A key witness in the trial of Adolf Eichmann was someone who was a child when he was sent to the gas chambers, but escaped death in a nearly miraculous fashion said Gabriel Bach, former Supreme Court justice, chief investigator and co-prosecutor of the 1961 Eichmann trial.
Because of the extraordinary circumstances, the survivor was an otherwise impossible-to-obtain eyewitness actually from within the Auschwitz gas chambers.
Speaking late on Wednesday night at a conference in Jerusalem sponsored by the Rutgers University – Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience and the International March of the Living, Bach said the picture of the witness would remain ingrained in his mind forever.
Retelling the jarring testimony at trial, the witness described entering “the gas chamber with the doors then locked” on him and 250 other children. According to his testimony, given in 1961, “it was completely dark, so the children began to sing to give themselves courage. When nothing happened, they started to scream.” It was the end for all but one of the children.
The witness added that “a train had arrived with potatoes and there were not enough men to unload” them, so an SS guard suggested to “take some of the children before they are killed, to help unload the train, and kill them after.” He added that “they took 30 children out of the gas chambers and they unloaded the potatoes” while the other children were gassed to death.
All of the 30 “surviving” children were due to be shot immediately after finishing moving the potatoes. There were not supposed to have been any eyewitness. Twenty-nine of them were shot, but one boy “had accidentally done some damage to the truck.”
Bach said that the SS commander said the boy “should be whipped…before he was killed, adding that the boy was taken to a higher floor to be whipped, but the SS man “took a liking to him and kept him” as his ward. He was the only one who survived,” and gave firsthand testimony of the mass murder of Jews from within the gas chambers.
Bach told another story detailing how Eichmann went far beyond following orders to carry out the Final Solution. The Eichmann prosecutor described how Adolf Hitler made a deal with the leader of Hungary in 1944 to allow 8,700 Hungarian Jewish families to be let out of the country in exchange for Hungary to continue to remain loyal to the Axis.
“Eichmann usually sat in Berlin and pulled the strings, sending assistants throughout Europe, except with Hungary,” Bach said. He noted that the witness mentioned Eichmann being upset about Hitler cutting this deal and that those Jews “would all get out and might even come to Palestine some day and be a danger to the security of Europe.”
Bach presented the letters at the trial showing that “Eichmann gave an order to speed up deportations so that there wouldn’t be 8,700 families left” to release, by the time their visas were ready.
He said this proved that Eichmann was ready to circumvent a deal made by Hitler, in order to kill more Jews and was not merely “following orders” when he tried to defend himself.
Bach told these stories as part of a conversation with Richard Heideman, an international litigator on behalf of terror and human rights and president of the American Zionist Movement.