening on this road and what's happening here,
from the crematoria.
Q. You described barbed wire. Was there any kind of fence around those buildings that are crematoria that would prevent you from seeing what was happening there?
A. Not at the start. At the start I could see perfectly well from here, in January 1943, February 1943, perfectly well what is happening here. The distance is not more than fifty, sixty yards. I mean, the distance apart from the barbed wires would be like over this room, quite close. So that I could see perfectly well what was happening in this area.
MR GRIFFITHS: Your Honour, is this a convenient time for the morning recess?
THE COURT: Yes. Twenty minutes.
--- The jury retires. 11:27 a.m.
--- Short adjournment.
MR CHRISTIE: Your Honour, I just want to point out what I thought might have been a misunderstanding in my application this morning.
My friend said he hasn't heard an application such as I was making. I thought I had mentioned the word "commission", and I intended it to be such an application, and I wanted to point out that I thought
perhaps, although at the time I was speaking to a point of law that didn't seem to be of well-known repute, I think I am right in saying that 637 indicates that: "A party to a proceeding to which this Act applies may apply for an order appointing a commissioner to take the evidence of a witness who (a) is, by reason of ....", and then: " (ii) some other good and sufficient cause, not likely to be able to attend at the time the trial is held, or (b) is out of Canada.
I noted too that in the case of R. v. Bulleyment (1979) 46 C.C.C. (2nd), 429, the Court of Appeal of Ontario has held that such an application may be made during the trial. However, the application would only be granted -- or however, in deciding whether or not to grant the application, the trial judge is entitled to decide such factors as to whether the trial is disrupted by the taking of evidence and the possible prejudice to the opposite party resulting therefrom, as well as the consequences that the jury will not have the advantage of observing the demeanour of the witness.
In view of the fact that it didn't seem clear that my friend acceeded to the factor, the position, that there was such a right, I simply want to re-affirm that I was intending my application to be regarded as
one under s. 637 (a) (ii), and although I am not asking Your Honour to rule on this at this time, I would like Your Honour to consider my application in light of these remarks and in that section for consideration at a later point.
I will be renewing it with the same factual reasons as I gave before. And I might point out that I also indicated at the beginning of the case that I was going to make an application at the end of the Crown's evidence that the witness, Fried, who was called at the preliminary hearing and gave evidence which I would want for my defence, I would be seeking his examination under commission as well.
Now, he is in New York City, and I was prepared to make that application at the end of the Crown's case to convenience the Court, but I put the Crown on notice that I would be seeking that order.
So I am simply re-affirming what I said previously, identifying the section number and indicating that I would be, if possible, raising the issue with you again, perhaps tomorrow or at a later stage, respecting Dr Udo Walehdy [Walendy].
Thank you very much, Your Honour.
THE COURT: I think, Mr Christie, one of the reasons that I dismissed your application without prejudice -- in effect you are making it again-- was because at the present time, on what you've told me concerning Mr Walendy, the wording of s. 637 is incompatible with his physical presence in this country and being available, at least at this time, to testify.
In so far as the other matter is concerned regarding the witness in New York City, I understand you are not making an application now. You are merely advising that you may very well be making such an application at the appropriate time.
MR CHRISTIE: Yes. Because I have asked my friend to produce the witness, and so far he has declined; but I am simply indicating that if he does not produce the witness by the end of his case, that is what my application will be.
THE COURT: All right. Thank you. Is there anything further from either side.
MR GRIFFITHS: No, Your Honour. I just indicate that I will not be producing the witness by the end of the case and I will be confirming that. That will be the argument I expect my friend to make, but I
will not be producing that witness from New York City, and I was not aware that s. 637 was being used for Udo Walendy, and I am obliged to my friend for pointing that out.
THE COURT: Thank you, gentlemen.
Bring in the jury, please.
--- The jury returns. 12:05 p.m.
THE COURT: Go ahead, Mr Griffiths.
MR GRIFFITHS: Thank you, Your Honour.
Q. Dr Vrba, prior to the morning recess you were telling us that you had a clear view from the mortuary where your friend worked of the area of the Krematoria II and III, or what are marked on the plan.
Can you tell us what you saw when trucks would come to that area?
A. May I have the map again?
THE COURT: I think, before we go any further, what we are all looking at on the screen -- that's Exhibit 16, I believe, isn't it?
THE REGISTRAR: It hasn't been introduced, Your Honour.
MR GRIFFITHS: Perhaps, before we go further, that can be introduced. It's been marked by Dr Vrba indicating that Block 27, where his friend was living
p. 1327 and where the mortuary is, and it is a plan said to be of Birkenau.
THE COURT: Please mark it now, otherwise things could become somewhat confused.
MR GRIFFITHS: Thank you, Your Honour.
---EXHIBIT NO. 16: Transparency of Birkenau complex, BI, BII, BIII.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: Q. So Dr Vrba, Exhibit 16 I am showing now on the screen, can you tell us what you saw?
A. I came from the night shift where several transports during the night arrived, but I was exchanged on the night shift approximately at five o'clock in the morning and broke into my barracks for sleep. Instead of sleeping, I get out from the barrack and walk over to Block 27 to the mortuary to talk to my friend, Wetzler. This mortuary had a window on this side.
Q. Indicating on the side closest to the crematoria?
A. On the side closest to the crematoria. So that when I, before the window, in front of the window was a table, and on the table coffee was served, or tea. The dead were around this table. There was such a corner with paper and coffee and a window. While I was drinking my coffee I could see that the people from the night which I had seen arrive, most of them were not seen but there were several hundred, first on this yard which was enclosed with electric fences, and with tower guards, and they went into this building which is known to us as
Krematorium No. II. This Krematorium No. II had, apart from buildings, long bunkers which were approximately the height of two such tables. Say the bunker was about this height, above a head of a human being.
Q. All right. You are indicating about six and a half, seven feet?
A. I would think so. In other words, a man who would climb on it would have to lift his hands and sort of make an exercise in order to swing himself on top of the bunker. This bunker had air lifts, openings for airing, approximately three or four, along, which were covered by wooden or some lid which was easily removable.
THE COURT: Covered by ---
THE WITNESS: Lids. From the distance I couldn't see if it was a wooden or a metallic lid. Then I saw Sanitäts Dienst Gefreiter, which is ---
Q. And you called it ....
A. The sanitation service corporal. And he came having about four or five of those Zyklon tubes which I knew very well from loading into the Red Cross van. And he came to the bunker and he put them down, and then he started to put those lids, those tins on top of the bunker until he had them all on. And then he climbed on the bunker by holding on his hands and in a sporty way swinging himself over, which attracted my attention because it was not usually the demeanour of S.S. men to make sport. He then, on top of this bunker, took out a gas mask which he had hang over and put on the gas mask, and with something which, from a distance of about fifty yards, opened the lid of the Zyklon-B tubes, which was well-known to me from distance, and then he went to
one of the vents in a leisurely step, opened the vent and shoved in the content of the tin in the vent in a leisurely way, and when he was finished he a couple of times has hit the ---
Q. Indicating tapped the tin.
A. Tapped on that opening. Then he closed the opening, opens the tin, again in a rather leisurely way, having the gas mask on, and went to the next vent where the procedure was repeated until he dropped into each vent one or two of those tins -- sometimes one, sometimes two. And when he cleared it he took the empty vents to the edge of the bunker, climbed down from the bunker, took the empty tins again down from the bunker, put down his gas mask, put the gas mask back into his holder, and with the tins under the hands walked away, disappearing inside the crematorium.
Q. Did you see any people come out of the crematorium, any of the hundreds that you saw go in?
A. I beg your pardon?
Q. Did you see any of the hundreds of people you saw go into the crematorium go out?
MR CHRISTIE: So far he didn't say he saw hundreds go in.
THE WITNESS: No. I saw the crematoria, and within the vicinity of the crematoria from January 1943 until April 7, 1944, as the time went, this was the first crematorium and this is where I was witnessing the gassings of the first in the crematorium. Soon after the crematorium, three were opened. They are called II and III, because Krematorium I was a smaller arrangement, which was in Auschwitz I, and we are here
Auschwitz II, and later there was Krematorium IV and Krematorium V, all of them surrounded with a barbed fence, electrically charged, with towers to guard, and the entrance was only this side to Krematorium IV and Krematorium V, and entrance was this side to Krematorium II and to Krematorium III.
Until the day 7 April, 1944, this railway line was reaching only about to this gate.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: Halfway up the camp.
A. That's right. And there were none of that roads. Therefore they were not recorded on the map which I prepared after my escape in Slovakia in April 1944. Similarly, on that map which is one of the exhibits, it can be seen that it is only indicated that this is the building, but it was not finished on April 7.
Q. Can you describe for us what would go on inside the mortuary? Can you describe what you saw out the window? What would go on inside the mortuary?
A. Inside the mortuary in Block 27?
Q. Yes, sir.
A. This means inside the mortuary.
Q. Yes, sir.
A. The procedure was the following:
This is the blocks of the male camp, and that were store out in front of the block. In other words, when there was called to roll appel, to roll call, which was twice a day, in the morning at six and in the evening before the dark, before the sun set, then all prisoners had to line up in front of their barracks.
Now, those who couldn't stand to the
line-up were, dead or alive, lined up in tens in rows, laying in such a way that the first person would have his legs spread and the second person would be put on him with the head between the legs, and his own legs spread. So that we were in tens -- five heads on one side and five heads on other side, easy to count. Then the prisoners had to line up. We had to line in front of the barrack. This is a barrack, and the prisoners were lined up in rows of ten and so on.
So usually in front of such a barrack in Birkenau, in front of each barrack there is an estimate of eight hundred, one thousand, two thousand people in front of barrack. Now the people had to line up in rows of ten in such a way that when the S.S. man came to count them, he had a long ruler and he could rule this way or this way by walking by the lines in front or the side, and could see, without too much counting, how many rows of ten are there, and that nobody from the rows missing. If there were 953 people, then you had ninety-five rows and three in the last row.
Now, those who couldn't stand were out laying, the dead and alive together, in such rows, and they were again stapled up to ten.
Q. Stacked up to ten.
A. Stacked up to ten.
Q. When the signal came to count -- now, can I have all the other maps?
MR GRIFFITHS: May I have the barrack map, Your Honour, shwoing [showing] the roll call, Exhibit 17, or the drawing?
--- EXHIBIT NO. 17: Transparency of sketch showing roll call.
THE WITNESS: There came a signal which was given by a gong, and from that moment on nobody who moved in the camp -- no movement in the camp was allowed. This means anybody who would move, apart from the S.S., would be shot. Then the S.S., when everything was absolutely still, counted -- a separate S.S. -- the number of prisoners in each Block, and this was conveyed to a table here in the middle where the camp commander was sitting, and his registrars, and he knew exactly how many people are in the camp on that particular evening, and it was then said that so many and so many prisoners are present. It was not identified if they are dead or alive.
When everything was all right, then that was the end of the roll call. If one prisoner was missing in the general count, then the procedures were initiated to find the prisoner, and if that prisoner wasn't find, either in the latrine or under some bed, within twenty minutes an alarm went out that the prisoner is missing; but this happened very rarely.
Once this count has been confirmed, the roll call was called off, but before it was called off guards mounted the towers which are here in small quadrangles, and the camp was thus hermetically sealed. In other words, it was known that nobody of a prisoner can be found between the inner and outer perimeter. This means the roll call confirmed that all prisoners in Birkenau camp -- at that time only this camp was operating -- all prisoners were inside this quadrangle and prisoners were inside this quadrangle. And then, with the exception of prisoners who might have been at the ramp
under special guard -- and this was noted, that so and so, many are under such and such a guard, and when it was agreed that this is so, then electricity was switched into the wires and that is guards were called off because there was nobody in between.
After that the bodies were being disposed. So this means, if I can have ....
We are starting a procession. One man carried one body, and from the whole camp you could see a peculiar doubles marching to this place.
Q. Indicating a mortuary.
A. Yes. And sometimes it was difficult to see which one is dead and which one is alive because they were bone and skin. So that the live one was carrying the dead one with his head here and dragging him behind and holding on his hands, brought him to the mortuary, and there he put him down and the name of the dead one was written down in a book and the dead body was stapled here and in this wooden shack the bodies were stapled in tens again so that it can be easily counted.
Q. Stacked in tens.
A. Stacked in tens. And in the months of January, February, March, April 1943 the number of bodies were between three hundred and five hundred. The number of people in the camp varied close to fifteen thousand, very rough estimate.
MR CHRISTIE: Is that fifteen or fifty?
THE WITNESS: Fifteen. In the main camp, roughly. This means it can be twelve, it can be
eighteen. It varied from ---
MR GRIFFITHS: That's just the males, not the women?
A. Not the women, no. The women -- between the men and the women there was a road and gates, so that there was no communication; but the same process was going on at the women's camp. They were like mirror camps.
Now, here the bodies were stacked, and waited until midnight. At midnight there was some working done on the bodies.
THE COURT: There was a ....
THE WITNESS: Work done on the bodies. There was a special Kommando, work group, which was called Leichekommando [Leichenkommando], dead body Kommando, and they used a special instrument which in modern times the ladies use for curling the hair.
MR CHRISTIE: Again, I don't know, I don't know whether this witness is giving hearsay evidence.
THE WITNESS: I happened to be present. This was taking place while I was sitting here having the coffee with Wetzler. And two younger boys who were the assistants were opening the mouths of the dead bodies and with the mirror checking if he had got gold teeth. If there were gold teeth, he went in with that instrument and broke out those gold teeth and they were put into a tin.
Normally, when there were three, four hundred bodies, the tin would be the size of a litre tin which was full, and it was gold and meat tissue and blood
Now, around midnight would come some S.S. man with the same lorry which I have described many times from that lorry fleet, and he would ask for the paper for the dead which Fred, my friend, has prepared, and I often help him with that.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: That's Fred Wetzler?
A. Wetzler, yes. And then, with assistance would load the body on to the truck which was done in such a way with four assistants -- two were on the truck and two were down on the truck and two were swinging the body to the truck, and when the body hits a truck, the two on the truck again took the body and swung it into the back of the truck, and at the back of the truck there were again two guys and they were doing this ....
A. Stacking into tens; and when all was finished, when all was finished then the papers between the S.S. men and Wetzler were exchanged, in which Wetzler got a receipt for so and such bodies of such and such numbers, and such and such tin of gold teeth. But the habit was that the S.S. men liked to write, "Half a tin", because the tin was full, of one tin, or "One tin" when there were two tins. And when Wetzler signed that, he got a box of cigars.
The bodies, then, I could see the car when it was loaded -- can I have the picture, please -- when out this road. Here was the first gate.
Q. Indicating a road in the middle of
the men's camp.
A. Yes. These were brick barracks, and these were wooden barracks, and here is a road which was wide enough for trucks. The trucks went this way. By the way everything was written up here, thousands of bulbs were burning.
THE COURT: Everything was lit up?
THE WITNESS: Yes. Thousands of bulbs were burning. And he went here with a car, and then he came here to the gate, then he turned at the gate. At the gate he was searched. The car was searched at the gate -- if there is no living body hidden in the car. So a sort of a search went through.
Once that search went through, he turned the car here, went here into the crematoria and behind the corner, which I couldn't see ....
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: All right. If you couldn't see it, you can't tell us what happened.
A. And then I saw him after five minutes returning this way and going home.
Q. Out the camp ....
A. Out of the camp, his duty was finished.
Q. What happened to the people that were not dead but were stacked with the dead people at the roll call? You said those who couldn't stand up for the roll call were stacked with the dead people.
MR CHRISTIE: I didn't hear him say that.
MR GRIFFITHS: Well, I did. Have I got that wrong?
MR CHRISTIE: There's been a fair amount of leading thus far, but I do suggest that is a leading statement. Maybe the witness will agree with it. I don't know.
THE COURT: I don't agree with it, and that's the important thing. One, he has not been -- the Crown has not been leading, and two, I heard the witness say that the living and the dead were stacked up together. Is that correct?
THE WITNESS: That is correct.
THE COURT: Then please answer Crown counsel's question.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: What happened to those who were living who were not able to stand for the roll call?
A. There were several procedures which varied from place to place.
THE COURT: Just what you know.
THE WITNESS: From what I have seen.
THE COURT: From what you have seen, exactly.
THE WITNESS: Some of the Block leaders -- this depended on the decision of the Block leaders. May I please have the map again?
The Block leaders might have decided a short process, in which case the half the prisoners was killed in a way that the coffee was brought in demijohns, and they had ears through which carrying woods, stacked through.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: Could you compare a demijohn to a milk can in terms of size?
A. Yes. The tea was carried, was carried into the Block in a demijohn from the barrack container which would contain tea for thousand people which was big at least two hundred fifty litres, if every party should get at least one fifth of a litre, and these had two ears made -- the barrel was from wood and the ears were made from metal. In order that such a bottle can be carried, there were two wooden rods of considerable massivity which were pulled through the ears, and two prisoners, one here and one here, would hold it -- I am not a very good painter -- and carry it. They were carrying it from the kitchen to the barrack; and when it was emptied from the barrack to the kitchen.
Now, these rods ---
Q. The wooden rods?
A. The wooden rods, when the thing was not carried, were not in those ears but laying by the side. So the people who were still alive and the Blockältester, or the Block senior, was one of the German professional criminals with the green triangle.
Q. We will get to that.
A. Then he would put the rod upon the neck of the prisoner and balance on it for a minute of two until there was no sign of life, and ---
Q. You saw this with your own eyes?
A. Many times. Now, there were other Blockältesters who didn't like this procedure, and they had introduced -- we need a map, the map of Birkenau.
THE COURT: Exhibit 18.
MR GRIFFITHS: That would be the sketch of the barrel, Your Honour.
--- EXHIBIT NO. 18: Transparency -- Sketch of a barrel.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: Now, you put on Ehxibit 16, which is the map of Birkenau.
A. This was a main kitchen here.
Q. Indicating the upper left quadrangle of what you described the men's camp in the bottom in that quadrangle.
A. Yes. And this was a so-called sauna where the newcomers from the ramp were bathed and shaven and deprived of their clothes.
Q. And that's in the upper righthand quadrangle at the bottom of that quadrangle?
A. Yes. That's "F". But here, this Block was called Block 7 and Block 8 and was called Krankenbau, which means building for sick people -- in other words, I should have translated it to hospital, but I don't dare to translate it as such because it means something different in our language, and I am trying to reproduce the vernacular of the Nazi language as it was used at that time.
Now, this prisoners, this procedure required a little bit of paperwork because the Blockältester, the senior of the Block, had to make a transfer list and send that person with the transfer list to this Krankenbau, to this hospital, where he was accepted and put in a bunker.
Q. You've been in the hospital?
A. Yes, several times, because Fred Wetzler, when he was not working in the mortuary, was
stationed in Barrack 7 for taking care of the half-dead. In other words, the difference between taking care of dead and half-dead was sort of done by the same person.
Now, in this Krankenbau there were absolutely no facilities for any medical treatment, and as a rule there was no water or mineral water, and there were no beds but certain bunks. That looked from inside this way. There was a wall along the barrack and this is a wall, and along this wall there were three rows of boxes, like pens for animals, and those sick people were put five per pen into the pen with one blanket or with no blanket, and they didn't have to go any more for roll call. The roll call were done simply that by walking around, they counted five per pen as they didn't bother to drag them out and to drag them back; and when somebody was dead, then the living threw him out from the pen and then he was collected and was proclaimed dead.
The number of those who came into this hospital and survived was perhaps one to a hundred, the chances. In other words, a hospital was sort of -- the Krankenbau was such a thing that when the Blockältester was fussy and didn't want to kill the prisoner who was dying, they brought him to this so-called hospital and there he was left to die. However, it was a hospital filled up too much, so that there was no space; there is no space for more than seven or eight hundred prisoners. Then one of those trucks would come into the hospital.
Q. Exhibit 16 ....
A. One of the trucks would come here with an SDG -- Sanitäts Dienst Gefreiter -- Corporal of the Sanitary Service, and all prisoners now had to go for a
roll call. All were dragged out from those bunks and lined up, and those who were not standing went to one side, and those who could not stand were taken back into the block, or sometimes they decided that the whole situation is untenable, in which case the dead and the dying were loaded on that truck, which I know from the ramp and the mortuary, they were loaded on the truck. If it went standing, then standing; if it went legs, then legs. The truck was closed, turn, came out here, came out here, and moved here, and that's the last we saw from them.
Q. In the Krematorium II?
A. In the Krematorium. Papers were signed so that the truck driver had to sign that he took so and so many prisoners away.
So that the next roll call, the Blockältesters, the senior of the block, has got a paper saying that, "I've got so and so much prisoners", and the missing ones have to be taken away on the truck.
THE COURT: Exhibit 19 will be the sketch of the barrack of the sick.
MR GRIFFITHS: Thank you, Your Honour.
--- EXHIBIT NO. 19: Transparency -- Sketch of barrack of sick persons.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: You told us earlier that initially there was, in January, when you first moved to Birkenau, that there was just a barbed wire fence around Krematorium II. Did that ever change?
A. Barbed wire fence?
Q. I think that's what you said.
A. Yes. Can I have the picture?
Q. Did that ever change? Was there ever any change in that fencing?
A. There was no change in the fencing except that the krematorium, this crematorium, Krematorium II, had the fencing perimeter, and Krematorium III was not finished. When Krematorium III was finished some time later, they connected the fences and made common entrances for both crematoria; whereas before this was finished and this was finished several months later, there was entrance only here.
Q. Krematorium II?
A. Yes. So they adjust the fences around the crematoria as they built up the crematoria.
Similarly, they started to build simultaneously Krematorium IV and Krematorium V, which I had many times opportunity to see after I had been transferred.
Q. Now, you said you were working on the ramps, and in Kanada, I believe you said until June 8, 1943.
Q. And did you change jobs?
A. Yes. There came a possibility and an opportunity to change jobs.
Q. And were there any -- perhaps you can explain to us what your new job was and any changes in the camp that led to your new job.
A. While seeing going on the mass murder on the ramp, I had plans to escape from the ramp. However, without going into details what was the weaknesses of the ramp and what was the plans of the escape, I suddenly realized that the Germans noticed the weaknesses
too and made great architectural changes on the ramp which made my escape from the ramp not probable as a success. And therefore I used the opportunity, on June 8th, for June 8th this was already build up -- between January 15, 1943 and June 8, 1943 they were building this camp, which was a camp BII, Birkenau IIB -- this was Birkenau I, IA and IB.
Now, this complex was Birkenau II, and then it had subsections "A", "B", "C", "D", "E" and "F", whereas Birkenau I had subsections "A" and "B", "A" being the women, and "B" being the men.
Now, all men from Birkenau IB were transferred to Birkenau IID; that was our new camp. This was a new male camp, and after disinfecting the remaining barracks the women got both parts of this camp. In other words, there was a bigger influx or bigger need for female wards, and they converted them, "A" and "B" in June into women camp, whereas all men were in "B" IID.
Now, by that time I was a year or almost a year in the concentration camp Auschwitz, and anybody who lived that long started to have various friends. Acquaintances were struck up, mainly acquaintances which came from freedom and were often of political nature -- people who were in the same trade union or in the same Czech Nationalist Party, or in the same Polish Army unit, or in the same brigade in Spain during the fight against Franco, or in the same district of a Communist Party, or of a Social Democratic Party, they recognize themselves and they started to organize themselves clandestinely.
A. Secretly, yes, because any sort of such an organization would be punished draconically. This was against the rules. However, the objective of that was to improve the camp living standards, and this was necessary by eliminating the criminals from their position.
Q. You can stop there. You mentioned this earlier, and I wonder if we can take this opportunity to talk about the different categories of prisoners at Birkenau and Auschwitz and how, whether they were identifiable from their uniform, their prison garb and how they were identifiable.
A. Well, with some experience it was possible for an experienced man in Auschwitz to identify from a simple look at the prisoner quite a few things, but for that one required already some experience, because there were no handbooks.
Now, each prisoner had a number, not only tattooed on his hand, but also sewn on his garb, and say if a prisoner had a number 23220 on his garb, there was a triangle, and if the triangle was red, this means that they considered him a political prisoner. If the triangle was green -- I don't have green pencils here -- this means that the prisoner is a criminal by profession before he came to the camp. If the triangle was violet, that meant that he is in concentration because of studying the Bible, this means pacifist gentleman, Jehovah Witnesses who came to concentration camp because they made pacifist propaganda which didn't suit the Nazis.
Q. Well, anyway, Jehovah Witnesses.
A. Yes. Those who had black triangles were called anti-social elements, and that comprised either people who were accused of avoiding honest work. Then there were a different colour of purple, which were people who were accused of homosexuality.
So by this, as far as the Jews were concerned, who were the majority in the camp, they had a red triangle, but underneath the red triangle there was a yellow triangle, so that it altogether gave a David Star with a yellow background which meant political Jew.
Now, by looking at the people I could, for instance, say that if somebody had the number 30000 and had a political triangle, red with a yellow background, I knew that he is probably a Slovak Jew just by looking at him and from the number, because I knew when the number came in. I came in into Auschwitz on 30 June, 1944 , and my number was 44000, and because to recognize with whom I am meeting, and the camp was full of victims of the so-called political department -- this means informants -- there were many informers who came into the camp and left children, mothers, fathers and so on at home and the political department said, "Either you work for us or we kill your children" ---
THE COURT: No, just a moment.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: You can only tell us what you heard or saw, not what somebody else said to you.
A. Right. It was necessary to recognize the people as much as possible in order to survive. So those were the times.
Q. All right. So before I stop you, you are going to tell us what your new job is that you are able to get because of your connections and seniority in the camp.
A. Having had considerable seniority after living almost one year in the camp and looking healthy, again -- I, of course, went through typhus and various things, but after I overcome it and collected myself, I gain the confidence of various members of various political parties.
THE COURT: Just ---
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: Tell us what you did or what you were assigned to.
A. I were assigned to be assistant registrar in Block IID.
Q. What does that mean? What does a registrar do?
A. I was in Block IID, in Birkenau IID, Block 9, and an assistant registrar would have a file of prisoners who are in this block, in Block 9.
Q. In the barracks, yes.
A. And would, on their account, go to the kitchen and get the bread and soup and tea for those people, and he would also, every day, prepare the papers for the roll call. So he would say that of this barrack are 920 people; of that are 397 Jews, 257 Poles and 22 Germans -- something like that -- the statistics of the barrack. And as long as there was no hitch with the roll call, he didn't have much else to do.
In other words, it was an easy work. If the roll call didn't fit, then he was in danger, because
if he made an error and the roll call had to stand and the whole S.S. had to stand a couple of hours until they found out he made an error in the number of prisoners that nobody was missing, then he was killed. So there is a risk, but otherwise reasonably comfortably work.
Q. Now, from being assistant registrar in the men's camp, Birkenau II, did you change your job again?
A. Very soon. In July 1943 they open a new camp. Meanwhile this camp was occupied, "B", these two rows, and they opened a camp BIIA, which was quarantine camp.
Q. Quarantine camp?
A. Quarantine camp. And they started a new way of accepting prisoners. Until then, once they accepted the prisoners from ramps -- this means those who were selected for work and not to be trucked away you know where -- those prisoners were first put into the quarantine camp for two, three or four months so that the health officers of Auschwitz can say that they are decreasing the dangers of typhus by having the new ones -- because typhus and various diseases at Auschwitz are caused from outside, so consequently, when there was a transport from the ramp came, and those who were chosen not to work, they were then transported either here into this complex, but those who were chosen to work were transported in the quarantine camp and registered.
Now my job was to take the names, to take their nationality, birth date, background. There was a card about everyone -- age, profession, various informations -- race, origin of place -- and then he said
that he lived in Block 6 or Block 7 or Block 8. So this means, when a transport of three thousand people came and two thousand seven hundred went into these barracks ---
Q. In the direction of the crematoria.
A. --- or in this direction, then three hundred came here.
Q. Into the quarantine camp.
A. Quarantine camp. And now I had the possibility of speaking with them because they saw elderly prisoner better dressed with pencil and paper, etcetera, and the possibility of giving them a piece of bread.
Q. Now, you can't tell us what was said to you, but can you show us which barrack, or which block you were a recorder or registrar of?
A. I was registrar of Barrack 15.
Q. Second from the gate.
A. This was the main gate. This means that any truck whatever had to pass into Birkenau complex either through this main gate, this means I could see in the distance of approximately forty to fifty yards, or it went this way -- this is the road.
Q. On the bottom of the camp?
A. Yes. This was not built up, and there was only one way which led into Krematorium IV and Krematorium V. So this means that by daytime, if the transports arrived from the ramp, I could count every car which went either this way, every truckload, or which went either this way, and because my experience in Kanada on the ramp, I knew that a hundred per truck, simply by counting those trucks I knew how many people came more or
less; but I know that the number hundred was kept pretty close. The trucks were coming by from the ramp one after the other, but not very densely because it takes the time to roll the truck and they came accompanied by two motor bicycles, they were usually the side cars, one motorbiker and on the side car a machine gunner so that nobody gets any ideas of jumping down from the truck.
And those cars went in front of my eyes here or in front of my eyes here. In the night, when I was, say, asleep at two o'clock, when such a car went by, my barrack shook and all I had to do was to count how many trucks went that way, or to count how many times it went that way, because when you are in such a barrack you know if it shakes from which side it shakes, small distances.
Moreover, in my role as a registrar of the block I had to many times go out in front of my block because there are no windows, only on top, but I could, under the pretext of controlling the guards in front of the barracks who were responsible for the latrine -- in other words, to control if the latrine is full, if the latrine is not full -- you had to go out of the barrack and take a look at what's happening. Moreover, if the latrine was full, which was a barrel, in my clothes which was a little bit better as a registrar I would take the prisoners and tell them to empty the barrels in the middle of the night into the lavatories, here, so that the barrack is not, so to say, contaminated by feces; and under the pretext of sanitation, etcetera, I could many times in the night take to prisoners this two big barrels of excrement and move in the night to the official toilets, because
by the night prisoners were not allowed to go to the official toilets, they were not allowed to out to the barracks and see what happened.
Q. May I stop you there?
MR GRIFFITHS: It is one o'clock, Your Honour. Is this a convenient time?
THE COURT: Two thirty.
--- The jury retires. 1:00 p.m.
--- The witness stands down.
--- Luncheon adjournment.
--- Upon resuming.
--- The witness returns to the stand.
--- The jury returns. 2:30 p.m.
THE COURT: Go ahead, Mr. Griffiths.
MR. GRIFFITHS: Thank You, Your Honour.
Prior to the morning break there was a transparency on which Dr Vrba made some notations as to the different colours of badges, and I'd ask that that be marked as the next exhibit, please, Your Honour.
THE REGISTRAR: Exhibit 20.
MR GRIFFITHS: Thank you.
--- EXHIBIT NO. 20: Transparency -- sketch describing triangles worn by camp inmates.
Q. Dr Vrba, this morning, at the break,
you were describing for us your new position in the camp close to the main gate and your new job as a block registrar or block recorder.
A. The translation would be Block Scribe.
Q. Could you just tell us, briefly, about what the organization of the camp would be in terms of -- you mentioned block elders and block registrars. How was the camp organized in that way?
A. This is Auschwitz I, the external perimeter of guards. This is Auschwitz I, the internal perimeter of guards, and I have magnified this quadrant so that it is clear what was inside.
Q. This is the internal camp of Auschwitz I?
A. Of Auschwitz I.
MR CHRISTIE: Perhaps he would be so kind as to identify the origin of this drawing.
THE COURT: Yes, I agree. Go ahead, Mr Griffiths. Would you do that for us, please?
MR GRIFFITHS: Thank you, Your Honour.
Q. Can you tell us where this plan of Auschwitz I comes from?
MR CHRISTIE: I think it comes from Phillip Mueller.
THE WITNESS: It comes from Martin Gilbert's book, "Auschwitz and the Allies".
MR GRIFFITHS: If I may lead, does it come from a book by Phillip Mueller?
A. This is quite possible. This is quite possible, but no matter which book it comes, I can
recognize it as an original drawing and identify each building here.
Q. All right. I am not going to ask you to identify each building, but perhaps you could indicate to us how the hierarchy of the prison, of the concentration camp, the organization of the blocks of the camps ....
A. Here is the main entrance to the camp. The camp is surrounded with a double layer of electrical fences, and those are the guarded towers. This construction here is a kitchen.
Q. Rough U-shape at the bottom of the drawing.
A. Is a kitchen. On top of the kitchen is an inscription, "For all prisoners". Now, the blocks are numbered from 1 to 11. This is a former female camp that I mentioned yesterday.
Q. That you crawled through naked after the typhus epidemic?
Q. And after that I was stationed in the cell area of Block 4. Block 11 was the so-called punishment block which belonged to the realm of organization which called herself political department of Auschwitz concentration camp. Basically, this was the interrogation place.
Q. I am going to stop you. Unless you were in there, you can't tell us about it.
Q. Unless you were in there, you can't tell us about it.
A. I have been stationed for some time, and when I worked in Buna, in Block 10, from the windows of Block 10 I could see what was happening here.
Q. In Block 11.
A. However, I was in Block 4. Each of the blocks had Blockälteste, senior prisoner, and this senior prisoner, in each block, had a second in command, then each block had the Blockschreibe [Blockschreiber], which translated literally would mean block scribe not registrar.
Q. But we have been calling that block registrar this morning.
A. Yes. Literary translation would be "scribe".
Q. Thank you.
A. Each of those block scribes knew exactly how many prisoners are in each of the blocks, and here, I think, in one of these blocks ---
Q. To the left of the kitchen.
A. --- to the left of the kitchen was a building which was called Hauptschreib stube, which translated means Chief Writing office. This means Central Registration Office. Each prisoner brought to the camp and through this gate would be first processed. This means he would be taken into the sauna for a bath, which would be Block 1, I think, and he would go in and leave his clothes outside, and when he comes out on the other side, he will be naked and he will get prisoner garb.
From that moment on the only permitted property of a prisoner was one handkerchief. Pencil, paper, anything of that sort was considered conspiracy and would be punished very strictly if found on regular visits.
After this was the scribes from the Central Office and would take chairs and tables and parade the prisoners. Each prisoner would have a file card on which was his name, birth date, nationality, origin and date when he came in, plus a place for special remarks, and his number, which he received in the camp. The numbers were consecutive and the dead prisoners' number was never revealed.
After the file has been made, the file has been given to one of the block scribes wherever it was a decision that this particular prisoner goes, and then the card was in the file of the block scribe as well as a file in the Central Office.
Thus, the scribes in each of those blocks knew exactly how many prisoners are at any time there, and if a prisoner died he has to be identified by his number, which at the start was written with grey pencil, with an ink pencil, on his forearm and on his chest so that the bodies of dead which accumulated every day in front of the blocks were identified in the evening by reading the numbers.
Q. Did that system change of writing the numbers on in ink?
A. The system of ink writing numbers changed because the ink wore off, and so it was replaced with tattooing. So this would be approximately the same in Birkenau.
Q. Can you show us where in Birkenau that process would take place?
A. Yes. Yes. In Birkenau the map of Birkenau is here.
Q. Exhibit 16.
A. And when I refer to Birkenau, and always this far in January 1943 was occupied by prisoners. The Schreibstube was in Block 4 which would mean this block -- 1, 2, 3, 4 -- here was the Schreibstube.
Q. So that is the upper righthand quadrant of Birkenau I in the first row of blocks.
A. Here. When the men in this main camp were transferred to Bau Auschwitz II, building Section I to Building Section II, then this Section II, the only prisoners were in building Section IID. That is here, these two rows. This here was a kitchen, and this here was a Chief Schreibstube.
Q. And you are indicating the kitchen immediately below the words "BIID", or the numbers or letters.
Q. And opposite that in the "BIID" camp was the Registrar's Office.
A. That's right. Now, when I was transferred from BIID into BIIA, then the Registrar's Office, if I remember well, was here in Block 1, the Chief Registrar's Office.
Q. And that would be the Registrar in what camp?
A. For BII 8.
Q. For the quarantined camp?
A. Yes. I was in No. 15, the block scribe. I was the sub to the first scribe in BIID, whose name was Gorrik (phonetic) a prisoner with the number of 32000,
and this chief scribe was then sub to the chief scribe in Auschwitz I.
So that at the top of the hierarchy was the top administration of Auschwitz I, and the administration in Auschwitz II, as far as prisoners is concerned, went through Chief Scribe in BIID under whom were all scribes, each in the individual blocks, and the Chief Scribe of BIIA.
Q. Now, the lorries that you heard coming by in the nighttime, or that you saw going in the daytime, can you tell us if they ever went to the registration places?
A. No. The people who went to registration places were never brought in by lorry. They were marched from the ramp, which was not more than one half kilometer away, under guard, into the sauna.
Q. Yes. In the men's camp.
A. Yes, in the men's camp. And when this men's camp became a female camp, then they were marched on foot between Krematoria IV and V. There was also a sauna. I am not so sure what exactly it is -- "F" on this map -- because much has been changed. This map has been made approximately two, three months after I escaped from certain details, I would say.
So all those prisoners who went in through the registration process and have got a number came to the camp on foot, because they were small groups. Those who came into the camp from the ramp on those dumping trucks, they never enter any of those camps, but enter the camp by only one possible entrance -- two possible entrances. The main entrance was here.
Q. You indicate "A" at the bottom of the diagram.
A. That's right. This was a big tower and a building of a rather considerable length which harbour inside the building, according to my observations, a so-called Bereitschoft, which means emergency unit. This means that day or night there was a unit of S.S. which was completely dressed and armed, you know, just like in an ambulance waiting for any event. So this was a research, which did have nothing to do but to be called up in case of trouble.
Can I have the picture, please?
Consequently, the lorries which came from the ramp entered this gate and went to the landing between Krematorium II and Krematorium III, which were having a common queue of guards. Here you can see the towers -- 1, 2, 3, 4.
Another way how to transport the victim to the Krematorium IV and V was that they went here and between BIID and BIIC, which is here. BIIC is this camp, and BIID this camp; here a road of considerable width. And this road ends here blindly and goes into the yard of Krematorium IV and Krematorium V, which is again enclosed with an electrical fence and guarded towers. Here is a gate to it.
Consequently, those prisoners who came to the camp were coming on foot, and because there was now, from June 8th, 1943, registrar, I could see each face of them because they had to pass through registration in this camp which was their first stop. They stayed there for three, four weeks, or three, four months. The adminis-
tration in that respect weren't very clear and many of them died in quarantine.
Q. All right. Now, Dr Vrba, if I can go ahead a little bit to the events surrounding April 7.
A. My escape.
Q. Yes, sir. And I am going to ask you, we heard a lot about a chain of guards and electric fences, and I am going to ask you how you escaped.
A. If I may first have the previous picture, if I may.
THE COURT: You are looking at Exhibit ....
MR GRIFFITHS: 16, Your Honour.
THE WITNESS: This was Building Section 1. This was called Building Section 2. And in April 7, when I escaped, the Building Section 1 was full, but Building Section 2 was not quite full. Here was a quarantine camp in "A". In "B" was a family camp which had a tragic end. They are Czech families from Theresienstadt, a ghetto, who were kept for six months before they were gassed on 7 March, just before I escape. This camp was empty. Here, in "D", was the main camp and the main mass of the prisoners. In "E" were gypsies, because the gypsies had not been considered Aryan race, were rounded up and kept here for some time in "BIIE" until they were later gassed, and that's "BIIE". Here is a small camp called "BIIF", and this was called the hospital camp.
So from this hospital in Block No. 7 they made a quite a big complex of number of things. This third part was in building and it was not called anything
at that time except it is a future building Section 3.
Now, because those barracks did not yet exist, but the wood for those barracks did exist ---
Q. The wood for the barracks.
A. Yes. And the wood was put together in the way how you see wood put together in large shops in Toronto which sell lumber. Say if you are coming to a lumber yard, you can see ten wagons on foot stapled in a certain way.
A. Stacked. Now, when the woods were stacked, the building of the woods of the stack was made in such a way that there was a stack of approximately ten wagons of wood. The stack has an irregular shape as in the lumber business yards, and in one part there was an empty space made, not filled with wood, and covered again with wood.
Now, I would like to go to the -- and this was approximately here.
Q. Indicating in the future building area 3.
A. In the future building area 3. Now, I would like to show this place which I will mark here with a pencil. Roughly here. Now, the system --
MR GRIFFITHS: We are going to put on Exhibit No. 11.
THE WITNESS: Now, I have this whole map in a larger scale as it was drawn up by me from my memory back in 1944, and that place which I marked as a hiding place was here.
Now, the system which operated against
prevention of escape was a system common to all German concentration camps, and because the Germans had an experience of concentration camps since 1933, it was considered foolproof.
Q. I am going to stop you and ask you about the system in this camp that you know of.
A. Right. The system was the following:
There were the killer camps including the crematoria here surrounded by barbed wires which consisted of electrical fences in double rows; and before this barbed wire there was a ditch which could be approximately four to five yards deep.
Q. Did you see that?
A. Yes, because you couldn't not see it, living in the camp. Now, this ditch has been made by hand by the prisoners. It was a long process. They had to ditch it -- the earth was carried in hats, and enormous ditches were built. Now, again this is in red. Here is the electric fence, and here was a gate to the individual subsections -- Section 1 1, Section 1 2, Section 1 3, etcetera.
By daytime, when the day broke, the prisoners were woken up by the dawn and lined up in front of their barracks for the roll call.
Q. Now, if it all checked out, the roll call was all right, what happened then?
A. When the roll call was all right, the prisoners were aligned for work outside the inner camp in this outer area, and when it was given the signal that the roll call was all right, then guards marched out,
different guards, to this area.
Q. The outer chain of sentry posts on your map.
A. That's right. Now, this outer chain of sentries then operated in such a way that when each was on its place and this was a diameter of about two kilometers, thus it was about six kilometers long and not connected with the road, it was all smooth, so that from the towers which are here marked, from a crossfire not a mouse could come through.
Now, when the signal was given that everything is all right here, then they went to their places and were checked in the following way:
One guy shouted this direction, "The queue stands". This guy shouted to this guy, and this band, this shouting, until the shout of, "I am in my place" started. Once this procedure was finished, there was no use to keep the guards in this electrically guarded fence, because prisoners were enclosed here. The guards from here came down and went home, and the electrical current was switched off.
Now, the prisoners marched to work in units of a hundred, two hundred, three hundred or five hundred. Say they marched to work in Krematorium IV and V, say they marched to move earth for the camp, make it flat, etcetera. So suddenly the camp is full with ten to fifteen thousand prisoners -- not individual. I mean the freedom of movement was not that an individual prisoner could move around, just move around in columns, teams, and each team had a Kapo and each Kapo had a list of the prisoners which were accompanying him for which he was
personally responsible. So if one prisoner would wander around here, around the place which was teeming with S.S. men and Kapos, he would be very fast picked up as a loiterer.
Now, my system, then, was the following .... Now I need the other map.
Q. Exhibit 16 now is projected.
A. Yes. My job was every day to report to the Chief Scribe. This means I went from my block to the Chief Scribe of the block of this camp, and there were collected all reports from each block -- how many prisoners in each block, how many are dead, etcetera, etcetera -- the technical details.
Now, the Chief Scribe could either take the bundle of papers and bring it to the Chief Scribe here, or say that he is busy and delegates his work to me, which he did with considerable preference delegating it to me for the following reasons ---
THE COURT: Well, he delegated his work to you.
MR GRIFFITHS: He delegated his work to you. So what did you do when he delegated it to you? What freedom of movement did you get?
A. Well, I got a certain freedom of movement. The freedom of movement consisted that I was allowed to go out of this gate. Here is a gate that I have to say my number and the purpose of my trip. Then I would walk here, which is a distance of approximately five hundred yards. Here was again a gate.
Q. In "BIID"?
A. In "BIID". Here was again a gate
and I had to say again my number. The number was noted that I came, for what purpose and to what, and go with the paper to the Scribe, the Chief Scribe.
Now, once I have done it, nobody really would control me if I moved around the camp among the thousand prisoners which moved around. Fred Wetzler who was in the old camp was suddenly separated from me, so it was natural that I would go to Fred Wetzler to visit him and to discuss our mutual business. This was already illegal, but not that risky because by daytime there are not many S.S. men here inside, and I was dressed like a scribe and they are not worried if I am a scribe from this camp or that camp -- he wouldn't know.
Secondly, I could do another thing. Using my trip I would, instead of going here ....
Q. Into the men's camp.
A. .... into the men's camp, take a bundle of papers and go between the crematoria into the baths; that baths was used very frequently by members of the Sonderkommando. The Sonderkommando had the property of the people who had to undress before they went to the gas chamber and were stealing quite a bit of it before they were giving it to the Germans. Consequently, I think the presence of various people who knew me and marched here as if nothing happened back to my camp, BIIA, where I had to go through the S.S. men, the S.S. men would ask me, "Did you bring me the stockings?"
Q. You can't tell us what they said.
Q. You can't tell us what the S.S. men would say.
A. He did say.
THE COURT: Never mind what he said. Just answer the question.
THE WITNESS: The S.S. men ---
THE COURT: Just a moment. Do a little more controlling here, Mr Griffiths.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: You can't tell us, Dr Vrba, the words that were said by the S.S. men. Would you have any conversation, without telling us what it is, with the S.S. men?
Q. All right. And as a result of that conversation would you do anything? Did you do anything as a result of your conversation with him?
A. Yes, I did. As a result of this conversation, produce a pair of stockings and give it to him. If I did that he didn't ask me how come --
Q. I'm sorry, I think -- I don't think you can say what he wouldn't ask you; but you'd give him the stockings.
Q. Okay. And what effect, if anything, did that have or seemed to have on your freedom of movement?
A. Well, this enabled me to move along this path with relative freedom, because otherwise it was checked on the clock when I left the camp and when I came back to the camp, and it is clear that I had only half an hour for that.
Q. How would you have access to that area where the wood pile was? How would you have access to that area where the wood pile was?
A. Just like I would go here. I could take a risk, pretending that I am now not a block scribe, but a what they call a foreman, with a bundle of papers, and go here and move around that prisons and pretend that I am writing or something. So I gained a certain freedom of going frequently into this area, frequently into this area, and frequently loitering around this area.
Q. How was it you were able to escape? You said you went into that area. What did you do?
A. Here was built up a bunker, as I mentioned, and I knew that the bunker is built up.
Q. This is the wooden pile you told us about?
A. The wooden pile. That wooden pile was build up by people unknown to me. This required a considerable amount of organization to build it up, because hundreds of prisoners had to build it.
Q. You can't tell us what you didn't see.
Q. Specifically, on April 7th, what did you do, you and Mr Wetzler?
A. On April 7 Wetzler and I had a meeting on this place. This means that Wetzler, under a pretext, being a scribe here ---
A. BIID -- went out from here and came here.
Q. To the roadway?
A. To the road. Along this road into
the Mexico, into this building Part 3.
Q. The building part was called Mexico, into this part of the camp?
A. This part of the camp later called Mexico, but they called it in the building Part 3. And together so that we could see one another we went by different rows to the place where we were hiding, supposed to hide. On that same place, again from different opinion, two prisoners who were detached from BIID and were detached to work in this camp ....
A. In Mexico, in Section 3, absconded from their group, and we all four met at the enormous wood pile here and nobody could see us because the wood pile had an irregular form. So there was sort of corridors made. The two prisoners would then take down six or seven layers of wood on a certain place. Wetzler and I would slip into that place. They would cover it up and go away. And now started a different process.
Now, for that I will need the bigger map. The process was as follows:
At five o'clock, before it gets dark, all who work in this area are marched back here.
Q. To the inner camp.
A. To the inner camp. When they are all in, the gates are closed and the record on the gate is first checked -- if everybody went back who went out. So already they found a record that I went out but didn't come back.
Q. If you are inside the woodpile, you can't tell us, obviously, what was going on outside
the woodpile. Did you ever have any experience as to what would happen if there was a number short?
A. That's right. This is the system explaining. This means that I knew in advance every step which would take place, because I knew the system.
A. So where this happens, then the S.S. at the gates did not become too nervous because they sometime were sloppy. So in other words, the gates are closed, the electric was put in and the roll call here start.
Q. Now, what happens if the roll call is short some people and they can't be found in twenty minutes?
A. Meanwhile both queues are standing.
Q. So the outer chain of guards is standing as well?
THE COURT: Mr Griffiths, what you are doing here is, the witness is extrapolating what would usually occur because he knew the system. That has gone far enough. Ask him what happened next, to his own personal knowledge, because unless you can prove that the system worked in precisely the same way in this case, I am not interested in having anyone, especially the jury, hear what he expected to happen, because that is something within the confines of his own mind, emanating from his own extrapolations.
MR GRIFFITHS: I think I have your point, Your Honour. Thank you.
THE WITNESS: No. I could check on it.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: No, Dr Vrba, please. You had some understanding of what would happen from prior experience. Don't tell us what you think happened while you were inside the woodpile.
Q. Don't tell us that. How long were you hiding in the woodpile?
A. I went in the woodpile on Friday afternoon on 7 April at two o'clock.
THE COURT: Would you say that again? I missed that.
THE WITNESS: I went into the woodpile on Friday afternoon at two o'clock, 2:00 p.m., on 7 April, 1944.
Q. And when did you come out of the woodpile?
A. I came out from the woodpile on Monday, April 10th, 1944, at nine o'clock p.m., after certain checking of the situation.
Q. All right. When you came out of the woodpile, which direction did you go?
A. I came out from the woodpile first because I could hear that the outer guards gave the signal to withdraw in the usual way. This means I could hear it and I knew that they have to make seventy-two hours.
Q. You heard them give the signal, "Stand down"?
A. That's right. And at this moment I concluded that there were no outer guards, that it is nine o'clock in the evening, that the inner guards are
p. 1369 here and that I am basically a free man.
Q. Which way did you go when you left the camp?
A. Well, I tried to first pass a sentry, and then tried to go behind this little forest behind this crematoria, and then to cross this railway line, and behind the railway line I knew from previous experience is a river called Sola, and I knew that the river Sola, from certain investigations I made before during my stay at the camp, goes between the camp Auschwitz, which will be here, and the City of Auschwitz which is approximately here.
Q. I'm sorry, you can't .... "City" is the other circle you made?
A. This is the City of Auschwitz, and this is the River Sola. This River Sola, I learned, originates on the Slovak border in a place called Zwardon. When you look at the map it is a rather straight river.
Q. All right. Let me stop you for just a minute. When you came out of the woodpile and you circled around to get to the River Sola can you tell us what road, if any, you crossed on your way to the railway line?
A. In the first line I found here, in this distance.
Q. North of the woods.
A. North of the woods, and I approached it this way, in the night, of course -- it was dark and it was approximately midnight, something which I couldn't differentiate between if it is a river or a road. It was glistering. So I went by and put my fingers in and I saw
that it is sand. So that was a sandband approximately eight meters wide which started from nowhere, and I didn't know how far it goes, and I suspected that this is a minefield. Consequently, because I didn't know how far this went, which is not a road but untouched sand, I decided, instead of going around it, to take the risk and cross it. So I sensed that I will cross that sand and that when he crosses it after me, he should go carefully into the same step which I went.
I crossed and nothing happened. Then he crossed behind me carefully, using the same steps, and after we have done it, we have seen that this so-called road or sand or whatever it was ended approximately after two, three hundred yards. So it was meant to be ---
THE COURT: Just a moment.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: Don't tell us that. Just tell us your observation. Now, you circled around, you said, behind the woods?
A. I circled around behind the woods and reached the railway line at five o'clock in the morning.
Q. Other than the sand that you've told us about did you cross any roads?
A. None whatsoever. It was all moor. It was bog. Because here the River Sola, and here is the River Bistula [Vistula] which have got a lot of meanders, which was boggy and marshy.
Q. I will stop you there for just a minute. I understand that you made your way back to Slovakia.
A. Yes, please. I don't understand your question.
Q. Did you make it back -- did you get back to Slovakia without getting caught?
A. I was caught by a patrol on the next Saturday near a place called Poromka (phonetic) which opened fire at me.
THE COURT: Just a moment. I am not -- if this is relevant ....
MR GRIFFITHS: Well, Your Honour, I am trying to get a little further down the road.
THE COURT: See if you can do that.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: I know that things happened to you on the way to Slovakia.
Q. Did you get to Slovakia safely?
A. Yes. Across the Slovak border on Friday the 21st April at ten o'clock in the morning.
Q. All right. When you got to Slovakia were you able to meet with anybody and tell them of your experiences?
A. Yes. That was my intention to do so, and to that I directed my activity from that moment on.
Q. All right. Can you tell us where you met with these people, what city?
A. I met with those people in the City of Cadca, which was about thirty miles south of the border. I came to the City of Cadca and I have, meanwhile, collected the information that in City of Cadca lives a doctor called Dr Pollok (phonetic).
Q. Through Dr Pollok were you able to make contact with other people and tell your story?
A. That's right.
Q. All right. And the story that you told, what you observed, did anybody write that down?
Q. All right. And did Mr Wetzler speak to these people as well?
A. We were both together and speaking to these people, which were representatives of the Jewish Council of Slovakia, and actually, it was Dr Neumann, Dr Oscar Newmann, engineer, Krasnansky ---
Q. And others?
A. And many others -- many lawyers.
Q. After you and Mr Wetzler spoke to these people was something put down in writing?
A. That's right. While we were speaking to the people they had brought a stenographer with them and what I was saying was taken on a stenogram in absence of Mr Wetzler. What Mr Wetzler was speaking was taken on a stenogram in my absence.
Q. After you and Mr Wetzler spoke to these people, was anything written about -- again, by the Jewish people -- about what you had told them?
A. Yes. The stenograms were transcribed into a typewritten text collating the statement of both of us.
Q. Was that written by you or by others, the final text?
A. The final text was typed by a typist, and was presented to me for signature and to Wetzler, to confirm that his typescript contains our words.
MR GRIFFITHS: All right. Is this
p. 1373 a convenient time, Your Honour?
THE COURT: Yes. Twenty minutes.
--- The jury retires. 3:30 p.m.
--- Short adjournment.
--- Upon resuming.
--- The jury returns. 3:55 p.m.
THE COURT: Yes, go ahead, Mr Griffiths.
MR GRIFFITHS: Thank you, Your Honour.
Q. Dr Vrba, would you tell us whether or not there was any distinctive odour at the Birkenau camp?
A. I was for fifteen months. After fifteen months, if you are in a particular environment which has a particular odour, you don't feel that odour. I couldn't say that I felt a particular odour. Don't forget that in front of each block there were ten, fifteen, twenty dead bodies. Hygienic circumstances were lacking from what we know as civilized hygienic circumstances, and I, after a certain time, found the environment as being adapted to it.
Q. All right. Did you have an opportunity to observe -- can you tell us if the crematoria had any smoke stacks?
A. Yes, it did. The crematoria worked
in a peculiar pattern.
Q. Unless you were inside, you can't tell us what goes on inside the crematoria.
A. Only what I can see from outside.
Q. Thank you. Go ahead.
A. From outside, when the transport was sort of about twelve hours after the transport arrived, you could hear a buzzing coming out from the crematoria, and then smoke and flame came up from the chimney. The flame looked approximately like when you here go around Toronto and the burn of oil. I have seen similar chimneys with fire on top of them.
Q. Like the refinery, is that what you mean?
A. Like refinery. Now, this lasted for some time -- perhaps an hour, perhaps two -- and attracted attention; and as the flame became smaller, the smoke became thicker and there was a thick smoke coming out for some time, perhaps half an hour, perhaps an hour, and then the smoke stopped being so thick and when you look carefully at the chimney, then it would look slight smoke coming out from the chimney, not very different from a smoke which come out from an average house, as far as I recollect.
Q. Have you ever gone by any different name than Rudolf Vrba?
A. I have been going by several different names.
Q. When you were in Auschwitz did you have the name Rudolf Vrba, or another name?
A. No. I have been born as Walter
Rosenberg, and when the Germans made a quizzling [Quisling] government in Czechoslovakia which obeyed their orders and prized itself that Slovak racial laws are stricter than in Germany, the law has been passed that I must have a middle name, the middle name of Israel; every Jew was called Israel as a middle name. If it was a Jewess it was Sara. Consequently, I was registered in concentration camp Auschwitz as Joseph Israel Rosenberg, and under that name, as far as I know, would have been issued the warrant against me after I escaped. Consequently I never used that name again, and when I arrived in Slovakia I started to use the name Vrba for several reasons.
Q. And have you used that name ever since -- Rudolf Vrba?
A. I use that name illegally to protect myself against search until September 1944, when I entered the Czechoslovak Army partisan units; but as all my documents were burned in Maidanek, I couldn't show any identity except a false document on the name of Rudolf Vrba, and under that false document I have been enlisted in the Czechoslovak Army which administration insisted that anybody who enlists in the army must have a document. "False document", they said, "We can't see that it is false. It's all right." So the Gestapo said also it's all right. The document falsification was perfect.
However, when the War was over and I have been discharged from the Army into normal civil life, I hesitated to start civil life with a name which is not legalized. Do you mind if I look into my things to refresh my consideration?
Q. No. Is there a document you are
A. Yes. Consequently, when I was released from the Army and my release papers were issued on Rudolf Vrba, I have insisted that my original name, Walter Rosenberg, should be included in my release papers, and these are the release papers from the Army.
Q. I will come there. You stay up there.
A. Which were issued in May 1945.
Q. All right.
A. Together with description of my military activities on behalf of my native countries.
Q. What language are your release papers in?
A. The release paper is in the Slovak language.
Q. And what name is given on this document?
A. This document says that it is issued to "Rudolf Vrba (W. Rosenberg)".
Q. Do you have a photocopy of that?
A. I have a photocopy of that which I gave among the papers, but this is an original.
MR GRIFFITHS: I hesitate to make the original an exhibit. Perhaps I can get a photocopy tomorrow, Your Honour.
Q. Dr Vrba, are you a member of any ---
A. Excuse me, I didn't answer your previous question.
Q. Oh, I'm sorry.
A. Because the name was then legalized
as Rudolf Vrba on ground of my request that, when the Germans came to my native country ---
THE COURT: Just a moment.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: It was legalized.
A. It was legalized after the War for the reasons I asked for -- deGermanization of my name.
Q. DeGermaniation of your name.
A. Right. No connection with my so-called German culture which I saw in Auschwitz.
Q. Exhibit 1, the pamphlet, "Did Six Million Really Die?", page 16, Dr Vrba, Chapter 6, entitled, "Auschwitz and Polish Jewry" ....
Q. I am going to ask you a couple of questions about that.
Q. First of all, on page 17 there is a paragraph as follows, and I will read it and then I will ask you to comment on it.
Q. It's the second complete paragraph on the first column of page 17.
Q. "Although several millions were supposed to have died at Auschwitz alone, Reitlinger has to admit that only 363,000 inmates were registered at the camp for the whole of the period between January 1940 and February 1945 ...."
and cited as authority is the book, "The S.S. Alibi of a
Nation", page 268 and following --
" ....and by no means all of them were Jews. It is frequently claimed that many prisoners were never registered, but no one has offered any proof of this. Even if there were as many unregistered as there were registered, it would mean only a total of 750,000 prisoners -- hardly enough for the elimination of 3 or 4 million. Moreover, large numbers of the camp population were released or transported elsewhere during the war, and at the end 80,000 were evacuated westward in January 1945 before the Russian advance."
Now, can you comment as to whether any people were at Auschwitz who were not registered -- what you saw with your own eyes?
A. All people who on the ramp arrive ---
MR CHRISTIE: Excuse me, Your Honour. This witness can't answer for the camp. He can answer for records he kept, and I think that he is being asked to answer as to whether they were being registered in the camp, and I never heard him say through his entire testimony that he kept a register for the camp. He did for his block, and I heard what he said about it, but I think the question begs to tell us that he can say something about the camp registry as a whole.
THE COURT: I don't disagree with Mr Christie's objection. There is a point. It is your
examination-in-chief, Mr Griffiths. You can either lay more groundwork, if you feel that is advisable ....
MR GRIFFITHS: Thank you, Your Honour.
THE COURT: As it stands now, I do not disagree with what I have heard from Mr Christie.
MR GRIFFITHS: Thank you, Your Honour.
Q. Did you ever see the people who you described being brought to Birkenau in lorries registered?
A. Those who left the ramp in lorries -- and this was seventy-five to ninety-five percent of arrivals, depend on the transport -- went from the lorries into the area of Krematoria IV and were not registered.
Q. Thank you.
A. Most of those people consisted of children which were of ages one to twelve, or of old people which were of ages over sixty, old women of ages over sixty, and nobody has seen a prisoner of the age of eleven or of the age of seventy in the concentration camp Auschwitz.
Q. You can't say "anybody". Did you see prisoners of those ages?
MR CHRISTIE: Well, he said "nobody", and my friend shouldn't cross-examine his own witness. He has elicited some hearsay and he shouldn't accept anything other than what he got.
THE COURT: I agree. Go ahead, Mr Griffiths.
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: The next section
of the pamphlet, it says, "Auschwitz: An Eye-Witness Account":
"Some new facts about Auschwitz are at last beginning to make a tentative appearance."
I am just reading from the pamphlet now, page 17, column 2, under the bold title, "Auschwitz: An Eye-Witness Account":
"Some new facts about Auschwitz are at last beginning to make a tentative appearance. They are contained in a recent work called Die AuschwitzLüge: Ein Erlebnisbericht von Thies von Christopherson [Christophersen] ...."
And there is a translation. What does it say?
A. "The Auschwitz Legends: An Account of his Experiences by Thies Christopherson, Kritik Verlag/Mohrkirch, 1973".
Q. And that is the publisher?
"Published by the German lawyer Dr Manfred Roeder in the periodical Deutsche Bürger-Iniative, it is an eye-witness account of Auschwitz by Thies Christopherson, who was sent to the Bunawerk plant laboratories at Auschwitz to research into the production of synthetic rubber for the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. In May 1973, not long after the appearance of this account, the veteran Jewish 'Nazi-
hunter' Simon Wiesenthal wrote to the Frankfurt Chamber of Lawyers, demanding that the publisher and author of the Forward, Dr Roeder, a member of the Chamber, should be brought before its disciplinary commission. Sure enough, proceedings began in July, but not without harsh criticism even from the Press, who asked 'Is Simon Wiesenthal the new "Gauleiter of Germany?"'
And the source of that is -- can you read the German for me?
A. Yes. "Deutsche Wochenzeitung, July 27th, 1973". This is German weekly, July 27, 1973.
Q. It goes on, then:
"Christopherson's account is certainly one of the most important documents for a re-appraisal of Auschwitz. He spent the whole of 1944 there, during which time he visited all of the separate camps comprising the large Auschwitz complex, including Auschwitz-Birkenau where it is alleged that wholesale massacres of Jews took place. Christopherson, however, is in no doubt that this is totally untrue. He writes: 'I was in Auschwitz from .... the mass murders which were supposedly perpetrated by the S.S. against the
Jewish prisoners, and I was perfectly astonished. --- '"
MR CHRISTIE: You missed a line, I'm sorry.
"'I was in Auschwitz from January 1944 until December 1944. After the war I heard about the mass murders which were supposedly perpetrated by the S.S. against the Jewish prisoners, and I was perfectly astonished. Despite all the evidence of witnesses, all the newspaper reports and radio broadcasts I still do not believe today in these horrible deeds. I have said this many times and in many places, but to no purpose. One is never believed.'"
The article goes on:
"Space forbids a detailed summary here of the author's experiences at Auschwitz, which include facts about camp routine and the daily life of prisoners totally at variance with the allegations of propaganda" --
and he cites pages 22 to 27 of the Christopherson work.
"More important are his revelations about the supposed existence of an extermination camp. 'During the whole of my time at Auschwitz, I never observed the slightest evidence of mass gassings. Moreover, the odour
of burning flesh that is often said to have hung over the camp is a downright falsehood. In the vicinity of the main camp (Auschwitz I) was a large farrier's works, from which the smell of molten iron was naturally not pleasant' ...." --
and he cites pages 33 to 34.
"Reitlinger confirms that there were five blast furnaces and five collieries at Auschwitz, which together with the Bunawerk factories comprised Auschwitz III" --
ibid page 425 if [of] Reitlinger.
"The author agrees that a crematorium would certainly have existed at Auschwitz, 'since 200,000 people lived there, and in every city with 200,000 inhabitants there would be a crematorium. Naturally people died there -- but not only prisoners. In fact the wife of Obersturmbannführer A. (Christopherson's superior) also died there.'"
Page 33 of the Christopherson work was cited.
"The author explains: 'There were no secrets at Auschwitz. In September 1944 a commission of the International Red Cross came to the camp for an inspection. They were particularly interested in the camp at
Birkenau, though we also had many inspections at Raisko.'"
And it cites Bunawerk section, page 35.
Now, how does that description of Auschwitz and Birkenau, and bearing in mind that part of the time that Mr Christopherson was writing about is after you left the camp ....
Q. Well, how does that square with your recollection of the camp?
A. Well, when did he leave the camp?
Q. He was there, he said, I believe, from -- sorry.
A. He spent the whole of 1944 there.
THE COURT: January to December of 1944.
THE WITNESS: January to December 1944. Well, there are certain people who claim ---
Q. MR GRIFFITHS: Just a minute. My question is, how does this description square with your recollection of the camp? Is this accurate in your view?
A. This is a complete lie.
Q. All right. Now, I have one other question that I would like to refer you to, if I may.
A. The lie has got also something cynical about it. It is a cynical lie.
Q. On page 24 of the exhibit, and this is under a chapter titled, "The Nature & Condition of War-Time Concentration Camps", and there is a sub-heading that says, "Humane Conditions", the paragraph begins:
"That several thousand camp inmates
did die in the chaotic final months of the war brings us to the question of their wartime conditions. These have been deliberately falsified in innumerable books of an extremely lurid and unpleasant kind. The Red Cross Report, examined below, demonstrates conclusively that throughout the war the camps were well administered. The working inmates received a daily ration even throughout 1943 and 1944 of not less than 2,750 calories, which was more than double the average civilian ration in occupied Germany in the years after 1945. The internees were under regular medical care, and those who became seriously ill were transferred to hospital."
Do those conditions described there correspond to your recollection?
A. These are absolute lies. Moreover, he says about something about the Red Cross report, which he doesn't show. Where can I see the Red Cross Report?
Q. Don't worry about that. My question is just as to the conditions that are described there.
A. Yes, this is a cynical lie in my opinion.
Q. Are you, Dr Vrba, part of any hoax or conspiracy or fraud to deceive people as to the things
that you have been telling us about, the conditions in these camps, the deaths in these camps?
A. If I have any reason to deceive people?
Q. No. My question is whether you are -- are you a part of any conspiracy to deceive people about what went on in these camps?
A. No, I am not part of any conspiracy, and I am not part of any political party, and I am not part of any organized religion, of any church, and my only affiliations, officially, are to universities in which I worked for the last thirty years, which is University of Prague, University of London, University of Harvard and University of British Columbia; and I had, during all those times, no affiliation to any organization except academical organization.
MR GRIFFITH: Thank you, sir.
I have no further questions, Your Honour.
THE COURT: Members of the jury, the same instructions that I have given will apply. Have a good evening. Ten o'clock tomorrow morning.
--- The jury retires. 4:25 p.m.
--- The witness stands down.
--- Whereupon the hearing is adjourned to January 23, 1985.
(VOLUME VII follows)
VRBA's TESTIMONY: [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 6 ]
This is part 2 of the Testimony of Dr Rudolf Vrba: pages 1244-1644 of the transcript of the 1985 Ernst Zündel trial in Toronto, hereinafter reproduced verbatim and containing numerous instances of defective grammar, syntax, and spelling. Suggested editorial corrections , written with bold letters, are put in brackets.
This text has been displayed on the Net, and forwarded to you as a tool for educational purpose, further research, on a non commercial and fair use basis, by the International Secretariat of the Association des Anciens Amateurs de Recits de Guerre et d'Holocaustes (AAARGH). The E-mail of the Secretariat is <[email protected]. Mail can be sent at PO Box 81475, Chicago, IL 60681-0475, USA..
We see the act of displaying a written document on Internet as the equivalent to displaying it on the shelves of a public library. It costs us a modicum of labor and money. The only benefit accrues to the reader who, we surmise, thinks by himself. A reader looks for a document on the Web at his or her own risks. As for the author, there is no reason to suppose that he or she shares any responsibilty for other writings displayed on this Site. Because laws enforcing a specific censorship on some historical question apply in various countries (Germany, France, Israel, Switzerland, Canada, and others) we do not ask their permission from authors living in thoses places: they wouldn't have the freedom to consent.
We believe we are protected by the Human Rights Charter:
ARTICLE 19. <Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.>The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, in Paris.
You downloaded this document from <http://aaargh-international.org/engl/vrba2.html>