The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. We will go back to the mass exterminations, one case of
which you described. You spoke of Kriminalkommissar Wirth
who was not a member of the SS and whose staff did not
consist of SS men. Why was Wirth given the assignment?

A. I have already mentioned that Wirth was Kriminalkommissar
with the Criminal Police in Stuttgart. He was the Kommissar
who investigated capital crimes, particularly murder. He had
quite a reputation in following up clues, and before the
seizure of power he was known to the general public for
unscrupulous methods of investigation which even led to a
discussion in the Wurttemberg Landtag (Diet). This man was
now used in order to cover up the traces of these mass
killings. It was thought that, on the basis of his previous
professional experience, this man was unscrupulous enough to
carry this out, and that was true.

Q. You mentioned the Jewish prisoners who aided in the
killings. What became of these people?

A. Wirth told me that at the end of the actions he had these
prisoners shot and the profits which he had let them have
were taken back from them. He did not do this all at once,
but by means of the deceptive methods already described he
lured and segregated the prisoners and then killed them

Q. Did you hear from Wirth the name Hoess?

A. Yes. Wirth called him his untalented disciple.

Q. Why?

A. In contrast to Wirth, Hoess used entirely different
methods. I could best describe them if we speak of Auschwitz

Q. Was the name Eichmann mentioned at that time?

A. I cannot remember that the name Eichmann was mentioned at
that time, but later I heard of it, too.

Q. How did you find the trail which led to Auschwitz?

A. I had the first opportunity through an allusion by Wirth
himself. Now I had only to find a reason to institute
investigations in Auschwitz itself. Please remember, my
assignment was limited; I had to investigate crimes of
corruption and the crimes committed in connection with them.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Pelckmann, did he not explain how he came
to investigate Auschwitz yesterday?

DR. PELCKMANN: No, it is something different, your Lordship.

THE WITNESS: Yesterday I spoke only of Lublin and Wirth. I
said I received information about Hoess and wanted to try to
get into the camp and needed a reason. I found this reason
very soon.

The Protectorate Police had heard about the smuggling of
gold in the Protectorate. The clues led to Berlin. The
customs search agency, Berlin-Brandenburg, had discovered
persons who were posted at the concentration camp Auschwitz
and turned over proceedings to the SS and Police Court in
Berlin. I learned of it there and I took over these
proceedings concerning the enormous gold smuggling and
shortly thereafter went to Auschwitz.

Q. Then you were in Auschwitz proper?

A. Yes, I went to Auschwitz and before I started with the
investigation itself -

THE PRESIDENT: When did you go there?

THE WITNESS: I cannot give the date exactly, but it must
have been the end of 1943 or the beginning of 1944.

                                                  [Page 391]


Q. The method of extermination there was probably similar to
the one you described yesterday?

A. I thoroughly investigated the entire stretch of territory
and studied the lay-out and installations. The prisoners
arrived on a side track in closed transport cars and were
unloaded there by Jewish prisoners. Then they were sorted
out according to their capacity for work, and here the
methods of Hoess and Wirth differed. The selection of those
incapable of all work was done in a fairly simple way. There
were several trucks and the doctor told the arrivals to use
the trucks. He said that only sick, old persons and women
with children were allowed to use them. Thereupon these
persons surged toward the transportation prepared for their
use and then he needed only to hold back the prisoners that
he did not want to send to destruction. These trucks drove
off but they did not drive to the concentration camp
Auschwitz, but in another direction to the extermination
camp Monowitz which was a few kilometres away. This
extermination camp consisted of a number of crematoria which
were not recognizable as such from the outside. They could
have been taken for large bathing establishments and that is
what they told the prisoners. These crematoria were
surrounded by a barbed wire fence and were guarded from the
inside by the Jewish labour details which I have already
mentioned. The new arrivals were led into a large dressing
room and told to take their clothing off. When this was done

Q. Is that not what you described yesterday?

A. Of course.

Q. What precautions were taken to keep these things
absolutely secret?

A. The- prisoners who marched to the concentration camp had
no inkling of where the other prisoners were taken. The
extermination camp Monowitz lay far away from the camp of
Auschwitz. It was in an extensive industrial area and was
not recognizable as a crematorium, as everywhere on the
horizon there were smoking chimneys. The camp itself was
guarded on the outside by special troops of men from the
Baltic, Esthonians, Lithuanians, Latvians and also
Ukrainians. The entire technical arrangement was almost
exclusively in the hands of the prisoners who were assigned
for this, and they were only supervised by an Unterfuehrer
from time to time. The actual killing was done by another
Unterfuehrer who let the gas into this room. Thus the number
of those who knew about these things was extremely limited.
This circle had to take a special oath -



Q. Were these Unterfuehrers in the SS?

A. They wore SS uniforms.

Q. Did you not take the trouble to ascertain whether they
were proper members of the SS?

A. I said that they were people from the eastern

Q. I do not care what you have already said. What I asked
you was, did you not take the trouble to ascertain whether
they were members of the SS?

A. I beg your pardon, your Lordship. I did not understand
your question. They could not be members of the General SS.
As far as I could learn, they were volunteers and draftees
who had been recruited in the Baltic countries where they
had carried out security tasks and who were especially
selected and sent to Auschwitz and Monowitz. These were
special troops who had only this particular task and no
other. They were completely outside of the Waffen SS -

Q. I did not ask you if they were in the Waffen SS. Did you
ask questions as to why they were put into SS uniforms?

                                                  [Page 392]

A. No, I did not ask that question. It seemed
incomprehensible to me. It is probably connected with the
fact that the commander of the concentration camp -

Q. Wait a minute. You said, as I understand it,, that you
considered it incomprehensible why they wore the SS
uniforms. Did you not say that?

A. Yes.

Q. Were there no officers of the SS there at all?

A. One officer, the commandant of this company, I believe a
Hauptsturmfuehrer Hartenstein, or something like that.

Q. Why did you not ask him why these men were put into SS

A. The extermination camp was under the direction of the SS
Standartenfuehrer Hoess. Hoess was commandant of the
concentration camp Auschwitz, and also of the extermination
camp Monowitz. Around Auschwitz were a number of labour
camps and I have already said -

Q. I did not ask you where. What I am asking you is why you
did not ask these two SS men why they put these men into SS

A. I assumed that this was done for camouflage reasons so
that this extermination camp would not be distinguished
outwardly from the other labour camps and the concentration
camp itself. As a soldier it was incomprehensible to me that
this damage to the reputation of the SS was tolerated, as it
had nothing to do with the extermination.

Q. You yourself were a high SS officer, were you not?

A. I was Sturmbannfuehrer of the Waffen SS.

Q. Well, what I am asking you is this. Why, in those
circumstances, you made no inquiry about it, and why you did
not ask these high SS officers there: "What is the meaning
of these men being put into SS uniforms?"

A. I did not understand the question.




Q. Witness, I should like to ask you the question myself.
Why did you not ask the higher SS leaders whom you met there
why these people were working in SS uniforms?

A. I said that I had the impression that this was done for
reasons of camouflage so that the camp would not be
distinguished from the other camps possible through the use
of different uniforms.

Q. This explanation which you gave yourself is     the
reason why you did not make inquiry of the officers, is that

A. At any rate I cannot remember having asked the officers
about it. I did not speak to officers but only to the
commandant Hoess and the commandant of the guards of the
extermination camp.

Q. Have you described everything which -



Q. Have you said everything in answer to the question as to
how secrecy was secured?

A. One essential thing could perhaps be mentioned. Certain
Jewish prisoners with connections abroad were selected and
were made to write letters abroad telling how well off they
were in Auschwitz so that the public got the impression that
people well known to them were alive, and could write and
say that they were getting on nicely.

Q. Thank you. Now, witness, under normal circumstances what
would you have had to do after you had learned of all these
terrible things?

                                                  [Page 393]

A. Under normal circumstances I would have had to have
Kriminalkommissar Wirth and Kommandant Hoess arrested and
charged with murder.

Q. Did you do that?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. The answer is entailed in the question. In Germany,
during the war, circumstances were no longer normal in a
sense of legal guarantees. In addition, the following must
be considered: I was not only a judge, but I was a judge of
military penal law. No court martial in the world could
bring his Army commander, not to talk of the head of the
State, to court.

Q. Please do not discuss law, but tell us why you did not do
what you realised you should have done?

A. I beg your pardon. I was saying that it was not possible
for me, an Obersturmfuehrer, to arrest Hitler, who as I saw
it was the instigator of these orders.

Q. Then what did you do?

A. On the basis of this knowledge, I realised that something
had to be done to put an end to this action. Hitler had to
be induced to withdraw his orders. Under the circumstances,
this could be done only by Himmler as Minister of the
Interior and Minister of the Police. I thought at that time
that I must endeavour to approach Himmler through the heads
of the departments and, by explaining to him the effects of
this system, make it clear to him that through these methods
the State was being led straight to its downfall. Therefore
I approached my immediate superior, the head of the Criminal
Police, SS Obergruppenfuehrer Nebe; then I turned to the
head of the Main Office of the SS Courts, SS
Obergruppenfuehrer Breithaupt. I also approached
Kaltenbrunner and the chief of the Gestapo, Gruppenfuehrer
Mueller, and Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl of the WVHA, and the
Hausarzt, Gruppenfuehrer Dr. Grahe. But apart from taking
these necessary steps, I saw a practical way open to me by
way of justice; that is, to have the spies and the important
members of this system of destruction taken out one after
another through the means available to the system itself. I
could not do this for the killings ordered by the head of
the State, but I could do it for killings outside of this
order or against this order or for other serious crimes. For
that reason, I consciously started proceedings against these
men and this would have led to a breaking up of this system.
But this also had a long-range effect for the near future,
for through the big concentration camp trials against
Commandant Koch, of whom I spoke earlier, and against the
head of the political section at Auschwitz - Criminal
Secretary Untersturmfuehrer Grabner, whom I charged with
murder in two thousand cases outside of this extermination
action - the whole affair of these killings had to be
brought to trial. It was to be expected, because of these
individual crimes, that the perpetrators would refer to
higher orders. This occurred; thereupon the SS jurisdiction,
on the basis of the material which I supplied, approached
the highest Government heads and officially asked: "Did you
order these killings? Is the legal fact of murder no longer
valid for you? What general orders are there concerning
these killings?" Then the supreme State leadership either
had to admit its mistakes and thus expose the perpetrators
to prosecution for the mass exterminations, or else an open
break would have to result through the ineffectiveness of
the entire judicial system. If I may anticipate, on the
basis of the trial in Weimar against Koch and Grabner, this
problem became acute as I had foreseen; negotiations were
suspended and the SS jurisdiction put these questions, which
I mentioned before, publicly and officially to the RSHA.
Expressly for this purpose, a judge was sent there, who had
the assignment to investigate in all sections of the RSHA,
to see whether such orders were in existence. As I heard,
the result was negative. Thereupon an attempt was made to
take steps against Hoess himself, but in the meantime the
front had advanced, Auschwitz was occupied - the judge who
had been sent there had to stop at the beginning of his
fruitless investigations, and in January, 1945, complete

                                                  [Page 394]

tion set in which made further legal prosecution impossible.
If I may go back, the immediate effects of the judicial
investigation were that in all concentration camps the
killing of prisoners by so-called "euthanasia" stopped
immediately, because no doctor could feel sure practically
from one moment to the next that he would; not be arrested.
Everyone remembers the example of the doctor of Buchenwald,
I am convinced that through this intervention and action the
lives of thousands of prisoners were saved. The killing
system itself was severely shaken; for it is noteworthy that
shortly after I first approached Kriminalkommissar Wirth, on
my second visit to Lublin, I did not find him there. I
learned that in the meantime Wirth had suddenly received
entire command, and was guarding streets there, and while
doing so he was killed in May, 1944. When I heard that Wirth
and his command had left Lublin, I immediately flew there in
order to find out whether he was merely transferring his
field of activity and would continue elsewhere, but that was
not so.

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