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Kleinman, Joseph Zalman
Witness to the selection process in the Auschwitz concentration camp, Poland
1961 Quote: 6/7/61: KLEINMAN: I stood there in total despair. I thought to myself, “My life is ending here.” Suddenly my brother whispered to me, saying: “Don’t you want to live? Do something!” I woke up, as from a dream, and began searching for a way of saving myself. My mind worked rapidly. Suddenly I caught sight of pebbles scattered around me. I thought that perhaps I could be saved in this way. We were all standing in line, at attention. I bent down without being noticed and seized some handfuls of pebbles. I untied the laces of my shoes and began stuffing pebbles into my shoes. I was wearing shoes which were larger than my size. I filled my shoes with pebbles under my heals and I gained two centimeters. I thought that, perhaps, this would be sufficient. Meanwhile I felt I was unable to remain standing at attention with the pebbles in my shoes. It wasn’t easy. I told my brother I was going to throw the stones away. My brother said to me: “Don’t throw them away, I’ll give you something.” He gave me a hat. I tore the hat into two pieces and I began inserting the rags made from the hat into my shoes, so that it would be softer for me.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GIDEON HAUSNER: Perhaps we could make it briefer, Mr. Kleinman. Did you pass the test?
PRESIDING JUDGE MOSHE LANDAU: But, nevertheless, let us hear how he got through.
KLEINMAN: I stood for ten minutes with the stones and the rags inside my shoes. I thought that perhaps I might reach the required height. Meanwhile all the boys went on passing that spot. Two would reach the necessary height and two would not. I stood where I was. Ultimately my brother looked at me and said: “This is not high enough.” Then I began to fear, perhaps I would fail because of nervousness, lest when I began walking, they would realize that I had something in my shoes. I asked my brother and someone else, who could look around better, that they should estimate what my height was. Both of them said that I had no chance of reaching the desired height. So then I began looking around for a way to escape and get to the taller ones who had already passed the plank, the selection. They were drawn up in ranks of hundreds, on the opposite side, and the shorter ones who had not reached the plank and the required height were lined up on the opposite end of the field. The shorter ones were trying to force their way into the second group. I also just stole my way into the taller ones.
1996 Quote: In my opinion the trial was a great thing. It saw to it that all the world would know what had happened to us during the Holocaust. Without this trial, many things would never have become known, and history would have passed quietly over the whole matter.