The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Why were you subjected to such a special regime, although
you were an officer-cadet?

A. Definitely because of my attempted escape.

Q. Had you agreed to work?

A. No, not at all. Like all my comrades of the same rank and
like most of the non-commissioned officers and like all
aspirants, I had refused to work, invoking the provision of
the Geneva Convention, which Germany had signed and which
prescribed that non-commissioned officers who were prisoners
cannot be forced to perform any labour without their own
consent. The German Army, into whose hands we had fallen,
never, practically speaking, respected that provision
endorsed by Germany.

Q. Are you familiar with executions that took place in
Stalag 11 B?

A. I was made familiar with the death of several French
prisoners or Allied prisoners. Specifically at Oflag 11 in
Grossborn in Pomerania, a French prisoner, Lieutenant Robin,
who with some of his comrades had prepared an escape and for
that purpose had dug a tunnel, was killed in the following
manner. The Germans having had information that the tunnel
had been prepared, Hauptmann Buchmann, who was a member of
the officers' staff of the camp, watched with a few German
guards for the exit of the would-be escapees. Lieutenant
Robin, who was first to emerge, was killed with one shot
while obviously he could in no manner attack anyone or
defend himself.

Other cases of this type occurred. One of my friends, a
French Lieutenant Ledoux, who was sent to Graudenz Fortress
where he was subjected to a hard detention regime, saw his
best friend, a British Lieutenant, Anthony Thomson, killed
by Hauptfeldwebel Osterreich with one pistol shot in the
neck, in their own cell. Lieutenant Thomson had just sought
to escape and had been recaptured by the Germans on the
airfield. Lieutenant Thomson belonged to the RAF.

I should like also to state that in the camp of Ravaruska in
Galicia, where I spent five months, several of our comrades
-

Q. Would you tell us why you were at Ravaruska?

                                                  [Page 242]

A. In the course of the winter 1941-42, the Germans wanted
to intimidate first, the non-commissioned officers who were
refractory in labour; secondly, those who had sought to
escape, and, thirdly, the men who were being employed in
Kommandos (labour gangs) and who were caught in the act of
performing sabotage. The Germans warned us that from 1st
April 1942 onward all these escapees who were recaptured
would be sent to a camp, a special camp called a "punishment
camp" at Ravaruska in Poland.

It was following another attempt to escape that I, with
about two thousand other Frenchmen, was taken to Poland. I
was at Limburg an der Lahn, Stalag 12A, where we were
regrouped and placed in cars, railways cars. We were
stripped of our clothes, of our shoes, and of all the food
which some of us had been able to keep. We were placed in
cars, where the number varied from 53 to 56. The trip lasted
six days. The cars were open generally for a few minutes in
the course of a stop in the countryside. In six days we were
given soup on two occasions only, once at Oppeln when the
soup was not edible, and another time at Jaroslow. We
remained for thirty-six hours without anything to drink in
the course of that trip, as we had no receptacles with us
and it was impossible to get a supply of water.

When we reached Ravaruska on 1st June 1942, we found other
prisoners, most of them French, who had been there for
several weeks, extremely discouraged, with a ration scale
much inferior to anything that we had experienced until
then, for no parcel for anyone had been delivered, from
their families, or from the International Red Cross.

At that time there were about twelve to thirteen thousand in
that camp. There was for that total number one single faucet
which supplied, for several hours a day, undrinkable water.
This situation lasted until the visit of two Swiss doctors,
who came to the camp in, I think, September. The billets
consisted of our barracks. The small rooms contained as many
as six hundred men in one room. We were stacked in tiers
along the walls, three rows of them, thirty to forty
centimetres for each of us.

During our stay in Ravaruska there were many attempts at
escape, more than five hundred in six months. Several of our
comrades were killed. Some were killed as a guard noticed
them. In spite of the sadness of such occurrences, no one of
us contested the rights of our guards in such cases, but
several were murdered. In particular, on the 12 of August
1942, in the Tarnopol Kommando, there is the case of soldier
Lavesque. He was found bearing evidence of several shots and
several large wounds caused by bayonets.

On the 14 of August in the Werciniec Kommando, ninety-three
Frenchmen, having succeeded in digging a tunnel, escaped.
The following morning three of them, Conan, Van den Boosch
and Poutrelle, were caught by German soldiers, who were
searching for them. Two of them were sleeping. The third,
Poutrelle, was not. The Germans, a corporal and two enlisted
men, verified the identity of the three Frenchmen. Very
calmly they told them: "Now we are obliged to kill you." The
three wretched men spoke of their families, begged for
mercy. The German corporal gave the following reply, which
we heard only too often: "An order is an order," and they
shot down immediately two of the French prisoners, Van den
Boosch and Conan. Poutrelle was left like a madman and by
sheer luck was not caught again. But he was captured a few
days later in the region of Kracow. He was then brought back
to Ravaruska proper, where we saw him in a condition close
to madness.

On the 14 of August, once again in the Stryj Kommando, a
team of about twenty prisoners accompanied by several
guards, were on their way to work.

Q. Excuse me - you are talking about French prisoners of
war?

A. Yes, French prisoners of war, so far.

Going along a wood, the German non-commissioned officer, who
for some

                                                  [Page 243]

time had been annoying two of them, Pierrel and Ondiviella,
directed them into the woods. A few moments later the others
heard shots. Pierrel and Ondiviella had just been killed.

On the 20 September 1942, at Stryj once again, a Kommando
was at work under the supervision of German soldiers and
German civilian foremen. One of the Frenchmen succeeded in
escaping. Without waiting, the German non-commissioned
officer selected two men - if my memory serves me - named
Saladin and Duboeuf, and shot them on the spot. Incidents of
this type occurred in other circumstances. The list of them
would be long indeed.

Q. Can you speak concerning the conditions under which the
refractory non-commissioned officers who were with you at
camp at Ravaruska lived?

A. The non-commissioned officers who refused to work were
grouped together in one section of the camp, in two of the
large stables, which served as billets. They were subjected
to a regime of most severe oppression: frequent roll-call
for assembly, drills "lie down! " "stand up" - gymnastics
which after one has performed them for a while leave one
quite exhausted.

One day, Sergeant Corbihan, having refused Captain Fournier
- a German captain with a French name - having refused to
pick up a tool to work with, the German captain made a
motion and one of the German soldiers with him ran Corbihan
through with his bayonet, Corbihan by miracle escaped death.

Q. How many of you disappeared?

A. At Ravaruska, in the five months that I spent there, we
buried sixty of our comrades who had died from disease or
who had been killed in attempted escapes. But so far, 100 of
those who were with us and sought to escape have not been
found.

Q. Is this all that you have witnessed?

A. No. I should say that our sojourn at the punishment camp
Ravaruska involved one thing more awful than anything we
prisoners saw and endured. We were horrified by what we knew
was taking place all about us. The Germans had transformed
the area of Lemberg-Ravaruska into an immense ghetto. Into
that area, where the Israelites were already quite numerous,
had been brought the Jews from all the countries of Europe.
Every day for five months, except for an interruption of
about six weeks in August and September 1942, we saw passing
about 150 metres from our camp, one, two and sometimes three
trains, made up of freight cars in which there were crowded
men, women and children. One day a voice, coming from one of
these cars, shouted: "I am from Paris. We are on our way to
be slaughtered." Quite frequently, comrades who went outside
the camp to go to work found corpses along the railway
track. We knew then in a vague sort of way that these trains
stopped at Belcec, which was located about seventeen
kilometres from our camp, and at that point they executed
these wretched people, by what means I do not know.

One night, in July 1942, we heard machine gun fire
throughout the entire night, and the moans of women and
children. The following morning, bands of German soldiers
were going through the rye fields on the very edge of our
camp, their bayonets pointed downward, seeking people hiding
in the fields. Those of our comrades who went out that day
to go to their tasks told us that they saw corpses
everywhere in the town, in the gutters, in the barns, in the
houses. Later some of our guards, who had participated in
this operation, quite good-humouredly explained to us that
2,000 Jews had been killed that night under the pretext that
two SS had been murdered in the region.

Later on, in 1943, during the first week of June, there
occurred a pogrom which in Lemberg caused the death of
30,000 Jews. I was not personally in Lemberg but several
French military doctors, Major Guiguet of the French Medical
Corps, Lieutenant Levin of the French Medical Corps,
described this scene to me.
The street-cars of the city ...

                                                  [Page 244]

THE PRESIDENT: The witness appears not to be finishing and
therefore I think we had better adjourn now until two
o'clock.

(A recess was taken)

MARSHAL OF THE COURT: I desire to announce that the
defendant Kaltenbrunner will be absent from this afternoon's
session on account of illness.

M. DUBOST: With the permission of the Tribunal, we will
continue examining the witness, M. Roser.

M. Roser, this morning you finished the description of the
conditions under which you witnessed the pogrom of Ravaruska
and you wanted to give us some details of another pogrom.
You have told us that a soldier, who had taken part in it,
talked about it in your presence, is that right?

M. PAUL ROSER: Yes.

Q. Did he tell you something you wanted to relate to us?

A. Yes.

Q. We are listening to you.

A. At the end of 1942 I was taken to Germany, and I,
together with a French doctor, had the opportunity of
meeting the chauffeur of the German physician who was head
of the infirmary where I was at that time. This soldier,
whose name I have forgotten, told us the following:

"In Poland" - in a city the name of which I have also
forgotten - "a sergeant from our regiment went with a
Jewess. A few hours later, he was found dead. Then," said
the German soldier, "my battalion was called out. Half of it
cordonned off the ghetto, and the other half, two companies,
to one of which I belonged, forced its way into the houses
and threw out of the windows pell-mell, the furniture and
the inhabitants."

The German soldier finished his story by saying:

"Oh, it was terrible, inhuman." We asked him then "How could
you do such a thing?" He gave us the fatalistic reply: "An
order is an order."

This is the example which I previously mentioned.

Q. If I remember rightly, when speaking of Ravaruska you
started describing the treatment of Russian prisoners, who
were in this camp before you.

A. Yes. That is correct. The first French batch arriving in
Ravaruska on the 14 or 15 April, 1942, followed a group of
400 Russian prisoners of war, who were the survivors of a
detachment of 6,000 men decimated by typhus. The few
medicines found by the French doctors upon arrival at
Ravaruska came from the infirmary of the Russian prisoners.
There were a few aspirin tablets and other drugs -
absolutely nothing against typhus. The camp had not been
disinfected after the sick Russians had left.

I cannot speak here of these wretched Russian survivors of
Ravaruska, without asking the Tribunal for permission to
describe the terrible picture we all - I mean all the French
prisoners who were in the Stalags of Germany in the autumn
or winter of 1941 - saw when the first batches of Russian
prisoners arrived.

As for me, it was on a Sunday afternoon that I watched this
spectacle which seemed like a nightmare. The Russians
arrived in batches, five by five, holding each other by the
arms, as none of them could walk by themselves. "Walking
skeletons" was really the only fitting expression. Since
then we have seen photographs of those camps of deportation
and death. Our unfortunate Russian comrades had been in this
very same condition since 1941. The colour of their faces
was not even yellow; it was green. Almost all squinted, the
eyes having become so weak. They fell by rows, five men at a
time. The Germans rushed on them and beat them, with rifle
butts and whips. As it was Sunday afternoon the prisoners
were allowed a certain amount of liberty, inside the camp,
of course. Seeing that, all the French started yelling and
the

                                                  [Page 245]

Germans made us return to the barracks. The typhus spread
immediately in the Russian camp, where, out of the 10,000
who had arrived in November, only 2,500 survived till the
beginning of February.

These figures are accurate. I have them from two sources,
first, from a semi-official source, which was the kitchen of
the camp: there was in front of the kitchen a big chart
posted where the Germans recorded the ridiculously small
rations, and the number of men in the camp. This number
decreased daily by 80 to 100.

Secondly, some French comrades employed in the camp's
reception office called "Aufnahme," also knew the figures;
and from them I got the figure of 2,500 survivors in
February. Later, particularly at Ravaruska, I had the
opportunity of seeing French prisoners from all parts of
Germany. All those who were in Stalags, that is, in the
central camps, at the time mentioned saw the same thing.
Many of the Russian prisoners were thrown in common pits,
even still alive. The dead and the dying were piled up
between the barracks and thrown into carts. The first few
days we saw the corpses in the carts, but as the German camp
commandant did not like to see French soldiers salute their
fallen Russian comrades he subsequently had them covered
with canvas.

Q. Were your camps guarded by the German Army or by the SS?

A. By the Wehrmacht.

Q. Only by the German Army?

A. I was never guarded by anybody but the German Army and
once by the Schutzpolizei, after I escaped.

Q. And were you recaptured?

A. Yes.

Q. One last question. You were kept in a number of prisoner
of war camps in Germany, were you not?

A. Yes.

Q. In all those camps did you have the opportunity to
practice your religion?

A. In the camps ...

Q. What is your religion?

A. I am a Protestant.

In the camps where I was kept, Protestants and Catholics
were generally allowed to practice their religion. But I was
detailed to different working groups, and in particular to
one agricultural group in the Bremen district called
"Marburg," I think, where there was a Catholic priest. There
were about 60 of us in this group. This Catholic priest
could not read mass, they would not let him.

Q. Who?

A. The sentries - " The Posten."

Q. Who were soldiers of the German Army?

A. Yes, always.

M. DUBOST: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the British Prosecutor wish to ask any
questions?

THE BRITISH PROSECUTOR: No.

THE PRESIDENT: Or the United States?

THE AMERICAN PROSECUTOR: No.

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