The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
December 3 to December 14, 1945

Nineteenth Day: Thursday, 13th December, 1945
(Part 6 of 10)

[MR. DODD continues]

[Page 371]

The censorship in the camps themselves was complemented by an officially inspired rumour campaign outside the camps. Concentration camps were spoken of in whispers, and the whispers were spread by agents of the Secret Police. When the defendant Speer said that if the threat of the concentration camp were used, the news would get around soon enough, he knew whereof he spoke.

We refer to Document 153I-PS. With reference to this document, I wish to submit a word of explanation. The original German text, the original German document, the captured document was here in the document room and was translated into English as our translation shows. Yesterday we were advised that it had either been lost or misplaced, the original German

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text, and unfortunately no photostatic copy was available here in Nuremberg. A certified copy is, however, being sent to the office here from Frankfurt and it is on its way today, and I ask the Tribunal's permission to offer the English translation of the German original, which is certified to be accurate by the translator, into evidence, subject to a motion to strike it from the record if the certified copy of the original German document does not arrive.

I now refer to the Document 1431-PS. It is Exhibit USA 248. This document is marked "Top Secret" and it is addressed to all State Police District Offices and to the Gestapo Office and for the information of the Inspectors of the Security Police and the S.D. It is an order relating to concentration camps, issued by the head of the Gestapo, and I read from the English text, beginning with the second paragraph, and quoting directly:-

"In order to achieve a further deterrent effect, the following must, in the future, be observed in each individual case.

3. The length of the period of custody must in no case be made known, even if the Reichsfuehrer S.S. and Chief of the German Police or the Chief of the Security Police and the S.D. has already fixed it.

The term of commitment to a concentration camp is to be openly announced as 'until further notice'.

In most serious cases there is no objection to the increasing of the deterrent effect by the spreading of cleverly carried out rumour propaganda, more or less to the effect that, according to hearsay, in view of the seriousness of his case, the arrested man will not be released for two or three years.

4. In certain cases the Reichsfuehrer S.S. and Chief of the German Police will order flogging in addition to detention in a concentration camp. Orders of this kind will, in the future, also be transmitted to the State Police District Office concerned. In this case, too, there is no objection to spreading the rumour of this increased punishment as laid down in Section 3, Paragraph 3, in so far as this appears suitable, to add to the deterrent effect.

5. Naturally, particularly suitable and reliable people are to be chosen for the spreading of such news."

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Dodd, the Tribunal think that they will take judicial notice of that United States Document, 2309- PS, and, for the convenience of the defence counsel, the Tribunal having sat until one, will not sit again until two- fifteen.

MR. DODD: Very well, your Honour.

(A recess was taken until 1415 hours.)

MR. DODD: May it please the Tribunal, the deterrent effect of the concentration camps was based on the promise of brutal treatment. Once in the custody of the S.S. guards, the victim was beaten, tortured, starved, and often murdered through the so-called "extermination through work" programme which I described the other day, or through the mass execution gas chambers and furnaces of the camps, which were shown several days ago on the moving picture screen in this court room.

The reports of official government investigations furnish additional evidence of the conditions within the concentration camps.

[Page 373]

Document 2309-PS, which has already been referred to and of which the Tribunal has taken judicial notice, I now refer to again, particularly to the second page of the English text, beginning with the second sentence of the second paragraph:-
"The work at these camps mainly consisted of underground labour, the purpose being the construction of large underground factories, storage rooms, etc. This labour was performed completely underground and as a result of the brutal treatment, working and living conditions, a daily average of 100 prisoners died. To the one camp Oberstaubling 7,000 prisoners were transported in February, 1945, and on the 15th April, 1945, only 405 of these men were living. During the 12 months preceding the liberation, Flossenburg and the branch camps under its control accounted for the death of 14,739 male inmates and 1,300 women. These figures represent the number of deaths as obtained from the available records in the camp. However, they are in no way complete, as many secret mass executions and deaths took place. In 1941 an additional stockade was added to the Flossenburg Camp to hold 2,000 Russian prisoners. From these 2,000 prisoners only 102 survive.

Flossenburg Concentration Camp can best be described as a factory dealing in death. Although this camp had in view the primary object of putting to work the mass slave labour, another of its primary objectives was the elimination of human lives by the methods employed in handling the prisoners.

Hunger and starvation rations, sadism, herding, inadequate clothing, medical neglect, disease, beatings, hangings, freezing, forced hand hanging, forced suicides, shooting, all played a major role in obtaining their objective. Prisoners were murdered at random, spite killings against Jews were common. Injections of poison and shooting in the neck were everyday occurrences. Epidemics of typhus and spotted fever were permitted to run rampant as a means of eliminating prisoners. Life in this camp counted for nothing. Killing became a common thing, so common that a quick death was welcomed by the unfortunate ones."

Passing to the next to the last sentence of this same paragraph, quoting directly -

THE PRESIDENT: What are those exhibits that are referred to?

MR. DODD: They are in evidence with the affidavit. They are attached to it.

THE PRESIDENT: They are not, I suppose, mimeographed in our copy?

MR. DODD: No, we have not had an opportunity to mimeograph each one of them.

THE PRESIDENT: Are they documents or photographs or what?

MR. DODD: They are principally documents. There are some few plans and photographs, and so on.

THE PRESIDENT: Are they affidavits or what?

MR. DODD: Some of them are in the form of affidavits taken at the time of the liberation of the camp from prisoners who were there, and others are pictures of writings that were found there and of the plans and so on - that sort of thing.

[Page 374]

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Well the Tribunal will take judicial notice of those exhibits as well.

MR. DODD: Very well, your Honour.

Reading from the last sentence of this same paragraph on the same page and quoting:-

"On Christmas, 1944, a number of prisoners were hanged at one time. The other prisoners were forced to view this hanging. By the side of the gallows was a decorated Christmas tree, and, as expressed by one prisoner, 'It was a terrible sight, that combination of prisoners hanging in the air and the glistening Christmas tree'."
In March or April, 13 American or British parachutists were hanged. They had been delivered to this camp some time before and had been captured while trying to blow up bridges.

We will not burden the Tribunal with a recital of all of these reports. We wish, however, to make reference to the Concentration Camp Mauthausen, one of the most notorious extermination centres, and I refer particularly to Document 2176-PS, which I have already placed in evidence as Exhibit USA 249. This is also an official report of the office of the Judge Advocate General of the United States Third Army, dated 17th June, 1945. I wish to refer to the conclusions on Page 3 of the English text, at paragraph numbered Roman V, beginning with the second sentence as follows:-

"V. Conclusions:

There is no doubt that Mauthausen was the basis for long- term planning. It was constructed as a gigantic stone fortress on top of a mountain flanked by small barracks. Mauthausen, in addition to its permanency of construction, had facilities for a large garrison of officers and men, and had large dining rooms and toilet facilities for the staff. It was conducted with the sole purpose in mind of exterminating any so-called prisoner who entered within its walls. The so-called branches of Mauthausen were under direct command of the S.S. officials located there. All records, orders, and administrative facilities were handled for these branches through Mauthausen. The other camps, including Gusen and Ebensee, its two most notorious and largest branches, were not exclusively used for extermination but prisoners were used as tools in construction and production until they were beaten or starved into uselessness, whereupon they were customarily sent to Mauthausen for final disposal."

Both in the showing of the moving picture and from these careful reports, which were made by the Third Army of the United States on their arrival at those centres, we say it is clear that the conditions in those concentration camps over Germany, and in a few instances outside the actual borders of the Old Reich, followed the same general pattern. The widespread incidents of these conditions make it clear that they were not the result of sporadic excesses on the part of individual jailers, but were the result of policies deliberately imposed from above. The crimes committed in these camps were on so vast a scale that individual atrocities pale into insignificance.

We have had turned over to us two exhibits which we are prepared to show to this Tribunal only because they illustrate the depths to which the administration of these camps had sunk, at least shortly before the time that they were liberated by the Allied Army. The Tribunal will recall that in the exhibit of the moving picture, with respect to one of the camps, there was a showing

[Page 375]

of sections of human skin taken from human bodies in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and preserved as ornaments. They were selected, these particular hapless victims, because of the tattooing which appeared on the skin. This exhibit, which we have here, is USA 252. Attached to the exhibit is an extract of an official U.S. Army report describing the circumstances under which this exhibit was obtained, and that extract is set forth in Document 3420-PS, which I refer to in part. It is entitled:-
"Mobile Field Interrogation Unit No. 2.
P.W. Intelligence Bulletin.
13. Concentration Camp, Buchenwald.

Preamble. The author of this account is P.W. Andreas Pfaffenberger, 1 Coy, 9 Landesschuetzen Bn., 43 years old and of limited education. He is a butcher by trade. The substantial agreement of the details of his story with those found in P.W.I.S. (H) /LF/736 establishes the validity of his testimony. This P.W. has not been questioned on statements which, in the light of what is known, are apparently erroneous in certain details, nor has any effort been made to alter the subjective character of the P.W.'s account, which he wrote without being told anything of the intelligence already known. The results of interrogation on personalities at Buchenwald have already been published (P.W.I.B. No. 2/12, Item 31).

In 1939 all prisoners with tattooing on them were ordered to report to the dispensary."

THE PRESIDENT: Is this what Pfaffenberger said?

MR. DODD: Yes, sir.

"No one knew what the purpose was, but after the tattooed prisoners had been examined the ones with the best and most artistic specimens were kept in the dispensary and then killed by injections administered by Karl Beigs, a criminal prisoner. The corpses were then turned over to the pathological department where the desired pieces of tattooed skin were detached from the bodies and treated. The finished products were turned over to S.S. Standartenfuehrer Koch's wife, who had them fashioned into lamp shades and other ornamental household articles. I myself saw such tattooed skins with various designs and legends on them, such as 'Haensel and Gretel', which one prisoner had on his knee, and ships from prisoners' chests. This work was done by a prisoner named Wernerbach."
I also refer to Document 3421-PS, which bears Exhibit USA 253.
"I, George C. Demas, Lieutenant, U.S.N.R., associated with the United States Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, hereby certify that the attached exhibit, consisting of parchment, was delivered by the War Crimes Section, Judge Advocate General, U.S. Army, to me in my above capacity, in the usual course of business, as an exhibit found in Buchenwald Camp and captured by military forces under the command of the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces."
And the last paragraph of Document 3423-PS, Exhibit USA 252, is a conclusion reached in a United States Army report, and I quote it:-
"Based on the findings in Paragraph 2, all three specimens are tattooed human skin."
This document is also attached to this exhibit on the board. We do not wish to dwell on this pathological phase of the Nazi culture, but we do feel

[Page 376]

compelled to offer one additional exhibit, which we offer as Exhibit USA 254 This exhibit, which is on the table, is a human head with the skull bone removed, shrunken, stuffed, and preserved. The Nazis had one of their many victims decapitated, after having had him hanged, apparently for fraternising with a German woman, and fashioned this terrible ornament from his head.

The last paragraph of the official United States Army report from which I have just read deals with the manner in which this exhibit was acquired. It reads as follows:-

"There I also saw the shrunken heads of two young Poles who had been hanged for having relations with German girls. The heads were the size of a fist, and the hair and the marks of the rope were still there."
Another certificate by Lieutenant Demas is set forth in Document 3422-PS, Exhibit USA 254, and is similar to the one which I have read a few minutes ago with relationship to the human skin, excepting that it applies to this second exhibit. We have no accurate estimate of how many persons died in these concentration camps and perhaps none will ever be made, though as the evidence already introduced before this Tribunal indicates, the Nazi conspirators were generally meticulous record keepers. But the records which they kept about concentration camps appear to have been quite incomplete. Perhaps the character of the records resulted from the indifference which the Nazis felt for the lives of their victims. But occasionally we find a death book or a set of index cards. For the most part, nevertheless, the victims apparently faded into an unrecorded death. Reference to a set of death books suggests at once the scale of the concentration camp operations, and we refer now and offer Document 493-PS as Exhibit USA 251. This exhibit is a set of seven books, the death ledger of the Mauthausen concentration camp. Each book has on its cover the word "Totenbuch" or Death Book-Mauthausen.

In these books were recorded the names of some of the inmates who died or were murdered in this camp, and the books cover the period from January, 1939 to April, 1945. They give the name, the place of birth, the assigned cause of death, and time of death of each individual recorded. In addition each corpse is assigned a serial number, and adding up the total serial numbers for the five-year period one arrives at the figure of 35,318.

An examination of the books is very revealing in so far as the camp's routine of death is concerned, and I invite the attention of the Tribunal to Volume 5 from Pages 568 to 582, a photostatic copy of which has been passed to the Tribunal. These pages cover death entries made for the 19th March, 1945, between 1.15 in the morning and 2 o'clock in the afternoon. In this space of 12 3/4 hours, on these records, 203 persons are reported as having died. They were assigned serial numbers running from 8390 to 8592. The names of the dead are listed. And interestingly enough the victims are all recorded as having died of the same ailment - heart trouble. They died at brief intervals. They died in alphabetical order. The first who died was a man named Ackermann, who died at 1.15 a.m., and the last was a man named Zynger, who died at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

At 2.20 of that same afternoon, according to these records, on 19th March, 1945, the fatal roll call began again and continued until 4.30. In a space of two hours, 75 more persons died, and once again they died all from heart failure and in alphabetical order. We find the entries recorded in the same volume, from Pages 582 to 586.

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