The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th February to 26th February, 1946

Fifty-Ninth Day: Thursday, 14th February 1946
(Part 3 of 15)


[Page 5]

Next to be interrogated was the executioner. We have at our disposal a document on this subject. (You will find the extract in question on Page 166 of your document book.) I quote the minutes of the inquiry:-
"SS Rottenfuehrer of the Waffen-SS, Kesselbach, Friederich, born 24th January, 1909, in Freudingen, district of Witgenstein (Westphalia), was then summoned and testified as follows:-
'I have been informed concerning the subject of the forthcoming interrogation. It has been pointed out to me that any false statements on my part will result in punishment and expulsion from the S.S..'"
After this routine part of the investigation - where he was warned of the penalties awaiting him - Kesselbach gave the following testimony on the matter:-
"Yesterday evening I was told by S.S. Unterscharfuehrer Paal that I would have to take part in the execution of prisoners of war. Later on, I received a corresponding order from Hauptscharfuehrer Wenzel, in the presence of S.S. Oberscharfuehrer Knopp. This morning, at 0800 hours, S.S. Hauptscharfuehrer Berger, S.S. Unterscharfuehrer Paal, S.S. Sturmbannfuehrer Vollbrecht and myself, drove in a lorry lent us by the tannery and driven by a Ukrainian driver, to a place situated approximately 1 1/2 kilometers behind the camp, in order to dig, with eight inmates of our prison, a pit."
Later he describes the digging of the pit. I think that we can omit that part.
"At the entrance to the camp, Vollbrecht, acting on Paal's instructions, left the car. By these instructions Paal intended not to betray our intentions to the prisoners by the presence of a large number of S.S. men. Therefore,

[Page 6]

only I, Paal, and a few militia men loaded the prisoners onto the lorry. On Paal's order, the whole first group consisted almost exclusively of the prisoners who had lost their legs."
I omit a few extracts which are of no interest to the Tribunal, and I quote from the sixth page of the Russian translation, the underlined passages, printed on Page 168 of your document book:-
"After having executed the first three prisoners I suddenly heard shouting beyond the pit. Since the fourth prisoner was already next in line, I shot him out of hand, and looking up, I noticed a terrific disturbance near the truck. A moment before I had heard some shots being fired and I now saw the prisoners running away in all directions. I cannot give any precise particulars as to what actually happened near the lorry, since I was about 40-50 meters away from the place and everything was very confusing. I can only say that I saw two of my comrades lying on the ground, and two prisoners shooting at me and the driver with the firearms they had seized. When I realised what was happening, I fired the four remaining cartridges in my magazine at the prisoners shooting at us, put in a new clip, and suddenly noticed that a bullet had struck the ground near me. I had the feeling that I had been hit, but realised later that I was wrong. I now ascribe this sensation to nervous shock. Anyhow, I was shooting at the fugitives with the cartridges from my second clip, though I cannot tell whether I hit any of them."
I would inform you that the last part of Kesselbach's testimony deals with the subject of organising the search for the scattered cripples, a search which yielded no results.

Finally, I would like to quote a few excerpts from the last document in the correspondence. This is a report of S.S. Obersturmfuehrer Kunze. It concludes with the statement that the funeral of the S.S. men killed took place at 1400 hours at the Police and S.S. Heroes' Cemetery in Hegewalde. It seems to me that this detail is of a certain interest. I will now quote the opening part of the above-mentioned report. I will omit the first report already included in your document book, in order to save time. He reports that seventy-eight people were supposed to have been killed after the inspection of the camp by Kallbach. Because of their inability to work, these prisoners of war were a burden to the camp.

"For this reason, S.S. Hauptsturmfuehrer Kallbach ordered the execution of the former prisoners of war on 24th December.

Neither in the local nor in the regional office could anybody discover why the former commandant had taken charge of these crippled prisoners and sent them to the `Educational Labor Camp.' In this case there did not exist any data whatsoever concerning communistic activities of the prisoners in question during the entire period of the Soviet regime. Evidently the military authorities have, in their own time, placed these prisoners at the disposal of the local branch in order to submit them to the 'special regime,' since owing to their physical condition, they could not be made to work.

So S.S. Hauptsturmfuehrer Kallbach ordered the execution for 24th December. At about 1700 hours, the head of the Berdichev regional office, S.S. Sturmbannfuehrer Knopp, telephoned that during the execution of the 'special regime' operation, the two officials of the branch, S.S. Unterscharfuehrer Paal and S.S. Sturmbannfuehrer Vollbrecht, were assaulted by the prisoners and killed with their own firearms."

I will now omit a considerable part of S.S. Obersturmfuehrer Kunze's idle talk and will quote only three more paragraphs. You will find them on Pages 172 and 173:-
"Thus, of the 28 prisoners, four were shot in the pit and two while trying to escape; the remaining 22 managed to get away. The efforts to recapture the fugitives, promptly undertaken by S.S. Rottenfuehrer Kessel- [Page 7] bach with the help of the guards from the neighboring Stalag, though painstaking were unsuccessful. The head of the Berdichev Department ordered an immediate search for the fugitives and instructed all the police and military agencies to this effect. However, the names of the fugitives are unknown and this fact alone made the search more difficult. The records merely contained the names of all the prisoners subjected to the 'special regime' and it was therefore necessary to declare as escapees even those who had already been shot.

On 25th December, on the same spot, a 'special regime' execution of the twenty surviving prisoners of war was carried out under my direction. As I feared that the fugitives might already have established contact with some partisan unit, I again had the Stalag send a detachment of twenty men, armed with light submachine guns and carbines, in order to guard the surrounding territory. The execution went off without any trouble."

It is enough to imagine these twenty unfortunate men, without arms, without legs, being escorted to their death by a strong contingent of S.S. men and soldiers, soldiers armed with submachine guns. I continue:-
"As a measure of reprisal I ordered the military police to check up on all released prisoners of war in the adjoining regions to ascertain their political activities during the entire period of Soviet rule, so as to arrest and submit to the 'special regime' all 'activists' and members of the Communist Party."
To conclude the presentation of the evidence pertaining to this monstrous crime of the Hitlerites, I should like to invite the Tribunal's attention to certain facts.

I would, first of all, like to refer to the "objections raised by the Army," reported by the member of the S.S., Knopp. Knopp said (you will find the passage quoted on Page 163):-

"In future all evacuations of prisoners of war will be suspended, because of objections raised by the Army. I do not wish my words to be misunderstood. The Army did not so much object to such evacuations, as express the wish that the prisoners of war, once they had been released and sent elsewhere, should be given some kind of shelter."
It is not difficult to guess what "shelter" he was referring to. It was the "shelter" provided when, in the words of Knopp, they were "transported in a lorry to a place in the neighbourhood."

The second fact, which, to me, appears of importance, is the scale of the outrages committed. Referring to the executioners; Paal, Kesselbach, and Vollbrecht, Knopp writes:-

"With reference to the three above-mentioned persons whom I entrusted with the shooting of prisoners of war, I knew that they had, in Kiev, participated in the mass executions of many thousands of persons and that they had previously, that is, during my period of service, been entrusted by the local administration with the shooting of many hundreds of victims."
In reference to Kesselbach, I should like to note two not very important but extremely characteristic traits. The first is his terminology. Here are his words:-
"After having executed the first three prisoners I suddenly heard shouting beyond the pit; since the fourth prisoner was already next in line, I shot him out of hand."
Any bandit, any habitual murderer would, naturally, use such language in speaking of the destruction of a human being. For the fascist executioners the murder of a soldier who had honestly fought for his country and become an invalid, the brief expression "shot out of hand" is good enough; when occupied in killing, the executioners do not even consider it necessary to find out whom they really are murdering. Thanks to this, shame and confusion cover the police. They order a search both for those who had escaped and for those who were shot.

Secondly, the very sound of a bullet passing nearby gives him a sensation of

[Page 8]

being wounded, and people of this type are then called "heroes" by their superiors.

It would be an omission on my part not to emphasize the exceptional brutality displayed by Kunze - this typical representative of the S.S. Twenty persons captured at random, captured anyhow, without any fault on their part, must be murdered. What for? Only because twenty-two armless and legless invalids had succeeded in escaping from death.

The Tribunal, of course, is quite aware of the fact that by all the laws of God and man these twenty-two invalids should not have perished by the hand of the executioner, but should have been placed under the protection of the German Government as prisoners of war.

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