On 23 October 1946 in Krakow, Judge Jan Sehn, member of the Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, interviewed the person named below, who testified as follows:
My name is Michał Weichert, Doctor of Laws and Literature, born on 5 May 1890 in Stare Miasto, Podhajce district, of Jewish faith, Jewish nationality, Polish citizenship, resident in Krakow, Gertrudy Street 23.
On 2 September 1939, the coordinating commission of Jewish aid and social associations was founded in Warsaw as part of the Warsaw Social Self-Help Committee [Stołeczny Komitet Samopomocy Społecznej]. At the beginning of 1940, this body started to operate independently under the name Jewish Social Self-Help [Yid. Yidishe Sotsyale Aleynhilf; Pol. Żydowska Samopomoc Społeczna].
On 10 January 1940, I was appointed head of this institution. Before that, I was deputy head and Leon Neustadt, director of the American Joint, was head. I was the head of the Jewish Social Self-Help until the end of the occupation. On 29 May 1940, the occupying authorities approved the statutes and regulations of the Main Welfare Council [Naczelna Rada Opiekuńcza] which also included the Jewish Social Self-Help. At this time, the Jewish Social Self-Help was headed by a presidium consisting of seven members, who chose me as head. This selection was repeated on a yearly basis. The seat of the presidium was in Krakow; in autonomous cities, the Jewish Social Self-Help had city committees; in towns which were the seat of county governors – county committees, and in small towns – delegations [delegatury]. Advisors worked in district towns.
One statutory area of the activity of the Jewish Social Self-Help was the centralisation of social care provided to the Jewish population of the General Government. Because it was the only central-level representation of these people, we were obliged to appeal to the occupying authorities with regard to any issue concerning the Jewish population, always under the pretext of social welfare. We intervened, i.e. myself as head of the presidium and members of the presidium, not only with the central occupying authorities in Krakow, but also with local authorities, at the request of our branches outside Krakow. Consequently, I had to intervene, at least once a month, with the German district and municipal authorities in Warsaw, where I lived until July 1940. Until that time, I intervened with the Warsaw authorities as needed, often twice or three times a week.
I never personally came into contact with Fischer or Leist. The clerks of the so-called district governor in the Warsaw district office for socialwelfare were: Ordensjunker Massing, until around mid-1940; after he left, Pflingner, and then Auerswald, a lawyer, future commissar for the Jewish residential quarter. Dr. Ilg was the social care clerk on Warsaw’s German administration, and when he left at the beginning of 1940, Bohlenbach took over. In the German administration of Warsaw, I also had contact with the heads of the supplies department, namely Eng. Haas, and then Dr. Bauer. The following persons, delegated by the presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Help, permanently resided and performed their duties in Warsaw: Józef Jaszuński, deputy head of the presidium, and Dr. Gustaw Wielikowski, a lawyer, member of the presidium and advisor for the Warsaw district. The head of the Warsaw Judenrat was Eng. Adam Czerniaków.
Considering the number of Jews in Warsaw, which was nearing half a million, the affairs of this particular city were among the chief concerns of the Jewish Social Self-Help. I learned of and became familiar with the said affairs based on personal observation; additionally, I was constantly advised of them by Czerniaków and by Jaszuński and Wielikowski, members of the presidium, with whom I talked on the phone on a daily basis.
From 31 October 1939 until the end of the occupation, the head of the Warsaw district was Dr. Ludwig Fischer, Hauptamtsleiter, Stabsleiter des Reichsrechtsamtes der NSDAP, SA-Brigadeführer, M.d.R. (Mitglied des Reichstages). Until 20 March 1940, Warsaw was governed by Stadtpräsident Dr. Dengel.
Pursuant to the decree of 26 March 1940, Fischer also assumed personal control of the Warsaw administration, specifically reserving for himself the function of Stadthauptmann of Warsaw. Fischer appointed SA-Oberführer Dr. Leist as his deputy, who, in this capacity, served as the delegate of Warsaw district governor (Beauftragter des Distriktschefs für die Stadt Warschau). The situation remained unchanged until the end of the occupation. After the German army entered, the Gestapo created councils of elders (Altesten Rat) in all cities; their task was to provide any workforce quota on demand as well as all sorts of items, such as goods, equipment, linens etc., of course free of charge.
Pursuant to Frank’s decree dated 28 November 1939, the councils of elders were renamed Judenrats; this decree specifically stated that the task of these institutions was to take orders from the German authorities (§5). Because not only the Gestapo, but also all kinds of military and civilian authorities, and very often also German companies and individual Germans filed their demands with Judenrats, and if their demands could not be met, they would organize round-ups of Jews in the streets or in houses, loot Jewish property and mistreat the Jewish population, we decided to intervene with the central German authorities in Krakow.
On 14 March 1940, a conference took place at the office of Dr. Arlt, the head of the population and welfare division for the General Government. The participants, apart from myself, included the representative of the American Joint and four members of the Warsaw Judenrat led by Eng. Czerniaków. Czerniaków presented the circumstances in Warsaw, drawing attention to the prevailing lawlessness. As a result of the conference, orders dated 25 April 1940 and 7 June 1940 were issued, on whose provisions Judenrats were subordinated to district governors, and in autonomous municipalities, to municipal governors. Both these decrees were presented as implementing provisions to the decree dated 28 November 1939 on the creation of Judenrats. And so, on 7 June 1940, Fischer, asthe Warsaw municipal governor, and Leist, as the delegate for the city of Warsaw, also tookcontrol over the Warsaw Judenrat.
Already in the first half of 1940, the Warsaw labor office (Arbeitsamt) ordered the immediate dismissal of all Jewish staff working not only in companies held in trust, but also in those that were Jewish property and under Jewish management. On 28 June 1940, we filed a relevant petition with Arlt, but it went unnoticed.
At the same time, the Warsaw district governor ordered the Warsaw Bar Council to disbar all lawyers of Jewish descent. Representatives of the Council, including its president, Nowodworski, intervened about this with the local German authorities. Following the intervention, which was in vain, Nowodworski and other lawyers were sent to a concentration camp and never returned.
In his status report dated March 1940, Fischer refers to that situation, emphasizing that Polish lawyers were taught a much-deserved lesson for meddling in business that was not theirs.
Also in the first half of 1940, the Warsaw chamber of health (Gesundheitskammer) forbade Jewish doctors to provide medical services to non-Jews. Since that time, Jewish doctors were not allowed to treat non-Jews. At the same time, Jewish doctors were expelled from the social insurance service; Jewish employees were dismissed from all state and local government offices; 10,000 Jewish house administrators were relieved from their duties in Warsaw’s housing administration.
On 13 March 1940, the Germans staged a series of assaults on Jews in Warsaw, showing scenes and fragments of assaults on Jewish passers-by carried out by the mob. As a result of our dynamic intervention with Arlt, these excesses immediately stopped. For all of us, this was evidence that the excesses had been inspired by the Germans, who wanted to get photographs. We made it clear in no uncertain terms to Arlt.
Also in 1940, the Germans photographed a group of Jews by an open grave in the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw. One of the Jews was pointing at the grave. Another photograph was taken at the office of the Judenrat: it showed Jaszuński and a Jew standing before a German. Both photographs were published in an illustrated German paper (I do not remember the name). I had the paper issue in my hand; it was explained that the Jews were showing where weapons were hidden, and concerning the other photo, the German was said to be interrogating the Jew, with Jaszuński as an interpreter.
In his second report on the activities of the Warsaw district authorities, dated 1940, Fischer states that upwards of 250 Jewish families had been evicted from their flats, and that these flats had been given to Volksdeutsche.
In July 1940, the General Governor issued a decree on the dissolution of all unions and associations in the entire General Government. Together with the Welfare Council, we intervened with the main department of internal affairs (population and welfare division); as a result, this department issued an order which suspended Frank’s order as regards welfare institutions. Despite this circular of the main department of internal affairs, the Warsaw district governor ordered the closure of the accounts of the Society for the Protection of [Jewish] Health (TOZ), the Warsaw school of nursing and the Warsaw retirement home, thus making it impossible for these institutions to operate further. We filed a petition, dated 1 October 1940, concerning this matter with the Warsaw district governor, but we did not receive any reply, nor did it have any effect. Until October 1940, the Warsaw municipal welfare committee of the Jewish Social Self-Help had been receiving food rations for care facilities run by the committee. On 1 October 1940, these rations were suspended, whereas Polish care facilities continued to receive rations. The Jewish Social Self-Help filed a petition, dated 7 October 1940, with the delegate of the Warsaw district governor, requesting that the rations be resumed. In a letter dated 16 October 1940, signed by Massing, the request was rejected; consequently, the presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Help filed another petition, dated 24 October 1940, with the population and welfare division. The case remained unresolved for several months, until in 1941 it was decided that 10% of the food rations that the Jewish population was entitled to on the basis of ration cards would go to the care facilities run by the Jewish Social Self-Help.
Let me emphasize that these rations were significantly smaller for Jews than they were for Poles. For example, Poles got 4550 grams of bread monthly, while Jews got 3250 grams. Even these smaller rations were not issued to Jews in their entirety. And so, for instance, according to the detailed figures compiled by Jaszuński, between December 1940 and March 1941, the Jewish population of Warsaw received only 3,354,300 kg of bread flour and 236,150 kg of sugar, while the figures for that period should have been 5,200,537 kg of flour and 517,804 kg of sugar. On 1 July 1940, the Warsaw municipal board started to charge 5 groszys on every tram ticket, and on the 2 August 1940 the board introduced an additional percentage fee on each gas and electricity bill, both fees meant to go towards welfare. These fees brought the municipal board 1,550,000 zlotys monthly, 1,000,000 zlotys of which went to the municipal welfare committee of the Central Welfare Council in Warsaw, and 30,000 zlotys of which went to the Ukrainian committee. The Jewish Social Self-Help’s municipal welfare committee received nothing. I intervened about this matter both personally and through the Main Welfare Council, both with the municipal authorities and the district and central authorities – all in vain. The issue got stuck with the Warsaw authorities, even though the government’s population division ordered, following our efforts, that the Warsaw committee receive their share. The first instruction came in a letter dated 13 July 1940, while the other came on 19 July 1940 by telegraph.
On 27 July 1940, Frank issued a decree introducing a so-called public levy in the General Government; the proceeds, as the decree stated, were to go, first and foremost, towards welfare. Following the efforts of the presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Help, the government’s population division issued a circular, dated 31 January 1941, which obligated governors to divide the proceeds from the levy between Polish and Jewish welfare committees on a percentage basis according to the number of Poles and Jews. This division was to apply retrospectively from 1 April 1940.
All efforts to receive payment of the share due to the Jewish population of Warsaw remained unsuccessful, although in other towns governors did pay the due amounts to the Jewish committees; sometimes, the amounts were diminished at the discretion of a given governor. The General Government’s population division, in circulars dated 23 December 1940 and 12 February 1941, ordered the municipal dues paid by companies in trust or under provisional administration to be paid to Jewish welfare institutions.
In spite of efforts by representatives of Jewish committees and the presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Help, the Warsaw municipal board did not pay any sum of money to the committee. Following our request for aid for displaced persons, the government’s population division stated that governors had already received several million zlotys for that purpose. We informed our local branches about the wording of this statement. The Warsaw branch did not receive a penny, despite continuous efforts. In other towns, we received various sums on several occasions. As a result of my intervention and after the inspection – at my behest – of Warsaw displaced persons shelters by officials from the population division, the said division granted Warsaw a one-off payment of 200,000 zlotys.
The displaced, who were concentrated in Warsaw from all over the Warsaw district, arrived completely bereft of property, emaciated and in rags. Jews from more remote districts, especially from areas incorporated into the Reich, were brought to Warsaw by train; such transports travelled very long and arrived with significant delays so, especially in the winter of 1940/41, there were lots of corpses in the wagons. The German authorities in Warsaw were of course aware of this state of affairs, but the money to help the displaced that the welfare committees were entitled to was still not paid out.
In mid-1940, the Jews of Warsaw began to be transferred to camps set up in the Warsaw and Lublin districts. This operation was overseen by the Warsaw labor office, and the quotas of people were provided by the Judenrat, as ordered by the labor office. Around 800 volunteers responded to the first call. People initially believed that this was indeed about work.
In reality, Jews were not assigned to work in the camps. They stayed in appalling conditions: most often there were not even barracks, let alone sanitation facilities. The camps were managed by the Warsaw labor office. The guards were usually Ukrainians, who abused the prisoners. Due to the harsh and inhuman conditions in which the Jews were staying in the camps, some of them passed away, while the rest, their strength drained and health destroyed, returned as cripples.
We intervened about this issue on a number of occasions, with both the Warsaw district authorities and the government’s population division. The interventions with the former were to no effect, even though the representative of the labor office, in the presence of Wielikowski and Zabłodowski, members of the presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Help, inspected the camps and knew of the situation there. Having interviewed many persons, healso learned about the treatment of the Jews living in the camps. The camps were closed down upon the orders of the government’s population division, not including the camps in Końska Wola [Końskowola] and Łęczna. In 1940, some 20,000 Jews from Warsaw passed through these camps, set up and managed by the Warsaw labor office.
On 17 October 1940, Fischer’s decree was published in Nowy Kurier Warszawski newspaper; it concerned the creation of a Jewish residential quarter in Warsaw. The order was dated 2 October 1940. It stated that the area of the Jewish residential quarter was to take up 4.6% of the area of Warsaw, and in this area 37.7% of the city’s population was to be accommodated; according to our calculations, the population density would be 10 times higher than in other parts of the city.
More than 100,000 Jewish people were to move into the new quarter by 31 October 1940. At the same time, 120,000 Poles would initially have to leave the area of the Jewish residential quarter, and later, after several changes to the ghetto’s borders, 60,000. Thedecree was re-published in the official pages of the Warschauer Zeitung, signed by Leist. The Poles displaced from the ghetto were allowed to take all of their belongings, while the Jews transferred to the ghetto could only bring sheets and blankets and hand luggage. The resettlement operation was overseen by Reichsamtsleiter Schon, head of the resettlement division (Umsiedlung) at the office of the district governor in Brühl Palace.
Throughout the resettlement operation, all sorts of contradictory information and orders were communicated via the press and over loudspeakers, concerning the size of the ghetto and the categories of Poles allowed to remain in the ghetto as well as those who were to leave the area. The situation resulted in chaos and uncertainty both among Poles and Jews. Both delayed their removal, as some of those who had already moved to the ghetto had had to change flats several times.
During this period, the presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Help filed 11 petitions with thepopulation division, as a result of which it was possible to obtain the postponement of the resettlement deadline until November 11, 1940, the enlargement of the area of the Jewish residential quarter by including the so-called small ghetto in it, and maintaining Jewish care facilities outside the ghetto until further notice.
The actions of the presidium and our interventions with the government in Krakow were the only avenue that remained open to Jews as regards these matters, since neither Schon nor any Warsaw authorities would meet with Czerniaków or any other Jewish representatives to discuss them. Throughout the operations, the Germans emphasized that the resettlement only applied to places of residence, while the issue of moving Jewish enterprises operating outside the ghetto would be regulated independently at some later juncture.
On the morning of 16 November 1940, the ghetto was closed and cordoned off by police guards, and nobody could get outside its boundaries. All of Czerniaków’s interventions, particularly his appeals that the owners of enterprises located outside the ghetto and Jews employed in German companies be let out, were in vain. The directors and owners of German companies employing Jews also intervened on this issue, but to no avail.
As a result of the decree, around 4000 Jewish enterprises outside the ghetto were forced to close and several thousand Jews lost their jobs. Frank’s decree of 19 April 1941 left it at thediscretion of the Warsaw district governor to regulate all matters pertaining to the Jewish residential quarter in Warsaw and empowered him to issue orders concerning this matter, as well as to appoint the commissar for the Jewish residential quarter. Under the provisions of § 2 of this decree, the commissar was directly responsible to the governor of the district.
With three decrees dated 14 May 1941 and published in the Official Journal (Amtlicher Anzeiger) and the district Official Journal (Amtsblatt), Fischer, in his capacity as Governor of the Warsaw district, created the transfer station (Transferstelle), appointed the lawyer Auserwald commissar of the Jewish residential quarter in Warsaw and invested the head of the Judenrat with the powers of a mayor.
The mission of the transfer point was to support and supervise business transactions between the ghetto and the outside world. Initially, the it charged a 10% commission on the value of transactions; after our intervention with the government, this was later reduced to 2 and 5%, depending on the merchandise traded. The unloading and reloading of merchandise traded between the ghetto and the outside world took place at a special reloading point (Umschlagplatz) on Stawki Street. The turnover was to go through a bank founded specifically for this purpose. The transfer point, headed first by Palfinger and then by Dr. Bischoff, did not operate within the boundaries of its statutory tasks, but tried to extend its jurisdiction over all of ghetto life.
It got so that the Transferstelle forbade members of the Jewish Social Self-Help presidium staying in the ghetto to go to Krakow, despite an invitation from the government’s population division; it also attempted to incorporate the municipal welfare committee into the Judenrat that it controlled, and requisitioned foreign aid, especially valuable products such as ham, bacon, tea or coffee, despite the fact that the packages arrived via the German Red Cross. As regards all these issues, we had to intervene with the government in Krakow and managed to hinder the designs of the Transferstelle.
In general, this agency was going out of its way to make difficulties as regards supplies to the ghetto; for several weeks, potatoes and bread were not allowed into the ghetto. At one point, bread was not issued in exchange for ration cards for three weeks. Cases of refusing to issue bread recurred. In practice, the Transferstelle morphed into an apparatus for the economic and biological extermination of the Jews locked up in the ghetto, which housed not only Jews settled there in the course of the resettlement operation when the ghetto was set up, but also those brought in from the entire Warsaw district, as well as some transports of Jews resettled from the Reich.
At its peak, the ghetto population reached over half a million. The people crammed within its walls were robbed through the requisitioning of equipment and goods; their savings and valuables were extorted from them in exchange for food; they were not supplied with enough food to maintain good health and nothing was done to prevent epidemics: on the contrary, Jewish sanitation institutions were hampered in their efforts to control the spread of diseases, particularly typhus.
Enterprises set up in the ghetto and financed by Jews were not enough even for the people working there to make a living because no orders were placed with them. To illustrate this fact: by 8 April, 1941, these enterprises, which supposedly employed 80,000 to 90,000 people, had been commissioned to produce 10,000 grates for the spirits monopoly, 10,000 toys and 3,000 hats.
Because of these poor hygienic and sanitary conditions and due to the systematic impoverishment of the [ghetto] population, poverty, starvation and mortality increased and contagious diseases spread. According to the figures of the Judenrat, its cemetery division organized between 895 and 5560 funerals monthly in 1941 and 1942. I am in possession of detailed records for 1941 and half of 1942. The presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Help passed these figures on to the economic division of the General Government as part of their efforts to win more orders for the craftsmen employed in the ghetto.
On 15 October 1941, Frank’s so-called third decree Frank was issued; it concerned restrictions on residence in the General Government and introduced the death penalty for leaving the ghetto. Only in isolated cases were court proceedings conducted against violators; most of the time the police executed such people on the spot. The victims were mostly children who left the ghetto in search of food. At the beginning of 1942, Czerniaków managed to negotiate the release of several hundred Jews, who were facing the death penalty for leaving the ghetto; this was in exchange for 1200 new sheepskin coats for the German army delivered to the district governor.
In order to effect the ultimate biological annihilation of the Jews crammed in the Warsaw ghetto, in July 1942 deportations started, first of children, then of the elderly and those unfit for work, and after a few days, of all Jews regardless of age, sex and state of health. The first announcement concerning resettlement appeared on 22 July 1942 and specified that very day as the first day of resettlement. Let me emphasize that this was done in spite of clear and repeated assurances on the part of both the central authorities in Krakow and the district authorities in Warsaw, that the Warsaw ghetto would not be liquidated.
At first, they deported 6,000 people a day, but already after a couple of days this number reached 10,000. The daily quota was supposed to be provided by the Judenrat, with the help of the order police (Ordnungsdienst, OD). Initially, none of the Jews had any idea where theGermans were sending those deported from the ghetto. The Germans assured us that these people were going east to work. Soon, however, we learned that they were being sent to the Treblinka camp, where they were murdered in gas chambers. Current literature indicates that the gas chambers in Treblinka became operative on 23 July 1942, that is on the first day after the first deportation from the Warsaw ghetto. As a result of the resettlement operation, Czerniaków, the head of the Judenrat, committed suicide.
The displacement operation continued until October 1942. I cannot give the precise number of Jews deported over that period. In my opinion, this number, whatever the calculations, is upwards of 300,000. The Jews who remained in the ghetto were confined to closed blocks. They were mostly the employees of companies working for the army, Toebbens and Schultz. Some of the members of the Judenrat and the Jewish police also remained in the ghetto. The Germans began to exterminate this small group in April 1943, deporting the Toebbens staff to Poniatowa and the Schultz staff to Trawniki.
During this operation and in connection with it, an uprising broke out in the Warsaw ghetto, which was finally liquidated on 16 May 1943. During the uprising, tens of thousands Jews died. I was being informed about this operation by Weirauch, Arlt’s successor, who, among other things, told me that Fischer had sent reports on the progress of the uprising to Frank or Bühler. The Germans assured the Jews deported to Poniatowa and Trawniki that it was the only way they could stay alive because in both these places there were companies working for the German army. In spite of these assurances, all of the Jews deported there were executed on the spot in October or November 1943.
In my opinion, in Warsaw the German occupiers carried out part of a preconceived plan of biologically exterminating the population of the occupied areas in order to create living space for German colonists. This plan was revealed in a circular of Heidrich, head of the security police, dated 21 September 1939, sent to heads of security police operation groups in the German-occupied eastern areas. This document is in the case files of the Nuremberg Trial. In this respect, the local authorities were free to decide on the time, intensity, tempo and ways of carrying out the liquidation of the Jewish population.
Fischer and Leist ran the operation in Warsaw and in the Warsaw district until 22 July 1942 and bear sole responsibility for it. Since 22 July 1942, the deportation operation was overseen by a special resettlement headquarters located at Żelazna Street 93.
I do not know what the relationship of subordination between these headquarters and Fischer or Leist was.
The report was read out. At that the proceedings and the report were concluded.