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

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Helen Klein)
Twelfth Day - Saturday, 29th September, 1945

ESTERA GUTERMAN, examined on oath, gave evidence of ill-treatment by Koper, who made her kneel for an hour during a whole parade, although she was over 40 years of age.

Further evidence against Koper was sworn to by PAULA SINGER and RUCHLA KOPPEL.

HELEN KLEIN, sworn, examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - I am a Jewess from Tarnow in Poland and was arrested in December, 1942, when I was 18 years of age. I was first sent to a labour camp and then to Auschwitz in November, 1943. At the railway station a selection was made and of 1200 women Only 407 were left, the remainder being sent to gas chambers. In Birkenau, Auschwitz, after tattooing I was put in Block 1 for quarantine and then went to hospital because I was suffering from typhus. I was present at many selections, after which people were sent to gas chambers, and I saw a large number of people beaten in Auschwitz. We got up just before five and our food was soup, a quarter of a loaf of bread and twice a week margarine and sausage. I worked in the potato stores. Later on I was transferred to Belsen and lived in Block No. 199 where the night guard, Johanne Schmidt, beat people terribly with whatever she could lay her hands on.

Will you have a look at the accused and see if there are any of them you can recognise? - No. 1, Kramer; No. 2, Klein; No. 3, Weingartner; No. 5, Hoessler; No. 8, Ehlert; No. 9, Grese; No. 41, Sauer; No. 43, Roth; No. 44, Hempel; No. 46, Koper.

Did you see anything of Kramer yourself in either of those camps? - No, but I know what kind of a Kommandant he was and how terribly he behaved.

You recognise Weingartner? What do you know of him? - He very frequently stood at the gate when we were passing through and beat people. Once when there were many people in the cookhouse Kommando he beat the Kapo, Lidia Sunschein, so badly that she turned ill, and he also beat everyone else at the same time. This was in Belsen.

Tell us what you know of the others you recognise? - Klein, in company of Hoessler and other people, carried out the selections. I attended a selection myself which took place in January, 1944, and was chosen for the gas chamber, but before Hoessler managed to get my number written down I was cunning enough to hide myself. I approached him and begged him to allow me to continue my work and he said, "You lived enough, come my child, come." Three days later all the numbers that were taken down during this selection were called out and all the people were sent to the gas chambers. it was January, with frosty and rainy weather, and they had to go naked. Some of the people had to be dragged because they were ill, suffering from typhus. No. 8 (Ehlert) was the woman standing at the gate who beat the prisoners. She was one of the worst in the camp at Belsen and was the senior Aufseherin. Irma Grese I saw beating people, but apart from that she made a kind of sport with us in Belsen. It was, "Fall down" and "Get up" for two hours, and various other kinds of tortures. A special place was chosen for this sport; sometimes the Blockälteste did it and sometimes the accused. If anybody stopped she beat them with a riding whip which she always had with her. No. 41 (Sauer) was the Aufseherin in Cookhouse No. 2 in Belsen and she beat the people mainly when they approached in order to get a piece of rotten turnip.

Is accused No. 43 (Roth) the notorious night guard you mentioned? - Yes, I called her Johanne Schmidt. She used to beat people with whatever she could find available, a broom or a stick or anything. She beat people because they had to get up at three o'clock in the morning in order to go to work and also because there were ill people going during the night to the toilet and those who were lying on the floor sobbing and yelling. A woman called Friedmann, who was ill, was beaten up by this night guard and the next day she died.

You recognise No. 44 (Hempel)? - In my opinion she was the worst Aufseherin in the whole of Belsen. She was in Cookhouse No. 2. She ill-treated the personnel in the cookhouse in a terrible way and she kept in her office a special riding-whip which she used for the purpose of beating the prisoners. If she noticed anyone slacking in her work for a minute, or looking somewhere or having some food in her mouth she seized the food out of her month and started beating the victim. No. 46 (Koper) was the woman informer who denounced all the people and was also the Blockälteste.

Cross-examined by Major MUNRO - What was the state of your health when you left Auschwitz for Belsen? - Normal. I was healthy.

With regard to the occasion when you yourself were chosen on a selection parade was your number taken down? - No.

You say you escaped. Did Hoessler on seeing you on subsequent occasions not recognise you? - No, I tried to avoid his eyes.

Is this alleged conversation with Hoessler not a pure invention? - I am responsible for what I say and I swore on it.

Cross-examined by Major CRANFIELD - Have you been told about Kramer's misdeeds by other witnesses for the prosecution? - No.

Have they told you about Irma Grese ? - I did not need anybody to tell me anything, because I went through it myself.

Will you tell us of what this sport consisted? - It was falling down and getting up and crawling, and the speed was increased all the time. We were marched in and had to do it in fives and Grese stood in front giving the words of command.

You said that she inflicted various kinds of tortures on you. Are these words not a deliberate exaggeration? - My evidence is based only on what I saw myself and what I experienced. She was constantly beating us.

You say Grese carried a riding-whip. Was that at Auschwitz or at Belsen? - Mainly in Belsen that she usually beat people with the whip, but also in Auschwitz.

Was she wearing a pistol at Belsen? - I do not remember exactly. I cannot say whether I saw her with a pistol in Auschwitz or in Belsen, but I remember I have seen her with a pistol.

Is it not true that at Auschwitz she wore a pistol and carried a stick or a whip, but at Belsen she had neither? - I remember that she always carried a riding-whip and was waiting for us in the camp when we returned from Kommando work, which was the usual period chosen by her for the sports. That was in Belsen.

How long was Grese in Belsen before the liberation? - I remember her from about a month before the liberation, but it was possible she was there earlier. I myself was beaten only once by her and that was during the sports.

Cross-examined by Captain BOYD - You say you saw No. 41 (Gertrud Sauer) ill-treat people. Do you mean by that that she hit them with her hand? - No, she beat them with a riding-whip, the same riding-whip that was used by No. 44 (Hempel).

You worked in Cookhouse No. 2 every day. How often did the accused No. 41 work there? - She started working at the end when she superceded the other Aufseherinnen.

Why did you not say before that she used a whip? Did you not think it important? - As far as I remember I did say that she used a riding-whip, when some of the prisoners approached the cookhouse to get hold of a turnip.

Cross-examined by Captain MUNRO - How many internees were there in Block 199? Were there about 800 or 1000 people? - No, I think less, but it was overcrowded and a very dirty place, and because of that at the end I did not sleep there.

How many Kapos were there in the block? - None. It was too dirty for a Kapo to live there.

Were there any Blockältesten or Lagerältesten to keep discipline at all? - A Blockälteste, an orderly-room man and the night guard.

Who was in charge of the block? - The Blockälteste called Frieda Frankel. She was responsible to the S.S. for discipline.

Who distributed the food to the internees in Block 199? - Mainly the Stubendienst, but in company of the night guard.

Did that woman feed you (indicating No. 43, Johanne Roth)? - Yes sometimes. During the day she usually slept because she had to perform her duties as a night guard during the night.

Did you have any lights in your block at night? - Sometimes, when it was not very comfortable for the accused, she lit a light to see better how to beat.

Did you have a bed in the block? - Yes, but I did not avail myself of it because I preferred to sleep with my friend who worked in a clothing store.

How far away from Ida Friedmann did you sleep? - In quite a different block, because she slept in Block 199. At three o'clock in the morning when we assembled for Kommandos I saw the incidents I have described. She was beaten up inside the block and on the next morning I found out that she had died. I did not myself see her die.

Were you a volunteer to work in Cookhouse No. 2? - Thanks to the influence of the Kapo I managed to get the job. It was very hard and strenuous work, but unfortunately everybody tried to get this job, because, although even in the cookhouse we did not get much food, it was better than in the camp.

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Helen Klein)