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

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Ilona Stein)

ILONA STEIN, sworn, examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - I am a Jewess from Gyongyos in Hungary and am 21 years of age. On 8th June, 1944, I was sent to Birkenau, Auschwitz, where I stayed until transferred to Bergen-Belsen on 1st January, 1945.

(Witness gave details of alleged ill-treatment and shootings in connection with several of the accused.)

Cross-examined by Major WINWOOD - How many selections did you see while you were actually engaged in working in the cookhouse in Auschwitz? - At the end of August and September there were so many that I can hardly remember. Sometimes there were two or three in one single day.

Do you swear that you saw this man (indicating No. 3, Weingartner) in the cookhouse in Belsen? - I might have mistaken him. I believe now I have seen him in Auschwitz in a Kommando called Wiesel. I thought that man was very much like the man who was working in No. 2, Kitchen in Belsen, No. 16 (Francioh). I know No. 3 from Belsen because he helped during the roll-call with the count. If he is not the man I saw in the kitchen then the accusations I made do not concern him at all.

Cross-examined by Major CRANFIELD - With regard to the incident you described of a woman being shot when trying to escape from a selection parade in Auschwitz, was she a Hungarian? - Yes.

You described an incident when Grese arrived on a bicycle and beat another woman. Did she beat her with her belt? - I do not know exactly what was in her hands, but I did see that she had something in them. I do remember, however, that I have seen Grese taking off her belt and beating prisoners with it.

Was the body taken away on a stretcher by hand or was it taken away by something on wheels? - When somebody died, which happened in very many cases, he was simply put into a blanket and dragged away.

Have you ever been beaten by Grese yourself? - No, not in the kitchen where I was working, but once when I was out on a working party Grese saw me talking to somebody through the barbed wire and she immediately started beating me.

Did you see Grese beating a great many people a great many times at both camps? - I saw her more frequently doing this in Auschwitz than in Belsen.

Was the reason you only had this one beating from her because you behaved yourself well? - I had not very great contact with her because, working in the kitchen, we were rather separated.

Do you agree that quite a light blow will cause your nose to bleed? - I do not agree with that, and apart from that it was very rare that small blows were given. The general procedure was a real proper beating. I have no scars from the injuries I received.

Cross-examined by Captain ROBERTS - Did you work in the kitchen at Belsen? - No, I was in the camp at Belsen, but not in the kitchen.

Did you ever go into the cookhouses at Belsen? - If anybody even approached the kitchen, that was enough to get a beating either from the man in charge or from the supervisor. Sometimes I went to the kitchen if I was on a working Kommando carrying things, or at other times when I tried to get a few more drops of soup.

You made an accusation against No. 16 (Francioh). Did he start shooting at you? - He shot in the direction of the people who were standing round the kitchen. I was about 16 metres away and my friend was about the same distance.

Did your friend turn and run away? - I was only concerned in getting away as quickly as possible. I did not look round to see whether she ran away or not.

So you never saw with your own eyes what did happen? - I did not see what happened at the moment when the shooting took place, but a few minutes later my friend was brought to the block, and as she was with me when the shooting occurred, it is quite clear to me who killed her.

Were there not a number of S.S. cooks working in these cookhouses? - There was only one man in charge of the kitchen and that was this man whom I recognised. I have no doubt that it was he whom I saw coming out from the kitchen and start shooting.

You said no other incidents of this nature took place on the same day, but you also referred to two other girls who were shot. Did you see these girls being shot? - With my own eyes I saw the incident because I was not far away from them, about 10 or 12 metres. I was not in the kitchen but in the vicinity of it.

Listen to what you have already stated and sworn to. With reference to the first shooting you say, "I myself saw the shooting and the girl die"? - I am speaking in this case about the incident which I mentioned when my friend came towards the kitchen with an empty container.

And with regard to the other you said, "The same day, whilst I was in the kitchen, I saw him shoot two girls with his revolver as they went past the kitchen." Why is the story you tell to-day so different from that which you told in your statement? - I could not have said anything else at that time other than I say to-day, but there was no Hungarian interpreter there, and as I speak only very moderately in German, this misunderstanding might have been caused by the translation.

Cross-examined by Captain NEAVE - How were you employed at Belsen? - I worked only on smaller working parties such as carrying tables throughout the whole day.

You said you recognised this woman, No. 34 (Ida Forster). You said that she had changed. Are you sure you recognise her? - Yes. She was in either No. 2 or No. 3 Kitchen at Belsen. She has changed quite a lot since I last saw her. I cannot say exactly how often I did see her, but it was certainly several times. She was an Aufseherin in the kitchen in Belsen where we got our food.

Where were you standing when you saw this woman striking a prisoner in front of the kitchen? - In front of the kitchen. I cannot remember the date nor can I remember who was the victim at that special time.

What were you doing in front of the kitchen? - Like everybody else, I was hoping to get a job carrying food from the kitchen because that gave one the chance of a drop more soup. There was no reason for these women being beaten. They had stolen nothing and were just standing about. It was not necessary to steal to get a beating-to be near the kitchen and to wait there was quite sufficient.

That means that as you were standing outside the kitchen so frequently you must have been beaten very often? - It is true I have often been in front of the kitchen trying to get that sort of job which would assure me of a few drops more soup, and it is also true that I was beaten several times near the kitchen.

You say this woman had a rubber tube. Did she always strike people with this? - On this occasion it was certainly a rubber tube, but on the other occasions when she beat people I do not know whether she always had a rubber tube in her hand. She had something, of course, in her hand; she never hit with her hands alone.

Cross-examined by Captain PHILLIPS - You told the Court something about this woman, No. 39 (lrene Haschke). Are you perfectly certain that you have not confused her with somebody else? - I am certain. I do not remember exactly when I first saw her, but the British troops came on 15th April and she had been there for at least a month or two before then.

Where did she work? - In Kitchen No. 2 or No. 3 at Belsen. There were two kitchens, one in front of the other and she worked in one and No. 34 (Ida Forster) worked in the other. She was an Aufseherin and apparently her job was to beat the people.

You have said that No. 39 took part in these beatings as well. Which beatings do you refer to? - I speak about the incidents when she, the same as the other, came out from the kitchen and started beating people with a rubber tube, and when somebody fell down she continued to kick him. One of the last incidents I remember was on the day when the British troops really entered our camp. I was near the kitchen trying to get some potato peelings and she started to come against me with the rubber tube as usual and then apparently she saw the British troops and stopped. She beat me several times, but sometimes I was quick enough in running away. Sometimes she beat me because I tried to get a few peelings of potatoes or turnip, but I only needed to stand in the vicinity to get beaten.

Did you spend a lot of your time hanging around the cookhouse trying to get extra food? - Yes.

Were a great number of other prisoners doing the same thing all day long? - We were always a crowd, because I would never have dared to go there with only a few people present.

What nationality are you? - I am Hungarian.

Cross-examined by Captain BOYD - Which block did you sleep in at Belsen? - My place was Block No. 119, but it was so terribly dirty that I managed to get another place to sleep in, 222, and for the privilege of sleeping in a cold corridor I had to clean and wash the place.

Cross-examined by Lieut. JEDRZEJOWICZ - In what women's Lager were you together with No. 48 (Stanislawa Starostka) in Auschwitz? - I was in a part of the camp called F.K.L. from the middle until the end of December. I did not work in the kitchen there but on a working Kommando and I know her because she was a Lagerälteste.

You said that Grese and No. 48 kept prisoners for hours during roll calls because one of them was missing. Do you mean there was no difference between the power of these two people? - Yes, there was a great difference, but unfortunately this No. 48 forgot that she had been an internee herself. On this occasion it was she who betrayed us to the Aufseherin and we could thank her for all the punishment we got on that day.

You said that sick prisoners with a high temperature were forced to attend roll-calls. How could you know that prisoners had such a temperature? - I speak about my own experience. A girl in the same block as I, was so hot that she was glowing all over her face. I touched her, took her pulse, and I am quite certain that she must have had 40 degrees of temperature, but nevertheless she had to go on this roll-call. Quite a number of people fainted during these roll-calls, and when they did so, water brought them to life again and they had to carry on standing there.

You said that No. 48 was forcing prisoners to go to work? - Yes.

You also said that there were only two issues for a prisoner, either to go to work or to go to the gas chamber through the hospital? - It is true if one went to work it was all right, but if one stayed in camp and reported sick or went to hospital then the probable issue was the gas chamber.

Suppose you were a Lagerälteste, would you prefer to report your sick prisoners to the hospital or would you prefer to send them to work? - I would have known that a certain percentage of the prisoners were allowed to be sick and in the case of a selection I would have always said that those sick people, for instance, had this job or they had that job. I would have always tried to find a certain job for which they could have been enrolled officially, and by this I would have tried to avoid the great number being sent to the gas chamber.

You said that the prisoners once had succeeded in organizing something for which they had their food withheld for 24 hours. What was this? - I only know about the possibility of organizing either a potato or a turnip deal. We were never told really why food was withheld or why we had to stand for hours on end during roll-call, but that was the rumour in the camp.

Do you know from rumour also that No. 48 (Starostka) was the one who withheld the food? - I know only that she had been always together with the Aufseherin and when she saw one of the girls getting a turnip I heard her shouting, "Wait, you all will pay for this." That is why I think that she must have been responsible for that.

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Ilona Stein)