The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/09/11

Q. A little while ago you mentioned the trees that were
growing there on these graves, and you said that an expert
explained the age of the trees according to the rings
counted on a trunk. In the protocol and the report, the
following is set down:

  "According to the opinion of the members of the
  Commission and the testimony of Forstmeister von Herff,
  who was called in as an expert on forestry, they were
  small trees of at least five years of age which had been,
  standing in the shade of large trees and had been
  transplanted to this spot about three years ago."

                                                   [Page 10]

Now, I would like to ask you, is it correct that you
undertook a local inspection and that you convinced yourself
on the spot whether the statements made by the forestry
expert were actually correct?

A. Our personal impression and my personal conviction in
this question only refer to the fact that in the forest of
Katyn there were clearings where small trees were growing
and that the afore-mentioned expert showed us a cross-
section of a tree with its circles. But I did not consider
that either I or the other doctors were competent to give an
opinion as to whether the deductions which are set forth in
the record are correct or not. It was precisely for that
reason that it was judged necessary to call in a forestry
expert. Therefore, these conclusions are merely the
conclusions of a competent German expert.

Q. But after having had a first-hand view, did you have any
doubts whether these statements or whether this testimony
was correct?

A. After the German expert had expressed his opinion at the
conference of the delegates, neither I nor the other
delegates expressed any opinion as to whether his
conclusions were correct or not. These conclusions are set
down in the record in the form in which the expert expressed

Q. According to your autopsy report the corpse of the Polish
officer which you dissected was clothed and you described
the clothing in detail. Was this winter or summer clothing
that you found?

A. It was winter clothing, including an overcoat and a
woollen muffler around the neck.

Q. In the protocol it says further:

  "Furthermore, Polish cigarettes and matchboxes were found
  amongst the dead, in single cases tobacco containers and
  cigarette holders and the inscription 'Kosielsk' was
  inscribed thereon."

The question is, did you see these objects?

A. We saw these tobacco boxes with the name "Kosielsk"
engraved thereon. They were exhibited to us in the glass
case which was shown to us in the peasant but not far from
the Katyn forest. I remember them because Butz drew our
attention to them.

Q. In your autopsy report, witness, there is the following

  "Documents were found in the clothing and they were put
  in safe keeping under the folder No. 827."

Now, I should like to ask you: how did you discover these
documents? Did you personally take them out of the pockets?

A. These papers were in the pockets of the overcoat and of
the jacket. As far as I can remember they were taken out by
a German who was undressing the corpse in my presence.

Q. At that time, were the documents already in the

A. They were not yet in the envelopes, but after they had
been taken out, they were put into an envelope which bore
the number of the corpse. We were told that this was the
usual method of procedure.

Q. What was the nature of the documents?

A. I did not examine them at all, as I have already said,
and I refused to do so, but according to the size, I believe
that they were certificates of identity. I could distinguish
individual letters, but I do not know whether one could read
the inscription, for I did not attempt to do so.

Q. In the protocol the following statement is made:

  "The documents found among the corpses (diaries, letters
  and articles from newspapers) were dated from the autumn
  of 1939 up to March and April, 1940. The latest date
  which could be fixed was the date of a Russian newspaper
  of 22nd April, 1940."

Now, I should like to ask you if this statement is correct
and whether it is in accordance with the findings that you

A. Letters and newspapers were certainly in the glass cases
that were shown to us. Some similar papers were found by
members of the Commission who were

                                                   [Page 11]

dissecting the bodies, and, as I understood later, they
described their contents, but I did not do so.

Q. In your examination just a little while ago you stated
that only a few scientific statements were contained in this
protocol, and that this was done intentionally. I should
like to quote from this record as follows:

  "Various degrees and types of decomposition were caused
  by the position of the bodies in the grave and the
  position that the bodies had one to another. Apart from
  some mummification at the upper levels and around the
  edges of the masses of corpses, some damp maceration was
  found among the centre corpses.
  Body acids and fluids causing corpses to stick together,
  as well as pressure strong enough to result in
  deformations, together had led to a condition of primary
  preservation of the bodies.
  Among the corpses, insects or remains of insects which
  might date back to the time of burial are entirely
  lacking, and from this it may be gathered that the
  shooting and the burial took place in the cold season."

Now, I should like to ask you if these statements are
correct and if they are in line with your findings.

A. I stated that little was said on the condition of the
preservation of the corpses, and indeed, as can be judged by
the quotation which I had in mind, only a general
phraseology is used concerning the various degrees of
decomposition of the corpses, but no concrete or detailed
description of the corpses is made.

As to the insects and their larvae, the assertion of the
general report that they were not discovered is in flagrant
contradiction to the conclusions of Professor Palmieri,
which are recorded in his personal minutes concerning the
corpse which he himself dissected. In this protocol, which
is published in the same German White Book, it is said that
there were traces of remains of insects and their larva in
the mouths of the corpses.

Q. Just a little while ago you spoke of the scientific
investigation of skulls undertaken by Professor Orsos. The
record also refers to this matter, and I quote:

  "A large number of skulls were examined with respect to
  the change that might have taken place, which, according
  to the background and experience of Professor Orsos,
  would be of great value in fixing the date of death. In
  this connection, we are concerned with stratified
  encrustations at the surface of the mush found in the
  skull as a residue of the brain. These symptoms are not
  to be found among corpses which have been in their graves
  for less than three years. Such a condition, among other
  things, was found in a very decided form in the skull of
  corpse No. 526, which was found near the surface of a
  large mass grave."

I should like to ask you now if it is correct that,
according to the report of Professor Orsos, such a condition
was discovered not only as is said here on the skull of one
corpse, but among other corpses also.

A. I can answer this question quite categorically. We were
shown only one skull, the one precisely mentioned in the
record under the number 526. I do not know whether many
other skulls were examined, as the record seems to suggest.
I consider that Professor Orsos had no possibility of
examining many corpses in the Katyn forest, for he came with
us and left with us. That means, he remained there just as
long as I and all the other members of the Commission did,
and no longer.

Q. Finally, I should like to quote the conclusion of the
summarising expert opinion, in which it is stated:

  "From statements made by witnesses, from the letters and
  correspondence found among the corpses, diaries,
  newspapers, and so forth, it may be seen that the
  shootings took place in the months of March and April,
  1940. The following are in complete agreement herewith-
  the descriptions in the record of the results of the
  investigation of the mass graves and of individual
  corpses of the Polish officers."

                                                   [Page 12]

Is this statement actually correct?

THE PRESIDENT: I did not quite understand the statement. As
I heard you read it, it was something like this: From the
statements of witnesses, letters, and so forth -

DR. STAHMER: "In complete agreement herewith are the
descriptions in the record of the results of the
investigations of the mass graves and of individual corpses
of the Polish officers." That is the end of the quotation.

THE PRESIDENT: It does not say that the following persons
are in complete agreement, but that the following facts are
in complete agreement. Is that right?

DR. STAHMER: No. My question is: "Is this statement approved
by you? Do you agree with it?"

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I know, but you read out certain words,
which were these: "The following are in complete agreement."
What I want to know is whether that means that the following
persons are in complete agreement, or whether the following
facts are in complete agreement.

DR. STAHMER: Special facts had been set down, and this is a
summarising expert opinion signed by the entire membership
of the Commission. Therefore, we have here a scientific
explanation of the real facts.

THE PRESIDENT: Would you just listen to what I read out from
what I took down? "From the statements of witnesses,
letters, and other documents, it may be seen that the
shooting took place in the months of March and April, 1940.
The following are in complete agreement."

What I am asking you is this -

Just a moment, Dr. Stahmer, listen to what I say.

What I am asking you is: Does the statement mean that the
following persons are in complete agreement, or that the
following facts are in complete agreement?

DR. STAHMER: No, no. The following people testify that this
fact, the fact that the shootings took place in these months
of 1940, agrees with the results of their investigations of
the mass graves and of individual corpses. That is what is
meant, and that is the conclusion. What has been found here
is in agreement with that which has been set down and
determined scientifically. That is the meaning.



Q. Is this final deduction in accord with your scientific

A. I have already indicated that this statement regarding
the condition of the corpses is based on the data resulting
from testimony by the witnesses and from the available
documents, but that it is actually in contradiction to what
I observed on the corpses on which I myself performed the
autopsy. That means, I did not consider that the results of
the autopsies corroborated the date of death to be presumed
from the testimony or the documents. If I had been convinced
that the condition of the corpses did indeed correspond to
the date of decease mentioned by the Germans, I would have
made such a statement in my individual protocol.

When I saw the signed protocol I became suspicious as to the
last sentence of the record - the sentence which precedes
the signatures - I always had doubts whether this sentence
was contained in that draft of the protocol which we saw at
the conference in Smolensk.

As far as I could understand, the draft of the protocol
which had been elaborated in Smolensk only stated that we
actually were shown papers and that we heard witnesses; and
this was supposed to prove that the killings were carried
out in March or April, 1940.

I was of the opinion that the fact that the conclusion was
not based on medical opinion and not supported absolutely by
medical reports and examination, was

                                                   [Page 13]

exactly the reason why the signing of the protocol was
postponed and why the record was not signed in Smolensk,

Q. Witness, at the beginning of my examination you stated
that you were fully aware of the political significance of
your task. Why, then, did you desist from protesting against
this report which was not in accord with your scientific

A. I said that I had signed the protocol under the
conviction that, in the circumstances which had been created
on this isolated military aerodrome, there was no other way
for me to act, and therefore I could not make any

Q. Why did you not take steps later on?

A. My conduct after the signing of the protocol corresponds
fully to what I am stating here. I repeat, I was not
convinced of the truth of the German version. I was invited
many times to Berlin by Director Dietz. I was also invited
to Sofia by the German Embassy. And in Bulgaria, the
Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also invited me to
make a public statement over the radio or to the Press, and
I was requested to say what conclusions we had come to
during our investigation. However, I did not do so, and I
always refused to do so. Because of the political situation
in which we found ourselves at that moment, I could not make
a public statement declaring the German version as wrong.

Concerning that matter there were quite sharp words
exchanged between me and the German Embassy in Sofia. And
when, a few months later, another Bulgarian representative
was asked to be sent as a member of a similar commission for
the investigation of the corpses in Vinizza in the Ukraine,
the German Ambassador Beckerly stated quite openly to the
Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the Germans did
not wish me to be sent to Vinizza.

That indicated that the Germans very well understood my
behaviour and my opinion on that matter. Concerning this
question, Minister Plenipotentiary Sarapov of our Ministry
of Foreign Affairs has some transcripts which, if the
Honoured Tribunal considers it necessary, can be sent here
from Bulgaria.

Therefore, all my refusals after I had signed the protocol,
to carry on any activity for the purpose of propaganda,
fully corresponds to what I said here, namely that the
conclusions laid down in the collective protocol do not
agree with my personal conviction. And I will repeat that if
I had been convinced that the corpses were buried for three
years, I would have written a statement after having
dissected a corpse, and I would not have left my personal
protocol unfinished; for this is a quite unusual thing in
the case of medico-forensic examination.

Q. The protocol was not signed by you alone, but on the
contrary it carries the signatures of eleven representatives
of science, whose names you gave yesterday, some of the
scientists enjoying world renown. Among these men we find a
scientist of a neutral country, Professor Neville.

Did you take the opportunity to get in touch with one of
these experts in the meantime so that the protocol could be
corrected or so that you would make some rectifications of
the record?

A. I cannot say for what considerations the other delegates
signed the protocol, but they signed it under the same
circumstances as I did. However, when I read their
individual protocols, I see that they also refrained from
stating the precise date of the killing of a man whose
corpse they had dissected, with the exception, as I have
already said, of Professor Miloslawich, who was the only one
who asserted that the corpse which he had dissected was that
of a man buried for at least three years. After the signing
of the protocol, I did not have any contact with any of
these persons who had signed the collective protocol.

Q. Witness, you gave two versions, one in the protocol,
which we have just discussed, and another here before the
Tribunal. Which version is the correct one?

A. I do not understand which two versions you are speaking
about. Will. you please explain it?

                                                   [Page 14]

In the first version, in the protocol, it is set forth that
according to the conclusion which had been made, the
shooting must have taken place three years ago. Today you
testified that the findings were not correct, and between
the shooting and the time of your investigations there could
only be a space of perhaps a year and a half.

A. I stated that the conclusions of the collective protocol
did not correspond with my personal conviction.

Q. "Did not correspond" or "do not correspond with your

A. It did not and does not correspond with my opinion then
and now.

DR. STAHMER: I have no further questions.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, I have no further questions
to put to this witness.

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