JERUSALEM (Apr. 27)
The first phases of the Nazi erasure of the ancient and flourishing Jewish community of Czechoslovakia and the direct role of Adolf Dichmann in its destruction were described today at the trial of the former Gestapo colonal by three eye-witnesses who lived to confront him here.
The three witnesses, all of whom experienced Eichmann’s anti-Jewish activities, were Dr, Paul Meretz, a former chairman of the Czech Zionist Organization, Vali Zimet, a one time Hias official in Prague and the first woman witness-in the trial, and Max Burger, who had been an elder of the Jewish community of Morawska-Ostrava.
Dr.Meretz recalled in his testimony that the first warning of the impending Nazi savageries was a refusal by the Nazi occupiers of the Sudetenland–the part of Czechoslovakia in which many Germans lived–to allow Sudeten Jews to choose a transfer permitted to the rest of the non-German population.
Dr.Meretz, a lifetime Orthodox Jew, restrained his emotions with difficulty as he told of arrests in Czech synagogues during Rosh Hashanah services in 1939 and the forced surrender of radios and jewelry on Yom Kippur.
Miss Zimet, who worked in the Hias office in Prague until the Gestapo shut it down in July 1939,testified that she represented the community as an official in the emigration department for Jews set up by Eichmann under an .SS officer named Gunther.She told the court that Eichmann frequently visited the department with a demand for daily quotas of transports of Jews, she said that when these quotas were not filled, he became wrathful.
She recalled one occasion in 1940 when the quotas reached a trickle and word was passed that Eichonann was coming to check. The staff became terrorized and Gunther instructed the staff to line up applicants with blank dossiers to impress Eichmann and evade his anger.
JEWS HELD UNDER OPEN SKIES IN THE WOODS DURING WINTER MONTHS
Mr. Burger centered his testimony on the reality to Jews of the “Jewish protectorate” which Eichmann told his police interrogators in pre-trial questioning was to his credit as an example of his efforts for a “temporary territorial solution” of the “Jewish question.”
Mr. Burger was chosen on behalf of the Jewish community leadership to Join the first 1,000 Jewish men deported to Hnisko in Poland, located between Cracow and Lublin; Arriving after a three-day trip in sealed railroad cars, without drinking water or food, the 1,000 were “welcomed” by a group of SS officers, including Eichmann. “There are no houses, the Jews were told. “If you build them you will have a roof. The drinking water is infected with typhus and dysentery and other diseases. If you dig new wells and find water, you will have water.”
Men over 40,as well as lawyers and merchants, were expelled by the Nazis to the woods without any belongings, the Nazis having stolen all of their possessions, the witness said. The same treatment was handed out to several later groups of Jews from Vienna, Prague and Ostrava. All Jews slept under the open skies even though it was October and it was the coldest area in all of Poland. The temperature during the night dropped to well below zero. This continued until the first barracks were built.
Water was carried from a village more-than a mile away. It was boiled and then distributee according to a Nazi system of priority–German guards first, their horses second, the Jews last. The Nazis did not provide any food for the victims which they had to buy far themselves with money sent by the Jewish community of Ostrava and by the American Joint Distribution Committee.The money was held by an SS guard.
The witness said that the next year a cable suddenly arrived to the SS guards to liquidate the Hnisko camp and the Jews who had survived were taken back to Ostrava, Of the 1,000 of the first group, only 300 returned. Some of the other 700 managed to escape across the Russian border, the rest perished from the brutal treatment.