The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
21st January to 1st February, 1946

Forty-Fourth Day: Monday, 28rd January, 1946
(Part 5 of 9)

[Page 201]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks that you could deal with the question of treatment in concentration camps rather more generally now, after we have heard the details from the witnesses whom you have already called.

M. DUBOST: Is the Tribunal willing to hear this witness?


Q. What is your name?

A. Jean Frederic Veith.

Q. Will you repeat this oath?

I swear to speak without hate or fear,

To say the truth, all the truth, and only the truth.

(The witness repeated the oath after the President)

THE PRESIDENT: Raise your right hand.

THE WITNESS: swear it.

THE PRESIDENT: Would you like to sit down?

THE WITNESS: Thank you.


Will you please spell your name and surname?

A. Jean Frederic Veith. I was born on 28 April 1903 in Moscow.

Q. You are of French nationality?

A. I am of French nationality, born of French parents.

Q. In which camp were you interned?

A. At Mauthausen; from the 22 April 1943 until the 22 April 1945.

Q. You knew about the work carried out in the factories supplying material to the Luftwaffe. Who controlled these factories?

[Page 202]

A. I was in the "Arbeitseinsatz" at Mauthausen as from June 1943, and I was therefore well acquainted with all questions dealing with work.

Q. Who controlled the factories working for the Luftwaffe?

A. There were outside camps at Mauthausen where workers were employed by Heinkel, Messerschmidt, Alfa-Vienne and the Saurer-Werke, and there was, moreover, the construction work on the Leibl Pass Tunnel by Alpine Montana.

Q. Who controlled this work, supervisors or engineers?

A. There was only an SS inspection. The work itself was controlled by the engineers and the firms themselves.

Did these engineers belong to the Luftwaffe?

A. On certain days I saw Luftwaffe officers who came to visit the Messerschmidt workshops in the quarry.

Q. Were they able to see for themselves the conditions under which the prisoners lived?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. Did you see any high-ranking fascist officials visiting the camp?

A. I saw a great many high-ranking officials, among them Himmler, Kaltenbrunner, Pohl, Maurer, the Chief of the Labour Office D II, of the Reich, and many other visitors whose names I do not know.

Who told you that Kaltenbrunner had come?

A. Our offices faced the parade ground overlooking the Kommandantur we therefore saw the high-ranking officials arriving, and the SS men themselves would tell us: "There goes so and so."

Q. Could the civilian population know, and did it know of the plight of the internees?

A. Yes, the population could know, since at Mauthausen there was a road near the quarry and those who passed by that road could see all that was happening. Moreover, the internees worked in the factories. They were separated from the other workers, but they had certain contacts with them and it was quite easy for the other workers to realise their plight.

Q. Can you tell us what you know about a journey to an unknown castle, of a bus carrying prisoners who were never seen again?

A. At one time a method for the elimination of sick persons by injections was adopted at Mauthausen. It was particularly used by Dr. Krebsbach, nicknamed Dr. Spritzbach by the prisoners, since it was he who had inaugurated the system of injections. There came a time when the injections were discontinued and then persons who were too sick or too weak were sent to a castle which, we learned later, was called Harthein, but was officially known as "Genesungslager" (convalescent camp); of those who went there, none ever returned. We received the death certificates directly from the political section of the camp; these certificates were secret. Everybody who went to Harthein died. The number of dead amounted to about 5,000.

Q. Did you see prisoners of war arrive at Mauthausen Camp?

A. Certainly I saw prisoners of war. Their arrival at Mauthausen Camp took place, first of all, in front of the political section. Since I was working at the Hollerith I could watch the arrivals, for the offices looked on to the parade ground in front of the political section where the convoys arrived. The convoys, were immediately sorted out. One part was sent to the camp for registration and very often some of the uniformed prisoners were set aside; these had already been subjected to special violence in the political section, were handed straight over to the prison guards and then sent to the prisons, and never heard of again. They were not registered in the camp. The only registration was, made in the political section by Muller who was in charge of these prisoners.

Q. They were prisoners of war?

A. They were prisoners of war, they were very often in uniform.

[Page 203]

THE PRESIDENT: Do not go so fast, please.

A. (continuing): They were generally men in uniform.


Q. Of what nationality?

A. Mostly Russians and Poles.

Q. They were brought to your camp to be killed there?

A. They were brought to our camp for "action K."

Q. What do you know about action K and how do you know it?

A. My knowledge of "action K" is due to the fact that I was head of the Hollerith service in Mauthausen, and consequently received all the transfer forms from the various camps. And when prisoners were erroneously transferred to us as ordinary prisoners, we would put on the transfer form which we had to send to the Central Office in Berlin - or rather, we would not put any number at all, as we were unable to give any. The "Political Section" gave us no indications at all and even destroyed the list of names if, by chance, it ever reached us.

In conversations with my comrades of the "Political Section" I discovered that this "action K" was originally applied to prisoners of war who had been captured while attempting to escape. Later this action was extended further still, but always to soldiers and especially to officers who had succeeded in escaping, but who had been recaptured in countries under German control.

Moreover, any person engaged in activities which might be interpreted as not corresponding to the wishes of the fascist chiefs could also be subjected to "action K." These prisoners arrived at Mauthausen and disappeared, i.e., they were taken to the prison, where one part would be executed on the spot and another sent to the annexe of the prison - to the famous Block 20 of Mauthausen.

Q. You definitely state that these were prisoners of war?

A. Yes, they were prisoners of war, or most of them, at any rate.

Q. Do you know of an execution of officers, prisoners of war, who had been brought to the camp at Mauthausen?

A. I cannot give you any names, but there were some.

Q. Did you witness the execution of Allied officers who were murdered within 48 hours of their arrival in camp?

A. I saw the arrival of the convoy of the 6th September. I believe that is the one you are thinking of; I saw the arrival of this convoy and the very same afternoon these 47 went down to the quarry dressed in nothing but their shirts and drawers. Shortly after we heard the sound of machine gunfire. I then left the office and passed at the back, pretending I was carrying documents to another office, and with my own eyes I saw these unfortunate people shot down. 19 were executed on the very same afternoon and the remainder on the following morning; later on all the death certificates were marked: "Killed while attempting to escape."

(A recess was taken)

MARSHAL OF THE COURT: If the Court please, it is desired to announce that the defendant Kaltenbrunner will be absent from this afternoon's session on account of illness.

THE PRESIDENT: You may go on, M. Dubost.

M. DUBOST: We are going to complete hearing of the witness Veith, to whom, however, I have only one more question to put.

THE PRESIDENT: Have him brought in.

(Whereupon the witness again took the stand and was questioned further by M. Dubost as follows):

Q. You continue, to testify under the oath that you already made this morn-

[Page 204]

ing. Will you give some additional information concerning the execution of the 47 Allied Officers whom you saw shot within 48 hours at camp Mauthausen where they had been brought?

A. Those officers, those parachutists, were shot in accordance with the usual system used whenever prisoners had to be done away with. That is to say, they were forced to work to excess, to carry heavy stones. Then they were beaten, until they took heavier ones; and so on and so forth, until, finally driven to extremity, they turned towards the barbed wire. If they did not do it of their own accord, they were pushed there, or they were beaten until they did so, and the moment they approached it and were perhaps about one metre away from it, they were mown down by machine guns fired by the SS patrols in the miradors. This was the usual system for the "killing for attempted escape" as they afterwards called it.

These 47 men were killed on the afternoon of the 6th and morning of the 7th of September.

Q. How did you know their names?

A. Their names came to me with the official list, because they had all been entered in the camp registers and I had to report to Berlin all the changes in the actual strength of the Hollerith Section. I saw all the rosters of the dead and of the new arrivals.

Q. Did you communicate this list to an official authority?

A. This list was taken by the American official authorities when I was at Mauthausen. I immediately went back to Mauthausen after my liberation, because I knew where the documents were, and the American authorities then had all the lists which we were able to find.

M. DUBOST: Mr. President, I have no further questions to ask the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the British prosecutor want to ask any questions?


THE PRESIDENT: Does the United States prosecutor?


THE PRESIDENT: Do any members of the defence counsel wish to ask any questions?

DR. BABEL (defence counsel for SS and SD): Mr. President, I was in the Dachau camp on Saturday and at the Augsburg- Gottingen camp yesterday. I found out various things there which now enable me to question individual witnesses. I could not do this before as I was not acquainted with local conditions. I should like to put one question. When the witness was questioned this morning ...

THE PRESIDENT: Will you try to go a little more slowly?

DR. BABEL : Yes. I was unable to attend here this morning on account of a conference to which I was called by General Mitchell. Consequently I did not conduct the cross- examination of the witness this morning. I have only one question to put to the witness now - I should like to ask if I may cross-examine the witness further later, or if it is better to reserve the question?

THE PRESIDENT: You can cross-examine this witness now, but the Tribunal is informed that you left General Mitchell at 15 minutes past ten.

DR. BABEL : In consequence of the conference I had to send a telegram and dispatch some other pressing business so that it was impossible for me to attend the session.

THE PRESIDENT: You can certainly cross-examine the witness now.

DR. BABEL : I had only one more question in the meantime, namely:

(Cross-examination by Dr. Babel)

Q. The witness stated that the officers in question were driven toward the wire fence. By whom were they so driven?

[Page 205]

A. They were driven to the barbed wire by the SS guards who accompanied them, and the entire Mauthausen staff was present. They were beaten as well by the SS and by one or two "green" prisoners, who were with them and who were the "Kapo." In the camps these green prisoners were often worse than the SS themselves.

Q. In the Dachau camp, inside the camp itself, within the wire enclosure, there were almost no SS guards, and that was probably also the case in Mauthausen?

A. Inside the camp there was only a certain number of SS, but they changed, and none of those who belonged to the troops guarding the camp could fail to be aware of what went on in it, as even if they did not enter the camp, they watched it from the miradors or from outside, and they saw absolutely everything.

Q. Were the guards who shot at the prisoners inside or outside the wire enclosure?

A. They were in the miradors in the same line as the barbed wire.

Q. Could they see from there that the officers were driven to the barbed wire by anyone by means of blows?

A. They could see it so well that once or twice some of the guards refused to shoot, saying that it was not an attempt to escape and they would not shoot. They were immediately relieved of their posts, and disappeared.

Q. Did you see that yourself?

A. I did not see it myself, but I heard about it; it was told me by my Kommandofuehrer among others, who said: "There is a watchguard who refused to shoot."

Q. Who was this Kommandofuehrer? The chief of the group?

A. The Kommandofuehrer was Wieleman. I do not remember his rank. He was not Unterscharfuehrer, but the rank immediately below Unterscharfuehrer and he was in charge of the Hollerith section in Mauthausen.

DR. BABEL: I have no more questions to ask just now. I shall, however, make application to call the witness again, and I shall then take the opportunity to ask the rest ... to put such further questions to him as I consider necessary and to retain him for this purpose, here, in Nuremberg. I am not in a position to cross-examine the witness this afternoon, as I did not bear his statements this morning, and I would request that the witness ...

THE PRESIDENT: You ought to have been here. If you were released from an interview with General Mitchell at 10.15, there seems to the Tribunal - to me at any rate - to be no reason why you should not have been here whilst this witness was being examined.

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