Testimony by David Wdowinski at the Eichmann Trial

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Budzyn Correspondence (Holocaust Historical Society UK)

Attorney General I call Dr. David Wdowinski.

Presiding Judge: [To witness) Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Wdowinski: Yes.

[The witness is sworn.]

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: David Wdowinski.

Attorney General: Do you now reside in the United States?

<=""> Yes, I live in the United States.

Q. You are Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the New School for Sociological Research in New York?

A. Correct.

Q. At the time of the Second World War, you were in Warsaw?

A. I was there from the beginning.

Q. And, at the time of the ghetto revolt, you were the commander of the Irgun Zva'i Leumi (National Military Organization)* {*Military organization affiliated to the Revisionist movement} in the Warsaw Ghetto?

A. Correct.

Q. And you took part in the general uprising and in military activities until, ultimately, your bunker fell? When was that?

A. Yes, it was in the last week of April 1943.

Q. And then all the strongholds held by the Irgun Zva'i Leumi in Warsaw fell?

A. There were still a few outposts that went on fighting and as far as I know, a few units fought on for at least three weeks more.

Q. When you came out of your bunker and were transferred to the Umschlagplatz, you saw one of your strongholds?

A. I saw the outpost at Murinowska Square, 79 Murinowska Street. Our flag - the blue and white flag - was flying over the building; the outpost was still fighting - I heard the shots.

Q. From the Umschlagplatz, you were put into freight cars and taken to Lublin?

A. Yes. On the following day, the day after we were captured - we waited a whole day, and on the following day they took me and the remnants of my family - for a large part of my family had been killed at Treblinka, and even before Treblinka, in the first "action" between June and Yom Kippur, 1942.

Q. And then you were brought to the camp at Majdanek?

A. Yes.

Q. There they separated you from your wife and the rest of your family?

A. Yes, three or four days later.

Q. And where did they transfer you to?

A. They transferred me, together with 806 other Jews - we numbered 807 together - to a camp which was not far from Lublin - thirty-five kilometres away - to Budzyn.

Q. Did they select precisely 807 people?

A. Yes, we were already standing - the survivors of Warsaw Jewry - near the gate where there were various units from Majdanek, and they waited to send us to some field. Suddenly, some SS man came there - afterwards we got to know that he was Oberscharfuehrer Feiks - with some Ukrainians in black, and demanded 807 Jews from the local commander, because there were 1193 in his camp at Budzyn, and, for the sake of his prestige, it was necessary for him to have two thousand.

Q. So he asked for exactly 807?

A. Yes.

Q. And this was the number he received?

A. Yes.

Q. What work was done at Budzyn?

A. In Budzyn, which was a Jewish labour camp, the work was in a Heinkel aircraft factory.

Q. What was the regime in the camp like?

A. It is hard to describe; in one word, it was - terrible. For example, when we reached Budzyn, on the first day (I think it was 30 April or 1 May), the commandant Feiks told us to stand in two rows. Afterwards, he went up to one of the Jews and told him to leave the rank and ordered him to undress. He then began undressing; he removed his overcoat and Feiks started shouting: "Hurry up - undress completely!" This went on until he was altogether naked, and then he drew a revolver and killed this Jew and said: "This is what will happen to each one of you if you do not hand over everything you have, and this is only an example." He demanded gold, silver, good clothes, suitcases, and so on.

Presiding Judge: What was the name of this German?

Witness Wdowinski: Reinhold Feiks. He was from Sudetenland.

Attorney General: Was there a further instance where he murdered someone with his own hands?

Witness Wdowinski: On the same day, he saw a man of advanced age, an old man, and his first words were: "You old dog - are you still alive?" And he ordered the Ukrainians to shoot him and kill him - and he went off. Then we surrounded the old man, and the Ukrainians were unable to find him. By chance, the commandant came back to the camp half an hour or an hour later and saw the old man - he drew his revolver and shot him. He was a very popular doctor from Warsaw, very much loved by the Jews of Warsaw - Dr. Pupko. He was well known, firstly because he was an Orthodox Jew: he prayed every day with his phylacteries and prayer shawl; he would not write any prescriptions on the Sabbath, and, apart from that, he was known and loved, for he had done a great deal as a doctor for the poor Jews and had attended to them without payment.

Q. Did you work as a doctor in Budzyn?

A. I worked as a doctor in Budzyn.

Q. And did you have to take care of a common grave for those who were killed there?

A. I had to supervise the cleanliness of the camp, to look after the graves - that is to say, there was only one grave, a common grave - and to see that it was kept clean. And whenever a Jew died - that means when he was killed - lime had to be poured over him, because of the hygienic and sanitary conditions. Apart from that, before a Jew was buried, his teeth were removed, if he had any gold teeth, and so on.

Q. Do you remember an incident with a man named Bitter?

A. Of course, I remember this incident - it is an incident I shall never forget as long as I live. While Bitter was at work, some cash fell out of his pocket, a few zlotys, and the "Meister" (overseer) saw it.

Q. Who was this "Meister"?

A. His name was Mass. He reported it to the commandant, and the commandant, first of all, gave him a thorough beating, and then he decided that this Jew had to be hanged. And they hanged him, but apparently the rope was weak, and it broke. Bitter fell down, still alive. Then Feiks decided that it was not necessary to hang him once again, and it would be a pity to waste a bullet on the Jews; he decided that the Jews themselves would have to kill him. He called a roll-call of two thousand Jews. We, the doctors, stood on one side. There were a few doctors. And the Ukrainians gave a stick to each Jew, and the Jews had to beat him; and he had to run around. And two or three Ukrainians ran behind him to see that he was really being beaten very hard by the Jews. And all the time this Jew was running around, he kept saying, "I take it with love - if I have to be sacrificed for the People of Israel, I take it with love."

Ultimately, he fell down, and the commandant called me to check whether he was alive or not. And, in a very weak voice, he said to me: "I don't feel any pain, doctor, it does not hurt, I am suffering for the Jewish people, and I take it with love. But I would ask you, say 'Kaddish' (the mourners' prayer) for me." I don't know how long after that, whether it was a few minutes or half an hour - they did not allow us to give him water, a cup of water, or anything else - he died.

Q. To what German formation did Reinhold Feiks belong?

A. The SS. He was an Oberscharfuehrer.

Q. Of all those atrocities which you experienced, is one particular incident engraved in your memory - the one with Klavin, Feiks' assistant?

A. Klavin was Feiks' right-hand man - he came from Latvia - he was one of the sadists, they were all sadists. On one occasion, at night, he brought a few prostitutes to the hut and lay with them in the presence of all the Jews, and there were also a number of children in the hut.

Q. Were there fathers and sons in this hut?

A. Yes, there were still a few children in the hut - that I remember - children eleven, twelve and thirteen years old.

Q. Do you remember the incident with Bauchwitz?

A. That happened after Feiks had already left this labour camp. He left after those of us who had come from Majdanek had been there some two months, more or less. I think he left in July. There was someone deputizing for him - he was the commander or instructor of the Ukrainians, an Oberwachtmeister (first sergeant), I don't remember his name. At any rate, on one of those days, when the Jewish prisoners returned from work, it appeared that one had escaped. At the head of this group, there was a man named Bauchwitz, who was from Stettin, in Germany. His family, as we got to know, had converted to Christianity when he was a boy of six or seven. When this Jew, this prisoner, fled, he - Bauchwitz - did not inform the commandant, since he knew that if he were to inform him, ten others would be killed.

Presiding Judge. I don't understand - about what did he not notify the commandant?

Witness Wdowinski. He then mounted the gallows and asked for permission to address a few words to the assembled Jews in the camp. He was given permission, and then he said: "I was born a Jew, and all that I remember of my Judaism is one prayer - in fact, only the opening words of that prayer, and they are: 'God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,' and that is all I remember. But I want to, and I am going to die as a Jew - and I ask you Jews to say 'Kaddish' for me." And we did.

Attorney General. Do you remember the end of October 1943, when you sensed a lot of preparations in the camp?

Witness Wdowinski. Yes, I remember that.

Attorney General. Perhaps you will allow me to lead you somewhat in my questions, since time is running out. Did they tell you to shut yourselves up in the huts?

Witness Wdowinski. Yes - that was already under another commandant, Obersturmfuehrer Tauscher

Q. And then you were told that there was danger from partisans, and that they might possibly attack the camp. That was an excuse, of course, since there were no partisans in the area?

A. Yes. And we would not have been afraid of the partisans; on the contrary, we would have rejoiced had they come. And he told us, 'As from this day, after this roll-call and after this speech, you will sleep under bags of straw, so that you will not be afraid, so that you should not hear the shots and should not see.' And the Germans were going to be on our side in the event of the partisans attacking.

Q. Did you find out afterwards what the reason was for all these preparations?

A. Yes

Q. Were the camps from the whole area evacuated and the inmates transferred to Majdanek and shot there?

A.. Yes. As I said, Budzyn was a branch of Lublin-Majdanek. Once a week, sometimes once every two weeks, a cart was sent from our camp with a few Jews, together with an Unterscharfuehrer - I think his name was Heidemann - and a few Ukrainians, to fetch groceries and other supplies for our camp.

Q. And you found out from them?

A. We got to know from them. It was on 5 November 1943, that they came from there. First of all, they could still smell the smoke.

Q. Where?

A. In Lublin-Majdanek. Apart from that, they saw a few burned bodies. What they told us was that, on that night, the night of 2 November, the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the remaining members of the Warsaw Jewish community were killed at Majdanek, Lublin-Lipowa, Trawniki, Poniatowa, and some small camps.

Q. Were all the camps in the vicinity liquidated?

A. Yes, all the camps were liquidated. The exception was our camp at Budzyn.

Q. Did you learn later why your camp was spared and passed over?

A. I cannot tell you exactly when, but it was, perhaps, a week or two after the fifth of November, after those people returned from Majdanek.

Q. Was this the first time you have heard the name of Eichmann?

A. No, that was, in fact, the second time. A few months earlier - I do not remember exactly when it was, but I remember it was after Feiks' departure, so that it could not have been before July - a Jew named Karp came to our camp - he had escaped from Sobibor - and he told us that two senior officers had recently visited Sobibor. In Sobibor - so he told us - there was a kind of gas oven in which they burned the Jews, or killed them. The two senior officers came to inspect whether the oven was functioning properly, and the Ukrainians who were there had told the Jews that these two senior officers were Himmler and Eichmann.

Q. You have told us that you heard the name of Eichmann twice in the course of the War. Did you hear his name again?

A. Yes. I heard it once more.

Presiding Judge. Is this more direct evidence than on the two previous occasions, Mr. Hausner? This again reminds me of the evidence of a previous witness, this part where the name of the Accused was mentioned.

Attorney General. We are approaching the end, Your Honour.

Presiding Judge. Yes, surely. I again stress that I am referring to the mention of the Accused's name, not about the evidence.

Attorney General That is clear to me, Your Honour, but I would ask the Court at the end - I do not want to do so in the middle - to draw a certain conclusion, namely that the Accused's name became a byword everywhere. This could not have been fortuitous here.

Presiding Judge. All right. Please continue.

Witness Wdowinski. In order to explain how it happened for the third time, I have to give a breif introduction. Our camp, the labour camp at Budzyn was converted in January 1944 - on 15 Shevat according to the Hebrew date - into a concentration camp. We were moved from this labour camp about two or three kilometers further, to a new place, but this was also called Budzyn.

There we already had pajamas since in the labour camp we had civilian clothes, and because of this, it was possible for another Jew to enter the camp from time to time, even if he was not a prisoner. In this new camp I worked in the building for bathing and disinfection, the official name of which was 'Bade -und Entlausungsanstalt.' We were twelve Jews in all, amongst them two Warsaw Rabbi's, one of whom - I believe -now lives in Israel. Often Germans also came to this bath-house. In 1944, soldiers came even from the Russian front. There were several soldiers there from the front at Tarnopol. They came for a bath and to clean themselves.

On one occasion - it was on 5 May 1944, a Friday - a German civilian entered, whom I had never seen previously, very tall, very powerfully built - they called him Oberwerkschutz (Senior Labour Supervisor) Willi. the name of his commanding officer was Mueller, or Melzer, I don't remember. At any rate, he had been an Oberwerkschutz at the time when the camp was a labour camp. What became of him afterwards, after this camp had been converted into a concentration camp, I do not know.

Q. Mr. Wdowinski, I understand that this Willi entered into a conversation with you and asked you how many Jews there were there?

A. Yes. On that day, I had examined about thirty Jews who underwent treatment against scabies.

Q. Finally, after some provocation on his part, you said that you were proud to be a Jew?

A. Right.

Q. He answered you that only a German was permitted to be proud, and he started hitting you?

A. Yes, he had begun hitting me already before that.

Q. And he said that he had already killed seven hundred Jews?

A. Yes, and he took out a calendar.

Q. He took out a notebook and said that you would be Jew No. 701?

A. Yes, he had a record there of the number of Jews he had already killed.

Q. He pushed you with his rifle?

A. Yes, he struck me with his rifle and broke my bones.

Q. And he forced you towards the place where people were taken out to be killed?

A. Afterwards, he told me to get going and he placed the barrel of his rifle on my neck. He took me along, together with a big dog, and all the time set the dog on me. The dog was very well trained. When they said to him 'Jude' he would bite. He bit at me all along the way and at the last minute, about a hundred meters away from the place where he shot and killed Jews- he always killed Jews when he was alone, so that there should not be any witnesses- an SS man, Hoffmann, came there with two other men. He was supposed to have been with us at work, but according to what we heard, they had gone to the village to drink a little and to have a good time.

At all events, he rescued me at the last minute. I was bleeding. He saw the condition I was in. After that, for a day or two, he visited me in the camp. In general, he treated me - out of this large group of murderers, he was the only one to behave more or less in a humane fashion. He was not actually a German, he was not born in Germany, he was born in Hungary or Romania. So he came to visit me, to see how I was getting on, and then he said: "You will certainly survive, since this is the second time you have been saved from death." I said: "Why a second time?" And he said: "The first time was in the labour camp at Budzyn - you were not in my camp, but I knew all about it - we were supposed to kill all of you." Those were more or less the words he used. I do not remember exactly.

He said: "And that was a further occasion on which Reichsmarschall Goering gave the order to leave this camp alone, because the Germans who were employed there said that they would not be able to manage without the Jews, they would have to close down the factory." He added: "This was against the wish and the orders," I don't remember exactly "of a certain senior officer whose name was Adolf Eichmann."

Q. Is that what Hoffmann said?

A. Yes, that is what Hoffman said.

Q. Two final questions. When you were in Budzyn in 1944, on the eve of the Passover Festival, you baked matzot - is that correct?

A. Correct.

Q. How did you manage to do that?

A. We baked matzot; as I have mentioned, we had two rabbis in our group. We baked the matzot in an oven where we were working. We carried the matzot over on our persons. Two of us were caught. By now there was a new commandant - his name was Leopold, an Obersturmfuehrer. He ordered them to be beaten, and he himself beat them. One of them was Rabbi Stockhammer, who was struck on the naked body. The second one was some doctor. On the other side of the barbed-wire fence, there was a barracks of German soldiers who had returned from the front.

Q. Soldiers of the Wehrmacht?

A. Yes. When they saw this going on, they called out to Leopold, 'Judenheld, gehen Sie doch besser an die Front,' (You hero with the Jews, you had better go to the Front). A few days after this, there was an incident where his toe had suffered an injury from his revolver. And then they said , 'He should really have gone to the Front,' and the soldiers said to the other Germans across the fence, that he had done this deliberately, in order to avoid military service.

Presiding Judge. We must draw a distinction between matters that would be very convincing to everyone except a jurist.

Attorney General. With all due respect, I think that this provides a certain background. I did not always want to interrupt him.

Presiding Judge. Here we have apparently reached the end of the testimony.

Attorney General. This is, indeed, the end of the testimony.

Dr. Servatius. I have no questions to the witness.

Presiding Judge Dr. Wdowinsky, as I said to a previous witness, my remarks referred to the legal weight of some of the matters you related. I hope that you, too, understood this.

With this, you have concluded your testimony.

The next Session will be at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.


The Trial of Adolf Eichmann - The Nizkor Project Online Resource - June 6, 1961

Document: Holocaust Historical Society UK.

  Holocaust Historical Society March 4, 2021

Testimony by David Wdowinski at the Eichmann Trial