The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fifty-Eighth Day: Wednesday, February 13, 1946
(Part 12 of 19)


In our document submitted as Exhibit USSR 6(c), minutes are quoted from the report of the medico-legal experts as well as the findings of the Medical Board of Experts. We find them on Pages 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the document. I shall set forth, in brief, the contents of the minutes and shall quote a few words from the findings. According to the minutes, the Hitlerites had set up a large camp for prisoners of war in the town of Ravva-Russkaya, 52 kilometres North-east from the city of Lvow. In this camp a large number of Soviet and French prisoners of war were interned and there they perished; they were shot, died of infectious diseases or starved to death. The Commission of medico-legal experts opened up a large number of graves. Some of these graves had been camouflaged by green shrubs and grass. A considerable number of bodies were unearthed, dressed in military or semi- military clothing. In some cases identity medallions of Red Army Soldiers were discovered inside the clothes. The ages of the prisoners, whose bodies were recovered from the graves, ranged from 20 to 40 years.

It is said in the findings (the extract quoted is on Page 70 of the document book):

"The data of the autopsies performed on the exhumed bodies justify the conclusion that bodies of Soviet prisoners of war had, in effect, been buried in the aforementioned graves. The burial was on a mass scale. The bodies were placed in each grave at a rate of 350- 400 corpses (the grave measuring 7 by 4 metres) in layers, one layer on the other. The bodies were buried in the clothes they had worn at the time of death. The absence of footwear on all the corpses indicates that the Soviet prisoners, when alive, were kept unshod or else that their footwear was removed after death. The prisoners were interned in appallingly

[Page 321]

unsanitary conditions, since all the clothing found was vermin-infested. Judging by the clothes, death, in the majority of cases, must have occurred during the cold season of the year. Nevertheless, practically no warm clothing was found on any of the bodies. To escape the cold, the prisoners of war had dressed in two or three sets of summer uniforms, had wrapped themselves up in sacking, towels, etc. ..."
I omit a few sentences from this statement and wish to read into thr record the part dealing with the total number of corpses (it is on Page 70 of your document book):
"The number of graves (36), their size, and the number of bodies discovered justify us in believing that from 10,000 to 12,000 bodies of Soviet prisoners of war were buried in this area. The degree of their decomposition points to the fact that the corpses had been buried underground for about three years, i.e., the time of burial must be placed somewhere in the late autumn or in the winter of 1941-42."
A special section of the report of the Extraordinary State Commission for the Determination and Investigation of Crimes committed by the German Fascist Invaders in the City and Region of Orel (which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 46) record the mass extermination of prisoners of war carried out over a long period of time.

The prisoner-of-war camp was set up in the city jail of Orel. After the Hitlerite invaders had been driven from Orel, the Extraordinary Commission was able to secure the testimony of doctors who had been in this camp and who had fortunately escaped with their lives. Included in this report are the personal observations of a member of the Extraordinary State Committee, Academician Burdenko, who personally examined people liberated by the Red Army from the camp, from the camp premises and from the so-called camp hospital. The general conclusion is that in the camp of Orel and in others, the Hitlerites bodily exterminated the Soviet people with characteristic German thoroughness.

The prisoners received 200 grams of bread and a litre of soup made from rotten soy beans and mouldy flour. The bread was baked with an admixture of sawdust. The camp administration, doctors included treated the prisoners atrociously.

I should like to quote a few excerpts from the report of the Commission and I shall start from paragraph 5, Page 2 of the document, which you will find on Page 72 of the document book:

"The Camp Commander, Major Hoffmann, flogged the prisoners and forced persons exhausted by hunger to carry out heavy manual work in the local quarries and in the unloading of shells.

Boots and shoes were taken from the prisoners and replaced by wooden clogs.

In the winter these clogs became slippery and the prisoners when walking, and especially when going up to the second and third floors, would slip on the stairs and be lamed."

Dr. H. I. Tsvetkov, a former inmate of the prisoner-of-war camp, testified as follows (I quote, and you will find the excerpt quoted on Page 72 and at the beginning of Page 73):
"I can only describe the attitude of the German Command towards the prisoners of war, during my stay in the camp at Orel, as one of deliberate extermination of manpower in the person of the prisoners. The food ration, which at best contained a maximum of 700 calories only, led, when work was hard and beyond their strength, to complete exhaustion of the organism (cachexia) and to death.

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Despite our categorical protests and our struggle against this mass murder of the Soviet people, the German camp doctors, Kuper and Beckel, maintained that the diet was perfectly satisfactory. Moreover, they denied that the oedema from which so many of the prisoners suffered were due to starvation and quite calmly ascribed the condition entirely to heart or kidney trouble. The very mention of the term 'hunger oedema' was forbidden in the diagnosis. Mortality in the camp assumed mass proportions. Of the total number of persons murdered, 3,000 died of starvation and of complications arising from malnutrition.

The prisoners lived in indescribably appalling conditions. The overcrowding was incredible. Fuel and water were completely lacking. Everything was infested by vermin. From 50 to 80 people were crammed into a ward 15 to 20 square metres in size. Prisoners would die at the rate of five or six per ward, and the living would have to sleep on the dead."

It is further said that a particularly terrible regime existed for those included in the category of "recalcitrants." They were put into a special building, named the "death block." The inmates of this block were shot on schedule, five to six persons being taken to execution every Tuesday and Friday. The German physician Kuper was one of those present at the shootings.

Academician Burdenko established that in the so-called "hospital," people were exterminated in the same manner as in the rest of the camp.

In the penultimate paragraph, on Page 3, we read (members of the Tribunal will find this passage on Page 73 of the document book):

"The scenes which I had to witness defy all imagination. My joy at the sight of the liberated people was marred by the fact that their faces bore an expression of utter stupor. This made me think, 'What is the matter here?' Evidently the sufferings they had undergone erased from their minds all distinction between life and death.

I observed these people for three days and bandaged their wounds while moving them from the camp, but the mental stupor remained. Something similar could also be seen on the faces of the doctors during the first few days.

People perished in the camp from disease, starvation, and floggings. In the so-called 'hospital' prison they died of wound-infection, sepsis, and starvation."

On 2nd May, 1945, there was captured in Berlin a member of the S.S., Paul Ludwig Gottlieb Waldmann. The son of a shopkeeper, Ludwig Waldmann, he was born in Berlin on 17th October, 1914. From information received, his mother, up to the time of his capture, was living in the city of Brunswick, Donnerburweg 60.

He testified personally to facts known to him regarding the mass extermination of Soviet prisoners of war. He witnessed these exterminations while working as a driver in different camps, and himself participated in the mass killings. His testimony is on Page 9 of Exhibit USSR 52, entitled "Camp Auschwitz." He provides more detailed information on the murders in the camp at Sachsenhausen.

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