The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/06/07

     "Then they go up the small steps and see the truth.
     Nursing mothers with babies in their arms, naked; many
     children of all ages, naked; they hesitate but enter
     the death chambers, most of them without uttering a
     word.  They are being pushed by those behind them, and
     the whips of the SS men keep them on the move.  A
     Jewess of about 40, her eyes aflame, swears that the
     blood of her children may be visited upon the heads of
     their murderers.  Police Captain Wirth himself brings
     his whip down on her face five times, and she
     disappears into the gas chamber.  Many pray, and others
     say: `Who will cleanse us after death?'  (Jewish
     ritual?)  SS men cram the people into the chambers.
     Captain Wirth gives orders to `fill up well.'  The
     naked people stand on each other's feet, seven to eight
     hundred people in an area of twenty-five square metres
     or forty-five cubic metres.  The doors are shut.
     Others of the same transport remain waiting, naked.  I
     am told that they are naked in the winter as well.
     `But they may die!'  And the answer is given: `That is
     what they are here for.'  At this moment, I grasp the
     meaning of the `Heckenholt Foundation.'
     "Heckenholt sets the diesel engine in motion, and the
     exhaust gases are used to kill the unfortunate people!
     SS Unterscharfuehrer Heckenholt exerts himself to get
     the diesel engine going, but it does not ignite.
     Captain Wirth comes up to him.  One can see that he is
     scared because I am a witness to the mishap.  Yes, I
     can see everything, and I wait.  My stopwatch records
     everything.  Fifty minutes, seventy minutes, no
     ignition.  The people in the gas chambers wait in vain.
     We hear them cry.  `Like in a synagogue,' says SS
     Sturmbannfuehrer Professor Dr. Pfannenstiel, Professor
     of Hygiene at the University of Marburg on the Lahn,
     after listening through the wooden door.  Captain Wirth
     is furious.  He brings the whip down eleven or twelve
     times on the face of the Ukrainian who is helping
     "After two hours and forty-nine minutes - my stopwatch
     recorded everything - the diesel engine began to
     function. Up to that moment, the people are alive in
     the four gas chambers, which are filled to capacity.
     Four times 750 people are living in four times forty-
     five cubic metres.  Twenty-five minutes more pass.  It
     is true, many have died.  This can be seen through a
     small window by the light of the electric bulb inside
     the room.  Twenty-eight minutes later, only a few are
     still alive.  Finally, after thirty-two minutes, they
     are all dead.  At the other end, Jewish labourers open
     the wooden doors...the dead stand erect like basalt
     columns, for there is no room to fall or to collapse.
     Even in death, one can recognize the families, holding
     hands.  It is only with difficulty that they can be
     separated to make room in the chambers for the next
     "The bodies, blue, drenched in sweat and urine, the
     legs covered with dirt and menstrual blood, are thrown
     outside; amongst them babies, the bodies of children.
     But there is no time.  Two dozen labourers check the
     mouths, which they open with the aid of iron tongs.
     `Gold to the left, without gold to the right!'  Others
     examine sexual organs and the anus in search of money
     or diamonds, gold, etc.  Dentists extract gold teeth,
     the crowns and the bridges, with tongs and hammers.
     "In the midst of them all is Hauptmann Wirth: he is now
     at the peak  of his activity; he brings along a large
     jam tin full of gold teeth and says: `Lift it up and
     estimate for yourself the weight of the gold!  This is
     only from yesterday and the day before - you would not
     believe what we come across every day.  Dollars,
     diamonds, and gold!  See for yourself.'  Then he takes
     me to the goldsmith who is responsible for all objects
     of value.  Afterwards they showed me the owner of one
     of the large stores in West Berlin, `Kaufhaus des
     Westens,' and also a short man whom they forced to play
     the violin.  He was in charge of the Jewish labour unit
     - he was a captain in the Austrian army, a Knight of
     the Iron Cross, first class - according to what I was
     told by Hauptsturmfuehrer Obermeyer.  Afterwards the
     bodies were hurled into a large pit, approximately 100
     by 20 by 12 metres, not far from the death chambers.
     After a few days, the bodies swelled up and everything
     rose to a height of two to three metres, from the gases
     that were formed in the bodies."

Later on, Gerstein writes again about that figure of twenty-
five million which he estimated.  According to the
installations and the quantities of gas, that was the
potential extermination total, not only of Jews, but also of
Poles and Czechs.

Presiding Judge: What does he actually say here?

Attorney General: He says as follows: "The details broadcast
by the B.B.C. are not correct.  In actual fact, it can reach
a total of twenty-five million persons, not only Jews, but
preferably Poles and Czechs who, according to Nazi opinion,
were worthless from a biological point of view."
Presiding Judge: Is it being claimed that at Belzec non-Jews
as well were exterminated?

Attorney General: No.  With the gases he supplied  non-Jews
as well were exterminated.

Presiding Judge: But not at Belzec?

Attorney General: Not at Belzec.  I have already read a
number of passages concerning Guenther, and I shall not
repeat them.  I shall only add a few other passages...

Presiding Judge: In this connection, where were these camps,
or where were the non-Jews exterminated by gassing.  Does
the Prosecution know that?

Attorney General: Gypsies were exterminated in Auschwitz.
There were exterminations also in Chelmno, and non-Jews also
were exterminated in Majdanek, according to the report which
I have already submitted.  The extermination by gassing of
non-Jews was, according to our information, mainly in these
camps.  Possibly Gypsies also were exterminated in Belzec -
I cannot say.

Gerstein says that he has in his possession invoices for
2175  kilograms of poison, and that this quantity was
sufficient for the killing of eight million persons.  He
took care to preserve the invoices.

On the same page, he says:

     "On another occasion, Guenther consulted me as to
     whether it was possible to destroy a large number of
     Jews in the open air in the fortification trenches of
     Theresienstadt.  In order to forestall his devilish
     plan, I declared that this method could not be

Towards the end of the main statement, he says:

     "The cyanic acid which appears in the attached invoices
     was ordered by the Head Office for Reich Security,
     Kurfuerstenstrasse, Berlin, in accordance with the
     instructions of SS Sturmbannfuehrer Guenther."

That is at the end, before the supplementary portion.  That
would be on page 15 of the German copy.

Presiding Judge: Please tell me once again, Mr. Hausner, was
the original of this statement in French?

Attorney General: Yes.

Presiding Judge: I can see Gerstein's signature there.  Was
it also typed by him?

Attorney General: The original was typed by him.  We have a
confirmation on that.

Presiding Judge: That is the priest's confirmation, is it

Attorney General: Yes.  It is part of our document No. 185,
which so far it, as it seems, I have not submitted.  This is
the confirmation dated 15 February 1961, that Gerstein typed
in French in mid-April 1945 on the typewriter of that
priest, at Rottweil.

Judge Raveh:   He does not write in French.

Attorney General: I beg your pardon - it says here that it
was in the French occupied zone.

Judge Raveh:   So that he was in French detention.

Presiding Judge: What does his wife say about his knowledge
of French?  I see that the French is quite good, as far as I
am able to judge.

Attorney General: His wife says the following, on page four:
"Document No. PS 1553 has been given to me now for perusal.
I have especially examined the signature on the report of 26
April 1945, and likewise, those passages written in
handwriting and bearing the signature 'Gerstein',those
written partly in the French language and partly in English.
I do not have the slightest doubt that the passages
aforementioned were written by the hand of my husband, were
written by him, and signed by him.  I am prepared to confirm
this on the copy of document PS 1553 in my handwriting, and
this I now do."  This document, signed by her, is before us,
and I should like to submit it, accordingly, in order to
complete the cycle of documents.

Presiding Judge: In other words, it is T/37.

Attorney General: Yes, that is T/37.

Judge Raveh:   Mr. Hausner, if I look at the first part of
her evidence, she says that only in 1952 did she become
aware that this is what her husband had written in French.

Attorney General: Yes.

Judge Raveh:   Thereafter, she writes about the translation
of his report in German, for the purpose of presenting it to
the French authorities.  The question is: What was the
original?  In what language was it?  It does not make it
clear that he wrote it in French - it points to the
contrary, it seems to me, namely that he did not write it in

Attorney General: The document was presented to her, written
partly in French and partly in English; it was not written
in German, and she identified this document as being in his

Presiding Judge: That part which was handwritten?

Attorney General: Also what was handwritten.

Presiding Judge: But the important parts were actually

Attorney General: If the Court will examine the affidavits
of the officers, it will find that the original was in
French - that is what Gerstein brought to them.

Presiding Judge: What do they say about it?

Attorney General: They describe how he was brought to them
in Rottweil in Germany, and that he had prepared and had
given them a typewritten document in French - a document he
had tried to submit to French officers, but they did not
seem to be interested in it.  They say that he also gave
them several documents of the firm "Degesch," in connection
with the supply of "Blausaeure Zyklon `B'," hydrocyanic
acid, for the concentration camps, and also a statement in
English which he had prepared, in case he should meet men of
the British or American armies.

Presiding Judge: Here I see that Evans says that Gerstein
told him he had compiled his lengthy report in French, since
he anticipated - since he was in the French occupation zone
- that the first officer of the Allies whom he would meet
would be a Frenchman.

Attorney General: He thus prepared for himself a document
which was written mainly in French, but also partly in
English.  Should he meet a French officer, he would
understand his French language, and if he should meet a
British or American officer, whatever happened, there was at
least a part in English, for in their presence, says Evans,
he did not write anything.

Presiding Judge: Where was Gerstein born?

Attorney General: He states so himself in document No. 185,
at the beginning, that he was born on 11 November 1905, in
Muenster, which is in Westphalia.  At any rate, from the
affidavits of the officers, it appears that the document was
written in those languages in which it appears before you,
mostly in French, but a small part in English.

Presiding Judge: My colleague points out to me that he spent
eight years in Saarbruecken.

Attorney General: It is true that Mrs. Gerstein said that
her husband did not have a proper knowledge of English -
that also appears on page 2 - but that, during the years, he
acquired a superficial knowledge of the language.

She also talks of her husband's home leave in 1942 and 1943.
She recalls his expressions to the effect that he could no
longer concern himself with his family, that his family
consisted of only three or four persons, and that here it
concerned thousands about whom he had to do something - "Ich
muss etwas tun, ich muss etwas tun" - and that he had told
her he was leaving the invoices in his name, for then they
would not ask so many questions or examine matters fully.

This corresponds exactly to what Gerstein says about why he
asked the factory to make out the invoices in his name -
that he would then have a more effective control over the
extermination gas, and he would not be obliged to deliver
all of it for purposes of extermination.  But I shall
analyse the Gerstein document at length in my final summing-
up.  For the present, at this stage of the evidence, I
wanted to bring it up, in order to describe the
extermination at Belzec.

Presiding Judge: The confirmation by Mrs. Gerstein on the
document in T/37(184) will be marked T/1314.

What about the priest's certificate, which was part of your
document No. 185?

Attorney General: It is part of our document No. 185, but it
was not so in the original.

Presiding Judge: I thought that was the case.

Attorney General: With us the documents were collected
together.  In fact, this merely corroborated the
authentication, and it is not required as corroboration for
the Court.  It does not change or add anything.  We provided
ourselves with it to meet any eventuality - in case there
should still be some doubt.  I do not insist that it remain
as part of the file.  It may be returned.  But if there is
no objection on the part of the Defence, it can also remain
in the file.  It can do no harm.

Presiding Judge: We shall see at the end.

Attorney General: Defence Counsel does not object to its
remaining annexed to the document.

Presiding Judge: The certificate by the priest Herklinger
will be marked T/1315.

Now a further question.  Are there any comments in the
judgment at Nuremberg, or in one of the judgments there,
relating to these documents of Gerstein?  I have heard that
they were submitted at the main trial and at the trial of
the doctors.

Attorney General: Yes.  It was also submitted in the I.G.
Farben case, if I am not mistaken.

Presiding Judge: Do the courts say anything about these

Attorney General: There was an argument about the documents'
admissibility, for there had not been any proof of
Gerstein's death.  But I would prefer, first of all, to
examine what the court says in the final judgment.

Presiding Judge: In that case, there are three judgments
which must be taken into account.

Attorney General: Yes.  I shall check that.

Finally, we submit the report of the Polish Government on
the Belzec extermination camp.  Our document is numbered

Presiding Judge: This will be marked T/1316.

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