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-Eighth Day: Thursday, 8th August, 1946
(Part 2 of 6)

[DR. PELCKMANN continues his direct examination of Georg Konrad Morgen]

[Page 390]

Q. We will go back to the mass exterminations, one case of which you described. You spoke of Kriminalkommissar Wirth who was not a member of the SS and whose staff did not consist of SS men. Why was Wirth given the assignment?

A. I have already mentioned that Wirth was Kriminalkommissar with the Criminal Police in Stuttgart. He was the Kommissar who investigated capital crimes, particularly murder. He had quite a reputation in following up clues, and before the seizure of power he was known to the general public for unscrupulous methods of investigation which even led to a discussion in the Wurttemberg Landtag (Diet). This man was now used in order to cover up the traces of these mass killings. It was thought that, on the basis of his previous professional experience, this man was unscrupulous enough to carry this out, and that was true.

Q. You mentioned the Jewish prisoners who aided in the killings. What became of these people?

A. Wirth told me that at the end of the actions he had these prisoners shot and the profits which he had let them have were taken back from them. He did not do this all at once, but by means of the deceptive methods already described he lured and segregated the prisoners and then killed them individually.

Q. Did you hear from Wirth the name Hoess?

A. Yes. Wirth called him his untalented disciple.

Q. Why?

A. In contrast to Wirth, Hoess used entirely different methods. I could best describe them if we speak of Auschwitz itself.

Q. Was the name Eichmann mentioned at that time?

A. I cannot remember that the name Eichmann was mentioned at that time, but later I heard of it, too.

Q. How did you find the trail which led to Auschwitz?

A. I had the first opportunity through an allusion by Wirth himself. Now I had only to find a reason to institute investigations in Auschwitz itself. Please remember, my assignment was limited; I had to investigate crimes of corruption and the crimes committed in connection with them.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Pelckmann, did he not explain how he came to investigate Auschwitz yesterday?

DR. PELCKMANN: No, it is something different, your Lordship.

THE WITNESS: Yesterday I spoke only of Lublin and Wirth. I said I received information about Hoess and wanted to try to get into the camp and needed a reason. I found this reason very soon.

The Protectorate Police had heard about the smuggling of gold in the Protectorate. The clues led to Berlin. The customs search agency, Berlin-Brandenburg, had discovered persons who were posted at the concentration camp Auschwitz and turned over proceedings to the SS and Police Court in Berlin. I learned of it there and I took over these proceedings concerning the enormous gold smuggling and shortly thereafter went to Auschwitz.

Q. Then you were in Auschwitz proper?

A. Yes, I went to Auschwitz and before I started with the investigation itself -

THE PRESIDENT: When did you go there?

THE WITNESS: I cannot give the date exactly, but it must have been the end of 1943 or the beginning of 1944.

[Page 391]


Q. The method of extermination there was probably similar to the one you described yesterday?

A. I thoroughly investigated the entire stretch of territory and studied the lay-out and installations. The prisoners arrived on a side track in closed transport cars and were unloaded there by Jewish prisoners. Then they were sorted out according to their capacity for work, and here the methods of Hoess and Wirth differed. The selection of those incapable of all work was done in a fairly simple way. There were several trucks and the doctor told the arrivals to use the trucks. He said that only sick, old persons and women with children were allowed to use them. Thereupon these persons surged toward the transportation prepared for their use and then he needed only to hold back the prisoners that he did not want to send to destruction. These trucks drove off but they did not drive to the concentration camp Auschwitz, but in another direction to the extermination camp Monowitz which was a few kilometres away. This extermination camp consisted of a number of crematoria which were not recognizable as such from the outside. They could have been taken for large bathing establishments and that is what they told the prisoners. These crematoria were surrounded by a barbed wire fence and were guarded from the inside by the Jewish labour details which I have already mentioned. The new arrivals were led into a large dressing room and told to take their clothing off. When this was done -

Q. Is that not what you described yesterday?

A. Of course.

Q. What precautions were taken to keep these things absolutely secret?

A. The- prisoners who marched to the concentration camp had no inkling of where the other prisoners were taken. The extermination camp Monowitz lay far away from the camp of Auschwitz. It was in an extensive industrial area and was not recognizable as a crematorium, as everywhere on the horizon there were smoking chimneys. The camp itself was guarded on the outside by special troops of men from the Baltic, Esthonians, Lithuanians, Latvians and also Ukrainians. The entire technical arrangement was almost exclusively in the hands of the prisoners who were assigned for this, and they were only supervised by an Unterfuehrer from time to time. The actual killing was done by another Unterfuehrer who let the gas into this room. Thus the number of those who knew about these things was extremely limited. This circle had to take a special oath -



Q. Were these Unterfuehrers in the SS?

A. They wore SS uniforms.

Q. Did you not take the trouble to ascertain whether they were proper members of the SS?

A. I said that they were people from the eastern territories.

Q. I do not care what you have already said. What I asked you was, did you not take the trouble to ascertain whether they were members of the SS?

A. I beg your pardon, your Lordship. I did not understand your question. They could not be members of the General SS. As far as I could learn, they were volunteers and draftees who had been recruited in the Baltic countries where they had carried out security tasks and who were especially selected and sent to Auschwitz and Monowitz. These were special troops who had only this particular task and no other. They were completely outside of the Waffen SS -

Q. I did not ask you if they were in the Waffen SS. Did you ask questions as to why they were put into SS uniforms?

[Page 392]

A. No, I did not ask that question. It seemed incomprehensible to me. It is probably connected with the fact that the commander of the concentration camp -

Q. Wait a minute. You said, as I understand it,, that you considered it incomprehensible why they wore the SS uniforms. Did you not say that?

A. Yes.

Q. Were there no officers of the SS there at all?

A. One officer, the commandant of this company, I believe a Hauptsturmfuehrer Hartenstein, or something like that.

Q. Why did you not ask him why these men were put into SS uniforms?

A. The extermination camp was under the direction of the SS Standartenfuehrer Hoess. Hoess was commandant of the concentration camp Auschwitz, and also of the extermination camp Monowitz. Around Auschwitz were a number of labour camps and I have already said -

Q. I did not ask you where. What I am asking you is why you did not ask these two SS men why they put these men into SS uniforms?

A. I assumed that this was done for camouflage reasons so that this extermination camp would not be distinguished outwardly from the other labour camps and the concentration camp itself. As a soldier it was incomprehensible to me that this damage to the reputation of the SS was tolerated, as it had nothing to do with the extermination.

Q. You yourself were a high SS officer, were you not?

A. I was Sturmbannfuehrer of the Waffen SS.

Q. Well, what I am asking you is this. Why, in those circumstances, you made no inquiry about it, and why you did not ask these high SS officers there: "What is the meaning of these men being put into SS uniforms?"

A. I did not understand the question.




Q. Witness, I should like to ask you the question myself. Why did you not ask the higher SS leaders whom you met there why these people were working in SS uniforms?

A. I said that I had the impression that this was done for reasons of camouflage so that the camp would not be distinguished from the other camps possible through the use of different uniforms.

Q. This explanation which you gave yourself is the reason why you did not make inquiry of the officers, is that true?

A. At any rate I cannot remember having asked the officers about it. I did not speak to officers but only to the commandant Hoess and the commandant of the guards of the extermination camp.

Q. Have you described everything which -



Q. Have you said everything in answer to the question as to how secrecy was secured?

A. One essential thing could perhaps be mentioned. Certain Jewish prisoners with connections abroad were selected and were made to write letters abroad telling how well off they were in Auschwitz so that the public got the impression that people well known to them were alive, and could write and say that they were getting on nicely.

Q. Thank you. Now, witness, under normal circumstances what would you have had to do after you had learned of all these terrible things?

[Page 393]

A. Under normal circumstances I would have had to have Kriminalkommissar Wirth and Kommandant Hoess arrested and charged with murder.

Q. Did you do that?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. The answer is entailed in the question. In Germany, during the war, circumstances were no longer normal in a sense of legal guarantees. In addition, the following must be considered: I was not only a judge, but I was a judge of military penal law. No court martial in the world could bring his Army commander, not to talk of the head of the State, to court.

Q. Please do not discuss law, but tell us why you did not do what you realised you should have done?

A. I beg your pardon. I was saying that it was not possible for me, an Obersturmfuehrer, to arrest Hitler, who as I saw it was the instigator of these orders.

Q. Then what did you do?

A. On the basis of this knowledge, I realised that something had to be done to put an end to this action. Hitler had to be induced to withdraw his orders. Under the circumstances, this could be done only by Himmler as Minister of the Interior and Minister of the Police. I thought at that time that I must endeavour to approach Himmler through the heads of the departments and, by explaining to him the effects of this system, make it clear to him that through these methods the State was being led straight to its downfall. Therefore I approached my immediate superior, the head of the Criminal Police, SS Obergruppenfuehrer Nebe; then I turned to the head of the Main Office of the SS Courts, SS Obergruppenfuehrer Breithaupt. I also approached Kaltenbrunner and the chief of the Gestapo, Gruppenfuehrer Mueller, and Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl of the WVHA, and the Hausarzt, Gruppenfuehrer Dr. Grahe. But apart from taking these necessary steps, I saw a practical way open to me by way of justice; that is, to have the spies and the important members of this system of destruction taken out one after another through the means available to the system itself. I could not do this for the killings ordered by the head of the State, but I could do it for killings outside of this order or against this order or for other serious crimes. For that reason, I consciously started proceedings against these men and this would have led to a breaking up of this system. But this also had a long-range effect for the near future, for through the big concentration camp trials against Commandant Koch, of whom I spoke earlier, and against the head of the political section at Auschwitz - Criminal Secretary Untersturmfuehrer Grabner, whom I charged with murder in two thousand cases outside of this extermination action - the whole affair of these killings had to be brought to trial. It was to be expected, because of these individual crimes, that the perpetrators would refer to higher orders. This occurred; thereupon the SS jurisdiction, on the basis of the material which I supplied, approached the highest Government heads and officially asked: "Did you order these killings? Is the legal fact of murder no longer valid for you? What general orders are there concerning these killings?" Then the supreme State leadership either had to admit its mistakes and thus expose the perpetrators to prosecution for the mass exterminations, or else an open break would have to result through the ineffectiveness of the entire judicial system. If I may anticipate, on the basis of the trial in Weimar against Koch and Grabner, this problem became acute as I had foreseen; negotiations were suspended and the SS jurisdiction put these questions, which I mentioned before, publicly and officially to the RSHA. Expressly for this purpose, a judge was sent there, who had the assignment to investigate in all sections of the RSHA, to see whether such orders were in existence. As I heard, the result was negative. Thereupon an attempt was made to take steps against Hoess himself, but in the meantime the front had advanced, Auschwitz was occupied - the judge who had been sent there had to stop at the beginning of his fruitless investigations, and in January, 1945, complete disorganiza-

[Page 394]

tion set in which made further legal prosecution impossible. If I may go back, the immediate effects of the judicial investigation were that in all concentration camps the killing of prisoners by so-called "euthanasia" stopped immediately, because no doctor could feel sure practically from one moment to the next that he would; not be arrested. Everyone remembers the example of the doctor of Buchenwald, I am convinced that through this intervention and action the lives of thousands of prisoners were saved. The killing system itself was severely shaken; for it is noteworthy that shortly after I first approached Kriminalkommissar Wirth, on my second visit to Lublin, I did not find him there. I learned that in the meantime Wirth had suddenly received entire command, and was guarding streets there, and while doing so he was killed in May, 1944. When I heard that Wirth and his command had left Lublin, I immediately flew there in order to find out whether he was merely transferring his field of activity and would continue elsewhere, but that was not so.

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