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

The Trial (Defence - Closing Speeches)


Captain Corbally said that the only evidence against Barsch was contained in two affidavits by Silberberg and Miriam Winter, both young girls who made their statements on the same day, 11th June, nearly two months after the camp had been liberated. They were nearly identical. Both referred to Barsch as the kitchen chief in No. 1 Kitchen on or about 13th April. The witness Litwinska stated that except for one or two days she herself had worked all the time she was in Belsen in that kitchen, and that Barsch was not one of the S.S. connected with Kitchen No. 1. Pichen had said that he was the kitchen chief of No. 1 Kitchen at that time and that Barsch was not at any time there. Ilse Forster, the Aufseherin of Kitchen No. 1, supported that statement.

The evidence called for the Defence, Counsel submitted, had proved beyond any doubt that at the time the incident was alleged to have happened, Barsch had been a medical orderly in No. 2 Camp, and that before he came to Belsen he had been medical orderly at Dora. Two doctors had spoken to this effect, on whose staff he had been. Two doctors and ,a small party of others, amongst whom Dr. Schmidt said Barsch was, had gone up to Neuengamme from Belsen, and had been away about 48 hours. The dates appeared vague, but it had been established that they had returned on the Friday afternoon, the day the shooting was alleged to have taken place. Could this shooting have occurred after Barsch had come back? There were two reasons against that. First, Barsch was medical orderly in No. 2 Camp and was busy preparing the hospital blocks; and second, Camp No. 1 was out of bounds to the personnel of No. 2 Camp, and they could not have gone there even had they wanted to. Barsch had been suffering from gastritis, and it was highly unlikely that a man suffering from that would make the journey to Camp No. 1, go into the kitchen, shoot people with a revolver, and then say, "Well, if you are thirsty go and drink their blood." The case against Barsch was very weak, and had been destroyed by the evidence given by the Prosecution witnesses and the evidence led for the accused.

Forty-eighth Day - Saturday, 10th November, 1945


Captain Corbally said that the affidavits of Diament and Kurowicki identified Schreirer as having ill-treated male internees at Auschwitz. Kurowicki stated that Schreirer was a Blockführer from November 1942, until the middle of 1943, and he identified him when he was working as a medical orderly in the Belsen Hospital. He stated that that Blockführer in Auschwitz had been slightly knock-kneed, but Counsel submitted that no reasonable man could say that Schreirer was so. Koper had said that she knew Schreirer when he was an Oberscharführer in the bunker at Auschwitz, and as she had spent more than two years in the bunker she should know everything that had gone on there. If Koper’s evidence was to be believed, then Schreirer, must be taken to have been an Oberscharführer in the winter of 1942-43, and the story of Kurowicki and Diament that he was a Blockführer during that time became far less probable. It was most unlikely that the duties of a Blockführer were performed by men of the rank of Oberscharführer. Kurowicki had mentioned about a Rapportführer Stibitz giving an order to Schreirer, but was that likely if the latter was a Blockführer of the Political Department? Counsel had asked Koper how old she thought Schreirer was, and she had said between 20 and 22. In fact at that time he was not even 20 and could not have been in the service for more than a year. If it had taken Stofel, a regular S.S. man, ten years to become a Hauptscharführer, was it conceivable that a boy of 19 with one year’s service could have attained the rank of Oberscharführer? Counsel went through Koper’s affidavit in detail, pointing out the discrepancies between her story and that of Schreirer, and said that it was really significant that Koper was the ony person who had identified Schreirer at Belsen, although if she had seen him, hundreds of others must have done so also. Schreirer had told the Court that after he was arrested he was interviewed day after day by scores of internees, and in all probability his photographs had been shown to many hundreds more, yet nobody could say that be at any time had been part of the staff at Belsen Concentration Camp or that they had seen him at Belsen at all. Kramer had expressly denied having had Schreirer on his staff at Belsen, and he at least should know. Schreirer’s case was that he had never been a member of the S.S. at all, and he had told the Court to the best of his recollection what he had been doing since he had left Rumania with his mother in 1941 and was called up into the Luftwaffe. It was a very normal and ordinary story. Frau Schreirer had confirmed that her son was in the Luftwaffe. She had been asked by the learned Prosecutor whether she would not be very sorry to have to say that her son was in the S.S., but she had answered that the S.S. were considered the élite of Germany and it would have been an honour, whereas she was anxious about him being in the Luftwaffe as she had always considered that something cruel. Was that remark not typical of an elderly woman who only knew the shop window side of the S.S.? Could she have made that remark if she had known that her son was in the concentration camp service? If she had known that, she must have realised that the S.S. had something in addition to the shop window side of it, and the fact that that remark was made proved that she knew nothing whatever of the concentration camp establishments in Germany, which she must have known about, if her son had really been in the concentration camp service. She remembered that her son had served for a time in Rumania and had attained the rank of Lance-Corporal. How would this old woman have known what rank he had unless be had told her, or a friend had told her when he was on leave that her son was then a Lance-Corporal? If that story was to be believed, the Oberscharführer rank of which Koper had spoken vanished into thin air.

Schreirer’s story could also be tested by the documents discovered in his wallet. There was the medical card describing him in his own name and giving the date and place of his birth. This certificate was an official German army Red Cross certificate, and he was described in it as being a medical orderly with the rank of a Corporal. It was true that officer who signed that certificate held S.S. rank, but it was quite possible that this was an S.S. Division into which Schreirer’s Battalion had been drafted in the last fortnight of the war. What was important was that Schreirer was described as a medical Corporal, not of S.S. rank. Had there been any reason for saying he was an S.S. man he would surely, if it were an S.S. formation, have been described in S. S. rank and terms. With regard to the photographs, the photograph of himself in S.S. uniform with a girl he said had been taken when on leave. He seemed to have been friendly with an S.S. man, and Counsel submitted that in the atmosphere of being on leave and in the company of girl friends he might easily have changed his uniform. With regard to the theatre ticket and so on, Counsel contended that the explanation that it had been sent to him was just as probable as the fact that he had been on leave on 18th February in Linz. If he had not been there, there was no reason for him to deny it. He knew what was in his wallet, so why should he lie about it? It had been most embarrassing for Schreirer to be confronted with the photograph of the other girl with whom he had spent one night and to be asked to explain that. He had been very vague about, the place because it had made no impression on him whatever, and although the word Saltau was written on the back of the photograph it was admittedly not in his handwriting and he did not appear to know whether it was Saltau or not. The tattoo marking had at one time appeared to cause the strongest suspicion that Schreirer was a member of the S.S., but as a result of the medical evidence called by the Court, it was shown that the tattoo mark had nothing to do with the S.S. at all but merely proved that he came from Rumania.

Schreirer had described his capture and had given a description of American Military Police. How could he have known what a American Military Policeman looked like if he had not been captured by one and seen one? He had said he was captured near Schwerin and the date he gave in his first evidence was clearly wrong. But he had said it was about that time, and when he was handed his Movement Order from the Medical Officer at Celle he had been able to tell the Court exactly when his capture must have taken place. His account of a Red Cross convoy moving after it had been captured by the Allies behind their liens, being sent from one place to another without guards and finally crossing the River Elbe and ending up in Celle, was correct and just what could have happened in the last days of the war when they got the Red Cross convoys out of the way. He said that he had crossed the Elbe at Lauenberg. He could not possibly have known that unless he had crossed it there. With regard to the letter dated 22nd April, he could only have got that in the way he described. It had come from Hamburg to where he said he was at Schwerin. If he had been in Belsen he could not possibly have got that letter - it was unbelievable that mail was being delivered to S.S. people in Belsen seven days after the liberation. If Schreirer had been an S.S. man and looking after the wounded, would he have fitted himself up with a pair of grey trousers and walked into Belsen when there must have been unlimited opportunities of escaping both east and west of the Elbe? Would he have kept these photograph of himself in S. S. uniform and the photograph of the girl in Saltau [Soltau]? If Schreirer was to be believed, then the Court would have to say that Koper was lying and that Kurowicki was mistaken. But if they were believed, then every word Schreirer had spoken in the witness-box was a deliberate lie. The Court would have also to say that Frau Schreirer was a liar.

On behalf of Dorr, Captain Corbally adopted the speech of Captain Fielden in defence of Stofel. The whole story concerning the shooting by Dorr had, he maintained, been produced in bad faith by the deponents. None of the three affidavits made by Poppner, Mocks or Gruhmann mentioned the Gross Hehlen incident, which any truthful account of the affair would have done. The first night of that journey was Captain Corbally’s particular concern, because it was that night on which Dorr was really in charge. Poppner and Gruhmann had mentioned killings on that night near a stable, but the evidence before the Court conclusively proved that there was no stable at Osterode and that the first night in Osterode was spent in another concentration camp. There was a barn at Gross Hehlen and there were stables at Zeesen, but there was certainly no stable at Osterode. It had been said that five kilometres beyond Osterode, on the second day's march, Dorr had shot some more people. All the evidence showed that Dorr did not accompany them from Osterode but waited there until Stofel came up. In case the Court should think that Dorr was in any way responsible for the shooting at Gross Hehlen, Counsel submitted that surely the only reasonable thing was for somebody to go ahead to prepare the new accommodation. They had already been hunted out of their old resting place, and as Stofel evidently did not do this searching, then obviously Dorr would have done it. This is what he said he had done, and if that was so then he could not be held responsible in any way for those shootings. Captain Corbally said that the story of this march produced by the Defence was a reasonable one and should be believed, and if it was believed the Court must reject the affidavits and say that Dorr did not shoot the prisoners.

Passing to Zoddel, Captain Corbally said that he must have been one of the best known men in the camp. He was on the original staff at Belsen, and had been there for longer than anybody else - in fact, nine months longer than Kramer. He had originally gone there as a convalescent concentration camp prisoner and had become a Blockältester, for the first time in his career in a concentration camp, in a sort of hospital block. In January, 1945, he had become Lagerältester with special duties in Camp No. I, and this job he had kept until the liberation. Although there were many thousands of inmates in Camp No. 1, the only people who had accused him were Glinowieski, Lozowski, Zuckermann and Kurowicki. It was quite impossible to carry on the job of Lagerältester without making enemies, as, for instance, was the case with Starostka who was also a Lagerälteste. Counsel asserted that those who had accused Zoddel were not people who had known him well but persons who, like Glinowieski, were actuated by motives of spite and revenge and almost a racial hatred. Although Glinowieski might at another time have recognised the photograph of Zoddel, he had not recognised him in court. Although he had made no mention of it in his affidavit, when he came into court Glinowieski introduced a stick more than a metre long and as thick as his arm which, Counsel submitted, was a stupid and ridiculous exaggeration. Lozowski accused Zoddel of hitting a man over the head with a stick, the end of which was made of iron, in such a way that his skull was split open, and that when he went to the hospital that night he found the man was dead. Zoddel admitted having had a stick and occasionally using it, but it was an ordinary walking-stick with a rubber ferrule at the base. Again, Lozowski’s story of the man having died was hearsay upon hearsay. Zuckermann described an incident very much like the one Glinowieski talked about, but he said that Zoddel was Lagerältester of Lager No. 2, whereas it must have been well known that he was Lagerältester of Lager No. 1. The Court could not accept the evidence of Glinowieski and Lozowski that Zoddel had committed a murder, In the witness-box Zoddel had said that although he had beaten people he never hit them after they had fallen to the ground, nor in such a way as to draw blood. A certain amount of beating was inseparable from the job of Lagerältester and could not be avoided, but surely when a Lagerältester hit someone across the shoulders with a stick or boxed his ears he would run away, and it was unlikely that the rather harassed and busy Lagerältester would indulge in a game of chasing the internees. Zoddel himself had been a prisoner for a long time, and owing to the way in which he had been grossly overworked in some of these working camps he had become very ill indeed and had been sent to Belsen originally to recover his strength. He said that Belsen at that time was a good place. As Blockältester in a hospital block he had certain comforts, and there was no evidence at all that he had ill-treated people there. He did not want to lose those comforts and privileges and so had continued to keep himself in that job. As Lagerältester he had told the Court what he had to do, and the carrying out of that responsibility no doubt made it necessary for him to beat people at times. Obviously Zoddel was not the person to beat just because it pleased him.

The Trial (Defence - Closing Speeches)