KL Mauthausen: Testimony of Jean-Frederic Veith

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KL Mauthausen: Testimony of Jean-Frederic Veith

Post by David Thompson » 02 Nov 2004 05:32

This testimony is taken from the Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal (IMT), vol. 6, pp. 231-241. The proceedings are available on-line at the Avalon Project of the Yalue University Law School at:

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/

Note the reference at p. 241 to flames from the crematoria smokestack at Mauthausen.
M. DUBOST: If the Tribunal will kindly allow it, we shall now hear another witness, M. Veith.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you calling this witness on the treatment of prisoners in concentration camps?

M. DUBOST: Yes, Mr. President, and also because this witness can give us particulars of the ill-treatment to which certain prisoners of war had been exposed in the camps of internees. This is no longer a question of concentration camps and of ill-treatment inflicted upon civilians in those camps, but of soldiers who had been brought to the concentration camps and subjected to the same cruelty as the civilian prisoners.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you won't lose sight of the fact that there has been practically no cross-examination of the witnesses you have already called about the treatment in concentration camps? The Tribunal, I think, feels that you could deal with the treatment in concentration camps somewhat more generally than the last witness. Do you hear what I say?

M. DUBOST: Yes, Your Honor.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks that you could deal with the question of treatment in concentration camps rather more generally now, since we have heard the details from the witnesses whom you have already called.

[The witness, Veith, took the stand.]

M. DUBOST: Is the Tribunal willing to hear this witness?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

[To the witness.] What is your name?

M. JEAN-FREDERIC VEITH (Witness): Jean-Frederic Veith.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you repeat this oath: 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."

VEITH: I swear it.

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THE PRESIDENT: Would you like to sit down and spell your name and surname?

M. DUBOST: Will you please spell your name and surname?

VEITH: J-e-a-n F-r-e-d-e-r-i-c V-e-i-t-h. I was born on 28 April 1903 in Moscow.

M. DUBOST: You are of French nationality?

VEITH: I am of French nationality, born of French parents.

M. DUBOST: In which camp were you interned?

VEITH: At Mauthausen; from 22 April 1943 until 22 April 1945.

M. DUBOST: You knew about the work carried out in the factories supplying material to the Luftwaffe. Who controlled these factories?

VEITH: I was in the Arbeitseinsatz at Mauthausen from June 1943, and I was therefore well acquainted with all questions dealing with the work.

M. DUBOST: Who controlled the factories working for the Luftwaffe?

VEITH: There were outside camps at Mauthausen where workers were employed by Heinkel, Messerschmidt, Alfa-Vienne, and the Saurer-Werke, and there was, moreover, the construction work on the Leibl Pass tunnel by the Alpine Montan.

M. DUBOST: Who controlled this work, supervisors or engineers?

VEITH: There was only SS supervision. The work itself was controlled by the engineers and the firms themselves.

M. DUBOST: Did these engineers belong to the Luftwaffe?

VEITH: On certain days I saw Luftwaffe officers who came to visit the Messerschmidt workshops in the quarry.

M. DUBOST: Were they able to see for themselves the conditions under which the prisoners lived?

VEITH: Yes, certainly.

M. DUBOST: Did you see any high-ranking Nazi officials visiting the camp?

VEITH: I saw a great many high-ranking officials, among them Himmler, Kaltenbrunner, Pohl, Maurer, the Chief of the Labor Office, Amt D II, of the Reich, and many other visitors whose names I do not know.

M. DUBOST: Who told you that Kaltenbrunner had come?

VEITH: Well, our offices faced the parade ground overlooking the Kommandantur; we therefore saw the high-ranking officials

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arriving, and the SS men themselves would tell us, "There goes so and so."

M. DUBOST: Could the civilian population know, and did it know of the plight of the internees?

VEITH: Yes, the population could know, since at Mauthausen there was a road near the quarry and those who passed by that road could see all that was happening.

Moreover, the internees worked in the factories. They were separated from the other workers, but they had certain contacts with them and it was quite easy for the other workers to realize their plight.

M. DUBOST: Can you tell us what you know about a journey, to an unknown castle, of a bus carrying prisoners who were never seen again?

VEITH: At one time a method for the elimination of sick persons by injections was adopted at Mauthausen. It was particularly used by Dr. Krebsbach, nick-named "Dr. Spritzbach" by the prisoners since it was he who had inaugurated the system of injections. There came a time when the injections were discontinued, and then persons who were too sick or too weak were sent to a castle which, we learned later, was called Hartheim, but was officially known as a Genesungslager (convalescent camp). Of all of those who went there, none ever returned. We received the death certificates directly from the political section of the camp; these certificates were secret. Everybody who went to Hartheim died. The number of dead amounted to about 5,000.

M. DUBOST: Did you see prisoners of war arrive at Mauthausen Camp?

VEITH: Certainly I saw prisoners of war. Their arrival at Mauthausen Camp took place, first of all, in front of the political section. Since I was working at the Hollerith I could watch the arrivals, for the offices faced the parade ground in front of the political section where the convoys arrived. The convoys were immediately sorted out. One part was sent to the camp for registration, and very often some of the uniformed prisoners were set aside; these had already been subjected to special violence in the political section and were handed straight over to the prison guards. They were then sent to the prisons and never heard of again. They were not registered in the camp. The only registration was made in the political section by Muller who was in charge of these prisoners.

M. DUBOST: They were prisoners of war?

VEITH: They were prisoners of war. They were very often in uniform.

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M. DUBOST: Of what nationality?

VEITH: Mostly Russians and Poles.

M. DUBOST: They were brought to your camp to be killed there?

VEITH: They were brought to our camp for "Action K."

M. DUBOST: What do you know about Action K and how do you know it?

VEITH: My knowledge of Action K is due to the fact that I was head of the Hollerith service in Mauthausen, and consequently received all the transfer forms from the various camps. And when prisoners were erroneously transferred to us as ordinary prisoners, we would put it on the transfer form which we had to send to the central office in Berlin; or rather, we would not put any number at all, as we were unable to give one. The "Politische" gave us no indications at all and even destroyed the list of names if, by chance, it ever reached us.

In conversations with my comrades of the "Politische" I discovered that this Action K was originally applied to prisoners of war who had been captured while attempting to escape. Later this action was extended further still, but always to soldiers and especially to officers who had succeeded in escaping but who had been recaptured in countries under German control.

Moreover, any person engaged in activities which might be interpreted as not corresponding to the wishes of the fascist chiefs could also be subjected to Action K. These prisoners arrived at Mauthausen and disappeared, that is, they were taken to the prison where one part would be executed on the spot and another sent to the annex of the prison, which by this time had become too small to hold them, to the famous Block 20 of Mauthausen.

M. DUBOST: You definitely state that these were prisoners of -war?

VEITH: Yes, they were prisoners of war, most of them.

M. DUBOST: Do you know of an execution of officers, prisoners of war, who had been brought to the camp at Mauthausen?

VEITH: I cannot give you any names, but there were some.

M. DUBOST: Did you witness the execution of Allied officers who were murdered within 48 hours of their arrival in camp?

VEITH: I saw the arrival of the convoy of 6 September. I believe that is the one you are thinking of; I saw the arrival of this convoy and in the very same afternoon these 47 went down to the quarry dressed in nothing but their shirts and drawers. Shortly

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after we heard the sound of machine gun fire. I then left the office and passed at the back, pretending I was carrying documents to another office, and with my own eyes I saw these unfortunate people shot down; 19 were executed on the very same afternoon and the remainder on the following morning. Later on, all the death certificates were marked, "Killed while attempting to escape."

M. DUBOST: Do you have the names?

VEITH: Yes, I have a copy of the names of these prisoners.

[The Tribunal recessed until 1400 hours.]

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Afternoon Session

MARSHAL: If the Court please, it is desired to announce that the Defendant Kaltenbrunner will be absent from this afternoon's session on account of illness.

THE PRESIDENT: You may go on, M. Dubost.

M. DUBOST: We are going to complete the hearing of the witness Veith, to whom, however, I have only one more question to put.

THE PRESIDENT: Have him brought in.

[The witness, Veith, took the stand.]

M. DUBOST: You continue to testify under the oath that you already made this morning.
Will you give some additional information concerning the execution of the 47 Allied officers whom you saw shot in 48 hours at Camp Mauthausen where they had been brought?

VEITH: Those officers, those parachutists, were shot in accordance with the usual systems used whenever prisoners had to be done away with. That is to say, they were forced to work to excess, to carry heavy stones. Then they were beaten until they took heavier ones; and so on and so forth until, finally driven to extremity, they turned towards the barbed wire. If they did not do it of their own accord, they were pushed there; and they were beaten until they did so; and the moment they approached it and were perhaps about one meter away from it, they were mown down by machine guns fired by the SS guards in the watchtowers.

This was the usual system for the "killing for attempted escape" as they afterwards called it.

Those 47 men were killed on the afternoon of the 6th and morning of the 7th of September.

M. DUBOST: How did you know their names?

VEITH: Their names came to me with the official list, because they had all been entered in the camp registers and I had to report to Berlin all the changes in the actual strength of the Hollerith Section. I saw all the rosters of the dead and of the new arrivals

M. DUBOST: Did you communicate this list to an official authority?

VEITH: This list was taken by the American official authorities when I was at Mauthausen. I immediately went back to Mauthausen after my liberation, because I knew where the documents were; and

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the American authorities then had all the lists which we were able to find.

M. DUBOST: Mr. President, I have no further questions to ask the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the British Prosecutor want to ask any questions?

BRITISH PROSECUTOR: No.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the United States Prosecutor?

UNITED STATES PROSECUTOR: No.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any members of the Defense Counsel wish to ask any questions?

HERR BABEL: I am the defense counsel for the SS and SD. Mr. President, I was in the Dachau Camp on Saturday and at the Augsburg-Goggingen Camp yesterday. I found out various things there which now enable me to question individual witnesses. I could not do this before, as I was not acquainted with local conditions. I should like to put one question. I was unable to attend here this morning on account of a conference to which I was called by General Mitchell.

Consequently I did not have the cross-examination of the witness this morning. I have only one question to put to the witness now. I should like to ask whether I may cross-examine the witness further later, or if it is better to withdraw the question?

THE PRESIDENT: You can cross-examine this witness now, but the Tribunal is informed that you left General Mitchell at 15 minutes past 10.

HERR BABEL: Yes, but as a consequence of the conference I had to send a telegram and dispatch some other pressing business so that it was impossible for me to attend the session.

THE PRESIDENT: You can certainly cross-examine the witness now.

HERR BABEL: I have only one more question, namely: The witness stated that the officers in question were driven toward the wire fence. By whom were they so driven?

VEITH: They were driven to the barbed wire by the SS guards who accompanied them, and the entire Mauthausen staff was present. They were also beaten by the SS and by one or two "green" prisoners, who were with them and who were the "Kapo." In the camps these "green" prisoners were often worse than the SS themselves.

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HERR BABEL: Thus, in the Dachau Camp, inside the camp itself, within the wire enclosure, there were almost no SS guards, and that was probably also the case in Mauthausen? However...

VEITH: Inside the camp there was only a limited number of SS, but they changed, and none of those who belonged to the troops guarding the camp could fail to be aware of what went on in it; even if they did not enter the camp, they watched it from the watchtowers and from outside, and they saw precisely everything.

HERR BABEL: Were the guards who shot at the prisoners inside or outside the wire enclosure?

VEITH: They were in the watchtowers in the same line as the barbed wire.

HERR BABEL: Could they see from there that the officers were -driven to the barbed wire by anyone by means of blows? Could they observe that they were driven there and beaten?

VEITH: They could see it so well that once or twice some of the guards refused to shoot, saying that it was not an attempt to escape and they would not shoot. They were immediately relieved from their posts, and disappeared.

HERR BABEL: Did you see that yourself?

VEITH: I did not see it myself, but I heard about it; it was told by my Kommandofuehrer among others, who said to me, "There's a watchguard who refused to shoot."

HERR BABEL: Who was this Kommandofuehrer? The chief of the group?

VEITH: The Kommandofuehrer was Wielemann. I do not remember his rank. He was not Unterscharfuehrer, but the rank immediately below Unterscharfuehrer, and he was in charge of the Hollerith section in Mauthausen.

HERR BABEL: I thank you. I have no more questions to ask just now. I shall, however, make application to call the witness again, and I shall then take the opportunity to ask the rest, to put such further questions to him as 'I consider necessary. I request you to retain him for this purpose, here in Nuremberg. I am not in a position to cross-examine the witness this afternoon, as I did not hear his statements this morning, and I would request that the witness ...

THE PRESIDENT: You ought to have been here. If you were released from an interview with General Mitchell at 1015, there seems to the Tribunal, to, me at any rate, to be no reason why you should not have been here while this witness was being examined.

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HERR BABEL: Mr. President, this morning I discussed with General Mitchell some questions with which I have been occupied for a long time. General Mitchell agreed in, the course of our conversation that my duties and activities are so extensive that it will now be necessary to appoint a second defense counsel for the SS; my presence at the sessions claims so much of my working time and has become so exhausting and so burdensome that I am often compelled to be absent from the Court. I am sorry, but in the prevailing circumstances, I cannot help it.

Further, I would like to say this: So far, over 40,000 members of the SS have made applications to the Tribunal; and although many of these are collective and not individual applications, you can imagine how wide the field is.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, no doubt your work is extensive, but this morning, as I have already told you, General Mitchell has informed the Tribunal that his interview with you finished at 10:15; and it appears to the Tribunal that you must have known that the witnesses who were giving evidence this morning were giving evidence about concentration camps.

In addition to that, you had obtained the assistance of another counsel, I think, Dr. Marx, to appear on your behalf, and he did appear on your behalf; and he will have an opportunity of cross-examining this witness if he wishes to do so now. The Tribunal considers that you must conclude your cross-examination of this witness now. I mean to say, you may ask any further questions of the witness that you wish.

HERR BABEL: It all amounts to whether I can put a question, and this I cannot do at the moment; therefore, I must renounce the cross-examination of the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Are there any other questions to put, M. Dubost? There may be some other German counsel who wish to cross- examine this witness.

M. Dubost, do you wish to address the Tribunal?

M. DUBOST: Your Honor, I would like to state to the Tribunal that we have no reason whatsoever to fear a cross-examination of our witness or of this morning's witness, at any time; and we are ready to ask our witnesses to stay in Nuremberg as long as may be necessary to reply to any questions from the Defense.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Babel, in view of the offer of the French Prosecutor to keep the witness in Nuremberg, the Tribunal will allow you to put any questions you wish to put to him in the course of the next 2 days. Do you understand?

HERR BABEL: Yes.

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DR. KURT KAUFFMANN (Counsel for Defendant Kaltenbrunner): Before I question the witness, I allow myself to raise one point which, I believe, will have an important influence on the good progress of the proceedings. The point I wish to raise is the following, and I speak in the name of my colleagues as well: Would it not be well to come to an agreement that both the Prosecution and the Defense be informed the day before a witness is brought in, which -witness is to be heard? The material has now become so considerable that circumstances make it impossible to ask pertinent questions, questions which are urgently necessary in the interest of all parties.

As far as the Defense is concerned, we are ready to inform the Tribunal and the Prosecution of the witnesses we intend to ask for examination, at least one day before they are to be heard.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal has already expressed its wish that they should be informed beforehand of the witnesses who are to be called and upon what subject. I hope that Counsel for the Prosecution will take note of this wish.

DR. KAUFMANN: Yes, I thank you.

A point of special significance emerges from the statements of the witness we heard this morning, as well as from the statements of this witness; and this point concerns something which may be of decisive importance for the Trial as a whole. The Prosecution ...

THE PRESIDENT: You are not here to make a speech at the moment. You are to ask the witness questions.

DR. KAUFFMANN: Yes. It is the question of the responsibility of the German people. The witness has stated that the civilian population was in a position to know what was going on. I shall now try to ascertain the truth by means of a series of questions.

Did civilians look on when executions took place? Would you answer this?

VEITH: They could see the corpses scattered along the roads when the prisoners were shot while returning in convoys, and corpses were even thrown from the trains. And they could always take note of the emaciated condition of these prisoners who worked outside, because they saw them.

DR. KAUFFMANN: Do you know that it was forbidden on pain of death to say anything outside the camp about the atrocities, anything in the way of cruelties, torture, et cetera, that took place inside?

VEITH: As I spent 2 years in the camp I saw them. Some of them I saw myself, and the rest were described to me by eyewitnesses.

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DR. KAUFFMANN: Could you please repeat that again? Did you see the secrecy order? What did you see?

VEITH: Not the order, I saw the execution and that is worse.

DR. KAUFFMANN: My question was this: Do you know that the strictest orders were given to the SS personnel, to the executioners, et cetera, not to speak even inside the camp, much less outside of it, of the atrocities that went on and that eyewitnesses who spoke of them rendered themselves liable to the most rigorous penalties, including the death penalty? Do you know anything about that, about such a practice inside the camps? Perhaps you will tell me whether you yourself were allowed to talk about any observations of the kind.

VEITH: I know that liberated prisoners had to sign a statement saying that they would never reveal what had happened in the camp and that they had to forget what had happened; but those who were in contact with the population, and there were many of them, did not fail to talk about it. Furthermore, Mauthausen was situated on a hill. There was a crematorium, which emitted flames 3 feet high. When you see flames 3 feet high coming out of a chimney every night, you are bound to wonder what it is; and everyone must have known that it was a crematorium.

DR. KAUFFMANN: I have no further question. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other counsel for the defendants wish to ask any questions? Did you tell us who the "green prisoners" were? You mentioned "green prisoners."

VEITH: Yes, these "green prisoners" were prisoners convicted under the common law. They were used by the SS to police the camps. As I have already said, they were often more bestial than the SS themselves and acted as their executioners. They did the work with which the SS did not wish to soil their hands; they were doing all the dirty work, but always by order of the Kommandofuehrer This contact with the "green" Germans was terrible for the internees, particularly for the political internees. They could not bear the sight of them, because they realized that we were not their sort, and they persecuted us for that alone. It was the same in all the camps. In all the camps we were bullied by the German criminals serving with the SS.

THE PRESIDENT: M. Dubost, do you wish to ask any other question?

M. DUBOST: Your Honor, I have no more questions to ask.

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THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness can retire.

[The witness left the stand.]

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