The tenth day of the hearing
4 January 1947
At 10:05 a.m. the sitting of the court begins
Chairman M. Güntner: - I hereby resume the sitting of the Supreme National Tribunal to try the case against Ludwig Fischer, Ludwig Leist, Josef Meisinger, and Maks Daume, accused according to the decree of 31 August 1944 on the punishment of Nazi-fascist criminals. Please call witness Wiernik.
Witness Jankiel Wiernik, 59 year old, carpenter by profession, residing in Wrocław, with no relation to the parties involved, sworn in on 3 January 1947.
Chairman: - Please tell the Tribunal thoroughly and comprehensively what you know.
Witness: - In connection with what?
Chairman: - You were in prison and in Treblinka. Please say when you were arrested and about your experiences in connection with this.
Witness: - I testified about my experiences in 1945.
Chairman: - When were you arrested?
Witness: 22 August 1942.
Chairman: - For what?
Witness: - Because of the deportations from the ghetto.
Chairman: - What happened next?
Witness: - They took me to Treblinka.
Chairman: - Please say how you went there, how the admission into Treblinka was organized, what life was like there.
Witness: - I have already described this in my book A Year in Treblinka. To recount all this would be too painful for me.
Chairman: - Not everything, but what the Tribunal is interested in—in other words, about the reception, the food, how were the prisoners treated?
Witness: - That was no camp for prisoners, only a death camp. There were a handful of workers who were changed almost every day. I am a miracle, or maybe not really a miracle, but because I was needed for work, I survived. Straight away they gave me work and so I survived the whole year.
Chairman: - Thanks to the fact that you’re a professional carpenter, you were kept on?
Witness: - Yes. I have already described all these horrors. When we arrived in the Treblinka area, I will not talk about it any more, as I was taken away to the Umschlagplatz, because everyone knows that the whole area where the train entered was strewn with corpses. There were piles of them lying there—they were probably murdered on the train.
Chairman: - When the train entered the area, did you see piles of corpses?
Witness: - Yes, burnt, black (the witness is moved and starts crying). The Germans and Ukrainians immediately began to unload our train.
Chairman: - How did this unloading take place?
Witness: - They stood with truncheons, rushing us out, beating and herding us.
Chairman: - They herded you like cattle?
Witness: - Yes. We were ordered to leave any packages we had behind and they led us to the courtyard. There were barracks on the left. They lined up the women with the children on the left and we were all on the right. When I arrived there and noticed these piles of corpses, I also saw that people were already working there. I approached these people, mingled in and worked with them so that they didn’t notice me, they didn’t know whether I was from this transport or from the previous one. And so I worked. The train from Międzyrzec came in. Maybe eighty percent of them were corpses. They set us to work straight away, to unload these wagons, and so we worked until late at night. There were maybe five hundred people. They led us naked and ordered us to kneel in a semicircle. They started sorting us. They chose one hundred and fifty people and walked a little further, and ordered them to kneel on the ground. They immediately killed these people with machine guns, left us and brought us to the barracks.
Chairman: - So, from those five hundred people one hundred and fifty were separated off, and three hundred and fifty were immediately shot on the spot?
Witness: - In the barrack, as it was still dark, people were awakened very early ...
Attorney Śliwowski: - I appeal to the High Tribunal, we can’t hear anything at all.
Chairman: - Please, may I ask the witness to speak louder and more clearly.
Prosecutor Sawicki: - As the witness is crying, it is difficult for him to speak loudly.
Witness: - As we were being led, I saw that there were so many corpses on the square around where the trains stopped. The corpses were thrown out, and we were told to pull them out, their legs were strapped up and they were dragged into the grave. Naturally, this was done under whips, under truncheons. And so we dragged these corpses into the grave. Large graves had been dug up and those corpses were thrown in there. I recall seeing one woman with a child, the child was wrapped in a sheet. She asked to be saved. She did what she could and tried to run away until the Germans noticed and shot her.
So dozens of days were spent cleaning up these corpses. From among those workers, those who worked today would no longer come to work tomorrow (the witness is crying).
One day, Untersturmführer Franz called for people to do some construction work. I volunteered and I was included in the construction company. From then on, every day I watched and saw people standing naked and waiting to enter the gas chambers. Then I saw them being pulled from the gas chambers and off to the graves. This lasted six weeks while I was working on building the chambers. Ten chambers were built; before, there had only been three.
When the chambers were already built, the work inside them began, as only the Germans can do—normally, systematically, from 6:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. and after the lunch break until 6 p.m. As larger transports came, sometimes 12,000 or 15,000, or even 18,000 were killed per day. From 1 January 1943, they started with 8,000-12,000, and then there were more and more.
Chairman: - Up to 18,000 were murdered per day?
Witness: - Yes.
Chairman: - How many chambers were there?
Witness: - Three, then thirteen. These new gas chambers were seven meters by seven, so about 50 square meters, or 95 cubic meters in capacity. They let 1,000 or even 1,500 in there at a time. They were squeezed in there. That’s the system they had.
When they had enough chambers available, they worked, as I was saying, systematically. If a transport arrived after 6:00 p.m., when the chambers were already closing, they led people in without gassing them, so these people suffered throughout the night. In the morning they opened the chambers ... (the witness is crying). When they opened them in the morning, there would be some people still alive in there, mostly children aged ten, thirteen, or fourteen. When the children tried to run away, everyone shot at them in turn. Whoever managed to shoot a child was the winner.
Chairman: - They hunted down these children?
Witness: - Yes. There were various things like that. It is difficult to talk about it (the witness is crying). After the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto in March, there was an incident when they brought in a woman with two young children. At first there were no grills for burning people on, so they were just thrown into the graves. So, as I was saying, they brought in a woman with two children. They held her back, and the children were thrown into the fire alive. First one, then the second. The mother wanted to break away and throw herself into it. They didn’t let her. First the children burned, then they threw her in alive. There were various tortures like that. The workers who were there stood around and when the flames were high enough, then they threw them into the fire alive.
At the end of January or early February 1943, Himmler came, accompanied by three people in military clothing. He issued an order to dig up all the corpses and burn them, remove the mountains of sand, level them and plant lupins. Naturally, he walked with a stick and used it to indicate that by mid-April this area should be leveled and sown.
Chairman: - Do you remember who was with Himmler?
Witness: - I remember perfectly well, one of them is sitting here right now, I can tell you. Himmler was accompanied by the second one on the left, from the end (he points).
Chairman: - Leist?
Witness: - Yes. He was in a military coat with Himmler and I saw him again a second time.
Chairman: - Him?
Witness: - Yes, (he points) him, him! Naturally, the Germans set about complying with Himmler’s order right away, and for us workers there was even greater torment in store. Over time, this area was cleared. It was, I think, in mid-April, when the same man came with his two companions to see the work that had been done. This last one was also there, the one sitting there.
Chairman: - So did you see this man?
Witness: - I saw Leist in the company of Himmler, I don’t remember exactly whether it was at the beginning of February 1941 or December, but I can say with one hundred percent certainty that this one (he points) was with Himmler. He was there once and then again, maybe in mid-April. I don’t remember the exact dates, because we were in such conditions that people didn’t have any expectations at all, I couldn’t possibly have known that I would ever have the chance to stand before the Tribunal and talk about this. Then I built a guardhouse, I have a plan here that I will show you. Then the Führer stood [missing in the typescript] and praised the work done. There were others as well whom I don’t see here.
Chairman: - Did the witness mention that there was one more?
Witness: Yes, but that was in camp one, I saw this last one twice, also in a coat.
Chairman: - This last one?
Witness: - Yes, this is the one. Once in his coat, he was standing by the dining room, where the Germans were eating, and then he was standing in his coat by the bend, where the entrance was. What he was doing there, I don’t know. It wasn’t in this camp where the gas chambers were, but in the first camp.
Chairman: - The labor camp?
Witness: - Yes.
Chairman: - When Himmler was there, did he visit the whole camp?
Witness: - I was only in the second, the extermination camp. Only later I came there to do a job, because I didn’t have anyone who could substitute for me, so I worked in the first camp [too]. This is described in detail in my book "A Year in Treblinka". It is difficult for me to talk about it.
Chairman: - Did he walk around the whole camp?
Witness: - In the first camp at the end of June or mid-July, I built a guardhouse there ...
Chairman: - What does the witness still remember from this period?
Witness: - I remember everything, but it’s difficult to talk about it.
Prosecutor Siewierski: - Does the witness know what the so-called "lazaret" was?
Witness: - I do. When the elderly and sick came in, there was a dug-out pit with a bench, and someone stood there in a white apron, with the sign of the Red Cross in his hand. They sat down on this low bench, face down with a gendarme or Ukrainian standing behind them who then shot them dead, and then the corpse would fall into the grave. Later, these bodies were set on fire.
Chairman: - Was that the infirmary?
Witness: - I should also tell you how it was with the burning of bodies. At first, the corpses were thrown into the pits – by February there were already more than 2.5 million corpses. When Himmler visited the camp and ordered the excavation of all corpses and their incineration. Then the diggers came and they began to dig up the pits. Rails were put over metal pillars on which the corpses were then piled and set on fire. There was another fact that I remember too. On these piles were stacked three thousand or more old, young, men, women, pregnant women. Everything was engulfed in flames, and the bellies burst open at this high temperature and the babies jumped out alive. There were various shocking sights.
Chairman: - Live babies jumped from the wombs of their burning mothers?
Witness: - Yes, alive, but not for long.
Prosecutor Siewierski: - Was there any notices in these gas chambers indicating that they were baths?
Witness: - A towel hung in front of the gas chamber with the exhortation: - Hurry up or the water will get cold!
Prosecutor Siewierski: - Did many of these transports come from Warsaw during this period when the witness was brought to Treblinka?
Witness: - It was in early September, several transports, later there were transports from Germany and from all over Europe.
Prosecutor Siewierski: - Were there many transports from abroad?
Witness: - Mostly from abroad.
Prosecutor Siewierski: - What happened in the camp to the things that they brought— particularly from foreign Jews and their valuables, what happened?
Witness: - They sorted them. Sorted their clothes, jewelry, stored them, and the clothes were taken away.
Prosecutor Siewierski: - And the valuables?
Witness: - I myself saw large boxes full of diamonds and gold. They were sorted. I wasn’t there. When the bodies were carried to the pile after gassing, so-called dentists were standing by to pluck out the gold teeth. I saw the manager of this camp, Mathias, carrying boxes of these crowns every day.
Prosecutor Siewierski: - Does the witness know of any incident when a German woman was reported to have been mistakenly brought to Treblinka?
Witness: - Yes. A German woman was brought there with two children. She showed evidence that she was German. She was kept there all day, the Sturmführer intervened, but because she had crossed the threshold of Treblinka, she ended up being gassed and incinerated like the others.
|Prosecutor Siewierski:||- Maybe the witness can say how it was after leaving the|
|Umschlagplatz||? How many people were on the train and how long did the witness travel in it?|
|Witness:||- Eighty people were packed into the wagon, locked in, carried from one siding to|
another, and the next morning we were in Małkinia. Later, we were transported to the Treblinka station and there was already one train from Międzyrzec. The heat was terrible and people were shouting "Water!" They wanted to get out, but the wagons were locked. They were standing in the station for two days. From this wagon, were I was, there were almost no corpses.
Prosecutor Siewierski: - In connection with the testimony of the witness, I would like to clarify that the indictment does not cover accusations against the defendants Leist and Daume for establishing Treblinka.
Attorney Śliwowski: - However, because the accused’s stay may be relevant to the whole matter, I kindly ask you to allow me to ask the witness a number of questions.
Prosecutor Sawicki: - I would like to point out that we are not raising such an accusation either against the accused Leist or against the accused Daume.
Attorney Śliwowski: - Why did you mention the presence of Leist in your brochure filed with the court when you described Himmler’s visit?
Witness: - It was a surprise to me. I didn’t know Leist, now I’ve noticed him for the first time.
Chairman: - Do you recognize his face?
Witness: - Yes.
Attorney Śliwowski: - What uniform was the accused wearing?
Witness: - Military.
Attorney Śliwowski: - Did it have a skull and crossbones?
Witness: - No. Just a round brown hat.
Attorney Śliwowski: - Did it have any distinctions or military badges?
Witness: - Yes it did.
Chairman: - What did the accused’s uniform look like?
Witness: - Brown coat and brown cap.
Judge Zembaty: - How many Germans worked in Treblinka and were they there the whole time?
Witness: - About forty, they changed, but there were always around forty SS men.
Prosecutor Siewierski: - Were there also any so-called Ukrainians?
Witness: - Two hundred.
Judge Zembaty: - So, about two hundred and forty altogether?
Witness: - Two hundred and forty or two hundred and fifty.
Judge Grudziński: - When the transport arrived at Treblinka, what happened next? Were the men separated from the women?
Witness: - Separated. On the left, women with children, on the right the men. They were stripped naked and taken to the chamber.
Judge Grudziński: - Did the women have their hair cut?
Witness: - The men were led immediately to the avenue leading to the chambers; the women were shorn and then taken to the chambers. Some were left to tidy up the clothes into piles and then off to the chambers they went.
Judge Grudziński: - How long did the gassing take?
Witness: - Twenty-five minutes.
Judge Grudziński: - How did you get out of there?
Witness: - After the revolt. We organized a revolt. I was a courier between the two camps. The fight was terrible. Not many of us were left. I was one of the survivors.
Chairman: - Are there any more questions? No. The witness may stand down.