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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Ignatz Schlomoivicz)


IGNATZ SCHLOMOIVICZ, sworn, examined by Captain NEAVE - I was born on, 17th December, 1918, in Vienna, and was a salesman in a shop. When Germany invaded Austria in 1938 I had to emigrate to Hungary because a few weeks before the invasion the National Socialists demonstrated and broke shop windows in Jewish shops, and I had them arrested. I could not get any permit in Hungary and was sent to Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav police sent me to the Austrian frontier, and finally I got through Austria, Germany and Belgium into Holland, where I was assisted by the Jewish community.

Did something happen to you in September, 1939? - I was arrested by the Dutch police because I had no permit, and they handed me over to the Gestapo in Emmerich, where I spent five or six weeks in prison. A document was then handed in that the Jew Schlomoivicz had behaved in an anti-German way abroad, and further, was to be taken into protective custody and handed over to the concentration camp at Oranienburg. From November, 1939, until July, 1941, I stayed there, and then with 500 other Jews, we were sent to Gross Rosen, where we remained until September, 1942, when an order came that all Jews were to be sent to Auschwitz. Of the original 500, seven remained alive. In Auschwitz our numbers were tattooed on our arms. We underwent a selection and those fit for work were sent to Monowitz Buna I.G. factory where we did all sorts of jobs in different working parties. Until the middle of 1943 Monowitz Buna was part of the camp in Auschwitz, but after that it was entirely separated and we were under the administration of the I.G. chemical factories. For about three months before I left Monowitz Buna I was a Kapo and a foreman.

When did you leave Monowitz Buna? - In September, 1944, I went to another detachment called Lauenhütte, and in January, 1945, we were evacuated and sent to Mauthausen Concentration Camp where a new selection took place and about 350 prisoners were sent to work in an engine factory in Hanover [Hannover]. On 8th April, at 2300 hours, we arrived in Belsen. I knew quite a lot of the people who came to Belsen at the same time, and amongst these are the two men who accused me, Glinowieski and Basch.

What happened when you arrived in Belsen? - We were housed in Block No. 12, but there was no work and nobody worked. On 13th April I met the Lagerältester, whose Christian name is Adam and whom I knew from Monowitz, and he told me that I was to be Blockältester for Block No. 12 because the former one had typhus and all the prisoners of German nationality, together with the S.S., had marched off from Belsen the day before. I had never been a Blockältester before. The main duty was distribution of food and to see that there was order and discipline inside the block - conditions were so bad that there was no question about order or discipline. There were 1000 internees in Block 12 when we arrived, so with our transport that made 1300; but from the 8th to the 13th about 200 died, so there might have been 1100 or 1200 in the block.

Did you supervise the distribution of food for all these people? - For the two days I was Blockältester I distributed what little food was available. The only food we had was once a day, and it came in five big wooden containers containing each 75 litres.

While you were distributing the food did you beat the internees at all? - Not one single one.

Judkovitz in his deposition says that he saw you hit men with a long piece of wood. Could he have seen you do that at Belsen? - During the two days I was Blockältester I gave strictest orders to the hut orderlies or anybody in authority in my block to cease immediately any beating. It was sometimes necessary to beat, it is true, but I myself did not do it. Judkovitz says also that I was a Kapo in Belsen, but that is not true.

Basch affirms that he knew you in Lauenhütte, Hanover [Hannover] and Belsen, that you carried out beatings with a rubber tube, except at Belsen when you used a stick, and that you treated prisoners in a brutal manner? - In Belsen I never hit anybody, either with my hand or a stick. During the period at Hanover [Hannover] I was a Kapo, and sometimes had to slap their faces, or box their ears, but that is all. In Lauenhütte and Hanover [Hannover] if, for instance, a prisoner disappeared for two or three hours from his working site, I preferred to slap his face instead of reporting him to the S.S.

When things were very bad at Belsen Basch states that one day on a parade of prisoners you said "50 people died to-day; unless order is kept I will see that 100 die tomorrow." Did you say that? - No. Furthermore, during the whole period of my stay in Belsen there were no Appelle.

What happened to you when the British came? - On 16th April, the day after the British arrived, the British Commander asked all Blockältesten to parade, and he selected a few and gave them white armlets with the letters "M.P." I was amongst those selected and was told to see that food was fairly distributed and order kept in the camp. I did these duties until 20th April, when I got typhus, and on 29th April I was transferred to the hospital in Bergen. Amongst the visitors who came to see me in hospital were Judkovitz and Basch, who sat on my bed and brought me cigarettes.

Cross-examined by Lieutenant JEDRZEJOWICZ - Do you know accused No. 47 (Anton Polanski)? - I have seen him after I became a Blockältester. He might have been there before but I did not see him. He certainly was not a deputy Blockältester from the time I arrived until I became a Blockältester.

Josef Deutsch in his deposition says that this man was deputy Blockältester of Block No. 12, and that one morning on Appell, two or three days before the British arrived, for no apparent reason, he started to beat him and his father. Could this be true? - Not during the time I was Blockältester.

Do you know accused No. 32 (Anton Aurdzieg)? - Yes. I saw him in Block No. 12 between 9th April and the time the British liberated the camp. He was block orderly. As far as I remember he fetched food and distributed it until the day I became Blockältester, when I myself did the distribution.

Whilst you were a Blockältester did you hear of a Russian prisoner being killed by this accused, and some other prisoners, in Block 12? - I have never heard about it, nor have I seen it.

Did you ever see or hear of this accused asking for gold or jewels from prisoners in exchange for soup? - I do not know anything about this.

Are you quite certain that during the period you have been in Belsen this accused has never been Blockältester of Block No. 12? - Yes, I am sure of that during the seven days I was in Belsen.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Was the man you know as Anton the Stubendienst in Block No. 12? - Yes,

Was there another one called Adam Bartschinski? - I do not know about the name Bartschinski, but I know, that his first name was Adam and that he was senior hut orderly.

Up to the time you became Blockältester had there been much beating of prisoners by the acting Blockältester and his orderlies? - There was general beating going on, but particularly by the Adam whom I mentioned before, I have seen Anton during the distribution of food sometimes beating, but never with any sort of weapon in his hand.

Is No. 32 (Antoni Aurdzieg) the man you are talking about called "Anton"? - Yes. He himself says that along with some of his comrades he beat a Russian prisoner until he fell dead on the ground, and then transferred his corpse to another block. He also acknowledges having assisted Adam in his thefts of money or jewels from the prisoners to whom they had promised extra soup by way of exchange.

When you first went into Block No. 12, that is before you were Blockältester, was there not a regular racket going on of selling the food to prisoners who could afford to give something for it? - With 12000 prisoners and only 400 litres of soup a say it was a proper catastrophe, and everything was in such a state that I could not see any sort of racket going on because there were too many people.

You had been a Kapo for some time before you came to Belsen, and had acted as a Kapo on the march from Hanover [Hannover]? - There were about 15 or 16 Kapos, and four or five of them were put in charge of 100 men, going in front and two or three going behind. It cannot be that I acted as a Kapo when we were on the road.

When you got to Belsen who put you into No. 12 Block? - Four or five Blockältesten and the same Lagerführer from Hanover [Hannover], Oberscharführer Krakauer.

Did you get any food that night at all? - No. I believe we got half or third of a litre of soup the next night.

Which Lager were you in? - Block No. 12, which was in Compound No. 2.

Did you fall in in order that you might be registered or counted? - No. On 9th April they put along table in the block and every prisoner who came from Hanover [Hannover] had to report there and his name and number were taken.

Have you never seen any beating going on in other camps before you got to Belsen? - It was a natural thing in concentration camps.

You said that of the 500 of you who went to Gross Rosen there were only seven left when you got there. What had happened to the other 493? - They all died - some because of malnutrition, a few because they had to work very hard in a quarry, some by being beaten, and part of them because they had gold teeth and got an injection.

At Auschwitz you attended a selection and were picked out as being fit for going to work. What happened to the unfit? - I do not know, but I never saw them again.

At Monowitz did you hear any stories about the gas chamber? - Yes, and a selection was made by the camp doctor every four weeks.

What does the expression "Muselmann" mean in concentration camps? - Those people who were very ill, and so emaciated that the had practically no flesh on their bones.

What happened to those prisoners when they had been worked to death, or until they were unfit for any further work? - After the selections in Monowitz they were taken to Auschwitz and the same number of fit people came back. Only the people in the hospital attended these selections.

After your experiences at Gross Rosen and Monowitz, did you not take the other side, become a Kapo, and start beating with the rest? - A Kapo was just as much a prisoner as anybody else, and during the time I was a Kapo it was not necessary to beat people.

You knew Arnost Basch and Judkovitz quite well, so there can be no question of mistaken identity? - Certainly not.

Far from stopping the beating when you got to Belsen, had you not been doing this yourself at Lauenhütte, Hanover [Hannover] and Belsen when you got there? - When I came to Belsen I could not stop the beating because I was an ordinary prisoner, but as soon as I became Blockältester, two days before the British arrived, I stopped it.

Did the prisoners from your block take part in the procession of people dragging corpses? - All the people of Compound No. 2 were working in this procession, including myself. I was not a Kapo.

Were the Kapos beating the prisoners as they went round on this trail? - The people who were supervising this procession were the camp police responsible for keeping order, and they were beating people. I have not seen any Kapos in Compound No. 2 because there were no working parties and therefore no Kapos.

There were quite a lot of people like yourself who had been Kapos and who had come there with the transports? - Yes, but if you arrived with a new transport to a new camp you were not a Kapo any more, and the German Kapos went separately to Compound No. 1.

Who called you out of your huts in the morning to start dragging these corpses? - Several members of the camp police started chasing the people out of the blocks.

Was the normal function of a Blockältester not to get his men out on parade? - No. He has to see that everything inside the block is all right.

People who are going out on working, Kommandos go out with their Kapos, and it is normally the function of the Blockältester to call the roll of the rest of his block and let the Lagerältester know how many there are? - Yes, in a normal camp this would be the case, but in Belsen you could not speak of a normal camp.

When was the first time you saw Polanski? - 16th April, one day after the arrival of the British troops. He came to me and said that he had been appointed by the Polish committee to look after the Poles in Block No. 12.

Did you never notice this man fetching the food? - Yes, after the British troops had arrived.

Was he not your assistant Blockältester? - No.

Deutsch, Pavel Burger, Sandor and Fuchs all say he was your assistant Blockältester in Block No. 12? - I was Blockältester only two days and he was not my assistant.

By the PRESIDENT - I understand that these two men who have made an accusation against you were friends of yours. Can you think of any reason why they should have made these statements against you? - The only thing which I can think of is that we had typhus, these two as well, and physically and mentally they were on a low level, and because of this sickness this accusation came out of a sort of imagination or fantasy. I cannot explain it.

By a Member of the Court - Were the camp police who supervised the procession carrying corpses to the graves prisoners? - Yes.

Were there many S.S. supervising that? - I personally did not see many S.S., but I am sure that those others were directed and supervised by the S.S.

SIEGMUND FREUND, sworn, examined by Captain, NEAVE - I am a Jew and was arrested in December, 1939, and sent to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp where I met Schlomoivicz in the beginning of 1940. We were in the same Jewish block. He was transferred to another camp in 1941, and in Auschwitz Buna I saw him again in October, 1942. For a time he was a Kapo in an outside working party, and up to the time he left I had never seen him beating anybody. I was never in Schlomoivicz’ s Kommando.

Captain NEAVE - I now wish to read the deposition of Daniel Blickblau, Exhibit No. 140, which is as follows:

"1. I am a Polish Jew, aged 35 years, and was arrested in September, 1941. I was first taken to a camp at Buchenwerder Forst and soon after to Grunow. On 18th August, 1943, I was transferred to Auschwitz, but on the same day was moved again to Buna. In August, 1944, I was transferred to Lauenhütte Camp and in January, 1945, to Mauthausen. In February, 1945, I went to Hanover [Hannover], arriving at Belsen on 6th April, 1945.

2. I first met Schlomoivicz at Buna, but I did not know him very well. I met him again at Lauenhütte where we lived in the same room. I was in the same block with him at Mauthausen, but at Hanover [Hannover] we did not live in the same block, but I saw him frequently because the camp was a small one. In all these camps Schlomoivicz was a Kapo. At Belsen he was a Blockältester of Block No. 12 in which I lived.

3. In Lauenhütte and Hanover [Hannover] I was employed as a barber for the S.S., but in all the other camps I was on general duties.

4. I have never seen Schlomoivicz beat anyone, although I have been told that he has beaten people on about five occasions, but not very hard and with his hands. One of those who was beaten told me that he had been hit in the face by Schlomoivicz using his fist, and he had received two blows. I later asked Schlomoivicz the reason and he told me that the man, who was a doctor, had worked as a doctor in one of the hospitals in the Hanover [Hannover] Camp and had stolen food from the patients while they were very sick, so that when this man joined the working party Schlomoivicz took the opportunity of punishing him.

5. I have no doubt that on some occasions it was necessary to use force on some of the internees, but it is my opinion that he only punished those who stole something and especially those who stole other prisoners’ rations. I have never heard of him beating anyone with a stick or a rubber tube and I have often seen him give away some of his own food. In fact he has given food almost every day to children and old people. As a Kapo he got a double ration.

6. I have seen on many occasions, especially in winter, men from Schlomoivicz’s working party, in the wash-rooms during working hours and they have told me that they were too weak to work and Schlomoivicz had allowed them to hide themselves."

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Ignatz Schlomoivicz)