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-Fifth Day: Tuesday, 29rd January, 1946
(Part 3 of 9)

[M. DUBOST continues his examination of the witness Hans Cappelen]

[Page 236]



Q. Will you please continue to tell us of your passage through those camps, and mention specifically what you know of the camp of Natzweiler, and the

[Page 237]

role at Natzweiler of Dr. Hirtz of the German medical faculty at Strassbourg?

A. Well, in Natzweiler, experiments were conducted. Just beside the camp there was a farm called Struthof. It was practically a part of the camp, and some of the prisoners had to work there to clean up the rooms and, not so often, but sometimes, they were ordered out there. For instance, one day, I remember, all the gipsies were taken down to Struthof. They were very afraid of being taken down there.

One friend of mine, a Norwegian called Hridding, who had a job in the hospital, or so-called hospital, in the camp, told me the day after the gipsies were taken to Struthof, "I must tell you something. They have so far as I understand, tried some sort of gas upon them."

"How do you know that?" I asked.

"Well, come along with me."

And then, through the window of the hospital, I could see four of the gipsies lying on beds. They did not look well, and it was not easy to look through the glass, but they had some mucus, I suppose, around their mouths. Hridding told me that the gipsies could not say much because they were so ill, but so far as he had been able to understand, it was gas which they had used upon them. There had been twelve of them, and four were still living; the other eight, so far as Hridding understood, died down there at Struthof.

Hridding told me later, "You know that man who sometimes walks through the camp together with some others?"

"Yes, I have seen him," I said.

"That is Professor Hirtz from the German University in Strassbourg."

I am quite sure Hridding said that this man was Hirt or Hirtz. He came there nearly daily with a so called commission to see those who had come back from Struthof, to see the result. That is all I know about that.

Q. How many Norwegians died at Gross Rosen?

A. In Gross Rosen, it is not possible for me to say exactly, but I know about forty persons who went there, and I also know about ten who came back again. Gross Rosen was a bad camp. But nearly the worst thing about it was its evacuation. I suppose it must have been in the middle of February of that year. The Russians came nearer and nearer to Breslau.

THE PRESIDENT: You mean 1945?

MR. CAPPELEN: Yes, I meant 1945. One day we were placed upon a so-called "Appellplatz" (drill ground). We were very feeble, all of us. We had had hard work, little food, and all sorts of ill-treatment. We started to march in parties of about two to three thousand. The party I was with numbered about 2,500 to 2,800. We heard how many when they numbered them.

Well, we started to walk, and we had SS guards on each side. They were very nervous and almost like mad persons, Several were drunk. We could not walk fast enough, and they smashed in the heads of five who could not keep up. They said in German. "That is what happens to those who cannot walk." The others would have been treated in the same way if they had not been able to keep up. We walked as best we could. We attempted to help one another but we were all too exhausted. After walking for six to eight hours we came to a station, a railway station. It was very cold and we had only striped prison clothes on, and bad boots, but we said, "Oh, we are glad that we have come to a railway station. It is better to stand in a cow truck than to walk, in the middle of winter." It was very cold, 10 to 12 degrees below zero. It was a long train with open trucks. In Norway we call them sand trucks, and we were kicked on to those trucks, about 80 on each truck. We had to sit together and on these trucks we sat for about five days without food, and without water. When it was snowing we stood like this

[Page 238]

(indicating) just to get some water into our mouths, and, after a long, long time, it seemed to me years, we came to a place which I afterwards learned was Dora. That is in the neighbourhood of Buchenwald.

Well, we arrived there. They kicked us down from the trucks, but many were dead. The man who sat next to me was dead, but I had no chance to get away. I had to sit with a dead man for the last day. I did not see the figures myself, naturally, but about one third to a half of us were dead and stiffening. And they told us that one third - I heard the figure afterwards in Dora-that the dead on our train numbered 1447.

After Dora I do not remember much, because I was more or less dead. I have always been a man of good humour and high spirits, for my own sake and that of my friends, but I had nearly given up.

I do not remember much more, but then I bad good fortune, because Bernadottes' action came, and we were rescued and brought to Neuengamme, by Hamburg. When we arrived, there were some of my old friends, the student from Norway who had been deported to Germany, other prisoners who came from Sachsenhausen and other camps, and the few, comparatively few Norwegian "NN" prisoners who were still living, all in very bad health. Many of my friends are still in hospital in Norway. Some died after coming home.

That is what happened to me and my comrades in the three and three-quarter years I was in prison.

I am fully aware that it is impossible for me to give more details than I have done, but I have spoken of the parts of it which show, I hope, how the German SS behaved toward Norwegians, and in Norway.


Q. For what reason were you arrested?

A. I was arrested on the 29 November 1941, in a place then called Hoestboey. That is a sort of health resort where one goes skiing.

Q. What had you done? What was held against you?

A. We Norwegians mostly regarded ourselves as at war with Germany in one way or another, and naturally most of us were opposed to the Germans in sentiment, so when the Gestapo asked me, I remember, "What do you think of M. Quisling?" I only answered, "What would you have done if a German officer, even a major, when your country was at war, and your Government had given an order for mobilisation, came and said, 'Better forget the Mobilisation Order'? A man with any self-respect cannot do that."

Q. On the whole, did the German population know of, or were they unaware of, what went on in the camps?

A. That is, naturally, very difficult for me to answer. But in Norway at least, even at that time when I was arrested, we knew quite a lot about how the Germans treated their prisoners.

And there is one thing I remember when I was working in Munich - I was then in Dachau for a short time. I was with some others, brought to the town of Munich to go into the ruins to look for persons, and find bombs and things like that. I suppose that was the idea. They never told us anything, but we knew what was happening. There were about a hundred of us; prisoners. We were looking like corpses, all of us very bad. We went through the streets and people could see us, and they also could see what we were being sent to do - the kind of work which one would think was very dangerous and which should in some way help them, but they did not appreciate seeing us. Some of them shouted at us, "It is your fault that we are bombed."

Q. Were there any chaplains in your camp? Were you allowed to have prayers?

A. Well, we had among the "NN" prisoners in Natzweiler a priest from Norway. He was, I suppose, what you call in English a Dean. He was quite

[Page 239]

senior. In Norwegian we call it "Prost." He was from the West coast of Norway. He also was brought to Natzweiler as an "NN" prisoner, and some of my comrades asked him if they could not meet sometimes, so that he could preach to them. But he said, "No, I would rather not! I had a bible, but they have taken it from me, and they joked about it and said, 'You dirty churchmen.' If you showed the bible and things like that, you knew what to expect, so we did not do anything of that kind.

Q. Those who were dying among you, did they have the consolation of religion at the time of their death?

A. No.

Q. Were the dead treated with decency?

A. No.

Q. Was any religious service conducted?

A. No.

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

GENERAL RUDENKO: I have no question, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Has the United States?

Then does any member of the defendants' counsel wish to ask the witness any questions?


Q. Witness, at your first interrogation, which as a rule took place about ten days after arrest, were you interrogated by German or by Norwegian Gestapo men?

A. It was done by two Norwegians who belonged, as I learned afterwards, to the so-called State Police. That was not the Norwegian police force. They were working together with the Gestapo; in fact, it was the same thing. But it was by them I was interrogated after the first ten days. But, as I heard afterwards, they usually did it in that way, because it was easier to interrogate in Norwegian, and some of the Germans could not speak Norwegian. Most of them could not. I think that is why they used the Norwegians and you could call them Gestapo, more or less. They let them handle the prisoners first.

Q. Then in the Victoria Terrace, which name I believe you used to designate the Gestapo headquarters in Oslo, were there Norwegian or German officials present during your interrogation?

A. I dare say there may have been one Norwegian as some kind of interpreter, but as I spoke in German I cannot say for certain whether or not there were one or two Norwegian policemen there. It is difficult. But as Victoria Terrace was the headquarters of the Gestapo, naturally they had some Norwegian Nazis there to help them. But most of them were German.

Q. Were the officials who interrogated you in uniform or in civilian clothes?

A. During my interrogations I sometimes saw them in uniform. But when they tortured me they mostly were in civilian clothes. So far as I can remember, there was only one person in uniform during one of the torture interrogations.

Q. You stated that you were then treated by a physician. Did this physician come of his own free will or was he asked to come?

A. The first time I asked for a doctor, but then I did not get one. But at the time when I recovered consciousness, when I was apparently presumed dead, the guard had possibly been looking at me, because he was then running away, and afterwards they came with a doctor.

Q. Did you know that in the German concentration camps talking was absolutely forbidden about the conditions in the camp, either among the

[Page 240]

prisoners or, of course, to outsiders, and that any violation of the order not to talk was subject to most severe penalties?

A. In the camps it was like this; it was of course more or less understood that it was pretty well forbidden to talk about the tortures we had gone through, but naturally in the camps, the "Nacht and Nebel" Camps where I was, the situation was so bad that even torture sometimes seemed to be better than dying slowly away like that; so almost the only thing we spoke about was: "when shall the war end; how can we help our comrades; and are we to get some food tonight or not?"

DR. MERKEL: Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other defendants' counsel wish to ask any questions? M. Dubost, have you anything you wish to ask?

M. DUBOST: I have nothing further to ask, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness can retire.

M. DUBOST: If the Tribunal will permit, we will now hear a witness, Roser, who will give a few details of the conditions under which they kept French prisoners of war in reprisal camps.

THE PRESIDENT (to the witness): What is your name?

THE WITNESS: Roser, Paul.

THE PRESIDENT: You swear to speak without hate or fear, to state the truth, all the truth, only the truth? Raise the right hand and say "I swear."

(The witness raises his right hand and repeats the oath in French.)



Q. Your name is Paul Roser, R-0-S-E-R?

A. R-0-S-E-R.

Q. You were born on the 8 of May 1903? You are of French nationality?

A. I am French.

Q. Were you born of French parents?

A. I was born of French parents.

Q. You were a prisoner of war?

A. Yes.

Q. You were taken prisoner in battle?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. In what year?

A. 14 June 1940.

Q. You sought to escape?

A. Yes, several times.

Q. How many times?

A. Five times.

Q. Five times. You were transferred finally to a disciplinary camp?

A. Yes.

Q. Will you indicate the regime of such a camp - will you indicate your rank, and the treatment to which you were exposed, the people of your rank in those disciplinary camps, and for what reasons?

A. Very well, I was an aspirant: that is between sergeant- major and second lieutenant. I was in several disciplinary camps. The first was a small camp which the Germans called Strafkommando in Linzburg, near Hanover. That was in 1941. There were thirty of us.

While I was in that camp, during the summer of 1941, we attempted to escape once again. We were recaptured by our guards at the very moment when we were leaving the camp. We were naturally unarmed. The first among us -

THE PRESIDENT: You are going much too fast for us to be able to follow you. Now continue more slowly, please.

[Page 241]

A. (continuing): The Germans, our guards, having recaptured one of us, attempted to make him reveal who the others were who also had sought to escape. The man remained silent. The guards hurled themselves upon him, beating him with the butts of their pistols in the face, and with bayonets - with the butts of their rifles. At that moment, not wishing to let our comrade be killed, several of us stepped forward and revealed that we had been trying to escape. I then received a beating with bayonets on my head and fell into a swoon. When I recovered consciousness, one of the Germans was kneeling on my leg and was still striking me. Another one, raising his gun, was about to strike my head. I was saved on that occasion through the intervention of my comrades, who threw themselves between the Germans and myself. That night we were beaten for exactly three hours with rifle butts, with bayonet blows, and with pistol butts in the face. I lost consciousness three times.

The following morning we were taken to work, nevertheless. We were digging trenches for the draining of the marshes. It was very heavy work, which started at 6.30 in the morning and finished at 6 o'clock at night. We had two breaks, each of half an hour. We had nothing to eat during the day. Soup was given to us when we came back at night with a piece of bread and a small piece of sausage or two cubic centimetres of margarine and that was all.

Following our attempted escape, our guards withheld from us all the parcels which our families sent for a whole month. We could not write nor could we receive mail.

At the end of three and a half months, in September 1941, we were shipped to the regular Kommandos. I, personally, was quite ill at that time and I recovered in Stalag10 B at Sandbostel.

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