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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Hilde Lohbauer)
Twenty-eighth Day - Thursday, 18th October, 1945


HILDE LOHBAUER, sworn, examined by Major CRANFIELD - I was born on 8th November, 1918 at Plauen, Saxony, and am unmarried. In 1940 I was working in a weaving factory and because I refused to go to an ammunition factory at Württemberg I was sent to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, where I stayed until March, 1942, when I was I transferred to Auschwitz. For four weeks I was in Auschwitz No. 1 and later on in Birkenau until January, 1945. I was in the same party as Ilse Lothe. On leaving Birkenau I went to Ravensbrück, stayed there for four weeks and then accompanied a transport to Belsen, where I arrived in March, again with Lothe.

How were you employed in Birkenau? - In the beginning I was a prisoner like all the others. About the beginning of 1944 I was ordered to be an Arbeitsdienstführerin and worked in Compounds "A" and "E" in the women’s camp. When working parties marched out to their respective works I had to stand at the gate, count them, and see how many went out. The same process happened when they came back at night. I had also to see to it that the working parties inside the camp really worked and did their jobs, and apart from that I had to ensure that the camp was tidy and clean. I got my orders from Lagerführer Mendel and Arbeitsdienstführerin Hasse in Auschwitz, and gave my orders to the Kapos, of whom there were about 30.

What was your position at Belsen? - When I arrived I fell ill, and when I was all right again Kommandant Kramer made me Arbeitsdienstführerin again. My duties were the same as at Auschwitz, but the working parties were not so big.

In Auschwitz did you carry a stick? - In the beginning, yes, a wooden stick. I did not carry a stick at Belsen.

Did you at any time carry a rubber truncheon or whip? - No.

Did you strike prisoners with your stick? - Sometimes, yes. For example, if a working party of perhaps 100 had to fall in and two were missing, I got punished by my superiors, so when I found those who were missing I beat them. I have never beaten a prisoner without reason.

Have you ever beaten a prisoner so that she was in a dying condition, or that she fell to the ground senseless? - I would never have dared to do that because I, as a prisoner, would have been reported at once, and would have been punished by being sent into the bunker. Such things simply did not exist.

Have you ever been punished by the Political Department? - Yes, 15 strokes. I had to go to the C.R.S. for four weeks, and I still have the scars. I lost consciousness. This was before I became Arbeitsdienstführerin.

You knew Ilse Lothe well at Auschwitz; did you know about the beatings she received, and is it true that she received those while she was a Kapo and still remained a Kapo? - Yes. There was nothing extraordinary in that because in spite of the beatings one stayed on in the rank of Kapo.

Did you attend the parades at which a doctor picked out the fit or the unfit? - Yes. When there were Appelle to pick out working parties, for instance for the kitchen, there was also a doctor there to see that these prisoners were healthy and clean. My duty was to take the numbers of those who were selected for this work. When these parties started work about 50 or 100 or more always appeared and that is why I had to take the numbers of those who had been selected.

If after a parade a party was sent to Block 25 had you any duties with regard to that? - That was a definite kind of parade. Prisoners had nothing to do with that kind of parade. We knew, of course, that Block 25 meant that people were being sent into the gas chambers, but we prisoners had nothing to do with it.

I invite you to look at the statement you made to a British officer. Is that what you said when you made your statement? - No. Paragraph 3, which says that the punishment was carried out by two fellow prisoners, is wrong. S.S. men gave the punishment. In paragraph 5 it says that I have seen these people beating and ill-treating prisoners, and I considered that Gertrud Fiest, Sauer, Bothe and Weingartner should be punished. I was asked whether I saw that they were beating prisoners and said "yes," and I was asked how they should be punished and my answer was "I, as a prisoner, cannot really say what sort of punishment they should have meted out."

Was your statement read over to you in German, and were the mistakes pointed out? - Yes, the officer who made the enquiries told me that it would be changed.

You have been accused in the affidavit of Triszinska of chasing people selected for the gas chambers into the lorries. Is that true? - No. Once I was in Block 25 and we had to load the bodies on the trucks on that occasion.

Have you ever, at Auschwitz, picked out a prisoner and sent her to the gas chamber? - No. Prisoners had no right to do such a thing.

Are the accounts of excessive beatings given in the affidavits of Weiss and Trieger true? - No.

Elisabeth Herbst in her deposition states that in Auschwitz a party of women being marched to work were near a ditch half-full with water, with an electrified barbed wire surround, and that she saw in the ditch and struggling in the water between 10 and 20 women, as well as about, 10 dead bodies. She states that you had a long pole which one of the women grasped, and that you pulled her half-way out and then pushed her back again into the water with a downward thrust. Is that true? - No, I do not remember; and in August, 1942, when this was alleged to have happened, I was in hospital with typhus.

Have you ever been at that ditch when there were women struggling, in the water, or have you ever pushed any woman into that ditch so that she drowned? - No. I know that ditch and it was not so deep that anybody could have been drowned in it.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Before you became Arbeitsdienstführerin in charge of the Kapos you were you yourself a Kapo? - Yes, for four weeks, but I lost that job because I was not severe enough towards the prisoners. It was about November or December, 1942.

Why have you not told anybody, before that you were a Kapo? - Because it was only for four weeks.

When you were a Kapo, what was your duty? - I had to see to it that everything was all right inside the camp.

Had these parades or selections for the gas chamber got anything to do with the ones you were telling us you went on to select working parties? - No.

How did you know which was which? - If parades were for the purpose of working parties, kitchens and so on, then there was no prohibition to leave the blocks. But in the case of selection parades it was the strictest order not to leave.

You got a definite order if it was a selection for the gas chamber? - Yes.

When there was such a selection did not a Kapo attend? - No.

Did she not, in fact, have to take down the numbers of the prisoners selected? - No, that was the duty of the clerk.

Who marched the prisoners selected off to Block 25? - The S.S. men.

I am suggesting that one of your duties when you were Kapo was taking these women to Block 25 and helping to see that they did not run away? - No. During selections no prisoner was allowed to be present.

As a matter of fact, was not one of the prisoners told to stand at the door to see that people did not run out? - Yes. But that is nothing to do with the Kapo. That might have been the Blockältester.

When you became Arbeitsdienstführerin one of your duties during the day was to go round inside the camp to see that the people kept the camp tidy and that those who were working inside got on with their work? - My job was only just to pass on and see whether the Kapo was there and was doing her duty.

But if you saw somebody not working properly, did you not beat them? - I had nothing to do with that; that was the responsibility of the Kapo in charge.

If you saw a prisoner where you thought she ought not to be, did you not beat her? - I had nothing to do with where she was.

You had exactly the same duties to do at Belsen. Why then did you beat Miriam Weiss when she came out of her block if it had nothing to do with you? - If there was a strict order to stay in the blocks, I might have beaten the prisoner; but whether it was Miriam Weiss or not I do not know. That was an order, which was given either by the Oberaufseherin or by the Arbeitsdienstführerin who probably saw that prisoner walking about and told me to see that she disappeared.

When you first got to Auschwitz, how were you treated? - Badly by the Aufseherinnen. For instance, when I was working on an outside Kommando and we relaxed just for a moment or two, the Aufseherinnen came and beat us.

Was that a regular practice and was that how concentration camps were carried on? - Yes.

What did the Aufseherinnen beat you with? - With their hands. Some of them ran about with a whip in Auschwitz, but I had nothing to do with them.

I expect you kept away from them as far as you could? - Naturally.

Did the Kapos never beat anyone? - I do not know. I had never been with the Kapos on an outside job, but I suggest if the prisoners did not do what they were told to do then they might have been beaten.

That was part of the S.S. system, was it not, to make Kapos slap other prisoners? - Of course, they were forced to do so.

When you were Arbeitsdienstführerin you carried this stick about with you and you beat people with it, did you not? - Yes, but not so that they were bleeding.

One of the girls who had you arrested, Jasinka, has said that she saw you help in the selection of persons to go into the gas chamber, and I suggest to you again that one of your duties as Kapo was to attend these selections or parades? - And I repeat that I have been in camps for five years. but I have never been present at these selections.

You were known as the S.S. woman without a uniform? - I do not know.

You stood at the gate of the camp when the Arbeitskommandos were coming in. Did you search the prisoners? - No. I myself had never the right to make a search.

What happened to prisoners who were found to have anything on them? - It was taken away from them and they had to kneel at the gate sometimes for an hour.

Making people kneel was a popular punishment in concentration camps, was it not? - Yes.

Or making people stand with their hands above their heads with a stone in their hands? - We had to do that during parades, but without stones.

Did the ditch which Herbst talked about run round the camp, and was it to prevent people from escaping? - Yes.

Are you really suggesting it was not deep enough to drown anyone in? - No. This ditch was rather as a sort of protection that one should not approach the barbed wire which was loaded.

Do you remember a Kapo called Krause? - Yes. I know she is still alive and has been released from Auschwitz.

Is it true that there were women in that ditch trying to get out, and you were amusing yourself by pulling them halfway out on your pole and then pushing them back again? - No, that is not true. If a prisoner had dared to do such a thing, whether they were Germans, Poles, or Jews, they would have been liquidated at once.

But if the S.S. were there amusing themselves and watching you do it and encouraging you, that would be a different matter would it not? - Such a thing did not exist. They would not have allowed prisoners to stand there and look at them. Nor would they have allowed prisoners to do it.

Some of the senior Kapos who played the S. S. game got quite friendly with some of the S.S., did they not? - I rather doubt that there were any Kapos who collaborated to such an extent with the S.S. On the contrary, I think that the Kapos got more beatings than the other prisoners.

Was the type of punishment that you and Lothe had quite a common thing? - Not so very frequent. If someone reported us, then that went to the Political Department and there we got our beating.

Who was in charge of the transport of women that you went with to Belsen ? - Ehlert.

She told us that she went to Ravensbrück particularly to get some Kapos. You and Lothe were two she chose, were you not? - No. She came and took Bormann and Grese with her. For those 35 pregnant women 10 of us were chosen to go with them and to take care of them. I believe Bormann had some personal belongings still in Ravensbrück, and on their return they took Grese with them; so that the reason that they came to Ravensbrück is not really that they wanted some prisoners who had some functions.

Did Ehlert come specially to pick up what she called "functionaries" - Blockältesten, Arbeitsdienstführerin, Kapos - did she not? - No. She took us only so that we should take care of her personal belongings, because the women were not able to carry these very heavy trunks of hers. We were the only ones left and that is the reason why they took us with them.

At Belsen I suggest to you that you carried on just as you had done at Auschwitz, regularly beating and ill-treating women? - That is not true.

Do you agree with the affidavit of Trieger, who says that you frequently beat women prisoners, sometimes with your hands and sometimes with a wooden stick? - Yes, with my hands, but not with a stick.

Have you beaten people with a stick, or have you not? - Yes.

Daily? - No.

During the day-time, after selecting the working parties, did you not patrol around the camp? - Sometimes I was sitting in the. office, and sometimes I was controlling the Kapos.

I suggest to you that the sole reason that you and Lothe were sent for and taken to Belsen was because you had fallen in with this practice of ill-treating prisoners so successfully at Auschwitz? - No. The reason we were taken to Belsen was to take care of the trunks and the parcels and also to take care of the pregnant women, but not to continue to beat prisoners.

Re-examined by Major CRANFIELD - Where was the Political Department at Auschwitz? - Auschwitz No. 1.

What was the Political Department’s punishment for both men and women prisoners? - As far as I can remember it was the same. Punishments were blows with a stick, reduced food rations, standing to attention for a time, and kneeling down. It was a regular scale commonly known throughout the camp.

Did your working parties in Camps "A" and "B" at Birkenau live in the camp? - Yes.

Do you know anything about the working parties which lived outside the camp? - I only know there were outside Kommandos called Budy and Vistula and some other names.

Do you know anything about working parties which went away to work in another part of Germany or Poland? - I know that many people left the camp to go for work in other parts of the country.

Had you anything to do with that kind of working party? - Now and then I was present to select the people for these Kommandos.

If there was not a working party for you would you attend the selection parade? - No, never, because the prisoners had to stay in their blocks then and I was a prisoner as well.

By a Member of the Court - You say that you assisted in loading bodies from Block 25 once. Were the bodies alive or dead? - They were dead bodies.

What was the highest appointment that a functionary prisoner could hold? - Lagerältester.

Did they all wear armbands according to the appointment that they held? - Yes.

Major CRANFIELD - I think this would be a convenient time to put certain affidavits in. They are affidavits about which a passage was put to the witness in cross-examination. I do not propose to read them, but just to put them in.

The following affidavits were marked as Exhibits and attached to the proceedings: -

Exhibit No. 128. ADA BIMKO
Exhibit No. 129. ESTERA GUTERMAN
Exhibit No. 132. HANKA ROZENWAYG
Exhibit No. 133 ILONA STEIN.
Exhibit No. 134. DORA SZAFRAN
Exhibit No. 135. EWA GRYKA
Exhibit No. 136 Sgt. DINSDALE.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Hilde Lohbauer)