On 8 May 1946, in Łódź, Judge S. Krzyżanowska interviewed the person specified below as a witness, without swearing her in. Having been advised of the criminal liability for making false declarations, and of the provisions of Art. 106 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the witness testified as follows:
|Forename and surname||Helena Lechowska|
|Names of parents||Teodor and Kazimiera|
|Place of residence||Warsaw, Emilii Plater Street 30|
|Relationship to the parties||none|
With reference to a paragraph in the press saying that the SS-, SD-Brigadeführer Stroop, the head of the Gestapo in Sonderkommando in Warsaw in 1943, will be interrogated in Nuremberg any day now, I would like to give testimony.
Between 1942 and 1943, I worked in the “Transavia” company in the Warsaw Ghetto. On the night of 18 and 19 April 1943 I was still inside the Ghetto and when the fighting broke out on 19 April, when Jews started resisting deportations from Warsaw, I was no longer able to leave the Ghetto, and I was there all the time, i.e. until more or less 15 May.
I heard on the first day that the Germans had issued an order in accordance with which the entire Jewish population was to gather in the so-called Umschlagplatz, where people had been loaded into wagons and deported allegedly to Treblinka during the previous operations. However, at that time, reportedly few people volunteered to go to the square; they were hiding in basements, attics, and other special hiding places.
I say “reportedly” because together with other personnel of the “Transavia” company, I was locked inside factory property, from where one could only go to the Umschlagplatz under escort, just like the Jews; I saw whole processions of them being escorted along the streets. Jews were walking with small bundles, injured, pushed; I saw, for example, older people who could not keep up with the rest being finished off on the spot.
I saw an SS-man hit and knock over a hunchbacked old woman, and when she was already in the gutter, he jumped onto her with both legs and kept jumping on her stomach.
From the windows of our property, I saw SS-men douse a building on Szczęśliwa Street with some liquid from cans; they doused the staircase up to the top floor and when the lower part had been set on fire, the whole building was in flames with lightning speed. There were people in this building.
Anyway, I also saw other buildings being set on fire. In one of the buildings, right next to the boundary wall, as it was ablaze naked women ran onto the balconies on the third and second floors (they must have already torn their burning clothes off their bodies). There were Ukrainian posts standing around the boundary wall of the Ghetto, who usually shot at the Jews appearing in the windows. However, ultimately, they did not shoot at the women in the burning building; I could already see their hair burning. Then these women started to jump out of the windows and off the balconies of the burning building.
During the first stage of fighting, there were about 1,000 Jewish laborers within the precincts of the “Transavia” company. After the operation in the Ghetto had been conducted for a few weeks, Stroop appeared at the “Transavia” company. He arrived escorted by a dozen or so SS-men with rozpylacze [submachine guns]. When Stroop was in our company, men with machine guns appeared on the nearby building roofs to cover him. When I asked him if I could leave the area of the Ghetto he roared with laughter. Actually, he laughed like Satan.
Right in front of my eyes, Stroop whipped the Jewish laborers of the “Transavia” company. When his visit was over, two laborers were so beaten that they were unable to get up. Stroop had simply gone berserk.
The Ghetto was systematically burnt down, street by street, building by building. When the incendiary action neared Stawki Street a large SS unit arrived at the “Transavia” company premises. They ordered all the Jews to come downstairs and stand in lines. However, some Jews had hidden in their hiding places prepared beforehand. The Jews were taken outside the gate and in the street the SS-men started the slaughter; hitting them continuously with rifle butts, I later saw a lot of blood in that place. Kicked, rifle-butted and close to exhaustion the Jews walked to the Umschlagplatz.
I and a few other people from the adjacent factory – the Przytulski tannery – eventually, having bribed Brandt, Stroop’s deputy, managed to leave the Ghetto. I know German very well and since Przytulski (who was also in the Ghetto at that time) wanted to save his factory and prevent it from being burnt down, we tried to learn who was in charge of the entire operation inside the Ghetto. So, I talked to a high-ranking SS officer (who was given a batch of leather for the information), who told me that the decision rested only with Stroop, that he had been ordered to deport the Jews from the Ghetto, but the manner this would be done depended completely on his own initiative. As a matter of fact, that SS-men called the whole operation in the Ghetto a devilish idea.
In order to carry out the operation in the Ghetto, Stroop had received SS and SD units, so- called Sonderkommando and Vernichtungskommando. I would also like to mention that the destruction of the Przytulski factory, which was blown up a quarter of an hour after we had left, was ordered by Stroop himself, and it was not justified; it was a Polish factory, and in fact excluded from the Ghetto, right next to the boundary wall, and there was no need to destroy it. The SS officer who gave me this information also told me that after the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto was over, Stroop would go to Greece.
The witness interview report was read out.