Sobibor testimony of Dov Freiberg

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Sobibor testimony of Dov Freiberg

Post by David Thompson » 31 May 2004 08:24

Dov Freiberg, a former inmate at KL Sobibor, testified on June 5, 1961 at the trial of Adolf Eichmann. His testimony is available on line courtesy of the Nizkor Project at:

http://nizkor.com/hweb/people/e/eichman ... 64-04.html

http://nizkor.com/hweb/people/e/eichman ... 64-05.html

http://nizkor.com/hweb/people/e/eichman ... 64-06.html and

http://nizkor.com/hweb/people/e/eichman ... 64-07.html
Attorney General: Yes, certainly.

I call Mr. Dov Freiberg.

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Freiberg: Yes.

[The witness is sworn.]

Attorney General: Mr. Freiberg, you live in Ramle, in Shikun Amami 1b, and your
profession is that of production inspector at a motor engine factory?

Witness Freiberg: Yes.

Q. When the Second World War broke out, you lived in Lodz?

A. Yes.

Q. Your family was starving and, in the case of your mother, there began a condition which was familiar in the ghetto, of swelling up from hunger?

A. That was in the Warsaw Ghetto. We ran away from Lodz - after we had been in the Lodz Ghetto for some days, we fled to the Warsaw Ghetto. And we were there, I was there, until 1942. The situation then got much worse, we sold whatever we possessed, and a stage was reached in the house where we had nothing to eat. My grandfather and my grandmother were confined to bed.

My mother - in order to give us something to eat - hardly ate, and then the bloated condition began. And then she urged me, since I was one of the weaker children, to escape from the Warsaw Ghetto, to flee to the Lublin district, where relatives of ours lived - a more distant family.

Q. And so you escaped to a townlet?

A. Yes.

Q. What was it called?

A. I fled to the townlet of Turobin, in the district of Krasnystaw.

Q. In May 1942, the Germans surrounded the townlet and began taking the Jews to the market area - do you remember that?

A. Yes. In May 1942, I got up one morning - I lived with one family and spent my time with another family. I got up in the morning, and I heard shouts and something unusual that was taking place. I tried to go to the other house. The Germans were leading groups of people from all directions, together with Polish police, and gathered them all together at the marketplace.

Q. We shall be brief on this part, Mr. Freiberg, because I want to come closer to the main point of your evidence. They took you to a place called Krasnystaw?

A. Yes. At the time, they transferred the whole district. It consisted of Sucha, Turobin, Zolkiew - right up to Krasnystaw - it was a string of villages.

Q. They crowded you into freight cars?

A. After we had slept for one night in Krasnystaw, in some courtyard, they crowded us into freight cars. It was impossible even to stand, it was impossible to breathe - people were fainting. In my car, too, two women died in the course of the journey, which was relatively short; it was a journey of three to four hours.

Q. And the train arrived at the concentration camp of Sobibor?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember what was written on the gate of the camp?

A. There was a sign at the entrance to the camp - actually I did not glance at it then, but subsequently, when I went out to work outside the camp, I saw it - SS Sonderkommando Umsiedlungslager - Camp for Resettlement.

Q. When you left the train, what was the sequence of events?

A. From the moment we entered the camp into which they brought groups of freight cars (the siding there was not a large one), from the very moment we entered the camp, we were enveloped by a regime of fear. Everything happened at a rapid pace - indeed, there was not even time to think - there were shouts from SS men, from Ukrainian SS men, “Raus, raus (Out, out), “Schneller! Schneller!” (faster, faster), and they forced us to run through the fences to a place where there was a small gate. “Links, rechts” (left, right).

Q. What was “links, rechts?”

A. In Sobibor, there were no selections for life and for death. Everyone who arrived - was exterminated. This was temporary - only for a few hours, or minutes. And “links, rechts” meant: men separately, and women and children separately. Afterwards, in the yard for undressing, there were separate sections for men, and for women and children. I stood amongst the men.

Q. Was there a band playing there?

Presiding Judge: Was this immediately after you arrived there?

Witness Freiberg: This was immediately after we came there. It was towards evening. The women and children went along the way which we got to know later. And since, in the early stages, as compared with a later period, the camp was a primitive one and operated only during the day and not at night, we, the men, remained on the spot all night, and the women and the children went off to the gas chambers. The following morning...

Attorney General: I asked you about a band that was playing somewhere; where was that?

Witness Freiberg: There was a band there; it was at Lager 1 (Camp 1). There was a band that was playing. The night when we arrived there and spent the night there, despite the fact that we did not yet know, rumours were already circulating, but the people did not believe them. That night, I had a very strange feeling.

Q. What was it that the people did not believe?

A. That there was any extermination at all. They knew that there were killings, we had previously been present at many situations, but total extermination - this they did not believe under any circumstances. Even when they were in the congested freight cars, the people were glad that they were not traveling in the direction of Lublin, the location of the Majdanek camp, which was regarded as a hard labour camp in those times, but that they were travelling towards the east.

The “east” in those days meant, as rumour had it, that they were going to the Ukraine for agricultural work.

Q. When was this?

A. This was in May, 1942. I remember a case where a Jew came to this townlet where we were and said to us: “Don’t believe it; people are not being taken to the Ukraine, but to Belzec, where they are put to death.” I don’t remember what they wanted to do to this Jew, they would not believe him, they thought this man had come to create panic, and that what he was saying was not possible.

Judge Halevi: He came to the townlet?

Witness Freiberg: Yes, into the townlet. And inside the camp, we were already a few hundred metres away from the gas chambers and, nevertheless, in the course of two weeks, or perhaps more, the Germans still managed to deceive even us. They said that in two or three weeks’ time we would be reunited with our families. But we saw their personal effects, the following morning we were working with them. They maintained that they distributed other clothes, and that from Camp No. 3 trains were departing to the Ukraine.

Attorney General: Were there three camps in Sobibor?

Witness Freiberg: Yes.

Q. Were people living in Camps 1 and 2?

A. Camps 1 and 2 were, in effect, one camp, but from the point of view of their operation, of their purpose, Camp 1 was distinct from Camp 2. Camp 1 was a camp of artisans - tailors, shoemakers, carpenters and all kinds of craftsmen who worked in the camp. In Camp 2, there were people who dealt with the transports, with all kinds of work.

Q. What was in Camp 3?

A. In Camp 3, there were gas chambers, and, at first, they used to bury the people in huge pits; they put down layers of human beings and poured chloride on to them, and so on.

Q. We shall come to the extermination presently. Please describe to me your first day in the camp.

A. The Germans came along in the morning and began selecting artisans, tailors, shoemakers, and so on. I had the feeling that something was wrong there. In particular, I remembered the case of that Jew who had told his story. I was alone there, by chance, without family, and I had no trade. Afterwards, they selected the young and healthy lads in the following way: “Du, du!” (You, you!). I leaped up - we were sitting down - and stood amongst them. Approximately half an hour later, they took all the rest of the transport to the gas chambers, while we remained for work.

Q. How many of you remained?

A. The number remaining at the time was about a hundred to a hundred and fifty, something like that.

Q. Was it then that you met for the first time the SS Unterscharfuehrer Paul?

A. Yes. On that day, we were at work all day. We worked in groups. I was then working on removing from the courtyard the personal effects of the people who had undressed there. After they left the courtyard, we had to take away their belongings and arrange them in heaps. That was where I worked. Our people worked in all sorts of places, but in every place, after we returned, the maltreatment by the Germans was awful. Right from the first day, people were killed, shot, set on by a dog called Beri.

Q. Whose dog was it?

A. At first, the dog belonged to an SS man of Camp 3 who was called “Beider” (bathhouse attendant), because he was in charge of the bathhouses, the gas chambers. Afterwards, the dog was passed on to Unterscharfuehrer Paul, one of the greatest sadists in the camp. He used to call the dog and say: “Beri, my man, grab that dog - Beri, you are acting in my place.” Generally speaking, very few of the people who were mauled by the dog remained alive, since the Germans could not stand injured persons, sick persons. I was bitten twice by that dog - I still bear the marks on my body. By chance - and everything was a matter of chance - I remained alive.

There was one other dog, but he was less powerful. The dog “Beri” I am talking about was the size of a large calf, and if he got hold of a man, that man was helpless. The dog would attack him, and he had to submit to it. There were latrines there. After work, people were afraid to sit there. The dog was very well trained; if he came to any place, he would finish off anyone who was there.

Q. Let us get back to your first day in the camp. So Paul came there, right?

A. In the evening, after everyone had returned from their work, they lined us up for an Appell, a roll-call. Then Wagner came. While he was with us, he rose in rank very rapidly. At first, he was an Unterscharfuehrer, and, if I am not mistaken, he ended up as Oberscharfuehrer. He came along and told us the tale that people were going to the Ukraine: “and you, if you work, will do well; if not - you will be put to death.”

After that, Paul came up to us and asked: “Who is sick? Who is tired? Anyone not wanting to work should fall out.” There were several cases of people who stepped out. Most of them understood the hint, and the others also understood the hint, but they were tired of living. Not all of them stepped out. He would come up and say: “You, it’s enough for you, why do you want to work? You can live well. Fall out.” He would choose the people. There was a long time when he used to do the same thing every evening, choosing ten to twelve persons.

There was a Ukrainian SS man by the name of Taras, and he used to tell him:

“Taras, take him to the Lazarette (military hospital).” After that, they soon explained to us what the Lazarette was. He told us: “Do you know what the Lazarette is? It is a place from which anyone who enters does not return. He sits there quietly - he does not work any more. Well, if there is anyone else willing - please.” This kind of thing continued for a whole month - it was the same routine every evening.

Q. What happened to the people at the Lazarette?

A. They were immediately shot. The Lazarette was a place in the forest, in the direction of two of the gas chambers - it was closer to the railway siding. And, at first, when people arrived, some of those who came were ill or had died on the way. Carts were not yet available - we built them later. This impeded the progress of the transports. Then these people were dragged closer to the site that was called Lazarette, which contained smaller pits, and were hurled into the pits, usually together with newly-born infants. We only saw this from a distance.

Q. Mr. Freiberg, at night, on your first day in Sobibor, when you were put into the barn, men who came back told you how people from the transport that had arrived were shot, is that correct?

A. Not exactly. They told us of incidents that happened to their comrades while at work. This did not happen to those from the transport who went off to the gas chambers - but this they did not see.

Q. Did they describe what happened to their comrades at work?

A. Yes. There were people missing everywhere, right from the start. Many people were missing. I can tell you that, in the course of one month, only fifty people remained out of one hundred and fifty.

Q. I am talking about your first day - let us stick to the first day. How old were you at the time?

A. I was fifteen years old, but I looked like a boy of ten, since I had been small and very thin already at home.

Q. You were lying there, crying, and a Jew comforted you?

A. I could not picture to myself what was happening in general. I was dazed. They crowded us together. There were people there who somehow managed, and I was sitting in the middle. One of the Jews said: “My boy, by behaving in this way you will not last a single day. Come, rest your head on mine, and go to sleep.” And so I dozed off, one could say.

Q. After several days, transports began arriving at Sobibor, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. What was the method of dealing with these people, from the moment they arrived at Sobibor, at the railway station?

A. In 1942, in the middle of the year 1942, transports arrived from Poland; others came from Czechoslovakia, from Slovakia, Austria and Germany. Most of these people did not know or suspect anything but were incredulous. The treatment was like this: They arrived, the freight cars were brought in, the people were taken off rapidly and made to run to this place where they separated the men, women and children. That was a kind of half-way station. The people were put into a closed-in yard.

The entire path lay between barbed wire fences, and, on the way, there were signs “To the Showers.” Inside the yard,there were also large signs “To the Showers,” and there were also signs “To the Cash Desk.” The cash desk stood in a corner. There was a door there, and that was where the people assembled.

Then Oberscharfuehrer Michel would appear, whom we called “the preacher,” and he addressed the people. His speeches were usually adapted to each transport. But, at that time, he would repeat the same story about what would happen there. They were going to the Ukraine where they would establish farms, they would have to work - work hard. And sometimes people used to ask questions: “What is going to happen to the women?” And he would reply: “If they want to live under better conditions, they, too, will have to work.” After that, he would add: “You have to get undressed, but you must leave your belongings in order - we don’t have much time - so that when you come out of the showers, it will not take long.”

The people believed him. They undressed, they arranged their possessions: money, gold and securities - these they handed over at the cash desk. In most cases, people handed over their money, but, at any rate, there were also some who buried the money and the gold in the sand - there was sand there - or in all sorts of corners, in the hope that on their return they would have some money.

And then they walked through this narrow door, passing between two barbed wire fences, for a distance of three hundred metres.

Attorney General: I have, here, a plan of Sobibor, sketched by one of the later witnesses, Biskowitz. I don’t have a copy but, with the Court’s indulgence, I should like to ask the witness to point out various places on the plan. He has seen it, he has identified it, and he says it is accurate.

Presiding Judge: Very well. It is going to be a little difficult - for either he will see the plan, or we will.

Attorney General: If the Court will permit the witness to come closer...

Presiding Judge: In that case, I would ask you also to approach the bench.

Attorney General: If the Court will allow us.

Presiding Judge: Certainly. Dr. Servatius, as well, if he wants to see it.

Attorney General: [To witness] You arrived by train - at what point?

Witness Freiberg: It was a kind of siding into the camp.

Q. This place that is marked with the words “SS, Train into the Camp”?

A. Yes. It is not drawn accurately, it was a little further away, and here there were, apart from the external barbed wire fences of the camp, additional interior barbed wire fences. It was along this path that the people walked and reached this place...

Q. Please look here, in the centre - do you recognize this place?

A. Yes.

Q. What is this, here?

A. To begin with, they came to this spot. There was a kind of covered shed here, which was the first stop for the people, and there they were sorted. At first, they would sort out the men, women and children. After that, they continued walking along this path, until...

Presiding Judge: It is impossible to proceed in this way. Let the witness return to his place. Without our seeing it, let him give a general description.

Attorney General: Thank you very much. [To witness] Please point out the spot where that speech was made to the people. Mark it in pencil with some kind of sign and tell the Court how you have marked it.

Witness Freiberg: I shall write it here. The people walked from the yard where they undressed along the path between two fences.

Q. Is the path marked here?

A. Yes, the path is marked, “To the gas chambers.” That was at the beginning. Afterwards, the situation was slightly changed - I don’t know whether I should talk about that now.

Q. We shall talk about that later. That is how it was at the beginning?

A. Yes.

Q. Did the Germans also use violence, sometimes, on these victims before they were gassed?

A. In most cases. I believe this was only a question of time! If they had time to be brutal, they maltreated them as much as they could.

Q. In what way were they maltreated?

A. I saw very shocking instances. They would stab them, cut off people’s limbs, hit them continuously. They would urge them on with whips. All the time they kept them on the run. They did not allow people a moment to think of what was happening at all. But there were cases where they especially kept people behind for their amusement. They used to leave behind the last ones of the transports. We were on the outside of this yard and heard what was going on inside. The shrieking was terrible. And, afterwards, when we went in to remove the belongings, we saw enough horrors and a great deal of blood.

Q. What were you engaged in at the time you were in Sobibor?

A. I was involved in many kinds of work. Most of my work was in the stores for sorting out personal effects. But I was also employed in erecting the camp, in all possible aspects of maintenance. I used to clean the living quarters of the Ukrainians. And, for a short while, I also used to cut off the hair of the women before they entered the gas chambers.

Q. You had to cut off the hair of women before they went into the gas chambers?

A. Yes.

Q. Who ordered you to do this?

A. There was a time, after they made substantial improvements to the camp, after there had been an interval in the transports, and trains arrived full of building materials; they put up huts, they enlarged everything, they enlarged the guards’ positions, additional SS men arrived...

Presiding Judge: Did you hear the question?

Witness Freiberg: Yes.

Q. Who ordered you to do this?

A. After that, they built three...

Attorney General: Who gave you the order to cut the hair?

Witness Freiberg: It was the SS man Gumerski.

Presiding Judge: Men and women?

Witness Freiberg: Only women.

Attorney General: What happened to the hair?

Witness Freiberg: When we returned from the place, we dragged the sacks along with us to the stores.

Q. Do you know what they did with the hair later?

A. We loaded the sacks on to freight cars.

Q. What happened to your group of 100-150 people? How many survived after one month?

A. About fifty persons.

Q. What happened to the one hundred?

A. All of them were killed, in all kinds of ways - some of them committed suicide, some went out of their minds, some were injured in various ways and the Germans shot them on the spot.

Q. Did you try to commit suicide?

A. Yes. I made an attempt. I did not sleep that night. It happened after an incident in which a friend of mine - in all these troubles, we immediately found friends - also committed suicide. Anyone who committed suicide or was killed in any way whatsoever was envied by everyone; everybody said: “Oh, how good for him - how wonderful that he is now beyond all this. What are we still here for, to await certain death, and before that to suffer so much, and to a certain extent still to assist the Germans?” Everyone said it, but carrying it out was difficult.

That night, I decided to end my life. I took a belt, I tried again - yes and no. I must admit that I felt certain signs, hopes - I don’t know...If I was not killed here, if I was not killed there - perhaps this is it. In the end, I couldn’t continue any longer, I gave up the idea. I also went out once, I made my way into the Lazarette to be shot. Somehow, the German there sent me back - that was in the first period...

Presiding Judge: If, as you say, it was in the first period, would you complete this part of your story?

Witness Freiberg: This was in the first period, in the first month or months, with the old-timers who were there.

Q. And after that?

A. We simply did not know what was happening. It is quite indescribable.

Everyone awaited death. And, when another transport arrived, of course we sat there and wept, all of us. We did not talk about food or anything.

But, later on, there were cases where people...to some extent, we became accustomed to it. We acquired another way of thinking. We saw what was going on, but thought the whole world was being destroyed. We saw that transports were arriving in all kinds of ways, the people were well dressed, as if they had gone on a visit somewhere, people from France and Holland, from all sorts of countries, and all this went on, day after day, day after day. We became used to the nature of the internal regime. In some way, we became accustomed to it. To some extent, we got used to the way of life.

I must also point out that new victims were always arriving. These suffered more than those who were called old-timers. In certain cases, the old-timers obtained particular jobs. I also received such a job, afterwards. I worked as a cleaner of the living quarters of the Ukrainians.

Relatively speaking, I was not involved in all this business. Then, too, I was given beatings, but in a different way, in a way which could be tolerated. It was like this, on the one hand. On the other hand, we began thinking of a possible escape, perhaps of revolt. That began to give us hope. People who arrived on the transports shouted at us: “Take revenge,” they threw gold at us: “Perhaps you will save yourselves.” Meanwhile, everyone of us had undergone all kinds of experiences and survived; that gave him some kind of hope that, perhaps, someone would get out.

Attorney General: Where did the band which you mentioned play, and what was its role?

Witness Freiberg: The band was at Camp 1; it played in various places and on various occasions.

Presiding Judge: Who were the members of the band?

Witness Freiberg: Jews. When the transports were moving, they used to play. They used to play inside our yard. The band also played when the Germans came in the evening and told us to play and to dance. And we danced - everybody danced.

Attorney General: Did they order you to sing?

Witness Freiberg: Yes. At the end of each day’s work, which began early in the morning, sometimes in the middle of the night - it went on until the middle of the night or later into the night. And then the Germans came. Then exercises began, Strafexerzierung (punitive exercises), and we had to sing songs, and if the singing was not as it should be, there would again be exercises, and yet more exercises, and again blows, blows. And so this went on, for hours.

Q. Someone composed some kind of hymn that you were required to sing there - is that correct?

A. Yes, that was Untersturmfuehrer Weiss. Once he came to us after work. We werelined up - all of us - on the roll- call ground. First of all, he read out the words to us. Then he taught us the tune. There were two songs in German against the Jews. I remember the words. Perhaps, here and there, it is a little inaccurate.

Q. Perhaps you would recite to us one or two typical verses from these songs that you were obliged to sing?

A. “Oh, gib uns Moses wieder. Zu Deine Glaubensbrueder soll sich das Wasser wieder teilen, stellen auf Wassersaeulen, fest stellen wie eine Felsenwand; dass in die schmale Rinne die ganze Judenschaft drinne. Mach die Klappe zu, und alle Voelker haben Ruhe. Jerusalem, Halleluja, Amen.” (Oh, send Moses back to us. Let the waters again part for the members of your faith and erect columns of water, firm as a rock, so that in the narrow channel the whole of Jewry is inside. Close the hatch, and all the nations shall have peace. Jerusalem, Hallelujah, Amen.)

This was accompanied by movements, raising the hands, bending the knees, with all kinds of grimacing. It lasted three to four hours.

Q. Was there another song you had to sing, the content of which was that all the Jews are swindlers?

A. Yes.

Q. Repeat one verse to us.

A. The final part ended as follows: “Von Israel abstamme ich. Die Ehrlichkeit verdamme ich. Zwei sind wie eins. Dann esse ich nicht vom Schwein. Ich bin eich Jude, will ein Jude sein.” (I am of Jewish stock. I damn honesty. Two are like one. I don’t eat pork. I am a Jew, I want to be a Jew.)

Q. Did they also inflict terrible maltreatment on you, the team of workers?

A. It is simply difficult to describe. It can be said that it is hard for me to believe it today. I can talk about one of the many days that passed. We were then working in the sorting camp. We began sorting out the piles that had been heaped up in the course of time. We finished taking out personal belongings from one shed. Paul was then our commander. It so happened that, between the rafters and the roof, a torn umbrella had been left behind. He sent one of our boys to climb up and bring the umbrella down. It was at a height of seven to eight metres - these were large sheds. The lad climbed up through the rafters, moving along on his hands, he was not agile enough and fell down, breaking his limbs. Because he had fallen, he received twenty-five floggings, and Beri dealt with him.

This appealed to Paul, and he went and called other Germans. I remember Oberscharfuehrer Michel, Schteufel and others. He called out to them: “I have discovered parachutists amongst the Jews. Do you want to see? They burst out laughing, and he began sending up people, one after the other, to go on to the rafters. I went over it twice - I was fairly agile; and whoever fell - these were older people, or they fell out of fear - fell to the ground. When they fell to the ground, they were given murderous blows, and the dog bit them incessantly. In the midst of all this, Paul began running around, went into an ecstasy; when anyone was bitten, he put a bullet into him on the spot. All of those working there went through this “game”.

After that someone invented something else. There were many mice there. When the personal effects were piled up, there were a lot of mice. An order was given: Five men were to go outside, the rest were to catch mice. Everyone had to catch two mice; whoever failed to do so would be put to death. It was not difficult to catch them. We caught mice. They tied up the bottoms of the trousers of the five men, and we had to fill them with mice. The men were ordered to stand at attention. They could not stand that. They wriggled this way and that way and were given murderous blows. There was loud laughter on the part of the Germans.

When this business was over, another one began. There was a certain Jew there, whom Paul and all the Jews called “Der schreckliche Ivan” (Ivan the Terrible). Half the beard of this man had been shaved off, half the hair of his head, half his eyebrows and half his moustache.

Q. Who shaved him in this way?

A. A Jewish barber. He was given instructions to do so. There was another one, on the other side. They used to appear every day at the roll call, half shaven.

This Jew was severely maltreated. I heard that the man begged them, many times, to shoot him. He was strong. No matter they continued to do to him, he still remained alive. They gave an order to bring something. Michel then went out.

Next to the cash desk, there were all sorts of medicines. They fetched some bottles. I don’t know what was inside. They made him drink it. He turned yellow and fell down as though dead. The Germans gave orders for water to be brought. They poured water over him. They beat him - but he did not feel anything. The whole affair continued throughout the entire day, until the time came for us to go to our camp.

They gave orders to bring a wooden board, to place him on top of it, to walk slowly and to sing a funeral march. This was the way that day ended. People were killed that day - I don’t know how many. I saw a number of incidents myself. I think five to six people were killed there.

There was maltreatment. I only want to point to a number of cases in a general way. They turned us into animals there. People in the yard were made to walk on all fours and to bark. There was one young man who, for several days, all the time he was at work, was given the task of running on all fours and barking, to seize everyone by the trousers.

They invented all kinds of things. In fact, by so doing, they interrupted the progress of the work. Sometimes it became impossible to work at all. One hid behind the other, one ran, one did something or other. This was not work. These were only days of amusement.

Q. What unit did these Germans belong to?

A. The SS.

Q. Do you remember a particular day when they informed you that a visit of some important personage would take place? Is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. Himmler arrived - do you remember?

A. Yes. I was working for the Ukrainians. In fact, they had already been talking about it. They cleaned the camp thoroughly. There was a general state of preparedness, and the whole camp knew that Himmler was due to come. The camp workers did not go out to their work that day. It was forbidden for anyone to be seen outside the closed confines of our place. But I, and a few others like myself, who worked at these jobs, worked with the Ukrainians.

I remained there, and I saw how a special train arrived; it was the first time that such an entourage had arrived for a visit. Several hundred people alighted. Perhaps that is an exaggeration, but there were very many. In the centre - and one’s eyes turned immediately towards the centre - there walked Himmler.

Q. How did you know that it was Himmler?

A. I knew, for I was watching. I knew he was about to come. And I noticed the respect which the other SS men accorded him.

Q. Could this possibly have been some other high-ranking officer?

A. We knew that Himmler was about to come. The whole camp knew. The Germans also said so. It was well known. They went directly to Camp 3. This was at a time when there were no transports. It was after that that they made renovations and increased the capacity of the camp. They had brought several hundred women from the labour camp and had held them there for some days. As soon as the party arrived, they put the women into the gas chambers. Himmler, together with his entourage, went down there to see what it was like.

Q. But this you don’t know, since you were not there.

A. We had contact with Camp 3. We received information about it.

Q. You heard from others?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know anyone else who was in Himmler’s party? Only tell us if you know for certain.

A. I don’t know for certain.

Q. Was Himmler there only once?

A. From time to time, a plane used to arrive. The plane used to land inside the camp. I did not know who it was. I remember his image. He was a short man with brown clothes. He always used to alight, usually hurrying directly to Camp 3. Sometimes he paid a brief visit to Camp 2, to see what was going on.

Q. Did you ever see Eichmann there?

A. At present, I don’t remember. I am not sure about that. This does not give me any peace of mind.

Q. Did only Jews arrive at Sobibor to be exterminated?

A. I remember one instance of non-Jews. It was a transport of Gypsies. All the rest were Jews.

Q. How many people arrived each week during the time you were there - or each day?

A. There were various periods. Sometimes there were fewer transports; sometimes there were more. There were periods when several trains arrived on one day; in the morning, towards evening, and again in the early morning; in the middle of the night we could hear a locomotive bringing in more freight cars. At that time, a transport from Holland arrived every Thursday.

Q. Do you remember a hospital transport from Holland, people on stretchers, doctors, nurses and hospital workers?

A. Yes. I remember several hospitals. One, I remember, was a hospital of mental patients. The Germans maltreated them most severely - it was horrible to behold. The people were sick, they ran, and they laughed, they mocked them, they beat them up, they shot them. This was a transport of mental patients.

Later on, there was a transport of a complete hospital - I think it was from Holland. They got off with stretchers, sick people were taken down, some of them led by the hand, they were made to sit down. Doctors and nurses attended to them right there. They set up a table in the middle of the field, and the director of the hospital or the head doctor sat down there. He took out a note book, made entries into it and gave instructions. The doctors and nurses ran about all the time. One had the impression that the entire camp had been converted into a field hospital. After one and a half hours, there were no more patients, nor doctors, nor those who accompanied them.

Q. Did a transport once arrive from Bialystok, accompanied by a heavy guard?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you there when the freight cars were opened?

A. Yes.

Q. What did you see?

A. This was a transport, the like of which we had never seen before. The freight cars were broken. We saw the freight cars standing outside. There were perhaps hundreds, perhaps thousands, of SS men, Ukrainians, who accompanied this train.

The freight cars were broken. Inside the people were half dead, half alive. The people were naked. The dead, the living - all together, the injured...it was something terrible. They began bringing these people into the yard where people were being undressed. There was screaming there, people resisted. They resisted, they would not move from place to place. They put up resistance to everything.

The Germans then increased the number of guards. They were all armed with machine guns. They were firing all the time. Under the pressure of the shooting, some fell, some walked on. Part of them were brought into the yard. Then Oberscharfuehrer Michel shouted, “Silence!”; he shouted loudly, “Silence!”. He succeeded, people quietened somewhat. He said to them: “I know very well that you want to die, but that will not help you. You have got to work once more.” He said that in a very determined voice.

To some extent, perhaps, his trick worked. Some people started walking. They undressed. This worked, perhaps, for a few minutes only, and then the screaming reached the heavens. And the Germans killed more people on the way than they brought to the gas chambers.

Q. Was there once an SS man who told you that he was not ready to continue with this work any longer?

A. Yes.

Q. Tell us in detail.

A. It was an unusual case. I was then working on laying down a narrow-gauge railway line that subsequently served to convey people, sick or dead, from the transports directly to the crematoria. I was working on laying down the rails, and a certain German was working there - Getzinger - who was a terrible sadist. He used to kill people on the way with his hammer.

One day, I came to work and found Untersturmfuehrer Schwarz there - his name is engraved in my memory thus - but I am not sure that the name is correct. Our comrades, as much as they feared SS men, were afraid even more of someone new. I don’t know, it was something like that. We saw a new senior officer. We were terribly afraid.

Presiding Judge: What was his rank?

Witness Freiberg: Untersturmfuehrer. I took hold of the railway sleepers, loaded them on my back, and began running. He called out to me and said: “Are you crazy? Why are you taking so many?” I thought he wanted to “fix” me, I put down one sleeper; he came up to me and himself removed a few more. I began running; again he stopped me and said to me: “Why are you running? We have enough time, you can walk slowly.” I proceeded accordingly. When I returned from work, I told this to my companions. And it actually turned into a legend, namely that there was one SS man who behaved like a human being.

At first, they would not believe me, but everyone of them came across him in some fashion. I saw him at the time of a transport; he turned aside as if ashamed and would hang his head. Sometimes he would come up, say a kind word; he never beat people. He was there a month or a month and a half - roughly for such a period. He once came to us in our hut and said to us: “I did not know where they were taking me, and when I became aware of it, I immediately requested a transfer, so now I am going to leave you.” He shook hands with some of us and expressed the hope that we would survive - and in this way he took his leave.

This was a unique case. There was one other example which had nothing to do with us. He was a baker, an old SS man. All the others carried out orders. They did so gladly, and they even contravened the orders, for if they had carried out orders, they would have gone on with extermination but would not have maltreated people, for that meant losing time. One SS man was even transferred for this reason, for matters had come to such a pass that the work was no longer what it should be.

Q. You yourselves, amongst yourselves, had plans to escape all the time. Is that not so?

A. Yes.

Q. Perhaps you would tell us briefly of the case of a Jew, a ship’s captain, a Jew from Holland, who tried to organize an escape?

A. May I describe the atmosphere in the camp?

Q. Please do.

A. As I have already indicated, one must distinguish between two periods in the camp, the first and the second.

Q. Each period from the prisoner’s point of view?

A. From the point of view of the prisoner. In the course of time, we became accustomed, in some way or other, to the way of life.

Presiding Judge: You have already mentioned this.

Witness Freiberg: But there were several factors that made life possible for us. We recovered, we began to think. First of all, we had to inform the world; somebody had to be sent outside, we had to try to escape, we had to try to organize a revolt, and indeed, in spite of these difficult circumstances, it was possible.

Attorney General: Did the prisoners help each other?

Witness Freiberg: Yes they did. The mutual aid was very strong. Without this, I would not have been alive today, for I also fell ill with typhus. And, however strange it may seen, I endured the entire period of typhus without the Germans knowing about it.

Q. What were the manifestations of this mutual aid? How did it express itself?

A. Bonds of friendship were created, and people helped their comrades as much as possible. People risked their lives for that. Life, indeed, was not important; it was a minor matter, and one used to joke about it. But, nonetheless, day after day, whoever worked in a place from where it was possible to bring food or a cigarette, did so without thinking of the consequences. And there was help for anyone who did not feel well, we knew that anyone who was just beginning to be ill would be killed, and it was necessary to cover up for him and, in certain cases, we did this also with the aid of the Kapo.

Q. Tell us something about attempts to escape. Once there was a case of the theft of a can of petrol and arson, do you remember?

A. Yes.

Q. Please tell us about it, about the Dutch captain and, finally, about the revolt in which you escaped.

A. We made various attempts. Once, at the beginning, two persons escaped from the camp and, forthwith, a group of people were shot. After that, the feeling of collective responsibility became stronger. Each one of us got to know the other, and we considered how we could all escape together. ]

Once a plan was prepared, and one young man volunteered to get in by stealth, at night, into the huge storerooms and steal petrol, so that we could start fires at midnight, and the moment the fires would start and the Germans would start running about - we were to break out and flee from the camp. The plan failed at the last minute. Actually, it was not at the last minute. In the evening, when we were to inform everyone, so that no one should be asleep at the time it was due to occur, there were two who said that if we carried out this plan, they would inform the Germans.

Presiding Judge: Jews?

Witness Freiberg: Jews. They argued: “If we have two or three more weeks to live - don’t kill us now.” Thus, we had to give up the plan. There was a case where there was a captain from amongst the Dutch.

Attorney General: A Jew?

Witness Freiberg: A Jew. He headed the organization for revolt. And, at that time, there were some individuals amongst the Ukrainians whom we thought it was possible to talk to. They related all kinds of stories about partisans, and a conspiracy was established between him and the Ukrainians to organize a revolt.

One of the Ukrainians apparently disclosed this; at a roll-call in the evening, they took him out and began to interrogate him as to who were the organizers of the planned escape. This man withstood beatings and endless tortures and maintained: “I was the only one who wanted to escape.” He did not reveal anything. The Germans said that if he would not tell them, they would take all the people of the block - I don’t remember how many there were in the block to which he belonged - they would take them to Camp 3, and there they would cut off the heads of all of them in front of him, and he would be the last to be killed. He said: “In any case, you do as you like - from me you will not learn anything.”

Then an order was given to the entire block to move to Camp 3 - the block numbered eighty persons. The next day, we learned that the Germans kept their word, and all the people were beheaded. And, after the War, there was evidence from a young man who is now overseas, that he caught the German who was responsible, Novak - he was in the Russian zone - they searched his home and found all kinds of photographs; amongst the photographs they found was a picture of the decapitation.

Q. Later on, Jews arrived who were Russian prisoners of war, and they told you that it was possible to kill Germans?

A. Yes.

Q. This again revived amongst you the plans for revolt and escape?

A. As a matter of fact, despite failures, there were still attempts. I gave only a few examples, but all our thoughts, whenever we had a free moment, were concentrated on escaping. We were ready to do it, there was no fear, but simply we did not know the technique.

Q. I am going to ask another witness to describe the actual revolt, but perhaps you would tell us when the revolt took place, and when you escaped?

A. The revolt took place on 14 October.

Q. In what year?

A. In 1943.

Q. How many people escaped?

A. It is impossible to know exactly, for they fled in all directions, but according to an estimate, about three hundred people escaped. There were then six to seven hundred of us in the camp. Half of them managed to escape, and approximately half were killed during the revolt.

Q. Did they search for you?

Presiding Judge: Were you one of those who fled?

Witness Freiberg: Yes. The Germans searched - I think that they mobilized the entire surroundings. They searched, they used aircraft; for weeks, when I was still wandering in the forests, the Germans were still searching the whole neighbourhood.

Attorney General: After that, you hid in the forests?

Witness Freiberg: After that, I remained in the forests for another year.

Q. We won’t talk about that. In this way, you were saved. How many remained alive after the War of the three hundred who escaped?

A. We met after the War in Lublin, all those who fled, and all of them were in the district - there were some thirty odd persons.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions to the witness?

Dr. Servatius: Witness, how long were you in Sobibor, from when to when?

Witness Freiberg: I was there for seventeen months, from May 1942 until October 1943, 14 October 1943.

Q. Are you able to say how many people were exterminated there during this period, in your estimation, as far as you can?

A. I would like to say, I cannot estimate; I saw before my eyes, every day, hundreds and thousands of people. But, according to what people said at our meetings after the War, and what was said inside the camp, the number of one million was mentioned.

Presiding Judge: During the period you were there?

Witness Freiberg: During that period, which was, in reality, the whole period of the camp’s existence, because afterwards the Germans liquidated the whole camp, after we had carried out the revolt.


Judge Halevi: But that is not your estimate - you did not estimate it thus?

Witness Freiberg: No. I cannot make an estimation.

Dr. Servatius: Can’t you even mention a tentative number? Did you say a million or one hundred thousand?

Presiding Judge: He said that he heard from others, about one million; he himself did not know.

Witness Freiberg: It was impossible when one saw it, I did not think about counting people.

Dr. Servatius: I have no further questions.

Judge Halevi: Was this only an extermination camp?

Witness Freiberg: Yes. There were a number of single cases when, apparently on special instructions, they removed some carloads from some transport, they removed some carloads to labour camps - very few cases.

Q. But, apart from single cases, all the transports came to be exterminated?

A. Yes, on the same day.

Q. You said earlier that all the women and children were gassed immediately?

A. Yes.

Q. And the men, did they choose the fit ones amongst them for work?

A. In most of the transports, all the men went off as well, either before or after that. But there were cases, each time they used to remove men for work, for, in the meantime, our number was getting smaller - only a few people stayed on for a longer period. The men were there only for a month, sometimes only for two weeks.

Q. The work was only of the kind that was essential to maintaining the camp and the auxiliary work for the extermination?

A. Yes.

Q. That is to say, apart from extermination, they did not do anything concrete there?

A. Nothing else.

Q. That is to say, they left alive only the work crew?

A. Yes; in practice, it was replaced all the time.

Q. The composition of the work crew was changed?

A. It was changed constantly, but there were always some individuals who remained for a longer time, generally speaking, because they were given some additional work.

Q. The work crew was systematically replaced; were members of the crew liquidated deliberately or in a natural way?

A. This I don’t know; I only know that every time they killed some of them - they used to come and take some of them out to be shot.

Q. Was the crew relatively small?


A. At the beginning, apart from skilled people, the whole crew amounted to about one hundred persons; but all the time it grew, as more huts were erected. The number grew also, because they began exploiting whatever they could, they began sorting out every single thing - which they did not do previously.

Q. What was the largest number?

A. Six to seven hundred, at the time of the revolt.

Q. Prior to that, it was smaller?

A. Yes. I wanted to add...

Presiding Judge: One moment. When did you become aware, when did it become clear to you for the first time, that these were not shower rooms, but gas chambers?

Witness Freiberg: In the first days. There were some doubts, but it was known.

Q. They did not allow you to go near there?

A. No. No one from Camps 1 and 2 went into Camp 3, and if he went in, then he did not come out.

Q. Could one see Camp 3 from there?

A. Yes.

Q. There were also crematoria, is that not so?

A. For a certain time, they used to keep the bodies in pits. Then, some kind of derrick, a crane, was brought there, and it was engaged for months in removing the bodies from the pits and burning them in piles.

Q. Was it possible to see Camp 3 from Camp 1?

A. Camp 3 was inside a forest.

Q. One thing I did not understand. You told us how the Germans tried to mislead the victims right up to the last moment. On the other hand, you told us that they used to maltreat them.

A. Yes.

Q. You spoke earlier about this preacher?

A. Yes.

Q. How can all these matters be reconciled with one another?

A. Apparently, the order was, in fact, to deceive people up to the last minute, so that thereshould be no problems. But the Germans wanted to maltreat people a little, so they found ways of doing so. For example, there were transports to whom they gave food and drink when they arrived, and they gave them writing paper and envelopes, in order to send letters home, and then they entered the yard, where they were undressed, and after Michel spoke, there would be applause. And it happened, on more that one occasion - there were many cases when people applauded the speech. But, with certain transports, they preferred to maltreat people, so that the process would not be so smooth.

Q. Did the Germans drink to the point of intoxication?

A. Yes.

Q. A lot?

A. Yes, they used to drink - at any rate, as far as I know, they drank - and this Paul was always drunk.

Q. Did you want to add something? If it is something important.

A. Yes, I wanted to describe a transport from Majdanek. This was something special.

Attorney General: This was a transport that reached the camp, all of them virtually skeletons. If the Court will allow the witness, it should only take a minute.

Presiding Judge: Very well, you may add this.

Witness Freiberg: Once a transport arrived from Majdanek. They were human skeletons, dressed in striped clothes. On that day, there had apparently been some breakdown in the gas chambers, and they spent the night with us, sleeping in the yard. They were people to whom nothing mattered at all. When they were struck - they did not shout, they merely moaned. We received an order to distribute food to them. We went to give them food, and then they expended their last ounce of energy. They were lying, one on top of the other, they rose up together, whoever was able to, they trod on each other, in order to obtain their piece of bread, and it became almost impossible to distribute the food to them.

The next morning, they were taken to the gas chambers. And in the yard, where they had been, several hundred dead were left behind during the night. There were even some who were not dead, and some who were dragged along. Then Untersturmfuehrer Fraenzel came and selected twenty men - I was one of them - and said to us: “Don’t be afraid - you have to undress completely and carry the bodies that have remained in the yard to the carts.” This was a distance of 150-200 metres. It is hard to describe what feelings this evoked to carry the corpses on our naked bodies. The Germans urged us on all the time with blows. Everything was done at the double. We could not hold a man. We had to drag him by the legs.

Halfway along the path, when for a moment I noticed that no one was there - it was a very hot day - I let go of the body and stood there to rest. Then the dead man - whom I believed to be dead - sat up and asked me: “Is it still far to go?” This was in a weak voice, apparently with a supreme effort. I could not drag him along any more. I raised him up, I put his arm around my neck, and I began walking with him. I myself was very weak, I could not walk far, but, at a certain moment, I felt lashes on my back. It was Fraenzel. He struck me all over my body. Of course, I threw the body down and again dragged this man and brought him to the carts.

Attorney General: My last question, if the Court will permit me, actually I should have done this before.

[To the witness] Can you identify the man who is in this picture?

A. Yes.

Q. Who is he?

A. He was the first camp commandant.

Q. What was his name?

A. Wirth. He always used to ride a horse - he also had a cloak. He generally went around on horseback. He had hardly any contact with us - he never came near us, I might say. He always used to gallop to Camp 3 and return at the time of the transports. He was there for a short time, and was followed by camp Hauptmann Reichsleitner, that is what he was called.

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1291.

Dr. Servatius, do you have any further questions in connection with the witness’ concluding remarks?

Dr. Servatius: No, I have no more questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you very much, Mr. Freiberg, you have concluded your testimony.

We shall adjourn now. The next Session will be this afternoon, at 3.30 p.m.

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