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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Johanne Roth)


JOHANNE ROTH, sworn, examined by Captain Munro - I was born on 27th January, 1913, in Steinheim, Silesia, and before the war worked as farm girl, shop assistant and housemaid. In January, 1941, I was arrested by the Gestapo at Giessen because I was living together with a Pole and was sent to Darmstadt, where I remained for 13 months in prison. After that I was for varying periods in Ravensbrück, Auschwitz No. 1, Birkenau and Budin [Budy], in all of which places I was an ordinary prisoner without being a functionary. On 27th January, 1945, I arrived at Belsen as an ordinary prisoner and was in Block 213 for six weeks before being transferred on 6th March to Block 199.

What happened to you then? - There I became a Stubendienst. There were 13 German women, three of whom became Kapos, six went into the S.S. quarters to wash their laundry and the others became Stubendienst.

Did you ask for or want this function? - No, it was a hard, thankless task. We had to get up in the morning at six o’clock, go on roll-call and then tidy the rooms.

Who were responsible for the discipline on an Appell? - The Blockältester.

Did you have anything to do with food? - In the afternoon we had to collect the food and distribute it and the bread. The other Stubendienst did this job and I had only to stand there and watch.

Were you ever the night guard of Block 199? - No.

How many night guards were there? - Three.

What sort of people were in that block? - There were 800 Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Czechoslovaks and Germans. In the first fortnight there were about 50 sick people in the block and in the next three weeks about 200 and the number gradually increased.

Were you ever visited by the S.S.? - Yes, Aufseherin Gollasch came every second or third day, but I never was given any instructions as to how to control prisoners.

Did the prisoners have more food in Block 199 than in the other blocks? - Yes, the Kapos saw to that, for when I went to collect the food and said it was for 250, they always received for 300.

Helen Klein said that you beat a woman called Ida Friedman very severely one night, with the result that she died the next day. Had you anything to do with her death? - Certainly not.

What nationality was she? - A Polish Jewess. I saw her two days before the British troops arrived.

Did you ever beat a Polish girl called Hoffman, as Luba Rormann states in her affidavit? - No.

Did you ever beat Sofia Rosenzweig when she was very ill in bed and did you beat an old woman who was lying in bed? - No.

Did you ever beat people in Belsen? - Yes, mostly during the distribution of food when they tried to get a second helping or were crowding round the containers. I only beat them with my hand or with a very small leather belt.

What were you doing between the time the British arrived and 16th June? - I was walking about the camp with my prisoner friends, because I had a clear conscience and was waiting for my papers.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - How were you treated at Ravensbrück? - Quite well.

And at Auschwitz and Birkenau? - Not so well.

Did you ever see anybody beaten there on Appell, or in a block? - No, I was always outside.

Which Lager did you live in at Birkenau? - Birkenau No. 1 Women’s Compound.

I suppose you never saw anything of these selections nor any transports coming at night, or anything of that sort? - No.

Who was the Lagerführer there? - I saw Kramer once or twice on Sundays, and Hoessler.

When did you see Kramer there? - In Birkenau, on Easter Monday, in April, 1943.

Had he come for a holiday or was he working? - Several S.S. Unterscharführer arrived to look for people for their Kommandos.

But Kramer was Kommandant of Natzweiler at that time, at the other end of Germany? - He was present when these working parties were selected.

When did you go to Budin [Budy]? - Easter Monday, 1943.

Do you remember Bormann at Budin [Budy], and if so, had she a dog with her? - Yes.

Did the prisoners play with the dog? - The dog was chasing about in the fields when he was there, and then the prisoners played with him.

Who appointed you as a functionary in Belsen? - Aufseherin Gollasch and the Blockälteste.

When did you first see Volkenrath and Ehlert? - I have never seen them.

Have you ever seen anybody in the dock at all? - I did not bother about the Aufseherinnen and had nothing to do with them.

Who was in charge of the prisoners in your block when they went out to work? - The Blockälteste Frieda Franka and the clerk. The Kapos marched them off, and the Blockführer and the clerk checked them out at the gate.

Was Weingartner a Blockführer? - I have never seen him as Blockführer.

Are you sure that this block of yours is in the same Belsen we are all talking about? - In Women’s Compound No. 1.

Weingartner said he was the Blockführer and Volkenrath said she spent all her time at the gate, which was the reason why she never got into the other women’s compound. Are you sure you never saw them at all? - I never paid any attention either to the Blockführer or Aufseherinnen or S.S. men.

How did they react to a prisoner ignoring them all? - I went through the gate with my prisoners to fetch our food and did not bother about anything else.

You had some beds for the block. Did some of these get broken? - Very many.

Did you not use a wooden lath from one of those to do your beating with? - No.

I suggest you beat Rosenzweig and other people with a lath when they could not get up for Appell? - I was not allowed, I could never beat sick people.

Did you not know an Ida Friedman who was a French girl? - No, she was a Polish Jewess.

I suggest to you that you regularly beat people and you beat that woman until she died? - Untrue, and she is not dead either.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - Did you have a name or a number in concentration camp? - A number.

Have you got a number tattooed on your arm? - No.

You are a German? - Yes.

Only a Jewess had the number on her arm, is that right? - Yes

For the 800 people who slept in the block at night, how many lavatories were there available? - Five or six.

Did anybody die in this block of yours? - During this period of my stay, seven or eight.

By a Member of the Court - What makes you think that Friedman is not dead? - I saw Friedman two or three days before the British troops arrived and ten or twelve days after.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Johanne Roth)