The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/11/22

Q. Maybe you will be able to relate to the Tribunal the
observations you made while officiating in this church?

A. In 1941 and at the beginning of 1942 I was rector of this
church and I witnessed certain tragic scenes which I would
like to relate to the Tribunal.

A few days after the treacherous attack on the Soviet Union
by Hitlerite Germany I witnessed the rapid increase of
masses for the dead. The dead were mostly children, women
and old people - victims of the treacherous air raids on the
city by German airmen-peaceful citizens of our city.

Before the war the number of dead varied from thirty to
fifty persons a day, but during the war this number rose
quickly to several hundred a day. It was physically
impossible to bring the bodies inside the church. Long rows
of boxes and coffins with remains of the victims stood
outside the church; the horribly mutilated bodies of
Leningrad's citizens - victims of barbarous air raids of the
German air force. Side by side with the increasing number of
funeral masses for the dead brought to the church, there
grew the practice of saying requiems in the memory of those
whose bodies could not be brought to the church by their
relatives or friends, as they lay buried under the ruins and
the debris of the houses destroyed by the Germans. Each day
the church was surrounded by large number of coffins - a
hundred, two hundred coffins, over which the priests used to
chant the funeral services. Forgive me - it is difficult for
me to speak of all this, for as the Tribunal already knows,
I remained during the whole siege, I, myself, was dying of
hunger. I saw the terrible air raids by the German air
force. I was shell-shocked several times.

In the winter of 1941-42, the situation of besieged
Leningrad was particularly terrible. The ceaseless air raids
of the Luftwaffe, the shelling of the city by the German
artillery, absence of light, water, transportation,
canalisation in the city, and finally the acute starvation -
as a result of all this, the peaceful citizens suffered
privations unique in the history of mankind. They were
indeed heroes, who suffered for their country - these
innocent peaceful citizens.

Together with all that I have just told you, I could
describe other terrible scenes which I witnessed during the
period when I was the rector of this cemetery church.

The cemetery was very often bombed by German planes. You can

                                                   [Page 24]

the scene when people who have found eternal rest, their
coffins, bodies, bones, skulls - all this is uprooted and
thrown on the ground, monuments and crosses lie scattered
and people who had just suffered the loss of their kin, had
to suffer once more seeing the huge craters made by bombs
sometimes on the very spot Where they had just buried their
relatives or friends, knowing that even the dead had no

Q. Tell us, witness, during the period of hunger, at what
rate did the number of burial services at this church

A. I have already told you, that as a result of the terrible
conditions imposed by the siege, as a result of the German
air raids, as a result of the shelling of the city, the
number of burial services reached an unprecedented figure -
up to several thousand a day. I would especially like to
relate to the Tribunal the facts which I observed on 7th
February, 1942. A month earlier, quite exhausted by hunger
and the long walk, from my house to the church, I fell ill.
Two of my assistant priests replaced me. On 7th February,
Remembrance Day, before the beginning of Lent, I came for
the first time since my illness to my church. I was
absolutely astounded. (N.B. In the Russian Orthodox Church
there are several Saturdays a year set aside for the
remembrance of the dead; they are called "Parents'
Saturdays.") The church was surrounded by piles of bodies,
some of which even blocked the entrance. These piles
contained from thirty to a hundred bodies. They were not
only at the church door, but also around the church. I
witnessed people, exhausted from starvation who in their
desire to bring the bodies of their relatives to the
cemetery, would fall down and die on the spot beside the
bodies. Such scenes I witnessed quite frequently.

Q. Describe to us, witness, the damage which was done to the
Leningrad churches.

A. Your Honours, as I have already reported to you, my duty
as Dean of these churches was to observe from time to time
the condition of the churches in the city and to report in
detail to the Metropolitan. The following were my personal
observations and impressions. The Church of the Resurrection
on Gribvedor Canal, which is a very remarkable monument, was
very seriously damaged by enemy shelling. The domes and
roofs were pierced by shells, numerous frescoes were either
damaged or destroyed. The Holy Trinity Church, a historical
memorial, ornamented by beautiful friezes commemorating the
heroic siege of Izmailovski Fortress, was severely damaged
by the systematic shelling and bombing by the Germans. The
roof was destroyed. All the sculpture was broken; only a few
fragments remained.

Q. Tell us, witness, how many churches were destroyed and
how many were severely damaged in Leningrad.

A. The Church of the Serafimov cemetery was completely
destroyed by artillery fire, this church was not only hit by
the shells, but great damage was caused to it by air-raids.
The Luftwaffe caused great damage to numerous churches. I
must first of all mention two churches which suffered most
from the Leningrad siege. To begin with - the Cathedral of
St. Vladimir, where, by the way, I have the honour of
officiating at the present time. In 1942 from February until
1st July, I was rector of this Cathedral, and I would like
to acquaint you, your Honours, with the following very
interesting but terrible incident which occurred on Easter
Eve of 1942.

On Easter Saturday, at 5 p.m. Moscow time, the Luftwaffe
carried out a mass raid over the city. At five thirty two
bombs fell on the south-western part of the Cathedral of St.
Vladimir. The faithful were standing in line at that moment,
waiting to approach the tomb of our Lord. They wished to
fulfil their religious duty. I saw some thirty persons lying
wounded near the altar. Other people were lying about in
different places in the church. They lay helpless for some
time, until we could give them medical aid. It was a scene
of utter confusion. People

                                                   [Page 25]

who had not been able to enter the church tried to run away
and hide in the air-raid shelters, while the others who had
entered, huddled in terror against the walls of the church,
awaiting death. The concussion of the bomb was so heavy that
for some time there was a constant fall of shattered glass,
mortar and pieces of structure.

When I came down from a room on the second floor I was quite
stunned by the scene before me. People flocked around me,
"Father, are you alive? Father, how can we understand this?
We heard that the Germans believed in God, that they love
Christ, that they will not harm those who believe in God.
Where is their faith then, if they can act like this on
Easter Eve?" I must add that the air-raid lasted right
through the night until Easter morning; this night of love,
this night of joy for all Christians, the Resurrection
night, was turned by Germans into a night of blood, a night
of destruction and a night of suffering for innocent people,
Two or three days passed. In the Cathedral of St. Vladimir -
it was obvious to me, as rector - and in other churches and
cemeteries the tragic results of the Luftwaffe's Easter raid
began to become apparent - the dead, women, children and
aged. . . .

Q. Tell us, Witness, you also visited the Leningrad region?

A. Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, if your examination is going
on, I think perhaps we had better adjourn now for ten

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, can you let the Tribunal know what
your wishes are about General Westhoff and Wieland?

DR. NELTE: In reply to the suggestion by the Court, as to
calling the witnesses Westhoff and Wieland, I should like to
make the following statement, as a result of a discussion
with my colleagues:-

First, we abstain from calling both witnesses at this stage
of the proceedings provided that the prosecution also
abstains from reading out Exhibits RF 1450 and USSR 413 at
this stage of the trial. Second, I shall call General
Westhoff as witness later, and I gather, from the Court's
suggestion, that this witness has been allowed.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, certainly.

Mr. Roberts, could Sir David attend here in the course of a
short time, do you think?

MR. ROBERTS: He is at the Chief Prosecutors' meeting now,
but I can get him in a few moments if there is a question
which I could not answer on his behalf.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think perhaps it will be best if he
were here. It is only a question really as to whether the
document should be read.

MR. ROBERTS: Well, I am told the meeting has just ended. I
did not quite get what your Lordship said.

THE PRESIDENT: I said that the question was whether the
document is to be read by the prosecution. Dr. Nelte, as I
understand it, was suggesting that perhaps the prosecution
would forgo their right to read the document.

MR. ROBERTS: My Lord, speaking for myself, I feet quite
certain that so far as the British Delegation is concerned
we should not forgo reading that document. We do put it
forward, or our Russian colleagues put it forward, as a very
cold-blooded murder of brave men, and we are most anxious
that the document should be read.

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, I have not made it a condition
that the documents should not be submitted at all, but only
at this stage of the proceedings.

                                                   [Page 26]

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but, you see, the prosecution want it
read as part of their case. If it is postponed until your
case begins, it will not be read as part of the prosecutions

DR. NELTE: I think that the prosecution, when cross-
examining the witness, could present the documents they want
to submit now.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we cannot get Wieland over here
tomorrow, and the case of the prosecution, we hope, will
close tomorrow, therefore the document must be read
tomorrow. We will then get General Westhoff and Wieland over
for you at any time that is convenient to you.

DR. NELTE: I think the prosecution have reserved the right
to adduce, at any time during the proceedings, other charges
and documents. This follows from the Indictment. It
therefore seems to me that the prosecution, without
prejudice to their case, could postpone the presentation of
this charge until I have examined the witnesses.

GENERAL RUDENKO: I would like to add something to what my
colleague, Mr. Roberts, has said. The point is that the
document presented to the Tribunal was put at our disposal
by the British Delegation and was submitted by us in
accordance with Article 21 of the Charter. This document
being an irrefutable proof can be read into the record or
not, in accordance with the decision of the Tribunal of 17th
December, 1945.

If the defence as Sir David already stated this morning,
intend to oppose this document by summoning witnesses, that
is their right. This is what I wanted to add to Mr. Roberts'

MR. ROBERTS: Perhaps your Lordship would allow me to add one
thing. The Tribunal has ruled that this document is
admissible, and it has been admitted, as I understand, and
therefore I would submit that it ought to be read as part of
the prosecutions case, or perhaps it might be equally
convenient after the discussion on Organisations.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, yes, I see that Sir David has just come
into Court.

Sir David, I think the view the Tribunal takes is that it is
a matter for the prosecution to decide, when they put in
this document and if they wish to put it in now, or, as Mr.
Roberts suggested, after the argument on Organisations, they
are at liberty to do so. Then these two witnesses can be
called at a later stage when the defendants' counsel wish
them to be called.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I entirely agree with what
I am told Mr. Roberts has put forward. We consider that this
document ought to be put in as part of the case for the
prosecution. If it will be of any assistance to counsel for
the defendants, I shall be glad to take up the question of
the time to be fixed, after the Organisations; but the
reading of the document certainly should be part of the
prosecution's case.

THE PRESIDENT : The document may be read, then, at the end
of the prosecution's case.


May I apologise to the Tribunal for being absent. There was
other business connected with the trial in which I was


Wait one moment.

Then, Dr. Nelte, the Tribunal would like you to let us know
when you wish those witnesses to be called, so that we can
communicate with London in order that the witness Wieland
may be brought over here.

                                                   [Page 27]

DR. NELTE: As to when exactly during my presentation the
witnesses should appear I cannot say, for I cannot say when
the stage for the presentation of my witnesses will be
reached. I think the Court is in a better position to judge
when it will be my turn. In the course of the examination of
those witnesses who will be granted to me, I shall also
question this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, you see these witnesses not only
affect your client, but they affect the defendant Goering
and the defendant Kaltenbrunner, and therefore what the
Tribunal wishes is that you, in consultation with Dr.
Stahmer and counsel for Kaltenbrunner, should let the
Tribunal know what would be the most appropriate time for
those two witnesses to be called, so that time may be given
for summoning Wieland here and letting the prison
authorities know about Westhoff.

DR. NELTE: We spoke about that and have agreed that the
witnesses be called during my presentation.

I just understand from Sir David that we are all agreed that
the documents be presented after the case against the


COLONEL SMIRNOV: May I continue with my questioning, Mr.

THE PRESIDENT: Continue, yes.


Q. I have one last question to put to you, Witness. Tell me,
when you left the city to go into the country to inspect the
churches, did you sometimes witness instances of mockery of
religion and desecration of churches?

A. Yes, I did.

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