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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd July to 15th July 1946

One Hundred and Sixty-Ninth Day: Tuesday, 2nd July, 1946
(Part 3 of 8)

[DR. STAHMER continues his cross examination of MARKO ANTONOVA MARKOV]

[Page 9]

Q. A little while ago you mentioned the trees that were growing there on these graves, and you said that an expert explained the age of the trees according to the rings counted on a trunk. In the protocol and the report, the following is set down:
"According to the opinion of the members of the Commission and the testimony of Forstmeister von Herff, who was called in as an expert on forestry, they were small trees of at least five years of age which had been, standing in the shade of large trees and had been transplanted to this spot about three years ago."

[Page 10]

Now, I would like to ask you, is it correct that you undertook a local inspection and that you convinced yourself on the spot whether the statements made by the forestry expert were actually correct?

A. Our personal impression and my personal conviction in this question only refer to the fact that in the forest of Katyn there were clearings where small trees were growing and that the afore-mentioned expert showed us a cross- section of a tree with its circles. But I did not consider that either I or the other doctors were competent to give an opinion as to whether the deductions which are set forth in the record are correct or not. It was precisely for that reason that it was judged necessary to call in a forestry expert. Therefore, these conclusions are merely the conclusions of a competent German expert.

Q. But after having had a first-hand view, did you have any doubts whether these statements or whether this testimony was correct?

A. After the German expert had expressed his opinion at the conference of the delegates, neither I nor the other delegates expressed any opinion as to whether his conclusions were correct or not. These conclusions are set down in the record in the form in which the expert expressed himself.

Q. According to your autopsy report the corpse of the Polish officer which you dissected was clothed and you described the clothing in detail. Was this winter or summer clothing that you found?

A. It was winter clothing, including an overcoat and a woollen muffler around the neck.

Q. In the protocol it says further:

"Furthermore, Polish cigarettes and matchboxes were found amongst the dead, in single cases tobacco containers and cigarette holders and the inscription 'Kosielsk' was inscribed thereon."
The question is, did you see these objects?

A. We saw these tobacco boxes with the name "Kosielsk" engraved thereon. They were exhibited to us in the glass case which was shown to us in the peasant but not far from the Katyn forest. I remember them because Butz drew our attention to them.

Q. In your autopsy report, witness, there is the following remark:

"Documents were found in the clothing and they were put in safe keeping under the folder No. 827."
Now, I should like to ask you: how did you discover these documents? Did you personally take them out of the pockets?

A. These papers were in the pockets of the overcoat and of the jacket. As far as I can remember they were taken out by a German who was undressing the corpse in my presence.

Q. At that time, were the documents already in the envelopes?

A. They were not yet in the envelopes, but after they had been taken out, they were put into an envelope which bore the number of the corpse. We were told that this was the usual method of procedure.

Q. What was the nature of the documents?

A. I did not examine them at all, as I have already said, and I refused to do so, but according to the size, I believe that they were certificates of identity. I could distinguish individual letters, but I do not know whether one could read the inscription, for I did not attempt to do so.

Q. In the protocol the following statement is made:

"The documents found among the corpses (diaries, letters and articles from newspapers) were dated from the autumn of 1939 up to March and April, 1940. The latest date which could be fixed was the date of a Russian newspaper of 22nd April, 1940."
Now, I should like to ask you if this statement is correct and whether it is in accordance with the findings that you made.

A. Letters and newspapers were certainly in the glass cases that were shown to us. Some similar papers were found by members of the Commission who were

[Page 11]

dissecting the bodies, and, as I understood later, they described their contents, but I did not do so.

Q. In your examination just a little while ago you stated that only a few scientific statements were contained in this protocol, and that this was done intentionally. I should like to quote from this record as follows:

"Various degrees and types of decomposition were caused by the position of the bodies in the grave and the position that the bodies had one to another. Apart from some mummification at the upper levels and around the edges of the masses of corpses, some damp maceration was found among the centre corpses.

Body acids and fluids causing corpses to stick together, as well as pressure strong enough to result in deformations, together had led to a condition of primary preservation of the bodies.

Among the corpses, insects or remains of insects which might date back to the time of burial are entirely lacking, and from this it may be gathered that the shooting and the burial took place in the cold season."

Now, I should like to ask you if these statements are correct and if they are in line with your findings.

A. I stated that little was said on the condition of the preservation of the corpses, and indeed, as can be judged by the quotation which I had in mind, only a general phraseology is used concerning the various degrees of decomposition of the corpses, but no concrete or detailed description of the corpses is made.

As to the insects and their larvae, the assertion of the general report that they were not discovered is in flagrant contradiction to the conclusions of Professor Palmieri, which are recorded in his personal minutes concerning the corpse which he himself dissected. In this protocol, which is published in the same German White Book, it is said that there were traces of remains of insects and their larva in the mouths of the corpses.

Q. Just a little while ago you spoke of the scientific investigation of skulls undertaken by Professor Orsos. The record also refers to this matter, and I quote:

"A large number of skulls were examined with respect to the change that might have taken place, which, according to the background and experience of Professor Orsos, would be of great value in fixing the date of death. In this connection, we are concerned with stratified encrustations at the surface of the mush found in the skull as a residue of the brain. These symptoms are not to be found among corpses which have been in their graves for less than three years. Such a condition, among other things, was found in a very decided form in the skull of corpse No. 526, which was found near the surface of a large mass grave."
I should like to ask you now if it is correct that, according to the report of Professor Orsos, such a condition was discovered not only as is said here on the skull of one corpse, but among other corpses also.

A. I can answer this question quite categorically. We were shown only one skull, the one precisely mentioned in the record under the number 526. I do not know whether many other skulls were examined, as the record seems to suggest. I consider that Professor Orsos had no possibility of examining many corpses in the Katyn forest, for he came with us and left with us. That means, he remained there just as long as I and all the other members of the Commission did, and no longer.

Q. Finally, I should like to quote the conclusion of the summarising expert opinion, in which it is stated:

"From statements made by witnesses, from the letters and correspondence found among the corpses, diaries, newspapers, and so forth, it may be seen that the shootings took place in the months of March and April, 1940. The following are in complete agreement herewith- the descriptions in the record of the results of the investigation of the mass graves and of individual corpses of the Polish officers."

[Page 12]

Is this statement actually correct?

THE PRESIDENT: I did not quite understand the statement. As I heard you read it, it was something like this: From the statements of witnesses, letters, and so forth -

DR. STAHMER: "In complete agreement herewith are the descriptions in the record of the results of the investigations of the mass graves and of individual corpses of the Polish officers." That is the end of the quotation.

THE PRESIDENT: It does not say that the following persons are in complete agreement, but that the following facts are in complete agreement. Is that right?

DR. STAHMER: No. My question is: "Is this statement approved by you? Do you agree with it?"

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I know, but you read out certain words, which were these: "The following are in complete agreement." What I want to know is whether that means that the following persons are in complete agreement, or whether the following facts are in complete agreement.

DR. STAHMER: Special facts had been set down, and this is a summarising expert opinion signed by the entire membership of the Commission. Therefore, we have here a scientific explanation of the real facts.

THE PRESIDENT: Would you just listen to what I read out from what I took down? "From the statements of witnesses, letters, and other documents, it may be seen that the shooting took place in the months of March and April, 1940. The following are in complete agreement."

What I am asking you is this -

Just a moment, Dr. Stahmer, listen to what I say.

What I am asking you is: Does the statement mean that the following persons are in complete agreement, or that the following facts are in complete agreement?

DR. STAHMER: No, no. The following people testify that this fact, the fact that the shootings took place in these months of 1940, agrees with the results of their investigations of the mass graves and of individual corpses. That is what is meant, and that is the conclusion. What has been found here is in agreement with that which has been set down and determined scientifically. That is the meaning.



Q. Is this final deduction in accord with your scientific conviction?

A. I have already indicated that this statement regarding the condition of the corpses is based on the data resulting from testimony by the witnesses and from the available documents, but that it is actually in contradiction to what I observed on the corpses on which I myself performed the autopsy. That means, I did not consider that the results of the autopsies corroborated the date of death to be presumed from the testimony or the documents. If I had been convinced that the condition of the corpses did indeed correspond to the date of decease mentioned by the Germans, I would have made such a statement in my individual protocol.

When I saw the signed protocol I became suspicious as to the last sentence of the record - the sentence which precedes the signatures - I always had doubts whether this sentence was contained in that draft of the protocol which we saw at the conference in Smolensk.

As far as I could understand, the draft of the protocol which had been elaborated in Smolensk only stated that we actually were shown papers and that we heard witnesses; and this was supposed to prove that the killings were carried out in March or April, 1940.

I was of the opinion that the fact that the conclusion was not based on medical opinion and not supported absolutely by medical reports and examination, was

[Page 13]

exactly the reason why the signing of the protocol was postponed and why the record was not signed in Smolensk,

Q. Witness, at the beginning of my examination you stated that you were fully aware of the political significance of your task. Why, then, did you desist from protesting against this report which was not in accord with your scientific conviction?

A. I said that I had signed the protocol under the conviction that, in the circumstances which had been created on this isolated military aerodrome, there was no other way for me to act, and therefore I could not make any objections.

Q. Why did you not take steps later on?

A. My conduct after the signing of the protocol corresponds fully to what I am stating here. I repeat, I was not convinced of the truth of the German version. I was invited many times to Berlin by Director Dietz. I was also invited to Sofia by the German Embassy. And in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also invited me to make a public statement over the radio or to the Press, and I was requested to say what conclusions we had come to during our investigation. However, I did not do so, and I always refused to do so. Because of the political situation in which we found ourselves at that moment, I could not make a public statement declaring the German version as wrong.

Concerning that matter there were quite sharp words exchanged between me and the German Embassy in Sofia. And when, a few months later, another Bulgarian representative was asked to be sent as a member of a similar commission for the investigation of the corpses in Vinizza in the Ukraine, the German Ambassador Beckerly stated quite openly to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the Germans did not wish me to be sent to Vinizza.

That indicated that the Germans very well understood my behaviour and my opinion on that matter. Concerning this question, Minister Plenipotentiary Sarapov of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs has some transcripts which, if the Honoured Tribunal considers it necessary, can be sent here from Bulgaria.

Therefore, all my refusals after I had signed the protocol, to carry on any activity for the purpose of propaganda, fully corresponds to what I said here, namely that the conclusions laid down in the collective protocol do not agree with my personal conviction. And I will repeat that if I had been convinced that the corpses were buried for three years, I would have written a statement after having dissected a corpse, and I would not have left my personal protocol unfinished; for this is a quite unusual thing in the case of medico-forensic examination.

Q. The protocol was not signed by you alone, but on the contrary it carries the signatures of eleven representatives of science, whose names you gave yesterday, some of the scientists enjoying world renown. Among these men we find a scientist of a neutral country, Professor Neville.

Did you take the opportunity to get in touch with one of these experts in the meantime so that the protocol could be corrected or so that you would make some rectifications of the record?

A. I cannot say for what considerations the other delegates signed the protocol, but they signed it under the same circumstances as I did. However, when I read their individual protocols, I see that they also refrained from stating the precise date of the killing of a man whose corpse they had dissected, with the exception, as I have already said, of Professor Miloslawich, who was the only one who asserted that the corpse which he had dissected was that of a man buried for at least three years. After the signing of the protocol, I did not have any contact with any of these persons who had signed the collective protocol.

Q. Witness, you gave two versions, one in the protocol, which we have just discussed, and another here before the Tribunal. Which version is the correct one?

A. I do not understand which two versions you are speaking about. Will. you please explain it?

[Page 14]

In the first version, in the protocol, it is set forth that according to the conclusion which had been made, the shooting must have taken place three years ago. Today you testified that the findings were not correct, and between the shooting and the time of your investigations there could only be a space of perhaps a year and a half.

A. I stated that the conclusions of the collective protocol did not correspond with my personal conviction.

Q. "Did not correspond" or "do not correspond with your conviction"?

A. It did not and does not correspond with my opinion then and now.

DR. STAHMER: I have no further questions.

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

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