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

The Trial (Defence - Closing Speeches)


Major Brown said that the three men represented by him were indicted on the Belsen charge only, were very minor characters in the S.S., and had little to do with the happenings which were the cause of the trial. Although Kulessa had only been in No. 2 Camp for five or six days and Egersdorf in No. 1 Camp for seven or eight days, these men were being tried along with the Kommandant of Belsen and others in responsible positions and charged with the conditions which could not have arisen in that very short time and which they, in their minor capacities, could not conceivably have remedied. It would be unreasonable, to say the least, to suggest that they could be found guilty of having acted in a concerted manner to bring about such conditions.

The evidence against Mathes was contained in the three affidavits by Cech, Grunwald and Lichtenstein, and the evidence broadly was that between 1st and 15th April, 1945, Mathes was shooting from No. 2 Kitchen at Belsen at internees who were trying to steal carrots and that he killed a large number of them and wounded others. There was no doubt that the kitchen referred to was that known as No. 2 Kitchen, and three Prosecution witnesses, in evidence, who worked in Cookhouse No. 2, all had failed to recognise Mathes. That evidence should in itself be enough to destroy the accusations made in the affidavits, but there was in addition sufficient evidence to show that at the times of the alleged incident Mathes was not in the prisoners’ part of the camp and was employed in the bath-house. Egersdorf, Otto, Zoddel, Ilse Forster and Hempel had all stated that he was in the bath-house, and the evidence was that he was employed in the S.S. Kitchen up to the 10th or 15th January, 1945, and after that in the bath-house until the British came, and that he was only in the prisoners’ part of the camp on a visit to a store once.

With regard to Kulessa, the evidence against him was the oral evidence of Zamoski and the affidavits by Gutman, Müller, Zamoski and Raschiner. He had been recognised in the dock by Zamoski and Singer. Raschiner had accused Kulessa of shooting a man for stealing carrots on the arrival at Belsen on 2nd April of a transport of which he was in charge, but the accused had arrived on the 9th or 10th April, supported in evidence by Hoessler and Schmitz, and had travelled by train, not by road, and had not been in charge of the transport. The statement by Müller that a few days before the British arrived Kulessa had ordered Jews out of Block No. 89 and beaten them with a thick stick so that one man had died was, Counsel submitted, an example of the exaggerations which had been prevalent throughout the trial and which seemed to have been the natural result of incarceration in an internment camp. Zamoski, in the witness-box, had given materially the same story as in his affidavit, that Kulessa had been in charge of a transport from Dora to Belsen in which the prisoners had no food or water. Hoessler and Schmitz had said that Kulessa was not in charge of the transport but that it had been a man called Hartwig. What Zamoski had said in his affidavit and what he had said in the witness-box had shown singular discrepancies.

With regard to Egersdorf, Dora Almaleh had alleged in her affidavit that he had shot a Hungarian girl who had stolen from the bread store at Belsen. Egersdorf had told the Court that he had been at Auschwitz from 30th March, 1941, until 2lst January, 1945, and at Belsen for about seven or eight days, yet in spite of this long period there was against him only one single accusation. In evidence he had said that he had not understand why the accusation had been brought, and that he had dismissed a girl called Dora from his store a few days before the British had arrived because she had not worked properly. It was for the Court to decide what weight they wished to give to affidavits, but Major Brown submitted that they could not accept one paragraph in one affidavit which was completely unsupported. Apart from the question of fact, this incident alleged the killing of a Hungarian girl, but as the Court, of course, knew, in April, 1945, Hungarians were not nationals, and at that time a German could not commit a war crime against a Hungarian.

The Trial (Defence - Closing Speeches)