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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant George Kraft)


GEORGE KRAFT, sworn, examined by Major WINWOOD - I am a Rumanian, born on 16th December, 1918 in Rode, and was a miller until called up for military service on 15th November, 1939 I served in the Rumanian Army until 30th April, 1943, when I went home, where I stayed for three months. After that all the Germans in Rumania had to go to the S.S. and I had to go too, although I did not want to. At first we went to Vienna and, after eight days, to Buchenwald, where I arrived between 5th and 8th August. After three weeks training there I went to Dora where I stayed until 5th January, 1945. From Dora I was posted to an outpost working party at Kleinbodungen and eventually this was evacuated and I arrived on 11th April at the military training ground in Bergen-Belsen.

When you got to Bergen-Belsen what employment did you take up? - During the first days I had no duty at all. I simply reported and on the next day I was told what duties I was going to do. On 12th and 13th April the guard company from Belsen went away and I wanted to go with them, but Hoessler told me I had to stay because they had no administrative personnel.

When did you first go into the main concentration camp at Belsen? - On 22nd April under British guard.

Were you ever in Auschwitz? - I have never seen it.

Have you ever ill-treated in any way or shot an internee? - No.

Cross-examined by Captain FIELDEN - Was No. 22 (Ansgar Pichen) ever in the bath - house at Dora? - I was in Dora for thirteen months but never saw him.

When you left Kleinbodungen were you in a particular transport on 5th April? - No, I was with a column of trucks that carried the food and other things. We had received orders to march to Herzberg and there we had to go in railway wagons, but as there was an air raid nothing was left of the station and it was decided to march on across the railway. There were 610 internees.

Are you able to name the towns and villages at which the transport stayed at night before you eventually arrived at Bergen-Belsen? - Yes, Osterode, Zeesen, Salzgitter, Rudingen, Hof and Gross Hehlen.

Did any unusual incidents occur at any of these places you have named? - At Gross Hehlen S.S. front-line troops came and chased us away because it was too near the front. They came under the command of an officer, fired shots in the air, took the prisoners out of the place they were getting their food, lined them up and marched them off. They guarded the prisoners themselves.

Do you know if any of the internees were killed as the result of the interference of this S.S. unit? - I had to stay behind with the food trucks, so I do not know. I arrived in Belsen half an hour after the transport and found that they had gone into one of the blocks of the military training ground. I do not know who took them over. The S.S. who had been guarding the transport were also billeted in a block, but separate from the prisoners.

Did you ever see No. 25 (Stofel) shoot any internees on the march to Belsen? - I saw no shooting at all.

Cross-examined by Captain CORBALLY - Did you carry any of the internees on your trucks who were lame and could not walk? - Some of the prisoners were taken in one of the trucks along with S.S. men who also could not walk.

Apart from the incident at Gross Hehlen, were there any other occasions when the prisoners were shot at by S.S.? - I was not with the transport during the journey. I was only with them when they stayed during the night.

Apart from Gross Hehlen, do you know of any of the prisoners having been killed on this journey ? - No.

Twenty - second Day - Thursday, 11th October, 1945

GEORGE KRAFT, cross - examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - You say that ,when you came into the S.S. you went to Vienna in the summer of 1943? - Yes.

From Vienna did you not go first to get your preliminary training at Auschwitz? - That is not true.

Did all the foreign members of the S.S. who were destined for concentration camp guards not go from Vienna to Auschwitz? - No, we went from Vienna as civilians to Buchenwald.

Was not the S.S. training school at Auschwitz? - I do not know.

Did you not act as a concentration camp guard in Auschwitz in the summer of 1943 ? - I have never been at Auschwitz.

Did you not catch a man speaking to a woman there and beat him about the face and head until he died? - It was not me.

At Buchenwald were you employed as a concentration camp guard? - We had our training there, and after about three weeks we all dispersed, I going to Dora.

What were the conditions like at Dora? - When we arrived there was nothing there, no huts. Even the S.S. had to sleep under canvas and we ourselves had rather little food.

Did the man who had been Kommandant at Auschwitz come to command there? - I have never seen Kommandant Baer at Dora, but I understand he has been there.

You do not know what S.S. men were drafted to Dora or away from there after you left, so that any of them might have been in charge of the bath - house? - Yes, that is possible.

Who was in charge of the party on the journey you spoke of? - Hauptscharführer Stofel.

Do you recognise accused No. 25 (Franz Stofel) and No. 27 (Wilhelm Dorr)? - Yes; Dorr was also on the transport.

When you arrived at Osterode were the prisoners put into barns for the night? - No, into proper barracks.

Was Stofel riding a motor cycle on this transport? - Yes, as far as Osterode.

When the party left Osterode and you stayed behind to take up the kitchen, do you remember some men who had found themselves unable to keep up and unable to walk? - Yes, but nobody stayed on in Osterode.

I suggest to you that nobody stayed behind alive but that Dorr shot these three men the following morning before the party left? - I did not see any bodies when I was on the transport.

I suggest to you that from Osterode onwards every straggler was shot as the party went along? - I did not march with the transport and therefore cannot say whether they were shot or not.

You were with them each night? - We never arrived at the same time and I did not mix with the prisoners.

I suggest to you that that party which started out 613 strong had lost a minimum of 30 shot on the way before they reached Belsen? - I had never counted them and when I arrived at Belsen they were already in different blocks and therefore I cannot say.

How did they finally complete their journey? - Always walking, marching.

When you got to Belsen you say you went into what we call Camp No. 2. In the last few days there was an attempt made to clear up the whole place before the British came in, was there not? - The barracks where I was in Camp No. 2 were quite clean and tidy and we just tidied them up a bit more.

I put it to you that from the time Hoessler told you to stay behind, you, together with the other S.S. men left, were engaged in a frantic attempt to clean up Camp No. 1? - I never even heard about Camp No. 1 during the three days I was there.

I put it to you that you were, in fact, helping in the guiding and directing of that miserable procession dragging corpses to the mass graves? - I have only been there when the British were in command from 22nd to 29th April.

Did you hear Kramer say that he used the men who were healthy from the new transports that had just come in for that purpose, and do you not know that his camp had ceased to take people and yours was the overflow one? - I was never interested in any sort of camp affairs. I had my kitchen to look after and what else happened I have no idea about.

I put it to you that you were in that camp kicking, beating and striking, together with the other S.S. guards? - In Camp No. 2 that never happened, and in Camp No. 1 I have never been.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant George Kraft)