The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fifty-Eighth Day: Wednesday, February 13, 1946
(Part 11 of 19)

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel, the Tribunal proposes to adjourn at 4.30 this afternoon, as they have some administrative work to do.

COLONEL POKROVSKY: I return to the "Report of the Extraordinary State Commission for the Investigation of Crimes committed by the German Fascist Invaders in Smolensk and in the Region of Smolensk." The greater part of this report is dedicated to the mass annihilation of prisoners of war by the Germans. I should like to read into thr record excerpts from this document, submitted to you as Exhibit USSR 56, Page 6, paragraph 4 from the top; you will find it on Page 58 of our document book. It reads as follows:

"The German Fascist invaders systematically exterminated the wounded and captured Soviet prisoners. Physicians A.N. Smirnov, A.N. Glasunov, A.M. Demidov, A.S. Pogrebnov, and others, formerly interned in the war prisoners' camp, stated that on the road from Vyasma to Smolensk the Hitlerites shot several thousand people.

In the autumn of 1941 the German occupational forces drove a party of prisoners of war from Vyasma to Smolensk. Many of the prisoners were unable to stand, as a result of continuous beating and exhaustion. Whenever the citizens attempted to give any of the prisoners a piece of bread, the German soldiers drove the Soviet citizens off, beat them with sticks and rifle butts, and shot them dead. On the Bolshaya Sovetskaya Street, on the Roslavskoye and Kievskoye high roads, the Fascist blackguards opened a disorderly fire on a column of prisoners of war. The prisoners attempted to escape, but the soldiers overtook and shot them up. In that way nearly 5,000 Soviet people were shot dead. The corpses were left lying about the streets for several days."

It is not difficult to see that this extract fully coincides with the statement in Document 081-PS, which has already been read into thr record, the contents of which I have once again related to the Tribunal very briefly and in my own words.

We are only completing the document by factual evidence. On the same Page 6 (which corresponds to Page 58 of the document book) two lines lower down, it is said:

"The German military authorities tortured the prisoners of war. On the way to Smolensk, and especially at the camp, the prisoners were killed by tens and hundreds. In Prisoner of War Camp No. 126, the Soviet people were subjected to torture; sick people were sent to heavy labour; no medical assistance was rendered. The prisoners in the camp were tortured, forced to do work beyond their strength, and shot. About 150 to 200 people died every day of torture, by starvation, typhus and dysentery epidemics, freezing to death, exhausting work, and bloody terror. Over 60,000 peaceful citizens and prisoners of war were exterminated in the camp by the German Fascist invaders. The facts of the extermination of the imprisoned officers and men of the Red Army and of the peaceful citizens were confirmed by the testimony of physicians imprisoned in the camp; Smirnov, Hmyrov, Pogrebnov, Erpylov, Demidov, hospital nurses

[Page 319]

Shubina and Lenkovskya, and also by Red Army soldiers and inhabitants of the city of Smolensk.

Thousands of prisoners of war were shot in the camp under the directions of 'Sonderfuehrer' Eduard Gyss.

Sergeant Gatlyn brutally avenged himself on the prisoners. Being aware of the fact, they tried to keep out of his way. So Gatlyn dressed in the uniform of a Red Army soldier, mixed with the crowd, and, having picked himself a victim, would beat him half-dead.

Private Rudolf Radtke, a former wrestler from the German circuses, himself prepared a special lash made of aluminum wire, with which he beat the prisoners black and blue. On Sundays he would come to the camp drunk, throw himself on the first prisoner he met, torture and kill him.

Emaciated and exhausted Soviet invalids were forced by the Fascists to work at the Smolensk power plant. Many occasions were observed when prisoners, worn out by starvation, would collapse under the strain of work beyond their strength and were immediately shot by 'Sonderfuehrer' Szepalsky, 'Sonderfuehrer' Bram, Hofmann Mauser, and `Sonderfuehrer' Wagner.

There was, in Smolensk, a hospital for prisoners of war; Soviet doctors working at that hospital stated: "Up to July, 1942, the patients lay un-bandaged on the floor. Their clothes and bedding were covered not only with dirt but with pus. The rooms were unheated and the floors of the corridors coated with ice."

A report of a medico-legal examination is appended, Your Honours, to the statement of the Extraordinary State Commission which I have just quoted. Experts such as Academician Burdenko, member of the Extraordinary Commission, Dr. Prosorovsky, chief medico-forensic expert of the People's Commissariat for the Care of Public Health in the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Smolianov, Professor of Forensic Medicine at the Second Moscow Medical Institute, and other specialists conducted -- from 1st to 16th October, 1943 -- numerous exhumations and medico-legal autopsies on the corpses in Smolensk and the vicinity of Smolensk.

I shall read into thr record only such excerpts from the findings of the experts' investigation as have a direct bearing on my subject.

You will find the paragraph which I am now quoting on Page 61 of your document book, corresponding to Page 9 of our Exhibit USSR 56:

"The corpses found in the pits were for the most part either partially or completely naked, or else clothed in worn-out underwear; only in the minority of cases did the bodies disinterred wear clothes or military uniforms."
It is stated, in paragraph 2 on the next page of the document book:
"Identity documents were found in 16 cases only (3 passports, 1 Red Army book and 12 military identity 'medallions'). By 'medallions' I mean the small tub- like cases, not unlike a needle-case in appearance, issued to each soldier in the Red Army. A document giving the soldier's name, patronymic, surname, and rank, together with his home address, is slipped into this tube.

In some cases partly preserved articles of clothing and tattoo marks alone could help in establishing the identity of the deceased."

This circumstance confirms the fact that the Germans endeavored to make the identification of their victims impossible, as demanded in special German directives. The first paragraph on Page 11 of this exhibit, corresponding to your Page 63 in the document book, says:

[Page 320]

"The autopsies performed on corpses taken from graves in the area of the large and small concentration camps at Plant 35, of the former German hospital for prisoners of war, of a sawmill and of concentration camps near the villages of Becherskaya and Rakytna, revealed that according to the data of the autopsies, death, in an overwhelming majority of cases, could be ascribed to hunger, starvation and acute infectious diseases.

An objective proof of death from starvation, over and above the total absence of all subcutaneous fatty tissues, as disclosed during the autopsies, was the discovery, in a number of cases, of grassy substances, remains of rough leaves and plant stalks in the abdominal cavity."

On the same page, but rather lower down, in paragraph 4, we read:
"The considerable number of burial-pits opened (87), filled with masses of corpses, together with the estimated differences in the time of burial, differences ranging from the second half of 1941 to 1943, testify to the systematic extermination of Soviet citizens.

The victims, in an overwhelming majority of cases, were men, and men mostly in the prime of life, that is, between the ages of 20 and 40."

Somewhat lower, on the same page:
"Special attention was attracted by the fact that the exhumed corpses, with few exceptions, regularly lacked footwear. Clothing, too, was absent as a rule, or consisted of worn-out underwear or parts of outer garments. The natural conclusion drawn from these facts is that the removal of clothes and footwear of any value had become the usual and officially recognized procedure preceding the extermination of Soviet citizens."
In conclusion, the Commission deals with the means of extermination, i.e., shooting, asphyxiation by gas and so forth. All this is not new to us and it is not necessary, at present, to part of the conclusion.

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