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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th February to 26th February, 1946

Sixty-Second Day: Tuesday, 19th February, 1946
(Part 2 of 6)

[COLONEL L. N. SMIRNOV continues]

[Page 140]

The burning of corpses continued from the end of 1943 to June, 1944. During this period, more than one hundred thousand corpses were dug out from nine pits of a total volume of 21,179 cubic metres and were burnt on pyres. The last days before their retreat the Hitlerites did not have time to bum the bodies of the shot. . . .

I omit the next few paragraphs and quote the conclusion of the medico-forensic Expert Commission:-

[Page 114]

"The corpses that were examined were, for the most part, those of civilians. A small number of corpses was found dressed in military uniforms. On some of the corpses were found objects of religious worship of the Catholic and Greek Orthodox faith. According to the objects and documents found, it has been established that among those shot were physicians, engineers, students, chauffeurs, mechanics, railroad workers, tailors, watchmakers, tradesmen, etc."
I omit the next three paragraphs and pass on to the concluding sentence:-
"The Medico-Forensic Expert Commission has established that the German fascist butchers shot and burned in Panerai not less than 100,000 people."
I quote further proof concerning the "Fort of Death" in Kaunas:-
"Fort No. 9 was called by the residents of Kaunas the 'Fort of Death'. This fort, located six kilometres north- west of the city, is an old iron reinforced concrete fortification. Inside, there are numerous casemates, which were used by the Germans as cells for prisoners. This fort is surrounded by a concrete wall and barbed wire.

In the very first days after their arrival in Kaunas, the Hitlerites drove some 1,000 Soviet war prisoners into the fort and forced them to dig ditches in a field of over five hectares in area, at the western wall of the fort. During the months of July and August, 1941, fourteen ditches were dug, each of them three metres wide, over 200 metres long and over two metres in depth. All those who entered the Fort No. 9 perished. In columns of several thousand people, the Hitlerites drove into this Fort women, children, adolescents, men and aged persons to shoot them and to burn their bodies."

I omit the next three paragraphs and continue my quotation:-
"In Fort No. 9 people of different nationalities were shot: Russians, Ukrainians, Bielorussians, Lithuanians Poles and Jews. The following people were shot in this fort: a deputy to the Supreme Soviet Council of the USSR Bydzhinskiena, a deputy to the Supreme Soviet Council of the Lithuanian S.S.R., Zhibertas and others. Besides Soviet citizens the Hitlerites exterminated French, Austrian and Czechoslovak citizens in Fort No. 9.
A former supervisor of Fort No. 9, the witness Naudjunas, testified:-
"The first group of foreigners, numbering 4,000, arrived at the fort in December, 1941. I talked to one of the women, who said that they had been transported to Russia, allegedly for work. On 10 December, 1941, the extermination of foreigners began. They were ordered to leave the fort in groups of 100, allegedly for inoculations. Those who left for inoculations did not return. All 4,000 foreigners were shot. On 15 December, 1941, another group arrived, numbering approximately 3,000, who were also exterminated."
I omit the next paragraph on this page, and nearly the whole of the following page and quote only the conclusive data:-
"The Investigation Commission ascertained that the Hitlerites had exterminated in Fort No. 9 over 70,000 peaceful inhabitants. In numerous cases the German fascists used methods full of cruel cunning for the mass extermination of peaceful Soviet citizens."
In order to prove this statement, I refer to the Report of the Extraordinary State Commission for the Stavropol region, which has already been submitted to the Tribunal as exhibit USSR 1. The Tribunal will find this excerpt on page 268 of the document book, I quote one paragraph - the second paragraph of the text:-
"It is established that before retreating from the city of Geozgievsk on 9th and 10th January of this year, by order of the Chief Physician of the German hospitals in the city, Baron von Heiman, the German soldiers sold

[Page 115]

alcohol and soda water at the city market, which proved to be methylated spirit and oxalic acid. This was intentionally done to poison the Soviet people."
Mass poisoning of the citizens of the town occurred.

Among the crimes perpetrated by the German fascists on Soviet territory I must mention especially the treatment to which they subjected the inhabitants of Leningrad. I have already mentioned this when speaking of the Leningrad children yesterday.

In order to shorten my quotation from the Extraordinary State Commission's report on Leningrad - although, being a citizen of Leningrad myself, I would like the Court to have an accurate picture of the sufferings endured by the great city as a result of the German fascist terror - I will quote only general data regarding the German destruction and crimes in that city. The Tribunal will find this quotation on Page 345 of the document book, second volume:-

"During the 900-day siege of Leningrad when the Germans were in possession of its suburbs, they perpetrated countless atrocities on the peaceful civilians.

The Germans dropped on Leningrad 107,000 demolition and incendiary bombs and 150,000 heavy artillery shells. Every minute throughout the siege each Leningrad resident was in the same danger as if he had been on the battlefield. Every instant he was threatened with death or mutilation. Bombing and artillery fire killed a total of 16,747 and wounded 33,782 persons."

I interrupt my quotation, omit the next page of my statement, and beg the Tribunal to notice page 347 of the second volume of the document book, an excerpt from the diary of the German artillerists who shelled Leningrad. These notes are most cynical and cruel.

I will now state the number of persons who died of hunger in Leningrad in the terrible winter of 1941-1942. I quote only one line: "As a result of the hunger blockade of Leningrad 632,253 people perished".

I omit the following two pages and pass on to evidence concerning the adoption by the Hitlerites of special machines for the extermination of people: by monoxide gas, in special machines, "Sondermaschinen", by "gas vans" or "murder vans" (dushagubki), as the Soviet people rightly named them.

The very fact of employing such machines for the mass murder of people constitutes a very heavy charge against the leaders of German fascism. The special equipment for mass extermination of people in hermetically closed automobiles, in which the exhaust pipes were connected to the bodies of the cars by means of special movable tubes, was utilised by the German fascists for the first time in the USSR in 1942.

I would like to remind the Tribunal that these machines of death were mentioned for the first time in a report which I have already submitted to the Tribunal concerning the atrocities of the German fascist aggressors in the town of Kerch. This document was submitted as exhibit USSR 63 and refers to the spring of 1942.

I remind the Tribunal of an excerpt from the statements of the witness Darya Dernchenko, who saw how from two "murder vans" German military personnel in Kerch dragged out the bodies of the murdered and dumped them into an antitank ditch.

It cannot be contested that the mass extermination of people in gas vans was ascertained for the first time in the Report of the Extraordinary State Commission on atrocities of the German occupants in the Stavropol region.

This document was submitted to the Tribunal by me earlier as exhibit USSR 1.

Investigation of the crimes committed by the German fascists in the Stavropol

[Page 116]

region was directed by a prominent Soviet writer and member of the Extraordinary State Commission, Academician Alexey Nikolaievitch Tolstoy, since deceased.

This very thorough investigation was undertaken with the assistance of the most prominent specialists in forensic medicine, inasmuch as human imagination, having set definite logical limits to any crime, could only with difficulty accept the existence of these machines.

However, the results of the investigation corroborate the testimony of witnesses regarding the murder vans, tortures and mass murders of peaceful citizens.

The report of the Extraordinary State Commission on the Stavropol region gives the first detailed description of the mechanism of these murder vans, and I am reading a quotation which the Tribunal will find on Page 268 of the document book, paragraph 4. I quote this excerpt in full, as the technical matter detailed here tally with those technical details which the American prosecution so fully reported to the Tribunal. This is corroborative evidence, and is therefore important:-

"It has been established that the Germans engaged in the mass extermination of peaceful citizens of the USSR by poisoning them with carbon monoxide in specially constructed machines or 'murder vans.' Prisoner of war Fenchel testified:-
'While working as a motor mechanic, I had the opportunity of studying in detail the van construction especially adopted for suffocating and exterminating people with exhaust gases. There were several such vans in the town of Stravopol at the disposal of the Gestapo.

Their construction was as follows: The body was approximately five metres long, two and half metres wide, and approximately two and a half metres in height. It was shaped like a railway car without windows. Inside, it was lined with galvanised sheet iron; on the floor, also covered with galvanised iron, was a wooden grating. The door of the body was lined with rubber and was tightly closed with an automatic lock. On the floor of the van under the grating, were two metal pipes.'"

I omit the end of the sentence.
"'These pipes were connected with a transverse pipe of equal diameter.'"
I omit the next part of the sentence.
"'These pipes had at short intervals holes of half a centimetre in width. From the transverse pipe down through a hole in the galvanised iron floor went a rubber hose with a hexagonal screw at the end, threaded so as to fit the thread on the end of the engine exhaust pipe. This hose was screwed on to the exhaust pipe and when the engine was running, all the exhaust gas went into the body of this hermetically closed van. From the accumulation of these gases, a man inside the van died within a short period of time. The van could contain approximately seventy to eighty people. The motor usually bore the trademark "Sauer".'"
I omit the following part of the quotation, because the data contained therein are already known to the Tribunal, and I beg the Tribunal to pay attention to Page 270 of the document book, first paragraph, which says that in the Stavropol region the murder van was used for the killing of 660 people who were patients of the local hospital. Further, I draw the attention of the Tribunal to the Report of the Extraordinary State Commission regarding the Crimes of the German fascist criminals in Krasnodar. I submit this document to the Tribunal as exhibit USSR 42. It concerns the mass killing of people in murder vans. I will not quote this document. I pass on to Page 243. I submit to the Tribunal as exhibit USSR 55 the verdict of the military tribunal of the North Caucasian Front. I wish only to quote a short excerpt from this verdict in order to save time. The Tribunal will find this on Page 439 of the document book, Volume II, paragraph 2:-

[Page 117]

"The legal investigation has also ascertained as facts of the systematic torture and burning in the cellars of the Gestapo by the Hitlerite criminals of many arrested Soviet citizens, as well as the extermination by carbon-monoxide gases in specially built cars ('murder vans '), that is, the asphyxiation, of approximately 7,000 innocent Soviet people, including more than 700 patients from the hospitals of Krasnodar and other places in that district; among them were forty-two children, from five to sixteen years old."
I omit some pages of the text and next submit to the Tribunal a Report of the Extraordinary State Commission on the Atrocities of the German Fascist Invaders in the town of Kharkov and the Kharkov Region. I submit this document to the Tribunal as exhibit USSR 43. I will not quote this document, but will go over to another, namely, the verdict of the military tribunal of the 4th Ukrainian Front which was pronounced in this case. This document has been introduced to the Tribunal as exhibit USSR 32. The Tribunal will find the excerpt which I would like to quote on Page 222 of the document book, first paragraph:-
"For the mass executions of Soviet citizens, the German fascist invaders used the so-called 'gas wagons': large, closed cars which were known to the Russians as ' murder vans.' Into these gas wagons the German fascist invaders drove Soviet citizens and murdered them by special poisonous gas - carbon-monoxide. In order to conceal the traces of the monstrous crimes committed and the mass extermination of Soviet people by way of asphyxiation with carbon-monoxide in these ' gas wagons,' the German fascists burned the bodies of their victims."
I conclude this quotation and omit the next page of the text and another page, and go on to Page 252 of my statement.

In order to prove that the murder vans were used not only at the places I mentioned, I now refer to a report of the Extraordinary State Commission which has already been submitted to the Tribunal as exhibit USSR 9, on the atrocities committed in the town of Kiev. The Tribunal will find there a proof of the fact that murder vans were used in Kiev.

THE PRESIDENT: We have just had handed up to us, in the written translation of your address, Page 234, We already had Page 234. Do you want this to be 234a? Is it just one page that you are handing up now?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: There is a different numbering in the English text, Mr. President, and it is difficult for me to talk about the text which is in your possession, because I simply do not know the numbering of the English translation.

THE PRESIDENT: Maybe it is 234a ?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I am on page 251 of the Russian text.

THE PRESIDENT: I think the better course will be to adjourn now and perhaps the slight muddle in these translations can be cleared up.

(A recess was taken.)

COLONEL SMIRNOV: In confirmation of the wide application of murder vans in the temporarily occupied regions, I refer to the series of Reports of the Extraordinary State Commission for Investigation of War Crimes in Rowna and the Rowna Region. The members of the Tribunal will find reference to this on Page 291, paragraph 10 of the document book. I limit myself to one paragraph only:-

"The extermination of peaceful citizens and prisoners of war in the town of Rowna used to take place by means of mass shooting with tommy-guns and machine guns, or murder with carbon-monoxide in murder vans; while in some instances people were thrown into pits and buried alive. Some of the victims, particularly those executed at the quarries near the village of Wydumka, were burned on special platforms prepared in advance."
I end my quotation and go over to Page 253 of the text, paragraph 3. Further,

[Page 118]

in conjunction with the same matter, I refer to the Report of the Extraordinary State Commission on the Crimes in Minsk. The members of the Tribunal will find this quotation on Page 215 of the document book, second paragraph. I read one quotation from this report:-
"Thousands of Soviet citizens have perished in concentration camps at the hands of the German executioners."
I omit the following four sentences and pass on to the testimony of witness Moiseivitch. He says:-
"I was an eye-witness to the manner in which the Germans killed people in their murder vans. From seventy to eighty people were forced into a murder van and then driven away to an unknown destination."
That ends my quotation, and I ask the Tribunal's permission to draw its attention to the fact that in Minsk, the principle of the murder van was used for stationary gas chambers, usually bath houses. It is also mentioned in this report of the State Commission.

Further, I refer to the verdict of the courts martial of Smolensk Military Region, dated 15th-19th December, 1945, which the Tribunal will find on Page 72 of the document book. There it is related that in Smolensk the Germans also employed special gas automobiles, the so-called "murder vans " for killing Soviet people with carbon-monoxide. It seems to me that it is not merely coincidence that murder vans appeared in the territory of the USSR in the year of 1942. At the time the chief criminals were still quite convinced of victory and started carrying out into practice their premeditated plans for the extermination of the people of Europe. They were not then afraid of responsibility for these crimes. That is why in 1942 there appeared new links in the long chain of the crimes committed by the leaders of German fascism. The fascist technique of extermination was once again in full swing. It created murder vans, gas chambers and concentration camps, special electrical appliances for the mass murder of the doomed, crematoria, and also "Zyklon" banks.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.