War Crimes Trials - Vol. II The Belsen Trial. 'The Trial of Josef Kramer and Forty Four Others'

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Dr Fritz Klein)


FRITZ KLEIN, sworn, examined by Major WINWOOD - I was born on 24th November, 1888, at Zeiden near Kronstadt in Rumania. I am a Rumanian subject of German nationality. I qualified as a doctor in Budapest and practiced in three places, all near Kronstadt.

Did you do any service in the Rumanian army? - Yes, for three years, but in the summer of 1943 there was a treaty between the German and Rumanian governments so that all those appertaining to the German minorities should continue their service in the German army. I joined the S.S. formation because it was impossible to join the proper German Wehrmacht as one had to have German nationality for that.

Where did you go in December, 1943? - I went to Auschwitz where Hoess was at that time Kommandant. Dr. Wirtz was the senior doctor and told me where I had to work. I started my duties in the women's compound in Auschwitz, continued in the gipsy camp, then in the Jewish mixed family camp and finally in Auschwitz No. 1. There were seven or eight doctors in Auschwitz.

Will you tell us what happened on selections? - Dr. Wirtz, when the first transport arrived, gave me orders to divide it into two parts, those who were fit to work and those who were not fit, that is those who, because of their age, could not work, who were too weak, whose health was not very good, and also children up to the age of fifteen. The selecting was done exclusively by doctors. One looked at the person and, if she looked ill, asked a few questions, but if the person was healthy then it was decided immediately.

What happened to those people who were selected as capable of work? - The doctor had only to make the decision. What happened to them afterwards was nothing to do with him.

What happened to those people whom the doctors selected as unfit for work? - The doctor had to make a selection but had no influence on what was going to happen. I have heard, and I know, that part of them were sent to the gas chambers and the crematoria.

Did you ever take part in any other selections except when the transports came in? - I have heard much talk about selections in the hospitals, but there were no real selections there. The only thing that was done was that the doctor was ordered to produce lists of the names of people who would be better in two, three or four weeks and people who had no chance of becoming better. Very often these people who were put on the lists were removed to another department, and sometimes they left the hospital. At one time several cases of scabies were reported and I made a selection and put all the people with scabies in a separate room.

Was your work completed when you had divided the transports into fit for work and unfit? - Yes.

Did you ever go down to the gas chamber yourself? - Yes, once, when it was not working. I had no duties to perform there.

What was your personal opinion about this gas chamber business? - I did not approve, but I did not protest because that was no use at all.

Do you know anything about any experiments that took place at Auschwitz? - Yes, but I had nothing to do with them myself. Other doctors were doing that.

Where did the orders come from about the selections? - I do not know. I always received a message by telephone and went down to the station by Red Cross car.

When did you first go to Belsen? - At the end of January, 1945. Dr. Schnabel was the doctor when I first got there, but after a few days he went away. He said that everything was in running order and the Red Cross orderlies knew their work so that my duties would only be very light. I had to go to the camp every day, and if there was anything special I had to do something about it, but not very much was expected.

Were there any hospitals in the camp ? - Yes. It was rather primitive. The doctors chosen from the prisoners looked after these hospitals. During the first period of ten days I would not say that medicine was very short, although there was not a very large amount. After ten days Dr. Schnabel came back and I went to Neuengamme and returned to Belsen in the middle of March. Dr. Horstmann had relieved Dr. Schnabel. He took me round the camp and showed me everything. I gained the impression that this was a lost post. It was a thankless job. Dr. Horstmann told me that as I would only be there two weeks I had better look after the S.S. troops. He took me very often into the camp and I always said to him, "You had better be very careful. You had better make as many reports as you can because the situation is deteriorating every day." I told him that if I was responsible for this camp I would write to Berlin every day so that nobody could accuse me that I did not warn higher authority.

Did anybody from Berlin visit the camp in March? - Yes, Pohl came with Hoess and Dr. Lolling, and I did not need to point out very much because they could see with their own eyes how bad the situation had become.

What was the position with regard to medical supplies at this time? - At that time I was not doing that duty, but about three days before the British troops entered the camp, and when I took over, I was surprised at the comparatively huge amount of supplies which were there. I took over from Dr. Horstmann when he left with the majority of the people. I told Kramer about the terrible impressions I had and told him that the first thing to be done was to get rid of all the bodies which were around, and that the second important question was that of water because in my opinion I believed they were suffering more from thirst than hunger.

What was the first thing you did yourself as senior and only doctor? - I called a meeting of all the internee doctors - a large number, about 80 to 100. I told them we would try to do what could be done; but in fact nothing much could be done. I told them that they should make out a list of all their requirements and said that they would be met because the medical supplies would not have to last for long, as the British troops were going to arrive very shortly. On the same day I took over from the stores a huge amount of tinned milk, meat, cake or biscuits and told I the doctors that these should be distributed among the children, women and sick prisoners who really did require them. I also told the doctors and orderlies that they should take a tin of each of these things between every two of themselves as they seemed also very much in need of nourishment. This distribution, however, was not much use and could not improve the situation very much. The main question was water, nourishment and food for the whole community. The worst thing in my opinion was the terrible overcrowding. People did not know where to lie down or how to lie down. There were no beds, blankets or paillasses.

How often had you been into the camp when Dr. Horstmann was in charge? - About five or six times. Apart from that I went on my own about two or three times, because I took over, without having been detailed to do so, the so-called Belladona camp, which was a camp of mixed nationalities.

When Dr. Horstmann left did he hand over to you any lists or reports or papers? - Nothing, only the camp. I had an approximate idea of how many people were suffering from what disease, and both Dr. Horstmann and myself had to rely on the internee doctors for any sort of strength return of numbers diseased and how many suffered from which disease.

Did you carry out any medical duties after the British came in? - On the first day I still went around, but it could not really be called duty.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Dr. Klein, you are an educated man and were educated at a non-German university. When you went to Auschwitz and found these transports of people being taken to the gas chambers and being killed, did you not realise that that was murder? - Yes.

Is it not true that those who were not fit for work were simply destroyed? - Yes.

Those who were fit to work were beaten to their work, starved and overcrowded until their turn came to go to the gas chamber; is that not true? - I have not seen it happen but if it did happen it was not right.

Whilst you have been at concentration camps you have seen many people beaten by the S.S.? - No, I have not seen that myself. I have received people into the hospital who had been beaten by the S.S., but the majority were beaten by the Kapos and other inmates. I made a report to the Lagerführer with the names of those who had given beatings. I cannot say I reported every beating.

When you went down to the station to the transports who was in charge of the prisoners when you were there? - An S.S. guard.

Who were the people from Auschwitz who took charge? - I do not know exactly, but I suppose an S.S. Führer.

Have you seen S.S. women on these parades? - Yes.

You, as a doctor, divided those who were healthy from those who were to die, and the S.S. marched them off? - Yes.

Did none of them ever try to escape? - Sometimes.

You told us you went down for a look at the gas chambers, but that you were not on duty. Having taken part in the earlier stage of the murder did you want to see how it was carried out? - I did not look at them for that reason.

You told us that there were experiments carried out at Auschwitz. Do you remember a Dr. Weber, a Dr. Schumann, a Dr. Glauber and a Dr. Gabel? - I remember the last three. Gabel and Glauber were always together.

Were they carrying out experiments for the electric sterilization of women? - I know only that they were carrying out experiments. What sort of experiments I do not know. Nor do I know if Dr. Wirtz carried out experiments too.

Did all the doctors live together? - With the exception of Dr's. Glauber, Wirtz, Fischer and Gabel, yes.

You said that in the hospital you had to make lists of people who might get better and those who would not. What happened to the people who would not? - These lists were asked for very frequently and sometimes nothing happened at all. Sometimes, for example in the case of the patients suffering with tuberculosis, these people were suddenly taken away. We never knew where they were sent.

When the Hungarian transports arrived was the gas chamber working day and night then? - It might have been.

Were they not sent to the gas chamber? - I do not know exactly, but I believe so.

What did Kramer say to you when you told him about the growing need for water at Belsen and for the need to remove the corpses? - He told me, "You cannot give me any orders." The corpses were lying all round the camp.

Until you called this meeting of internee doctors had there been any proper organization of them at all? - Yes. Each block had the doctors and there was a duty rota.

Where did you find this huge supply of medical stores? - There was a chemist's shop in the camp. Until I distributed the medical stores hospitals had been short of supplies.

Were the internees in Belsen the same type of people that you had had at Auschwitz? - In Auschwitz their physical condition was better. The types of people I believe were the same - political prisoners, professional criminals, Jews, Aryans, just the same as in any other concentration camp.

In Auschwitz, if they were unfit for work they went to the gas chamber, did they not? - Yes, probably.

Do you seriously think then that the S.S. had any intention of using Belsen as a convalescent camp? - In the beginning there was some talk of the camp being some sort of exchange camp for prisoners, but later on it did not give me that impression at all. It was not a camp for sick people, it was a death camp, a torture camp.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - Could you give the Court any indication of the quantity of medical supplies you found shortly before the British came? - The least we had was dressing material. All the other things would have been sufficient for a period of five days to a week if we had distributed them very carefully.

How many sick people were there requiring attention in the camp? - Three to four thousand. I speak only about those who were in need of medicine.

Could you give us any idea of the quantity of the stocks of milk, meat and biscuits? - These tins were packed and filled a room 4 metres in length, 5 metres in width and approximately 3 metres in height.

Do you know whether they had come from Red Cross parcels? - I did not look myself, but I was told that all that amount came from the Red Cross.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Dr Fritz Klein)