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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
27th February to 11th March, 1946

Sixty-Ninth Day: Wednesday, 27th February, 1946
(Part 4 of 9)

[Page 12]

(SEVERINA SHMAGLEVSKAIA took the witness stand).


Q. Will you first of all tell me your name?

A. Severina Shmaglevskaia.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me: I hereby swear before God the Almighty, that I will speak before the Tribunal nothing but the truth, concealing nothing that is known to me, so help me God, Amen.

(The witness repeated the oath.)


Q. Tell me, witness, were you an internee of Oswiecim Camp?

A. Yes.

Q. During what period of time were you in the camp of Oswiecim?

A. From 7th October, 1942, to January, 1945.

Q. Have you any proof that you were internee of this camp?

A. I have here the number which was tattooed on my hand.

Q. That is what the Oswiecim inmates called the "visiting card"?

A. Yes.

Q. Tell me, please, witness, were you an eye-witness of German SS men's attitude towards children?

A. Yes.

Q. Will you please tell the Tribunal about this?

A. I could tell about the children who were born in the concentration camp, about the children who were brought to the concentration camp with the Jewish transports and who were taken directly to the crematoria, as well as about those children who were brought to concentration camps and there interned. Already in December, 1942, when I went to work about ten kilometres from Birkenau....

Q. Excuse me! May I interrupt you? Then, you were in the Birkenau section of the camp?

A. Yes, I was in the camp Birkenau, which is a part of the Oswiecim Camp which was called "Oswiecim No. 2".

Q. Please go on.

A. I noticed then a woman in the last month of pregnancy. It was obvious

[Page 13]

from her appearance. This woman, together with the others, had to walk ten kilometres to the place of work and there she toiled the whole day, spade in hand, digging trenches. She was already ill and she asked the German superintendent, a civilian, for permission to rest. He refused, laughed at her and, together with another SS man, started beating her. He inspected her work very strictly. Such was the situation of all the women who were pregnant, and only during the very last minutes were they permitted to stay away from work. The newly-born children, if Jewish, were immediately put to death.

Q. Pardon me, witness, what do you mean by "were immediately put to death"? When was it?

A. They were immediately taken away from their mothers.

Q. When the transport arrived?

A. No, I am speaking of the children who were born in the concentration camp. A few minutes after delivery, the child was, taken from the mother, who never saw it again. After a few days, the mother had to return to work. In 1942, there were no special blocks in the camp for the children. At the beginning of 1943, when they started to tattoo the internees, the children born in the concentration camp were also branded. The number was tattooed on their legs.

Q. Why on the leg?

A. Because the child is very small and there was not enough room on their tiny arms for the number, which contained five digits. The children did not have special numbers, but bore the same numbers as the grown-ups, that is to say, they were given consecutive numbers.

The children were placed in a special block and every few weeks, sometimes months, they were taken away from the camp.

Q. Where?

A. We were never able to find out where these children were taken. They were taken away regularly all the time this camp existed; that is to say, in 1943 and 1944. The last convoy of children left the camp in January, 1945. These were not only Polish children, because, as you know, in Birkenau there were women from all over Europe. Even to-day we do not know whether these children are alive.

I should like, in the name of all the women of Europe who became mothers in concentration camps, to ask the Germans to- day: "Where are these children?"

Q. Tell, me, witness, did you yourself see the children being taken to gas chambers?

A. I worked very close to the railway which led to the crematorium. Sometimes in the morning I passed near the building the Germans used as a latrine, and from there I could secretly watch the transport. I saw many children among the Jews brought to the concentration camp. Sometimes a family had several children. The Tribunal is probably aware of the fact that in front of the crematorium they were all sorted out.

Q. Selection was made by the doctors?

A. Not always by doctors, sometimes by SS men.

Q. And doctors with them?

A. Yes, sometimes by doctors, too. During the sorting, the youngest and the healthiest Jews in very small numbers entered the camp. Women carrying children in their arms or wheeling them in perambulators, or who had children, were sent to the crematorium together with their children. The children were separated from their parents in front of the crematorium and were led separately into the gas chambers.

At that time when the greatest number of Jews were exterminated in the gas chambers, an order was issued that the children were to be thrown into the ovens or the ditches without previous asphyxiation.

Q. How should we understand that? Were they thrown into the ovens alive or were they killed by other means before they were burned?

[Page 14]

A. The children were thrown in alive. Their cries could be heard all over the camp. It is hard to say how many there were.

Q. Nevertheless there was some reason why this was done? Was it because the gas chambers were overworked?

A. It is very difficult to answer this question. We do not know whether they wanted to economise on the gas or whether there was no room in the gas chambers.

I should also add that it is impossible to determine the number of these children because they, together with the Jews who were driven directly to the crematorium, were not registered, were not tattooed and very often were not even counted. We, the internees, often tried to ascertain the number of people who perished in gas chambers, but our estimates of the number of children executed could only be based on the number of children's perambulators which were brought to the shops. Sometimes there were hundreds of these perambulators, but sometimes they sent thousands.

Q. In one day?

A. Not always the same. There were days when the gas chambers worked from early morning until late at night.

I should also like to tell you about the children - and their number is large - who were interned in concentration camps.

At the beginning of 1943, Polish children from Zamoishevna arrived at the concentration camp with their parents. At the same time, Russian children from territories occupied by the Germans, began to arrive. Then Jewish children were added to these. In smaller numbers, one could also meet Italian children in the concentration camp. The conditions were as bad for the children as for adults; perhaps even worse. These children did not receive any parcels because there was no one to send them. Red Cross parcels never reached the inmates. In 1944, a great number of Italian and French children arrived at the concentration camp. All these children suffered from skin diseases, lymphatic boils and malnutrition, they were badly clad, often without shoes, and had no possibility of washing themselves.

During the Warsaw uprising, captured children from Warsaw were brought to the concentration camp. The youngest of these children was a little six-year-old boy. The children were quartered in special barracks. When the systematic deportation of internees from Birkenau to the interior of Germany started, these children were used for heavy labour. At the same time, there arrived in the concentration camps the children of Hungarian Jews, who had to work together with the children who were brought after the Warsaw uprising. These children worked with two carts which they had to pull themselves to transport coal, scrap iron, wood for floors and other heavy things from one camp to the other. They also laboured at dismantling one of the barracks during the liquidation of the camp. These children remained in the concentration camp until the very end. In January, 1945, they were evacuated and had to march to Germany on foot, under conditions as difficult as those at the front, under an SS guard, without food, covering about thirty kilometers a day.

Q. During this march the children died of exhaustion?

A. I was not in a group where there were children, as I managed to escape on the second day after this evacuation march.

I should also like to add a few words regarding the methods of demoralisation of the people who were interned in concentration camps. Everything that we had to suffer was the result of a whole system for degrading human beings.

The concentration camp carts in which the internees were transported had previously been used for cattle. When the transports were about to move, the carts were nailed. In each one of them there was a great number of people. The convoy of SS men never considered that human beings had bodily

[Page 15]

needs. Some of these people happened to have pots with them and they often had to use them for these needs.

For some time I worked at the camp store, where kitchen utensils of internees were brought.

Q. Do you mean that you worked in the warehouse where the belongings of those who were murdered were brought. Did I understand you correctly?

A. No, only the kitchen utensils of people who arrived at the concentration camps were brought to this warehouse.

Q. These things were taken away from them?

A. What I want to say is that in some cases the kitchen utensils and pots contained remains of food, and in others there were human excrements. Each of the workers received a pail of water, and had to wash a great number of these kitchen utensils during one half of the day. These kitchen utensils, which were sometimes very badly washed, were given to people who had just arrived at the concentration camp. From these pots and pans they had to eat, so that often they caught dysentery and other diseases from the first.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, I do not think the Tribunal wants quite so much of the detail with reference to these domestic matters.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: The witness was called here with a view to describing the attitude of the Germans toward the children in the camps.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you keep her to the part of her testimony which you wish to bring out?


Q. Tell me, witness, can you add anything else to your description of the attitude of the Germans towards the children in the camp? Have you already told us about all the facts which you know regarding this question?

A. I should like to say that the children as well as the adults were subjected to the system of demoralisation and degradation through famine. Often starvation caused the children to look for potato peelings in garbage heaps.

Q. Tell me, witness, do you assert in your testimony, that sometimes the number of perambulators remaining after the murder of the children amounted to a thousand per day?

A. Yes, sometimes there were such days.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, I have no further questions to ask of the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the Chief Prosecutors wish to ask any questions?

(There was no answer.)

Do any of the defendants' counsel wish to ask any questions?

(There was no answer.)

Then, the witness can retire.


Mr. President, I should like to take up the next section of my report, which deals with the organisation by the German fascists of secret centres for the extermination of people. These cannot even be considered concentration camps because the human beings in these places rarely survived more than ten minutes or two hours at the most.

Out of all these terrible centres organised by the German fascists I would submit to the Tribunal evidence on two such places, that is to say, on Helmno centre (Helmno is a village in Poland) and on the Treblinka camps. In connection with this I would ask the Tribunal to summon one witness, whose testimony is interesting, because he can be considered a person who returned from "the other world," for the road to Treblinka was called by the German executors themselves

[Page 16]

"The Road to Heaven". I am speaking of the witness Rajzman, a Polish national, and I beg the Tribunal's permission to bring this witness here for examination.

THE PRESIDENT: It is just a quarter to one now, so we had better have this witness at two o'clock. We will adjourn now.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

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