The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Interrogation
Pavel Vladimirovich Leleko

The Soviet Protocols

From Interrogration of Defendant

February 21, 1945. Lieutenant EPPEL', Investigator of the Fourth Department of the "SMERSH" Directorate of Counterintelligence of the Second Belorussian Front interrogated as defendant -

LELEKO, Pavel Vladimirovich, born in 1922, native of the village of Chaplinka, Chaplinka District, Nikolayev Region, Ukrainian, citizen of the USSR.

The people chased out of the cars with whips guessed immediately where they had been brought; some attempted to climb over the barbed wire of the fencing, got caught at it, and we opened fire on those who were trying to escape and killed them. We tried to quiet down the fear-crazed people with heavy clubs. After all those who were able to walk had been unloaded, only the ailing, the killed and the wounded remained in the railroad cars. These were carried by the prisoners belonging to the "blue crew" into the so-called "infirmary", the name given to the place where the ailing and the wounded were shot and the dead were burned. This place became particularly crowded when the prisoners marked for death who were brought in the railroad cars attempted to commit suicide. Thus, in March 1943 there arrived a train in which half of the prisoners cut their throats and hands with razors. While unloading was going on, the prisoners cut themselves with knives and razors before the eyes of us, the policement, saying: "anyhow you will kill us".

The majority of those who did not die of self-inflicted wounds were shot. After the unloading, all those who could stand on their feet were chased toward the undressing place. There the wormen were separated from the men and pushed into a special barrack, while the men were told to undress right there outside another barrack. During the first years of the existence of the camp, women and men undressed together in the same barrack, But it happened once that the prisoners attacked the "chief of the working crew" in the undressing barrack. Somehow the man managed to escape from there. Several policemen and Germans immediately rushed in. One of the Germans started firing into the crowd from his sub-machine gun. After they had stopped shooting, the Germans and the policemen started to beat with clubs and whips those who survivied. After this incident, men were assigned a special place in the open air in which to undress, by the barrack, across from the women's undressing place.

Pushed by the clubs of the Germans and the policemen, the men threw off their clothing, having first handed their valuables and money to a special "cashier's office". The women were obliged to remove their shoes before entering the undressingplace. They were forced to remove all their clothing under the supervision of German policemen and prisoners of the so-called "red crew". Those who resisted were whipped.

Very often the Germans and the policemen tore off and cut off the clothing of those who did not want to undress or undressed too slowly. Many women begged to be allowed to keep at least some clothing on their persons, but the German, smiling cynically, ordered them to undress "to the end". The policemen or the workers threw to the ground and undressed who refused to do so. The undressed women were told to hand over all their valuables and money to the "cashier's office". After this the women were driven in groups to another part of the barrack, where 50 prisoners - "hairdressers" were working. The women sat on a long bench and the "hairdressers" cut off their hair. The cut hair were packed in large bags and sent by trainloads to Germany. One of the Germans told me that in Germany they are used to fill mattresses, also for soft upholstery. He said that this hair make very good mattresses and the Germans buy them willingly.

After their hair was cut the women were sent in batches to the third section of the camp, to the "bath house", but in reality to the gas chamber to be exterminated there.

Before entering the gas chamber building they passed along a long path bordered on both sides with a high fence made of barbed wire and branches. Along the edge of the path stood policemen and Germans. Each one held a whip or a club. I stood repeatedly on the edge of this path with other policemen and drove along with a whip the women and the men into the gas chamber building. Many women were not quite sure that they would now be exterminated and in order to have some means of subsistence in the future, they hid some valuables on their persons.

To prevent this, the Germans placed special controllers in the center of the path. When they noticed that a woman walked along the path holding her legs close together, she was stopped at once and cynically examined, and if anything was found on her, she was beaten almost to death. The men walked more quietly down this path. Several times I heard how one, speaking to another, asked: "Why are you weeping? Do you believe you can arouse compassion in these Germans?" Frequently we could hear cries of "Hail Stalin!", "Hail the Red Army!" To us Russian guards, they said: "Today you exterminate us, and tomorrow the Germans will be killing you".

When the procession of doomed people approached the gas chamber building, MARCHENKO and Nikolay, the motorists of the gas chambers shouted: "Walk faster, or the water will become cold!" Each group of women or men was pushed from behind by some German and very frequently by Franz, the camp commander himself, escorted by dogs. As they approached the gas chambers, the people started to recoil in horror, sometimes they tried to retrace their steps. Then whips and clubs were used. Franz immediately ordered his dog to attack the naken people. Each trained for this, it grabbed them by their genitals.

Aside from the motor operators who had dogs with them, there were five or six Germans near the gas chambers. With whips and clubs they chased people into the passage of the gas chamber building and then into the gas chambers. The Germans and the motor operators then competed as to atrocities with regard to the people to be killed. MARCHENKO for instance, had a sword with which he mutilated people. He cut off the breasts of women.

When the chamber was filled to capacity, the Germans or the motorists came to the door and started beating up the naked people with a rubber whip and at the same time set their dogs against them. The prisoners shrank away into the depth of the chamber yielding place to more prisoners. Such a pressing-in occurred several times so that some 700 to 800 people could be crowded into the not-so-large chambers. When the chambers were filled to the very limit, the Germans started to throw in the children left by the women either in the undressing place or more frequently outside the gas chamber building. As the ceiling of the gas chambers was very low, the children thrown into the chamber hit the ceiling and then, disfigured, sometimes with broken heads, fell on the heads of the prisoners.

When loading of the chambers was completed, they were sealed off by hermetically closing doors. Motorists MARCHENKO and Nikolay started the motors. The gas produced went through the pipes into the chambers. The process of suffocation began. Some time after the motor had been started, the motorists looked into the chambers through special observation portholes situated near each door, in order to determine how the process of extermination was going on. When asked what they saw, the motorists answered that the people were writhing, crushing each other. I also tried to look through the porthole, but for some reason could see nothing. Gradually the noise in the chambers died down. Some fifteen minutes later the motors were stopped and there was an unusual silence.

While extermination of this batch of prisoners went on, a new batch of condemned people arrived into the camp. The entire process started all over again.

Several hundred prisoners destined for death and belonging to the "working crews" were chased to the gas chamber building and they started to unload the chambers. In order to facilitate the removal of the dead bodies from the chambers, streams of water were poured over them. The bodies were laid on stretchers. An especially assigned man with pincers stood right there and opened the dead mouths. If he found any gold teeth he yanked them out with his pincers. The bodies were carried on stretchers to the special furnace about which I have testified earlier. On the way there, under the effect of the fresh air, some of the killed, especially pregnant women, began to revive, to groan. We the policemen, shot them on the spot and I had to shoot them too. The bodies were laid on the rails of the incinerator where the fire burned already. Some 800-1000 bodies were laid on the incinerator at one time. They continued to burn for some five hours. This incinerator functioned ceaselessly day and night. After the bodies had been burned, the prisoners belonging to the "working crews" passed the ashes and remains of the bodies through a sieve. The parts of the body that had burned but had preserved their natural shape were put into a special mortar and pounded into flour. This was done in order to hide the traces of the crimes committed. Later on the ashes were buried in deep pits.

During the first year of the existence of the "death camp", the bodies of the dead people were not burned but were buried. Starting in 1943, after the incinerator was built, the pits with the bodies buried in them were opened up and the content burned. All this work was done by the prisoners waiting to die under the supervision of the Germans and of us, the policemen.

Their extermination was conducted in the following manner. After work, around 10-11 p.m., a working crew of some 100-200 people was brought to the "infirmary". They were then taken into the place in batches of five and shot there by the policemen and the Germans. Those belonging to the working crews and who happened to be then near the barbed wire fencing in the "infirmary" could hear how their comrades were being killed and waited for their own death. Within one and one half or two hours hundreds of people had been shot and were burning on the fire. Working crews were also exterminated for having done something that displeased the Germans.

In September 1942, soon after I entered the "death camp" as they were laying down bodies for burial in the large pits, the workers killed a German who had shown particularly savage cruelty toward the prisoners. Immediately the entire crew, numbering some 250 people, were grouped at the bottom of the pit together with the bodies that they had not yet had time to bury. The workers were executed right there over the bodies of the dead prisoners. One after the other they were brought to the end of the pit, laid on the dead bodies and their heads were cut off or split up with an axe or wooden mallet. All 250 were killed in this way.

A similar case occurred soon after in the first section of the "death camp". During the evening inspection, a German conducting the inspection, displeased with the workers because their answers were not clear enough, started to beat them in turn and during this incident, one of the workers hit him with a knife. The entire crew was immediately surrounded by Germans and policemen. Every fifth worker was killed with axes in full view of the entire assembly. Over 50 persons were thus hacked down.

It happened that the Germans learned that several among the working crews were preparing a riot. These people, they were found to be ten of them, were seized and hung by their feet. They suffered for five hours and after they were dead they still hung on posts for three days in the middle of the camp. It was enough for a worker not to look pleasantly enough at a German, not to greet him, to be immediately killed. Nevertheless, goaded on with whips and bullets, they went to their death, led their kin, their relations to be shot, did everything they were ordered to do. The Germans not only exterminated them, but also used them for their own amusement. They forced them to stage comical plays, they organized a large orchestra composed of prisoners waiting to die, which played every day some light music under the windows of the camp commander. They also staged amusements of a different sort. One day the commander declared that he wanted to be the guest at a wedding among the doomed prisoners. Right away a young woman was picked out among the laundry women and a groom was found among the workers. Both were dressed in appropriate fashion and ordered to go through the complete wedding ritual. The "newlyweds" were given a separate room. On the second day the commander of the camp declared that the newlyweds must of necessity leave for a "honeymoon trip". Escorted by the guards and the Germans and also the workers, the "groom" and the "bride" were brought to the "infirmary" and shot and then thrown into the fire. Meanwhile the Germans ordered the workers to shout "Happy Voyage"! and "See you soon!"

This testimony has been written down from my words correctly, has been read by me (signature) LELEKO

Interrogation made by: Investigator of the Fourth Department of the SMERCH Directorate of Counterintelligence of the Second Belorussian Front, Lietenant (signature) EPPEL'

The Excerpt is true: First Deputy Procurator of the Crimean Region, Senior Councillor of Justice. (KUPTSOV)

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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