Einsatzgruppe Testimony of Leslie Gordon

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Einsatzgruppe Testimony of Leslie Gordon

Post by David Thompson » 20 Apr 2004 09:21

This testimony was given 1 Jun 1961 in the trial of Adolf Eichmann. The complete proceedings of this trial are available on line, courtesy of the Nizkor Project. An index to the proceedings may be found beginning at:

http://nizkor.com/hweb/people/e/eichman ... ex-01.html
Attorney General: I call Mr. Leslie Gordon. He was deported from Budapest to Poland. He was one of the 1941 deportees to Kamenets-Podolski, of whom we have heard; subsequently, he returned to Budapest and saw the Accused. The witness at present resides in Canada. He will testify in English.* {*No grammatical corrections have been made in the evidence given by the witness}

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Leslie Gordon.

Attorney General: Mr. Gordon, do you now live in Canada?

Witness Gordon: I live in Canada, in Montreal.

Q. You were born in Budapest?

A. Yes.

Q. Your parents had come from Poland?

A. My father was born in Poland.

Q. Hence you were regarded as Polish citizens?

A. According to the Hungarian laws, we were Polish citizens.

Q. What happened to you in June 1941?

A. In June 1941, when the Nazi hordes overran Poland, we heard rumours that the Polish citizens will be taken out of Hungary.

Q. When you say the Germans occupied Poland, which part of Poland do you mean?

A. That was the east part of Poland.

Q. If I may lead you with a few questions, Mr. Gordon. You were interned by the Hungarian authorities?

A. Yes, we were interned by the Hungarian authorities.

Q. You were brought to the then Polish border?

A. Yes, we were taken first to the Budapest synagogue. There we have been told that orders came from the Germans, since the Hungarians had no authority over the German occupied territory, and these orders came strictly from Germany.

Q. What happened then?

A. We were taken from the synagogue next morning, to the Hungarian rail station, where we have been placed in passenger cars, and we have been taken to the border of Koeroesmezoe.

Q. And to whom were you handed over at the border?

A. At Koeroesmezoe, we were handed over to the Hungarian gendarmerie until overnight. But next morning, we were loaded up on German trucks - clearly visible German licence plates on them.

Q. Who drove these trucks, and who were the guards?

A. We could not see the drivers until we arrived to the place where we have been taken, but then they turned out to be Germans.

Q. What Germans?

A. SS.

Q. How did you recognize them as being SS men?

A. From the skeleton (skull) on their caps - ‘Totenkopf’.

Q. Where did the Germans take you to?

A. We were passing close by several small villages, and then we were passing through Kolomea until we came to about two or three miles - or kilometres - outside of Kolomea, where we had been told: “Schweine-Juden, herunter!” (Jewish Pigs, get down).

Q. So you got off?

A. Yes.

Q. Where did you go?

A. We got down. Some of our luggage was left in the trucks - which we were not allowed to take down - so the fifty kilogrammes which was allowed by the Hungarian authorities to take with us - some of them left in the truck which the Germans have stolen from us.

Q. So where did you go?

A. Once we got down from the trucks, they put up two machine- guns each side of the road and told us: “Go eastwards. Don’t come back or don’t even look back.”

Some of the people had to do their hygienic doings on the side, and they were shot right on the spot.

Q. By whom?

A. By the SS.

Q. What did you do? Tell us just what you yourself did.

A. Well, we were together. My father was 58, my mother - she was 43. My brother was 22, I was 21, my sister was 19, my brother was 16, another brother was 14, a sister was eight, and my little brother was five. We were trying to keep together and go along on the road - as has been told by the “brave” SS.

Q. Who, of all those members of your family, remained alive?

A. Only myself. One of my sisters, she got exempted from the deportation because she was married to a Hungarian citizen, and she is in Canada with me.

Q. But of those who were sent on their way there, you are the only survivor?

A. As far as I know, yes.

Judge Halevi: Are you referring to the members of your family or to the whole transport?

Attorney General: We shall still come to the whole transport. How many people were there in that transport, together with you yourself?

Witness Gordon: In this group, we were about three to four hundred,
approximately. I cannot say the exact figures, but it was three to four hundred.

I remember we occupied about eight trains, eight cars, and on each from forty to sixty people were in, most of them children. Like our family - we were seven children. Other families had eight or nine children; it consisted of two-thirds children under fourteen years of age.

Q. How many people, of those who were with you in the group, survived?

A. As far as I know, all by myself.

Q. So I understand, you went northwards from Kolomea to a town called Tluste?

A. That’s right.

Q. How did you live on the way?

A. On the way, we have been exchanging our clothes and little remaining
jewellery. My mother took off her ring, my father took off his ring and his
watch, and we exchanged clothes with the people of the district.

Eichmann trial - The District Court Sessions
The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 62
(Part 5 of 6)

Q. And finally you reached a place where you stayed a little while longer. What was the name of the place?

A. In some of the places, there was still the local Jewry left, and the
so-called Judenrat were able to provide us with very little food. Whatever we could find in exchange we had. Sometimes the Hungarian soldiers helped us with a loaf of bread, for money of course.

Q. But that was not my question. I asked: What was the place you arrived at? What was the name of the village where you stayed a little longer?

A. We stayed longer in Tluste and Buczacz.

Q. In Buczacz you were put to forced labour?

A. In Buczacz, I was captured after being there for five or six days, by two SS men, while I was searching for food for my family, which had already lost two of its members - one of my sisters and one of my brothers. They were lost, and we could never find them.

Q. When you were caught, what happened to you?

A. I was taken to a group of young men, about 25 or 30 young men. We were first given food, and then we were given shovels and other tools and were taken about two or three kilometres out of the town on a top of a hill or hills.

Q. What did you do there?

A. We had been taken up there, and they told us to start digging ditches. First we believed that this was for the tanks, that perhaps the Russians were coming back, and the size of the ditches had almost convinced us that this is what was going to be.

Q. Who were the people who ordered you to dig those trenches? What uniforms did they wear?

A. They had the SS uniform, and they had an SD on their sleeves, I believe.

Q. Did you call them by any name - do you know how they were called?

A. No.

Q. After you had dug some of those trenches, what happened next?

A. We finished one of the trenches at about late evening, I don’t know the time. The size of that trench was about twenty metres long on both sides, and about five metres wide, and about two to two and a half metres deep. That night we were sent to our place to sleep. Before going to sleep, they gave us some food.

Q. What happened on the next day?

A. Next day, we started to dig another trench until about late forenoon, when we saw two cars are coming to the place. Stepping out were very high-ranking SS officers, about six or seven of them. They were talking to our commanders and to our guards. They were pointing, and we could not hear what they were saying, but they pointed to the trenches we had dug.

Q. To cut it short, finally people were taken down, is that correct?

A. Shortly after this, we saw the people coming up also with shovels and
different tools in their hands, and they had been ordered to lay down their tools. In the meantime, there were some German trucks coming up as well, having a clear mark on their side: “Fuer die Deutsche Winterhilfe”
(For the German Winter Relief project).

Q. Were people executed there?

A. These people were ordered to take off all their clothes, they were put in order, and then they were all naked. They were sent to these ditches, and SS men - some of them drunk, some of them sober, and some of them photographing the scene - these people, numbering about three to four hundred, I don’t know the exact number, were all executed, and most of them only got hurt and got buried alive.

Q. Quicklime was brought there.

A. Quicklime was brought there, too, four or five trucks of quicklime.

Q. What did they do with that?

A. Firstly, after the shooting, we were ordered to put some earth back on the bodies, some of them were still crying for help. We put the earth back on the bodies, and then the trucks were emptied of the quicklime.

Q. Who were the people executed there?

A. They were mostly men and women able to work, and, as we found out, the SS tried to cut the family ties and get the people who were able to resist perhaps separately killed.

Presiding Judge: Please listen carefully to the Attorney General’s questions and reply to the questions.

Attorney General: Mr. Gordon, what was the nationality of these people?

Witness Gordon: Mostly Hungarians.

Q. No, were they Jews, Christians?

A. Oh, Jews. All Jews. I am talking about people who are all Jews, no exception. There were some Christians who were trying to hide some Jews, and they were hanged.

Q. Now, did the SS guards, or the SS men guarding you, say something about why they are doing this? Did you hear them talking?

A. I heard only one SS man, and the variety of their feelings was quite
extensive, from one end to another. Some get almost hysterical, some get close to a nervous breakdown, some were just looking over in the scene, and some were shooting and killing. But, all in all, it was a massacre and a butchery.

Q. No, I asked you, Mr. Gordon, whether you heard them say something about what they are doing.

A. One of the SS men said: “Wer wird fuer das alles bezahlen?” (Who will pay for all this?).

Q. You stayed in Buczacz for twelve days?

A. Ten to twelve days.

Q. Did you witness more than this one execution?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. How many executions did you see?

A. Every day out of these ten to twelve days I was staying there, there were some murders, a massacre. Sometimes the numbers would rise from seventy to three hundred, sometimes more, sometimes less, just as many as the guards found in the streets and in other places.

Q. And all that time you were digging those trenches?

A. Yes. The trenches we digged, it was able to bury about 5,000 people. All I have seen was approximately from 1,000 to 1,500 during the period I was there. Where the rest was buried, I don’t know.

Q. After those ten or twelve days you escaped?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And you arrived at Kamenets-Podolski?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. You were hiding there?

A. Yes. I was sleeping in the daytime and walking in the night.

Q. While you were hiding in a house outside Kamenets- Podolski, did you see any action against the Jews there?

A. I was seeing clearly from my hiding place - which was a bombed out house, and I was in the attic - when Germans- Nazis, that is SS, searched from house to house and, too, from what I heard, there were about twenty-six to twenty- seven thousand people executed in the same way in Kamenets- Podolski, and as well as in Tluste and Buczacz and all over the place.

Q. But there you did not see the actual execution?

A. I didn’t want to go close to it.

Q. But what did you hear from the town?

A. Shootings, machine guns.

Q. You were hiding for about six days, is that correct?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. And then you left your hiding place, and you went to the river, to the

A. I went to the Dniester. I was trying to cross the Dniester. There were no facilities to cross. At the Dniester, I saw hundreds and hundreds of bodies floating in the water. There were children mostly, and men and women alike.

Q. Well, you didn’t cross the Dniester, so you went back, and you walked your way back to Hungary.

A. That’s right. Yes, Sir.

Q. That was already August 1941.

A. That was perhaps later than that.

Q. When was it?

A. When I arrived back in Hungary, it was either late October or very early November.

Q. You were arrested and put in a concentration camp?

A. That is correct.

Q. But then you were released, and you were requested to call every month, or every three months?

A. When I was free, I had to check with the Hungarian Foreign Police - each and every 15th of the month.

Q. But then you were able to prolong your stay outside the camp?

A. Sometimes I was, sometimes I was not able. I spent close to thirty months in concentration camps, in different concentration camps in Hungary.

Q. After the Germans entered Hungary in March 1944, you were arrested?

A. I was arrested April 15th, 1944. I was trapped by people who wore the Jewish “Magen David” sign, and they turned out to be Christians trapping the Jews who should go check with the Foreign Office.

Q. With the Foreign Office?

A. Not the Foreign Office, the Foreign Police.

Q. Then you were taken to the Majestic Hotel on the Schwabenberg?

A. That is correct.

Q. Now, please tell us what happened to you there?

A. I was taken up to the Majestic, with about fifteen others, and asked if I
knew anybody - Zionists, or any other Jews hiding - and where they were hiding.

Q. Yes.

A. I could not and would not answer their questions, and I was beaten up
continuously for three days. In those three days, this man Crass, who had checked us, told us to face the wall, hands up, and then he ordered us to turn around. He expressed in his face the satisfaction over our beaten face.

Q. I didn’t understand. Before he came, you were ordered to stand lined up against the wall, with your faces to the wall?

A. Right.

Q. Who ordered you to turn around?

A. Another SS man, whose name I do not know - he ordered us to turn back.

Q. And then you saw this man who is sitting here?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did he look as he looks now?

A. Now he looks much better than he should look.

Q. No, no, no, please, Mr. Gordon. No, no. I am asking you factual questions. Please answer them.

A. I’m sorry.

Presiding Judge: Did you understand the question?

Witness Gordon: Yes, Sir.

Presiding Judge: Then reply to it, please.

Attorney General: Did he then look as he looks now?

Witness Gordon: No. He was in uniform and was perhaps younger by fifteen or sixteen years; but he is the man.

Q. Was that the only occasion on which you saw this man?

A. No, I was taken from the Majestic on April the 17th, Monday, to the
Rabbinical Seminary. From there, I have been taken to the Island of Csepel.

There all the Hungarian Jewish newspapermen were arrested. Then Eichmann and some of his men came out, expressing their satisfaction over what they had seen in the crowded camp. That was in the Tsuk leather factory.

Q. What did he do there?

A. He inspected the camp.

Q. Did he take pictures of something?

A. Not him. Somebody else took pictures.

Q. Yes. Then you were selected with a group of other people and you were sent to a ghetto?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. Where was that?

A. 21 June 1944, we were smuggled out of Budapest to Kecskemet. That was the ghetto.

Q. Why do you say “smuggled out”?

A. To the best of our knowledge, there was no deportation from Budapest those days, and we came from the Rabbinical Seminary at five o’clock in the morning. We were driven on side streets to the West Station of Budapest, and we reached there about seven o’clock in the morning. There were not too many people in the street.

Q. There you were received by a man whose name was?

A. SS Zoeldi - Marton Zoeldi - and Takacs, also an SS man.

Q. Were there other people present when you arrived there?

A. You mean the ghetto?

Q. Yes.

A. The ghetto must have been occupied by about ten to twelve thousand people, mostly women, children and old men, since the young men were serving in the slave camps in the Hungarian army - labour camps.

Q. Did Marton Zoeldi wear a uniform?

A. Yes. An SS uniform. Also Takacs wore an SS uniform.

Q. Now, when this ghetto was about to be liquidated, a certain committee arrived from Budapest. Is that correct?

A. That is correct. When we entered the ghetto, all the papers we possessed were burned on an open fire in front of us, but some of the papers were owned by people who should be exempted according to their papers from the deportation - Bela Fabian, a member of parliament, who was the best- decorated Hungarian officer - and there were many others like him; and some members of the Jewish Council, the Judenrat of Budapest.

And this commission came June 27th, Tuesday morning, and we had not been told that there was a commission here that will take people out of the deportation, but whoever can dash and rush to that site, we went there. I went there. I had no reason to be exempted from this deportation, but there was not much I was risking. I went to Zoeldi, and I told him that I am a Volksdeutscher, I spoke German, and I was hiding Jewish treasures, and that is why I’m here. He slapped my face. “Why did you do it?” I said I thought he was going to die, I had to
tell him a story.

Presiding Judge: I can’t hear you. Please raise your voice a little. Speak

Eichmann trial - The District Court Sessions
The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 62
(Part 6 of 6)

Witness Gordon: I told him that I hid these jewels and Jewish valuables because I was thinking about myself. If he doesn’t come back, they would belong to me.

Of course, it was just a story.

Attorney General: And then he told you to go with those people who were returned to Budapest?

Witness Gordon: We did not return to Budapest, I was put into the labour camp in Kecskemet.

Q. And you stayed there till your liberation by the Soviet troops?

A. Not quite. I escaped from there, from Szegedin. I had been taken to Szeged to the hospital, from where I escaped on October 14, 1944. Then I went to Budapest, and I was a member of the underground until the liberation.

Q. I believe you also testified in Hungary in the case of Marton Zoeldi.

A. Yes, Sir, I did.

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

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions to the witness.
Judge Halevi: I did not quite understand. In the synagogue they told you that this was a German order?

Witness Gordon: That was correct.

Q. Who told you that?

A. One of the Hungarian officials. We were kept also as “Schutzhaeftlinge”
(detainees in protective custody).

Q. A further question: Who was sent to hunt Jews?

A. Where from?

Q. I understood you to say that Christians were wearing the Yellow Badge. Perhaps I did not understand you correctly?

A. Oh, yes. That was April 15, 1944, when I had to go to the Foreign Police. They were just killing if there were any Jews coming out of the places, and we saw people walking with a Jewish Star. We believed that they are Jews, but they turned out to be Christians, because, as soon as we entered the building, we were arrested there.

Q. Why did they wear the Yellow Badge, if they were not Jews?

A. Just to trap those Jews who should come at that date to register.

Q. And were there members of the Security Service at the Majestic Hotel, or who was it who questioned you there?

A. All we knew was that they were SS men.

Q. And did you hear the names of the officers?

A. I only heard Eichmann’s name from those who had been there longer than I was.

Q. That is to say, they told you that this man who had come in and looked at you was Eichmann?

A. That is correct, Sir.

Q. And this is why you identify him now?

A. Yes, Sir. And I also saw him at the Tsuk factory later on.

Q. But you still recognize him now?

A. Yes, I do, Sir.

Q. But he was not one of the interrogators?

A. No, he was not.

Presiding Judge: You said that the Accused expressed his satisfaction in the courtyard of the leather factory.

Witness Gordon: Yes, and he made a remark which I clearly heard, as: “These Jews had directed and ruled the Hungarian press.”

Q. To whom did he say this?

A. To one of his accomplices, also in an SS uniform.

Q. Did you hear anything further from which you understood that the Accused expressed satisfaction, or was it only that?

A. I couldn’t say anything about this. I saw him two or three times in the

Q. That is not what I am asking. You told us about his comment that you heard when he visited the leather factory. Was there any other remark from which you could have learned about his satisfaction?

A. I did not hear anything else.

Presiding Judge: Thank you.

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