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

Appendices (Affidavits & Statements - Hoessler, Franz)


I want to tell you all I can and I am willing to assist your investigations in any way.

I am 39 years of age and was born in Kempen, Argau. I am a married man with three children and by trade was a photographer. As I was out of work I joined the S.S. when the Nazi Party came into power on 30th January, 1933. I volunteered for this service. From 1933 to 1935 I was in the S.S. barracks at Dachau doing military duties. In 1935 I took over as cook at the concentration camp at Dachau and I held this position until 1941. Whilst I was there, up to the end of 1935 the Kommandant was a man named Bicke, and from 1935 until 1938 or 1939 this position was held by Oberführer Loritz. I cannot remember the name of the Kommandant after him.

In 1941 I went to Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where I established a kitchen and I remained there until 1942. I then went to Minze-Brocha in Poland building special huts for the hospital. I took a working party from Auschwitz Concentration Camp of about 60 and I was in charge. We were there for about nine months and I then went back to Auschwitz. After being in charge of working parties there for a while, I left in July, 1943, for the women’s camp at Birkenau near Auschwitz. The conditions here were very bad; the camp was overcrowded and sanitation was also very bad. The food was better than the men’s camp. The camp was in the charge of Obersturmbannführer Hoess. I asked to be moved from this camp because of the conditions. The job of the men was to build roads, more huts and make those huts already there habitable. The S.S. woman in charge was Oberaufseherin Mandel. Whilst I was there many died from spotted fever (cerebral-spinal-meningitis) and typhus. Amongst these were guards well as inmates. I made many complaints to Hoess and as a result beds were made, but not enough to accommodate all the prisoners in the camp. The women in this camp did agricultural work. Whilst I was there the place was inspected by Obergruppenführer Glücks from Berlin in summer, 1943. He went through the camp by car and said that everything would be altered, but nothing was done. At all camps the inspection was the job of the Amtsgruppen D., Berlin, and Glücks was in charge of this department I believe. He took his orders direct from Reichsführer Himmler. The camp at Birkenau was also inspected by Himmler whilst I was there in summer, 1943, who said the same - that conditions would be altered - but again nothing was done.

After about two or three months there, in January, 1944, I was moved to Neckarelz near Baden. This was a small camp for about 500 prisoners and the labour was supplied from Dachau Concentration Camp. I held the position of Kommandoführer. All the men under my command lived in a three-storey-high school building, but there were others in a nearby camp. All were engaged on building an aeroplane works in the mountains, but it was never completed when I left.

In June, 1944, I went back to Auschwitz, where I became Lagerführer, and I stayed there until it was being cleared in January, 1945. This was because the Russians were advancing, and the whole camp was cleared. The Kommandant when I arrived, and up to the time I left, was Baer. Kramer was at Birkenau. I then went to Dora Camp at Nordhausen, where I remained until April, 1945, when that was also cleared I came to Bergen-Belsen. I have no knowledge of sterilisation of women and no orders were given by me that this should be carried out. In fact I did not know that this was being done and I was never allowed in the hospital.

Everyone in the camp knew about the gas chamber at Auschwitz, but at no time did I take part in the selection of prisoners who were to go to the gas chamber and then be cremated. Whilst I was there selection of prisoners for the gas chamber was done by Dr. Klein, Dr. Mengele and other young doctors whose names I do not know. I have attended these parades, but my job was merely to keep order. Often women were paraded naked in front of the doctors and persons selected by the doctors were sent to the gas chamber. I learnt this through conversation with the doctors. I think those selected were mostly those who were not in good health and could not work. When transports of prisoners arrived the prisoners were taken from the train and marched to the camp. On arrival they were paraded in front of the doctors I have mentioned, and persons were selected for the gas chamber, the remainder being sent to the concentration camp. I have also attended these parades, but only when I have been Orderly Lagerführer, as this was part of his duties. Train-loads of 2000 and 3000 arrived at the camp and often as many as 800 went to the gas chamber. The doctors were always responsible for these selections.

Whilst I was at Auschwitz the Kommandant, until June, 1944, was Hoess and he was succeeded by Baer. I made many complaints to Hoess about the way people were being sent to the gas chamber, but I was told it was not my business. The camp was inspected once a year by Himmler and also Obergruppenführer Glücks and Obergruppenführer Pohl from Berlin.

Himmler knew people at Auschwitz were gassed, because it was he who gave the orders that this would be done. These orders could only have come from the top. Hitler must also have known that this was going on as he was the head of the country.

At many of the camps, and to my knowledge at Auschwitz, brothels were run according to instructions given by Himmler. The girls for these brothels were selected by doctors at the camp. Dr. Klein and Dr. Mengele have to my knowledge made these selections from volunteers whom I have selected. Men who were in working parties were paid token money which sometimes amounted to as much as ten marks a week. With this money they were able to pay the girls one mark a time. Of this money 10 pfennigs went to the woman in charge of the brothel and 90 pfennigs to the girl herself.

Whilst I was at Dora Camp, Nordhausen, I received complaints from the prisoners that they were not receiving their Red Cross parcels. In view of this, I personally saw that the prisoners did get their Red Cross parcels. The parcels had to be opened for censoring, but I made sure that no articles were removed.

The food at Dora Camp, Nordhausen, was not good, although the prisoners received more food than at other camps because of the fact that they were working. There was not enough fat in the food for the men to live on. The food may have been enough for eight hours’ work, but not enough for twelve. The food had to be reduced on account of bombing. I complained about the shortage of food whilst I was there to Kommandant Baer. Prior to Baer’s arrival at the camp the Kommandant was a man named Firschner. I also made a complaint to Werwaltungsführer Brenneis, who was also at Dora Camp representing Obergruppenführer Pohl. As a result of this a field bakery was built in Dora Camp.

When the English [British] were advancing, Dora Camp was closed and the prisoners eventually came to Bergen-Belsen. Actually, they should have gone to Neuengamme near Hamburg, but when trains got there they were sent back to Bergen-Belsen. One train-load of these people, about 5000 strong, never arrived at Belsen, so I cannot say what happened to them. I went on in advance of the trains and reported to Kommandant Kramer, and enquired if the prisoners had arrived. He said they had not, and in any case he had no room in the camp for them. He sent me to Oberst Harries of the Wehrmacht, whom I saw and who told me that the Wehrmacht were leaving the barracks and that I could take over part of the barracks to house my men. I did this and so the men under my charge did not go in the Bergen-Belsen Camp, where there was so much typhus and disease. I was Lagerführer in charge of this small camp.

I met the transports from Nordhausen at Bergen-Belsen station. At the time of each train was a doctor and an ambulance wagon in which the sick were carried. About 20 to 25 died on the way from cold, undernourishment, and being weak on a train I saw of 3000 and 5000 prisoners. These bodies were taken to Belsen Camp and buried there. I did not go in the ambulance wagon nor did I give any instructions that sick people were to be shot. I did not see the prisoners leave the station as I went back to the camp by car and the prisoners walked.

I did hear from the prisoners in the camp that several people in a transport that walked from Dora Camp were shot. These prisoners were under the command of Hauptscharführer Sterful (Stofel) and Unterscharführer Dorr. I mentioned these shootings to these men, but both denied all knowledge of them and I never had a chance to continue the conversation.

We were not allowed to shoot prisoners unless they tried to escape or attacked the guards. Beatings were also not allowed. I have never seen anybody shot or beaten whilst I have been in concentration camps, although I have seen people chosen for the gas chamber at Auschwitz.

I have never had occasion to shoot anyone, or beat anyone, nor was I ever attacked. I have always tried to be kind to the prisoners and to help them. I once made an application to leave the S.S. because of what was happening in concentration camps, but my request was refused. It was not nice to be a Nazi nor was it a privilege. The S.S. were always watched by the Gestapo and we were forbidden by Baer and Hoess to talk of conditions in the camp to anyone. I never even told my wife. I only volunteered for the S.S. for four years, but in 1936 it was made compulsory for twelve years and it was impossible to leave.

When the English [British] were arriving near Belsen I was told by Oberst Harries that the English [British] would shoot all S.S. on sight who offered resistance. In spite of this I volunteered to stay behind with five others, who were Wilhelm Dorr, Paul Fritsch, Eugen Hahnert, George Kraft and Franz Stofel, and in addition two cooks whose names I do not know. The camp I was at was guarded by Hungarians. Bergen-Belsen Camp was being guarded by the Wehrmacht during the truce, having relieved S.S. About twelve to fifteen S.S. escaped from the camp and a lot also left from the other camp.

The food for prisoners at Belsen was obtained from the Army food place through Oberst Harries. The prisoners should have got 300 grammes of bread daily, but sometimes they only got 200 or 100 grammes. In addition they got potatoes, turnips, beetroot and some grease. Sick people got rice and milk if it could be obtained. There was not sufficient food for the people to live on, and the responsibility lies with the Wirtschaftsamt, of which Pohl was in charge. I do not think that it was the intention of the country to starve these people, but there was a general shortage owing to bombing. I did not know myself that conditions were so bad in Bergen-Belsen Camp until I was sent there by the British to assist in burying the dead, when it was a great shock to me to see what had been happening.

Appendices (Affidavits & Statements - Hoessler, Franz)