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

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Major A.L. Berney)
Fourth Day -Thursday, 20th September, 1945

Major A. L. BERNEY, sworn, examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - I am with 817 Military Government Detachment. On 15th April I was sent by Headquarters 8 Corps to Colonel Taylor of the Occupying Forces of the Belsen Camp. Colonel Taylor and Brigadier Glyn Hughes were in charge. On the next day I was told to find the nearest food store, which I did at the north of the Panzer Troop School about three kilometres from the camp. I found the Hauptmann in charge of the store who informed me that he was responsible for sending some food from his store to the camp - potatoes and turnips. He did not give me any reason as to why that was the only stuff supplied. I obtained a list of food in the store from him, and remember there were 600 tons of potatoes, 120 tons of tinned meat, 30 tons of sugar, upwards of 20 tons of powdered milk; cocoa, grain, wheat and other foodstuffs.

Did you find whether there was a bakery there or not? - Yes. There Is a very large bakery there with a capacity, I was told, of 60000 loaves a day, which was completely staffed. It appeared to me that there was a very vast quantity of all the necessary materials available for making bread. The bakery is still working now and most of the staff are the same.

From your investigation of the stocks available, was there any reason why Camp No 1 should not have been supplied with food? - I cannot see any conceivable reason.

Did you find any medical stores? - Not myself but I know there was a large quantity in the Wehrmacht Barracks, and as far as I know they are not entirely exhausted yet.

From 16th April onwards were you in charge of the general administration in Camp No. 1? - Yes.

What was the position in relation to water when you arrived? - There was none except in what I took to be emergency water reserve tanks. In the concentration camp area there were three tanks and in the S.S. administration portion there was one. The water in the tanks in the concentration area was completely foul, and as an immediate emergency measure some army water-carts were sent in. To restore the water supply we utilised the fire pumps and hose which we found inside the camp to pump water from a river to the camp itself. It took about four to five days to have water laid on to every cookhouse, and water was available to everybody in the camp in one form or another about four days after we first entered. We found enough materials to complete a working water supply throughout the camp.

Did you find any reason why water should not have been provided in that camp? - I can think of none.

What was the state of sanitation in the camp? - There virtually was none. As a result, the condition of the camp was extremely unsanitary as one would expect from that large number of people without any sanitary arrangements having been provided. As soon as we could we commenced to build earth latrines. We found no difficulty in digging as the soil was sandy.

Taking it generally, was there anything lacking there to provide food, water, medical supplies and sanitation? - I think if the administration of the camp had wanted to supply those things they could all have been supplied.

Cross-examined by Major WINWOOD - Do you speak and understand German? - No.

How did you converse with the Wehrmacht Captain in the ration store? - Through an official Belgian interpreter.

Was your first question to the Captain, "What camps do you supply from your food in the stores? - No. My first question was, "Are you the officer in charge of the stores?"

Was the phrase "Camp No. 1" first mentioned by you or by the Wehrmacht Captain? - The phrase "Camp No. 1" was not mentioned, because at that time I did not know it was called Camp No. 1. We both referred to it as the concentration camp. In fact there were two concentration camps.

Did the Wehrmacht Captain indicate which other units he supplied rations to? - Yes, the Hungarian regiment, their families and the Wehrmacht troops in the camp.

Did he mention that German units as far away as Hanover [Hannover] were supplied by that store? - He said nothing about Hanover [Hannover].

Did you get details of daily issues from this store? - No.

Was the Captain also in charge of the bread store? - I do not know exactly, but I gathered he was. I got no details of the daily issues of bread.

Did you have any expert advice that was not available to the Germans with regard to the water supply? - We pumped the water from the river using the S.S. men. Later a R.E.M.E. Major arrived to help to get the water supply working. The water in the river was fit to drink.

Cross-examined by Major MUNRO - Does all your evidence refer to what is now known as Camp No. 1? - No. Some of my evidence refers to the German army rations store at the north of the camp, which was neither Camp No. 1 nor Camp No. 2. I gathered from the German Captain that both concentration camps were fed from his store.

Cross-examined by Captain ROBERTS - There were a certain number of S.S. men in Camp No. 1. Do you know whether during the first two or three days any restraint was put on their movements? - They were arrested, but whether it was within the first two or three days or not I do not know, nor do I know if any S.S. men came back or were brought back to the camp after I had arrived.

Cross-examined by Captain NEAVE - Can you give us some idea of what German transport there was in running order at Camp No. 1? - I cannot remember any German transport in running order except trailers.

Did you find out how the rations got from the German food store to Camp No. 1? - No.

Cross-examined by Captain PHILLIPS - You told the Court that various other units were being supplied from the ration point; have you any idea of the total number of rations that had been drawn? - No, I have no idea.

Did you ask the captain in charge of the store on what scale he was supplying the concentration camps? - No.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - Were you questioning the Wehrmacht Hauptmann to find out what stores were available to the British to be used for the benefit of the internees, or were you questioning him to find out what stores had been available to Kramer when running this camp? - The former is correct.

There was sort of main store in this barrack area from which a number of different organizations had to be fed? - Yes, that is correct.

Was there any substantial number of mouths which had to be fed in the barrack area as distinct from what we have called No 1 and No 2 Concentration Camps? - Yes. The Hungarian and Wehrmacht troops, numbering in all about 3000.

Did the Hungarian or Wehrmacht troops get priority over the internees if there was not sufficient food for everybody? - I know nothing about that.

Did you enquire from the Hauptmann whether Kramer could demand the rations that he wanted, and if the Hauptmann would not give him them for the internees, could he over-ride the Hauptmann, or, had he (Kramer) to take from the Hauptmann what the latter liked to give him? - The conversation with the Hauptmann did not touch on that subject.

Did you get anything from the conversation, or did you form the impression when talking to this Hauptmann that Kramer indented for what he wanted or that the Hauptmann sent down such food as he did when and how he liked? - I cannot remember the exact words of the conversation, but the impression I got was that he had to send down a certain quantity in some sort of ration scale.

By a Member of the Court - Can you tell us whether the water-supply system erected by you which was made from local materials was capable of lasting for some time or was it very temporary? - It would have lasted, and did last, for some time.

Colonel BACKHOUSE - With the permission of the Court, I propose next to show the film of the scenes which were found at Belsen. The film is in two parts, the first showing the general conditions and the second showing the S.S. and the conditions in more detail, together with the persons who were found there. The first part of the film is technically bad owing to the appalling weather conditions at the time it was taken. I now read as a method of proof an affidavit by the photographers who took the film and who have seen it run over.

(Affidavits read and marked Exhibit 4. The film was exhibited to the Court and marked Exhibit 5.)

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Major A.L. Berney)