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

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Dora Szafran)
CECILIA FROMMER and ANNI JONAS, examined on oath, gave further evidence with regard to selections and beatings and identified various members of the accused.

DORA SZAFRAN, Sworn, examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - I am 22 years of age and my home address is Warsaw. I was arrested on 9th May, 1943, because I was a Jewess, and sent to Maideneck, where I stayed seven weeks before going on a transport to Auschwitz, where I arrived on 25th June, 1943. There were roughly 6000 of us. We were tattooed, and I was hit by one of the Kapos and still have a mark on the arm. He struck me because I was a Jewess. People were sent to the gas chamber for being Jews and I myself went through several selections. Kramer, Hoessler, Tauber, Drechsler, Dr. Klein and Dr. Mengele all took part at one time or another, and women were present helping them.

Will you look at the accused in the dock and see if you can recognise any of them? - No. 1, Kramer; No. 2, Dr. Klein; No. 5, Hoessler; No. 6, Bormann; No. 9, Grese; No. 16; No. 29; No. 48, Stanislawa; No. 46, Koper.

What have you seen No. 6 (Bormann) doing? - In 1943, when we were in Block 15 at Auschwitz, we were coming back from work and one from the Kommando had a swollen leg and could not keep up with us. Bormann set her dog on her. I think it was an Alsatian. First she egged the dog on and it pulled at the woman's clothes; then she was not satisfied with that and made the dog go for her throat. I had to turn away, and then Bormann proudly pointed out her work to an Oberscharführer. I saw a stretcher being brought along, and I should think she was just about alive. Bormann also too part in selections.

How were the selections made? - They were made in such a manner that people with blemishes, weak and ill people were chosen. Selections were, in fact, a form of liquidation. I lived in Block 25 and many times saw people taken to the crematorium. People were taken along from the hospital both by day and night. There were shouts and shrieks.

Did you ever see any of the persons who were taken into the crematorium come out alive again? - There were cases of people who worked in the crematorium in Sonderkommandos, who had the privilege of saving a relation when they came across them. Also people who had a father or mother who was a Christian.

Whilst you were at Auschwitz did you see any other persons beaten besides yourself? - I saw it very often when I was working in Kommando 103 and we were carrying loads of earth and coal. I have seen Kramer beat a person so often that I cannot really say how many times. I have seen Grese do it in Auschwitz, and about a fortnight before the British troops liberated Belsen I saw her beat a girl in the camp. She had a pistol, but she was using a riding - crop. The beatings were very severe. If they were not the cause of death they were not called severe in the camp.

Subsequently did you go to Belsen? - On 18th January I arrived at Belsen and was put into Block 28. The conditions were so bad that it is impossible to find words in this world. In half a barracks there were 600 to 700 people. We were lying on the floor covered with lice and every other kind of vermin one could imagine. Our food depended very largely on the efforts of the senior of the block. If she was energetic we might get a quarter basin of soup at mid-day, if not, we might get it at three o'clock. There was no bread for four weeks before the arrival of the British troops. During the whole time I was at Belsen, people were not taken for baths nor were their clothes changed. Towards morning there were several hundred corpses in the blocks and around the blocks. When the Lager Kommandant or Grese came along to inspect people, the corpses were cleared away from the front of the blocks, but inside they were full of corpses.

What employment had you in Belsen? - I worked in the kitchen from three o'clock in the morning till nine o'clock at night in order to have a bed and a little more soup.

You have already pointed out No. 16 (Karl Francioh) as the man in charge of your particular kitchen. Do you remember what happened the day before the British arrived? - When the S.S. ran away on that day and when they returned, the man I pointed out fired from the kitchen, through the window, killing several women.

Was he the only person firing ? - From the other half of the kitchen there was another cook firing. About 50 people were killed altogether.

Eighth Day-Tuesday, 25th September, 1945

DORA SZAFRAN, cross-examined by Major WINWOOD - Will You tell the Court how many selections you actually attended in person? - I have been through so many that I cannot remember whether there were 10, 15 or 20.

At how many of these selections was Kramer present? - At quite a few of them.

When he was present was there always a doctor there as well? - Yes.

Were the people you recognise in the dock too important to have taken part in the beatings? - Yes. Kramer did take part in a beating, but he had more important tasks such as sending people to be gassed.

Cross-examined by Major MUNRO - Do you know about Block 25 in A Lager? - Yes, it was the block to which people due for the gas chamber were sent. They were even kept there for weeks without water. Afterwards it was used for people with scabies.

You have told us about the occasion when the dog in the possession of the accused, Bormann, is said to have attacked a woman. Tell us, as nearly exactly as you can, when this was? - In April, 1943, and it occurred in Birkenau in Block 15 in B Lager.

Is this the woman (indicating Juana Bormann)? - Yes. She has changed a lot, but it is the same woman. The dog was practically as tall as the accused, and was black.

When the dog attacked the woman were you on the inside or the outside of the ranks? - It was not my Kommando that was marching. I only saw it.

Is it not the case that the dog escaped from the guards' control? - I saw with my own eyes, and the woman boasted about it afterwards.

Is it not the case that the woman who had charge of the dog tried to stop it from attacking the other woman? - When the dog went for the woman's clothes she rebuked it and urged it to go for the woman's throat.

You have told us that the woman who had charge of the dog boasted about it to an S.S. man. Is it not the case that what you heard the woman say to the S.S. man was the report as to what had happened? - The body was lying there and she said, "It is my work," and pointed to it.

Do you know of your own personal knowledge whether or not the woman died? - Yes, I know for certain. She was borne away on stretchers by the Kommando who was specially employed in carrying corpses. She may have had a flicker of life still in her, but in any case the dead were sent along with the living.

Cross-examined by Major CRANFIELD - When you received the scar on your arm, what did the Kapo hit you with? - With a thick stick. I received one blow after which I fell and am not conscious of what happened afterwards.

Did you go to the prison hospital to have the wound dressed? - No, because by the time our hair had been clipped and we had been issued with clothes and shown our block it was eleven at night, and a person was so unimportant that I discovered the first day that nobody cared for anybody else and I was unable to do anything for myself.

Were there not a number of prisoners doing medical work in the hospital and if you had taken the trouble to go there you would have had your arm dressed? - When I first arrived at Auschwitz 1 did not know where the hospital was and everything was so dreadful in the camp.

Do you remember telling us that you had seen Grese, No. 9, beating a girl in Belsen about a fortnight before the British troops arrived? - I remember now, it was in the kitchen. Grese was not the kitchen Kommandant, she came there with the Lager Kommandant on inspection. She beat the girl with a riding-whip made of leather.

If I tell you that at Auschwitz Grese carried a stick and sometimes a whip, but that at Belsen she never carried either, are you sure that you are not confused over this incident? - In Auschwitz she wore a pistol and in Belsen she went about with a riding-whip. She was one of the few S.S. women who had a permit to carry arms. I cannot say whether she was wearing a pistol at the time of this incident. Perhaps it is possible that by that time members were not allowed to carry arms.

Do you remember after the liberation a committee of prisoners being set up to receive complaints against the German warders? - I do not know whether it was a committee or not, but I knew from the British police that some men were coming for investigations from prisoners.

Did you have several interviews with the British sergeants or officers, and were you told that what was wanted were detailed charges against specific persons whom you could recognise, rather than general accusations? - I had not been told anything. The only thing they told me was that I had to tell them my experiences in the camp, therefore I mentioned only those people whom I remembered best.

You remember, finally, a written statement was taken down which you signed. Why did you not include in it this incident of the beating? - I am able now to add many things to my descriptions, and not everything I told at that time was written down.

While you have been waiting to be called as a witness have you been outside the court with Dr. Bimko, Litwitiska, Frommer, Jonas and other Prosecution witnesses? - We were always together. We were sleeping and being fed together.

Cross-examined by Captain ROBERTS - How long were you working in the kitchen at Belsen? - From 26th January until the arrival of the British troops.

Was working in the kitchen not a very much sought-after job? - Yes, but not everybody in the camp was able to do it as we had to work from three in the morning till nine o'clock at night. At that time there was typhus rampant in the camp and I was in a new transport, so some girls stronger from the new transport were chosen for the job. The man in charge of the Cookhouse No. 3 chose us.

Is that cookhouse in two sections? - Yes, there is a kind of square separating the sections, which are about 30 yards apart. I worked in the part that was closer to the gate.

Was that part of the cookhouse in the charge of all S.S. man called Jenner? - The woman supervisor of the cookhouse is here, but I do not know her name.

You have identified No. 16 (Francioh) as having taken part in the shooting which occurred on the day the British troops arrived. Did he not normally work in the cookhouse farthest from the main entrance? In that part that I worked in, the accused, No. 16, was the supervisor and in the other part was another supervisor.

Do you know what a Schmeisser gun is? - I do not know. I know what is a rifle and what is a pistol, but I do not know the kinds. He was carrying a pistol.

Was the other man whom you described as doing some shooting, shooting with a pistol? - I think he was using a revolver. He ran behind the people in the direction of the woods.

How close to No. 16 were you standing when he was shooting? - I was very close to him because it was inside the cookhouse. I even had the courage to ask him what he was doing, and he said that I should not be so arrogant. At that time I was working very hard because we had not got any water and at the very moment I was looking through the window.

Was it a normal thing to ask an S.S. man when he was shooting at somebody why he did it? - No, but it was the day of delivery and therefore I took the courage to ask him. It was after the British lorry had arrived and Kramer had been shown to us.

You said that certainly some 50 people were killed in this incident. How did you estimate that figure? - When I finished my work I went out and counted the bodies on the ground on both sides of the cookhouse. The British troops were leaving the camp to go to other camps and the wires were encircled by Hungarian troops.

I will just read to you what you said ill your statement and signed, "I saw Kramer, Nickolas Jenner and Karl Francioh shoot with Schmeisser guns at a group of prisoners. They fired through the kitchen for no reason and I can say that they killed about 22 people." I put it to you that this incident only occurred in your imagination and that the whole thing is a tissue of lies? - Perhaps the report was made incorrectly, but I can swear that the whole incident really took place and that the mistake with Kramer is only caused by improper writing down.

Cross-examined by Lieut. JEDRZEJOWICZ - You said the accused, No. 46 (Helena Koper), had been working in the same Kommando as you in Auschwitz. Was it a Strafkommando? - No, but it was one of the worst because we had to make some munition instruments out of asphalt.

Did No. 46 work with you the whole time she stayed at Auschwitz? - No. She worked in various Kommandos in order to inform the German authorities about the behaviour of the prisoners. After she left our Kommando several of us found themselves in penal Kommandos.

Did S.S. men carry out, from time to time, inspections in the places where the cookhouse orderlies were sleeping at Belsen? - Yes, and sometimes Stania took part in them. I do not know what they were after, maybe they wanted to find out that any illegal activities were not being done.

You said that the accused, No. 48 (Stanislawa Starostka), was making selections on her own at Auschwitz, and, in your statement which was taken down by a British officer, that a certain number of members of the Auschwitz Camp S.S. men, whom you did name, were responsible for the selections. Would it mean that the accused, No. 48, in this respect would have the same power as the Kommandant? - The authority to send people to the gas chambers was granted to everybody in the camp who had an armlet on the arm. The prisoners did not wear those armlets, but only those who were serving and in the service of the German authorities. Usually this power was given to Blockältesten, Lagerältesten and Kapos.

Did you ever see any other selections to select prisoners, for example, who were suffering from scabies, for the hospital? - They were not selections, they were parades. The special selections were sent to Block No. 25 in Camp A and from there to the gas chambers.

Re-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - You told us about the occasion when Bormann set her dog upon a woman and as the woman lay there she spoke to an S.S. man and said, "This is my work." What was her manner when she said that? - She was very content with what she had done.

In the statement which you made and signed at Belsen did you give a detailed account of every beating, shooting and ill-treatment that you saw during the years that you were in the concentration camp? - There were so many cases of ill-treatment during my stay in the camp that the officer would not have been able to write down everything I could tell him. I am sure it would have taken many weeks.

You said that you could tell us of a good many more instances of Grese's conduct? - Yes. In Camp A, Block 9, Blockälteste Ria and Hoessler and Dr. Enna, the prison doctor, made a selection for the gas chamber, and two selected girls jumped out of the window and Grese approached them as they were lying on the ground and shot them twice. She was always active at the camp gate making inspections and if any of the prisoners wore another sock or shoe or anything like that, he or she would be beaten up. I cannot remember with what she used to beat them because I had to stand at attention.

You have been asked a good many questions about dates. Were you given calendars either in Auschwitz or in Belsen? - No, but I remember very well because they were so terrible and ghastly.

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Dora Szafran)