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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Josef Klippel)

JOSEF KLIPPEL, sworn, examined by Major CRANFIELD - I was born on 24th November, 1909, in Vukovar, Yugoslavia, and am what is called a Volksdeutscher. In 1943 I owned a grocery shop at Neusatz, Yugoslavia, and in October all Volksdeutsche up to the age of 35 were taken into the S.S., and I was posted to the concentration camp at Mittelbau, three kilometres from Nordhausen, where I stayed until 5th, April, 1945. At first I was a clerk until June, 1944, when I became a runner for the adjutant. At the end of November I went into the food store of the administration until 5th April, 1945. We evacuated the camp on account of air raids, and I left in the evening, with a transport of about 4000 prisoners and the remainder of the S.S., for Neuengamme. We left about 2000 hours when it was quite dark and travelled by train. I had to look after two wagons with food. At Osterode we found that the rails had been damaged by bombs so the train could not go on, and the prisoners had to march off under a guard. I stayed behind with five men to look after the food stores, and distributed as much food among the prisoners as they could carry before they left. Then I requisitioned two farm carts, loaded food upon them and sent them off to the transport. The remainder of the food was given to the local hospital. The prisoners had left Osterode about half-past seven in the morning and we, the six of us, started from there about 1500 hours on foot. It was Sunday, 8th April. We walked, not in a hurry, across the Hartz Mountains and found a station where we were informed that a transport had boarded a train and had gone off in the direction of Hamburg. There were no more trains running, so we walked in the direction of Hamburg through Brunswick [Braunschweig] and Celle, and heard that there was a concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. We could not go in the direction of Hamburg because the Wehrmacht would not let us through.

Did you arrive in Bergen-Belsen? - We arrived in the Wehrmacht Barracks on 11th April after 1700 hours, and found there all the administrative personnel from the concentration camp at Mittelbau. I reported to my superior officer, Brenneis, who ordered me to go to Unterscharführer Triebel who had been in charge in the food stores in the other concentration camp, and I had to work with him. That evening bread arrived by truck and I went round to distribute it amongst the population of the blocks.

What is your rank in the S.S.? - Sturmbannführer [In the trial transcript his answer is typed at Sturmbann which is a typing error for Sturmmann].

What happened on the next day, Thursday the 12th? - In the night 11th-12th, the whole administration, including Brenneis, went to Neuengamme. On 12th April I did not do anything at all, and on that day and the next the S.S. guards who had come from Mittelbau went away.

What did you do on Friday, 13th? - Obersturmführer Hoessler gave me orders to take charge of Kitchen No. 24, which was, I believe, Block 91 in the Truppenübungsplatz Barracks. There was nothing at all there in the kitchen so I had only to make preparations. I opened some beer barrels and then I selected a few of the prisoners who had been working before in kitchens for my kitchen staff. None of these prisoners were women.

What did you do on Saturday, 14th? - For the first time we cooked meals in that kitchen for the prisoners. I stayed there working up to the 16th when I was arrested at 9.30 at night, the first British troops having arrived on the 15th.

Before you were arrested, had you ever been in the Belsen Concentration Camp? - No.

When did you first see the accused Kramer? - In the prison at Celle.

You have told us you were at Mittelbau from January to 5th April. Did you at any time during that period go away from there to Belsen? - No, never.

Have you at any time killed a woman? - Never.

Have you at any time in Belsen or anywhere else beaten a woman prisoner with a rubber truncheon? - Never.

Cross-examined by Major WINWOOD - Did you meet the accused No, 4 (Kraft) on the way from Dora to Belsen? - Yes, on the night of 10th-11th April. I do not remember the name of the place, but there was a big aerodrome there.

Did he come to the same part of Belsen as yourself? - Yes, he arrived a few hours before me. He worked in Kitchen No. 20 and we slept in the same room until we were arrested together on the 16th.

Cross-examined by Captain ROBERTS - Do you know this man, accused No. 14, (Oscar, Schmitz)? - Yes, I met him first in March, 1945, in the clothing stores in Mittelbau Concentration Camp. He was dressed as a prisoner. The last time I saw him was on 17th April, when a British guard brought him into the room. He had nothing on, apart from a pair of trousers.

Do you know why he suddenly appeared in your midst dressed like that? - He told us that he had a fight with some others and then jumped from the first floor, and retired to the part where the British guards were, and the British guard brought him in that attire into our room.

He was never a member of the S.S. to the best of your knowledge? - No.

Cross-examined by Captain FIELDEN - Is Mittelbau the same camp as Dora? - Yes.

Do you know who was in charge of the bath-house at Dora? - No.

Cross-examination by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Did you do your training at Buchenwald? - Yes, for a fortnight.

Did you go straight to Dora from Buchenwald? - Yes, I got there between 15th and 20th October, 1943.

Was Kraft already there when you got there? - Yes.

Was Stofel there? - I do not know, but I remember that in the office I saw him several times coming to the sergeant-major there.

Do you remember Dorr there? - Yes, but what he was doing I do not know.

When did you first see Pichen? - In prison at Celle.

What was Hoessler’s job at Dora? - I do not know, I had nothing to do with him. I have seen him, but I do not know what his job was.

When you left on the 5th were either Stofel, Dorr, Kulessa or any other of them in the same transport as yourself? - No, nobody.

Did all the transports from Mittelbau start from the same station? - Yes there was a station in the camp itself.

Was Stofel’s transport from Mittelbau? - No. Those from Kleinbodungen, although under our administration and belonging to our ration strength, went direct.

How many prisoners were there at Dora? - 15000.

How were they treated? - In Dora they were treated well because there the V1 weapons were produced and those working there were specialists.

Were prisoners there known by name or number? - Generally known by number which they had stitched on the left side of their tunics. Apart from that they had some sort of sign, either circles or triangles, to say what sort of prisoners they were.

Did the prisoners at Dora have their numbers tattooed on their arms? - No.

When you got to Belsen had Hoessler already arrived? - Yes.

Was everybody very busy indeed trying to get something done for the prisoners? - When I arrived the kitchens were already functioning and there was also some sort of food ration.

How was it you managed to have a day doing nothing at all? - On that day the administration and my superior officer had gone away and I tried to do the same, but Hoessler stopped me and said I had to stay, and therefore I simply disappeared and did not do anything.

In those last few days was there not a frantic effort made to clean the camp up? - The whole camp only existed a few days because the Wehrmacht left and the prisoners came in immediately, so no particular effort was needed to keep it clean or tidy it up.

There is no doubt about it that your prisoners were very much healthier than the ones you saw in the other camp? - Yes.

I suggest to you that those few S.S. men who were still left there all helped and took their turns to clear up the mess in both camps? - Yes, we helped in Camp No. 1, but only as British prisoners.

I put it to you that you did in fact act as a cook in Belsen, not merely for one day, but for that last week at least, and that whilst you were in that kitchen you had some women working under you? - I came to Belsen for the first time on 22nd April as a prisoner of the British troops. In the Wehrmacht Barracks area there were no women at all.

What were you armed with when you joined the S.S.? - Rifle and bayonet.

Did you bring your rifle to Belsen with you? - To Bergen, yes. I left my rifle in the room where I slept.

Did you not indulge in the popular sport at Bergen-Belsen of shooting prisoners who came near the cookhouse? - I have never been at Belsen, and there was no shooting around the kitchen in Bergen.

What did you cook in your kitchen? - On 12th April Hungarian troops brought us some potatoes and turnips and then we found some fat or semolina or rice, that is porridge, and that is what we were doing.

Did the prisoners not come and try to get some of that food? - When they brought the potatoes eight or ten Hungarian soldiers came with machine-guns, so nobody dared come near to steal anything.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - When you were in Bergen during these last few days where did you get your water from? - The Wehrmacht brought it in two water wagons.

Could you get as much water as you wanted? - They started with the kitchens and when they had finished with the amount needed there they went round and stocked each block.

During the last three or four days had you water in which you could wash yourself? - No, there was not enough. We had to save it for the kitchen. If we wanted to have a wash we went to the concrete pond.

What was the capacity of these water tanks? - They were motor trucks holding 1500 litres.

Were they going round the barracks day and night? - Yes.

Did you know that in the camp at Belsen a large number of people were suffering acutely from lack of water to drink? - I only heard that not far away there was a concentration camp with many prisoners.

Were there enough internees in the Wehrmacht Barracks to keep these two motor trucks busy morning, noon and night delivering essential water so that people could drink? - Yes, there were about 15000 prisoners. I cooked twice for them and that was 30000 litres.

Could you drink what you liked or were you put on a ration? - Perhaps half a litre per day.

PAUL KREUTZER, sworn, examined by Major CRANFIELD - I was a Hauptscharführer in the S.S and was in the administration at Mittelbau from January, 1944, until 5th April, 1945. I saw Josef Klippel, whom I identify, frequently at Mittelbau, and the last time I saw him was on the afternoon of 5th April. I arrived at Bergen-Belsen either on 9th or 10th April and left there at 0200 hours on, I believe, the night 11th-12th April. We went to the concentration camp at Neuengamme.

During the time you were in the barracks at Bergen-Belsen did you hear anything of a Hauptsturmführer Kramer? - I personally do not know anything about it, but I assume that Hauptsturmführer Brenneis, who was in charge of our party, had some dealings with Kramer. I was never told at Bergen-Belsen that I was under the command of Kramer.

Cross-examined by Captain FIELDEN - Do you know who was in charge of the bath-house at Dora? - No.

Did you ever see No. 22 (Ansgar Pichen) at Dora? - I do not know him.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - What did you do at Bergen-Belsen? - For two days I was guarding two big boxes containing all the documents and receipt forms and also quite a lot of money. These I took away to Hamburg Langenhorn, and then to Heide in Schleswig-Holstein.

What happened to it when you last saw it? - On 5th May, after the capitulation, I was ordered to destroy everything, and all the documents were destroyed and the money was distributed amongst the men of the whole regiment as a sort of farewell discharge money.

Just have another look at Pichen and try to imagine him without that moustache and with his hair brushed quite differently, and see if you could not recognise him? - No, I do not know him.

Did you ever see Hoessler while you were at Nordhausen? - Yes, he was Lagerführer of the camp.

Did you see him at all at Bergen-Belsen? - Yes, he was in charge of everything in the Wehrmacht Barracks area.

You said Hauptsturmführer Brenneis was in that barracks too. Whose command did he come under? - He belonged to a sort of self-contained command - a kind of central administration in Berlin, and did not come under the command of Hoessler. I belonged to the same thing.

FRAU EMMI SOCHTIG, on oath, recognised Josef Klippel, whom she had seen regularly at Mittelbau from the beginning of January to 5th April, 1945. She had seen him last on 7th April at the station of Tettenborn.

EMILE KLTSCHO, sworn, examined by Major CRANFIELD - I am a Czech and was a Rottenführer in the S.S. I joined the Mittelbau Concentration Camp staff in December, 1943, and was employed there as a waiter in the officers’ mess until April, 1945. I saw Josef Klippel regularly until I left on 5th April. I left Nordhausen and travelled to Osterode by train, where the accused Klippel and four other men put the food stores into a hospital, after which the five of us went to Bergen-Belsen, where we reported to Hauptsturmführer Brenneis on either the 9th, 10th or 11th April. He told us we were to work in Kitchen No. 19 next day. This would be about two or three days before the British troops arrived.

If I told you that the British troops arrived on the Sunday, can you remember which was your first day's work at Bergen-Belsen? - I think it was Thursday the 12th. Klippel and I slept in the same room on the first floor in the kitchen building each night from the time we arrived until the British came.

As far as you are aware did Klippel ever go into Belsen Concentration Camp? - No.

The accused Klippel is charged with shooting two female prisoners round about Cookhouse No. 24 of the Wehrmacht Barracks. Did you hear of any such incident taking place? - No.

How far was Cookhouse No. 19 from Cookhouse No. 24? - About 300 to 400 metres.

Cross-examined by Captain FIELDEN - Do you know who No. 25 is? - Yes, Hauptsturmführer Stofel. I saw him in the Panzer training barracks at Bergen, where I believe he stayed continually until he was arrested.

Cross-examined by Captain CORBALLY - Do you know, the accused No. 28 (Eric Barsch)? - Yes, but I do not know his name. I saw him in the Mittelbau Concentration Camp, where he was working in the hospital for the troops. I also saw him in the barracks at Bergen, where he was a medical orderly working with the doctors.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - What doctor was Barsch working with in Belsen? - Dr. Korska and Dr. Schmidt.

They were both S.S. doctors, were they? - Yes.

Did you ever see Dr. Klein or Dr. Horstmann? - No.

So there were two doctors, quite apart from Dr. Klein, available for anything that was necessary in the Wehrmacht Barracks? - I have always seen these two doctors and no other.

Do you remember whether any men too old for the Air Force came to Dora and joined the staff there? - I do not know whether they were too old but I heard that quite a lot of people out of the Air Force were taken into the S.S.

Twenty-ninth Day - Friday, 19th October, 1945

STEFAN HERMANN, on oath, stated that he was in the S.S as a guard at the Mittelbau Concentration Camp, and he recognised Josef Klippel, whom he had first met there in October, 1943, and had known up to 4th April.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Josef Klippel)