In doing some research on the confession of Franz Ziereis, the Commandant of the Mauthausen concentration camp, I came across a YouTube video which features Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner as he testified in his own defense on April 12, 1946 at the Nuremberg IMT.
At 3:25 in the YouTube video, you can hear Col. Amen, the prosecutor, say to Dr. Kaltenbrunner: Did you understand the question?
Kaltenbrunner answers “Ja” and proceeds to explain that he had given the order to surrender the Mauthausen camp “to the enemy without any ill-treatment.” I was very impressed with the testimony of Dr. Kaltenbrunner, who was very calm and spoke German so clearly that almost any German speaker can understand what he is saying.
The following is a copy of the Nuremberg testimony on April 12, 1946 from the Yale University website, beginning with the question by Col. Amen:
COL. AMEN: Did you understand the question, Defendant?
KALTENBRUNNER: Yes. You asked me who had given the order for the killing of the inmates at Mauthausen at the end of the war, and to that I reply that such an order is unknown to me. I gave only one order with regard to Mauthausen and that was to the effect that the entire camp and all internees were to be surrendered to the enemy without any ill-treatment. This order was dictated by me in the presence of the witness Dr. Höttl, and taken to Mauthausen by a courier-officer. I draw your attention to the statement of Dr. Höttl in which he confirms that fact. A questionnaire has been sent to a second person by my Defense Counsel. I requested a similar statement from him, but it is still unanswered.
COL. AMEN: I did not ask you about that order. I asked you about an order to kill all inmates at Mauthausen Concentration Camp shortly before the end of the war. Who was responsible for that order? Were you?
COL. AMEN: You are acquainted with the person who tells the story, Ziereis?
KALTENBRUNNER: Yes, I knew Ziereis.
COL. AMEN: And you had your picture taken with him and with Himmler, and this is now in evidence before this Tribunal. Do you recall that?
KALTENBRUNNER: I have not seen the picture. It was handed to the Tribunal while I was in the hospital.
COL. AMEN: Well, never mind the picture then.
I ask to have the defendant shown Document Number 3870-PS, which will be Exhibit Number USA-797. [This was the affidavit of Hans Marsalek, written from memory 10 months later]
Now, if the Tribunal pleases, this is a fairly long document which I do not propose to read at length, but it is one of the more important documents in the case, and so I hope that the Tribunal will read the entire statement, even though I do not bring it all out today in the interest of saving time.
THE PRESIDENT: It is a new document?
COL. AMEN: A new document, Your Lordship.
THE PRESIDENT: Is it in German?
COL. AMEN: Yes.
[The document was submitted to the defendant.]
This, you will note, Defendant, refers to a dying confession of Ziereis, as reported to the individual making the affidavit, and I call your attention first to the last two paragraphs on the first page, which we will read together:
“There was one SS man for 10 prisoners. The highest number of prisoners was about 17,000, not including the branch camps. The highest number in Mauthausen Camp, the branch camps included, was about 95,000. The total number of prisoners who died was 65,000. The complement was made up of Totenkopf units numbering 5,000 men, comprising guards and the command staff.”
And, now, at the middle of the next page, the paragraph begins:
“According to an order by Reichsfuehrer Himmler, I was to liquidate all prisoners on the instructions of SS Obergruppenfuehrer Dr. Kaltenbrunner; the prisoners were to be led into the tunnels of the Bergkristall works of Gusen and only one entrance was to be left open.”
KALTENBRUNNER: I have not yet found the passage.
COL. AMEN: It is in the middle of Page 2. Have you got it?
KALTENBRUNNER: Yes, sir.
COL. AMEN: “Then I was to blow up this entrance to the tunnels with some explosive and thus cause the death of the prisoners. I refused to carry out this order. This meant the extermination of the prisoners in the so-called ‘mother camp’ Mauthausen, and in the camps Gusen I and Gusen II. Details of this are known to Herr Wolfram and to SS Obersturmfuehrer Eckermann.
“A gas chamber camouflaged as a bathroom was built in Mauthausen Concentration Camp by order of the former garrison doctor, Dr. Krebsbach. Prisoners were gassed in this camouflaged bathroom. In addition to that, there ran, between Mauthausen and Gusen, a specially built automobile in which prisoners were gassed during the journey. The idea for the construction of this automobile was Dr. Wasiczki’s, SS Untersturmfuehrer and pharmacist. I, myself, never put any gas into this automobile; I only drove it. But I knew that prisoners were being gassed. The gassing of the prisoners was done at the request of the physician, SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Dr. Krebsbach.
“Everything that we carried out was ordered by the Reich Security Main Office, Himmler or Heydrich, also by SS Obergruppenfuehrer Muller or Dr. Kaltenbrunner, the latter being Chief of the Security Police.”
Then, passing on to Page 5, just below the center of the page, the paragraph commencing, “In the early summer of 1943 . . . ” Have you the place?
COL. AMEN: “In the early summer of 1943, SS Obergruppenfuehrer Dr. Kaltenbrunner visited Mauthausen Concentration Camp. Camp Commandant Ziereis, Gauleiter Eigruber, Chief of the Detention Camp Bachmeyer, and several others accompanied Dr. Kaltenbrunner. I saw Dr. Kaltenbrunner and the people who accompanied him with my own eyes. According to the testimony of the ‘corpse carriers’ at that time, the former prisoners Albert Tiefenbacher”-whose affidavit has been read-”present address Salzburg; and Johann Polster, present address Pottendorf near Wiener-Neustadt, Austria, about 15 prisoners under detention were selected by the detention chief, Unterscharfuehrer Winkler, in order to show Dr. Kaltenbrunner three ways of extermination; by a shot in the neck, hanging, and gassing. Women whose hair had been shorn were among those executed and they were killed by shots in the neck. The above-mentioned ‘corpse carriers’ were present at the execution and had to carry the corpses to the crematorium. Dr. Kaltenbrunner went to the crematorium after the execution and later he went into the quarry.
“Baldur van Schirach visited the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in the autumn of 1944. He, too, went to the detention building and also to the crematorium.”
Do you still say that you had nothing to do with the order referred to or the matters set forth in the affidavit?
KALTENBRUNNER: I maintain that most emphatically, and I want to draw your attention to the fact that you, sir, have said that this statement was taken when Ziereis was on his deathbed, but you did not say that what you read from Pages 7 and 8 does not come from Ziereis, but from Hans Marsalek, who is responsible for these statements. This Hans Marsalek whom, of course, I have never seen in my life, had been an internee in Mauthausen as were the two other witnesses. I have briefly expressed my views as to the value of a statement concerning me from a former concentration camp internee and my inability to speak face to face with this witness who now confronts me, and my application will be made through my counsel. I must ask here to be confronted with Marsalek. Marsalek cannot know of any such order. In spite of that he states that he did.
COL. AMEN: Defendant, Marsalek is merely the individual who took the dying confession from Ziereis. Do you understand that?
KALTENBRUNNER: No, I do not, because thus far it is new to me that the Prosecution were using internees from concentration camps for the interrogation of Ziereis, who had been shot in the stomach three times and was dying. I thought that such interrogations would have been carried out by a man who was legally trained and who would be in a position to attach the right value to such statements.
COL. AMEN: Well, perhaps, Defendant, if you were conducting the Prosecution, you would do it differently; but, in any event, your testimony is that everything in that affidavit which was read to you is false; is that correct?
KALTENBRUNNER: It is false. I have never given an order to the Mauthausen Camp with the exception of that one order which I was entitled to do on the strength of special powers and for the contents and transmission of which I have offered sufficient evidence. Mauthausen was never under my jurisdiction in any other way, and I could not issue any such orders. The Prosecution know perfectly well, and it must have been proved to them by dozens of testimonies, that I had never had any authority over Mauthausen.
THE PRESIDENT: Defendant, you do not seem to understand what this document is. It is an affidavit of Hans Marsalek, and Paragraph 2 shows the fact that he made the interrogation of Ziereis, who was about to die, in the presence of the commander of an armored division; and he then sets out what Ziereis said, and then he goes on to declare, in addition, what is contained in Paragraph 3; and it is perfectly obvious to the Tribunal that what is said in Paragraph 3 is not what Ziereis said, but what Marsalek said-the person who was making the affidavit.
KALTENBRUNNER: My Lord, may I say in reply that Marsalek, as an internee in the camp, was of course not in a position to know that Ziereis was never under my command. For that reason alone, it appears likely that Marsalek, when he questioned Ziereis, could not possibly know the facts of the case. I have proved to the Tribunal, and proved it to the Prosecutor, that authority was not given to me until 9 April.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I know; that is only a matter of argument. I was only drawing your attention to the fact that it is perfectly obvious from the document itself that what Colonel Amen was reading was a statement of Marsalek and not a statement of Ziereis, which was the point you were making.
COL. AMEN: Defendant, do you recall having given an order to the commandant of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp on the 27th of April 1945, that at least 1,000 persons should be killed at Mauthausen each day? Is that true or false?
KALTENBRUNNER: I have never given such an order. You know . . .
COL. AMEN: Were you acquainted with SS Colonel Ziereis, the same person we have just been speaking of?
[From this point on, there were no more questions about Ziereis and his confession was never mentioned again]
Dr. Kaltenbrunner was the highest ranking SS man to be tried at Nuremberg; he was charged with conspiracy to commit Crimes against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity. Dr. Kaltenbrunner had a law degree and was able to defend himself very well, but his testimony didn’t matter.
On September 30, 1946, Dr. Kaltenbrunner was convicted of War Crimes and of Crimes against Humanity, and on October 1, 1946 he was sentenced to be hanged. At 1:39 a.m. on October 16, 1946, twelve days after his 43rd birthday, Dr. Kaltenbrunner was hanged in a gymnasium at the Nuremberg Prison.
So what does all this have to do with anything? It shows how the Nuremberg IMT was conducted and how the defendants were convicted on flimsy evidence and lies told by witnesses who were allowed to give an affidavit, and then refuse to take the witness stand to be questioned by the defense.