The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th January to 19th January, 1946

Thirty-Second Day: Friday, January 11th, 1946
(Part 6 of 9)

[Page 204]

MR. DODD: This affidavit, if it please the Tribunal, bears the Document number 3249-PS, and I wish to offer it at this time. It is Exhibit USA 663. I feel that we can reduce the extent of this interrogation by approximately three-fourths through the submission of this affidavit and I should like to read it. It will take much less time to read this affidavit than it would to go through it in question and answer form, and it covers a large part of what we expect to elicit from this witness.


MR. DODD: I would not have read it if we had had time to have a Russian and French translation, but unfortunately that was not possible in the few days we had.

[Page 205]

"I, Franz Blaha, being duly sworn, depose and state as follows:

I studied medicine in Prague, Vienna, Strassburg and Paris and received my diploma in 1920. From 1920 to 1926 I was a clinical assistant. In 1926 I became chief physician of the Iglau Hospital in Moravia, Czechoslovakia. I held this position until 1939, when the Germans entered Czechoslovakia, and I was seized as a hostage and held a prisoner for co-operating with the Czech Government. I was sent as a prisoner to the Dachau Concentration Camp in April, 1941, and remained there until the liberation of the camp in April, 1945. Until July, 1941, I worked in a Punishment Company. After that I was sent to the hospital and subjected to the experiments in typhoid being conducted by Dr. Murmelstadt. After that I was to be made the subject of an experimental operation, and only succeeded in avoiding this by admitting that I was a physician. If this had been known before I would have suffered, because intellectuals were treated very harshly in the Punishment Company. In October, 1941, I was sent to work in the herb plantation, and later in the laboratory for processing herbs. In June, 1942, I was taken into the hospital as a surgeon. Shortly afterwards I was directed to conduct a stomach operation on 20 healthy prisoners. Because I would not do this I was put in the autopsy room, where I stayed until April, 1945. While there I performed approximately 7,000 autopsies. In all, 12,000 autopsies were performed under my direction.

From mid-1941 to the end of 1942 some 500 operations on healthy prisoners were performed. These were for the instruction of the S.S. medical students and doctors and included operations on the stomach, gall bladder, spleen and throat. These were performed by students and doctors of only two years' training, although they were very dangerous and difficult. Ordinarily they would not have been done except by surgeons with at least four years' surgical practice. Many prisoners died on the operating table and many others from later complications. I performed autopsies on all of these bodies. The doctors who supervised these operations were Lang, Murmelstadt, Wolter, Ramsauer and Kahr. Standartenfuehrer Dr. Lolling frequently witnessed these operations.

During my time at Dachau I was familiar with many kinds of medical experiments carried on there with human victims. These persons were never volunteers but were forced to submit to such acts. Malaria experiments on about 1,200 people were conducted by Dr. Klaus Schilling between 1941 and 1945. Schilling was personally asked by Himmler to conduct these experiments. The victims were either bitten by mosquitoes or given injections of malaria sporozoites taken from mosquitoes. Different kinds of treatment were applied, including quinine, pyrifer, neosalvarsan, antipyrin, pyramidon and a drug called 2516 Behring. I performed autopsies on bodies of people who died from these malaria experiments. 30 to 40 died from the malaria itself. 300 to 400 died later from diseases which proved fatal because of the physical condition resulting from the malaria attacks. In addition there were deaths resulting from poisoning due to overdoses of neosalvarsan and pyramidon. Dr. Schilling was present at the time of my autopsies on the bodies of his patients.

In 1942 and 1943 experiments on human beings were conducted by Dr. Sigismund Rascher to determine the effects of changing air pressure. As many as 25 persons were put at one time into a specially constructed van in which pressure could be increased or decreased as required. The purpose was to find out the effects of high altitude and of rapid parachute descents on human beings. Through a window in the van I have seen the people lying on the floor of the van. Most of the prisoners who were made use of, died as a result of these experiments, from internal hemorr-

[Page 206]

hages of the lungs or brain. The rest coughed blood when taken out. It was my job to take the bodies out and to send the internal organs to Munich for study as soon as they were found to be dead. About 400 to 500 prisoners were experimented on. Those not dead were sent to invalid blocks and liquidated shortly afterwards. Only a few escaped.

Rascher also conducted experiments on the effect of cold water on human beings. This was done to find a way for reviving aviators who had fallen into the ocean. The subject was placed in ice cold water and kept there until he was unconscious. Blood was taken from his neck and tested each time his body temperature dropped one degree. This drop was determined by a rectal thermometer. Urine was also periodically tested. Some men lasted as long as 24 to 36 hours. The lowest body temperature reached was 19 degrees C., but most men died at 25 degrees C., or 26 degrees C. When the men were removed from the ice water attempts were made to revive them by artificial warmth from the sun, from hot water, from electro-therapy or by animal warmth. For this last experiment prostitutes were used and the body of the unconscious man was placed between the bodies of two women. Himmler was present at one such experiment. I could see him from one of the windows in the street between the blocks. I have personally been present at some of these cold water experiments when Rascher was absent, and I have seen notes and diagrams on them in Rascher's laboratory. About 300 persons were used in these experiments. The majority died. Of those who lived many became mentally deranged. Those not killed were sent to invalid blocks and were killed, just as were the victims of the air pressure experiments. I only know two who survived - a Yugoslav and a Pole, both of whom have become mental cases.

Liver puncture experiments were performed by Dr. Brachtl on healthy people, and on people who had diseases of the stomach and gall bladder. For this purpose a needle was jabbed into the liver of a person and a small piece of the liver was extracted. No anaesthetic was used. The experiment is very painful and often had serious results, as the stomach or large blood vessels were often punctured, and haemorrhage resulted. Many persons died of these tests, for which Polish, Russian, Czech and German prisoners were employed. Altogether these experiments were conducted on about 175 people.

Phlegmone experiments were conducted by Dr. Schutz, Dr. Babor, Dr. Kieselwetter and Professor Lauer. Forty healthy men were used at a time, of whom 20 were given intra-muscular, and 20 intravenous injections of pus from diseased persons. All treatment was forbidden for three days, by which time serious inflammation and in many cases general blood poisoning had occurred. Then each group was divided again into groups of 10. Half were given chemical treatment with liquid and special pills every 10 minutes for 24 hours. The rest were treated with sulfanamide and surgery. In some cases all of the limbs were amputated. My autopsy also showed that the chemical treatment had been harmful and had even caused perforations of the stomach wall. For these experiments Polish, Czech and Dutch priests were ordinarily used. Pain was intense in such experiments. Most of the 600 to 800 persons who were used finally died. Most of the others became permanent invalids and were later killed.

In the autumn of 1944 there were 60 to 80 persons who were subjected to salt water experiments. They were locked in a room and for five days were given nothing to swallow but salt water. During this time their urine, blood and excrement were tested. None of these prisoners died, possibly because they received smuggled food from other prisoners. Hungarians and Gipsies were used for these experiments.

[Page 207]

It was common practice to remove the skin from dead prisoners. I was commanded to do this on many occasions. Dr. Rascher and Dr. Wolter in particular asked for this human skin from human backs and chests. It was chemically treated and placed in the sun to dry. After that it was cut into various sizes for use as saddles, riding breeches, gloves, house slippers and ladies' handbags. Tattooed skin was especially valued by S.S. men. Russians, Poles and other inmates were used in this way, but it was forbidden to cut out the skin of a German. This skin had to be from healthy prisoners and free from defects. Sometimes we did not have enough bodies with good skin and Rascher would say, 'All right, you will get the bodies.' The next day we would receive 20 or 30 bodies of young people. They would have been shot in the neck or struck on the head so that the skin would be uninjured. Also we frequently got requests for the skulls or skeletons of prisoners. In those cases we boiled the skull or the body. Then the soft parts were removed and the bones were bleached and dried and reassembled. In the case of skulls it was important to have a good set of teeth. When we got an order for skulls from Oranienburg the S.S. men would say, 'We will try to get you some with good teeth.' So it was dangerous to have a good skin or good teeth.

Transports arrived frequently in Dachau from Studthof, Belsen, Auschwitz, Mauthausen and other camps. Many of these were 10 to 14 days on the way without water or food. On one transport which arrived in November, 1942, I found evidence of cannibalism. The living persons had eaten the flesh from the dead bodies. Another transport arrived from Compiegne in France. Professor Limousin of Clermont-Ferrand, who was later my assistant, told me that there had been 2,000 persons on this transport when it started. There was food available but no water. Eight hundred died on the way and were thrown out. When it arrived after twelve days more than 500 persons were dead on the train. Of the remainder, most died shortly after arrival. I investigated this transport because the International Red Cross complained, and the S.S. men wanted a report that the deaths had been caused by fighting and rioting on the way. I dissected a number of bodies and found that they had died from suffocation and lack of water; it was mid-summer and 120 people had been packed into each car.

In 1941 and 1942 we had in the camp what we called invalid transports. These were made up of people who were sick or for some reason incapable of working. We called them Himmelfahrt Commandos. About 100 or 120 were ordered each week to go to the shower baths. There, four people gave injections of phenol evipan, or benzine, which soon caused death. After 1943 these invalids were sent to other camps for liquidation. I know that they were killed because I saw the records, and they were marked with a cross and the date that they left, which was the way that deaths were ordinarily recorded. This was shown both on the card index of the Camp Dachau and the records in the town of Dachau. One thousand to two thousand went away every three months, so there were about five thousand sent to death in 1943, and the same in 1944. In April, 1945, a Jewish transport was loaded at Dachau and was left standing on the railroad siding. The station was destroyed by bombing, and they could not leave. So they were just left there to die of starvation. They were not allowed to get off. When the camp was liberated they were all dead.

Many executions by gas or shooting or injections took place in the camp itself. The gas chamber was completed in 1944, and I was called by Dr. Rascher to examine the first victims. Of the eight or nine persons in the chamber there were three still alive, and the remainder appeared to be dead. Their eyes were red and their faces were swollen. Many

[Page 208]

prisoners were later killed in this way. Afterwards they were removed to the crematorium, where I had to examine their teeth for gold. Teeth containing gold were extracted. Many prisoners who were sick were killed by injections while in hospital. Some prisoners killed in the hospital came through to the autopsy room with no name or number on the tag which was usually tied to their big toe. Instead the tag said: 'Do not dissect.'

I performed autopsies on some of these and found that they were perfectly healthy, but had died from injections. Sometimes prisoners were killed only because they had dysentery or vomited, and gave the nurses too much trouble. Mental patients were liquidated by being led to the gas chamber and injected there or shot. Shooting was a common method of execution. Prisoners would be shot just outside the crematorium and carried in. I have seen people pushed into the ovens while they were still breathing and making sounds, although if they were too much alive they were usually hit on the head first.

The principal executions about which I know from having examined the victims, or supervised such examinations, are as follows: In 1942 there were five thousand to six thousand Russians held in a separate camp inside Dachau. They were taken on foot to the Military Rifle Range near the camp in groups of five hundred or six hundred and shot. These groups left the camp about three times a week. At night we used to go out to bring the bodies back in carts and then examine them. In February, 1944, about 40 Russian students arrived from Moosburg. I knew a few of the boys in the hospital. I examined them after they were shot outside the crematorium. In September, 1944, a group of 94 high-ranking Russians were shot, including two military doctors who had been working with me in the hospital. I examined their bodies. In April, 1945, a number of prominent people who had been kept in the bunker were shot. They included two French generals, whose names I cannot remember, but I recognised them from their uniform. I examined them, after they were shot. In 1944 and 1945 a number of women were killed by hanging, shooting and injections. I examined them and found that in many cases they were pregnant. In 1945, just before the camp was liberated, all 'Nacht und Nebel' prisoners were executed. These were prisoners who were forbidden to have any contact with the outside world. They were kept in a special enclosure and were not allowed to send or receive any mail. There were 30 or 40, many of whom were sick. These were carried to the crematorium on stretchers. I examined them and found they had all been shot in the neck.

From 1941 on the camp became more and more overcrowded. In 1943 the hospital for prisoners was already overcrowded. In 1944 and in 1945 it was impossible to maintain any sort of sanitary condition. Rooms, which held three hundred or four hundred persons in 1942, were filled with one thousand in 1943, and in the first quarter of 1945 with two thousand or more. The rooms could not be cleaned because they were too crowded, and there was no cleaning material. Baths were available only once a month. Latrine facilities were completely inadequate. Medicine was almost non-existent. But I found, after the camp was liberated, that there was plenty of medicine in the S.S. hospital for all the camps, if it had been given to us for use.

New arrivals at the camp were lined up out of doors for hours at a time. Sometimes they stood there from morning until night. It did not matter whether this was in the winter or in the summer. This occurred all through 1943, 1944 and the first quarter of 1945. I could see these formations from the window of the autopsy room. Many of the people who had to

[Page 209]

stand in the cold in this way became ill from pneumonia and died. I had several acquaintances who were killed in this manner during 1944 and 1945. In October, 1944 ."


"In October, 1944, a transport of Hungarians brought spotted fever into the camp, and an epidemic began. I examined many of the corpses from this transport and reported the situation to Dr. Hintermayer, but was forbidden, on penalty of being shot, to mention that there was an epidemic in the camp. He said that it was sabotage, and that I was trying to have the camp quarantined so that the prisoners would not have to work in the armaments industry. No preventive measures were taken at all. New healthy arrivals were put into blocks were an epidemic was already present. Infected persons were also put into these blocks. So the thirteenth block, for instance, died out completely, three times. Only at Christmas, when the epidemic spread into the S.S. camp, was a quarantine established. Nevertheless, transports continued to arrive.

We had 200 to 300 new typhus cases and 100 deaths caused by typhus each day. In all, we had 28,000 cases and 15,000 deaths, In addition to those that died from the disease my autopsies showed that many deaths were caused solely by malnutrition. Such deaths occurred in all the years from 1941 to 1945. They were mostly Italians, Russians and Frenchmen. These people were just starved to death. At the time of death they weighed 50 to 60 pounds. Autopsies showed their internal organs had often shrunk to one-third of their actual size.

The facts stated above are true: This declaration is made by me voluntarily and without compulsion. After reading over the statement I have signed and executed it at Nuremberg, Germany, this 9th day of January, 1946.

(Signed) Dr. Franz Blaha.

Subscribed and sworn to before Second-Lieutenant Daniel F. Margolies."




Q. Dr. Blaha, will you state whether or not visitors came to the camp of Dachau while you were there?

A. Many visitors came to our camp, so that it many times seemed to us that we were not confined in a camp but in an exhibition or a zoo. At times almost every day there was a visit or an excursion of military men, of political men from schools, from different medical and other institutions, and also many members of the Police, S.S. and the Armed Forces; also -

THE PRESIDENT: Will you pause so as to give the interpreter's words time to come through; do you understand?

THE WITNESS: Yes. Also some State officials came to the camp. Regular inspections were made month by month by Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl; also by Prof. Gradel, Inspector of Experimental Stations, Standartenfuehrer Dr. S.S. Reichsfuehrer, Lolling and others.

MR. DODD: The presiding Justice has suggested that you pause, and it would be helpful if you paused in the making of your answers so that the interpreters can complete their interpretation.


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