Rabbi Testifies at Nazi Trial on Appeal to Christians to Save Jews

A one-time Budapest rabbi told a court trying two former aides of Adolf Eichmann here yesterday how he made a desperate effort to influence Hungarian church leaders to oppose the mass deportations of Hungarian Jews to Nazi death camps.

The witness was Dr. Fabian Hershkovitz, now director of the Department of Culture in Tel Aviv. He testified at the trial of former SS Lt. Col. Hermann Krumey and former SS Capt. Otto Hunsche taking place here. As key aides of Eichmann in wartime Hungary, the two Nazis are charged with complicity in the transport of 430,000 Hungarian Jews to the murder centers and with extorting huge sums from the doomed Jews.

Dr. Hershkovitz said he had made the appeal in May, 1944, in the form of mimeographed leaflets. The text of the leaflet, which was read in the court, began: “At the final hour of their tragic fate, the Jews of Hungary address themselves imploringly to Hungarian society. We must reveal to Hungary’s Christian population that their Jewish compatriots are being deported.”

He testified that the leaflet had been distributed two months after Eichmann arrived in Hungary with his extermination squad and that by then more than 300,000 Jews had been taken to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. The appeal said that the Jews understood that they were being sent to death, rather than to labor camps, because children, sick and old people and pregnant women were not exempted.

The appeal expressed the hope that Hungarian society could not be silent and urged the churchmen to help paralyze the deportations by bringing them to the attention of neutral countries. The leaflet added that, “should these efforts be in vain, at least the atrocities ought to be stopped so that we can be buried in our native soil.”

The two defendants showed no emotion as the leaflet was read to the court. Dr. Hershkovitz also testified that Krumey had promised the doomed Jews that “nothing would happen to them if they remained calm,” with the result that none of them fled while that was still possible.

NEXT STORY