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The Trial

[Page 383]

The murderers before the tribunal
twenty-five years after the murder

by A. Lando

Translated by Sara Mages

Only two of them were “rewarded” by appearing before court - Leopold Windisch and Rudolf Werner, the assassins of Lida's Jews. Two human monsters, whose memory will bring, to this day, horror in everyone who got to know them in the day of “their greatness.» The Chief Ruler of the Lida Region, the Regional Commissar (Gebietskommissar), Hermann Hanweg, the “good German,” who knew how to suck the life-blood of the Jews of Lida, every day, bit by bit, in German methodicalness, while pretending to be a “good black[1],” was rewarded with euthanasia - death from a French bullet, on the Western front.

We do not know the details of the arrest of the two murderers. We only know that in 1963 their details were given to the Division for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes of the Israel Police. The details were handed over to the German authorities and around the end of 1964 both were arrested. The preparations for the trial took several years. Many witnesses were questioned in Israel and investigators from the German legal institutions came here for this purpose.

In the year1967/1968, the trial opened in Mainz and many former residents of Lida, and its surroundings were invited to testify. The witnesses who arrived from Eretz Israel: Arluk, Berkovich, Dr. Golobievski, Gorfunk, Damesek, Zela Savitski, the sisters Slonimchik (now Ettinger and Yungman), Reznik. From the United States: Rivka Novoprutskaya, Bella Stolovitski (Goldfisher), Dr. Kivilevich, Menski. From Australia: Ingge Tenenbaum, Frenkel. From Canada: Druk and his wife, Sima Ilutovich (Kosher). From Germany: Branczik. At the invitation of the German prosecutor's office, about 250 German citizens, soldiers and officers, who were in Lida during the war, also appeared at the witness stand: among them Dombek, the manager of the foundry in Lida that belonged to “Benlend” and the Shapira brothers, and the manager of Pupko's beer brewing factory. “Fraeulein Maier,” Hanwig's sadistic wife - also appeared.

The people of Lida were put through a difficult test, to relive all those horrible memories from twenty some years ago, with all their horrors, and it is no wonder, that some of them collapsed from the anguish of the memories. Indeed, the defense attorneys' efforts to frustrate the Jewish witnesses, and to reveal various contradictions in the details of their testimony, came to naught, because things were too deeply etched in their memory to be able to confuse them. However, a glitch was discovered in the administration of the trial, the defense attorneys announced that they discovered in the court president's room a listening device that he used to listen to their conversations with the defendants. The matter came to the German Federal Ministry of Justice - and the course of the trial was disqualified.

The trial resumed in the summer of 1969 in a new lineup. All the witnesses who testified in the first trial were invited again. This time the trial lasted several weeks and on July 18, 1969, Miller, the president of the court, read the verdict in a courtroom full to capacity: the defendant, 56-year-old Leopold Windisch, who was arrested in 1964 in the city of Mainz where he lived as a merchant, was sentenced to life in prison after it was proved that in seven cases he personally participated in the murder of Jews in Lida, a place where he served as chief of staff and the deputy of the district commissioner. All his assets will be confiscated and his civil rights will be permanently revoked. The court is convinced that in the massacre of May 1942 in and around Lida, in which thousands of Jews found their death, Windisch not only played an auxiliary role but took an active part in it.

The defendant announced that he would appeal the verdict, but nothing has yet been known about the fate of the appeal, if it has indeed been filed.

The second defendant, Werner, did not appear before the judges this time: as reported, at that time he was already dying in the hospital.

Our townspeople who testified at trial give from their impressions:

--- Werner, as we remember him, a giant, close to two meters, always accompanied by his big terrifying dog named “Donner” (thunder) - was seen in court as crippled, old, sick and completely broken. In 1967/68, during the trial, throughout the course of the trial (as aforementioned, he was unable to arrive to the court when the trial resumed in 1969), he sat indifferent to his fate, passive, with a dumb expression. On the other hand, Windisch - arrogant, cheeky and venomous, constantly talked with his defense attorneys. His behavior led the court to send him to a psychiatrist for examination, but he found him in good health. At the opening of the trial, he turned to the judges with a call “don't be influenced by the Zionist-American imperialist propaganda.” While the witnesses were being questioned, he argued with them and sought to give the impression that, “in those days,” was almost a “philo-Semite[2].” Indeed, the jury and judges did not seem to be influenced by these words, and the Lidaim were impressed by the atmosphere in which the trial was conducted, through a sincere way of investigation of the facts and reaching a just verdict.
Life imprisonment - is the maximum penalty: there is no death penalty in Germany. But if there was - is there a punishment that will atone for the streams of blood that have been spilled, even if the defendants were sentenced to all four types of capital punishments[3]! But, on the other hand, it was awful to think that the angels of death of the Jews of Lida were walking freely on the streets without justice and without a judge, and out of this consideration, the court fulfilled its mission.


Translator's footnotes

  1. Refers to the black uniform of the SS. Return
  2. philo-Semite - a person who supports or is favorably disposed towards Jews. Return
  3. In traditional Jewish law there are four types of capital punishment: a) stoning, b) burning by ingesting molten copper, c) strangling, and d) beheading, each of which being the punishment for specific offences. Return


[Page 384]

The Trial of the German Murderers

By Z. Arlouk

Translated by Ionatan & Dina Kamenetsky

In September of 1943 Lida became “Judenrein”. The last train (with Jews) in the direction of Central Poland forever ended the tale of many centuries of Lida's Jewish community. Hard battles were still fought in Europe as well as other frontiers. Undefeated German war potential was already cracked. They (Germans) were losing battles, yet the plan of Jewish mass destruction was still fully active. High chimneys of crematoriums were smoking around the clock. That is where, with German punctuality, hundreds of trains full of Jews from all over Europe were headed. Chances of survival were minimal. Through dark clouds covering Europe, there was not one single ray of hope. A few hundred men and women found new hideaways in partisan troops, which were organized on the town outskirts. Not the best of situations. From one end are challenges of life in the woods, and from the other one is anti-Semitism, which was quickly spread from the enemies to Russians. Thus, extremely depressing atmosphere pushed some to go back to towns, also now known as ghetto. Those few ended up in the hands of Germans or were murdered by Polish bandits-nationalists.

No one even for a second imagined that in a few decades assassins of their loved ones will have to finally face trial. Unfortunately, very few lived to see it.

Lida's “gebitskomissar” died during the war on French frontier. His two closest associates, Verner and Vindash, [Werner & Windisch] were on the run for many years. Finally, in 1964 they were arrested in the city of Mats [Mainz], and that is where their trial took place.

There is no need to explain today what crimes were committed by the three Germans back in the 1940's. Just the pure sound of their names can make people shiver. Without an inch of human kindness, the three sadists started smoothly planned mass destruction of Jewish population of Lida and its outskirts. They completed their project with the last transport deporting Jews to Maidanek in September of 1943.

Even today the details of Vindish's and Verner's arrests remain a secret of the German authorities. The trial did not take place until 1967-68. Investigators from Germany arrived in Israel to question witnesses. The following individuals were invited to Germany to be involved in the actual trial: Damesek, Gorfunk, Berkovich, Arluk, Savitski, Kaplan, Dr. Golobievski, sisters Slonimchik, Reznik, Dr. Kivilevich, Rivka Novoprutskaya, Bella Stolovitski, Goldfisher, Kamionski, Frenkel, Tenenbaum, Druk, Sima Ilutovich-Kosher. In addition, some witnesses from places located nearby Lida were invited as well.

Prosecutors also invited, as witnesses, 250 German citizens, among those were wife of “gebitskomissar”, also known as freilen [Fraeulein] Maier, Dombek, who was a manager of iron plants of Shteinberg, Shapiro, manager of beer brewing factory, and a lot of officers and soldiers. I was curious to find out whether military personnel came voluntarily. I spoke with prosecutor Gitsman, who was a former Vermaht's [Wehrmacht] officer, and he explained to me that German government has an access to everyone's name, military title and location since 1914.

Verner, whom we remember to be almost two meters tall, and an athletic type, now looked miserable - old, sick, and broken. He appeared to be just a passive observer, and did not talk to lawyers at all. Meanwhile, Vindish was a complete opposite, and acted as he was back in occupied Lida, and not in a defendant's chair. He kept frequently greeting familiar faces using a Nazi hand gesture. He also constantly interrupted the process with provocative sayings.

Prosecutor told me that Vindish kept in contact with high rank officials trying to persuade them that national-socialist regiment is the perfect fit for Germany. He went through psychiatric observation, and was found to be completely healthy. At the trial's opening, he asked judges not to be influenced by Zionistic-American propaganda. During the deposition, at times it would become difficult to maintain order. Some changes had to take place as a result. Two attorneys -young Germans - tried to confuse witnesses not taking into consideration that over twenty five years have passed, and that remembering all the details was extremely difficult. Some witnesses' nerves were greatly shattered as they were trying to recollect all the horrible and inhumane events that took place. The questioning process lasted a few weeks. We were impatiently waiting to for the sentence. Some time has passed, and suddenly Protestant minister Gikel informed us from Germany that the entire process was dismissed. He mailed us an article from some German newspaper with the heading “sensational news in German court room”. Attorneys of two defendants discovered recording devices that were placed to tape conversations between defendants and their attorneys. The final verdict was to close the case, and then re-open it as a new one.

In the spring of 1969, case re-opened. Verner, may he be cursed, was not capable to attend. We were told that he was in agony in the hospital. All witnesses, once again, received notices to appear in the Mainz' court. The trial started with new attorneys and jury. Attorneys tried, at any cost, to confuse witnesses and to prove that their present testimonies differed from the original ones. They weren't successful in their attempts, as they didn't realize that to them it was yet another maneuver, and to us the horrific truth of the past stayed in our memories forever. Once again, the questioning lasted a few months. On July 18, 1969, court's principal, Miller, announced: “Defendant, Leopold Vindash, fifty six years of age, arrested in 1964 in Mainz, where he lived as a merchant, is sentenced to life in prison.” Seven incidents, involving murder of Jews, were proven to have his participation. Former ”stableiter” and vice 'gebitskomissar” of Lida was permanently deprived of citizenship rights. Jury was convinced that in May of 1942, thedefendant was personally involved in the mass murder (6,500) of Lida's and its outskirts' Jewish population.

That is how the entire trial ended. Vindish left the court room with a smile on his face and a Nazi hand gesture. He appealed the sentence, and the final result is yet to be determined. In my opinion, the process was conducted properly from the legal standpoint. Jury and judges were seeking the truth and fairness.

Life sentence is the highest form of punishment in modern Germany. I believe that there is no fair sentence that can justify the nature of the crime committed by the Nazi murderers.

 

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