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

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Roman Sompolinski)
ROMAN SOMPOLINSKI, sworn, examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - I am a Jew from Lodz [Łódź], Poland, and was arrested in 1939. I worked in a number of camps, and eventually went to Auschwitz in the autumn of 1943. I was transferred to Belsen when the Russian troops drew nearer.

Will you look carefully at the people in the dock and say if there are any you recognise? - No. 1, Kramer; No. 5, Hoessler; No. 30, Schlomoivicz; No. 32, Antoni (Aurdzieg) ; No. 47, Anton Polanski, a good friend of mine; No. 17, Gura; No. 4, Kraft. Kramer was Camp Kommandant in Auschwitz and Belsen. Three days before the liberation of Belsen Camp I went to the cookhouse to fetch soup for my friends, and there were some rotten potatoes lying on the ground. We started picking up some of these, and Kramer began shooting at us with his pistol. He killed two of us, and wounded me in my arm.

What can you tell us about No. 4 (Kraft)? - When there were thousands of bodies lying on the ground in Belsen this accused was the man leading the workmen dragging the corpses to their graves. He behaved as a murderer, beating the people with a rifle, and shooting them. He was in charge of the stores block No. 9, and hid himself in his hut, watching the prisoners, who, from starvation, tried to cross the barbed wire in order to pick up a turnip, and when he noticed anybody doing so he shot at them As they were a very short distance away he hit them.

What did you have to do with No. 5? - He was my Kommandant crematorium No. 1 in Auschwitz In the autumn of 1943 we arrived; at the railway station, my two brothers and I, and Hoessler approached us. We tried to stick together, but when I told Hoessler they were my brothers he sent them to the crematorium. I was employed in cleaning out the gas chambers, in taking the bodies away, and loading them into lorries. No. 17, Gura, was in charge of the Kommando at Belsen which dragged the bodies into the graves before the arrival of the British troops, and I saw myself that he was killing prisoners at the rate of twenty an hour with the butt of a rifle, because they were sick and could not work quicker.

Did you know No. 30, Schlomoivicz, at Belsen? - He arrived there about eight days before the British troops, I think, and three days before the liberation of the camp our Blockältester died, and the accused took over this function. He was a prisoner the same as everyone else, and behaved really well to the other prisoners. The accused, No. 32 (Aurdzieg), lived, together with me, in Block 12. At that time there was starvation in the camp, and people were so exhausted that they were unable to go to the cookhouse to fetch the food themselves. The accused and I, because we were a little stronger, went to the cookhouse and brought the food for all the other inmates of this block. We had to fight our way back through the other people who attempted to get food from our containers. No. 47, Polanski, arrived in Belsen, seven days before the liberation, from Hanover [Hannover]. He held no position in the camp. He only led us to fetch the food, and looked after it because there were many people who, from hunger, tried to get their food and deprive others. He tried to distribute it in a fair way.

Cross-examined by Major WINWOOD - You allege that two friends were shot by Kramer. When did you think of this story? - When I was wounded myself.

I suggest that you first thought of the story about five minutes before you mentioned it? - That is not true.

Was the accused, No. 4 (George Kraft), at Belsen? - Yes. In the stores near Camp No. 2.

When did you first see him in the concentration camp? - Several days before the arrival of the British troops. I do not know when he arrived in Belsen, but I saw him leading the Kommandos dragging the bodies to the graves.

Cross-examined by Major MUNRO - When you were separated from your two brothers, did you see what happened to them? - No, all the people chosen by Hoessler were made to go to the other side of the square, when the lorries arrived, and were loaded into them and taken away.

When did you work in the crematorium? - In the autumn of 1943, when I first arrived in Auschwitz. I worked there two months.

In the statement you made to a British officer did you say "The S.S. man in charge of my party on this job was Oberscharführer Moll"? - Before I was transferred from my previous Kommando to the Sonderkommando, Moll was in charge.

"Referring to my deposition and further deposition, both made on 24th May, 1945, I desire to make a correction in regard to Oberscharführer Moll. I was wrong in saying he was in charge of my party. I was told at Auschwitz that he had been in charge before I was employed at the gas chambers and crematorium. Whilst I was working at the gas chamber and crematorium S.S. man Hoessler was in charge. I identify him as No. 1 on photograph No. 9. I am quite certain that this is the man; there is no doubt whatever." Did you make that statement? - Yes.

If you were in no doubt about Hoessler's identity, why did you name Moll as your Kommandant? - To begin with I said that my Kommandant was Hoessler, but I was asked who was before him and I said it was Moll.

When you finally signed your statement was it read over to you? - I made my statement, it was read over to me and I signed it.

Did you also say, "Except for Oberscharführer Moll and Obersturmführer Schwarz, I do not know the names of the other members of the German staff at Auschwitz"? - Yes.

I suggest that there was no such thing as the Kommandant of the crematorium or gas chamber in Auschwitz? - The Kommandant of Crematorium No. 1 was Hoessler.

Was not Moll in charge of the small party of S.S. who themselves were in charge of the Sonderkommandos? - Before I came.

I put it to you that Hoessler was never, at any time, in charge of the crematorium or gas chamber? - He was the man who brought all the transports when they arrived to the gas chamber, and handed them over to some high - ranking people.

Cross-examined by Major CRANFIELD - When the parties arrived for the gas chamber were they accompanied by an S.S. doctor, such as Dr. Tauber? - Yes.

When the food was issued at Belsen did the internees fight for it, and in order to see that everyone got a fair share was it necessary to use force to restrain them? - Sometimes, yes.

In each block were there very few persons, such as Aufseherin and Aeltesten, to control the internees? - Yes. Did you think it reasonable for them to have sticks to help to control the internees? - No.

Cross-examined by Major BROWN - You have said, about two separate men in the dock, "He was leading the Kommando taking bodies to the graves." What do you mean by that? - They looked after the prisoners in order to see that this work was done as quickly as possible.

Is No. 17 (Gura) one of the men you recognise as doing that job? - Yes.

Where was he when he was carrying out these duties? - He used to go from the block in Compound No. 2 to the graves and back. I saw him from my block.

Was your block near the place where the bodies were being taken from? - Yes.

Could you see the graves? - The first time that I saw them was when the British troops arrived at the camp. I saw the accused leading a Kommando.

I am going to tell you that this man was not even at Belsen during the three days described, and that therefore you are mistaken in having recognised him at all? - It is impossible because I saw him.

Cross-examined by Captain NEAVE - You recognised the accused No. 30 (Schlomoivicz). How long did you know him at Auschwitz? - One year.

When he was appointed Blockältester did he parade all the internees in Block No. 12 and speak to them? - No.

Cross-examined by Captain PHILLIPS - When you made the statements to a British officer were you shown some photographs? - Yes, ten. There were five or six people on each photograph. I was asked whether I was able to recognise anyone from Auschwitz or Belsen.

Did you recognise anybody? - Yes.

What were you asked then? - What these people were like and what was their attitude towards the prisoners. We were asked whether we had seen these people ill-treating other people.

Did you say anything, or were you asked whether you could say anything in favour of these people? -Yes.

Cross-examined by Lieut. JEDRZEJOWICZ - Did you know No. 47 (Polanski) in Auschwitz? - No.

Whilst in Belsen had he been bringing and distributing soup in Block 12? - Yes, and he saved thousands of people.

Did you ever see him with a stick or a rubber truncheon in his hand? - No, never.

Did the dragging of corpses start before or after the morning Appell? - At this time no morning roll-call parades were held. We started work at seven o'clock, and everybody was included in the work.

Was the wire surrounding the outer compounds at Auschwitz loaded with electric current night and day, or during the night only? - In the day-time no prisoners were present in camp, therefore the barbed wire was not charged. They started charging the barbed wire at night when the prisoners came back from their work.

Re-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE - Why did you think Hoessler was Kommandant of your crematorium? - Because he used to bring each transport that was sentenced to death into the crematorium. Crematorium No. 1 was situated in such a way that it was visible from the gipsy camp and from Camp C.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE - Did you have typhus in Auschwitz? - After two months working in the crematorium.

You had about four months in Belsen. Do you consider you were one of the strongest people in your hut then ? - I was in the same state as all the other prisoners.

I thought you went to get the soup and had to fight to bring it back? - I did not say that I fought for it. I only said that I went to bring it because I knew there were many cases where people with containers on the way back from the cookhouse to the block were attacked by thousands of others, and I wanted to do it for my pals.

Were you strong enough to do this? - No, but we were only looking after the whole thing and trying to prevent prisoners from other blocks getting food from our containers.

The Trial (Evidence For The Prosecution - Roman Sompolinski)