The Trial of Josef Kramer and Forty Four Others

Exhibit 118 Statement of Josef Kramer


Deposition of Josef Kramer, SS Hauptsturmführer and Commandant of Belsen Concentration Camp sworn before Lieutenant Colonel Leopold John Genn, Royal Artillery, Commanding No. 1 War Crimes Investigation Team.

1. I relinquished command of Struthof Natzweiler in May, 1944, and handed over to Sturmbannführer Hartjenstein. At this time and for at least a year previously Buck was commanding Schirmeck, but there was no official connection between Schirmeck and Struthof. There was a Gestapo officer attached to me during my period at Struthof; his name was Vochner and he was sent by the Gestapo at Stuttgart. According to the district allocation Struthof should have been, in my opinion, in Strasbourg Gestapo area, but I believe that in any case Strasbourg Gestapo depended on Stuttgart.

2. With reference to the orders received to gas certain women and despatch them to Strasbourg University, as sworn by me before Commandant Jadin of the French Army, I give the following details:-

The orders I received were in writing signed by order of Reichsführer Himmler by Gruppenführer Glücks. As nearly as I can remember they stated that a special transport would arrive from Auschwitz and that the people on this transport were to be killed and their bodies sent to Strasbourg to Professor Hirt. It further said that I should communicate with Professor Hirt as to how the killing was to take place. This I did and was given by Hirt a container of gas crystals with instructions how to use them. There was no regular gas chamber in Struthof but he described to me how an ordinary room might be used. I do not know any more of the Professors concerned with Hirt but I do know that there was in one of the departments a Professor Bickerbach.

3. The first time I saw a gas chamber proper was at Auschwitz. It was attached to the crematorium. The complete building containing the crematorium and gas chamber was situated in Camp No. 2 (Birkenau) of which I was in command. I visited the building on my first inspection of the camp after being there for three days, but for the first eight days I was there it was not working. After eight days the first transport, from which gas chamber victims were selected, arrived and at the same time I received a written order from Hoess, who commanded the whole of Auschwitz Camp, that although the gas chamber and crematorium were situated in my part of the camp, I had no jurisdiction over it whatever. Orders in regard to the gas chamber were, in fact, always given by Hoess and I am firmly convinced that he received such orders from Berlin. I believe that had I been in Hoess’s position and received such orders, I would have carried them out because even if I had protested it would only have resulted in my being taken prisoner myself. My feelings about orders in regard to the gas chamber were to be slightly surprised and wonder to myself whether such action was really right.

4. In regard to conditions at Belsen, I say once more that I did everything I could to remedy them. In regard to the food, the prisoners throughout March and April, 1945, got their full entitlement, and in my opinion this entitlement was perfectly sufficient for the healthy prisoner but from the middle of February onwards sick people began to come in and I felt they should have more food. I sent my Messing N.C.O., Unterscharführer Müller, to the food depots in Celle and Hannover, but he was told that no further food could be issued because we were already getting our entitlement. I did in fact get some food from the food store in the Wehrmacht Camp at Belsen but it would have been no use my asking for more from them because they were not my correct authorised depot.

5. In regard to accommodation, when I was ordered to take 30000 more people in early April, when the camp was already more than full I appealed to Lieutenant-General Boineburg in the Kommandatur in the Wehrmacht Camp at Belsen and it was he who arranged for 15000 prisoners to be lodged in the barracks in that camp. He had to get special permission over the telephone to do this. I never appealed to the General for help on the food situation or any other difficulties because I knew that he would not have been able to help me in that he had no jurisdiction. I do not consider that I should have appealed to him because I knew that he could not have helped. Furthermore I do not believe that anybody in Germany could have altered the food entitlement for the prisoners in the camp because I do not believe that the food was available. It surprises me very much to hear that there were large and adequate stocks of food in the Wehrmacht Camp. Nevertheless I still feel that an appeal to the General would have been useless.

6. I have been told that some of my SS staff were guilty of ill-treatment and brutality towards the prisoners. I find this very difficult to believe and I would trust them absolutely. To the best of my belief they never committed any offences against the prisoners. I regard myself as responsible for their conduct and do not believe that any of them would have infringed my orders against ill-treatment or brutality.

7. The Hungarian troops took over guard duties around the perimeter of my camp during the few days before the British arrived. I agree that during this period more shooting took place than was customary when the Wehrmacht were doing guards. I remember the incident on 15th April, 1945, in the late afternoon when I went with British officers to the potato patch and was ordered to remove the dead body of a prisoner from that patch. I think it is wrong that this man should have been shot and have no doubt at all that it was either the Wehrmacht or the Hungarians who were responsible.

8. The rifle range which is visible at the North-West corner of my camp was used fairly regularly by the Wehrmacht two or three days a week.

Sworn by the said deponent Josef Kramer at Celle this 1st day of September, 1945.

Signed Josef Kramer.

Signed L.J. Genn. Lt. Col. R.A.

I hereby certify that, the said deponent not understanding English this affidavit was translated in my presence to the said deponent before swearing and I am satisfied that its contents were fully understood by the said deponent.

Dated this 1st day of September 1945

Signed L.J. Genn. Lt. Col. R.A.

I hereby certify that I have accurately translated this affidavit to the said deponent

Dated this 1st day of September 1945

Signed [Unreadable]

Josef Kramer

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