War Crimes Trials - Vol. II The Belsen Trial. 'The Trial of Josef Kramer and Forty Four Others'
The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Gertrud Fiest)
GERTRUD FIEST, sworn, examined by Captain BOYD - I am single and was born on 31st May, 1918, in Neugebhartsdorf [Neu-Gebhardsdorf]. I worked in a factory at Roersdorf in Silesia from 1935 until August, 1944, when, on the 16th, I was conscripted into the S.S. at Gross Rosen, and on the next day was sent to Langenbielau, where I stayed for three weeks’ training. After my course I returned to the factory in Roersdorf as an Aufseherin. I had to bring the prisoners to and from their work, and had to stand at the door to see that they did their job and did not go out. We were evacuated, and on 28th February I arrived at Belsen.
What did you do at Belsen? - I did nothing at all on the first day. On the 3rd or 4th March I stood by for ordinary duties, and then I did six days in a working party in the garden of the Kommandant. Next I spent four days in the peeling part of Kitchen No. 1; two days and one night in the bath-house, a half day off and the other half day on ordinary duties, and then I worked in the Women’s Compound No. 2 until 15th April.
Did you go with the other Aufseherinnen to Neuengamme? - Yes, on 12th April I went with about 40 Aufseherinnen and returned with 22 of them.
Was it a part of your duties in the Compound No. 2 to take Appell? - Yes, twice a week along with the Lagerältester, and sometimes the Schreiber. The Appell took between one and a half and two hours.
Did it ever last from 0600 hours until noon? - Never.
Were the sick and dying forced to attend? - No. The female doctor decided whether the prisoner was fit, and those who could not come we counted in the inside of the blocks.
Have you ever hit prisoners? - Yes, with my hand.
The witness Lasker said that you made prisoners who tried to steal turnips kneel down in the snow and eat them dirty as they were? - No, once after warning the women in my compound not to steal, I caught four of them, and Rapportführerin Gollasch approached at the same time and told me I had to make them kneel down.
Did you ever kick a prisoner, or have you ever seen anyone else doing so? - No.
Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Did you ever see anybody beat prisoners in Belsen or in any of the other camps you have been in? - No.
Then why did you do it? - I lost my patience because they always did what I prohibited.
Were practically all the Aufseherinnen at Belsen from Silesia or East Prussia? - Yes.
How many prisoners were there in the factory you worked at when you joined the S.S.? - About one hundred and fifty. They were under the Gestapo.
Had you and the women who were in the factories and went off on this course to Langenbielau not been acting as factory guards and forewomen over these prisoners for a long time? - No.
Were you taught to beat women at Langenbielau? - No, it was prohibited to beat prisoners.
But you did it all the same and you never got into trouble for doing so? - I do not know.
You did it quite openly, did you not? - Yes.
You were not afraid of being reported? - I only boxed their ears.
You know perfectly well that no prisoner in a concentration camp dared try to report any S.S.? - They could have done it.
If the workers in the factory had been looked after by foremen and forewomen, why did it suddenly become necessary, in August, 1944, for them to be guarded by the Aufseherinnen in the S.S.? - Because, S.S. took over the Jewish prisoners.
But the S.S. took over Jewish prisoners in 1942, did they not? - I do not know.
When you got to Belsen you did duty in the bath-house for an odd day or so. Was that a job practically every Aufseherin did on arrival? - I do not know.
When you had the working party in the Kommandant’s garden did you often find that the people tried to steal vegetables? - No, there no vegetables there.
When you came to work in Compound No. 2, what were you doing? - Keeping order and seeing that everything was clean. Sauer was there when she had no other duties in the bath-house or in Kitchen No. 2.
How did your prisoners manage to get to that kitchen to steal? - They went out of the gate to the kitchen.
Could prisoners get in and out of the gates of the compounds on the main road where the kitchens were? - Yes, because they always used to go in groups of six and the men on guard on the gate would not know whether they were a working party or not, so he let them go in. In the later stages they forced a small gate in the Star Camp so they did not have to pass through the main gate.
Then it is not true to say that prisoners could never move about in and out of the compound without escort? - They had to go to the kitchen to fetch the food.
Who was the Aufseherin in that kitchen? - Hempel.
Did you let people try to collect grass to fill any mattresses in Compound No. 2? - No, we only had a few mattresses, and they were already filled.
Did your camp provide working parties for other parts of the camp? - Only once I had to appoint some prisoners for a working party in Compound No. 1.
You were supposed to have the fittest women in your compound, and they were the ones who formed most of the working parties for the camp, were they not? - From Compound No. 2 no working parties went out.
I suggest that in the last few days, when you knew the truce had come, you got some mattresses filled for some of these prisoners, and that when one of these parties was going out and a woman fell out you went up to her and kicked her when she fell so that she died there and then? - Such a Kommando did not exist in my camp, and I do not know anything about it.
Did Ehlert and Volkenrath regularly inspect your part of the camp? - No. Ehlert only came once, and Volkenrath four or five times. Grese also came once to see us.
Was Ehlert right when she said you had a reputation for being very severe? - I did my duty very conscientiously.
Did the accused, Lohbauer, see you beating and ill-treating prisoners? - I cannot imagine how. she could have seen me because she was working in Compound No. 1, and I was working in Compound No. 2.
Lohbauer was working in the Arbeitsdienst and that concerned both Compounds No. 1 and 2? - Only once did a few from Arbeitsdienst, and a few Kapos from No. 1 come into No. 2 Compound I do not know whether she could have seen me. Maybe she saw me when I slapped one girl's face.
Do you think that a woman who had been treated as Lohbauer had in concentration camps would be worried about you slapping one girl's face? - I do not know.
On this occasion, when you say Gollasch told you to make prisoners kneel down, was that for stealing turnips from the pile outside the kitchen? - Yes.
Did you not make them eat the turnips they got, filthy and uncooked as they were, as the witness Lasker said? - No, because when, I was in Compound No. 2 there was no snow.
You say that the sick did not need to go on to Appell and that all they had to do was to get a doctor to certify them? - The three female prison doctors saw how many sick there were and reported the number to the Blockältester, who reported the matter to me.
Had you not got no less than 300 cases of typhus segregated in the compound? - The prisoner doctors had to report anybody infected with typhus at once to the Lagerältester and to me and then to an S.S. doctor or medical orderly. Those found having typhus would have been transferred to compound No. 1 immediately.
But there were hundreds of people lying sick and ill in this compound of yours. Do you mean to say you did not even know it? - In Compound No. 2 there were no sick lying about.
Did you ever look round your compound at all? - Yes, everyday.
You never saw anybody beaten except by yourself? - No, I have never seen it from S.S. women, but I have seen it being done by Kapos in Compound No. 2.
Did you immediately stop them? - When they beat people with their leather belts, I intervened and forbade it.
Do you remember that procession of men dragging corpses right past your compound for the last four or five days, from morning till night? - Yes.
Being beaten on their way as they went to make them keep up? - I did not see this. I did not look because it made a terrible impression on me.
When you got back to the mess, did you never mention it? - I never touched on any sort of questions of work.
The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Gertrud Fiest)