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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Peter Weingartner)


PETER WEINGARTNER, sworn, examined by Major WINWOOD - I am a Yugoslav, born on 4th June, 1913, in Putinci, Yugoslavia. I worked about three years as a carpenter and in 1935 served for nine months in the Yugoslav Army, after which I carried on as a carpenter. When Germany attacked Yugoslavia I took part in the war against the Germans from 12th March until the end of April, 1941. I was captured by the Germans and then released. I went home and stayed there until 19th October, 1942, when I had to go to Germany to the S.S. I did not go as a volunteer. I went to Auschwitz and for three months did weapon training, after which we were detailed as guards of concentration camps. I was on guard duty until 22nd November 1943, and was always inside the whole camp area.

Did you go outside the camp with working parties? - Sometimes, yes.

Had you anything to do with the Arbeitskommando Weber? - Yes, I was with this Kommando from the beginning of December, 1944, until Christmas. This Kommando, which consisted of 1000 women, was employed in digging trenches for the regulation of the river. I was in charge of these women and there were approximately 30 guards under an officer of the Military Police. My job was to supervise the women and to see to it that they were working. On the working site there was nobody to guard the women except myself.

Were you always satisfied with the way they worked? - Yes.

Did you ever beat any of the women? - No.

Did you ever have any dogs under your command? - Yes, wolf - hounds.

Were these women entitled to extra rations? - Yes. I was responsible for seeing that they got them, which they did except for those who did not finish a certain type of job. I was authorised to withhold the extra rations from them.

Was the story told by the witness Glinowieski about the beating of his brother true? - Untrue. I do not remember his brother.

Did you do any other duty at Auschwitz? - I was a Blockführer in the women's compound and was on telephone duty. That is all I did during the whole year before I went on the Kommando Weber.

How long did you stay at Auschwitz? - Until about 19th January, 1945, after which I eventually arrived at Bergen-Belsen somewhere about the beginning of February.

What employment did you take up when you got to Belsen? - I was a Blockführer in the women's compound right up to the time the British troops arrived. In this position I was responsible for the strength of the whole camp and had to know that everybody was present or if anybody was missing. I had nothing to do with the Arbeitskommandos in Belsen personally, but I had to stand at the gate and count the outgoing and incoming prisoners and see that the figures tallied. I also had to carry out telephone duties quite close to the gate.

Do you remember an occasion when the personnel of one of the kitchens was changing over? - Yes, it was a working party to which many prisoners wanted to belong because they had more to eat in the kitchen and they had the possibility after work of taking something away. It was in the middle of the night and instead of the 100 or 150 required for the work squad about 600 Or 700 were assembled. They were not queuing in a proper and orderly manner but were pressing on. I tried to quieten them down in the beginning with words, and then later on, when I had no results, I found a rubber hose-pipe and hit the Kapo, who should have been responsible for the orderly behaviour of that working squad, five or six times with it.

Did you have any difficulty in controlling these internees who were crowding round the kitchen? - That was not in the neighbourhood of the kitchen, it was near the gate.

Did you ever carry a rifle or a pistol and have to use these to control the internees? - Not a rifle, a pistol. Once in self-defence I fired shots in the air. That was at the end of March and was an incident entirely different from the trouble I have mentioned.

Apart from this occasion when you hit the Kapo, did you ever hit any other internees with anything? - No, except once or twice in a month with my hand. It never did them any harm.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - When you were in charge of this Kommando at Auschwitz how far from the camp was the work? - About four to five kilometres.

What sort of a road was it? - It was a very bad road and ran between fields.

Did you have a steep hill to go up? - Yes.

That was in December. What time in the morning did your women have to go out there? - From the camp at half - past nine.

Did they have anything to eat before they started? - Yes, bread and coffee and, apart from that, two kilos per week additional food.

How long did they stay out at work? - Until 1500 hours, when they tidied up and went home.

Did they have anything to eat between 7.30 in the morning and when they marched back in the evening to the camp? - The prisoners took their evening rations as haversack rations with them. They ate them during the lunch time and when they came home they had their warm cooked lunch for dinner. Once a week they got 4 lbs of bread more. They could keep that and use it. The firm where the prisoners worked provided the people with tea.

The witness Sunschein was a forewoman in that squad. Did you not remove her from that position? - I cannot remember.

Was not that because she refused to beat other prisoners? - I had strictest orders from the Kommandant to beat nobody.

If you did beat them that was not in obedience to superior orders or anything of that kind? - I never beat anybody, but if I had done so it would not have been in obedience to the orders of the superior officer.

When marching out to this work did some straggle behind? - No, because we were marching so slowly.

Did nobody ever have difficulty going up the hill? - It might have been difficult for some of them, but we waited until everybody was there.

How many dogs had you under your command? - The dogs and their guards did not concern me at all, but there were about three or four dogs.

I suggest that you set these dogs on the women when they were going up the hill? - The dogs did not concern me at all. They were not under my command and I had nothing to do with the dogs or with the guards. My responsibility was the women.

What were the dogs actually used for? - Security reasons. They were posted round the working site at a distance of 200 metres from each other. There they sat the whole time until the prisoners went home at night.

Were some of these women working up to their knees in water? - No.

What were they doing? - Digging trenches for irrigating the river.

Did no water collect in the trench? - They could avoid these spots of water and stand on the earth where it was dry.

I suggest that you found a man with some Russian gold roubles and a ring on him, Glinowieski, and that you beat him until he died the following day? - I do not know anything about it.

While you were in the women's Lager how many selections for the gas chamber did you see? - None.

Where did you spend all your days during this year? - In the barracks at the telephone; sometimes I went into the room where I slept.

Were not the people who were selected for the gas chamber taken down the road right along the side of the women's camp where you were working, to get to the crematoria? - Yes, I have seen people there, but whether they went to the bath - house or the crematorium I cannot say.

One of your duties at Belsen was to stand at the gate and check the working Kommandos in and out. Do you remember the witness Helen Klein saying that you stood there and beat people as they went in and out? - It is not true.

Was the Kapo you beat in Belsen with the rubber hose - pipe called Sunschein? - Yes.

Where did you find your piece of rubber hose-pipe? - Lying about in the vicinity of the gate. It was a bit longer than half a metre.

It was singularly lucky, was it not, that on the only day you ever beat anybody you happened to find this length of rubber tubing lying just where you wanted it? - Yes.

The accused Hilde Lobauer in her statement says that of the S.S. men she has ever seen with her own eyes beating and ill-treating prisoners you are one of the ones who should be punished? - I admit having beaten Sunschein, and on several occasions when internees were crowding and closing in on me and I could not help myself, then I have beaten them. I could not help myself alone against 1000 women.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Peter Weingartner)