Monday, August 22, 2011

Selections of Hans Joseph Graf MATUSCHKA's affidavit on the Hungarian Jews

Source: NG-2440, 26 August 1947 Nuernberg.  The Holocaust: Selected Documents in Eighteen Volumes.  Vol. 8, pp 248-254

I, Hans Joseph Graf (Count) MATUSCHKA was employed in the German Foreign Service from 1918 to 1919 and from 1934 to 1945.  From 1940 to the end of the war (1945), I was German Consul in Kaschau (Kassa), which then belonged to Hungary.  During this period, I observed the following facts related to the policy concerning the Jews; I am noting down these observations in lieu of oath according to the best of my knowledge and conscience.

All this changed all of a sudden when the Germans occupied Hungary. (19 March 1944).  The first measures consisted in the introduction of the yellow Jewish star for all Jews, even for those who had been baptized decades ago.  Furthermore, so-called "Autonomously Administrated Jewish Communities" were established which were segregated from the rest of the Hungarian citizens, and even the Christians of Jewish descent were forced to enter them.  Soon afterwards, approximately in April/May, the Jews were deported from their homes, and they had to leave nearly all their belongings, often valuable furniture behind; they were interned in special streets, mostly in very poor and overcrowded houses (gettoes).  Their previous homes were supposed to become "the property of the Hungarian nation", but most of them were confiscated by the SD and the innumerable police and SS units to be used as offices, messes and billets of the many SD-officials, who invaded the unfortunate allied country like locusts.
Some weeks afterwards, on or about June 1944, the whole Jewish population of Kaschau - approximately 11,000 to 12,000 out of a total of about 65,000 inhabitants - were concentrated in a huge camp at the town border (brickworks), the ghettoes being dissolved.  There were no solid buildings in the camp, only brick sheds in which however, not all the people could be accommodated, so that many had to camp in the open.  Beds and blankets are said to have been available in sufficient numbers, as the internees were allowed to take along as many as they needed.  But even then there were already rumors of bad treatment by the Hungarian guards; one Hungarian police officer in particular is said to have made himself conspicuous by his brutal treatment of the internees were allowed to take along as many as they needed.  But even then there were already rumors of bad treatment by the Hungarian guards; one Hungarian police officer in particular is said to have made himself conspicuous by his brutal treatment of the internees and the use of his riding whip.

Approximately in the end of July/August, deportation by freight trains of the camp inmates to unknown places outside of Hungary.  At that time it was only known that the trains left Kaschau in a Northernly direction, crossing the Slovak frontier.  Later on, I heard that some deportees had send postcards to acquaintances in Kaschau stating "that they were well".  The transports as such are said to have been carried out in the most appalling conditions.  The camp inmates - men, women and children - are said to have been crowded into the cattle trucks in much too large numbers, often but scantily clad, because overcoats, partly even coats and out garments had been taken away from them beforehand.  The trains left only at night time, as on the way from the brickworks to the station an industrial railroad track along the Kaschau Main street had to be used.  The heat in the freight cars is said to have been intolerable.  In spite of this, the inhabitants are supposed to have been prohibited from handing water into the trains, from which the moaning of women and children was frequently heard.  I did not witness these conditions myself, I consider these statements not exaggerated in view of the reliability of my Hungarian friends who made them.  For this reason, it is, in my opinion, absolutely impossible that any person living in Hungary at that time considered these deportations of the Jewish population a kind of pleasure trip.  On the contrary, I am convinced that the Jews living in other parts of Hungary, too, were deported in a similarly cruel way, and that all persons then staying in Hungary must have known this.
On the suggestion of Catholic clergymen and other Hungarian friends, I attempted to intervene at least in favor of those internees who were of Christian faith.  I approached the then leader of the SD in Kaschau, Gottstein, trying to call his attention to the fact that it was politically inopportune to commit atrocities against members of the Catholic Church which was a Hungarian state institution.  As the immediate reason for my intervention, I referred to a particularly blatant case of a well reputed wholesale merchant who had been a Christian for as much as 30 years.  Gottstein replied rather curtly that he and the SD had nothing to do with this "ugly" affair.  He stated that it was handled by "Sonderkommandos" (special detachments) of the SS and claimed that he himself did not even know all of their leaders.  He advised me strongly, however, not to interfere in such matters, because first of all every Jew, - whether he was a "Jew by denomination" or "racially" - in favor of whom somebody intervened, was treated particularly severely, in order to stop such interventions; thus, he stated, I did only harm my proteges by steps of this kind; secondly he stated that a repetition of such steps from my part might well involve the loss of my official position and even endander my life.

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