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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
29th July to 8th August 1946

One Hundred and Ninety-Seventh Day: Wednesday, 7th August, 1946
(Part 8 of 10)

[Page 373]


Q. Witness, I shall once again have the document shown to you.

(Witness was handed document.)

Was the SD responsible for dealing with this letter?

[Guenther Reinecke] A. That question must be answered with no. It is apparent from its heading that the letter is addressed to the Security Police and SD at Strasbourg. As to the SD, that is a misleading description, as it is merely a usual form of speech which has no connection with the organization of the SD, and it results from the chief of the RSHA calling himself "Chief of Security Police and the SD."

DR. GAWLIK: I have no further questions.


Q. Witness, I want to ask you a few questions about the investigation of the camps. You said your investigation began in 1943. What time in the year 1943 did your investigation begin of the concentration camps?

[Page 374]

A. Your Lordship, that was during the second half of 1943, as far as I can recollect, either in June or July.

Q. It lasted for a little under two years until the end of the war, I suppose.

A. Yes.

Q. How many camps did you investigate?

A. It began in Buchenwald camp and thereafter investigating commissions were sent to every camp which had attracted suspicion.

Q. Witness, listen very carefully and answer the questions. All I asked you was how many camps did you investigate?

A. The total investigations were carried out in seven to ten camps, but I cannot give you the exact figure at the moment. It varied from one time to another.

Q. You mean seven to ten in all, altogether seven to ten?

A. Yes, that is what I meant.

Q. Did that include labour training camps also?

A. By the seven to ten camps I mean the "Stammlager" (parent camps), that is the concentration camps themselves, and from there the investigation spread from the parent camp where the commission was stationed to the labour camp.

Q. And that included Auschwitz and Dachau?

A. In both these concentration camps there were investigation commissions.

Q. And Treblinka?

A. Not in Treblinka, your Lordship.

Q. Did you investigate any camps outside Germany?

A. Yes, for instance, we had a commission in the concentration camp of Herzogenbosch in Holland and there proceedings were instituted against a camp commandant, which ended in a long term of imprisonment.

Q. How many investigators were you using at any one time?

A. The total of investigating officials may have varied from thirty to fifty people, the majority of whom were not taken from the legal system but were experts from the RSHA and from the Criminal Police Department.

Q. Now, how many cases did you recommend for court action?

A. Proceedings which ended with a sentence amounted to two hundred up to the end of the war, that is to say, two hundred sentences were passed which were actually carried out.

Q. Again I did not ask you that, witness; I said, how many cases did you recommend for action. You made recommendations, did you not?

A. Altogether 800 cases, 800 proceedings were brought about through the investigations.

Q. Where did you send your reports? Did you send them directly to the Courts?

A. When the investigation was completed and when the case was ready for prosecution, the reports from the investigating commissions went, together with the judge's order to prosecute, to the Court itself, which would then hold the actual trial and pronounce sentence.

Q. And where did copies of the reports go? Did a copy go to the Minister of the Interior?

A. No, that I consider out of the question.

Q. You mean the Minister of the Interior was not concerned with any of this?

A. We are here concerned with criminal proceedings against members of the SS which, therefore, came under the penal jurisdiction of the SS and, as far as that is concerned, the Ministry of the Interior was not involved.

Q. You mean you were only investigating cases that involved the SS?

A. All cases were investigated which concerned the camps and these cases referred to SS members and also police members, that is to say, members of the Security Police, and they, for the purpose of being tried, were brought before the Courts.

[Page 375]

Q. Well, now, you have not told us what conditions you found in the camps. You said they were very bad. What were they; what was going on in the camps?

A. We discovered through our investigations that in the camps there was to some extent a regular system of killing.

Q. And as a result of discovering that there was a regular system of killing, you thought there must be an order to that effect, although you never found it, is that right?

A. Yes, your Lordship. The fact that an order from above was in existence became known to us at the end of 1944.

Q. Now, why did you think that there was a regular system of killing? Was it because there were so many killings?

A. For the reason that there were so many cases, and also because it was possible to detect a system of co-operation of the concentration camp commandants.

Q. That is right. And how many of those seven to ten camps, how many commandants were involved in these killings?

A. In practice the situation was such that practically every commandant was brought under investigation, and criminal proceedings were taken against a total of five commandants.

Q. Five, five out of how many?

A. Altogether there were twelve commandants of concentration camps because there were twelve large concentration camps, the so-called "Stamm" (parent) concentration camps.

Q. So out of twelve investigated you started proceedings against five, is that right?

A. Yes, that is so.

Q. Now, you said you thought that the killings must be on a large scale. Did you find any evidence of any of the gas chambers which added to your belief that it might be a large- scale operation? You found some evidence of gas chambers?

A. The first case in which a gas chamber appeared was the case of Auschwitz. That is the case, your Lordship, that I have just mentioned here, with reference to the detainee Eleanora Hodis.

Q. When was it that you got a report that a gas chamber was being used in Auschwitz? When?

A. That was at the end of October or the beginning of November, 1944.

Q. Did you get figures of the numbers of persons who had died in these concentration camps? Did you find out how many persons had died in the different camps? Did you get statistics?

A. No, your Lordship, about that we received no information. We had to collect and look for all the material ourselves, but we had no survey.


Q. Can you remember the names of the five whom you prosecuted, the five commandants?

A. They were the commandant of Buchenwald, Koch; the commandant at Lublin, whose name I cannot remember at the moment, and the commandant of the Herzogenbosch camp, whose name I have just remembered, a certain Gruenwald.

Further investigations were carried out against the commandant of Oranienburg, Loritz, and also against Keindel, the later commandant. The proceedings against him were discontinued, however, because proof was furnished that at the tune when Keindel was camp commandant no killings had occurred.

Q. Did you prosecute Hoess? H-o-e-s-s?

A. At the end of 1944 we started proceedings against Hoess, based on the testimony of the detainee in protective custody who has just been mentioned.

Q. What crime did you charge Hoess with?

[Page 376]

A. May I please make this matter clear? Proceedings against Hoess had not advanced sufficiently to serve an indictment against him. It was still in the process of preliminary investigation. Material had to be collected first.

Q. Well, you must have arrived at some decision about Hoess, surely. You must have known what crimes you were investigating. What were the crimes you were investigating against Hoess?

A. In the case of Hoess the crime of murder of unknown persons and unknown numbers of persons detained in the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Q. Did you say that you never heard of the facts which were stated in Document EC-168, the document in which Himmler said that the number of deaths in the concentration camps must be reduced?

A. I had never seen that document before. The first time that I saw it was when it was submitted by defence counsel here, but in the course of investigations, my judges had confirmed to me that instructions of that type had passed through the camps and were actually observed.

Q. The document, you remember, said that out of 136,000 persons in concentration camps, 70,000 had died.

A. I do not know at the moment which document you are referring to.

Q. EC-168 is the document, and I wanted to know whether in the course of your investigations you found, you ascertained those facts, namely that 70,000 out of 136,000 had died?

A. No, such facts were not ascertained.

DR. PELCKMANN: I have no question, your Lordship, but I should like to be permitted to make a suggestion.

This witness until the end of the war was only the deputy chief of the head office of the SS judicial department. The chief was a certain Herr Breithaupt who has since died. In the first place, the heads of the commissions reported to this departmental chief, and the SS judges who carried out the investigations in the camps are still alive, and the answer to all these questions which your Lordship and Mr. Biddle have put can be given in detail by the witness Morgen.

If I may be permitted another suggestion -

THE PRESIDENT: But you have got some more witnesses to call, have you not? You have some more witnesses to call, have you not?

DR. PELCKMANN: During the entire trial I have attempted to make the witness Hinderfeld as superfluous as possible. I have succeeded in putting the questions intended for witness Hinderfeld to the other witnesses I have called. If the Tribunal -

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Dr. Pelckmann. I do not understand what the object of this speech is.

The witness has been examined, cross-examined and re- examined, and examined, by the Tribunal. Now he can retire and you can go on with your case.

DR. PELCKMANN: He can retire?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, the witness can retire and the Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Pelckmann, I am told that I may have misunderstood what you were saying to me just before the Tribunal adjourned and that you were; asking whether you might be allowed to call some other witness in place of one of the witnesses you had already applied for. Is that so?


THE PRESIDENT: Well, whom is it you want to call?

[Page 377]

DR. PELCKMANN: Since I know the wish of the Tribunal to shorten the proceedings, I had endeavoured to ask the other witnesses the questions which I had intended for the fifth witness. I believe I succeeded in this, but from the interest that the Tribunal took in the question of the investigation of concentration camps, I saw that it might be very expedient, and I must say that it would be in the interest of the defence, if the judge, Dr. Morgen, mentioned by the witness Reinecke, might be examined briefly on these matters. I would be in a position to examine this witness immediately, and would no longer require the witness Hinderfeld, who was to be examined.

THE PRESIDENT: You want to examine Dr. Morgen and to give up one of the other witnesses, is that right?


THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Very well, the Tribunal - he has been called before the Commission, I suppose, has he not?

DR. PELCKMANN: No, your Lordship. There are affidavits from him. May I explain briefly why I could not examine him before the Commission? On the first of July the witness arrived here in Nuremberg after I had searched for him for a long time. Up to that time the witness was in Dachau without my being able to find out about it. On the 1st of July I was very busy with the last examinations before the Commission; for example, the witness Eberstein, and the witness Reinecke I examined only on the 5th and 6th of July before the Commission, so that I could not prepare the testimony of this witness. As a result, I was only able, after the end of the activity of the Commission, to prepare affidavits with him. These are, I believe, Affidavits 65 and 67, but these affidavits do not show matters as clearly as if I were to examine him now, your Lordship, and I respectfully submit that perhaps not I but the Tribunal might examine him if the rules allow this.

THE PRESIDENT: Who is the witness you are intending to dispense with?

DR. PELCKMANN: Hinderfeld.

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Elwyn Jones, what view do the prosecution take of this application?

MR. ELWYN JONES: I suggest, my Lord, that it is - that it might be possible for a fuller affidavit to be taken by this witness and that might possibly meet the case. But in view of the fact that the defence are abandoning one witness, I would not press that view, but I do respectfully suggest that, in view of the time that has been taken on this organization, an affidavit might be appropriate, particularly as Dr. Pelckmann is dealing with matters- dealing with that part of the case in which the Tribunal is especially interested.

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