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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Heinrich Schreirer)


HEINRICH SCHREIRER, sworn, examined by Captain CORBALLY - I was born on 11th June 1923, in Mirceah Voda in Rumania, and am unmarried. My father was of German descent, and in June, 1941, I came to Germany, where I stayed in several transit camps with my mother. On 15th October, 1941, I was called up for service in the Luftwaffe, and was stationed for training in Katowice until September, 1942. Once during this period I went on leave to Linz as my mother was in a transit camp near there. I was then transferred with my battalion, Signals Unit No. 40, to Rumania, and although I had a lot of work to do, when I had time I carried out duties as a Red Cross orderly. The unit moved from one place to another in Rumania, and all this time I was on the medical staff and I served in several hospitals. On leaving Rumania I went to Norway, where I stayed until February, 1945, during which period I once went on leave to Linz as my mother was ill. I left Norway in February, 1945, and went to Norstawitz [Dorstewitz], where we did duties as infantry troops. In April, 1945, we retreated about six kilometres from Schwerin, and there we laid down our arms and were made prisoners by the Americans about the 20th. An American sent all the wounded into the interior of the country and I was amongst these sent to the rear. We had no guards and went from one camp to another until we finally reached Celle after five or six days. The wounded were taken into Hospital by a British soldier and I wanted to stay with them, but was told there was not room for me. After two days I was sent with about 40 doctors, 40 medical orderlies, and a few nurses to Bergen.

What happened when you arrived at Bergen? - When we arrived it was evening, and on the second day I was sent to Block 29, where I took up my work as a medical attendant looking after ex-internees from the camp. This was about seven or eight days after I had been captured, and I was there for three weeks.

What happened after you had been working there for three weeks? - A man called Kurowicki, whom I have seen in the prison in Bergen but whose name I did not know, stated that I had been an S.S. man and I was arrested and sent to the police prison at Bergen, where almost every hour ex-internees were brought who tried to identify me. Kurowicki identified me, and then Gertrud Diament said that I had been an S.S. man in Auschwitz. A girl friend of hers was brought to my cell but she could not identify me because I had never been there.

Gertrud Diament says in her statement that you were an S.S. man at Auschwitz, and that she saw you a number of times whilst she was there. What do you say to that? - It must be a mistake; I have never been at Auschwitz. The first time I had ever seen her was when I was confronted with her.

The accused Koper in her affidavit says that you were at Auschwitz in the winter of 1942-43 and were in charge of the Strafkommando. She also says that you told her that you were head of the Political Department? - That is an invention, and I saw Koper for the first time in Bergen.

Kurowicki deposes that you were Blockführer of No. 22 Block in Auschwitz from about November, 1942, until the middle of 1943? - That is not true.

Have you ever had anything to do with the internees in the concentration camp in Belsen? - No, apart from Bergen, where I did medical orderly duties for ex-internees.

Is that the uniform which you were wearing at the time you were arrested? - Yes.

How did you come to have grey breeches and a blue jacket? - On the transport from Schwerin to Celle I tore my own pair of trousers and I got these field grey ones from one of the wounded.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Are you a naturalised German? - Yes.

You say you have never been in the S.S. at all, and the reason you happened to be wearing those trousers is because you took them from a wounded man. How did the photograph which you had with you when you were arrested come to be taken of you in S.S. uniform? - I was with my fiancée and an S.S. man called Jansen from Linz and we had too many and so we exchanged uniforms, and that is how I got this photograph.

It was terribly bad luck, was it not, that when you were arrested at Belsen as being an S.S. man, when they looked in your pockets they found the photograph of you in S.S. uniform? - If I had been as S.S. man, I certainly would not have kept that photograph showing me in S.S. uniform.

Kurowicki actually saw you and recognised you and that is how you came to be arrested? - That is right.

If you were a member of the Luftwaffe were you not ashamed to have your photograph taken in an S.S. uniform? - Why should I have been ashamed? I did not know anything about concentration camps and the S.S. connected with them. I knew the S.S. only as soldiers.

You could speak and read German and you served at Katowice; did you never hear of Auschwitz? - Yes, I knew that it was a concentration camp, but that was all I knew about it. I have never been in Auschwitz and did not know where it was.

Katowice was the neatest town to Auschwitz. Do you mean to say that people in Katowice and the soldiers there never talked about it? - Everybody knew there was a concentration camp, but what happened there nobody knew.

I suggest that you joined the S.S. in 1941, not the Wehrmacht or the Luftwaffe at all, and that it was your own uniform that you had your photograph taken in? - That is not true.

It was exceptionally lucky that it fitted, was it not? - The other man was built in a similar way, and was just as slim as I am.

How did you get into British hands if you were captured by the Americans? - We just carried on and nobody stopped us. We had Red Cross flag in front of our lorry. On the roads Military Police stopped us, but I did not know whether they were British or American.

Where did you get your petrol from? Did the Military Police fill your car up for you? - Always when we stayed overnight the German driver saw that the tanks were filled.

And I suppose the Americans filled it up until you got into British lines and then the British filled it up for you? - I do not know how it happened, but the driver always managed to have some petrol.

Let me suggest this to you, that your whole story of this capture and driving around getting petrol from the British and Americans, going from one camp to the other without a guard and without anybody looking after you, is a complete tissue of lies from start to finish? - No. It is true.

What I suggest to you is that you were called up like the other Volksdeutsche and you were not allowed to go into the Wehrmacht and had to go into the S.S.? - I am not Volksdeutsch, but am a so-called settler, and I have never been in the S.S.

I suggest that you were in fact employed at Auschwitz, where you were a Blockführer in Block 22, and that just as the other people there did, you regularly beat people with your fist, your revolver butt, a rubber truncheon or anything else than came into your hand? - That is not true.

You would be only 18 when you were called-up. I suggest that when you were at Auschwitz you were very pleased with yourself, and that when you went round in your top-boots with your revolver, if the prisoners did not take their hats off to you immediately or did not stand up whenever you were there, you beat them regularly? - That is not true.

Kurowicki said you were his Blockführer from November, 1942, until at least the middle of 1943. He would have had plenty of opportunity of seeing the Blockführer during the course of that time, would he not? - As far as I have heard here during the trial he ought to have had enough opportunity. It must be a mistake.

Diament recognised you easily enough, did she not? - Yes, she says she knows me.

I take it you speak Rumanian? - Yes.

You were stationed in Poland for 12, months, did you learn some Polish? - Some words, that is all.

What were you doing in Rumania? - A printer by profession.

Have you ever heard Koper playing an instrument? - I saw Koper for the first time when I was confronted with her.

Did you not have some conversation with Koper about music? - No.

How do you think that Koper connected you with Rumania if she had never seen you? - When I was brought over from Celle to Bergen and when I saw Koper for the first time, then she made the investigations in front of Captain Fox.

Koper made the investigations? - Yes. Captain Fox and the interpreter were present.

You speak English, do you not? - No.

Why did you answer that last question before the interpreter put it in German? - Those few words which the Prosecutor said I could understand.

It is rather interesting that Koper says you could speak Rumanian, which is apparently true, and she says you speak French. Do you speak any French? - No.

She says you speak some Polish? - No , I understand a few words and that is all.

She says that you said that you spoke Russian and German as well. You obviously speak German, do you not? - Yes.

And you at least understand some English? - No.

Tell us more about this story of Koper, interrogating you? - I was fetched from Celle to Bergen and there I was led into a room. Captain Fox was there with an interpreter, and then suddenly Koper was brought in and the interpreter asked me whether I knew this woman. I said "no," and then Koper immediately started talking to me and interrogating me in German. I did not need an interpreter.

After you left Auschwitz and went to Belsen did Koper not see you there on several occasions? - No, neither in Auschwitz nor in Belsen.

Did you not tell Koper all sorts of ridiculous nonsense about your being the head of the Political Department and burying secret papers? - I have never spoken to Koper before, and I do not know that person.

I suggest to you that you got rid of your papers, you got rid of your uniform jacket and managed to get hold of a Luftwaffe one, and that it was only the fact that you did not get rid of the photograph of your fiancée that gave away the fact that you were an S.S. man? - No, all that is untrue.

Re-examined by Captain CORBALLY - What has happened to your pay book and the rest of your papers? - I lost my pay book during the retreat. I had a Red Cross certificate in my wallet, but it was taken away from me when I was arrested in Bergen along with the photograph.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - Were there only two on the photograph, you and your fiancée? - Yes.

If you had thrown it away would you have had any photo of your fiancée at all then? - No.

Have you any tattoo marks on your body? - Yes, under my left arm, the blood group was tattooed in September, 1941, when I gained German nationality.

Is that done to members of the Luftwaffe? - No. Those from Rumania, the so-called settlers, were tattooed.

By a Member of the Court - You say you surrendered to Americans; what sort of head-dress were they wearing? - Steel helmets with "M.P."

On which side of Schwerin were you captured? - I think west from Schwerin.

Are you certain it was 20th April? - No, it could have been a few days before or after.

When you went from Schwerin to Celle can you tell us the names of any of the places you went through? - We crossed the river Elbe at Lauenburg two days after having been captured. It was an emergency bridge made of wood.

MARIA SCHREIRER, sworn, examined by Captain CORALLY - I am a widow, and have a son Heinrich who was 22 in June. I left Rumania for Germany in June, 1941, and my son left about the same time. We stayed at re-settlement camps on the road and were sometimes separated.

Did you have to undergo any medical examinations in any of these resettlement camps before you came into Germany? - Yes.

Did the doctors make any blood tests? - Yes, in a train they made some blood tests, took my measurements and stamped me under my left arm.

When was your son called up? - In the autumn of 1941 he went into the Luftwaffe. I saw him next after about 10 months, and when I was ill on another occasion he came to see me. As far as I know he has been in the Luftwaffe ever since he was called up.

Have you ever heard of his being in the S. S. at any time? - No.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - You would not have liked to have heard that your son was in the S.S., would you? - I really cannot tell you what sort of sentiment I would have had of the S.S. because in former Germany the S.S. was always regarded as the very élite of the armed services, and it would have meant a great honour to belong to that formation.

Did you know that they drafted a lot of Rumanians into the S.S.? - I have heard that some people were drafted there. I was never very happy about my son being in the Luftwaffe because I considered the Luftwaffe as something cruel.

Would you have liked to know that your son was a concentration camp guard? - No.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - Did your son write to you occasionally? - Yes, he wrote very often, but many letters were lost.

Did you write to your son? - I cannot write because I cannot see, but I asked people to write to him. Whenever he wrote to me he sent his address or his military postal number.

Did you ever enquire from people who read his letters what sort of rank he was holding or anything of that kind? - The last I heard about it was at he was lance-corporal. Whether he had been promoted later on I do not know.

Do you remember any countries from which he wrote letters to you? - I remember Rumania, but I do not remember other countries.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Heinrich Schreirer)