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 4 of 8)


[Page 14]

Q. Witness, were any of the bodies which were examined by the members of this delegation exhumed in your presence?

A. The corpses which we dissected were selected from the top layers of the graves which had been already opened. They were taken out of the graves and given to us for dissection.

Q. Was there anything in your opinion to show that the corpses had not been buried in those graves?

A. As far as traces are concerned, and as far as the layers of corpses were preserved, they were stuck to each other; so that if they had been transferred, I do not believe that this could have been done recently. This could not have been done immediately before our arrival.

Q. You mean that you think the corpses had been buried in those graves?

A. I cannot say whether they were put into those graves immediately after death had come, as I have no data to confirm this, but they did not look as if they had just been put there.

Q. Is it possible, in your opinion as an expert, to fix the date of March or April or such a short period as that, three years before the examination which you have made?

A. I believe that if one relies exclusively on medical data, that is to say, on the state and condition of the corpses, it is impossible - when it is a question of years - to determine the date with such precision and say accurately whether they were killed in March or in April; therefore, apparently, the months of March and April were not based on the medical data - for that would be impossible - but on the testimony of the witnesses and on the documents which we were shown.

Q. When you got back to Sofia, you said that the protocol was sent to you for your observations and for your corrections and that you made none. Why was that?

A. We are concerned with the individual protocol which I compiled. I did not supplement it by making any conclusion, I did not add any conclusion because it was sent to me by the Germans and because in general at that moment the political situation in our country was such that I could not declare publicly that the German version was not a true one.

Q. Do you mean that your personal protocol alone was sent to you at Sofia?

A. Yes, only my personal protocol was sent to Sofia. As to the collective protocol, I brought it back myself to Sofia and handed it over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Q. Is your personal protocol, in the words that you drew it up, incorporated in the whole protocol and signed by all the delegates?

A. In my personal protocol, there is only a description of the corpse and of the clothing of the corpse which I dissected.

Q. That is not the question I asked.

A. In the general protocol a rough description only is made, concerning the clothing and the degree of decomposition.

[Page 15]

Q. Well, do you mean that your personal protocol -

A. I consider that the personal protocols are more accurate regarding the condition of the corpses - all the more as they were compiled during the dissection and were dictated on the spot to the stenographers.

Q. Just listen to the question, please. Is your personal protocol, in the words in which you drew it up, incorporated in the collective protocol in the same words?

A. My own protocol is not included in the general record but it is included in the "White Book" which the Germans published together with the general record.

Q. It is there, then, in the report, is it? It is in the "White Book"?

A. Yes, quite right. It is included in this book.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can retire. Yes, Colonel Smirnov, do you have another witness?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Yes, Mr. President. I beg you to allow me to call as a witness Professor of Medical Jurisprudence Prosorovski.

PROSOROVSKI, VICTOR ILICH, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please.

A. Prosorovski, Victor Ilich.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I, 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 and withhold nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.



Q. Witness, just before questioning you, I beg you to adhere to the following order: After my question, please pause in order to allow the interpreters to make the translation, and speak as slowly as possible. Will you give the Tribunal very briefly some information about your scientific activity, and your past work as a doctor of forensic medicine.

A. I am a doctor by profession; Professor of Medical Jurisprudence and a Doctor of Medical Science. I am the Chief Medical Expert of the Ministry of Public Health of the Soviet Union. I am the Director of the Scientific Research Institute for Medical Jurisprudence at the Ministry of Public Health of the USSR; in the main, in scientific activity, I am President of the Medico-Forensic Commission of the Scientific Medical Council of the Ministry of Public Health of the USSR.

Q. What is your past experience as a medico-forensic expert?

A. I practised for seventeen years in that sphere.

Q. What kind of participation was yours in the investigation of the mass crimes of the Hitlerites against the Polish officers in Katyn?

A. The President of the Special Commission for investigation and ascertaining of the circumstances of the shootings, by the German Fascist aggressors, of Polish officers, Academician Nicolai Nilych Burdenko, offered me, in the beginning of January, 1944, the chairmanship of the Medico- Forensic Experts Commission. Apart from this organisational activity, I participated personally in the exhumations and examination of these corpses.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, perhaps that would be a good time to break off.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

[Page 16]

THE MARSHAL: May it please the Tribunal, the defendants Hess, Fritzsche and von Ribbentrop are absent.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: May I continue the examination of this witness, Mr. President?





Q. Please tell me, how far from the town of Smolensk were the burial grounds where the corpses were discovered?

A. A commission of medico-forensic experts, together with members of the Special Commission, Academician Burdenko, Academician Potemkin, Academician Tolstoi, and other members of this Commission, betook themselves on 14th January, 1944, to the burial grounds of, the Polish officers in the so- called forest of Katyn. This spot is about fifteen kilometres from the town of Smolensk. The burial grounds were situated on a rather steep slope at a distance of about 200 metres from the Vitebsk high road. One of these graves was about sixty metres long by sixty metres wide; the other one, situated a small distance away, was about seven metres long by six metres wide.

Q. How many corpses were exhumed by the Commission you headed?

A. In the Katyn forest the Commission of Medical Experts exhumed and examined, from various graves and from various depths, a total of 925 corpses.

Q. How was the work of exhumation organized and how many collaborators were called by you for this work?

A. Specialists, medico-forensic experts, participated in the work of this Commission. In September and October, 1943, they had exhumed and examined the corpses of the victims of the Germans and -

Q. At what spot did they examine the corpses?

A. They examined them in the town and neighbourhood of Smolensk. Among the members of this Commission were myself, Professor Smolianinov, my senior assistant Dr. Semenovski, Professor of Pathological Anatomy Woropaev, and Professor of Legal Chemistry Schwaikowa, who was invited for consultations on chemico-legal subjects. To assist this Commission, they called also medico-forensic experts from the forces. Among them were Nikolski, Dr. Soubbotine -

Q. I doubt whether the Tribunal is interested in all these names. I ask you to answer the following question: What method of examination was chosen by you? I mean: Did you investigate the clothes of the corpses? Did you carry out a superficial examination or did you carry out a complete medical dissection of all nine hundred corpses?

A. After exhumation of the corpses, they were subjected to a thorough examination, particularly their clothing. Then an exterior examination was carried out and then they were subjected to a complete medico-forensic dissection of all three parts of the body; that is to say, the skull, the bronchia, and the trunk, as well as all the inner organs.

Q. Please tell me whether the corpses exhumed from these burial grounds bore traces of medical examination carried out previously?

A. Out of the 925 corpses which we examined, only three had already been examined, and even then it had only been a partial examination of the skulls; but no other traces of previous medical examination could be ascertained, for they were clothed and the overcoats were buttoned, their trousers were also buttoned, as well as the shirts, the belts were strapped, the knots of ties had not been undone, and neither in the heads nor in the bodies were there any traces of cuts or other signs of post-mortem examination. Therefore, this excludes the possibility of their having been subjected to any medico-forensic examination.

[Page 17]

Q. During the examination which was carried out by your Commission, did you open the skulls?

A. Of course. In every case the skull was opened and all the parts of the skull were examined.

Q. Are you acquainted with the expression "pseudo-callus"?

A. I heard of it when I received a book in 1945 in the Institute of Medico- Forensic Science. Before that, in the Soviet Union, not one medico-forensic expert observed any similar phenomena.

Q. Among the 925 skulls which you examined, were there many cases of "pseudo-callus"?

A. Not one of the medico-forensic experts who were examining these 925 corpses observed lime deposits on the skull surfaces.

Therefore, there was no case of "pseudo-callus" on any of the skulls?

A. No.

Q. Was the clothing also examined?

A. As already stated, the clothing was thoroughly examined. Upon the request of the Special Commission, and in the presence of its members, of Metropolitan Nikolai, Academician Burdenko, and others, the medico-forensic experts examined this clothing, turned out the pockets of the trousers, of the coats, and of the overcoats. As a rule, the pockets were either torn open or cut open, and this testified to the fact that they had already been searched. The clothing itself, the overcoats, the jackets and the trousers as well as the shirts, were moist with corpse liquids. This clothing could not be torn asunder, notwithstanding violent effort.

Q. Therefore, the tissue of the clothing was solid?

A. Yes, the tissue was very solid, and of course, it was smeared with earth.

Q. During the examination, did you look into the pockets of the clothing and did you find any documents in them?

A. As I said, most of the pockets were turned out, but some of them had remained untouched. In these pockets, and also under the lining of the overcoats and of the trousers we discovered, for instance, notes, papers, closed and open letters and postcards, cigarette paper, cigarette holders, pipes, and so forth, and even valuables were found, such as ingots of gold and gold dollars.

Q. These details are not very relevant, and therefore I beg you to refrain from giving them. I would like you to answer the following question:

Did you discover in the clothing documents dated the end of 1940 and also dated 1941?

A. Yes. I myself discovered certain documents, and my colleagues also discovered them. Professor Smolianinov discovered on one of the corpses a letter written in Russian, and it was sent by Sophie Zigon, addressed to the Red Cross in Moscow, with the request to communicate to her the address of her husband, Thomas Zigon. The date of this letter was 12th September, 1940.

In addition, on the envelope there was the stamp of a postal office in Warsaw for the month of September, 1940, and also the stamp of the Moscow post office, dated 28th September, 1940.

Another document of the same sort was discovered. It was a postcard addressed from Tarnopol, with the post office cancellation: "Tarnopol, 13th November, 1940."

Then we discovered receipts with dates, one in particular with the name - if I am not mistaken - of Orashkevitch, certifying to the receipt of money, with the date of 6th April, 1941, and another receipt in his name, also referring to a money deposit, was dated 5th May, 1941.

Then, I myself discovered a letter with the date of 20th June, 1941, with the name of Irene Tutchinski, as well as other documents of the same sort.

Q. During the medico-forensic examination of the corpses, were any bullets or cartridge-cases discovered? If so, please tell us what was the mark on these cartridge-cases? Were they of Soviet firms or of foreign firms, and if they were foreign firms, which one, and what was the calibre?

[Page 18]

A. The cause of death was bullet wounds in the nape of the neck. In the tissues of the brain or in the bone of the skull we discovered bullets which were more or less deformed. As to the cartridge-cases, we did indeed discover, during the exhumation, pistol cartridge-cases of German origin, for on their bases we found the mark G-e-c-o. Geco.

Q. One minute, witness.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I will now read an original German document and I beg the permission of the Tribunal to submit a series of documents which have been offered us by our American colleague and are submitted as Exhibit USSR 507. It concerns German correspondence and telegrams on Katyn, and these telegrams are sent by an official of the Government General, Heinrich, to the Government General.

I am going to read only one document, a very short one, in connection with the cartridge-cases discovered in the mass graves. The telegram is addressed to the Government of the Government General and to the First Administrative Counsellor in Krakow. It is marked "Urgent, to be delivered at once -Secret."

"Part of the Polish Red Cross returned yesterday from Katyn. The employees of the Polish Red Cross have brought with them the cartridge-cases which were used in shooting the victims of Katyn. It appears that these are German munitions. The calibre is 7.65. They are from the firm 'Geco.' Letter follows."
Signed: "Heinrich."


Q. Were the cartridge-cases which were discovered by you of the same calibre and did they bear the mark of the same firm?

A. As I have already stated, the bullets discovered in the bullet wounds were 7.65 calibre. The cases discovered during the exhumation did indeed bear the trademark of the firm "Geco."

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