Report on the hearing of the witness, drafted on 15 September 1945, in Wiesbaden, pursuant to the decree of the President of the Republic of Poland of 29 April 1940 (Journal of Laws No. 9, item 23) and to the principle of authorization granted on the basis of art. 1 of said decree.

Judge: major audytor [Military Judge] W. Szuldrzyński
Court clerk: Sergeant J. Kulczycki.

The witness Karol Lehrer takes the stand, after being informed about the legal consequences for giving false testimony and being sworn in a legal manner, and testifies as follows:

Name and surname Karol Lehrer
Date and place of birth 13 March 1922, Oświęcim
Parents’ names Sucher and Ida née Vogel
Religious affiliation Jewish
Qualification finished technical junior high school in Piotrków Trybunalski
Place of residence in Poland Oświęcim
Current place of residence Wiesbaden

He testifies without hindrance

The witness testifies under legal oath:

When the Germans invaded Poland, I was in my hometown in Oświęcim. The first months were quiet, and apart from some minor persecutions, nothing out of the ordinary happened to the Jews. In mid-April 1940, two members of the SS arrived, one was with the rank of Scharführer, I don’t remember his surname, and the other was Unterscharführer Schlechter. After a week, an entire SS company arrived. The officers didn’t live permanently in Oświęcim; they only came in by car. Forced labor was being organized at that time, which involved the kehilla having to provide 250 to 300 people every day to work on setting up the former barracks of the later camp. About three times a week, every man from Oświęcim who was a Jew had to go to work. It was possible, however, to get a substitute, so the richer ones bought themselves out. The work lasted from the moment the column set out—that is, from 7.00 a.m.—and ended when we headed off home, at approx. 9.00 p.m., but later we were sometimes at home by 5.00 p.m.

The work was very demanding, because we had to do everything on the double, and the slightest slips were punished by beatings such that we often had to carry 10-12 men who had been beaten up and who couldn’t get home on their own. We worked on the barracks until the end of May or early June. In mid-May, about 60 prisoners came from the concentration camp to take on the functions assigned to the prisoners in the newly-formed concentration camp. The first transport of around 3,000 Poles arrived in Auschwitz in June 1940. The baths were already up and running. One Friday, while I was working at the tobacco manufacturer’s, a train consisting of freight wagons pulled in to the railway sidings nearby, so that I could accurately observe the unloading and subsequent treatment of the people who’d been brought in. The prisoners were lined up in rows and after a short speech given by some Sturmführer, they were escorted to the barracks, where in the area of the former riding hall, they had to do gymnastics almost all day long. I would like to point out here that the transport had arrived about 11.00 a.m.

The prisoners were soon placed under the supervision of kapos who came in from Sachsenhausen. They beat the prisoners and tormented them horrendously. The SS men also got involved and would beat them with their rifle butts. It was only after three or four days that the prisoners were dressed in prison clothes, and when I passed the camp area, where the prisoners were located, I saw the gymnastics still being carried out by them, as on the first day. After being issued prison uniforms, the prisoners were put to work getting the camp in order. I know from hearsay that transports of prisoners—Poles— began to arrive almost every day. Whether there were any Jews among them, I don’t know. In any case, I saw for myself that the camp began to be populated. When I left Oświęcim on 7 April 1941, tens of thousands of prisoners were said to be in Auschwitz—the crematorium was already being used. Moniek Jurkowski walked to the camp on behalf of the kehilla and bought the ashes of the Jews who had been burnt in the crematorium. This was still 1940, but it is difficult for me to give the exact date. Currently, Jurkowski is in Gliwice, a lieutenant in the Security Service. When I passed the camp once, I saw prisoners running with iron wheelbarrows—I had the impression that they were running around in circles, and they had to run fast and raise their legs high.

Shortly before 3 May 1940, some small-scale arrests of Poles were carried out in Oświęcim, and first they were taken to Bielsko, and later to a concentration camp whose name I don’t know. Before 11 November 1940, about 50 people from the Polish intelligentsia were arrested in Oświęcim, including a pharmacist named Bogdano, who later died in Dachau and Nack, a teacher at the public school, who also died, the head of the state police, whose name I don’t remember, the director of the Municipal Savings Bank. Those arrested were taken by bus to Bielsko, and from there, after a few were released, the rest were sent to a concentration camp.

General Schmelt was the Sonderbeauftragter des Reichsführers SS und des Chefs der Deutschen Polizei für den fremdvölkischen Arbeitseinsatz in Oberschlesien and was based in Opole, and also in Pazemiechach [Parzymiechach], Blachownia county, near Częstochowa. At the head of the branch—the Dienststelle —of this institution in Sosnowiec was Polizeiinspektor Hentschel, apart from that there was SS-Sturmbannführer Lindner, SS-Sturmführer Ludwig, Polizei Ober-Revier Wachtmeister Knoll, Oberassesor Messner and Oberassesor Kuczynski. In connection with the activities of this institution in September 1940, the kehilla in Oświęcim was required to deliver about 500 men to work from the age of 19 to 40. The same quotas had to be provided by all the neighboring towns. In our neighborhood, the assembly point was in Oświęcim. Those chosen, after undergoing medical examinations, went without a police escort to the assembly point, where they were loaded onto trains and sent to Annaberg [Góra Świętej Anny] (Upper Silesia) to the Reichsautobahnlager —a labor camp surrounded by wire.

More Jewish contingents were demanded from Oświęcim for forced labor in March 1941. However, the kehilla was unable to provide them and the police organized round-ups to gather a sufficient number of people. This action was directed by Lidner and Knoll in Oświęcim, with the help of the local Schutzpolizei.

This transport was sent to a forced labor camp in Żywiec county. The Jews were not kept behind wire, just in barracks under the supervision of SS men in black uniforms.

At the head of these camps stood Bautruppenführer Długosz, a Schutzpolizei officer. In July 1945 he was arrested in Bielsko and there was a petition for his release, because he was a very decent man and he really defended his Jews. Also in March 1941, the first resettlements of Poles and Jews from Oświęcim to the General Government took place. These actions were carried out by specially designated police with the participation of SS members. People were allowed to take 20 zlotys with them along with hand luggage and were given 20 minutes to pack, depending on the policeman. These deportations took place calmly, without beatings or casualties. Three railway transports were sent at that time; there could have been about 3,000 people who were moved from the vicinity of Tarnów.

In the winter of 1940/1941 Lindner chose a certain number of Jews from the camps near Annaberg— Reichsautobahnlager—who were working there and sent them to Auschwitz. Among these transports were five Jews from Oświęcim itself. Their families received telegrams one morning that they had died of pneumonia. In the evening of the same day, several Jews who worked close to the camp reported to the families that they had seen their relatives in the camp. After some time, however, ashes were sent to the families.

At the beginning of April 1941, about 5,000 Jews were transported from Oświęcim to Sosnowiec and Będzin, among whom I found myself. I should explain that we were residents of the town of Oświęcim. This action was led by Lindner and Knoll. We were allowed to take everything, and there were even trains for furniture, which the kehilla provided. From 2–7 April 1941 this deportation was carried out. In Sosnowiec I worked in the Beutrupp, which was under the management of Sonderbeauftragter General Schmelta, which protected me from the round-ups for forced labor and from deportation to work in Germany, because I was employed in an institution working for the war effort.

The report was read before signing.

The report was discontinued, but the witness was ordered to appear for a further hearing on 18 September 1945 at 9.00 a.m.

Continuation of the hearing of witness Karol Lehrer on 18 September 1945.

Judge: major audytor [Military Judge] W. Szuldrzyński
Court clerk: Sergeant J. Kulczycki.

Witness Karol Lehrer takes the stand and continues to testify. The witness was reminded of the oath made on 15 September 1945.

Every enterprise working for the army and under the supervision of the Sonderbeauftragter was called a Wehrmachtsbetrieb. Jews working in such enterprises were exempt from Arbeitseinsatz, but they had to give back about 40 percent of their income, which was taken away at the source. In addition, there were other deductions, such as Kriegshilfe, taxes—so they almost worked for free. In 1941, around Sosnowiec and the whole of Ostoberschlesien— that is, Upper Silesia—along with the territories up to the border of the General Government, regular round-ups were made of non-working Jews. They were carried out by Lindner, Knoll and Ludwig. They traveled by car, followed by a big bus, onto which the rounded-up Jews were loaded, who were then driven off to the transit camp in Sosnowiec, and then to the RABL (Reichsautobahnlager) labor camps. SS men dressed in black uniforms helped with the round-ups. At the end of 1941 or at the beginning of 1942, the RABL was changed into the ZAL (Zwangsarbeitslager). This change increased the rigor of the camp, such as the prohibition on writing letters or receiving parcels, and abolishing pay. Jews who worked in enterprises also underwent selections and, in consultation with the factory management, were selected and sent to forced labor camps. These round-ups and transfers of Jews to labor camps lasted until July 1943.

At the end of 1942, a Jewish ghetto were created in Sosnowiec and Będzin. Sosnowiec was for the Środula area, and Będzin for the Kamionka area. Both areas were adjacent to each other, although they didn’t constitute one whole. All the Jews were moved to these districts by the kehilla, which took place peacefully and was completed in February 1943. Leaving the ghetto without permission in 1943 could get you sent to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. There were incidents of Jews out and about in the city without a pass being shot.

From hearsay I know that in the forced labor camps there were selections from time to time. People who were sick and weak were selected and sent on the so-called Krankentransport to the Erholungelagers. A small percentage stayed in this camp, while the majority were sent to Auschwitz. These selections were carried out by Polizeiinspektor Hauschildt, who was arrested in Wrocław by the Russians. Apparently, during the interrogation he is said to have admitted to sending about 20 thousand Jews to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. I heard this in July in Wrocław from a Czech man who was working at the NKVD in Wroclaw.

In May 1942, the kehillas were required to provide transport for a certain percentage of people with large families, unemployed or bedridden, poor, impoverished or mentally handicapped. The kehillas drew up appropriate censuses and called for them to report to the assembly point. However, when people didn’t voluntarily show up, the police conducted a round-up on the basis of the censuses made by the kehilla. The next night all the people were taken from Targowa Street in Sosnowiec and they were assembled in the Rialto cinema. There Oberassesor Kuczynski dismissed the workers only, and the rest joined the transport. When the Jews chosen in this way didn’t match up to the number of Jews designated by the German authorities, the two largest houses on Targowa Street—that is, numbers 2 and 11—were surrounded and everyone without exception found in these houses were included in the transport. These acts were carried out by Dreier, a Gestapo officer from Katowice, and his deputy, non-commissioned Gestapo officer Freitag. They both went around in SS uniforms. That day one railway transport left and we never found out what happened to it. It was said that it ended up in Auschwitz, but these were only rumors that couldn’t be verified.

In May 1942, round-ups were still underway in the Dąbrowski Basin, during which the non- working Jews and those in hiding who hadn’t left on the first transport were caught. From among those captured during the month of May 1942, three more railway transports were organized and they were also taken to an unknown destination.

In June 1942, a selection was carried out again in the Dąbrowski Basin, which consisted in assembling all the Jews on the sports fields, whose papers were then examined by Sonderbeauftragter officials, such as Lindner, Ludwig, Kuczynski, and, depending on their decisions, were dismissed or selected for Arbeitseinsatz or deportation. Those released received Gestapo stamps on their papers. Two separate groups were created, for those selected for Arbeitseinsatz and those for deportation. Several hundred Jews assigned to Arbeitseinsatz were sent away immediately to the transit camp—Jews designated for deportation were sent after three days on three railway transports to an unknown destination. I would note that these three transports were only from Sosnowiec. Transports also left Dąbrowa and Będzin. During the three days in which the selections were made in Sosnowiec, I was often near the court because my parents were there. I often heard shots and before my very eyes a policeman killed a Jew who had tried to jump over the fence and escape. Besides this one, I didn’t see any corpses, but I know they that people were beaten and there were more victims. There were more victims who were looked after by the kehilla. The same action as in June 1942 in the Dąbrowski Basin lasted until August 1942 throughout the whole Ostoberschlesien area.

After a relatively quiet time, on 19 May 1943 in Sosnowiec, a round-up was carried out in the local ghetto, during which several thousand people were taken away. The selection was conducted by Kuczynski, who first took children, the elderly, and those working in enterprises less important for the war effort. This operation was carried out on the orders of the Katowice Gestapo, and the Gestapo was supervised under Dreier’s command. Later, three more round-ups took place in the ghetto in Sosnowiec and Będzin. During the round- ups, organized at night or in the early morning, there were many victims. On 19 May 1943, before my very eyes, a policeman shot an old Jew who was walking along a dirt road and didn’t know yet that the round-up had begun, because this was during the time when the ghetto was surrounded. During further round-ups I saw many victims including men, women, and also small children. I myself collected the dead and the wounded along the railway track that passed through the ghetto. These were the corpses of those who had jumped out of the windows of the freight wagons. Their wounds were enormous, from which I concluded that they had been shot with so-called dum-dum bullets.

On 1 August 1943, during the night from Saturday to Sunday, both ghettos were surrounded—that is, in Sosnowiec and Będzin. This was their final liquidation. Already during night there were a lot of shots fired and victims. Everyone was told that they would be transferred to Birkenau, where they would still be employed in the companies they were currently working in and that they would have to report to these companies. However, when nobody reported and didn’t want to leave, the deportation was carried out forcibly. During this operation there were an awful lot of corpses, which were then taken away on trucks. I didn’t see anyone being shot, but I saw corpses at every step of the way. During this operation, my brother Lon Lehrer died. I and 200 young people were chosen by Kuczynski, who then took us to the forced labor camp in Annaberg. I know from hearsay that the transports that left Sosnowiec and Będzin on 2–3 August 1943 went directly to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. A Jew from Sosnowiec told me so, and he had left for Auschwitz on a later transport and saved himself (after his arrival, he was selected and found himself among the few who didn’t go to the gas chambers immediately, and so stayed in the camp). I spoke with him in July 1945 in Sosnowiec, I don’t recall his surname.

The labor camp in Annaberg, as well as all the others in this area, was under the joint management of the Todt Organization and the Sonderbeauftragter. The Lagerführer was a member of the Todt Organization as a ranking officer, while the guards and the maintenance of order in the camp were in the hands of Sonderbeauftragter officers. I don’t recall any names. In the camps where I was—Annaberg, Blechhammer [Blachownia Śląska], Schmiedeberg [Kowary], Klettenberg [Klettendorf - Klecine]—in my time, it was quite calm and I can’t complain about the treatment. I should note that I was a member of the so-called Bautruppe, which traveled from camp to camp and dealt with various construction projects. We were very worried when Polizeiinspector Hauschildt came to the camp. During his investigations, he was said to pretend not to be a police inspector and always wore civilian clothes—and so did Lindner, Ludwig and Knoll.

After the arrival of Hauschildt and his companions in Klettendorf, in October 1943, I was transferred to a [branch] of the Groß-Rosen concentration camp—Arbeitslager Waldenburg [Walbrzych], in which I remained until the Russians liberated it on 8 May 1945. This camp was in Lower Silesia in the hills. The Germans didn’t try to evacuate it. Our guards only escaped on the day of our liberation—that is, on 8 May—in the morning hours. The Lagerführer was Unterscharführer Schrammel, who was supposedly hanged by some former prisoners. Our camp only had 500 prisoners and things weren’t so bad because this was already when the Germans were on the retreat.

The report was read before signing.