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

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Ada Bimko)
Fifth Day-Friday, 21st September, 1945

ADA BIMKO, sworn, examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - I am a Jewess from Poland and a Doctor of Medicine. On 4th August, 1943, I was sent from Sosnowitz to Auschwitz. During that week all the Jews of the town where I was living were arrested, and because of my being a Jewess I was sent to Auschwitz along with 5000 other Jews. When we got to Auschwitz Station we left the train and were lined up, men on one side and women on the other. Women and children were loaded on trucks and sent away. An S.S. doctor pointed with his fingers and said "Right" and "Left," looking at the women and children, and we, the younger women, were treated in the same way. Part of these people selected were loaded on to trucks and later I was told they were sent into the crematorium and gassed. My father, mother, brother, husband and small son of six years of age were included in that number. About 250 women of the remainder were sent with me to the camp, and later on I heard that another 250 men were also sent. The remaining 4500 went to the crematorium. From our town alone in the week, 25000 people were sent away.

After that date did you attend any other selections of this kind? - Yes. I was working as a doctor in the hospital and was present at several selections. The first of these happened on the day of the greatest feast of the Jews, the Day of Atonement. There were three methods of selection. The first one immediately on the arrival of the prisoners; the second in the camp among the healthy prisoners ; and the third in the hospital amongst the sick. The camp doctor was always present and other S.S. men and S.S. women.

At the selections that you attended or saw in the hospitals, how were people chosen there? - All the sick Jews were ordered to parade quite naked in front of the doctor. The seemingly weak people were put aside at once, but other times the doctor looked also at the hands or at the arms and any small sort of thing which caught his attention was sufficient for him. S.S. men and S.S. women from the camp were always present; sometimes they pointed with a finger to one or the other, pointing out others who should join those people who were condemned to death. The S.S. doctors who took part in the selections Dr. Rohde, Dr. Tilot, Dr. Klein, Dr. König and Dr. Mengele.

Do you see any of those persons here to-day? Do you recognise anyone else? - (Witness descends into the well of the Court) - I identify 1, Kramer; 2, Klein; 3, Weingartner; 5, Hoessler; 7, Volkenrath; 8, Ehlert; 9, Grese; 11 Lobauer; 46, Koper; 48, Starostka; and I recognise as having been in the camp 16 (Francioh)[13], 23 (Otto), 40 (Fiest), 41(Sauer) and 6 (Bormann), but do not know their names.

Do you recognise here any of the S.S. men who attended the parade? - Kramer and Hoessler. Both have taken part actively during these selections.

When persons had been selected, what usually happened to them? - When they had been selected in that way as I described before, they paraded quite naked. Then they had to go to a very ill-famed block, No. 25, where they were waiting often for days without food or drink, naked until the trucks arrived to take them away to the crematorium. I remember that 1st December, 1943, was a day of very large-scale selections. Typhus was rampant throughout the camp and there were in the hospital 4124 sick Jewish women. Of this number 4000 were selected for the crematorium and only 124 remained. Dr. Klein was present and took part in this selection. Auschwitz was divided into a number of camps and the five crematoria were in a portion called Birkenau of which Kramer was Kommandant. For a time the Lagerführer was Hoessler and also a woman called Mandel. Volkenrath was sort of supervisor in the stores for parcels and later she was senior supervisor in Belsen camp. Ehlert I don't remember having seen in Auschwitz. Grese was responsible for the roll-call. I didn't see her in the women s camp.

Have you ever been into one of the gas chambers? - Yes. In August, 1944, I was working in a portion of the camp as a doctor. A new crowd or those selected for the gas chamber had arrived, and as they were sick they came covered with a blanket. After two days we were told to fetch all those blankets from the gas chamber. I took the opportunity, as I always wanted to see with my own eyes this ill-famed gas chamber, and I went in. It was a brick building and there were trees around in a way as if it were camouflaged. In the first room I met a man who came from the same town as I do. There was also an S.S. man with a rank of Unterscharführer and he belonged to the Red Cross. I was told that in this first big room the people left their clothes, and from this room were led into a second, and I gained the impression that hundreds and hundreds might go into this room, it was so large. It resembled the shower-baths or ablution rooms we had in the camp. There were many sprays all over the ceiling in rows which were parallel. All these people who went into this room were issued with a towel and a cake of soap so that they should have the impression that they wore going to have a bath, but for anybody who looked at the floor it was quite clear that it was not so, because there were no drains. In this room there was a small door which opened to a room which was pitch dark and looked like a corridor. I saw a few lines of rails with a small wagon which they called a lorry, and I was cold that prisoners who were already gassed were put on these wagons and sent directly to the crematorium. I believe the crematorium was in the same building, but I myself did not see the stove. There was yet another room a few steps higher than this previous one with a very low ceiling, and I noticed two pipes which I was told contained the gas. There were also two huge metal containers containing gas.

Did any of the prisoners keep any records in respect of these gas chambers? - Yes. There were a number of internees working in these crematoria and this working Kommando had the name of "Sonderkommando" - special Kommando. These Kommandos were changed after a few months because they themselves were also destroyed. They were gassed. One of those who took part in these Kommandos told me that other members of the Kommandos before being gassed had complete records of all these transports which arrived, and then eventually were destroyed. He himself, in fact, kept records also and he said that the number of Jews who were destroyed in this gas chamber would be about four million.

In addition to the gas chamber, whilst you were working at Auschwitz, did you see any treatment of women in the hospital? - In Birkenau itself there were no particular experiments. However, in Auschwitz there was a Block No. 10, and there experiments had been made. One woman who returned into the women's tried to commit suicide. I asked her, "Why did you try to commit suicide?" and she told me, because they experimented on her artificial insemination She thought that she would be physically incapable of bearing children.

What was the food of the prisoners like ill Auschwitz? - The rations in Auschwitz were the morning coffee for lunch soup which contained mainly water and pieces of potato or some other vegetables, and for dinner at six o'clock at night, water, a loaf of bread, sometimes with margarine or a piece of sausage.

What was the treatment of the internees by the S.S.? - The treatment was so that it is hard to describe, blows were raining down and then at roll-call we had to stand about for hours and hours in snow, in rain, in heat or in cold. The standing about alone exhausted us entirely. If anybody moved during roll-call, then the whole block to which we belonged had to stand for hours and sometimes to kneel down, even with their arms raised high. If somebody came too late to roll-call, the whole camp had to stand on parade for many hours and he, the culprit, was beaten so badly that he sometimes died from it. In the hospital I saw a number of people with wounds on their hands and legs, but particularly frequently on their heads, coming from blows. I left Auschwitz and arrived in Belsen on 23rd November, 1944, and Kramer arrived in the first days of December, 1944.

What were the conditions at Belsen when you first arrived? - The conditions were bad, but the internees there were not beaten and there were no roll-calls. In the morning there was either coffee or soup, for midday meal about half a pint of soup, and in the evening one-sixth of a loaf of bread three times a week. The other three times, instead of bread, soup again. This ration does not kill instantly, but if you lived on these rations for a long period under those conditions, you must inevitably die. At the end of January and in February other S.S. men and women arrived from Auschwitz.

Was there any change after Kramer and the others arrived? - Yes. We had suddenly the feeling that Belsen was going to become a second Auschwitz. For instance, they started with roll-calls, Appelle, and those S.S. men who previously did not hit the prisoners started now to do so. I remember when Russian prisoners were working in the women's camp erecting a hut. Four of them were so weak that when they carried a wall, the side of this hut, they had to bend down very low to be able to do so. Kramer came and started shouting at them," Quicker, quicker," but these people were unable to work quicker. Then he went to the Russians and kicked them. I worked in the hospital at Belsen and many prisoners were admitted suffering from beating. Some of them could be attended to at once and their wounds bandaged, but some of them were in such a state that they had to remain in hospital.

Did you see Dr. Klein at Belsen? - Yes. Once in January he came to deputize for the camp doctor and stayed for three weeks. Afterwards he went back. Then the camp doctor became ill or had to go away, and in March Dr. Klein arrived again and became second camp doctor there. Hauptsturmführer Horstmann was the senior doctor. Dr. Klein hardly bothered at all about the camp and made no attempt at organization

What was the medical supply situation? - We received very small quantities. We had 2200 patients in the hospital, and apart from that, 15000 sick women in camp. For a whole week we received only 300 aspirin tablets. Three or four days before the British troops entered the camp, at a time when the S.S. men had already white armlets round their arms, suddenly we got two more rooms for our dispensary and then we discovered that there were enormous stores with medicine and instruments and whatever we asked for in the case of medicine we were given. The stores were inside Camp No. 1 in the vicinity of the bath-house. I knew nothing of their existence until shortly before the British came.

One of the accused you recognised this morning was the man at the far end of the front row of the dock (Francioh). What can you tell us about that man ? - He was in charge of the kitchen in the women's camp. Near the kitchen there was a room where potatoes were peeled, and there a young woman internee was bending down to take a few peelings of these potatoes which were lying about when suddenly this man jumped out of the kitchen with his gun in his hand and shot her twice. I was only a few yards away from the spot, and approached the wounded woman, and very soon I had to state that she was dead.

You identified one of the accused women, Bormann in Auschwitz? -Yes, she had a very large dog there. The idea was that the dog should guard those prisoners which were out on working parties, but we observed particularly in the hospital that many of those who took part in working parties were bitten by that dog, especially in the legs.

Cross-examined by Major MUNRO - Is it not the case that on the selection parade you told us about, it was only doctors who did the actual selection? - The doctors did it in the presence of the others.

Is it not the case that the S.S. personnel also present were under the directions of the doctors? - I do not think so, because I observed that sometimes a doctor did not see somebody who was particularly weak, but an S.S. man pointed out immediately, "Here is one whom you overlooked." I do not know what the doctors' instructions were nor who gave them.

On these parades were persons selected for any purpose other than the gas chamber? - Yes, sometimes women were selected from the camp to be sent into brothels. These selections were entirely separate and were made by Hoessler.

Were there other parades held at which parties for labour were chosen? - There were other parades and at those parades people were selected for working parties.

Were these different kinds of parades all assembled in the same way? - No. They were made in a different way, entirely separate when it was a call for selection for the gas chamber-then we were told, "All Jews assemble now."

You recognised the accused Juana Bormann and you said you had seen her walking about with a dog. Will you give the Court a description of that dog? - I cannot give a real description because I remembered only when I saw Bormann's face. I remembered in my mind that I saw her always with a dog. In fact they were inseparable.

Did you ever yourself see a dog attack? - No, but I did attend to those who had been bitten by dogs.

The PRESIDENT - The Court will now adjourn and reassemble at Belsen at 1530 hours.

At 1530 hours the Court reassembled at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, the President, Judge Advocate, Members, Prosecutor, Defending Officers, Interpreter, Shorthand Writer and Accused being present.

Brigadier H. L. Glyn Hughes was recalled and conducted the Court round the camp, explaining the lay-out, and took the Court through the areas described in his evidence.

Mr. H. O. Le Druillenec was recalled and pointed out to the Court the route used from the mass burial graves to where Block 13 stood. The President instructed the Defending Officers to explain to each of the accused that the Court had inspected the camp and that nothing had been carried out in the way of Court procedure except that Brigadier Glyn Hughes and Mr. Le Druillenec had pointed out the ground which they had described in their evidence.

Sixth Day-Saturday, 22nd September, 1945

Cross-examined by Major CRANFIELD - Would you agree that the feeding at Auschwitz was better than the feeding at Belsen? - At Auschwitz it was better than the last few months at Belsen.

Would you agree that in the last month at Belsen the feeding deteriorated very much? - Yes there was much less food.

Were the sanitary arrangements at Auschwitz better than at Belsen, and did these arrangements at Belsen deteriorate in the last month ?-Yes.

Were you at Auschwitz for 15 months and Belsen for 5 months ? - Yes.

When you were liberated from Belsen were you yourself of extreme emaciation caused by starvation? - I myself no, because when I came from Auschwitz I was in much better condition, and I came direct, whereas many other internees came on transports which took them three to six weeks. They were already in such condition that the food given to them in Belsen had a much worse effect on them than it could have on me. We, as doctors, were in a much better position. For instance, we had beds to sleep in and our washing facilities were much better than those offered to the many tens of thousands of prisoners.

Have you ever seen that man before (indicating No. 12, Josef Klippel)? - No.

How did you first come to work in the prison hospital? - After the first ten days in Auschwitz we were told that doctors should report. The Blockältester took my name, and after ten days I was put to work in a hospital, and the whole time I worked as a doctor.

Did any doctor whom you allege made a selection for the gas chamber tell you on what basis the selection was made by him? - No.

Do you agree that your evidence as to the basis on which these selections were made is your opinion and nothing more? -Yes.

How many times were you beaten at Auschwitz? - I, myself, only three times. I was beaten with the hand, and the blows were directed against my face. Twice I was beaten by Dr. Mengele and once by a supervisor named Kuch.

When the Aufseherinnen and Kapos got the prisoners on to parade did they tell them what the parade was for? - No, they did not say why.

Is it correct that all the parades in these prisons were formed up in the same way, that is to say, the prisoners lined up in ranks in a military formation? - Yes.

Was it the Aufseherinnen and the Kapos who ordered the women on to parade and produced them in lines? - No, on the orders of the Aufseherin, that is the Chief Supervisor; the Blockältesten were responsible for those Appelle and they lined them up.

Were only Jews sent to the gas chamber? - During the time I spent in the women's camp only Jews were sent to the gas chamber. When I was there I was told that there was a camp for gypsies and they were also sent to the gas chamber.

Cross-examined by Major BROWN - Is it not true that the persons who actually made the selections were in every case doctors? - They were made by doctors in the presence of others from the camp staff.

Is it not true that the S.S. personnel who were present on these parades were only there for the purpose of control and guard? - No, they were there, and if a doctor did not see somebody, or let somebody pass, they pointed that person out to the doctor and very often hit him very severely.

Are you aware that the S.S. doctors from time to time prepared lists of the patients in the hospital showing an estimate of how long they were expected to suffer from their present disease or infirmity? - I do not know about that.

I put it to you that the only selections made from persons in hospitals were made on the basis of such lists? - I do not know about these lists, but I was present very often when the selections were made, and even quite healthy persons who were on the discharge list the very next day were put into lines with those for the gas chambers. A friend of mine on a very cold winter morning cut a piece of blanket and put it round her shoulders, and as a punishment she was sent to a gas chamber.

I put it to you that between May and November, 1944, no selections of any kind were made in the hospital at Birkenau? - In May, 1944, a big transport of Hungarians came in and scarlet fever was rampant. On 27th July I remember that all those who were even suspected, who were not yet in hospital, were sent to the gas chamber. On that day big transports came in from a concentration camp called Litzmannstadt and there were quite a few cases of typhoid fever. Those were put into my hospital and every two or three days selections were made and those were sent away. Every two or three days I saw trucks loaded with human beings on the way to the gas chambers. In the first few days of October, 1944, that hospital where I was working was liquidated. It was finished, disbanded. All of the 359 patients - I am quite sure about the number because I had to prepare the nominal roll - were simply loaded on to trucks and led to the gas chamber. I was sent to Camp C, and after only a week's time this was also liquidated. That means that part of the healthy and strong were sent into another part of the camp for working purposes. Then Drechsler came and in the presence of Kramer and Grese all the sick people and part of the healthy people were loaded on the trucks which came to stop in front of the blocks so that all the prisoners knew exactly what that meant if they were loaded into them. Some tried to escape and Kramer himself took part in catching some of them, hitting them and kicking them because they were not quick enough in getting on the trucks.

I suggest to you that Dr. Klein did not arrive at Auschwitz until 15th December, 1943, and accordingly could not have taken part in a selection on 1st December, 1943? - When 4000 people were sent to the gas chambers Dr. Klein and Dr. Tilot took part in the selection.

Do you know who was the Kommandant of Auschwitz Camp from May to November, 1944? - I believe Hoess, but I myself had not been in Auschwitz. I was in Birkenau, which is the other part of Auschwitz.

Were the crematoria and the hospital in Birkenau controlled directly from Auschwitz? - I do not know.

Do you know that all orders to the doctors came directly from Dr. Wirtz, the head doctor at Auschwitz? - I do not know. I never got any secrets from the doctors where the orders came from.

Is it not true to say that the girls in the camp who went to brothels were volunteers? - I do not know. I know only that great promises had been made to these girls: how well they were going to be treated, and that all sorts of measurements had been taken and they had been looked at quite carefully.

Is it correct that Appelle were a feature of German concentration camp life? - Yes.

Are you aware that when Kramer arrived at Belsen he gave strict orders that no S.S. men were to be employed in the women's camp? - I do not know about these orders.

You stated that Dr. Klein came to Belsen to deputise for the camp doctor and stayed for three weeks, and afterwards went back. Is it not true that apart from that period, although he was employed as an S.S. doctor, he was not camp doctor, except for the two or three days before the British arrived? - I know that he was the second, the junior camp doctor, during that time, and during the last few days senior camp doctor; I will say the only one.

Were any Red Cross parcels distributed to the internees? - Yes, on the day before the British troops entered the camp the stores were opened and hundreds of Red Cross parcels were found, having come from Geneva.

Cross-examined by Captain FIELDEN - You identified this accused yesterday (indicating No. 23, Walter Otto)? - He was the supervisor for the electricians. I do not think he held any position of authority over the internees in the camp, apart from his work as all electrician. He was not a Blockführer in the women's camp in Belsen. Whether he was somewhere else a Blockführer I do not know. I only recognise him as the man who supervised the electricians. What his position in the hierarchy of the S.S. was I cannot say.

In which compound was Block 213 in Belsen? - In the part of the women's camp in the vicinity of the hospital in Camp No. 1.

I suggest it was impossible for a member of the administrative staff to enter the part of the women's camp which contained Block 213 without a special pass. Do you agree? - I do not know whether they had special passes or not.

Cross-examined by Captain NEAVE - You have said you attended several selections. What did you do oil the selections? - I was working as the doctor in the hospital, and in that position I was a witness.

For about twenty months you worked as a doctor both in Auschwitz and in Belsen. Did you come to regard yourself in any way as a member of the staff of either of these camps? - Yes, as an internee, as a prisoner.

Cross-examined by Captain PHILLIPS - Were you in a position to see prisoners arriving at Belsen? - Yes, I was always called to be present to take the sick away to hospital when the transport arrived.

In what state of health were they, generally speaking, when they arrived? - Some were very tired, some were sick-it depended mainly front which camp they arrived and how big a distance they had to go.

Is it true that in the last month they were nearly all already ill when they arrived? - Not in the last month, because the transports which arrived then came from neighbouring camps. There might have been some sick people, but on the whole they were quite all right. In January and in the beginning of February transports arrived from Auschwitz which had been liquidated. These people arrived very tired, but not ill or sick. At the end of January transports arrived from Hungary and some were ill.

You recognise this man (indicating No. 16, Karl Francioh). Do you know what his name is? - I do not know his name, but he was in charge of the kitchen in the Women's Camp No. 1 in Belsen, where I lived and worked.

You say that this man jumped up out of the kitchen and shot a woman. What sort of gun did he murder this woman with? - It was a revolver. He fired two shots from only a few yards away.

Was there any reason for his doing this? - The only reason was because he saw that the woman bent down to get some potato peelings or some other vegetables.

Did you examine the woman after she was wounded? - Yes, I did, and I had to state the death.

After the liberation you remember making statements which were put down in writing. Were these statements read over to you after they had been written down? - Yes.

In what language were you questioned? - German.

How many statements did you make in all? - Three.

Do you remember now what you said then concerning this incident? -Yes, I said then what I say now.

I propose to read to you part of the first of these statements: "On the day before the British troops arrived at Belsen I saw Karl Francioh, who was a cook, shoot a man internee dead for stealing vegetables." How did you know this man's name? - I did not know the name then.

"I witnessed this shooting, and because I was a doctor I immediately went to see if I could do anything for him"? - It was a woman.

Cross-examined by Captain MUNRO - Between January, 1945, and the time of the British liberation was there a bath-house made available for internees? - We came into No. 1 from another part of the camp on 1st January, 1945, and there was a bath-house available, but it was so small and there were so many women prisoners that there was no question of everybody getting a shower - only just single persons who were lucky enough to get there. I never saw a bath parade for women in a women's compound at Belsen except about 15th January, when we went into this new part of the camp, where we were found by the liberating armies. That was the only time that I witnessed a proper parade, and later on, from time to time, those transports which had just arrived sometimes got into the bath-house. The Blockältesten were ill charge of those parades.

Cross-examined by Lieutenant JEDRZEJOWICZ - Is this the woman you identify as being nicknamed Stania (indicating No. 48, Stanislawa Starostka)? - Yes.

What was she at Auschwitz Camp? - I knew her as Lagerälteste .

Did you ever know why she was sent to Auschwitz? - I do not know. The only thing which she told me was that she was put in prison and from prison she was sent to Auschwitz.

Do you know if she was in a position to choose victims for the crematorium? - I do not think so. I rather think she got orders under which she acted, but I do not think she had the proper right to select people. I never witnessed her at these selections.

Did you ever see, either yourself, or hear how the Germans chose a prisoner and appointed him as a Blockältester or Lagerältester? - I do not know.

Could a prisoner refuse or give up such an appointment? - I do not know whether they were forced or not, but I should not think that they were volunteers.

Were the prisoners in a position to make life so difficult for an Aeltester that by so doing they could force the Germans to appoint another one? - No, I should not think so, because the prisoners had no means at all of saying whether they were satisfied or not.

Did you ever hear of the secret relief organization being in operation at Auschwitz Camp? - I did not.

If the Germans made any attempts to find it out by using brutality or torture, would the majority of the prisoners know? - Not always. When the prisoner who was questioned in that way returned to the block and told us about it, then we knew.

Was there any wire loaded with electric current surrounding Auschwitz Camp? - Yes.

Did any of the prisoners in Belsen when Starostka was there ask her to get herself appointed by the Germans as Lagerälteste? - I do not know, but when Starostka came quite a number of prisoners expressed a wish for her to be Lagerälteste instead of the old one.

Was it in view of the good report she had for herself in Auschwitz? - She was appointed by the Kommandant to be Lagerälteste and not through the good or bad opinions of the prisoners.

Were the prisoners allowed at Auschwitz to move without any escort inside the perimeter of the camp ? - Yes.

Were they also both in Hoessler's command? - I cannot say. During that time I believe not.

Have you at any time seen selections at which Hoessler was present? - Yes, in Birkenau in Women's Compound No. I in the hospital. I have no doubt that that selection was for the gas chamber.

With regard to your affidavit, did you first make a statement before it was put into the form of an affidavit? - The first statement was made in the room where I live, then I was fetched and it was read over to me; the second time I heard the same statement again in my room in the block, and the third time I came and signed it. I made my statement in German.

After you had made that first statement were you shown some photographs? - Only the third time when it concerned this man in charge of the kitchen. It was a particular statement I picked out the man in the photograph. I did not know his name at all.

Whatever his name may or may not be, have you any doubt that the man who you saw kill an internee is the man whom you recognise to-day? - I have no doubt whatsoever it is he.

And however it may have been translated in your affidavit, are you quite clear that you always said the person shot was a woman? - I am quite clear.

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Ada Bimko)