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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
20th June to 1st July 1946

One Hundred and Sixty-Eighth Day: Monday, 1st July, 1946
(Part 7 of 10)

[DR. STAHMER continues his direct examination of General Eugen Oberhauser]

[Page 350]

Q. What position did he have in Regiment 537?

A. Hodt held various posts in the regiment. Usually, he was sent ahead, because he was a particularly qualified officer, especially as regards technical qualifications, in order to make preparations when headquarters were being moved. He was therefore sent with the advance party of the so-called technical company in order to establish the new command posts; and then he was the regimental expert for the telephone system, dealing with all matters relating to the telephone and teletype system for the command headquarters of the army group. In my staff he was occasionally detailed to fill the position of any of my officers when they were on leave.

Q. Was he also in charge of the advance party during the advance on Katyn?

A. That I cannot say. I can only say that I personally heard from my staff communications commander that he had sent an officer ahead, after it had been ascertained how the headquarters were to be laid out, that this officer was acting on my behalf, as at the time I still remained in the old quarters, and was preparing things in the way I wanted them, from the point of view of a communications troop commander. I do not know who was in charge of that advance party at the time, but it is perfectly possible that it was Lieutenant Hodt.

Q. Were you in Katyn or the vicinity during the period from the capture of Smolensk, which was, I believe, on or about the 20th of July, 1941, and up to the transfer of your staff to Katyn on the 20th of September?

A. I was in the vicinity. I was where the headquarters of the army group wanted to establish itself; that is, in the woods west of Smolensk, where Katyn is located.

Q. Were you frequently there during that time?

A. I should say three or four times.

Q. Did you talk to Hodt on those occasions?

A. If he was the officer in charge of the advance party, which I cannot say today, then I must certainly have talked to him. At any rate, I did talk to the officer whom I had sent ahead and also to the one from my regiment.

Q. Did you hear anything about shootings occurring during that time?

A. I heard nothing, nor did I hear anything at all except in 1943, when the graves were opened.

[Page 351]

Q. Did you or Regiment 53'7 have the necessary technical means, pistols, ammunition and so on, at your disposal which would have made it possible to carry out shootings on such a scale?

A. The regiment, being a communications regiment in the rear area, was, according to its establishment of weapons and ammunition, less efficiently armed than the actual fighting troops. Such a task, however, would have been something unusual for the regiment, firstly, because a communications regiment has completely different tasks, and secondly, it would not have been in a position technically to carry out such mass executions.

Q. Do you know the place where these graves were discovered later on?

A. I know the site because I drove past it very often.

Q. Can you describe it more accurately?

A. Taking the main road Smolensk-Vitebsk, a path led through wooded undulating ground. There were sandy spaces which were, however, covered with scrub and heather, and along that narrow path one got to the Dnieper castle from the main road.

Q. Were the places where these graves were later discovered already overgrown when you got there?

A. They were overgrown just like the surrounding ground, and there was no difference between them and the, rest of the surroundings.

Q. In view of your knowledge of the vicinity, would you consider it possible that 11,000 Poles could have been buried at that place, people who may have been shot between June and September, 1941?

A. I consider that it is out of the question, certainly for this reason alone, that if the commander had known it at the time, he would certainly never have chosen as a place for his headquarters this spot next to 11,000 dead.

Q. Can you tell me how one came to discover the graves?

A. I had no official connection with that. I only heard through local inhabitants or somebody or other that it had become known that large-scale executions had taken place there years ago.

Q. From whom did you hear that?

A. Quite probably from the commander himself, who, because he was located on the spot, had heard more about it than I had. But I cannot remember exactly now.

Q. So you did not receive official notice about the discovery of the graves, did you?

A. No, I did not.

Q. After the opening of the graves, did you talk to the German or foreign members of the commission?

A. I have never talked to any members of that commission.

DR. STAHMER: I have no further questions, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov.



Q. Witness, you arrived in the region of Katyn in September, 1943?

A. 1941, not 1943.

Q. Excuse me, I meant September, 1941. Is that correct?

A. Yes, September, 1941.

Q. And you contend that you did not know anything about the camps for Polish prisoners of war which were, together with the prisoners, in the hands of the German troops, is that so?

A. I have never heard anything about Polish prisoners of war being in the hands of German troops.

Q. I understand that this had no relation to your official activity as the commander of a signal corps regiment, but were you a witness of cases when various

[Page 352]

German troops combed the woods in the vicinity of the highway Smolensk-Vitebsk to capture Polish prisoners of war who had escaped from the camps?

A. I never heard anything about troops going there in order to, shall we say, recapture escaped Polish prisoners of war. I have heard about that here for the first time.

Q. Please answer me. Have you not seen German military units escorting Polish prisoners of war who were captured in the woods?

A. I have not seen them.

Q. Please answer the following questions: You were on good terms with Colonel Ahrens, were you not?

A. I was on good terms with all commanders of the regiment.

Q. And in addition to that, you were his immediate superior?

A. Right.

Q. Colonel Ahrens found out about the mass graves at the end of 1941, or at the beginning of 1942. Did he tell you anything about his discovery?

A. I cannot believe that Colonel Ahrens could have discovered the graves in 1941. I cannot imagine that, I especially cannot imagine that he would tell me nothing about it.

Q. In any case, do you contend that neither in 1942 nor in 1943 did Colonel Ahrens report to you in regard to this affair?

A. Colonel Ahrens never told me anything about it, and he would have told me if he had known.

Q. I am interested in the following answer which you gave to a question by defence counsel. You remarked that the signal corps regiment had not enough weapons to carry out shootings. What do you mean by that? How many, and what kind of weapons did the regiment possess?

A. The signal regiment was mostly equipped with pistols and with carbines. They had no automatic arms.

Q. Pistols, of what calibre?

A. They were Parabellum pistols. The calibre, I think, was 7.65, but I cannot remember for certain.

Q. Parabellum pistols, 7.65. And were there Mauser pistols or any other kind of weapons?

A. That varied. Non-commissioned officers, as far as I know, had the smaller Mauser pistols. Actually, only non- commissioned officers were equipped with pistols. The majority of the men had carbines.

Q. I would like you to tell us some more about the pistols. You say that they were 7.65 calibre pistols, is that so?

A. I cannot now, at the moment, give you exact information about the calibre. I only know that the Parabellum pistol was 7.65 or some such calibre. I think the Mauser pistol had a somewhat smaller calibre.

Q. And Walter pistols?

A. There were also Walters. I think they had the same calibre as the Mauser. It is a smaller black pistol, and it is better than the somewhat cumbersome Parabellum pistol, which is heavier.

Q. Yes, that is quite correct. Please tell me whether in this regiment the non-commissioned officers had those small pistols.

A. As a rule, non-commissioned officers had pistols but not carbines.

Q. I see. Perhaps you can tell us about how many pistols this signal corps regiment possessed?

A. Of course I cannot tell you that now. Let us assume that every N.C.O. had a pistol -

Q. And how many N.C.O.s were there? How many pistols in all were there in your regiment if you consider that every non- commissioned officer had a pistol?

A. Assuming that every N.C.O. in the regiment had a pistol, that would amount to 150 per company. However, to give a definite statement about that figure retrospectively now is impossible. I can only give you clues.

[Page 353]

Q. Why do you consider that 150 pistols would be insufficient to carry out these mass-killings which went on over a period of time? What makes you so positive about that?

A. Because a signal regiment of an army group deployed over a large area; as in the case of the Army Group "Centre," is never together as a unit. The regiment was spread out from Koladop to as far as Topsk; and there were small detachments everywhere, and in the headquarters of the regiment there were comparatively few people; in other words, there were never 150 pistols in one and the same place.

Q. The main part of the signals regiment was located in the Katyn woods, was it not?

A. I did not understand your question.

Q. The main part of your regiment was located in the Katyn woods, was it not?

A. The first company was mainly located between the regimental staff quarters and the actual command post of the Army Group. That was the company which was handling the communications, the telephone and teleprint communications for the army group. It was the company, therefore, which was nearest.

Q. One more question. The officers of your regiment were obviously armed with pistols and not with carbines?

A. Officers had pistols only, and as a rule they only had small ones. Possibly one or. the other may have had a Parabellum pistol.

Q. That is to say, either a Walter or a Mauser?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you frequently visit the villa where the headquarters of Regiment 537 was located?

A. Yes, I was there at least once, sometimes twice a week.

Q. Were you ever interested as to why soldiers from other military units visited the villa in Kozy Gory and why special beds were prepared for them at the soldiers' club as well as drinks and food in the kitchen?

A. I cannot imagine that there were many visits of numerous strange soldiers or members of other units. I do not know anything about that.

Q. I did not speak about a great number. I am speaking of twenty or sometimes twenty-five men.

A. If the regimental commander summoned his company and detachment commanders for an officers' meeting, then, of course, there would be a few dozen of such officers who normally would not be seen there.

Q. No, I have not mentioned the officers who belonged to the unit. I would like to ask you another somewhat different question. Would the number 537 appear on the shoulder-straps of the soldiers belonging to that regiment?

A. As far as I recollect, the number was on the shoulder- straps, but at the beginning of the war it could be concealed by a camouflage flap. I cannot remember whether during that particular period these covers were used or not. At any rate, at the street entrance to the regimental headquarters there was a black-yellow-black flag, which bore the number 537.

Q. I am speaking about the arrival at the villa in Kozy Gory of soldiers who did not have on their shoulder-straps the number 537. Were you ever interested in finding out what those soldiers did there in September and October of 1941? Did your commanders report to you about this?

A. May I ask what year this was supposed to be, 1941?

Q. Yes, 1941.

A. I do not think that at that time there was much coming and going of outside people at staff headquarters because during that period -everything was in course of construction, and I cannot imagine that outside units, even small groups of twenty or twenty-five, would have been there. I personally, as I have told you, was there only once or twice weekly, and not before September or October.

[Page 354]

Q. Beginning with what day of September did you start visiting this villa? What was the exact date?

A. I cannot tell you. The commander of the army group moved at the end of September, shortly before the battle of Vyasma, which was on 2nd October, into that district from Borossilov.

Q. Consequently, you could start visiting this villa for instance only at the end of September or beginning of October, 1941.

A. It was only then that the little castle was finally occupied, for the regiment did not arrive much earlier than we did from the command of the army group.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, is it necessary to go into this detail? Have you any particular purpose in going into so much detail?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, I ask this question for the following reason: later, we shall interrogate witnesses for the Soviet prosecution on the same point and chiefly that person who was the chief of the medico-forensic branch. That is why I would like to ask the permission of the Tribunal to clarify this matter concerning the time when the witness visited the villa. That will be my last question to this point.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, very well. Do not go into greater detail than you find absolutely necessary.

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