Night & Fog Prisoner: Testimony of Hans Cappelen

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Night & Fog Prisoner: Testimony of Hans Cappelen

Post by David Thompson » 02 Nov 2004 10:54

This testimony is taken from the Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal (IMT), vol. 6, pp. 278-288. The proceedings are available on-line at the Avalon Project of the Yalue University Law School at:
[The witness, Hans Cappelen, took the stand.]

THE PRESIDENT: I understand that you speak English.

M. HANS CAPPELEN (Witness): Yes, I speak English.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you take the English form of oath?


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CAPPELEN: Yes, I prefer to speak in English.

THE PRESIDENT: What is your name?

CAPPELEN: My name is Hans Cappelen.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

[The witness repeated the oath in English.]

THE PRESIDENT: [To the witness.] Raise your right hand and say "I swear."

CAPPELEN: I swear.

M. DUBOST: M. Cappelen, you were born 18 December 1903?


M. DUBOST: In what town?

CAPPELEN: I was born in Kvitseid, province of Telemark, Norway.

M. DUBOST: What is your profession?

CAPPELEN: I was a lawyer, but now I am a business man.

M. DUBOST: Will you tell what you know of the atrocities of the Gestapo in Norway?

CAPPELEN: My Lord, I was arrested on 29 November 1941 and taken to the Gestapo prison in Oslo, Moellergata 19. After 10 days I was interrogated by two Norwegian NS, or Nazi police agents. They started in at once to beat me with bludgeons. How long this interrogation lasted I cannot remember, but it led to nothing. So after some days I was brought to 32 Victoria Terrace.
That was the headquarters of the Gestapo in Norway. It was about 8 o'clock at night. I was brought into a fairly big room and they asked me to undress. I had to undress until I was absolutely naked. I was a little bit swollen after the first treatment I had by the Norwegian police agents, but it was not too bad.

There were present about six or eight Gestapo agents and their leader was Femer; Kriminalrat was his title. He was very angry and they started to bombard me with questions which I could not answer. So Femer ran at me and tore all the hair off my head, hair and blood were all over the floor around me. And so, all of a sudden, they all started to run at me and beat me with rubber bludgeons and iron cable-ends. That hurt me very badly and I fainted. But I was brought back to life again by their pouring ice water over me. I vomited naturally, because I was feeling very sick. But that only made them angry; and they said, "Clean up, you dirty dog!" And I had to make an attempt to clean up with my bare hands.


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In this way they carried on for a long, long time, but the interrogation led to nothing because they bombarded me with questions and asked me of persons whom I did not know or scarcely knew.

I suppose it must have been in the morning I was brought back again to the prison. I was placed in my cell and felt very sick and weak. All during the day I asked the guard if I could not have a doctor; that was the 19th. After some days -- I suppose it must have been the day before Christmas Eve 1941 -- I was again, in the night, brought to the Victoria Terrace. The same happened as last time, only this time it was very easy for me to undress because I had only a coat on me. I was swollen up from the last beating. Just like the last time, six, seven, or eight Gestapo agents were present.

THE PRESIDENT: German Gestapo, do you mean?

CAPPELEN: Yes, German Gestapo, all of them. And then there was Femer present at that time, too. He had a rank in the SS and was criminal commissar. Then they started to beat me again, but it was useless to beat a man like me who was so swollen up and looking so bad. Then they started in another way, they started to screw and break my arms and legs. And my right arm was dislocated. I felt that awful pain, and fainted again. Then the same happened as last time; they poured water on me and I came back again to life.

Now all the Germans there were absolutely mad. They roared like animals and bombarded me with questions again, but I was so tired I could not answer.

Then they placed a sort of home-made -- it looked to me like a sort of home-made-wooden thing, with a screw arrangement, on my left leg; and they started to screw so that all the flesh loosened from the bones. I felt an awful pain and fainted away again. But I came back to consciousness again; and I have still big marks here on my leg from the screw arrangement, now, four years afterwards. So that led to nothing and then they placed something on my neck -- I still have marks here [indicating] -- and loosened the flesh here, But then I had a collapse and all of a sudden I felt that I was sort of paralyzed in the right side. It has otherwise been proved that I had a cerebral hemorrhage. And I got that double vision; I saw two of each Gestapo agent, and all was going round and round for me. That double vision I have had 4 years, and when I am tired it comes back again. But I am better now, so I can move again on the right side; but the right side is a little bit affected from that.

Well, I cannot remember much more from that night, but the other prisoners who had to clean up the corridors in the prison had


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seen them bringing me back again in the morning. That must have been about 6 o'clock in the morning. They thought I was dead because I had no irons on my hands. If it had been for I day or 2 days, I can't tell, but one day I moved again and was a little bit clear; and then the guard at once was in my cell where I was lying on a cot in my own vomiting and blood, and afterwards there came a doctor.

He had, I suppose, quite a high rank; which rank I can't exactly say. He told me that I most probably would die, especially if I wasn't -- I asked him, "Couldn't you bring me to a hospital, because..." He said, "No. Fools are not to be brought to any hospital, before you do just what we say you shall do. Like all Norwegians, you are a fool."

Well, they put my arm into joint again. That was very bad, but two soldiers held me and they drew it in, and I fainted away again. So the time passed and I rested a bit. I couldn't walk, because it all seemed to be going around for me.

So I was lying on the cot. And so one day-it must have been in the end of February or in the middle of February 1942-they came again. It must have been about ten o'clock in the night, because the light in my cell had been out for quite a long time. They asked me to stand up, and I made an attempt, and fell down again because of the paralysis. Then they kicked me; but I said, "Is not it better to put me to death, because I can't move?"

Well, they dragged me out of the cell, and I was again brought up to Victoria Terrace; that is the headquarters where they made their interrogations. This time the interrogation was led by one SS man called Stehr. I could not stand so, naked as I was, I was lying on the floor. This Stehr had some assistants, four or five Gestapo agents; and they started to tramp on me and to kick me. So all of a sudden they brought me to my feet again and brought me to a table where Stehr was sitting. He took my left hand like this [indicating] and put some pins under my nails and started to break them up. Well, it hurt me badly; and all things began going around and around for me -- the double vision -- but the pain was so intense that I drew my hand back. I should not have done that, because that made them absolutely furious. I fainted away, collapsed, and I do not know for how long a time; but I came back to life again by the smelling of burned flesh or burned meat. And then one of the Gestapo agents was standing with a little sort of lamp burning me under my feet. It did not hurt me too much, because I was so feeble that I did not care; and I was so paralyzed my tongue could not work, so I could not speak, only groaned a bit, crying, naturally, always.


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Well, I don't remember much more of that time, but this was to me one of the worst things I went through with respect to interrogations. I was brought back again to the prison and time passed and I attempted to eat a little bit. I spewed most of it up again, I threw it up again, most of it. But little by little I recovered. I was still paralyzed in the side, so I couldn't stand up.

But I was also taken into interrogations again, and then I was confronted with other Norwegians, people I knew and people I did not know; and the most of them were badly treated. They were swollen up, and I remember especially two of my friends, two very good persons. I had been confronted with them, and they were looking very bad from torture, and when I came back again after my imprisonment

I learned that they both were dead; they had died from the treatment. Another incident which I aim to tell -- I hope My Lord will permit me to do it -- concerned a person called Sverre Emil Halvorsen. He was one day -- that must have been in the autumn or in August or October 1943 -- a little bit swollen up and very unhappy; and he said they had treated him so bad, but he and some of his friends had been in some sort of a court where they had been told that they were to be shot the next day. They placed a sort of sentence upon them, just to set an example.

Well, Halvorsen had, naturally, a headache and felt very ill, and I asked the guard to bring the head guard, that was a person named Herr Gotz. He came and asked what the devil I wanted. I said, "My comrade is very ill, could not he have some aspirins?" "Oh no," he said, "it is a waste to give him aspirin, because he is to be shot in the morning."

Next morning he was brought out of the cell, and after the war they found him up at Trondheim together with other Norwegians in a grave there with a bullet through his neck.

Well, the Moellergate 19, in Oslo, the prison where I was for about 25 months, was a house of horror. I heard every night nearly every night-people screaming and groaning. One day, it must have been in December 1943, about the 8th of December, they came into my cell and told me to dress. It was in the night. I put on my ragged clothes, what I had. Now I had recovered, practically. I was naturally lame on the one side, could not walk so well, but I could walk; and I went down in the corridor and there they placed me as usual against the wall, and I waited that they would bring me away and shoot me. But they did not shoot me; they brought me to Germany together with lots of other Norwegians. I learned afterwards about some few of my friends -- and by friends,


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I mean Norwegians. We were so-called "Nacht und Nebel" prisoners, "Night and Mist" prisoners. We were brought to a camp called Natzweiler, in Alsace. It was a very bad camp, I must say.

We had to work to take stones out of the mountains. But I shall not bore you about my tales from Natzweiler, My Lord, I will only say that people of all other nations -- French, Russians, Dutch, and Belgians -- were there and we are about five hundred Norwegians who have been there. Between 60 and 70 percent died there or in other camps of concentration. Also, two Danes were there.

Well, we saw many cruel things there, so cruel that they need they are well known. The camp had to be evacuated in September 1944. We were then brought to Dachau near Munich, but we did not stay long there; at least, I didn't stay long there. I was sent to a Kommando called Aurich in East Friesland, where we were about -- that was an under-Kommando of Neuengamme, near Hamburg. We were about fifteen hundred prisoners. We had to dig tank traps. Well, we had to walk every day about 3 or 4 hours, and go by train for 1 hour to the Panzer Graben where we worked. The work was so strong and so hard and the way they treated us so bad, that most of them died there. I suppose about half of the prisoners died of dysentery or of ill-treatment in the five or six weeks we were there. It was too much even for the SS, who had to take care of the camp, so they gave it up, I suppose; and I was sent from Neuengamme, near Hamburg, to a camp called Gross-Rosen, in Silesia; it is near Breslau. That was a very bad camp, too. We were about 40 Norwegians there; and of those 40 Norwegians we were about 10 left after 4 to 5 weeks.

THE PRESIDENT: You will be some little time longer, so I think we better adjourn now for 10 minutes.

[A recess was taken.]

M. DUBOST: M. Cappelen, will you continue to speak to us of your passage through those camps, particularly of what you know of the camp of Natzweiler and the role at Natzweiler of Dr. Hirt, Hirch, or Hirtz of the German medical faculty of Strasbourg?

CAPPELEN: Well, in Natzweiler, yes, there were also carried on experiments. Just beside the camp there was a farm they called Struthof. That was practically a part of the camp; and some of the prisoners had to work there to clean up the rooms; and -- well not so often, but sometimes --they were taken out. For instance, one day, I remember, all the Gypsies were taken out, and then they were brought down to Struthof. They were very afraid of being brought down there.

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Well, one friend of mine, a Norwegian called Hvidding, who had a job in the hospital -- so-called hospital -- in the camp, told me the day after the Gypsies were taken and brought to Struthof, "I tell you something. They have, so far as I understand, tried some sort of gas on them."

"How do you know that?" I asked.

"Well, come along with me."

And then, through the window of the hospital, I could see four of the Gypsies lying in beds. They did not look well, and it was not easy to look through the glass, but they had some mucus, I suppose, around their mouths. And he told me that they had -- Hvidding told me -- that the Gypsies could not tell much because they were so ill, but so far as he understood, it was gas which they had used upon them. There had been 12 of them, and 4 were living; the other 8, so far as he understood, died down there at Struthof. Then he told further on, "You see that man who sometimes walks through the camp together with some others?"

"Well, I have seen him," I said.

"That is Professor Hirtz from the German University in Strasbourg."

I am quite sure Hvidding said that this man is Hirt or Hirtz. He is coming here now nearly daily with a so-called commission to see those who are coming back again from Struthof, to see the result. That is all I know about that so far.

M. DUBOST: How many Norwegians died at Gross-Rosen?

CAPPELEN: In Gross-Rosen, it is not possible for me to say here exactly; but I know about 40 persons who had been there, and I also know about ten who came back again. Well, Gross-Rosen was a bad camp. But nearly the worst of it all was the evacuation of Gross-Rosen. I suppose it must have been in the middle of February of that year. The Russians came nearer and nearer to Breslau.

THE PRESIDENT: You mean 1945?

CAPPELEN: Yes, 1945 1 mean. One day we were placed upon a so-called "Appellplatz" (roll call ground). We were very feeble, all of us. We had hard work, little food, and all sorts of ill-treatment. Well, we started to walk in parties of about 2,000 to 3,000. In the party I was with, we were about 2,500 to 2,800. We heard so and so many when they took up the numbers.

Well, we started to walk, and we had SS guards on each side. They were very nervous and almost like mad persons. Several were drunk. We couldn't walk fast enough, and they smashed in the heads of five who could not keep up. They said in German,


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"That is what happens to those who cannot walk." The others would have been treated in the same way if they had not been able to follow. We walked the best we could. We attempted to help one another, but we were all too exhausted. After walking for 6 to 8 hours we came to a station, a railway station. It was very cold and we had only striped prison clothes on, and bad boots; but we said, "Oh, we are glad that we have come to a railway' station. It is better to stand in a cow truck than to walk, in the middle of winter." It was very cold, 10 to 12 degrees below zero (centigrade). It was a long train with open cars. In Norway we call them sand cars, and we were kicked on to those cars, about 80 on each car. We had to sit together and on this car we sat for about 5 days without food, cold, and without water. When it was snowing we made like this [indicating] just to get some water into the mouth and, after a long, long time -- it seemed to me years -- we came to a place which I afterwards learned was Dora. That is in the neighborhood of Buchenwald.

Well, we arrived there. They kicked us down from the cars, but many were dead. The man who sat next to me was dead, but I had no right to get away. I had to sit with a dead man for the last day. I didn't see the figures myself, naturally, but about one-third of us or half of us were dead, getting stiff. And they told us that one third -- I heard the figure afterwards in Dora -- that the dead on our train numbered 1,447.

Well, from Dora I don't remember so much, because I was more or less dead. I have always been a man of good humor and high spirited, to help myself first and my friends; but I had nearly given up.

I do not remember so much before, so I had a good chance, because Bernadotte's action came and we were rescued and brought to Neuengamme, near Hamburg; and when we arrived, there were some of my old friends, the student from Norway who had been deported to Germany, other prisoners who came from Sachsenhausen and other camps, and the few, comparatively few, Norwegian "NN" prisoners who were living, all in very bad condition. Many of my friends are still in the hospital in Norway. Some died after coming home.

That's what happened to me and my comrades in the three and three-quarter years I was in prison. I am fully aware that it is impossible for me to give details more than I have done; but I have taken, so to say, the parts of it which show, I hope, the way they behaved against Norwegians, and in Norway, the German SS.

M. DUBOST: For what reason were you arrested?

CAPPELEN: I was arrested the 29th of November 1941, in a place called then Hoistly. That is a sort of sanitarium where one goes skiing.


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M. DUBOST: What had you done? What was held against you?

CAPPELEN: Well, what I had done. Like most of us Norwegians, we regarded ourselves to be at war with Germany in one way or another; and naturally we, most of us, were against them by feelings; and also, as the Gestapo asked me, I remember, "What do you think of Mr. Quisling?" I only answered, "What would you have done if a German officer -- even a major -- when your country was at war and your government had given an order of mobilization, he came and said, 'Better forget the Mobilization Order?"' A man can't do that with respect.

M. DUBOST: On the whole, did the German population know of, or were they unaware of, what went on in the camps?

CAPPELEN: That is, naturally, very difficult for me to answer. But in Norway, at least, even at the time when I was arrested, we knew quite a lot about how the Germans treated their prisoners.

And there is one thing I remember in Munich where I was working. I was not working; I was in Dachau for that short period. With some others, I was once brought to the town of Munich to go into the ruins to seek for persons and find bombs and things like that. I suppose that was the idea. They never told us anything, but we knew what was on. We were about one hundred persons, prisoners.

We were looking like dead persons, all of us looking very bad. We went through the streets and people could see us; and they also could see what we were going to do, the sort of work which one should think was very dangerous and which should in some way help them; but it was no fun for them to see us. Some of them were hollering to us, "It is your fault that we are bombed."

M. DUBOST: Were there any chaplains in your camp? Were you allowed to pray?

CAPPELEN: Well, we had among the "NN" prisoners in Natzweiler a priest from Norway. He was, I suppose, what you call in English a Dean. He was of quite high rank. In Norwegian we call it "Prost." From the west coast of Norway. He was also brought to Natzweiler as an "NN" prisoner, and some of my comrades asked him if they could not meet sometimes so he could preach to them. But he said,

"No, I don't dare to do it. I had a Bible. They have taken it from me and they joked about it and said, 'You dirty churchman, if you show the Bible and things like that..."' You know, therefore, we did not do anything in that way.

M. DUBOST: Those who were dying among you, did they have the consolation of their religion at the time of their death?


M. DUBOST: Were the dead treated with decency?

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M. DUBOST: Was there any religious service conducted?


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

THE PRESIDENT: Does counsel for the U.S.S.R. desire to cross-examine?

GEN. RUDENKO: I have no question, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Has the United States?

[No response.]

Then does any member of the defendants' counsel wish to ask the witness any questions?

DR. MERKEL: Witness, at your first interrogations which as a rule took place about ten days after arrest, were you interrogated by German or by Norwegian Gestapo men?

CAPPELEN: It was made by two Norwegians who belonged to, as I learned afterward, the so-called State Police. That was not the police in Norway. They were working together with the Gestapo; in fact, it was the same. But it was by them I was interrogated after the 10 days. But they, as I heard afterwards, usually did it in that way, because it was easy to do it in Norwegian; and some of the Germans could not speak Norwegian. Most of them could not. I think it was, therefore, that they took the Norwegian; and you can call them Gestapo, practically. They let them handle the persons first.

DR. MERKEL: Then at the Victoria Terrace, which name I believe you used to designate the Gestapo headquarters in Oslo, were there Norwegian or German officials present during your interrogation?

CAPPELEN: I dare say there may have been one Norwegian as a sort of interpreter; but as I spoke the German language, I cannot, with 100 percent surety, say if there were one or two Norwegian policemen there. It is difficult. But as Victoria Terrace was the headquarters of the Gestapo, naturally they had some Norwegian Nazis to help them there. But most of them were German.

DR. MERKEL: Were the persons who interrogated you in uniform or in civilian clothes?

CAPPELEN: During my interrogation I have sometimes seen them in uniform, too. But when they tortured me they were mostly in civilian clothes. So far as I remember, there was only one person in uniform during one of the torture interrogations.

DR. MERKEL: You stated that you were then treated by a physician. Did this physician come of his own free will or was he asked to come?


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CAPPELEN: The first time I asked for a doctor, but then I did not get any. But at the time when I came back to consciousness, when I was supposed perhaps to be dead, the guard possibly had been looking at me because he was then running away; and afterwards they came with a doctor.

DR. MERKEL: Did you know that in the German concentration camps there was an absolute prohibition against talking about the conditions in the camp -- among the prisoners as well as to outsiders, of course -- and that any violation of the order not to talk was subject to most severe penalties?

CAPPELEN: Well, in the camps it was like this: It was naturally more or less understood that it was more or less forbidden to talk about the tortures we had gone through; but naturally in the camps, the Nacht und Nebel Camps where I was, the situation was so bad that even torture sometimes seemed to be better than dying slowly away like that, so almost the only thing we spoke about was: "When shall the war end; how to help our comrades; and are we to get some food tonight or not?"

DR. MERKEL: Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other defendant's counsel wish to ask any questions? Mr. Dubost, have you anything you wish to ask?

M. DUBOST: I have nothing further to ask, Mr. President. I thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness can retire.

[The witness left the stand.]

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