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 5 of 6)

[MR. ELWYN JONES continues his cross examination of Wolfram Sievers]

[Page 401]

Q. Now, witness, I want to give you another opportunity of telling the truth.

Are you saying to this Tribunal that you do not know what happened with regard to the progress of that collection of skulls and skeletons?

A. That may be seen from the report itself. Persons were then put at our disposal for this task by order of Himmler.

Q. Who put the actions into operation; did you have anything to do with it, with the collection of the bodies?

A. No, nothing at all, and I do not know either in what way the whole thing started, for the direct correspondence and conferences which had taken place previously between Himmler and Hirt are things I know nothing about.

Q. Well, now, witness, I have given you an opportunity of protecting yourself from perjury. You have not taken it. Look at the next document, No. 86, which is on Page 13 of the document book. It will be Exhibit GB 575. That is another of your letters. It is another letter of yours, again to Himmler's adjutant. It is marked "Secret." It is dated 2nd November, 1942. Page 13 of your document book, my Lord. "Dear Comrade Brandt

"As you know, the Reichsfuehrer SS has directed that SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Professor Dr. Hirt be supplied with everything needed for his experiments. For certain anthropological experiments - I have already reported to the Reichsfuehrer SS on them -150 skeletons of prisoners of Jews are

[Page 402]

required, which are to be supplied by the KL Auschwitz. The only thing that remains to be done is that the RSHA receive an official directive from the Reichsfuehrer SS. This, however, can also be given by you, acting for the Reichsfuehrer SS."
You had already been discussing this with Himmler, witness, had you not? You were his agent for collecting these living men to turn them into skeletons?

A. That does not apply in this form. The entire matter covered such a long period of time that as I was concerned only with particulars, I am not able to reconstruct the entire connection on the spur of the moment.

Q. I am sure you are not in a hurry to reconstruct them, as I am sure you could do. For the second time in regard to this matter you have taken an oath, arid I want you to give some indication that you know what an oath means. You are a man of education.

Look at the next document, Number 089, to refresh your memory as to how distant you were from this matter.

It becomes Exhibit GB 576.

THE PRESIDENT: It came through 089. Do you mean 089?

MR. ELWYN JONES: Nought-eight-nine, Page 16 of your Lordship's document book.


Q. That is a letter from Brandt to the RSHA dated 6th November, 1911; marked "Secret." It is for the attention of SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann; of the RSHA. Reference is "Establishment of a collection of skeletons at the Anatomical Institute at Strassburg."

A. Yes.

"The Reichsfuehrer SS has issued a directive to the effect that SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Professor Dr. Hirt, who is the director of the Anatomic Institute at Strassburg and the head of a department of the Institute for Military Science Research in the Ahnenerbe Society, be furnished with everything he needs for his research work. By order of the Reichsfuehrer SS, therefore, I ask you to be of assistance in materialising the planned collection. SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Sievers will get in touch with you to discuss the details."
Do you still say you know nothing of the details of this matter?

A. I did not say that, you know. Here we are concerned with the entire historical development of this matter, and in that connection I just cannot say when it started, for it can be traced back directly to conversations between Himmler and Hirt, which took place before Hirt became Director of Anatomy at Strassburg University. In that capacity, he had the opportunity and received the task of setting up a modern anatomical department supplied with the necessary modern scientific facilities and collections. Thereupon Hirt, in view of his previous conversations with Himmler, made the application as may be seen from the report. Then I received the order to help Hirt in this task assigned to him by Himmler. I do not know whether Himmler himself -

Q. Just a moment, witness. How many human beings were killed to create this collection of skeletons?

A. One hundred and fifty people are mentioned in this report.

Q. That was all you assisted in murdering, was it?

A. I had nothing to do with the murdering of these people. I simply carried through the function of a postman.

Q. You were the post office, another of these distinguished Nazi post offices were you?

A. If you wish to refer, as I gather from your question, to my interrogation before the Commission, I must point out that in the interrogation before the Commission only the group Rascher was under discussion.

[Page 403]

Q. I asked you quite clearly when I cross-examined you before the Commission - my fire question is on the record at Page 1939 of the transcript - "How many people do you estimate were murdered in connection with the, Rascher and other experiments carried out under the guise of Nazi science?" and you told me, "I cannot say, because I had no knowledge of these matters, you know." Fortunately, there are records available of what you said.

Now, just turn to the next document, Number -

A. Even today I cannot fix the dates, and I do not know the exact number of persons used by Rascher for experiment. I cannot tell you that there were a certain number, if I do not know.

Q. You swore to the Commissioner that you had no knowledge of these matters. Turn to Document 087, so that your memory may be refreshed.

That will be Exhibit GB 577. It is Page 14 of your Lordship's document book.

This is another of your letters. It is headed "Ahnenerbe Society, Institute for Military Scientific Research." You were the director of that institute, were you not?

A. Yes. I was the Reich business manager.

Q. Yes. This is dated 21st June, 1943. It is marked "Top Secret," to the RSHA Department IV B 4, for the attention of SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann.

"Subject: Establishment of a Collection of Skeletons.

Referring to your letter of 25th September, 1942, and the personal conversations which have since taken place on this subject, I wish to inform you that our associate, SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Dr. Hager, who was in charge of the above special project, broke off his experiments in the KL Auschwitz on 15th June, 1943, because of the existing danger of epidemics.

Altogether 115 persons were experimented on."

Let me just pause there for a moment. What form of experiments were going on on these human beings with a view to the collection of skeletons? What sort of experiments were they, witness?

A. Anthropological measurements.

Q. Before they were murdered, they were anthropologically measured? That was all there was to it, was it?

A. And casts were taken.

Q. It does not take very long to make an anthropological measurement or to take a cast, you know, witness. There were some other experiments than measurements and casts carried out on these unfortunate victims of your science, were there not?

A. I am not familiar with this type of work in Auschwitz. I know only that anthropological measurements were taken, but I do not know how long these measurements took.

Q. I will continue your letter now, which makes it quite clear that there must have been something far more sinister than anthropological measurements.

"Altogether 115 persons were experimented on. Seventy- nine were Jews; thirty were Jewesses, two were Poles and four were Asiatics. At the present time these prisoners are segregated by sex and are under quarantine in two hospital buildings of KL Auschwitz.

For the further experimentation on these selected prisoners it will be necessary to have them transferred to the KL Natzweiler. This transfer should be made as speedily as possible because of the existing danger of an epidemic at Auschwitz. A list of the selected people is attached.

We request that the necessary directives be issued. Since this transfer of prisoners presents a certain amount of danger of spreading the epidemic to Natzweiler, we request that immune and clean prisoner clothing for eighty men and thirty women be sent from Natzweiler to Auschwitz immediately. At the same time lodgings should be prepared for the women at Natzweiler in the near future."

[Page 404]

That is your letter.

If your only interest in these unfortunate people was their anthropological measurements and the securing of their frail bones for skeletons, why did you not kill them straight away? You must have made experiments on them, the results of which you wanted to discover, did you not?

A. No, I know nothing whatever of experiments, and such experiments were not carried on.

Q. What happened to this collection of skeletons? Where was it assembled?

A. It was taken to Natzweiler, and the further treatment was in the hands of Professor Hirt.

Q. After SS Professor Hirt and the other SS men had murdered these people what happened to their bodies? Where were they sent?

A. I assume that they were taken to the Anatomical Department at Strassburg.

Q. Have you any doubt in your mind about that, witness? You seem to be hesitant about admitting it. Have you any doubt?

A. Well, I have seen no reports about that and did not receive any.

Q. Did you have anything to do with the disposal of those skeletons and those bodies ultimately? Did you have anything to do with the ultimate disposal of those bodies? I appreciate your difficulty in answering the question.

A. No. That was in the hands of Professor Hirt. I was not at Strassburg or Natzweiler in this connection at all.

Q. Did you make any suggestion as to what should happen to the collection at any time?

A. It was much later when the questions concerning the occupation of Strassburg and where the collection was to be deposited arose.

Q. What did you do then?

A. I believe there was a conference which took place - I cannot exactly tell you with whom it was - to obtain a decision on the part of Himmler as to where the collection was to be housed.

Q. Were you present at that conference?

A. I did not talk with Himmler about that matter then.

Q. Did you make any suggestion as to what should happen and what should be done with the human bodies that you had assembled at Strassburg? Did you have any suggestions to make?

A. I cannot say any more. I no longer remember.

Q. Just try to recollect, will you? I am sure you know. It was 1944. It is not very long ago. I am sure it must be very vivid in your memory.

A. I am sorry; I cannot give you an exact answer because I do not remember.

Q. Witness, when the Allied Armies were approaching Strassburg and the day of reckoning was near, what suggestion did you make with regard to these bodies in Strassburg? Tell the Tribunal.

A. I said that I asked Himmler to make a decision as to what was to become of this collection. This was an affair which originated from conversations and ideas between Himmler and Hirt, and I was drawn into it because of the administrative and technical dispatch of the matter; and therefore Himmler alone could decide what was to be done.

Q. I have again given you an opportunity to protect yourself from perjury. Look at Document No. 088 at Page 15; in your Lordship's document book it will be Exhibit GB 578. This is another of the letters from your personal staff to Brandt, Himmler's adjutant; and it is addressed to the Reichsfuehrer SS Personal Staff Department A; and that is the Ahnenerbe. It was dated 5th September, 1944. It is marked "Top Secret." The Allied Armies by then were advancing towards Strassburg, were they not?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. The subject is "Collection of Jewish Skeletons."

[Page 405]

"According to the proposal of 9th February, 1942, and your approval of 23rd February, 1942, Professor Dr. Hirt has assembled the skeleton collection which was previously non-existent. Because of the vast amount of scientific research connected therewith, the job of reducing the corpses to skeletons has not yet been completed. Since it requires some time for eighty corpses, Hirt requests directives as to what should be done with the collection stored in the morgue of the Anatomical Institute in case Strassburg should be endangered.

The collection can be stripped of the flesh and thereby rendered unidentifiable. This, however, would mean that at least part of the whole work had been done for nothing and that this collection, the only one of its kind, would be lost to science, since it would be impossible to make plaster casts afterwards. The skeleton collection as such is inconspicuous. The flesh parts could be declared as having been left by the French at the time we took over the Anatomical Institute and would be turned over for cremating. Please advise me which of the following three proposals is to be carried out:

1. The collection as a whole is to be preserved.

2. The collection is to be dissolved in part.

3. The collection is to be completely dissolved."

Why were you wanting to de-flesh the bodies, witness?

A. In this connection I must say that this letter reached me as an inquiry from Professor Hirt and was further transmitted in this teletype letter. As I said previously for this reason I could not exactly remember it for as a layman the entire manner of treatment was totally unknown to me.

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