The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/11/08

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THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Dr. Pelckmann.



BY DR. PELCKMANN (counsel for SS):

Q. Witness, before passing on to a new subject, I have one
more question to clarify with reference to yesterday's

In connection with a document there was some discussion of a
cavalry brigade of the SS. I was afraid, and I gathered from
certain statements, that this brigade might be confused with
the cavalry storm troops of the General SS. I draw the
attention of the High Tribunal to the testimony of the
witness von Boikowski-Bidau before the Commission, and I now
ask you, witness, to tell us in which way the cavalry storm
troops of the General SS differed from the formation which I
have just mentioned.

A. Cavalry storm troops of the General SS were special units
of the General SS, like, for instance, the motor storm
troops of the General SS. They had nothing whatever to do
with the later cavalry units of the Waffen SS, nor were
these later units built up from the cavalry storm troops.

Q. A horrifying moving picture of the atrocities in
concentration camps was shown in this courtroom, and the
prosecution has alleged that such conditions were the
outcome of a consistent policy of the SS.

Can you, as a high-ranking judge, comment on this
allegation? Did the courts of the SS gain knowledge of these
occurrences, and if so, did they remain silent?

A. Of the consequent policy of the SS with reference to the
conditions shown in this film, there can be no question.
Frightful atrocities were committed in concentration camps,
but the film shows the effect of the total collapse of the
German Reich on these camps; it does not, therefore,
represent normal conditions therein. The normal conditions
were quite different. I am in a position to pass judgement
on these matters, because the legal system of the SS and the
police used all the means at its disposal -

THE PRESIDENT: Is the witness speaking from personal
observation of the concentration camps?

DR. PELCKMANN: Yes, Mr. President, he is just about to
explain that.

THE WITNESS: I am entitled to pass judgement on these
matters, because the legal system of the SS and the police
used every means at its disposal and it sometimes even
overstepped its own authority to take legal measures against
these atrocities. We had investigating commissions in the
concentration camps which reported to me repeatedly on
conditions there.

If the legal system of the SS and the police was in a
position to take steps against such conditions, then it was
only because these conditions were not the result of a
consistent policy of the SS, but were caused by criminal
acts of individual persons, small groups and a few highly
placed superiors, but were not committed by the

                                                  [Page 345]

SS as an organization. The legal system took its steps in
order to fight against these crimes and to eliminate such
criminal elements from the SS.

DR. PELCKMANN: I want to quote from a document already
submitted by the prosecution, Document E 168. It is a letter
from the SS Economy and Administration Main Office,
Department Concentration Camps, reference D, etc., and
contains instructions to the senior medical officers in
concentration camps.

THE PRESIDENT: What is this document; what is the document?

DR. PELCKMANN: It is a document already submitted by the
prosecution, E 168, and it is also in the official Document
Book, Concentration Camp.

THE PRESIDENT: I cannot hear what the reference is. Is it
"D," dawn, or "G"?

(The interpreter: "E," easy - 168.)

THE PRESIDENT: What is the exhibit number?

DR. PELCKMANN: I must regret that unfortunately I cannot
state the exhibit number at the present time.

In that document it says among other things:

  "With such a high death figure the number of detainees
  can never be brought to the level demanded by the
  Reichsfuehrer SS. The senior camp medical officers must
  use every means at their disposal to reduce the death
  rate in the various camps considerably. The best medical
  officer in a concentration camp is not the man who
  believes that his undue harshness must stand out, but
  rather the one who, by means of supervision and exchange
  at the various places of work, maintains the working
  capacity at its highest level.
  Medical officers in the camps should supervise the
  feeding of the prisoners more often than before, and with
  the approval of the administration, they should submit to
  the camp commandant suggestions for improvements.
  Naturally these must not merely appear on paper, but camp
  medical officers should make regular checks. Apart from
  that, the medical officers should see to it that the
  working conditions at the various places of work are
  improved as much as possible. It is necessary for that
  reason that medical officers should inspect thoroughly
  the places of work and investigate working conditions.
  The Reichsfuehrer SS has ordered that the death rate must
  be reduced at all costs."

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Pelckmann, did you not understand that we
do not wish to have -              Can't you hear?


THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal has indicated to the prosecution
that they do not want to hear these documents read which
have already been put in evidence, and there you are reading
every word of this document.

DR. PELCKMANN: I understand, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Surely you can summarize it; if you have a
question to put upon it, that must be possible.


Q. Do you know, witness, whether such instructions were
actually carried out in the concentration camps?

A. The investigating commissions of the head office "SS
Courts" repeatedly confirmed to me in personal reports that
such instructions were in fact put into practice in the
concentration camps. They reported to me that accommodation,
hygienic conditions, medical supervision, feeding and also
the treatment

                                                  [Page 346]

and the physical appearance of the detainees were for the
most part good. They also confirmed that the strict
prohibition of ill-treatment of detainees was repeatedly
made known in the camps, and was, in fact, observed.

The picture of the concentration camps under normal
conditions is, therefore, quite a different one. To the
outsider, the cleanliness and the smooth functioning of the
working programme were noticeable. If crimes were committed
in concentration camps, then they occurred in a way in which
they remained hidden from the outside world, and even from
the inmates of the camps, unless they were affected by them.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you saying that you personally received
these reports or that you had these facts before you?

WITNESS: I received reports from these investigating
commissions which were submitted to me personally, and from
these reports I was able to gather the facts which I have
just related.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, you knew in December, 1942, that
70,000 arrivals in concentration camps, out of 136,000, had
died, did you?

WITNESS: No, that I did not know. I shall have to supplement
my testimony by stating now an answer which I was to have
given in connection with a later question, namely, that the
head office "SS Courts" instituted these commissions
investigating crimes committed in concentration camps only
since the second half of 1943.

THE PRESIDENT: I thought you said in answer to my question,
"These facts were known to me."

Go on, Dr. Pelckmann.

DR. PELCKMANN: In this connection, I draw the attention of
the Tribunal to my Affidavit SS No. 65 to 67 which was
translated in its entirety at my request. It was deposed by
a judge who conducted the investigations and it contains
numerous additional details.


Q. To what extent was the legal system of the SS responsible
for the administration of the law in concentration camps?

A. The jurisdiction of the legal system of the SS did not
include detainees in concentration camps. Responsibility for
them was entirely that of the ordinary German legal system.
To a certain extent the jurisdiction of the SS legal system
included the political sections in concentration camps, but
this was subject to the condition that the investigating
department of the RSHA had preference in this matter. Guards
and members of the commandant's staff in concentration camps
came under the jurisdiction of the legal system to the full
extent laid down by military courts.

Q. You have already mentioned, witness, that the prosecution
by your legal system of crimes committed in concentration
camps began in 1943. When in 1943?

A. During the second half of 1943 the legal system found, as
a result of the case of corruption against the former camp
commandant Koch, traces of crimes committed in other camps
also. It was from that moment that the legal system became

Q. How was it that the legal system became active so late?

A. So-called legal officers were attached to concentration
camps for purposes of supervision. These legal officers, who
were the instruments of the appointing authority concerned,
had the task of writing so-called reports of evidence, of
crimes of any sort occurred, and of submitting such reports
to the courts so that they might take over the prosecution
of the crimes.

Q. One intermediate question -

                                                  [Page 347]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Pelckmann, I do not think he gave an
answer to your question at all: Your question was: How was
it that it was so late as the second half of 1943 that these
investigating commissions began to become active? He did not
answer that question at all.

DR. PELCKMANN: Your Lordship, the witness has not yet
finished. I was just going to put an intermediate question,
and in his later reply the matter will become quite clear.


I want to put an intermediate question, witness. Did these
legal officers come under your jurisdiction, or that of the
head office "SS Courts," or that of the SS legal system, or
under whose jurisdiction did they come? Can you give names?

A. The legal officers did not come under the organization of
the legal system, but they were officials of the appointing
authority, who authorized the investigations.

Q. Who was that in the case of the concentration camps?

A. In the case of concentration camps, it was Oswald Pohl,
who was mentioned yesterday.

Q. Now, will you please continue with the answer to the
question, why did the legal system learn of these atrocities
at so late a stage?

A. The reason was that earlier the legal system had not had
any suspicions, which, in turn, was due to the fact that
these legal officers, during the years until 1943, were
continuously handing in such reports of evidence to the
Courts. These reports of evidence were worked out in exact
detail. In cases of unnatural death of detainees, they
contained photographs of the place of the crime, medical
reports, statements from witnesses, both detainees and
guards, and these reports were executed in such exact detail
that the suspicion that crimes could still be committed
behind the backs of legal officers could not arise.

These reports of evidence which were submitted led in every
case to the trial and sentencing of the criminal.

Q. Might not the reports of evidence have been forged, and
might not the actual facts have been covered up in that way?

A. That was partly so. I just said that during the second
half of 1943 we began investigations in the camp at
Buchenwald. Already in 1941 we had carried out such an
investigation in Buchenwald, which, however, had no result.

During the later investigation, in 1943, it was in fact
discovered that in 1941 the commandant, Koch, had used
forged reports, coached witnesses and forged medical reports
which had deceived the investigating judges. We then
conducted investigations in other camps, where we found that
these reports of evidence had been in order.

Q. Now, will you please describe briefly what further steps
the SS legal system took with regard to these crimes in
concentration camps.

A. The traces and clues in the camp at Buchenwald were
manifold, and they led to many camps. The matter became more
complex from month to month. It was evident that the
investigating organs of the legal system had been utterly
unsuitable for the task of conducting a purely criminal
investigation of this sort, because the legal system, in
view of its character as a military legal system, lacked a
fundamental basis, namely, an experienced authority capable
of carrying out criminal prosecutions.

For that reason, judges were quickly given short training
courses in criminal proceedings, and at the same time, in
collaboration with the RSHA, experts from the Reich Criminal
Police Department were made available for the investigation
of these crimes.

Such commissions were established in many camps and they
worked continuously until the collapse. The head office "SS
Courts" created a special court which had almost exclusively
the task of trying these cases involving crimes

                                                  [Page 348]

committed in concentration camps. In the head office "SS
Courts," which was the central directing department of the
legal system, a special chief department was created which
carried out the overall direction of the investigations in
concentration camps, and which was to take over the task
ordinarily discharged by the Public Prosecutor.

Q. Now, briefly summarised, what was the outcome of the
fight of the SS legal system against crime in concentration

A. Altogether, approximately eight hundred cases were
investigated, of which four hundred were brought to trial
and two hundred ended with sentence of the Court. Among the
cases investigated were proceedings against five commandants
of concentration camps; proceedings against two commandants
were completed and ended with a sentence of death by

Q. Were any difficulties put in the way of your commissions
conducting these investigations?

A. Very considerable difficulties were put in the way of
these commissions These difficulties originated with Pohl,
who was using every means in his power to prevent the
investigating commissions from penetrating to the real
source of these crimes. In that way, the legal system, being
unable to make rapid progress and being compelled to break
up piecemeal the secrecy surrounding the evidence, was
forced to work together with detainees. In almost every camp
in which such a commission was at work, confidence men were
recruited from among the detainees, who submitted material
to the investigating judges. But it was very difficult to
persuade these detainees to co-operate, because they feared
that they would be killed if their activities were

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