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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Walter Otto)

WALTER OTTO, sworn, examined by Captain FIELDEN - I am a German, born in Wuppertal on 20th July, 1906, and was an electrician in civilian life. I was conscripted into the S.S. on 15th October, 1940, and arrived at Belsen on Sunday, 4th February, 1945. The offices were closed so we reported on Monday and were appointed to start work as electricians on Tuesday. I was put in charge of the electricians’ Kommando and we got about 17 or 18 electricians amongst the prisoners.

Stojowska accused you of beating her for taking a bed from Block 213, and also that you hit a woman, knocked her to the floor and continued to beat her because she had brought a bed into Block 201 with permission of the Lagerältester. What do you say to that? - Block 213 is in the women’s compound, which was closed, and which I could not enter without a permit of the doctor. I have never been a Blockführer as this was impossible for somebody working in administration. The nearest I had been to Block 213 was once when I went with Dr. Horstmann to Block 209. I have never beaten anyone at Belsen and I saw to it that our Kommando received new shoes, two new sets of underwear and a new suit. We asked the witness, Dr. Bendel, to come and look at our Kommando and he came two or three times a week and said that they were rather weak. Then we went to Vogler, who was in charge of the administration, asked for more food and received every day, a double ration from Kitchen No. 4. As this was not sufficient we obtained for our Kommando, twice every week, 10 extra loaves of bread, a kilogramme of margarine, some marmalade and sometimes tinned meat. For the Second week of the Kommando we got 1200 cigarettes for them, and afterwards we had more cigarettes, and when we could not get these we had pipe tobacco. It was not part of my work to concern myself with the beds in the women’s Lager.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - The S.S. was pretty difficult to get into in 1940, was it not? - I received an order to go to Oranienburg, Berlin, to the S.S.

Is it not true that you were conscripted to the Army and volunteered for the SS.? - No.

Where did you go after Oranienburg? - We arrived in the afternoon, and in the evening 100 of us were sent to Auschwitz, where l stayed until 21st January, 1945.

You must be one of the people who was longer at Auschwitz than anybody else? - I do not know.

You watched it grow and helped it along? - Yes.

What was your employment there? - I did my training for a year and then my work was an electrician. Oberscharführer Bohn was charge. I was in Auschwitz No. 1.

When you left Auschwitz where did you go? - I travelled alone in the food truck, to Dunskirchen, then to Gross Rosen, and then Oranienburg.

You have told us about getting food for your Kommando at Belsen. Provided an S.S. man took sufficient trouble could he get both bread and margarine for his Kommando? - Yes, I got it from our Lagerältester. He was the chief prisoner in the camp and had a sort of extra supply for the working parties. Their working parties got extra food as well.

Literally thousands of people starved to death there, did they not? - Yes.

Did your Kommando get food all right? - Yes. I have seen several other working parties at Kitchen No. 4 who received this extra food.

Is the truth of the matter not that food was produced for people fit to work and no food produced for those who were not? - I do not know. I can only say that I received food for my Kommando.

When was the last time that you went into the bath-house? - 6th April.

When did the electricity cease? - 12th or 13th April. There was no water after that.

A large proportion of the S.S. had gone away. The ones who were left had a tremendous lot on their hands, had they not? - Yes, I think so, because there was quite a lot of work to do.

The camp was in an absolutely dreadful condition, was it not? - I was working on the main street and cannot say that conditions were very bad there. We had only to do with electrical things and nothing to do with the barbed wire because that was not electrically loaded.

There were 13000 bodies lying about the camp, unburied, were there not? - Until the British troops came we worked in the front part of the camp and there were no bodies.

It must have come as an awful shock to you when the British showed to you the state of the camp, did it not? - I saw the camp for the first time when we had to carry bodies.

Do you mean to say that after you came to Belsen you never went to look around the camp you had come to? - We had no time for that because on the 6th we started selecting our electricians and had to prepare our workshops.

Did you never look around the camp to see what sort of an electrical installation you had taken over? - No. In that camp there were two electricians who did the repair work.

I suggest you saw this girl with a bed, and in the normal and typical S. S. manner you promptly beat her first and asked her what was doing with it afterwards? - I never beat anybody. I never had anything to do with any prisoners other than my own 17.

I suggest that whilst you were doing the repair work in Block 201 you saw a bed in there and beat the woman who had it? - That is not true.

Whilst you were wandering around the camp doing your electrical repairs, did you see quite a lot of beating going on by both the SS and the Kapos? - Now and then, yes; it was more by the Kapos than the S.S.

Did you make any attempt to stop the Kapos? - No.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Walter Otto)