Kingdom of Belgium
On 26 October 1945 at 10.40 a.m., I, Jacob Warnant, substitute of the Auditor General, assisted by Alfred Vreeling, substitute clerk, heard the witness in our office, in the absence of the accused. The witness presented his summons to make a deposition and asked to testify in German. Because the witness only speaks German, we requested the help of a sworn translator, Pierre Maernondt, currently living at avenue des Volontaires 228 in Etterbeek, who swore to translate faithfully, adding: "So help me God".
We asked the witness in German about his name, surname, age, [marital] status, occupation and place of residence, and whether he resides in the same household, is of kin or otherwise related to the parties, and [if so], in what way:
The witness responded that his name is Bernard Klieger, 48 years old, married, a journalist, living at rue du Pavillon 46 in Schaerbeek. Having declared that he is not residing in the same household, nor that he is of kin or otherwise related to the parties, he took an oath in French, saying that he would speak only the truth and nothing but the truth, adding: "So help me God".
He replied to our questions as follows in German, which we translate as follows:
Being a journalist, I was particularly interested in the conditions at the Auschwitz camp. I arrived there on 2 August 1944 with the 26th transport from Malines [Mechelen].
A few days later, around 5 August, I was assigned to the special Schädlingsbekämpfung(pest control) kommando as chief of propaganda. The purpose of this kommando was to fight pests (parasites, rats, etc.) and to clean the apartment of the SS heads of this kommando. The head of the kommando was Sturmbannführer Guntram Pflaum, Himmler’s personal and closest friend; the kommando was subjected directly to Himmler’s orders. In fact, Pflaum would receive quite a number of letters from people who asked him to intervene with Himmler. One such intervention took place in the following circumstances. A camp doctor from Lublin appealed for mediation regarding a Jewish chemist who had discovered a chemical agent to combat bedbugs. The camp commandant had decided to execute the Jews, and the camp doctor intervened with Pflaum to spare the life of at least this one Jewish chemist. Himmler’s response to Pflaum’s request was positive, but it came too late and the Jewish chemist had already been executed. For this reason the commandant of the camp was removed. This happened on 3 September 1943 and I found out about it having personally seen Pflaum’s letter and Himmler’s response in Pflaum’s cabinet without the latter’s knowledge.
In this same cabinet I also discovered a case that I shall describe in detail: a certain [illegible] of Pflaum’s was in the course of reproducing several copies of a report from an official congress of distinguished chemists devoted to cyanide gas which had taken place in Berlin. I was able to take [?] one copy and read that because cyanide gas was rare and useful for military purposes, it was recommended to use it sparingly. The same gas, cyanide B, was used to kill Jews in gas chambers. The approximate date of the said congress was, in my view, July 1944. It had been attended by representatives of IG Farben, Merck, Darmstadt and other chemical factories, as well as official representatives of the German government. From the report it was clear that those attending the congress had been informed of the fact that the gas was being used to kill prisoners in the camps because its judicious use was also recommended in concentration camps.
With regard to camp inspections by the higher authorities, I can describe the following instances. Around 15 September 1944 the camp was visited by SS-Obergruppen and SA-Führer Pohl, the head of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt [Reich Main Security Office] in Berlin, subjected directly to Himmler’s orders. From January 1944 there was no general selection condemning Jews to the gas chambers, only small-scale selections in the hospitals. Two days after Pohl had left a general selection was organized, involving both Aryans and Jews, as a result of which 1,100 people were selected for the gas chambers. The next day, during a new selection, everyone was placed aside, while the remaining 800 Jews were sentenced to the gas chambers. Contrary to the rule, they were first placed in block 10. Talks had to be held between the camp command and Berlin; four days of incertitude passed. One hundred prisoners from this group survived, spared at the request of their kommando overseers. I asked Pflaum whether there was any possibility of saving all 800 of the prisoners.
He replied that they would all have to be demanded back by their kommandos, and since this had not happened the second camp Kommandant, Hössler, was unable to save them. The orders from Berlin were formal – 700 were liquidated the following day.
By reading a large quantity of letters I was able to take note of the direct communications that existed between the camp and the Reichssicherheitshauptamt in Berlin. This is why Pflaum was often absent for a week or two, when he was spending time with Himmler and his subordinates.
A few precisions regarding the command of the Auschwitz camp.
The first commandant of the Auschwitz camp in 1940 was Obersturmführer Fritzsch. In 1941 he was replaced by Hauptsturmführer Aumeier, who had the reputation of the worst camp tyrant. In 1943 Aumeier was replaced by Obersturmbannführer Schwarz, who in turn was replaced by Obersturmführer Liebehenschel, who held the office from May until October 1943. [Liebehenschel] put an end to the selections. In October 1943 he was replaced by Hauptsturmführer Baer. Baer relaunched the selections, but it was Unterscharführer Kaddock [Kaduk] who was particularly active, using his power to pick out, along with the doctors, those who would go to the gas chambers. Yet it happened on several occasions that Kaduk would chose healthy individuals for the gas chambers without obtaining the opinion of doctors.
It must be emphasized that there were two kinds of selections. The first took place after prisoners arrived at the camp or, more exactly, at the train station in Birkenau. At that point everyone that the doctors judged as unfit for work as well as women with little children were immediately sent to be gassed. Then in the camp itself new selections would periodically be performed, as a result of which those considerably weakened by work, after assessment by the chief doctor, were slated for death by gassing. Here are the names of the doctors who selected those to be killed: Dr. Klein, Dr. Mengele, Dr. Jestm [?].
I believe it is necessary to add that I had the opportunity to note that Pflaum frequently corresponded with Kaltenbrunner and with nearly all of the chiefs of the Berlin police.
If need be, I can provide information regarding the Treblinka and Majdanek camps. My son was at Majdanek. I am at the disposal of the court if further testimony is required.
I remained at Auschwitz until its evacuation, that is until 18 January 1945.
Read out and signed, removing nine words as irrelevant and striking out eight lines.
Brussels, 26 October 1945.