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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Franz Hoessler continued)

ERIKA SCHOPF, sworn, examined by Major MUNRO - I am a German, married, and was born on 18th May, 1918, at Beeskow in Brandenburg. I sent a postcard addressed to the Court offering to come and give evidence. I came to court yesterday and also last Saturday and Monday.

Do you remember speaking to me and being told to come back to the court later that day? - Yes.

Will you please tell the Court in your own words what happened after you left me? - I went to the barracks and two Jews told me it would have been better not to have come as a witness. Then I said, " Well, I came to give evidence in favour of Hoessler," and I carried on coming down to the court and they followed me and then I went back to Hanover [Hannover] again. I went to Burgdorf and reported, and was told to go back to 905 Military Government and to come to the court guarded by British guards. I was afraid of the Jews, being the only German here as a witness.

Were you a prisoner at Auschwitz? - I went there on 25th March, 1941, and remained there until 27th July, 1944.

Do you recognise Hoessler in the dock? - Yes, No. 5.

Did you ever see any of the gas chamber selections? - Yes.

Was the accused Hoessler present at these selections? - As far as I know he was not present, nor did I ever see him doing any selections.

Did he ever try to get anyone out of the gas chamber? - Yes, Several people who took part in a bricklaying Kommando should have gone to Block 25: he took down names and numbers of six persons, went to Block 25 and saved these people. Once a girl stopped him in the road in the camp and he saved her mother.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - You are a German. Are you a Jew? - No.

What were you sent to Auschwitz for in 1941? - Because I refused to work in the docks at Hamburg.

Have you been kept in a concentration camp from 25th Match, 1941, to July, 1944, for that? - Yes.

When you first went to Auschwitz, in what part of the camp were you put? - In Birkenau, Camp A. I was later transferred to Budy and then transferred back to Birkenau.

How were you treated while you were at Birkenau? - Not bad.

How did you treat other people? - I was a prisoner myself and was working.

Were you not forewoman yourself in a Kommando? - Yes.

On Saturday, when you were here in Lüneburg, did not some women come to you and tell you that they were going to report you to the police because you beat them when they were at Auschwitz, and did they not try to find a policeman to arrest you? - Yes, but it was on Monday.

Is it not true that you beat quite a lot of people while you were in Auschwitz? - No.

Were the women in your Kommando mainly Jewesses? - Poles and Jewesses.

Was it not a habit at Auschwitz to choose a German woman as far as possible and put her over Poles and Jews or a Russian over Poles, or a Pole over Russians? - I cannot say.

The complaint of the girls who stopped you in Lüneburg was that you were a forewoman who had beaten them. They did not know about your being a witness when they stopped you, did they? - That was their complaint; but I did not beat them.

As a German and a forewoman you did not have to go on selections at all, did you? - No, only the Jews attended.

Was it not quite easy to tell when there was a selection for the gas chamber because only Jews had to parade? - Yes.

How often have you seen these selection parades taking place? - Once in Block No. 19. I do not know how many Jews took part in it.

Did you watch it? - We had to work.

That is the only time you have seen one: how do you know, then, whether Hoessler attended them or not? - Hoessler went through the camp, but when the selections took place we never saw him. He was never present.

But if you only saw one selection, how do you know whether Hoessler was on any of the others or not? - That was the only one which took place inside the block. The others took place outside, but we could not see them when they were parading.

What happened on these parades that you saw? - We only saw that they had been selected and sent immediately to Block 25 and from there to the crematorium.

Everybody knew, did they not, that Block 25 was kept specially for people who were going to the crematorium? - Yes.

Who took them to Block 25? - The Blockälteste.

Were any of the Aufseherinnen or S.S. men present? - No.

What happened to any of these women if they tried to escape from going to Block 25? - If the Blockälteste found her she got a hiding from her and then the Blockälteste herself brought her to Block 25.

Did you ever see any of these trucks being loaded? - No.

Were you allowed to have any personal possessions in Auschwitz -any jewellery or anything of that kind? - No.

Did quite a lot of people have some which they kept hidden? - Yes.

What happened if they were caught? - They either got the official punishment of 25 strokes or they were put under arrest.

What time did the morning Appelle start? - Six o'clock. The prisoners had to get up shortly before.

What happened to prisoners who were late or who moved during the Appelle? - They were beaten.

Did some of these people who had jewellery and so on use it to buy positions? - No. They used it to buy extra food.

Did the S.S. take the jewellery? - If they found it on us they took it.

How did you get the job of being forewoman? - A prisoner who worked in a Kommando for a work selection selected me for the job in the beginning. I did not want to take it, but I had to. I was a forewoman in the potato stores. I told the working squad to work, and if they did not do so I reported to the Kapo, who punished them either by not letting them have any lunch or making them stand during their lunch.

Did the Kapos ever beat anybody? - We ourselves were beaten sometimes by the Kapos.

Were the girls that Hoessler managed to get out of the gas chamber working on bricklaying being done in his compound? - Yes.

Were you there when the girl stopped Hoessler in the road and asked him to save her mother? - We saw it from the block. She was a Polish Jewess, but I do not know her name. We did not see her mother leaving Block 25, but we saw her a few days later on the road in the camp.

How do you know she ever went to Block 25? - Because the mother told us.

Did you get more bread because you were, a forewoman? - No.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Franz Hoessler continued)