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

Nuremberg: The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sixty-Ninth Day: Wednesday, 27th February, 1946
(Part 1 of 9)

[Page 1]

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: May it please the Tribunal, I wonder if the Tribunal would allow me to make a very short explanation as to the source of the document with regard to Stalag Luft 3, which the Tribunal discussed yesterday.


SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: The position was that when evidence for this trial was being collected, each government that might be concerned was written to, and asked if they would produce government reports, and they have produced government reports which have been put before the Tribunal by the various sections of the prosecution.

The document with regard to the shooting of the prisoners in Stalag Luft 3 was a British Government report of the same type. It was compiled from various information which is included in the appendices; that information included the interrogation of General Westhoff, which had been sent to the United Nations War Crimes Commission, as thousands of other documents were sent, for that Commission to consider whether any action should be taken from the matters disclosed.

That document was then sent from the United Nations War Crimes Commission to the British Government and dealt with as part of the material on which the British Government report was based.

The British Government report is certified by myself to be a Government report, and I have specific authority from His Majesty's Government in Britain to perform such certification.

It is very short, and it might be convenient if I read it so that it appears in the record. I have the copy, which was sent to me on the official Cabinet paper, and purporting to be signed by Sir Edward Bridges, the Secretary to the Cabinet. The original was sent to the Attorney-General, and the document jointly to us both, but there is no doubt as to its authenticity, and the original can be produced, if necessary.

The document reads:

"His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has authorised the Right Honourable Sir Hartley Shawcross, K.C., M.P., the Chief Prosecutor for the United Kingdom, appointed under Article 14 of the Charter, annexed to the agreement dated the 8th day of August, 1945, and the Right Honourable Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, K.C., M.P., the Deputy Chief Prosecutor for the United Kingdom, to certify those documents to be produced at the trial of war criminals before the International Military Tribunal, which are documents of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom."
My respectful submission is, therefore, that on my certification the document becomes a governmental document within Article 21, and it is thereupon a mandatory injunction to the Tribunal that it shall take judicial notice of such a document. At that point the document, in my respectful submission to the Tribunal, should be taken into evidence. And it is then, of course, a matter for the defence, if

[Page 2]

they wish to call any witness, to make such application as they desire, and for the Tribunal to rule on it.

But as a point of construction, I respectfully submit that once a document is certified as a government document, as all these government reports are, the Charter enjoins the Tribunal to take judicial notice of it.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, the Tribunal did admit the document yesterday, but it is glad of your explanation. Nothing in the order that it made is in any way inconsistent with what you have now said.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: If your Lordship pleases.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: May I continue, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Colonel Smirnov.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Your Honours, I would like to recall to you certain figures which I mentioned yesterday afternoon. I was speaking about the number of Jews who were exterminated in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

I allow myself to remind the Tribunal that the figures I mentioned yesterday, which were based on the report of the Polish Government, show that in Poland 3,000,000 Jews have been exterminated. In Czechoslovakia, out of 118,000 Jews only 6,000 remain.

I would now like to pass on to the report of the Yugoslav Government, and will quote one paragraph, which the Tribunal will find on Page 75 of the document book, third paragraph:-

"Out of 75,000 Yugoslav Jews and about 5,000 Jewish emigrees from other countries who were in Yugoslavia at the time of the German attack - that is to say, out of a total number of about 80,000 Jews - only some 10,000 persons survived the German occupation."
I beg the Tribunal to call a witness who will confirm these data. He is Abram Gerzevitch Suzkever, a Jewish writer, who, together with his family, became a victim of the German fascist criminals who had temporarily occupied the territory of the Lithuanian Soviet Republic. I beg the Tribunal to allow me to question this witness.



Q. What is your name?

A. Suzkever.

Q. Are you a Soviet citizen?

A. Yes.

Q. Will you repeat after me?

I - and mention your name - citizen of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, summoned as a witness in this trial, do promise and swear, in the presence of the Court, to tell the Court nothing but the truth about everything I know in regard to this case.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down, if you wish.



Q. Please tell me, witness, where were you at the time of the German occupation.

A. In the town of Vilna.

Q. You stayed in this town for a long time during German occupation?

A. I stayed there from the first to nearly the last day of the occupation.

[Page 3]

Q. You witnessed the persecution of the Jews in that city?

A. Yes.

Q. I would like you to tell the Court about this.

A. When the Germans seized my city, Vilna, about 80,000 Jews lived there. Immediately the so-called Sonderkommando was set up at 12 Vilenskaia Street, under the command of Schweineberg and Martin Weiss. The manhunters of the Sonderkommando, or, as the Jews called them, "grabbers," broke into the Jewish houses at any time of day or night, dragged away the men, instructing them to take a piece of soap and a towel and herded them into certain buildings near the village of Panarai, about eight kilometres from Vilna. From there hardly one returned. When the Jews found out that their kin were not coming back, a large part of the population went into hiding. However, the Germans tracked them with police dogs. Many were found and any who were averse to going with them were shot on the spot.

I have to say that the Germans declared that they were exterminating the Jewish race as though such action were legal.

On 8th July an order was issued which stated that all Jews should wear a special patch on their back; afterwards they were ordered to wear it on their chest. This order was signed by the Commandant of the town of Vilna, Zehnpfennig. But two days later some other Commandant named Neumann issued a new order that they should not wear these patches, but must wear the "yellow star of David."

Q. And what did this yellow star of David mean?

A. It was a six-pointed patch worn on the chest and on the back, in order to distinguish the Jews from the other inhabitants of the town. On another day they were ordered to wear a blue band with a white star. The Jews did not know which insignia to wear as very few lived in the town. Those who did not wear this sign were immediately arrested and never seen again.

On 17th July, 1941, I witnessed a large pogrom in Vilna in Novgorod Street. The instigators of this pogrom were Schweineberg and Martin Weiss, Goering and Schonhaber, the Chief of the Gestapo. They surrounded this district with Sonderkommandos. They drove all the men into the street, told them to take off their belts and to put their hands on their heads. When that order had been complied with all the Jews were driven along towards the Lukshinoia prison. When the Jews started to march off their trousers fell down and they could not walk. Those who tried to hold up their trousers with their hands were shot there and then. When we walked in a column down the street, I saw with my own eyes the bodies of about 100 or 150 persons who had been shot. Blood streamed through the street as if a red rain had fallen.

In the first days of August, 1941, a German seized me in the Dokumenskaia Street. I was then going to visit my mother. The German said to me: "Come with me, you will act in the circus". As I went along I saw that another German was driving along an old Jew, the old Rabbi of this street, Kassel, and a third German was holding a young boy. When we reached the ancient synagogue I saw that wood was piled up there in the shape of a pyramid. A German drew out his revolver and told us to take off our clothes. When we were naked, he lit a match and set fire to this stack of wood. Then another German brought out of the synagogue three rolls of the Torah, gave them to us, and told us to dance around this bonfire and sing Russian songs. Behind us stood the three Germans; with their bayonets they forced us toward the fire and laughed. When we were almost unconscious, they left.

I must say that the mass extermination of the Jewish people in Vilna began at the moment when District Commissar Hans Hincks arrived, as well as the expert on Jewish questions, Muhrer.

On 31st of August, under the direction of Hincks -

[Page 4]

THE PRESIDENT: Which year?



A. Under the direction of Hincks and Muhrer, the Germans surrounded the old Jewish quarter of Vilna, taking in Rudnitskai and Jewish Street, Galonsky Alley, the Shabelsky and Strashynsky streets, where some 8,000 to 10,000 Jews were living.

I was ill at the time and asleep. Suddenly I felt the lash of a whip on me. When I jumped up from my bed, I saw Schweineberg standing in front of me. He had a big dog with him. He was beating everybody and shouting that we must all run out into the courtyard. When I was out in the courtyard I saw there many women, children and aged persons, all the Jews who lived there. Schweineberg and the Sonderkommando surrounded all this crowd and said that they were taking us to the ghetto. But, of course, like all their statements, this was also a lie. We went through the town in columns and were led toward Lutischeva prison. All knew that we were going to our death. When we arrived at Lutischeva prison, near the so-called Lutishkina market, I saw a whole double line of German soldiers with white sticks, standing there to receive us. While we had to pass between them they beat us with these sticks. If a Jew fell down, the one next to him was told to pick him up and carry him through the large prison gates which stood open. Near the prison I took to my heels. I swam across the river Vilia and hid in my mother's house. My wife, who was put in prison and then managed to escape later on, told me that there she saw the well-known Jewish scientist Moloch Prilotzky who was almost dead, the president of the Jewish Society of Vilna, Dr. Jacob Wigotzky, and the young Jewish historian, Pinkus Kohn. The famous artists Hash and Kadisch were lying dead. The Germans flogged, robbed, then drove away all their victims to Panarai.

On 6th September, at six o'clock in the morning, thousands of Germans, led by District Commissar Hincks, Muhrer, Schweineberg, Martin Weiss and others, surrounded the whole town, broke into the Jewish houses and told the inhabitants to take only what they could carry in their hands and get out into the street. Then they were driven off to the ghetto. When they were passing by Wilkomirowskaia Street, where I was, I saw the Germans had brought sick Jews from the hospitals. They were all in blue hospital garb. They were all forced to stand, while a German newsreel operator, who was driving in front of the column, filmed this scene.

I must say that not all the Jews were driven into the ghetto. Hincks did this on purpose. He drove the inhabitants of one street to the ghetto, and the inhabitants of another street to Panarai. Previously, the Germans had set up two ghettos in Vilna. In the first were 29,000 Jews, and in the second some 15,000 Jews. About half the Jewish population of Vilna never reached the ghetto; they were shot on the way. I remember how, when we arrived at the ghetto -

COLONEL SMIRNOV: just a moment, witness.

Did I understand you correctly; that before the ghetto was set up, half the Jewish population of Vilna was already exterminated?

A. Yes, that is right. When I arrived at the ghetto I saw the following scene. Martin Weiss came in with a young Jewish girl. When we went in farther, he took out his revolver and shot her on the spot. The girl's name was Gitele Tarlo.

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