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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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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, never.
Q. As far as the card index showed, nobody was ever hanged or shot in Auschwitz?
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?
Q. There was no routine death notice concerning those people?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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. 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?
Q. Not according to what you know from your work in the office?
Q. And also not according to what you heard from your friends?
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.