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

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Antoni Aurdzieg)

Fifty-fourth Day - Tuesday, 6th November, 1945


ANTONI AURDZIEG, sworn, examined by Lieutenant JEDRZEJOWICZ - I was born on 15th September, 1924, in Brzesc [Brześć], Poland, and was deported to Germany on 28th September, 1941. Because I did not attend my work for two days on 25th October, 1941, I was taken to the Gestapo Headquarters in Berlin and sent to the Sachsenhausen Camp on 2nd November, 1941. There I stayed for two years and in December, 1943, was sent to an outside Kommando called Klinker, about three kilometres away, where I worked for five months producing grenades. Next I went to the Hahnke Aircraft Factory for six months, but in July it was destroyed in an air raid and we were all sent to Frankfurt Oder to a branch factory. I left there on 10th March, 1945, went to Sachsenhausen, and then all the sick prisoners, including me, were sent to Belsen Concentration Camps where we arrived on 23rd March, 1945. I was put into Block 12, where I remained until the British entered the camp.

What was your position in the block? - The Lagerältester told me that I was to assist the Stubendienst and especially to sweep the floor of the block. On the block staff there was a Blockältester, Deputy Blockältester, clerk, Stubendienst, Deputy Stubendienst and four men to help the Stubendienst.

Did you have to help with food distribution? - The sick prisoners would sit inside the block and when the Stubendienst dished out the food we served the food to the prisoners. I helped to bring the containers of food from the cookhouse.

Filo Pinkus says that he made your acquaintance when you were Blockältester in Block 12 and you received him and his fellow prisoners when they arrived by hitting them with stools, iron bars, rubber truncheons, and so on? - That is not true, because I have never been a Blockältester, and therefore it was not my duty to receive newcomers into the block. I first came to a concentration camp when I was sixteen years old, and since then I have never had a stick in my hand.

You are alleged to have beaten a man called Grünzweig because he would not leave the block to go to work and that you beat him till he collapsed and died on 12th April? - That is not true, because I was not a Stubendienst and it was not my duty to force people to leave the block for work.

Filo Pinkus also alleges that on 15th April, 1945, you had an argument with a Russian and you beat him and he hit you back, and then you called your orderlies to your service room and you all started to beat him and when he died you removed his body and carried it to the heap of corpses lying beside your block? - Two gipsies brought this Russian to our Stubendienst and complained that this man had tried to cut off a heart from a dead body in order to eat it and he was punished by the Stubendienst with two or three strokes and then set free. When the gipsies noticed the punishment was so lenient they started fighting with him, and what happened later on I do not know.

Pinkus says that he saw you beating your fellow prisoners on hundreds of occasions with various objects so that those prisoners were physically disabled? - That is not true, and I would like to stress that Pinkus made all these accusations because of personal grievances. When he came first and saw me in my block while I was on food distribution he demanded two portions of rations, which I refused.

You are also said to have tried to obtain gold and roubles from prisoners in exchange for food, and the man who is supposed to have given you gold and roubles was called Lajwand? - During my four years in concentration camps I have never seen any gold.

A man called Bialkiewicz says you killed hundreds of people, demanded gold and valuables from all prisoners, and when you did not get these because they had none, you beat them to death? - I was too young to kill men. I was afraid myself of being killed. Only prisoners with green triangles used to kill and murder prisoners.

Did you force a man called Bauer to give you his gold teeth? - No.

Do you know men called Sarna and Mangel who are said to have been victims of your beatings? - These two men were employed in Block No. 12 as night guards. When the British troops arrived they were sent as sick people to Sweden and they are there now.

A man called Melamed Chain says you beat a Russian to death in five minutes on the day the British arrived? - Who would believe that a small man like myself could kill a Russian of very strong physique in five minutes?

What happened to you after the British entered the camp? - I continued to work as Stubendienst and left Belsen on 30th April, 1945, together with many other prisoners for Hanover [Hannover]-Stecke. One day I went for a walk in Hanover [Hannover] and was stopped by Pinkus, who said, "Do you remember me from the camp? You refused to give me a second helping. I did not starve of it, and now I am going to take my revenge." On the same day, 4th July, I was arrested by the German police, and one day two French officers came to see me. I was brought to a small room and was made to kneel with my hands stretched out and one of the officers took out a pistol, put it on the table, and they started interrogating in German.

Did you follow the questions at all? - No.

After this examination were you asked to sign this statement? - Yes. I refused and said that my knowledge of German was very poor and I could not understand all the questions. I asked for a Polish interpreter, but they said I had been a long time in Germany and should have known the German language. Finally I had to sign because the officer took a pistol and aimed it at my chest.

Now that you see this statement in the Polish translation do you say this statement is true? - No. 

Were the two officers writing down your answers? - I uttered one word and they wrote down at least ten. I did not intend to make any statement because I was in prison and had no right to speak.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Did Schlomoivicz become your Blockältester? - Yes, on 12th or 13th April, 1945. The previous Blockältester had been sick and Adam Bartschinski deputised for him.

In April were about 300 more people put into your block? - Yes.

As there were already over 1000 an additional 300 would take a lot of organising? - Yes.

If the Blockältester was ill and there was only the Stubendienst acting for him he would want the whole of his staff to arrange the reception? - No.

It was very crowded in that block and a great many people died? - Yes.

And of starvation? - Yes.

This man Adam beat people very often, did he not? - Yes, with his hands.

To such an extent that Schlomoivicz tells us he had to tell him to stop? - Yes.

You beat people yourself, did you not? - Yes, I did.

When you first went into this block, how many people were there? - Including my own party there was 700.

Had you been a Stubendienst before? - No.

Did Adam come with you? - No, he came from Auschwitz. I do not know when he came to the camp, but he arrived at my block after me at the end of March.

Did the Blockältester come in your party? - He came later. A French Jew was Blockältester when I got there.

If he came later, who was Blockältester before he came? - A German with a green triangle.

Who was the block Stubendienst before Adam? - A Polish Jew.

Was it Zoddel who picked on you? - No, it was a Lagerältester who came from Auschwitz who chose me for this job.

In your experience of concentration camps was there a lot of beating going on? - Yes, during my four years’ experience I had to suffer a lot. Many a time I was beaten. I received 25 strokes, I was made to hang on wooden poles, and so on.

The only way to avoid regular beatings and so on was to become a functionary, was it not? - No.

And the only way to get sufficient food was to be a functionary or work in the cookhouse? - As far as Bergen-Belsen is concerned it very  frequently happened that functionaries would give their own rations to the prisoners and starve themselves.

When you and Adam had control of that block did you not extract money or anything else that you could get from the prisoners by promising them food? - No, we were always conscious that the food that was being sent to us did not belong to us personally, but to all the people in the block, and therefore we tried to distribute it fairly.

There used to be a lot of bribery in concentration camps, was there not? - I have never heard of it.

What happened to somebody in a concentration camp if he was caught stealing? - They would do with him the same as they did with me. They tied my hands on my shoulders and hung me on a wooden pole.

Was Adam always very careful to distribute food fairly? - If Adam had not distributed the food fairly he would have been killed by the prisoners because they, at that time, were like wild animals, and if they had seen anything of that kind they would just have lynched him.

Did you and Adam and the remainder of the block staff not form yourselves into a little party to see that you did not get lynched or killed; and did you not arm yourselves with sticks or anything else that was suitable? - No.

Schlomoivicz stopped you fetching and distributing food, did he not? - My job was not to distribute food. The soup was poured out into plates by the Blockältester, and a man standing near him would hand the plates to him and I would bring them to the prisoners.

While those plates were being handed first from one to the other and then to you and taken across, what happened to the prisoners who were behaving like wild animals? - They were seated on both sides of the blocks in fives. A container of food was standing in the middle and they were just waiting their turn.

Without any rush or scramble? - Yes. There would have been had it not been for the fair distribution of food; but when the prisoners noticed the way we were doing it they appreciated our attitude and behaved properly.

It was quite unnecessary to beat them at all? - Yes.

Then why did Adam and yourself do so? - Because when a new party of prisoners from Hanover [Hannover] arrived they were all very fit and strong whilst we were weak and exhausted, and they started taking food from sick prisoners and we had to stop it. In Belsen we had no bread and received only half a litre of soup per day.

Where did you sleep in the block? - On the floor.

Was there a separate room for the Blockältester? - Yes, a room with three beds for the Blockältester, Stubendienst and Schreiber. 

Did anybody who was not a functionary get a bed? - If he managed to steal a bed he had one.

When did the water supply give out altogether? - The 12th or 13th of April.

In the last few days did you and all your block have to help to drag these corpses away? - Yes, with the exception of the Blockältester, Schreiber and Stubendienst.

Do you remember helping to turn people out? - No, it was a special job of the camp police. They got their orders from the Lagerführer or Kommandant to remove 25000 bodies lying inside Blocks 10 and 11.

I suggest to you that it was when you were directed to make Grünzweig go out on that parade that you beat him. It is not only Pinkus who says you did all these things but three other people as well? - Yes, because Pinkus persuaded them to do so.

Bialkiewicz says very much the same thing too? - Bialkiewicz told me he was going to make these accusations and he and Pinkus were present when I was arrested. He was persuaded by Pinkus to report me.

What happened in a concentration camp if a prisoner struck a Kapo? - For hitting a Kapo or any of the internees no punishment would be meted out, but if a German was hit one would be severely punished.

Then how is it the prisoners put up with all this beating from Kapos? Why did they not hit the Kapos back every time? - Because, until 1945, all the Kapos were Germans.

Why did they not just beat up all the other Kapos who were not Germans if there was no punishment for it? - Because they knew if a Kapo beat someone he didn’t do it without a good reason.

Is the truth of the matter not this, that if any prisoner hit back at a functionary the other functionaries beat him up? - No.

Regarding this extraordinary story of your interrogation, are you seriously suggesting that you had to kneel down with your arms above your head while you were being interrogated? - Yes.

Do you seriously suggest that you cannot understand and speak German, although you have been in Germany for the last four years and German is the common language of the camp? - Yes.

It was you who gave the name Adam Bartschinski for the first time, was it not? - I said only Adam, and how they managed to get Bartschinski I do not know.

Even if you could not understand German very well you could certainly understand the name when somebody said it, could you not? - They asked me who was Blockältester in that block. Of course, I understand some words in German and I understood this particular question. I said that it was Adam, myself and some others.

Did they not put to you each of the things that Pinkus had said about  you? - No. No accusations were presented to me. They read something and wrote something.

Are you seriously suggesting that they did not ask you whether you had ever beaten prisoners on arrival at your block? - Yes, I said that I had beaten prisoners, but owing to language difficulties I could not explain why.

Did they not ask you whether you had beaten a Pole to death on the 12th? - Yes, but I could not explain.

Did they not ask you whether you and your comrades, including Adam, had beaten a Russian prisoner? - I had to make them understand what I knew about this incident, but they probably did not understand what I wanted to convey to them. They wrote something down and I say it is incompatible with what I said.

Did they not ask you about thefts of jewellery and money by Adam? - They asked me whether Adam demanded money in exchange for food and I answered that I did not know.

Are you seriously suggesting that you said that and an officer of the French Ministry of Justice wrote down, "I acknowledge having assisted Adam in his thefts of money and jewels from the prisoners"? - Yes, as he came to my prison, beat me twice and then took out of his pistol 12 bullets to show what he was going to do, I had to assume he was able to write down all these things although I did not say them.

This story of beating you twice is a new one altogether? - Yes.

When did you first think of that? - I did not invent the story. It is fact. I was kneeling with my hands up, and, as it was a very strenuous effort, my hands were falling down and this officer approached me, struck me on my face, and made me keep my hands up.

Have you ever said that before? - I did not say it because nobody asked me. I told my Counsel.

Kneeling with your hands above your head was a very popular punishment to give people in concentration camps, was it not? - It was not a very popular punishment, but to kneel and to hold a chair above the head was quite a common punishment.

If you put your hands down in a concentration camp, did you get beaten across the face? - Yes.

I suggest that you completely made up that story about having to do that when you were being interrogated by this French officer, and that you have simply taken something from a concentration camp and incorporated it into your story? - And I stress once more that I am telling only the truth.

I suggest that at that time when you were first accused and found the amount of evidence and witnesses there were against you, you admitted what you had done, but now after five months and knowing the witnesses are no longer available, this is the story you are telling? - No, that is not true.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - When you made your statement in this small room, was there a German interpreter present? - There were two men in French uniform and they spoke to each other in French; both spoke German.

Did they read over to you in German the statement which you were supposed to have made? - Yes, and I said I did not understand everything, and they said, "All right, just sign it and you will see." I refused to sign and they compelled me to do so.

After you had signed the statement did you make any further statement on that day to the French officers or not? - No.

MEDISLAV ANDRZEJEWSKI, sworn, examined by Lieutenant JEDRZEJOWICZ - I was arrested by the Germans in January, 1940, in Lodz [Łódź] and taken to Bockhorn, in Germany, where I worked in a brick factory for a year. For a further year I worked on a farm at Zeitel, and was sent then to Neuengamme Concentration Camp, where I stayed until August, 1943, working in a brick factory. I then went to an accumulator factory in Hanover [Hannover]-Stecke until 8th April, 1945, when I arrived at Belsen. At Belsen I was placed in Block No. 12, which was in charge of a Jew named Adam, although the official Blockältester was a Frenchman who was sick with typhus. A young German was appointed Blockältester two days before the British troops arrived. I first met accused No. 32, Aurdzieg, in Block No. 12 in Belsen at the distribution of soup. Adam poured out the soup from the containers into plates and handed them to the accused, who served the prisoners as they were sitting on the floor.

Did you see any incident in Block 12 on the day the British arrived? - Yes. About lunch-time Adam and two gipsies brought a Russian into the block and started beating him. Later on the two gipsies took the man outside to the place where the dead bodies were lying. At that time the accused was at the other end of the block sweeping the floor.

How did the accused behave to the other prisoners? - He was employed sweeping the floor, serving soup and washing dishes. Apart from that I saw him beat prisoners from time to time with his hand, but only those who were fit and tried to get food from those unfit and weak.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Did you leave Belsen with a party of other people? - With a friend of mine, and on our way, we met the accused and went on to Hanover [Hannover]-Stecke together. When I arrived there I developed typhus and went to hospital.

What exactly was your position in Block No. 12? - I was ill all the time lying on the floor. 

Did you knew the accused well? - No. I only knew him because he distributed food in the block.

It was quite an extraordinary thing, was it not, for a man to be brought in and beaten to death like this Russian was? - It was the first time I saw anything like that.

And yet while this beating to death is going on, you particularly remember that a man whom you did not know very well was sweeping the floor somewhere else? - Yes.

Did Adam do a lot of beating? - No.

When food was being distributed did people try and get round the containers to get to it quickly? - The prisoners were sitting on the floor in groups often.

Did they all sit quietly waiting for their turn? - Yes.

In other huts they had to put guards all round the windows and have people standing at the door to try and stop people hurrying? - I do not know, because I was all the time ill with typhus.

Was there not a little gang of you in that block who spent your time beating prisoners and extracting things from them in exchange for food when they were too sick to get it for themselves? - No.

What are you at present under arrest for? - For beating up a German woman along with three others.

Were you not merely carrying on exactly as you had done in the camp? - No.

If you were so sick, why did you walk to Hanover [Hannover]? - I recovered two weeks before I left the camp, and on getting good food again regained my strength.

When you arrived at Belsen there were already about 1200 people in the block when you got there, were there not? - I do not remember how many, but it was terribly overcrowded. There was a terrible stench there and I had the impression of entering a mortuary.

Were you 300 very popular when you went in to crowd it up a bit more? - I arrived late at night and did not know the situation. We just slept one on top of the other.

I suggest to you that from then on people were being very regularly beaten in that block and that Adam, the accused, and three of his friends did the beating? - I did not see it.

In the statement which the accused Aurdzieg made he said, "I acknowledge having with several of my comrades (three) amongst whom was one named Adam Bartschinski ... beaten a Russian prisoner until he fell dead"? - I do not know what he said, but I do know that at the time of this incident he was sweeping the floor at the other end of the block.

He gave a description of Adam and then said that he had two comrades in this camp, one of whom was Jan Polit. Is this Jan Polit the friend you  are talking about? - I do not know, but the name is the same. I worked on the same shift with Jan Polit and met him next in Hanover [Hannover]-Stecke.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - With regard to this attack on the German woman, how many of you were engaged? - Three.

By day or by night? - By day.

Have you been tried for that offence? - Yes, I got fifteen years’ sentence.

What did you do to the woman? - I hit her five times over the head and other parts of the body.

Were you trying to rob her? - I took only one suit because I had nothing to wear.

The Trial (Defence - Evidence for the Defendant Antoni Aurdzieg)