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 Sauer)


GERTRUD SAUER, sworn, examined by Captain BOYD - I am married and was born on 8th September, 1904, in Görlitz, Silesia. At the beginning of the war I was a saleswoman in Osnabrück, but went back to Görlitz because my house was bombed, and worked in a munitions factory. In April, 1944, we were told that 300 women prisoners and 1000 male prisoners were going to be employed, and that Aufseherinnen were needed. I was conscripted and was sent on 22nd September, 1944, to Gross Rosen and then to Langenbielau. On 8th November I went to a factory in Roersdorf as Lagerführerin. We were evacuated and on 28th February I arrived at Belsen. For three days I did nothing at all and then I spent three days in the wood Kommando. After that I spent two days in the peeling department in Kitchen No. 2 in the men’s compound, two days in the Women’s Compound No. 2, and a whole week in the bath-house.

What did you do between that time and the time the British came? - I was a few days in hospital, and then back to the bath-house. Whenever a man came into the bath-house I went and helped Aufseherin Fiest in her block.

Were you ever, in any of the kitchens? - On 9th, 10th and 11th April I worked in Kitchen No. 2 for Aufseherin Hempel, who was absent.

Have you ever hit a prisoner? - Yes, with my hand near Kitchen No. 2, because I caught them stealing vegetables.

The witnesses Klein and Lasker say that you used a whip near Kitchen No. 2? - During the whole time I was serving with the S.S. I never saw a whip.

Have you ever beaten anyone severely with a stick as Neumann states in her affidavit? - No, I have never had any duties in or Kitchen No. 1.

Cross-examined by Captain MUNRO - You say you were in charge of the bath-house in March. Does this mean that this was your job and that you were in the bath-house every time there was a bath parade for women? - Yes.

Was the only bath the internees had in Belsen when they first arrived in transport? - I cannot say that because prisoners who were already in blocks had their baths and were also deloused.

Has accused No. 45 (Hildegard Hahnel) ever been in charge of the bath-house or taken a bath parade for women at Belsen? - No.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - What were you taught to do at Langenbielau if anybody did anything wrong or stole anything? - To make a written report giving name and number of the prisoner and reason for the report.

Have you ever put in any such report or heard of anybody else doing it at Belsen? - No.

Is the fact of the matter not this that these were beautiful rules for other people’s benefit, but that you were taught from the very outset that you did not need to keep them? - No, we should have made written reports.

Could you explain why every woman who has given evidence here, who was trained at Langenbielau, admits that she used to beat prisoners instead of putting in the report? - Because vegetables were stolen at Belsen so frequently that written reports would have been far too frequent.

Did you do this beating openly or secretly? - I beat them there and then when I caught them stealing vegetables.

Do you remember Klein saying that she saw you beat people who approached the cookhouse with a riding-whip which Hempel used, and Lasker saying that she had very often seen you with a whip? - I have never used a riding-whip. I believe that the prisoners told the truth when they said that I beat them by slapping their faces, but that was not brutal enough for the British officers, and therefore they invented a riding-whip.

The witness Sunschein, who worked in your cookhouse, said that you used to beat the girls in the kitchen very frequently and pull their hair? - I never pulled anybody’s hair.

How long were you in the bath-house altogether? - The second and fourth week in March and the first days in April.

Were quite a number of other Aufseherinnen on duty there for an odd day with parades as well? - Yes, when, for instance, people had their baths in the night. During the period of my duty no new Aufseherin came into the bathhouse, although they may possibly have done so on the days when I was off duty.

Volkenrath told us there were no women’s bath parades after 4th April. Is that right? - I know for certain that on 6th April I was still on duty and that people had their baths.

When you were not working in the bath-house or the kitchens, did you do duty as an assistant to Fiest in the small women’s Lager at the bottom of the camp? - Yes.

To get down to that Lager, or in fact to get to Kitchen No. 2, you used to walk down past Kitchen No. 1, straight down the road? - Yes.

If you saw somebody stealing when you were on your way to work, would you interfere? - Not always, I did so three or four times.

Was it not when you were on your way to work that you saw this man taking a bone out of the swill tub outside Kitchen No. 1? - No. I have never been in the vicinity of Kitchen No. 1.

You could not get to your work without passing it every day? - There was a distance of 20 to 30 metres from the road. I would not have interfered if it happened at another kitchen.

Were you not walking down that road with a stick in your hand when you saw this man and you went and beat him? - No.

You are a strong, thick-set woman and the majority of the prisoners were little better than living skeletons, you would have no difficulty in picking one of them up and throwing him into a ditch, would you? - I would never do such a thing.

Maria Neumann says she was a trained nurse and that she got a beating from you simply for standing and watching what was happening? - It is quite impossible. I hit people only when they were stealing vegetables.

Of course, beating these wretched starving people was not only not part of your duty, but was directly against your regulations and, on your own admission, you went beyond these? - Yes.

Is the fact not that when you said that you did your duty you meant that you knew very well that you were allowed to do that beating? - No, it was not done.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Gertrud Sauer)