The eighth day of the trial
2 January 1947.
The beginning of the hearing, at 9:50 AM
Presiding Judge Güntner: I am resuming the hearing of the Supreme National Tribunal to try the case against Ludwig Fischer, Ludwig Leist, Josef Meisinger, and Max Daum, accused of the Decree of 31 August 1944, concerning the punishment of fascist-hitlerite criminals.
Today’s hearing will be devoted to the expert witnesses concerning the destruction of Warsaw by the occupation authorities, and further, the action of the extermination of the Jews. May we have one of the experts, Prof. Lachert.
The engineer, Roman Piotrowski, explains to the Court that the experts have established the order of their expertise in a way that would request the Tribunal to give a voice to him first, if the Presiding Judge agrees.
Court expert, Mr. Piotrowski: Roman Piotrowski, 51, architect engineer, residing in Warsaw. Relationship to the defendants: none.
The Presiding Judge: Mr. Piotrowski, were you sworn in?
Court expert: Yes, I was.
The Presiding Judge: Please present to the Tribunal what allegations the occupying German authorities made when carrying out the destruction of Warsaw.
Court expert: I think that it would be unnecessary to justify the veracity of the claim that Warsaw was destroyed, while the matter that requires clarification is the extent of the damage. The extent of the devastation can be expressed in two ways, either in relative or in absolute values. Each of these ways of presenting the losses uses a different measure. This difference is clearly marked in the definition of threshold values. The relative representation of the phenomenon has its upper limit which is total 100% destruction. The extent of the destruction expressed in absolute quantities has no upper limit in theory. The method of calculating percentages gives a picture of the intensity of the phenomenon in a given area, apart from its absolute extent. Calculating losses in absolute values does not give us a proper picture of the impact on the population of the residential estates that suffered these acts of destruction. For example, the total 100% destruction of a small estate is a huge disaster for its inhabitants, although the loss expressed in spatial units or in monetary terms is negligible; but absolutely enormous damage counted in millions of cubic meters of buildings suffered by a city such as London did not seriously affect the normal course of life of its inhabitants in general. Therefore, to properly illustrate the extent and significance of the destruction of Warsaw, we need to use two methods of presentation at the same time. This image would still be incomplete if we did not include a characterization of the causes. The destruction of a city may be the result of natural forces or of conscious human activity. When dealing with destruction caused by natural disasters, we are dealing with a stage of the eternal human struggle against the forces of nature, a fight marking humanity’s progress towards civilization. Such events evoke a sense of connectedness and community among all civilized humankind. In the case of conscious destructive human activity, the human collective must be divided into two camps holding opposite positions, and it is then that the need for evaluation and judgment arises.
A city is characterized by three elements: the number of people living in a given area, the number of buildings and equipment located in a given area and intended for use by the residents, and finally, the size of the area occupied by buildings and equipment. The Germans’ destruction of Warsaw concerns the first two elements. Even given such well-organized destruction as that which occurred at the hands of the Germans, the area was not destroyed in its entirety. On closer examination, the extent of the destruction, which will be addressed in the expert opinion of my fellow expert Małachowski, can be characterized in the following figures. The population of Warsaw in August 1939 was about 1.2 million people. When the city was liberated, this number stood at around 150,000 in the borough of Praga, which had already been liberated. Left-bank Warsaw was an empty desert. Before the war, Warsaw had 25,500 real estates within its administrative borders, which represents a mass of 103.5 million cubic meters. At the end of January 1945, more than 73.7 million cubic meters of that mass had been destroyed, which is about 73% of the entire left and right banks of the city.
The above figures refer to the extent of the damage and losses in Warsaw in general. They do not say anything about the way in which this unprecedented crime was perpetrated. When considering relations in Warsaw during the occupation, one concludes that this whole period is characterized by the occupier’s bent on destroying the city, not only as the capital of an enemy state, but as a human settlement.
The Germans’ underlying idea was to reduce Warsaw to poverty, to destroy its essence, to blight its metropolitan role, once and for all.
In parallel with efforts to force its population into a secondary role through physical and cultural degeneration, the administration made every possible effort not only to prevent the development of the city, but also to create such conditions as would cause its downfall. The setting aside of certain boroughs and cultural and social facilities for the exclusive use of the Germans was to facilitate this process, allowing them to lead a comfortable life for the time being.
The only motivation prompting the occupier to gradually relinquish their destructive impulses towards Warsaw was the fact that the city was still needed by the German authorities during the ongoing war.
The inability to place such a large settlement under their own administrative apparatus forced the Germans to leave the city’s apparent administrative independence; this whole period of occupation constituted a quiet, continuous struggle of the inhabitants of Warsaw to defend their city. It was self-defense against annihilation. The sentence against Warsaw had already been passed by the Germans almost at the moment of its capture.
On that basis, there are occurring acts of thorough destruction of first, the northern borough of the city, and then the whole city.
The gradual process of the destruction of Warsaw turned out not to be enough. The reason for this was not the weakening of the tension of ill-will on the part of the German authorities, but the resistance and vitality of the city itself, and the growing bribery of the administrative apparatus.
Under these conditions, the Nazis decided to apply more effective and direct means of destruction of the city’s essence - both the living and the dead; that is, its population, real estate, and equipment.
Both the Jewish uprising in 1943 and, later, the general uprising in the summer of 1944 were only a pretext to implement these provisions, which were developed calmly, using all the technological and scientific means available. It should be made clear that German science and knowledge did not refuse their services in this regard and went hand in hand with the robbers and arsonists. On purpose, with persistence and enormous effort, they destroyed borough after borough, house after house, almost room after room.
Most of the devastation did not arise in the heat of battle, it was not dictated by the necessity to deprive the opponent of places of resistance, but it was the result of calm, methodical, organized work, carried out by civil authorities on a defenseless and uninhabited city.
For this action, the Germans harnessed all their organizational capacity, and set in motion the whole administrative apparatus. They used all methods of destruction: what is more, they used a method of collective and individual gains.
Movable property in the city was robbed, the plundering of real estate and city equipment was organized on the scale of a profitable enterprise, although carried out as theft, to enrich the German population at the expense of Warsaw.
The organizational plan of destruction is as follows:
extermination of the population,
robbery of the property remaining in the city,
burning of buildings,
demolition of buildings,
the removal of the most valuable materials and devices.
The best example of this is the destruction of the northern borough of the city, where the Germans formed a Jewish ghetto. Many months prior to the demolition of this part of the city, a death sentence had been passed against it.
The whole area was surrounded by a high wall, with a few entrance gates. Over 400,000 Jews were crammed into a small space, comprising around 740 properties. Then the systematic extermination of these people commenced, and from May 1943 - following the defeat of the Jewish uprising and the total depopulation of the borough – the gradual, planned, burning of the buildings took place, followed by the demolition of the ruins. This was done using modern machines and devices, and a special railway track was built for transporting the demolition materials. These destructive works, organized on a huge scale, lasted about a year, until the outbreak of the uprising in August 1944. The result of this terrible work of destruction was the total demolition of the borough. Special machines were used to level the area after the buildings had been removed, so it is currently impossible to recreate property boundaries.
The method tested in the ghetto was applied to the rest of the city after the final defeat of the uprising in October 1944.
The entire city was separated from the world, this time not with a wall, because it was impossible, but with a tight military cordon, with diligently guarded entry points. The whole population was despoiled and marched out of Warsaw, condemned to extermination during forced hard labor in Germany, or slow perdition while wandering.
At this point, I have to refer to the so-called Pruszków case. At one of the previous hearings, the defendants used the term “escapees” to designate residents of Warsaw. I would like to correct this term once and for all. In the understanding of civilized humanity, an “escapee” is someone who, in a panic, drops everything and escapes from somewhere in mad fear. I think that there are a lot of people in this room who went through the uprising and know what it was like to be an “escapee” from Warsaw. They drove all of us out, threatening that whoever remained in the city would be killed. They drove all of us out under rifles, under machine guns. The seemingly trivial issue of a name grows here into a serious matter. This way, by virtue of this very name, the Germans forged a new myth that they had to organize those masses of tens of thousands of people, fleeing in a panic, into some kind of contingents, hence the Pruszków camp was a necessity; [this] was the care given by the Germans to the inhabitants of Warsaw. That is why we heard about help being provided by the German authorities to “escapees” through organizing hospitals. Pruszków was a death hole where human dignity was trampled to extraordinary extent.
Having dealt in my life with organizing masses of people, I know that organizing tens of thousands of people, heterogeneous and undisciplined, from infants to the elderly, was a physical impossibility. The Germans knew it, and that is why they so kindly handed over the organization part of this ordeal, which is called Pruszków, to the Poles themselves, knowing that they had burdened them with an impossible obligation, and that this way they would remove this odium that had fallen on them from themselves. They only kept them for the control over the camp; that is, they installed guards, who did not allow anyone not only to leave the camp, but even to pass from one pavilion to another. They separated families so that mothers with children in their arms were separated from their husbands. My family, which consisted of four people, was placed in three different places: separately, my wife with a small child, my 17-year-old boy who was suspected of belonging to the Home Army was sent to another camp, and I had to go to another. Thanks to the inefficiency of the German apparatus at that time and the organizational assistance of the underground, I managed to avoid this.
People driven from Warsaw were in no way “escapees” who had left behind their property and possessions in a panicked escape; in truth, they were not allowed to take anything. Thus, what was left was not abandoned, but [rather was] stolen property.
The depopulated city was subjected to systemic robbery, followed by burning and the demolition of the plundered city. When examining the kind of damages sustained, one can see the tension of ill-will rising to the top, being expressed in the ruthless destruction of cultural value of objects. The more significant the building for Polish culture, the more precisely measured were the methods used to destroy it (the Cathedral, Brühl Palace, Saxon Palace, etc.).
The state of the ruins, and an examination of buildings prepared to be blown up, indicates that they implemented the most pedantic and demanding knowledge of building techniques, and invested a huge effort in giving, as a result, the complete destruction of buildings. They did not stop by setting up a strong block of explosives in the lowest story, but carefully drilled into the load-bearing parts of the ground floor walls densely spaced holes for small explosives, which, when they were detonated, crushed the structural elements, causing the whole building to collapse. That was established, inter alia, on the Belweder Palace, where the blasting holes, prepared in order to insert the explosives, were drilled in the walls of the ground floor to about one meter from the floor at half meter intervals. Those holes were perfectly even, at measured intervals, traces of which were visible on the walls in the form of drawn lines.
The fact that some percentage of buildings were preserved is explained by the necessity of the Germans to use some of them for their own needs up until the last moment; as well as by surprise and the panicked escape of the occupants; also the inefficacy of the destructive measures, especially in strong and fireproof structured buildings; and finally by chance that, even with so precisely performed a job against an entire city, had to play a role.
Therefore, the question arises as to what explains this huge effort, and demand for resources (propellant, fuel, explosives) which were so valuable at this time for the German army, defending on their last legs.
In the end, the decisiveness and possession of such destructive power, which belonged to the Germans meant nothing now; they no longer held any illusions as to the impending defeat. If the plans drawn up in the early years of the war for the destruction of Warsaw, and its reduction to the level of a small, provincial German town, could still have been used as guidelines during the destruction of the ghetto, they could not have been taken seriously in autumn of 1944, almost on the eve of Hitler’s downfall. Could there not, therefore, be considered here any criminal motivation?
The way the damage was inflicted on Warsaw, its size and manner, indicate that we are not dealing with an intention to make the city unusable for the enemy during the ongoing war. This was not a defensive act, dictated by military considerations, but it was, with the full awareness of their own impending defeat, intended to cause massive economic and cultural blows to the Polish nation. Thus, our country, for many years after the war, was unable to rise, thereby giving Germany priority and advantages while rebuilding their nation in the period of peace following the war. These were not acts of war, but the creation of realities, under the cover of war, that would undercut the foundations of the peaceful existence of the Polish nation.
The Germans left. Threatened by defeat, they withdrew to the West in a hurried escape, abandoning the city. A terribly bruised Warsaw relaxed. It seemed that the nightmare of destruction hanging for five and a half years over the unfortunate city had ended. It turned out, however, that the Germans decided to abuse the people of Warsaw even after the city was released from their oppression. In the minutes of a meeting of the Delivery and Acceptance Committee regarding demining action in March 17 1945, signed by the representatives of the Central Headquarters for the Demining of the Capital City of Warsaw, reads: “Approximately 40 thousand mines of all kinds were neutralized... “.
But these were just a part of the discovered fatal traps set for the population of the city by the evacuating Germans. Not only were the roads and buildings mined, but also recreational areas for the local population and playgrounds for children. In a letter dated 14 March 1945, the chief of the Demining Headquarters of the city of Warsaw asks the city president to inform the people that “parks, stadiums, gardens, and orchards are still mined by the enemy. On the above-mentioned areas, you must not stay or carry out any work until the area is cleared of mines by the Demining Headquarters of the city of Warsaw.”
It is clear that such mining of the city, made in the time between the fall of the uprising and the liberation of Warsaw, was directed not against the military forces of the enemy, but it was another attack, this time treacherous, on the civilian population of the city.
At the time when Nazi Germany fell apart, the German authorities were still doing their best to murder women and children months and months after the cessation of hostilities.
That is all. The statistical review fellow expert, Małachowski, will explain, and regarding the German plans, it will be expert Lachert.
Prosecutor Siewierski: May I have the expert, Mr. Piotrowski. So, if we examine the earliest period of the devastation by the Germans in September 1939, will we see some system present there, namely the targeting of damage to individual objects and of a certain type?
Court expert: Today, it is difficult to answer that question, as all of the materials that were then collected, are lost. They were collected by the Municipal Credit Society and private individuals. As far as I know, nothing was preserved from that time.
Prosecutor Siewierski: Can you characterize it in general?
Court expert: It would be difficult to answer now in detail. In general, you could characterize it that these were damages that had nothing to do with the defense of the city. They were meant to inflict losses, possibly severe.
Prosecutor Siewierski: Were there not any glaring things as to the direction of the bombing, especially aviation bombing, towards particular objects of cultural value?
Court expert: I can’t answer this question right now, and I do not have any documents for that. The further destruction was so complete that those pale into insignificance.
Prosecutor Sawicki: Before hearing questions on the part of the defendants and attorneys, I want to show you some documents that will make some explanations unnecessary.
Jury Jodłowski: Court Experts, did you consider in your opinions, the issue of the Jewish quarter? Do you have any data, what percentage of the area was taken over by the German quarter and what number of inhabitants were relocated?
Court expert: If I may answer on behalf of all my fellow experts, we cannot answer without relevant, accurate materials. I don’t even know if you are able to retrace it. As far as the second question is concerned, naturally I cannot now provide adequate data, only the data based on impressions. And so it was well known, for example, that the use of electricity was unlimited in the so-called German quarters, while areas populated by Poles were subjected to restrictions. The same concerns, for example, gas. Finally, I could mention how certain shops or restaurants were available only to Germans, and that there was the famous separation of the Germans from other people in streetcars, known as Nur für Deutsche [Only for Germans], where often in the section intended for Polish people, in a streetcar overcrowded to impossibility, people were simply suffocating while in the section next to it, behind the symbolic rope, where there were completely free seats.
Jury Jodłowski: And what about the state of the houses from which Poles were displaced and to which they were relocated?
Court expert Piotrowski: Regarding the status of the dwellings at the time of the displacement, I can answer only how they appeared later. It’s hard for me to say because I was never in German houses. Naturally, they took over the best areas, most modern- furnished homes, and lived in the healthiest conditions. Meanwhile, they gave over the oldest and worst housing to the displaced Poles. An exception to this were such areas as, for example, Żoliborz, which, due to its location, represented great danger for the Germans; simple dread and fear did not allow the Germans to take the modern housing in the borough of Żoliborz.