Report written down at the Magistrates’ Court in Bielsk on 4 December 1946.
Judge Wł. Roszczyk, MA
Court Reporter Wł. Waluś
The following witness appears:
|Name and surname||Stanisława Rzepka|
|Occupation||accountant at the Lenko company|
|Place of residence||Bielsk, Piastowska Street 5|
Having been advised of the criminal liability for making false declarations, and being heard without taking an oath, the witness proceeded to testify as follows:
I was incarcerated at Auschwitz concentration camp from 6 January 1943 until its evacuation on 18 January 1945. I escaped from the evacuation transport in Radlin, near Wodzisław, on 20 January 1945.
Having been arrested for involvement in underground activity on 15 September 1942 in Limanowa, I was first detained for two weeks at Nowy Sącz prison, and thereafter at Tarnów prison, from where I was deported to Auschwitz.
Immediately after my admission to the camp, I was placed in block 7. Initially, I was assigned to perform outdoor work (road building, digging ditches, etc.), while three weeks later, on 28 January 1943, I was detailed to office work as an auxiliary at the admissions office
(Aufnahme) of the women’s camp. I worked there until the liquidation of the camp, however with the exception of three months during the summer of 1944, when I was transferred for a period of three months, also as an office worker, to the political section (Politische Abteilung) at the Vorne [front] of the women’s camp. During that time I was kept in block 11, then 12, 16, 31, while during my employment at the Vorne I was in block 4.
At the beginning, the head of the admissions office was SS-Rottenführer Klaus, and his assistant was Rottenführer Włodzimierz, or rather Władysław Bilan, known in the camp under the nickname “Apushko.” Already in February 1943, however, Klaus was transferred to the camp in Auschwitz, and Bilan was appointed head of the admissions office. He occupied the post until October 1944. During that time, he did not have an assistant in the Aufnahme office. After October 1944, we had no direct superior in the Aufnahme office, and only SS-Oberscharführer Houstek, who later changed his surname to Erber, would drop in for a moment from the camp to check up on our work. Initially holding the rank of Unterscharführer, Houstek was the chief of the political section in Birkenau. When in the spring of 1944 he was promoted to Oberscharführer, he was transferred to Auschwitz.
His replacement – this I would like to correct – was Władysław [Wladimir] Bilan; Hoffmann was appointed head of the Aufnahme office, and he was followed by some SS-Unterscharführer from Łódź, whose name or surname, however, I do not remember. I think that his name was Albrecht and that he had been a teacher in Łódź before the war.
Initially, the Aufnahme office employed only Jewesses, and Slovaks at that. However, when in the spring of 1943 larger transports of Poles started flowing in, 20 Polish women inmates were assigned to the office, myself included, in order to ensure better communication with Poles. The Aufnahme office received prisoners, entered them in a book (the so-called Nummerbuch [book of numbers]), had them tattooed, and finally registered them on separate sheets. After a prisoner’s number, name, and surname were written down in the Nummerbuch, she would be sent to receive a tattoo; thereafter, she went to the place where her personal data was registered and the registration card was sent to the political section in Auschwitz. Thus, in the Aufnahme office a prisoner would only be entered in the Nummerbuch and the Zugangslist e [lists of new arrivals], which informed whether she was a political or a criminal prisoner and was sent together with the inmate to the Aufnahme office.
Apart from its head, the political office at the Vorne [at the front] had just two female prisoner employees. This office only kept a list of prisoner numbers, without names, and after receiving a release report (Entlassung), a transfer report (Überstellung), or a death report (Totenmeldung), the relevant numbers would be marked on it – in green pencil for releases, in blue pencil for transfers, and in red pencil for deaths. As regards [page cuts off]
[…] specific people, but rather they would include a few or a few dozen, sometimes a few hundred names and were sent in once a day. It was said that during the typhus epidemic in November and December 1943 the daily death lists sometimes included up to 600 names from the women’s camp alone. Some names were marked with the acronym “SB,” or with the full word Sonderbehandlung [special treatment], and this meant that a given person had not died due to natural causes, but in some other way – usually in the gas chamber. During selections we would receive lists of names of persons who had all been gassed in the chambers, and thus the abbreviation “SB” was not listed next to specific names; rather, the word Sonderbehandlung would be written at the top of the list, referring to all the names in it. I do not know what the acronym “GU” [Gesonderte Unterbringung – separate accommodation] stood for at all. I did not encounter it throughout my period of incarceration in Auschwitz. The letters “SB,” meaning Sonderbehandlung, were used until the autumn of 1944, when all the crematoria but one were demolished; the surviving facility was used to incinerate the bodies of those who died of natural causes.
I cannot say even approximately how many of the people in the lists of the deceased that were sent to the political department were marked with the acronym “SB.” I would like to emphasize, however, that these lists only included the names of people who had been admitted to Auschwitz as prisoners – they did not include the names of those who were sent to the gas chambers directly from transports. From amongst each such transport, usually several thousand strong, only a few dozen or a few hundred people fit for work would be set aside and those were registered as prisoners in the Aufnahme office, while the rest were sent directly to the gas chambers. The SS men on duty counted those passing by and wrote down the number of persons from each given transport who were sent directly to the gas chamber; thereafter they would submit their calculation by telegraph or telephone to Berlin, adding the shorthand “SB.” I have not personally heard any telephone conversations with Berlin or seen the text of any pertinent telegram. However, I did hear conversations between the SS men, especially those who convoyed Jewish transports from Hungary and Slovakia, and Houstek, the head of the political department, and many times I heard them adding the acronym “SB” when providing the relevant data. Either way, it was commonly known in Auschwitz that Sonderbehandlung meant death in the gas chamber.
It is also known to me that both Houstek and Bilan assisted in the sending of Jews to the gas chambers, for someone from the political department always had to be present when this was carried out. The job of this person would be exactly that – to count the number of people sent to the gas chamber. Selections of people who were to be admitted to the camp were performed by a doctor.
The heads of both the Aufnahme office and the political section, Klaus, Hoffmann and Bilan, usually behaved well towards their employees and treated them like human beings, however they acted brutally towards non-employee prisoners, for example those admitted to the camp in the Aufnahme office, and I often witnessed them beating prisoners for petty infringements, like refusing to be tattooed, not approaching these men quickly enough, replying to a question in a certain way, etc.
SS man Houstek, meanwhile, terrified all those who had to deal with him. He treated the prisoners, or even his subordinate employees, not like people, but like animals. He was brutal and vulgar, although I do not know of a situation where he would beat up any of his employees. Houstek had no human feelings whatsoever. For example, I remember that once, when a transport of some 3,000 Jewesses was being walked to the gas chamber, SS Doctor Klein questioned the passing women in considerable detail, wanting to select some of them on the basis of their answers and thus save them. This, however, caused the whole process to last some three hours, which was too long in Houstek’s opinion, and he screamed that Doctor Klein should never perform a selection again.
Among the mass crimes committed in Auschwitz, aside from the aforementioned sorting of Jewish transports, I also know of selections and general roll-calls. Selections of Polish women ended – as far as I remember – in January 1943, and from that time on no infectious patients were taken from the hospital to the death block, and from there to the gas chamber. Actually, this applied to Aryans in general. Selections of Jewesses took place until the end of the camp’s existence, and quite frequently at that – every week or two, either in the hospital or in the bathhouse (“sauna”). During each selection, some 200 people on average would be picked out for the death block and the gas chamber. In the summer of 1944, the death block was liquidated and those chosen during selections were taken by truck from the hospital or the bathhouse straight to the gas chambers.
Two general roll-calls were conducted while I was in the camp, however I was only present for one, which took place in January 1943. All of the female prisoners had to run along a line of SS men standing at the camp gate, and if anyone could not run due to sickness or infirmity, or even stumbled, she would be fished out of the group with a rod bent like a walking stick, and sent to the death block. That roll-call lasted the whole day. Throughout the day, all the prisoners had to stand outside in the cold, and several dozen people died of the cold and exhaustion. Coming back after the roll-call, I saw a pile of corpses at the camp gate. I am unable to provide even an approximation of the number of people who were “sorted out” that day.
I never personally encountered camp commandant Rudolf Höss and I do not know if he was an active participant in the gassings and other killings. I suspect, however, that the general roll-calls and selections were ordered by the camp commandant.