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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Charlotte Klein)


CHARLOTTE KLEIN, sworn, examined by Captain PHILLIPS - I was born on 13th December, 1921, at Eimenburg, and in 1939 was employed as an assistant there in a laboratory. On 1st August, 1944, I was conscripted into the Waffen S.S., went to Ravensbrück for four days' training and then to a concentration camp called Strutthof [Stutthof] near Danzig, where I stayed until the middle of September. I then went to Bremberg in Poland until 21st January, 1945, when we had to evacuate that camp, and I had to report to Oranienburg, which I did on 20th February. From there I went to Belsen and arrived on 26th February along with Bothe. On the first night there I did duty in the bath-house, then one day with a wood Kommando, and then one week in the bread store. I was four days ill, and then returned to the bread store, where I stayed until 29th March. I was ill again for six days. I rejoined the bread store on 5th April, and remained there the whole time until the 15th. I was arrested on the 17th. I had typhus during the period when I was arrested.

Will you tell the Court where the bread store was? - About 500 metres from the entrance into the camp on the left-hand side of the road. On the right-hand side is Kitchen No. 1. There were 13 to 15 prisoners in my bread Kommando.

Were you in charge of the Kommando? - I was the supervisor there and the Aufseherin, but the bread stores actually belonged at the same time to the food stores, so that I was not really responsible or independent.

What was your job? - They counted the loaves of bread, and then loaded them on a hand-cart and pushed or pulled that hand-cart into different parts of the camp. I went with them. They worked very well, and I have never beaten or ill-treated any of my bread Kommando.

Have you ever hit any other prisoners? - Yes, when they stole bread. They very frequently stole bread, partly from the hand-carts and partly when the door to the bread store was open. When I found anybody trying to steal some bread I took it away from her and slapped her face. I never used a stick. None of the members of my bread Kommando ever stole bread, because there was enough in the store, and if they wanted they could eat as much as they liked.

Is there any truth in the statement that you beat people so much that they died? - No.

Where did you sleep at Belsen? - In the billets of the Aufseherinnen with Bothe and Rheinholdt.

Did you ever at any time see Bothe with a pistol? - No.

Cross-examined by Major BROWN - It has been said in evidence that during April accused No. 21 (Egersdorf) shot a Hungarian girl who had taken a loaf of bread from the bread store. What have you to say about that? - That is not true because when I was working in the bread stores Egersdorf never came there, and I do not remember such an incident at all.

Cross-examined by Captain NEAVE - Did accused No. 33, Ilse Forster, ever ask you to issue her with extra bread, and did you ever do so? - Yes she, said her prisoners worked very long hours and asked whether I could give her some more.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - You were round and about this part quite a lot with your bread cart? - Yes, but I did not go very deep into the camp because the bread was unloaded in Kitchen No. 3 in the women’s compound.

Where was the bread unloaded in the men’s compound? - There were several sub-compounds in the men’s compound and the bread was unloaded immediately at the entrance.

Your bread store was in Block 9, about 500 metres down the road on the left-hand side when you come into the men's compound? - Yes.

The cookhouse was on the right-hand side just opposite? - Yes.

If you are coming down the road from the gate was there something or other on your right? - The vegetable stores.

Did you supply Kitchen No. 4 with bread? - Twice I had to supply Kitchen No. 4 just prior to the British arriving in the camp, but not before.

Did you take any to the S.S. cookhouse? - Yes.

If you come down the road from the bread store and went through the gate of the men’s Lager, was that cookhouse just on your left? - Yes. The next building is the canteen for the S.S. troops.

Past the canteen and just in front of you on your left-hand side is Cookhouse No. 4 with the bath-house on the right-hand side? - Yes.

Thirty-seventh Day - Monday, 29th October, 1945

Colonel BACKHOUSE - I have had an opportunity of meeting the Defending Officers and have discussed the question of the plan of Belsen. I think the defending officers are now quite agreed that the plan will be of assistance to the Court and themselves, and they agree that probably the simplest way would be for it to be put in with Brigadier Glyn Hughes’s affidavit. We have discussed the plan and find that we have all drawn exactly the same conclusions from it. We are in agreement that it is substantially right, and there is no detail we have found which we consider to be wrong.

(The affidavit by Brigadier Glyn Hughes, Exhibit No. 142, approving the plan of Bergen-Belsen Camp as it was before being destroyed by burning was read, and was put in along with the plan.)

CHARLOTTE KLEIN, cross-examination by Colonel BACKHOUSE - continued - When you came from Oranienburg did you come by yourself, or with a transport of prisoners? - With two Aufseherinnen by train. We did not bring any prisoners.

Were you really used for odd jobs for a day or so before you were given your regular job in the bread store? - When Aufseherin Ehlert came I got in the Kommando concerning the bread store, not before.

You say that your own Kommando had as much bread as they liked? - Yes.

Was there any bread in the last week? - On 11th April, 1945, we still fetched bread from Saltau [Soltau].

Were you going out regularly up to that day? - No, it was rather difficult, and Easter Sunday or Easter Monday was the last time we got our bread from the Wehrmacht Barracks area.

How did you know that the bread you got on the 11th came from Saltau [Soltau]? - I fetched it myself. Gura told us about two lorry-loads coming from the Wehrmacht Barracks and about one of them stopping at Camp No. 2, and he wanted to come into Camp No. 1 with the other one, but was not allowed to.

Are you sure none of them came from the Wehrmacht Barracks about the 11th or 12th? - No, I am quite certain.

Did you get any bread between the date you got it from the Wehrmacht Barracks, 1st or 2nd April, and when you got it from Saltau [Soltau] on the 11th? - As far as I remember, no.

How much did you get on 1st or 2nd April from the Wehrmacht? - I could not say, because I was ill on that day. I only heard that bread had arrived.

When you went back to the bread store on 5th April, was there any bread there? - Yes, about 500 loaves.

How much did you get on the 11th? - There was a lorry half-full, and a trailer quite full. I do not know the exact number.

When did you issue this extra bread to Ilse Forster? - About six or eight times; whenever I had it. I always had some sort of reserves, and when she came I gave it to her.

Did you issue extra bread to anybody else? - To Frau Hempel and sometimes to individual prisoners. If they came and asked me for bread and I had some, I gave them it.

During those last few weeks were prisoners dying of starvation pretty well all round you? - Yes.

Did it not occur to you that in letting your own Kommando have as much bread as they wanted and giving extra bread to those Aufseherinnen, particularly for people in the kitchen, you were taking bread from other people who were starving? - There was anyway not enough to go round, and I thought as these people were working they should have it.

Was that bread an extra ration on top of the ration given to everybody, or do you mean that you gave them some bread when there was not enough for everybody? - There were some days when there was not enough so the others did not get bread. On those days these people whom I mentioned before got some bread, whereas the others did not get any.

How much bread did you issue in the ordinary way in a day? - The rations were one kilogramme and a half for six prisoners for two days. I do not know the number of loaves.

What was the size of this hand-cart? - It held 520 loaves.

How often did you deliver bread to the women’s compound? - Every second day until the beginning of April, when the loaves were one and a half kilogrammes each. I went into the women’s compound three or four times a day.

It would, of course, take you ten journeys at least to take the rations? - I do not know. Most of these prisoners were very weak.

Did not a great number of them both try to steal and beg bread? - Less begging, but more stealing.

What usually happened to somebody who stole in a concentration camp? - I do not know. I only know that I slapped their faces if I caught them.

I suggest to you that you went a great deal further than merely slapping their faces? - No, I maintain I only slapped their faces.

Did you know that outside the kitchen people were being shot for merely trying to get a piece of potato peel, and that inside the Aufseherinnen were beating people for trying to steal? - I have never seen such a thing.

Of course, bread was a very much more attractive thing for the prisoners than anything else, and it would not take much of a beating to kill quite a lot of those prisoners in the state they were in? - When I slapped their faces they did not stand and wait, but ran away.

You were working under Egersdorf? - In the last eight days; before that under Unterscharführer Müller.

Did Egersdorf never trouble to come and look at the bread store while you were there? - I never saw him there.

Who looked after the bread store whilst you were out with your truck? - I locked it and took the key.

Was there a vegetable store in Block No. 9? - There was one kitchen where vegetables were peeled, and that was about the second room after the bread store in Block 9.

Re-examined by Captain PHILLIPS - When you issued the bread, did you take it direct to the kitchens or to the blocks? - In the women‘s compound I brought it to Kitchen No. 3. In the men’s compound I brought it to the blocks just at the beginning of the camp.

Was Block No. 9 the only bread store in the camp? - Yes, but in the food store there were also 400 to 500 loaves.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - During the early days of April, 1945, when you were working in the bread store, what quantity of bread do you estimate was stolen from this store? - From the time I returned from being ill on 5th April, until 11th April, about 50 or 60 loaves.

How could they be stolen from the store? - The door was always open and the bread was very near to the door so that it could have plenty of fresh air.

Did you not make a report about this to have it stopped? - No, because people were hungry and they would never have stopped it.

Who issued the bread to the S.S. canteen? - It came from my stores.

Did the S. S. canteen ever have to go short of bread during that week in April? - There were only six slices of bread issued each day.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Charlotte Klein)