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 9 of 10)

[COLONEL SMIRNOV continues his direct examination of Professor Bazilevsky Boris]

[Page 358]

Q. What did he tell you about Polish prisoners of war?

A. As to Polish prisoners of war, he told me that Russians would at least be allowed to die in the camps, but there were orders to exterminate the Poles.

I said: "What do you mean? What do you want to say? How do you interpret this?" And Menschagin answered: "You should interpret this in the very literal sense of these words." He asked me not to tell anybody about it, since it was a top secret.

Q. When did this conversation of yours take place with Menschagin? In what month, on what day of the month?

A. This conversation took place at the beginning of September. I cannot remember the exact date.

Q. But you remember it was the beginning of September?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you ever again mention this fate of Polish prisoners of war in your further conversations with Menschagin?

A. Yes.

Q. Can you tell us when?

A. Two weeks later - that is to say, at the end of September - I could not help asking him, "What was the fate of the Polish prisoners of war?" At first Menschagin hesitated, and then he told me, "They have already died. It is over with them."

Q. Did he tell you where they were killed?

A. He said von Schwetz had told him that they had been shot in the vicinity of Smolensk.

Q. Did he mention the exact place?

A. No, he did not mention the exact place.

Q. Tell me this. Did you, in turn, tell anybody about the extermination of these Polish prisoners of war?

A. I talked about this to Professor Efimov, who was living in the same house with me. In addition to that, a few days later I had a conversation about it with Dr. Nikolski, who was the city medical officer of health. However, I found out that Nikolski knew about this crime from some other source.

Q. Did Menschagin tell why these shootings took place?

A. Yes. When he told me of the prisoners of war who were killed, he emphasized once more the necessity of keeping it as a top secret, in order to avoid disagreeable consequences. He explained to me the reasons for the German

[Page 359]

behaviour with respect to the Polish prisoners of war. He pointed out that this was only one link in the chain of the general system of German policy with respect to Polish prisoners of war.

Q. Did you hear anything about the extermination of the Poles from the employees of the German Kommandantur?

A. Yes, two or three days later.

THE PRESIDENT: You are both going too fast, and you are not pausing enough. You are putting your questions whilst the answers are coming through. You must have longer pauses, and go slower.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Very well, Mr. President.


Q. Please continue, but slowly.

A. I do not know where I was.

Q. I asked you whether any of the employees of the German Kommandantur told you anything about the extermination of the Poles.

A. Two or three days later, when I visited the office of Menschagin, I found there an interpreter, the Sonderfuehrer of the Seventh Division of the German Kommandantur, who was in charge of the Russian Administration, and who had a conversation with Menschagin concerning the Poles. He was a German from the Baltic provinces.

Q. Perhaps you can tell us quickly what he said.

A. When I entered the room he was saying: "The Poles are not a useful nation, and their extermination may serve for the manuring and extending the living-space for the German nation."

Q. Did you hear about the actual fact of the shooting and the extermination of the Polish prisoners of war?

THE PRESIDENT: You are doing exactly what I said just now. You are asking the questions before the translation comes through.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Excuse me, Mr. President, I will try to speak more slowly.


Q. Did you hear about the shooting of Polish prisoners of war near Smolensk? You heard it from Menschagin and he, in turn, heard it from von Schwetz. Is that true?

A. When I entered the room I heard the conversation with Hirschfeld. I missed the beginning, but from the context of the conversation it was cleat that they spoke about this event.

Q. Did Menschagin, when telling you about the shooting of Polish prisoners of war, refer to the Kommandant, von Schwetz?

A. Yes; as far as my impression goes, he referred to von Schwetz. But, evidently - and this is my deep conviction - he also spoke about it with persons in the Kommandantur.

Q. When did Menschagin tell you that Polish prisoners of war were killed near Smolensk?

A. It was at the end of September.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I have no further questions to put to this witness, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)

THE MARSHAL: If it please the Tribunal, the defendant Hess is absent.


[Page 360]



Q. Witness, when giving evidence, just before the recess, you read out your testimony, if I observed correctly. Will you tell me whether that was so or not?

A. I was not reading anything. I had only a plan of the courtroom in my hand.

Q. It looked to me as though you were reading out your answers. How can you explain the fact that the interpreter already had your answer in his hands?

A. I do not know in what manner the interpreters could have my answers beforehand. The testimony which I gave was, however, known to the Commission beforehand, that is, my testimony during the preliminary examination.

Q. Do you know the little castle on the Dnieper, the little villa? Did you not understand me or hear me? Do you know the little castle on the Dnieper, the little villa on the Dnieper?

A. I do not know which villa you mean. There were quite a number of villas on the Dnieper.

Q. The house which was near the Katyn Forest on the precipitous bank of the Dnieper River.

A. I do not quite understand which house you mean. The banks of the Dnieper are quite wide and I do not understand your question.

Q. Do you know where the graves of Katyn were found, in which 11,000 Polish officers were buried?

A. I was not there. I did not see the Katyn burial grounds.

Q. Had you never been in the forest of Katyn?

A. As I already said, I was there not once but many times.

Q. Do you know where this mass burial site was located?

A. How can I know where the burial grounds were situated seeing that I had not been there since the occupation?

Q. How do you know that the little forest was not fenced in?

A. Before the occupation of Smolensk district by the German troops, the entire area, as I have already stated, was not surrounded by any barrier, but from hearsay I know that, after the occupation, access to this forest was prohibited by the German Command.

Q. Therefore you have no knowledge of the fact that here in the Katyn Forest a sanatorium or a convalescent home of the GPU was located?

A. I knew that very well; that was known to all the citizens of Smolensk.

Q. Then, of course, you also know exactly which house I referred to in my question?

A. I, myself, had never been in that house. In general, access to that house was only allowed to the families of the employees and of the convalescents. As to other persons, there was no need and no facility for them to go there.

Q. The house, therefore, was shut off?

A. No, the house was not forbidden to strangers, but why should a stranger go there unless to recuperate. This was not a rest home for him, but the garden and park itself was not fenced off.

Q. Were there not guards stationed there?

A. I did not see them.

Q. Is this Russian who reported to you about the matter concerning the Polish officers, is this man still alive?

A. You must mean Mayor Menschagin.

Q. When you were reading out your testimony, it was not easy for me to follow. What was the mayor's name? Menschagin? Is he still alive?

A. Menschagin went away together with the German troops during their retreat, and I remained, and Menschagin's fate is unknown to me.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, you were not entitled to say to the witness "when you were reading out your testimony" just now, because he denied that he read his testimony off and there is no evidence that he read it off.

[Page 361]


Q. Did this Russian tell you that the Polish officers had come from the camp at Kosielsk?

A. Do you mean the camp at Kosielsk, yes.

Q. Yes.

A. Menschagin did not say that.

Q. Do you know that place and locality?

A. Do you mean Kosielsk? I do, yes. In 1940, in the month of August, at the end of August, I spent my leave there with my wife.

Q. Do you know anything about whether Polish officers were present in a Russian prisoner-of-war camp?

A. Yes, I know that.

Q. Until what date did these prisoners of war remain there?

A. I do not know that for certain, but they were there at the end of August, 1940. I can say that with great certainty.

Q. Do you know whether this camp, together with its inmates, fell into German hands?

A. Personally, that is from my own observation, I do not know it, but according to rumours it was the case. This is, of course, not my own testimony; I myself did not see it, but I heard about it.

Q. Did you hear where these prisoners remained, or what happened to them?

A. Yes, I of course heard that they remained there and could not be evacuated.

Q. Did you hear what happened to them?

A. I have already testified in my answers to the prosecutor that they were shot on the order of the German Command.

Q. And where did these shootings take place?

A. You have apparently not heard my answers. I already testified that Mayor Menschagin said that they were shot in the neighbourhood of Smolensk, but where he did not tell me.

Q. How many prisoners were involved?

A. Are you asking what number was mentioned during my conversation with Menschagin? I do not understand your question. The exact number was not given.

Q. What was the figure given to you by Menschagin?

A. Menschagin did not give me any number. I repeat that this conversation took place during the last days of September, 1941.

Q. Can you give us the name of an eyewitness who was present at this shooting or anyone who saw it?

A. I believe that these executions were carried out under such circumstances that it was scarcely possible that any Russian witnesses could have been present.

THE PRESIDENT: Witness, you should answer the question directly. You were asked: "Can you give the name of anybody who was there?" You can answer that, yes or no, and then you can add any explanations necessary.

THE WITNESS: I will follow your instructions, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Can you give the name of anybody who saw the executions?

THE WITNESS: No, I cannot name any eyewitness.


Q. What German unit is supposed to have carried out the shootings?

A. I cannot answer that exactly. We heard it was the construction battalion which was stationed there; but, of course, I could not know the exact location of the German troops.

Q. Did the Poles involved here come from the camp at Kosielsk?

A. At the time of our conversation, they were not involved, but I do not know whether there were any other prisoners of war who had not been previously at Kosielsk.

[Page 362]

Q. Did you yourself see Polish officers?

A. I did not see them myself, but my students saw them and they told me that they had seen them in 1941.

Q. And where did they see them?

A. On the road where they were doing repair work at the beginning of summer, 1941.

Q. In what general area or location?

A. In the district of the highway Moscow-Minsk, somewhat to the west of Smolensk.

Q. Can you testify whether the Russian Army Commander had a report to the effect that Polish prisoners at the camp at Kosielsk had fallen into the hands of the Germans?

A. No, I have no knowledge of that.

Q. What is the name of the German official or employee with whom you talked at the Kommandantur?

A. Not at the Kommandantur, but in Menschagin's office. His name was Hirschfeld.

Q. What was his position?

A. He was Sonderfuehrer of the 7th Detachment of the German Kommandantur in the town of Smolensk.

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