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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Karl Francioh)

KARL FRANCIOH, sworn, examined by Captain ROBERTS - I was born in Wriecen in Brandenburg on 5th October, 1912. I am married and I have four children. I was a coal miner and on 17th April, 1940, was taken into the S.S. as a cook from the Wehrmacht. I arrived at Belsen between 10th and 11th March, 1945, and for the first week I did nothing, during which time I slept and had my meals in the S.S. mess outside the camp about 100 metres from the Kommandant’s office. After that I went to Hamburg and came back with a transport of sick prisoners, after which, on 27th or 28th March, I was given a job in the women’s compound. I had worked there for two days and was arrested for visiting my wife in Bergen without permission of the Kommandant, and after two [ten] days’ arrest, returned to the kitchen. On 2nd April I started ten days’ detention in the prison, after which I worked again in the kitchen.

Will you describe this kitchen? - The kitchen was divided into two parts. In the front part of the building was the kitchen itself, and in the back part the kitchen personnel. There was another half of a cookhouse similar to this about 50 metres distant. I worked in the part nearest the main entrance. Altogether there were about 68 prisoners working in No. 3 Cookhouse, in two groups, each of which did eight hours. There were one or two more prisoners who were not counted amongst the real kitchen personnel, such as the Kapo who was at the telephone. In each shift in one half of the kitchen there would be about 13 to 17 prisoners working. In the two halves of the kitchen there was one Aufseherin with the shift and one S.S. man in charge of both halves, so in all there were two S.S. men and four Aufseherin. I recognise Irene Haschke, Frieda Walter, and Ida Forster as three of the four Aufseherinnen. Haschke worked in my half of the cookhouse.

Did the internees who did the work consider it to be a good or bad job? - I should think they thought it agreeable because such good work as in my kitchen they could not have anywhere else. They were women internees, and I should say three-quarters of the camp tried to get this job.

Do you remember the witness Szafran saying that she worked 18 hours a day in your cookhouse? - When I was responsible for the kitchen, such things did not happen. My next superior officer in charge of all the kitchen personnel was Unterscharfsführer Müller, and I saw him every day as all the rations I received came from him. I used to have to check and sign for them.

How many people were you expected to feed from your cookhouse? - Both parts of No. 3 Cookhouse fed about 16300, which is the ration strength I received.

What was the official ration scale? - During the period I was in charge, in the morning half a litre of coffee, but not always; for lunch one litre of soup; and for dinner the same. Sometimes there was bread twice a week, sometimes none at all, and in the latter period there was no bread.

If you did not get a full issue of rations for the people you were supposed to feed from your cookhouse, what did you do about it? - I complained to Müller about it and he told me that he could not do anything about it if he did not get it to give to me.

How many boilers did you have in the cookhouse? - Seven or eight, with a varying capacity of from 350 to 750 litres. I had to prepare three cookings for one meal.

What parts of the camp did your cookhouse feed? - Everywhere where women were, although Kitchen No. 2 in the men’s camp compound also fed these women. Extra food for the maternity home and the pregnant women, and the greater part of the food for the hospital also came from my kitchen, although Kitchen No. 2 contributed as well something towards the hospital. Quite a lot of the food destined for the hospital did not get to the patients at all because the nursing orderlies did not care very much about them and so the food was not delivered.

Were there any guards posted near the cookhouse ? - Yes, always. In the beginning there was one S.S. guard who stood at the fence which was erected round the kitchen because of typhus danger or diseases. Later on, when the Wehrmacht and Hungarian guards took over, several of those stood round the kitchen.

Did the S. S. guard do much shooting? - There was nothing in particular, or not very much. When the Wehrmacht and the Hungarians took over, the shooting increased from day to day.

Were there any other guards posted near the kitchen? - When food became very scarce, one night the potato shed was broken into and the prisoners took all the stuff away. After that the guards were increased to four. About 25 metres from my kitchen there were guards round the men’s and women’s compounds and at about the same distance there were look-outs.

Dr. Bimko accused you of shooting a woman who was bending down to pick up a few potato peelings, on the day before the British arrived. What have you got to say about that? - On that day I was not in the camp at all. I would not dream of shooting a woman bending down to take some potato peelings. I can explain why she made this accusation against me, because when I prepared food for the hospitals it was standing in front of the kitchen for hours without being fetched by the orderlies, and therefore I had a lot of quarrels with the hospital personnel. Prisoners who were quite weak and could hardly walk came and said, "We are coming to fetch the food for the hospital," but, on the other hand, patients themselves, feverish and weak, came into the kitchen and said, "We are hungry, we want something to eat. We do not get our food." So orderlies did not worry at all about the food distribution. A few days before the British troops arrived, Müller, accompanied by two Aufseherinnen inspected the hospital block and found loaves of bread already gone bad, and fat, margarine and sugar which had not been distributed. The doctors who were working in the hospitals and the orderlies got fatter and fatter, and the patients in their care were dying day by day.

Dora Szafran accuses you with another person of shooting some 50 prisoners after the British troops had arrived. What have you to say about that? - When the British troops came in I was not in the camp any more. I went with my wife to Bergen and we made ourselves ready to go away. I could have gone with her.

Why did you not? - Because of love for the prisoners. They said I should not go, nothing could happen to me, so I stayed on.

What did you do the day after the British troops arrived? - I was working in the kitchen and the Brigadier came in and ordered me to carry on until I was relieved. He spoke to the Kapo in charge of the prisoners who was also present when food was distributed, and asked her how I behaved towards the prisoners. She said that they were satisfied with me and that I behaved well. I was working there until I was arrested on 17th or 18th April. As far as I know, I was the only S.S. cook to continue to work after the British troops had arrived.

When you went out of the camp to help your wife to pack, when did you return? - The next morning for duty at 0400 hours.

Ilona Stein said that a few days before the British troops arrived she was carrying an empty container with a friend of hers towards your kitchen and you suddenly came out and shot the friend dead. She also accused you of shooting and wounding three other women. Is any of that true? - No, if I had behaved in such a way, then somebody out of the kitchen personnel would have told the Brigadier.

Lidia Sunschein said that about the beginning of March you went to No. 2 Cookhouse to learn the job and during that time you beat the prisoners terribly? - I was not in the camp at all at that time because I only arrived about the 10th or 15th. I have hardly seen Kitchen No. 2 at all, let alone that I should have beaten kitchen personnel.

Irene Löffler in her affidavit accuses you of shooting a Russian girl dead in February? - In February I did not know even of the existence of Bergen-Belsen, and such an incident never took place in the vicinity of my kitchen. It is untrue.

Maria Neuman accuses you of shooting a woman outside No. 1 Kitchen in March, 1944, and says that she got an injection from Dr. Klein to give to the victim? - I did not shoot this woman.

Helena Koper in her deposition says that a week before the British came you shot a pregnant woman in the arm, who died later? - I never did, and such women did not come to my kitchen for food. They were segregated and they were in the maternity home. People fetched the food to them there.

Koper goes on to say that her block was next to the kitchen and she saw you repeatedly shoot internees, many of whom fell down and were flung on to a heap? - This block was behind the kitchen, about 200 metres away, and it was impossible for her to see anything from there. I never shot anybody in Bergen-Belsen.

When you arrived at Belsen, did you receive any orders as to how you should treat the prisoners, what was the purpose of the camp, or that you should ill-treat the internees? - No.

Did you have a pistol? - Yes. I did not carry it when I was on duty or in the kitchen. I carried it when I was off duty and went to Bergen, for instance to see my wife.

Cross-examined by Major WINWOOD - Could you tell us exactly how the food got from the cookhouse to the blocks? - The containers were filled and were put outside in front of the kitchen. Then the prisoners, if they were strong enough, carried them to their respective blocks and for this service they got half a litre of soup. Before the container reached the block it was destined for, it was half empty. The distribution was left to the internees.

Cross-examined by Captain FIELDEN - Do you know the accused No, 22 (Pichen)? - Yes. I first met him in Blechanner [Blechhammer] in December, 1944, a detachment camp belonging to Auschwitz. Then I saw him about 21st February, 1945, in the concentration camp at Gross Rosen, which we left together, arriving at Bergen-Belsen between the 10th and 15th March.

Did this man on any occasion describe where he had been and what he had done? - Yes. In Blechanner he told me he had been at the Russian front, was wounded, went to hospital in Neustadt, and had been transferred to Blechanner [Blechhammer] as a guard for P.O.W.

Did he say he had ever been at Dora, or had ever worked in a bath-house? - No.

Shortly before the liberation of Belsen do you remember a day when a parade of all the S.S. men was called? - I remember.

Did you go on that parade with No. 22? - Yes, it was about noon and lasted for perhaps half an hour. He told me he did not feel very well.

Did you hear any sounds of shooting whilst the parade was being held? - Yes, from the guards.

Cross-examined by Captain NEAVE - You said you recognised No. 34 (Ida Forster) working in No. 3 Kitchen. Did you ever see her carrying a rubber tube and beating prisoners with it? - No.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - You said you had been taken from the Wehrmacht before you were called up for the S.S. How did you get into the S.S.? - There was no room any more in the Wehrmacht, and we were sent to Posen to the S.S.

I suggest to you that in April, 1940, there was only one way into the S.S. and that was to volunteer? - I had a conscription order; I did not know that I should be going to the S.S.

Did you not come before a board before you were admitted to the S.S.? - No.

Did you not have to take a special oath? - I took the oath in Posen with the S.S.

Where were you posted? - I was working in the kitchen in Posen as an S.S. man, and was then transferred to Auschwitz as a cook to the kitchen for the S. S. troops, and later on to the officers’ mess kitchen. There were about 50 officers.

How many guard companies were there? - One battalion was in Auschwitz and another battalion was in Birkenau. I do not know how many internees there were as I hardly saw the prisoners at that time.

When did you go to Blechanner [Blechhammer]? - In December, 1944.

Did you never see Kramer at Auschwitz? - I saw him once in the officers’ mess, and I saw Hoessler because he lived there.

What were the S. S. doing in Blechanner [Blechhammer]? - The S.S., under the command of Untersturmführer Klipp, were from Auschwitz, and brought the prisoners to the working sites and then stood guard.

What was the number of the Prisoners of War Camp there? - There were several.

Was Klipp in command of them all? - There was only one concentration camp for prisoners, and Klipp was in command of that particular camp.

There were a lot of British prisoners in there, were there not? - There were no British prisoners.

What were the prisoners doing? - They were working at the synthetic oil dump. They were very well treated, had their food from the working site, and had in fact nothing to do with Auschwitz at all.

Where did you go in January, 1945? - I was arrested and put in a prison in Auschwitz for 21 days. Actually I only served until the 18th as the camp was evacuated to Gross Rosen in Silesia.

What was your duty there? - To bring S. S. men who deserted to Gross Rosen. I arrived there at night, and left the next morning for Blechanner [Blechhammer] to fetch my personal belongings, and returned about 20th or 22nd February.

Did you meet Pichen again there? - Yes.

You did not see him at all in January and most of February? - In February only when I arrived at Gross Rosen.

When you got to Belsen why did you do nothing at all for the first week? - There was no work for me.

According to you that would be the second or third week in March. People were dying all round you by that time, were they not? - I did not know that because I had not been in that part of the camp at all. Later on I got work in the kitchen.

Sunschein said that first of all you went into her kitchen to learn the job, but that you were only there for a short time? - Only for two days, about two or three hours per day.

Was No. 41 (Gertrud Sauer) one of the Aufseherinnen in that cookhouse? - I do not know her at all.

Do you remember that one of the Aufseherinnen used to supervise the peeling of potatoes in that kitchen? - I only know that Hempel was Aufseherin in that kitchen.

Did Sunschein beat people with a leather belt? - Yes.

Did you stop her? - I could not stop a Kapo.

Why? As an S. S. man were you frightened of the Kapos? - No, because I had no influence in the kitchen. There was an Oberscharführer Heskel who was in charge, but I did not see him interfere.

Did not Hempel beat people in that kitchen too? - In Kitchen No. 2 the prisoners were put to work, and it was not necessary to beat them.

Apart from Sunschein, did you see nobody else beating anybody at all? - I have seen very many who were beating. The prisoners were always fighting among each other because they were hungry.

You have told us what the rations scale for each prisoner was. What amount of food, in fact, and what kind of food came into the cookhouse each day? - The rations I got in my kitchen were rather scarce, and hardly sufficient to cook for all the prisoners. In the first period we had some potatoes, later on none at all. The potatoes were brought mashed in large containers on carts. Some of the containers contained 25 litres and others 50. On a day when we had a lot, we would get 10 to 15 containers. I received turnips and flour, sometimes a lot and sometimes very little. On a good day we would receive three to four cartloads of turnips, each of 15 to 20 containers.

Is that all you got on a day when you got a lot, to feed 16000 people? - Yes.

What weight of coffee did you get each day? - I had about 300 to 400 kilograms in my store which had to last for about a week. I cannot say exactly how much coffee I used each day.

You were supposed to be a trained cook. Cannot you say how much coffee you used in that kitchen in a day? - In the time that I was in the kitchen we had practically no coffee. We only made it once or twice, so I cannot say how much we used. We had scarcely enough water to cook the mid-day meals.

You were asked why Dr. Bimko should say something against you, and you said you quarrelled with the people in the hospital. Do you say that the people in the hospital - the doctors and the orderlies - were getting fat whilst the patients were starving? - Yes, one could say so.

Do you remember that when Dr. Klein gave evidence he said that he had told the doctors and orderlies who were badly underfed to take an additional share of several enumerated things for each two of them? Was Dr. Klein wrong about that? - If they had all been under-nourished we would not have had so many corpses in Belsen.

Is Dr. Klein wrong when he said all the doctors and medical orderlies were badly in need of nourishment and were all badly under-nourished? - Yes, because I personally saw these medical orderlies.

How many weeks were you actually cooking in this cookhouse? - At the utmost, two weeks.

Who took it over when you were put under arrest? - The other cook, Jenner, took it all by himself then, and the man in charge of Kitchen No. 4 helped him.

I suggest to you that from the first day you arrived in Belsen, you carried your pistol all the time? - That is not correct, I only had my pistol off duty.

Did you not think your pistol was much more likely to be necessary inside a camp full of starving people than outside going down to see your wife? - No. All the time I have been in concentration camps I never took revenge upon a prisoner. I did wear my revolver, but not when I was on duty.

Was it not precisely to wear on duty that you were given it? - It was too much trouble to take the pistol with me, and it would have been in the way to carry it in the kitchen all the time.

Did you not simply supervise in the kitchen? - I worked just the same way at the boilers as the other prisoners.

They put several guards around the kitchen who did a fair amount of shooting. Did you take your firearm off just when you went to the place where the other guards had to do shooting? - Those guards were always shooting, and I tried to stop them. One of the Hungarians told me that his officer had ordered him to shoot whenever a prisoner came into the neighbourhood of the kitchen, even if he had to shoot down all the women’s camp.

Why were the Wehrmacht and the Hungarians so much more severe than the S.S.? - Because there was mutiny in the camp. They had to shoot.

Had it not become quite a favourite amusement with the S.S. to shoot hungry prisoners round the kitchen? - I do not know. In my kitchen no S.S. man was shooting.

Lothe in her affidavit told us about the Russian girl who was just trying to take a piece of peel and was shot, and Neuman told a very similar story when on another occasion you shot a woman outside the kitchen? - I can only say I did not shoot any women in the women’s compound.

Do you remember Stein saying that she did not actually see you shoot her friend, but she saw you coming out and shooting, and then her friend was killed, and you were the only person there who was do any shooting? She did not actually say you killed her friend, but if she was exaggerating do you not think she would have said that she actually saw you shoot her friend? - It is possible that she saw somebody shooting, but it could not have been me.

You say that the day before the British came you were away all day in Bergen. With the camp in the condition it was, and the few S.S. men left, do you really mean that Kramer gave you leave for the day? - Yes, that is true. I must say that I love my wife more than all the concentration camps.

Although only ten days before he had put you under arrest for going out because you might spread typhus? - Yes.

Dr. Bimko told us that on the day before the British arrived you shot another woman dead who was trying to take potato peelings. Is that not true? - If I tell the Court that I would not shoot a woman just because of a potato peel, I ask the Court to believe me.

That is what the other guards were doing, was it not? - Yes, they had been shooting.

You remember the day when you had this parade of all the S.S. men about noon? - Yes, it might have been two days before or it might have been the same day that the British came.

Who looked after the kitchen while you were away? - Jenner.

Jenner was in the S. S. too. Why did he not attend the parade? - I do not know.

I suggest to you that you came back to the cookhouse and, finding some internees around you, began to shoot? - I did not do that.

Koper says in her deposition that you used to stand on the steps. Did you often stand there? - No, I had to work in the kitchen. It was a Kapo who stood there to distribute the food.

You remember the witness Szafran told us about you shooting the day the British came. Was Jenner shooting from the other kitchen? - I cannot say because I was not there. He told me there had been some shooting from the watch tower with a machine-gun, and also that four guards had been shooting and there were some people killed.

You have not mentioned that before, have you? - Because I have not been asked about it.

Did he not actually shoot someone just as the first British tanks, came through? - I do not know.

Was Jenner a friend of yours? - No, he had the same job in the kitchen as I had.

When Brigadier Glyn Hughes spoke to you it was a Kapo who replied and said you were all right, was it? - Yes.

You heard Brigadier Glyn Hughes tell the Court what the attitude of the ordinary prisoner was when an S.S. man was present, even after the liberation, did you not? - Not in my kitchen.

You told us that people liked working in the kitchen. That was because it was almost their only chance of surviving? - No.

They got blows anywhere in the camp, but they got those whether it was in the cookhouse or out of it? - If I wanted to punish prisoners I punished them by giving them extra work, or by removing them from the kitchen. There was no beating in my kitchen at all. They were treated well, and they had their food.

Did you see any S.S man or woman beating often in Belsen? - Yes.

Re-examined by Captain ROBERTS - As long as you continued to work in No. 3 Kitchen after the arrival of the British troops, did Brigadier Glyn Hughes come in every day? - Yes, it was the kitchen that received the most rations, and had to hand out the most food. He often talked to the kitchen personnel.

Thirtieth Day - Saturday, 20th October, 1945

Captain ROBERTS - I now put in on behalf of Francioh an extract from an affidavit by Raymond Dujeu (Exhibit No. 137) as follows: -

"1. I am 22 years, of age. I was sent for forced labour in 1942. I was arrested in April, 1942, for returning to France without permission. On 1st May, 1942, I came to Belsen. At that time they were all prisoners of war except 200 Russians in the camp. I have worked in the kitchen all the time I have been at Belsen.

9. I also know an S.S. man called Karl Francioh (Photo 1-5). He was an exception to the ordinary guards, and was always kind and never beat anyone.

Sworn by the above-named Raymond Dujeu, this 5th day of May, 1945, at Belsen Camp.


Before me the said Major GEOFFREY SMALLWOOD."

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Karl Francioh)