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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Ansgar Pichen)

ANSGAR PICHEN, sworn, examined by Captain FIELDEN - I was born on 22nd September, 1913, in Esbjerg, Denmark. My father was a Dane. In 1914 we went to Upper Silesia, and in 1922, when Poland took over Upper Silesia, we became Polish nationals. I was conscripted into the German Army on 25th May, 1940, and was wounded on 25th November, 1942, with the result that my left hand was crippled. I left hospital on 12th [10th] January, 1943, for Troppau in Moravia, where I stayed until March, 1943, when I went to a P.O.W. punishment camp at Blechanner [Blechhammer] in Upper Silesia. On 21st January I left Blechanner [Blechhammer] and arrived at Gross Rosen on approximately 20th February, which I left on 25th for Bergen-Belsen along with Francioh and two others who are not here. I arrived at Belsen about 10th March, and was detailed for guard duties but was excused because of my hand. They took away my papers and I understood that I was to join the S.S., but whether I had been accepted for service with the S.S. I do not know. I never wore S.S. uniform. I worked as an apprentice in Kitchen No. 2 and after four days took charge of Cookhouse No. 1, where I was until arrested on 17th April, 1945.

Did you have a pistol whilst you were at Belsen? - Yes, but when I was working in the kitchen I did not carry it. I put it into a locked cupboard, but on the way from the barracks to the kitchen I carried it. It was not loaded.

What were your duties in the cookhouse? - I was supervising the cooking and worked either from 0300 hours until 1300 hours or from 1300 hours until 2300 hours. The second cook’s Christian name was Josef, and there were internees working in the kitchen. No specific orders were given to me as to how I was to treat the internees.

What was the location of the various guards and sentries round Kitchen No. 1? - Near the kitchen were the watch towers which were always guarded and there was one guard at the kitchen, a second guard near the bread stores and a third guard near the other kitchen.

What were your relations with the internees working in the kitchen? - I was on good terms with those working for me, and as they had been working well and were very hungry, I brought a number of broken loaves from the bread stores and distributed them amongst the prisoners in the kitchen.

What happened on the occasion when all the S.S. men were called on a parade shortly before the liberation of the camp? - I got an order through the ’phone that all S.S. men and those in charge of the cookhouses had to go on parade. Kommandant Kramer told us that we had to stay on our jobs until the British troops arrived. Somebody came and reported to Kramer that there was a sort of revolt at Cookhouse No. 2, but I did not bother about it. I had locked my kitchen and at the end of the parade I gave the key to the second cook, Josef. I went to my barracks because I did not feel very well, and did not go to the kitchen until the next day.

Have you ever been in charge of the bath-house? - No, never.

Halota in his affidavit states that he saw you standing outside Kitchen No. 1 and that you pulled out your revolver and shot dead two male prisoners taking some turnips. Are the allegations true or untrue? - Untrue.

Did you ever carry a stick or rubber truncheon in Belsen, and have you ever ill-treated prisoners? - No.

Have you ever shot any prisoners? - No, I have never used my pistol in Bergen-.Belsen.

Were any of the people who have made accusations against you internees who worked in your cookhouse? - Only the witness Wajsblum.

Cross-examined by Captain CORBALLY - Was the accused Barsch ever an S.S. man in Kitchen No. 1 while you were there? - No.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - When you were at Blechanner [Blechhammer] were you at a concentration camp or one of the P.O.W. camp? - The first time I was in a P.O.W. camp, and the second time it was a working camp belonging to the Auschwitz area.

When you left Blechanner [Blechhammer] to go to Gross Rosen are you sure you did not go to Dora? - No.

When you arrived at Belsen why did you object to doing guard duties? - Because I am excused guard duties.

You had done guard duties at Blechanner [Blechhammer], had you not? - Yes, as a sort of deputy for somebody.

Do you really tell us, that for a fortnight in March at Belsen you did nothing at all? - I did not do anything at all. The M.O. excused me from guard duty.

Then you went to Cookhouse No. 2 under Heuskel? - Yes.

There is no doubt that you are the man who then became in charge of Cookhouse No 1? - Yes.

You have changed your appearance a great deal, have you not, since you were arrested? - I do not think I have changed.

You wore your hair pretty long while you were at Belsen? - Yes, but in hospital when I had typhus my hair was cut short.

You did not wear a moustache when you were in Belsen either, did you? - I believe I had one.

Are you surprised that the witness Litwinska could not pick you out although she worked in your kitchen for a long time? - Yes, I was very much surprised she could not recognise me.

Were you surprised when Zamoski, who had seen you in the kitchen at Belsen, missed you as well? - I had nothing to do with the male prisoners, I had only female prisoners working in my kitchen.

Who took the food away from your kitchen? - Five or six male Russians.

Your kitchen was in the men’s compound, was it not? - Yes.

Who was in charge of Kitchen No. 4? - There was only one there and I do not remember his name.

Who looked after the second shift? - I do not know.

It was immediately opposite the bath-house. Are you sure it was not Mathes and Melcher? - No. I knew him quite well, but he hanged himself in the prison at Celle.

If you came down from the S.S. quarters or from the bath-house, the first kitchen you would come to would be Kitchen No. 4, and the second would be the S.S. Kitchen? - Yes.

In fact, if it was somebody who was counting instead of knowing the proper numbers, they might very reasonably call the S. S. Kitchen "Kitchen No. 2"? - No, because everybody knew that No. 1 was a kitchen for the prisoners and the second one was for the S.S.

Were the vegetables prepared in the S.S. Kitchen? - No, they were prepared in a cellar in the men’s compound and then taken to the kitchen to be cooked.

When you were in charge of Kitchen No. 1 were you cooking turnips in those days, and did they bring them in cart-loads and tip them outside your kitchen? - They were always in front of the kitchen, night and day.

By that time the prisoners were getting pretty hungry, were they not? - I do not know, but I must assume that they were.

They were dying of hunger all around you, were they not? - I know that many did die, but whether of starvation I cannot say. I saw that they were very thin.

Prisoners used to hang around the kitchen, did they not, trying to get a bit of turnip or potato peel? - No. My kitchen was outside the compound, so the prisoners could not come and hang around. I have heard that they stormed Kitchen No. 2, but they never took anything from my kitchen.

Both Nos. 1 and 2 Kitchens were precisely the same place so far as the compounds were concerned. They were both by the side of the main road? - Yes.

I put it to you that on 13th April you shot two men who were trying to get some turnips? - It is not true.

Did you search a prisoner just outside the kitchen a week or so before the British came? - I have never done such a thing.

Have you ever searched any prisoners outside the kitchen? - No.

I suggest to you that you went back to the kitchen to put the foodstuffs down and then went out and shot a prisoner with your pistol? - The pistol was locked in the cupboard and in any case I had difficulties with my arm.

Did all the S. S. men report on this parade when Kramer sent for you? - I think everybody was there.

Was Jenner there? - I should think yes.

Did you turn all the girls out and lock the kitchen up? - The girls working in the kitchen waited outside and sat in the sun.

Was there just one guard on the watch tower? - I do not know, but I had seen Hungarian guards on the road.

Estera Wajsblum in her affidavit says that many male prisoners who were starving took the opportunity of obtaining turnips which were piled up outside Kitchen No. 1. Can you think of a better time to try and steal turnips than when all the S.S. guards had gone off on a parade? - That was quite impossible because in front of the kitchen, just near the piles of turnips, there was a guard on duty.

When Kramer got the message that there was trouble at No. 2 Kitchen did you not hurry back to see whether your kitchen was all right? - My kitchen was locked with a key, but I understand that Heuskel’s kitchen was open.

I suggest to you that you and Josef came running back together and when you saw the prisoners round your cookhouse stealing the turnips you both started shooting? - That is not true, because I went to my barracks and Josef’s rifle was in his barracks. He only took a bayonet to his kitchen.

The witness Litwinska said that they were waiting in front of the kitchen for an hour and a half, is that true? - No, it was not more than half an hour.

If it only went on for half an hour you would not be due off duty at the end of the parade, would you? - Yes, because I started early in the morning.

I put it to you that you indulged not just once but on more than one occasion in what had become a popular sport in Belsen ; that was for the cooks to shoot prisoners who came around the cookhouse? - No.

You tell us that Ilse Forster was one of your Aufseherinnen. Was accused No. 35 (Klara Opitz) the other girl who worked in your potato-peeling department? - No, I do not know her.

Was No. 42 (Lisiewitz) ever in your kitchen? - Yes, she was working in the peeling shed for a short period.

You know they behaved very badly in the kitchen, did they not, to the prisoners? - I cannot say, because of the short period I was in charge.

Did you ever see Ilse Forster beating Litwinska? - I cannot remember.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Ansgar Pichen)