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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
4th April to 15th April, 1946

One Hundred and Eighth Day: Monday, 15th April, 1946
(Part 2 of 10)

[DR. KAUFFMANN continues his direct examination of Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess]

[Page 351]

Q. What position did you hold in the year 1944?

A. In the year 1944 I was the head of Department E-1 in the Economic and Administrative Main Office in Berlin. My office was the former Inspectorate of Concentration Camps at Oranienburg.

Q. And what was the subject of that conference which you have just mentioned?

A. It concerned a report from the camp at Mauthausen on the so-called nameless detainees and their engagement in armament industry. Obergruppenfuehrer Kaltenbrunner was to make a decision in the matter. For that reason I came to him with the report from the commandant at Mauthausen but he did not make a decision, telling me he would do so later.

Q. Regarding the location of Mauthausen, will you please state in addition, in which district Mauthausen is situated? Is that Upper Silesia or is it the Government General?

A. Mauthausen -

Q. Auschwitz, I beg your pardon, I made a mistake. I mean Auschwitz.

A. Auschwitz is situated in the former State of Poland. Later, after 1939, it was incorporated in the province of Upper Silesia.

Q. Is it right for me to assume that administration and feeding of concentration camps was exclusively under the control of the Economic and Administrative Main Office?

A. Yes.

Q. A department which was completely separated from the R.S.H.A.?

A. Quite correct.

Q. And then from 1943 until the end of the war, you were one of the chiefs in the Inspectorate in the Economic and Administrative Main Office?

A. Yes, that is correctly stated.

Q. Do you mean by that, that you are particularly well informed on everything occurring in concentration camps, the treatment inflicted and the methods applied?

A. Yes.

Q. I ask you, therefore, first of all, whether you have any knowledge regarding the treatment of detainees, whether certain methods became known to you according to which detainees were tortured and cruelly treated? Please formulate your statement according to periods, up to 1939 and after 1939.

A. Until the outbreak of war in 1939, the situation in the camps regarding feeding, accommodation, and treatment of detainees, was the same as in any other prison or penitentiary in the Reich. The detainees were treated strictly, yes, but methodical beatings or ill-treatment were out of the question. The Reichsfuehrer gave frequent warnings that every S.S. man who laid violent hands on a detainee would be punished; and quite often S.S. men who did ill-treat detainees were punished.

Feeding and accommodation at that time were in every respect put on the same basis as that of other prisoners under legal administration.

The accommodation in the camps during those years was still normal because the mass influxes at the outbreak of and during the war had as yet not taken place. When the war started and when mass deliveries of political detainees arrived, and, later on, when detainees, who were members of the resistance movements, arrived from the occupied territories, the construction of buildings and the extensions of the camps could no longer keep up with the number of detainees who arrived. During the first years of the war this problem could still be overcome by improvising measures; but, later, due to the exigencies of the war, this was no longer possible since there were practically no building materials any longer at our disposal. And, furthermore, rations for the detainees were again and again severely curtailed by the provincial economic administration offices.

This then led to a situation where detainees in the camps no longer had sufficient powers of resistance against the ensuing plagues and epidemics.

The main reason why detainees towards the end of the war were in such bad

[Page 352]

condition, why so many thousands of them were found sick and emaciated in the camps, was that every detainee had to be employed in the armament industry to the extreme limit of his physical power. The Reichsfuehrer constantly and on every occasion kept this goal before our eyes, and also proclaimed it through the Chief of the Economic and Administrative Main Office, Obergruppenfuehrer Kohl, to the concentration camp commandants and administrative leaders during the so-called commandants' meetings. Every commandant was told to make every effort to render this possible. The aim wasn't to have as many dead as possible or to destroy as many detainees as possible. The Reichsfuehrer was constantly concerned with the problem of engaging all forces possible in the armament industry.

Q. Therefore there can be no doubt that the longer the war lasted, the larger became the number of the ill-treated and also tortured inmates. Didn't you ever when you inspected the concentration camps learn something of this state of affairs through complaints, etc., or do you consider that the conditions which have been described are more or less due to sporadic excesses of individual officials?

A. These so-called ill-treatments and torturing in concentration camps, stories of which were spread everywhere amongst the people, and particularly by detainees who were liberated by the occupying armies, were not, as assumed, inflicted methodically, but by individual leaders, sub- leaders and men who laid violent hands on them.

Q. Do you mean you never took cognisance of these matters?

A. If in any way such a matter was brought to my notice, then the perpetrator was, of course, immediately relieved of his post or transferred somewhere else. So that, even if he wasn't punished because there wasn't evidence to prove his guilt, he was taken away and given another position.

Q. To what do you attribute the particularly bad and shameful conditions which were found on invasion by allied troops, and which to an extent were photographed and filmed?

A. The catastrophic situation at the end of the war was due to the fact that, as a result of the destruction of railways and of the continuous bombing of the industrial works, it was no longer possible to properly care for these masses, for example, Auschwitz with its 140,000 detainees. Improvised measures, truck columns, and everything else tried by the commandants to improve the situation were of little or no avail. The number of the sick became immense. There were next to no medical supplies; plagues raged everywhere. Detainees who were capable of work were used continuously. By order of the Reichsfuehrer, even half-sick people had to be used wherever possible in industry. As a result every bit of space in the concentration camps which could possibly be used for lodging was filled with sick and dying detainees.

Q. I'm now asking you to took at the map which is mounted behind you. The red dots represent concentration camps. I will first ask you how many concentration camps as such existed at the end of the war?

A. At the end of the war there were still thirteen concentration camps. All the other points which are marked here on the map mean so-called labour camps attached to the armament factories situated there. The concentration camps, of which there were thirteen, as I have already said, were the centres of districts, such as the camp at Dachau in Bavaria, or the camp of Mauthausen in Austria; and all the labour camps in each district came under the control of the concentration camp. That camp had then to supply these outside camps, that is to say, they had to supply them with workers, exchange the sick inmates and furnish clothing; the guards also were supplied by the concentration camp.

From 1944 on, the supplying of food was almost exclusively a matter of the individual armament industries in order to give the detainees the benefit of the wartime supplementary rations.

Q. What became known to you about so-called medical experiments on living detainees?

[Page 353]

A. Medical experiments were carried out in several camps. For instance, in Auschwitz there were experiments on sterilisation carried out by Professor Klaubert and Dr. Schuhmann; also experiments on twins by S.S. medical officer Dr. Mengele.

Q. Do you know the medical officer Dr. Rascher?

A. He was a medical officer of the Luftwaffe and carried out experiments in Dachau on detainees who had been sentenced to death, experiments concerned with the resistance of the human body in high-pressure chambers and its resistance to cold.

Q. Can you say whether such experiments carried out within the camp were known to a large circle?

A. Such experiments, just like all other matters, were, of course, called "secret Reich matters"; but it was not possible to prevent the experiments, which were being carried out in a large camp and which must have been seen in some way by some of the inmates, from becoming known. I cannot say, however, to what extent the outside world learned about these experiments.

Q. You explained to me that orders for executions were received in the camp at Auschwitz, and you told me that until the outbreak of war such orders were few, but that later on they became more numerous. Is that correct?

A. Yes. Until the beginning of the war there were hardly any executions and only in particularly serious cases. I remember one case in Buchenwald where an S.S. man had been attacked and beaten to death by detainees, and the detainees were later hanged.

Q. But during the war - and that you will admit - the number of executions increased, and not inconsiderably.

A. That started with the beginning of the war.

Q. Was the authority for these execution orders in many cases legal sentences of German courts?

A. No. Orders for the executions carried out in the camps came from the R.S.H.A.

Q. Who signed the orders for executions which you received? Is it correct that occasionally you received orders for executions which bore the signature "Kaltenbrunner," and that these were not the originals but were teleprints which therefore had the signature in typewritten letters?

A. It is correct. The originals of execution orders never came to the camps. These orders either arrived in their original form at the Inspectorate of the concentration camps, from where they were. transmitted by teletype to the camps concerned, or in urgent cases, the R.S.H.A. sent the orders directly to the camps concerned, and the Inspectorate was then only informed, so that the signatures in the camps were always only in teletype.

Q. So as to again determine the signatures, will you tell the Tribunal whether the overwhelming majority of all execution orders either bore the signature of Himmler or that of Muller in the years before the war and until the end of the war.

A. Only very few teletypes which I have ever seen came from the Reichsfuehrer and still fewer from the defendant Kaltenbrunner. Most of them, I could say practically all, were signed by Muller.

Q. Is that the Muller with whom you repeatedly talked about such matters as you reported earlier?

A. Gruppenfuehrer Muller was the chief of Department IV in the R.S.H.A. He had to negotiate with the Inspectorate about all matters connected with concentration camps.

Q. Would you say that you went to see the Gestapo Chief Muller because you, on the strength of your experience, were of the opinion that this man, owing to his years of service, was acting almost independently?

A. That is quite right. I had to negotiate all matters regarding concentration camps with Gruppenfuehrer Muller. He was informed in all these matters, and in most cases he would make an immediate decision.

[Page 354]

Q. Well, so as to have a clear picture, did you ever negotiate these matters with the defendant?

A. No.

Q. Did you learn that towards the end of the war concentration camps were evacuated, and, if so, who gave the orders?

A. Let me explain. Originally there was an order from the Reichsfuehrer, according to which camps, in the event of an approaching enemy or in the event of air attacks, were to be surrendered to the enemy. Later on, with respect to the case of Buchenwald, which had been reported to the Fuehrer, there was ... No, at the beginning of 1945, when various camps came within operational sphere of the enemy, this order was withdrawn. The Reichsfuehrer ordered the Higher S.S. and police leaders, who in an emergency were responsible for the security and safety of the camps, to decide themselves whether an evacuation or a surrender was appropriate.

Auschwitz and Grossrosen were evacuated. Buchenwald was also to be evacuated, but then the order from the Reichsfuehrer came through to the effect that no more camps were to be evacuated. Only prominent inmates and inmates who were not to fall into allied hands under any circumstances were to be taken away to other camps. This also happened in the case of Buchenwald. After Buchenwald had been occupied, it was reported to the Fuehrer that detainees had armed themselves and were carrying out plunderings in the town of Weimar. This caused the Fuehrer to give the strictest order to Himmler to the effect that in the future no more camps were to fall into the hands of the enemy, and that no more detainees capable of marching were to be left behind in any camp.

This was shortly before the end of the war, and shortly before Northern and Southern Germany were separated. I shall speak about the Sachsenhausen camp. The Gestapo Chief, Gruppenfuehrer Muller, asked me to see him one evening and told me that the Reichsfuehrer had ordered that the camp at Sachsenhausen was to be evacuated at once. I pointed out to Gruppenfuehrer Muller what that would mean. Sachsenhausen could no longer depend on any other camps for accommodation except, perhaps, a few labour camps attached to the armament works that were almost filled up anyway. Most of the detainees would have to be lodged in the woods somewhere. This would mean countless thousands of deaths and, above all, it would be impossible to feed these masses of people. He promised me that he would once more discuss the matter with the Reichsfuehrer. He called me back and told me that the Reichsfuehrer had refused to rescind the order and demanded that the commandants should carry out his order immediately. At the same time Ravensbrueck was also to be evacuated in the same manner but it could no longer be done. I do not know whether camps in Southern Germany were cleared or not, since we, the Inspectorate, had no longer any connections with Southern Germany.

Q. It has been maintained here - and this is my last question - that the defendant Kaltenbrunner gave the order that the detainees at Dachau and in two auxiliary camps were to be destroyed by bombing and with poison. I ask you, did you hear anything about this; if not, would you consider such an order possible?

A. I have never heard anything about this, and I don't know anything either about an order to evacuate any camps in Southern Germany, as I have already mentioned. Apart from that, I consider it quite impossible that a camp could be destroyed by this method.

DR. KAUFFMANN: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the defendants' counsel want to ask any questions?

DR. MERKEL (for the Gestapo):


Q. Witness, did the State Police, as an authority of the Reich, have anything to do with the destruction of Jews in Auschwitz?

[Page 355]

A. Yes, in so far as I received all my orders as to the carrying out of that action from the Obersturmfuehrer Eichmann.

Q. Was the administration of concentration camps under the control of the Economic and Administrative Head Office?

A. Yes.

Q. You have said already that you had nothing to do with the R.S.H.A.

A. No.

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