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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Irene Haschke)


IRENE HASCHKE, sworn, examined by Captain PHILLIPS - I was born on 16th February, 1921, in Friedeberg in Silesia, and was employed in a textile factory until August, 1944. On 16th August, 1944, I was conscripted into the S.S. and was sent to Gross Rosen for a day before going to Langenbielau, where I stayed for five weeks. From there I went to a labour camp in Weiss-Wasser for three weeks and then back to the original textile factory. On 16th February, 1945, we were evacuated to Belsen, which I reached on the 28th.

What was the first job you had in Belsen? - For the first three days we did nothing, then for one day I did camp duties, and after that spent eight days in a wood Kommando. Then I worked for three days in Kitchen No. 2, after which I went into Kitchen No. 3. Francioh was the S.S. man in charge of my section of the kitchen, and the other Aufseherin was first Alt and then Beseke.

Did you ever work in Cookhouse No. 1? - No.

The witness Rozenwayg said that you pushed a woman into the water cistern and she was drowned. Later on she said that you did not push her but picked her up and threw her in. Is that true? - No.

The witness Stein said that when you were working in a cookhouse, whenever a prisoner got a few drops of soup you used to knock it over and pour it on the ground, and that you used to hit her and others with a rubber tube? - I never had one.

She said that there was usually quite a crowd of people round the cookhouse. What was that crowd doing as a rule? - They were stealing.

Have you ever hit any prisoners? - Yes, because they took the food of others away. I hit them with my hand and sometimes I used a stick which I got from the guard. It was an ordinary wooden stick, about eighteen inches long and three-quarters of an inch in diameter. It was only necessary to beat prisoners when they were stealing, and I only hit them once or twice.

Is there any truth in the fact that you beat people to such, an extent that they eventually died, as Luba Triszinska states in her affidavit? - No.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Who was in charge of Kitchen No. 2 when you got there? - Heuskel was the S.S. man and Hempel was the Aufseherin.

Who was in the peeling department? - Myself.

Were you working two shifts then? - One shift.

When did Francioh come to Kitchen No. 3? - I arrived about the middle of March and he came two days later. Jenner was in charge before, by himself.

Did Francioh ever go away for more than a day or two after he had come? - No, he was always there.

Is the story he told the Court about being in prison for the first eight or ten days of April untrue? - Untrue.

Was Ida Forster in your cookhouse at all? - Yes, she was in the other half with Walter.

You have told us you were in the peeling department. Were you working a single or double shift there? - A double shift. We worked in the kitchen and the peeling department as well, and Beseke had the other shift.

What did Francioh and Jenner do about the crowd that was usually round the cookhouse trying to steal? - They went with a stick and hit them.

Did you do the same? - Yes.

Did the other Aufseherinnen do this as well? - I do not know what the others did.

Did you ever discuss in the mess the fact that the prisoners were starving? - No.

These people were dying all round you. Were you terribly shocked at what was happening? - I did not know before that so many bodies were lying about.

Were you not absolutely horribly shocked by the conditions? - Yes.

Was not the whole topic of conversation in the mess what you could do for them? - No.

Were there any short pieces of rubber hose used in the kitchen for filling things from the taps? - No.

Where did you get the water from for the last four or five days? - About ten minutes from the kitchen and behind it there was an iron water-pump. I do not know where the water came from, but it was drinking water. It was an invention of Jenner’s, and the water came out of the earth, not from the cisterns.

Was this inside the women’s Lager? - Yes.

Did you tell anybody else about it? - That was only for the kitchen.

What did you do if prisoners started using it? - There were two guards there.

Is it quite right to say that you were in the kitchen opposite to Ida Forster in Camp No. 2? - Women’s Compound No. 1.

If you saw people trying to steal from the kitchen, did you come out and beat them? - I beat them, but they did not wait for it.

If they stole some soup, did you knock it over? - No.

Did you let them take it? - Yes.

Was it forbidden for prisoners to get water out of the water cisterns? - It was not forbidden.

If they were dying of thirst, have you any idea why they did not take water out of this cistern if they were allowed to? - Because it was dirty.

It was being used for the kitchens? - I do not know.

I suggest to you that one day when you saw a woman taking some water out of the cistern, you picked her up and threw her into the pond? - That is not true.

Who gave you permission to beat anybody in that camp at all? - Nobody.

Was it forbidden in the S.S. to beat prisoners? - Yes.

It was, in fact, very regularly done in the S.S.? - I do not know.

Did you do this beating of yours quite openly? - Yes, in front of the door.

Did Francioh and Jenner do it quite openly? - Yes.

Thirty-eighth Day - Tuesday, 30th October, 1945

Captain PHILLIPS - I now wish to put in a copy agreement in which the truce took place when Belsen Camp was taken over. It reads as follows:-

"Agreement with regard to Belsen Concentration Camp made by Chief of Staff, 1 Parachute Army, Military Kommandant, Bergen, and BG.S., 8 Corps.

(1) On instructions from the Reichsführer S.S. the Military Commander at Bergen approached the Allied Forces, 12th April, with regard to the concentration camp at Belsen.

(2) The following area will be regarded as neutral." - There follow a number of map references. "

(3) Both British and German troops will make every effort to avoid battle in this area, and, as far as operations make it humanly possible, no artillery or other fire (including bombing and strafing) will be directed into this area. Equally, neither side will use this area for the deployment of troops or weapons. This paragraph is subject to over-riding military necessity.

(4) The German military authorities will erect notices and white flags at all the road entrances to this area, so far as possible. These notices will bear, in English and German, on one side ‘Danger-Typhus,’ and on the other ‘End of Typhus Area.’ A disarmed post will be mounted by the Germans at each notice-board.

(5) Hungarian and German troops at present employed on guard duties will remain armed and at their posts. All such troops will wear a white armband on their left sleeves.

(6) The Hungarians will remain indefinitely, and will be placed at the disposal of the British Forces, for such duties as may be required. The German Wehrmacht personnel will be released within not more than six days and conveyed back to the German lines with their arms and equipment and vehicles at the end of the period.

(7) S.S. Guard personnel will be removed by 1200 hours, 13th April, any remaining will be treated as Prisoners of War. S.S. Administrative personnel will (if the Wehrmacht can prevent them running away) remain at their posts and carry on with their duties (cooking, supplies, etc.) and will hand over records. When their services can be dispensed with, their disposal is left, by the Wehrmacht, to the British authorities.

(8) The Wehrmacht will continue to man the telephone exchange until it can be relieved. Wires leading out of the camp will require disconnecting.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Irene Haschke)