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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Anna Hempel)

Thirty-ninth Day - Wednesday, 31st October, 1945


ANNA HEMPEL, sworn, examined by Captain MUNRO - I am married, with a son aged 17, and was born on 22nd June, 1900, in Grünberg in Silesia. I worked in a textile factory in Grünberg where the prisoners were also working. On 8th May, 1944, I was conscripted into the S.S. and went to Ravensbrück for three weeks, after which I returned to the factory and worked in the office of Camp No. 1 there. In September, 1944, I was moved to Camp No. 2, and on 28th January, 1945, we were evacuated to Guben, from where, after four days, we moved to Bergen-Belsen, reaching there on 17th February. At Belsen I had two days off duty, two days in the bath-house and was then in Kitchen No. 2 in the men’s compound.

Who was in charge of Cookhouse No. 2? - Oberscharführer Heuskel. I was the only Aufseherin there. We cooked 17000 rations, and there were 34 women and 18 men volunteer prisoners for the job. The rations we received were not enough for the prisoners, who got one litre of soup at mid-day, and three-quarters of a litre at night.

Did you try to get some more rations for the prisoners? - Heuskel and I went several times to Unterscharführer Müller and told him that the rations were insufficient and that our prisoners had had no bread at all for seven days. We also asked Klein, who worked in the stores, and if she could manage it she let us have some more bread. We worked 14 to 16 hours on duty every day.

Why did you stop working in Cookhouse No. 2? - Because on 8th April I was taken ill with typhus and on the next day went to the hospital in the Wehrmacht Barracks Area at Belsen, where I was arrested on the 15th.

Lydia Sunschein accused you of beating girls in your private room because they stole turnips? - No, I did not have a private room, nor did I use a rubber truncheon.

Helen Klein alleged that you ill-treated prisoners in a terrible way, had a special riding-whip, and went to Kramer to complain that another Aufseherin in the cookhouse did not beat her people properly? - That is not true.

Diament in her deposition says that you beat prisoners with a rubber truncheon for stealing from the kitchen, and that on one occasion you hit a very sick man who collapsed in a heap on the ground? - It is untrue, and I never beat any sick man.

What do you say about the affidavit of Luba Triszinska? - It is true that I caught this man stealing turnips and that I hit him with a stick over his back, but it is not true that I sent for help from a Rottenführer, nor that the man collapsed. A Sturmmann saw it, came out from the kitchen and slapped his face, and the man ran away. I beat prisoners with my hands when I caught them stealing, and it was necessary.

Did the internees in your cookhouse work well or badly? - Well.

Cross-examined by Captain STEWART - When you went to Ravensbrück you knew all about the training, so I suppose most of the time was spent on lectures? - No, we worked only on practical things, and had no lectures.

Were you never told how to handle the prisoners you were going to supervise? - That was only during a parade of about half an hour.

Were you told roughly that the people you were going to be called upon to supervise were only Russians, Poles or Jews, as opposed to you, a member of the Master Race, and they would have to work until they died; and that your task would be to get a maximum amount of work out of them whilst they were alive, by fair means or foul? - No.

You say you worked as a clerk in the factory; had you ever anything to do with the prisoners? - Yes, when they went to work I had to count them and write down their names and numbers.

I put it to you that you were sent on that course to learn how to treat prisoners, and as soon as you came back you were in charge of them and ill-treated them? - No.

When you were evacuated and went to Guben was Ilse Forster with you? - Yes.

What instructions did you get when you arrived there? - We handed the prisoners over and were told to proceed to Belsen.

And instead of that you went off to Thuringia? - Yes. Part of the refugees from our own village were in Thuringia, and we wanted to see them, and apart from that, the firm where I worked wanted to start their business there, and Forster, and I wished to stay there rather than go to Belsen.

I have always understood that you were disciplined in the S.S. It has always been suggested that people had to do terrible things because they were ordered to do them, and unless they did them they were shot. But here are you having been told to report to Belsen going off to Thuringia because you thought it was better? - We were refugees ourselves and tried to board the train, which was rather difficult. Apart from that, we wanted to resign our commissions in the S.S. and get away, but that was not feasible. I did not like the S.S., nor did I join because I wanted to.

What made you go back after all? - Nobody would listen to us, and everybody told us that we would have to go to Belsen.

I suggest that that is utter nonsense because if you had gone anywhere and said you were deserting from the S.S. they would have put you straight inside? - No. We went to a sort of Headquarters of the S.S. and spoke to a high official, and he asked where we had come from and how far away the front line was, and when we told him he was very excited about it and nervous.

Let me suggest that both the S.S. Führer and you were nervous because you knew the game was up, and you did not want to go to Belsen to be caught in a concentration camp? - We did not know Belsen was a concentration camp, nor where it was situated.

Were you the only Aufseherin in Kitchen No. 2 in Belsen? - I was quite alone the first few weeks and worked in one single shift. Ehlert then sent Aufseherin Rosenthal to relieve me, and we took shift about. I got on with her quite well.

Do you know that that woman went to Kramer and complained about you beating prisoners to such an extent that it was disgusting? - That is not true.

You said your staff worked well. Did you get on with them all right? - Yes.

Do you know what they say about you? - One of them, just having spoken about Sauer, whom she said beat them furiously, said you were even worse; and Sunschein; your Kapo, called you the worst S.S. woman in the camp? - I cannot understand how she could have said that.

Klein says that you ill-treated your own prisoners in a terrible way if they were slacking? - I never beat those people working for me, but it is true that I had to drive them because we had to make good use of the little light and water we had, otherwise we could not have finished our meals.

Did you drive them by patting them on the back and saying, "come on, children, whilst the light is on"? - I told them to work when we had water and light, and later on when we had none they could take it easy.

How did you administer what you call the necessary beatings? - When I caught these people who worked in the kitchen stealing, say sugar, meat or margarine, I took these things and told them that if I caught them once more I would throw them out of the kitchen, and they asked and begged me not to report them, but rather to slap their faces.

Why was it that once and only once you beat a man with a stick, and never before, and never again? - Because I caught him when he filled his pockets with turnips, and could not bring myself to slap his face.

I suggest that the reason why you could not get yourself to slap his face was because you knew these people had typhus and that is the reason why you never touched them with your hand, but beat them with a stick or whatever you could get hold of? - We had in our kitchen also people who had typhus.

Re-examined by Captain MUNRO - For what disease were you sent to hospital on 8th April? - Typhus.

Did you always try to feed the prisoners to the best of your ability? - Yes, what I had I distributed, and if I could organise anything for them I did so.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - You say you wanted to get away from the S.S. in the early part of February, 1945. Had you found the conditions unpleasant? - I found them unpleasant, and I did not like the treatment of the prisoners. Apart from that, in the factory my living conditions were better.

By a Member of the Court - How did you manage for water during the last few days in the kitchen? - I went away on 8th April. For some hours we had no water and when there was no light there was no water.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Anna Hempel)