Warsaw, 28 July 1948. Judge Halina Wereńko, a member of the District Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Warsaw, interviewed the person named below as an unsworn witness. Having been advised of the criminal liability for making false declarations and of the obligation to tell the truth, the witness testified as follows:
|Name and surname||Ignacy Falk|
|Parents’ names||Izaak and Ruchla, née Blumental|
|Date of birth||3 February 1894, Warsaw|
|Education||two years at the Wawelberg technical school|
|Occupation||office worker at the Central Committee of Polish Jews|
|Place of residence||Warsaw, Wileńska Street 27, flat 4|
I have been a Bund member for many years. I stayed in the Ghetto from its inception to 29 April 1943. Right after the outbreak of the Second World War, in the first days of September 1939, I began to work as a field inspector at the American Joint Distribution Committee. When the deportations from the Ghetto were under way I worked at the Szulc workshop at Nowolipie Street. On 3 September 1942, despite being in possession of employment documents, I found myself in a group of about 2,000 people working at the Szulc workshop whom German soldiers, assisted by the Jewish Ghetto Police, escorted to Umschlagplatz and put on train carriages. At night I jumped from the train window and then I managed to escape back to the Ghetto.
From the very outset of the deportations of the Jews from the Ghetto, the Bund, of which I was a member, was interested to know what the destinations of the trains departing from the Umschlagplatz were. Our people learned that from the beginning the transports were sent to Treblinka or, as it happened, to Majdanek and other camps in the region of Lublin.
From 22 July to mid-September 1942, the transports departed from the Umschlagplatz almost every day. The average transport consisted of around 15 carriages and there were between 120 and 130 people in each carriage. The transports left twice or three times a day. The number of Jews sent [to concentration camps] varied from 2,000 to 5,000–6,000 every day. We gathered this information from the Umschlagplatz ’s medical personnel. The exact number of those who were deported from the Ghetto wasn’t specified.
The whole network of camps started to be established in the Lublin area in 1940. Jews from different ghettos, including the one in Warsaw, were brought to these camps. The camps included the death camps in Majdanek, Sobibór and Bełżec and a dozen or so labor camps where the Jews were also eventually killed. Labor camps were located in Lublin at Lipowa Street 7 and in the grounds of the Plage and Laśkiewicz Factory and in a number of other places such as Trawniki and Poniatowa. I myself ended up in the camp in Budzyń near Kraśnik.
While in the Warsaw Ghetto I was actively involved in the organization of the Uprising as one of the members of its leadership. On 18 April 1943, I went to a brush factory on Świętojerska Street in order to contact the Bund leadership. I remained there during the Uprising.
On 29 April, I was in a bunker in a house at the corner of Wałowa Street 2 and Świętojerska Street, in a group of well over a hundred people. At about 9.00 or 10.00 a.m. we were discovered by the Latvians. They threw a grenade into the bunker. Many of us were killed and those who weren’t were led out of the bunker. The survivors were led to the Umschlagplatz. At the Umschlagplatz, there were a few thousand Jews who had been brought from different factories and ghetto streets. That day there were also a few trains there. We were loaded into one of them and taken to Lublin. We disembarked the train in Lublin on the grounds of the Plage and Laśkiewicz factory. Some 10,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto were being held there. Some of them had already been there for a few days (3–7). Among those who worked there were also Jews from other ghettos.
On the following day, that is, on 30 April, we were segregated according to trades to be taken to different camps, mostly to Trawniki and Poniatowa. I was taken to the labor camp in Budzyń along with a group of 800 other men. The women and children were separated from us and, as I learned later, taken to the camp in Majdanek. On 3, 4 and 5 October or November 1943 all the labor camps located in the Lublin region were liquidated and their liquidation was accompanied by the mass extermination of all the prisoners, except for those who worked for the German air force. For this reason the camp I was interned in wasn’t liquidated.
There was the plane factory in Budzyń, situated at a distance of 3 kilometers from the camp. Some 2,500 Jews from various ghettos in the Lublin region were being held there. There was also a group of German Jews and Polish POWs from 1939. We worked in the plane factory twelve hours a day. SS-Unterscharführer Feix was the camp commandant. Promoted later to the rank of Oberscharführer, he was a sadist who murdered and tortured prisoners.
At the beginning of 1944, the labor camp in Budzyń was converted into a concentration camp. From that moment on, the commandant was required to report to the management of the concentration camps. The situation in the camp changed. In the labor camp, the commandant ordered mass executions at his own initiative. In the concentration camp, executions were carried out at the orders from higher up. Feix stepped down towards the end of 1943. In the period from May 1943 to August 1944, when the evacuation to Wieliczka took place, around a thousand prisoners were exterminated in the camp in Budzyń in individual and mass executions. I am giving the number based on the information derived from the office where the Jews also worked.
In August 1944 both the factory and the camp were evacuated to the salt works in Wieliczka. We were lodged in specially prepared barracks and our camp was affiliated to the camp in Płaszów. After six weeks we were transported to the camp in Płaszów. I was employed to dig up the bodies of the Jews who had been murdered in the camp. The bodies were burned on the spot. There were a dozen or so thousand Jews from the Kraków region.
As the Red Army was approaching, the camp was gradually liquidated, with prisoners leaving in batches. The women were taken to Auschwitz and the men to the camps located in German territories – to Mauthausen, Dachau, Flossenbürg and others. At the beginning of October 1944 I was sent in a group of a few thousand prisoners to the camp in Gross- Rosen. A few days later I was transported with 700 other men to the camp in Brunnlitz in the Sudetes. On 10 May 1945 we were liberated by the Red Army.
Of the 800 Jews with whom I left Lublin, only about ten remain alive. We weren’t together all the time but we stay in touch now.
At this point the report was concluded and read out.
In addition to my testimony before the District Commission for the Investigation of the German Crimes in Warsaw I wish to point out the following:
As I have already mentioned, during the final liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto I was in the grounds of the brush factory at the corner of Świętojerska and Wałowa streets. The liquidation began on 19 April 1943. The first day passed without any significant incidents but on the second day (20 April), as larger groups of armed Germans approached the grounds of the factory, the mine planted at its entrance by members of the Jewish Combat Organization exploded. From that moment on, the area enclosed by Świętojerska, Wałowa, Franciszkańska, and Bonifraterska streets came under constant fire from the Germans using all sorts of weapons, including anti-aircraft ones. The German units that tried to force their way into the grounds of the factory encountered such a strong resistance from the ŻOB (the Jewish Combat Organization) that they had to withdraw. However, German artillery, flame throwers and anti-aircraft weapons operating from afar began to take effect. On the fourth or fifth day (23–24 April) the ŻOB units, being unable to get hold of the enemy in this area, retreated to what was known as the central ghetto, which lay nearby.
As far as I am concerned, I was still staying in this area. I was in the bunker situated in the house at Wałowa Street 2 along with a group of several hundred Jews. Acting on the orders from the bunker’s leadership, I came out of it every day in order to see what was going on outside and to pass the information I got on to those in the bunker. I usually left the bunker at night or early in the morning. Because of the bombing and fires the whole area was being turned into ruins strewn with corpses. As I was surveying the area I came across people who, walking alone or in groups, were still alive, but most of them looked like madmen. I remember encountering a family that I was familiar with and that consisted of four people: father, mother, brother and sister (I don’t remember their name). They all looked insane. One of them was wailing a song. Both the area and the people crawling in the ruins are difficult to describe, and so is the life in the bunker in which, after a few days, the temperature rose to 40 degrees Celsius. As a result, the people gathered in the bunker were made to leave it and to seek shelter in another one which, however, turned out to be a tight squeeze resulting in constant deaths because of suffocation. If it was initially possible to maintain order in the bunker, after some time it wasn’t. People began to leave the bunker to get some warm air on the surface. As a result, on 29 April, the Germans tracked us down. A group of Latvians surrounded the bunker, pelting us with grenades. Those who were still alive, including myself, were escorted to the Umschlagplatz.
What followed is mentioned in the record of other testimonies.