The Auschwitz testimony of Rava Kagan

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The Auschwitz testimony of Rava Kagan

Post by David Thompson » 06 Jun 2004 06:27

Rava Kagan, a former inmate at KL Auschwitz, testified on June 8, 1961 at the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Her testimony is available on line courtesy of the Nizkor Project at: ... 70-01.html ... 70-02.html ... 70-03.html ... 70-04.html ... 70-05.html and ... 70-06.html
Session No. 70
24 Sivan 5721 (8 June 1961)

Presiding Judge: I declare the seventieth Session of the trial open.

Attorney General: I call Mrs. Raya Kagan.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Raya Kagan.

Attorney General: Mrs. Kagan, you reside in Jerusalem, in Kiryat HaYovel, and you work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

Witness Kagan: That is correct.

Q. In 1937, you went from Vilna to Paris, in order to prepare for your studies for a doctorate degree in history, and when the Germans entered France, you remained there?

A. That is correct.

Q. You were detained on 27 April 1942?

A. Yes.

Q. You were taken to a camp?

A. I was transferred, first to the Prefecture and then to Tourelles.

Q. What was Tourelles?

A. Tourelles was a small camp - it was the name of a quarter in Paris.

Q. Do you remember that one day a certain SS officer arrived there?

A. Yes.

Q. Who was he?

A. That was on 18 June. In the morning we were told to come down from the barracks to the courtyard, and all the women inmates of the blocks, all the prisoners, came down quickly, and we saw an SS officer.

Q. Who was this SS officer?

A. I did not know him personally, but two women prisoners who had been arrested by him personally, whispered to me: “That is Dannecker.”

Q. What happened to you?

A. After the selection, which Dannecker himself conducted, he chose young, fit women. We were separated from the rest of the women, we were placed in a wing of the barracks which up to that point had been empty, and there we awaited deportation.

Q. Were they all Jews?

A. We were all Jewish.

Q. Jewish women?

A. Jewish women. And the deportation began on 22 June, at five in the morning. We were transferred in buses to the railway station of Drancy. We were sixty-seven women altogether. This was the first transport of Jewish women from France. And there, nine hundred and thirty men joined us, and hence the total transport amounted to one thousand people.

Q. When were you deported from Drancy?

A. Some hours later, they put us into a cattle train, and we moved off.

Q. And you arrived at Auschwitz?

A. On 24 June.

Q. This was in 1942?

A. In 1942.

Q. And you remained in Auschwitz until 18 January 1945?

A. Yes.

Q. And from there you made your way to Ravensbrueck, and you were sent to Mecklenburg?

A. I was taken to a Jugendlager (youth camp) near Ravensbrueck, and my last camp was Malchow, near Mecklenburg.

Q. What kind of work did you do in Auschwitz, Mrs. Kagan?

A. On the day following my arrival at Auschwitz, I was chosen - quite fortuitously, of course, since there were Jewesses from Germany; they were looking for office clerks who knew German, and in our transport there were many Jewish women from Germany whose mother tongue was German. I was also considered as a candidate. I had no prospects of success, but, by chance, the Schutzlagerfuehrerin (the [female] leader of the protective camp) chose me, too. Out of our transport, four women were chosen for work in the office.

Q. What was it called?

A. The office in which we were required to work was called the “Political Department,” with its two divisions - the “Politische Abteilung” (Political Department) and the “Standesamt” (Civil Registry). Two of us were transferred to the Politische Abteilung and two to the Standesamt.

Q. What were the functions of the Politische Abteilung?

A. This department was very important in Auschwitz. It had political functions - maintaining security in the camp. SS men, who worked with us, were engaged in this. In addition, there were administrative duties. The Politische Abteilung, in its administrative function, was called the “Registratur,” and about half the girls in the commando, perhaps more, worked there.

Presiding Judge: Were the Registratur and the Standesamt the same thing?

Witness Kagan: No, they were two separate departments, with two directors. But there was a head of this Politische Abteilung, and he was the director general of both of them, of both the Registratur and the Standesamt - he was Untersturmbannfuehrer Maximilian Grabner. We were talking about administrative duties...

Attorney General: Yes, please explain.

Witness Kagan: In the Registratur, the women prisoners dealt mainly with current matters affecting the prisoners, the affairs of living prisoners. On the other hand, the Standesamt, kept a register of the inmates, and it had three functions: the registration of births, marriages, and deaths. In Auschwitz, of course, the first two duties were non-existent, or virtually non-existent, and all the emphasis was on the registration of deaths.

Q. Do you recognize this form, Prosecution document No. 1112.

A. That was called “Aufnahmebogen” (reception questionnaire).

Presiding Judge: This document will be marked T/1331.

Attorney General: This was also submitted to the Accused and was given the reference number T/37(306). The Accused’s reply to the document is to be found on pages 3467-3471.

Please explain to us now, Mrs. Kagan, what this was.

Witness Kagan: When a prisoner reached the camp, he had to register with the camp administration. There, first of all, he was asked all kinds of personal questions. This document was placed in a file, and that became the prisoner’s personal file.

Q. Who had to complete the upper portion of the form on page one? I notice that it says here “Kempf Max Israel” in handwriting, on the printed form. Who had to enter this?

A. The prisoners themselves completed this.

Q. Here, on the second half, the lower part of the page, there is something completed in handwriting which records when the prisoner was detained and what unit sent him.

A. That part was not filled in by the prisoners.

Q. Who filled it in?

A. Apparently the Germans.

Q. I draw the Court’s attention to the fact that it says: “The unit handing over for arrest - IVB4a.”

Please look at page 2 of this form. What is the second page? Is that the same?

A. Yes, but nevertheless, there are some differences here. It is less comprehensive than the first form.

Q. What you said about the first page also applies to the second?

A. Yes.

Attorney General: Again, I should like to draw the Court’s attention to the fact that on this form as well, which refers to another prisoner, it says that the unit sending the prisoner is “RSHA IVB4a.”

Presiding Judge: What is the significance of the additional digits, which are identical in both cases - can you tell us something about that? After “RSHA IVB4a,” there appears “3233/41 G,” on both forms. Do you know?

A. No.

Attorney General: We shall have further evidence on this. We have evidence from the trial of Rudolf Hoess, by a Pole by the name of Rajewski. This is a code number indicating the country from which the prisoner was dispatched. Each country had a specific mark showing where the report had to be sent to, announcing the prisoner’s arrival. That is a document which we intend to submit tomorrow.

So, these forms were completed in the Registratur Department?

A. In the “Aufnahme” (Reception).

Q. What did they do in the Registratur?

A. They used to receive it in the Registratur, and there they had a sort of archive. There were cabinets with such files, and where necessary, there were also all kinds of other matters. For example, if he was an Aryan, there were questions which were addressed to the office. The file could be found there and passed on to be dealt with appropriately.

Q. Particulars about corporal punishment that had been administered - where were they recorded?

A. I saw them annexed to the personal file, when the man died and the file reached me.

Q. Did you, for example, see an entry such as this - our number 1245?

A. I saw one such as this, and I also saw another form, this form, these two forms.

Q. That part at the end?

A. Yes.

Attorney General: We have all of this together. It applies to various people, to corporal punishment. Would you like to tell us, Mrs. Kagan, what these forms relate to - the one dated 16 May 1944, concerning Bruno Jellinek of Vienna - what the form reports? Was he a Jew?

A. Yes.

Q. What does the form say?

A. The form says that this man tried to buy bread.

Q. What was his punishment?

A. His punishment was ten lashes.

Q. And this went into the report to the department?

A. It went into the file, after the punishment was carried out.

Q. And what does the form say about the Jew, Yitzchak Meserezki, dated 2 September 1943?

A. That he absented himself from his Kommando in order to look for some food.

Q. What was his punishment?

A. His punishment was terrible - ten times hard labour and ten times “Stehzelle” (standing cell).

Q. What was the Stehzelle?

A. This was a tiny cell, in which a man was only able to stand. And, after he had stood there all night, he had to work the next day, as usual. Presiding Judge: Are you submitting the collection of documents?

Attorney General: I shall do so immediately.

Presiding Judge: Incidentally, Mr. Hausner, how did these documents get here? Are they Auschwitz files that were seized?

Attorney General: There are a number of documents which we found at Kibbutz Lohamei Ha-Getta’ot.

Presiding Judge: Where did they originate?

Attorney General: There is an Auschwitz museum in Poland where there are original documents which remained extant after the Germans tried to cover up their tracks. Some of these are in our possession.

Presiding Judge: They surely attempted to destroy the Registratur?

Witness Kagan: We ourselves dealt with that.

Presiding Judge: We shall, no doubt, hear more about this.

Attorney General: What does the last form in front of you say - the one dated 3 July 1944?

Witness Kagan: That he disappeared without permission from his place of work and went to the kitchen, in order to fetch coffee.

Q. What was the proposed punishment?

A. Here there is something very interesting - some note that the Kapo of this Kommando used to distribute the coffee; that means, that the Kapo certainly demanded that he should bring the coffee, and it was not that he, himself, absented himself from the work.

Q. What was the proposed punishment?

A. Twenty lashes.

Judge Raveh: What is the meaning of the question marks next to the remarks that you have just read?

Witness Kagan: A query, apparently, why the Kapo was not punished.

Q. Who added these question marks?

A. Probably the officials in charge who received this added these question marks.

Q. They had doubts?

A. They did not have doubts, but probably they thought that the Kapo also ought to have been punished.

Attorney General: As far as you know, did they distribute coffee in Auschwitz?

Witness Kagan: If it could be called coffee, then they distributed coffee. It was something with an undefinable colour and an even more undefinable taste, without a grain of sugar.

Attorney General: I ask the Court to admit these documents as evidence.

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1332.

Attorney General: What did they deal with in the Standesamt?

Witness Kagan: The Standesamt, as I have explained, was the department which dealt with the registration of deaths.

Q. How did you register the deaths?

A. We received the files of the people who died from the Registratur. I worked at the first stage.

For this reason, I also received the complete files, together with everything that was connected with them. In the case of Aryans, it was sometimes more interesting, since the file contained all sorts of confidential matters, which the prisoner had probably not dreamt of; for example, correspondence which was not delivered to him, his letters which were not passed on to his relatives.

In addition, there were all kinds of reports on enquiries, which were attached. There were persons who had come after investigations. There was a statement attached from the Gestapo to the effect that investigations had been made. There were cases where the enquiries had been made in Auschwitz by the Gestapo of Katowice, and then the enquiry form would also be attached. In this way, it was possible to learn a great deal from the file.

Q. How were you ordered to record the cause of death?

A. We were given the cause of death together with the death notice. In a very short time, it became clear to us that all this was only camouflage, and that none of these causes of death could, under any circumstances, be genuine.

Q. What did you write on the forms?

A. We wrote in the forms various kinds of illnesses.

Q. Such as?

A. Catarrh of the intestines, pneumonia, erysipelas (an inflammation of the skin), general debility, dysentery, and all kinds of other kinds. In addition, in brief, I learned to draw conclusions, in the case of people where the cause was stated to be “ploetzlicher Herztod” (sudden death from a heart attack), that this was a case of killing, and not death from so-called natural causes. We then recorded it in such a way that it was clear from the entry that the person had not died from illness, and not even from floggings and tortures, but that he had been shot.

Q. Did you sometimes note down “shot” or “executed”?

A. Never.

Q. “Hanged”?

A. Never, never.

Q. As far as the card index showed, nobody was ever hanged or shot in Auschwitz?

A. Nobody.

Q. What happened to the people who were taken to the gas chambers for extermination? What happened to their personal cards?

A. These were the cards of the Sonderbehandelte (special treatment). I wanted to stress here that, of course, we were aware that “actions” were taking place and selections were being made in the camp, and that people were being taken away to be gassed. With us, such cases were marked only by two letters: SB (Sonderbehandlung - special treatment). When one of my colleagues working in the Registratur said to the chief, “Herr Unterscharfuehrer, sie ist doch tot” (Mr. Unterscharfuehrer, but she is dead), he would reply, “Mensch, Sie sind wohl verrueckt, sie ist SB” (You, are you crazy? She is SB - she has received special treatment).

Q. What used to happen to the personal cards of those people who were transferred to “SB”?

A. Their cards were removed, they were marked “SB” and destroyed.

Q. The cards were destroyed?

A. Yes.

Q. There was no routine death notice concerning those people?

A. Never.

Q. If I understand you correctly, the death notice concerned people who died in Auschwitz in other ways, and not those who were put to death by gassing.

A. Not those killed by gassing.

Q. Who removed the cards of the people who were put to death by gassing?

A. By the member of the Registratur, by Kirschner, and he gave orders...

Q. By one of the prisoners?

A. Yes, by one of the prisoners.

Q. To whom did the prisoner hand them?

A. To Kirschner.

Q. What happened with the people who were brought directly to the gas chambers?

Did they undergo registration?

A. There was no record in the camp.

Q. As if they had not come there?

A. No record.

Q. They were not registered at all?

A. They were not registered at all.

Presiding Judge: That is to say - straight from the train?

Witness Kagan: Straight from the platform.

Attorney General: Were there also Jews who were sent there by the “Kripo” - the criminal department?

Witness Kagan: Yes.

Q. How were they registered?

A. That was the great paradox of Auschwitz: People who had been arrested for supposedly committing some criminal offence were treated in a better way, for they were not included in the transports of the RSHA, and they were not regarded as “Transportjuden” (transport Jews). And this manifested itself in the fact that when selections were made, the cards of these Jews were not included in the selections.

Q. And what happened to the cards?

A. They remained alive.

Q. The criminal offenders?

A. The so-called criminal offenders. We knew that their crimes were possibly that they had used the telephone, or were found in the street after curfew time. That, too, was a criminal offence. That was one of the paradoxes of which there were so many in Auschwitz.

Q. What number did you receive when you entered Auschwitz?

A. 7984.

Q. And where did you live?

A. I came to Auschwitz at a time when the Birkenau camp was not yet in existence, except the first ten blocks of the men’s camp, of the first principal camp. They were separated from the men’s camp by a wall. We lived in those blocks. At first, I lived in a hut, when I came there, but afterwards, due to the fact that I went to work in the office, I was moved to Block 4.

Q. Together with other women prisoners who worked in the office?

A. Yes.

Q. How many of you were there?

A. In the Standesamt, we were ten girls, in the Registratur, there were a few more. But the Kommando grew. There were times when there were sixty women. Apart from that, there were also Polish men, who were so-called Volksdeutsche.

Q. What was the reason for their allowing you to live in your place of work, and not inside the camp?

A. It was inside the camp, but in another block.

Q. Why did you not live in the regular women’s block, the place where the women prisoners lived? Was there a reason for this?

A. No. They simply wanted to concentrate the office workers in one block.

Q. Was it not because of a fear of disease?

A. Not at that time. But when we were transferred to Birkenau, and I was in Birkenau for seven nights and seven days - it seemed like seven hundred or eight hundred years, each day was like a hundred years - then the SS men became alarmed and suddenly transferred us from Birkenau to Auschwitz.

Q. Why did they become alarmed? At what?

A. Because there were epidemics there, and they, these “heroes”, were also afraid for their own skins.

Q. You worked together with them, and they feared that you were likely to infect them?

A. Clearly.

Q. And then they brought you in a hurry to other living quarters?

A. That was in the headquarters building - the “Stabsgebaeude”. But I wanted to add how I was received at the Standesamt - what a welcome I received.

Q. Please do.

A. I should like to describe the welcome I was given by Untersturmfuehrer Grabner. Two of us entered, together with an SS supervisor. He rose, looked at us, and said: “You are now in the office of the Political Department; you will have to carry out your work precisely and to maintain strict confidence, not only in what you say; you are forbidden to gossip, you are forbidden to talk among yourselves about the work, you are forbidden to reveal anything of what you are doing here in the camp, and if we get to know that even by means of your Mienenspiel (facial expression) something has leaked out into the camp, we shall not treat you lightly.” One of the political SS men once told the girls, in a moment when he was in a good mood: “Under the best of circumstances, you will die here of old age, bowed down by age.”

Q. In the prisoner’s personal file, was there also a record of the condition of his teeth?

A. Definitely. I also went through that - I was required to open my mouth and to show them the state of my mouth.

Q. And what did they note down?

A. In the file, they kept a record of good teeth, artificial teeth, anything that could be of value.

Q. Did you meet women who worked in the Aussenkommando (external command)?

A. When I was in the Auschwitz camp, before we were transferred to Birkenau (this was on 9 August 1942), we were in the company of these women. I still managed, at that time, to see the Slovakian women intelligentsia, not merely the Kapos, and not only the wild Blockaelteste (block elders), but Slovakian women intelligentsia - the entire Slovakian intelligentsia which was exterminated in the summer of 1942.

Q. Were there also fair and honest women amongst the Blockaelteste?

A. Yes. There were Kapos like that, but that was exceptional.

Q. Were there women who were fair, both in the role of Kapos and the role of Blockaelteste?

A. More in the role of Kapos. There, the temptation in the distribution of food was very great.

Q. And is this what you heard from people who worked in the Aussenkommando?

A. I had friends in the camp prison about whom I was worried, and, whenever I had a free moment, I rushed to see how they were.

Q. Did you hear from members of the SS that there was a quota of dead persons that had to be produced?

A. I knew that, I was told that, before the Kommando left in the morning for “Aussenarbeit”, the SS escort would go up to the Blockfuehrerstube (office of the block leaders), and there he would be given the number of dead that they wanted him to bring back. He was also interested in that, since then he was given leave, with all sorts of benefits.

Q. That he should bring back from work a fixed quota of dead people after a day’s work?

A. Yes.

Q. You said it was forbidden to react even by making a facial expression at some news. What happened when someone would come across a notice of the death of a person she knew?

A. We had such cases. My colleague suddenly came across a death notice of her brother. We were so terrified that she was afraid to cry. She did, in fact, sob, but in such a way that one could see that she was close to having a heart attack.

Q. Do you remember Himmler’s visit to Auschwitz?

A. Yes.

Q. When?

A. It was in the second half of July 1942, if I am not mistaken. There was a roll-call, and we heard the shouted orders Achtung! (attention!) - hysterical shouting from the men’s camp which was nearby. After that, he came to us. In his entourage, there were also people dressed in mufti, and one of them went up to a Slovakian colleague of mine, a tall and beautiful girl, and asked her: “Where do you come from?” And she replied: “I am a Jewess from Slovakia.” He jumped, as if he had been bitten by a snake, for making such a mistake in not recognizing her to be Jewish.

Q. Shortly after this visit, you were transferred to Birkenau?

A. After this visit, we saw the reason, the direct connection between Himmler’s visit and our transfer to Birkenau.

Q. You did not stay there long, for the reason which you have already stated?

A. Yes. The whole transfer was horrible. For two days we did not work, and for two days preparations were made for this transfer. At the last minute, we were informed that the sick women were to remain, including those who had recovered from illness, but in the block there were some who could not work - they also stayed behind. We were mortally afraid that they would have a bitter end. And, indeed, some of them were liquidated.

Q. Do you remember a Jewish girl named Ilona Brody?

A. Helena Brody. “Ilona” - that was her name in Hungarian.

Q. What happened to her?

A. She was a very good friend of mine, a girl who came to Auschwitz close to the age of nineteen - she had parents and a family in Kezmark, in Slovakia. Her parents were very much concerned about her. Once, at the beginning of 1944, she was suddenly summoned to the Political Department, to Kirschner. We were trembling, for it was never certain how an appearance before Kirschner would end. When she came back, she reported that Kirschner had asked her what her nationality was. She told him that, in fact, she herself did not know - only that her father was Hungarian. He looked at her for a long time and did not utter a word. Later on, he asked who her father was, and so on, and then told her to go.

Q. Did she remain alive?

A. She remained alive, to our good fortune. But we subsequently got to know that this had been some outside intervention - there was a demand that the camp should release her. But we knew how easy it was to kill her and then to say that she was not there.

Judge Halevi: But she survived?

Witness Kagan: Yes, she survived. She is now in Canada and visited Israel a month ago.

Attorney General: I should like to draw the Court’s attention to exhibit T/1133, relating to Ilona Brody - the reply of the Accused’s office to the Foreign Ministry, in connection with an application that had been received to permit the transfer of this woman to Hungary, where he says that for reasons of security the return of Ilona Brody should not be approved.

Presiding Judge: What was the application - on what grounds was it made?

Attorney General: This we do not know.

Witness Kagan: But I know.

Attorney General: He refuses to release her. Meanwhile, conditions in Hungary have also changed.

Presiding Judge: Was that after the coup d’etat?

Attorney General: The letter is dated 24 April 1944, after the German entry. This is T/1133.

Presiding Judge: [to witness] What else do you know about the incident?

Witness Kagan: This I know, of course, from the time after we left the camp - that the father of Ilona Brody, by chance, had contact with a very senior official whose family had, apparently, been converted to Christianity a hundred years ago, and he had the same name. He had asked for some information from Ilona Brody’s father. Subsequently, Mr. Brody recalled this man and approached him, and Brody the Christian assisted him in submitting the application.

Q. He was a Hungarian Christian?

A. A Hungarian Christian.

Attorney General: Were there cases of the release of non- Jews from Auschwitz?

Witness Kagan: Non-Jews - of course.

Q. Was there any case of the release of a Jew from Auschwitz?

A. No.

Q. Not according to what you know from your work in the office?

A. No.

Q. And also not according to what you heard from your friends?

A. No.

Q. I am referring to your colleagues?

A. I understand.

Q. Did you know of applications for the release of some Jew or other received by the Auschwitz headquarters?

A. Yes, we heard about them, and then the answer was marked “Geheimnistraeger” (bearer of secrets), and for this reason it was impossible to release him.

Q. Do you remember the case of Mala Zimetbaum?

A. Yes. Perhaps I could relate the case of Lilly Toffler.

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 06 Jun 2004 06:36

Part 2 (final):
A. Yes. Perhaps I could relate the case of Lilly Toffler.

Q. Please do.

A. Lilly Toffler was one of our colleagues in the Kommando. She worked in the Politische Abteilung - she was even a Kapo for a time, a very decent one. There was another Slovakian woman there who had been appointed to be a Kapo; she was a collaborator, and hence simply threw her out. Through very great influence, she was not sent to Birkenau for extermination, but was transferred to the Pflanzenzug Kommando (unit for growing plants).

Q. Whose influence?

A. The influence of a cousin of hers who asked the Kapo to accept her. And this helped her. There, in the Pflanzenzug Kommando, relations were more or less human, and from there she wrote a letter to a Polish acquaintance of hers, who was in the Auschwitz camp. She used to correspond with him and, to her misfortune, one of the letters fell into the hands of the commandant. The commandant discovered it and made an investigation. The letter contained nothing out of the way, but, naturally, any excuse would do. She wrote there that she was concerned about him, that she had not come across him at their place of work, and that encouraging rumours were spreading in the camp. There were always these waves of inexplicable optimism. And she concluded: I ask myself how I shall be able to live after all that I have seen and known. Then the commandant - first of all, of course, he objected to the fact that there were encouraging rumours in the camp which might keep up the morale of the unfortunate prisoners and, in addition to that, that this girl knew and had seen what was going on. Then he got to know that she had been in our Kommando, and they conducted a thorough investigation.
Everyone was obliged to write something, so that the handwriting could be compared. Afterwards it emerged that not one of us had written the letter, and that it had been Lilly Toffler. They interrogated her very briefly, and she was executed - this lovely girl of twenty-three.

Q. What happened to Mala Zimetbaum?

A. I had known Mala Zimetbaum since the summer of 1942. At that time, she became a “Laeuferin” - a messenger between blocks and a liaison between the Blockfuehrerstube, the Kapo and the prisoners. She was a young girl, of Polish origin, but she had been living in Belgium and arrived with the Belgian transport. She was very decent. She was known throughout the camp, since she helped everybody. And her opportunities and the power, as it were, that she possessed were never wrongfully exploited by her, as was often done by the Kapos. She suffered like everybody else. However, she had better conditions - she was able to take a shower in Birkenau.

And suddenly, in the summer of 1944, I heard - I was sitting in the room of my superior - there was a telephone call - and suddenly, I heard them ringing and alerting all the Kripo and the Stapoleitstelle, all stations of the gendarmerie, and I heard the name of the prisoner, Mala Zimetbaum. She had escaped. The escape was organized. She fled in the uniform of the SS, of an Aufseherin (supervisor). The escape occurred on a Saturday afternoon when there was a reduced camp guard. Another Pole escaped with her. They met beyond the camp, on their way to Slovakia. We hoped - we had great hopes - every morning when we got up, that possibly she would succeed.

It is important to note that Mala had many opportunities - she had access to the documents. And it was said that she had stolen documents from the Blockfuehrerstube relating to the SD, and that she wanted to publish them abroad. I must remark here that her courage was well-known, but there was also a legend about Mala, and I am not sure whether it is correct that she managed to steal the documents, but it was said of her that she was capable of doing so. A fortnight later, we learned that they had been captured, they were caught in a very foolish way, right on the border, by customs officials. Apparently, they had lost their way and asked which way to go. There they had to cross mountains, to pass through the Carpathians. That was when they were captured. It seemed strange to the customs officers that a couple...

Q. At any rate, she was sent back to Auschwitz?

A. She was returned to Auschwitz. This Polish man was interrogated in our block, and not only in our block. Our hut, in which we worked, was close to the small crematorium which was already out of action, but it was a favourite place for our interrogators, mainly for Wilhelm Burger, who had invented his own forms of torture. There was a torture instrument there called a see-saw. That was where he took this Pole. We saw him there, passing by after terrible tortures. He was hanged in the Auschwitz camp. Mala was taken to Birkenau. Interrogations took place once again in Auschwitz, and we saw her.

Q. Did you speak to her?

A. Yes, I asked her how she was.

Q. You went in to her?

A. No. She was in a small hut - that was where people waited to be interrogated.

Q. What did she do?

A. Serenely and heroically she said, somewhat ironically: “I am always well.”

Presiding Judge: In what language did she say this?

Witness Kagan: In German.

Q. What did she say?

A. “Mir geht es immer wohl.”

Q. What happened to her in the end?

A. Eventually they brought her to Birkenau, they held a major roll-call, and Mandel, the Schutzlagerfuehrerin (leader of the protective camp), Marie Mandel, made a speech and demanded a spectacular and exemplary punishment for her. Mala had succeeded in placing a razor blade in her sleeve and, at the time of the roll-call, she cut open her veins. The the SS man went up to her and began mocking and cursing her. Then, with a hand covered in blood, she slapped his cheek and - again, this may be a legend - she said to him: “I shall die as a heroine, and you will die like a dog.” After that, she was taken, in this very terrible state, to the Revier, and in the evening she was put on a cart and taken to the crematorium.

Q. When the large transports from Hungary began arriving, the method of tattooing was changed - is that correct?

A. Pardon me, I still wanted to add something important - in my opinion - on the question of the registration. As from 25 February 1943, we stopped registering Jews.

Judge Halevi: What did you stop registering?

Witness Kagan: We stopped registering Jews in the Beurkundung (documentation). The documentation, as far as Jews were concerned, was stopped altogether, except for cases where death was not normal, as it were, such as suicide or killing. In these cases, we did register them. But from that date...

Q. What was the date?

A. 25 February 1943.

Attorney General: What was the reason?

Witness Kagan: We were simply not able to register them. There were so many supposedly normal deaths. We worked during the autumn of 1942 and the winter of 1943 - we worked from five in the morning until nine-thirty at night.

Q. Who gave the order to stop the registration of Jews?

A. As far as we were concerned, it was the head of the department.

Q. Who was he?

A. At that time, it was still Walter Quackernack.

Q. Was he a member of the SS?

A. Of course.

Q. Did he hold a rank?

A. Yes, at first he was an Unterscharfuehrer, and then Oberscharfuehrer.

Q. When the Hungarian Jews arrived, the method of tattooing was changed?

A. Yes, very simply, once again in order to cover up and conceal the large numbers that had reached more than two hundred thousand - perhaps even more, but that was how we estimated it to be with the men, and over one hundred thousand in the case of the women - they added the letter “A”. Because of this, everyone asks me where is my “A”, for mine is a very old number - such numbers hardly exist.

Presiding Judge: So they started anew?

Witness Kagan: Yes, they started anew.

Q. With the addition of the letter “A”?

A. Yes. With the men it was series “A” and series “B”.

Attorney General: Do you remember the revolt of the Sonderkommando?

Witness Kagan: Yes.

Q. Please tell us about it, briefly.

A. The revolt of the Sonderkommando began on...perhaps here I may...I only want to say that the revolt of the Sonderkommando was in co-operation with the entire general underground in Auschwitz.

Presiding Judge: I am sure the Attorney General knows what he is asking and what he is not asking. I would ask you to pay attention to that.

Witness Kagan: When the revolt broke out, it was at the beginning of October 1944. We received specific orders to leave our work and return to the camp.

Attorney General: What was the reaction that you noticed amongst the SS when you returned?

Witness Kagan: They were very frightened. They left us under one single guard - they all ran to Birkenau.

Q. After that, ninety-six death forms reached you for completion?

A. That is correct.

Q. What were you ordered to write in them?

A. Naturally - that this was an attempt to escape.

Q. Shot when trying to escape, or something like that?

A. Yes. Most of them were Jews from Grodno and Greece, and amongst them there were also some from Russia.

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

Dr. Servatius: Witness, do you know anything about the registration in Birkenau from 1942 to April 1944?

Witness Kagan: I do not know what you mean by “registration”. If you are referring to the registration of deaths, I understand that this also came to us. I know that, with the arrival of Hungarian transports, this work was made shorter in the case of Jews; we did not use the original form, but a shortened one.

Presiding Judge: Perhaps the purpose of the question was not clear. We shall hear immediately what Dr. Servatius wanted from you.

Dr. Servatius: Perhaps you can answer me briefly. Please give me a short answer, not a long one, so that we may be able to clarify this more easily. Here, before me, there is Prosecution document No. 4, a document which was drawn up by two Slovakian Jews, young men who escaped. They talk about the situation in Auschwitz, in Birkenau, from April 1942. They report that the numbers of the prisoners at that time began round about - and I am giving you a round figure - 27,400, and it is reported there that there was numbering and registration, and afterwards they began not to register them, and this corresponds to your testimony. According to that document, up to April 1944, they reached a total - and again I quote round figures - of 174,000.

Presiding Judge: Is this a document which has already been submitted?

Attorney General: No, it will be submitted tomorrow, Your Honour.

Witness Kagan: I do not understand what this is about, after all, we received...

Presiding Judge: Perhaps we should show the document to the witness, so that she may be enabled to answer.

Dr. Servatius: I shall hand this document to you and explain my purpose. You said that in 1943 a new series of enumeration was begun, in which they added the letter “A” before the number.

Witness Kagan: That is not correct - I did not say that. Presiding Judge: All right, we shall clarify that presently. I heard that the question of the letter “A” began in 1944, at the time of the Hungarian transports.

Witness Kagan: Exactly.

Presiding Judge: That is what she said.

Dr. Servatius: Perhaps matters have become confused in the process of translation. If that is the case, the wording of the document coincides with the evidence.

Presiding Judge: She said explicitly that she linked it to the Hungarian transports - she said it in her main evidence.

Dr. Servatius: If that is the case, I shall make a note of it and agree that there is no discrepancy. I have no more questions.

Judge Raveh: Mrs. Kagan, do you have with you the set of documents No. 1245?

Witness Kagan: No.

Q. Then, perhaps, I shall give it to you. [Passes it to the witness] Please take the fourth page. It says there “Medical opinion.” Were there cases where the doctor did not allow punishment to be carried out?

A. For me, this is a bitter joke. The doctor at Auschwitz was a hangman - not a doctor.

Q. Did you witness any instance where he did not permit it?

A. No, he was a hangman.

Q. After this comes the section Dienstaufsicht (service supervision). Did you witness any instances where confirmation for carrying out the punishment was not given?

A. Also no.

Q. Please look at the rubber stamp: “SS Wirtschaftsverwaltungshauptamt, Amtsgruppenchef D, Konzentrationslager” (Economic-Administrative Main Office, Chief of Section D, Concentration Camps). On the surface, this gives the impression as if it were signed, not inside the camp, but elsewhere. Perhaps you know what the practice was?

A. I see this for the first time, but I suppose it is a general form for all the camps. And afterwards, according to the rubber stamps, it could be changed...that is to say, if it says “Auschwitz” here, the rubber stamp was from Auschwitz, and then it referred to Auschwitz.

Q. But here, in this stamp, the word “Auschwitz” does not appear. Accordingly, I am asking you whether it was prepared in advance, for example, or whether it was sent to some place outside Auschwitz for signature. Do you know anything about that?

A. No, I cannot express my opinion on that.

Judge Raveh: Thank you very much.

Judge Halevi: Mrs. Kagan, with regard to the registration of deaths, you say there were many categories. There were all kinds of diseases on the form, in the registration I mean, and, apart from that, there was “ploetzlicher Herztod und SB” (sudden heart attack and S.B.)?

Witness Kagan: “SB” did not belong to the death register, definitely not. There was no record of that - we did not register it.

Q. What was “SB”?

A. “SB” meant a selection made inside the camp.

Q. Where did the letters “SB” appear?

A. There was a stamp on the form of the Aufnahme (reception), and that was all.

Q. And this was a sign that the person had been sent to the gas chambers?

A. Of course.

Q. And that, too, was discontinued from a certain date?

A. That continued all the time - not much work was involved in it. I have only explained the first stage in my work. My task was to summarize the personal data on a small form, and what was necessary in order to prepare the death register. We had a whole cabinet full of death registers, and this furnished the particulars. There were the personal data, the profession and so on, and on every form it said: “Died in Auschwitz, Kasernestrasse” (Barracks Street).

Q. What was the importance of that?

A. Kasernestrasse, Auschwitz, was the so-called main street of Auschwitz, where the command headquarters were, and opposite it were the house of Hoess, our department, the crematorium, and the SS Revier. All this was Kasernestrasse, Auschwitz. And if some unfortunate man died in the mud at Birkenau - he obviously did not die in the Kasernestrasse at Auschwitz. There was a general distortion of the facts. And it is an interesting fact to notice the German thoroughness in recording all the details, when they knew from the start that they were falsified, and in sending reports, month by month, to the statistical department of the head office in Berlin.

Q. What was sent to Berlin?

A. Every month a form was sent with the number of deaths. And from our material, we prepared a massive amount of material, and there were huge death registers.

Q. How many deaths were there per month?

A. It is difficult to say. I can, of course, point to the most terrible period. That was, of course, the second half of 1942, since, after that by comparison Auschwitz was very much better, as it were. And I am referring to the situation regarding the camp - I am not talking about the transports which came from outside the camp. From that point of view, 1944 was the peak. In November-December 1942, we registered about five hundred women alone, each day, and the same number - or more - of men.

Q. And those who were sent straight from the railway station?

A. There was no sign of them.

Q. Then they also did not appear in the monthly statistical reports?

A. Of course; Hoess said that only Eichmann knew these numbers.

Q. That means that in all your records in Auschwitz, not only yours personally, but in all the records, the record system, as far as you were familiar with the Politische Abteilung and with all the departments, there was no complete register of the deaths?

A. What do you mean by a complete register?

Q. In the sense that, if these documents were found, it would have been possible to compile a reconstruction of how many people died in Auschwitz.

A. No, that would not have been correct, since there were errors.

Q. Leaving aside the errors?

A. For example, my friend came into the camp as a dead person, and I registered her.

Q. These are isolated cases, but all those who were sent to the gas chambers from the railway station - they were not registered at all?

A. They were not registered at all - the “SB” were not registered.

Q. But the “SB,” you say, were registered in the “Aufnahmebogen” (reception form).

A. They were registered on the form, but not in the “Urkunde”, not in the death registers.

Q. In such a way as to make it impossible to prepare a reconstruction from these lists?

A. It would have been very difficult. It would have been possible to make a reconstruction from all kinds of entries that these were people who died a “normal” death, and cases of suicide and killing - those were the cases that were registered.

Q. These were, in fact, not the usual cases of Auschwitz, one could say?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know the date when the gas operations were discontinued?

A. That was after the explosion, in November, that is my estimate, in November 1944.

Q. What explosion?

A. The blowing up of the crematorium at the time of the revolt. The crematorium - that was the first sign. And after that came a notification from Berlin to stop the extermination in the gas chambers.

Q. Do you know the date of the notification from Berlin?

A. No.

Q. But it was after the revolt?

A. Yes, after the revolt.

Q. Was the explosion at the crematorium an operation of the revolt?

A. Absolutely. Four girls transferred the explosives on their bodies and placed the explosive materials in cans, and these cans caused the explosion. They brought the explosive materials to the Sonderkommando, and they carried out the operation.

Q. That was in November?

A. No, it was in October. There was another interesting fact. They put to death all the members of the Sonderkommando - only a small group of twelve men was left alive. And they were in a bunker in Auschwitz in Block 11, so that they could give an account of this operation. And one of those who dealt with it, Unterscharfuehrer Broch, he dealt with the revolt, he dealt with the girls - once he wanted to see one of these men who had remained in the bunker. But, by that time, he did not find them alive, since it was the practice to clear the bunker of people every month.

These, too, I registered. This I know for a fact, since in the autumn of 1944 I translated - I translated a great deal; I was also a translator - I translated for the Katowice Gestapo, and for a long time, about two weeks, I translated for a Pole from Auschwitz, and I remember that his name was...

Q. Pardon me, I did not ask you this. I wanted to know whether, after the explosion in October, they continued the extermination by gas?

A. Yes.

Q. Until the order was received from Berlin?

A. Yes.

Q. And the order from Berlin came in November?

A. Yes, but I cannot say when, exactly.

Q. Did the order put an end to the use of the gas chambers and the crematorium?

A. Yes.

Q. After that time, were there still other methods of killing?

A. Yes. But I can say this only with reservations. I only heard about it, and I did not see it. One of my acquaintances told me about it, a Russian girl, a chemist who visited Auschwitz and who had a most interesting life history.

Q. Very well, but in brief.

A. This woman was being pursued by Mengele - there were reasons for that. She hid in all kinds of places, and once she told me that she had found an empty block, the entire floor of which was covered in blood; as she found out, the men had been taken and were told that blood was needed for the soldiers at the front, and they drew blood from them and, since under the Auschwitz regime they could not recover, they all died. This blood was not dispatched - it was poured out.

Q. I have not yet understood exactly whether your office - or one of those offices with which you were familiar - if the office received continuous information about cases of death.

A. Whether it received continuous reports?

Q. For example, “SB” - on what basis was it possible to apply the stamp “SB”? On the basis of information?

A. Let me explain to you how it was. In Birkenau, a selection was made, and the list of the people who were due to die was passed on to the Politische Abteilung. There the cards were entered.

Q. Every selection, in fact, was passed on to you?

A. Not the Standesamt, only the Registratur.

Q. Then you could not know?

A. I only knew what I heard.

Q. Were there further selections in Auschwitz and in Birkenau after November 1944?

A. It is difficult for me to say. I do not think so, since the camp also was emptied in the meantime, and very many transports were dispatched, both of Jewish men and women, as well as Poles, Russians and Czechs. For all the staff were...

Q. Did you remain in Auschwitz until the end?

A. Until 18 January.

Q. And then you were transferred - on a foot march or by train? A. For four days and nights, we walked on foot. In Loslau, we were loaded on to open coal trucks. I merely wanted to add...

Presiding Judge: Would you please confine yourself to the questions that have been put to you.
After all, there was an ocean of occurrences.

Witness Kagan: I only wanted to add...

Presiding Judge: You did not want to add - that is to say, you wanted to, but we could not permit you to do so.

Judge Halevi: You do not know the number of people who left Auschwitz ultimately, together with you?

A. I don’t know.

Presiding Judge: I understood that, concerning those who came from the ramp, as you have called it, from the railway platform, there was no registration by names, as it was called. Is that correct?

Witness Kagan: Yes.

Q. Have you heard of the initials RSHA?

A. Definitely.

Q. Was any report sent from your office to the RSHA, as far as you know?

A. Possibly there was.

Q. Not “possibly”. I want to know...

A. I don’t know about that. The Standesamt did not report.

Q. You said you know something about the destruction of documents in this office?

A. That is exactly what I wanted to add.

Q. All right then, be patient. Please proceed.

A. On the 17th, a week before the evacuation, when the Russians were close to Cracow, Schwarz, who replaced Grabner, came to all the rooms and gave instructions what to do, what to destroy. And during that week, we removed all the cards of the deceased, all the forms. Of course, some remained, fortunately, but there was plenty of work. And afterwards, on the 17th we formed a chain of all the workers in the office, and all of us had to load all this material on to trucks and, apparently, it was destined to be burned at Birkenau.

Q. Hence, nothing remained of the documents that were in the office, as far as you know?

A. I do know - I also pointed that out at the time. I knew that the death registers (Todesbuecher) were kept in duplicate. One was the main copy, the original, and the other copy went to Bielsko, to the “Kreisgericht” (district court), and I don’t know what happened to all of them.

Presiding Judge: Mr. Hausner, are you going to lead special evidence on the tattooing? If not, I wanted to ask the witness about it.

Attorney General: No special evidence.

Presiding Judge: Please tell us, when did they make the tattoo mark, and who did it?

Witness Kagan: With us, it was done at the beginning of the autumn of 1942, when we were already back in the Stabsgebaeude, that is to say in Auschwitz. One fine day, we went to have our lunch...

Q. Was it not immediately upon your entry into the camp?

A. No, perhaps later on it was done immediately, but not with my transport. An SS man, not an officer, came, accompanied by two very young lads, Jews, and they did it.

Q. And did this go according to numerical order?

A. It went according to the numerical order, according to our mark. For everyone had several designations: this well- known Star of David, yellow and red, with the number on top; then there was a number here and a number there.

Q. Was that the registration number?

A. The registration number of the Aufnahme.

Q. So that it also conformed with your records?

A. Yes.

Attorney General: Perhaps I may be permitted to ask a question in connection with this. Those who were brought directly from the ramp to the gas chambers did not get numbers at all?

Witness Kagan: Not only they. There were Hungarian transports...

Q. But before all those, they did not get numbers at all?

A. They did not.

Q. Of these, there were, as you know, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions?

A. Millions.

Judge Halevi: She wanted to add something - there were further transports...?

Attorney General: And there were those who did not receive tattoo marks, these were Hungarians who came towards the end, is that correct?

Witness Kagan: Yes. That was important. There were two possibilities: there were those from the ramp, for whom there was no place in the crematorium, and they were placed temporarily in the depot. They were not given marks. And we know that to be tattooed was a sign, a very small one, for continuing to live. Because of that, it was most important to inform the Hungarian transports that they should ask to be tattooed. This task was performed by a friend of mine who was a Kapo in the “Naehstube” (sewing room). She had her chances. She promised her superior that she would make her a dress, the like of which she had never seen in her life, but she would have to allow her to go on the Sunday to Birkenau, to the camp of the new arrivals.

And she went there. She made her promise to her and she kept it. Marta approached the Hungarians and told them, she advised them that they should ask to be tattooed.

Q. Human relations among the workers, among the prisoners, can you say something about that?

A. In this hell of Auschwitz, we, for our part, remained alive owing to the fact that there was friendship between us, however strange that may seem. In this place, there was friendship, and there were many instances of solidarity. This was not the case everywhere. The differences were considerable. In a Kommando where there was a collaborator, such as our Kapo, in the Politische Abteilung and in the Standesamt...

Q. But within the unit that you knew?

A. In our unit, we dragged typhus patients with a forty degree temperature, we dragged them to the office so that they should not remain in the camp, so that they should not be included in a selection.

Q. Is that what kept you going, a solidarity of human relationships, friendship and mutual help?

A. And devotion which knew no bounds.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any additional questions relating to these last questions?

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you very much, Mrs. Kagan, you have concluded your testimony.

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