The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/09/05

                                                  [Page 326]

HUNDRED AND SIXTY-EIGHTH DAY

MONDAY, 1st JULY, 1946

THE PRESIDENT: I have an announcement to make.

The Tribunal orders that any of the evidence taken on
commission which the defence counsel or the prosecution wish
to use shall be offered in evidence by them. This evidence
will then become a part of the record, subject to any
objections.

Counsel for the organizations should begin to make up their
document books as soon as possible and put in their requests
for translations.

That is all.

Dr. Stahmer.

DR. STAHMER (counsel for the defendant Goering): With
reference to the events at Katyn, the Indictment contains
only the remark: In September, 1941, 11,000 Polish officers,
prisoners of war, were killed in the Katyn woods near
Smolensk. The Soviet prosecution submitted the details only
at the session of 14th February, 1946. Document USSR 54 was
then submitted to the Tribunal. This document is an official
report by the Extraordinary State Commission which was
officially authorized to investigate the Katyn case. This
Commission, after questioning the witnesses -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal are aware of the
document, and they only want you to call your evidence; that
is all.

DR. STAHMER: I only wanted to add, Mr. President, that
according to this document, there are two accusations: one,
that the period of the shooting of the Polish prisoners of
war was the autumn of 1941, and the second assertion is,
that the killing was carried out by some German military
authority, camouflaged under the name of "Staff of the
Engineer Battalion 537."

THE PRESIDENT: That is all in the document, is it not? I
have just told you we know the document. We only want you to
call your evidence.

DR. STAHMER: Then, as my first witness for the defence, I
shall call Colonel Friedrich Ahrens to the witness stand.

DR. SIEMERS (counsel for the defendant Raeder): Mr.
President, I have a request to make before the evidence is
heard in the Katyn case. The Tribunal decided that three
witnesses should be heard, and it hinted that in the
interests of equality, the prosecution could also only
produce three witnesses, either by means of direct
examination or by means of an affidavit. In the interests of
that same principle of equality, I should be grateful if the
Soviet Delegation, in the same way as the defence, would
state the names of their witnesses before the hearing of the
evidence. The defence notified the names of their witnesses
weeks ago. Unfortunately, up to now, I note that in the
interests of equality and the organization of the defence
and the prosecution, the Soviet Delegation has so far not
given the names of the witnesses.

THE PRESIDENT: General Rudenko, were you going to give me
the names of the witnesses?

GENERAL RUDENKO: Yes, Mr. President. Today we notified the
General Secretary of the Tribunal that the Soviet
prosecution intends to call three witnesses to the stand:
Professor Prosorovsky, who is the Chief of the Medico-
Forensic Experts Commission; the Bulgarian subject, Markov,
Professor of Forensic

                                                  [Page 327]

Medicine at Sofia University, who, at the same time, was a
member of the so-called International Commission created by
the Germans; and Professor Bazilevsky, who was the deputy
mayor of Smolensk during the time of the German occupation.

FRIEDRICH AHRENS, a witness, took the stand and testified as
follows:

BY THE PRESIDENT:

Q. Will you state your full name?

A. Friedrich Ahrens.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will
speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.

DIRECT EXAMINATION

BY DR. STAHMER:

Witness, did you, as a professional officer in the German
armed forces, participate in the Second World War?

A. Yes, of course; as a professional officer I participated
in the Second World War.

Q. What rank did you hold finally?

A. That of colonel.

Q. Were you stationed in the eastern theatre of war?

A. Yes.

Q. In what capacity?

A. I was the commanding officer of a signal regiment of an
army group.

Q. What were the tasks of your regiment?

A. The signal regiment of an army group had the task of
setting up and maintaining communications between the army
group and the neighbouring units and subordinate units, as
well as preparing the necessary communications for new
operations.

Q. Did your regiment have any special tasks apart from that?

A. No, with the exception of the duty of taking all measures
to hinder a surprise attack, and of holding themselves in
readiness to defend themselves with the forces at their
disposal, so as to prevent the capture of the regimental
battle headquarters.

This was particularly important for an army group signal
regiment and its battle headquarters because we had to keep
a lot of highly secret material at our staff headquarters.

Q. Your regiment was the Signal Regiment 537. Was there also
an engineering battalion 537?

A. During the time when I was in that army group, I heard of
no unit with the same number, nor do I believe that there
was such a unit.

Q. And to whom were you subordinated?

A. I was directly subordinated to the Army Group Centre, and
that was the case during the entire period when I was with
the army group. My superior was General Oberhauser.

From the point of view of defence, the signal staff of the
regiment with its first section, which was in close touch
with the regimental staff, was at times subordinated to the
Commander of Smolensk; all orders which I received from that
last-named command came via General Oberhauser, who either
approved or refused to allow the regiment to be employed for
a particular purpose.

In other words, I received my orders exclusively from
General Oberhauser.

Q. Where was your staff headquarters accommodated?

A. I prepared a sketch of the position of the staff
headquarters west of Smolensk.

Q. I am having the sketch shown to you. Please tell us
whether that is your sketch.

                                                  [Page 328]


A. That sketch was drawn by me from memory.

Q. I am now going to have a second sketch shown to you. Will
you please have a look at that one also, and will you tell
me whether it presents a correct picture of the situation?

A. May I briefly explain this sketch to you? At the right-
hand margin, that large red spot is the town of Smolensk.
West of Smolensk, and on either side of the road to Vitebsk,
the staff of the army group was situated together with the
air force corps, that is south of Krassny-Bor. On my sketch,
I have marked the actual area occupied by the Central Army
Group.

That part of my sketch which has a dark line around it was
very densely occupied by troops who came directly under the
army group; there was hardly a house empty in that area.

The regimental staff of my regiment were in the so-called
little Katyn wood. That is the white spot which is indicated
on the sketch, it measures about one square kilometre of the
large forest and is a part of the entire forest around
Katyn. On the southern edge of this small wood there was the
so-called Dnieper Castle, which was the regimental staff
headquarters.

Two and a half kilometres to the east of the staff
headquarters of the regiment there was the number one
company of the regiment, which was the operating company,
which did teleprinting and telephone work for the army
group. About three kilometres away from the regimental staff
headquarters there was the wireless company. There were no
buildings within the radius of about one kilometre of the
regimental staff headquarters.

This house was a large two-story building with about
fourteen to fifteen rooms, several bath installations, a
cinema, a rifle range, garages, Sauna (steam-baths) and so
on, and was most suitable for accommodating the regimental
staff. Our regiment continuously retained this battle
headquarters.

Q. Were there also any other high-ranking staff headquarters
near by?

A. Higher staff headquarters, yes. There was the army group,
which I have already mentioned, then a corps staff from the
Air Force, and several section staffs. Then there was the
Army Group Railway Deputy, who was at Gnesdowo in a special
train.

Q. It has been stated in this trial that certain events
which took place in your neighbourhood were most secret and
suspicious. Will you please, therefore, answer the following
questions with particular care?

How many Germans were there among the staff personnel, and
what positions did they fill?

A. I had three officers on my staff to begin with, and then
two, and approximately eighteen to twenty non-commissioned
officers and men; that is to say, as few as I could have on
my regimental staff, and every man of the staff was fully
occupied.

Q. Did you have any Russian personnel?

A. Yes, we had four auxiliary volunteers and some female
personnel living in the immediate vicinity of the regimental
staff quarters. The auxiliary volunteers remained
permanently with the regimental staff, whereas the female
personnel changed from time to time. Some of these women
also came from Smolensk, and they lived in a separate
building near the regimental staff.

Q. Did this Russian personnel receive special instructions
from you about their conduct?

A. I issued general instructions on conduct for the
regimental headquarters, which did not solely apply to the
Russian personnel.

I have already mentioned the importance of secrecy with
reference to this regimental headquarters, which not only
kept the records of the position of the army group, but also
that of its neighbouring units, and from which the
intentions of the army group were clearly recognizable.
Therefore, it was my duty to keep this material particularly
secret. Consequently, I had the rooms containing this
material barred to ordinary access. Only those persons were
admitted

                                                  [Page 329]

particularly with reference to officers - who had been
passed by me, and also a few non-commissioned officers and
other ranks who were put under special oath.

Q. To which rooms did this "no admission" order refer?

A. In the first place, it referred to the telephone experts'
room, it also referred to my own room and partly, although
to a smaller degree, to the adjutant's room. All remaining
rooms in the house and on the site were free -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, how is this evidence about the
actual conditions in these staff headquarters relevant to
this question?

DR. STAHMER: Mr. President, in the Russian document the
allegation is contained that events of a particularly secret
nature had taken place in this staff building, and that a
ban of silence had been imposed on the Russian personnel by
Colonel Ahrens, that the rooms had been locked, and that one
was only permitted to enter the rooms when accompanied by
guards. I have put these questions in this connection in
order to clear up the question and to prove that these
events have a perfectly natural explanation on account of
the tasks entrusted to the regiment, and which necessitated,
quite obviously, a certain amount of secrecy.

For that reason, I have put these questions. May I be
permitted -

THE PRESIDENT: Very well.

DR. STAHMER: I have almost finished with these questions.

BY DR. STAHMER:

Q. Was the Katyn wood cordoned off, and especially strictly
guarded by soldiers?

DR. STAHMER: Mr. President, may I remark with reference to
this question that here, also, it had been alleged that this
cordon had only been introduced by the regiment. Previously,
there had been free access to the woods, and from this
conclusions are drawn which are detrimental to the regiment.

THE WITNESS: In order to secure anti-aircraft cover for the
regimental staff headquarters, I stopped the cutting of wood
for fuel in the immediate vicinity of the regimental staff
headquarters. During this winter, the situation was such
that the units cut wood wherever they could get it.

On 22nd January, there was a fairly heavy air attack on my
position during which half a house was torn away. It was
quite impossible to find any other accommodation because of
the overcrowding of the area, and I therefore took
additional precautions to make sure that this fairly thin
wood would be preserved so as to serve as cover. As I was
averse to the putting up of no-admission signs, I asked the
other troop units to leave us our trees as anti-aircraft
cover. The wood was not closed off at all, particularly as
the road had to be kept open for heavy traffic, and I only
sent sentries now and then into the woods to see whether our
trees were left intact.

Q. The prosecution -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, at a time that is convenient to
you, you will, of course, draw our attention to the
necessary dates, the date at which this unit took over its
headquarters and the date at which it left.

DR. STAHMER: Very well.

BY DR. STAHMER:

Q. When did your unit, your regiment move into this Dnieper
Castle?

A. As far as I know, this house was taken over immediately
after the combat troops had left that area in August, 1941,
and it was requisitioned together with the other army group
accommodation, and was occupied by advance parties. It was
then permanently occupied as long as I was there up to
August, 1943, by the regimental headquarters.

Q. So if I understand you correctly, it was first of all in
August, 1941, that an advance party took over?

A. Yes, as far as I know.

                                                  [Page 330]

Q. When did the staff actually arrive?

A. A few weeks later.

Q. Who was the regimental commander at that time?

A. My predecessor was Colonel Bedenck.


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