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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
4th April to 15th April, 1946

One Hundred and Eighth Day: Monday, 15th April, 1946
(Part 4 of 10)

[Page 358]

COLONEL AMEN: This, if the Tribunal please, we have in four languages.

Q. Some of the matters covered in this affidavit you have already told us about in part, so I will omit some parts of the affidavit. If you will follow me as I read, please. Do you have a copy of the affidavit before you?

[Rudolf Hoess] A. Yes.

[Page 359]

Q. I will omit the first paragraph and start with paragraph 2:
"I have been constantly associated with the administration of concentration camps since 1934, serving at Dachau until 1938; then as Adjutant in Sachsenhausen from 1938 to May 1st, 1940, when I was appointed Commandant of Auschwitz. I commanded Auschwitz until 1st December, 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease making a total dead of about 3,000,000. This figure represents about 70 per cent or 80 per cent of all persons sent to Auschwitz as prisoners, the remainder having been selected and used for slave labour in the concentration camp industries. Included among the executed and burnt were approximately 20,000 Russian prisoners of war (previously selected and taken out of prisoner-of-war cages by the Gestapo) who were delivered to Auschwitz in Wehrmacht transports operated by regular Wehrmacht officers and men. The remainder of the total number of victims included about 100,000 German Jews, and great numbers of citizens, mostly Jewish, from Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944."
That is all true, witness?

A. Yes, it is.

Q. Now I omit the first few lines of paragraph 3 and start in the middle of paragraph 3:

"Prior to establishment of the R.S.H.A., the Secret State Police Office (Gestapo) and the Reich Office of Criminal Police were responsible for arrests, commitments to concentration camps, punishments and executions therein. After organisation of the R.S.H.A., all of these functions were carried on as before but pursuant to orders signed by Heydrich as Chief of the R.S.H.A. While Kaltenbrunner was Chief of R.S.H.A. orders for protective custody, commitments, punishment and special executions were signed by Kaltenbrunner or by Muller, Chief of the Gestapo, as Kaltenbrunner's Deputy."
THE PRESIDENT: Just for the sake of accuracy, the last date in paragraph 2, is that 1943 or 1944?

COLONEL AMEN: 1944, I believe.

Q. Is that date correct, witness, at the close of paragraph 2, namely, that the 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944 were executed? Is that 1944 or 1943?

A. 1944. Part of that figure also goes back to 1943; only a part. I cannot give the exact figure; the end was 1944, autumn of 1944.

Q. Right.

"Mass executions by gassing commenced during the summer of 1941 and continued until autumn, 1944. I personally supervised executions at Auschwitz until 1st December, 1943 and know by reason of my continued duties in the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps W.V.H.A. that these mass executions continued as stated above. All mass executions by gassing took place under the direct order, supervision, and responsibility of R.S.H.A. I received all orders for carrying out these mass executions directly from R.S.H.A."
Are these statements true and correct, witness?

A. Yes, they are.

Q. "5. On 1st December, 1943 I became Chief of Amt I in Amt Group D of the W.V.H.A., and in that office was responsible for co-ordinating all matters arising between R.S.H.A. and concentration camps under the administration

[Page 360]

of W.V.H.A. I held this position until the end of the war. Pohl, as Chief of W.V.H.A., and Kaltenbrunner, as Chief of R.S.H.A., often conferred personally and frequently communicated with each other concerning concentration camps."
You have already told us about the lengthy report which you took to Kaltenbrunner in Berlin, so I will omit the remainder of paragraph 5.
"6. The 'final solution' of the Jewish question meant the complete extermination of all Jews in Europe. I was ordered to establish extermination facilities at Auschwitz in June, 1941. At that time, there were already three other extermination camps in the Government General: Belzek, Treblinka and Wolzek. These camps were under the Einsatzkommando of the Security Police and S.D. I visited Treblinka to find out how they carried out their extermination, The Camp Commandant at Treblinka told me that he had liquidated 80,000 in the course of half a year. He was principally concerned with liquidating all the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. He used monoxide gas, and I did not think that his methods were very efficient. So when I set up the extermination building at Auschwitz, I used Cyclon B, which was a crystallised prussic acid which we dropped into the death chamber from a small opening. It took from 3 to 15 minutes to kill the people in the death chamber, depending upon climatic conditions. We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped. We usually waited about half an hour before we opened the doors and removed the bodies. After the bodies were removed our special commandos took off the rings and extracted the gold from the teeth of the corpses."
Is that all true and correct, witness?

A. Yes.

Q. Incidentally, what was done with the gold which was taken from the teeth of the corpses, do you know?

A. Yes.

Q. Will you tell the Tribunal?

A. This gold was melted down and brought to the chief medical office of the S.S. at Berlin.

Q. "Another improvement we made as compared with Treblinka was that we built our gas chamber to accommodate 2,000 people at one time whereas at Treblinka their 10 gas chambers only Accommodated 200 people each. The way we selected our victims was as follows: we had two S.S. doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. The prisoners would be marched passed one of the doctors who would make 'spot' decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit for work were sent into the camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated since, by reason of their youth, they were unable to work. At Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated. We followed a better policy at Auschwitz by endeavouring to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realised our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes, but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated. We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but naturally the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding districts knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz."
Is that all true and correct, witness?

A. Yes.

[Page 361]

Q. Now, I will omit paragraphs 8 and 9, which have to do with the medical experiments as to which you have already testified.
"10. Herr Rudolf Mildner was the Chief of the Gestapo at Kattowicz from approximately March, 1941, until September, 1943. As such, he frequently sent prisoners to Auschwitz for incarceration or execution. He visited Auschwitz on several occasions. The Gestapo Court, the S.S. Standgericht, which tried persons accused of various crimes, such as escaping prisoners of war, etc., frequently met at Auschwitz, and Mildner often attended the trial of such persons, who usually were executed in Auschwitz after being sentenced. I showed Mildner over the extermination plant at Auschwitz and he was directly interested in it since he had to send the Jews from his territory to Auschwitz for execution.

I understand English as it is written above. The above statements are true; this declaration is made by me voluntarily and without compulsion; after reading over the statement I have signed and executed the same at Nuremberg, Germany, on the fifth day of April, 1946."

Now I ask you, witness, is everything which I have read to you, true to your own knowledge?

A. Yes.

COLONEL AMEN: That concludes my cross-examination, except for one Exhibit that our British Allies would like to hand in, which is a summary sheet of the Exhibits which I introduced at the commencement of the cross-examination. That will be Exhibit USA 810. It is a summary of the earlier exhibits that I put in with respect to the Waffen S.S. at the commencement of my cross-examination.

Now, I understand, your Lordship, that both the Soviet and the French delegations have one or two questions which they consider peculiar to their country ,which they would like to put to this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: General Rudenko, you will remember that the Tribunal was assured by counsel for the prosecution that, so far as witnesses were concerned, with the exception of one or two particular defendants, the prosecution would have only one cross-examination and, now, since that assurance was given, this is the second instance when the prosecution has desired to have more than one cross-examination.

GENERAL RUDENKO: That is correct, Mr. President, that the prosecution did make that statement at some time; however, the prosecution has reserved the right on certain occasions when deemed necessary to do otherwise. Since, in this case, the prosecution represents four different countries, occasions do arise when each of the prosecutors feels that he has the right to ask the defendant or witnesses for the latter questions particularly interesting to the country of the prosecutor.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you indicate the nature of the questions which the Soviet Prosecution desires to put: I mean the subjects upon which they are relevant. I don't mean the exact questions but the subject.

GENERAL RUDENKO: Yes, I understand. Colonel Pokrovsky, who intends to ask the questions, will report on the subject to the Tribunal.

COLONEL POKROVSKY: May I report to you, Mr. President, that the questions of interest to the Soviet prosecution are those dealing specifically with the annihilation of millions of Soviet citizens and some details connected with that annihilation. At the request of the French Prosecution, and in order to clarify the contents I would also like to ask two or three questions connected with the documents, which, in due course, were submitted as Document F 709-a to the Tribunal by the French Prosecution. This is really all there is; however, these questions do have great importance for the Soviet and French Prosecutions.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Pokrovsky, the Tribunal, as has just been stated, made the rule, with the assent of the prosecutors, that in the case of the witnesses there should be one cross-examination. There is nothing in the Charter which expressly

[Page 362]

gives to the prosecution the right for each prosecutor to cross-examine and there is, on the other hand, Article 18 which directs the Tribunal to take strict measures to prevent any action which will cause unreasonable delay, and, in the opinion of the Tribunal, in the present case the subject has been fully covered and the Tribunal therefore thinks it right to adhere to the rules which it has laid down in this case. It will therefore not hear any further cross-examination?

Do you wish to re-examine, Dr. Kauffmann?

DR. KAUFFMANN: I will be very brief.


Q. Witness, in the affidavit which was just read, you said under point 2 that "at least an additional half million died through starvation and disease." I ask you, in what period of time did this take place? Was it towards the end of the war or was this fact observed by you already at an earlier period?

A. No, it all goes back to the last years of the war, that is beginning with the end of 1942.

Q. Under point 3 - do you still have the affidavit before you?

A. No.

DR. KAUFFMANN: May I ask that it be given to the witness again?


Q. Under point 3, at the end you state that "orders for protective custody, commitments, punishments, and special executions were signed by Kaltenbrunner or Muller, Chief of the Gestapo, as Kaltenbrunner's Deputy." Thus, do you wish to contradict that which you stated previously?

A. No, this only confirms what I said before. I repeat again that I saw only very few decrees signed by Kaltenbrunner; most of them were signed by Muller.

Q. Under point 4, at the end, you state, "All mass executions through gassing took place under the direct order, supervision and responsibility of the R.S.H.A. I received all orders for carrying out these mass executions directly from R.S.H.A." According to the statements, which you previously made to the Tribunal, these orders came to you directly from Himmler through Eichmann, who had been personally delegated. Do you maintain that now as before?

A. Yes.

Q. With this last sentence, under point 4, do you wish to contradict that which you testified before?

A. No. I always mean, regarding mass executions, Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann in connection with the R.S.H.A.

Q. Under point 7, at the end, you state - I am not going to read it - you say that even though exterminations took place secretly, the population in the outlying districts knew something of this extermination of people. Was there not at an, earlier period of time - that is, before the beginning of this special extermination action - something of a similiar nature taking place as regards the bodies of people who had died in a normal manner in Auschwitz?

A. Yes, even before the crematoria were built, we burned large numbers of those who had died, and who could not be cremated in the provisional crematoria of the camp, in large pits; a large number - I don't recall the figure any longer - were buried in mass graves and later also cremated in these graves. That was before the mass executions of Jews began.

Q. Would you agree with me if I were to say that from the fact which is described here, we cannot conclusively prove that this was concerned with the extermination of Jews?

A. No, this could in no way be concluded from that. The population -

THE PRESIDENT: What was your question about?

DR. KAUFFMANN: My question was whether one could assume from the established facts, especially at the end of paragraph 7, that this concerned the so-called exter-

[Page 363]

mination of Jews. This question followed upon the previous answer of the witness. It is my last question.

THE PRESIDENT: The last sentence of paragraph 7 is with reference to the foul and nauseating stench. What is your question about that?

DR. KAUFFMANN: Whether the population could gather from these things that an extermination of Jews was taking place.

THE PRESIDENT: That really is too obvious a question, isn't it? They could not possibly know who it was being exterminated.

DR. KAUFFMANN: That is enough for me. I have no further questions.

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