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 7 of 9)

[M. DUBOST continues his examination of the witness Victor Dupont]

[Page 210]

Q. What about those who were left?

A. Those who were left when the last convoy went out? That is a complicated story. We were deeply grieved about them. About the 1st of April - though I cannot guarantee the exact date, the Commander of the Camp, Pister, assembled a large number of prisoners, and addressed them as follows: "The Allied advance has already reached the immediate neighbourhood of Buchenwald. I wish to hand over to the Allies the keys of the camp. I do not want any atrocities. I wish the camp as a whole to be handed over." As a matter of actual fact, the Allied advance was held up - more than we wanted, at least - and evacuation was begun. A delegation of prisoners went to see the commander, reminding him of his promise, for he had given his word emphasising that it was his "word of honour as a soldier." He seemed acutely embarrassed and explained that Sauckel, the Governor of Thuringia, had given orders that no prisoner should remain in Buchenwald, for that constituted a danger to the province.

Furthermore, we knew that all who knew the secrets of the administration of Buchenwald camp would be put out of the way. A few days before we were liberated forty-three of our comrades belonging to different nationalities were called out to be done away with; then an unusual phenomenon occurred - the camp revolted; the men were hidden and never given up. We also knew that under no circumstances would anyone who had been employed either in the extermination block, or in the hospital be allowed to leave the camp. That is all I have to say about the last few days.

Q. This officer in command of the camp, whom you have just said gave his word of honour as a soldier, was he a soldier?

A. His attitude towards the prisoners was ruthless; but he had his orders. Frankly, he was a special type of soldier; but he was not acting on his own initiative in treating the prisoners in this way.

Q. To what branch of the service did he belong?

A. He belonged to the SS Totenkopf Division.

[Page 211]

Q. Was he an SS man?A. Yes, he was an SS man.Q. He was acting on orders, you say?A. He was certainly acting on orders.Q. For what purpose were the prisoners used? A. They were used in such a way that no attention was paid to the fact that they were human beings. They were used for experimental purposes.

At Buchenwald the experiments were made in Block 46. The men who were to be employed there were always selected by means of a medical examination. On those occasions when I was present it was performed by Dr. Schidlowsky, of whom I have already spoken.

Q. Was he a doctor?

A. Yes, he was a doctor. They were used for the hardest labour; in the Laura mines; working in the salt mines as, for instance, in the Mansleben am See detachment - clearing up bomb debris. It must be remembered that the more difficult the labour conditions were, the harsher was the supervision by the guards.

They were used in Buchenwald for any kind of labour; earth works, quarries, in factories - and so forth. To quote a particular case: There were two factories attached to Buchenwald - the Gustloff works and Mibao works. They were munition factories under technical and non-military management. In this particular case there was some sort of rivalry between the SS and the technical management of the factory. The technical management, concerned with its output, took the part of the prisoners to the extent of occasionally obtaining supplementary rations for them. Internee-labour had certain advantages. The cost was negligible, and from a security point of view the maximum of secrecy was ensured, as the prisoners had no contact with the outside world and therefore no leakage was possible.

Q. You mean - leakage of military information?

A. I mean leakage of military information.

Q. Could outsiders see that the prisoners were ill-treated and wretched?

A. That is another question.

Q. Will you answer it later?

A. I shall answer it later. I have omitted one detail. The internees were also used to a certain extent after death. The ashes resulting from the cremations were thrown into the excrement pit and served to fertilise the fields around Buchenwald. I add this detail because it struck me vividly at the time.

Finally, as I said, work - whatever it might be - was the prisoners' only chance of survival. As soon as they were no longer of any possible use, they were done for.

Q. Were not internees used as "blood donors," involuntary - of course?

A. I forgot that point. Prisoners assigned to light work, whose output was poor, were used as blood donors. Members of the Wehrmacht came several times. I saw them twice at Buchenwald, taking blood from these men. The blood was taken in a ward known as CP-2, i.e. operations ward 2.

Q. This was done on orders from higher quarters?

A. I do not see how it could have been done otherwise.

Q. On their own initiative?

A. Not on the initiative of anyone in the camp. These elements had nothing to do with the camp administration or the guards. I must make it clear that those whom I saw belonged to the Wehrmacht, whereas we were guarded by SS, all of them from the Totenkopf Division. Towards the end, a special use was made of them.

In the early months of 1945, members of the Gestapo came to Buchenwald

[Page 212]

and took away all the papers of those who had died, in order to re-establish their identity and to make out forged papers. One Jew was specially employed to take photographs to adapt the papers which had belonged to the dead for the use of persons whom, of course, we did not know. The Jew disappeared, and I do not know what became of him. We never saw him again.

But this utilisation of identification papers was not confined to the dead. Several hundred French prisoners were summoned to the "Fliegerverwaltung" and there subjected to a very precise interrogation on their identity, their convictions and their background. They were then told that they would on no account be allowed to receive any correspondence, or even parcels - those of them who ever had received any. From an administrative point of view all traces of them were effaced, and contact with the outside world was rendered even more impossible for them than it had been under ordinary circumstances. We were deeply concerned about the fate of our comrades. We were liberated very soon after that, and I can only say that prisoners were used in this way - i.e., that their identification papers were used for manufacturing forged documents.

Q. What was the effect of this kind of life?

A. The effect of this kind of life on the human organism?

Q. On the human organism.

A. As to the human organism, there was only one effect: the degradation of the human being. The living conditions which I have just described were enough in themselves to produce such degradation. It was a systematic process; an unrelenting will seemed to be at work to reduce those men to one level - the lowest possible level of human degradation.

To begin with, the first degrading factor was the indiscriminate way in which they were mixed. It was permissible to mix nationalities, but not to mix indiscriminately every possible type of prisoner-political, military - for the members of the French resistance movement were soldiers - racial elements and common criminals.

Criminals of all nationalities were herded together with their compatriots, and prisoners of every nationality lived side by side.

In addition, there were overcrowding, insanitary conditions and compulsory labour. I shall quote a few examples to show that prisoners were mixed quite indiscriminately.

In March 1945, I saw the French General Duval die. He had been working on the "terrasse" with me all day. When we came back, he was covered with mud and completely exhausted. He died a few hours later.

The French General Vernaud died on a straw mattress, filthy with excrement, in room No. 6, where those on the verge of death were taken, surrounded by dying men.

I saw M. de Tessan die ...

Q. Will you explain to the Tribunal who M. de Tessan was?

A. M. de Tessan was a former French Minister, married to an American. He also died on a straw mattress, covered with pus, from a disease known as septicopyohemia.

I also witnessed the death of Count de Lipokowski, who had done brilliant service in this war. He had been granted the Honours of war by the German Army and had, for one thing, been invited to Paris by Rommel, who desired to show the admiration he felt for his military brilliance. He died miserably in the winter of 1944.

One further instance. The Belgian Minister Janson was in the camp living under the conditions which I have already described, and of which you must have already heard, very often. He died miserably, a physical and mental wreck. His intellect had gone and he had partially lost his reason.

[Page 213]

I quote only extreme cases and especially those of generals, as they were said to be granted, special conditions. I saw no sign of that.

The last stage in this process of the degradation of human beings was the setting of prisoner against prisoner.

Q. Before dealing with this point, will you describe the conditions in which you found your former professor, Leon Kindberg, Professor of Medicine?

A. I studied medicine under Professor Leon Kindberg at the Beaujon Hospital.

Q. In Paris?

A. Yes, in Paris, He was a very highly cultured and brilliantly intelligent man.

In January 1945 I learned that be had just arrived from Monovitz. I found him in Block 58, a block which in normal circumstances would hold three hundred men, and into which twelve hundred had been crowded - Hungarians, Poles, Russians, Czechs, with a large proportion of Jews. I did not recognise Leon Kindberg because there was nothing to distinguish him from the usual type of prisoner to be found in these blocks. There was no longer any sign of intellect in him and it was hard to find anything of the man that I had formerly known. We managed to get him out of that block but his health was unfortunately too much impaired and he died shortly after his liberation.

Q. Can you tell the Tribunal, as far as you know, what crimes were committed by these men?

A. After the Armistice Leon Kindberg had settled in Toulouse to practice "physiology". I know from an absolutely reliable source that he had taken no part whatsoever in resistance activities directed against the German occupation authorities in France. They found out that he was a Jew and as such he was arrested and deported. He drifted into Buchenwald by way of Auschwitz and Monovitz.

Q. What crime had General Duval committed that he should be imprisoned along with pimps, moral degenerates and murderers? What had General Vernaud done?

A. I know nothing about the activities of General Duval and General Vernaud during the occupation. All I can say is that they were certainly not anti-social.

Q. What about Count de Lipokowski and M. de Tessan?

A. Neither Count de Lipokowski nor M. de Tessan had committed any of the faults usually attributed to asocial elements or common criminals.

Q. You may proceed.

A. The means used to achieve the final degradation of the prisoners as a whole was the torture of prisoners by their fellow prisoners. Let me give a particularly brutal instance. In Kommando A.S.6, which was situated at Mansleben am See, 40 miles from Buchenwald, there were prisoners of every nationality, including a large proportion of Frenchmen. I had two friends there: Antoine d'Aimery, a son of General d'Aimery, and Thibani, who was studying to become a missionary.

Q. Catholic?

A. Catholic.

At Mansleben am See prisoners were hanged in public in the hall of a factory connected with the salt-mine. The SS were present at these hangings in full dress uniform, wearing their decorations.

The prisoners were forced to be present at these hangings under threats of the most cruel beatings. When they hanged the poor wretches, the prisoners had to give the Hitler salute.

Worse still, one prisoner was chosen to pull away the stool on which the victim stood. He could not evade the order, as the consequences to himself

[Page 214]

would have been too grave. When the execution had been carried out, the were prisoners had to file in front of the victims between 2 SS men. They were made to touch the body and look the dead man in the eyes.

I believe that men who had been forced to go through such rites must inevitably lose the sense of their dignity as human beings.

In Buchenwald itself all the administrative work was entrusted to the prisoners - i.e., the hangings were carried out by a German prisoner, assisted by other prisoners. The camp was policed by prisoners. When someone in the camp was sentenced to death, it was their duty to find him and take him to the place of execution.

Selection for the labour-squads, with which we were well acquainted, especially for Dora, Lora and S III - extermination detachments - was carried out by prisoners, who decided which of us were to go there.

In this way the prisoners were forced down to the worst possible level of degradation, inasmuch as every man was forced to become the executioner of his fellow.

I have already referred to Block 61, where the extermination of the physically unfit and those otherwise unsuited for labour was carried out. These executions were also carried out by prisoners under SS supervision and control. From the point of view of humanity in general, this was perhaps the worst crime of all, for these men who were forced to torture their fellow-beings were indeed, allowed to live, but became profoundly changed.

Q. Who was responsible for these crimes, as far as your personal knowledge goes?

A. One thing which strikes me as being particularly significant is that the methods which I observed in Buchenwald now appear to have been the same, or almost the same, as those prevailing in all the other camps. The degree of uniformity in the way in which the camps were run is clear evidence of orders from higher quarters. In the case of Buchenwald in particular, the personnel, no matter how rough they might be, would not have done such things on their own initiative. Moreover, they - the camp chief and the SS doctor himself - frequently pleaded superior orders. The name most frequently invoked was that of Himmler. Other names also came up. The chief medical officer for all the camps - Lolling - was mentioned on numerous occasions in connection with Block 61 - the extermination block, especially by an SS doctor in the camp, named Bender. In regard to the selection of physically unfit prisoners and Jews to be sent to Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen, to be gassed, I heard the name of Pohl mentioned.

Q. What were the functions of Pohl?

A. He was chief of the SS administration in Berlin, Div. D 2.

Q. Could the German people as a whole have been in ignorance of these atrocities, or were they bound to know of them?

A. As these camps had been in existence for years, it is impossible for them not to have known of them. Our transport stopped at Treves on its way in. The prisoners in some vans were completely naked while in others they were clothed. There was a crowd of people around the station and they all saw the transport. Some of them annoyed the SS men patrolling the platform. But there were other channels through which information could reach the population. To begin with, there were squads working outside the camps. Labour squads went out from Buchenwald to Weimar, Erfurt and Jena. They left in the morning and came back at night; and during the day they were among the civilian population. In the factories, too, the supervisors were not members of the armed forces. The "Meister" was not an SS man. They went home every night after supervising the work of the prisoners all day. Certain factories - the Gustloff works in Weimar, for instance - even employed civilian labour.

[Page 215]

The civil authorities were responsible for victualling the camps and were allowed to enter them, and I have seen civilian lorries coming into the camp.

The railway authorities were necessarily informed on those matters. Numerous trains carried prisoners daily from one camp to another, or from France to Germany, and these trains were driven by railway-men. Moreover, there was a regular daily train to Buchenwald. Buchenwald station was the terminus. The railway administrative authorities must, therefore, have been well informed.

Orders were also given in the factories, and industrialists could not fail to be informed regarding the personnel they employed in their factories. I may add that visits took place; the German prisoners were sometimes visited. I knew certain German internees, and I know that on the occasion of those visits they talked to their relatives, who could hardly fail to inform their home circle of what was going on. It would seem impossible to deny that the German people knew of the camps.

Q. The Army?

A. The Army knew of the camps. At least, so far as I could observe

Every week so-called commissions came to Buchenwald - a group of officers who came to visit the camp. There were SS officers among them; but I very often saw members of the Wehrmacht - Air Force officers - who came on these visits. Sometimes we were able to identify those who visited the camp, though not often so far as I was concerned. On 22 March 1945, General Bougrowski came to visit the camp. He spent a long time in Block 61 in particular. He was accompanied on this visit by an SS General and the Chief Medical Officer of the camp, Dr. Schidlowsky.

Another point, during the last few months, the Buchenwald guard, plus SS-men -

Q. Excuse me for interrupting you. Could you tell us about Block 61?

A. Block 61 was the extermination block for those suffering from cachaxia - in other words, those who arrived in such a state of exhaustion that they were totally unfit for work.

Q. Can you tell us about this visit to Block 61 from your own personal observation?

A. This is from my own personal observation.

Q. Whom does it concern?

A. Dr. Bougrowski.

Q. In the Army?

A. No. A doctor and an SS-General.

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