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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
20th June to 1st July 1946

One Hundred and Sixty-Eighth Day: Monday, 1st July, 1946
(Part 8 of 10)

[Page 354]


Q. Consequently, at the beginning of September and the first part of October, 1941, you were not in the villa of Katyn woods, and you could not be there, is that true?

[General Eugen Oberhauser] A. I cannot remember that exactly. The regimental commander had reconnoitred the little castle and set it up for his staff headquarters. When exactly he moved in I do not know, because I had other jobs to do.

Q. No, I asked whether you personally could have been in the villa during the first part of September. Could you not possibly have been there before 20th September?

A. I do not think so.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I have no further questions, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you wish to re-examine, Dr. Stahmer?

DR. STAHMER: Unfortunately, Mr. President, I shall have to come back to the question of time because it was not brought out too clearly during these last questions.



Q. When did Regiment 537 move into the castle?

A. I assume it was during September.

Q. Beginning or end of September?

A. Probably rather more towards the end of September.

Q. Until then only the advance party was there, or -

A. The advance party of the regiment was there and my officers whom I had sent ahead.

Q. How many non-commissioned officers were with the advance party?

A. I cannot tell you exactly how many the regiment sent. I personally had sent one officer. The regiment could not have sent very many as it was still operating at the old command post in Borossilov and simultaneously it bad to set up the new post. During this period of regrouping, shall we say of the forward leap of a command of an army group, there is always a considerable shortage of men. The old headquarters still had to be looked after; the new post required men for its construction so that, as always during such a period, the number that could be spared for the advance party must have been small.

[Page 355]

Q. Can you not even give us an estimate of the figure of that advance party?

A. Thirty, forty or fifty men.

Q. How many non-commissioned officers?

A. Probably one or two officers, a few non-commissioned officers and some other ranks.

Q. The regiment was very widely spread out, was it not?

A. Yes.

Q. How far, approximately?

A. In the entire area of the Army Group "Centre," shall we say, between Orel and Vitebsk - in that entire area they were widely dispersed.

Q. How many kilometres was that, approximately?

A. More than 500 kilometres.

Q. Do you know Judge Advocate General Dr. Konrad of the Army Group "Centre"?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know whether he, in 1943, interrogated the local inhabitants under oath about the date when the Polish officers were supposed to have been shot in the wood of Katyn?

A. No, I do not know.

DR. STAHMER: I have no further questions, Mr. President.


Q. Were there any Einsatzkommandos in the Katyn area during the time that you were there?

A. Nothing has ever come to my knowledge about that.

Q. Did you ever hear of an order to shoot Soviet commissars?

A. I only knew of that by hearsay.

Q. When?

A. Probably at the beginning of the Russian campaign, I think.

Q. Before the campaign started or after?

A. I cannot remember having heard anything like that before the beginning of the campaign.

Q. Who was to carry out that order?

A. Strictly speaking, signal troops are not really fighting troops. Therefore they really had nothing to do with that, and therefore we were in no way affected by the order.

Q. I did not ask you that. I asked you who had to carry out the order.

A. Those who came into contact with these people, presumably.

Q. Anybody who came in contact with Russian commissars had to kill them; is that it?

A. No, I assume that it was the troops, the fighting troops, the actual fighting troops who were out in front and in immediate contact with the enemy. It could only be the army group which was affected. The signal regiment never came into a position to meet commissars. That is probably why they were not mentioned in the order or affected by it in any way.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can retire.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President. I ask permission to call as witness the former deputy mayor of the city of Smolensk during the German occupation, Professor of Astronomy Bazilevsky Boris.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, let him come in then.

BAZILEVSKY BORIS, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Professor Bazilevsky Boris.

[Page 356]

Q. Will you make this form of oath:

I, a citizen of the USSR, called as a witness in this case, solemnly promise and swear before the High Tribunal to say all that I know about this case and to add or to withhold nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.


COLONEL SMIRNOV: With the permission of the Tribunal, I should like to start with my interrogation, Mr. President.



Q. Please tell us, witness, what your activity was before the German occupation of the city of Smolensk and district of Smolensk, and where you were living in Smolensk.

A. Before the occupation of Smolensk and the surrounding region, I lived in the city of Smolensk and was professor first at the Smolensk University, and then -

Q. Please speak slowly.

A. - and then of the Smolensk Pedagogical Institute, and at the same time I was Director of the Smolensk Astronomical Observatory. For ten years I was the Dean of the Physics and Mathematics Faculty, and in the last years I was Deputy Director of the Scientific Department of the Institute.

Q. How many years did you live in Smolensk previous to the German occupation?

A. From 1919.

Q. Do you know what the so-called Katyn wood was?

A. Yes.

Q. Please speak slowly.

A. Actually, it was a grove, a clearing in which the inhabitants of Smolensk used to pass their leisure time and holidays.

Q. Was this forest before the war a special reservation which was fenced or guarded by armed patrols, by watch-dogs?

A. During the many years that I lived in Smolensk this place was never fenced, and no restrictions were ever placed on access to it. I personally used to go there very frequently. The last time I was there was in 1940 and in the spring of 1941. In this wood there was also a camp for pioneers. Thus, there was free access to this place for everybody.

Q. Please tell me in what year there was a pioneer camp?

A. As far as I know, it as there for many years.

Q. Please speak slowly.

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. Professor, will you wait a minute, please? When you see that yellow light go on, it means that you are going too fast, and when you are asked a question, will you pause before you answer it? Do you understand?



Q. Will you please repeat your answer, and very slowly, if you please.

A. As far, as I know, the last time the pioneer camp was in the area of the Katyn wood was in 1941.

Q. Consequently, if I understand you correctly, in 1940 and 1941 before the beginning of the war, at any rate - and you speak also of the spring of 1941 - the Katyn wood was not a special reservation and was accessible to everybody?

A. Yes. I say that that was the situation.

[Page 357]

Do you say this as an eyewitness or from hearsay?

A. No, I say that as an eyewitness, who used to go there frequently.

Q. Please tell the Tribunal under what circumstances you became the Deputy Mayor of Smolensk during the period of the German occupation. Please speak slowly.

A. I was an administrative employee, and I did not have an opportunity of leaving the place in time, since I was busy saving the particularly precious library of the Institute and the very valuable equipment. In the circumstances I could not try to escape before the evening of the 15th, but I did not succeed in catching the train. I was supposed to leave the city on 16th July in the morning, but during the night of 15th to 16th the city was unexpectedly occupied by German troops. All the bridges across the Dnieper were blown up, and I found myself in captivity.

After a certain time, on 20th July, a group of German soldiers visited the observatory of which I was the Director. They recorded that I was the Director and that I was living there and that there was also a professor of physics, Efimov, living in the same building.

Q. Please speak even more slowly.

A. In the evening of 20th July, two German officers came to me and brought me to the headquarters of the unit which had occupied Smolensk. After checking my identity and after a short conversation, they suggested that I should become mayor of the city. I refused, basing my refusal on the fact that I was a professor of astronomy and that as I had had no experience in municipal matters, I could not undertake this duty. They then declared categorically and with threats, "We are going to force the Russian intelligentsia to work."

Q. Thus, if I understand you correctly, the Germans forced you by threats to become the Deputy Mayor of Smolensk?

A. That is not all. They told me also that in a few days' time I would be summoned to the Kommandantur.

THE PRESIDENT: You are spending a lot of time on how he came to be Mayor of Smolensk.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Will you please allow me to pass to other questions, Mr. President? Thank you for your observations.


Q. Who was your immediate superior? Who was the Mayor of Smolensk?

A. Menschagin.

Q. What were the relations between this man and the German administration and particularly the German Kommandantur?

A. These relations were becoming closer and closer every day.

Q. Is it correct to say that Menschagin was the trustee of the German administration and that they even gave him same secret information?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know that in the vicinity of Smolensk there were Polish prisoners of war?

A. Yes, I do very well.

THE PRESIDENT: I do not know what this is going to prove. You presumably do, but can you not come nearer to the point?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: He said that he knew there were Polish prisoners of war in Smolensk, and with the permission of the Tribunal, I would like to ask the witness what these prisoners of war were doing.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well; go on.


Q. Please answer. What were the Polish prisoners of war doing in the vicinity of Smolensk, and at what time?

A. In the spring of 1941 and at the beginning of the summer they were working on the restoration of roads, Moscow-Minsk and Smolensk-Vitebsk.

[Page 358]

Q. What do you know about the further fate of the Polish prisoners of war?

A. Thanks to the position that I occupied, I learned very early about their fate.

Q. Please tell the Tribunal what you know about it.

A. In view of the fact that in the camp for Russian prisoners of war known as "Gulag 126," the regime was such that prisoners of war were dying by hundreds every day, I tried to liberate men whenever I had the slightest reason to enter this camp. I learned that in this camp there was also a very well-known pedagogue named Zhiglinski. I asked Menschagin to make representations to the German Kommandantur of Smolensk, and in particular to von Schwetz, and try to liberate Zhiglinski from this camp.

Q. Please do not go into detail and do not waste time, but tell the Tribunal about your conversations with Menschagin. What did he tell you?

A. Menschagin answered my request with, "What is the use? We can save one, but hundreds will die." However, I insisted, and Menschagin, after a certain amount of hesitation, agreed to make such a demand upon the German Kommandantur.

Q. Please be short and tell us what Menschagin told you about the German Kommandantur.

A. Two days later he told me that he was in a difficult position because of my demand. Von Schwetz refused his request, referring to an instruction from Berlin to establish a very severe regime with respect to prisoners of war.

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