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Hamburg: What the concentration camp survivor Abraham Koryski testifies as a witness in court

Monday, 09.12.2019
16:40

When Abraham Koryski arrived at Stutthof concentration camp near Gdansk in August 1944, it was night. There was a smell of corpses. For eight days he had traveled with about 800 Jews from Estonia, without food, without drinking, he recalls. He was driven into a barrack with others, it was so tight that he had to sleep standing up. The next morning his hair was shaved off. Abraham Koryski was now a concentration camp prisoner, he was 16 years old.

  

Last weekend, Abraham Koryski was 92 years old, he came from Israel and now sits in room 300 of the district court Hamburg and tells of his first hours in the concentration camp Stutthof. A little man with a friendly face, born in Lithuania, he is wearing a hearing aid and glasses. His daughter is sitting next to him, a few rows behind it are two other relatives.

  
On his left sits Bruno D., 93 years old. From August 1944 to April 1945 he served as SS-guard on one of the towers of the Stutthof concentration camp. The National Socialists captured more than 100,000 Jews and political opponents there, 65,000 of them murdered. Bruno D. is charged with aiding and abetting the murder in 5230 cases. The prosecution is convinced that, even though he did not kill a prisoner by hand, he has contributed to the mass murder by working as a security guard.

  
Sadistic SS officers

  Abraham Koryski has come to tell what he has experienced. He speaks in a loud voice, an interpreter translated from Hebrew. The court does not need to ask him about the role of security guards in the concentration camp: Abraham Koryski knows what this trial is about, he does not talk much.

  

Koryski describes the unspeakable in many details: how SS officers and guards summoned prisoners to "bizarre, sadistic shows". In one, an SS officer – obviously under the influence of alcohol – broke a chair and asked a father and son to decide: Either the officer shoot one of them or one beat the other with the chair leg to death. The father then decided that the son would kill his father. "He did it," says Abraham Koryski. "After that, the son was shot."

  Abraham Koryski breaks through the silence in Room 300: "I ask you all here: Can you believe that people do that?"

  The guards could be distinguished from the SS officers by their uniforms and headgear, says Abraham Koryski. He describes how he had to collect the unburned bones in the crematorium and load them onto a wagon; how, after getting up, he had to pick up the people who had died during the night; as they were driven out of the barracks at night, naked, at minus temperatures, they had to take a shower and run back naked. "Many people died after such actions."

  And he describes how the prisoners had to persevere hour after hour at the "camp appeal" on a field: cap on, cap down, cap on, cap down. "That was pure Sadimus," says Abraham Koryski. There were no watchtowers during the appeal. But for many other atrocities according to his statements: "The guards were everywhere, they were there." They were not just standing on the towers. "You never saw faces, you did not want to see faces, we were scared."

  
"We ate snow"

  Before his deportation to Stutthof Abraham Koryski had spent years in the ghetto in the old town of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. From there, the National Socialists had brought thousands of Jews to Ponar for mass destruction. Over several camps, the boy finally landed in Stutthof, where he was forced shortly before the end of the war to the so-called death march: Miles of people, without food, without drinking, without warm clothes, without shoes. Who died, was pushed aside, the others had to continue. "We ate snow," says Abraham Koryski. Several times he had sat down because he wanted to be shot because he could no longer bear the pain. Then he got up again. The Red Army finally freed him.

  

It was his "express wish" to testify in this case, says the chairman, Judge Anne Meier-Göring. "Why?" Again it is quiet in the hall. Abraham Koryski has trouble talking. "I was scared of that question," he says, crying. For a long time it remains quiet in the hall, then he says: "It's not easy for me, I'm not coming out of revenge, but I'm blaming, I'm not forgiving." He pauses. "I want the world to know what happened, everyone should know everything." Especially the next generations.

  "My revenge is my family, my relatives who are in the room here," says Abraham Koryski. "They show that I managed to survive all this."

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