Transcript of the Official Shorthand Notes of 'The Trial of Josef Kramer and Forty Four Others'

Twenty Fourth Day Saturday, 13th October, 1945

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COLONEL BACKHOUSE: Before my friend calls his next witness, I have been supplied by the Soviet Government with a film of Auschwitz. It is an official documentary film made by a Soviet official photographer, and it is a film which I think would be of assistance to the Court if they saw it. I know I have closed the prosecution's case, but it is a film which I think would be of assistance to you. It is not one which relates specifically to any accused in the sense of any particular act, it is a film which shows you the camp, it shows you the plans of the camp, the inside of the blocks and so on, the people who were left behind and certain of the activities of the Soviet Commission of Investigation there.

I apply to show that film through as part of the Prosecution's case, or I suggest the Court might call for it themselves, as they have power to do at any time during the case. I can produce a certificate from the photographer who was present when the film was taken, but Major Cranfield, on behalf of the Defending Officers, agrees, I think, that if you think the film should be shown at all the film itself shows that it is an official document of the Soviet Union and would be admissible under the rule. If necessary I can produce a certificate from the photographer.

If you agree the film should be shown I suggest it might be shown on Monday morning at the opening of the Court. That would enable the cinema people to get their arrangements made beforehand and it would give my friends an opportunity hereafter, if they wish to, to ask the witnesses about anything that appeared in it. I shall not object if my friends think it necessary for any of the witnesses called to be recalled on any specific point. As I say, it is a general film, but I would raise no objection at all if it is suggested that should be done.

MAJOR CRANFIELD: I object to this. I cannot see what the object is. We have seen one film. We saw a film of Belsen, and the only point in that film, as far as I could see, was to show that the Prosecution witnesses, Including Brigadier Glyn Hughes, were telling the truth when they described Belsen Camp as it was when they arrived. The Defence do not dispute that they were telling the truth, and in the same way do not dispute that there was a concentration camp at Auschwitz. You have heard the defence witnesses describe how the camp was organised, and they have told you there were gas chambers there. Now of what value can it be shown what is, in fact, a Russian propaganda film with a commentary in German. The only words I could distinguish were "fascism" and "Hitler" repeated on numerous occasions.

We have sat here for three weeks listening to the Prosecution's case, and in my submission it was only when the Defence was opened that any reasonable picture of what went on in Auschwitz was present to the Court at all. What is the object of interposing here a propaganda film? In my submission, the only object can be to prejudice the accused, and it is idle, in my submission, for the learned Prosecutor to say this is the first occasion he has been able to get the film. The Prosecution have had four months to prepare their case. The Defence had one week before the trial opened. I can produce, and will produce, on Monday or Tuesday a witness from the Russian zone. If I can do that in a month why cannot the Prosecution produce this film in four months. The reason is because this film is no part of the Prosecution's case whatsoever. It has been put in now because it has been suggested by a Russian war correspondent here, who is going to certify the film, that it would be a good thing for the film to be shown. It may possibly be a good thing from the point of view of a war correspondent, but from the point of view of the Court it is, in my submission, completely worthless.

As the Prosecutor says, it is not related in any way to any of the accused in the dock. We have heard, and I do not think it is disputed, that as far as the accused are concerned Auschwitz was closed in January 1945. When was the film taken? It certainly was not taken in January 1945. What is the object of showing a film about Auschwitz taken, maybe, months after the accused left Auschwitz. What is the object of showing a film of a lot of refugees who have no connection with these accused at all?

The film shows scenes inside a Russian hospital. It does not say where it is. The whole thing is just complete prejudice and nothing else. We have sat here and listened to the stories of Strasbourg, stories of Natzweiler, this that and the other - nothing to do with the accused - brought in under Regulation 8 (2), and we sat here without objecting, because we cannot object. But how the Prosecution can suggest one can rely on Regulation 8 for a film is beyond my comprehension, and in my submission this is put in in the middle of the defence as a red herring.

I have heard of points being stretched in favour of the Defence in Military Courts, but I have not heard before points being stretched in favour of the Prosecution. In my submission it would be quite wrong to halt the Defence case at this stage and allow a film of this kind to be put in.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: I am not sure what my friend's objection is. In the first place, he takes the point that this film could have been produced before. The Prosecution had no knowledge of the existence of this film until it was offered by the official Russian representative here at this trial, and he sent for it.

The second point is that it is not known when it was taken. If necessary I will prove that it was taken at the time of the liberation of the camp.

The next point is this. If my friend agrees with the Prosecution's statement of the conditions at Auschwitz I shall not put it forward, but I thought there was a dispute as to what happened at Auschwitz. If there is not, naturally, the film is unnecessary, but I still think there is a dispute, and I put it forward simply to show the conditions found by the Russians when that camp was liberated, to give you a general picture of the camp about which we are talking and of the conditions found there, and also of the persons still in that camp when it was liberated.

The criticism that it is put in merely for prejudice I resent. I put it forward, and if the Court do not think it is of value I do not ask the Court to see it. In my view there can be no better evidence of the conditions of a place than photographs taken at the time, which is better than any evidence put forward by witnesses in the box. There is no question of it being put in for prejudice; it is put in at this stage because we could not get it before. My friend says he can get witnesses out of the Russian zone in a month. He did not do anything of the kind, I did it for him, and I was not in a position to do that before the case started. I was not in a position to get prosecution witnesses out when this case began, one was not available throughout the first week, and it is only since the case came on that I have been able to obtain witnesses from the Russian zone, and it is only since this case came on that this film became available. It has been put before the Court at the first available opportunity, and as soon as I could I made arrangements to show it to my friends.

With regard to the sound track, that is important. It is possible to show it as a silent film, and if the Court think that would be better then it can be shown in that way. The only point is that the commentary explains what is happening at the time. It is in German, and what I would suggest if there is any difficulty about this is the German interpreter could quite easily interpret whilst the sound track is running and not interpret any propaganda; merely interpret those parts of the sound track which explain, for instance, the plan of the camp - the sound rack will say "That is a plan of Auschwitz." There will be a plan of the gas chamber, and he will say: "That is the plan of the gas chamber", and also the block. Similarly with regard to the scene which my friend says took place in a Russian hospital. There are certain scenes at the end of the film when the medical section of the Russian War Crimes Commission examine some of the persons still in the camp. All I ask you to say there is that that is precisely what is happening.

As far as admissibility is concerned it is, in my submission, plainly admissible. The Regulation says, "Any oral statement or documentary statement." A talking film might be said to be partially one and partially the other. In law it is a document. It has been argued whether it is libel or slander to put something in a film, and it was held to be a document - just the same as a record - therefore libel and not slander.

The only matter for you to consider is whether at this stage it is prejudicial to the Defence. In my submission if, as I suggest, the film is shown on Monday morning then there has been a break over the weekend and there is no break in the Defence, and if there is any specific point which arises in that film on which the accused wish to give some explanation I would not object. I did not say, and I think it is quite obvious, that this film bore no relation to any accused. What I said was it raised no specific point in respect of any specific accused. It obviously bears relation to the accused who were on the staff at Auschwitz.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: May it please the Court. I am prepared to advise you that providing you are satisfied of the circumstances and the time when this film was taken that it is within your competence to receive it in evidence and attach such weight to it as you may think fit. It seems to me that this is entirely a matter for you and your members to decide, and I do not want to add anything except this. I think it is obvious that had these trials been brought on very shortly after these alleged incidents the Military Court charged with the duty of investigating the evidence would have at once proceeded to Belsen and to Auschwitz. We have in the case of Belsen tried to correct the time lag by going round, and I think we all got, at any rate, a much better idea of distances and layouts. I am not going to express any opinion myself as to that, but if you are going to get an authentic film which will give data on that aspect of the case I should have thought on that footing alone you would have found it better to have it so that you will have a detailed picture.

I do not propose to take up your time any further except to add this. I am confident that Colonel Backhouse has not chosen this psychological moment to introduce this film with a view to creating prejudice. I think he ought to be acquitted of that suggestion, if it has ever been made.

I think the issue you have to decide is quite a simple one. Will you get some information of weight by seeing this film which will help you to decide where the truth lies in regard to incidents alleged to have taken place at Auschwitz.

THE PRESIDENT: The Court will adjourn now to discuss this point and reopen immediately it has come to a decision.

(At 0953 hours the Court is closed)

(At 1003 hours the Court is reopened)

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Colonel Backhouse and Major Cranfield, the Court have considered this question and have decided that they would like to see the film placed before them at 9.30 on Monday morning. They would like the film to be silent with the official interpreter just indicating in English the relative points which will help them to follow the positions and layout of the camp, etc. That is a matter for Colonel Backhouse to arrange. The Court feel that the film should be run through as quickly as possible in the case now and that is why they are having it on Monday morning. In all circumstances, as you have closed your case, Colonel Backhouse, they feel it will be better to treat this as evidence called by the Court. Can the Court accept that that will be ready?

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: The only thing I am in a slight difficulty over is if the film is to be run silent and the official interpreter is to interpret it into English it would be perhaps more convenient - I am thinking of this, it is now Saturday and the film people are not here, and it is essential that he should have the film run through once or twice beforehand to take notes. What I had in mind was he should hear the German and interpret it as we go. I will do it the other way, but if it is done that way it is perhaps better if it could be done on Tuesday morning, which will give them the opportunity of running the film through several times for him. He has not, of course, yet heard the German, and if he saw the film and took his notes as he went along I think it would be rather difficult to arrange that between now and Monday morning.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: (To the Interpreter) Could you do it on one run through?

THE INTERPRETER: Yes. I have not seen it, but if I see it once that will be quite enough.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: I have great faith in Captain Forrest, and if you have it run through once I think he will do it.

THE PRESIDENT: Can it be run through tomorrow morning for him?

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: I will try and arrange that.

THE PRESIDENT: What we want is "This is the plan." " This is" so and so, and so on.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: I quite understand. All I can say is the cinema operators are not here and not near here, and I will have to get hold of them. I will try and get that done tomorrow morning; otherwise it may be done early on Monday morning. I shall try and arrange for them to be here on Sunday.

THE PRESIDENT: In that case will you keep in direct touch with Captain Forrest?


CAPTAIN PHILLIPS: I have a formal application to make arising out of this film. I speak on behalf of my four accused, who are only concerned in the Belsen charge, and also on behalf of those other accused who are only concerned in the Belsen charge. My application is based on the assumption - I do not know whether it is correct - that this film is being offered in evidence only against those who are concerned in the Auschwitz charge. I assume that even under the regulations of the Royal Warrant this evidence is quite immaterial on the Belsen charge. My application is this, that in earnest of that the accused who are only charged on the Belsen charge should be absent from the dock when the film is exhibited.


CAPTAIN PHILLIPS: To indicate as clearly and as publicly as possible, both to them, the public and anybody else, that this evidence is entirely irrelevant and immaterial so far as they are concerned.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Was not there one accused only charged at Auschwitz who was present when we dealt with Belsen?

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS: I am afraid I do not know that.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: IS that the application?


THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Well, Sir, I am bound to advise you that in my view, as this is a collective trial, the accused must be present throughout.

(The Court confer)

THE PRESIDENT: The Court feel that all the accused must be present throughout the whole of this trial.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS: If you please.

THE PRESIDENT: Major Munro, we had reached the stage yesterday when you had carried out your re examination of Volkenrath, but the Court had not put any questions they wished to her. I therefore want the accused Volkenrath back.

VokenrathThe Accused Elizabeth Volkenrath is recalled on her former oath and is examined by the Court as follows:-

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Volkenrath, when a prisoner came to Auschwitz officially was she known by name or by a number, which was given to her at the camp? - We did not know all the prisoners personally because there were too many.

That is not what I asked. I thought the question was very clear and was directed to ascertain whether when a prisoner came to Auschwitz she was known officially by name or by a number. - I did not have anything to do with the arriving prisoners; only if I worked together with them I knew their names, and the rest I did not know.

When there was a roll call, Appell, were you merely counting the number of people on parade or were you checking up the number of people who should have been there with some kind of list? - We only counted the number of people in the block.

And could yourself tell if any were missing? - Every block had a certain number of inhabitants and at this roll call this number had to be present. If the number was not correct somebody was missing, and that is the only way we knew that somebody was missing.

You were in Auschwitz for quite a long time, were you not? - Yes.

During what period of that time were you present at selections for the gas chamber? - I did not know that they were for the gas chamber, but I was present in August 1942.

For how long did you attend these selections after August 1942? - Only in the month of August I attended the roll calls. After my illness I had not been on these roll calls.

Do I understand you to say then that during August 1942 in Auschwitz you attended some selection parades on two or three occasions, but that was all you did attend? - Yes.

And did you attend these Appell because you were in charge of some women's block? - Yes, because I was on duty inside the camp.

Did you notice after these selections that some sick or infirm prisoners had gone away? - No, I do not know about that.

Did people never disappear from the roll call that you took after these selections? - I did not notice it.

A MEMBER OF THE COURT: You told us that you did not know the purpose for which these parades were held. Could it have been that they were parades for working parties? - Yes, that was possible; we never knew beforehand the reason for these Appell with the exception of the regular daily roll calls.

Were there always doctors and clerks from the hospital present on these parades? - At these roll calls and parades that I know about, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you any questions on that?

MAJOR MUNRO: I would like to ask one question, if I may. (To the witness) With regard to the parades you attended in August 1942, how many prisoners were on parade? - I do not know.

Was it a very large number or a small number? - Half the population of the camp was lined up, but I do not know how many people there were.

(The accused leaves the place from which she has given her evidence)

MAJOR MUNRO: The Court will remember that the day before yesterday I handed in a postcard by Erika Schopf who had been in Court and went away again. She is now back in Court and, with the Court's permission, I would like to call her now as a witness.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: To whom does this relate?

MAJOR MUNRO: The accused No. 5, Hössler.

Erika Schopf is called in.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: This witness is giving her testimony in German and is being sworn on the bible.

Erika Schopf, having been duly sworn, is examined by Major Munro as follows:

MAJOR MUNRO: What is you full name? - Erika Schopf.

What nationality are you? - German.

Where and when were you born? - On the 18th May, 1918, at Beeskow in the province of Brandenburg.

What is your present address? - No. 12 Spittastrasse, Burgdorf.

Are you married or single? - Married.

Did you send a postcard addressed to this Court? - Yes.

Did that postcard contain an offer to come and give evidence? - Yes.

Did you in fact come here? - Yes.

Can you remember when that was? - Yesterday.

Did you come to the Court on any occasion before that? - Yes, on Saturday and then I returned on Monday again.

Do you remember speaking to me? - Yes.

Do you remember being told to come back to the Court later that day? - Yes.

Will you please tell the Court in your own words what happened after you left me?...

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: Before the witness does so I would like to say this. If this is going to be evidence directed to the defence of Hössler it is quite a simple point because then I am not in a position to call evidence to discredit the witness; if, however, there is to be some form of investigation as to whether this witness was interfered with or not, that is a matter upon which I would ask permission to call evidence. I do not think that the two points should be mixed up. One is whether the witness is giving evidence with regard to the charges and the other is whether she has been interfered with or not. One is a matter in which I would be in a position to call evidence and the other is not.

MAJOR MUNRO: I had intended to show the Court exactly what did happen when this witness came to the Court because of the suggestion which had been made that I was not in a position to substantiate the remarks which I made. However, I am quite willing to separate the question.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: That is the matter upon which I should seek to call evidence and address the Court on.

MAJOR MUNRO: I quite appreciate that.

(The Court confer)

THE PRESIDENT: You may go on, Major Munro.

MAJOR MUNRO: (To the witness) Will you please tell the Court in your own words what happened after you left me? - I went to the barracks and two Jews told me it would have been better not to have come as a witness. Then I said, " Well, I came to give evidence in favour of Hössler," and I carried on coming down to the Court and they followed me, and then I went back to Hannover again. Then I went to Burgdorf and reported to Captain Martin about this incident. He told me to get back to 905 Military Government and to come to the Court guarded by British guards.

Why did you g back to Hannover? - I was afraid of the Jews, being the only German here as a witness.

Did they give you a reason to be afraid of them? - No.

Then did you come back to Court again yesterday? - Yes.

Were you asked to identify who it was who had spoken to you? - Yes.

Did you identify them? - Yes.

MAJOR MUNRO: I have informed my friend, the Prosecutor, who these witnesses are. If the Court would like the names I can get them now.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: We might as well have them.

(The Court confer)

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Colonel Backhouse and Major Munro; the Court feel that we are getting rather in deep water. I am prepared to advise the Court that if anybody (that is to say you or any Defending Officer) comes along and says his witnesses are being molested, and brings that to the notice of the Court, then the Court should take some action to see that it is stopped.

I do not know whether this is really an official complaint which is being put to the Court in the case of this woman, if so, and if the Court are quite satisfied, presumably the President will refer the matter to some proper authority to see it is not repeated, but I am in some difficulty to know exactly how far you want to take this.

MAJOR MUNRO: I do not want to press it as an official complaint; the only reason why I wanted it to be brought up publicly was because of the fact a suggestion had been made I had made a statement which I could not substantiate.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: This places me in this position. This woman has now said she has been interfered with. I have quite a different story and a very different reason as to why she went away. I shall be in extreme difficulty if this evidence is given. As the Court will appreciate, I am entitled to cross examine this witness to try and discredit her, but I am not entitled to call evidence to discredit her. If, however, this sort of allegation is going to be made - an allegation against some of my witnesses - that is a totally different thing because I shall obviously be entitled to call them to say what really happened and I think that would be rather unfair to my friend. Of course, she has not said who it was who tried to keep her away, but in view of what my friend said to me earlier it is quite obvious she is referring to some particular persons. If that is to be said then those two persons also ought to be here and if they are coming here were are going to be in further difficulty because they will want to call 20 witnesses to support them.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: If Major Munro would be prepared to say here to the Court: "I am not asking for assistance of the President to take any action; I am quite prepared to go on and leave the question" I should have thought that would be sufficient.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: If we forget all about it it will be left, at the moment, that some of my witnesses have been interfering with the defence witnesses.

MAJOR MUNRO: I am quite prepared to drop it if my friend agrees ...

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: Then we are back where we started from.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Major Munro, my own view is that if you are not asking the President to take any action at all, if you do not think it is sufficiently serious and not going to occur again, then I should have thought the matter would be allowed to drop.

MAJOR MUNRO: I am not making an application that she should be heard, and if my friend agrees I am quite willing to drop the matter now.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: I may say I have already heard similar sorts of counter allegations made which I have thought should not be put before the Court.

(The Court confer)

THE PRESIDENT: My opinion is this, and I have discussed it with the Members of the Court, that if we go into this question we shall get right away from the charges. I think this has very little to do with the charges which are being preferred against the accused. We are going into a mass of detail which really does not affect the charges. If, however, there is any question of either the prosecution or the defence witnesses ever being stopped or interfered with, if that matter is referred straight away to the Court, then the Court will take action upon it.

MAJOR MUNRO: (To the witness) Were you a prisoner at Auschwitz? - Yes.

When did you go there? - 25th March, 1941.

How long did you remain there? - 27th July, 1944.

In the postcard you mentioned a man Hössler; is that right? - Yes.

Will you come down into the body of the Court and see if you can see that man sitting in the dock? (The witness enters the well of the Court)

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: This witness has already been in Court before.

MAJOR MUNRO: Not that I know of.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: I was watching her going round the gallery the other day. Your interpreter will tell you that because he was with her.

MAJOR MUNRO: I did not know about that.


THE WITNESS: No. 5 (Indicating the accused Hössler)

MAJOR MUNRO: (To the witness) We have heard a lot in this case about gas chamber selections. Did you ever see any of the gas chamber selections? - Yes.

Was the accused Hössler present at these selections? - As far as I know he was not present.

Did you ever see him doing any selections? - No.

To your knowledge did he ever try to get anyone out of the gas chamber? - Yes.

How did he do that? - Several people who took part in a Kommando, in a sort of bricklaying Kommando, should have gone to Block 25, but those he saved as well.

Do you know how that was done? - He took down names and numbers of those persons, went to Block 25 and saved these people.

Is that the only occasion you know of? - Once a girl stopped him in the road in the camp and he saved her mother.

(The remaining Defending Officers do not desire to cross examine the witness)

Cross-examined by COLONEL BACKHOUSE: You went to Auschwitz in 1941? - Yes.

You are German? - Yes.

Are you a Jew? - No.

What were you sent there for? - Because I refused to work.

What work were you required to do that you refused to do? - In the docks, in the wharf at Hamburg.

Have you been kept in a concentration camp from 25th Match, 1941, to July, 1944, for that? - Yes.

When you first went to Auschwitz whereabouts were you put, , in what part of the camp? - In Birkenau, Camp A.

Did you stay there the whole time you were at Auschwitz? - No, I was later transferred to Budy and then I was re transferred again to Birkenau.

How were you treated while you were at Birkenau? - Not bad.

How did you treat other people? - I was a prisoner myself and was working.

You were a forewoman in a Kommando, were you not? - Yes.

MAJOR MUNRO: I would like to say one thing before the Prosecutor proceeds to question the witness further, and that is to direct the attention of the Court to Paragraph 95 of Chapter VI of the Manual of Military Law: "A witness (Other than the accused himself when giving evidence on his own application, and as to the offence wherewith he is charged), cannot be compelled to answer a question if the answer would, in the opinion of the Court, have a tendency to expose him to any criminal charge, penalty, or forfeiture, or to any military punishment. In practice the Court should warn a witness that he cannot be compelled to answer any question tending to incriminate him; but a witness himself is not the sole judge whether his evidence will bring him into danger; the Court must be satisfied that there really is reasonable ground to apprehend any such danger, and any doubt upon the matter will be solved in favour of the witness."

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: I propose to ask the question and if the witness would rather not answer then that is a matter entirely of the witness.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: It is not entirely for the witness; it is entirely a matter for the Court, with great respect. If the witness does not wish to answer on the ground that she might incriminate herself then the Court will decide whether she is to answer the question or not. I think, Sir, that should be explained to the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. (To the witness) If you consider that you would be incriminating yourself by answering any questions which are put to you by the Prosecutor in cross examination you may refer to the Court as to whether you are to answer those questions. The Court will then say whether you are to answer or remain silent. Do you understand that? - I understand.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: Were you a forewoman yourself in a Kommando? - Yes.

On Saturday when you were here in Lüneburg did not some women come to you and tell you that they were going to report you to the police because you beat them when you were at Auschwitz? - It was not on Saturday; it was Monday.

Did they not try to find a policeman to arrest you? - Yes.

It is true, is it not, that you beat quite a lot of people while you were in Auschwitz? - No, it is not true.

Were the women in your Kommando mainly Jews? - They were Poles and Jews.

Was it not the habit at Auschwitz to choose a German woman as far as possible and put her over Poles and Jews or to choose a Russian and put her over Poles, or to choose a Pole and put her over Russians? - I cannot say.

Were the girls who stopped you in Lüneburg in your Kommando at one time? - Those two, yes.

They did not know anything about you being a witness when they stopped you, did they; their complaint was that you were a forewoman who had beaten them? - Yes, that is what they said but I did not beat them.

Let us turn now to the selections. As a German and forewoman you did not have to go on the selections at all, did you? - No.

Who had to attend the selections? - Only the Jews.

It was quite easy to tell when there was a selection for the gas chamber, was it not, because only Jews had to parade? - Yes.

Have you seen these selection parades taking place? - I saw it from Block No. 19 when we were working there bricklaying.

How often have you seen one? - Once.

Where did it take place? - In Block No. 19 itself.

How many women had to attend it? - I do not know.

About how many? - I do not know how many Jews took part in it.

Did you watch it? - We had to work.

That is the only time you have seen one? - Yes.

Then how do you know whether Hössler attended them or not? - Hössler went through the camp, but when those selections took place we never saw Hössler; when those selections took place Hössler was never present.

But you never saw the selections, so how do you know? - I could see everything. From the blocks I could see always everything.

Let us start again. I thought you told me a few moments ago that you had only seen one selection; is that right or wrong? - Yes.

How do you know whether Hössler was on any of the others or not? - That was the only one which took place inside the block. The other selections took place outside the block but, nevertheless, we could see who took part in it.

Never mind whether the selection was inside or outside the block; have you seen any other selection? - We could see them when they were parading outside, but I did not see many.

What happened on these parades that you saw? - We have seen only that they had been selected and sent immediately to Block No. 25 and from Block No. 25 to the crematorium.

Was Block 25 kept specially for people who were going to the crematorium? - Yes.

Everybody knew that, did they not? - Yes.

Except for poor old Hössler?

MAJOR MUNRO: I do not think the witness could answer that question.

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think so.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: I think that was a comment.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: Who took them to Block 25? - The Blockälteste.

Were any of the Aufseherinnen ? - No.

Any of the SS men present? - No, I never saw.

Always one of the prisoners who, like yourself, had been given a position of authority? - No.

The Blockältestes were prisoners, were they not? - Yes.

Did any of these women ever try and escape from going to Block 25? - Yes.

What happened to them? - If the Blockälteste found her she got a hiding from her and then the Blockälteste herself brought her to Block 25.

Then did you ever see them taken from Block 25 to the crematorium? - I could sometimes see how the trucks were driven to the crematorium, but nothing else.

Did you ever see any of these trucks being loaded, actually having people put in them? - No.

You have told us about two occasions when Hössler tried to keep certain specific people out of the gas chamber? - Yes.

Were you allowed to have any personal possessions in Auschwitz; any jewellery or anything of that kind? - No.

Did quite a lot of people have some which they kept hidden? - Yes.

What happened if they were caught? - They either got the official punishment of 25 strokes or they were put into arrest.

What happened if they were put into arrest? - I do not know; I have never been arrested.

Quite a lot of people were beaten there, were they not? - Yes.

Do you remember the morning Appells? - Yes.

What time did they start? - Six o'clock.

What time did the prisoners have to get up in the morning? - Shortly before the morning roll call.

How long did the Appelle last for? - Sometimes it was quite quick and sometimes a bit slower.

What happened to prisoners who were late or who moved during the Appelle? - They were beaten.

Some of these people who had jewellery and so on, did they use it to buy positions? - No.

Or buy extra food? - That, yes.

And some of the SS were not above taking some of it, were they? - Yes.

THE INTERPRETER: The answer is they were not against it, they took it.


COLONEL BACKHOUSE: We ha better ask the interpreter to find out exactly what she means. Let us have it quite clear.

THE WITNESS: The SS never took it.

Did they just take the jewellery? - Yes, if they found it on us they took it.

How did you get the job of being forewoman? - A prisoner who worked in a Kommando for a work direction selected me for the job in the beginning. I did not want to take it but I had to.

Was that the Arbeitsdienst Hilde Löbauer? - Yes, she was in the Arbeitsdienst but she had not very much to say.

She was not the one who selected you? - No.

What was your Kommando employed on, the one you were forewoman of? - In the potato stores.

How did you keep order? - I only supervised it, that people should work, nothing else.

How did you ensure that they got on with their work? - I stood there with the Kommando, with the working squad, and if they did not work I told them to work, that is all.

And they all did exactly as they were told, did they? - There were many who did not do what they were told.

And what happened to them? - I reported it to the Kapo.

What did the Kapo do about it? - He punished them.

How? - They either did not get any lunch or they had to stand during their lunch.

Who was the Kapo of your party? - Hanna Waldemande.

Did the Kapos ever beat anybody? - We ourselves were beaten sometimes by the Kapos.

Were you ever in this bricklaying Kommando? - Yes.

Were the girls that Hössler managed to keep out of the gas chamber? - I do not know their names.

Were they girls who were working on bricklaying? - Yes.

Was the bricklaying actually being done in this compound? - Yes.

The other occasion, were you there when this girl stopped Hössler in the road and asked him to save her mother? - We saw it from the block.

Who was the girl? - A Polish Jewess.

What was her name? - I do not know.

Could you hear what was said? - No, we saw only how Hössler started writing.

Do you know the girl's mother? - No.

Did you see the mother come out of Block 25? - We did not see how she left Block 25 but we saw her a few days later on in the road of the camp.

Had you seen her sent to Block 25? - We were not allowed to see that.

How do you know she ever went to Block 25? - Because the mother told us.

How old was the daughter? - 22.

What part of the camp did she work in? - Compound B.

What was her position? - I do not know in which of the working Kommandos she was.

Was she a forewoman too? - No.

How did you know her so well? - Because we had more bread; then we went to the Jews and bartered with them this bread and that is how we got to know the Jews.

Were you allowed then to go freely from Compound A to Compound B? - No, we reported sick when we wanted to go to the C.R.S. and that is how we got into the other compound.

Did you get more bread because you were, a forewoman? - No, all of us had more bread.

And so you sold it to the Jews? - Yes, they wanted bread.

Re-examined by MAJOR MUNRO: You told my friend about the two Jewish women speaking to you; where did they first come and speak to you? - In the barracks.

Was that the Cavalry Barracks? - I do not know; 109.

What was the first thing they said to you? - They asked me why I came here.

Did you tell them? - Yes, I told them I came here to testify for Hössler.

Was that before they threatened to report you? - No.

When was it that they threatened to report you? - When I said that I came to testify for Hössler.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Can you tell the Court how prisoners were beaten; were they beaten by hand, or by a whip, or by a stick, or by a rubber truncheon, or how? - They were beaten with a stick.

When you were beaten with a stick did it leave any marks on your face or not? - No.

Did it hurt? - Sometimes, yes.

Did you ever hear anybody crying out in pain as a result of the beating? - When they got 25 strokes, yes.

A MEMBER OF THE COURT: Are you talking now about official beating or the unofficial beating? - When you did something wrong then you got it.

ANOTHER MEMBER OF THE COURT: Did you see anyone apart from doctors making selections at Auschwitz? - No.

You mentioned earlier on the name of Rapportführer Tauber? - Yes.

What did you see him doing? - He was always present at these selections.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you any further questions arising out of that, Major Munro?


(The witness withdraws)

Herta EhlertThe accused Herta Ehlert takes her stand at the place from which the other witnesses have given their evidence, and having been duly sworn is examined by MAJOR MUNRO as follows: What is your full name? - Herta Ehlert.

What is your nationality? - German.

Where and when were you born? - On the 26th March 1905 in Berlin.

Are you married or single? - Married.

Have you any children? - No.

What was your civilian occupation? - Saleswoman.

How did you come to be in the SS? - Through the labour exchange.

Were you called up? - Yes.

When was that? - 15th November 1939.

Did you want to join the SS? - I had not a great idea. I did not know very much about the SS

Where were you sent after you joined? - Ravensbrück.

What duties were you given there? - At the beginning I had to see to it that the civilian workers did not mix with the prisoners and, later on, I was detailed to working parties outside the camp.

How long did you remain at Ravensbrück? - Three years.

Where did you go then? - I was transferred - it was a punishment transfer - to Lublin.

Why were you punished? - Because I did something against the camp standing orders.

What was that? - Several details, firstly, too great familiarity with the prisoners; not severe enough with the prisoners; getting them some food and giving them food which was not allowed; and several other similar details.

You have told the Court you were sent to Lublin; how long did you remain there? - About a year; from Spring 1943 until Spring 1944.

Where did you go in the Spring of 1944? - Because of the Russian advance we had to try to escape and came into the vicinity of Kraków.

How long did you remain there?...

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Are you attaching importance to all this, because I cannot follow it. You said she was called up on the 15th November 1939, she went to Ravensbrück where she stayed for three years, which takes her roughly to 1942, then she jumps to Spring 1943 - 44 in Lublin. What has happened in between? If you want the whole picture can we have it right.

MAJOR MUNRO: In the Spring of 1943 she went to Lublin.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: If she was called up in 1939 that takes us to 1942.

MAJOR MUNRO: She said she remained in Ravensbrück until the Spring of 1943.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: It is about three and a half years, which is what she says.

MAJOR MUNRO: When did you leave Kraków? - The beginning of November.

November 1944? - Yes.

Where did you go then? - Auschwitz.

What part of Auschwitz were you sent? - Risko - the gardening Kommando.

Was that part of Auschwitz 1 or what? - I was only for a short period there. I do not know exactly. It is a sort of fixed detachment.

Was it connected with Birkenau? - No.

When did you leave Risko? - On the 18th January 1945.

Where did you go? - We went to Oranienburg where I had to report.

Did you eventually come to Belsen? - Yes, from Oranienburg I was detailed to Belsen.

When did you arrive at Belsen? - The beginning of February.

What duties were you given to do when you arrived at Belsen? - Clothing store for the prisoners.

Did you do that job until liberation? - No.

What did you do? - I had to do a journey on duty in the middle of February and returned to Belsen in the beginning of March.

What did you take up on your return? - When I returned, SS woman Gollasch, who was helping Volkenrath, asked me as these transports were arriving and the work became too heavy for herself, to help her in that way.

What did you have to do in that kind of work? - I was put in charge of the Aufseherinnen until the return of Volkenrath, in a sort of capacity of Oberaufseherin.

What were your responsibilities in that job? - As far as I could, although I had no previous experience in that type of job, I tried to help Gollasch, trying to detail all those many Aufseherinnen who had arrived in the meantime; the number was about 59. The Aufseherinnen walked about and had no particular jobs. They did what they liked and nobody knew really what sort of job they should be doing. Therefore, as far as I could I tried to bring order in that time.

Have you received a German translation of the statement you made on 11th June, 1945, at Celle? - Yes, but it is not the correct version of what I originally said.

Did you on the 11th June 1945 at Celle make a statement? - Yes.

Have you received in this Court a German translation of that statement? - Yes.

Is that statement in all respects a correct version of what you said when you originally made the affidavit? - No.

Will you please explain to the Court in what respects you say the translation you have read is not correct? - There are several paragraphs which do not show really either words or meaning of what I said during the statement; and paragraph 10 is quite different.

Which is the first paragraph you say is wrong? - No. 5; it says that the victims were in such a weak state that they would be very lucky to survive ...

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: I have got before me an English document. I suppose the witness has a German document. How do we know what we are doing? - Is that a correct translation of the English, or what is the complaint?

MAJOR MUNRO: As far as I know, what she has is a correct translation into German, but I think she wants to tell the Court that what is down in the statement is not what she said originally.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: Considering words that may well be so, because no two persons translating one document from English into German or from German into English will do it the same.

MAJOR MUNRO: The translation which the witness has is one made by the Court interpreters.

THE INTERPRETER: There is only one phrase the witness doubts. It is: "The victims were in such a weak state that they would be very lucky to survive such beatings as I saw her give". She says the weakness did not originate from the beatings, but they were weak already.

THE PRESIDENT: I have read the English translation, Major Munro, and the point is, I think, that the victims were in a weak state but not through the beating given.

MAJOR MUNRO: Yes, that is correct. (To the witness) How did you find the conditions at Belsen when you arrived?...

THE PRESIDENT: Have you finished with this document?

MAJOR MUNRO: I will put it to her if you like, but I thought that was the only place.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: I though she said paragraph 10 was wrong.

MAJOR MUNRO: (To the witness) Is there anything else wrong with your statement? - I shall tell the Court the truth about paragraph 10, because that is not what I have said. I came to the kitchen where Ilse Förster was working and she was rather excited and very flushed. I came to the kitchen on my control round to see whether everything was all right. The sense of my statement in paragraph 10 is that the Rottenführer came to me and said he was going to complain to his superior officer (in this case Unterscharführer Müller) and tell him that he was not going to set foot in the kitchen any more with this continuous beating and stealing going on.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: The difference seems to be between "set foot" and "work in".

THE PRESIDENT: And the stealing. So far as I can make out, the point is this: The Rottenführer said to Müller that he would not continue to come to the cookhouse whilst this continued beating and stealing went on. Is that right?

MAJOR MUNRO: Yes. (To the witness) Is there anything else wrong? - Paragraph 9. It is true this woman escaped and she came back; and it is true that Kramer beat her, but as I was not very near and as it was getting dark I could not see really whether he hit her with an instrument or with his fist or what he did. I know that he did hit her. Then here, about the kicking, I never said that he was kicking her.

THE PRESIDENT: Did I get this right, because I want the Court to be quite clear as to what the witness is alleging she said. The Kommandant questioned the girl in front of the SS women and "I saw him shaking her and later hit her on her head and face and all over her body". Therefore she is leaving out the words "stick" and "kicking".

MAJOR MUNRO: Yes, that is correct. (To the witness) Is there anything else wrong? - Kramer tried to get to the ground of the reasons of these escapes, because in the last eight days these escapes occurred frequently, and I myself did not hear Kramer giving Kasainitzky the order to beat those women.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: It seems to me that we have rather got off the point as to whether she said this or not. She is now giving us a new account of these incidents.

THE PRESIDENT: I was paying no attention to that. I am merely trying to find out what else she alleges she said.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: This is all very confusing. I can understand the witness being given a document and saying that the document does not represent what she actually said. I can understand her saying that the document does represent what she said, but that she now wants to tell a different story; but at the moment it is difficult to tell exactly what she is doing.

MAJOR MUNRO: I think at the moment she is trying to tell us that certain parts of the statement do not represent what she originally said. As far as the incident itself is concerned, I shall be taking her through that at a later stage.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: I am inclined to think that she is not doing that. I think form the last few answers she is giving different accounts. I think what my friend wants her to do is to answer his question: "What is wrong with the statement", but I think she is giving a different account.

THE PRESIDENT: I understood her to say that the statement was wrong in that she had not seen Kramer ordering Kasainitzky to beat the women.

MAJOR MUNRO: Yes. (To the witness) When you originally made your statement did you say that you had heard Kramer giving Kasainitzky an order to beat other women? - I was asked this question when I made my statement and my answer was: "I do not know. I have seen Kramer speaking to Kasainitzky, but whether he gave him this order I cannot say."

MAJOR MUNRO: (To the interpreter) Did you make it quite clear to the witness that we are talking about whether or not her statement represents what she originally said, and not about what happened at any of these incidents?

THE INTERPRETER: Yes, I did; and she says she understands.

MAJOR MUNRO: (To the witness) Is there anything else wrong with your statement? - Yes, paragraph 13. About the SS woman Sporn. I have heard that she was very severe with the prisoners and that on parades she made them stand sometimes for three hours, but I have not seen it myself.

I think that is the sentence: "I can speak of this of my own knowledge since I saw it happen" should, according to what you have just said, read: "I have never seen this myself". Is anything else wrong? - Nothing for the moment.

If you have anything else you must say it now. - I shall have to read it through again. (the witness does so.) Paragraph 11, the word "often" is too much. It is the first "often" in the second line. I object to that word "often".

Anything else? - I have said about Bormann, that she was very severe, that she adhered very strongly and strictly to standing orders, and that therefore she was hated by the prisoners.

Is that all? - Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Did you understand that last remark of her's? She is saying that line 4 is not what she said. She denies that she said that.

MAJOR MUNRO: She says that what she said was that she had heard she was very strict and severe with prisoners.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: I think she said something about standing orders.

THE PRESIDENT: "I have heard the stories about her strictness and adherence to standing orders".

MAJOR MUNRO: (To the witness) Come back to the time when you arrived at Belsen. How did you find the conditions then? - The conditions were the worst I ever saw in the camp.

As time went on, did it get better or worse or remain the same? - It became worse.

Did you try to do anything yourself to help? - Yes.

What did you do? - Once I had all the Blockältesten paraded because I was told there was no fat in the food. The Blockältesten told me that for several days already there had been no fat in the food. I went to the kitchen and talked with the man in charge of the kitchen, and the Aufseherin in the kitchen, and they told me they had not received fat from the store. I went to Unterscharführer Müller, who was in charge of that store, and he told me that all the train wagons were smashed by bombing and he could not do anything about it. At that moment I happened to meet Kramer. I told him about it and said that the death rate was increasing and that the prisoners could not keep alive on this thin soup. Kramer pointed to the kommandos from the prisoners. He made them collect potatoes and make mashed potatoes and these mashed potatoes were mixed with the soup and in that way the prisoners had the feeling that they had received something in their stomachs. In March I saw Dr. Horstmann. The weather had become a bit warmer and I was rather anxious about the open latrines, because I thought it might cause an epidemic, for instance, pests, and he said he could not do anything about it because he had no means for disinfection, and could only give me one sack with chalk for this disinfection. The third time I returned from the camp I did not feel very well because of the horrible smell. I met Kramer and I talked to him about it and he said: "Let them die; we cannot do anything about it; my hands are bound." I asked him to have less roll calls because Gollasch had told me that Kramer had given the order to have a roll call each day. Now I talked to Kramer about it and he said: "It is all right. See that there are two roll calls a week." For the many thousands of prisoners I could do nothing. I could do something for several of them, for quite a few.

Did you do something for them? - Yes, I gave food to several of them. I remember the case of a woman from Ukraine who had a small child of about a few months. I took her to the front of the camp and gave her some food and I asked the Kommandant that she should have for her child the food that the child needed and he said that it was all right and she got that food.

Anything else? - The prisoners who were working for me and who were always in my vicinity I helped very often. I remember the case of a French Jewess who received food several times.

Do you consider that you did everything that you could? - I do not know whether I did everything I could, but I can say that I did as much as possible though it was forbidden.

Do you remember a girl coming into Court to give evidence called Helen Hammermasch? - Yes.

Do you remember her telling the Court about the same incident you speak of in your statement when Kramer was said to have beaten a Russian girl who had escaped? - Yes, I remember.

Will you give the Court your version of what did take place then? - This girl was brought back. She had escaped from a working party. The Kommandant stood at the gate and took her with him. He started interrogating her and she lied. Gradually it became clear that she had been helped by some people, because in the last eight days several people had managed to escape. As this was a case concerning female prisoners we had to stay there. Kramer took the girl apart some distance away from us, and the only thing I know is that he started beating her. From the interrogation it became clear that the girl was helped by two other women. These two other women were fetched. I saw Kramer talk with Kasainitzky, but I do not know what they were talking about. Later on I entered the office and i entered it just at the moment that Kasainitzky was beating one of these girls. As far as I can remember this Kasainitzky knew the Russian language. Therefore, I suppose, acted as an interpreter and tried to get some information out of these three girls. Because it was rather late already I asked Oberaufseherin Volkenrath to be allowed to go home. I was allowed to go home so I do not know what happened later on.

Do you remember the witness Hammermasch saying that she saw you hitting this girl; is that true? - It is not true.

Do you remember the same witness talking about another incident in which she said you, Volkenrath and Gollasch undressed a girl and beaten her? - This is not correct. I want to point out that I think that this witness got mixed up with the other case and that she lied about it a bit more. The light in the room was on and the blackout was not put before the windows. In the room were Kasainitzky, Volkenrath, Gollasch. Perhaps there were some other prisoners in the room, but I do not remember. It is quite true that none of the Aufseherinnen did the beating; it was done by Kasainitzky who did the interrogating.

Do you remember the accused Volkenrath saying that you had told her something about retrieving some jewellery and that somebody was beaten? - Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Which is this in?

MAJOR MUNRO: The incident was deposed to by Helen Hammermasch in the witness box and the accused replied that she must have been mixing it up with the other incident.

THE PRESIDENT: But what is this last answer about the jewellery?

MAJOR MUNRO: That is really in connection with the same incident.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: I know you will appreciate I am trying to get a note of what the witnesses say in regard to specific incidents. Now I have been turning my attention to the Russian girl and Kramer and so on, and then Kasainitzky, and I have got a note of that. Then I thought you asked the witness to turn her attention to what you call the jewellery, and then she said something about the light in the room and the blackout being poor. What is that all about?

MAJOR MUNRO: Her explanation of that was that when the witness Hammermasch referred to an incident when a girl was undressed and beaten, the witness had got that mixed up with the Kramer incident she had already spoken about.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Are you putting to this witness whether there was such an incident or not, this incident about searching for a locket?

MAJOR MUNRO: I have not put that one yet. I have referred to the Hammermasch incident when she said that she had seen Ehlert, Volkenrath and another woman she could not identify, undress a woman and beat her.

COLONEL BACKHOUSE: The Herkovitz one is not to be confused with the Hammermasch incident.

THE PRESIDENT: If we could have the question that was put by you to her I think both the Judge Advocate and myself would be quite clear. Perhaps the shorthand writer would read the last few questions and answers.

The shorthand writer reads as follows:

"Do you remember the witness Hammermasch saying that she saw you hitting this girl; is that true? - It is not true.

Do you remember the same witness talking about another incident in which she said you, Volkenrath and Gollasch undressed a girl and beaten her? - This is not correct. I want to point out that I think that this witness got mixed up with the other case and that she lied about it a bit more. The light in the room was on and the blackout was not put before the windows. In the room were Kasainitzky, Volkenrath, Gollasch. Perhaps there were some other prisoners in the room, but I do not remember. It is quite true that none of the Aufseherinnen did the beating; it was done by Kasainitzky who did the interrogating.

Do you remember the accused Volkenrath saying that you had told her something about retrieving some jewellery and that somebody was beaten? - Yes."

MAJOR MUNRO: I think if I take that question about the jewellery out and put in the question about Herkovitz first it will clear the situation.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think it would.

MAJOR MUNRO: (To the witness) I am going to read to you the deposition of Herkovitz. It is page 44, Exhibit 39. Helene Herkovitz, who is 21 years old and a Czechoslovakian Jewess days: "About 7 weeks ago the SS woman Ellers noticed a ring and a locket I was wearing. I had previously hidden these. She took them from me and took me into her room, where she made me undress. She questioned me as to where I had got this jewellery but did not believe me when I said it was mine and I had brought it with me to Belsen. She beat me with a stick about the head and back until blood came from my nose and ears. I then dressed and was made to run behind the bicycle ridden by Ellers to the SS Headquarters. Whilst I was being interrogated by Ellers two other S. S. women were present and took part in the beating. Their names are Gollasch and Volkenrath. I was questioned in the presence of these three women by two SS men whose names I do not know, but whom I could recognise. They beat me about the shoulders with a rubber truncheon. I was then put in a cellar in a house by myself and only given bread and water every three days. My sister managed to smuggle extra food to me. After three weeks and daily questioning I was taken out and made to work in the latrines. After six days I caught typhus and was in hospital when the camp was liberated. The conditions in hospital were very bad but there were no deliberate acts of cruelty committed against the patients though many died." What have you got to say about that? - I can remember this case quite clearly, but it happened not this way; quite differently.

Will you explain to the Court how it did happen? -This prisoner was brought to me by another prisoner and they came from the kitchen. This prisoner was in possession of ear rings, of precious stones, of gold rings and several other jewels. I was told that this prisoner used to buy these jewels and then she used to barter them in the kitchen for meat. She said these rings were from the property of her parents, but it was my duty to look into this case. I did not know what the orders about jewellery were in Belsen. I went to the Kommandant and asked him about it, because Volkenrath was not present at that time.

Did you go on a bicycle? - I do not remember, but I think it is possible that I went on a bicycle, but I was always riding very slowly so that everybody could keep on walking next to me. I never went very fast. I saw the adjutant. He made a note of all the jewellery and stamped the paper and then he said: "I will tell it to the Kommandant. You take the prisoner to the Political Department as the criminal police would have to investigate the case". I took her to the Political Department and then I left the department because again because there was another Aufseherin working in that department. On the next day the Criminal Secretary of the Political Department told me that it had become clear that there was a lot of bartering going on in the kitchen with this jewellery. Because this was not allowed the prisoner had been put into arrest. She had to stay under arrest for a fortnight.

Did you beat this girl before you took her to Headquarters? - No, I had no reason whatever to to do it.

Did you beat her after you got to Headquarters? - No.

Did you see anyone beating her? - No.

MAJOR MUNRO: That would be a convenient moment to adjourn.


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