The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/09/11


Q. I would ask you, witness, to break off your reply to this
question and to answer the following one. At the time you
signed this general report of the entire Commission, was it
quite clear to you that the murders were perpetrated in
Katyn not earlier than the last quarter of 1941, and that
1940, in any case, was excluded?

A. Yes, this was absolutely clear to me and that is why I
did not make any deductions in the minutes which I made on
my findings in the Katyn woods.

Q. Why, then, did you sign this general report, which,
according to you, was incorrect?

A. In order to make it quite clear under what conditions I
signed this report, I should like to say a few words on how
it was made up and how it was signed.

Q. Excuse me, I would like to put to you a question which
defines more accurately this matter. Was this report
actually signed on 30th April in the town of Smolensk or was
it signed on, another date and at another place?

A. It was not signed in Smolensk on 30th April but was
signed on 1st May at noon, at the airport which was called

Q. Will you please tell the Tribunal under what conditions
it was signed.

A. The writing of this record was to be done at the same
conference which I already mentioned and which took place in
the laboratory of Butz in the afternoons of 30th April.
Present at this conference were all the delegates, all the
German who had arrived with us from Berlin, Butz and his
assistants. Generalstabsarzt (General Staff Physician) Holm,
the chief physician of the Smolensk sector, and also other
German Army officials who were unknown to me. Butz stated

                                                    [Page 6]

the Germans were only present as hosts but actually the most
important place was occupied by Generalstabsarzt Holm and
the work was performed under the direction of Butz. The
secretary of the conference was the personal secretary of
Butz who took down the report; however, I never saw these
minutes. Butz and Orsos came with a draft to this
conference, a sort of protocol; however, I was not aware
that somebody entrusted to them the writing of such a
protocol. This protocol was read by Butz and then a question
was raised regarding the state and the age of the young
pines which were in the clearings of the Katyn woods. Butz
considered that graves were also located in these clearings.

Q. Excuse me for interrupting you. Did you have any evidence
that the graves were actually found in these clearings?

A. No. During the time we were there, no new graves were
excavated. As some of the delegates said they were not
competent to express their opinion regarding the age of
these trees, General Holm gave an order to bring a German to
this place who was an expert on forestry. He showed us the
cut of the trunk of a tree and from the number of circles in
this trunk, he deduced the trees were five years old.

Q Excuse my interrupting you again. You, yourself, can you
state here that this tree was actually cut down from the
grave and not from any other place in the forest?

A. I can only say that in the Katyn forest there were some
clearings with small trees and that, while driving back to
Smolensk, a little tree was carried in the bus with us, but
I do not know whether there were any graves on the place
where this tree was cut off. As I have already stated, there
were no excavations of graves in our presence.

Q. I would request you to continue your reply but very
briefly and not to detain the attention of the Tribunal with
unnecessary details.

A. Some editorial notes were made in connection with this
protocol, but I do not remember what they were. Then Orsos
and Butz were entrusted to write the record in its final
form. The signing of the record had to take place on the
same night at a banquet which was organized on the same
evening in a German army hospital. At this banquet Butz
arrived with the minutes and he started reading them, but
the actual signing did not take place for reasons which are
still not clear to me. It was stated that this record would
have to be re-written, so the banquet lasted until three or
four o'clock in the morning. Then Professor Palmieri told me
that the Germans were not pleased with the contents of the
protocol and that they were carrying on telephone
conversations with Berlin and that perhaps there would not
even be a protocol at all.

Indeed, having spent the night in Smolensk without having
signed the record, we took off from Smolensk in the morning
of 1st May. I personally had the impression that no protocol
at all would be issued and I was very pleased at that. On
the way to Smolensk, as well as on our way back, some of the
delegates asked to stop in Warsaw in order to see the city,
but we were told that it was impossible because of military

Q. This has nothing to do with the subject matter. Please
keep to the facts.

A. Around noon we arrived at the airport which was called
"Bela." The airport was apparently a military airfield as
these were the temporary military barracks there. We had
dinner there and immediately after dinner, notwithstanding
the fact that we were not told that the signing of the
minutes would take place on the way to Berlin, we were given
copies of the protocol to be signed. During the signing many
military persons were present, as there were no other people
except military personnel on this airfield. I was rather
struck by the fact that the records were ready but had not
been submitted to us for signing in Smolensk, and on the
other hand that they did not wait till we arrived in Berlin
a few hours later. They were submitted to us for signing at
this isolated military airfield. This was the reason why I
signed the report, in spite of the conviction I had acquired
during the autopsy which I had performed at Smolensk.

                                                    [Page 7]

Q. That is to say, the date and the locality which are shown
in the protocol are incorrect?

A. Yes, that is true.

Q. And you signed it because nothing else remained for you
to do?

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smimov, I do not think it is proper
for you to put leading questions to him. He has stated the
fact. It is useless to go on stating conclusions about it.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Very well, Mr. President. I have no further
questions to put to the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Does anyone want to cross-examine him?

DR. STAHMER (defence counsel for Goering):

Mr. President, I should like to ask a question concerning
the legal proceeding first. Each side was to call three
witnesses before the Tribunal. This witness, as I understand
it, has not only testified to facts but has also made
statements which can be called an expert judgement. He has
not only expressed himself as an expert witness, as we say
in German law, but also as an expert. If the Tribunal is to
listen to these statements made by the witness as an expert,
I should like to have the opportunity for the defence also
to call experts.

THE PRESIDENT: No, Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal will not hear
more than three witnesses on either side. You could have
called any expert you wanted or any member of the experts
who made the German examination. It was your privilege to
call any of them.


Q. Witness, how long have you been active in the field of
medical jurisprudence?

A. I have been working in the field of medical jurisprudence
since the beginning of 1927 in the Faculty for Medical
Jurisprudence of the University in Sofia, first as an
assistant, and now I am Professor of Medical Jurisprudence.
I am not a staff professor at the University. My position
can be designated by the German word "Ausserordentlicher
Professor" (University lecturer).

Q. Before your visit to Katyn, did your government tell you
that you were to participate in a political action without
consideration of your scientific knowledge?

A. I was not told so literally, but I read in the Press
about the Katyn question as a political one.

Q. Did you feel free in regard to your scientific
"conscience" at that time?

A. At what time?

Q. At the time when you went to Katyn?

A. The question is not quite clear to me, I should like you
to explain it.

Q. Did you consider the task you had to carry out there a
political one or a scientific one?

A. I understood this task from the very first moment as a
political one and therefore I tried to evade it.

Q. Did you realize the outstanding political importance of
this task?

A. Yes; from everything I read in the Press.

Q. In your examination yesterday you said that when you
arrived at Katyn, the graves had already been opened and
certain corpses had been carefully laid out.

Do you mean to say that these corpses were not taken from
the graves at all?

A. No, I should not say that, inasmuch as it was obvious
that corpses were taken out of the graves and I saw that
some corpses were still in them.

Q. Then, in order to state this positively, you had no
reason to think that the corpses inspected by the Commission
were not taken from these mass graves?

THE PRESIDENT: He did not know where they came from, did he?

THE WITNESS: Evidently from the graves which were open.

                                                    [Page 8]


Q. You have already made statements to the effect that, as a
result of the medico-forensic examination of this
International Commission, a protocol, a record was taken
down. You have furthermore stated that you signed this

DR. STAHMER: Mr. President, this protocol is contained in
its full text in the official data published by the German
Government on this incident. I ask that this evidence, this
so-called White Book, be admitted as evidence. I will submit
it to the Tribunal later.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal rules that you may
cross-examine this witness upon the report, and the protocol
will be admitted in evidence, if you offer it in evidence,
under Article 19 of the Charter. That, of course, involves
that we do not take judicial notice of the report under
Article 21 of the Charter, but that it is offered under
Article 19 of the Charter, and therefore it will either come
through the earphones in cross-examination, or such parts of
the protocol as you wish to have translated.


Q. Witness, was the protocol or the record signed by you and
the other experts compiled in the same way in which it is
included in the German White Book?

A. Yes, the record of the protocol which is included in the
German White Book is the same protocol which I compiled. A
long time after my return to Sofia I was sent two copies of
the protocol by Director Dietz. These two copies were
typewritten, and I was requested to make necessary
corrections and additions if I deemed it necessary, but I
left it without corrections and it was printed without any
comments on my part.

Q. Just now -

COLONEL SMIRNOV (interposing): Mr. President, I believe that
there is a slight confusion here. The witness is answering
in regard to the individual protocol, whereas Dr. Stahmer is
questioning him on the general record. Thus the witness does
not answer the proper question.

DR. STAHMER: Mr. President, I would have cleared this matter
up on my own account.


Q. Do you mean your autopsy protocol?

A. I mean the protocol I compiled myself and not the general

Q. Now, what about this general protocol or record?

When did you receive a copy of it?

A. I received a copy of the general record in Berlin where
as many copies had been signed as there were delegates

Q. Just a little while ago you stated that Russian witnesses
had been taken before the Commission in the forest of Katyn,
but that, however, there had been no opportunity afforded
the experts to talk with these witnesses concerning the
question at hand.

Now, in this protocol, in this record, the following remark
is found, and I quote:

  "The Commission interrogated several local Russian
  witnesses personally. Among other things, these witnesses
  confirmed that in the months of March and April, 1940,
  almost daily, large railway transport trains containing
  Polish officers arrived at the station near Katyn called
  Gnjesdova. These railway trains were emptied; the inmates
  were taken in lorries to the forest of Katyn, and they
  were never seen afterwards. Furthermore, official notice
  was taken of the testimony and statements, and the
  documents containing the evidence were inspected."

                                                    [Page 9]

A. As I already stated during the questioning which occurred
on the spot, the two questioned witnesses spoke to Orsos.
They actually said that they saw Polish officers brought to
the railway station of Gnjesdova and that later they no
longer saw them.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal thinks the witness
ought to be given an opportunity of seeing the report when
you put passages in it to him.


THE PRESIDENT: Have you not got another copy of it?

DR. STAHMER: I am sorry, Mr. President, I have no additional
copy, no.

THE PRESIDENT: Can the witness read German?

THE WITNESS: Not perfectly, but I can understand the
contents of the record.

THE PRESIDENT: You mean you can read it?

THE WITNESS: Yes, I can read it.

DR. STAHMER: Mr. President, may I make a suggestion?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, if you have only got one copy, I
think you had better have it back. You cannot have the book
passing to and fro like that.

DR. STAHMER: I should like to make a suggestion, that the
cross-examination be interrupted and the other witness be
called, and I will have this material typed. That would be a
solution. But there are only a few sentences -

THE PRESIDENT: You can read it. Take the book back.

DR. STAHMER: Mr. President, I propose to read only a few
short sentences.


Yesterday you testified, witness, that the experts
restricted or limited themselves to making an autopsy on one
corpse only. In this report the following is set down:

  "The members of the Commission personally performed an
  autopsy on nine corpses and numerous selected cases were
  submitted for inspection."

Is that right?

A. That is right. Each of those members of the Commission
who were medical experts, with the exception of Professor
Neville, performed an autopsy on a corpse. Hajek carried out
two autopsies.

Q. In this instance we are not interested in the autopsy,
but in the examination (Leichenschau) of the corpses.

A. They were examined but only superficially during an
inspection which we carried out very hastily on the first
day. No individual autopsy was carried out but the corpses
were inspected as they lay side by side.

Q. I should like to ask you now what is meant in medical
science by the concept, post-mortem examination.

A. We differentiate between an exterior inspection, when the
corpse has to be undressed and minutely examined externally,
and an internal inspection, when the inner organs of the
corpse are examined. This was not done to the hundreds of
bodies which were laid out there, as it was a physical
impossibility. We were there only one forenoon. Therefore, I
consider that there was no actual medico-forensic expert
examination of these corpses in the real sense of the word.

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