War Crimes Trials - Vol. II The Belsen Trial. 'The Trial of Josef Kramer and Forty Four Others'
The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Frieda Walter)
FRIEDA WALTER, sworn, examined by Captain PHILLIPS - I was born on 1st March, 1922, in Beuthen, and worked in a textile factory from 29th June, 1936, until 9th October, 1944. I was conscripted to the S.S and went to Gross Rosen, which I left on the 11th for Langenbielau train. On 7th November, 1449, I left Langenbielau and returned to the textile factory in Neusalz where I worked before. On 16th January, 1945, I fell ill and stayed a fortnight at home, after which, as Neusalz was evacuated I went to Guben. I remained there until 6th February, went home and then escaped with my sister to Eulzen [Uelzen], and on 24th or 25th February I reached Belsen.
What did you do at Belsen? - On the first day I did no work. After that I was in Kitchen No. 3 in the women’s compound for 10 days. After that I was with a Kommando putting stones from one side to another in a ditch. It was called "Kiesel Kommando." After that I was eight days with the garden Kommando in the garden of the Kommandant. In this Kommando there were 60 prisoners, but I myself worked only with 15 in the garden. I then returned to Kitchen No. 3.
Who was the S.S. man in charge of the half of Kitchen No. 3 in which you worked? - Jenner. The other Aufseherin was Ida Forster.
How long did you stay there? - Until 11th April, when we went to Neuengamme. We returned from there on the 13th and for two days I worked in Kitchen No. 2 in the men’s compound. On the 15th and 16th we did not do any duties, and on the 17th we were arrested.
Alexandra Siwidowa states that you hit her? - Naturally, with my hand.
Did it hurt her? - Certainly.
Why did you do it? - She stole potatoes, just as all the others did.
Is it true, as she says, that you hit people with a spade and wooden implements? - No.
Did you ever hit any of the others in the Kommando with your hand? - Yes, the others got their beatings just in the same way as this woman who accuses me of it. Seven or eight of the Kommando had also stolen potatoes and I told them they should leave them, and then the Kapo searched and found that they had the potatoes. I told them to fall out and slapped their faces for them.
Edith Trieger says that you beat women prisoners who approached the kitchen practically every day. How many days were you in Kitchen No. 2? - Only two days.
Luba Triszinska accuses you of beating women who came to the kitchen. Have you ever beaten people with a stick or a rubber hose-pipe? - No.
Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - What right had you to strike these women at all? - None.
Why did you do it? - Because they were stealing, and that was prohibited.
Did any of them ever hit you back? - No. They would never have dared to because they were prisoners.
You just took advantage of the fact that they knew they dared not hit you back? - No, that was their punishment because they were stealing.
You had no right to punish them at all, but you took upon yourself to beat them? - Yes.
Is that how you were taught at Langenbielau? - No.
Where is Langenbielau? - It is in Silesia, near the Eulen Mountains. It is administered by Gross Rosen, but is about 6o or 70 kilometres from it.
When did you first meet Ilse Forster? - On 10th October, 1944, in Gross Rosen. I went the next day to Langenbielau where she had already been.
Were there prisoners working in the firm you worked for before you went to Langenbielau? - 200. In my department no prisoner was working. When I came back I had about 40 prisoners under me, partly inside the factory in the spinning department, and partly outside in the fields. I acted as supervisor.
Is that where you first started beating them? - No.
When you arrived at Belsen what did you do on the first few days? - One day, camp duties. I had to stay in a room so that if the Blockführer wanted me I should be available.
Who were the Blockführer? - Kasainitzky and Weingartner.
Did you see them beating quite a lot of people? - I do not know, because for that single day I stayed in the room and then went to the kitchen.
Which half of Kitchen No. 3 were you in? - The half furthest away from the road.
Who was the S.S. man in charge of the kitchen when you were there? - Francioh. He came on 25th March, and was there until 11th April. I went there on 23rd March.
You told us that you had one day sitting in the Blockführer’s room. What did you do the next day, 25th February? - Kitchen No. 3. The S.S. man in charge of both halves was Pohl.
Did you not beat quite a lot of prisoners near that kitchen? - That was not my duty because there were camp police for that purpose. It was prohibited.
When somebody in your gardening Kommando tried to take a potato you beat them. Did you not do the same if she tried to take something from the kitchen? - Those people who were working in the kitchen for me did not steal because they were hungry but because they wanted to barter, and if they did steal they did it mostly during the night so I could not catch them. It was not my duty to take care of the people outside the kitchen.
Did quite a lot of prisoners try to steal from the kitchen? - Yes.
Could Koper look after both kitchens and the peeling places? - Koper was standing in front of my kitchen. In front of the kitchen and peeling part the Blockältesten were standing.
Had it nothing to do with you in the kitchen at all? - I was responsible inside the kitchen, but I had nothing to do with the outside.
In March when you were in the cookhouse with Francioh and Jenner was it their duty to stop people stealing outside the cookhouse? - Yes, they frequently went outside and if anybody approached them, they chased them away, and if they caught them then they beat them.
If Jenner and Francioh were both responsible and both had to go and chase the people away when you had before that only one S.S. man for two kitchens, are you quite sure you did not join in the fun? - Never.
Is Francioh’s story of being in prison for eight or ten days true? - He was imprisoned about the middle of March and came out again about the 25th. Jenner ran the cookhouse whilst he was in prison.
Were you on this parade when Ehlert told the women in the kitchen to be much more strict about stealing? - Yes.
Did she not encourage the Aufseherinnen to beat people who stole? - You could interpret her words in your own way. I did not interpret it that I should beat prisoners.
Weingartner had to use a rubber cable and a pistol to keep the prisoners away from the two cookhouses; did Koper manage to do it without using a stick at all? - I do not know. I did not see her with either a stick or a rubber truncheon.
How many water-taps were there in the kitchen? - There were about four boilers and above the boilers were water-taps.
If you wanted to get some water without putting it into the boiler did you fit a piece of hose over the end of the tap? - There was no rubber hose there, but there was a sort of iron pipe along the water-tap which could be directed in different directions.
You told us that you certainly hit people in the face and that you did it so that it hurt them, but do you remember Siwidowa in particular? - Not the name.
How do you know that occasion she is speaking about, then? - I presume that she was taking part in the Kommando, otherwise she could not say all these things.
Did you not use the wooden end of a spade and other gardening implements periodically to hit your prisoners with? - When I fetched these prisoners there were no wooden gardening tools. These tools were kept in the garden of the Kommandant.
Who was in charge of Kitchen No. 2 on the last two days? - Heuskel.
What did he do to people who came into the kitchen trying to steal? - He beat them with a stick.
Did he do any shooting? - I do not know. During these two days several people were shooting.
During those two days that procession of men dragging corpses was going past that kitchen all day, was it not? - I do not know. I have never seen it. I was inside the kitchen and never outside.
By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - As an Aufseherin had you been trained to report such matters as stealing to your superiors? - Yes.
Instead of doing that you tried to maintain discipline by smacking people’s faces. Did you have any particular scale of punishment? - No, it was always twice irrespective of the number of potatoes stolen.
Did anybody ever attempt to complain? - No.
Did you give them any opportunity of explaining before you hit them? - No. They stole these potatoes only for bartering purposes.
If a prisoner felt that she had a grievance at all against any functionary in the camp did he have an opportunity of raising that grievance in any way? - Yes. They should have reported it to the Oberaufseherin because the Kapos and the Oberaufseherin were on more intimate terms than we ourselves were with high authority.
If a prisoner had complained to an Oberaufseherin do you think the slightest notice would have been taken of it? - Yes, certainly, because we would have been punished for it.
The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Frieda Walter)