The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Twenty-Sixth Day: Thursday, 3rd January, 1946
(Part 4 of 15)

[COLONEL JOHN H. AMEN continues]

Q. Were all victims, including men, women, and children, executed in the same manner?

A. Until the spring of 1942, yes. Then an order came from Himmler that in the future women and children should be killed only in gas vans.

Q. How had the women and children been killed previously?

A. In the same way as the men -- by shooting.

[Page 252]

Q. What, if anything, was done about burying the victims after they had been executed?

A. At first the Kommandos filled the graves so that signs of the execution could not be seen any more, and then levelled the graves with Arbeitskommandos from the population.

Q. Referring to the gas vans which you said you received in the spring of 1942, what order did you receive with respect to the use of these vans?

A. That these gas vans should be used in the future for the killing of women and children.

Q. Will you explain to the Tribunal the construction of these vans and their appearance?

A. The actual purpose of these vans could not be recognised from the outside. They were practically closed trucks. They were so constructed that when the motor ran, the gas was conducted into the van causing death of the occupants in 10 to 15 minutes.

Q. Explain in detail just how one of these vans was used for an execution.

A. The vans were loaded with the victims and driven to the place of burial, which was usually the same as that used for the mass executions. The time needed for transportation was long enough to insure the death of the passengers.

Q. How were the victims induced to enter the vans?

A. They were told that they were to be transported to another locality.

Q. How was the gas turned on?

A. I am not familiar with the technical details.

Q. How long did it take to kill the victims ordinarily?

A. About 10 to 15 minutes, the victims did not notice what was going on.

Q. How many persons could be killed simultaneously one such van?

A. The vans were of various sizes, anywhere from 15 to 25 persons.

Q. Did you receive reports from those persons operating these vans from time to time?

A. I did not understand the question.

Q. Did you receive reports from those who were working on the vans?

A. I received the report that the Einsatzkommandos did not like to use the vans.

Q. Why not?

A. Because the burial of the occupants was a great ordeal for the members of the Einsatzkommandos.

Q. Now, will you tell the Tribunal who furnished these vans to the Einsatz Groups?

A. The gas vans did not belong to the motor pool of the Einsatzgruppen but came from a special Kommando of the Einsatzgruppe. This Kommando also had charge of the construction of the vans. These vans were assigned to the Einsatzgruppen by the R.S.H.A.

Q. Were the vans supplied to all of the different Einsatz Groups?

A. I cannot say that. I only know about Einsatzgruppe D, and indirectly about Einsatzgruppe C, both of which had such vans.

Q. Are you familiar with the letter from Becker to Rauf with respect to these gas vans?

A. I saw this letter during my interrogation.

[Page 253]

COLONEL AMEN: May it please the Tribunal, I am referring to Document 501-PS, Exhibit USA 288, being a letter already in evidence, a letter from Becker to Rauf.

Q. Will you tell the Tribunal who Becker was?

A. As far as I recall, Becker was the builder of the vans. It was he who was in charge of the vans for Einsatzgruppe D.

Q. Who was Rauf?

A. Rauf was group leader in Amt II of the R.S.H.A. He was in charge of motor vehicles and other things at that time.

Q. Can you identify that letter in any way?

A. The contents seem to bear out my experiences and are therefore probably correct. (Document 501-PS was handed to the witness.) Yes.

Q. Will you look at the letter before you and tell us whether you can identify it in any way?

A. I recognise the external appearance of the letter as well as the sign "R" (Rauf) on it, and the reference to the man who took care of the motor vehicles under Rauf seems to testify to its authenticity. The contents bear out the experiences which I had at that time.

Q. So that you believe it to be an authentic document?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. Will you now lay it aside on the table there?

Referring to your previous testimony, will you explain to the Tribunal why you believe that the type of execution ordered by you, namely, military, was preferable to the shooting in the neck procedure adopted by the other Einsatz Groups?

A. On the one hand, the aim was that the individual leaders and men should be able to carry out the executions in a military fashion acting on order and should have to make no decision of their own. That is, it should take place only by order. On the other hand, it was known to me that in the case of individual executions emotional disturbances could not be avoided since the victims discovered too soon that they were to be executed and thereby were subjected to prolonged nervous strain. Likewise, it seemed intolerable to me that the individual leaders and men were forced in this way to form their own decisions in the killing of a large number of people.

Q. In what manner did you determine which were the Jews to be executed?

A. That was not part up to me, but the identification of the Jews was done by the Jews themselves, since the registration was carried out by a Jewish Council of Elders.

Q. Did the amount of Jewish blood have anything to do with it?

A. I cannot remember the details, but I believe that in this case half-Jews were also included in the concept "Jew."

Q. What organisations furnished most of the officer personnel of the Einsatz Groups and Einsatzkommandos?

A. I did not understand the question.

Q. What organisations furnished most of the officer personnel of the Einsatz Groups?

A. The leadership personnel was furnished by the State Police, the Kripo, and, to a lesser extent, by the S.D.

[Page 254]

Q. Kripo?

A. Yes, the Kripo. The State Police, the Criminal Police and, and to a lesser extent, the S.D.

Q. Were there any other sources of personnel?

A. Yes; the great masses of men employed were furnished by the Waffen S.S. and the Ordinary Police. The State Police and the Kripo furnished the experts for the most part and the troops were furnished by the Waffen S.S. and the Ordinary Police.

Q. How about the Waffen S.S.?

A. The Waffen S.S. was supposed to supply the Einsatzgruppen with one company, just as was the Ordinary Police.

Q. How about the Ordinary Police?

A. The Ordinary Police [Ordnungspolizei] also furnished a company to the Einsatzgruppen.

Q. What was the size of Einsatz Group D and its operating area as compared with the other Einsatz Groups?

A. I estimate that Einsatzgruppe D was two-thirds to one- half as large as the other Einsatzgruppen. That changed in the course of time. Individual Einsatzgruppen were in the course of time greatly enlarged.

COLONEL AMEN: May it please the Tribunal, I have other questions relating to organisational matters which I think would clarify some of the evidence which has already been in part received by the Tribunal; but I don't want to take the time of the Tribunal unless they feel that they want any more such testimony. I thought, perhaps, if any members of the Tribunal had questions they would ask this witness directly, because he is the best informed on these organisational matters of anyone who will be presented in Court.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now for 10 minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

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