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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
29th July to 8th August 1946

One Hundred and Ninety-Seventh Day: Wednesday, 7th August, 1946
(Part 4 of 10)

[MR. ELWYN JONES continues his cross examination of Guenther Reinecke]

[Page 356]

"In accordance with my instructions, I had a lengthy discussion on the 1st June, 1933, with Police Commander Himmler in his office at the Police Headquarters, Munich, about the incidents at the concentration camp of

[Page 357]

Dachau, which I have already reported to the Ministry of Justice separately; in particular I told him briefly, with the aid of the photographs from the investigation files, about the Schloss, Hausmann, Strauss and Netzger cases, of which he appeared to have been advised already. I pointed out that particularly the four above-mentioned cases, in view of the result of findings to date, offer good reason for cogent suspicion of serious punishable actions on the part of individual members of the camp guard and of camp officials, and that both the Public Prosecutor and the police authorities, to whose knowledge these incidents have come, are liable to heavy punishment if they do not carry out their obligation of making a criminal investigation of the above-mentioned incidents without consideration for any persons whatsoever."
I do not think I need trouble you with the rest of that document. Document 2 is a letter from the Provincial Court Public Prosecutor to the State Ministry of Justice, dated the 11th August, 1933. So you see, witness, no action had apparently been taken from the 2nd of June until the 11th of August. And then the Provincial Court Public Prosecutor, in the last sentence of that letter, after referring to the dossiers relating to Schloss, Hausmann, Strauss and Netzger, says:
"Should the dossiers not be required at present, I would request the return of these files for the purpose of examining whether the decree of 2nd August, 1933, regarding the granting of immunity from punishment has to be applied."
I need not trouble you with the third document, or the fourth. If the Tribunal turns to Page 5 of its copy, and if you, witness, turn to Document 8, which is the next I wish to refer to - that is a report from the Provincial Public Prosecutor to the State Ministry of Justice:
"Death of the prisoner in protective custody Hugo Handschuh in Dachau camp." Have you found that, witness?
A. Yes, I have found it.

Q. I am reading from Page 5 of the English text:

Subject: "Death of the prisoner in protective custody Hugo Handschuh in Dachau camp.

The judicial autopsy ordered by me took place in Dachau on the 23rd of September, 1933" - I'm reading from Page 5 of the English text now - "It showed that death was due to a brain injury owing to haemorrhage in the soft membrane and that this haemorrhage was caused by blows with a blunt instrument, which hit the skull particularly in the region of the left temple and the back of the head. In addition, extensive bleeding was established in the corpse in the region of the left cheek, in the right shoulder and left upper arm regions, in the regions of the seat and the upper thigh and of the lower part of the left thigh - the results of blows on the body of the deceased with a blunt object, during his lifetime. On the findings based on the post-mortem, the preliminary medical opinion gave grounds for assuming outside responsibility.

I intend to continue the further necessary search for the perpetrators in collaboration with the Political Police."

And it is brought to the attention, as you see, of the Prime Minister with a request to take note and forward to the Reich Governor in Bavaria. And then there is a notice given to the State Minister of the Interior.

Then, Document 11, Page 9 of the English text. Proposal made by the Minister of the Interior to quash the inquiry into the deaths of the protective custody prisoners, Handschuh, Frantz and Katz. Handschuh, you will remember, witness, was the subject of the autopsy which indicated outside responsibility.

This is a letter from Adolf Wagner to the defendant, Dr. Frank, the representative Nazi jurist. The letter, which has been in court, is dated the 29th of November, 1933.

THE PRESIDENT: What Dr. Frank do you refer to?

[Page 358]

MR. ELWYN JONES: That is the defendant Frank, my Lord.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, go ahead.


"The Commander of the Political Police in the Ministry of the Interior presented to you on the 18th of November, 1933, a proposal, according to which the inquiry into the cases of the prisoners in protective custody, Hugo Handschuh, Wilhelm Frantz and Delvin Katz, should be quashed for State political reasons. In connection with this case, you sent to me the liaison man of the State Ministry of Justice with the Bavarian Political Police, Public Prosecutor Dr. Stepp. Meanwhile, in a discussion with the Commander of the Political Police, Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler, I have ascertained once more that to carry out this inquiry would cause considerable damage to the reputation of the National Socialist State because this inquiry would be directed against members of the SA and SS and thus the SA and the SS, as the main pillars of the National Socialist State, would be directly affected. For these reasons, I support the proposal for quashing the inquiry presented to you on the 18th of November by the Commander of the Political Police in the State Ministry of the Interior."
I do not think I need trouble with the rest of that letter. It states that the inhabitants of the concentration camp are almost exclusively criminal types.

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Elwyn Jones, the document you have just been reading from, which is on Page 9 of the English text, is dated the 29th of November, 1933. Is that a misprint?

MR. ELWYN JONES: No, my Lord, that is correct.

THE PRESIDENT: The document on Page 5 which you read before, from the Public Prosecution, is dated 26th September, 1936. Is that correct?

MR. ELWYN JONES: No, my Lord, that is a misprint and I should have called your Lordship's attention to it. That should be 1933, my Lord, and I am much obliged.

THE PRESIDENT: That is Page 5. In referring to the document, you should state that the pages which you did not refer to, Pages 3 and 4, show that the other dossiers, in connection with the Public Prosecutor, Provincial Court, Munich, were apparently lost and were not forthcoming and that inquiries were going on about them until 1935.

MR. ELWYN JONES: Yes, my Lord. Much obliged. I was trying to deal with the essential contents of the file.

THE PRESIDENT: Go on, then.

MR. ELWYN JONES: I want you, witness, to look at Page 6 of the English text and Document 10 of your file. That is a memo from Dr. H. Frank, the defendant, dated 2nd July, 1933, to the Prime Minister, and the subject is "Quashing of Criminal Proceedings."

"A merchant's wife, Sophie Handschuh, of Munich, in a written statement received by the Public Prosecutor at the Provincial Court, Munich II, on the 18th of September, 1933, stated that her son, Hugo Handschuh, taken into protective custody on the 23rd August, 1933, died of heart failure in Dachau camp on the 2nd of September, 1933. In the inquest certificate, heart failure following on concussion of the brain was given as the cause of death. The body was not shown to the relatives and was handed over only after great difficulties and on condition that the coffin would not be reopened. The coffin was so firmly nailed down that it was impossible to reopen it. The writer asked that the coffin be opened and a judicial post-mortem held, as she wanted the body identified and the cause of death established.

[Page 359]

In order to clear up the state of affairs, the Provincial Court Public Prosecutor at the Provincial Court, Munich II, at first, personally questioned the plaintiff, Sophie Handschuh, and the fiancee of the deceased, Thea Kink. From their evidence, the assumption seemed justified that already on the day of his arrest Handschuh was badly physically treated in the Braune Haus in Munich, and in connection with the further established fact that the relatives of the dead man were expressly refused permission to view the body, sufficient grounds were given for the suspicion that Handschuh did not die a natural death. In order to establish the cause of death without any doubt, the body was exhumed in Dachau on the 23rd of September, 1933, and a judicial autopsy carried out on the orders of the Provincial Court Public Prosecutor. It showed that death was caused by injury to the brain, as a result of a haemorrhage of the soft membrane of the brain, and that this haemorrhage originated from blows with. a blunt object, which hit the skull particularly in the region of the left temple and that of the back of the head."
Then there follow further details of the autopsy which have been given in another document I have read.

The findings of the judicial autopsy gave ground for assuming outside responsibility.

Paragraph II: In the forenoon of the 19th October, the Public Prosecutor at the Provincial Court, Munich II, informed by telephone by the Bavarian Political Police that in the afternoon of the 17th of October, 1933, Wilhelm Franz, of Munich, a prisoner in protective custody, born on the 5th of June, 1909, and on the night of the 17th-18th of October, 1933, Dr. Delvin Katz, of Nuremberg, a prisoner in protective custody, born on the 3rd of August, 1887, hanged themselves in their military confinement cells in Dachau concentration camp. The Public Prosecutor ordered the same morning an investigation to be held in the camp, followed by a post- mortem. The corpses in a locked camp shed were lying on stretchers, and, with the exception of the feet, were totally undressed. In Franz's cell, fresh blood spots and splashes were observed on the wooden plank bed."
And then it goes on to say that a judicial autopsy was ordered on the 20th of October.

According to the next paragraph:

"The autopsy gave grounds for suspecting in respect of both corpses that force by an outside hand had been used. According to the preliminary opinion of both court doctors, Provincial Court Doctor Flann and Court Doctor Niedenthal, death by suffocation, as a result of strangulation and throttling, was established in both cases. The strangulation marks found on the neck do not correspond to those shown in the case of persons hanged. In respect of Franz's body, it is also stated in the preliminary opinion that fat embolism is not prima facie to be excluded as a contributing cause of death. Fresh weals on the body - fresh weals on the head, covered with hair, as well as particularly numerous ones on the body and the arms, with extensive bleeding and destruction of the fatty tissues, were established on this corpse, apart from injuries on the neck. Also Katz's body showed various signs of drying up and rubbing off of the skin of the head and one separation of the skin.

At the time of the examination, the Public Prosecutor had demanded the production of both belts with which Franz and Katz had allegedly hanged themselves; they could not be handed over at once. The Dachau lower Court had ordered the confiscation of the belts, in accordance with the application. Until now, the objects, confiscated had not yet been received by the Public Prosecutor."

Then paragraph III: "In each case I informed the Prime Minister, and through him the Reich Governor in Bavaria, as well as the State Minister of the Interior, of the Public Prosecutor's reports.

[Page 360]

In a letter of the 29th of November, 1933, addressed to me, the State Minister of the Interior proposed that, for State political reasons, the inquiry by the Public Prosecutor of the Provincial Court, Munich 11, into the deaths of Hugo Handschuh, Wilhelm Franz and Dr. Delvin Katz, prisoners in protective custody, should be quashed. As a reason, it was pointed out that the conducting of investigations would cause great harm to the prestige of the National Socialist State, since these proceedings would be directed against members of the SA and SS and thus the SA and SS as the chief protagonists of the National Socialist State would be immediately affected."
And then Frank goes on to give an opinion in law that the Reich Governor in fact has the right of pardoning. He states that - in the last part of the last paragraph but one - "the constitutional deed of the Free State of Bavaria of 1919 forbade the quashing of criminal investigations. The law regarding the quashing of criminal investigations of 2nd August, 1933, removed the ban on quashing. According to the Bavarian provincial law at present valid, the legal possibility therefore exists of quashing individual criminal proceedings by means of an administrative act in the form of a pardon." And then he states that this right is vested in the Reich Governor of Bavaria.

And then Frank suggests that "in view of this legal position, the proposal of the State Minister of the Interior be submitted to the Council of Ministers."

The next document, Page 10 of the English text, Document 12 of the German text, indicates that the Council of Ministers was not prepared to countenance the quashing. And it states:

"The proposal of the State Minister of the Interior that the inquiry pending into the death of the prisoners Handschuh, Franz and Katz, who were in protective custody, be quashed, was the subject of a debate during the meeting, of the Council of Ministers of the 5th of December, 1933. As a result, the State Minister of Justice communicated the following to the undersigned official: 'The criminal proceedings regarding the happenings in the Dachau concentration camp are to be continued with all determination. The facts are to be cleared up with the utmost speed.' "
Then there are various instructions with regard to the inquiries.

The next step of this story is Document 12 of the German file, Page 11 of the English text:

"Presented to the State Minister with the request that he take note. The rote of the first Public Prosecutor, Dr. Stepp, regarding the carrying out of his instructions is attached with the request that note be taken.

By order of Ministerial Counsellor Doebig, I communicated to the Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler the decision taken yesterday by the Council of Ministers concerning the cases of Handschuh, etc. The Reichsfuehrer SS told me that the matter greatly concerned the Chief-of-Staff of the SA, Reich Minister Roehm. He (Himmler) had to discuss the matter with the latter first."

Then Roehm gives certain instructions which this correspondent Dr. Stepp writes down from memory:
"The Dachau camp is a camp for prisoners who are in protective custody and who were imprisoned on political grounds. The incidents concerned are of a political nature and under all circumstances the political authorities must decide first about them. To my mind they are not suited to be dealt with by the legal authorities. This is my opinion as Chief-of-Staff and also as Reich Minister who is interested in the Reich not suffering politically because of the proceedings in question.

I shall get the Reichsfuehrer SS to issue an order that no investigating authorities may enter the camp for the time being and that people in the camp may also not be interrogated for the time being."

[Page 361]

Then there is a note:
"The Court of Appeal, Munich, was instructed by a directive from the Minister to refrain for the time being from making an application for the opening of preliminary investigations."
Then follows the next document, Document 13, a letter to the Public Prosecutor on the deaths of these men Franz and Katz.
"With regard to the above-mentioned matter, I have, as instructed, requested the Bavarian Political Police to clear up the matter further in conjunction with the commandant's office of the concentration camp of Dachau and to endeavour to find out the persons who are suspected of having been the culprits. In this request I mentioned also that I have not yet received the legally confiscated instruments of suicide (belt and braces) of the dead men.

The Political Police have apparently transmitted the files without any written direction to the Political Department of the concentration camp of Dachau."

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