War Crimes Trials - Vol. II The Belsen Trial. 'The Trial of Josef Kramer and Forty Four Others'
The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Hilde Lisiewitz)
HILDE LISIEWITZ, sworn, examined by Captain BOYD - I was born on 31st January, 1922, in Grünwald. At the beginning of the war I was working in a fruit garden. From October, 1940, to March, 1941, in the Reichsarbeitsdienst, when I returned home I worked in a restaurant in a railway station until January, 1943. From February, 1943, until November, 1944, I worked in a munitions factory in Grünberg, when I was conscripted into the S.S. at Gross Rosen and sent to Langenbielau for training until 29th December. I returned to the factory in Grünberg and on 29th January, 1945, we were evacuated and arrived at Belsen on 3rd March. For the first three days at Belsen I did nothing, after which I did one day with the wood Kommando, one week with the vegetable Kommando outside the camp and a further week with the same Kommando bringing vegetables to the different cookhouses. Then I spent one day in the women’s compound weaving, one day in the bath-house, a third day off duty, one week in the peeling department of Cookhouse No. 1 in the men’s compound, three days ill, one day again in the peeling department and then came Easter Monday when I was taken ill with a kind of typhus until up to 11th April. On 11th I did ordinary Aufseherin duties, and on the 12th I went to Neuengamme.
Where is the peeling department of Kitchen No. 1? - In the building where the kitchen is in the men's compound.
Siwidowa and Almaleh accuse you in their affidavits of ill-treating and beating prisoners. Is that true? - No.
Cross-examined by Captain FIELDEN - Whilst you worked in Kitchen No. 1 did the accused No. 22, Pichen, wear a pistol? - Not during his work. He kept it in a locked cupboard.
How would you describe his relations with the internees working in the kitchen? - Good.
Did you ever see him shoot anyone, or hear that he had ever done so? - No.
Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - You never worked in Kitchen No. 1, in the kitchen itself, did you? - The door was open and I could look into it.
So you used to watch each day to see where he put his pistol when he came in? - My coat was hanging in the cupboard and I saw the pistol there.
Who kept the key of the cupboard? - It was hanging near the window.
What orders were you given before you came to Belsen? - To report at once to Bergen-Belsen.
You did not, in fact report at once to Bergen-Belsen? - No, on 7th February I absented myself without leave for a month to see my mother, and then went to Ravensbrück to get a railway warrant to Belsen.
Were you not punished for having been absent without leave? - No.
What sort of discipline did you have in the S.S. camp just to go away when you liked and come back? - I told them I was looking for my mother.
All these S.S. women who have told us they were so frightened if they did not do the things they were told, need not have been frightened at all, if there was no trouble when you went off like that? - Generally, they were very severe, but they could not prove anything because I could have said that I was on my way for such a long time because the conditions were very bad.
I suggest to you that you arrived at Belsen quite a long time before you are pretending you did? - No, it was Saturday, 3rd March.
You said that on 11th April you took ill. You were very frightened of typhus in that camp, were you not? - I was not afraid.
There were thousands of prisoners who died of it? - Yes.
Were you very careful not to touch the prisoners who were covered with lice? - I had to work with my gang, because that was my duty, and apart from that I did not mix very much with them.
Were you not given instructions about what precautions you take to avoid getting typhus? - No.
I suggest that the S.S. took good care not to touch the prisoners with their hands and that is why most of you beat them with sticks? - I never had a stick.
Did the prisoners often try to steal vegetables? - Rather frequently I chased them away and slapped their faces.
Did any of your working party ever try to steal any? - No, they had enough.
Were they eating raw turnips? - Yes.
Almaleh says that she allowed two male prisoners to take two turnips off the cart. What would you have done if you had caught one of your party letting two prisoners do such a thing? - I would have chased them away.
Most of these men and women were far too weak to try and run away at all? - I did not encounter any men.
Where did you take the vegetables to from the store? - To Kitchen No. 3, from the vegetable store between the barbed wire and the food stores.
That was actually in the men’s compound? - At the beginning.
You would have to load the hand-cart up with the vegetables inside the men’s compound, so you could not have been other than in contact with men inside that compound, could you? - There were no men there because that was surrounded with another barbed wire.
Men used to hang round the food store on the off-chance of stealing? - I have not seen any.
I suggest that when you found these men stealing you pushed them to the ground, beat them with a stick which you always carried and then stamped on them with your jackboots? - I never had a stick or jackboots.
Were the latter not part of your uniform? - We were not issued with these boots until 13th April at Bergen-Belsen.
Were they just issued to you to impress the British when they arrived? - They were in Belsen and should have gone to Oranienburg, but as that camp had been evacuated we Aufseherinnen were issued with these boots.
Do you remember Almaleh, after you had given her a good shaking, starting to cry? - No, she says she is a Greek subject, but in my Kommando I had only Russians.
Do you speak Russian or Greek? - No.
How do you know what they were? - They told me in German that they were Russians.
You say that at no time you carried a stick. Did you see other people carrying them and using them? - No.
Why did you beat people? - Because they were stealing. I could not chase them away, and I had to beat them.
Did you see all those corpses lying about the camp? - Not before 18th April.
Did you never see them as you went round the camp? - I did not go into the camp, I went to the kitchen and that was the furthest point.
Did you never see the foulness that was lying around all over the camp or the large pile of corpses just outside the wire of the women’s compound? - No, I did not go into the women’s compound.
But Kitchen No. 3 was in the women's compound? - All that I did was that I passed four or five blocks and did not see anything else.
Did you never wonder what the smell about the place was? - No.
When you saw these prisoners absolutely skin and bone and skeletons, did you ask if any of them were dying? - We knew that there was typhus and not very much to eat.
Did it never occur to any of you to try to help these people, to organise some sort of nursing for them or clean the place or do anything at all? - We Aufseherinnen could not do anything about it.
Did you not discuss between yourselves what you could do? - No.
Did you care in the least? - When no food arrived we could do nothing about it.
The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Hilde Lisiewitz)