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-Fourth Day: Monday, 28rd January, 1946
(Part 6 of 9)

[Page 205]

DR. BABEL : Mr. President, this morning I discussed with General Mitchell some questions which have preoccupied me for a long time. General Mitchell agreed in the course of our conversation that my duties and activities are so extensive, that it will now be necessary to appoint a second defence counsel for the SS; my presence at the sessions claims so much of my working time and has become so exhausting and so burdensome that I am often compelled to be absent from the Court. I am sorry, but in the prevailing circumstances, I cannot help it.

Further, I would like to say this: so far, over 40,000 members of the SS have made applications to the Tribunal, and, although many of these are collective and not individual applications, you can imagine how wide the field is.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, no doubt your work is extensive, but this morning as I have already told you, General Mitchell has informed the Tribunal that his interview with you finished at 10.15, and it appears to the Tribunal that you must have known that the witnesses who were giving evidence this morning were giving evidence about concentration camps.

In addition to that, you had obtained the assistance of another counsel,

[Page 206]

I think, Dr. Marx, to appear on your behalf, and he did appear on your behalf, and he will have an opportunity of cross-examining this witness if he wishes to do so now. The Tribunal considers that you must conclude your cross- examination of this witness now. I mean to say, you may ask any further questions of the witness that you wish.

DR. BABEL: It all amounts to whether I can put a question - and this I cannot do at the moment; therefore, I must renounce the cross-examination of the witness now.

THE PRESIDENT: M. Dubost, there may be some other German counsel who wish to cross-examine this witness.

M. Dubost, do you wish to address the Tribunal?

M. DUBOST: I would like to state to the Tribunal that we have no reason whatsoever to fear a cross-examination of our witness, or of this morning's witness, at any time, and we are ready to ask our witnesses to stay in Nuremberg as long as may be necessary to reply to any questions from the defence.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, then. Dr. Babel, in view of the offer of the French prosecutor to keep the witness in Nuremberg, the Tribunal will allow you to put any questions you wish to put to him in the course of the next two days. Do you understand?


DR. KAUFFMANN (Counsel for Kaltenbrunner): Before I question the witness, I allow myself to raise one point which, I believe, will have an important influence on the good progress of the proceedings. The point I wish to raise is the following - and I speak in the name of my colleagues as well: - would it not be as well to come to an agreement that both the prosecution and the defence be informed the day before a witness is brought in, which witness is to be heard? The material has now become so considerable that circumstances make it impossible to ask pertinent questions - questions which are urgently necessary in the interest of all parties.

As far as the defence is concerned, we are ready to inform the Tribunal and the prosecution of the witnesses we intend to ask for examination at least one day before they are to be heard.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal has already expressed its wish that they should be informed beforehand of the witnesses who are to be called and upon what subject. They hope that Counsel for the prosecution will take note of that wish.

DR. KAUFFMANN: Yes. I thank you.

(Cross-examination by Dr. Kauffmann)

Q. A point of special significance emerges from the statements of the witness we heard this morning, as well as from the statements of this witness; and this point concerns something which may be of decisive importance for the trial as a whole.

THE PRESIDENT: You are not here to make a speech at the moment. You are to ask the witness questions.

DR. KAUFFMANN: Yes. It is the question of the responsibility of the German people. The witness has stated that the civilian population was in a position to know what was going on, I shall now try to ascertain the truth by means of a series of questions.

Q. Did civilians look on when executions took place? Would you answer this?

A. They could see the corpses scattered along the roads when the prisoners were shot while returning in convoys, and corpses were even thrown from the trains. And they could always take note of the emaciated condition of these prisoners who worked outside, because they saw them.

[Page 207]

Q Do you know that it was forbidden on pain of death to say anything outside the camp about the atrocities, anything in the way of cruelties, torture, etc. that took place inside?

A. As I spent two years in the camp I saw them. Some of them I saw myself, and the rest were described to me by eyewitnesses.

Q. Could you please repeat that again? Did you see the secrecy order? What did you see?

A. Not the order - I saw the execution and that is worse.

Q. My question was this: Do you know that the strictest orders were given to the SS personnel, to the executioners, etc ... not to speak even inside the camp, much less outside it, of the atrocities that went on, and that eyewitnesses who spoke of them rendered themselves liable to the most rigorous penalties, including the death penalty?

Do you know anything about that - about such a practice? Perhaps you will tell me whether you yourself were allowed to make any observations of the kind.

A. I know that liberated prisoners had to sign a statement saying that they would never reveal what had happened in the camp, and that they would forget what had happened, but those who were in contact with the population, and there were many of them, did not fail to talk about it. Furthermore, Mauthausen was situated on a hill. There was a crematorium, which emitted flames three feet high. When you see flames three feet high coming out of a chimney, every night, you are bound to wonder what it is, and everyone must have known that it was a crematorium.

DR. KAUFFIMANN: I have no further questions. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other counsel for the defendants wish to ask any questions?

Did you tell us who the Green Prisoners were? You mentioned Green Prisoners.

THE WITNESS: Yes, these Green Prisoners were prisoners convicted under the ordinary penal code. They were used by the SS to police the camps. As I have already said, they were often more bestial than the SS themselves and acted as their executioners. They did the things with which the SS did not wish to soil their hands: but always by order of the Kommandofuehrer.

The contact with the "Green" Germans was terrible for the internees. They could not bear the sight of us because they realised that we were not their sort, and they persecuted us for that alone. It was the same in all the camps. In all the camps we were bullied by the German criminals serving with the SS.

THE PRESIDENT : Do you wish to ask any question in re- examination?

M. DUBOST: I have no more questions to ask.

THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness can retire.

(Witness excused)

M. DUBOST: I had intended to request the Tribunal to allow us to hear a Norwegian witness, M. Hans Kappelen, but I find that it is impossible to overcome certain difficulties connected with interpretation in the case of this witness, who speaks neither French nor English, and his testimony would have to be translated into one of those languages, thus involving certain technical difficulties.

We request the Tribunal, therefore, to hear the French witness, Dr. Dupont.

THE PRESIDENT Yes, Very well.

(Whereupon the witness took the stand)

THE PRESIDENT: Is your name Dr. Dupont.


THE PRESIDENT: Will you repeat this oath after me:

[Page 208]

Do you swear to speak without hate or fear to say the truth, all the truth, only the truth.

(The witness repeated the oath in French).

THE PRESIDENT: Raise your right hand and say you swear.


THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.

(Examination by M. Dubost):

Q. Your name is Victor Dupont.

A. Yes, I am called Victor Dupont.

Q. You were born on 12 December 1909.

A. That is correct.

Q. At Charmes in the Vosges?

A. That is correct.

Q. You are of French nationality, born of French parents?

A. That is correct.

Q. You have won honourable distinctions; what are they?

A. I have the Legion of Honour, I am a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. I have been twice mentioned in Dispatches, and I have the Resistance Medal.

Q. Were you deported to Buchenwald?

A. I was deported to Buchenwald on 24 January 1944.

Q. You stayed there?

A. I stayed there 15 months.

Q. Until 20 May 1945?

A. No, until 20 April 1945.

Q. Will you make your statement on the regime in the concentration camp where you were interned, and the aim of those who prescribed this regime?

A. When I arrived at Buchenwald I soon became aware of the difficult living conditions. The regime imposed upon the prisoners was not based on any principle of justice. The principle which formed the basis of this regime was the principle of the purge. I will explain.

We - I am speaking of the French - were grouped together at Buchenwald - almost all of us - without having been tried by any Tribunal.

In 1942, '43, '44 and '45, it was quite unusual to pass any formal judgement on the prisoners. Many of us were interrogated and then deported; others were cleared by the interrogation and deported all the same. Others again were not interrogated at all. I shall give you three examples.

On 11 November, 1944, elements estimated at several hundred persons were arrested at Grenoble during a demonstration commemorating the Armistice. They were brought to Buchenwald, where the greater part died. The same thing happened in the village of Verchenie in October 1943. I saw them at Buchenwald too. It happened again in April, 1944, at St. Claude, and I saw these fellows brought in in August, 1944.

In this way, various elements were assembled at Buchenwald, subject to martial law. But there were also all kinds of people, including some who were obviously innocent, who had either been cleared by interrogation or not even interrogated at all. Finally, there were some political prisoners. They had been deported because they were members of parties which were to be suppressed in their entirety.

That does not mean that the interrogations were not to be taken seriously. The interrogations which I underwent and which I saw others undergo were particularly inhuman.

I shall enumerate a few of the methods

Every imaginable kind of beating, immersion in bath-tubs, squeezing of testicles, hanging, crushing of the head in iron bands, and the torturing of entire families in each other's sight. I have, in particular, seen a wife tortured before

[Page 209]

her husband, and children were tortured before their mothers. For the sake of precision, I will quote one name: Francis Goret of the Rue de Bourgogne in Paris was tortured before his mother.

Once in the camp, conditions were the same for everyone.

Q. You spoke of racial purging as a social policy. What was the criterion?

A. At Buchenwald various elements described as "political," "national" - mainly Jews and gipsies - and "social" - especially criminals - were herded together under the same regime. There were criminals of every nation: Germans, Czechs, Frenchmen, etc., all living together under the same regime. A purge does not necessarily imply extermination, but this purge was achieved by means of the extermination already mentioned. It began for us in certain cases - the decision was taken quite suddenly. I shall give one example: In 1944 a convoy of several hundred gipsy children arrived at Buchenwald - by what administrative mystery we never knew. They were assembled during the winter of 1944 and were to be sent on to Auschwitz to be gassed.

One of the most tragic memories of my detention is the way in which these children, knowing perfectly well what was in store for them, were driven into the vans, screaming and crying. They went on to Auschwitz the same day.

In other cases the extermination was carried out by progressive stages. It had already begun when the convoy arrived. For instance, in the French convoy which left Compiegne on 24 January 1944 and arrived on 26 January, I saw one van containing 100 persons, of which 12 were dead and 8 insane. During the period of my detention I saw numerous transports come in. The same thing happened every time; only the numbers varied. In this way the elimination of a certain proportion had already been achieved when the convoy arrived. Then they were put in quarantine and exposed to cold for some hours, while the roll call was taken. The weaker died. Then came extermination through work. Some of them were picked out and sent to labour squads such as Dora, S III and Lora. I noticed that, after those departures which took place every month - when the contingent was brought up to strength again - lorry-loads of dead were brought back to Buchenwald. I even attended the post-mortems on them, and I can tell you the results. The lesions were those of a very advanced stage of cachaxia. Those who had stood up to conditions for one, two or three months -very often exhibited the lesions characteristic of acute tuberculosis - mostly of the granular type. In Buchenwald itself, prisoners had to work; and there, as everywhere else, the only hope of survival lay in work. Extermination in Buchenwald was carried out in accordance with a principle of selection laid down by the medical officer in charge, Dr. Schidlowsky.

Q. Excuse me for interrupting. To what nationality did this medical officer in charge belong?

A. He was a German SS doctor.

Q. Are you sure of that?

A. Yes, I am quite sure.

Q. Are you testifying as an eye-witness?

A. I am testifying as an eye-witness.

Q. Go on, please.

A. Schidlowsky carried out the selection and picked out the sick and those suffering from chronic diseases. Prior to January 1945 they were sent to Auschwitz; later on they went to Bergen-Belsen. None of them ever returned.

Another case which I witnessed concerns a Jewish labour squad which was sent to Auschwitz and stayed there several months. When they came back, they were unfit for even the lighter work. A similar fate overtook them: they also were sent to Auschwitz again. I myself personally witnessed these things. I was present at the selection and I witnessed their departure.

[Page 210]

Later on, the executions in Buchenwald took place in the camp itself. To my own knowledge they began in September 1944 in room 7, a little room in the Revier. The men were done away with by means of inter-cardiac injections. The number was not great, it did not exceed a few score a day, at the most.

Later. on convoys came in, and the number of cachaxia cases increased. The executions had to be speeded up. At first they were carried out as soon as the transports arrived; but from January 1945 onwards, they were taken care of in a special block - Block 61. At that date all those nicknamed "Musselmans" were collected in this block. We never saw them without their blankets over their shoulders. They were unfit for even the lightest work. They had all to go through Block 61. The death-roll varied daily from a minimum of 10 to about 200 in Block 6l. The execution was performed by injecting phenol into the heart in the most brutal manner. The bodies were then carted to the crematorium mostly during roll-calls or at night.

To give an example: at the end of March, 1945, elements were withdrawn from the S III detachment. They were in a state of complete exhaustion when they arrived and quite unfit for any kind of exertion. They were the first to be removed, two days after their arrival. It was only about half a mile from their starting-point in the small camp, i.e., at the back of the Buchenwald camp to their point of assembly for roll- call; and to give you an idea of the state of weakness in which these people were - I need only say that between this starting point and their assembly-point - that is, over a distance of half-a-mile, we saw sixty of them collapse and die. They could go no further. Most of them died very soon - in a few hours or in the course of the next day.

So much for the systematic extermination which I witnessed in Buchenwald, including...

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