Testimony at the Nuremberg
Trials on Auschwitz
M. Dubost: What do you know about the Jewish transport
that arrived from Romainville about the same time as you?
Vaillant-Couturier: When we left Romainville the Jewish
women who were together with us remained behind. They were sent to Drancy, and finally arrived in Auschwitz,
where we saw them again three weeks later. Of 1,200 who left, only 125
arrived in the camp. The rest were taken to the gas chambers immediately,
and of the 125 not a single one was left by the end of a month.
The transports were carried out as follows: at the
beginning, when we arrived, when a Jewish transport came there was a
"selection." First the old women, the mothers and the children.
They were told to get on trucks, together with the sick and people who
looked weak. They kept only young girls, young women and young men; the
latter were sent to the mens camp.
In general, it was rare for more than 250 out of a
transport of 1,000 to 1,500 to reach the camp, and that was the maximum;
the others were sent to the gas chambers straight away.
At this "selection" healthy women between 20
and 30 years old were also chosen, and sent to the Experimental Block.
Girls and women, who were a little older or not chosen for this purpose,
were sent to the camp and, like us, had their heads shaved and they were
In the spring of 1944 there was also a block for twins.
That was at the time of the immense transport of Hungarian Jews, about
700,000** persons. Dr. Mengele, who was carrying out the experiments, kept
back the twin children from all transports, as well as twins of any age, so
long as both twins were there. Both children and adults slept on the floor
in this block. I dont know what experiments were made apart from blood
tests and measurements.
M. Dubost: Did you actually see the
"selection" when transports arrived?
Vaillant-Couturier: Yes, because when we were working in
the Sewing Block in 1944, the block in which we lived was situated just
opposite the place where the trains arrived. The whole process had been
improved: Instead of carrying out the "selection" where the
trains arrived, a siding took the carriages practically to the gas chamber,
and the train stopped about 100 m. from the gas chamber. That was right in
front of our block, but of course there were two rows of barbed wire
between. Then we saw how the seals were taken off the trucks and how women,
men and children were pulled out of the trucks by soldiers. We were present
at the most terrible scenes when old couples were separated. Mothers had to
leave their daughters, because they were taken to the camp, while the
mothers and children went to the gas chambers. All these people knew
nothing of the fate that awaited them. They were only confused because they
were being separated from each other, but they did not know that they were
going to their death.
To make the reception more pleasant, there was then –
in June and July 1944, that is – an orchestra made up of prisoners, girls
in white blouses and dark blue skirts, all of them pretty and young, who
played gay tunes when the trains arrived, the "Merry Widow," the
Barcarolle from the "Tales of Hoffmann," etc. They were told it
was a labor camp, and as they never entered the camp they saw nothing but
the small platform decorated with greenery, where the orchestra played.
They could not know what awaited them.
Those who were taken to the gas chambers – that is,
the old people, children and others – were taken to a red brick building.
M. Dubost: Then they were not registered?
Dubost: They were not tattooed?
Vaillant-Couturier: No, they were not even counted.
Dubost: Were you yourself tattooed?
(The witness shows her arm)
They were taken to a red brick building with a sign that
said "Baths." There they were told to get undressed and given a
towel before they were taken to the so-called shower room. Later, at the
time of the large transports from Hungary, there was no time left for any
degree of concealment. They were undressed brutally. I know of these
particulars because I was acquainted with a little Jewess from France, who
had lived on the Place de la Republique....
Dubost: In Paris?
Vaillant-Couturier: In Paris; she was known as
"little Marie" and was the only survivor of a family of nine. Her
mother and her seven sisters and brothers had been taken to the gas
chambers as soon as they arrived. When I got to know her she worked on
undressing the small children before they were taken into the gas chamber.
After the people were undressed they were taken into a
room that looked like a shower room, and the capsules were thrown down into
the room through a hole in the ceiling. An SS man observed the effect
through a spy hole. After about 5 to 7 minutes, when the gas had done its
job, he gave a signal for the opening of the doors. Men with gas-masks,
these were prisoners too, came in and took the bodies out. They told us
that the prisoners must have suffered before they died, because they clung
together in bunches like grapes so that it was difficult to separate
Trial of the Major War Criminals before the
International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945-1 October
1946, VI, Nuremberg, 1947, pp. 214-216.
* From the evidence of a Frenchwoman, Marie-Claude
Vaillant-Couturier, who was a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp,
where she arrived on January 1, 1943.
** The correct number of Hungarian Jews sent to Auschwitz was about 430,000.