The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. What position did he have in Regiment 537?

A. Hodt held various posts in the regiment. Usually, he was
sent ahead, because he was a particularly qualified officer,
especially as regards technical qualifications, in order to
make preparations when headquarters were being moved. He was
therefore sent with the advance party of the so-called
technical company in order to establish the new command
posts; and then he was the regimental expert for the
telephone system, dealing with all matters relating to the
telephone and teletype system for the command headquarters
of the army group. In my staff he was occasionally detailed
to fill the position of any of my officers when they were on
leave.

Q. Was he also in charge of the advance party during the
advance on Katyn?

A. That I cannot say. I can only say that I personally heard
from my staff communications commander that he had sent an
officer ahead, after it had been ascertained how the
headquarters were to be laid out, that this officer was
acting on my behalf, as at the time I still remained in the
old quarters, and was preparing things in the way I wanted
them, from the point of view of a communications troop
commander. I do not know who was in charge of that advance
party at the time, but it is perfectly possible that it was
Lieutenant Hodt.

Q. Were you in Katyn or the vicinity during the period from
the capture of Smolensk, which was, I believe, on or about
the 20th of July, 1941, and up to the transfer of your staff
to Katyn on the 20th of September?

A. I was in the vicinity. I was where the headquarters of
the army group wanted to establish itself; that is, in the
woods west of Smolensk, where Katyn is located.

Q. Were you frequently there during that time?

A. I should say three or four times.

Q. Did you talk to Hodt on those occasions?

A. If he was the officer in charge of the advance party,
which I cannot say today, then I must certainly have talked
to him. At any rate, I did talk to the officer whom I had
sent ahead and also to the one from my regiment.

Q. Did you hear anything about shootings occurring during
that time?

A. I heard nothing, nor did I hear anything at all except in
1943, when the graves were opened.

                                                  [Page 351]

Q. Did you or Regiment 53'7 have the necessary technical
means, pistols, ammunition and so on, at your disposal which
would have made it possible to carry out shootings on such a
scale?

A. The regiment, being a communications regiment in the rear
area, was, according to its establishment of weapons and
ammunition, less efficiently armed than the actual fighting
troops. Such a task, however, would have been something
unusual for the regiment, firstly, because a communications
regiment has completely different tasks, and secondly, it
would not have been in a position technically to carry out
such mass executions.

Q. Do you know the place where these graves were discovered
later on?

A. I know the site because I drove past it very often.

Q. Can you describe it more accurately?

A. Taking the main road Smolensk-Vitebsk, a path led through
wooded undulating ground. There were sandy spaces which
were, however, covered with scrub and heather, and along
that narrow path one got to the Dnieper castle from the main
road.

Q. Were the places where these graves were later discovered
already overgrown when you got there?

A. They were overgrown just like the surrounding ground, and
there was no difference between them and the, rest of the
surroundings.

Q. In view of your knowledge of the vicinity, would you
consider it possible that 11,000 Poles could have been
buried at that place, people who may have been shot between
June and September, 1941?

A. I consider that it is out of the question, certainly for
this reason alone, that if the commander had known it at the
time, he would certainly never have chosen as a place for
his headquarters this spot next to 11,000 dead.

Q. Can you tell me how one came to discover the graves?

A. I had no official connection with that. I only heard
through local inhabitants or somebody or other that it had
become known that large-scale executions had taken place
there years ago.

Q. From whom did you hear that?

A. Quite probably from the commander himself, who, because
he was located on the spot, had heard more about it than I
had. But I cannot remember exactly now.

Q. So you did not receive official notice about the
discovery of the graves, did you?

A. No, I did not.

Q. After the opening of the graves, did you talk to the
German or foreign members of the commission?

A. I have never talked to any members of that commission.

DR. STAHMER: I have no further questions, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov.

CROSS-EXAMINATION

BY COLONEL SMIRNOV:

Q. Witness, you arrived in the region of Katyn in September,
1943?

A. 1941, not 1943.

Q. Excuse me, I meant September, 1941. Is that correct?

A. Yes, September, 1941.

Q. And you contend that you did not know anything about the
camps for Polish prisoners of war which were, together with
the prisoners, in the hands of the German troops, is that
so?

A. I have never heard anything about Polish prisoners of war
being in the hands of German troops.

Q. I understand that this had no relation to your official
activity as the commander of a signal corps regiment, but
were you a witness of cases when various

                                                  [Page 352]

German troops combed the woods in the vicinity of the
highway Smolensk-Vitebsk to capture Polish prisoners of war
who had escaped from the camps?

A. I never heard anything about troops going there in order
to, shall we say, recapture escaped Polish prisoners of war.
I have heard about that here for the first time.

Q. Please answer me. Have you not seen German military units
escorting Polish prisoners of war who were captured in the
woods?

A. I have not seen them.

Q. Please answer the following questions: You were on good
terms with Colonel Ahrens, were you not?

A. I was on good terms with all commanders of the regiment.

Q. And in addition to that, you were his immediate superior?

A. Right.

Q. Colonel Ahrens found out about the mass graves at the end
of 1941, or at the beginning of 1942. Did he tell you
anything about his discovery?

A. I cannot believe that Colonel Ahrens could have
discovered the graves in 1941. I cannot imagine that, I
especially cannot imagine that he would tell me nothing
about it.

Q. In any case, do you contend that neither in 1942 nor in
1943 did Colonel Ahrens report to you in regard to this
affair?

A. Colonel Ahrens never told me anything about it, and he
would have told me if he had known.

Q. I am interested in the following answer which you gave to
a question by defence counsel. You remarked that the signal
corps regiment had not enough weapons to carry out
shootings. What do you mean by that? How many, and what kind
of weapons did the regiment possess?

A. The signal regiment was mostly equipped with pistols and
with carbines. They had no automatic arms.

Q. Pistols, of what calibre?

A. They were Parabellum pistols. The calibre, I think, was
7.65, but I cannot remember for certain.

Q. Parabellum pistols, 7.65. And were there Mauser pistols
or any other kind of weapons?

A. That varied. Non-commissioned officers, as far as I know,
had the smaller Mauser pistols. Actually, only non-
commissioned officers were equipped with pistols. The
majority of the men had carbines.

Q. I would like you to tell us some more about the pistols.
You say that they were 7.65 calibre pistols, is that so?

A. I cannot now, at the moment, give you exact information
about the calibre. I only know that the Parabellum pistol
was 7.65 or some such calibre. I think the Mauser pistol had
a somewhat smaller calibre.

Q. And Walter pistols?

A. There were also Walters. I think they had the same
calibre as the Mauser. It is a smaller black pistol, and it
is better than the somewhat cumbersome Parabellum pistol,
which is heavier.

Q. Yes, that is quite correct. Please tell me whether in
this regiment the non-commissioned officers had those small
pistols.

A. As a rule, non-commissioned officers had pistols but not
carbines.

Q. I see. Perhaps you can tell us about how many pistols
this signal corps regiment possessed?

A. Of course I cannot tell you that now. Let us assume that
every N.C.O. had a pistol -

Q. And how many N.C.O.s were there? How many pistols in all
were there in your regiment if you consider that every non-
commissioned officer had a pistol?

A. Assuming that every N.C.O. in the regiment had a pistol,
that would amount to 150 per company. However, to give a
definite statement about that figure retrospectively now is
impossible. I can only give you clues.

                                                  [Page 353]

Q. Why do you consider that 150 pistols would be
insufficient to carry out these mass-killings which went on
over a period of time? What makes you so positive about
that?

A. Because a signal regiment of an army group deployed over
a large area; as in the case of the Army Group "Centre," is
never together as a unit. The regiment was spread out from
Koladop to as far as Topsk; and there were small detachments
everywhere, and in the headquarters of the regiment there
were comparatively few people; in other words, there were
never 150 pistols in one and the same place.

Q. The main part of the signals regiment was located in the
Katyn woods, was it not?

A. I did not understand your question.

Q. The main part of your regiment was located in the Katyn
woods, was it not?

A. The first company was mainly located between the
regimental staff quarters and the actual command post of the
Army Group. That was the company which was handling the
communications, the telephone and teleprint communications
for the army group. It was the company, therefore, which was
nearest.

Q. One more question. The officers of your regiment were
obviously armed with pistols and not with carbines?

A. Officers had pistols only, and as a rule they only had
small ones. Possibly one or. the other may have had a
Parabellum pistol.

Q. That is to say, either a Walter or a Mauser?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you frequently visit the villa where the headquarters
of Regiment 537 was located?

A. Yes, I was there at least once, sometimes twice a week.

Q. Were you ever interested as to why soldiers from other
military units visited the villa in Kozy Gory and why
special beds were prepared for them at the soldiers' club as
well as drinks and food in the kitchen?

A. I cannot imagine that there were many visits of numerous
strange soldiers or members of other units. I do not know
anything about that.

Q. I did not speak about a great number. I am speaking of
twenty or sometimes twenty-five men.

A. If the regimental commander summoned his company and
detachment commanders for an officers' meeting, then, of
course, there would be a few dozen of such officers who
normally would not be seen there.

Q. No, I have not mentioned the officers who belonged to the
unit. I would like to ask you another somewhat different
question. Would the number 537 appear on the shoulder-straps
of the soldiers belonging to that regiment?

A. As far as I recollect, the number was on the shoulder-
straps, but at the beginning of the war it could be
concealed by a camouflage flap. I cannot remember whether
during that particular period these covers were used or not.
At any rate, at the street entrance to the regimental
headquarters there was a black-yellow-black flag, which bore
the number 537.

Q. I am speaking about the arrival at the villa in Kozy Gory
of soldiers who did not have on their shoulder-straps the
number 537. Were you ever interested in finding out what
those soldiers did there in September and October of 1941?
Did your commanders report to you about this?

A. May I ask what year this was supposed to be, 1941?

Q. Yes, 1941.

A. I do not think that at that time there was much coming
and going of outside people at staff headquarters because
during that period -everything was in course of
construction, and I cannot imagine that outside units, even
small groups of twenty or twenty-five, would have been
there. I personally, as I have told you, was there only once
or twice weekly, and not before September or October.

                                                  [Page 354]

Q. Beginning with what day of September did you start
visiting this villa? What was the exact date?

A. I cannot tell you. The commander of the army group moved
at the end of September, shortly before the battle of
Vyasma, which was on 2nd October, into that district from
Borossilov.

Q. Consequently, you could start visiting this villa for
instance only at the end of September or beginning of
October, 1941.

A. It was only then that the little castle was finally
occupied, for the regiment did not arrive much earlier than
we did from the command of the army group.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, is it necessary to go into
this detail? Have you any particular purpose in going into
so much detail?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, I ask this question for the
following reason: later, we shall interrogate witnesses for
the Soviet prosecution on the same point and chiefly that
person who was the chief of the medico-forensic branch. That
is why I would like to ask the permission of the Tribunal to
clarify this matter concerning the time when the witness
visited the villa. That will be my last question to this
point.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, very well. Do not go into greater detail
than you find absolutely necessary.


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