Rivka Yosselevska

Testimony at the Eichmann Trial

Witness: '... We were told to leave the houses - to take with us only the children. We were always used to leaving the ghetto at short order, because very often they would take us all out for a roll-call. Then we would all appear. But we felt and realized that this was not an ordinary roll-call, but something very special. As if the Angel of Death was in charge. The place was swarming with Germans.Some four to five Germans to every Jew.'

Attorney-General: 'Then all of you were driven out, and were taken to this square - weren't you?'

Witness: 'No, we were left standing in the ghetto. They began saying that he who wishes to save his life could do so with money, jewels and valuable things. This would be ransom, and he would be spared. Thus we were held until the late afternoon, before evening came.'

Presiding Judge :'And did the Jews hand over jewels and so on?'

Witness: 'We did not. We had nothing to hand over. They already took all we had before.'

Presiding Judge: 'I see.'

Attorney-General: 'Yes. And what happened towards sunrise?'

Witness: 'And thus the children screamed. They wanted food, water. This was not the first time. But we took nothing with us. We had no food and no water, and we did not know the reason. The children were hungry and thirsty. We were held this way for twenty-four hours while they were searching the houses all the time - searching for valuables.

'In the meantime, the gates of the ghetto were opened. A large truck appeared and all of us were put on to the truck - either thrown, or went up himself.'

Attorney-General: 'Did they count the Jews?'

Witness: 'Yes - they were counted. They entered the ghetto again, and searched for every missing person. We were tortured until late in the evening.'

Attorney-General :'Now - they filled up this truck. And what happened to the people for whom there was no room in the truck?'

Witness: 'Those for whom there was no room in the truck were ordered to run after the truck.'

Attorney-General: 'And you ran with your daughter?'

Witness: 'l had my daughter in my arms and ran after the truck. There were mothers who had two or three children and held them in their arms - running after the truck. We ran all the way. There were those who fell - we were not allowed to help them rise. They were shot - right there - wherever they fell.

'When we reached the destination, the people from the truck were already down and they were undressed - all lined up. All my family was there - undressed, lined up. The people from the truck, those who arrived before us....

'There was a kind of hillock. At the foot of this little hill, there was a dugout. We were ordered to stand at the top of the hillock and the four devils shot us - each one of us separately.'

Attorney-General: 'Now these four - to what German unit did they belong?'

Witness: 'They were SS men - the four of them. They were armed to the teeth. They were real messengers of the Devil and the Angel of Death.'

Attorney-General: 'Please go on - what did you see ?'

Witness: 'When I came up to the place - we saw people, naked, lined up. But we were still hoping that this was only torture. Maybe there is hope - hope of living. One could not leave the line, but I wished to see - what are they doing on the hillock? Is there anyone down below? I turned my head and saw that some three or four rows were already killed - on the ground. There were some twelve people among the dead. I also want to mention what my child said while we were lined up in the ghetto, she said, "Mother, why did you make me wear the Shabbat dress; we are being taken to be shot"; and when we stood near the dug-out, near the grave, she said, "Mother, why are we waiting, let us run!" Some of the young people tried to run, but they were caught immediately, and they were shot right there. It was difficult to hold on to the children. We took all children not ours, and we carried them -we were anxious to get it all over - the suffering of the children was difficult; we all trudged along to come nearer to the place and to come nearer to the end of the torture of the children. The children were taking leave of their parents and parents of their elder people.'

Presiding Judge: 'How did you survive through all this?'

Attorney-General: 'She will relate it.'

Presiding Judge: 'Please will you direct the Witness.'

Witness: 'We were driven; we were already undressed; the clothes were removed and taken away; our father did not want to undress; he remained in his underwear. We were driven up to the grave, this shallow...'

Attorney-General: 'And these garments were torn off his body, weren't they?'

Witness: 'When it came to our turn, our father was beaten. We prayed, we begged with my father to undress, but he would not undress, he wanted to keep his underclothes. He did not want to stand naked.'

Attorney-General: 'And then they tore them off ?'

Witness: 'Then they tore off the clothing off the old man and he was shot. I saw it with my own eyes. And then they took my mother, and we said, let us go before her; but they caught mother and shot her too; and then there was my grandmother, my father's mother, standing there; she was eighty years old and she had two children in her arms. And then there was my father's sister. She also had children in her arms and she was shot on the spot with the babies in her arms.' Attorney-General: 'And finally it was your turn.'

Witness: 'And finally my turn came. There was my younger sister, and she wanted to leave; she prayed with the Germans; she asked to run, naked; she went up to the Germans with one of her friends; they were embracing each other; and she asked to be spared, standing there naked. He looked into her eyes and shot the two of them. They fell together in their embrace, the two young girls, my sister and her young friend. Then my second sister was shot and then my turn did come.'

Attorney-General: 'Were you asked anything?'

Witness: 'We turned towards the grave and then he turned around and asked "Whom shall I shoot first?" We were already facing the grave. The German asked "Whom do you want me to shoot first?" I did not answer. I felt him take the child from my arms. The child cried out and was shot immediately. And then he aimed at me. First he held on to my hair and turned my head around; I stayed standing; I heard a shot, but I continued to stand and then he turned my head again and he aimed the revolver at me and ordered me to watch and then turned my head around and shot at me. Then I fell to the ground into the pit amongst the bodies; but I felt nothing. The moment I did feel I felt a sort of heaviness and then I thought maybe I am not alive any more, but I feel something after I died. I thought I was dead, that this was the feeling which comes after death. Then I felt that I was choking; people falling over me. I tried to move and felt that I was alive and that I could rise. I was strangling. I heard the shots and I was praying for another bullet to put an end to my suffering, but I continued to move about. I felt that I was choking, strangling, but I tried to save myself, to find some air to breathe, and then I felt that I was climbing towards the top of the grave above the bodies. I rose, and I felt bodies pulling at me with their hands, biting at my legs, pulling me down, down. And yet with my last strength I came up on top of the grave, and when I did I did not know the place, so many bodies were lying all over, dead people; I wanted to see the end of this stretch of dead bodies but I could not. It was impossible. They were lying, all dying; suffering; not all of them dead, but in their last sufferings; naked; shot, but not dead. Children crying "Mother", "Father"; I could not stand on my feet.'

Presiding Judge: 'Were the Germans still around?'

Witness: 'No, the Germans were gone. There was nobody there. No one standing up.'

Attorney-General: 'And you were undressed and covered with blood?'

Witness: 'I was naked, covered with blood, dirty from the other bodies, with the excrement from other bodies which was poured on to me.'

Attorney-General: 'What did you have in your head?'

Witness: 'When I was shot I was wounded in the head.'

Attorney-General: 'Was it in the back of the head?'

Witness: 'I have a sear to this day from the shot by the Germans; and yet, somehow I did come out of the grave. This was something I thought I would never live to recount. I was searching among the dead for my rittle girl, and I cried for her - Merkele was her name - Merkele! There were children crying "Mother!", "Father!"- but they were all smeared with blood and one could not recognize the children. I cried for my daughter. From afar I saw two women standing. I went up to them. They did not know me, I did not know them, and then I said who I was, and then they said, "So you sur- vived. " And there was another woman crying "Pull me out from amongst the corpses, I am alive, help!" We were thinking how could we escape from the place. The cries of the woman, "Help, pull me out from the corpses!" We pulled her out. Her name was Mikla Rosenberg. We removed the corpses and the dying people who held on to her and continued to bite. She asked us to take her out, to free her, but we did not have the strength.'

Attorney-General: 'It is very difficult to relate, I am sure, it is difficult to listen to, but we must proceed. Please tell us now: after that you hid?'

Witness:'And thus we were there all night, fighting for our lives, listening to the cries and the screams and all of a sudden we saw Germans, mounted Germans. We did not notice them coming in because of the screamings and the shootings from the bodies around us.'

Attorney-General: 'And then they rounded up the children and the others who had got out of the pit and shot them again?'

Witness: 'The Germans ordered that all the corpses be heaped together into one big heap and with shovels they were heaped together, all the corpses, among them many still alive, children running about the place. I saw them. I saw the children. They were running after me, hanging on to me. Then I sat down in the field and remained sitting with the children around me. The children who got up from the heap of corpses.'

Attorney-General: 'Then the Germans came again and rounded up the children?'

Witness: 'Then Germans came and were going around the place. We were ordered to collect all the children, but they did not approach me, and I sat there watching how they collected the chil- dren. They gave a few shots and the children were dead. They did not need many shots. The children were almost dead, and this Rosenberg woman pleaded with the Germans to be spared, but they shot her.' Attorney-General: 'Mrs Yosselevska, after they left the place, you went right next to the grave, didn't you?'

Witness: 'They all left - the Germans and the non-Jews from around the place. They removed the machine guns and they took the trucks. I saw that they all left, and the four of us, we went on to the grave, praying to fall into the grave, even alive, envying those who were dead already and thinking what to do now. I was praying for death to come. I was praying for the grave to be opened and to swallow me alive. Blood was spurting from the grave in many places, like a well of water, and whenever I pass a spring now, I remember the blood which spurted from the ground, from that grave. I was digging with my fingernails, trying to join the dead in that grave. I dug with my fingernails, but the grave would not open. I did not have enough strength. I cried out to my mother, to my father, "Why did they not kill me? What was my sin? I have no one to go to. I saw them all being killed. MFhy was I spared? Why was I not killed?"

'And I remained there, stretched out on the grave, three days and three nights.' Attorney-General:'And then a shepherd went by?' Witness:'l saw no one. I heard no one. Not a farmer passed by. After three days, shepherds drove their herd on to the field, and they began throwing stones at me, but I did not move. At night, the herds were taken back and during the day they threw stones believing that either it was a dead woman or a mad woman. They wanted me to rise, to answer. But I did not move. The shepherds were throwing stones at me until I had to leave the place.'

Attorney-General: 'And then a farmer went by, and he took pity on you.'

Witness: 'I hid near the grave. A farmer passed by, after a number of weeks.'

Attorney-General: 'He took pity on you, he fed you, and he helped you join a group of Jews in the forest, and you spent the time until the summer of 1944 with this group, until the Soviets came.'

Witness: 'l was with them until the very end.'

Gilbert, Martin. Final Journey: The Fate of the Jews in Nazi Europe. New York: Mayflower Books. 1979. pp. 56 - 62

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Electric Zen
Ken Lewis
April 4, 1999
Rev. 1.0