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

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Hanka Rozenwayg and Lt Col Champion)
HANKA ROZENWAYG, examined on oath, gave evidence that Lothe had reported her to Irma Grese, who set her dog on her.

Cross-examined by Major CRANFIELD as to the truthfulness of her statement and the fact that it did not tally with the affidavits of Bialek and Litwinska, the witness still stood by her statement. She also alleged that she saw Haschke lift a woman and throw her into a water-cistern, where she was drowned.

It was brought out by Captain Phillips that this allegation did not appear in her statement.

Eleventh Day-Friday, 28th September, 1945

Lieutenant-Colonel SAVILE GEOFFREY CHAMPION, sworn, examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - I have been a Solicitor of the Supreme Court for 21 years and I live at Little Holcombe, Tenterden, Kent. I have been also a Clerk of the Peace for 14 years and have prepared indictments for my Quarter Session. I have also been permanent President of Courts Martial at Woolwich Garrison. When I arrived at Belsen, No. 1 War Crimes Investigation Team took over from Major Smallwood and we were handed his affidavits and some photographs. We had the services of one commissioned and five non-commissioned police officers. The police were instructed to take photographs round various parts of the camp to ask if anybody could identify any of the people, and if so what they know about them. A large number of people also called at the office, were shown photographs, and were asked by myself or the commissioned police officer, if they could identify anybody and what they knew about such persons. We took evidence generally and my orders to the police officers were that they were to take a note of anything that was said in favour or against.

Did the photographs that were shown to people include photographs of the accused? - Immediately after we took over, the only photographs were of S.S. personnel who had been at Belsen, but within a few days we had further photographs, some of which were of internees who had been at Belsen and some were of other persons in various gaols who we thought might have been at Belsen. In fact, many of them were never identified. We had, in addition, some photographs found in the billets of the barracks. In the police officers' room, where all witnesses were first received, we had the whole of the photographs pinned on the wall, which included one of Field-Marshal Montgomery, and the witnesses were invited to see if they could recognise any one. The photograph of the Field-Marshal was in fact identified by one person.

Before you took any affidavits did you satisfy yourself as to whether or not the persons were reasonably reliable witnesses and could identify the people about whom they were speaking? - Yes, I did what I could. In respect of those about whom non - commissioned police officers took notes, they were given an appointment to see the commissioned police officer, who took their evidence and turned it into affidavit form. Those who called saw the commissioned police officer direct. The affidavit prepared by the commissioned police officer was then brought to me unsworn and I saw the witness and, as far as was possible, cross-examined to test credibility. One of our difficulties was to make a witness understand the difference between direct evidence and hearsay, and when they did understand that, they were very fair in stating what they had been told and what they themselves had seen. I myself showed the photographs to witnesses which they had already been shown by the police officer and made them again identify the persons against whom they spoke in their affidavits. I also cross-examined them from other statements which had been made on certain matters by previous witnesses. We had some difficulty in regard to names as the witnesses themselves spelt their names in different ways when asked on different occasions. The interpreters also tended to spell names differently. We had some difficulty with regard to dates, as most of the witnesses were very vague as to when an incident occurred. They usually only knew the day was in summer or in winter and sometimes they were not quite sure of the year. Most of the dates were got through asking questions such as, "Was it before or after Christmas?" or "before or after the Germans invaded some particular country?" If there is a definite date given, then that is the date which was tendered by the witness without any suggestion.

I think you made an affidavit yourself before Major James Dill-Smith (affidavit handed to witness)? - Yes, that is it. In this affidavit I refer to photographs which were used in the investigation.

And as an Exhibit 13 and 14 to that affidavit you set out the key to the photographs? - Yes, it is an accurate key.

(Photographs marked Exhibit 6.)

Will you examine these photographs with the key in your affidavit and assure yourself that they are accurate? - These are the photographs referred to in the key. On photograph 35, in relation to the woman, there is a pencil alteration on the back which is correct; the type on the back is not correct. The names "Marta Linke'' and "Herta Bothe'' are reversed. The key as now produced is correct. The said Marta Linke is No. 4 in the photograph, being the small woman, and Herta Bothe is the tall woman standing behind her.

When a person recognised somebody in a photograph but did not know the name, what was your practice with regard to the affidavit? - If a witness did not know the name I told him and they would then say, for example, 'I recognise No. 4 on photograph 7 who I am now told is Marta Linke." In a number of affidavits where a witness stated, "I recognise No. 5 on the photograph, who I am told is Marta Linke," the name Marta Linke should be changed to Herta Bothe, because of the fact that the key at the time was wrong.

In the affidavit of Abraham Glinowieski, did that witness recognise anyone on any of the photographs? - Yes, Peter Weingartner. He also recognised No. 8 on a photograph Z/4/3 as a Kapo about whom he said, 'I know him by the name of Erich and I have now been told that his full name is Erich Zoddel."

I want Erich Zoddel to stand up. (Accused Erich Zoddel does so and the Court compare the photograph with the accused.) You may refer to your affidavit when answering this question. What did Glinowieski tell you about Erich Zoddel? - He said, 'I recognise No. 8 on photograph Z/4/3 as senior camp Kapo and Lagerältester of Camp No. 1 at Belsen. I know him by the name of Erich, and I have now been told that his full name is Erich Zoddel. About 10th April, 1945, I saw Zoddel beat a friend of mine named Tessle during the distribution of food in the camp. Tessle pushed forward through the group of waiting people to try and get his food quicker from the Kapo who was distributing it. Zoddel beat Tessle with his fists on the head and chest and then kicked him with his jackboots in the testicles. Tessle fell down and remained there for about half an hour and appeared to be suffering very terrible pain. I then took him to the hospital, where he was detained. I visited him every day and on about 14th or 15th April, 1945, when I went to see him, the warden told me that he was dead. I could not believe it, so I went to Tessle's bed where I saw him lying dead." Towards the end of my time at Belsen the commissioned police officer was withdrawn, and we had two captains, one of whom was a barrister, doing the same work as the police officer had been doing. In regard to some of the affidavits, I did not see the witnesses, but they were seen by Captain Forbes, who was a barrister. There were a number of other persons photographed who are not included in this bundle.

You took evidence both for and against people, but in the event of receiving a preponderance of evidence for the defence what did you do? - If the accused was a Kapo I discharged him there and then, and he was usually released. It did not in fact arise with regard to the S.S.

Do the accused now before the Court represent all the S.S. you had in custody? - No, a large number of the S.S. are not here.

What was the position if any of the S.S. asked for a statement to be taken from anyone? - I cannot remember the S.S. asking for anybody, but I remember the Kapos asked for a large number and we always searched. If we found the persons they asked for we took an affidavit headed "In the defence of accused so and so."

Cross-examined by Major WINWOOD - Were the dates finally included in the affidavits as correct as you could possibly get them at the time? - Yes I only took affidavits where I considered that the witness was reliable and that his recollection, apart from dates which were always to some extent doubtful, was substantially fair and true.

Did you take any statements from any of the accused who were in custody at the time? - I took statements from all the Kapos who were in custody at Belsen and some statements from S.S. who were then in prison. Other statements were taken by my commanding officer and other officers.

Did you take a statement from Dr. Klein? - To the best of my recollection, no. Any statement I took is in with my signature on it.

Cross-examined by Major CRANFIELD - Did you ever check the key against the bodies? - In regard to the S.S., no. It was checked by one of the police officers and as soon as I had reason to think it was in error a report was made by me in writing. With regard to the Kapos, those who were in custody at Belsen were checked by myself and those at Celle Gaol by a police officer on my orders. I had a written report from one of my juniors and whenever I took a statement from the S.S., the man was required to state whether it was his or her photograph.

In the affidavit of Ewa Gryka (page 38 of the bundle), paragraph 3 says, "In July, 1943, at Auschwitz, I was employed digging ditches and graves for burying dead. The Kapo in charge of my working party was Lothe. At this time I was working with a woman named Rochla Grunwald . . ." and it goes on to describe an incident about Rochla Grunwald saying, in the fifth line of this paragraph, " carefully put down her shovel." In the affidavit of Hanka Rozenwayg (page 126 of the bundle), paragraph 3 reads, "In July, 1943, whilst at Auschwitz, I was employed digging ditches outside the camp. Whilst so employed I laid down my shovel," and it goes on to describe an incident when a dog is alleged to have been set on the witness at the request of the Kapo Lothe. When you took these two affidavits did it occur to you as being odd that the phrases, "I was employed digging ditches" and "I laid down my shovel" occur in two affidavits by different persons referring to the same Kapo, but giving the particulars of two entirely different incidents? - Not in the slightest.

In the affidavit of Sonia Watinik (page 169 in the bundle), paragraph 2 reads, "During the summer of 1943, whilst at Auschwitz, I was employed digging trenches," and goes on to describe a third incident, a different one, about a man called Schadrowski. Is it not odd that these three young women should come to you on the same day, all of them making charges against the Kapo Lothe, all saying, "While I was digging," all three incidents being different and two of them saying, "I laid down my shovel" just before the incident happened? - I do not see it myself because the actual English wording of these affidavits would have been done by an English [British] man. The commissioned police officer would have been told by his interpreter that the witness was engaged in digging a trench, whether the witness literally used the word "dig" and "trench" and "shovel," I cannot say. One might have called it a spade, but the police officer would have put down what was said by the interpreter, and I certainly saw nothing odd in three witnesses on the same day giving evidence against one particular person. That was natural, because when the police officers went round and held up the photograph and said, "Does anybody know anything about any of these?" there would be a tendency to get two or three witnesses at the same time in respect of one particular person. That one particular person was rather notorious and I saw nothing queer in this fact. It is in fact consistent with the whole of the evidence that a good deal of brutality occurred on working parties where the individual S.S. man or woman could indulge in their sadistic tendencies unfettered by anybody. I cannot say whether these three particular women were callers at the office.

One of them Hanka Rozenwayg, stated yesterday how she and her two friends came to make a statement. She said that they were outside when they saw someone from Auschwitz and started shouting at her, that they told her what they thought of her for her cheek in being still present after she had treated them so badly in Auschwitz, and that an English [British] man who heard them had asked them what it was all about and they were asked to say what they knew about Auschwitz. She went on to say that she was asked whether she knew of any atrocity or crime committed by this Kapo Lothe. In view of that do you think the similarity of language suspicious? - No, I do not. There were spontaneous outbursts against some particular person and we had the office invaded by shrieking people on the same subject.

Did you think it odd that these internees and this Kapo had been at Belsen from 15th April till 28th June and no accusation has been made against Lothe? - I should not consider it odd. The accusations in several cases were not made for a considerable time afterwards. A large number of the unfortunate internees who had been in hospital were coming out by slow degrees - those who did not die. When they came out they were in a very big barracks and it would be quite possible to live in these barracks, at any rate for several weeks, without necessarily coming across some particular individual if that individual was wise enough to lie fairly low in his or her own quarters.

The last sentence of the affidavit by Hanka Rozenwayg reads, "I know that this same girl was sent to the gas chamber about six months later because she was sick and could not work." Is not the object of putting that sentence in to suggest that the death of this girl Wideletz is the responsibility of the Kapo Lothe? - I think if the Court believes the evidence, that must be the inference to be drawn from it.

Do you think it is a proper thing to suggest that after an interval of six months her being sent to the gas chamber is due to the beating? - I hardly think it is a proper thing for a witness to be asked to express his opinion on. It is a matter for the Court, but if you want my opinion,yes.

Do you consider that the interpreters, Traute Neumann and Charlotte Duschenes, were accurate and above the average? - Above the average available in the particular circumstances at Belsen Camp. I should say Neumann was well up to the average of the interpreter in the High Court in London, and that Duschenes was good. Neumann spoke about eight languages and in some, of course, she was very much better than in others. Duschenes spoke, I think, three or four languages and again was very much better in some than in others.

Were you satisfied that you took all reasonable precautions to see that the statements were sworn to after being translated? - Yes, I did what I could in the circumstances. I think that a witness who deliberately committed perjury quite likely would not be found out unless by chance he or she was speaking of some particular incident which other witnesses had also come forward to speak about.

Cross-examined by Captain ROBERTS - Did the interpreter Neumann speak Hungarian? - I cannot tell you. I did employ other interpreters for Hungarians, which rather suggests that Neumann was not a Hungarian interpreter.

If a witness said that he or she was Hungarian and only spoke German very moderately, would you then have got a Hungarian interpreter? -Yes, if I were satisfied that the witness did not understand any of the other languages with which our interpreters were familiar. Many of the Hungarians spoke German and Polish, and quite a number could not speak a word of Hungarian.

Cross-examined by Captain CORBALLY - You have said that many of the witnesses were rather vague about dates and even years. When a witness came to you about a story of some atrocity which occurred within a week before the liberation of the camp, was it possible to tie them down to pretty definite dates? - No, because they were very vague even in regard to the time towards the end.

Before you allowed them to state that an incident took place on a definite date did you take every possible step to make sure that they were satisfied that it was that date? - Yes. The only time that we can take it that the witness was really definite for some reason is when they give the complete date such as 10th May, 1944. It was, however, very difficult. They had lost all count of time.

Cross-examined by Captain PHILLIPS - On what dates were you working at Belsen? - I am afraid I have forgotten the dates now. I went on Whit Sunday, whatever date that was, and stayed until about 28th June, and then divided my time partly between Denmark and Norway and partly in Belsen. I eventually left Belsen on, I think, 28th July.

Did you in every case cross-examine the witness to test his credibility? -Yes, as far as I could. I did definitely refuse to take some evidence, because I was not satisfied, and I only accepted affidavits which I thought did give a reasonably true and fair picture. I understood at that time that the evidence needed by a Court of this nature might be an affidavit only. Had I known witnesses would have been received in person I could have taken a good deal of evidence I rejected, because the Court could have tested it.

Did you really just keep an eye on the general proceedings rather than draw up these affidavits yourself? - Yes, but I would put it a little higher than that. I gave instructions to the junior officers, and in every affidavit that I took I did do this check on the identification of the photographs and satisfied myself by cross-examination that it was a fair statement to take against the accused and that there was reason to believe it was substantially correct.

But the fact that an affidavit was sworn before you does not mean that the affidavit was prepared by you? - No, it would have been written by commissioned police officers in most cases or by one of the legal officers. I only did three or four myself.

Were the photographs which have been handed to the Court the complete set which were used for identification purposes? - No, the photographs this morning are only those which include some of the accused. There are other photographs which were of people at Celle Gaol. Nobody seems to know where those people came from, so I had them photographed in case they might have been Belsen personnel. In addition to photographs of Wehrmacht officers they were also shown a general collection and these photographs are not here either.

When the police officer went down the camp with a photograph, did he have a selection of these photographs or just one showing four people, or what? - It varied rather at the beginning. They would have had probably half a dozen photographs containing on an average 20 people together. Towards the end when we had stopped taking evidence against many people, either because they had died or we had already what we considered overwhelming evidence, they would probably only have had one or two photographs. On some occasions they may well have had only one photograph, but it contained at least four people, possibly more. If they were individual photographs, as some of them are, then they were sent out with four men or four women, whatever it was we were trying to get evidence against, and they would just show these four.

Was any effort made to include photographs of people who were obviously not connected? - Some of the photographs were, because they were people who we had no reason to believe came from Belsen, and the fact that nobody identified them led me to presume they did not come from there. Some of those photographs were S.S. men in uniform which might have tempted somebody to identify them.

There was no general rule of practice requiring, where possible, such an innocent photograph to be used? - No, the only innocent side of the thing would be that in any photograph they did identify there would be other people or, if single photographs, they would be given four or more out of which they had to make their selection.

Do you know what the previous history was of the two interpreters Duschenes and Neumann? - Yes, I think I am right in saying they were both Czechs. Neumann was a Jewess. They had both been interned for some considerable time and, of course, ended up at Belsen.

Were any efforts made to keep track of the people from whom you got statements? -Yes, but we had great difficulty. I think a central registry was opened in the camp which was run by some organization or other and through them we tried to keep a check, but it was not very successful. Names were all differently spelt every time you came across different witnesses. The numbering system did not seem to work very well and, of course, people were disappearing in hundreds every day, returning to their countries.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - I have noticed, especially in the case of Jewish witnesses, that the dates and sometimes the years differ between what they have apparently said in the affidavit and what they say here. Do you know whether Jews have a different calendar or anything of that kind? - Not as far as I know. This frightful suggestion had not occurred to me. If they were using a different calendar I had not thought about it. if they produced a month or a year I would believe that that meant the same date as we talk about. I do not think the Jews do use a different calendar.

By the PRESIDENT - One of the witnesses explained that she had given her information, when she was at the camp, in Yiddish. It is possible that she might have used different dates and in the course of translation they might have been changed round ? - I do feel the dates are very unreliable. We did our best, but we were rather defeated on that.

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Hanka Rozenwayg and Lt Col Champion)