Day 13 of the trial, 25 March 1947.
The witness has provided information about himself as follows: Henri Gorgue, 40 years old, toolmaker, married, nonbeliever, no relationship to the parties.
Chairperson: What are the motions of the parties as to the mode of the questioning of the witness?
Prosecutor Cyprian: We discharge the witness from the oath.
Defender Ostaszewski: We discharge the witness from the oath.
Chairperson: By mutual agreement of the parties, the Tribunal has decided to question the witness without an oath.
Chairperson: Would you describe what you know about the matter?
Witness: I was in the Auschwitz camp from 6 July 1942 to September 1944, when I was transferred to the camp in Groß-Rosen. In the camp, I was assigned the number 45,617. I still have that number tattooed on my left hand, like all Auschwitz prisoners.
Our transport was the first transport of non-Jewish political criminals from France. There were 1200 of us men, mostly communists. We had been arrested in France by the police, who were in the service of the German authorities. We were turned over to the German authorities to be deported for our party activity. This happened as a result of an attack that had taken place, officially, in Paris. From the 1200 companions who came to Auschwitz, only a hundred are still alive today in France.
Out transport suffered especially during the first years in the Auschwitz camp, when the accused Höß was camp commandant. I never had a chance to see Höß in any other situation than during an assembly, or when I was coming back from work with the kommandos or when he visited the kommandos.
Not wanting to explain the crimes committed by other commandants who were his successors, I will say that it was when Höß was commandant, and under his responsibility, that a great many of the most terrible and horrendous crimes were committed.
The day after our arrival at Auschwitz, our transport was sent to Birkenau. After eight days at the camp, I went back to the camp in Auschwitz with 600 companions. Our transport was divided into two parts: 600 stayed in Birkenau, 600 got into Auschwitz.
In March 1943, as a result of a decision issued by the camp authorities, all Frenchmen from our transport were finally joined together in the Auschwitz camp. Only seventeen of those who were still alive went back to Birkenau. At this point, there were only around a hundred of us in the Auschwitz camp. From July 1942 to March 1943, in eight months, from 1200 companions who made up our transport when it first arrived, only 117 of us were still alive.
Between March 1943 and the end of the war, going through various camps, up until the moment of our liberation, we lost only 18 companions. Höß, therefore, bears the greatest responsibility for our sufferings, and for the death of the biggest part of our transport.
The organized destruction of our French companions was part of a general plan of destruction to which all prisoners were subjected, regardless of their race or nationality, and even for racists these conditions were most cruel.
What I could see – Höß could see it better than me and he knew about it.
The first of our companions to die in Auschwitz was a young man of 17, Batheron, who was killed with a stick by our szef blokowy [prisoner acting as a barrack warden]. This szef gave us a speech on discipline and chose him to kill, making us watch this example, to prove to us that human life has no significance in Auschwitz.
Two hours later, one of our companions, Voisin, went mad and threw himself onto the wire surrounding the camp – he was shot.
A few days later, when I was returning in a transport kommando, I saw a kapo hit an exhausted man. My prison companion from France, Jean Cazorla, wanted to protest: he was seized and immediately killed with sticks.
Every day, coming back from work, we carried the dead. Every night, our companions died, exhausted, or were killed under totally trivial pretexts.
At the end of August 1942, the men’s camp in Auschwitz was to be temporarily moved to the rooms of the women’s camp, and the women were moved to Birkenau. The order was issued with the aim of carrying out a disinfection of the camp. Because there wasn’t enough space in these buildings where we were supposed to settle, after the evening assembly Höß and the camp authorities carried out a selection that was applied to all the kommandos. All men who, physically, looked unfavorable, or had slightly swollen legs, were withdrawn from the ranks and sent to the gas chambers to be destroyed. Among these unfortunate ones was my companion Neel Louis, who lived in the same city as I back in France. In October 1942, he went to the sick room because of his leg wounds. I got typhus. On the day I left the sick room, a selection for the gas chamber was carried out. I managed to steer clear of this selection because the doctor had marked that I was leaving the sick room and that I was cured. One of my companions, Gamichon Réné, was sent to the gas chambers along with this section.
In December, after another 14-day stay in the sick room, I saw three selections for the gas chambers, and on the occasion of these selections another one of my companions went to the gas: André Sallenave, who had been my work companion in the same kommando.
One time, our kommando, 200-strong, left the camp in the morning to transport potatoes to storage; in the evening we came back with 30 dead. They were killed during the day by the kapos who were supervising our work, and by the SS guards who were watching over us.
During most of my confinement in Auschwitz, I worked in a locksmith kommando. It was a relatively good kommando, compared to other kommandos that were much harder. 65 Frenchmen from my transport were assigned to that kommando. When we were leaving Auschwitz in September 1944, there were only eight of us, even though in March 1943 there had still been 12 people. This was during the time when Höß was commandant.
After commandant Höß left the camp, we were still suffering, but the general camp conditions got better, and our small group of surviving Frenchmen had fewer difficulties, it was possible still to adapt to the camp regime relatively easily. The darkest of our years in the camp was the year that we spent during the time when Höß was commandant.
Chairperson: Are there no further questions? (No). The witness is free to go.