The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
21st January to 1st February, 1946

Forty-Third Day: Friday, 25rd January, 1946
(Part 7 of 7)

[M. DUBOST continues]

[Page 177]

Page 39, last paragraph, shows what kind of people the prison staff consisted of: "They were recruited from the NSKK (National Socialist Motor Corps) and the SA because of their political views and because they were above any suspicion and would submit to a harsh discipline." This is also to be found in the file of the Public Prosecutor at Cologne.

At Rheinbach those condemned to death and destined to be executed in Cologne, were beaten to death for any break of this discipline. We can easily imagine the brutality of the men who were in charge of the prisoners. The German official text will furnish us with details regarding the executions. The condemned were guillotined. Nearly all the condemned showed surprise, say the German documents which we are analysing, and expressed their dissatisfaction at being guillotined, instead of being shot, for patriotic deeds of which they were declared guilty. They thought they deserved to be treated as soldiers.

Among those executed in Cologne were some young people of eighteen and nineteen years of age, and one woman. Some French women, who were political prisoners, were taken from the Lubeck prison in order to be executed in Hamburg. They were nearly always charged with the same thing, "helping the enemy." The files are incomplete, but we have those of the Prosecutor of Cologne; in every case the offences committed were of the same nature. Keitel systematically rejected all appeals for mercy which were submitted to him.

Although the lot of those who were held in the prisons was very hard, and sometimes terrible, it was infinitely less cruel than the fate of those Frenchmen who had the misfortune to be interned in the concentration camps. The Tribunal is well informed about these camps; my colleagues of the United Nations have presented a long statement on this matter. The Tribunal will remember that it has already been shown a map indicating the exact location of every camp which existed in Germany and in the occupied countries. We shall not, therefore, revert to the geographical distribution of the camps.

With the permission of the Tribunal I should now like to deal with the conditions under which Frenchmen and nationals of the Western Occupied Countries were taken to these camps. Before their departure, the internees, who were victims of arbitrary arrest, such as I described to you this morning, were brought together in prisons or in assembly camps in France.

The main assembly camp in France was at Compiegne. It is from there that most of the deportees left who were to be sent to Germany. There were two other assembly camps, Beaume La Rolande and Pithiviers, reserved especially for Jews, and Drancy. The conditions under which people were interned in those camps were rather similar to those under which internees in

[Page 178]

the German prisons lived. With your permission I shall not dwell any longer on this. The Tribunal will have taken judicial notice of the declarations made by Monsieur Blechmall and Monsieur Jacob in Document 457, which I am now submitting as Exhibit RF 328.

THE PRESIDENT: Which book is this in?

M. DUBOST: That is in the eleventh group of papers in the new file.

THE PRESIDENT: Is it the book which is described as "deporation?"

M. DUBOST: That is correct. It is entitled "Deporation" and it is the eleventh document in the book.

THE PRESIDENT: The index, M. Dubost, does not include that. 457 is it?

M. DUBOST: 457.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we have it.

M. DUBOST: To avoid making these discussions too long and too ponderous with long quotations and testimonies which, after all, are very similar, we shall confine ourselves to reading to the Tribunal a passage from the testimony of Monsieur Jacob concerning the conduct of the German Red Cross. This passage is to be found on page 4 at the very bottom of the French document:

"We received a visit from several prominent Germans, such as Stulpnagel, Du Paty de Clem, Commissioner for Jewish Questions, and Colonel Baron von Berg, Vice President of the German Red Cross. This von Berg was very formal and very spectacular. He always wore the small insignia of the Red Cross, which did not prevent his being inhuman and a thief."
And on page 6, the penultimate paragraph, Colonel von Berg was, as we have already said earlier, very spectacular.

I omit two lines.

THE PRESIDENT: Which paragraph now?

M. DUBOST : Page 6, last three lines.

"In spite of his title of Vice President of the German Red Cross, of which he dared to wear the insignia, he selected at random a number of our comrades for deportation."
Concerning the assembly centre of Compiegne, the Tribunal will find in document 174-F, pages 14 and 15, some details about the fate of the internees. I do not think it is necessary to read them.

In Norway, Holland and Belgium there were, as in France, assembly camps The most typical of these camps, and certainly the best known, is the Breendonck Camp in Belgium, about which it is necessary to give the Tribunal a few details because a great many Belgians were interned there and died of privations, hardships and tortures of all kinds, or were executed either by shooting or by hanging.

This camp was established in the Fortress of Breendonck in 1940, and we are now extracting from a document which we have already deposited as 231-F and which is also known as UK-76, a few details about the conditions prevailing in that camp. It is the fourth document in your new document book. It is marked 231-F, and is entitled, "Report on the Concentration Camp of Breendonck."

THE PRESIDENT: What did you say the name of the camp is?

M. DUBOST: Breendonck, B-r-e-e-n-d-o-n-c-k.

We will ask the Tribunal to be good enough to grant us a few minutes. Our duty is to expose in rather more detail the conditions at this camp because a considerable number of Belgians were interned there and their internment took a rather special form. I will read a few pages:

"The Germans occupied this fort in August 1940, and they brought the internees there in September. They were Jews. The Belgian Government has not been able to find out how many people were interned from Sep-

[Page 179]

tember 1940 to August 1944, when the camp was evacuated and Belgium liberated. Nevertheless, it is thought that about 3,000 to 3,600 internees passed through the camp of Breendonck. About 250 died of privation; 450 were shot and 12 were hanged.

But we must bear in mind the fact that the majority of the prisoners in Breendonck were transferred at various times to camps in Germany. Most of those transferred prisoners did not return. There should, therefore, be added to those who died in Breendonck, all those who did not survive their captivity in Germany.

Various categories of prisoners were received into the camp: Jews - for whom the regime was more severe than for the others: Communists and Marxists, of which there were a good many, in spite of the fact that those who interrogated them had nothing definite against them: persons who belonged to the Resistance: people who had been denounced to the Germans: hostages, among them -'

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): M. Dubost, where have you got to now?

M. DUBOST: The fourth paragraph of the second page.

"... hostages, among them Monsieur Fougery, a former minister, and Monsieur van Kesbeek, who was a liberal deputy, were interned there for ten weeks as expiation for the throwing of a grenade on the main square of Malines. Both of them died after their liberation as a result of the ill-treatment which they suffered in that camp.

There were also in that camp some black market operators, and the Belgian Government said of them that they were not ill-treated, and were even given preferential treatment." That is in paragraph (b) of page 2.

"The prisoners were compelled to work. The most repugnant collective punishments were inflicted on the slightest pretext. One of these punishments consisted in forcing the internees to crawl under the beds and to stand up at command; this was done to the accompaniment of whipping." You will find that at the top of page 3 of the first paragraph.

In the second paragraph of the same page is a description of the conditions of the prisoners who were isolated from the others, and kept in solitary confinement. They were forced to wear a hood every time they had to leave their cells or when they had to come in contact with other prisoners.

THE PRESIDENT: This is a long report, is it not?

M. DUBOST: That is why I am summarising it rather than reading it, and I do not think I can make it any shorter, because it was given to me by the Belgian Government, which attaches much importance to the brutalities, excesses and atrocities that were committed by the Germans in the Camp of Breendonck, and suffered by the whole of the population, especially the Belgian elite.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well. I understand you are summarising it?

M. DUBOST: I am now summarising it, Mr. President.


M. DUBOST : I had reached, in my summary, the description of the life of these prisoners who had been put into cells and who sometimes wore handcuffs and had their feet shackled. They could not leave their cells without being forced to wear a hood.

One of these prisoners, M. Paquet, states that he spent eight months under such a regime, and when one day he tried to lift the hood so as to find his way, he received a violent blow with the butt of a gun which broke three vertebrae in his neck.

On page 8 are the following: discipline, labour, acts of brutality, murders. We are told that the work of the prisoners consisted of removing the earth

[Page 180]

covering the fort, and carrying it outside the moat. This work was done by hand. It was very painful and dangerous, and caused the loss of a great many human lives.

Small wagons were used. The wagons were hurled along the rails by the SS and they often broke the legs of the prisoners who were not warned of their approach. The SS made a game of this, and at the slightest stoppage they would rush at the internees and beat them.

One page further, in paragraph 5, in the middle of the page, we are told that frequently, for no reason at all, the prisoners were thrown into the moat surrounding the fort. According to the report of the Belgian Government, dozens of prisoners were drowned. Some prisoners were killed after they had been buried up to their necks, and the SS finished them off by kicking them or beating them with a stick. Food, clothing, correspondence, medical care, all this information is given in this report, as in all the other similar reports which I have already read to you.

The conclusion is important and should be read in part, - second paragraph:

"The former internees of Breendonck, many of whom have experienced the concentration camps in Germany, Buchenwald, Neuengamme, Oranienburg, state that, generally speaking, the conditions prevailing at Breendonck as regards discipline and food, were worse. They add that, in the camps in Germany which were more crowded, they felt less under the domination of their guards, and had the feeling that their lives were less in danger."
The figures given in this report are only minimum figures. To quote but one example, in the last paragraph of the last page: M. Verheirstraeten declares that he put 120 people in their coffins during the two months, December 1942 to January 1943. If one bears in mind the executions of the 6 and 13 of January, which accounted for the lives of 20 persons, respectively, we see that during that time, that is to say, over a period of two months, 80 persons died of disease or ill-treatment. From these camps the internees were transported to Germany in convoys, and a description of these should be given to the Tribunal.

The Tribunal should know, first of all, that from France alone, excluding the three departments of the Haut-Rhine, Bas-Rhine, and Moselle, 326 convoys left between 1 January 1944 and 25 August of the same year, that is to say, an average of ten convoys per week. Each convoy transported from 1,000 to 2,000 persons, and we know now, from what our witness has just said, that each truck carried from 60 to 120 individuals. It appears that there left from France, excluding the above mentioned three Northern departments, three convoys in 1940, 19 convoys in 1941, 104 convoys in 1942, 257 convoys in 1943. These are figures given in document 274, page 14 of the book which we submitted to the Tribunal this morning.

These convoys nearly always left from the Compiegne camp where more than 50,000 internees were registered and from there 78 convoys left in 1943 and 95 convoys in 1944.

The purpose of these deporations was to terrorise the population. The Tribunal will remember the text I read; that the families, not knowing what became of the internees, were seized with terror, and advantage was taken of this to round up more workers to replace German labour resources which had become depleted, owing to the war with Russia.

The manner in which these deportations were carried out not only made it possible more or less to select this labour, but also it constituted the first stage of a new German policy which we now see appearing; that is purely and simply the extermination of all racial or intellectual categories whose political activity appeared a menace to the Nazi leaders.

[Page 181]

These deportees, who were locked up 80 or 120 in each truck in any season, who could neither sit nor crouch down, were given nothing whatsover to eat or drink during their journey. In this connection we would particularly like to put forward Dr. Steinberg's testimony, taken by Lt. Col. Badin, from the Committee for the Investigation of Enemy War Crimes in Paris, Document 392-F, which we submit as Exhibit RF 330, which is the 12th in your document book. We will read only a few paragraphs on page 2. Paragraph 3 - third from the bottom:
"We were crowded into cattle trucks, about 70 in each. Sanitary conditions were frightful. Our journey lasted two days. We reached Auschwitz on the 24 June 1942. It should be noted that we had been given no food at all when we left and that we had to live during those two days on what little food we had taken with us from Drancy."
The deportees were at times refused water by the German Red Cross. Evidence was taken by the Ministry of Prisoners and Deportees, and this appears in document 274-F, the bound book, page 12, paragraph 3, 4th and 5th lines.

It is about a convoy of Jewish women which left Bobigny station on 19 June 1942. "They travelled for three days and three nights, dying of thirst. At Breslau they begged the nurses of the German Red Cross to give them a little water, but in vain."

Moreover, Lt. Geneste and Dr. Bloch have testified to the same facts and other different facts, which are set out in the printed document, Exhibit RF 321, entitled "Concentration Camps," which we have been able to submit to you in three languages: French, Russian, and German, the English version having been exhausted. Page 21, at the top of the page:

"In the station of Bremen water was refused to us by the German Red Cross, who said that there was no water." This is the testimony of Lt. Geneste of O.R.C.G. Concerning this conduct of the German Red Cross, and to conclude the subject, there is one more word to be said. This same document gives you - on page 162, paragraph 3 - the proof that it was an ambulance car bearing a red cross which carried gas in iron containers, destined for the gas chambers of Auschwitz camp.

(The Tribunal was adjourned until 28th January 1946 at 1000 hours.)

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