The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1997/10/09

Next to be interrogated was the executioner. We have at our
disposal a document on this subject. (You will find the
extract in question on Page 166 of your document book.) I
quote the minutes of the inquiry:--

     "SS Rottenfuehrer of the Waffen-SS, Kesselbach,
     Friederich, born 24th January, 1909, in
     Freudingen, district of Witgenstein (Westphalia),
     was then summoned and testified as follows:--
     'I have been informed concerning the subject of
     the forthcoming interrogation. It has been pointed
     out to me that any false statements on my part
     will result in punishment and expulsion from the
After this routine part of the investigation -- where he was
warned of the penalties awaiting him -- Kesselbach gave the
following testimony on the matter:--

     "Yesterday evening I was told by S.S.
     Unterscharfuehrer Paal that I would have to take
     part in the execution of prisoners of war. Later
     on, I received a corresponding order from
     Hauptscharfuehrer Wenzel, in the presence of S.S.
     Oberscharfuehrer Knopp. This morning, at 0800
     hours, S.S. Hauptscharfuehrer Berger, S.S.
     Unterscharfuehrer Paal, S.S. Sturmbannfuehrer
     Vollbrecht and myself, drove in a lorry lent us by
     the tannery and driven by a Ukrainian driver, to a
     place situated approximately 1 1/2 kilometers
     behind the camp, in order to dig, with eight
     inmates of our prison, a pit."
Later he describes the digging of the pit. I think that we
can omit that part.

     "At the entrance to the camp, Vollbrecht, acting
     on Paal's instructions, left the car. By these
     instructions Paal intended not to betray our
     intentions to the prisoners by the presence of a
     large number of S.S. men. Therefore,
                                               [Page 6]
     only I, Paal, and a few militia men loaded the
     prisoners onto the lorry. On Paal's order, the
     whole first group consisted almost exclusively of
     the prisoners who had lost their legs."
I omit a few extracts which are of no interest to the
Tribunal, and I quote from the sixth page of the Russian
translation, the underlined passages, printed on Page 168 of
your document book:--

     "After having executed the first three prisoners I
     suddenly heard shouting beyond the pit. Since the
     fourth prisoner was already next in line, I shot
     him out of hand, and looking up, I noticed a
     terrific disturbance near the truck. A moment
     before I had heard some shots being fired and I
     now saw the prisoners running away in all
     directions. I cannot give any precise particulars
     as to what actually happened near the lorry, since
     I was about 40-50 meters away from the place and
     everything was very confusing. I can only say that
     I saw two of my comrades lying on the ground, and
     two prisoners shooting at me and the driver with
     the firearms they had seized. When I realised what
     was happening, I fired the four remaining
     cartridges in my magazine at the prisoners
     shooting at us, put in a new clip, and suddenly
     noticed that a bullet had struck the ground near
     me. I had the feeling that I had been hit, but
     realised later that I was wrong. I now ascribe
     this sensation to nervous shock. Anyhow, I was
     shooting at the fugitives with the cartridges from
     my second clip, though I cannot tell whether I hit
     any of them."

I would inform you that the last part of Kesselbach's
testimony deals with the subject of organising the search
for the scattered cripples, a search which yielded no

Finally, I would like to quote a few excerpts from the last
document in the correspondence. This is a report of S.S.
Obersturmfuehrer Kunze. It concludes with the statement that
the funeral of the S.S. men killed took place at 1400 hours
at the Police and S.S. Heroes' Cemetery in Hegewalde. It
seems to me that this detail is of a certain interest. I
will now quote the opening part of the above-mentioned
report. I will omit the first report already included in
your document book, in order to save time. He reports that
seventy-eight people were supposed to have been killed after
the inspection of the camp by Kallbach. Because of their
inability to work, these prisoners of war were a burden to
the camp.

     "For this reason, S.S. Hauptsturmfuehrer Kallbach
     ordered the execution of the former prisoners of
     war on 24th December.
     Neither in the local nor in the regional office
     could anybody discover why the former commandant
     had taken charge of these crippled prisoners and
     sent them to the `Educational Labor Camp.' In this
     case there did not exist any data whatsoever
     concerning communistic activities of the prisoners
     in question during the entire period of the Soviet
     regime. Evidently the military authorities have,
     in their own time, placed these prisoners at the
     disposal of the local branch in order to submit
     them to the 'special regime,' since owing to their
     physical condition, they could not be made to
     So S.S. Hauptsturmfuehrer Kallbach ordered the
     execution for 24th December. At about 1700 hours,
     the head of the Berdichev regional office, S.S.
     Sturmbannfuehrer Knopp, telephoned that during the
     execution of the 'special regime' operation, the
     two officials of the branch, S.S.
     Unterscharfuehrer Paal and S.S. Sturmbannfuehrer
     Vollbrecht, were assaulted by the prisoners and
     killed with their own firearms."
I will now omit a considerable part of S.S. Obersturmfuehrer
Kunze's idle talk and will quote only three more paragraphs.
You will find them on Pages 172 and 173:--

     "Thus, of the 28 prisoners, four were shot in the
     pit and two while trying to escape; the remaining
     22 managed to get away. The efforts to recapture
     the fugitives, promptly undertaken by S.S.
     Rottenfuehrer Kessel-
                                               [Page 7]
     bach with the help of the guards from the
     neighboring Stalag, though painstaking were
     unsuccessful. The head of the Berdichev Department
     ordered an immediate search for the fugitives and
     instructed all the police and military agencies to
     this effect. However, the names of the fugitives
     are unknown and this fact alone made the search
     more difficult. The records merely contained the
     names of all the prisoners subjected to the
     'special regime' and it was therefore necessary to
     declare as escapees even those who had already
     been shot.
     On 25th December, on the same spot, a 'special
     regime' execution of the twenty surviving
     prisoners of war was carried out under my
     direction. As I feared that the fugitives might
     already have established contact with some
     partisan unit, I again had the Stalag send a
     detachment of twenty men, armed with light
     submachine guns and carbines, in order to guard
     the surrounding territory. The execution went off
     without any trouble."
It is enough to imagine these twenty unfortunate men,
without arms, without legs, being escorted to their death by
a strong contingent of S.S. men and soldiers, soldiers armed
with submachine guns. I continue:--

     "As a measure of reprisal I ordered the military
     police to check up on all released prisoners of
     war in the adjoining regions to ascertain their
     political activities during the entire period of
     Soviet rule, so as to arrest and submit to the
     'special regime' all `activists' and members of
     the Communist Party."
To conclude the presentation of the evidence pertaining to
this monstrous crime of the Hitlerites, I should like to
invite the Tribunal's attention to certain facts.

I would, first of all, like to refer to the "objections
raised by the Army," reported by the member of the S.S.,
Knopp. Knopp said (you will find the passage quoted on Page

     "In future all evacuations of prisoners of war
     will be suspended, because of objections raised by
     the Army. I do not wish my words to be
     misunderstood. The Army did not so much object to
     such evacuations, as express the wish that the
     prisoners of war, once they had been released and
     sent elsewhere, should be given some kind of
It is not difficult to guess what "shelter" he was referring
to. It was the "shelter" provided when, in the words of
Knopp, they were "transported in a lorry to a place in the

The second fact, which, to me, appears of importance, is the
scale of the outrages committed. Referring to the
executioners; Paal, Kesselbach, and Vollbrecht, Knopp

     "With reference to the three above-mentioned
     persons whom I entrusted with the shooting of
     prisoners of war, I knew that they had, in Kiev,
     participated in the mass executions of many
     thousands of persons and that they had previously,
     that is, during my period of service, been
     entrusted by the local administration with the
     shooting of many hundreds of victims."
In reference to Kesselbach, I should like to note two not
very important but extremely characteristic traits. The
first is his terminology. Here are his words:--

     "After having executed the first three prisoners I
     suddenly heard shouting beyond the pit; since the
     fourth prisoner was already next in line, I shot
     him out of hand."
Any bandit, any habitual murderer would, naturally, use such
language in speaking of the destruction of a human being.
For the fascist executioners the murder of a soldier who had
honestly fought for his country and become an invalid, the
brief expression "shot out of hand" is good enough; when
occupied in killing, the executioners do not even consider
it necessary to find out whom they really are murdering.
Thanks to this, shame and confusion cover the police. They
order a search both for those who had escaped and for those
who were shot.

Secondly, the very sound of a bullet passing nearby gives
him a sensation of

                                                    [Page 8]
being wounded, and people of this type are then called
"heroes" by their superiors.

It would be an omission on my part not to emphasize the
exceptional brutality displayed by Kunze -- this typical
representative of the S.S. Twenty persons captured at
random, captured anyhow, without any fault on their part,
must be murdered. What for? Only because twenty-two armless
and legless invalids had succeeded in escaping from death.

The Tribunal, of course, is quite aware of the fact that by
all the laws of God and man these twenty-two invalids should
not have perished by the hand of the executioner, but should
have been placed under the protection of the German
Government as prisoners of war.

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