War Crimes Trials - Vol. II The Belsen Trial. 'The Trial of Josef Kramer and Forty Four Others'
The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Ilse Forster)
ILSE FORSTER, sworn, examined by Captain NEAVE - I was born on 2nd September, 1922, in Neusalz, Silesia, and worked in a factory during the war. On 17th August, 1944, I went into the S.S. and was sent to a labour camp at Langenbielau for six weeks for training, after which I went back to the firm in Grunberg where I had been working, and took over camp duties three-quarters of an hour’s walking distance from the factory. At the end of January I marched with the prisoners to Guben, which took five days, and after staying there for a further five days we were ordered to proceed to Bergen-Belsen, which we reached on 17th or 18th February.
What happened to you then? - For two or three days I worked in the bath-house and then in Kitchen No. 1 in the men’s compound where my duties were to see that the work was done, that there was no stealing, and that the food was well cooked. There were about 60 female internees cooking for the prisoners. At first, when there were hardly any Aufseherinnen, I worked from 0300 hours until 2300 hours, with one hour off for lunch; but later on, when more arrived, we worked shifts from 0300 hours to 1300 hours, and 1300 hours to 2300 hours. We got sufficient food for the kitchen every day, but if we had received more we could have cooked more. The stores could not send us more than they did.
Did you ever try to get more food for the internees? - Yes. I asked the men in charge of the bread stores, and also Charlotte Klein, whether we could have more bread. We got an additional supply, and the prisoners in the kitchen could eat as much as they wanted. The food was always cooked separately for those working in the kitchen.
Did many of the internees come round your kitchen and try to steal food? - Many. In the beginning I prohibited them to come, and if they did not obey I beat them with my hands and sometimes with a stick. I have never had a rubber truncheon. There were heaps of potatoes and turnips in front of the kitchen, and Ehlert told us that if we did not take more energetic steps to stop this stealing she would talk in a different language to us. I had to see that the vegetables were not stolen because there was a scarcity, and later on the prisoners would not have had anything at all.
Did Regina Bialek work in your kitchen? - Yes, she cooked.
She says that she often saw you beating other prisoners with a thick stick in the kitchen. Could she have seen that? - Yes, if she had left her work at the boilers and stood at the door, then she could have seen it. But I never beat prisoners until they were unconscious, and left them lying on the floor. They rather ran away.
Did you ever drag prisoners away from the kitchen into another room and beat them? - No. When I beat somebody I did it in front of the cookhouse and everybody saw it. I have never, beaten anyone to such an extent that they should have been carried away in a wheel-barrow as she says.
Have you ever seen Hila Lippmann hit anybody? - No. She was a Kapo in the cookhouse.
She says in her deposition that two or three times a day you took women internees into a small office adjoining the kitchen and beat them with a rubber truncheon? - That is not true. I never had a rubber truncheon, nor did I beat anybody in the office.
Ehlert in her statement says that she heard that you and Frieda Walter used to beat internees to a quite unreasonable extent? - That is not true.
Did a Rottenführer ever report you to Ehlert for beating prisoners? - He was not a Rottenführer; he was a private called Wenzel, and Ehlert did not speak to me at all. Frieda Walter did not work with me. Ehlert came and asked me how I was getting on, and I said that people were stealing again and we found a lot of sugar, meat and bread in the part where they peeled potatoes. I told her that I beat the prisoners and that Wenzel wanted to go to Unterscharführer Müller and complain at so much stealing and beating going on. I never told her that I was excited because I had been beating prisoners.
The witness, Litwinska, identified you, and accused you of beating a young girl to death? - No, I did not. She came the next morning and worked in the cookhouse again.
Cross-examined by Captain FIELDEN - Do you know accused No. 2 (Ansgar Pichen)? - Yes. He was in charge of the kitchen
Did he ever carry a pistol whilst at work in the kitchen? - No, his pistol was in a locked cupboard. I never saw him wearing it whilst he worked.
Did Pichen go on that parade when all the S.S. men at Belsen had to attend? - Yes, on 11th April. I do not know whether he returned to Kitchen No. 1 after the parade or not.
Have you ever seen Pichen shoot, or have you ever heard that he shot, internees in or in the vicinity of Kitchen No. 1? - No.
What were the relations between Pichen and the internees in No. 1 Kitchen? - Sometimes very intimate. They spoke Polish together, and the kitchen personnel never got any beatings.
Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Did you see Mathes in his billet at the bath-house? - Yes, on 13th or 14th April, about 1500 hours.
Do you know where Hahnel came from when she came to Belsen? - She came alone from Guben where she had been an Aufseherin.
Were you not using forced labour in the factory at Neusalz, and were you not there as a forewoman? - No. There were no displaced persons working there, but only people from Neusalz itself.
Was there a lot of forced labour employed in the factory at Grunberg? - Yes, Russians, Frenchmen and Ukrainians.
Were you not first employed as a guard inside the factory? - No.
How did you come to be chosen for the course of S. S. training? - All the young girls from the works were taken out and sent to the S.S. because the owners of that factory wanted more forced labour, but they had to have S.S. to supervise them and these they did not get.
What were you doing in the bath-house when you came to Belsen? - We stood in the doorway so that the prisoners could not run away during the time of baths and delousing.
What S.S. men were working in the bath-house? - Melcher, Mathes and some of the Wehrmacht.
It was you who first thought of the idea of two shifts in the kitchen? - Yes
What had it got to do with Ehlert? - She was deputy of Volkenrath.
When Ehlert told you that she was going to take other measures if the stealing did not stop, did you take that conversation with her to be an encouragement to beat prisoners if they tried to steal? - No, I did not get that impression.
What did you think she was encouraging you to do? - She was not interested at all because it was the first time she had come to take control.
Were you in rather an excited condition? - Yes, because she had told us before that other things were going to happen if the stealing did not stop.
Had you not long before found the meat, sugar and so on in the potato room, and had you just beaten the prisoner who had taken it? - Yes, about three-quarters of an hour before.
You were still pretty excited, were you not? - I could not say that.
Did Ehlert say to you, "What are you so excited about?", and you not say, "Well, I just caught some people stealing sugar and meat and I have just given them a good beating"? - She did not ask anything. She came into the kitchen, asked how the serving was going on, and then I told her about the stealing and that I had found this meat and other things.
Was there a young Rottenführer who came to work in the kitchen for two or three days? - No, never. The man who worked in the kitchen was a private named Wenzel.
Ehlert first of all said she met the Rottenführer and then she said you told her about the Rottenführer. She told about three different stories, but in each one a Rottenführer came in. Pichen said he worked with a Rottenführer called Josef in the kitchen. Are you the only person who did not know there was a Rottenführer there? - There was a Rottenführer named Wessely in the kitchen until the middle of March, and after him Pichen and Wenzel arrived.
Was it Wenzel who went off to complain about you? - He wanted to go, but he did not go. He stayed from the middle of March until 13th or 14th April.
Ehlert says he was the man who was only in the kitchen two or three days. Is that wrong? - Yes.
Are you sure there was not a Rottenführer there for two or three days before Wenzel came? - No, never.
When the S.S. went away to the parade we have heard of, what happened to the S.S. women? - I do not know. I worked in the afternoon shift from 1300 hours to midnight.
When did you first start keeping this little stick? - About the middle of March. It was lying outside in front of the kitchen.
Before you found your stick, did you not have a short piece of rubber hose? - Never.
Did you not amuse yourself by standing at the kitchen door waiting for internees to come near the potato peelings? - I never enjoyed this.
Was there a small room next door to the kitchen? - Yes, it was built in the kitchen with walls of glass.
Was that not where you used to take these people and beat them? - No.
You beat Litwinska several times? - Never.The cookhouse prisoners were never beaten.
Were Lippmann and Bialek on your kitchen staff? - Yes.
Is it not strange that they should both mention you taking girls into this small room? - I never did.
I suggest to you that you got hold of this wretched Russian girl Litwinska was talking about, and that you beat her and continued to beat her until she died? - No.
Why did you say the girl was a Russian girl and came to work again the next morning if that is all untrue? - I remember beating her because I found meat that she had stolen, but it is not true that I beat her to death.
Was this girl part of your kitchen staff? - Yes, in the peeling department.
But you said none of the kitchen staff ever got beaten? - The personnel in the kitchen were not beaten, but the peeling department was another part.
Were you very kind to your kitchen personnel, and did you give them as much food as they liked? - They were not treated badly; even those who were rolling the barrels with turnips got an extra ration of meat.
Re-examined by Captain NEAVE - How many internees did you have working in your part of the kitchen? - 60.
How many have accused you? - Three.
Did you get extra bread for your kitchen personnel? - Yes. If I had not been kind to them I would not have asked for two shifts, nor given them bread.
Were you conscripted into the S. S.? - Yes.
The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Ilse Forster)