Session began at 9.00 a.m. The Tribunal included the same members as during the seventh day of the proceedings, aside from lay judge Łabuz.
Presiding Judge: I resume the proceedings of the Supreme National Tribunal trial against the former Auschwitz crew. As lay judge Łabuz has fallen sick, his place is taken today by lay judge Member of Parliament Dobruś. May I have the list of witnesses for today? Witness Zdzisław Mikołajski.
Witness: Zdzisław Mikołajski, 34 years old, dentist, religion: Roman Catholic, no relation to the defendants.
Chairman: I remind the witness of the obligation to speak the truth as per Art. 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. False testimony is punishable by incarceration for up to five years. Do the parties offer any motions regarding the manner of questioning?
Prosecution: We do not require the witness to swear an oath.
Defense: Nor do we.
Presiding Judge: The witness will please tell us everything he knows about the case, particularly as it regards the accused.
Witness: I arrived in the camp on 9 January 1941. I was soon hired in the dentist’s office of the SS hospital. Due to my work I was able to move around the camp relatively freely. Thanks to the location of the hospital building I could observe many facts over four and a half years. I know most of the defendants either personally, because they came to my office, or just from seeing them around the camp. I find it hard to distinguish and recall specific facts of the murders, beatings, and torture.
Presiding Judge: We are looking for specific facts that the witness can describe based on his own experience as it relates to individual defendants. First of all, can the witness recognize any of the defendants and what can he say about each of them?
Witness: I recognize defendants Aumeier, Liebehenschel, Münch, Grabner, Kremer, Josten, Müller, Gehring, Plagge, Bogusch, Szczurek, Breitwieser, Hoffman.
Presiding Judge: The witness has named a significant number of the defendants. Can he bring up any facts related to them?
Witness: The two-story SS hospital building had an attic. I would go there frequently, because the windows offered a good view of the Birkenau crematorium. That crematorium was often the site of various executions of both civilians and prisoners. During the executions I saw, among others, Grabner, Aumeier, Szczurek, and Müller. They were in the crematorium yard more than once, taking part directly or indirectly in the killings.
I remember one time when some twenty-odd people were brought: men, women with children a few years or even months of age. Aumeier (and Grabner was there too, with some sort of a list in his hand) ordered them to strip and walk into the crematorium one after another. I saw scenes of terrifying atrocity in the yard, as the people – aware of their fate – started to cry and pray. Aumeier sent the more reluctant ones into the crematorium with kicks. Those people did not come out of the crematorium. It all took about half an hour. One of the Blockführers [block leaders] assisted. After those people were forced into the crematorium, Aumeier, Grabner, and Szczurek also walked in there and left after half an hour. The clothes left by the group in the yard were loaded by one of the Polish crematorium assistants onto a cart and taken to the Bekleidungskammer [clothing storeroom].
I also remember an incident where an elderly man was brought to the camp with two underage boys. The father was ordered to strip in the yard. The man did not want to strip there, probably understanding where he was. Then one of the SS men stripped him and wanted to bring him into the crematorium alongside the dressed children. The father, pointing to the boys, pleaded for them to be let go. The Blockführer then waited a moment for Aumeier to arrive, exchanged a few words with him and upon his gesture led them into the crematorium. They never left it. Only Aumeier and one of the Blockführers whose name I cannot recall right now were there.
Presiding Judge: Can the witness recognize him among the defendants on the bench?
Witness: It was not one of them.
Larger or smaller executions took place in the crematorium several times, with individual defendants taking part. Szczurek, Müller, Plagge, Aumeier, and Grabner were usually in the courtyard. The groups were led into the crematorium and either shot or gassed. If a group was larger, it was gassed, if smaller – shot. One of the gassed groups was the Birkenau Sonderkommando [special squad]. That happened in 1942. They were brought to Auschwitz with a small escort to create the impression that they were coming to be transferred to another kommando. To keep them from realizing they were coming to the Auschwitz crematorium, they were led under a small escort of two or three people. Defendant Hoffman was in charge of the group. Those to be gassed were lured into a trap. In front and behind the crematorium stood a loose group of soldiers. When the group approached, one of the Scharführers blew a whistle. The soldiers ran in and started forcibly pushing the unwilling Sonderkommando prisoners into the courtyard. At that point, Aumeier and Grabner arrived; Josten, Müller, Szczurek were all there. They terrorized the entire group with revolvers, ordered them to strip in the yard and led them all into the crematorium. One of the members of the political department whom I nevertheless do not see in this room went into the crematorium and dumped Zyklon[-B] into the holes. The operation took 30 minutes. After a half-hour, Grabner, who had left in the meantime, came back from the political department and entered the crematorium wearing a gas mask. A group of prisoners working in the crematorium was informed by a sentry that they could return to their duties, as they had been sent back to the lager during the gassing.
Due to my work I had a degree of freedom in moving around the entire camp under various pretexts. It was also possible for me to observe block 11, where executions were held once every two or three days. I saw parts of several executions taking place there. When the gate was open because of the Pflegers ’ [medical assistants] wagons arriving to pick up the dead bodies, one could catch some glimpses. I mustered the courage to peek at executions in block 11 from the attic of block 21 through loose roof tiles when one of our colleagues from the dentist’s office was taken to an execution. During all those executions, Aumeier, Grabner, Gehring, Müller, and Szczurek were in attendance. Defendant Gehring performed the executions himself a number of times by shooting with his pistol. Defendant Aumeier very often led the prisoners against the wall and shot them himself with a revolver. Executions were always entrusted to either Palitzsch, or Stiewitz, or Müller, or Gehring, even Szczurek performed them a few times. I saw all of these defendants performing executions or beating prisoners before the executions, particularly Aumeier, Müller, Plagge, and Gehring. I personally saw Gehring hang two young women, one of whom he had raped the day before. She came from Kraków. This took place in 1942 or 1943. I do not recall the exact date. One of the doctors from block 11, a Jew, with whom I was good friends, was brought in to examine the Kraków girl to see if she was healthy. In the evening, that doctor said to me in the block: “You come from Kraków, you know plenty of people, maybe you know her too”. He described the young woman to me, but I could not match her with anyone I knew. As he was the doctor in block 11, he knew that this young woman was brought to Gehring’s office room. He heard cries, screams, and pleas for defendant Gehring to leave her alone. The next day, led by curiosity to see who the young woman – who had already been sentenced to death the day before – was, I went there at 11.00 a.m. and saw defendant Gehring hang her; she was clad only in her bustier and underwear – he did it himself, with his own hands.
Defendant Gehring: Das ist nicht wahr, das ist eine Lüge! [That is not true, that is a lie!]
Presiding Judge: Please instruct the defendant that he will have the chance to provide a statement after the witness is done testifying. Such is the law. The witness testifies and after his testimony the defendant will have the opportunity to provide a statement.
Witness: Right before the execution, at the last moment, that young woman spat in the defendant’s face. The second woman was hanged by his assistant, a German, with one arm. He was smiling with pride that he was so strong he could hang her using just one arm.
In the crematorium I saw defendants Kollmer, Aumeier, Grabner, Josten, and many higher- ranking SS officers executing 12 to 15 men. The prisoners were led into the crematorium one after another. Then defendant Grabner walked in, which meant he performed the execution. It took 30–35 minutes. In 1942, we watched from the SS hospital as defendant Grabner performed an execution. He noticed one of our colleagues, who was arrested. The rest of us managed to run away in time. That colleague was our Jewish friend. Defendant Grabner came upstairs yelling loudly, he took that Jew and ordered him escorted to block 11, and in the afternoon the prisoner’s body was already on its way to the crematorium. Grabner ordered kapo Golik to strike that prisoner off the list. Defendant Grabner can surely remember that.
I remember defendant Aumeier approaching the SS Revier [SS hospital], it was in 1942 or 1943, he entered the Standortarzt ’s [garrison doctor’s] office demanding that a list of prisoners selected in the KB [Krankenbau, hospital] be signed. That selection was performed under Aumeier’s orders and the doctor did not want to sign the list, telling defendant Aumeier that it was not his matter. Aumeier started shouting so loudly he could be heard all through the hallway: “Do not think you will not do what I want! Do not forget that this is KL-Auschwitz!” Eventually the doctor signed the list, and it was witnessed by his secretary, Zbigniew Reinoch, a painter from Kraków.
Presiding Judge: The witness has named defendant Kollmer and others. What can the witness say about Kollmer?
Witness: Kollmer was a staff officer, second in command in 3rd Company. Whether he was the same man who is sitting in the dock right now, I cannot say, for he has changed a lot. He would always carry a riding crop. If it is he, he looks very different. Kollmer took part in the executions of 15 men.
Presiding Judge: What about defendant Götze?
Witness: Defendant Götze was a Postführer [post commander], he would very often go to work with the kommandos. He was also present during several executions when they were taking place or about to take place.
Presiding Judge: What about defendant Ludwig?
Witness: He was a Blockführer for some time, he distinguished himself with particular cruelty, beatings, and kicks.
Presiding Judge: And what about defendant Plagge?
Witness: He is a criminal and sadistic type. The entire camp knew him, as he was our direct superior, whom we had to interact with daily. Defendant Plagge went into block 11 very frequently. Once, when my colleagues were taken with the thought of opposing an execution about to happen, Plagge had a machine gun. Defendants Grabner and Szczurek, who came with rifles on Aumeier’s command, took that group to block 11. It numbered 160–200 people.
Presiding Judge: And what about defendant Romeikat?
Witness: He handed out payments, and one might often receive a kick from him.
Presiding Judge: What about defendant Nebbe?
Witness: Defendant Nebbe was a Stabsführer [staff commander], a training instructor, he would very often show up at the commandant’s office and the SS hospital. I saw Nebbe two or three times in the crematorium and in the yard during an execution.
The location of the SS hospital, where we were, allowed us to watch almost everything happening in the camp, the commandant’s office area, and the crematorium. It was a part of the camp where the defendants had to be many times a day.
I saw defendant Münch coming to the Zahnstation [dentist clinic] to pick up removed teeth several times: he used them for experiments. Doctor Münch should remember that as well. I do not know of any activity by Dr Münch that would have been any particular torture for the prisoners. I had no way of learning about that. He was arbitrary in his behavior. Aside from that I cannot say anything specific about him.
As for defendant Kremmer, I watched him only briefly, as he was not in Auschwitz for long.
Presiding Judge: Did the witness personally see what he testified to as regards defendant Gehring?
Witness: The doctor employed at block 11 said that the woman had been [brought] to block 11 and would be either shot or hanged, and more likely hanged, as the gallows had been prepared.
Presiding Judge: I am asking if the witness saw it.
Witness: I arrived at block 21 around 10.00 a.m. and from the roof of that block, after raising a roof tile, I saw two young women wearing nothing but their underwear brought out, and defendant Gehring hanged one of them personally. The young woman being hanged spat in his face. I saw it myself.
Presiding Judge: Defendant Gehring wanted to make a statement as to that circumstance. Please proceed.
Defendant Gehring: Supreme Tribunal! I reject the witness’s story with utmost insistence. First and foremost, in block 11, where I served for one year, not a single woman was hanged. If I had hanged two women, as I am accused of doing, hundreds of prisoners would surely have seen it. Moreover, no woman spat in my face. I do not know even today what women the story is about, as I had no right to hang prisoners in the manner the witness accuses me of. I know with full confidence that if the act the witness alleges had become common knowledge, I would surely have been sentenced to death.
Presiding Judge: Quiet in the courtroom.
Defendant Gehring: That is because no SS official ever had the right to sentence people to death. The witness accuses me of raping some girl in my office. That is a vicious lie.
Presiding Judge: Please remain precise in your statement and do not insult the witness.
Defendant Gehring: I would like to ask the witness if he had seen it.
Presiding Judge: The witness was already asked about it, the defendant may be seated. Does the witness maintain his testimony?
Witness: Yes, I can even repeat it under oath.
Presiding Judge: Are there any questions?
Prosecutor Pęchalski: Can defendant Gehring tell us if he performed executions of prisoners by hanging in Monowitz?
Defendant Gehring: I did not do that. It was done by Hautscharführer Hafte.
Prosecutor Pęchalski: The defendant did not pull on the hanged prisoners’ legs?
Defendant Gehring: No, I did not do that.
Prosecutor Pęchalski: The testimonies mention that the defendant made a show out of hangings there.
Defendant Gehring: I know nothing about that.
Presiding Judge: Are there any more questions for the witness?
Prosecutor Pęchalski: The witness said that defendant Hoffman brought groups from Birkenau to the crematorium.
Witness: I saw it because Hoffman was employed as a sentry when leading women and men to work. I often saw kommandos of Jewish women going to the Kiesgrube [gravel pits] led by defendant Hoffman himself. He set dogs after the walking prisoners, so the women had their dresses torn up to the hip and heavy bites on their legs. He drove prisoners from the camp all the way to the work area like this.
Prosecutor Pęchalski: The witness testified that Grabner, Aumeier, Szczurek, Müller, and Josten were present for the gassing. What other situations does the witness remember defendant Josten in?
Witness: During the executions taking place in the crematorium I often saw Josten show up.
Prosecutor Pęchalski: What did defendant Josten do there?
Witness: He would go to the crematorium, walk around the yard, push people to disrobe faster. He terrorized the victims in the crematorium area.
Prosecutor Pęchalski: The witness had mentioned defendant Kollmer before. Did you mean the Kollmer who was in command of 4th Company?
Witness: Yes, that Kollmer was in command of 4th Company.
Prosecutor Pęchalski: Please ask Kollmer if he was the commander of 4th Company.
Presiding Judge: That has already been established.
Defendant Kollmer: I would like to ask the High Tribunal to be permitted to ask the witness as to which crematorium he saw me in.
Witness: The crematorium opposite the SS Revier. Kollmer arrived that day at the crematorium yard with other senior officers, Aumeier, Grabner, Josten, and some officers I had not seen in the camp before. They were almost exclusively high-ranking officers. During the execution of that group there were no low-ranking officials.
Presiding Judge: Any more questions?
Defendant Kollmer: Did the execution take place in the crematorium?
Witness: Yes. Kollmer was carrying a riding crop in his left hand and a revolver in his right.
Defendant Kollmer: When did that happen?
Witness: Late 1942 or early 1943.
Presiding Judge: Defendant Josten, go ahead.
Defendant Josten: I would like to petition the High Tribunal to be permitted to ask questions of the witness. The witness says the execution happened in late 1942. I can only explain that I conducted executions exclusively in 1941 and they never took place in the crematorium, but directly next to the camp gate, in the gravel pits. I would also like to say that the witness has testified about a group of prisoners walking to the crematorium to be gassed who were later shot. It is not possible if you know the crematorium, as in front of it there is only a 4–5 meter yard and a wall, with gates to the left and to the right. If the executions were conducted there, the prisoners would have to stand almost at point blank range, as I cannot imagine being able to conduct an execution inside the crematorium chamber. I must therefore reject that accusation, as I was never present for an execution like that.
Prosecutor Brandys: High Tribunal, may I ask a question of defendant Aumeier?
Presiding Judge: Go ahead.
Prosecutor Brandys (to Aumeier): Did executions by shooting take place in that crematorium? Yes or no.
Defendant Aumeier: Yes, they did. I have a statement to make regarding the witness’s story. During the executions performed during service hours when I was present, whether by shooting or by gassing, neither defendant Kollmer nor defendant Josten were ever present. I must therefore say that in the case when the witness saw defendants Kollmer and Josten accompanying me it must have been for some other matter, not an execution. The witness has also stated in his story that he saw machine guns in block 11. He was either wrong about what he had seen or he has a poor knowledge of arms, as during my service my unit did not have machine guns. Only army units had machine guns.
Presiding Judge: Next defendant. State your name, please.
Defendant: Szczurek. Supreme Tribunal, I would like to petition that the witness be asked when did that first shooting or gassing take place?
Witness: Aside from the executions that took place in block 11 and aside from the public executions, which took place in the roll call square, the executions took place in the small crematorium between 1941 and 1943.
Defendant: Maybe the witness has misunderstood me. I just wanted to ask when was I present for those executions?
Witness: 1942, I cannot recall the exact month.
Defendant: What time of the year, though, was it in spring?
Witness: It was in the summer.
Defendant: Regarding the executions in block 11.
Witness: The defendant was employed all throughout 1942 and 1943 in block 11 as a trusted Blockführer.
Defendant: Thank you.
Presiding Judge: Defendant, please rise. Name?
Defendant: Götze. Would you please ask the witness if he is not wrong about me, as I was never an NCO.
Witness: He was a Schütze.
Defendant: I was a corporal. Both Aumeier and Feldwebel Nebbe must confirm this.
Witness: Back then it was not very important to me what the defendant was.
Presiding Judge: Defendant Grabner.
Defendant: I must vigorously deny accusations made against me by the witness. How, for example, could the witness know if I brought a Jew from the SS hospital and later to block 11, and how could he see his body in the crematorium? The witness could not have seen any of it, as he was not allowed to enter block 11 and did not have the right to enter the crematorium.
Witness: The defendant forgets that I worked at the SS-Zahnstation [SS dentist clinic] and had the right to enter the crematorium, and I often went there to write down all the teeth pulled out by Sundmann, the dentist from Poznań, and later by the crematorium crew. I used to go to the crematorium with Dr. Schultz and the defendant is well aware of that.
Defendant: In this regard I must say that the witness was never employed at pulling teeth. I can prove it at any moment.
Presiding Judge: Thank you. Do any other defendants want to ask a question or present an explanation related to the evidence?
Defendant Plagge: I request permission to ask the witness when did I man the machine gun while quelling unrest at block 11.
Witness: By machine gun I meant an automatic pistol [submachine gun], similar to those used by the German army. It was not a heavy machine gun, but a so-called automat, a machine weapon.
|Presiding Judge:||Does the defendant have any other questions?|
|Defendant:||Did the witness see me in the crematorium and when?|
|Witness:||I saw the defendant in the crematorium opposite the SS Revier, not in crematorium|
I, as the crematoria marked as I, II, III, and IV were in Birkenau.
Defendant: The crematorium I have in mind is the one in the parent camp, the main camp.
Witness: I do not understand what the defendant means.
Defendant: I mean at what period was that?
Witness: In 1942.
Presiding Judge: Are there any more questions for the witness?
Defense Attorney Ostrowski: I would like to ask the witness to provide the precise dates of his stay at Auschwitz.
Witness: Between 9 January 1941 and November of 1944.
Defense Attorney: Can the witness remember and name the jobs he performed during his stay in the camp?
Witness: Two months after I arrived, I was employed in the SS Revier in the dentist department as a dentist. I was assigned there due to demand.
Defense Attorney: And the witness worked there until the end?
Witness: Until the very end.
Defense Attorney: Did the witness only visit the crematorium in the main camp, or also the one at Birkenau?
Witness: I never went to the Birkenau crematoria, as our bosses went there by themselves, without prisoners.
Defense Attorney: That means that I can interpret the witness’s testimony to mean that all the scenes he has described took place in the main camp?
Defense Attorney: It appears to me the witness had said that the gassing of the Sonderkommando was conducted in the summer of 1942, is that correct?
Witness: Summer of 1942 or 1943. I cannot remember exactly.
Defense Attorney: And how did the transports of people proceed?
Witness: During transports in the camp, Hoffman and other SS men would come, they all had dogs and would set them on people.
Defendant: And when – I mean at what time – did the incident with Hoffman sicking his dog on the prisoners happen?
Witness: It was 1942 or early 1943, I cannot recall exactly.
Prosecutor Brandys: The witness has mentioned that defendant Ludwig took part in dispatching the sick in [camp] I to be gassed.
Witness: I petition the Supreme Tribunal to have defendant Ludwig rise.
Presiding Judge: Defendant Ludwig, please rise.
Witness: At the end of 1943 and in early 1944 there was a mass movement of the selected prisoners to the gas [chambers]. Cars came and the sick were loaded onto them and they left for Birkenau. One of the moments I remember was an incident when Ludwig beat and kicked the prisoners while driving them onto the cars.
Presiding Judge: Are there any other questions?
Defense Attorney to witness: Please tell me, how do you know that the woman raped by defendant Gehring was hanged?
Witness: The doctor who examined her came to me in the evening and told me he would try to let me see that woman after she was hanged. I saw her, she was maybe 32–34 years old. She was a blonde, very pretty.
Defense Attorney: And when did the doctor tell you that?
Witness: The day before.
Defense Attorney: And who performed the execution?
Witness: Defendant Gehring, his German assistant and one more German.
Defense Attorney: And where were the gallows set up?
Witness: By the gate, to the left, looking from the entrance to block 11. I saw it from the attic of block 25 by shifting aside a roof tile.
Defense Attorney: As for Josten and Kollmer you also said you saw them in the yard and in the crematorium during some actions.
Witness: I saw Josten in the yard, not in action. Kollmer I saw with his pistol out when an execution was about to be held.
Presiding Judge: Defendant Ludwig, please ask the witness.
Defendant Ludwig: I would like to be allowed to ask when did the witness see me loading the sick for the gas chambers? Witness: It may have been in 1943, in early 1944, maybe earlier.
Defendant: In that case I can mention that in 1943 and 1944 I was not assigned to the residential camp. I was assigned there in the summer of 1944.
Witness: The defendant took part then in the relocation of the sick to Birkenau, it was the largest deportation of patients. The defendant recalls how the very ill were put in the car and he threw other sick people on top of them. The defendant grabbed one of them and threw him over the car to show off his strength.
Defense Attorney: How does the witness know defendant Romeikat?
Witness: I know him from the Geldverwaltung [camp finance office].
Defense Attorney: So what was the direct contact between the defendant and the prisoners?
Witness: Whenever we received money transfers from home, 15 Reichsmarks a month, which went through the Geldverwaltung, defendant Romeikat always found an opportunity to beat up and kick a prisoner.
Defense Attorney Minasowicz: Did the witness observe defendant Ludwig over a large span of time? Was the witness present? It is important to me, as no other witnesses mention this. Could the witness point to any other witnesses who could confirm that?
Witness: I do not remember names, but I could point to one of the defendants, Breitwieser, a snoop who speaks Polish perfectly.
Defense Attorney Minasowicz: The witness claims he knew defendant Bogusch.
Witness: He was in the Schreibstube [camp administrative office], later on he was an active Oberscharführer-rank Blockführer, then he was an officer. Alongside the other defendants he would beat and kick prisoners whenever he had the opportunity.
Defense Attorney Minasowicz: He worked in the archives, so he had no opportunity to come into contact with the prisoners.
Witness: The prisoners did the work for the Germans while the defendants walked around the camp looking for activities on the side that they would find enjoyable.
Defense Attorney Minasowicz: Did the witness ever see defendant Bogusch hit somebody?
Witness: When I came to the office, defendant Bogusch was torturing a young woman, hitting her in the face for talking to a prisoner in the lavatory. I know it because he said to her: “I’ll show you what I can do to you for that conversation in the lavatory!”
Defense Attorney Minasowicz: Does the witness know anything about any penal reports made for any prisoners?
Witness: Defendant Bogusch only attacked people in his Schreibstube.
Presiding Judge: Any more questions?
Defense Attorney Kruh: The witness has testified that the women raped by Gehring was crying. Could the witness hear it?
Witness: I did not hear it, the doctor told me about it.
Presiding Judge: The witness already spoke about that in detail, so I will stop this line of questioning from the defense attorney. Any more questions for the witness?
Defendant Bogusch: I want to make a statement. Your Honor, please ask the witness in which office he saw me beat a woman.
Witness: The defendant worked in the prison Schreibstube. The incident in question took place in the Arbeitseinsatzung [labor deployment office], near the camp gate. That was originally Aumeier’s residence. The Arbeitseinsatz offices were to the right. The toilet was in the corner to the left.
Defendant Bogusch: No prisoners worked in the office of the head of the camp. The prisoners only worked in the office of the employment director. I only worked there temporarily as a replacement for an SS official on leave. I know nothing about my preventing the women employed there from responding to their natural needs.
Presiding Judge: Any further questions for the witness?
Presiding Judge: Therefore the witness is excused.