IMT Testimony of Mme. Marie Claude Vaillant-Couturier

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IMT Testimony of Mme. Marie Claude Vaillant-Couturier

Post by David Thompson » 10 Apr 2004 09:31

This testimony of a French woman who was arrested by the Germans in 1942 describes day to day conditions at concentration camp (Konzentrationslager - KL) Auschwitz and KL Ravensbrueck. She testified before the IMT at Nuernberg on 28 Jan 1946. Her account is contained in volume 6 of the IMT proceedings. This is part 1 of 2:

FORTY-FOURTH DAY Monday, 28 January 1946

Morning Session

M. DUBOST: With the authorization of the Court, I should like to proceed with this part of the presentation of the French case by hearing a witness who, for more than 3 years, lived in German concentration camps.

[The witness, Mme. Vaillant-Couturier, took the stand.]

THE PRESIDENT: Would you stand up, please? Do you wish to swear the French oath?
Will you tell me your name?

MADAME MARIE CLAUDE VAILLANT-COUTURIER (Witness): Claude Vaillant-Couturier.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you repeat this oath after me: I swear that I will speak without hate or fear, that I will tell the truth, all the truth, nothing but the truth.

[The witness repeated the oath in French.]

THE PRESIDENT: Raise your right hand and say, "I swear."

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I swear.

THE PRESIDENT: Please, will you sit down and speak slowly. Your name is?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Vaillant-Couturier, Marie, Claude, Vogel.

M. DUBOST: Is your name Madame Vaillant-Couturier?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes.

M. DUBOST: You are the widow of M. Vaillant-Couturier?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes.

M. DUBOST: You were born in Paris on 3 November 1912?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes.

M. DUBOST: And you are of French nationality, French born, and of parents who were of French nationality?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes.

M. DUBOST: You are a deputy in the Constituent Assembly?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes.

M. DUBOST: You are a Knight of the Legion of Honor?

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MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes.

M. DUBOST: You have just been decorated by General Legentilhomme at the Invalides?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes.

M. DUBOST: Were you arrested and deported? Will you please give your testimony?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I was arrested on 9 February 1942 by Petain's French police, who handed me over to the German authorities after 6 weeks. I arrived on 20 March at Sante prison in the German quarter. I was questioned on 9 June 1942.

At the end of my interrogation they wanted me to sign a statement which was not consistent with what I had said. I refused to sign it. The officer who had questioned me threatened me; and when I told him that I was not afraid of death nor of being shot, he said, ""But we have at our disposal means for killing that are far worse than merely shooting." And the interpreter said to me, "You do not know what you have just done. You are going to leave for a concentration camp in
Germany. One never comes back from there."

M. DUBOST: You were then taken to prison?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I was taken back to the Sante prison where I was placed in solitary confinement. However, I was able to communicate with my neighbors through the piping and the .windows. I was in a cell next to that of Georges Politzer, the philosopher, and Jacques Solomon, physicist. Mr. Solomon is the son-in-law of Professor Langevin, a pupil of Curie, one of the first to study atomic disintegration.

Georges Politzer told me through the piping that during his interrogation, after having been tortured, he was asked whether he would write theoretical pamphlets for National Socialism. When he refused, he was told that he would be in the first train of hostages to be shot.

As for Jacques Solomon, he also was horribly tortured and then thrown into a dark cell and came out only on the day of his execution to say goodbye to his wife, who also was under arrest at the Sante Helene Solomon Langevin told me in Romainville, where I found her when I left the Sante that when she went to her husband he moaned and said, "I cannot take you in my arms, because I can no longer move them."

Every time that the internees came back from their questioning one could hear moaning through the windows, and they all said that they could not make any movements.

Several times during the 5 months I spent at the Sante hostages were taken to be shot. When I left the Sante on 20 August 1942,

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I was taken- to the Fortress of Romainville, which was a camp for hostages. There I was present on two occasions when they took hostages, on 21 August and 22 September. Among the hostages who were taken away were the husbands of the women who were with me and who left for Auschwitz. Most of them died there.

These women, for the most part, had been arrested only because of the activity of their husbands. They themselves had done nothing.

M. DUBOST: When did you leave for Auschwitz?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I left for Auschwitz on 23 January 1943, and arrived there on the 27th.

M. DUBOST: Were you with a convoy?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I was with a convoy of 230 French women; among us were
Danielle Casanova who died in Auschwitz, Mal Politzer who died in Auschwitz, and
Helene Solomon. There were some elderly women...

M. DUBOST: What was their social position?

MME. VAIILLANT-COUTURIER: They were intellectuals, school teachers; they came from all walks of life. Mal Politzer was a doctor, and the wife of the philosopher Georges Politzer. Helene Solomon is the wife of the physicist Solomon; she is the daughter of Professor Langevin. Danielle Casanova was a dental surgeon and she was very active among the women. It is she who organized a resistance movement among the wives of prisoners.

M. DUBOST: How many of you came back out of 230?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Forty-nine. In the convoy there were some elderly women. I remember one who was 67 and had been arrested because she had in her kitchen the shotgun of her husband, which she kept as a souvenir and had not declared because she did not want it to be taken from her. She died after a fortnight at Auschwitz.

THE PRESIDENT: When, you said only 49 came back, did you mean only 49 arrived at Auschwitz.

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: No, only 49 came back to France.

There were also cripples, among them a singer who had only one leg. She was taken out and gassed at Auschwitz. There was also a young girl of 16, a college girl, Claudine Guerin; she also died at Auschwitz. There were also two women who had been acquitted by the German military tribunal, Marie Alonzo and Marie Therese Fleuri; they died at Auschwitz.

It was a terrible journey. We were 60 in a car and we were given no food or drink during the journey. At the various stopping

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places we asked the Lorraine soldiers of the Wehrmacht who were guarding us whether we would arrive soon; and they replied, "If you knew where you are going you would not be in a hurry to get there."

We arrived at Auschwitz at dawn. The seals on our cars were broken, and we were driven out by blows with the butt end of a rifle, and taken to the Birkenau Camp, a section of the Auschwitz Camp. It is situated in the middle of a great plain, which was frozen in the month of January. During this part of the journey we had to drag our luggage. As we passed through the door we knew only too well how slender our chances were that we would come out again, for we had already met columns of living skeletons going to work; and as we entered we sang "The Marseillaise" to keep up our courage.

We were led to a large shed, then to the disinfecting station. There our heads were shaved and our registration numbers were tattooed on the left forearm. Then we were taken into a large room for a steam bath and a cold shower. In spite of the fact that we were naked, all this took place in the presence of SS men and women. We were then given clothing which was soiled and torn, a cotton dress and jacket of the same material.

As all this had taken several hours, we saw from the windows of the block where we were, the camp of the men; and toward the evening an orchestra came in. It was snowing and we wondered why they were playing music. We then saw that the camp foremen were returning to the camp. Each foreman was followed by men who were carrying the dead. As they could hardly drag themselves along, every time they stumbled they were put on their feet again by being kicked or by blows with the butt end of a rifle.

After that we were taken to the block where we were to live. There were no beds but only bunks, measuring 2 by 2 meters, and there nine of us had to sleep the first night without any mattress or blanket. We remained in blocks of this kind for several months. We could not sleep all night, because every time one of the nine moved-this happened unceasingly because we were all ill-she disturbed the whole row.

At 3:30 in the morning the shouting of the guards woke us up, and with cudgel blows we were driven from our bunks to go to roll call. Nothing in the world could release us from going to the roll call; even those who were dying had to be dragged there. We had to stand there in rows of five until dawn, that is, 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning in winter; and when there was a fog, sometimes until noon. Then the commandos would start on their way to work.

M. DUBOST: Excuse me, can you describe the roll call?

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MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: For roll call we were lined up in rows of five; and we waited until daybreak, until the Aufseherinnen, the German women guards in uniform, came to count us. They had cudgels and they beat us more or less at random.

We had a comrade, Germaine Renaud, a school teacher from Azay-le-Rideau in France, who had her skull broken before my eyes from a blow with a cudgel during the roll can.

The work at Auschwitz consisted of clearing demolished houses, road building, and especially the draining of marsh land. This was by far the hardest work, for all day long we had our feet in the water and there was the danger of being sucked down. It frequently happened that we had to pull out a comrade who had sunk in up to the waist.

During the work the SS men and women who stood guard over us would beat us with cudgels and set their dogs on us. Many of our friends had their legs torn by the dogs. I even saw a woman torn to pieces and die under my very eyes when Tauber, a member of the SS, encouraged his dog to attack her and grinned at the sight
.
The causes of death were extremely numerous. First of all, there was the complete lack of washing facilities. When we arrived at Auschwitz, for 12,000 internees there was only one tap of water, unfit for drinking, and it was not always flowing. As this tap was in the German wash house we could reach it only by passing through the guards, who were German common-law women prisoners, and they beat us horribly as we went by. It was therefore almost impossible to wash ourselves or our clothes. For more than 3 months we remained without changing our clothes. When there was snow, we melted some to wash in. Later, in the spring, when we went to work we would drink from a puddle by the road-side and then wash our underclothes in it. We took turns washing our hands in this dirty water. Our companions were dying of thirst, because we got only half a cup of some herbal tea twice a day.

M. DUBOST: Please describe in detail one of the roll calls at the beginning of February.

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: On 5 February there was what is called a general roll call.

M. DUBOST: In what year was that?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: In 1943. At 3:30 the whole camp

M. DUBOST: In the morning at 3:30?
MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: In the morning at 3:30 the whole camp was awakened and sent out on the plain, whereas normally the roll call was at 3:30 but inside the camp. We remained

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out in front of the camp until 5 in the afternoon, in the snow, without any food. Then when the signal was given we had to go through the door one by one, and we were struck in the back with a cudgel, each one of us, in order to make us run. Those who could not run, either because they were too old or too ill were caught by a hook and taken to Block 25, "waiting block" for the gas chamber. On that day 10 of the French women of our convoy were thus caught and taken to Block 25.

When all the internees were back in the camp, a party to which I belonged was organized to go and pick up the bodies of the dead which were scattered over the plain as on a battlefield. We carried to the yard of Block 25 the dead and the dying without distinction, and they remained there stacked up in a pile.

This Block 25, which was the anteroom of the gas chamber, if one may express it so, is well known to me because at that time we had been transferred to Block 26 and our windows 'Opened on the yard of Number 25. One saw stacks of corpses piled up in the courtyard, and from time to time a hand or a head would stir among the bodies, trying to free itself. It was a dying woman attempting to get free and live. The rate of mortality in that block was even more terrible than elsewhere because, having been condemned to death, they received food or drink only if there was something left in the cans in the kitchen; which means that very often they went for several days without a drop of water.

One of our companions, Annette Epaux, a fine young woman of 30, passing the block one day, was overcome with pity for those women who moaned from morning till night in all languages, "Drink. Drink. Water!" She came back to our block to get a little herbal tea, but as she was passing it through the bars of the window she was seen by the Aufseherin, who took her by the neck and threw her into Block 25. All my life I will remember Annette Epaux. Two days later I saw her on the truck which was taking the internees to the gas chamber. She had her arms -around another French woman, old Line Porcher, and when the truck started moving she cried, "Think of my little boy, if you ever get back to France." Then they started singing "The Marseillaise."

In Block 25, in the courtyard, there were rats as big as cats running about and gnawing the corpses and even attacking the dying who had not enough strength left to chase them away.

Another cause of mortality and epidemics was the fact that we were given food in large red mess tins, which were merely rinsed in cold water after each meal. As all the women were ill and had not the strength during the night to go to the trench which was used as a lavatory, the access to which was beyond description, they used these containers for a purpose for which they were not meant.

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The next day the mess tins were collected and taken to a refuse heap. During the day another team would come and collect them, wash them in cold water, and put them in use again.

Another cause of death was the problem of shoes. In the snow and mud of Poland leather shoes were completely destroyed at the end. of a week or two. Therefore our feet were frozen and covered with sores. We had to sleep with our muddy shoes on, lest they be stolen, and when the time came to get up for roll call cries of anguish could be heard: "My shoes have been stolen." Then one had to wait until the whole block had been emptied to look under the bunks for odd shoes. Sometimes one found two shoes for the same foot, or one shoe and one sabot. One could go to roll call like that but it was an additional torture for work, because sores formed on our feet which quickly became infected for lack of care. Many of our companions went to the Revier for sores on their feet and legs and never came back.

M. DUBOST: What did they do to the internees who came to roll call without shoes?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: The Jewish internees who came without shoes were immediately taken to Block 25.

M. DUBOST: They were gassed then?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: They were gassed for any reason whatsoever. Their conditions were moreover absolutely appalling. Although we were crowded 800 in a block and could scarcely move, they were 1,500 to a block of similar dimensions, so that many of them could not sleep or even lie down during the whole night.

M. DUBOST: Can you talk about the Revier?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: To reach the Revier one had to go first to the roll call. Whatever the state was...

M. DUBOST: Would you please explain what the Revier was in the camp?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: The Revier was the blocks where the sick were put. This place could not be given the name of hospital, because it did not correspond in any way to our idea of a hospital.

To go there one had first to obtain authorization from the block chief who seldom gave it. When it was finally granted we were led in columns to the infirmary where, no matter what weather, whether it snowed or rained, even if one had a temperature of 4011 (centigrade) one had to wait for several hours standing in a queue to be admitted. It frequently happened that patients died outside

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before the door of the infirmary, before they could get in. Moreover, lining up in front of the infirmary was dangerous because if the queue was too long the SS came along, picked up all the women who were waiting, and took them straight to Block Number 25.

M. DUBOST: That is to say, to the gas chamber?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: That is to say to the gas chamber. That is why very often the women preferred not to go to the Revier and they died at their work or at roll call. Every day, after the evening roll call in winter time, dead were picked up who had fallen into the ditches.

The only advantage of the Revier was that as one was in bed, one did not have to go to roll call; but one lay in appalling conditions, four in a bed of less than 1 meter in width, each suffering from a different disease, so that anyone who came for leg sores would catch typhus or dysentery from neighbors. The straw mattresses were dirty and they were changed only when absolutely rotten. The bedding was so full of lice that one could see them swarming like ants. One of my companions, Marguerite Corringer, told me that when she had typhus, she could not sleep all night because of the lice. She spent the night shaking her blanket over a piece of paper and emptying the lice into a receptacle by the bed, and this went on for hours.

There were practically no medicines. Consequently the patients were left in their beds without any attention, without hygiene, and unwashed. The dead lay in bed with the sick for several hours; and finally, when they were noticed, they were simply tipped out of the bed and taken outside the block. There the women porters would come and carry the dead away on small stretchers, with heads and legs dangling over the sides. From morning till night the carriers of the dead went from the Revier to the mortuary.

During the big epidemics, in the winters off 1943 and 1944, the stretchers were replaced by carts, as* there were too many dead bodies. During those periods of epidemics there were from 200 to 350 dead daily.

M. DUBOST: How many people died at that time?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: During the big epidemics of typhus in the winters of 1943 and 1944, from 200 to 350; it depended on the days.

M. DUBOST: Was the Revier open to all the internees?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: No. When we arrived Jewish women had not the right to be admitted. They were taken straight to the gas chamber.

M. DUBOST: Would you please tell us about the disinfection of the blocks?

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MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: From time to time, owing to the filth which caused the lice and gave rise to so many epidemics, they disinfected the blocks with gas; but these disinfections were also the cause of many deaths because, while the blocks were being disinfected with gas, the prisoners were taken to the shower-baths. Their clothes were taken away from them to be steamed. The internees were left naked outside, waiting for their clothing to come back from the steaming, and then they were given back to them an wet. Even those who were sick, who could barely stand on their feet, were sent to the showers. It is quite obvious that a great many of them died in the course of these proceedings.

Those who could not move were washed all in the same bath during the disinfection.

M. DUBOST: How were you fed?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: We had 200 grams of bread, three-quarters or half a liter - it varied - of soup made from swedes, and a few grams of margarine or a slice of sausage in the evening, this daily.

M. DUBOST: Regardless of the work that was exacted from the internees?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Regardless of the work that was exacted from the internee. Some who had to work in the factory of the "Union," an ammunition factory where they made grenades and shells, received what was called a "Zulage," that is, a supplementary ration, when the amount of their production was satisfactory. Those internees had to go to roll can morning and night as we did, and they were at work 12 hours in the factory. They came back to the camp after the day's work, making the journey both ways on foot.

M. DUBOST: What was this "Union" factory?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: It was an ammunition factory. I do not know to what company it belonged. It was called the "Union."

M. DUBOST: Was it the only factory?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: No, there was also a large Buna factory, but as I did not work there I do not know what was made there. The internees who were taken to the Buna plant never came back to our camp.

M. DUBOST: Will you tell us about experiments, if you witnessed any?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: As to the experiments, I have seen in the Revier, because I was employed at the Revier, the queue of young Jewesses from Salonika who stood waiting in front of the

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X-ray room for sterilization. I also know that they performed castration operations in the men's camp. Concerning the experiments performed on women I am well informed, because my friend, Doctor Hade Hautval of Montbeliard, who has returned to France, worked for several months in that block nursing the patients; but she always refused to participate in those experiments. They sterilized women either by injections or by operation or with rays. I saw and knew several women who had been sterilized. There was a very high mortality rate among those operated upon. Fourteen Jewesses from France who refused to be sterilized were sent to a Strafarbeit kommando, that is, hard labor.

M. DUBOST: Did they come back from those kommandos?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Very seldom. Quite exceptionally.

M. DUBOST: What was the aim of the SS?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Sterilization-they did not conceal it. They said that they were trying to find the best method for sterilizing so as to replace the native population in the occupied countries by Germans after one generation, once they had made use of the inhabitants as slaves to work for them.

M. DUBOST: In the Revier did you see any pregnant women?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes. The Jewish women, when they arrived in the first months of pregnancy, were subjected to abortion. When their pregnancy was near the end, after confinement, the babies were drowned in a bucket of water. I know that because I worked in the Revier and the woman who was in charge of that task was a German midwife, who was imprisoned for having performed illegal operations. After a while another doctor arrived and for 2 months they did not kill the Jewish babies. But one day an order came from Berlin saying that again they had to be done away with. Then the mothers and their babies were called to the infirmary. They were put in a lorry and taken away to the gas chamber.

M. DUBOST: Why did you say that an order came from Berlin?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Because I knew the internees who worked in the secretariat of the SS and in particular a Slovakian woman by the name of Hertha Roth, who is now working with UNRRA at Bratislava.

M. DUBOST: Is it she who told you that?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes, and moreover, I also knew the men who worked in the gas kommando.

M. DUBOST: You have told us about the Jewish mothers. Were there other mothers in your camp?

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MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes, in principle, non-Jewish women were allowed to have their babies, and the babies were not taken away from them; but conditions in the camp being so horrible, the babies rarely lived for more than 4 or 5 weeks.

There was one block where the Polish and Russian mothers were. One day the Russian mothers, having been accused of making too much noise, had to stand for roll call all day long in front of the block, naked, with their babies in their arms.

M. DUBOST: What was the disciplinary system of the camp? Who kept order and discipline? What were the punishments?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Generally speaking, the SS economized on many of their own personnel by employing internees for' watching the camp; SS only supervised. These internees were chosen from German common-law criminals and prostitutes, and sometimes those of other nationalities, but most of them were Germans. By corruption, accusation, and terror they succeeded in making veritable human beasts of them; and the internees had as much cause to complain about them as about the SS themselves. They beat us just as hard as the SS; and as to the SS, the men behaved like the women and the women were as savage as the men. There was no difference.

The system employed by the SS of degrading human beings to the utmost by terrorizing them and causing them through fear to commit acts which made them ashamed of themselves, resulted in their being no longer human. This was what they wanted. It took a great deal of courage to resist this atmosphere of terror and corruption.

M. DUBOST: Who meted out punishments?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: The SS leaders, men and women.

M. DUBOST: What was the nature of the punishments?

NNE. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Bodily ill-treatment in particular. One of the most usual punishments was 50 blows with a stick on the loins. They were administered with a machine which I saw, a swinging apparatus manipulated by an SS. There were also endless roll calls day and night, or gymnastics; flat on the belly, get up, lie down, up, down, for hours, and anyone who fell was beaten unmercifully and taken to Block 25.

M. DUBOST: How did the SS behave towards the women? And the women SS?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: At Auschwitz there was a brothel for the SS and also one for the male internees of the staff, who were called "Kapo." Moreover, when the SS needed servants,

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they came accompanied by the Oberaufseherin, that is, the woman commandant of the camp, to make a choice during the process of disinfection. They would point to a young girl, whom the Oberaufseherin would take out of the ranks. They would look her over and make jokes about her physique; and if she was pretty and they liked her, they would hire her as a maid with the consent of the Oberaufseherin, who would tell her that she was to obey them absolutely no matter what they asked of her.

M. DUBOST: Why did they go during disinfection?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Because during the disinfection the women were naked.

M. DUBOST: This system of demoralization and corruption-was it exceptional?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: No, the system was identical in all the camps where I have been, and I have spoken to internees coming from camps where I myself had never been; it was the same thing everywhere. The system was identical no matter what the camp was. There were, however, certain variations. I believe that Auschwitz was one of the harshest; but later I went to Ravensbruck, where there also was a house of ill fame and where recruiting was also carried out among the internees.

M. DUBOST: Then, according to you, everything was done to degrade those women in their own sight?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes.

M. DUBOST: What do you know about the convoy of Jews which arrived from Romainville about the same time as yourself?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: When we left Romainville the Jewesses who were there at the same time as ourselves were left behind. They were sent to Drancy and subsequently arrived at Auschwitz, where we found them again 3 weeks later, 3 weeks after our arrival. Of the original 1,200 only 125 actually came to the camp; the others were immediately sent to the gas chambers. Of these 125 not one was left alive at the end of 1 month.

The transports operated as follows:

When we first arrived, whenever a convoy of Jews came, a selection was made; first the old men and women, then the mothers and the children were put into trucks together with the sick or those whose constitution appeared to be delicate. They took in only the young women and girls as well as the young men who were sent to the men's camp.

Generally speaking, of a convoy of about 1,000 to 1,500, seldom more than 250-and this figure really was the maximum-actually

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reached the camp. The rest were immediately sent to the gas chamber.

At this selection also, they picked out women in good health between the ages of 20 and 30, who were sent to the experimental block; and young girls and slightly older women, or those who had not been selected for that purpose, were sent to the camp where, like ourselves, they were tattooed and shaved.

There was also, in the spring of 1944, a special block for twins. It was during the time when large convoys of Hungarian Jews about 700,000-arrived. Dr. Mengele, who was carrying out the experiments, kept back from each convoy twin children and twins in general, regardless of their age, so long as both were present. So we had both babies and adults on the floor at that block. Apart from blood tests and measuring I do. not know what was done to them.

M. DUBOST: Were you an eye witness of the selections on the arrival of the convoys?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes, because when we worked at the sewing block in 1944, the block where we lived directly faced the stopping place of the trains.

The system had been improved. Instead of making the selection at the place where they arrived, a side line now took. the train practically right up to the gas chamber; and the stopping place, about 100 meters from the gas chamber, was right opposite our block though, of course, separated ,from us by two rows of barbed wire. Consequently, we saw the unsealing of the cars and the soldiers letting men, women, and children out of them. We then witnessed heart-rending scenes; old couples forced to part from each other, mothers made to abandon their young daughters, since the latter were sent to the camp, whereas mothers and children were sent to the gas chambers. All these people were unaware of the fate awaiting them. They were merely upset at being separated, but they did not know that they were going to their death. To render their welcome more pleasant at this time - June-July 1944 - an orchestra composed of internees, all young and pretty girls dressed in little white blouses and navy blue skirts, played during the selection, at the arrival of the trains, gay tunes such as "The Merry Widow," the "Barcarolle" from "The Tales of Hoffman," and so forth. They were then informed that this was a labor camp and since they were not brought into the camp they saw only the small platform surrounded by flowering plants.

Naturally, they could not realize what was in store for them. Those selected for the gas chamber, that is, the old people, mothers, and children, were escorted to a red-brick building.

M. DUBOST: These were not given an identification number?

MM. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: No.

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M. DUBOST: They were not tattooed?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: No. They were not even counted.

M. DUBOST: You were tattooed?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes, look. [The witness showed her arm.] They were taken to a red brick building, which bore the letters "Baden," that is to say "Baths." There, to begin with, they were made to undress and given a towel before they went into the' so-called shower room. Later on, at the time of the large convoys from Hungary, they had no more time left to play-act or to pretend; they were brutally undressed, and I know these details as I knew a little Jewess from France who lived with her family at the "Republique" district.

M. DUBOST: In Paris?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: In Paris. She was called "little Marie" and she was the only one, the sole survivor of a family of nine. Her mother and her seven brothers and sisters had been gassed on arrival. When I met her she was employed to undress the babies before they were taken into the gas chamber. Once the people were undressed they took them into a room which was somewhat like a shower room, and gas capsules were thrown through an opening in the ceiling. An SS man would watch the effect produced through a porthole. At the end of 5 or 7 minutes, when the gas had completed its work, he gave the signal to open the doors; and men with gas masks---they too were internees-went into the room and removed the corpses. They told us that the internees must have suffered before dying, because they were closely clinging to one another and it was very difficult to separate them.

After that a special squad would come to pull out gold teeth and dentures; and again, when the bodies had been reduced to ashes, they would sift them in an attempt to recover the gold.

At Auschwitz there were eight crematories but, as from 1944, these proved insufficient. The SS had large pits dug by the internees, where they put branches, sprinkled with gasoline, which they set on fire. Then they threw the corpses into the pits. From our block we could see after about three-quarters of an hour or an hour after the arrival of a convoy, large flames coming from the crematory, and the sky was lighted up by the burning pits.

One night we were awakened by terrifying cries. And we discovered, on the following day, from the men working in the Sonderkommando - the "Gas Kommando" - that on the preceding day, the gas supply having run out, they had thrown the children into the furnaces alive.

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continued

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 10 Apr 2004 09:33

Part 2 (final):

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M. DUBOST: Can you tell us about the selections that were made at the beginning of winter?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Every year, towards the end of the autumn, they proceeded to make selections on a large scale in the Revier. The system appeared to work as follows - I say this because I noticed the fact for myself during the time I spent in Auschwitz. Others, who had stayed there even longer than I, had observed the same phenomenon.

In the spring, all through Europe, they rounded up men and women whom they sent to Auschwitz. They kept only those who were strong enough to work all through the summer. During that period naturally some died every day; but the strongest, those who had succeeded in holding out for 6 months, were so exhausted that they too had to go to the Revier. It was then in autumn that the large scale selections were made, so as not to feed too many useless mouths during the winter. All the women who were too thin were sent to the gas chamber, as well as those who had long, drawn-out illnesses; but the Jewesses were gassed for practically no reason at all. For instance, they gassed everybody in the "scabies block," whereas everybody knows that with a little care, scabies can be cured in 3 days. I remember the typhus convalescent block from which 450 out of 500 patients were sent to the gas chamber.

During Christmas 1944 - no, 1943, Christmas 1943 - when we were in quarantine, we saw, since we lived opposite Block 25, women brought to Block 25 stripped naked. Uncovered trucks were then driven up and on them the naked women were piled, as many as the trucks could hold. Each time a truck started, the infamous Hessler - he was one of the criminals condemned to death at the Luneburg trials - ran after the truck and with his bludgeon repeatedly struck the naked women going to their death. They knew they were going to the gas chamber and tried to escape. They were massacred. They attempted to jump from the truck and we, from our own block, watched the trucks pass by and heard the grievous wailing of all those women who knew they were going to be gassed. Many of them could very well have lived on, since they were suffering only from scabies and were, perhaps, a little too undernourished.

M. DUBOST: You told us, Madame, a little while ago, that the deportees, from the moment they stepped off the train and without even being counted, were sent to the gas chamber. What happened to their clothing and their luggage?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: The non-Jews had to carry their own luggage and were billeted in separate blocks, but when the Jews arrived they had to leave all their belongings on the platform. They were stripped before entering the gas chamber and all their

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clothes, as well as all their belongings, were taken over to large barracks and there sorted out by a Kommando named "Canada." Then everything was shipped to Germany: jewelry, fur coats, et cetera.

Since the Jewesses were sent to Auschwitz with their entire families and since they had been told that this was a sort of ghetto and were advised to bring all their goods and chattels along, they consequently brought considerable riches with them. As for the Jewesses from Salonika, I remember that on their arrival they were given picture postcards, bearing the post office address of "Waldsee," a place which did not exist; and a printed text to be sent to their families, stating, "We are doing very well here; we have work and we are well treated. We await your arrival." I myself saw the cards in question; and the Schreiberinnen, that is, the secretaries of the block, were instructed to distribute them among the internees in order to post them to their families. I know that whole families arrived as a result of these postcards.

I myself know that the following affair occurred in Greece. I do not know whether it happened in any other country, but in any case it did occur in Greece (as well as in Czechoslovakia) that whole families went to the recruiting office at Salonika in order to rejoin their families. I remember one professor of literature from Salonika, who, to his horror, saw his own father arrive.

M. DUBOST: Will you tell us about the Gypsy camps?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Right next to our camp, on the other side of the barbed wires, 3 meters apart, there were two camps; one for Gypsies, which towards August 1944 was completely gassed. These Gypsies came from all parts of Europe including Germany. Likewise on the other side there was the so-called family camp. These were Jews from the Ghetto of Theresienstadt, who had been brought there and, unlike ourselves, they had been neither tattooed nor shaved. Their clothes were not taken from them and they did not have to work. They lived like this for 6 months and at the end of 6 months the entire family camp, amounting to some 6,000 or 7,000 Jews, was gassed. A few days later other large convoys again arrived from Theresienstadt with their families and 6 months later they too were gassed, like the first inmates of the family camp.

M. DUBOST: Would you, Madame, please give us some details as to what you saw when you were about to leave the camp, and under what circumstances you left it?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: We were in quarantine before leaving Auschwitz.

M. DUBOST: When was that?

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MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: We were in quarantine for 10 months, from the 15th of July 1943, yes, until May 1944. And after that we returned to the camp-for 2 months. Then we went to Ravensbruck.

M. DUBOST: These were all Frenchwomen from your convoy, who had survived?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes, all the surviving Frenchwomen of our convoy. We had heard from Jewesses who had arrived from France, in July 1944, that an intensive campaign had been carried out by the British Broadcasting Corporation in London, in connection with our convoy, mentioning Mal Politzer, Danielle Casanova, Helene Solomon-Langevin, and myself. As a result of this broadcast we knew that orders had been issued from Berlin to the effect that Frenchwomen should be transported under better conditions.

So we were placed in quarantine. This was a block situated opposite the camp and outside the barbed wire. I must say that it is to this quarantine that the 49 survivors owed their lives, because at the end of 4 months there were only 52 of us. Therefore it is certain that we could not have survived 18 months of this regime had we not had these 10 months of quarantine. This quarantine was imposed because exanthematic typhus was raging at Auschwitz.

One could leave the camp only to be freed or to be transferred to another camp or to be summoned before the court after spending 15 days in quarantine, these 15 days being the incubation period for exanthematic typhus. Consequently, as soon as the papers arrived announcing that the internee would probably be liberated, she was placed in quarantine until the order for her liberation was signed. This sometimes took several months and 15 days was the minimum.

Now a policy existed for freeing German women common-law criminals and asocial elements in order to employ them as workers in the German factories. It is therefore impossible to imagine that the whole of Germany was unaware of the existence of the concentration camps and of what was going on there, since these women had been released from the camps and it is difficult to believe that they never mentioned them. Besides, in the factories where the former internees were employed, the Vorarbeiterinnen (the forewomen) were German civilians in contact with the internees and able to speak to them. The forewomen from Auschwitz, who subsequently came to Siemens at Ravensbruck as Aufseherinnen, had been former workers at Siemens in Berlin. They* met forewomen they had known in Berlin, and, in our presence, they told them what they had seen at Auschwitz. It is therefore incredible that this was not known in Germany.

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We could not believe our eyes when we left Auschwitz and our hearts were sore when we saw the small group of 49 women; all that was left of the 230 who had entered the camp 18 months earlier. But to us it seemed that we were leaving hell itself, and for the first time hopes of survival, of seeing the world again, were vouchsafed to us.

M. DUBOST: Where were you sent then, Madame?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: On leaving Auschwitz we were sent to Ravensbruck There we were escorted to the "NN" block meaning "Nacht und Nebel", that is, "The Secret Block." With us in that block were Polish women with the identification number "7,000." Some were called "rabbits" because they had been used as experimental guinea pigs. They selected from the convoys girls with very straight legs who were in very good health, and they submitted them to various operations. Some of the girls had parts of the bone removed from their legs, others received injections; but what was injected, I do not know. The mortality rate was very high among the women operated upon. So when they came to fetch the others to operate on them they refused to go to the Revier. They were forcibly dragged to the dark cells where the professor, who had arrived from Berlin, operated in his uniform, without taking any aseptic precautions, without wearing a surgical gown, and without washing his hands. There are some survivors among these "rabbits." They still endure much suffering. They suffer periodically from suppurations; and since nobody knows to what treatment they had been subjected, it is extremely difficult to cure them.

M. DUBOST: Were these internees tattooed on their arrival?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: No. People were not tattooed at Ravensbruck but, on the other hand, we had to go, up for a gynecological examination, and since no precautions were ever taken and the same instruments were frequently used in all cases, infections spread, partly because common-law prisoners and political internees were all herded together.

In Block 32 where we were billeted there were also some Russian women prisoners of war, who had refused to work voluntarily in the ammunition factories. For that reason they had been sent to Ravensbruck. Since they persisted in their refusal, they were subjected to every form of petty indignity. They were, for instance, forced to stand in front of the block a whole day long without any food. Some of them were sent in convoys to Barth. Others were employed to carry lavatory receptacles in the camp. The Strafblock (penitentiary block) and the Bunker also housed internees who had refused to work in the war factories.

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M. DUBOST: Are you now speaking about the prisons in the camp?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: About the prisons in the camp. As a matter of fact I have visited the camp prison. It was a civilian prison, a real one.

M. DUBOST: How many French were there in that camp?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: From 8 to 10 thousand.

M. DUBOST: How many women all, told?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: At the time of liberation the identification numbers amounted to 105,000 and possibly more.

There were also executions in the camps. The numbers were called at roll call in the morning, and the victims then left for the Kommandantur and were never seen again. A few days later the clothes were sent down to the Effektenkanimer, where the clothes of the internees were kept. After a certain time their cards would vanish from the filing cabinets in the camp.

M. DUBOST: The system of detention was the same as at Auschwitz?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: No. In Auschwitz, obviously, extermination was the sole aim and object. Nobody was at all interested in the output. We were beaten for no reason whatsoever. It was sufficient to stand from morning till evening but whether we carried one brick or 10 was of no importance at all. We were quite aware that the human element was employed as slave labor in order to kill us, that this was the ultimate purpose, whereas at Ravensbruck. the output was of great importance. It was a clearing camp. When the convoys arrived at Ravensbruck, they were rapidly dispatched either to the munition or to the powder factories, either to work at the air fields or, latterly, to dig trenches.

The following procedure was adopted for going to the factories: The manufacturers or their foremen or else their representatives were coming themselves to choose their workers, accompanied by SS men; the effect was that of a slave market. They felt the muscles, examined the faces to see if the person looked healthy, and then made their choice. Finally, they made them walk naked past the doctor and he eventually decided if a woman was fit or not to leave for work in the factories. Latterly, the doctor's visit became a mere formality as they ended by employing anybody who came along. The work was exhausting, principally because of lack of food and sleep, since in addition to 12 solid hours of work one had to attend roll call in the morning and in the evening. In Ravensbruck. there was the Siemens factory, where telephone equipment was manufactured as well as wireless sets for aircraft. Then there were

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workshops in the camp for camouflage material and uniforms and for various utensils used by soldiers. One of these I know best...

THE PRESIDENT: I think we had better break off now for 10 minutes.

[A recess was taken.]

M. DUBOST: Madame, did you see any SS chiefs and members of the Wehrmacht visit the camps of Ravensbruck. and Auschwitz when you were there?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes.

M. DUBOST: Do you know if any German Government officials came to visit these camps?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I know it only as far as Himmler is concerned. Apart from Himmler I do not know.

M. DUBOST: Who were the guards in these camps?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: At the beginning there were the SS guards, exclusively.

M. DUBOST: Will you please speak more slowly so that the interpreters can follow you?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: At the beginning there were only SS men, but from the spring of 1944 the young SS men in many companies were replaced by older men of the Wehrmacht both at Auschwitz and also at Ravensbruck We were guarded by soldiers of the Wehrmacht as from 1944.

M. DUBOST: You can therefore testify that on the order of the German General Staff the German Army was implicated in the atrocities which you have described?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Obviously, since we were guarded by the Wehrmacht as well, and this could not have occurred without orders.

M. DUBOST: Your testimony is final and involves both the SS and the Army.

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Absolutely.

M. DUBOST: Will you tell us about the arrival at Ravensbruck. in the winter of 1944, of Hungarian Jewesses who had been arrested en masse? You were in Ravensbruck-this is a fact about which you can testify?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes, of course I was there. There was no longer any room left in the blocks, and the prisoners already slept four in a bed, so there was raised, in the middle of the

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camp, a large tent. Straw was spread in the tent, and the Hungarian women were brought to this tent. Their condition was frightful. There were a great many cases of frozen feet because they had been evacuated from Budapest and had walked a good part of the way in the snow. A great many of them had died en route. Those who arrived at Auschwitz were led to this tent and there an enormous number of them died. Every day a squad came to remove the corpses in the tent.

One day, on returning to my block, which was next to this tent, during the cleaning up . . .

THE PRESIDENT: Madame, are you speaking of Ravensbruck or of Auschwitz?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: [In English.] Now I am speaking of Ravensbruck. [In French.] It was in the winter of 1944, about November or December, I believe, though I cannot say for certain which month it was. It is so difficult to give a precise date in the concentration camps since one day of torture is followed by another day of similar torment and the prevailing monotony makes it very hard to keep track of time.

One day therefore, as I was saying, I passed the tent while it was being cleaned, and I saw a pile of smoking manure in front of it. I suddenly realized that this manure was human excrement since the unfortunate women no longer had the strength to drag themselves to the lavatories. They were therefore rotting in this filth.

M. DUBOST: What were the conditions in the workshops where the jackets were manufactured?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: At the workshops where the uniforms were manufactured...

M. DUBOST: Was it the camp workshop?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: It was the camp workshop, known as "Schneiderei I." Two hundred jackets or pairs of trousers were manufactured per day. There were two shifts; a day and a night shift, both working 12 hours. The night shift, when starting work at midnight, after the standard amount of work had been reached but only then-received a thin slice of bread. Later on this practice was discontinued. Work was carried on at a furious pace; the internees could not even take time off to go the lavatories. Both day and night they were terribly beaten, both by the SS women and men, if a needle broke owing to the poor quality of the thread, if the machine stopped, or if these "ladies" and "gentlemen!' did not like their looks. Towards the end of the night one could see that the workers were so exhausted that every movement was an effort to them. Beads of sweat stood out on their foreheads. They could not see clearly.

When the standard amount of work was not reached the foreman, Binder, rushed up and beat up, with all his might, one

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woman after another all along the line, with the result that the last in the row waited their turn petrified with terror. If one wished to go to the Revier one had to receive the authorization of the SS, who granted it very rarely; and even then, if the doctor did give a woman a permit authorizing her to stay away from work for a few days, the SS guards would often come round and fetch her out of bed in order to put her back at her machine. The atmosphere was frightful since, by reason of the "black-out," one could not open the windows at night. Six hundred women therefore worked for 12 hours without any ventilation. All those who worked at the Schneiderei became like living skeletons after a few months. They began to cough, their eyesight failed, they developed a nervous twitching of the face for fear of beatings to come.

I knew well the conditions of this workshop since my little friend, Marie Rubiano, a little French girl who had just passed 3 years in the prison of Kottbus, was sent, on her arrival at Ravensbruck, to the Schneiderei; and every evening she would tell me about her martyrdom. One day, when she was quite exhausted, she obtained permission to go to the Revier; and as on that day the German Schwester (nursing sister), Erica, was less evil- tempered than usual, she was X-rayed. Both lungs were severely infected and she was sent to the horrible Block 10, the block of the consumptives. This block was particularly terrifying, since tubercular patients were not considered as "recuperable material"; they received no treatment; and because of shortage of staff, they were not even washed. We might even say that there were no medical supplies at all.

Little Marie was placed in the ward housing patients with bacillary infections, in other words, such patients as were considered incurable. She spent some weeks there and had no courage left to put up a fight for her life. I must say that the atmosphere of this room was particularly depressing. There were many patients several to one bed in three-tier bunks-in an overheated atmosphere, lying between internees of various nationalities, so that they could not even speak to one another. Then, too, the silence in this antechamber of death was only broken by the yells of the German asocial personnel on duty and, from time to time, by the muffled sobs of a little French girl thinking of her mother and of her country which she would never see again.

And yet, Marie Rubiano did not die fast enough to please the SS. So one day Dr. Winkelmann, selection specialist at Ravensbruck, entered her name in the black-list and on 9 February 1945, together with 72 other consumptive women, 6 of whom were French, she was shoved on the truck for the gas chamber.

During this period, in all the Revieren, selections were made and all patients considered unfit for work were sent to the gas chamber. The Ravensbruck gas chamber was situated just behind the wall of

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the camp, next to the crematory. When the trucks came to fetch the patients we heard the sound of the motor across the camp, and the noise ceased right by the crematory whose chimney rose above the high wall of the camp.

At the time of the liberation I returned to these places. I visited the gas chamber which was a hermetically sealed building made of boards, and inside it one could still smell the disagreeable odor of gas. I know that at Auschwitz the gases were the same as those which were used against the lice, and the only traces they left were small, pale green crystals which were swept out when the windows were opened. I know these details, since the men employed in delousing the blocks were in contact with the personnel who gassed the victims and they told them that one and the same gas was used in both cases.

M. DUBOST: Was this the only way used to exterminate the internees in Ravensbruck?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: In Block 10 they also experimented with a white powder. One day the German Schwester, Martha, arrived in the block and distributed a powder to some 20 patients. The patients subsequently fell into a deep sleep. Four or five of them were seized with violent fits of vomiting and this saved their lives. During the night the snores gradually ceased and the patients died.

This I know because I went every day to visit the French women in the block. Two of the nurses were French and Dr. Louise Le Porz, a native of Bordeaux who came back, can likewise testify to this fact.

M. DUBOST: Was this a frequent occurrence?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: During my stay this was the only case of its kind within the Revier but the system was also applied at the Jugendlager, so called because it was a former reform school for German juvenile delinquents.

Towards the beginning of 1945 Dr. Winkelmann, no longer satisfied with selections in the Revier, proceeded to make his selections in the blocks. All the prisoners had to answer roll call in their bare feet and expose their breasts and legs. All those who were sick, too old, too thin, or whose legs were swollen with oedema, were set aside and then sent to this Jugendlager, a quarter of an hour away from the camp at Ravensbruck. I visited it at the liberation.

In the blocks an order had been circulated to the effect that the old women and the patients who could no longer work should apply in writing for admission to the Jugendlager, where they would be far better off, where they would not have to work, and where there would be no roll call. We learned about this later through some of the people who worked at the Jugendlager-the chief of the camp was

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an Austrian woman, Betty Wenz, whom I knew from Auschwitz and from a few of the survivors, one of whom is Irene Ottelard, a French woman living in Drancy, 17 Rue de la Liberte, who was repatriated at the same time as myself and whom I had nursed after the liberation. Through her we discovered the details about the Jugendlager.

M. DUBOST: Can you tell us, Madame, if you can answer this question? Were the SS doctors who made the selection acting on their own accord or were they merely obeying orders?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: They were acting on orders received, since one of them, Dr. Lukas, refused to participate in the selections and was withdrawn from the camp, and Dr. Winkelmann was sent from Berlin to replace him.

M. DUBOST: Did you personally witness these facts?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: It was he himself who told the Chief of the Block 10 and Dr. Louise Le Porz, when he left.

M. DUBOST: Could you give us some information about the conditions in which the men at the neighboring camp at Ravensbruck lived on the day after the liberation, when you were able to see them?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I think it advisable to speak of the Jugendlager first since, chronologically speaking, it comes first.

M. DUBOST: If you wish it.

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: At the Jugendlager the old women and the patients who had left our camp were placed in blocks which had no water and no conveniences; they lay on straw mattresses on the ground, so closely pressed together that one was quite unable to pass between them. At night one could not sleep because of the continuous coming and going, and the internees trod on each other when passing. The straw mattresses were rotten and teemed with lice; those who were able to stand remained for hours on end for roll call until they collapsed. In
February their coats were taken away but they continued to stay out for roll call and mortality was considerably increased.

By way of nourishment they received only one thin slice of bread and half a quart of swede soup, and all the drink they got in 24 hours was half a quart of herbal tea. They had no water to drink, none to wash in, and none to wash their mess tins.

In the Jugendlager there was also a Revier for those who could no longer stand.

Periodically, during the roll calls, the Aufseherin would choose some internees, who would be undressed and left in nothing but their chemises. Their coats were then returned to them. They were hoisted on to a truck and were driven off to the gas

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chamber. A few days later the coats were returned to the Kammer (the clothing warehouse), and the labels were marked "Mittwerda." The internees working on the labels told us that the word "Mittwerda" did not exist and that it was a special term for the gases.

At the Revier white powder was periodically distributed, and the sick were dying as in Block 10, which I mentioned a short time ago. They made

THE PRESIDENT: The details of the witness' evidence as to Ravensbruck seem to be very much like, if not the same, as at Auschwitz. Would it not be possible now, after hearing this amount of detail, to deal with the matter more generally, unless there is some substantial difference between Ravensbruck and Auschwitz.

M. DUBOST: I think there is a difference which the witness has pointed out to us, namely, that in Auschwitz the prisoners were purely and simply exterminated. It was merely an extermination camp, whereas at Ravensbruck they were interned in order to work, and were weakened by work until they died of it.

THE PRESIDENT: If there are any other distinctions between the two, no doubt you will lead the witness, I mean ask the witness about those other distinctions.

M. DUBOST: I shall not fail to do so.

[To the witness.] Could you tell the Tribunal in what condition the men's camp was found at the time of the liberation and how many survivors remained?
MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: When the Germans went away they left 2,000 sick women and a certain number of volunteers, myself included, to take care of them. They left us without water and without light. Fortunately the Russians arrived on the following day. We therefore were able to go to the men's camp and there we found a perfectly indescribable sight. They had been for 5 days without water. There were 800 serious cases, and three doctors and seven nurses, who were unable to separate the dead from the sick. Thanks to the Red Army, we were able to take these sick persons over into clean blocks and to give them food and care; but unfortunately I can give the figures only for the French. There were 400 of them when we came to the camp and only 150 were able to return to France; for the others it was too late, in spite of all our care.

M. DUBOST: Were you present at any of the executions and do you know how they were carried out in the camp?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I was not present at the executions. I only know that the last one took place on 22 April, 8 days before the arrival of the Red army. The prisoners were sent, as I

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said, to the Kommandantur; then their clothes were returned and their cards were removed from the files.

M. DUBOST: Was the situation in this camp of an exceptional nature or do you consider it was part of a system?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: It is difficult to convey an exact idea of the concentration camps to anybody, unless one has been in the camp oneself, since one can only quote examples of horror; but it is quite impossible to convey any impression of that deadly monotony. If asked what was the worst of all, it is impossible to answer, since everything was atrocious. It is atrocious to die of hunger, to die of thirst, to be ill, to see all one's companions dying around one and being unable to help them. It is atrocious to think of one's children, of one's country which one will never see again, and there were times when we asked whether our life was not a living nightmare, so unreal did this life appear in all its horror.

For months, for years we had one wish only: The wish that some of us would escape alive, in order to tell the world what the Nazi convict prisons were like everywhere, at Auschwitz as at Ravensbruck. And the comrades from the other camps told the same tale; there was the systematic and implacable urge to use human beings as slaves and to kill them when they could work no more.

M. DUBOST: Have you a nothing further to relate?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: No.

M. DUBOST: I thank you. If the Tribunal wishes to question the witness, I have finished.

GEN. RUDENKO: I have no questions to ask.

DR. HANNS MARX (Acting for Dr. Babel, Counsel for the SS): Attorney Babel was prevented from coming this morning as he has to attend a conference with General Mitchell.

My Lords, I should like to take the liberty of asking the witness a few questions to elucidate the matter.

[Turning to the witness.] Madame COUTURIER, you declared that you were arrested by the French police?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes.

DR. MARX: For what, reason were you arrested?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Resistance. I belonged to a resistance movement.

DR. MARX: Another question: Which position did you occupy? I mean what kind of post did you ever hold? Have you ever held a post?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Where?

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DR. MARX: For example as a teacher?

MAO. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Before the war? I don't quite see what this question has to do with the matter. I was a journalist.

DR. MARX: Yes. The fact of the matter is that you, in your statement, showed great skill in style and expression; and I should like to know whether you held any position such, for example, as teacher or lecturer.

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: No. I was a newspaper photographer.

DR. MARX: How do you explain that you yourself came through these experiences so well and are now in such a good state of health?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: First of all, I was liberated a year ago; and in a year one has time to recover. Secondly, I was 10 months in quarantine for typhus and I had the great luck not to die of exanthematic typhus, although I had it and was in for 31/2 months. Also, in the last months at Ravensbruck as I knew German, I worked on the Revier roll call, which explains why I did not have to work quite so hard or to suffer from the inclemencies of the weather. On the
other hand, out of 230 of us only 49 from my convoy returned alive; and we were only 52 at the end of 4 months. I had the great fortune to return.

DR. MARX: Yes. Does your statement contain what you yourself observed or is it concerned with information from other sources as well?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Whenever such was the case I mentioned it in my declaration. I have never quoted anything which has not previously been verified at the sources and by several persons, but the major part of my evidence is based on personal experience.

DR. MARX: How can you explain your very precise statistical knowledge, for instance, that 700,000 Jews arrived from Hungary?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I told you that I have worked in the offices; and where Auschwitz was concerned, I was a friend of the secretary (the Oberaufseherin), whose name and address I gave to the Tribunal.

DR. MARX: It has been stated that only 350,000 Jews came from Hungary, according to the testimony of the Chief of the Gestapo, Eichmann.

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I am not going. to argue with the Gestapo. I have good reasons to know that what the Gestapo states is not always true.

DR. MARX: How were you treated personally? Were you treated well?

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28 Jan. 46

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Like the others.

DR. MARX: Like the others? You said before that the German people must have known of the happenings in Auschwitz. What are your grounds for this statement?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I have already told you: To begin with there was the fact that, when we left, the Lorraine soldiers of the Wehrmacht who were taking us to Auschwitz said to us, "If you knew where you were going, you would not be in such a hurry to get there." Then there was the fact-that the German women who came out of quarantine to go to work in German factories knew of these events, and they all said that they would speak about them outside.

Further, the fact that in all the factories where the Haftlinge (the internees) worked they were in contact with the German civilians, as also were the Aufseherinnen, who were in touch with their friends and families and often told them what they had seen.

DR. MARX: One more question. Up to 1942 you were able to observe the behavior of the German soldiers in Paris. Did not these German soldiers behave well throughout and did they not pay for what they took?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I have not the least idea whether they paid or not for what they requisitioned. As for their good behavior, too many of my friends were shot or massacred for me not to differ with you.

DR. MARX: I have no further question to put to this witness.

[Dr. Marx started to leave the lectern and then returned.]

THE PRESIDENT: If you have no further question there is nothing more to be said.

[Laughter.] There is too much laughter in the court; I have already spoken about that.

[To Dr. Marx.] I thought you had said you had no further question.

DR. MARX: Yes. Please excuse me. I only want to make a proviso for Attorney Babel that he might cross-examine the witness himself at a later date, if that is possible.

THE PRESIDENT: Babel, did you say?

DR. MARX: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: I beg your pardon; yes, certainly. When will Dr. Babel be back in his place?

DR. MARX: I presume that he will be back in the afternoon. He is in the building. However, he must first read the minutes.

THE PRESIDENT: We will consider the question. If Dr. Babel is here this afternoon we will consider the matter, if Dr. Babel makes a further application.

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28 Jan. 46

Does any other of the defendants' counsel wish to ask any questions of the witness?

[There was no response.]

M. Dubost, have you any questions you wish to ask on reexamination?

M. DUBOST: I have no further questions to ask.

THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness may retire.

[The witness left the stand.]


This volume (and all the others) of the IMT proceedings is available on-line at The Avalon Project of Yale Law School at:

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/v6menu.htm

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Post by michael mills » 11 Apr 2004 03:53

It should be noted that Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier was not just some innocent person picked up off the streets of Paris; she was a hardened Stalinist operative, born into a family of Stalinist operatives, who after the war had a long career as a Communist deputy in the French legislature.

Her father, Lucien Vogel, was a Comintern "asset". Here is what is said about him in the book "Stalin, Willi Münzenberg, and the Seduction of the Intellectuals", by Stephen Koch (pp. 69-70); the Willi Münzenberg referred to was the chief Comintern operative in Germany:

An essential part in Parisian influence is chic, and one of Münzenberg's earliest protectors in France was a brilliant and memorable figure in the history of chic named Lucien Vogel. First in Berlin, and later in France, later still in the United States, Lucien Vogel was one of the influential and inventive magazine publishers and tastemakers of this century. Münzenberg had known him since the twenties. As early as 1936, Vogel worked at advancing the avant-garde of post-revolutionary Soviet art and taste. He was among the first to see its possibilities for European high style. He was curator of the Soviet Pavilion of the 1926 International Exposition of Decorative Arts, a dazzling showcase of Soviet constructivism and non-figurative art, the purpose of which was to fuse Bolshevism in the mind of the European intelligentsia with the look of everything modern. And of course that was a very welcome project to Willi.

From publishing in Berlin, Vogel proceeded to Paris, where he proceeded to create what became a geat glossy magazine of French high style: Vu, along with its literary companion publication, Lu. Both were vehicles for the Münzenberg Trust; both showcases for Stalinism under the guise of imaginary glamour. Meanwhile, Vogel performed many a service for Willi in exile. For example, almost all offers from the apparatus made to Andre Gide concerning possible trips to the Soviet Union or a possible film deal with Mezhropohmfilm Russ were conveyed through Vogel. And it was Vogel's daughter, Marie-Claude, who served as Willi's handmaiden as he entered the French world.

..............................................................

Another habitue was Pierre Bertaux, a bright young man from a very proper French academic family that was close to Andre Gide and the Mann family. Pierre Bertaux started haunting La Faisanderie [Lucien Vogel's country residence] because he was in love with Marie-Claude Vogel, Lucien's daughter. And for a while this love seemd to be reciprocated, although eventually Marie-Claude unceremoniously dropped Pierre in favour of the doomed and dynamic young Vaillant-Couturier. The personal decision rang with politics. With Willi's arrival in Paris, Vaillant came into his political own, thrust in a way onto the world stage. His photographs of the period show a large, sensual facem sad with the distant gaze of a saturnine romantic. Vaillant seems almost to be considering his own earlly death. In truth, Vaillant was a brilliant organizer with a profound understanding of his country's cultural habits. The apparatus could not have chosen a better man. And Marie-Claude chose Vaillant.


One has to wonder whether some of Lucien Vogel's journalistic brilliance as a promoter of Soviet culture rubbed off on his daughter's testimony about Auschwitz.

One is glaringly obvious from Marie-Claude's evidence at the IMT; she was not above a little mendacity where it suited her purpose.

The point at which she told an obvious lie is in her evidence about the transports of Jews arriving from Hungary. Her first reference to that event is as follows:

There was also, in the spring of 1944, a special block for twins. It was during the time when large convoys of Hungarian Jews about 700,000-arrived. Dr. Mengele, who was carrying out the experiments, kept back from each convoy twin children and twins in general, regardless of their age, so long as both were present. So we had both babies and adults on the floor at that block. Apart from blood tests and measuring I do. not know what was done to them.


The figure she gives for the number of Hungarian Jews that arrived at Auschwitz, 700,000, is a gross exaggeration, and is close to the total number of Jews in the enlarged Hungary of 1944.

The exact number of Hungarian Jews taken to Auschwitz is not known, but it was in the order of 400,000. Vaillant-Couturier obviously did not know the number of Jews who arrived in the transports from Hungary, and so inserted a figure for the entire Jewish population of the country that she must have got from somewhere.

But that is not the lie that I was referring to; her mendacity lies in her defence of the 700,000 figure.

Her testimony was challenged by the courageous German defence attorney, Hanns Marx:

DR. MARX: How can you explain your very precise statistical knowledge, for instance, that 700,000 Jews arrived from Hungary?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I told you that I have worked in the offices; and where Auschwitz was concerned, I was a friend of the secretary (the Oberaufseherin), whose name and address I gave to the Tribunal.

DR. MARX: It has been stated that only 350,000 Jews came from Hungary, according to the testimony of the Chief of the Gestapo, Eichmann.

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I am not going to argue with the Gestapo. I have good reasons to know that what the Gestapo states is not always true.


Note that Vaillant-Couturier is here defending the 700,000 figure given by her, on the basis that she had precise statistical knowledge gained from working in the offices and from friendship with the Oberaufseherin (a member of the German camp staff).

But what had she actually said previously about her sources of knowledge?

M. DUBOST: Why did you say that an order came from Berlin?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Because I knew the internees who worked in the secretariat of the SS and in particular a Slovakian woman by the name of Hertha Roth, who is now working with UNRRA at Bratislava.

M. DUBOST: Is it she who told you that?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes, and moreover, I also knew the men who worked in the gas kommando.


Note that in this, her original statement about her source of knowledge about German orders, things that a prisoner at Auschwitz would not normally have access to, she did not say that she worked in the secretariat herself, nor that her source was theOberaufseherin, the German woman camp commandant.

Rather she says that her source of information was an internee whose name she gives, Hertha Roth, and whose current whereabouts, Bratislava, she also gives. When challenged by Marx, Vaillant-Couturier turns that person into the Oberaufseherin, a figure with more access to knowledge.

Thus, it is obvious that when her knowledge of precise details such a statistics was challenged, rather than admit that she was unsure or only guessing, Vaillant-Couturier dishonestly chose to exaggerate the level of her access to such knowledge (eg personal observation from working in the offices, which she had not previously claimed, friendship with the Oberaufseherin, which she had not previously claimed).

However, that is not the essence of her mendacity. It is entirely possible that she received statistical information from the internees who worked in the camp Secretariat, in particular from Hertha Roth. But could those informants have supplied her with a figure of 700,000 for the total number of Jews from Hungary who arrived at Auschwitz?

No, it is impossible. Even if the Secretariat had recorded the total number of arrivals, it would have been around 400,000, nowhere near 700,000. But that number was not recorded; only the number of those registered in the camp was recorded (28,291 according to the "Auschwitz Chronicle").

Large numbers of Jews from Hungary were kept unrecorded in the camp, particularly in the section of Birkenau popularly called "Mexiko"; they were only recorded when selected for forwarding to another camp or place of employment.

Thus, if Vaillant-Couturier did receive a statistic from her source in the camp secretariat, it could only have been in the order of 28,000. But rather than admit that fact to the court, and say that the 700,000 figure was a guess on her part, she chose to imply, in a devious way, that she had actually seen the 700,000 figure through her work in the offices, or had received it from the Oberaufseherin.

It is in her use of falsehoods in her defence of the 700,000 figure claimed by her that her mendacity lies. One also notes her devious and glib deflection of Dr Marx's confrontation of her with an alternative figure derived from Gestapo sources, a tactic worthy of her background as a Communist operative, and one accepted by the complacent judges.

A separate interesting feature is Dr Marx's reference to "testimony of the Chief of the Gestapo, Eichmann", from which he derived the figure 350,000 Hungarian Jews sent to Auschwitz.

Of course, there had been no such testimony by Eichmann as of 1946. He had disappeared, and had not been questioned by anyone at that time.

Yets Dr Marx obviously did not pluck the 350,000 figure from thin air, since Eichmann himself repeated it in the interviews he gave to Sassen in Argentina in 1957.

It must be presumed that there was in existence an official report from Eichmann giving a figure of 350,000 as the number of Hungarian Jews sent to Auschwitz, and that Dr Marx had had access to that report. The figure given by Eichmann was presumably the number of Jews whose deportation from Hungary he had organised.

Other items of Vaillant-Couturier's evidence are of interest. For example, she confirms the typhus epidemics that swept through the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in the winters of 1943 and 1944, and which claimed a large number of victims, up to 350 per day. The reality of those epidemics has been disputed by the professional "denial-fighters", who claim that reports of a large death-roll from typhus were simply a means of covering up the mass-murder of prisoners.

She also confirms that the blocks in the camp were disinfected with gas on a number of occasions, for the purpose of killing the lice which caused the epidemics. That disinfection was of course the reason why Zyklon-B was brought into the camp in the first place, and as Pressac has shown, the vast bulk of the Zyklon-B brought to Auschwitz (90%) was used for the normal purpose of disinfection rather than for homicidal gassing.

Another fascinating detail is her statement that pregnant Jewish women who arrived at the camp were subjected to forced abortions. She claims that that practice changed after arrival of an order from Berlin, according to which pregnant Jewish women were simply to be killed.

However, the fact that at first those women were subjected to forced abortion indicates a policy of preserving as many as possible of the arriving Jews for labour, rather than killing them. Through forced abortion, the pregnant women were rendered suitable for labour utilisation, which they would not have been if their pregnancies had proceeded.

If the main German policy had been extermination of the arriving Jews, reserving only a very small minority for labour, then the most rational course would have been to kill the pregnant women immediately (as later happened, according to Vaillant-Couturier); aborting them would have been a pointless waste of effort.

Since Vaillant-Couturier arrived at Auschwitz in January 1943, we can conclude that at that time the German policy was to preserve the greatest possible number of the arriving Jews for labour, even pregnant women. That conclusion accords with a lot of other evidence, including orders given by Himmler toward the end of 1942 to maximise the use of concentration-camp inmates for labour, and to increase the numbers sent to the camps for that purpose.

If the German Government later changed that policy and ordered the immediate killing of arriving Jewish women who were pregnant, it is most likely due to that fact that the number of arriving Jews had vastly increased, so that the pregnant women (who by definition would mostly be young and fit) could be simply "wasted". The order to that effect that Vaillant-Couturier claims arrived from Berlin is therefore most likely to be placed in the context of the Hungarian deportation in the summer of 1944.

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Post by David Thompson » 11 Apr 2004 08:14

Michael -- You said:
One is glaringly obvious from Marie-Claude's evidence at the IMT; she was not above a little mendacity where it suited her purpose.

The point at which she told an obvious lie is in her evidence about the transports of Jews arriving from Hungary. Her first reference to that event is as follows:

There was also, in the spring of 1944, a special block for twins. It was during the time when large convoys of Hungarian Jews about 700,000-arrived. Dr. Mengele, who was carrying out the experiments, kept back from each convoy twin children and twins in general, regardless of their age, so long as both were present. So we had both babies and adults on the floor at that block. Apart from blood tests and measuring I do. not know what was done to them.


The figure she gives for the number of Hungarian Jews that arrived at Auschwitz, 700,000, is a gross exaggeration, and is close to the total number of Jews in the enlarged Hungary of 1944.

The exact number of Hungarian Jews taken to Auschwitz is not known, but it was in the order of 400,000. Vaillant-Couturier obviously did not know the number of Jews who arrived in the transports from Hungary, and so inserted a figure for the entire Jewish population of the country that she must have got from somewhere.

But that is not the lie that I was referring to; her mendacity lies in her defence of the 700,000 figure.

Her testimony was challenged by the courageous German defence attorney, Hanns Marx:

DR. MARX: How can you explain your very precise statistical knowledge, for instance, that 700,000 Jews arrived from Hungary?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I told you that I have worked in the offices; and where Auschwitz was concerned, I was a friend of the secretary (the Oberaufseherin), whose name and address I gave to the Tribunal.

DR. MARX: It has been stated that only 350,000 Jews came from Hungary, according to the testimony of the Chief of the Gestapo, Eichmann.

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I am not going to argue with the Gestapo. I have good reasons to know that what the Gestapo states is not always true.


Note that Vaillant-Couturier is here defending the 700,000 figure given by her, on the basis that she had precise statistical knowledge gained from working in the offices and from friendship with the Oberaufseherin (a member of the German camp staff).

But what had she actually said previously about her sources of knowledge?

M. DUBOST: Why did you say that an order came from Berlin?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Because I knew the internees who worked in the secretariat of the SS and in particular a Slovakian woman by the name of Hertha Roth, who is now working with UNRRA at Bratislava.

M. DUBOST: Is it she who told you that?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes, and moreover, I also knew the men who worked in the gas kommando.


Note that in this, her original statement about her source of knowledge about German orders, things that a prisoner at Auschwitz would not normally have access to, she did not say that she worked in the secretariat herself, nor that her source was theOberaufseherin, the German woman camp commandant.

Rather she says that her source of information was an internee whose name she gives, Hertha Roth, and whose current whereabouts, Bratislava, she also gives. When challenged by Marx, Vaillant-Couturier turns that person into the Oberaufseherin, a figure with more access to knowledge.

You are either inadvertently or deliberately mischaracterizing Mme. Vaillant-Couturier's testimony. In either event, it is an error. She said that she got the information [about the treatment of pregnant Jewish women from Hertha Roth, a secretary in the camp administration. This is easily demonstrated. Here is what the lady said (at p. 211, above):
M. DUBOST: In the Revier did you see any pregnant women?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes. The Jewish women, when they arrived in the first months of pregnancy, were subjected to abortion. When their pregnancy was near the end, after confinement, the babies were drowned in a bucket of water. I know that because I worked in the Revier and the woman who was in charge of that task was a German midwife, who was imprisoned for having performed illegal operations. After a while another doctor arrived and for 2 months they did not kill the Jewish babies. But one day an order came from Berlin saying that again they had to be done away with. Then the mothers and their babies were called to the infirmary. They were put in a lorry and taken away to the gas chamber.

M. DUBOST: Why did you say that an order came from Berlin?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Because I knew the internees who worked in the secretariat of the SS and in particular a Slovakian woman by the name of Hertha Roth, who is now working with UNRRA at Bratislava.

M. DUBOST: Is it she who told you that?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Yes, and moreover, I also knew the men who worked in the gas kommando.


Here is what she said about the transports of Hungarian Jews, seventeen pages later, at p. 228:

DR. MARX: Yes. Does your statement contain what you yourself observed or is it concerned with information from other sources as well?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Whenever such was the case I mentioned it in my declaration. I have never quoted anything which has not previously been verified at the sources and by several persons, but the major part of my evidence is based on personal experience.

DR. MARX: How can you explain your very precise statistical knowledge, for instance, that 700,000 Jews arrived from Hungary?

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I told you that I have worked in the offices; and where Auschwitz was concerned, I was a friend of the secretary (the Oberaufseherin), whose name and address I gave to the Tribunal.

DR. MARX: It has been stated that only 350,000 Jews came from Hungary, according to the testimony of the Chief of the Gestapo, Eichmann.

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: I am not going to argue with the Gestapo. I have good reasons to know that what the Gestapo states is not always true.
Mme. Vaillant-Couturier makes it perfectly clear that she got this information from Hertha Roth as well. In the first passage Mme. Vaillant-Couturier describes Ms. Roth as one of "the internees who worked in the secretariat of the SS and in particular a Slovakian woman by the name of Hertha Roth, who is now working with UNRRA at Bratislava." In the second passage Mme. Vaillant-Couturier refers to Ms. Roth as "the secretary (the Oberaufseherin), whose name and address I gave to the Tribunal." I cannot see any basis whatsoever for your conclusion that Mme. Vaillant-Couturier mendaciously exaggerated Ms. Roth into, as you have translated the term, "the German woman camp commandant":
she did not say that she worked in the secretariat herself, nor that her source was theOberaufseherin, the German woman camp commandant (my emphasis - DT).

The witness is obviously using the words secretary and Oberaufseherin synonymously, since Oberaufseherin appears in brackets after the word secretary, denoting that to Mme. Vaillant-Couturier, they are identical concepts.

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Post by michael mills » 11 Apr 2004 12:53

That cannot be correct, since Vaillant-Couturier elsewhere in her testimony defines the terms "Aufseherin" and "Oberaufseherin" as German members of the camp staff.

MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: For roll call we were lined up in rows of five; and we waited until daybreak, until the Aufseherinnen, the German women guards in uniform, came to count us. They had cudgels and they beat us more or less at random.


MME. VAILLANT-COUTURIER: At Auschwitz there was a brothel for the SS and also one for the male internees of the staff, who were called "Kapo." Moreover, when the SS needed servants,

213
28 Jan. 46

they came accompanied by the Oberaufseherin, that is, the woman commandant of the camp, to make a choice during the process of disinfection. They would point to a young girl, whom the Oberaufseherin would take out of the ranks. They would look her over and make jokes about her physique; and if she was pretty and they liked her, they would hire her as a maid with the consent of the Oberaufseherin, who would tell her that she was to obey them absolutely no matter what they asked of her.


So when Vaillant-Couturier refers to the "Oberaufseherin", she cannot mean Hertha Roth.

So in her original testimony, she gave inmates working in the camp secretariat as her source of information about such matters as the arrival of orders from Berlin, which is quite possible, and indeed likely. Her reference to Hertha Roth as a Slovakian woman is entirely plausible, since most of the inmate staff working in the camp secretariat were Jewish women from Slovakia, who were the first Jews to arrive at Auschwitz (March 1942), and got all the best jobs.

But when challenged about the accuracy of her statistics, she claimed that she herself had worked in the camp offices (a claim she had not made in her original testimony) and that she was friendly with the Oberaufseherin, a person she had previously defined as the German woman commandant.

But as I wrote, the essence of her mendacity does not lie in her changing explanation of where she got her information from. It lies in the fact that she insinuated that her figure of 700,000 for the number of Jewish deportees arriving from Hungary was derived from the records of the camp secretariat, which I have demonstrated could not possibly be true.

The fact is that she gave a wildly inflated figure for the number of Jews arriving from Hungary, and when challenged on the accuracy of her figure, rather than admitting that it was only a guess, she chose to defend her figure by giving a false answer, even if only indirectly.

The series of statements was in effect:

1. original testimony: The number of Jews arriving at Auschwitz from Hungary was 700,000.

2. Challenge: How do you know that figure?

3. Defence: I got it from the camp secretariat.

The third statement is false; she could not have got the information from the camp secretariat.

I think that Vaillant-Couturier gave the 700,000 figure in her original testimony quite lightly, without giving it a second thought. It is likely that she did not intend to deliberately inflate the figure; it is most probable that she simply did not know the real figure, and just gave a number that she had heard, in passing as it were.

It was only when Dr Marx specifically challenged the accuracy of her knowledge of camp statistics, citing the 700,000 figure as an example, that she must have felt the need to lie in order to defend her original statement (and her status as someone with inside information), ie by falsely claiming a source for the figure she had given.

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Post by David Thompson » 11 Apr 2004 16:33

Michael -- If I get the chance I'll go down to the library and see if there's an original of the IMT proceedings there. The formulations in the Avalon Project text are incompatible, namely:
the Aufseherinnen, the German women guards in uniform
and
Oberaufseherin, that is, the woman commandant of the camp
and
I was a friend of the secretary (the Oberaufseherin)
The most probable explanation is a scanning or translation error in which the text should read
I was a friend of the secretary of the Oberaufseherin


In any event, because Mme. Vaillant-Couturier is clearly referring to Hertha Roth in both passages, I cannot conclude that there was any mendacity involved in those exchanges. As for her account of the number of transported Hungarian Jews, she states that it was just something she heard. This sort of testimony, without other extrinsic evidence to support it, is of little value in any event -- it could so easily be the result of a someone else's mistake, something misheard or an error in recollection. In the overall scheme of things, I cannot see that the reputation of the Nazis would be much effected by a reduction or increase in the number of Hungarian Jews transported to Birkenau.

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Post by xcalibur » 11 Apr 2004 17:21

DT: I agree that there may be a problem with this rendering of this testimony. In the Nyiszli thread (posted a few days ago) I have found two different (apart from the version quoted here) renderings of the quoted material on the web. The differences in the three, albeit slight, do beg some questions as to what was originally stated.

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Post by michael mills » 11 Apr 2004 23:22

The essential issue is that Mme Vaillant-Couturier did not respond to Marx's challenging of her claimed statistical expertise with an honest answer, ie to admit that some of the figures quoted by her, for example the 700,000 figure, were unsubstantiated and merely guesses on her part, or figures that she had heard somewhere.

Rather she chose to give a devious answer, implying, but not stating directly, that her statistics all came from her contacts in the camp secretariat, which in the case of the 700,000 figure is impossible, as I have shown.

In doing so, she revealed herself not as an entirely open, honest witness, but as a rather slippery one (she was a politician and a Communist operative, after all).

No doubt she feared that to admit that some of the statements she had made in her evidence-in-chief were unsubstantiated would derogate from her perceived status as a high-profile witness (she was both a former prisoner and a member of the French legislature) who had at her commmand a mine of facts and figures about Auschwitz camp and the misdeeds of the Germans there.

You will all note that I have not used Mme Vaillant-Couturier's demonstrated deviousness in responding to cross-examination to cast doubt on her entire testimony. In fact, I consider that large parts of it are a valuable source of historical information.

However, both her evidence and Marx's questions to her demonstrate one of the most frustrating things about the IMT record; interesting titbits of information get thrown up almost in passing, such that we yearn to know where they came from, but were not pursued by the court.

For example, where did Marx get his 350,000 figure, which he attributed to Eichmann? One longs to know. Was there some sort of official report by Eichmann that Marx must have had access to? Presumably there was, but unfortunately the court did not ask Marx where he got it from.

The attitude of the court is quite understandable. Its sole interest was in garnering just sufficient hard evidence to convict the main defendants, not in nailing down sources of information for future historians.

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Post by xcalibur » 11 Apr 2004 23:57

michael mills wrote:The essential issue is that Mme Vaillant-Couturier did not respond to Marx's challenging of her claimed statistical expertise with an honest answer, ie to admit that some of the figures quoted by her, for example the 700,000 figure, were unsubstantiated and merely guesses on her part, or figures that she had heard somewhere.

Rather she chose to give a devious answer, implying, but not stating directly, that her statistics all came from her contacts in the camp secretariat, which in the case of the 700,000 figure is impossible, as I have shown.

In doing so, she revealed herself not as an entirely open, honest witness, but as a rather slippery one (she was a politician and a Communist operative, after all).

No doubt she feared that to admit that some of the statements she had made in her evidence-in-chief were unsubstantiated would derogate from her perceived status as a high-profile witness (she was both a former prisoner and a member of the French legislature) who had at her commmand a mine of facts and figures about Auschwitz camp and the misdeeds of the Germans there.

You will all note that I have not used Mme Vaillant-Couturier's demonstrated deviousness in responding to cross-examination to cast doubt on her entire testimony. In fact, I consider that large parts of it are a valuable source of historical information.

However, both her evidence and Marx's questions to her demonstrate one of the most frustrating things about the IMT record; interesting titbits of information get thrown up almost in passing, such that we yearn to know where they came from, but were not pursued by the court.

For example, where did Marx get his 350,000 figure, which he attributed to Eichmann? One longs to know. Was there some sort of official report by Eichmann that Marx must have had access to? Presumably there was, but unfortunately the court did not ask Marx where he got it from.

The attitude of the court is quite understandable. Its sole interest was in garnering just sufficient hard evidence to convict the main defendants, not in nailing down sources of information for future historians.


Assuming the Millsian analysis above is correct, and that this witness did in fact offer perjurious testimony, its curious that Marx did not press home this point to the justices in his cross examination. Catching up a prosecution witness in a lie has got to be a wet-dream-come-true for any defense attorney.

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Post by alf » 12 Apr 2004 00:21

In doing so, she revealed herself not as an entirely open, honest witness, but as a rather slippery one (she was a politician and a Communist operative, after all).


You have offered NO proof as yet Michael, YOUR personal hangups on communists are not proof. Especially as you started with the view that Mme Vaillant-Couturier was a Stalinist, her evidence in suspect. BTW where is the proof she was a Stalinist and not merely a leftist french communist?

That is not historical debate purely subjectiveness.

So please provide proof of your claim by posting the link to the full transcript of the translation you have used. It clearly differs from David's. Your repeated comments on communists automatically being liars is irrelevant, when all we need to see is the full transcripts.

Even if she is wrong on isolated aspects and i doubt any person is 100% accurate always, the fallacy you are using is of "falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus" (one thing mistaken equals all things mistaken).

Simply put, even if one piece of information is wrong it does not discredit all evidence. It is common amongest Revisionists and Deniers to try and argue that if any single piece of survivor evidence can be shown to be wrong, all survivor evidence is wrong and is to be dismissed. That is the fallacy.

Here is a discussion from David Irvings, Trial on her to illustrate

(xvii) Marie Vaillant-Couturier

Introduction

5.240 Marie Vaillant-Couturier, a gentile and member of the resistance in France, was a prisoner in the womens' camp at Auschwitz from 1942 until the end of the war. In 1946 she gave vivid and detailed evidence to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg about the atrocious conditions in the camp, the sterilisation of women, the killing of babies born to women who arrived pregnant and so on. One of the presiding was judges was an American, Judge Biddle.

Case for the Defendants

5.241 In relation to Mme Vaillant-Couturier the criticism directed at Irving by van Pelt relates, not to his published work, but to his claim, made on occasions, including a press conference in 1989 to celebrate the English publication of the Leuchter report (with which I shall deal in the section VII relating to Auschwitz), that:

"she gave a heart-breaking testimony about what she had survived and in his diary at the end of the day, Judge Biddle privately wrote 'I don't believe a word of what she is saying, I think she is a
bloody liar' ".


Irving made a similar statement earlier, on 13 August 1988, at Toronto, when he claimed that the Judge had written "All this I doubt" (emphasis added).

5.242 The Defendants contend that these statements wholly misrepresent the view which the Judge took of Vaillant-Couturier's evidence. The Judge's contemporaneous note of her evidence reveal that he inserted in parentheses the words "This I doubt" at the end of a paragraph in which he noted her claim that all camps had a system of selecting prostitutes for SS officers. That does not appear to have been a claim that she made of her own knowledge. There is no reason whatever, say the Defendants, for supposing that Judge Biddle disbelieved any other aspect of her testimony. The statement made by Irving at the press conference was a disreputable attempt by him to discredit the witness on a basis which, as he must have appreciated, was utterly untenable. The addition of the word "all" in the Toronto speech was, say the Defendants, deliberate distortion.

Irving's response

5.243 Irving did not accept that Judge Biddle's note was referring merely to the passage which I summarised above. He asserted in his closing submission that, when cross-examining her, defence counsel had suggested that she had not even been in Auschwitz. This was not a proposition which Irving put to Evans in cross-examination (and he directed no questions on this topic to van Pelt). Irving argued that Mme Vaillant-Couturier had made some absurd claims in her testimony (for example that there was a man-beating machine at the camp). Irving persisted in his claim that, from what he had read of the Judge's private papers on the testimony given by the various witnesses, he was able to assert that Judge Biddle was making a general comment on her evidence. Irving did not produce whatever papers he was basing this claim upon.

5.244 In his evidence he asserted that Judge Biddle "became so fed up with this woman's testimony that he can finally stand it no longer and he dictates in parenthesis into his report – he says 'this I doubt'". But he did agree that what he had said at the launch of the Leuchter report was a "gloss" on the Judge's comment. He excused it by saying, incorrectly, that it was years since he had read the judge's notes. By way of explanation for the fact that he had quoted the Judge as saying 'All this I doubt" when he spoke in Toronto, Irving claimed, firstly, that he added the word 'all' to make it more literate for his audience and later that the Judge had altered the words "This I doubt" to "All this I doubt". He produced no evidence for the latter claim.



http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/i/irv ... 05-01.html

The purpose of the above quote shows how things can be distorted, whether deliberately or accidently, ie Irvings failure to quote accurately Judge Biddle.

It is always so easily solved , kindly post the link as YOUR proof to the translation of the transcripts that you have used, so we can ALL study and compare with the translation that David is kindly providing.

thanking you

alf

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Post by David Thompson » 12 Apr 2004 00:41

alf -- I'm not seeing where Michael is using a different transcript from the one I posted, although he does paraphrase Mme. Vaillant Couturier in his more recent posts. This is legitimate argumentive technique, and where it is misused, that can be pointed out. Could you be more specific on this point?

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Post by michael mills » 12 Apr 2004 13:37

Xcalibur wrote:

Assuming the Millsian analysis above is correct, and that this witness did in fact offer perjurious testimony, its curious that Marx did not press home this point to the justices in his cross examination. Catching up a prosecution witness in a lie has got to be a wet-dream-come-true for any defense attorney.


I do not think it curious, under the circumstances.

The German defence attorneys were all in a rather weak position, and perusal of the IMT record shows that they were generally reluctant to "grill" the witnesses for the prosecution, to the extent that such witnesses would br "grilled" by a robust defence in a present court in the United States.

Generally speaking, the court was concerned to keep moving as quickly as possible, and did not look kindly on either the prosecution or the defence belabouring a point.

However, I think it is regrettable that Dr Marx did not pursue the matter, and try to nail Mme Vaillant-Couturier on the question of the source of her inflated 700,000 figure. If he had got her to declare under oath that her figure came from her contacts in the camp secretariat, to claim that it was a figure recorded in the official camp documents, then his confrontation of her with Eichmann's figure of 350,000 would have made more impact.

I think it would have been good if Dr Marx could have presented the actual report in which Eichmann gave that figure. But I suspect that he was only speaking from memory, having seen a report by Eichmann somewhere, but not having it to hand.

From the point of view of the study of history, my major regret is that the source of Dr Marx's knowledge of Eichmanns 350,000 figure was never followed up. Since as of 1946 Eichmann had not been interrogated, and had in fact disappeared, believed dead by many, Dr Marx can only have known of the figure from a report by Eichmann. If only we could know which one it was, and how Dr Marx had obtained access to it.

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Post by xcalibur » 12 Apr 2004 16:10

Perhaps the figure referred to in Marx's question comes from the testimony regarding Hungarian jews from Dieter Wisliceny given on 3 January 1946 (IMT, volume 4). As this examination of the witness (Vaillant-Couturier) took place on 28 January 1946, Wisliceny's testimony was already part of the record.

As I recall Wisliceny's testimony (haven't the time presently to re-read it), he speaks of some 450,000 jews deported from Hungary to Auschwitz.

"Dr Marx: It has been stated that only 350,000 jews came from Hungary, according to the testimony of the Chief of the Gestapo, Eichmann."

I would suggest that this doesn't show Marx's familiarity with an original Eichmann document or report, but rather, sloppy knowledge of and lack of familiarity with prior testimony in the trial. In formulating his question he has misquoted the number given in the testimony, confused Eichmann for Wisleceny, and erroneously identified Eichmann as "the Chief of the Gestapo".

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Post by michael mills » 13 Apr 2004 01:19

The nub of the issue is that Mme Vaillant-Couturier, in her evidence-in-chief, gave a grossly inflated figure of 700,000 as the number of Hungarian Jews that arrived in Auschwitz.

When challenged on the accuracy of that figure in cross-examination, she gave a devious answer, implying falsely that she had obtained it through her contacts in the camp secretariat.

It is impossible that anyone in the camp secretariat with access to official camp records could have communicated that figure to Mme Vaillant-Couturier, since the maximum figure that could have been recorded in the official camp records would have been in the order of 400,000. Therefore her implied claim that she received the 700,000 figure from the camp secretariat was a falsehood.

An honest answer to Dr Marx's questioning of the accuracy of the 700,000 figure given by her would have been to admit that she was not sure of it, and that it was not a figure derived from the official camp records, but one that she had heard somewhere or made up. But being a Communist politician with a political agenda, she was not prepared to give that honest answer.

Side-stepping the issue with speculation about whether Dr Marx was confusing Wisliceny with Eichmann, or whether the figure he quoted should have been 450,000, is simply classic pilpul. It does not alter Mme Vaillant-Couturier's dishonesty in making a false implied claim about the source of the inflated figure given by her, in an attempt to back up her expertise.

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Post by David Thompson » 13 Apr 2004 04:40

Michael -- You said:
When challenged on the accuracy of that figure in cross-examination, she gave a devious answer, implying falsely that she had obtained it through her contacts in the camp secretariat.

It is impossible that anyone in the camp secretariat with access to official camp records could have communicated that figure to Mme Vaillant-Couturier, since the maximum figure that could have been recorded in the official camp records would have been in the order of 400,000. Therefore her implied claim that she received the 700,000 figure from the camp secretariat was a falsehood.
I can see where Mme. Vaillant-Couturier's figure might be mistaken. I don't see that her testimony is therefore necessarily false or mendacious. There is a considerable difference between a lie and a mistake. As I said in my earlier post, her account could easily be the result of a someone else's mistake, something misheard or an error in recollection.

A person lies when they know the truth, and don't tell it. Mme. Vaillant-Couturier may be a commie, but that only suggests a possible motive to lie. It doesn't establish that her testimony was a lie to the exclusion of any other possibility. To get there under these circumstances I'd have to employ a Stalinist suggestion like: "It is no accident that Mme. Vaillant-Couturier gave an erroneous figure" -- in other words, assume the very point at issue.

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