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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Juana Bormann)

Juana BormannTwenty - third Day - Friday, 12th October, 1945


JUANA BORMANN, sworn, examined by Major MUNRO - I am a German, single, born on 10th September, 1893, in Birkenfelde, East Prussia. I joined the S.S. as a civilian employee on 1st March, 1938, because I could earn more money, and I worked in the kitchen at first. I arrived at Auschwitz from Ravensbrück on 15th May, 1943, and went to Birkenau. When I arrived I worked for three weeks on the Kommando which went outside the camp, called Kommando Babetz, and then took up duties inside the camp at Birkenau until the end of December, 1943. After that I went to a detachment belonging to Birkenau named Budy, about an hour's journey from the camp.

It has been said that while you were at Birkenau you took an active part in gas chamber selections. Is that true? - No, I never have been present at these selections. I had to be present at morning roll-call and night roll-call, but at nothing else.

A large number of witnesses have said that they remember seeing you with a dog. Did you have a dog? - Yes, I brought him with me. I gave him to Sturmbannführer Hartjenstein at the beginning of June. He wanted to take him when he went hunting, and I got him back about the beginning of March, 1944, when the dog became ill.

Did you make this dog attack the internees? - No.

The witnesses Szafran and Wohlgruth both said that you made your dog attack a woman, and that you boasted to a passing S.S. man of what you had done? - The prisoners alleged that, but it is not true. I never had a wolf - hound. I never urged the dog to attack prisoners, and I must add that at Birkenau I never had the dog.

In her deposition Mrs. Vera Fischer said that you used to be in charge of women prisoners outside the camp and that you had a large dog that you used to set on them if they became weak and unable to work properly, that many of them were taken to hospital and died of blood poisoning and many others were sent to Block 25, which always meant going to the gas chamber. What have you got to say about that? - It is not true. I never went with Kommandos outside the camp, I was always working inside.

Helena Koper in her deposition stated that you were the worst hated person in the camp, that you were in charge of the clothing store and always had a large dog with you which you set on the prisoners. She said that once she saw you approach a female prisoner, take something out of her pocket, then, clasping her by the hair, you threw her to the ground, and that while she was lying on the ground you let the dog go and bite her so severely that she was a mass of blood. She said that after a doctor had examined the woman there was no movement from the body, and prisoners were instructed to take her on a stretcher to Block 25. She also said that on another occasion you set your dog on her, which bit her so that she had to be in hospital for six weeks. Are these statements true? - No, I was never in charge of the clothing stores, and in 1944 I was not at Birkenau.

In the deposition of Kelisek she says that in the summer of 1944 she was one of a Strafkommando of 70 women whose punishment was to stand on the same spot all day and strike the ground with a pick. She says that one day you were in charge and, not being satisfied with the work of a group of about ten girls, you set your dog on the group so that it bit first her and then her friend who was standing next to her. The latter was so badly bitten that she had to be taken to hospital where, after about a fortnight, she died. Did you do what this statement says you did? - I can only repeat that in the summer of 1944 I had never been in Birkenau, and that I never went with Kommandos outside the camp.

Dora Silberberg in her deposition says that she was working with a working party outside the camp and that a friend of hers felt very sick and could not walk to the working site, so that she had to be assisted, and when she got there she had to sit down because she was so weak. She says that she told you that this friend of hers was too ill to work and that you hit her in the face, knocking out two of her teeth, and that you ordered the dog to attack the girl, who was sitting on the ground. When they went back to camp four girls had to carry this bitten girl who was taken to the hospital, and later she died. Is all that true? - No.

Can you suggest any reason or explanation why these witnesses should give such evidence? - I do not know.

Were you the only Aufseherin in Birkenau with a dog? - No, there were several Aufseherinnen who had black dogs. My dog was not black. Two Aufseherinnen named Kuck and Westphal had officially trained dogs. My dog was my own, not an official dog, and I was not allowed to set him on prisoners. If I had done so I would have received severe punishment.

What did these Aufseherinnen look like? - Kuck was very much like me and we were often mistaken one for the other as I heard later on from prisoners. Westphal was also dark, but she was taller than me.

The witnesses Rogenwayg and Sunschein said you beat people frequently. Is that right? - No.

Did you ever hit girls? - Yes, when they did not obey orders or do what they were told to do, then I hit their faces or boxed their ears, but never in such a way that I knocked their teeth out.

It has been said that you administered savage and brutal treatment to half-starved internees and that you used to beat women with a rubber truncheon. Is that true? - No, I did not even know what a rubber truncheon was until in prison in Celle, when I saw one for the first time in the hands of a British soldier.

Siwidowa says in her deposition that you beat many women prisoners for wearing good clothes, that you stripped women prisoners and made them do strenuous exercises. Is that true? - I may have taken their clothes away because they tried to get them out of the camp and sell them to the civilian population, but I certainly did not beat them and I had no right to make them do sport.

Did you consider it necessary sometimes to box the ears of girls? - If they did not obey orders or if they repeatedly did things that were

forbidden. It was very difficult to control them. Birkenau was a very large camp.

Did you eventually go to Belsen? - Yes, in the middle of February, 1945; I was given the job of looking after the pig - sty in between the men 's compounds. I only came in contact with my own 18 women prisoners whom I had all the time I was there.

Makar in his deposition says that he saw you on two occasions beating women prisoners for stealing vegetables and clothes. Is that true? - No.

Did you ever try to leave the S.S.? - Yes, in 1943 I sent a letter to our Oberaufseherin, stating that I wanted to leave the S.S. She sent the letter on, and I received it back with the notice that permission was not granted. Later on a factory wanted to have my assistance and they wrote me a letter telling me that I should go, but it was not permitted.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Were you very much worse than all the other Aufseherinnen in your treatment of the internees? - I do not know; I only wanted to keep order.

Did the other Aufseherinnen strike internees who did not do as they were told? - I have never seen other Aufseherinnen slapping or striking prisoners.

You are a very small woman, are you not? - Yes.

Did you say that all the time you were at Birkenau you had not got this dog with you ? - No, I gave it to Hartjenstein.

Can you think why Hoessler and all the witnesses who have mentioned your name think of you as a small woman with a very big dog? - Hoessler knows me from Budy, where I had my dog. Where the others got the idea I do not know.

Did the other two women you mentioned who had dogs, set them on to internees? - I have never seen it.

What is the Kommando Babetz you told us about? - That was a camp for working Kommandos, and the prisoners stayed there. It was about an hour's walk from Birkenau.

What were the prisoners there employed on? - It was a large estate, and the prisoners used to work in the fields there, but I did not accompany them when they went out because they had their own S.S. guards. I only stayed in the block.

What was your work in Birkenau itself when you came into the camp? - I had to control the blocks, to see the beds were made all right, and if everything was clean, and to keep order. I was the only Aufseherin doing that.

How is it then that you never attended selections? - I did not have time to attend them, and I did not like the idea of attending them.

Did you see Hoessler on quite a lot of selections? - No.

Did you never see any selections? - No.

Did you never see any transports arriving in the camp? - In my time transports arrived further away from the camp. The only people coming into the camp were people walking back from their work.

Did you never see any parties come to the crematorium? - No.

The crematorium was only just outside the Lager you were working in. Were people not regularly being taken down either in lorries or marching down that main road to the crematorium? - I have seen trucks on the road, but I did not know where they went.

As the working parties came in was it your duty to see that the women did not stand about but got into their block? - Yes. The women had a certain time that they were off duty and they could walk about, but when they had to go into the blocks it was my duty to see that they did so.

Was it not on one of these occasions when a working party had just come back that you set your dog on to the woman that both Szafran and Wohlgruth have talked about? - I repeatedly said that I did not have my dog in Birkenau.

Before you joined the S. S. what was your employment at the mission you worked in? - It was a lunatic asylum and I was looking after the sick there. I was paid 15 to 20 marks a month.

What were you paid by the S.S. when you joined? - 150 to 190 marks per month.

Where did you go first when you joined the S.S.? - To Lichtenburg, Saxony, where I worked in the kitchen. I stayed there from 1938 until May, 1939, when the whole camp was evacuated to Ravensbrück I stayed in Ravensbrück until 1943, where I worked one year in the kitchen, one year on outside Kommandos, and then on the estate of Obergruppenführer Pohl.

When did you acquire your dog? - In June, 1942 I bought it when working on Pohl's estate.

Were you supervising working parties on that estate? - Yes, there was a squad of 150 prisoners there.

Is that not where you first trained your dog to attack prisoners? - It was my private dog and I had no permission to train him for that purpose. I love dogs and that is the reason why I had him. He was very obedient.

Then if he did attack a woman there would be no question of him doing it without orders? - He never did that.

There are no less than five different occasions testified on which your dog has been alleged to have attacked different women on your orders. Are all these quite untrue? - It is not true.

You talked about going gardening and never coming back to Birkenau. As a matter of fact it was an outside Kommando of Birkenau, within half an hour's walk, and persons were regularly transferred from one to another, were they not? - No, it was a proper standing detachment of Birkenau.

Where did the prisoners come from and where did they return to? - They came from Birkenau. During the whole time I was there there were no changes.

Had you got your dog with you there? - Yes.

Was not your dog in its behaviour a byword in the camp? - The prisoners played about with my dog.

Herta Ehlert, accused No. 8, says in her statement : "From my own knowledge of Juana Bormann and from working with her I believe that the stories about her brutality to prisoners are true, although I have not myself witnessed it. I have often seen the dog which she had and heard she used to let it loose on prisoners. Although I have not seen it I can well believe it to be true." What do you say about that? - It is a lie.

What happened to your pigs at Belsen when the camp was liberated? - There were 52 pigs. I have heard that the prisoners took those pigs and slaughtered them during the night, about the 14th or 15th April.

What were you feeding the pigs on? - Swill of potatoes and turnips.

And that was whilst the prisoners were starving? - During the time I was there that was what we got for them.

Re-examined by Major MUNRO - Did you have your dog in Belsen when the British troops arrived? - Yes.

Was it taken from you? - No, I did not even know that I was going to be arrested. I left the dog in my room.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - Have you ever been shown a photograph of Aufseherin Kuck? - No.

What blocks were you concerned with in Birkenau? - With all blocks.

What duties was Kuck performing at this time? - She was working with the Kommandos.

Did you wear uniform? - Yes, the uniform which I am wearing now.

Did Kuck wear similar uniform? - We all had the same uniform.

When you say Kuck was like you, do you mean in your figure or your face, or both? - We were of the same size. Whether she was like me in her face I cannot say. She was younger than me, in the middle or late 30's.

Is the only similarity between you and she that you were both small women? - Yes, about the faces I cannot say.

Has a prisoner ever addressed remarks to you obviously mistaking you for Kuck at any time? - No.

Was Kuck at Birkenau during the period you were there? - We have seen each other several times.

Was this woman in a detachment which was static and outside Birkenau at this time? - Yes.

So normally she would not have been at Birkenau? - For a time we were working together, and for a time she was working at a detachment outside of Birkenau.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Juana Bormann)