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

The Trial (Defence - Closing Speeches)

Forty-ninth Day - Monday, 12th November, 1945


Captain Boyd, referring to identification, said that the accused Starostka had said that, generally speaking, a prisoner would have recognised an S.S. person not by their face but by their figure, and Prosecution witnesses had said that they made themselves very scarce when they saw the S.S. coming. What was important to a prisoner was possibly the figure of the S.S., and probably even more so the walk and the bearing, which were just the things one did not get in a photograph which relied largely on the face. In this case many of the accused were in a very dishevelled state, and the effect of that was that every identification by photograph should be suspect.

Fiest, after training in Langenbielau, had arrived in Belsen about 28th February, and after a fortnight on odd jobs had come into the women’s Compound No. 2 as an Aufseherin responsible for general order and cleanliness. Margarete Berg alleged that certain incidents took place while Fiest was marching a party out to collect grass for filling mattresses. But several witnesses had stated that working parties in fact were not taken from women’s Compound No. 2. The second point with regard to that affidavit was that in any case it did not amount to an accusation against Fiest. The affidavit read, "The parade was escorted as far as the gates of the camp by S.S. woman Gertrud Fiest. As we got near to the gate one of the women collapsed and the S.S. woman immediately came out and kicked her in the back." They had heard how all these working parties were checked out at the gates, and how somebody at the gate waited in the Blockführer’s hut and saw that each party going out had an Aufseherin with it. Counsel submitted that the affidavit clearly meant that as the party was marched down by Fiest, when it got to the gate somebody else came out. Anita Lasker told of the incident when Fiest had made some prisoners kneel down for stealing turnips. This instance the accused had admitted, but she had said there was no snow, and Captain Boyd suggested that it was obviously a bit of embroidery, because there was no snow in March or April. Neiger accused Fiest of making an Appell last as long as possible, whilst the accused had said it had lasted about an hour and a half, perhaps two hours The Court had heard of the difficulties there were in carrying out an Appell, and it was clearly done on orders. Lohbauer was the only witness at all who accused Fiest of beating, and both Bimko and Hammermasch had recognised her but had made no accusation. The accused had worked for about a month in women’s Compound No. 2, taking the Appell of 6000 women, and the result altogether was three accusations against her. Counsel asked the Court to say that she had not made Appell last longer than necessary, and that all the beatings she did was the slapping of faces when she found people stealing.

With regard to the accusation by Maria Neumann against Gertrud Sauer, Captain Boyd submitted that that was a case of mistaken identity. Neumann related incidents which happened outside No. 1 Kitchen in which Sauer and Francioh had taken part, but, of course, neither of these accused ever worked in that kitchen. The kitchen referred to must have been Kitchen No. 3, and the Court would remember that the Aufseherin called Orlt had worked there, who was very like Sauer. The witnesses Sunschein, Klein and Lasker had accused Sauer of beating in Kitchen No. 2, the two latter witnesses stating she used a whip. Lasker had seemed to think that Sauer had been there for about two or three weeks when in fact she had only been two or three days, and it was quite clear that she had embroidered her evidence. Sunschein, who appeared to be a very honest witness, had only accused Sauer of beating with her hands, and Counsel asked the Court to accept Sauer’s story that she did in fact beat people with her hands when they were stealing. Neiger, in her affidavit, after accusing Sauer of beating girls frequently without reason, said that she never allowed them to rest during the daytime, but Counsel did not know what that accusation consisted of. It was obvious that the only beating Sauer did was in order to prevent stealing.

With regard to the third accused, Lisiewitz, Captain Boyd said that she was very young and that all the evidence against her was in affidavit form. Dora Almaleh recognised her from a photograph and related an incident which she alleged took place whilst Lisiewitz was in charge of the Kommando carrying vegetables round to the kitchens. She certainly had been in charge of that Kommando, but she had been ill about the middle of March and again on 1st April. There must have been a great number of Aufseherinnen at one time or another in the vegetable Kommando and there was always the possibility of a mistake. The story in the affidavit was very detailed and was, Captain Boyd submitted, a complete invention. Lisiewitz was accused of knocking down and killing two men at once, which, of course, was quite a considerable feat, even if the men had been in such a state as some of the internees doubtless were in Belsen.

The other affidavit against Lisiewitz was the deposition of Siwidowa who recognised her by the photographs as being supervisor in one of the cookhouses. The affidavit did not state which cookhouse, and, of course, Lisiewitz had been for some days in Cookhouse No. 1, but at one time or another every Aufseherin at Belsen must have been in a cookhouse. The deponent seemed to have been one of those witnesses who had almost a fixation about rubber truncheons, which appeared in three out of the four paragraphs in her statement. The Court had heard a great many Prosecution witnesses who had in fact worked in Kitchen No. 1, and it was rather remarkable that none of them had recognised Lisiewitz, who had worked in that kitchen only. She had not been recognised by a single witness who had come to the court. Ehlert, in her statement, had said that to the best of her knowledge and belief Lisiewitz had always been well behaved and had treated prisoners really decently, and that statement should be given considerable weight.

It was for the Prosecution to prove that Lisiewitz, together with the others, had been responsible for the ill-treatment of an Allied national, and Counsel submitted that none of these acts amounted to ill-treatment and no mention of any Allied national was made in any allegation at all. The only way in which she could be found guilty was if the Prosecution established either that she along with others was responsible for the creation of the general conditions at Belsen, or possibly was a party to a plan to ill-treat prisoners and therefore responsible for the acts of other people. Lisiewitz had had three or four Kommandos taking round the vegetables and a peeling Kommando in the kitchen, but it was quite clear that she could have had no power at all to improve those conditions which must have existed when she arrived at the camp about the beginning of March.

Fiest and Sauer had arrived in Belsen at the end of February and spent a fortnight on various small Kommandos, coming into what has been described as policewoman duties somewhere about the middle of March. By the middle of March the conditions in the compound must have been already chaotic and, as these accused only had duties as policewomen and the real person responsible for the compound was the Lagerführer Klipp, they really had no power. The Prosecution might say that there was a plan to ill-treat all these prisoners at large and that Fiest, Sauer and Lisiewitz were a party to that plan and, as Allied nationals were injured, they were responsible. They would base that allegation partly on the individual acts proved and partly in the evidence that had been given with respect to all concentration camps. What had to be proved, of course was that there was a plan and that these accused were party to it. Fiest had taken the Appell, but the fact that that was taken under orders was sufficient to negative it as evidence of a plan. All the evidence of hitting had been because of stealing, or, as Fiest had stated, because she lost her temper, which was very understandable. It was clearly entirely unpremeditated. According to the Standing Orders and Rules of the camp it was stated that these cases should have been reported, but if every case had been reported there would have been thousands a day. Conditions were chaotic, and these people had to do something to keep what order they could; which was the reason why this hitting took place. It was not because they had made a plan with anybody else to ill-treat all the prisoners. The evidence about other concentration camps was immaterial because these three accused had never been at any other concentration camp, and like practically all the Aufseherinnen at Belsen were conscripts from factories. Mr. Le Druillenec had said that there was not the same sadism at Belsen as he had experienced at other concentration camps, and Counsel submitted that the reason for that was that at Belsen there were a great number of people who were not really S.S. people at all but, who had been conscripted from factories and given a three weeks’ course. It was a very poor view to take of human nature to suggest that an ordinary factory woman could be converted into a sadist in three weeks on a course.

The Trial (Defence - Closing Speeches)