KL Dora-Nordhausen: Testimony of SS Dr. Karl Kahr

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KL Dora-Nordhausen: Testimony of SS Dr. Karl Kahr

Post by David Thompson » 02 Nov 2004 02:36

Extracts from testimony of Prosecution witness SS Doctor Karl Kahr, in Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10. Vol. 5: United States v. Oswald Pohl, et. al. (Case 4: 'Pohl Case'). US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1950. pp. 394-407.


MR. McHANEY : Witness, your name is Karl Kahr ?


Q. You are a German national?

A. I am an Austrian citizen.

Q. You were born in 1914 at Fuerstenfeld, Austria?

A. Yes.

Q. Are you presently in American custody?

A. Yes.

Q. What is your profession?

A. I am a doctor.

Q. Were you a member of the SS?

A. Yes.
* Complete testimony is recorded in mimeographed transcript, 10 April 1947, pp. 173-207.


Q. When did you join the SS ?

A. In 1940, that is in July, I joined the Waffen SS.

Q. And you acted as a doctor in the SS?

A. Yes.

Q. Did there come a time when you were assigned as a doctor to a concentration camp?

A. Yes.

Q. When was that?

A. That was in 1943, namely in January or February.

Q. And what concentration camp were you assigned to?

A. First of all it was Dachau and the camp at Dora.

Q. Which camp?

A. Dora.

Q. How long were you in Dachau, Witness?

A. I was at Dachau for nine months, and in 1944 I went to Dora.

Q. Did you go to Dora in January 1944 ?

A. I did not understand your question.
(The question was repeated to the witness lay the interpreter.)

A. Yes.

Q. And how long did you stay at Dora ?

A. Until Christmas, 1944.

Q. And were you subordinated in medical matters while you were in Dora?

A. In medical matters I was first under the garrison [camp] doctor of Buchenwald.

Q. What was his name?

A. Dr. Schiedlausky.

Q. And were you ultimately subordinated to Dr. Lolling of the WVHA?

A. Yes.

Q. Dr. Lolling was chief of Amt [office] D III in the WVHA?

A. Yes.

Q. Was Dora a subcamp [branch] of Buchenwald when you first arrived there in January 1944 ?

A. Yes.

Q. Was it ultimately — did it ultimately become a concentration camp in itself known as Nordhausen?

A. Yes.

Q. When did it become known as Nordhausen?

A. In autumn 1944.

Q. Was it not then centrally administered by the WVHA ?

A. Well, the administration in itself was self-sufficient. However, it was subordinate to the WVHA.

Q. Now then, how big was Dora? How many inmates did I have when you first arrived there?


A. Ten thousand.

Q. And what was being done at Dora?

A. First of all quarry work was done in Dora, namely, subterranean tunnels were built. Then V- weapons [Vergeltungswaffe — retaliatory weapon] were produced.

Q. And what was produced?

A. The V- weapons.

Q. Now, under whose control was this construction and production work carried out?

A. The factory name was Mittelwerk.

Q. Is the name of Obergruppenfuehrer Kammler familiar to you ?

A. Yes.

Q. Did Kammler have control over construction and production work in Dora?

A. Yes. He did.

Q. Was Kammler the chief of Amtsgruppe C of the WVHA?

A. I don't know which division C was but I know that Kammler was the chief of the office for construction.

Q. Now, will you tell us what living conditions you found when you arrived in Dora in January 1944; that is, living conditions of the inmates.

A. When I arrived in Dora in January 1944, I was horrified by the living conditions which I saw there and which prevailed for the inmates. In no way had any people been worried about the billets, nor did they worry about their clothing which they needed for their hard work, nor did they take care of any sanitary installations. Out of the 10,000 inmates at the time at least 7,000 of them had to live underground; that is, in these specially built tunnels. Only 3,000 of them had the possibility to see the sunlight in the camp and to live in barracks. In addition, it so happened that the inmates during the 12-hour shift had to work in the tunnels and had to spend their leisure time in a tunnel nearby. For the sick inmates, while I was there, there were only four barracks for the sick which had the very least equipment that could be expected so that due to the great and large number of sick inmates it was almost impossible to take care of these inmates. Furthermore, due to bad clothing and bad shoes they had great injuries which occurred while they were working on these pointed stones and the inmates were very badly fed. As they were very badly fed, they did not have good resistance to these diseases, so the infections on their legs were at a horrible extent. I myself was a doctor. During my activities prior to that I had never seen such infections. When I arrived there, I drew somebody's attention to those infections. I was


answered that there were higher things, and that it did not matter how many human beings would lose their lives in those mines. The first thing that was important was to carry out the construction program and only slowly by and by did I succeed with the help of the chief director or manager of the works to get better billets and also to improve the sick barracks so that only in the course of that year, perhaps in May or June, there was a decrease in the death rate and the sick rate; and only in May, perhaps or June, all the units could live in the barracks over there during the day. The food in that camp was the usual bad food which is known in the concentration camps and only those inmates who used to work in the armament factories there received a special allocation of food. However, the basic ration in itself was bad and consisted of, for the greatest part in the normal dish of [Eintopf] food, a lot of liquids.

Q. Doctor, let's go back just a moment. When you arrived, there were 10,000 inmates working at Dora, is that right?

A. Ten thousand were at the camp at that time. That is right.

Q. And what nationality were these inmates?

A. At that time all nations were represented in the camp who could be seen in the German concentration camps at the time.

Q. And were there any prisoners of war?

A. Prisoners of war? According to my recollection there were only a few Italian prisoners of war.

Q. Were there any Russian prisoners of war there?

A. There were also Russian prisoners of war there; however, they were not considered as prisoners of war but as concentration camp inmates.

Q. Were there many French prisoners at Dora?

A. Yes. There were.

Q. Approximately what proportion of the 10,000 would you say were French? Could you give any estimate?

A. I cannot give you a correct figure, because I do not remember all the figures. However, I can only add that out of the 10,000 concentration camp inmates, six to seven hundred of them were Germans and all the others were foreigners.

Q. You stated that 70 percent of these inmates had to sleep in the tunnels, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Was it damp in those tunnels?

A. Those tunnels were damp, indeed, and there was frequently water along the walls.

Q. And where did the inmates sleep in those tunnels? A. In those tunnels they slept on wooden cots.

Q. Did they have any blankets or coverings?


A. There were blankets. However, they were not sufficient cope with the necessities of the damp air in the tunnels.

Q. Was there sufficient heat?

A. At the beginning it was cold in those tunnels, and later on when the factory got started there was an automatic heating system. However, that was in September 1944.

Q. Now, were they actually digging these tunnels into the hills?

A. Yes.

Q. And what sort of work did the inmates have to do?

A. The inmates had to do mining work, and some of them worked on certain production lines on the V- weapons.

Q. And what was the death rate when you arrived in Dora?

A. In January, towards the end of the month, the death rate came to 800 inmates for January.

Q. That would be approximately 8 percent per month, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, of what were these prisoners dying? From what diseases ?

A. These inmates often died of the diseases they brought along from other camps. In other words, the lung tuberculosis, which occurred very often. Furthermore, there were organic diseases which resulted from infections with typhus and spotted fever in other camps. And also, I myself saw inmates who, organically speaking, had no signs of disease but could often have died of malnutrition, because their bodies already showed certain signs of malnutrition.

Q. You say that prisoners were working for 12 hours a day?

A. Yes.

Q. And were there two shifts of workers

A. Yes.

Q. Did some of these workers have to march from their working place to the points where they slept ?

A. No — well, yes. Of course, they had to walk, but it was just a very short distance.

Q. Didn't there come a time when large groups of prisoners had to walk four as much as four hours to their working places?

A. Yes. However, that was not in Dora. In Dora the camp was right near their working place. That did happen in another camp which was quite near Nordhausen and which belonged to Dora.

Q. Well, in the case of these other camps did that mean that the prisoners therefore had only 3 or 4 hours’ sleep a night because of this long walk to and from the place of work?

A. Yes. That is correct.


Q. Now, did Dora increase in size during the time you were there ?

A. Yes. Dora increased in size. I do not have the exact figures, but I believe it increased to approximately 20,000 which I recall from my activities; and, of course, it could have been 25,000.

* * * * * * * * * *

MR. McHANEY: You stated that Forschner [Foerster ( ?)] and Schiedlausky and the other people to whom you complained said that irrespective of the conditions under which the inmates worked, the construction and production work at Dora would have to go forward, is that correct?


Q. And did Forschner tell you who had expressed that sentiment, that the work would have to go on in any event ?

A. That was Kammler's and Pohl's opinion, and also the office in Berlin.

Q. Do you know him [Pohl], Witness?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. Do you see him in this dock over here ? If you can't see the dock, you may stand up. (Witness rises.)

A. I believe that is the gentleman over there.

Q. Will you indicate his seat, please

A. He is at the corner, near the entrance.

Q. Is that in the first row ?

A. Yes.

MR. McHANEY: I will ask that the record show that the witness properly identified the defendant Pohl.

PRESIDING JUDGE TOMS : The record will so indicate.

MR. McHANEY: We ask, where did you see the defendant Pohl?

A. I was introduced to him during the visit in Dora.

Q. When was that?

A. That must have been in autumn 1944.

Q. And did you try to report the miserable conditions in Dora to Pohl.

A. I did not have the opportunity to do so.

Q. Why not?

A. Pohl came to Dora with a large staff, and it was impossible for me to have a conversation with him because right after dinner he left Dora in a hurry. Therefore, it was impossible for me to approach him and deal with these matters.

Q. Did you make any effort to do so ?

A. Yes, I did. I was called for dinner especially for that purpose.

Q. Was Dr. Lolling there with Pohl?


A. Not at the time.

Q. Did you ever talk to Lolling about the conditions in the camps ?

A. No I did not.

Q. Did Pohl make an inspection of the camp ?

A. The inmate camp itself ? The answer is no. However, he did visit certain construction works.

Q. Did he not visit the places where the inmates were living and see the conditions under which they were living?

A. All I know is during that tour of inspection he saw the inmates while they were working at their working places — or at least he must have seen them. If he visited any other camp apart from Dora — and I am speaking about their living places in particular — I don't know.

Q. Did Kammler visit Camp Dora very often?

A. Kammler was in Dora several times.

Q. And was he informed about the living conditions there?

A. Yes. He was.

Q. Witness, I want to get this matter straight. When you submitted complaints about the living conditions there, did you get the response that nobody cared how many inmates died; that the main thing was to get this building project finished?

A. I did not quite understand your question.

Q. I said, when you made complaints about the living conditions in Dora, did you get the response that nobody cared how many inmates died; that the main thing was to get the construction project finished?

A. Generally speaking, that was the general opinion that prevailed there.

Q. Is the name Pook familiar to you, Witness?

A. Yes.

Q. Who was Pook ?

A. Pook was the chief dentist in division, or Amtsgruppe, D.

Q. Now, Witness, are you informed about the collection of gold teeth of inmates in concentration camps?

A. Yes. I am.

Q. Do you know what was done with the gold from the teeth of deceased inmates?

A. I only know insofar that the gold had to be sent to Berlin.

Q. And to what office was it sent in Berlin?

A. According to my recollection it was sent to Amt D III. However, I do not know who received those teeth because I, myself, had nothing to do with the gold teeth.

Q. Do you know generally whether it was sent to the office of chief dentist in Amt D III?


A. I cannot tell you that for sure.

Q. But you do know that it was sent to Amt D III?

A. Yes. I do.

Q. Do you see Pook in the defendants' dock?
(Witness rises.)

A. Yes. I do.

Q. Where is he sitting, please?

A. He is sitting right against the wall, and he is third, right next to the door.

Q. Sitting where?

A. In the second row; he is third from the left, near the door.

MR. McHANEY : I will ask that the record show that the witness properly identified the defendant Pook.

PRESIDING JUDGE TOMS: The record will so indicate.

* * * * * * * * * *

MR. McHANEY : Now Doctor, while you were at Dora, is it not true that they shipped out large numbers of inmates who broke down and were no longer able to work?

WITNESS KAHR: Well, I don't quite understand that. Do you mean they were shipped out of their working places?

Q. No. You are familiar with invalid transports, are you not, Doctor?

A. Yes, yes. I know that invalid transports took place.

Q. And where were these invalid transports from Dora sent, do you know?

A. I know of one transport right now which was sent to the rest camp Bergen-Belsen.

Q. And, actually, was Bergen-Belsen a rest or recreational camp, Doctor?

A. I only found out while I was a prisoner of war that it was not a rest camp. At the time, however, I did not know too much about it.

Q. Doctor, don't you know now that these persons sent in these invalid transports were in fact exterminated in Bergen-Belsen and in other camps?

A. I only learned that now. However, I did not know that at the time.

Q. But you do know it now, don't you, Doctor?

A. Yes, I do.

* * * * * * * * * *


DR. SEIDL: Witness, you were a member in the Waffen SS in 1944?



Q. Correction — 1940 — and you joined on an honorary basis?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. What made you join the SS and not to do your duty to the Wehrmacht?

A. I joined the Waffen SS because the Waffen SS promised me after 3 months of training I would be used as a doctor, whereas, in the Wehrmacht I would have had to undergo at least 9 months of service with the troops as recruit.

Q. I would like to ask you to speak slowly and to make a short pause after every question.

A. Yes.

Q. At the time you did not think then that you were to belong as a member of a criminal organization, did you?

A. No.

Q. How did it happen then that you in 1943 became camp commander in — I shall repeat the question. How was it then, that. in 1943 you first became a doctor in the concentration camp at Dachau, and then a doctor in the concentration camp at Dora?

A. I was with the troops from the beginning on. First in the reserve units in the Reich itself and later on I was at the front in Russia. There I was wounded at the Leningrad front, and I was laid up in a hospital for a long period of time, and then, since I could no longer be used at the front I was assigned to the concentration camp.

Q. You stated that early during the work in the concentration camp of Dora, the death rate was very high?

A. Yes.

Q. That probably is in connection with the fact that at the time the camp was under construction?

A. That was one of the reasons.

Q. However, later on under your supervision the conditions changed there to the better?

A. Yes.

Q. In the camp of Dora, secret weapons were constructed? Particularly, the V- weapons?

A. Yes.

Q. That was in 1944 ?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it correct if I say that these weapons were constructed in these subterranean factories due to the fact that it was impossible to work safely on top of the earth, or the surface, due to the strength of the Allied air forces?

A. Yes. I believe that was the reason.

Q. And that through these attacks alone 800,000 to 1,000,000 workers and other civilians suffered damage or were killed?


A. That is possible.

Q. That, therefore, at the time it was impossible to still construct factories on a large scale?

A. Yes.

Q. The factories of the camp Dora were constructed in tunnels?

A. Yes.

Q. You also mentioned the Mittelwerk company?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know that the Mittelwerk was an Aktiengesellschaft, a company with limited liability, and the company was under the chief of the army armaments [office,] and the Minister of Armaments, Speer?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you also know that this office was responsible especially for the work done there?

A. For the work, yes.

Q. You also said before that one had in the foreground the execution of the planned work, and that it was of no concern to anybody that the people died. I ask you now, Witness, who gave you that answer at the time?

A. I received that answer first of all by Foerster, then by Dr. Lolling from Dr. Schiedlausky, from Pister, the concentration camp commander at Buchenwald at the time, and several times from Kammler.

Q. That is sufficient, Witness. Is it correct that the tunnels in which these factories were built already existed in part, and that they belonged to the Economic Research Office of the German Reich?

A. Yes.

Q. In other words, in general, the factories, respectively, these tunnels were expanded?

A. Yes.

Q. How many kilometers was the distance between Dora and Nordhausen?

A. I don't quite understand your question. Do you mean, how many from the factory?

Q. Yes. From the factory?

A. Camp Dora was one kilometer apart from the entrance to the tunnels.

Q. How can you explain the fact that according to the statement you made before, it took 4 hours to march there?

A. In my statement I answered it was not camp Dora but one of the subsidiary camps, which was actually a safe distance front the working place, but I did not talk about camp Dora.


Q. The automatic heating system was built during the course of the year of 1944 ?

A. Yes.

Q. Then one has to draw the conclusion that the administration, in spite of all of the difficulties, made plans to facilitate the life of these inmates in the camp?

A. I have to answer this question definitely in the affirmative because the management of the factory contributed quite a lot to the amelioration of conditions in the camp.

Q. The working time usually lasted between 11 to 12 hours, wasn't that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know that also the German workers in the German armament factory had to work from 10 to 12 hours a day, and sometimes even more?

A. Yes.

Q. I shall come now to the point which has something to do with the food in the camp. The civilian population in our zone of occupation receives at present 150 grams of meat per week. Do you have the impression —

MR. McHANEY: If the Tribunal please, I think it is quite proper for defense counsel to interrogate the witness about the amount of food that the prisoners were fed at Dora, and he can exhaust that subject to any extent he desires, but I must rise to object to any comparison which he now intends to present as to food rationed out to Germans in the occupied zone now, whether under control of American Government or the German Government, it is quite immaterial and irrelevant.

PRESIDING JUDGE TOMS: I cannot anticipate that is what he is going to ask. Perhaps he won't.

MR. McHANEY : That is what I understand his question to be. He was now stating the question, "Do you know that the German people are issued one hundred fifty grams of meat?"

PRESIDING JUDGE TOMS: I think that offers a comparison. I think that would be proper for an inquiry. You are alleging in the indictment a condition, that is, you are alleging a hardship that existed in a concentration camp among inmates that should meet some standard of hardship, and we need a standard from which it can be judged. I think the inquiry may be pursued.

MR. McHANEY : Very well, your Honor, we will see how it develops.

DR. SEIDL: Now Witness, on the basis of your recollection, can you tell me how much meat the inmates received there per week, that is, approximately?

WITNESS KAHR: At the utmost, 50 grams.


Q. How much fat did they receive per week?

A. The inmates received according to try recollection approximately 120 grams of fat.

Q. One hundred grams of fat per week?

A. Yes.

Q. How much bread do you say they received per week"

A. They received one-third of bread; in other words, approximately 330 grams per day.

Q. In other words, that is more than four pounds, considerably more than four pounds?

PRESIDING JUDGE TOMS: What was the answer?

DR. SEIDL: He nodded, your Honor. Now, Witness, I am sure you wanted to answer that question with "Yes," did you not?


JUDGE MUSMANNO: You didn't indicate what period, however.

DR. SEIDL: He said that per day these inmates received 330 grams of bread.

JUDGE MUSMANNO: Let's shorten this. You summed up by saying that amounted to over four pounds, but you did not add for what period.

DR. SEIDL: I answered before —

JUDGE MUSMANNO: Don't tell me what you answered before.

DR. SEIDL: Per week.

JUDGE MUSMANNO: All right, per week. Go ahead.

DR. SEIDL: You furthermore stated that, in your opinion a normal consumer, a normal human being who does not work, needs at least 2,000 calories per day.

WITNESS KAHR: I said 2,400.

Q. 2,400. In other words, you would say that a human being who gets only 850 calories or 1,550 calories is not in a position to live much longer?

A. Not at all.

DR. SEIDL: Your Honor, I intend now to show the witness a document. The document is in document book 5 of the prosecution, Document NO-2132, Prosecution Exhibit 144. It is on page 135 of the German document book. This is a decree of the Reich Minister of Food and Agriculture, dated 7 April 1942. I shall quote from number I-1 second paragraph, "Rations for judicial prisoners, inmates of concentration camps, and for prisoners detained in police prisons." I shall skip the first two chapters (a) and (b) , and shall quote from (c):

"The fat, bread, and flour rations to be issued in accordance with my decree of 16 January 1940 — II C 2-948, with reference to 1 b, d, and h, have been determined as follows:


Fats, total amount 170 gr
Either margarine
or Salad oil 130 gr.
104 gr.
or Lard 40 gr.
32 gr.
Bread 2450 gr.
Rye flour of type 1790 75 gr.
Bread flour of type 2300 50 gr.

"d. The other rations remain unchanged."

I ask you now, Witness, do you believe that these rations are sufficient to keep a prisoner who does not work too hard alive?

A. I would have to see the average calories figure per day in order to answer that question, namely, what that amounts to per day.

PRESIDING JUDGE TOMS: Can someone tell us what the date of this exhibit is? It is not complete on this document that we have. It is Berlin, 7 April.

DR. SEIDL: 1942, your Honor.

Witness, can it not be seen very clearly from this document that the Food Ministry was responsible for the food allowances, because this is a decree issued by the Reich Minister for Food, and he is the one who has stated the amount of food to be issued to the population?


Q. You also stated that there were also prisoners of war in the camp, to be sure, Italians and Russians. Do you know for what reasons these prisoners of war had been removed from their PW enclaves and put into these camps?

A. No. I do not.

Q. You also stated what the clothing allowance was for the inmates. Is it correct that in the last years of the war the German population also, particularly the German workers, received no allowance of material for clothes?

A. That is correct.

Q. Do you know that there was an order issued by Himmler in which it is said that the concentration camps, if the enemy should reach them, should be withdrawn from the supervision of the WVHA and that they should be subordinated immediately to the orders of the Higher SS and Police Leader in whose district the camp was?

A. No.

Q. Do you know that all questions concerning police matters, particularly questions about executions, were dealt with by the RSHA in Berlin?

A. Yes, I do.


Q. And that the RSHA had nothing to do with the WVHA?

A. Yes.

* * * * * * * * * *

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