JANUARY 23, 1985 [Wednesday]
--- Upon the hearing resuming.
THE COURT: Is there anything before the jury comes in?
MR CHRISTIE: No, Your Honour.
--- The jury enters. 10:07 a.m.
THE COURT: Go ahead, Mr Christie.
RUDOLF VRBA, previously sworn
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR CHRISTIE:
Q. Witness, will you say it's true that you have told stories about Auschwitz?
A. I didn't keep a secret of it.
Q. Would you say that all the things you've said about Auschwitz are true?
A. I would think so, within the frame of possibility of a reference.
Q. I now produce and show to you a book entitled "I Cannot Forgive". Are you the author of this book?
A. I am a co-author.
Q. Did you check it and see that all the contents were true?
A. Which year has this book been
THE COURT: Would you answer the question, please, sir?
Q. MR CHRISTIE: Could you answer the question?
A. Which year has the book been published?
THE COURT: Show him the book.
Q. MR CHRISTIE: 1964 March by Grove Press. It attributes the authorship to you and to a Mr Alan Bestik [BESTIC]. Did you read that book?
A. Yes. Certainly. I wrote the book.
Q. All the contents are true?
A. I wouldn't answer in a direct way to this question, because this is a work of literature, and not a document, and therefore I would like to make certain remarks on the background of the book which will make it more clear to you what the book is about.
Please don't interrupt me, because I cannot work this way.
Q. Would you let me ask a question?
A. I didn't finish your previous question.
Q. Pardon me.
A. I did not yet finish your previous question.
Q. Fine. Carry on.
A. The background of that book started with my discussion with a doctor who was examining judge in the Frankfurt trial in which the criminals who committed the horrible crimes in Auschwitz were tried, and I was
supposed to help him. He showed me eighty volumes of material which he collected about the S.S. in Auschwitz on his shelf, and he told me in a rather exasperating voice, he said he has collected over years eighty volumes and he still doesn't know the full truth of Auschwitz.
I agreed with him and I arrived at the conclusion that if he is right, I would have to write not eighty, but at least eighty-one volumes in order to give a picture of the horrible crimes which were committed in Auschwitz, and if I would write eighty-one volumes, it is very unlikely that a person who is not specializing in this field but needs the basic knowledge about his field would be able to read eighty-one volumes. And I arrived at the conclusion that it is necessary to write one volume, and I used a special technique which is used also in this Court, where in this Court is forbidden to photograph. However, I have seen my picture and the picture of His Honour the Judge yesterday on the television. Anybody who looks at those pictures will get some rough idea what was happening in this Court, but neither I nor His Honour, the Judge, would be in the position to cut out from that picture his picture, his face, and use it instead of a passport photograph.
Consequently, what is in the book is a condensed story written in a style which should enable especially a young person, untrained and unprepared for the horror of this century, without too much trouble, to understand to what lowness some parts of mankind as represented by the Nazis were able to descend.
Therefore that book should not be considered as a document, but as an artistic picture of
the events which has got not more value than the artistic picture of the artist who is here now painting or drawing this courtroom to show to the masses of people who cannot come here to give them some idea what was happening here. And this is approximately my answer in print to explain you this book.
There were, after this book was published, a number of essays published about the book, and I have a number of that, perhaps a hundred, two hundred, like Times Literary Supplement, like the New York Times and the Book of the Month, etcetera, etcetera, which were published, and the various messages which were contained were discussed.
However, it is understood that it is only an attempt for an artistic depiction of those catastrophic events, and the discussion of the book would therefore belong into the realm of a literary afternoon, which I am perfectly prepared to spend with you, Mr Counsel.
Q. I can see that.
A. But ---
THE COURT: Dr Vrba, this is not speech-making time. You have been given a lot of latitude. Is your answer going to go on for much longer?
THE WITNESS: No. I need two more minutes, Your Honour.
THE COURT: All right. Then do it and get on with the next question.
THE WITNESS: I have been called in as an expert witness not on literature, because I am neither good as Dostoevsky, or Tolstoy, but I am layman in
literature. However, I am acquainted with events in Auschwitz which took place there from 30 June, 1942, until 7 April 1944, and those events I am prepared to discuss with you not on the level of a literary essay, but within the frame of the law.
Should you wish to discuss a book, in spite of my advice, it would be very difficult to discuss the book in front of the jury who didn't read the book. Under the condition that the jury is prepared to read the book, we can then discuss the book so that the jury knows what we are talking about, and I am protected from distortions which your friend have published about this book.
Thank you, Your Honour, for giving me the opportunity to explain it.
THE COURT: Go ahead, Mr Christie.
Q. MR CHRISTIE: Are there falsehoods in the book?
A. As I explained to you and gave you answer to your question, you are only re-formulating the question. The book is an attempt, artistic attempt to create truths, and an artistic attempt is subject to shortcomings. And you say that the shortcoming is a falsehood. I would say that there might be shortcomings in the book. I would say that certainly there are shortcomings in the book for which I had limited time to write, but I wouldn't say that there are falsehood, and I would demonstrate it to -- prepared to discuss this book in this courtroom.
Q. Did you say things happened in the book that did not actually happen in fact?
A. I am not aware of that.
Q. Did you say things that you say that you saw in the book that you did not actually see?
A. The book is not a court case, and therefore in the book could be incorporated such parts of knowledge which are obtained from friends to whom I trusted.
As you know, every art piece in literature is written by people who use not only their own eye witness abilities, but draw also on experience of others for one reason or another.
Q. Did you put in the book statements that you said you saw which you did not see?
A. I am not aware of that.
Q. So do I take it from your answer that when you say you saw something in the book, you actually did see it?
A. I will discuss with you the book on the literary afternoon at your disposal. At the moment I am not prepared to discuss this book unless the book has been read by the jury.
Q. Well, I think with respect, unless I am wrong, unless His Honour directs you not to answer the question, I am entitled to ask you, and I did ask you whether you said things in the book that you said you saw, things in the book that you did not see. Now, is that the case or not?
THE COURT: Members of the jury, you will excuse us please.
--- The jury retires. 10:20 a.m.
THE COURT: Dr Vrba, I am going to say this once and only once. You are here as a compellable witness. You are here to testify as a witness under oath. You are not here to give orders as to what this jury will do and what you will do or not do. You will answer counsel's questions unless I tell you not to. Do you understand?
THE WITNESS: Thank you very much.
THE COURT: You will do it.
THE WITNESS: Thank you very much. In that case, can I ask your permission, if I find the question unsuitable, if I should, can I take your advice?
THE COURT: If you find them unsuitable, you can say so. Hopefully you will say that shortly. I don't propose that Mr Christie's cross-examination is going to be interrupted by you taking a multitude of objections to his questions, however objectionable you may find those questions to be.
In a democratic country you should know by now, and I am sure that you do, that in a Court of law an accused person, regardless of who he or she is, is entitled to full answer and defence. That includes the right of cross-examination. Your evidence is tested in that way before the triers of fact, which is the jury.
If you take objection I will listen to objection; if it contains merit I will say so; if it does not, I will say so. I do not want Mr Christie's cross-examination, however, to be interrupted for no reason at all.
Do you understand?
THE WITNESS: Perfectly well.
THE COURT: Thank you. Bring back the jury.
THE WITNESS: May I ask a question, Your Honour, before the jury comes in?
THE COURT: Yes.
THE WITNESS: Quotations from a book tore out from its general context may create a false impression.
THE COURT: I don't deny that.
THE WITNESS: And may be used for distortions.
THE COURT: Yes.
THE WITNESS: Such distortions have been used from this book and I have turned attention of the Crown that there are distortions on even the subject of study of some respectable Professors of History in University.
THE COURT: No one is restricting your answers to counsel's questions, providing they are relative and responsive to the question that is put.
THE WITNESS: Wouldn't it be, of course, to the advantage of the procedure, Your Honour, if the jury, who finally is supposed to say yes or no to the guilt of the accused, would be acquainted with the content of the book and not with particular pieces torn out from them which would suit the defence?
In other words, the danger of distorting a work by showing only a part of the work is considerable, in my opinion, especially knowing the tactic of a certain political group, and therefore I am worried that the jury might be easily, in the mind of the jury, easily created
a wrong impression and might be misled from the right path of justice if the jury is being served juicy bits from the whole instead of being acquainted with the book as a whole. It is just like they would show to the jury a picture, but only a small part left, a small part right, instead of showing the whole picture. The book is only 250 pages long, and as far as I know, it took nobody more than one day to read it.
THE COURT: I repeat only what I said, that you are not being told what answers you may give to counsel's questions will be, provided that they are responsive to the questions.
Bring back the jury.
---The jury enters. 10:25 a.m.
THE COURT: Proceed, Mr Christie.
MR CHRISTIE: Thank you, sir.
Q. I would just like to ask you if this part of the book is true. It's attributed, on page two, to your co-author, Alan Bestic, and it says---
THE COURT: Page ....
MR CHRISTIE: Sorry. Page 2.
Q. It says:
"I would like to pay tribute to him ..."
and that was you, sir, wasn't it?
Q. Okay. "....for the immense trouble he took over every detail; for the meticulous, almost fanatical respect he revealed for accuracy; and for the courage which this cold-blooded survey of two ghastly
Have I read correctly, sir, from that?
A. Yes, you did.
Q. Would you say that was true for the degree of respect you had for accuracy?
A. That was true for Alan Bestic who estimated my accuracy in his own personal way. You may question now Alan Bestic if my accuracy could stand up to your requirement or not.
Q. Well, would you say that in your opinion that was true about your respect for accuracy?
A. Out of modesty, would you kindly allow me not to make judgments about myself?
Q. Okay. In things that you said in this book that you said you saw, were you telling the truth?
A. To the best of my knowledge, ability, the truth as I could perceive it, being in Auschwitz for two years.
Q. So when you said you perceived things, or saw things in this book, you actually did see them with your own observations.
A. This is nowhere stated in the book that I actually saw them. In the book there are a number of things which I heard from my friend and I have included it in the book, because a book was not meant to be a testimony to the Court which I have to sing [sign], but impressions which I collected from number of friends, some of whom are dead, for whom I wanted the voice to be heard even after their martyr's death.
Q. I'm sorry, I still don't understand
but do you mean to say, for example on page 10 where you say:
"This time I was glad to see him arrive", for example, and I will read the rest of it, if you wish do you mean that you actually did see this?
A. I see arrive what?
Q. Well, here is what you said in the book.
Q. "Heinrich Himmler visited Auschwitz Camp again in January, 1943. This time I was glad to see him arrive".
Q. Now, I can read the whole thing, or two pages, or ten pages.
A. Yes, continue, because I don't know what it should mean.
Q. You don't know. You don't know.
Q. I will ask you, do you mean to say, when you saw him arrive in January '43, or is this just ---
A. In September '43 or in January '43?
Q. Well, the book says January '43.
A. No. I saw him arrive in July 1943 [1942--p. 1398--], and then at one occasion in 1943 ---
Q. It says here, "January '43".
A. It must be an error.
Q. It's an error?
Q. Oh. But you did see him arrive on
A. On the first occasion I saw him arrive, because he was approximately in the vicinity as you are to me.
Q. He was as close to you as I am.
Q. I see. And you were ---
A. He took one step further out of politeness to me.
Q. I see.
A. However, on the second occasion, I saw him going by in a car which was the same car I saw before. He used a black Mercedes with all the sycophants around that he carried around, but I saw him only for a distance of about six hundred yards, and I have heard it is him; but he didn't, on this occasion, come to shake hands with me and introduce himself. So it might be him; it might be someone who stood in instead of him, and don't think that it makes a great difference.
Q. Was this the occasion when he was as far from you as I am?
A. No. That's the second occasion. The second occasion when he was as far from me as you are, almost as far, this was in July 1942.
Q. And that was in Auschwitz camp?
A. That was in Auschwitz camp I.
Q. In your book you say:
"Heinrich Himmler visited Auschwitz camp again in January 1943. This time I was glad to see
him arrive." Right?
A. Probably I wasn't glad of him seeing him arrive as my best friend. Read on in the book. I cannot remember now why I should be glad to see him here. Maybe I said it tongue-in-cheek, where I have a right to say it in the book; not in the Court, but in the book I can.
Q. Would you tell the public something in the book that wasn't true?
A. I would say in the public in a way when the truth is complicated, I would use the technique of the painter, which is here working, that the general impression should come as close as possible to the truth within the requirements of my abilities which are, of course, limited.
Q. As Dostoevsky or Shakespeare, yes, I understand. You don't ---
A. I said I don't have.
Q. All right. I will ask you some more questions. I will read you pages ten, 11 and 12 and I will ask you some questions about that.
A. And you are not going to miss some paragraphs?
Q. Well, you watch me and see that I don't.
A. Can we have a copy of the book?
Q. I am producing for you, provided by the Crown, a hardcover copy. I hope it is the same as mine.
A. I hope so, too.
Q. Well, I have another copy. Do you
recognize that as the paperback version of your book; do you?
A. Yes. It was published without my permission and without my perusal.
Q. So it's without your permission and your perusal?
A. That's right. You see, I would have to sue the people who done it, and I couldn't afford to sue; but for this book I peruse. This is the first edition.
Q. So you figure this one could be false, then somebody might have twisted your words around?
A. I didn't have any influence on it, and I didn't see the proof of the book, and I didn't see the account for it, either, for your private information.
Q. You've never read it?
A. I would say no.
Q. You would say no.
A. No. But I read the original.
Q. What do you mean? You haven't read ---
A. This is the first edition. You see, I have never signed any contract with the publisher of this paperback.
Q. This Grove Press edition published March 1964, copywright by Rudolf Vrba and Alan Bestic, this is not yours?
A. This is not Grove edition.
Q. This is published by Bantam Books.
A. That's right.
Q. So you say this is a pirated edition, do you?
A. I didn't use those words. They are your words.
Q. Let's find the part in your edition, then, so in case it is different we can see how it's different. I am going to have to give this book to someone to look at while I cross-examine.
A. Good advice.
Q. Well, I will ask you specifically questions of fact which you can tell me if these statements are true or not.
Do you believe that Heinrich Himmler visited the camp in January '42 ['43]? Okay, now I think I found the spot where I wanted to begin. I am going to read and you read along with me. Make sure I don't make any mistakes. I am going to read two, almost three pages okay? and I am going to ask you some questions about it.
Q. "Heinrich Himmler visited Auschwitz Camp again in January 1943". Is that the same in your book?
Q. All right.
A. If there is a difference I will turn your attention to it.
Q. All right. Thank you very much.
"This time I was glad to see him arrive, though not because I still nursed any faint hope that he would improve our lot through benevolence or any sense of justice. His presence was welcome to us all
merely because it meant that for one day there would be no unscheduled beatings or killings.
"Once more we were lined up, spic and span, with the sick in ---"
A. Excuse me, please. Would you read it in a way that everybody can understand the sense of the sentence?
Q. I'll try, sir. Okay. If anybody doesn't understand the sense of the sentences in the jury, please hold up your hand and I will stop. Okay? And if you find that I am not reading sensibly, you will tell me too, won't you?
Q. Thank you. Okay.
"Once more we were lined up, spic and span, with the sick in the rear and the healthy well to the front. Once more the band played and the heels clicked and the jack boots danced in the luster shed by the master. Once more he inspected the camp inch by inch running a podgy pedantic finger over the mantlepiece of Auschwitz and examining it for dust. And this time there was no Yankel Meisel to drop his tiny personal grain of sand into the smooth machinery.
"Though he conducted his tour of the camp with his usual thoroughness, it was, however, no more than an aperitif for the meal that was to follow. The main purpose of his visit was to see for himself the bricks and mortar which had sprung from the plans he had outlined in Auschwitz seven months earlier.
"He was to watch the world's first conveyor belt killing, the inauguration of Kommandant
Hoess' brand new toy, his crematorium. It was truly a splendid affair, one hundred yards long and fifty yards wide, containing fifteen ovens which could burn three bodies each simultaneously in twenty minutes, a monument in concrete, indeed, to its builder Herr Walter Dejaco."
Am I reading correctly?
A. Quite right.
Q. "Auschwitz survivors who, like myself, were the slave labourers who built it ---"
A. "Who worked to build it".
Q. Yes. ".... who worked to build it , ...." Sorry, I made a mistake. ".... may be interested to learn, incidentally, that Herr Dejaco still practises his craft in Reutte, a town in the Austrian Tyrol. In 1963 he won praise from Bishop Rusk of Innsbruck for the fine new presbytery he had built for Reutte's parish priest.
"In 1943, however, there was a war on and he was concerned with more practical demonstrations of his skill. The extermination industry was still in its infancy, but thanks to his efficiency, it was about to make its first really dramatic stride towards greatness that morning when Himmler came to visit us.
"He certainly saw an impressive demonstration, marred only by a timetable that would have caused concern in many a small German railway station. Kommandant Hoess, anxious to display his new toy at its most efficient, had arranged for a special transport of 3,000 Polish Jews to be present for slaughter in a modern, German way.
"Himmler arrived at eight o'clock that
morning and the show was to start an hour later. By eight forty-five, the new gas chambers with their clever dummy showers and their notice 'Keep Clean', 'Keep Quiet' and so on, were packed to capacity. The S.S. Guards, indeed, had made sure that not an inch of space would be wasted by firing a few shots at the entrance. These encouraged those already inside to press away from the doors and more victims were ushered in. Then babies and very small children were tossed on to the heads of the adults and the doors were closed and sealed.
"An S.S. man, wearing a heavy service gas mask, stood on the roof of the chamber, waiting to drop the Zyklon-B pellets which released a hydrogen cyanide gas. His was a position of honour that day, for seldom would he have had such a distinguished audience and he probably felt as tense as the starter of the Derby.
"By eight fifty-five, the tension was almost unbearable. The man in the mask was fidgeting with his boxes of pellets. He had a fine full house beneath him. But there was no sign of the Reichsfuhrer who had gone off to have breakfast with Kommandant Hoess.
"Somewhere a phone rang. Every head turned towards it. A junior N.C.O. clattered over to the officer in charge of the operation, saluted hastily and panted out a message. The officer's face stiffened, but he said not a word.
"The message was: 'The Reichsfuhrer hasn't finished his breakfast yet.'
["] Everyone relaxed slightly. Then another phone call. Another dash by a perspiring N.C.O. Another message. The officer in charge swore to himself and
muttered to those of equal rank around him.
"The Reichsfuhrer, it seemed, was still at breakfast. The S.S. man on the roof of the gas chamber squatted on his haunches. Inside the chamber itself frantic men and women, who knew by that time what a shower in Auschwitz meant, began shouting, screaming and pounding weakly on the door; but nobody outside heard them because the new chamber was sound-proof as well as gas-proof.
"Even if they had been heard, nobody would have taken any notice of them, for the S.S. had their own worries. The morning dragged on and the messengers came and went. By ten o'clock the marathon breakfast was still under way. By half past ten the S.S. men had become almost immune to false alarms and the man on the roof remained on his haunches even when the distant telephone rang.
"But by eleven o'clock, just two hours later, a car drew up. Himmler and Hoess got out and chatted for a while to the senior officers present. Himmler listened intently, as they explained the procedure to him in detail. He ambled over to the sealed door, glanced casually through the small, thick observation window at the squirming bodies inside, then returned to fire some more questions at his underlings.
"At last, however, everything was ready for action. A sharp command was given to the S.S. man on the roof. He opened a circular lid and dropped the pellets quickly on to the heads below him. He knew, everyone knew, that the heat of those packed bodies would cause these pellets to release their gasses in a few minutes, and so he closed the lid quickly.
"The gassing had begun. Everything waited for a while so that the poison would have circulated properly, Hoess courteously invited his guest to have another peep through the observation window. For some minutes Himmler peered into the death chamber, obviously impressed, and then turned with new interest to his Kommandant with a fresh batch of questions.
"What he had seen seemed to have satisfied him and put him in good humour. Though he rarely smoked, he accepted a cigarette from an officer, and as he puffed at it rather clumsily, he laughed and joked.
"The introduction of this more homely atmosphere, of course, did not mean any neglect of the essential business. Several times he left the group of officers to watch progress through the peep hole; and, when everyone inside was dead, he took a keen interest in the procedure that followed.
"Special lifts took the bodies to the crematorium, but the burning did not follow immediately. Gold teeth had to be removed. Hair, which was used to make the warheads of torpodeos [torpedoes] watertight, had to be cut from the heads of the women. The bodies of wealthy Jews, noted early for their potential had to be set aside for dissection in case any of them had been cunning enough to conceal jewellery diamonds perhaps about their person."
I will stop there.
A. Well, it is only very little ---
Q. --- to the end? I will read to the end.
A. I will appreciate it.
Q. Sure. Certainly:
"It was indeed, a complicated business, but the new machinery worked smoothly under the hands of skilled operators. Himmler waited until the smoke began to thicken over the chimneys and then he glanced at his watch.
"It was one o'clock. Lunch time, in fact. He shook hands with the senior officers, returned the salutes of the lower ranks casually and cheerfully and climbed back into the car with Hoess.
"Auschwitz was in business. And on a scale that would have made little old Yankel Meisel shake his head in wonder and disbelief. He had never been a very ambitious man and the thought of streamlined mass-destruction would have been quite beyond his simple mind.
"But then he had never heard of the Final Solution, let alone of the part which Auschwitz was to play in it."
Now, have I read correctly from the point where I ended?
A. Yes, you did.
Q. All right. And that is a statement. Do you say that that was the true statement?
A. I would say that it was as true as true is the picture which is depicted by the artist in this room.
A. This means ---
Q. Never mind what it means.
A. You asked me one question, if you
will allow me to finish my answer.
Q. Yes, sir.
A. This means it conveyed truthfully the atmosphere existing in Auschwitz during the gassing procedure in the presence of a very highly positioned VIP.
A. What was missing for the explanation and which distorts the sense of your carefully selected passage is that in your passage, twice the name of Yankel Meisel has been mentioned, and because the listeners do not know who that Yankel Meisel actually is, but that Yankel Meisel is named in the same chapter, some confusion might arise from your whole reading, or so it conveyed reasonably well as far as possible for a second-grade artist to describe the atmosphere which existed during the gassing of those unfortunate victims.
Q. Right. Okay. Now, you used an anology by saying that the artist in Court, drawing his picture, was in the same way you were writing this article.
A. About. Otherwise ---
Q. Yeah. Okay.
A. Otherwise I would have to be in the position of the Judges in Frankfurt who had to write eighty books in order not to be in the position of the artist; but to be in the legal position where he can stand up behind every word of the eighty books.
Q. Let's not worry about some judge in Frankfurt. You used the analogy of the artist in Court, and I put it to you that the artist has seen a real
man in a real stand namely, you. Right?
Q. And you are telling this Court you actually saw Heinrich Himmler peeping through the doors of the gas chamber; you told us that?
A. No, I didn't say I was present when he was peeping through the gas chamber, but I have put together a story which I've heard many times from various people who were there present and who related it to me. What I could see was the following, that a transport of eight thousand Jews from Krakow on that occasion ---
Q. Eight thousand, eh? You counted them?
A. By knowledge of the trucks, as I explained to you yesterday, and by knowledge of the number of wagons which arrived to Auschwitz, we knew reasonably well how many of the victims arrived on that day.
Q. Where does it say that there were eight thousand Jews arrived that day in your book?
A. Well, if it doesn't say, I remember it.
A. But I do not say that I have written in the book all I remember, because if I would have write in the book all I remember, I would have had to write all those eighty-one books.
Q. Well, what I am asking is about this specific incident that you described in your book.
Q. You describe it as saying, "This
time I was glad to see him arrive", and then you go on and tell us what you say happened.
Q. Well, I put it to you, you were what eighteen or nineteen years old?
A. At that time it was in '43. I was nineteen years old.
Q. Well, do you tell us that you are standing between Heinrich Himmler and Hoess and hearing their conversation and looking with them or somewhere in the area where they were looking onto a gas chamber? Is that what you are telling me?
A. No. I am telling you that they were looking into the gas chamber, that there were a number of Sonderkommando present, that there were a number of S.S. present.
Q. Were you present?
A. No. I was in the quarantine camp at that time and I spoke with a number of them and listened to them, and I knew that those unfortunate victims were being gassed with a great delay because the VIPs didn't come, so they were being kept in the gas chamber.
Q. Well, in your book you indicate that you saw, and you don't indicate that you heard from other people the story that you related.
A. In this particular case the story is related.
Q. And you say that these things happened as you described, even though you acknowledged they were on the basis of hearsay; right?
Q. Okay. The quarantine camp you described now, if I may, looking at Exhibit "H" for identification, would you agree that's a map of the camp?
A. What about we project the map so the jury can see?
Q. Well, I can hold it.
A. Well, I have the same map and we can just project it.
Q. Well, all right. If you have the same map, let me do it my way just for once. Okay?
A. You be my guest. But just make it in such a way that the jury sees what you are trying here to do. This may be an exhibit.
Q. Well, let's just be -- as long as we can be satisfied that we are not misrepresenting the camp, can we do that?
A. I would prefer if the jury is trying to see exactly what you are trying to say.
THE COURT: Doctor, you will find that when the cross-examination is concluded, counsel for the Crown, if he chooses to do so, will re-examine you. You will please answer the questions as Mr Christie puts them to you.
THE WITNESS: Thank you for being enlightened on that point. Go ahead, Mr Christie.
MR CHRISTIE: I have showed you Exhibit "H" for identification. I ask you if that isn't the case that it is the same map that you presented earlier.
A. Yes. It suffices for its purposes.
Q. It's bigger.
Q. The quarantine camp was BIIA. Right?
Q. And you are talking about an area of KII, Krema II. Right?
Q. This is where you say this happened?
Q. Did you ever go in the area of KII?
A. In the area of KII, I could watch from Block 27.
A. But if you take notice, Mr Counsel, the date was January 1943; but yesterday, if you would have listened what was going on in this court, you would have taken notice, in your notes, that I was in quarantine camp only after June 8th, 1943; therefore I could not observe it from the quarantine camp but from the mortuary of Fred Wetzler from where I later escaped, and this was distance of fifty yards from the crematorium January '43.
Q. Well, didn't you just tell me a few minutes ago that when this event with Himmler happened you were in the quarantine camp? I though I heard you say that.
A. Well, once I realize that it was in January, I realize that I have seen it from here.
Q. Oh. So when you found out the date in the book you decided that you saw it from Block 27.
A. That's right. But I don't say in
the book from where I see it, did I? You tried to impute to me that I have seen it somewhere. You impute it to me that I have seen it from the quarantine camp. I did write about it in the book.
Q. No, but you said, "I saw", in the book, and I got the impression that you are describing firsthand observation.
A. What I saw from the book, if you allow me to explain to you if it is of interest to you you can stop me if it is of no interest ---
Q. I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't of interest.
A. If it was of interest for you, is that I saw part of the procedure, obviously from the mortuary, which is April '43.
Q. Maybe we can show it to the jury. Block 27 is there?
Q. And the quarantine camp is there?
A. Yes. And it was empty in January 1943. There was nobody.
Q. Thank you very much.
A. So I could see it only from Wetzler's mortuary, and I didn't write in the book from where I saw it.
Q. No, you didn't; that's right.
A. But you tried to impute that I saw it from ---
THE COURT: All right. Next question, please.
Q. MR CHRISTIE: Now, I just want
to ask you a couple more questions about this aspect of the story. Are you saying that you saw Heinrich Himmler peer through a window and hear him have a conversation, or is that just what you heard from other people?
A. That I heard from other people.
Q. And you agree with me that in the part that I read to you, it certainly doesn't indicate that this is information received. It puts it in the first person as it you are standing right there, doesn't it?
A. No. Where is it written that it is in the first person?
Q. When you say, when I read to you, "This time I was glad to see him arrive, though not because I still nursed any faint hope ...."; and then you go on to describe the situation without reference to any information received.
A. Well, the word, "I was glad to see him" refers to my naiveté of that time when I still thought that the horrible murders in Auschwitz are being done behind the knowledge of the leading Nazis.
Q. Thank you.
A. And therefore I thought that if he will see those murders, and that's why I was indicating "glad", that if he will see those murders, then he will see here something illegally is happening behind the back of the highest officials of the German Government. That is why I was glad to see him. That is what it refers to. And I was disappointed when I have heard that on the same day as gassing under exceptionally brutal conditions took place, and that he expressed, as I could hear by the grapevine in the camp, his full satisfaction of it, and
that the gassing went on with even greater intensity after he left. And that is what his message tried to convey.
Q. So you had hoped at this stage that he was going to stop it; was that your hope?
A. Because the crimes which we were seeing was so outside any human imagination, we still have hoped, or had hoped quite naively, quite inexperiencedly, I admit, but we had hoped that Auschwitz was run by beings like Hoess, underworld types in military uniform who are murdering en masse behind the back of the high German, highly positioned German Government.
Therefore the visit of someone so close to the German Government enveigled in us false hopes. You know, when people are in horrible situations, they are apt to have false hopes, false hopes that when those highly-positioned people come and see the horrors of Auschwitz, they will see that it is incompatible with the cultural history of a civilization like Germany and will stop it. That is why I said I was glad that he came.
Q. Well, immediately after you say, "This time I was glad to see him arrive", you say, "though not because I still nursed any faint hope that he would improve our lot through benevolence or any sense of justice."
Are those your words?
A. This refers, of course, to beating.
Q. I see. Not to the gassing.
A. Not to the gassing.
Q. Okay. So all the account there is hearsay, but it isn't put as such; right?
A. Well, it is referred to the beating,
because the beating, I didn't hope any improvement because it was known to us that beating and torturing of individual prisoners in Sachsenhausen, in Mauthausen, in Dachau, in Buchenwald, Ravensbruck, in Flossen, was a very well-known and accepted method by which the leadership of the Nazis knew. In Auschwitz took something different, mass gassings, and therefore we expected or thought that mass murder, especially against children and old women and pregnant women on such a scale, might possibly be done by depraved fanatics behind the back of the German government.
Q. Had you, at that time, knowledge of all these things about those other concentration camps?
A. Very good knowledge.
Q. So there must have been knowledge coming in and out of all the various concentration camps.
A. Yes. Before I came to the concentration camps of Auschwitz there were a number of books published by German refugees who have seen various concentration camps like Dachau.
For example, Bruno Bethlehem [Bettelheim] from Chicago, who was in Dachau in '33, '34, and then was released and came to America and wrote a book about it, such books were in general knowledge in Czechoslovakia even before the Germans, the Nazis, occupied our native country.
Consequently, we were pretty well informed that beating and torture of prisoners in German concentration camps takes place on a great scale. Braun Buch, which translated means Brown Book, and it doesn't relate to Lichtenstein, it relates to a number of
survivors of German concentration camps who published a great amount of material in 1933, 1939, and I was reading that materials, and therefore knew that this is common in German concentration camps. But there was nothing yet about gas chambers.
Furthermore, in Auschwitz there were a number of prisoners from those concentration camps who were transferred to concentration camp Auschwitz.
I, myself, was not in Auschwitz -- this was not my first concentration camp. I came from Maidenek. Consequently, we were informed, in Auschwitz, about events in other concentration camps. We knew that in other concentration camps torture of prisoners takes place and irregular beatings, but we knew, as far as we could see, that mass gassings of completely innocent and unregistered people takes place only in Auschwitz.
Q. I see. Is that all you want to say on that?
A. If that is satisfactory for you for a literary discussion about my modest product, yes, unless you have more questions.
Q. Oh, I do. Are you familiar with the Calendarium of Auschwitz?
A. I know that such a Calendarium exists, but I have never seen one.
Q. Records the events of the camp.
A. Yes, it was used. I have seen it in court in Frankfurt where the Chief Judge, presiding judge, Dr Hofbauer, showed it and ---
THE COURT: Just a moment, Doctor. Go on to the next question.
MR CHRISTIE: Thank you.
Q. Is this a record of your escape on the 7th of April, 1944?
A. Austenlager [Auss--] ---
THE COURT: Doctor, this is a trial in the English language. Would you please look at it and then answer counsel's questions?
THE WITNESS: Right. Would you formulate your question kindly once more?
MR CHRISTIE: Is that your account of the escape or the escape from Auschwitz that you claim you undertook?
A. Here is one paragraph called Paragraph 7.4, in which it is in two and a half ---
Q. Just listen to the question. Okay? Is that the account or a record of an escape on the 7th of April involving Alfred Wetzler and Walter Rosenberg?
A. Here is nothing about April 7.
Q. Well, four seven is the seventh day of the fourth month, isn't it?
A. No. 4407 is the number which is tattooed.
Q. No. 7.4.
A. Oh, this is a date.
Q. Seventh day, fourth month?
A. There is no year written.
Q. Go back further and you will see that it is 1944. Look at the book. Here we go. Can you see yourself that that pertains to 1944?
A. Published in 1964 by the Museum in Poland.
Q. Yes. The Auschwitz Museum, right?
Q. Now, did you want to see yourself that that is for the year 1944?
A. I believe you.
Q. You believe me? All right.
A. With this document in your hands I believe you.
Q. All right. Let's turn back to where we had your date on the 7th of April.
Q. Does this not report the escape of an Alfred Wetzler and Walter Rosenberg?
A. That is perfectly right.
Q. That is what it says occurred on that date?
A. Yes. And it also records our numbers tattooed on our hand.
Q. On your hand, eh?
Q. Which hand?
A. On the left hand.
Q. So that's when you say that your escape occurred; is that right?
A. On 7 April, 1944. Start of the escape.
Q. Did you say also that when you left, Kanada had not been established in Birkenau?
A. To the best of my knowledge, no, but Kanada was stationed in Birkenau for the night. In other words, they lived in the barracks in the night in
Birkenau since 15 January, 1943.
Q. I am now going to show you the Calendarium for 1943. Are you satisfied that's the Calendarium for 1943?
Q. The first half of the year.
Q. I am going to read it to you in English and I am going to put it to you that that is what that says in English, and I am going to ask you if I have provided you with the correct translation.
Q. It says: 14th day, 12th month, 1943, in Birkenau, the finished the section "BII", the construction of the storage buildings which was called by the inmates Kanada. In the storage buildings there have been thirty-five barracks. In thirty of them the belonging[s] of Jews were stored and selected. In two barracks inmates did live which did care for the store. In the rest of the buildings the administration was located.
Have I read that translation correctly?
A. I understand correctly now the German text. Would you now read me the translation?
Q. All right: in Birkenau they finished building the section "BII", the construction of the storage section which was called by the inmates Kanada. In the storage buildings there have been thirty-five barracks. In thirty of them the belongings of Jews was stored and selected. In two barracks inmates did live which did care for the store. In the rest of the buildings the administration was located.
Have I read it correctly, sir?
A. That's right.
Q. All right. That indicates that on the 14th of December, 1943, the area called Kanada was finished, and you said that it wasn't finished before you left.
A. To my recollection it wasn't finished before I left. So, also to my recollection, Kanada command which I saw frequently on the street in section "BIID", they were there as usually, but I was away from that command for a long time, and that command was from that time on of smaller interest to me.
Now, if this particular thing refers to finishment of plans or to finishment of barracks or to actual transport of the prisoners into those barracks, this is a question.
I am not quite sure, with all respect to Polish researchers, if their records are better than my memory.
Q. Mm-hmmm. Would you say, sir, that you told us yesterday about burning pits?
Q. Would you say that yesterday you told us there were pits that were six meters wide, six meters long and six meters deep?
A. I also made the remark that I didn't make a measurement with a tape, but it was my
judgment of that measures.
Q. You gave us an example by referring to the panels on the wall, and you pointed up to, I think, the top of the first panel; didn't you?
A. Yes, that would be it.
Q. Mm-hmmm. Well, how do you explain the method by which the Germans could burn bodies under water in this marshy ground where the water level was about -- well, you described it as marshy ground. Tell us how they did that.
A. Well, they didn't invite me for technical consultations. And if you accept that I'm not speaking only as a witness, I saw only when it was finished; but if you want my technical advice, I would think, without having seen how they have done it and without me having consulted how they have done it, that I could have do it myself given three, four hundred slave labourers. There's no problem.
Q. Well, tell me how -- you agree you described the ground all around there as marshy ground, or do you say otherwise?
A. The ground all around was marshy. This means as a countryside.
Q. Because it was between two rivers.
A. It was between two rivers, but as you probably have been in your life in a marshy countryside there are occasional visitors around and fisherman. So in marshy land I would say that there are some quite dried out, well-prepared pieces of land by the administration of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp which were not marshy or which
were not to be considered too marshy, especially when I was in winter 1942 it was heavy frost, and you know, it was sort of solid earth.
Q. Mm-hmmm. It was frozen earth?
A. Frozen earth.
Q. Well, how does the fire keep the water from melting?
A. How does fire ....
Q. How is the fire arranged so that the water in this marshy ground did not melt and fill up the pit that was as high as that top panel on the wall over there? That's a long way down, isn't it?
A. Yes. Well, you are asking me again something which I do not know, neither from eye witness account, nor have I consulted on technical problem, and I suppose that anybody with a slight technical education will explain to you that if you are in a marshy land and dry out that marsh on, say, one kilometer square, then you get completely different conditions within that kilometer square than in the rest of the marsh. I would think so.
Q. You would think so.
A. But you are asking me not eye witness account.
Q. What do you mean?
A. You are asking me I should speculate here how Germans have done something, whereas I am only telling you what I have actually seen.
Q. Yes. You have actually seen a pit as deep as the top panel of that wall in the courtroom in which there was a fire in the bottom.
A. No. The fire was extinguished. I said, if you listen carefully, that the pit was not in use when I have seen it, but it was in use a short time before, because heat was still coming out of the pit.
A. And by looking into the pit I saw residues of children's bones.
Q. Mm-hmmm. Residues of children's bones.
A. Yes. Head bones.
Q. Head bones. Now, is it the case, then, that you say that the remnant of the fire from which you warmed yourself was down in the bottom of the pit?
A. Well, if you keep in that pit a considerable fire for two or three days and then go away, it leaves a fire, so to say, extinguished, and come after two days -- this was a big fire, four or five hundred bodies were burned there, say.
Q. All right, we will say that.
A. And say after two days it is very cold and you put on gloves and you put your hand over that ....
Q. The fire?
A. Not the fire, over that hole ....
A. Yeah. You will feel that warmth comes up.
Q. I'm sure you would.
A. And that is what I felt.
Q. You felt that.
A. That's why I was standing there, you
see. The view of the children's heads was not sort of too enlightening or pleasing my heart.
Q. So you described it as a pit that was that deep. I suppose you mean to the part where there was solid or some evidence of the children's heads, they were down ---
A. --- at the bottom of the pit.
Q. Six meters.
A. Yes. At the bottom of the pit.
Q. Six meters down?
A. Yes. But it was only four meters and not six meters, because I didn't have a tape, and my measures would be very sort of lost, and perhaps in view of the awesome situation it might have appeared to me bigger than it was, you see, within a meter or two.
Q. Within ---
A. I know you will blame me that I didn't use a yardstick, but it wasn't technically possible.
Q. No, I don't blame you at all. I am just asking you questions, and perhaps if you will answer them, that will be a good idea.
A. I will be pleased.
Q. So if I understand you correctly, the six by six by six meters you say might be cut by one or two meters?
A. Might be out by one or two meters.
Q. Mm-hmmm. You don't understand or know any reason why there would be no water in the bottom of this pit; you have no explanation for that at all.
A. Of course I have an explanation. If the pit was heated up, and if there was a lot of bodies
burning, everything -- and if it was not used once but many times, then the water from around would have long time dried out.
Q. I see. Is it true that what you said earlier was the case that it was marshy ground?
A. The marshy ground was general around Auschwitz. In other words ---
Q. Not around Birkenau?
A. Around Birkenau. In other words, how marshy Birkenau was, I, the first time realized only after I left Birkenau and had to cross the common camp area.
In other words, Birkenau was build up in a marsh area, but Birkenau itself was not marshy any more.
Q. Oh, you say that it was built up above the level of the land.
A. I do not say that it was built above the level of the land, but proper and simple ameliorative measures were taken so that Birkenau and the Birkenau installations will not be succumbed by the swamps. The swamps were there, otherwise you will have to ask for the technical administration of Auschwitz camp house. I am not a builder, but I knew how to build things.
Q. What ameliorative measures do you say were taken?
A. Yes, ameliorative measures, which translated means measures to regulate unexpected flood of water. It is used quite frequently by great agricultural enterprises when they want a piece of their
agricultural dry, and a piece wet. This is achieved by amelioration.
Q. What ameliorative measures do you say were taken to prevent water from being a problem in Auschwitz? Do you say that they raised the level of the land?
A. The camp administrations did not inform me about those technical details. I have no knowledge.
Q. Now, you gave a description of a gas chamber. I think, if I interpreted you correctly, that you saw from Block 27 ---
Q. --- Alfred Wetzler's mortuary ---
Q. --- the wooden building that isn't on the plan ....
A. That's right.
Q. Did he build it himself?
A. No. It was built.
Q. Could you, taking this map, Exhibit "H", be so kind as to make marks, and I'd like to give you a coloured pen to do it with.
A. Yes. And you want me to make certain marks?
THE COURT: No. Just a moment, please. Here is a red one.
MR CHRISTIE: Thank you very much, Your Honour.
Q. Could you just show us, by circling on this Exhibit "H" -- do you want to move that? Now,
could you circle the block where the mortuary was?
A. The mortuary -- this was Block No. 27.
Q. Right. It's marked right on it. Just mark a circle around it if you would.
A. And the mortuary was there, wooden annex. So that the one wall of 27 was one wall of mortuary which was wood. In other words, it was a duplex.
Q. Do you mind if I draw an arrow and you can label it? Just label that and label it -- may I do it? If I can write it, it may be a little bit clearer.
A. It's your property. You can write what you want.
Q. And that's where Alfred Wetzler ....
A. Has his office and his mortuary until 8 June 1943.
Q. And that is where you made your observations, right?
Q. Okay. Can you just put your initials right there so that I am confirming that that's what you've told me and I have written it down according to your instructions?
A. Yes. But the direction in which I looked was completely different from where you have ---
Q. I put the arrow there just because of the paper, not for direction.
A. And because you are a stickler for
accuracy, it is Vetzler (phonetic) not Wetzler (phonetic), and you might blame me that I gave you a false name.
Q. No, I wouldn't do that. Now, you might tell us, then, where you saw this man dump, when you said, the Zyklon-B through the hatches.
A. I beg your pardon?
Q. You said you saw an S.S. man dumping Zyklon-B through the hatches. Now, if you could make a specific mark where you saw that, maybe a zero or a circle or some mark.
Q. What would you use?
A. I think I would use either here or here.
Q. So there's two possible places?
A. Yes, because my memory is not bad. It is not perfect ....
Q. So you put it in two places and you put three dots in each place.
A. That's right.
Q. Could you take and draw an arrow up to here and then identify in the piece of paper what it is you saw there? This is where you saw, what, the S.S. man dump the Zyklon, right?
A. S.S. man dumps Zyklon.
Q. All right.
A. Into vents of bunker protruding from Krematorium I, Krematorium II in a way that was clearly in line of sight when I was looking from the window.
Q. Well, we don't want to write the whole story there. You'd better stop.
A. You want to be exact. When I was
looking from the window of the mortuary next to Block 27 Birkenau IB.
Q. Mm-hmmm. Good.
A. Should I initial this, too.
Q. You might as well.
A. Yes. You got an autograph.
THE COURT: That exhibit will now be Exhibit 21.
--- EXHIBIT NO.21: Map of Birkenau
(Formerly Exhibit "H")
Q. MR CHRISTIE: Now, Mr Vrba ---
A. I am, for the last thirty-five years, accustomed to be called Dr Vrba, but if it is not suitable for you, you can call me sir. It is shorter.
Q. Thank you very much, sir. Would you agree with me that I am now pointing -- you had better check and see that I am pointed in the right place -- to the protruding portions that you've identified, and there's two places where you put three dots. Is that right two places where you put three dots?
A. Yes. Yes. But I have specified that it was protruding from the cremotorium as a bunker. That should cover the situation.
Q. All right. I would just like to show that to the jury.
Now, Dr Vrba, just tell us once more how it was that you saw the S.S. man get up onto that bunker.
A. You mean I should repeat my state-
ment from yesterday?
Q. Just the part about getting up to the bunker. Just describe that. Let me say to you that you said he put one can up on top ....
A. Yes. He first put the cans down because he brought them not with the carriage; he brought them under his arms, and there might have been five or six.
Q. Five or six cans.
Q. And he picked one up and put it on top?
A. First one down and he started to put them up on top, and he crept up on it like a monkey, which surprised me.
Q. You say he hooked his arms over the edge and pulled himself up?
A. Yes. He sort of climbed up like a monkey.
Q. He had to reach up to the edge of the bunker?
A. Yes. Or, you know, to get a hold with his hand.
A. And then he was climbing over the cement, which is rather smooth, but he managed to get up.
Q. Well, the last time you said he was rather sporty in the way he pulled himself up, yesterday.
Q. Now, how high was it that he had to reach up?
A. I would say it was high enough that he couldn't walk up, but he could make an exercise.
Q. He could make an exercise?
THE COURT: Just a minute. Just stay where you are.
THE WITNESS: He had to make an effort. He couldn't walk up or jump up. It was higher than that.
Q. MR CHRISTIE: Did he have to reach higher than I am reaching now?
Q. And then, getting a hold of the edge of the roof and pulling himself up?
A. Possibly, but possibly his hands were in this position. This I wouldn't, after forty years, to say, or so. You can say, then, of course, if my memory is imbecile, but after forty years this difference in movement I couldn't guarantee.
Q. Well, I suggest to you, sir, that -- were you talking about a flat roof?
Q. And this roof, you say, was fixed with vents, there were vents on it three?
A. Three or four.
Q. On your picture you drew three.
Q. And you led us to believe that he was rather sporty, and you remember yesterday you used that term?
Q. You said it was unusual for an S.S.
man to do that?
A. Yes, because they had a pathological condition of his self dignity. And here I saw he didn't care.
Q. So am I clear in understanding you that the wall that he had to climb up on was a cement wall?
Q. Are you sure of that?
A. Pretty sure.
Q. Pretty sure?
A. Yes. I didn't touch it, but as far as I can see cement from a distance of fifty yards, I would say pretty sure. I had no doubt in my mind about it.
Q. Do you know what a Leichenkeller is?
Q. You know what it is?
Q. What is it?
A. It is a mortuary.
Q. I suggest to you that what you are talking about is the roof of the mortuary, and the mortuary was underground.
A. Have you been there?
Q. No, I haven't, sir. Have you?
A. No, but I've heard that it was a gas chamber from those who worked there.
Q. You say you haven't been there.
A. No, not inside. Usually those who were inside didn't come out, so I was lucky not to be in there.
Q. You are very amusing, sir, but please answer my question. Do you say that the roof of the building was above the ground, or parallel to the ground level?
A. The roof was above the ground, but you could see that it was a roof of something which goes deep down, and mortuary was not necessary there for camp inmates because we had, at maximum, in Birkenau, only three hundred or four hundred daily dead, and they were taken in every night to Auschwitz for burning. So why would they have a mortuary of the size of thirty yards long for four hundred dead which had perfectly good place in Fred's little cabin?
Q. So in Fred's little cabin you kept three hundred or four hundred dead every day.
Q. And from there they were taken to the crematoria.
A. That's right. And the cabin wasn't bigger than this here, you see, and I can show you how three hundred people can be put within this space.
Q. With enough room for you to drink coffee?
A. And enough room for us to drink coffee on table on top of it, yes, with a white serviette under us.
Q. Now, you gave us reason to believe that if a person was sick they went to hospital and there was no treatment and they would die. Right?
A. Usually, but sometimes there was treatment.
Q. Yes. Well, was it the case that they tried to keep people alive?
A. In that hospital?
Q. No. In the camp at all. My impression from you yesterday was that if somebody got sick and couldn't work, they were either put on the ground and a bar was put across his throat and then the Kapo would jump on both sides of the bar and break his throat ....
A. That's right, if he was in the mood, or ---
Q. .... or just a moment he would be killed by the Blockältester for not standing or if he was in the mood, he would send him to the hospital, which was not a hospital but Krankenbau; Krankenbau, translated, did not mean hospital but it means a building for the sick.
A. That is what it was called.
THE COURT: Mr Christie, I think we will adjourn. Twenty minutes.
--- The jury retires. 11:30 a.m.
THE COURT: Doctor, you can step down. Please do not discuss this case with anyone until this case is completed.
--- The witness stands down.
--- Short adjournment.
--- Upon resuming.
--- The witness returns to the stand.
THE COURT: Is there anything, gentlemen, before I call the jury?
MR CHRISTIE: No. Thank you.
THE COURT: Bring in the jury, please.
--- The jury enters. 12:00 p.m.
THE COURT: Go ahead, Mr Christie.
MR CHRISTIE: Thank you.
Q. I was asking you, Dr Vrba, about whether people who were sick ever received medical treatment.
A. There were exceptions that they did receive medical treatment.
Q. You were one of them; in fact, you had a surgical operation and were anesthetized and, obviously, recovered. Is that right?
A. That is so.
Q. You developed, I understand, some kind of infection in the area of your posterior; am I right?
A. That's right.
Q. And it obviously resulted in you being unable to work at all, right?
A. This is a consequence of beating.
Q. Yes, because you were beaten. You suffered an injury and were beaten by a Kapo?
A. No. By an S.S. man.
Q. And you suffered an injury and then you were taken to a hospital where you were anesthetized, and before you were completely under the anesthetic I gather they had begun operating on you.
A. That's right.
Q. And you recovered?
A. That's right.
Q. So I suppose that there was some kind of septicimia or blood poisoning from your previous injury; is that right?
A. The beating on the buttocks usually results in the destruction of a number of tissues connected to it, and that cells are liable to infection which then spreads. The surgery was therefore necessary to prevent a general poisoning of blood.
Q. You went to the hospital; you got the surgery and you recovered.
Q. I suppose that they had to apply stitches to the wound.
Q. You don't know?
A. I don't know. The wound is still there.
Q. Now, I'd like you to turn to page 209 of your hardcover book. I'd like you to read the third paragraph with me and make sure I don't miss a word. It begins with the words, "His physical strength".
Have you found it? Page 209 of your edition.
A. I am looking for it.
Q. It is actually the third full
paragraph from the top. The first part of the paragraph begins from the previous page, so it begins with the words, "His physical strength".
A. On page 208.
A. "His physical strength was such", yes.
Q. ".... that even the Monkey Tyn, the Camp Senior, was afraid of him. His contacts among the influential prisoners in general and the Sonderkommando, who had access to the valuables of the gas chamber victims, in particular, were closer than those of Fero Langer."
Am I pronouncing that right?
Q. "He was a millionaire even by the standards of Birkenau, where I have seen twenty-dollar bills used as toilet paper; ...."
Q. " ....and he used his wealth to gain power over the S.S. by the simple expedient of bribery."
A. That's right.
Q. So it is right that you have seen $20 bills used as toilet paper in Birkenau?
A. I used them.
Q. You used them.
A. Yes, so that they don't get into the hands of the Germans.
Q. So that's the truth, then.
Q. Thank you. These are $20 American bills, or Canadian bills?
A. I have seen only American money and English pound. The English pounds were much more suitable for this purpose because they were printed only on one side.
Q. So you've seen people use these for toilet paper as you say.
Q. You watched them use them for toilet paper?
A. Well, they usually were in a certain amount of privacy and I didn't look so close, but I knew that sometimes money which had to be delivered to the S.S., when we were sorting out the property, has been disposed of instead of being given away, into the toilets, so that the Nazis don't get hold of Western currency. It was a type of sabotage.
Q. I see. Why not just rip the money up?
A. Because by ripping the money up it is rather a long process, and if somebody would see it, you would lose the life of it.
A. Well, it would be easier to smuggle it into a latrine and use it for toilet paper?
A. Well, if you go to the toilet you might use it for toilet paper, or if you are worried, you can throw it in. Sometimes I threw bundles of hundred-dollar notes.
Q. I see. Whole bundles of hundred-dollar notes.
A. That's right.
Q. And you also seemed to indicate that bribes in the region of hundred thousand British pounds were used in the camp, don't you?
A. This is quite possible, yes; but such bribes were not paid in currency. They were paid, usually, in diamonds you know, a tin-full with diamonds is sometimes worth hundred thousand pounds or more.
Q. Well, I understand you to have said, at one point, that somebody bribed an S.S. guard with a hundred thousand pounds.
A. Well, I didn't refer to cash. I referred to valuables valued at hundred thousand pounds.
Q. The way I understand the story you told was that the S.S. guard would be paid from somebody outside the camp.
A. I don't understand now to which story you refer.
Q. Mm-hmmm. You don't remember that?
A. Would you please remind me? There were several stories, bribery of S.S. The S.S., apart from being murderers, were also thieves. This goes together.
Q. Sure. You don't recall the story of the hundred-pound bribe that you used in your book? There were more than one?
A. The bribe that Charles Ungel paid in order to smuggle him out from the camp?
A. Yes, I remember the story, and I remember that money was supposed to be paid. It was in
tins. So this means that I assume that there were gold and $20 pieces and various other gold monets, and mainly diamonds with considerable size of carats, and it would be roughly valued to a value of half a million dollars or hundred thousand pounds.
Q. Mm-hmmm. Do you agree with me that many people escaped from Auschwitz?
A. I have no statistics about it.
Q. Are you familiar with the book, "Fighting Auschwitz", by Joseph Garlinski?
Q. Are you familiar with that book?
A. I think I perused that book, yes.
A. I perused that book. I even met Mr Garlinski in Paris once in 1972.
Q. Yeah. Do you agree with me that he indicates that altogether there escaped from Auschwitz and its sub camps, chiefly Birkenau, 667 prisoners of whom sixteen were women in 1942, in 1941, six ---
Q. (A) Does he refer to successful attempts or escapes of attempts?
Q. Well, later on he deals with how many were successful, but I am dealing with escapes.
A. Well, you see, here you must take it with a pinch of salt, because Germans considered escapes attempt, they hang. For example, I saw a political prisoner hanged because he had two shirts under his tunic, and he said he wear two shirts because he is feeling cold, and the answer was, if others can feel one shirt without feeling cold and he wears two shirts, then
this is obviously preparation for escape and he was hanged for that. Now, in the statistics it would go as execution for attempt to escape, so I don't know, therefore, how the statistics correlate for attempts to escape.
Q. So you don't know whether there were other people who escaped or not.
A. I know that there was a major outbreak of sixty-five Russians under special circumstances, and I have been present on numerous amount of hangings of people who were supposed to have tried to escape.
A. But I have got no personal knowledge of anybody who successfully escaped without being brought back into the camp.
Q. I see. So nobody successfully escaped.
A. To my knowledge.
Q. So that is why, I suppose, nobody but you would have raised the extermination allegation. Is that your explanation?
A. No. Some people escaped, perhaps, and went into hiding. And so that they are perfectly satisfied with the achievement that saved their lives from the hands of those murderers, but I felt that I have to do more, and that is why I wrote the report and tried to allow the events which are occurring in Auschwitz.
Q. You had a deep and abiding hatred for the Germans, I would imagine.
A. I am perfectly fluent in German as well as in Russian, and I love Goerthe and I love Pushkin
and I am an enemy of anything that smells of hatred against a nationality. I had a perfectly human hatred against Nazis because these were anti-human organization against whom the whole world was fighting for bloody six years, and I was no exception in the will and decision to do everything possible to get this evil down from the face of the earth.
Q. Mm-hmmm. So it's a political organization you hated, not the people themselves.
A. To hate the people as a nation I consider a criminal matter.
Q. Mm-hmmm. You hated the Nazis, though, I assume from your answer; is that right?
A. I would say so.
Q. And you hate them enough to lie about them?
A. I beg your pardon?
Q. Do you hate them enough to lie about them?
A. I have sworn on oath that here I will say the truth, and you will make an innuendo that I have lied in anything, then you would have to support it with some evidence, otherwise I would think badly about it.
Q. Well, I suggest to you that in your previous evidence you gave us to believe and told us as a fact that when the S.S. man climbed up on the long bunker, he had to reach up six and a half to seven feet. I put it to you that that is exactly what you said, sir, isn't it?
A. Is it?
Q. I put it to you, and you are the
witness, and you have the memory and you testified, I put it to you that's what you said.
A. I said, basically, that he had to reach up upon that bunker, and that bunker was, as far as I remember, certainly up to here if one would stand nearby, perhaps higher. So in other words he had to reach up and he had to climb. I didn't go there with a tape to measure if it was five or seven. You must understand that if I use such approximations, I am using them in order to make it more understandable to the jury and to the court of what approximately was involved, but they are not identical with engineering measurements.
Q. Well, you gave us to believe and you told us, as a matter of fact, and I put it to you that you said six and a half to seven feet.
Q. That's what you said.
A. Yes, that would be approximately the height of a grown-up man
Q. Now, I put it to you that the roof of the Leichenkeller to which you referred on the map ....
Q. .... was actually parrallel to and very close to the ground.
A. That is what you are putting to me?
Q. Yes. That's right.
A. How do you know that?
Q. Because I have seen the plans, if you want an answer. Have you seen the plans?
Q. I will show them to you. I now produce and show to you George Wellersleigh's (Wellers) "Gas Chambers" -- or "Les Chambres a Gas ont Existée" The Gas Chambers Do Exist.
A. Did exist.
THE COURT: Ask him if he knows about the book and the plan.
MR CHRISTIE: Have you seen this book before?
A. I have never seen this book before, but I have seen the author, George Wellers.
Q. Have you seen these plans before?
A. I have not seen the plans. May I make a remark?
Q. You described the death of Josef Erdelyi, on page 149, 152 193 (153?) of my book, and then on page 170. Can you tell me why you described it?
A. Could you once more tell me the numbers?
Q. On page 149, 152 and 153 149, 152 you describe the death of Josef Erdelyi from typhus, and then on page 152 you describe him as being with you. Can you explain that?
A. Numbers up to 153?
Q. Yes. Those are the pages and they are identical. You are using the hardcover edition; I am using the soft edition.
A. Well, I don't need to go into the matter to explain this, because I remember it quite well. What happened is the following:
I described in the book the death of Erdelyi, and then, later, Erdelyi appears as a hanging as a witness; is that right?
Q. That is what I recall.
A. That's right. That was in the book. You are recording it quite right. This means that I described how my friend, Erdelyi from Banowce (ph), a friend of mine, from childhood, in approximately September or October 1942, but in later part of the book, until then, I haven't written anything about the procedures which are applied in Auschwitz for attempts to escape. And the first time when I saw such procedures was approximately in July 1942, in the first week when I was in Auschwitz. At that time Erdelyi lived. In other words, what I have used in this book is what is a general technique of many who write books on literature, that is a flashback.
Q. Yes. Okay. So it's a flashback, right?
Q. Okay. Now, in the book you give narrative. You give words to people and you create situations.
A. Words to people who create situations?
A. No, I don't create situations. I describe situations.
Q. Can you tell us how, in this book, you describe the words uttered by people at the time?
A. I certainly didn't have a stenographist nearby to record the words exactly, neither did
I have a dictaphone to ---
Q. But I suggest you have a good imagination, so I suggest you created the words.
A. You can call it imagination or you can call it good memory.
A. In other words, I have created the situation in an artistic way, if you allow me to count myself on account of this book as an artist or as an artistic attempt.
Q. I suggest, also, that you falsified to some extent as well, because throughout the book you referred to someone by the name of Rudolf Vrba, and you attribute the name Vrba to the conversations, and Rudi, meaning you, and in fact, there was nobody by that name in the camp, sir. Is that right?
A. That is perfectly so, but I would take a great objection against your word "falsify", because I would say, then, that the artist drawn my moustache in a different way has falsified something. This is not a document, but literature, and literature has been meant mainly for young people and it would be for young people a considerable confusion to explain to them all the methods of clandestine work and how it came that the names have to be changed.
Moreover, I would have to explain my real ground and reasons why I changed my German name to the name of my native language, and this would have transferred, perhaps, a national hatred to the reader, which I wanted to avoid, against the Germans.
In other words, I used my licence of
a poet, it is called licensia poetarium, to put in the book only those facts and events which will enable a young person to understand the general situation.
Q. Mm-hmmm. So for you it's poetic licence?
A. Poetic licence in this particular case.
A. In other words, I am not bound to make of it a document, but re-creates the situation as close as possible to the truth without complicating it.
Q. Without complicating it. Without quoting from the book that you have, I am quoting from one that you acknowledge is attributed to you. Maybe we should check the foreword, the preface in the one you have.
Q. See if it's the same preface.
Q. Will you agree with this statement about this writing: "There is no chip on his shoulder; and bitterness, where it exists, is controlled carefully by undeniable facts, not by fancies ...."
Do you agree?
A. Where bitterness ....
Q. No. ".... and bitterness, where it exists, is controlled carefully by undeniable facts, not by fancies."
A. That is perfectly so. In the first line, as far as the bitterness, it is absolutely unimportant in this Court whether I am bitter or sweet. The fact is, whether I am right or wrong about the gas chamber
in Auschwitz, as far as the preface which is written about Mr Alan Bestic, you have to discuss the literary merits of Mr Bestic with him personally.
Q. I am interested in discussing the facts with you, and I want to know if you say that it is an undeniable fact contained within this book.
A. This book describes that Auschwitz was a place of mass extermination, that during the time when I was, 1,760,000 men, women and children were murdered in a low way.
Q. In the gas chamber?
A. In the gas chamber and otherwise.
Q. I have a question for you.
A. Please don't interrupt -- and to this extent, the book, naturally, is true.
Q. You say 1.7 million people were gassed in Auschwitz, and that is truth?
A. 1.7 million -- 1,760,000 plus, in the time of my being there, because many others were killed when I wasn't there, but I wasn't an eye witness and I have no right to talk about that.
Q. You say 1.75 --
A. 1.765, according to my count.
Q. Of people gassed while you were there
Q. That includes Jews and gentiles and everybody else.
A. That's right.
Q. Isn't it true that in the War Refugee Report that you provided at the time, that you
said 2.5 million people were gassed while you were there.
A. I've got the War REfugee Board here in front of me, and it comes from the Office of the President of the United States of America, and has a seal of the Criminal Division of the Office of Special Investigations.
Q. I am wrong. I will withdraw that question.
A. You are wrong again, or should I prove that you are wrong?
Q. No, that's fine. I'll admit I am wrong.
A. Because according to here ---
THE COURT: Just a moment, Doctor. Defence counsel has said, as I heard him, that he was wrong. I don't think there is any need for you to prove it unless he asks you again.
A. Thank you.
Q. MR CHRISTIE: You say 1.765 million, is that right?
A. 1.765 thousand.
Q. Right. Did you see one person being gassed yourself?
A. I saw 1.765 thousand people walk into the space between Krematorium I and Krematorium II, Krematorium III and Krematorium IV, were in front of my eyes knowing that the space is absolutely closed, because there is no road out from there except coming back the way they went in, and nobody came out from there except smoke. If you, perhaps, suggest that they are still there, that's a different thing.
Q. Well, we will discuss that in a moment, but we will find in your book where it says and I am using page ten, but your book is slightly different I am just going to read it to you:
"For the machinery that sucked in 2,500,000 men, women and children in three years and puffed them out in harmless black smoke ...."
Was that what you said?
A. Which page is that?
Q. Mine was ten. Yours is around there in your hard cover.
A. Well, this is a very simple calculation, Mr Counsel, because when I escaped on April 7, 1944, the main message which I was carrying was that everything is prepared for the mass murder of Hungarian Jews. At that time there was one million Hungarian Jews, and as you can find from historical documentation which is presently available, in the time of July 15 to -- May 15, 1944 to July 7, 1944, not less than 437,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz, of which ninety percent were gassed at arrival.
Now, if you add to 1,765,000 those Hungarian Jews which were deported to Auschwitz immediately after my escape, plus as we know many thousands of Jews who were brought to Auschwitz for process of mass murder from the ghetto of Loge and from the ghetto of Theresine in the month after my escape, you will find that my figures are as true as possible or as close as possible to the historical records.
Q. So you are telling me about the facts that you gathered from other sources and you are
telling me that it is ---
A. Plus my judgment, with my accuracy, with trusting to what I have seen, and with knowing what happened in Hungary, because many of my relatives perished at the same time, and with knowing, studying the history of this period, I arrived at a figure of two and a half million dead in Auschwitz, saying that this figure is pretty close to the truth, but the truth cannot be established with my means better than with a maximum possible error of truth minus ten per cent. That is clearly stated at the end of this book. And in my affidavit, which I have put under oath, the Embassy of Israel 1960 the Eichmann trial, and if I am allowed to quote the exact ---
THE COURT: Not at the moment.
Q. MR. CHRISTIE: It was a simple question as to whether you estimated 2,500,000, and I think you said yes, and you've told us why. Maybe I will go on to another question unless there is something you want to say.
A. And you have got here everything how I came to the 2,500,000. You are confusing us here because the jury did not read the book, and therefore you are again pulling out things which I have to repeat and which are here on this page, and I can tell you on this page is written that I have seen only one million three quarters to die until April 7th, and I have also said that the figure two and a half million is made up by the addition of the final value of my statistics in April 1944 plus a known figure of 400,000 Hungarian Jews killed in May, June and July 1944, plus official figure
of about 350,000 registered prisoners who died in Auschwitz.
Thus, as far as I could recollect, according to my memory, observations and opinion, the number of victims in Auschwitz was two and a half million. Thus, my estimation of the death roll in Auschwitz and the estimation made by Rudolf Hoess, the commander of Auschwitz, made independently of each other and using different methods, were nevertheless in good agreement, and I declare by Almighty God that this is my name and signature and that the contents of my affidavit are true.
So you see what is the difference between you tearing out a statement and between presenting the statement in full as I suggested.
Q. I suppose the only difference is, you confirm that your figures now agree with those of Rudolf Hoess. Right?
A. As far as I could see. I read the figures of Rudolf Hoess and I arrived at the same conclusion as Rudolf Hoess. Also, Rudolf Hoess statistics, his method of observation is different than mine, and he came to the same figure. But I gave my figure in April 1944 when Rudolf Hoess was still commander in Auschwitz, and that figure was reached the President of the United States in November 1944, when Rudolf Hoess was still commander in Auschwitz, and it is therefore obvious that it is not likely that I copied my statement from Rudolf Hoess.
Q. No. I quite agree with you. But how do you explain the fact that the estimate given by
you coincided with a statement given by Hoess two years later?
A. Because Hoess knew the truth, and I knew the truth.
Q. How do you explain the fact that experts like Dr Raul Hilberg dispute that figure and say it is closer to one million, or, in Reitlinger's case, 800,000 at Birkenau?
A. It is not for me to explain the scholarships of Reitlinger or Hilberg, because they have different methods of scholarships. For them, if they do not have documents of considerable value and amount, which are very difficult to obtain, they prefer not to include that figure in their final calculation, because they are bound by historical discipline; whereas my figure is based on eye witness account.
Q. You claim that you then were an eye witness to the gassing of 1,765,000 people, right?
A. Right. And I think that in this respect both Hilberg and Reitlinger has made an under estimate. Similarly, both Hilberg and Reitlinger have stated that the number of Jews killed in Einsatzkommandos this means by shooting and not by gassing was 1,400,000, but three years ago I have written a new study by Professor Krowsnick from Germany, Professor in Cologne and Director of the Institute ................................... and this professor Krowsnick [Krausnick], on the basis of exclusivity, German documents, without investigating any of the survivors but investigating only the German officers and their correspondence about it, was able to reconstruct that it was not 1.4 million, but two and a quarter million
who were murdered by the Einsatzkommandos.
So you can see that in spite of the great effort which the Nazis have made to cover up the incredible crimes, modern scholarship is constantly improving with more than scientific methods the truth. The truth is not so simple. So you can ---
Q. Now, sir ---
A. So you can see it is not criticism of Hilberg and Reitlinger. It just shows that better scholars with better methods and better access to sources can give more exact figures and those figures are most close to mine, based on observation, than the figures close to scholars who spend their lives only in limited amount of libraries.
Q. So your experience, then, supersedes your knowledge on the basis of what you said.
A. This would be natural, because I was there.
Q. And you counted 1,765,000 going into the gas chamber.
A. That was told to you twice.
Q. Thank you. You also described the situation where you said that the guards forced the prisoners to sing "Silent Night" and beat them to death if they didn't. Is that right?
A. I beg your pardon?
Q. You, in your book, describe a situation where the guards forced the prisoners to sing "Silent Night" at Christmas time, and if they didn't sing properly they were sent to bed without supper. Is that right?
A. That is right partially. Others were murdered.
Q.They were murdered for not singing "Silent Night" properly.
A. That's right. And if I may add another legal point of view, I have been approached by the German Embassy, German Consulate in Vancouver three months ago on the case of investigation of the well-known event in Auschwitz I and Birkenau, that during Christmas of 1942 they put up a great Christmas Tree and brought there a number of prisoners, killed them and hanged them over that Christmas Tree and proclaimed that this is a suitable ornamentation at this period in this place. This became an investigation. The perpetrators of the crime are known by name to the Consul General of the Federal Republic of Vancouver, and I am sure he will be more than willing to provide you with the documentation.
THE COURT: Just a moment, Doctor. We are getting far afield here. What is your next question?
Q. MR CHRISTIE: Is it your observation that prisoners would be singing on their way to work from Birkenau?
Q. And they would go out and work in the fields from the women's camp the women would go out and work in the fields? Do you deny that?
A. I haven't seen that. I have seen them marched to various places of work.
A. Singing. On order. German songs.
A. But I have never seen them working in the fields. I saw them working in Kanada this means during sorting out of the goods which were stolen from the victims, and I have seen them being marched into the armament factories of Krupps and Siemens and of German armament factories DAW, but I didn't see them working on any fields. There might have been such a thing, but I was not aware of it and I was not an eye witness to it.
Q. Sure. Are you aware that in your book you described an air raid upon Auschwitz-Birkenau in April of 1944, two days after you escaped?
A. April ....
Q. April '44.
A. Which day?
Q. I think you said the 9th of April, two days after you escaped.
A. That's right.
Q. Is that right?
A. That's right.
Q. I was going to ask you if, in view of the fact that you dispute what Reitlinger and Hilberg said because they are not at the scene whether you agree that other authors who were at the scene and lived in the concentration camp say there was no air raid until August of '44 two months after you were gone.
A. This I can easily explain, this apparent discrepancy, by simply showing you a map.
Q. Please do. You know what I mean, don't you, when I say ---
A. Very well.
Q. You know that Primo Levy, who claims that he was a survivor of Auschwitz, claims that there was no air raid until later until after you left?
A. Pretty well. I will explain where the discrepancy arose.
Q. Before you get the explanation, let me put on record what I suggest he says. You know that he says, quoting page 107 of his book, "Survival in Auschwitz", by Primo Levy, he says:
"But in August '44 the bombardments of Upper Silesia began and they ...... pauses and renewals in the summer and autumn until a definitive crisis ...."
Now, you read about that and you are aware of it?
A. Beg your pardon?
Q. You know about that passage, don't you?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Now, can you explain:
"On the night of April 9th we had a shock of a distant nature. About eight o'clock we heard the rumble of distant air planes, soemthing we had not known in Auschwitz. They came closer and closer and then bombs began to scrunch not far away."
You agree that is what you wrote?
Q. One other question. There is no doubt about Auschwitz-Birkenau being in Upper Silesia and Primo Levy is talking about Birkenau in his book.
Q. Now, will you explain it?
A. Am I allowed to go to the projector?
THE COURT: If you feel that is the best way to explain it, you may do that.
THE WITNESS: On April 7, 1944, I went into hiding. This was for my escape. And I stayed there for three days and nights covered by many layers of wood. Here, at this place, approximately at the northeastern corner of Birkenau camp, were situated a battery of anti-aircraft artillery.
When I was hidden in my place here, it wouldn't be possible for me, due to the position of this anti-aircraft battery that I never heard before, to distinguish if it was a bombardment or if the artillery has been activated. As far as I know it has been published recently that the first planes flew over Auschwitz already on 1st April 1944, and as far as I remember I heard a plane overhead and I heard strong explosions which were shooking the bunker in which I was. It is quite likely that the artillery fire which was opened on the 9th against the air plane in the situation in which I was, I consider for the bombardment.
Q. Thank you.
A. In which case I made an error.
Q. So really, what you said as to bombs falling, was the anti-aircraft guns going on?
A. If there were no bombs, then it was anti-aircraft guns which were in close vicinity.
Q. Mm-hmmm. But anyone else who was in the camp would have heard the same guns, wouldn't they?
A. I would think so.
Q. And you don't dispute what Primo Levy, a prisoner, says, then.
A. Well, I don't dispute it, but Primo Levy, if you read carefully his book, he was in Auschwitz III at that time, which is further in the Bunawerk than I was from the artillery which was operated about a distance of two hundred yards, whereas he was in a distance of about six miles. So he might have heard something different than I did.
Q. Oh, I see. Thank you.
A. You didn't take notice that Primo Levy was in Auschwitz III.
Q. No, I'll check that, though.
A. Please do.
Q. You describe that you went to the hospital and recovered and had surgery and you had an operation. How do you explain your miraculous value as opposed to others who you say were not given treatment?
A. I will explain in a minute. Your Honour, can I leave the room for two minutes?
THE COURT: Yes. Members of the jury, you are excused for five minutes.
--- The jury retires. 12:45 p.m.
--- The witness retires.
--- Short adjournment.
--- Upon resuming.
--- The witness returns to the stand.
--- The jury enters. 12:50 p.m.
MR CHRISTIE: I think, Dr Vrba, you were telling us why you were of exceptional value that you should have been given a surgical operation to save your life.
A. I am quite sure I didn't tell it in those words.
Q. No. I asked in those words. I suggested to you that that could be the only explanation why you would be saved and given a surgical operation and nobody else, and everybody else be killed when they are sick.
A. Well, you are again misrepresenting something which was written in the book, and if you will allow me, and if Your Honour allows me, I am rectifying this misrepresentation.
Q. Well, I will be glad to hear your explanation.
A. When I became very sick I wasn't able to go to work any more and I was put into the Krankenbau where I was for about one week, and it was known, there were in Auschwitz I, there were eight hundred or nine hundred dying people there from various diseases, and during that time I have made some connection with someone who has got flu among the prisoners in the camp, there was a German prisoner called Bruno who was the head of Kanada ---
Q. Just a minute. Kanada didn't exist in Birkenau remember?
A. No. This was in Auschwitz. The operation took place in Auschwitz. You would help me if you would do your homework.
THE COURT: Just answer the question, Doctor.
THE WITNESS: And after a week of time I have found the connection of this Kapo, Bruno, who was obliged to me for a personal favour. This means that I didn't give away that he stole something from somebody else under torture, in consequence of which I suffered this reversal in my health. And this Kapo, Bruno, had access to the properties in Kanada which were confiscated from the murdered Jews and found ways to get them into his pockets before they reach the pockets of the S.S. He was a thief, too, and he used that to bribe a certain doctor, Dr Derring, who was surgeon formerly before the War, on the medical school in Warsaw, and for proper reward he took the risk to operate, make a serious surgery on a Jewish prisoner. So this was against the rules.
So he performed this surgery and he performed it successfully. It was an excellent surgeon who, unfortunately, wasn't too well equipped; but the situation is different, and you managed to misrepresent it as if I would say that I am somebody unusual.
A. I had only luck that somebody helped me in a critical moment.
Q. Mm-hmmm. And your evidence is that nobody else got that kind of treatment, is it?
A. I wouldn't say that nobody else. I would only say that such a treatment was available under suitable star constellation, if I may put it that way.
Q. Star constellation?
A. Constellation of stars. It is a bit of luck, with connections, and not sufficient control from the S.S. who is being operated on it was possible, occasionally, to make a successful operation on a Jew with a risk.
Q. Well, you were considered a Jew?
A. Of course.
Q. You were considered a political prisoner?
A. No. I was considered a Jew.
Q. You were not considered a political prisoner.
Q. You never indicated that at any time.
A. In my book?
Q. At any time.
A. I indicated in my book that I have been taken to the concentration camp Maidanek from the concentration camp in Novaki (phonetic) with one thousand other Jews in a family transport of Jews to the concentration camp of Novaki. I mentioned even a number of Jews who were with me, and I mentioned that from the people who were sent with me, I was the only one who was sent alive, and if you will read the book carefully, I am sure you will be able to confirm what I said here under oath.
Q. So you did not claim to be a political prisoner.
A. No, I did not claim to be a political prisoner.
Q. And in the War Refugee Report that
you were supposed to have prepared it said the words, and I quote:
"Finally we were issued a set of prisoners' clothes similar to those we had worn in Lublin and were enrolled as political prisoners in the concentration camp of Auschwitz."
Was that you?
A. I must first check on it. It is my copy which I received, because you might, by error, give me something to read which is not quite so.
Q. That's possible. Page 29 of the War Refugee Board Report.
Q. Lublin is where Maidanek is, isn't it?
A. That's right.
Q. And that is you, isn't it?
A. That's right. And which line are you referring to?
Q. The last line on page 29.
A. Yes. Political prisoners in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. Now, this is the Report as I wrote it, it was in the Slovak language from which it was translated into the German language, from which it was translated into the English language, and there is an error in translation which I can explain if I am allowed to go, again, to the projector.
THE COURT: Just a moment. Mr Christie?
MR CHRISTIE: I have no objection.
THE COURT: Yes.
VRBA's TESTIMONY: [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 6 ]
This is part32 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.
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