Auschwitz testimony of SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Karl Sommer

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Auschwitz testimony of SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Karl Sommer

Post by David Thompson » 14 Jul 2004 04:14

Karl Sommer was the deputy chief of the Prisoner Labor Allocation Department of the SS Economics and Administration Main Office (SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt - SS-WVHA). He testified on his own behalf as a defendant in the 1947 WVHA trial. Here is a biographical sketch and the extracts of his testimony which were published in NMT proceedings vol. 5:

Sommer, Karl (1915-?) [SS-Hauptsturmsturmfűhrer (The Camp Men p. 226) or SS-Obersturmbannfűhrer (NYT 4 Nov 1947:12:1)] – joined SS late 1933; concentration camp service, concentration camp (Konzentrationslager - KL) Sachsenhausen and KL Oranienburg; Waffen-SS service c. 1940-1941; service (as SS labor allocation administrator), Inmate Labor Assignment office of the German Stone and Earth Works Mar 1941; chief, Inmate Labor Assignment office of Department D II Prisoner Labor Allocation (Amt D II - Arbeitseinsatz der Häftlinge/) in the SS Economics and Administration Main Office (SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt - WVHA) Oct 1941-Apr 1945; deputy chief, Department D II Prisoner Labor Allocation (Amt D II - Arbeitseinsatz der Häftlinge) in the SS Economics and Administration Main Office (SS-WVHA) {arrested and put on trial by an American military tribunal in the WVHA ("Pohl") case for having administered the Nazi concentration camp system and employing slave labor in the sprawling wartime SS industrial empire; convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity and of holding membership in a criminal organization – the General SS (Allgemeine-SS); sentenced to death by hanging 3 Nov 1947 (NYT 4 Nov 1947:12:1; LT 4 Nov 1947:3g); sentence commuted by US Military Governor General Lucius D. Clay to life imprisonment 11 May 1949 (NYT 15 May 1949:39:6); further reduced to 20 years by the Clemency Board (Holo Ency 1790; The Camp Men p. 226).}

Extracts From Testimony of Defense Witness Karl Wolff, in Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10, United States v. Oswald Pohl, et. al. (Case 4: 'Pohl Case') US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1950, Vol. 5: pp. 676-78.
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PRESIDING JUDGE TOMS: Do you mean to tell us that you believe today that there was no national plan for the extermination of the Jews which started at the top level of the Reich?

DEFENDANT SOMMER: No. I don't want to say that, your Honor. I would have come back to that.

Q. Well, you already came to it. You suggested that this was all the work of a few political malefactors, villains, in the concentration camps and that it wasn't a national policy. Do you mean that?

A. Your Honor, what I mean to say is that this was not a national policy, to exterminate any concentration camps as a matter of principle. That is to say, that the concentration camps were not merely an institution to exterminate every undesirable enemy. One has to see these things in their various phases.

Q. Of course, no one would believe for a minute that it was the policy to exterminate all concentration camp inmates. They were too valuable. They were the means by which Germany expected to win the war but do you recognize today a national policy which started out from Himmler, if not from Hitler, to exterminate all the Jews in Germany?

A. There can be no doubt about it, your Honor.

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DR. BELZER (counsel for defendant Sommer) : Did office D II receive reports about the examinations in Auschwitz through the camp commandant or the labor allocation leader of concentration camp Auschwitz?


Q. Was it possible to see from the surveys submitted to D II anything about these exterminations — from the death rate reports, for instance?

A. No. As the affidavit [of Kurt Pany, Doc. NI-310, Pros. Ex. 301] shows, inmates about to be gassed were not first received into the concentration camp but were taken immediately from
* Complete testimony is recorded in mimeographed transcript, 30 June, 1, 2 July 1947 ; pp. 3653-3878.


their railway wagons to the gas chambers. Therefore they could not appear in the lists as new arrivals or as departed inmates. Hoess also said in his affidavit that he never did keep figures about the gassings.

Q. Witness, in your testimony up to now you have said that you had no official or unofficial observations concerning the examination of certain groups of inmates such as Jews, gypsies, and so forth. I would like to ask you whether you limit that testimony to persons who appeared on the lists of concentration camps?

A. Yes.

Q. When you commented on the affidavit of Entress — Just now you said that you as an expert in inmate labor allocation, were not in a position to hear anything about the extermination, of special groups of persons because they had not been received first into the various camps. My question is: Did you hear anything about that in any way at any time?

A. Yes. Division Chief Gluecks told me.

Q. Please describe to the Court in the greatest detail on what occasion this happened and what it was that Gluecks told you about.

A. The former commandant of Auschwitz camp in December 1943 or January 1944 was chief of office D I, the central office of Amtsgruppe D. In April 1944, approximately, it became known that some hundreds of thousands of Jews would arrive from Hungary soon, and we were told that these were Jews who belonged to construction details behind the front line in Hungary and that they represented a danger to the army. These workers were to be used for work as quickly as possible and, as it was explained to me at the time, Hoess was sent to Auschwitz because he had connections with the Reich railways and other departments, and it was only through him that it became possible for transportation to become available as quickly as possible in or order to transport these workers to wherever they were to work.

One evening about the end of May or the beginning of June 1944, I was called in to see Gluecks. He told me roughly this: "I want you to swear under oath that you will not say one word about what I am about to tell you to anybody. Otherwise, you will lose your life. You know that Jews are about to come from Hungary. By Hitler's orders, some of them have to be killed. Hoess has gone to Auschwitz for that purpose. Every evening he sends me a teletype letter as top secret containing the figures of the Jews who have arrived and have been killed. I shall see to it that these teletype letters will be sent to you so that you can keep a register, because you work every evening late after hours."

When he told me this, I was appalled. I deliberated for a mo-


ment, and then I asked him not to give me that order because I was overworked to such an extent that I could not possibly take on any additional work. Gluecks was slightly taken aback at this and then told me, "All right, I'll pick out somebody else."

That is how I heard about the extermination of the Jews in Auschwitz.

Q. To clarify this, you therefore were not given the order that Gluecks meant you to have?

A. No.

Q. Why did Gluecks pick you out, of all people?

A. I described before that I used to work every evening until eight or nine o'clock. Everybody else went home at six or seven, whereas we were the only persons to work overtime. I had to assume that this was the reason why Gluecks wanted me to work on this measure so that these teletype letters, when they reached us, would immediately be locked up in a safe and would not be left lying about in the teletype office.

Q. The reason why you were to be given that assignment was, as you are bound to assume, not that the task which you were meant to do was connected in any way with the field of tasks of D II and your own matters?

A. No. In no sense of the word.

Q. And this work which Gluecks meant you to do, you, in order to prevent doing this, pretended to be overworked? Was that your real reason?

A. I could pretend to be overworked, and Gluecks had to believe me. Actually, it would not have been too much work if I had carried out this order, but I did not wish to be connected with these things, which is the reason I refused.

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