The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: Judgment
(Part 48 of 70)


153. The camp for Jews in Bergen-Belsen was set up because of the desire of the German Foreign Ministry to concentrate Jews of foreign nationality in an "Exchange Camp," with a view to their being exchanged for German prisoners in the hands of the Allied Powers. Accordingly, the Foreign Ministry, in a letter dated 2 March 1943 (T/762), which was sent to the RSHA for the Accused's attention, demands the concentration of some 30,000 Jews regarded as suitable for exchange, and states that these Jews are not to be evacuated to the East. The RSHA dealt with putting up the camp. One of its officials (from the police department dealing with foreigners) reports confidentially to von Thadden in the Foreign Ministry that,
"... although he had been informed that, from the point of view of work, they would not treat these Jews harshly enough for them to die, yet the impression to be gained from the camp regulations which were in process of being drafted, etc., was that at any rate they would treat them with considerable harshness,"
and this disturbs von Thadden, because such an attitude towards the prisoners is likely to defeat the purpose of the camp (T/789). The history of the camp shows that there was a sound basis for this anxiety.

The camp was set up at the beginning of July 1943. Seidl, who until then had been the commander of Terezin, was transferred to Bergen-Belsen (T/842, third record of proceedings, p. 26). During the same period, a conference took place at the Accused's Section with the Advisers on Jewish Affairs, at which representatives of the Section announced that the new camp would have a capacity of 10,000. "Jews in protective custody" would be housed there, as well as Jewish communal leaders and Jews with contacts abroad who could be considered for exchange, and also Jews of repute (T/554).

Questions reached the Accused's Section (T/555) and instructions were sent out from it (T/557, T/558) in relation to the categories of Jews to be sent to Bergen- Belsen. On 27 January 1944, the Accused's Section (over his signature) orders the transfer to Bergen-Belsen of all Jews holding Argentinian nationality (T/500), and on 29 February 1944 (over Guenther's signature) the Jews of foreign nationality in Greece (T/997). Seidl also testified (T/842, third record of proceedings, p. 27) that the letters which had been written by the camp prisoners were collected together on the spot and sent to the Section of the Accused.

In the autumn of 1944, a representative of the International Red Cross applied to the Foreign Ministry for permission to visit Bergen-Belsen (T/799). Von Thadden promised to look into the matter, but in an internal memorandum, he wrote that there would be serious hesitations on the part of the RSHA about such a visit. A similar request was presented to the Accused in April 1945 by a representative of the Red Cross (T/865), but,

"Eichmann stated that a typhus epidemic had broken out in this camp, and that the Reich authorities responsible for sanitation and health were fighting it with all the means at their disposal. He promised me that he would tour this camp with me in a few days' time. This visit did not take place, because I could no longer find Eichmann in Berlin."
The witness Melkman (Session 34, Vol. II, p. 618) was in Bergen-Belsen from 15 February 1944 until 9 April 1945. His evidence makes it clear why the Accused opposed visits by foreigners to the camp. This is what the witness said:
"When I came to Bergen-Belsen, the living conditions at first were no worse than those in Westerbork, perhaps a little better... In the course of time, the situation at Bergen-Belsen became worse, and the situation deteriorated terribly, until it received this horrible and awful name, as many more people arrived. At first the camp was intended only for some thousands, but in the end there were tens of thousands there. There was no food. The sanitary conditions - it is almost impossible to describe them. In a hut for 400 people, there was one toilet, and this was always out of order. Everybody suffered from diarrhoea... In the end there were tens of thousands of people. The dead lay in the roadway... I also entered the concentration camp of the women who had arrived at Auschwitz, I think that this was in November 1944. And there I saw terrible things - women who fell upon some barrel where a few remnants of food still remained... There were even instances of cannibalism there."
Dr. Chen (Session 71, Vol. III) and Mr. Hoter-Yishai (Session 73, Vol. III, pp. 1349-1350) gave evidence of the terrible situation prevailing in the camp when the liberators arrived. At the time of the liberation there were 52,000 people in the camp, of whom 27,000 died from weakness, in spite of the medical attention they received. To illustrate this evidence, photographs taken at Dr. Chen's instructions were submitted to us (T/1347-T/1355), and a film was shown to us which had also been taken after the liberation of the camp.

It is clear from the documents we have mentioned that the RSHA, and within it the Accused's Section, controlled the fate of the Jewish prisoners in the Bergen-Belsen camp. In this regard, therefore, there is a resemblance between Terezin and Bergen-Belsen.

154. We have also touched, in passing (for example, in the Hungarian chapter), on the transportation conditions when the victims were expelled from their homes and sent to the concentration camps and to other deportation places. We shall now add that the method of transportation in every place resembled the transportation of cattle and worse - sealed freight trucks, in intense cold or blazing heat, without food supplies (except what the evacuees brought along with them), a scant supply of drinking water, and at times no water at all for days on end, the most terrible sanitary conditions (one pail per truck to take care of physiological needs), not less than 70 to 100 people and even more in each truck.

In this matter, the line of increasing harshness is clearly recognizable from the documents: In T/37 (the instruction for evacuation to the Generalgouvernement area) of March 1942, it is still stated that it is forbidden to dispatch more than 1,000 Jews in each train. Compare this with exhibit T/765, dated 20 February 1943 (instructions for evacuation to Auschwitz) where we read that every train must transport at least 1,000 Jews. At a conference in his Section on 9 September 1942, the Accused told his officials that there was room only for 700 people on the trains, but 1,000 Jews would have to be transported in them. When Superintendent Less put this statement to the Accused, he replied:

"Mr. Superintendent, this does not alter the fact that I was the person authorized and responsible for this - this is clear." (T/37, p. 774)
And so he continued right up to the deportations from Hungary, when 100 people and more were packed tightly into a single truck.

The police who accompanied the transports were generally members of the Order Police. But the Order Police were not responsible for the overcrowding in the trucks, nor for the supply of food and water during the journey, nor for the sanitary arrangements. Responsibility for these matters rested solely upon the section which organized the transports, namely the Section of the Accused. It is no exaggeration to say that the very process of transporting people under such conditions was the first stage in the extermination of the deportees.

Thus, it often happened that when a transport reached its destination, or was still at one of the intermediate stations, the bodies of persons who had died en route were taken out of the trucks. This applies not only to the period of the Final Solution, but also to the second stage, when Jews were deported from the Warthe zone, etc., and Stettin under disastrous conditions of transportation.


[ Previous | Index | Next ]