Eleventh day of the hearing, 22 March 1947.
(Continuing after a break).
Presiding judge: The hearing shall resume. Please call the Czech witnesses.
(Witnesses present: Otto Kraus, Dr. Jan Češpiva, Arnošt Rosin, Erich Kulka).
I advise the witnesses of the obligation to speak the truth and the criminal liability for making false declarations. May Dr. Češpiva remain in the room and the other witnesses leave the room.
The witness has stated the following with regard to his person: Jan Češpiva, 35 years old, gynecology clinic assistant in Prague, married, no relationship to the parties.
Presiding judge: What are parties’ motions regarding the procedure of questioning the witness?
Prosecutor Cyprian: [We] release [the witness] from the oath.
Defense Attorney Umbreit: [We] release [the witness] from the oath.
Presiding judge: In agreement with the parties, the Tribunal has resolved to hear the witness without an oath. The witness may tell us what he knows about the case.
Witness: I was in the Auschwitz concentration camp from 25 January 1943 until the end of August 1943. 648 of us Czechoslovakian prisoners came in that transport, 28 of us had left by August 1943. I looked at the deaths of all of my camp companions through a doctor’s eyes. The reasons for the high mortality can be classified into various groups. The main factor was the lack of hygienic conditions, lack of food, lack of calorific nutrition. There was no water in the Birkenau camp. Underwear was changed once every six months. We were all infested with lice and there was no possibility to wash ourselves. In January 1943, a typhoid epidemic broke out in Birkenau. Six of us Czech doctors volunteered: Dr. Nedvěd, Dr. Makowiczka, Dr. Sztich, Dr. Brożek, Dr. Tomaszek, and I. We approached Dr. Rohde and were submitted into the so-called Häftlingskrankenbau [prisoner infirmary]. It was actually a stable by block 12. Any kind of treatment within the camp was impossible and the diagnosis of typhoid fever meant death to a prisoner due to the fact that we didn’t have any injections that would support the heart. That is why the camp authorities resolved to liquidate the epidemic by selection and with Zyklon gas.
I would like to ask Your Honor one question: the camp commandant Höß, present here, has said that he didn’t gas inmates of his own will, while SS medics Dr. Mrugowski [Mrugowsky] and Dr. Lolling testified that the order to gas hadn’t come from Berlin, but the idea of systematic extermination by gassing had been conceived in Auschwitz. And so we find ourselves in a situation in which Höß is pinning the origins of the concept on the German offices in Berlin – it was the highest office of sanitary control – and Dr. Lolling claims that the concept emerged in the Auschwitz camp. We would then need to turn our attention to the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg to explain the matter of who gave the orders to create this horrible idea of systematic extermination.
How that process was carried out – I think that it was explained accordingly in witness testimonies and that Your Honor the presiding judge has no doubts about what Zyklon gas is and how the gassings were carried out.
Presiding judge: Can the witness please continue?
Witness: I myself took part Dr. Mengele’s experiments on twins and infecting midwives with typhoid, as well as examining children with the so-called water cancer in the Gypsy camp. I introduced myself as a clinic assistant from Prague so that I’d be allowed to treat these Gypsy children. I would cut out the cancer from the children’s mouths and made efforts to use an X-ray machine – the one that was used for sterilization procedures – to treat them. When I wanted to use that machine at the women’s ward and I came there with 12 children, the following doctors were present: Schumann, König, and Rohde. To bar me from being a witness of the sterilization of women, I was dismissed by Rapportführer Plagge and beaten up because I [allegedly] wanted to infiltrate the sterilization procedures and experiments. Never again did I get to use the X-ray machine, and for that reason the water cancer became widespread in the Gypsy camp. When pieces of their faces and eyes fell off, the children looked like lepers. They had those children’s heads cut off and sent in special utensils with formalin for study at a facility in Graz. Around 10 such heads were been put aside, reserved for the museum, and Dr. Rohde took the rest to Auschwitz. What happened with them there, I don’t know.
Another experiment which was performed involved artificially infecting pregnant Gypsy women with typhoid while they were expected to give birth in a couple of days in order to find out whether the placenta was an effective barrier against the bacteria and whether the baby would be born healthy, or whether it was not enough of a barrier and the baby would be born having contracted typhoid fever. I was a witness to all of these deliveries. The women went into labor with 40 degrees of fever and in insufficient hygienic conditions. I asked for soap so that I could wash my hands before the delivery, and for disinfectants, but I was told that [the women] would die anyway and it didn’t make any difference whether it was from infection or something else. Children’s blood was drawn from the temporal artery, arteria temporalis. Whenever the blood was taken from the brain due to doctor’s inexperience, the baby would die. The blood samples were taken to a special bacteriological institute in Auschwitz, where professors Tomaszek and Mako Wicha from the Prague institute worked; they didn’t know what kind of blood it was, they were to determine whether the reaction was Weil-Felix, proteus x9 – positive; whether the baby had typhoid or not. The number of such experiments carried out was 86. All of these women and children were killed, and around 20 [babies] were put to death with an intracardiac injection of phenol. The strongest ones who survived all of this went through convalescence after typhoid, and when they were able to walk, they were taken to the gas chambers. This happened in crematorium II in July 1943.
I didn’t encounter the experiment of artificial birth, but I did gynecological examinations in the female camp.
In my opinion, the sterilization procedures were being carried out in three ways. The first method, surgical – tubal ligation. The wounds on the abdomen didn’t heal, they festered for a long time. The operators who conducted the surgery wouldn’t wash their hands or disinfect the tools. They would do it in a rough way, so that the tissue structure would be totally changed. Hernias occurred. The second method of sterilization was through irradiation of the ovaries. These experiments were conducted in such a way that radiation doses were so high that the skin on the abdomen was burned red, and there was never a sign of treatment, no bandages or ointment. The doctors responsible for these experiments were Schumann, Wirths, and König. I don’t know which prisoners took part [in this as nurses]. As a doctor and the head of the Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes, I’m interested whether these experiments were imposed by Berlin headquarters – whether they were seeking methods for the extermination of entire nations, or whether it was a private initiative by the SS doctors working in Auschwitz. This could be explained by defendant Höß. Should that testimony be incriminatory for Doctors Mrugowski and Lolling, it is to be sent to Nuremberg, where a trial of 23 German doctors is being held.
The things I spoke about were observed by me and involved my part directly. I personally dressed these victims’ wounds. I have not stated anything that I have heard from anybody else.
I can also bear witness when it comes to the number of people killed in the gas chambers. My last Lagerführer in the camp was Gerhard Palitzsch. When he left, we waited for huge transports into the crematoria – we counted the victims who were moved to the gas chambers in cars. Our windows reached out to the main road and from 2 August until 9 March 1943, 305,000 people went by. We counted 80 people in a single transport car. This number was often even higher in 1943 and 1944, as the gassing didn’t take place only in crematorium II in that period. From this, one can estimate the capacity of all the four crematoria.
That is all I wanted to say from a doctor’s perspective. Other testimonies of those who did not see it through a doctor’s eyes are already known to the Tribunal.
Presiding judge: (to the translator) Please explain [to the witness] that the defendant has already provided an explanation regarding sterilization in Auschwitz, that the orders were from Berlin and that those experiments were intended to exterminate nations.
Concerning the question the witness has posed in his testimony, would the defendant please rise.
The defendant has heard the witness testify that Dr. Mrugowsky and Dr. Lolling testified in Nuremberg that the idea to gas people at Auschwitz came not from Berlin, but from Auschwitz.
Defendant: That cannot be correct as selections were also carried out at other camps and I do not understand how I could have had other camps at my disposal or how I could have taken the initiative of other camps into my own hands. That idea did not come from Lolling or Mrugowsky either, but from Himmler via von Gratz, who was a camp doctor, and Lolling, who was the head of the sanitary office in the Reich’s Main Economic and Administrative Office.
Presiding judge: (to the translator) Please translate that into Czech.
Witness: It is not true that selections were carried out in other camps. Auschwitz was not the only camp where I was interned. I was in Nordhausen [Mittelbau-Dora], where rockets were being made to attack London. Selection was never carried out there as Lagerkommandant Perscher [Förschner] forbade it and Dr. Karl [Kahr], the head of that office, essentially rejected it. Whether the selections were carried out or not was a matter reserved for the Lagerkommandant. If the accounts [from Auschwitz] claimed that it was about saving the work force that was so necessary for German industry, as it was in Nordhausen, then selections would not have been introduced and death itself or epidemics would have done the job, thereby leaving the strongest units alive. But people in Auschwitz were killed without a doctor’s examination, even those who could have survived and saved themselves. So it is not true that selections were carried out at every camp. It was a matter for each camp commandant.
Presiding judge: Does the defendant wish to declare anything with regard to the witness’s testimony?
Defendant: I do.
Presiding judge: Proceed.
Defendant: I know for a fact that those selections were carried out in Stutthof, in Sachsenhausen, in Dachau and in Buchenwald.
Witness: I was also in Buchenwald, where I was the second surgeon from August 1943 to March 1944, and I can testify that no selections were carried out there; there were only killings ordered by the Gestapo. What Höß is saying is not true; [I know] because I was in Buchenwald myself.
Prosecutor Siewierski: I have a question for the defendant.
Presiding judge: Proceed.
Prosecutor Siewierski: Can the defendant explain, to the best of his knowledge, where, in what place, the first gassings were carried out and what model the defendant used when he introduced gassing at the Auschwitz camp?
Defendant: The first gassing was used on Soviet POWs and it took place in Auschwitz.
Prosecutor Siewierski: On what date?
Defendant: It was in the fall of 1941. I cannot give a more precise date. The first gassing – as I have already said several times – was organized by my deputy Fritzsch. Until that time, even the Reichssicherheitshauptamt [Reich Main Security Office] was not aware of any gas which could be used to gas people, but Russian POWs and Jews were gassed from that moment onwards.
Presiding judge: The witness may continue his testimony.
Witness: The Zyklon gas which was used for the mass murder of political prisoners was used in relation to around 12,000 members of the Red Army in 1941. There is a witness of that mass murder of POWs here, who dug up those corpses and burned them. He was a member of the so-called Sonderkommando, and his name is Arnošt Rosin. Zyklon gas has been known since 1939. As far back as in 1913, it was known that a certain concentration of potassium cyanide can kill a human being and the Germans conducted experiments during the First World War, so Zyklon was nothing new during the Second World War. It was used in a factory in Hamburg. The Zyklon came in cans packed 15 to a box. Every one of those boxes came with its own card which I read myself. The name of the person responsible for the shipped material [was on it]. I remember one of those names, it was SS-man Obersturmführer Dr. Janisch. It is possible that he was an officer in the chemical group of the general staff or of an SS group. I don’t remember the other two names on that card.
Höß has said that there were no materials for gassing. The only issue was how to resolve the matter of the mass murder of Red Army POWs. [The Germans] told the POWs that they were going to bathe because they were afraid of agitating [them]. That was the only way they could get the Red Army soldiers to the gas chambers. We are witnesses that the Red Army soldiers never entered the gas chambers and, before they were executed, ended up being gunned down by machine gun fire.
Prosecutor Cyprian: Is the witness aware that Auschwitz was supposed to be the main camp for the destruction of the Slavic nations?
Witness: That became clear to me on the day when [it turned out, despite the fact that] there were four crematoria large enough to hold 600 people each, that [those] crematoria were not enough to burn all the corpses – they were being burned in the open air in Birkenau. Being gassed with Zyklon gas is far worse than being killed by machine gun fire, than bombings or other methods.
That campaign was carried out in an especially malicious way, for example the Hungarian Jews didn’t know that they were going to the gas chambers. As an eyewitness, I suspect that had the Germans won the war, the rest of the generation would have been sterilized by the successive thousands. In this way they would destroy the intelligentsia, and use the politically unaware as slaves.
Prosecutor Cyprian: Is the witness aware that a plan was drawn up in Himmler’s staff in Berlin to biologically stamp out the Slavic nations – first the Poles and then the Czechs – at Auschwitz II?
Witness: I have served as a witness in many trials and it follows from the material I am familiar with that the area between the Elbe and the Vistula was to be purged.
Prosecutor Cyprian: Is the witness aware that that plan was drawn up in Berlin, and that Höß was merely its executor?
Witness: It may never be found out who initiated that terrible idea.
Prosecutor Cyprian: I am not talking about the gassings, I am talking about extermination.
Witness: It comes from German philosophy, for the theory of the Superman. That Superman was supposed to be Höß. That philosophy led to the underestimation of the Slavic race. I am convinced that the plan would have been successful given the capabilities of the German chemical industry. I am not saying that as an eccentric, but as a doctor who knows the capacity of Auschwitz and who went through Auschwitz himself.
Prosecutor Cyprian: Does this mean that the task of Auschwitz was entirely different than in other concentration camps?
Prosecutor Cyprian: It was not to be a concentration camp, but a destruction camp?
Presiding judge: Does the defense have any questions?
Defense attorney Ostaszewski: Yes. The witness expressed himself in such a way as to claim that Höß gave a false testimony in his declarations that Lolling and Mrugowsky testified differently in Nuremberg. Has their trial finished?
Witness: It is ongoing.
Defense attorney Ostaszewski: It has not finished?
Defense attorney Ostaszewski: How does the witness know what Lolling and Mrugowsky testified?
Witness: We have analysts permanently stationed in Nuremberg. We receive weekly reports of the testimonies of all the camp witnesses from those analysts as well as from other people.
Defense attorney Ostaszewski: Does that mean that the witness knows this as a result of those observations, and not as a result of a personal claim?
Defense attorney Ostaszewski: The gassings took place from 1942. Thereafter the witness spoke about an incident which took place in Buchenwald. When was the witness there?
Witness: In 1943 and 1944.
Defense attorney Ostaszewski: Was that at the time when treatment at the camp was becoming less severe?
Witness: I know Buchenwald from the time when it was still a piece of forest.
Defense attorney Ostaszewski: Is the witness aware of the reasons [why] selections were not carried out at that time?
Witness: Concentration camps in Germany were split up into three groups: Auschwitz, Flossenbürg and Mauthausen were 3rd degree camps where prisoners from Warsaw and from Prague were sent with the note “Rückkehr unerwünscht” [“Return undesirable”].
Defense attorney Ostaszewski: I am not interested in that. I am interested in 1943, when, as the Prime Minister stated yesterday, the conditions became less severe in all the concentration camps as the result of a foreign campaign, especially from London.
Witness: I do not put much emphasis on foreign influence. I think it more concerns matters of an economic nature, dictated by the desire to use the prisoners for labor. That transformation began at the time when Germany started to feel the effects of a lack of workforce.
Defense attorney Ostaszewski: Does that mean that the campaign was not implemented by defendant Höß, but was dictated by other special conditions?
Witness: That lenience? From what I know of Höß I never saw any lenience from him, I only saw murder!
Presiding judge: There are no more questions to the witness. The witness is excused.