The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. What about those who were left?

A. Those who were left when the last convoy went out? That
is a complicated story. We were deeply grieved about them.
About the 1st of April - though I cannot guarantee the exact
date, the Commander of the Camp, Pister, assembled a large
number of prisoners, and addressed them as follows: "The
Allied advance has already reached the immediate
neighbourhood of Buchenwald. I wish to hand over to the
Allies the keys of the camp. I do not want any atrocities. I
wish the camp as a whole to be handed over." As a matter of
actual fact, the Allied advance was held up - more than we
wanted, at least - and evacuation was begun. A delegation of
prisoners went to see the commander, reminding him of his
promise, for he had given his word emphasising that it was
his "word of honour as a soldier." He seemed acutely
embarrassed and explained that Sauckel, the Governor of
Thuringia, had given orders that no prisoner should remain
in Buchenwald, for that constituted a danger to the
province.

Furthermore, we knew that all who knew the secrets of the
administration of Buchenwald camp would be put out of the
way. A few days before we were liberated forty-three of our
comrades belonging to different nationalities were called
out to be done away with; then an unusual phenomenon
occurred - the camp revolted; the men were hidden and never
given up. We also knew that under no circumstances would
anyone who had been employed either in the extermination
block, or in the hospital be allowed to leave the camp. That
is all I have to say about the last few days.

Q. This officer in command of the camp, whom you have just
said gave his word of honour as a soldier, was he a soldier?

A. His attitude towards the prisoners was ruthless; but he
had his orders. Frankly, he was a special type of soldier;
but he was not acting on his own initiative in treating the
prisoners in this way.

Q. To what branch of the service did he belong?

A. He belonged to the SS Totenkopf Division.

                                                  [Page 211]
Q. Was he an SS man?A. Yes, he was an SS man.Q. He was
acting on orders, you say?A. He was certainly acting on
orders.Q. For what purpose were the prisoners used?
A. They were used in such a way that no attention was paid
to the fact that they were human beings. They were used for
experimental purposes.

At Buchenwald the experiments were made in Block 46. The men
who were to be employed there were always selected by means
of a medical examination. On those occasions when I was
present it was performed by Dr. Schidlowsky, of whom I have
already spoken.

Q. Was he a doctor?

A. Yes, he was a doctor. They were used for the hardest
labour; in the Laura mines; working in the salt mines as,
for instance, in the Mansleben am See detachment - clearing
up bomb debris. It must be remembered that the more
difficult the labour conditions were, the harsher was the
supervision by the guards.

They were used in Buchenwald for any kind of labour; earth
works, quarries, in factories - and so forth. To quote a
particular case: There were two factories attached to
Buchenwald - the Gustloff works and Mibao works. They were
munition factories under technical and non-military
management. In this particular case there was some sort of
rivalry between the SS and the technical management of the
factory. The technical management, concerned with its
output, took the part of the prisoners to the extent of
occasionally obtaining supplementary rations for them.
Internee-labour had certain advantages. The cost was
negligible, and from a security point of view the maximum of
secrecy was ensured, as the prisoners had no contact with
the outside world and therefore no leakage was possible.

Q. You mean - leakage of military information?

A. I mean leakage of military information.

Q. Could outsiders see that the prisoners were ill-treated
and wretched?

A. That is another question.

Q. Will you answer it later?

A. I shall answer it later. I have omitted one detail. The
internees were also used to a certain extent after death.
The ashes resulting from the cremations were thrown into the
excrement pit and served to fertilise the fields around
Buchenwald. I add this detail because it struck me vividly
at the time.

Finally, as I said, work - whatever it might be - was the
prisoners' only chance of survival. As soon as they were no
longer of any possible use, they were done for.

Q. Were not internees used as "blood donors," involuntary -
of course?

A. I forgot that point. Prisoners assigned to light work,
whose output was poor, were used as blood donors. Members of
the Wehrmacht came several times. I saw them twice at
Buchenwald, taking blood from these men. The blood was taken
in a ward known as CP-2, i.e. operations ward 2.

Q. This was done on orders from higher quarters?

A. I do not see how it could have been done otherwise.

Q. On their own initiative?

A. Not on the initiative of anyone in the camp. These
elements had nothing to do with the camp administration or
the guards. I must make it clear that those whom I saw
belonged to the Wehrmacht, whereas we were guarded by SS,
all of them from the Totenkopf Division. Towards the end, a
special use was made of them.

In the early months of 1945, members of the Gestapo came to
Buchenwald

                                                  [Page 212]

and took away all the papers of those who had died, in order
to re-establish their identity and to make out forged
papers. One Jew was specially employed to take photographs
to adapt the papers which had belonged to the dead for the
use of persons whom, of course, we did not know. The Jew
disappeared, and I do not know what became of him. We never
saw him again.

But this utilisation of identification papers was not
confined to the dead. Several hundred French prisoners were
summoned to the "Fliegerverwaltung" and there subjected to a
very precise interrogation on their identity, their
convictions and their background. They were then told that
they would on no account be allowed to receive any
correspondence, or even parcels - those of them who ever had
received any. From an administrative point of view all
traces of them were effaced, and contact with the outside
world was rendered even more impossible for them than it had
been under ordinary circumstances. We were deeply concerned
about the fate of our comrades. We were liberated very soon
after that, and I can only say that prisoners were used in
this way - i.e., that their identification papers were used
for manufacturing forged documents.

Q. What was the effect of this kind of life?

A. The effect of this kind of life on the human organism?

Q. On the human organism.

A. As to the human organism, there was only one effect: the
degradation of the human being. The living conditions which
I have just described were enough in themselves to produce
such degradation. It was a systematic process; an
unrelenting will seemed to be at work to reduce those men to
one level - the lowest possible level of human degradation.

To begin with, the first degrading factor was the
indiscriminate way in which they were mixed. It was
permissible to mix nationalities, but not to mix
indiscriminately every possible type of prisoner-political,
military - for the members of the French resistance movement
were soldiers - racial elements and common criminals.

Criminals of all nationalities were herded together with
their compatriots, and prisoners of every nationality lived
side by side.

In addition, there were overcrowding, insanitary conditions
and compulsory labour. I shall quote a few examples to show
that prisoners were mixed quite indiscriminately.

In March 1945, I saw the French General Duval die. He had
been working on the "terrasse" with me all day. When we came
back, he was covered with mud and completely exhausted. He
died a few hours later.

The French General Vernaud died on a straw mattress, filthy
with excrement, in room No. 6, where those on the verge of
death were taken, surrounded by dying men.

I saw M. de Tessan die ...

Q. Will you explain to the Tribunal who M. de Tessan was?

A. M. de Tessan was a former French Minister, married to an
American. He also died on a straw mattress, covered with
pus, from a disease known as septicopyohemia.

I also witnessed the death of Count de Lipokowski, who had
done brilliant service in this war. He had been granted the
Honours of war by the German Army and had, for one thing,
been invited to Paris by Rommel, who desired to show the
admiration he felt for his military brilliance. He died
miserably in the winter of 1944.

One further instance. The Belgian Minister Janson was in the
camp living under the conditions which I have already
described, and of which you must have already heard, very
often. He died miserably, a physical and mental wreck. His
intellect had gone and he had partially lost his reason.

                                                  [Page 213]

I quote only extreme cases and especially those of generals,
as they were said to be granted, special conditions. I saw
no sign of that.

The last stage in this process of the degradation of human
beings was the setting of prisoner against prisoner.

Q. Before dealing with this point, will you describe the
conditions in which you found your former professor, Leon
Kindberg, Professor of Medicine?

A. I studied medicine under Professor Leon Kindberg at the
Beaujon Hospital.

Q. In Paris?

A. Yes, in Paris, He was a very highly cultured and
brilliantly intelligent man.

In January 1945 I learned that be had just arrived from
Monovitz. I found him in Block 58, a block which in normal
circumstances would hold three hundred men, and into which
twelve hundred had been crowded - Hungarians, Poles,
Russians, Czechs, with a large proportion of Jews. I did not
recognise Leon Kindberg because there was nothing to
distinguish him from the usual type of prisoner to be found
in these blocks. There was no longer any sign of intellect
in him and it was hard to find anything of the man that I
had formerly known. We managed to get him out of that block
but his health was unfortunately too much impaired and he
died shortly after his liberation.

Q. Can you tell the Tribunal, as far as you know, what
crimes were committed by these men?

A. After the Armistice Leon Kindberg had settled in Toulouse
to practice "physiology". I know from an absolutely reliable
source that he had taken no part whatsoever in resistance
activities directed against the German occupation
authorities in France. They found out that he was a Jew and
as such he was arrested and deported. He drifted into
Buchenwald by way of Auschwitz and Monovitz.

Q. What crime had General Duval committed that he should be
imprisoned along with pimps, moral degenerates and
murderers? What had General Vernaud done?

A. I know nothing about the activities of General Duval and
General Vernaud during the occupation. All I can say is that
they were certainly not anti-social.

Q. What about Count de Lipokowski and M. de Tessan?

A. Neither Count de Lipokowski nor M. de Tessan had
committed any of the faults usually attributed to asocial
elements or common criminals.

Q. You may proceed.

A. The means used to achieve the final degradation of the
prisoners as a whole was the torture of prisoners by their
fellow prisoners. Let me give a particularly brutal
instance. In Kommando A.S.6, which was situated at Mansleben
am See, 40 miles from Buchenwald, there were prisoners of
every nationality, including a large proportion of
Frenchmen. I had two friends there: Antoine d'Aimery, a son
of General d'Aimery, and Thibani, who was studying to become
a missionary.

Q. Catholic?

A. Catholic.

At Mansleben am See prisoners were hanged in public in the
hall of a factory connected with the salt-mine. The SS were
present at these hangings in full dress uniform, wearing
their decorations.

The prisoners were forced to be present at these hangings
under threats of the most cruel beatings. When they hanged
the poor wretches, the prisoners had to give the Hitler
salute.

Worse still, one prisoner was chosen to pull away the stool
on which the victim stood. He could not evade the order, as
the consequences to himself

                                                  [Page 214]

would have been too grave. When the execution had been
carried out, the were prisoners had to file in front of the
victims between 2 SS men. They were made to touch the body
and look the dead man in the eyes.

I believe that men who had been forced to go through such
rites must inevitably lose the sense of their dignity as
human beings.

In Buchenwald itself all the administrative work was
entrusted to the prisoners - i.e., the hangings were carried
out by a German prisoner, assisted by other prisoners. The
camp was policed by prisoners. When someone in the camp was
sentenced to death, it was their duty to find him and take
him to the place of execution.

Selection for the labour-squads, with which we were well
acquainted, especially for Dora, Lora and S III -
extermination detachments - was carried out by prisoners,
who decided which of us were to go there.

In this way the prisoners were forced down to the worst
possible level of degradation, inasmuch as every man was
forced to become the executioner of his fellow.

I have already referred to Block 61, where the extermination
of the physically unfit and those otherwise unsuited for
labour was carried out. These executions were also carried
out by prisoners under SS supervision and control. From the
point of view of humanity in general, this was perhaps the
worst crime of all, for these men who were forced to torture
their fellow-beings were indeed, allowed to live, but became
profoundly changed.

Q. Who was responsible for these crimes, as far as your
personal knowledge goes?

A. One thing which strikes me as being particularly
significant is that the methods which I observed in
Buchenwald now appear to have been the same, or almost the
same, as those prevailing in all the other camps. The degree
of uniformity in the way in which the camps were run is
clear evidence of orders from higher quarters. In the case
of Buchenwald in particular, the personnel, no matter how
rough they might be, would not have done such things on
their own initiative. Moreover, they - the camp chief and
the SS doctor himself - frequently pleaded superior orders.
The name most frequently invoked was that of Himmler. Other
names also came up. The chief medical officer for all the
camps - Lolling - was mentioned on numerous occasions in
connection with Block 61 - the extermination block,
especially by an SS doctor in the camp, named Bender. In
regard to the selection of physically unfit prisoners and
Jews to be sent to Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen, to be gassed,
I heard the name of Pohl mentioned.

Q. What were the functions of Pohl?

A. He was chief of the SS administration in Berlin, Div. D
2.

Q. Could the German people as a whole have been in ignorance
of these atrocities, or were they bound to know of them?

A. As these camps had been in existence for years, it is
impossible for them not to have known of them. Our transport
stopped at Treves on its way in. The prisoners in some vans
were completely naked while in others they were clothed.
There was a crowd of people around the station and they all
saw the transport. Some of them annoyed the SS men
patrolling the platform. But there were other channels
through which information could reach the population. To
begin with, there were squads working outside the camps.
Labour squads went out from Buchenwald to Weimar, Erfurt and
Jena. They left in the morning and came back at night; and
during the day they were among the civilian population. In
the factories, too, the supervisors were not members of the
armed forces. The "Meister" was not an SS man. They went
home every night after supervising the work of the prisoners
all day. Certain factories - the Gustloff works in Weimar,
for instance - even employed civilian labour.

                                                  [Page 215]

The civil authorities were responsible for victualling the
camps and were allowed to
enter them, and I have seen civilian lorries coming into the
camp.

The railway authorities were necessarily informed on those
matters. Numerous trains carried prisoners daily from one
camp to another, or from France to Germany, and these trains
were driven by railway-men. Moreover, there was a regular
daily train to Buchenwald. Buchenwald station was the
terminus. The railway administrative authorities must,
therefore, have been well informed.

Orders were also given in the factories, and industrialists
could not fail to be informed regarding the personnel they
employed in their factories. I may add that visits took
place; the German prisoners were sometimes visited. I knew
certain German internees, and I know that on the occasion of
those visits they talked to their relatives, who could
hardly fail to inform their home circle of what was going
on. It would seem impossible to deny that the German people
knew of the camps.

Q. The Army?

A. The Army knew of the camps. At least, so far as I could
observe

Every week so-called commissions came to Buchenwald - a
group of officers who came to visit the camp. There were SS
officers among them; but I very often saw members of the
Wehrmacht - Air Force officers - who came on these visits.
Sometimes we were able to identify those who visited the
camp, though not often so far as I was concerned. On 22
March 1945, General Bougrowski came to visit the camp. He
spent a long time in Block 61 in particular. He was
accompanied on this visit by an SS General and the Chief
Medical Officer of the camp, Dr. Schidlowsky.

Another point, during the last few months, the Buchenwald
guard, plus SS-men -

Q. Excuse me for interrupting you. Could you tell us about
Block 61?

A. Block 61 was the extermination block for those suffering
from cachaxia - in other words, those who arrived in such a
state of exhaustion that they were totally unfit for work.

Q. Can you tell us about this visit to Block 61 from your
own personal observation?

A. This is from my own personal observation.

Q. Whom does it concern?

A. Dr. Bougrowski.

Q. In the Army?

A. No. A doctor and an SS-General.

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