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Testimony about Sobibor at the Eichmann Trial 1961

New Page 1

Moshe Bahir   

 Testimony about Sobibor at the Eichmann Trial 1961

(Selected Extracts)

 [photos added to enhance the text]



Attorney General: I call Mr Moshe Bahir


Moshe Bahir testifying at the trial of Adolf Eichmann in the District Court of Jerusalem.

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?  


Witness: Moshe Bahir – my name was originally Shkalek


Question: You were born in the town of Plock in Poland?


Answer: Yes


Question: You were there until 1941?


Answer: Yes


Question: And there you were deported from Plock?


Answer: Correct


Question: Where to?


Answer: To the Zhodova camp


Question: And from there?


Answer: We were there for four days, from there we were deported to Czestochowa


Question: You were there for several months?


Answer: Yes


Presiding Judge: How old are you now?


Answer: I am now thirty-three your honour


Attorney General: You were transferred to Zamosc, and two weeks later to a nearby village called Komarow?


Answer: Yes


Question: You were there until 16 March 1942?


Answer: Either the 16th or 17th


Question: What happened to you on that day?


Answer: It seems to me that it was 17 March. We were taken to the large market place in Komarow. They selected all the men who were employed at places of work that were of value to the Germans. Amongst them was my father who worked at the airport, twelve kilometres from Komarow.


Question: And you too?


Answer: I was not working


Question: But you were also selected?


German barracks at Komarow

Answer: I was in the market place, together with my mother and brother. My father was taken away from the market place. I was left there with my mother and brother and other persons who were older than I.


I could easily have escaped, because we were not so strictly guarded. My father was also standing there, since he had a card indicating that he was an airport worker. He asked me to run away. I told him I wanted to go with my mother. We did not know where we were being sent to. We left the next day for Zamosc and, on the 18 March, we went from Zamosc to Sobibor.


Question: How long did the journey last from Zamosc to Sobibor?


Answer: I reached Sobibor on 20 March 1942, in the afternoon


Question: How many people, approximately, were there on that train?


Answer: I think there were about two thousand five hundred people


Question: What did things look like when you got off the train?


Answer: I remember that before we went in, the first five railway carriages were brought into the camp ahead of us. I was in the second section of the transport. When the first five carriages were brought into the camp, I saw that the people inside the carriages were beginning to say the confessional prayer.


According to Jewish tradition, a person who is critically ill should be urged to confess his sins. If he is unable to compose his own confession, he may recite the customary formula. I did not know what this meant. I also did not know the meaning of the term “the death camp Sobibor.”


I must say that the majority did not know it, my mother also was not sure. But it was only then that I became aware of, or I understood, what was the meaning..


The moment my mother took out her last slice of bread, which she was preserving for the time when my brother or I might faint from hunger, and began to share it out to other children, I said to myself – despite the fact that I was a boy of fourteen and a half – apparently there is no longer any need for her to keep a slice of bread for her own children. This made me understand that we would no longer need to eat. About half an hour later, the remaining carriages, including the one I was in, were brought into the camp.


Question: Now, please tell us, were the doors opened from the outside?


Answer: All the doors of the carriages were opened, German SS men, in green uniforms, were standing there, as well as Ukrainians in black uniforms. While I was still on the train, I heard the word “Aufmachen” (Open –up) and all the carriages were opened up simultaneously. There was terrible shouting. They began taking us to Camp 1.


Question: All of you together?


Answer: The second transport – that is to say, the second section of the transport.


Question: What happened to the women and the children from the train?


Answer: When we entered Camp 1, the women and children were separated to the right and the men to the left. I went along with my mother and brother. My mother held my hand. My mother held my hand from the moment we were about to leave, since the women and children went ahead of the men towards the gas chambers.


Pre war photo of Oberscharfuhrer Gustav Wagner

At the point when I was already at the exit point of Camp 1, together with the women, Oberscharfuhrer Gustav Wagner held me back, he halted me and said, “Du bist ein Mann,” (you are a man) and pushed me towards the men.


They waited for half an hour, fifty of these men were chosen for work, including myself. I should like to point out that there were not many men in this transport – most of them were women and children.


Question: Have you seen your mother and brother since then?


Answer: I have never seen them since. My brother was younger than I was he was twelve and a half.


Attorney General: And they walked towards the gas chambers in Camp 3?


Answer: First of all to Camp 2, where the women took off their clothes, and from there towards Camp 3


Question: What kind of work were you given at Sobibor, Mr Bahir?


Answer: The first job of work I had to do was to clear a hut of pots and all kinds of eating utensils belonging to victims who had preceded us, since there was no place to sleep. There were a number of small huts for artisans. They were from the first transport, from which people had been selected for work. I was in the second transport, from which they kept back men for regular work.


Presiding Judge: You say that they emptied a hut of eating utensils?


Answer: Yes, your Honour, the hut was full of eating utensils, and around the hut there was a pile, three times as large, of eating utensils only, pots which the people had brought to the camp at Sobibor before my arrival.


Attorney General: And you had to clear them away?


Answer: Yes, and after that we constructed bunks. I also worked, at first in transferring personal belongings from Camp 2 to the train.


Question: What personal belongings were there in Camp 2?


Answer: There was a very high heap. I do not remember its length or dimensions, but it was a very large one. We worked for a month in removing it from Camp 2 to the carriages.


Question: What did this pile contain?


Answer: Only personal belongings of the people who preceded us


Presiding Judge: Clothing?


Answer: I am talking only about clothing. Apart from the large pile at Camp 2, which stretched as far as the Lazarett – close to the Lazarett there were also three huts full of clothes, near the railway station, at a place which was subsequently evacuated and occupied by the Ukrainians.


Question: What was it that you referred to as the Lazarett?


Answer: It was a pit, not far from the camp – five hundred metres away from the camp and from where we were working. When we were running two hundred metres with the bundles, there was a pit, and when someone was injured or had his sexual organs bitten by the dog Barry, Unterscharfuhrer Paul Groth would say to him: “What happened to you, my poor man? You can’t carry on like that. Who did that to you? Come with me to the Lazarett.”

And he went with him, a few minutes later we would hear a shot.


He would accompany tens of workers in this way every day. I am referring to men who were selected for work, for they did not choose men for work every day. They selected them when they needed them for work, if on one day, fifty men were selected for work, the following day they killed eleven men of our group.


Rails outside of Sobibor

This was done by Paul Groth, who led them all to the Lazarett.


Attorney General: Were those who arrived on transports also transferred to the Lazarett?  Those who arrived on the transports – men, women and children – were they also taken to the Lazarett?


Answer: At a later stage, not at the beginning. At a later stage, there were small carts that came right up to the hut, and into these they used to throw the sick people and the aged, together with those who were dead. On the way, it often happened that the dead bodies lay on top of the old persons, and the old ones on the sick. These were sent directly to the Lazarett and not to Camp 3.


Question: To the gas chambers?


Answer: They did not go to the gas chambers, but to the Lazarett


Question: So you were in Sobibor from 20 March 1942, until when?


Answer: Until 14 October 1943, the day of the revolt



Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/trials/bahirtestimony.html


The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team



Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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