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Eduard Kryshak

Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5035 | Film ID: 3357, 3358, 3359, 3360, 3361

A hidden camera interview with Eduard Kryshak, who accompanied two or three train transports of Jews to Treblinka and was a witness at postwar trials in Düsseldorf and Bielefeld. He claims he did not know that people were killed at Treblinka until after the war. Kryshak's wife is frequently visible doing chores in the kitchen where the interview takes place, or watching Lanzmann and Kryshak as they talk.

FILM ID 3357 -- Camera Rolls #1-7 Maison/Clinique/Chemin de Fer -- 01:00:00 to 01:27:50
No picture for first few minutes. Lanzmann is talking with a German woman about Kryshak, he is in hospital after having had an eye operation. Sound is presumably caught by a hidden microphone; Lanzmann speaks with his colleagues in French. Picture begins at 01:03:00, with Lanzmann walking up to a house and ringing the doorbell. The camera is hidden in a car parked across the street. Lanzmann speaks to Frau Kryshak through the intercom (audio does not pick up her voice), introducing himself as Dr. Sorel from Paris. Lanzmann finds out which hospital her husband is in. Picture cuts out at 01:05:03, resumes at 01:05:58 with Lanzmann back at the door, thanking Frau Kryshak by name. Lanzmann looks at the home for a few seconds, then walks away, speaking French with his female interpreter. The camera then pans into the van, showing the recording equipment. Lanzmann then repeats the previous scene, this time with the camera showing someone manning the equipment in the van. The camera hidden in a car across the street slowly zooms in on the entrance to the hospital where Kryshak is staying, repeated two times. The next scene shows Lanzmann entering the hospital. Picture cuts out at 01:12:54. Lanzmann and his interpreter speak with the hospital staff, trying to locate Kryshak. The attendant tells them he is no longer there. Other hospital staff join in the conversation and reveal that he had come in for a check-up but has already left. Picture resumes at 01:17:02, showing the outside of the hospital, with Lanzmann and associates walking towards the van. Picture cuts out again at 01:17:38 for a few seconds. Lanzmann returns to the Kryshak home and rings the doorbell several times, with no answer. He yells Herr Kryshak's name, a woman answers at an upper window and says she doesn't know where Frau Kryshak is. Lanzmann speaks in French with his associate and they walk away from the house. Camera shows interior of van again. 01:24:45 [no sound through end of tape] Camera shows an older man leaving the Kryshak home. Lanzmann and his associate approach him and speak with him. End of roll shows Lanzmann and several associates leaving the home, carrying camera equipment.

FILM ID 3358 -- Camera Rolls #1-7 SS.026 Chemin de Fer -- 02:00:00 to 02:24:00
No picture until 02:01:07. First scenes of camera hidden in a briefcase as Lanzmann follows Kryshak up the stairs into his apartment. They sit in the kitchen, with the camera positioned to capture Kryshak. Before they start, Lanzmann excuses his associate to go outside, she takes the camera with her. Lanzmann continues to talk with Kryshak, asking about his operation and age. Sound cuts out at 02:06:36, but hidden camera footage continues until the end of the roll at 02:07:15. Sound returns, but no picture until 02:08:15. Kryshak discusses the mechanics of the train (brakes, the engine). Kryshak first came to Poland in 1942, to Vilna. He explains that he was a "blauer Eisenbahner", meaning he was with the Deutschen Reichsbahn-Gesellschaft (DRG) and that he had nothing to do with the military trains [Wehrmachts-Feldeisenbahner]. Kryshak then goes through the various places in Poland he was in, before being assigned by his boss to Bialystok. He explains that he was not an official train conductor, having only taken the test, but he had the skills to do it, amongst other services he had to perform. Kryshak talks about the various types of trains he traveled with: normal passenger trains, freight trains, special transports and Jewish convoys. He accompanied two or three trains loaded with Jews. Picture and sound cut out 02:14:17, picture returns at 02:14:29, sound at 02:14:43. Kryshak says he didn't know where the trains came from or went to, he just accompanied them, although he speculates they went to Auschwitz or Treblinka. He also mentions that they were always transported in freight cars. Kryshak mentions that the security detail for the transports were comprised mostly of Ukrainians and Poles. Kryshak then describes how he gave water to some of the Jewish prisoners through the hatch on the train car. He's unsure how many people were in the train car, but estimates that there were about 50-60 cars. He accompanied that train to Malkinia, which was only 7-10 kilometers from Treblinka. He says that one could see the chimneys of Treblinka, but that at that time he wasn't aware what was going on. Lanzmann probes him on this point, asking him at what point he did know. Kryshak claims it was only after the war that he learned what went on at Treblinka. Lanzmann then says he must have had some idea that what was happening wasn't right. Kryshak agrees with this, but says that 'Treblinka' didn't mean anything to him at the time. Sound and picture cut out briefly at 02:19:14. Lanzmann asks him what he thought the fire coming out of the chimneys was from. Kryshak responds that they thought it was oil burning; they had no idea until after the war what it really was. Despite Lanzmann suggesting he was not responsible, Kryshak remains adamant he did not know what was going on at Treblinka. Lanzmann asks if he ever had interactions with any of the Polish train conductors who moved the convoys into the camp. He answers that he did not. Lanzmann mentions Henryk Gawkowski, but Kryshak says he did not know him. Lanzmann suggests that Kryshak's name is Polish. Kryshak explains that his family lived on the border, in East Prussia, and that his grandparents spoke only Polish.

FILM ID 3359 -- Camera Rolls #8,9 -- 03:00:00 to 03:17:45
Audio is problematic for the first few seconds. Kryshak says that he was a soldier, but that he never needed to fire a shot. He explains how things turned chaotic at the end of the war. He surrendered to the British (although it was actually Polish and Belgian forces?), and complains about the unnecessary force used by the Belgians. Lanzmann changes the subject to when Kryshak lived in Bialistok (must be referring to prior to the war), asking him about the Jews that lived there and in Prosken. Kryshak says there were many Jews, they bought goods from them, even his doctor was Jewish. Many of the higher-level merchants were Jewish. Lanzmann asks what happened to them, Kryshak is absolutely certain that the Jews of Prosken got out before the war, but those in Bialistok were put in a ghetto and were forced to work at the nearby iron works factory. Kryshak also tells of their Jewish housekeeper, a young girl who had mentioned several times that she was afraid she would disappear into a camp. Lanzmann asks if they knew the name Treblinka. Kryshak says they never spoke about that, but he didn't think so. He doesn't know what happened to his housekeeper; one day she just never came back. Lanzmann asks if he ever accompanied a train to Auschwitz and Kryshak says he only went to Malkinia. End of roll at 03:06:46.

Picture returns a couple of seconds later, sound at 03:07:12. Lanzmann wants to know what Kryshak thought about accompanying a loaded train and returning with an empty one. He says he can't really say, which is also his answer when Lanzmann asks about the terrible smell described by previous Polish interviewees. Kryshak brings up his post-war trial, during which he said he knew there was burning at Treblinka (likely a partial continuation of the conversation not caught on film in between camera rolls 8 and 9, as up to this point Kryshak has denied having any knowledge of what went on in Treblinka.). Kryshak then explains the steps involved in preparing and loading the train cars and transporting them to Malkinia. He received special orders when transporting the Jews. Lanzmann asks if he thought the Jews were afraid and Kryshak responds that they definitely had fear because they knew where they were going. Lanzmann wants to know how the Jews could be aware of Treblinka and not himself. [Picture cuts out from 03:11:28 to 03:12:39] Kryshak says one could see the fear in the Jews. He believed they were simply gathering the Jews to have them all in one central location and he did not know about the annihilation. He was only a simple public servant, one could not protest anyway. Lanzmann asks if he received any extra compensation for the Jewish transports, Kryshak says it did not matter what they were transporting, the rate was the same. Lanzmann mentions that the Polish train operators received alcohol and then asks Kryshak if he knows someone named Bleichschmidt but he doesn't. Lanzmann wants to know how long the journey took. Kryshak explains how far it was and how fast the various trains could go. Sound cuts out at 03:16:51.

FILM ID 3360 -- Camera Rolls #100,9-10 -- 04:00:00 to 04:15:54
Lanzmann and his associates travel in the van used for secret filming, with views of the countryside. Lanzmann reads from several pages of handwritten notes, in French. Picture cuts out briefly at 04:06:17. No sound through the end of the roll. Camera captures houses and shops as Lanzmann and crew drive through the streets [somewhere near Kirchweyhe, Germany]. 04:13:46 Secret filming of Kryshak resumes. Beginning with a close-up of Frau Kryshak, the camera pans to Herr Kryshak and then back again [no audio].

FILM ID 3361 -- Camera Rolls #11-14 -- 05:00:00 to 05:25:34
Kryshak is speaking, no audio until 05:01:09. He explains how he came to work so much on the trains, despite his being on standby. He was one of the younger men, so when others were sick or on vacation or for 'special' trains [Sonderzüge], he was called to accompany them. Lanzmann states several times that he must have accompanied many 'special' trains and Kryshak eventually responds in the affirmative. Lanzmann asks if it was difficult work and Kryshak says that it was. Lanzmann then asks if he had any fear or apprehensions about it and Kryshak responds that it was his job. It didn't matter if the train he was accompanying was carrying munitions, goods, Jews, soldiers or the wounded. He had nothing to do with what the trains carried, his job was to accompany them. Lanzmann asks him to read a train schedule. Kryshak examines the schedule as Lanzmann explains it is an order for unit 33, a 'special' train [Referat 33 - Sonderzüge]. Kryshak says that perhaps his supervisor would have received such a document, but he would not have. Lanzmann wants to know what the 'DA' means, Kryshak isn't sure. Lanzmann suggest 'Deutsche Aussiedler' [literally German emigrants - referred to Jews from German-speaking areas: Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia], which Kryshak says could be correct. Lanzmann then shows him another paper, this one referencing PJ 111, meaning polnische Juden [Polish Jews]. Kryshak thinks it means a passenger train, but Lanzmann is adamant it is referencing Polish Jews. This train traveled from Bialistok to Auschwitz, with a stop in Malkinia. Kryshak explains that there were always changes in the trains' personnel, he doesn't know whether a train would have gone on to Auschwitz. Lanzmann asks again if he ever went to Treblinka, he maintains that he didn't. Lanzmann states that the organization of the Jewish transports was very good and Kryshak agrees. Lanzmann asks about the guards who accompanied the trains. Kryshak says they were mostly German, sometimes Ukrainian or SS. Kryshak believes the foreign guards treated the Jews worse than the German ones. He doesn't remember the Ukrainians wearing uniforms, only armbands. Lanzmann asks if the trains he accompanied were mostly full of Polish Jews. Kryshak doesn't know, he only knows they boarded in Vilna. Cuts out briefly,

New roll begins 05:11:15, sound begins at 05:11:30. Kryshak says the Jews loaded onto the trains were dirty, that there were men, women, and children (of the latter he's not as sure). He explains how little time they were given to prepare a train for departure. He did not observe the loading process as that was outside his duties. Force was sometimes used to get the Jews onto the trains. Lanzmann asks about several other places, including Warsaw and Lublin but Kryshak says he never went there. Lanzmann asks if the train cars were clean and Kryshak says they were, but he doesn't know who cleaned them. Lanzmann begins speaking in French to his interpreter. Sound cuts out from 05:17:56 to 05:21:03.

New roll begins 05:20:00. Lanzmann is discussing where the train cars were cleaned. Kryshak doesn't know. Lanzmann says that he thought the train cars were quite dirty; Kryshak agrees they would have been after having 50-60 people crammed into them without toilets. Picture and sound cut out briefly at 05:22:17, sound cuts out at 05:24:09. Roll ends at 05:25:34.

Event:  Summer 1979
Production:  1985
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
Record last modified: 2023-11-07 13:15:56
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