The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/09/05

Q. When did you take over the regiment?

A. I joined the army group during the second half of
November, 1941, and after getting thoroughly acquainted with
all details of the handing over by the end of November, I
took over the command of the regiment, if I remember
rightly, on 30th November.

Q. Was there a proper handing over from Bedenck to you?

A. A very careful, detailed and lengthy handing over took
place, on account of the very considerable tasks entrusted
to this regiment. Added to that, my superior, General
Oberhauser, was an extraordinarily painstaking superior, and
he took great pains to convince himself personally whether I
fully understood the instructions which I had received and
was quite capable of taking over the responsibilities of the
regiment.

Q. The prosecution further alleges that shots were often
fired in the forest. Is that true, and to what would you
attribute that?

A. I have already mentioned, that it was one of the main
tasks of the regiment to take all the necessary measures to
defend themselves against sudden attack. Considering the
small number of men which I had on my regimental staff, I
had to organize and take the necessary steps to enable me to
obtain replacements in the shortest time possible. This was
arranged through wireless communication with the regimental
headquarters. I ordered that defensive manoeuvres should be
carried out and that defence positions should be prepared
around the regimental headquarters sector; and that there
should be continuous manoeuvres and exercises in these
positions together with the members of the regimental
headquarters. I personally participated in these manoeuvres
at times and, of course, shots were fired, particularly
since we were preparing ourselves for night fighting.

Q. There is supposed to have been considerable and rather
suspicious traffic around your staff building. Will you
please tell us quite briefly what this traffic signified?

A. There was an extraordinarily heavy traffic around staff
headquarters which increased in the spring of 1941, as I was
having the house rebuilt. I think I mentioned that it had
been destroyed through air attacks. But, of course, the
traffic increased through the manoeuvres which were held
near by. The advance units, which were at least 300 and 40o
kilometres away from the regimental staff headquarters,
could only, and had to, maintain personal contact with the
regiment through the regimental staff. That is the only way
they could work with them.

Q. There is supposed to have been considerable lorry traffic
which has been described as suspicious.

A. Apart from our supplies - which were relatively small -
these commandos, which I first mentioned, were brought in by
lorries; but so was, of course, the entire building material
which I required. Apart from that, the traffic was not
unusually heavy.

Q. Do you know that about twenty-five kilometres west of
Smolensk there were three Russian prison-of-war camps, which
had originally been occupied by Poles and which had been
abandoned by the Russians when the German troops approached
in July, 1941?

A. At that time, I had not yet arrived. But never during the
entire period I served in Russia did I see a single Pole;
nor did I hear of Poles.

Q. It has been alleged that an order had been issued from
Berlin according to which Polish prisoners of war were to be
shot. Did you know of such an order?

A. No. I have never heard of such an order.

Q. Did you possibly receive such an order from any other
unit?

A. I have already told you that I never heard of such an
order; I therefore did not receive it, either.

                                                  [Page 331]

Q. Were any Poles shot on your instructions, your direct
instructions?

A. No Poles were shot on my instructions. No one at all was
shot on orders given by me. I have never given such an order
in all my life.

Q. Then, you did not arrive until November, 1941. Have you
heard anything about your predecessor, Colonel Bedenck,
having given any such orders?

A. I have not heard anything about that. I was on such
intimate terms with my regimental staff, with whom I lived
closely together for nine months, that I am perfectly
convinced that this deed was not perpetrated by my
predecessor, nor by any member of my former regiment. I
would undoubtedly have heard rumours of it, at the very
least.

THE PRESIDENT: This is argument, you know, Dr. Stahmer. This
is not evidence; it is argument. He is telling you what he
thinks might have been the case.

DR. STAHMER: I asked whether he had heard of it from members
of his regiment.

THE PRESIDENT: The answer to that would be "no," I suppose,
that he had not heard - not that he was convinced - that he
had not done it.

DR. STAHMER: Very well.

BY DR. STAHMER:

Q. After your arrival at Katyn, did you learn that there was
a grave in the woods at Katyn?

A. Shortly after I arrived - the ground was covered in snow
- one of my soldiers pointed out to me that at a certain
spot there was some sort of a mound, which one could hardly
describe as such, on which there was a birch cross. I did
see that birch cross. In the course of 1942, my soldiers
kept telling me that in the wood, shootings were supposed to
have taken place, but at first I did not pay any attention
to it. However, in the summer of 1942, this topic was
referred to in an order of the army group, later commanded
by General von Harssdorff. He told me that he had also heard
about it.

Q. Did these stories prove to be true later on?

A. Yes, they did turn out to be true, and I was able to
confirm quite by accident that there was actually a grave
there. During the winter of 1943 - I think either January or
February - I saw a wolf in this wood, but at first I did not
believe that it was a wolf. I followed the tracks with an
expert. We saw that there were traces of scratchings on the
mound with the cross, and later, bones were uncovered. I had
inquiries made as to what kind of bones these were. The
doctors told me "human bones." Consequently, I informed the
officer responsible for war graves in the area of this fact,
because I believed that it was a question of a soldier's
grave, as there were a number of such graves in our
immediate vicinity.

Q. Then, how did the exhumation take place?

A. I do not know about all the details. Professor Dr. Butz
arrived one day on orders from the army group, and informed
me that, owing to the rumours, exhumations were to be
carried out, and that he had to inform me that these
exhumations would take place in my wood.

Q. Did Professor Butz later give you details of the result
of his exhumations?

A. Yes, he did occasionally give me details, and I remember
that he told me that he had conclusive evidence regarding
the date of the shootings. Amongst other things, he showed
me letters. I cannot remember much about them now; but I do
remember some sort of a diary which he passed over to me in
which there were dates followed by certain written remarks
which I could not read because they were written in Polish.
In this connection he explained to me that these notes had
been made by a Polish officer regarding events of the past
months, and that at the end - the diary ended with the
spring of 1940 - the fear was expressed in these notes that
something horrible was going to happen. I am only giving a
broad outline of the meaning.

                                                  [Page 332]

Q. Did he give you any further indication regarding the
period he assumed the shooting had taken place?

A. Professor Butz, in accordance with the proofs which he
had found, was convinced that the shootings had taken place
in the spring of 1940, and I often heard him express this
conviction in my presence; also later on, when the
commissions visited the grave and I had to place my house at
the disposal of these commissions to accommodate them. I
personally did not have anything to do whatsoever with the
exhumations or with the commissions. All I had to do was to
place the house at their disposal.

Q. It was alleged that in March, 1943, lorries had
transported bodies to Katyn from outside and these bodies
were buried in the little wood. Do you know anything about
that?

A. No, I know nothing about that.

Q. Would you have had to take notice of it?

A. I would have had to take notice of it - at least my
officers would have reported it to me, because my officers
were continuously at the regimental battle headquarters,
whereas I, as a regimental commander, was of course,
travelling a great deal. The officer who, in those days, was
there continuously was Lieutenant-Colonel Hodt, whose
address I got to know last night from a letter.

Q. Were Russian prisoners of war used for these exhumations?

A. As far as I remember, yes.

Q. Can you tell us the number?

A. I cannot say exactly as I did not concern myself any
further with this exhumation on account of the dreadful
stench around our house which was revolting to us, but I
should estimate the number as being about forty to fifty
people.

Q. It has been alleged that they were shot afterwards, have
you any knowledge of that?

A. I have no knowledge of that and I also never heard of it.

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

BY DR. KRANZBUEHLER (counsel for Donitz):

Q. Colonel, did you yourself ever discuss the events of 1940
with any of the local inhabitants?

A. Yes. At the beginning of 1943, a Russian married couple
were living near my regimental headquarters, they lived 800
yards away and they were bee-keepers. I, too, kept bees -
and I came into close contact with this married couple. When
the exhumations were taking place, approximately in May,
1943, I told them that, after all, they ought to know when
these shootings had taken place, since they were living in
close proximity to the graves. Thereupon, these people told
me it had occurred in the spring of 1940, and that at the
Gnesdowo station more than 200 Poles in uniform had arrived
in railway trucks and were then taken to the woods in
lorries. They had heard lots of shots and screams, too.

Q. Was the wood closed to the local inhabitants at the time?

A. We have -

THE PRESIDENT: That is a leading question. I do not think
you should ask leading questions.

BY DR. KRANZBUEHLER:

Q. Do you know whether the local inhabitants could enter the
woods at the time?

A. There was a fence around the woods, and according to the
statements of the local inhabitants, civilians could not
enter it during the time the Russians were there. The
remains of the fence were still visible when I was there,
and this fence is indicated on my sketch and is marked with
a black line.

Q. When you moved into the Dnieper Castle, did you make
inquiries as to who the former owners were?

A. Yes, I did make inquiries because I was interested. The
house was built in a rather peculiar way. It had a cinema
installation and its own rifle range, and,

                                                  [Page 333]

of course, that interested me; but I failed to ascertain
anything definite during the whole time I was there.

Q. Apart from mass graves in the neighbourhood of the
castle, were there any other graves found?

A. I have indicated by a few dots on my sketch that, in the
vicinity of the castle, there were found a number of other
small graves which contained decayed bodies; that is to say,
skeletons which had disintegrated; and these graves
contained perhaps six, eight, or a few more skeletons, both
male and female. Even I, a layman, could recognize that very
clearly, because most of them had rubber shoes on which were
in good condition, and there were also remains of handbags.

Q. How long had these skeletons been in the ground?

A. That, I cannot tell you. I only know that they were
decayed and had disintegrated. The bones were preserved, but
the skeleton structure was no longer intact.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: Thank you, that is all.

DR. LATERNSER (counsel for the General Staff and the OKW):

Mr. President -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Laternser, you know the Tribunal's
ruling.

DR. LATERNSER: Yes, Sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you have no right to ask any questions
of the witness here.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I just wanted to ask you, in
this unusual case, to allow me to put questions -

THE PRESIDENT: I said to you that you know the Tribunal's
ruling and the Tribunal will not hear you. We have already
ruled upon this once or twice in consequence of your
objections and the Tribunal will not hear you.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, the Katyn case is one of the
most serious accusations raised against the group.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal is perfectly well aware of the
nature of the allegations about Katyn and the Tribunal does
not propose to make any exceptional rule in that case and it
therefore will not hear you, and you will kindly sit down.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I wish to state that I feel
thereby that I am unduly restricted in my defence.

THE PRESIDENT: As Dr. Laternser knows perfectly well, he is
entitled to apply to the Commission to call any witness who
is called here if his evidence bears upon the case of the
particular organizations for which Dr. Laternser appears. I
do not want to hear anything further.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, the channel you point out to
me is not practicable. I cannot have every witness who
appears here called by the Commission.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, you are appearing for the
defendant Donitz or is it Raeder?

DR. SIEMERS: Defendant Raeder.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, unless the questions you are going to
ask particularly refer to the case of the defendant Raeder,
the Tribunal is not prepared to hear any further
examination. The matter has been generally covered by Dr.
Stahmer and also by Dr. Kranzbuehler. Therefore, unless the
questions which you want to ask have some particular
reference to the case of Raeder, the Tribunal will not hear
you.

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, I had merely assumed that there
were two reasons on the strength of which I could put a few
questions: Firstly, because the Tribunal itself has stated
that within the framework of the conspiracy all defendants
had

                                                  [Page 334]

been participants; and secondly, that according to the
statements by the prosecution, Grand Admiral Raeder, too, is
considered a member of the supposedly criminal
organizations, the General Staff and the OKW. It was for
that reason I wanted to ask one or two supplementary
questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, if there were any allegations
that in any way bore on the case against defendant Raeder,
the Tribunal would of course allow you to ask questions; but
there is no allegation which in any way connects the
defendant Raeder with the allegations about the Katyn woods.

DR. SIEMERS: I am grateful to the Tribunal for that
statement, Mr. President.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, may I be allowed to ask
something else? May I have the question put to the
prosecution, who is to be made responsible for the Katyn
case?

THE PRESIDENT: I do not propose to answer questions of that
sort.

The prosecution may now cross-examine if they want to.


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