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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Eric Barsch)


Captain CORBALLY - I now go on to the case of accused No. 28, Barsch. The only evidence against him is contained in two affidavits by Cesa Silberberg and Miriam Winter, which deal with the same incident of a shooting which is alleged to have taken place outside No. 1 Kitchen on or about 13th April. In both of these affidavits Barsch is described as the S.S. kitchen chief of No. 1 Kitchen at Belsen, The witness Litwinska, who claimed to be working in No. 1 Kitchen at Belsen at this time, was asked if she could recognise the two S.S. men in No. 1 Cookhouse and she said that she certainly could. She said that she had nothing to do with Barsch. She might have seen him, but she did not know. He has also been cleared of being in No. 1 Cookhouse by the accused Pichen, who said Barsch was not there and was not even in any of the cookhouses in No. 1 Camp. The witness, Emile Kltscho, recognised Barsch from Mittelbau Concentration Camp and says that he was working in the hospital of the troops there, and that after the camp had been evacuated he saw him again, in the barracks at Bergen and that there he worked as medical orderly with the doctors.

As far as this charge is concerned, it is to my mind quite sufficient to prove that he was not and could not have been in No. 1 Cookhouse a few days before the British arrived and that he was, in fact, employed somewhere else. He claims to be an S.S. medical man and I have here and propose to call in his defence, two doctors with whom he is supposed to have worked in No. 2 Camp. In these circumstances, I do not consider that there is any need whatever for the accused Barsch to go into the witness box to give evidence against the two affidavits, and he has declined to do so.

ERNST HEINRICH SCHMIDT, sworn, examined by Captain CORBALLY - I am a doctor, qualified in 1937 in the University of Leipzig, and at the beginning of the war was in a hospital of the Waffen S.S. In the beginning of April, 1945, I was in the camp at Dora. The camp was evacuated and I left for the Wehrmacht Barracks in Bergen on 5th April, and arrived there on the 8th or 9th. I know the accused Barsch, whom I saw for the first time in the Wehrmacht Barracks at Bergen, either on the day I arrived or the next day. He was working under my command every day as a medical orderly. On 12th April, I think it was, we got orders to go to Hamburg, and I went there with Dr. Kurzke, Barsch and another medical orderly called Besener. We left camp about two o’clock in the morning, and arrived abort 2200 hours on the 13th at Hamburg. We only stayed a few hours because we received orders to go back once to Bergen, which we did, arriving the next day about noon. I cannot remember the exact day, but I think it was two or three days before the British troops arrived.

I carried on my work at Bergen so that all the medical questions should be cleared before the British troops arrived.

Was Barsch still working with you? - Yes, but during the last few days he was ill, and I myself looked after him. I told him to stay in bed, but in the last few days I believe he got up again. I do not remember very clearly, but I know that during the last days his illness was not so bad; it developed worse after the arrival of the British troops.

Did you yourself see him when he got up from his bed? - He had been working in the two blocks which I had converted into hospitals until the last day before the British troops came.

Did you ever send Barsch down to Camp No. 1 while he was working for you? - No.

Were there any women in Camp No. 2? - No. In Block 64, the block which dealt with wounded soldiers, there were two nursing sisters.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - What was your rank in the S.S. in April, 1945? - Hauptsturmführer.

When did you cease to wear uniform? - The day after the British troops came. I was told to continue to work in the hospital, and I put a white coat over my shirt and left my tunic in my room. When I returned it was gone.

What was the name of the first concentration camp you worked in? - The name was P.O.W. Camp, Lublin.

Were there not a great many prisoners gassed there? - I was in town, and was a doctor for the troops in the barracks there.

I suggest you were working in Maidenek? - No.

Where did you go from Lublin? - I took over the practice of a doctor in the country of Silesia, and at the same time I worked for a labour camp near Gross Rosen, and a P.O.W. camp.

Gross Rosen had one of the highest death rolls of any concentration camp, did it not? - No.

When did you leave Gross Rosen? - In September or October, 1944 I was sent to Turoboven in Austria, and worked as a doctor there for several companies who were administered at several labour camps, partly by Berlin and partly by Dachau.

You came directly under the chief doctor at Dachau? - Yes, for the labour camps which were under the administration at Dachau, but there were others under the chief doctors of the Todt organisation as well.

When did you go to Mittelbau? - At the end of March, 1945. Before that I had typhus.

When you left Nordhausen how did you leave? - With the train, and part of the journey was done by car or motor cycle. On the train were prisoners from the camp, and I converted two trucks for medical attention; one for the troops and one for the prisoners. I do not know who was in charge of this particular transport as I did not know the people from Dora.

Do you know the accused, Kulessa? - I believe I know him, but he was not head of that transport.

Was he on that transport? - I cannot say for certain.

How many people died on the way? - Maybe 10 or 20.

Did you do anything for the prisoners on the train at all? - Anybody who reported to the wagon where I worked was dressed if he had some wound, and I gave orders to the prisoner doctors to do the same.

What examination did you make when somebody died? - I myself did not do any because it was the job of the prisoner doctors to do that, who were responsible to me. The cause of death mostly was pneumonia, which they caught on their journey.

What was the water situation for this journey? - Several times on stations we got some water. I myself had nothing to do with it as it was the responsibility of the man in charge of the transport. I did not hear one single complaint about the scarcity of water.

Was there any difficulty in getting water at the stations if you tried? - It was certainly not difficult because the whole atmosphere of the people and their behaviour was very good.

To whom did you report at Bergen-Belsen? - Hoessler.

How did you and Dr. Kurzke divide your duties between you at Bergen-Belsen? - We were friends and did not give each other any sort of orders. In the morning, for instance, when I was working in Block 64, which was for the troops, he might have gone back to Block 90 to see what was happening there, or vice versa. There was nobody in bed in that block and there were no proper hours for treatment. They came in the morning and in the afternoon, and the doctor who was there treated them. It was not a properly organised sick parade.

How many people had you in bed ill in Block 90? - Approximately 300 to 400.

Did you get in touch with Dr. Klein? - Yes, I once went into Camp No. 1 and saw him there. He did not tell me what conditions were like.

Do you mean to say you never discussed what the conditions were like there when two doctors got together? - Certainly not. We were only together for about five or seven minutes and there were others present so we did not discuss any purely medical affairs.

Did Dr. Klein never make any request to you for assistance? - No.

What did you think the smell that came from Camp No. 1 was? - I was only near the entrance and could not smell anything at all.

Thousands of rotting corpses have a very distinctive smell? - I can assure you I did not smell anything.

Had you no idea that people were dying by the thousand in that camp, just a kilometre or so away from where you were? - I did not know that.

Although you two doctors and your prisoner doctors, medical orderlies and medical supplies were all available within a kilometre or so of Camp No. 1, nobody even mentioned to you that they might be required? - Nobody at Camp No. 1 asked me to help.

The first time you ever saw Barsch was either on 8th, 9th or 10th. That is only five or six days before the British arrived? - Yes.

You started work on the following day, took one day going to Hamburg and another day coming back, so you only had three working days altogether, did you? - Yes, about that.

Did Barsch ever go to bed in those last two days before the British arrived? - We shared the same room in Block 64, and I told him several times to go to bed. I am almost sure he went to bed during the day as well.

I suggest that there was nobody within a 20- or 30-mile radius of Lublin who did not know all about Maidenek Concentration Camp, even if they were not in the S.S. themselves; and that you knew it perfectly well and served there? - I had so much to do with my own troops. I was working in the barracks near the centre of Lublin and never had anything to do with prisoners as a doctor.

Re-examined by Captain CORBALLY - Are you living in any concealment now? - No, I am in charge of a hospital in Camp No. 3 in Belsen.

When you had your conversation with Dr. Klein in Camp No. 1, was that the only occasion you have been in that camp? - I was there once more, at a conference of all officers; I believe the day before the British arrived.

Did it ever happen that you looked for Barsch and could not find him? - No. Whenever I needed him he was always to be found. He carried out the jobs I gave him very well.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - You joined the S.S. as a medical officer in 1941. When you saw Barsch for the first time about 9th April, 1945, was he an S.S. soldier or not? - Yes, an Unterscharführer.

What are the distinctive badges of a medical orderly in the S.S.? - An esculapian sign on his left sleeve.

Was he a competent medical orderly who could dress wounds and do that kind of thing? - Yes, he was certainly a good medical orderly.

When a recruit was taken into the S.S. was it part of the duties of the medical men in the S.S. to ascertain his blood group, and if so what did they do about it? - As far as I know the blood group was not certified with the unit; it was done by people from Berlin. There was a Blood Group Commission with doctors and medical orderlies who travelled to the several units, and when they came they certified the blood group and tattooed it on the body.

Should every member of the S.S. have his blood group tattooed on his body? - I believe that it should, but during the war so many people came to the S.S., and the Blood Group Commission had so much work to do, that it could not be carried out with all. I have examined S.S. men who did not have it stamped.

The Wehrmacht did not have this mark of their blood group tattooed on their bodies? - No, not as far as I am aware.

ALFRED KURZKE, sworn, examined by Captain CORBALLY - I am a doctor, and qualified in 1943 at Marburg - very late because I had several other professions. I was conscripted in 1942 into the S.S., but later on was released and returned to Marburg, where I continued my studies and worked as a doctor there until 24th October, 1944. I was conscripted again by the S.S. to Berlin, and a week after Easter was in the concentration camp at Dora. This camp was evacuated and I went to Bergen-Belsen, where I worked as a doctor. I recognise Barsch, accused No. 28, as one of my medical orderlies there. I think I probably saw him before in Dora in the C.R.S. for troops. I arrived in Belsen about 11 or 12 days before the British troops came. The first night or two I spent in the woods, but later on lived in Block 64. I believe Barsch reported to me whilst I was still in the woods.

When Barsch reported to you did you give him any work to do? - Yes, he helped me in Block 64 unpacking boxes containing instruments, and I ordered him to prepare Block No. 90 for the prisoners. He was ill in the last few days.

Was there any doctor apart from you? - Dr. Schmidt, and also Sturmbannführer Dr Wirtz, my superior officer, who only came later. We were ordered to proceed to Neuengamme as Bergen-Belsen should have been taken over by Wehrmacht personnel and Hungarians. We left about three days before the British troops arrived, reached Neuengamme the next evening at dusk, and at 0400 hours got orders to return to Belsen, which we did. I do not know what happened to Barsch.

Do you know anything more about Barsch whilst he was in Belsen? - I only know that he had been helping me and that he had been sick during the last few days with gastritis.

Were there any women in this camp at Belsen? - Two nursing sisters from Dora. There were no women internees in the camp.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Would it be right to say that you arrived at Belsen on Tuesday, 10th April? - It must have been that Tuesday.

Then on Thursday evening you went to Neuengamme, and did not return to Belsen until Friday morning? - Yes.

The British arrived on the Sunday, so you really only had two days there all the time? - It was a very short period after I returned when British troops arrived.

Of course you disliked being in the S.S. very much, did you not, doctor? - I can only say I have been a soldier and I liked to be a soldier, but first I am a doctor and those things which I have seen are too terrible for me.

You had a number of friends amongst the prisoners, had you not? - I can say almost the whole camp.

During the short time you were a doctor in concentration camps you did your level best to help the prisoners, did you not? - I can only say with all the strength I had.

And you were shocked and disgusted with the way in which they were treated in the concentration camps? - I learned for the first time to weep in a concentration camp.

There was not the slightest consideration given to these prisoners, was there? - For very many no consideration was shown at all, and particularly not from the Gestapo.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - Had members of the S.S. their blood groups tattooed on their bodies? - Yes, myself as well.

Was it done by the doctors or by some other person? - When I was called up in Berlin I was taken down into a medical department where they took a blood test from my ear, and immediately afterwards it was tattooed under my left arm.

What was the object of putting this mark on your body? - In case of a wound or injury, the blood transfusion should be made easier by knowing at once the blood group. As a doctor I think it is a very good thing to do.

It was just as useful in the case of a Wehrmacht soldier, was it not? - Yes.

Was it the practice to put the blood group of a Wehrmacht soldier on to his body like it was in the case of an S.S. man? - I do not know I have never seen that in the case of a Wehrmacht soldier. I have not treated very many.

Have you ever seen an S.S. soldier who had not got that mark on his body? - I have never paid much attention to it, but I have been told that in later times this practice of tattooing was discontinued with the S.S. personnel.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Eric Barsch)