The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
December 3 to December 14, 1945

Twentieth Day: Friday, 14th December, 1945
(Part 3 of 9)

[Page 407]

THE PRESIDENT: Major Walsh, in the section that you are just upon now, ought you not to read the opening paragraphs of this document, which set out the amount of the losses of the German troops?

MAJOR WALSH: I will do so, Sir. On Page 1 of the translation, I quote. The title: "The Warsaw Ghetto is No More".

"For the Fuehrer and their country the following fell in the battle for the destruction of Jews and bandits in the former ghetto of Warsaw."
Fifteen names are thereafter listed.
"Furthermore, the Polish Police Sergeant Julian Zielinski, born 13th November, 1891 8th Commissariat, fell on 19th April, 1943, while fulfilling his duty. They gave their utmost, their life. We shall never forget them. The following were wounded."
Then follow the names of 60 Waffen S.S. personnel; 11 watchmen from training camps, probably Lithuanians; 12 Security Police Officers in S.S. units; 5 men of the Polish Police; and 2 regular army personnel, engineers.

Permit me to read some brief excerpts of the daily teletype reports. Page 13 of the translation, from the teletype message of 22nd April, 1943, I read:-

"The result of our setting the block on fire was that during the night those Jews whom we had not been able to find despite all our search operations, left their hide- outs under the roofs, in the cellars, and elsewhere and appeared on the outside of the buildings, trying to escape the flames. Masses of them - entire families - were already aflame and jumped from the windows or tried to let themselves down by means of sheets tied together or the like. Steps had been taken so that these Jews as well as the remaining ones were liquidated at once."
And from Page 28 of the translation, the last part of the first paragraph, I read:-
"When the blocks of buildings mentioned above were destroyed, 120 Jews were caught and numerous Jews were killed when they jumped from the attics to the inner courtyards, trying to escape the flames. Many more Jews perished in the flames or were killed when the dug-outs and sewer entrances were blown up."
And on Page 30, second half of the second paragraph, I read:-
"Not until the blocks of buildings were well aflame and were about to collapse did a further considerable number of Jews emerge, forced to do so by the flames and the smoke. Time and again the Jews tried to escape even through burning buildings. Innumerable Jews whom we saw on the roofs during the conflagration perished in the flames. Others emerged from the upper stories in the last possible moment

[Page 408]

and were only able to escape death from the flames by jumping down. Today we caught a total of 2,283 Jews of whom 204 were shot; and innumerable Jews were killed in dug-outs and in the flames."
And from Page 34, the second paragraph, I read, beginning the second line:-
"The Jews testify that they emerge at night to get fresh air, since it is unbearable to stay permanently within the dug-outs owing to the long duration of the operation. On the average the raiding parties shoot 30 to 50 Jews each night. From these statements it was to be inferred that a considerable number of Jews are still underground in the ghetto. Today we blew up a concrete building which we had not been able to destroy by fire. In this operation we learned that the blowing up of a building is a very lengthy process and takes an enormous amount of explosives. The best and only method for destroying the Jews therefore still remains the setting of fires".
And from Page 35, the last part of the second paragraph, I read
"Some depositions speak of 3,000 to 4,000 Jews still remaining in underground holes, sewers and dug-outs. The undersigned is resolved not to end the large-scale operation until the last Jew has been exterminated."
And from the teletype message of 15th May, 1943 on Page 44, we gather that the operation is in its last stage. I read the end of the first paragraph on Page 44:-
"A special unit once more searched the last block of buildings which was still intact in the ghetto, and subsequently destroyed it. In the evening the chapel, mortuary, and all other buildings in the Jewish cemetery were blown up or destroyed by fire."
On 24th May, 1943, the final figures have been compiled by Major General Strupp. He reports on Page 45, last paragraph:-
"Of the total of 56,065 caught, about 7,000 were killed in the former ghetto during large-scale operation. 6,929 Jews were killed by transporting them to T. II" - which we believe to be Trablinka [sic], Camp No. 2, which will later be referred to - "the sum total of Jews killed is therefore 13,929. Beyond the number Of 56,065 an estimated number of 5,000 to 6,000 Jews were killed by being blown up or by perishing in the flames."
The Court has noted within the report 1061-PS a number of photographs, and with the Court's permission I should like to show a few of these photographs, still pictures, on the screen, unless the Court believes that reference to the original text will be sufficient for the Court's purpose.

THE PRESIDENT: No, if you want to put them on the screen you may do so. Perhaps it would be convenient to adjourn now and you can put them on the screen afterwards.

(A recess was taken.)

(Still pictures were projected on the screen in the courtroom.)

MAJOR WALSH: This first picture is shown on Page 27 of the photographs in Document 1061-PS. It is entitled "The Destruction of a Block of Buildings". The Court will recall those portions of the teletype messages that referred to the setting of fires for the purpose of driving out the Jews. This picture, taken from the record, portrays such a scene.

[Page 409]

This picture is from Page 21 of the photographs contained in the exhibit, and the caption is "Smoking out of the Jews and Bandits". Excerpts from the teletype messages read in the record relate to the use of smoke as a means of forcing Jews out of the hiding places.

This picture is from Page 36 of the photographs in the exhibit and it is called "Fighting a Nest of Resistance". It is obviously a picture of an explosive blast being used to destroy one of the buildings, and the Court may recall the message of 7th May, 1943, that related to the blowing up of buildings as a lengthy process requiring an enormous amount of explosive. The same message reported that the best method for destroying the Jews was the setting of fires.

This picture is taken from Page 36 of the photographs. The Court's attention is invited to the figure of a man in mid- air who appears in the picture about half-way between the centre and the upper right-hand corner. He has jumped from one of the upper floors of the burning building. A close examination of this picture by the Court, in the original photograph, will disclose other figures in the upper floor windows, who apparently are about to follow him. The teletype message of 22nd April reported that entire families jumped from burning buildings and were liquidated at once.

This picture is from Page 39 of the photographs. It is entitled "The Leader of the Large-Scale Action". The Nazi- appointed commander of this action was S.S. Major General Strupp, who probably is the central figure. I cannot refrain from commenting at this point on the smiling faces of the group shown there, in the midst of the violence and destruction.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you passing from that document now?

MAJOR WALSH: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you tell the Tribunal where the document was found?

MAJOR WALSH: Where the document itself was found?

THE PRESIDENT: Found, yes.

MAJOR WALSH: It is a captured document, sir. I have not the history, but I shall be very pleased to submit the background and history to the Court at the beginning of the afternoon session, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal, I think, would like to know where it was found and to whom it was submitted.

MAJOR WALSH: I have it. I believe that is contained in the document. The teletype messages, sir, that are contained in this exhibit, were all addressed to the Higher S.S. and Police Fuehrer, S.S. Obergruppenfeuhrer and General of the Police Kruger or his deputy.

It was not always necessary, or perhaps desirable, to first place the Jews within the ghettos to effect the elimination. In the Baltic States a more direct course of action was followed. I refer to Document L-180, now in evidence, which is Exhibit USA 276. This is a report by S.S. Brigade Fuehrer Stahlecker to Himmler, dated 15th October, 1941, entitled "Action Group A", found in Himmler's private files. He reported that 135,567 persons, nearly all Jews, were murdered in accordance with basic orders directing the complete annihilation of the Jews. This voluminous document provides me with the following statement by the same S.S. Brigade Fuehrer,

[Page 410]

and from the translation at the bottom of Page 6, the second sentence of the last paragraph, I read:-
"To our surprise it was not easy, at first, to set in motion an extensive pogrom against the Jews. Klimatis, the leader of the partisan unit, mentioned above, who was used for this purpose primarily, succeeded in starting a pogrom on the basis of advice given to him by a small advanced detachment acting in Kowne, and in such a way that no German order or German instigation was noticed from the outside. During the first pogrom in the night from 25th to 26th June the Lithuanian partisans did away with more than 1,500 Jews, setting fire to several synagogues or destroying them by other means and burning down a Jewish dwelling district consisting of about 60 houses. During the following nights about 2,300 Jews were made harmless in a similar way..."
From the last part of Paragraph 3, Page 7, I read:-
"It was possible, though, through similar influences on the Latvian auxiliary, to set in motion a pogrom against the Jews also in Riga. During this pogrom all synagogues were destroyed and about 400 Jews were killed."
Nazi ingenuity reached a new high mark with the construction and operation of the gas van as a means of mass annihilation of the Jews. A description of these vehicles of horror and death, and the operation of them is fully set forth in captured top secret document dated 16th May, 1942, addressed to S.S. Obersturmbannfuehrer Rauff, 8 Prince Albrecht- strasse, Berlin, from Dr. Becker, S.S. Untersturmfuehrer. I offer this Document 501-PS as Exhibit USA 288. I quote:-
"The overhauling of vans by groups D and C is finished. While the vans in the first series can also be put into action if the weather is not too bad, the vans of the second series (Saurer) stop completely in rainy weather. If it has rained for instance for only one half hour, the van cannot be used, because it simply skids away. It can only be used in absolutely dry weather. It is now merely a question of whether the van can be used only when it stands at the place of execution. First, the van has to be brought to that place, which is possible only in good weather. The place of execution is usually 10 to 15 Km. away from the highway and is difficult of access because of its location; in damp or wet weather it is not accessible at all. If the persons to be executed are driven or led to that place, then they realise immediately what is going on and get restless, which is to be avoided as far as possible. There is only one way left; to load them at the collecting point and to drive them to the spot.

I ordered the vans of group D to be camouflaged as house- trailers by putting one set of window shutters on each side of the small van and two on each side of the larger vans, such as one often sees on farmhouses in the country. The vans became so well known that not only the authorities but also the civilian population called the van 'death van' as soon as one of the vehicles appeared. It is my opinion the van cannot be kept secret for any length of time, not even camouflaged."

And then I read the fourth paragraph on this page:-
"Because of the rough terrain and the indescribable road and highway conditions, the caulkings and rivets loosen in the course of time. I was asked if in such cases the vans should not be brought to Berlin for

[Page 411]

repairs. Transportation to Berlin would be much too expensive and would demand too much fuel. In order to save these expenses I ordered them to have smaller leaks soldered and, if that should no longer be possible, to notify Berlin immediately by radio, that Pol Nr . is out of order. Besides that I ordered that during application of gas all the men were to be kept as far away from the vans as possible, so that they should not suffer damage to their health by the gas which eventually would escape. I should like to take this opportunity to bring the following to your attention: after the application of gas several commands have bad the unloading done by their own men. I brought to the attention of the commander of these S.K. concerned the immense psychological injuries, and damage to their health which that work can have for those men, even if not immediately, at least later on. The men complained to me about headaches which appeared after each unloading. Nevertheless they do not want to change the orders, because they are afraid prisoners called for that work could use an opportune moment to flee. To protect the men from those risks, I request orders be issued accordingly.

The application of gas is not usually undertaken correctly. In order to come to an end as fast as possible, the driver presses the accelerator to the fullest extent. By doing that the persons to be executed suffer death from suffocation, and not death by dozing off as was planned. My directions now have proved that by correct adjustment of the levers death comes faster and the prisoners fall asleep peacefully. Distorted faces and excretions, such as could be seen before, are no longer noticed.

Today I shall continue my journey to group B, where I can be reached with further news.

Signed Doctor Becker, S.S. Untersturmfuehrer."

On Page 3 in Document 501-PS we find a letter signed by Hauptsturmfuehrer Truehe on the subject of S-vans, addressed to the Reich Security Main Office, Room 2-D-3-A, Berlin, marked "Top Secret". This letter establishes that the vans were used for the annihilation of the Jews. I read this "Top Secret" message, subject: "S-vans".
"A transport of Jews, which has to be treated in a special way, arrives weekly at the office of the commandant of the Security Police and the Security Service of White Ruthenia.

The three S-vans which are there are not sufficient for that purpose. I request assignment of another S-van (5 tons). At the same time I request the shipment of 20 gas hoses for the three S-vans on hand (two Diamond, one Saurer), since the ones we have are leaky already.

Signed: the Commandant of the Security Police and the Security Service, Ostland."

It would appear from the documentary evidence that a certain amount of discord existed between the officials of the German Government as to the proper means and methods used in connection with the programme of extermination. A secret report dated 18th June, 1943, addressed to defendant Rosenberg, complained that 5,000 Jews killed by the police and S.S. might have been used for forced labour, and chided them for failing to bury the bodies of those liquidated. I offer in evidence this file, Document R-135, Exhibit USA 289

[Page 412]

THE PRESIDENT: Is it in these volumes, Major Walsh?

MAJOR WALSH: I think, sir, that will be found in the assembly of the document book in our case that has been placed in front of R-124.

I quote from the letter referred to addressed to the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, the first paragraph of the translation.

"The fact that Jews receive special treatment requires no further discussion. However, it appears hardly believable that this was done in the way described in the report of the General Commissioner of 1st June, 1943. Imagine only that these occurrences might become known to the other side and be exploited by them. Most likely such propaganda would have no effect, only because people who hear and read about it simply would not be ready to believe it."
The last part of Paragraph 3 on this page reads:
"To lock men, women and children into barns and to set fire to them does not appear to be a suitable method for combating bands, even if it is desired to exterminate the population. This method is not worthy of the German cause and hurts our reputation severely."

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