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The accounts featured on Testifying to the Truth cover many different aspects of the Holocaust. We have highlighted some of them here:

On this page:

Rescue Efforts 

There are many accounts in the collection that relate to people who helped save lives, for example: networks that helped people to hide from Nazi persecution; individuals who set up safe houses; religious and non-religious organisations that supported rescue efforts (e.g. the Quakers and the Bekenntniskirche in Berlin), large-scale international rescue schemes such as the Kindertransport, the rescue of Jews from Denmark over the Øresund, and the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg’s establishment of safe houses in Budapest. You will also find information on such notable rescuers as Count Folke Bernadotte, Oskar Schindler and Geertruida Wijsmueller-Meijer.

In total, there are more than two hundred reports that touch on this subject.  Gathered by The Wiener Holocaust Library over a period of approximately six years between 1954 and 1960, Eva Reichmann and her colleagues actively sought out documents related to rescue from the very beginning of their project. In November 1954, when Reichmann made a call for eyewitnesses to the Holocaust in the journal of the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR), she wrote: “Let us search our desks and drawers in favour of the AJR and Wiener Library. Everything affording evidence with regard to persecution and salvation will be received in gratitude, examined, copied if need be, catalogued, and given a place worthy of its origin”. This collection’s accounts on rescue relate to the second of these two categories of documentation.

See also:

The Wiener Holocaust Library’s subject guide - Kindertransport

Continuing Terror

Pamphlet from The Wiener Holocaust Library collections, 1942.

Children and Youth 

The eyewitness accounts gathered under this theme explore the topics of childhood, youth and school during the Nazi era, primarily from the perspective of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.

The historian Nicholas Stargardt noted in his book Witnesses of War that ‘the Nazis aims were above all racist and nationalist, but they projected these goals into the future through the enormous importance they ascribed to childhood’. This did not only mean controlling what they saw as the racial future of the nation through indoctrinating the young. It also meant removing what were perceived as ‘harmful elements’. In Nazi ideology, not only Jewish children, but also non-’Aryan’ children, disabled children and ‘delinquent youths’ were to be excluded from society as far as possible. Jewish children were, however, explicitly portrayed as a dangerous threat to the nation, perhaps most notoriously in the widely distributed Nazi children’s book Der Giftpilz (English: The Poisonous Mushroom).

Antisemitic abuse experienced by Jewish children both in school and in the community comes through clearly in these eyewitness accounts. Ursula Finke, who was ten at the time the Nazis came to power, and who survived the war by going into hiding, tells of the antisemitic atmosphere that forced her to leave her school. In another account, Irmgard Berger recounts how she was deported from Germany to Poland at the age of nine and was forced to work as a printing labourer in multiple camps over five years, including Auschwitz.

Notably, the collection also includes several accounts conducted by Nelly Wolffheim, a renowned child psychologist, which take the form of interviews and pay particular attention to the childhood experiences of the subject. The chronological span of the material in this collection dealing with the subject of childhood also extends to the postwar period, for example in Elisabeth Zadek’s report on the physical and mental state of child survivors who were brought to the UK in 1945. Finally, while this collection does not focus on the experience of ‘Aryan’ children in Nazi Germany, several accounts do describe interesting details relating to the development of the Hitler Youth and the indoctrination of young people throughout Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe from 1933 onwards.

Novemberpogrom 1938 - Die Augenzeugenberichte der Wiener Library, London

Starving children in the Warsaw Ghetto, circa 1941.

Nazi Camps 

This theme brings together eyewitness accounts which deal with the Nazi camps of various types. The chronological range of the material spans from the earliest days of the Nazi concentration camp system (e.g. a detailed report by the doctor and psychotherapist Dr. Emerich Weissmann of his arrest in 1938 and imprisonment in Buchenwald), to accounts of the liberation of camps across Europe in 1944-1945. Some of the eyewitnesses set out their experiences from a personal perspective, while others consciously adopt the tools of objective analysis. The communist resistance fighter Emil Carlebach, for example, composed his submission as a ‘History of the Jews at Buchenwald’. Another eyewitness, Dr. Rudolf Levy, was arrested and deported to Bergen-Belsen having successfully evaded the authorities until 1943. He describes his experience of the camp in a report of two parts. The first part is a personal narrative, the second part is a highly structured style not unlike a sociological report.

Extensive material can be found on most of the largest concentration camps in the territory of the Third Reich (including 
DachauSachsenhausen, BuchenwaldBergen-BelsenMauthausen and Ravensbrück), alongside many other accounts relating to Nazi camps in other territories. The collection contains over two hundred accounts of experiences of survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau labour and extermination camp complex, located in Nazi-occupied Poland, as well as several reports on its various sub-camps. A smaller number of accounts concern extermination centres other than Auschwitz-Birkenau, particularly Treblinka and Lublin-Majdanek, and also BełžecSobibór, and Chelmno. In addition, testimonies from smaller, lesser-known camps, such as the early camp Osthofen, can also be found, as well as personal narratives of experiences in police detention camps, transit camps and temporary camps.

See also:

The Holocaust Explained - What were the camps?

USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia - Nazi Camps

The Nazi Concentration Camps - A Teaching and Learning Resource

Double fences at Auschwitz

Double fences at Auschwitz


A significant number of the individuals who gave their testimonies to The Wiener Holocaust Library were actively involved in organised attempts to undermine the Nazi regime. This theme brings these narratives of resistance together, including those written by resisters, and accounts that document related topics such as partisan warfare, sabotage efforts, espionage, undercover resistance, counter-propaganda, resistance networks and assassination attempts. The dangers of actively resisting the Nazi regime were very great, not least because the reprisals taken by the Nazis against resisters were so barbaric, notoriously including the murder of whole village populations in the case of Lidice in Bohemia and Oradour-sur-Glane in France. 

Terror was extensively used by the Nazi regime, but also deployed as a tactic by some resisters, particularly against informers for the Nazis, as is revealed by Roger van Praag’s testimony about the organisation of the Belgian resistance. It is important to remember that national myths about heroic resistance against the Nazis often do not match up to evidence of everyday life in occupied countries, where active civilian resistance was the exception rather than the rule. This takes nothing away, however, from the bravery of those who did resist. Individuals like Ghert Jospa, for example, took huge risks to further resistance and rescue efforts. In addition to material on nations and regions occupied by the Nazis, and in particular Belgium, there is also a large amount of material in this collection about anti-Nazi activity within Germany both prior to and after Hitler’s rise to power, such as Hans Jaeger’s account of communist activities in the 1920s and 1930s.

Finally, many accounts focus on resistance in the Nazi camps, including for example the activities of the International Socialist League of Militants (Internationaler Sozialistischer Kampfbund, ISK) which features in three separate accounts. Another notable document concerning resistance in camps is Stanislav Kohn’s testimony. Kohn was one of an estimated 300 prisoners who escaped Treblinka extermination camp during the camp uprising on 2 August 1943.

Jewish Lithuanian partisans, 14 July 1944

Persecution of Non-Jews 

The Wiener Holocaust Library was one of the first research institutions in the world to seriously investigate Nazi persecution of non-Jewish victims from an historical perspective. In the May-July 1950 issue of The Wiener Library Bulletin, the then editor of the journal C.C. Aronsfeld published an article entitled ‘How the Gipsies were persecuted’. The article brought to light initial findings and observations among scholars about the scale and ferocity of Nazi efforts to isolate, persecute and eventually exterminate the Sinti and Roma populations of Germany and occupied Europe. Given that the Library was at the vanguard of studying this issue, it is notable that Eva Reichmann’s pioneering collection of eyewitness accounts includes two early first-person testimonies from Romani victims of Nazi persecution, Julius Hodosi and Hermine Horvath. Both of these testimonies were featured in The Wiener Holocaust Library's 2019 exhibition, Forgotten Victims: The Nazi Genocide of the Roma and Sinti.

Other non-Jewish victims also record and give voice to their experiences in this collection, including for example non-Jewish political prisoners. There are, however, groups of victims whose experiences are not documented in the first person, such as, for example: LGBT, disabled, homeless, and black victims of Nazi persecution. The language used to describe these groups in the testimonies themselves and in the contemporary archival descriptions very much dates the materials to the 1950s. The lack of voices from these groups is undoubtedly a notable absence the collection, in relation to the question of whether it offers a comprehensive record of the experience of victims of Nazi persecution.

There is a clear divergence in this collection from our own contemporary sensibilities regarding non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. This stems a widespread ignorance among Western academic circles at the time when the material was gathered of the lived experience of diverse ethnic groups, subcultures outside of the mainstream, or socially marginalised groups. This ignorance persisted to a greater or lesser degree throughout most of the twentieth century, but arguably reached something of a high point during the decades preceding and following the 1950s. It does not necessarily follow that the archive’s collectors consciously shared negative attitudes towards any particular category of non-Jewish victim, although some of them may well have done, given the social mores of the period. Crucially Eva Reichmann’s project aimed to create an archive of public record, which in itself probably excluded the possibility of homosexual victims contributing, and may have deterred many other types of people from participating too.

Furthermore, since the bulk of the work of collecting was conducted by predominantly German-Jewish researchers, most of whom were based in London, and who were understandably focused primarily on documenting the experience of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, it is questionable whether the absence of material from a truly diverse range of participants can really be considered ‘gaps’ without imposing an anachronistic frame of reference on material that demands to be understood in its own context.

See also:

USHMM’s learning resource - Sinti and Roma: Victims of the Nazi Era

Photograph of a Roma man, thought to be Jozef Kwiek, a ‘Gypsy King’, in Belzec concentration camp in German-occupied Poland, 1940

Medical Crimes 

The disturbing subject of Nazi medical crimes was explored in depth in a 2017 Wiener Holocaust Library exhibition curated by Dr Christine Schmidt and Professor Paul Weindling,  Science and Suffering: Victims and Perpetrators of Nazi Human Experimentation, which is now available in an online version on The Wiener Holocaust Library’s website. The accounts gathered in this Testifying to the Truth theme relate to some of the same events and individuals discussed in the Science and Suffering exhibition. For example, there are a number of documents that concern Carl Clauberg, a Professor of Gynaecology who abused so-called ‘reproductive’ research in such a way as to target primarily Jewish women with forced sterilisation. His supposed goal was to devise a method to sterilise large numbers of women deemed by the Nazis to be ‘unfit’ without needing to use surgical procedures. Margita Neumann was one of the few surviving victims of these experiments, and she gave a witness statement in preparation for Clauberg’s trial in 1955, which was later added to this collection. The trial did not ultimately take place, however, as Clauberg died of a heart attack shortly before hearings were due to commence.

The most notorious of all Nazi medical criminals, Josef Mengele, is also mentioned in several documents gathered here. The majority of the accounts relating to Mengele come from prisoners who witnessed selections in Auschwitz or who heard terrifying accounts of Mengele’s experiments. One of these documents, however, is a letter dated 21 May 1945 written by Eva Herskowitz, one of the surviving victims of Mengele’s twin experiments, to family friends at a time when her twin sister remained gravely ill in hospital. Despite the power of these documents as evidence of Nazi crimes,  the profound trauma and distress experienced by these victims of medical crimes is not fully conveyed by what is written in them.

Nazi hygenists taking racial measurements with a calliper, ca. 1935

The November Pogrom 

The November Pogrom of 1938, or Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), emerges as a key event in many of the personal narratives in this collection. This is perhaps not surprising given the fact that a significant proportion of the accounts in this collection were written by German-speaking Jews, the population targeted by the Nazis on the night of 9-10 November 1938.

Taken together the accounts gathered here offer a detailed and vivid impression of this event as it was experienced by its victims. The accounts describe the burning of synagogues across Germany and Austria, the smashing up and looting of Jewish shops, attacks on Jewish people in the street, the rounding up of tens of thousands of Jewish men, and their subsequent detention and brutal mistreatment in Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. Hermann Striem and F. Vollmann’s accounts focus on experiences of arrest and imprisonment in Buchenwald between November 1938 and January 1939.

Other accounts, such as Dr. Berthold Loewenstein’s and Hans Reichmann’s, focus instead on the events leading up to the pogrom and the manner of its orchestration. In Rabbi Dr. Eschelbacher’s account of the November Pogrom in Düsseldorf the focus is on the politics of a particular community, and interesting details emerge about the participation of prominent local officials in the burning of the synagogue, including doctors and judges.

Users of this site who are particularly interested in the subject of the November Pogrom of 1938 should also note the online resource Pogrom - November 1938: Testimonies from ‘Kristallnacht’ which features 350 accounts recorded in the days and months that followed the initial wave of attacks. Further information on the historical context of the November Pogrom and the role of the Jewish Central Information Office (JCIO, later The Wiener Holocaust Library) in documenting the event and its aftermath can also be found there.

Wrecked windows of a Jewish-owned printing shop 'Citographia', smashed during 'Kristallnacht' in Berlin 1938


The majority of accounts in the collection are written from the perspective of victims of Nazi persecution, but this theme brings together documents which focus on perpetrators. There is extensive material in this collection concerning people who either committed atrocious crimes themselves, helped others to do so, or who tacitly or passively supported the Nazi regime. The Nazi leadership - above all Adolf Hitler, but also Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Goering and Josef Goebbels - are mentioned in passing across numerous reports. In a few cases Eva Reichmann’s team of collectors gathered original documentary correspondence relating to perpetrators, where it was deemed significant, such as a letter addressed to Himmler on the deportation of Jews from the Netherlands, and a letter authorised by Reinhard Heydrich banning a Jewish Alumni Association in Bavaria. There is also an account from an eyewitness who recorded his ‘reminiscences’ about the youth of Joseph Goebbels, although these were dismissed as ‘not very significant’ by the original cataloguer.

Arguably more significant are the records contributed by the Association of Baltic Jews (ABJ), London who gathered several documents relating to the prosecution of perpetrators of the mass murder of Latvian Jews. This material is somewhat different in type from the rest of the eyewitness accounts, as it generally consists of copies of sworn or signed statements initially produced for another purpose. For example, there are copies of letters written by survivors to the Committee for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in the Baltic Countries, sworn statements given in front of public officials or under oath in courtrooms after the war in distant places such as Toronto, and copies of depositions given to postwar justice commissions.

Not all of these documents are written from the perspective of victims: the sworn statement of Max Gymnich, a driver for the Gestapo, for example, was submitted in his own defence after several people accused him of participation in Nazi crimes. Unlike other eyewitness accounts in this collection, where the motivation for collecting the accounts appears to be gathering proof of lived experiences from victims, the focus of some later material appears to be more motivated by an attempt to bring perpetrators to justice. This raises the interesting question of the processes involved in the collection of the testimonies for The Wiener Holocaust Library, which may have been quite different depending on the time period and the group of survivors in question when the material was first gathered.

See also:

The Wiener Holocaust Library's subject guide - War Crime Trials

Heinrich Himmler shaking hands with officers of the SD at the ‘Wolfsschanze’ in 1941