Jacob Steinberg (Yankel)
By his grandson Brïan Zakarï Drüy?n
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today also marks the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Today I recall my grandparents- my Bubby and Zeyde, my mom's parents. Grandfather is Jacob Steinberg (Yankel) and grandmother was Basya Schlanger.. I remember the lives they built in the shadow of death. My grandfather, whom I had the fortune to know for only a few short years, emerged from the depths of hell. Along with his one surviving brother, Benjamin, after whom I am named, he surfaced from the inferno that was Auschwitz. Among the ashes of the dead, he and his brother surfaced awash in a freedom for which they had long yearned. But, they soon realized, their freedom was poisoned. Their joy was paradoxically crushed under the weight of the reality that lurked outside the barbed-wire that encircled them. My grandfather's wife- gone. His nine siblings-gone. His parents- gone. His brother's wife and children-gone. His hometown of Grodno- liquidated of its Jewish population. His story was a common one. It defined a new generation and a new reality. A world that had existed for a millennia was engulfed by perverse conflagration of hate and murder in less than a decade.
In the aftermath, he found my grandmother. Two orphaned souls searching for new lives. Together they fashioned a new beginning and built a new family. They lived for their children and grandchildren. They dedicated themselves to our future and our wellbeing. They forewent their own pleasures so that we could live and succeed. I cherish their memories and their story.
While I am reminded of the brutality which they endured, I am inspired by their strength and tenacity to survive. I am awestruck by their ability to channel life in spite of bearing witness to so much death. Today I remember, but I promise to never forget. Today, even more than in years past, I promise to uphold their values. I promise to decry hatred. I promise to defend the defenseless and act as a voice for the voiceless.
May their memories and the memories of their families and all the victims of the Shoah be blessed.
DOCUMENTS CONCERNING THE MURDER OF 29000 JEWS OF GRODNO BY THE GERMANS, 1941 - 1943
GHETTO AND DEPORTATIONS TO DEATH CAMPS COLOGNE AND BIELEFELD TRIALS
PUBLISHED AND DISTRIBUTED BY:
GRODNER ASSOCIATION OF ISRAEL (G.A.I.)
ADDRESS: G.A.I., C/O J. STAROWOLSKI
6, LAMDAN Bld.
RAMAT-GAN 52443, ISRAEL
P R E F A C E
This publication was put together by Jews from the town of Grodno, who survived the German occupation of 1941 1944. It is aimed primarily at their descendants. It contains
1. A verbatim translation from German of the judgment, by The Court of Justice in Cologne (West Germany) in 1968, of two officers of Gestapo in Grodno. The first was Kurt Wiese, commander of Ghetto No. 1. The second - his superior, Heinz Errelis, commander of the two Ghettos and the Kelbasin Camp near Grodno.
2. Excerpts from the judgment by The Court of Justice in Bielefeld, in 1967, of officers of Gestapo in the district of Bialystok (to which Grodno belonged). One of them was the above mentioned Heinz Errelis. The excerpts concentrate on the transports to death camps.
3. Appendices They provide a key to the Documents Concerning the Destruction of The Jews of Grodno 1941-1944, published by the "Beate Klarsfeld Foundation". Through this key, the reader can obtain a copy of the original specific testimonies in German.
Tel-Aviv, May 1989
TABLE OF CONTENTS
JUDGMENT IN THE COLOGNE COURT OF JUSTICE
• I. Life Histories of the Accused
1. The Defendant Wiese
2. The Defendant Errelis
• II. Historical Background to the Criminal Acts and Their External Context
A. Jews under National Socialism
1. General Remarks
2. The Bureaucracy of Extermination
3. Preparations for and Implementation of Extermination
B. National Socialist Extermination Policy in Bialystok District and its Second Largest Town Grodno
General Remarks on Bialystok District
Occupation and Administration of Bialystok District
Police and Security Service in Particular
The Destruction of the Jews in Bialystok District
C. The Fate of Jews in Grodno
1. General Remarks on Grodno
2. The Security Police in Grodno
3. The Grodno Ghettos
4. The Deportation of Jews from Grodno
• III. Crimes of the Defendants
A. Charges Against the Defendant Errelis
B. Crimes Allegedly Committed by the Defendant Wiese
a. Shootings for various reasons
b. Shootings of persons who had attempted to flee
c. Shootings during checks at the gate
d. Shootings in the synagogue
e. Killing of groups
C. Killings of Which the Defendant Wiese is Accused, But Which Have Not Been Proven
a. Shootings for various reasons
b. Shootings of individuals attempting to escape
c. Shootings during checks and searches at the ghetto gate
d. Shootings in the synagogue
e. Killing of groups
• IV. Legal Evaluation of the Proven Crimes Committed by the Defendant Wiese
• V. Verdict and Sentence
EXCERPTS FROM THE BIELEFELD TRIAL
• 1. Final Verdict
• 2. Involvement of the Accused in the "Final Solution"
• 3. Transports to the Death Camps After November 2, 1942
• 4. Transports to the Death Camps in January 1943
• 5. Deportations from Grodno, January 18, 1943
• 6. Deportations from Grodno and Kelbasin
• 7. Testimony of a Historian at the Auschwitz Museum
Glossary of German Terms and Abbreviations
• A. Introduction to Documents Concerning the Destruction of the Jews of Grodno 1941-1944
B. Tables of Contents, Vols I-V, Documents
C. Index of Names
D. Map, >Nazi-Occupied Eastern Europe, 1941-1944<
E. Samples of Documents
30 - 11/67 Cologne District Court
45 Js 24/63
District Attorney Dortmund
24 Ks 1/67 (Z)
District Attorney Cologne
The People vs.
Kurt Wiese and Heinz Errelis
Accused of Murder
Verdict and Judgment
Cologne District Court, Federal Republic of Germany
June 27, 1968
JUDGMENT IN THE COLOGNE COURT OF JUSTICE
The two defendants are accused in the present proceedings of having murdered individual Jews and groups of Jews in the ghettos of Grodno, Bialystok District, during the years 1941, 1942 and 1943 while serving as members of the local Gestapo. These murders are alleged to have been perpetrated in part in connection with the deportations which evacuated and liquidated the Grodno ghettos in the winter 1942/43. The present proceedings are not centrally concerned with those deportations, which were carried out at that time throughout the entire Bialystok District at the order of the National Socialist leadership. Such deportations formed part of the so-called "Final Solution," whose objective was the extermination of Jews in the concentration camps Auschwitz and Treblinka. As a result of a verdict handed down on April 14, 1967 after trial by jury in the Bielefeld District Court - 5 Ks 1/65 District Attorney Bielefeld - the defendant Errelis, along with three other leading Gestapo officials (including the witnesses Altenloh and Heimbach in the present trial), was found guilty and sentenced to prison as an accessory to murder as a result of his participation in a portion of these deportations. Errelis was given a prison sentence of six years and six months; the judgment is not yet final. He was acquitted in the same verdict of the charge of having participated, despite his awareness of the fate of certain death which awaited Jewish deportees, in another earlier case involving deportation. He was also acquitted on three individual counts of the murder of Jews, or of having ordered their killing.
I. Life Histories of the Accused
1. The Defendant Wiese
The defendant Kurt Wiese, the sole child of the Reichsbahn railway employee Willy Wiese, was born on September 4, 1914 in Schleusenau, Bromberg District. After World War I, his father was transferred to Stargard in Pomerania, where he worked as a freight conductor with the Reichsbahn. The defendant attended elementary school there until 1929. He then began an apprenticeship as a barber, finishing his vocational training in October 1932 after having passed the journeyman examinations. The accused practiced his trade in a number of towns until October 1934. He was occasionally unemployed for short periods of time during these two years.
From October 1934 to October 1935, the defendant Wiese served as a soldier in Infantry Regiment 4 of the Reichsheer, for which he had volunteered. Following this, he attended a further training course for barbers, and was then employed once again in his chosen vocation. In 1937, he moved to Berlin.
It was there in the spring of 1937 that he left his trade as a barber, supposedly because of its poor financial prospects, and joined the SS. Until April 1938, he served as an SS member in a guard unit at Gatow airport near Berlin. He then spent a year in the SS Radio Guard, i.e., the SS guard unit stationed at the Berlin Broadcasting Center.
Responding to circulars that promised better earnings, the defendant Wiese applied for a post with the SS Frontier Police, and was accepted in April 1939. He initially attended a three-month training course at the Border Police Academy in Pretzsch on Elbe. He was then transferred to the Frontier Police outpost in Gehlenburg, East Prussia. This post was a branch of the Gestapo office in Allenstein. Wiese's duties there involved technical office work. After the outbreak of the war on September 1, 1939, he was transferred from Gehlenburg to the Frontier Police post in Osterode, East Prussia, and then, several months later, to the station in Johannisburg, East Prussia. Along with various office duties, Kurt Wiese carried out interrogations here, mainly of persons who had illegally crossed the border between the Russian-occupied area of Poland and East Prussia. Wiese at this time was a candidate for the rank of Detective Sergeant (Kriminalassistentenanwaerter) .
Around November 1941, he was transferred to Bialystok to serve under the "Commander of the Security Police and the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service, hereafter: SD) for Bialystok District" (KdS). He was employed there for approximately four weeks, working in kitchen management. His immediate superior in Bialystok was Criminal Inspector Macholl. Head of the post at that time was the Regierungsrat Dr. Altenloh. According to Wiese's statement, he removed the armband insignia >SS Frontier Police< in Bialystok; they had been told that they were now members of the Gestapo.
The defendant Wiese was transferred from Bialystok to the outstation in Grodno in December 1941. At that time, the defendant Errelis was head of the Grodno outpost. Wiese remained in Grodno until June 15, 1944. On that day, he was wounded by rifle fire during antipartisan operations. Wiese suffered a fractured thighbone, which led ultimately to a shortening of one leg by some six cm.
Wiese was a Detective Staff Sergeant (Kriminalassistent) during the period he served in Grodno, and simultaneously held the rank of SS Scharfuehrer (Staff Sergeant). After being wounded, he was promoted to Detective Master Sergeant (Kriminaloberassistent), and SS Oberscharfuehrer (Sergeant First Class).
His injury was treated in a number of field medical stations. He was pronounced fit again for internal service in November 1944, and was sent to the Allenstein post, where he arrived shortly before the town was occupied by the Russians. He then fled across the Baltic to Luebeck, and later journeyed on to Kiel, where he was confined once again in sick bay. Wiese was released in August 1945 from a field hospital in Bad Bramstedt, Holstein.
The defendant Wiese went to stay with relatives in Ahlen in Westfalia. Later he moved to Wanne-Eickel, where his parents were then living. He was employed there as an inspector with a security firm. He relocated to Cologne in August 1951. In Cologne, he initially found employment in a factory manufacturing milling machines. After several months, he went to work for the firm Nova-Lux, where he remained until 1956. After that, he worked in the Ford plant in Cologne until he fled in 1964.
At the end of May 1964, Wiese left the Federal Republic under a false name in order to avoid prosecution. He went to Austria, residing in the city of Graz and nearby. He was apprehended on July 14, 1964, and was extradited to the Federal Republic on the basis of an extradition order of the Cologne District Court issued on July 16, 1964.
The accused was married for the first time in June 1938. Two children were born to this union; they are now both married and reside in Berlin. Since his final incarceration, Wiese has had no further contact with them. His first marriage ended in divorce in the Bochum District Court in 1949. Wiese married again in 1951. No children were born to this union. He was divorced a second time in October 1967. Both parents of the accused are deceased: his mother died in 1962, and his father in December 1967.
2. The Defendant Errelis
The defendant Heinz Errelis was born on May 12, 1912 in Zwangshof, Konetz District (West Prussia). His father was a forester by profession, and was killed in action in 1914. Errelis was brought up together with an older sister by his mother. She left Zwangshof with her two children in 1914 when the area came under Polish rule, and moved to Flatow (Grenzmark). Errelis attended a private high school there until the tenth grade, and then continued at a public school in Berlin-Lichterfelde. He returned to Flatow in 1929, where the local school had since been transformed into a public high school. Heinz Errelis received his high school diploma in 1932. Through the help of the head of the District Council, he obtained an unpaid position as trainee in a bank in Flatow. He continued in that post until the summer of 1933.
After a short period of employment as a so-called 'emergency worker' in the administrative offices of the District Council in Flatow, he joined the police force. Beginning as early as February 1933, he had been a member of the auxiliary police, which was involved from time to time together with the regular police in carrying out searches and guard duty. Errelis had been politically active while still a senior in high school. Immediately after graduation, he joined the SS on May 1, 1932. At the same time, he applied for membership in the NSDAP, and was accepted into the party a few months later.
After serving in a number of Frontier Police stations, the defendant Errelis was accepted as a Detective Sergeant. The following year, he registered as a candidate for Criminal Inspector (Kriminalkommissar) He received his training in the Gestapo posts in Scheidemuehl, and then in 1937 in Berlin. His final course for the rank of Inspector held in Berlin-Charlottenburg was interrupted due to the outbreak of the war in 1939. Errelis was assigned as a so-called 'Auxiliary Inspector' to the Gestapo outstation in Flatow, under the jurisdiction of the Gestapo post in Scheidemuehl. He passed his examinations as Inspector in January 1940. He was transferred on April 1, 1940 as probationary Inspector to the Gestapo post in Allenstein, where he headed Section II. He was appointed head of the post in Grodno in December 1941. This post was a sub-branch of the Bialystok outstation. Errelis was ordered transferred to Bialystok in March 1943. His duties there involved work on a case of corruption, and he put together a White Ruthenian police unit.
The end of 1943, he was ordered to report to the Commander of Security Police in Belgrad, where he was active as substitute head of various Gestapo outposts in the region. He was assigned to take over the command of a Security Police outpost in Albania in the autumn of 1944; since developments in the war had made that impossible, Errelis was assigned to an SS division. He ultimately reported for service with the Waffen SS. Errelis was promoted on April 20, 1944 to Hauptsturmfuehrer (Captain), after having held the rank of Untersturmfuehrer (2nd Lieutenant) in 1940 and Obersturmfuehrer (1st Lieutenant) is 1941.
Errelis was taken prisoner by the British in Klagenfurt, Austria on May 12, 1945. In 1947, he successfully escaped from the POW camp in Rimini, Italy. He then lived in Goslar and Bochum until 1950 under a false identity. After holding a number of jobs, he found employment with the steel firm Deutsches Edelstahlwerk in Bochum, where he has been working as a clerk for several years. His current monthly salary is approximately DM 1,000.
The defendant Errelis married his present wife in 1940. Five children have been born to this union, three of whom are still minors. His wife suffers from a serious mental disease, and requires constant care and assistance by the defendant.
II. Historical Background to the Criminal Acts and their External Context
A. Jews under National Socialism
1. General Remarks
A bitter animosity toward Jews and Judaism was an essential feature of National Socialist ideology. Even before taking power (January 30, 1933), the Nazis had given voice to this animosity, based on racial hatred and racial delusions, in numerous declarations. According to Point 4 of the Party programme of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) of February 24, 1920, a Jew could never be a 'member of the folk' (Volksgenosse), and thus a German citizen.
After the Nazis took power, policies were initiated of open discrimination against Jews living in Germany, aimed at depriving them of their legal rights. In a massive malicious campaign, Jews were portrayed as the epitome of all that was base and evil, and were branded as responsible for virtually every past calamity suffered by the German people. Legal measures were designed to exclude Jews from the public sphere of economic activity, forcing them in this way to leave Germany - while leaving behind a significant segment of their assets (cf. Law on the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, April 7, 1934, Reichsqesetzblatt (Reich Legal Gazette, hereafter: RGB1.) I, pp. 175 ff.; Reich Citizenship Law, September 15, 1935, RGBl. 1, p. 1146, as well as the various ordinances issued to these laws).
The policy of isolating Jews within the 'body of the folk' was promoted by a number of ordinances and by the Law on the Protection of German Blood and Honor of September 15, 1935 (RGB1. I, pp. 1146, 1334), which prohibited marriage between Jews and citizens of German and German-related blood, as well as sexual intercourse between persons from these groups in the population, stipulating a severe penalty for violations (see, for example, the Third Notice Regarding Compulsory Identification Cards, July 23, 1938, RGB1. I, p. 922; Second Ordinance on the Changing of Surnames and First Names, September 17, 1938, RGB1. I, p. 1044). The Tenth Ordinance on the Reich Citizenship Law of July 4, 1939 (RGB1. I, p. 1097 ff.) compelled Jews to form an obligatory Reichsvereinigung (National Association) under the formal supervision of the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, hereafter: RSHA). Jews in Germany had thus been stripped of all rights, and were by then at the complete mercy of the National Socialist rulers.
After the beginning of the war, Jewish freedom of movement within the area of the Reich was also subject to new restrictions; Jews were required from the age of six on to wear a Star of David in public (Police Ordinance, September 1, 1939, RGB1. I, p. 547). The conditions of their employment were changed to the status of conscripted labor (Ordinance, October 31, 1941, RGB1. I, p. 681 ff.).
These legislative measures were accompanied by acts of terror and violence. Innumerable Jews were manhandled and mistreated without reason already during the early period of Nazi rule, or were deprived of their liberty and sent to concentration camps without due process of law. The measures and acts of persecution reached an initial highpoint in the so-called 'Reichskristallnacht' of November 9, 1938. Large numbers of Jews were maltreated, arrested and murdered during the course of that night. Their apartments and homes were demolished and plundered, their synagogues burned to the ground and their cemeteries devastated.
While the previously mentioned measures toward Jews were largely aimed at stripping them of their rights and forcing them out of the economy and society, the Nazi leadership adopted a policy of the extermination of all Jews in territory controlled by them after the beginning of World War II. Within the framework of the physical extermination of the Jewish population - termed "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" - millions of Jews, with no regard for age, sex or physical health, were murdered by "extermination through labor," mass shootings and gassing in the extermination camps.
In the spring of 1941 at the latest, and in any event before the start of the Russian campaign, Hitler had made a final decision on the physical extermination of the Jews, and had issued the relevant orders. After the beginning of the Russian campaign, Eastern Jewry was singled out as the first target for destruction; Hitler had always considered the Eastern European Jews to be especially dangerous. The requisite preparations were made in great secrecy, and were discussed only within the inner circles of the Nazi top echelon.
2. The Bureaucracy of Extermination
The National Socialist leadership made use principally of the Gestapo and the SD in order to implement its extensive programme to exterminate Jews in the occupied territories, and to eliminate Jews from the Reich.
The Security Police in the Reich consisted of the Gestapo (Secret State Police) and the Kripo (Detective Division). In addition, the SD functioned as the only official Party intelligence service: its main task was to observe all aspects of daily life of the population and to report on this to higher authorities. Although an attempt was made in the Order on Separation of Functions issued July 1, 1937 to separate the executive tasks of the Gestapo from the sphere of authority of the SD, there was frequent rivalry between the two services and numerous disputes later on over which institution had ultimate authority in a given instance. While the Gestapo and Kripo were units of the state bureaucracy in terms of their origin and nature, the SD was part of the elite guard (SS) of the Nazi Party. Accordingly, members of the Gestapo and Kripo were civil servants; members of the SD, in contrast, were regular members of the SS. Nonetheless, these three divisions were directed by a common central office: the RSHA, established on October 1, 1939 in Berlin.
The RSHA was made up of six sections: Office (Amt) I Administration, Office II Legal Affairs, Office III SD, Office IV Gestapo (it had developed from the early Prussian Secret State Police, the so-called Gestapa), Office V Kripo (it had developed from the earlier Reich Detective Division) and Office VI Foreign Intelligence.
Despite their common central direction, the structures of Gestapo, Kripo and SD were kept separate and independent of each other in the territorial limits of the Reich. While the Kripo initially was still part of the civil administration and under the control of the local Chief of Police, the Gestapo was organized independently in Gestapo posts and regional headquarters. The Kripo was adapted to a similar form of organization after 1939, being restructured into Kripo posts and regional headquarters as well. The office of "Inspector of Security Police" (IdS) was set up as a senior authority, with command over Gestapo and Kripo posts and regional headquarters. In this way, the Kripo was removed from the command authority of the local Chief of Police.
In Prussia, in line with this division, there was an IdS and Gestapo Regional HQ in Koenigsberg, as well as Gestapo posts in Tilsit, Allenstein and later in Zichenau. The IdS in Koenigstein was Dr. Rasch, until he assumed leadership of an Einsatzqruppe (special SS/SD execution unit) shortly before the start of the Russian campaign. Beginning in December 1941 at the latest, his duties as IdS in Koenigsberg were temporarily taken over by Dr. Canaris; Canaris was subsequently given a formal appointment as IdS in Koenigsberg along with his promotion to the rank of Standartenfuehrer (Colonel) in the SS. In accordance with this administrative structure, there were also Kripo regional headquarters in East Prussia. Alongside this, and independent of it, was the organization of the SD; like the general SS units, it was divided into SD districts (Oberabschnitte) an subdistricts.
From 1937 on, there was another office which had common authority over the Security Police: the "Higher SS and Police Leader" (HSSPF). These officials were personal representatives of Himmler, the Reich Leader of the SS, for the area of a military district. It was initially their job to concentrate all forces of the police and SS under their command with lightning speed in the event of war or another emergency, and to coordinate the deployment of these forces. In the war against the Soviet Union, it was their task to execute the special orders issued by Hitler to Himmler in the sphere of political administration.
These three organizations, coordinated within the RSHA, had a different structure in the occupied territories. There, the Gestapo, Kripo and SD were linked together under the "Commander of the Security Police and the SD" (KdS) as well as within the RSHA itself. These KdS posts set up in the larger cities and towns in the occupied territories were structured along lines similar to the RSHA. The sections of the KdS corresponded to RSHA "offices": Section I Administration, Section II Legal Affairs, Section III SD, Section IV Gestapo, Section V Kripo and Section VI (when required) Intelligence. This organizational form of the KdS embodied Himmler's idea of creating a unified state security corps made up of the police and SS. The plan was to implement the model of the KdS everywhere in the Reich as the war progressed, and particularly after final victory.
A number of SD and Security Police commanders were placed under the authority of one Supreme Commander of the Security Police and SD (BdS), who was directly responsible to the RSHA in Berlin.
Higher SS and Police Leaders were also assigned to the occupied territories, such as the HSSPF in Cracow for the Government-General. At the level of the KdS posts, so-called "SS and Police Leaders" (SSPF) were under the command of the HSSPF. Their duties consisted of carrying out the orders of the HSSPF at local level.
The fusion of SS and police was not only in terms of organizational structure. It was considered important that members of the Security Police also joined the SS. New appointments and promotions in the Security Police followed the guidelines of the racist and ideological "basic principles of selection" of the SS. Training at the Security Police Officers' Academy was largely structured along ideological lines, and future promotion was eventually made dependent on having attended the SS Officers' Academy. In the occupied territories, and later within the boundaries of the Reich as well, members of the Security Police were issued a uniform similar to that worn by the SS, with the diamond-shaped insignia of the SD on their left sleeve. This was associated with using a corresponding SS rank (SS equivalent service rank).
3. Preparations for and Implementation of Extermination
Hitler's order to physically exterminate all Jews in Germany and in areas under German control probably was passed on orally to Himmler and Goering. Extermination was initiated in the East. The war against the Soviet Union was supposed to provide a cover for these operations.
On March 3, 1941, a meeting was held in the Army High Command (OKW) between Hitler, Himmler and Keitel (Head of OKW) on the special powers for Himmler and his troops in implementing "cleaning-up operations" in rear areas with regard to the imminent campaign against Russia. On March 13, 1941, Keitel signed the "Guidelines in Special Areas for Directive No. 21 (Barbarossa)" of the OKW. This document stated, among other things:
The Russian areas to be occupied within the course of operations are to be divided into states with their own governments, in accordance with special guidelines, as soon as the development of military operations permits.
It follows from this that the Reich Leader of the SS will be assigned special tasks, by order of the Fuehrer, in the operational theater of the army in order to prepare the groundwork for political administration. These tasks derive from the final confrontation between two diametrically opposed political systems. The Reich Leader of the SS will act independently, and on his own responsibility, in connection with these tasks. Moreover, the executive powers vested in the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the posts under his command remains unaffected by this dispensation. The Reich Leader of the SS will make sure that the implementation of his assigned tasks does not interfere with Army operations. The Army High Command will regulate further details directly with the Reich Leader of the SS.
Beginning in May 1941, Four Einsatzgruppen (A, B, C, D) for deployment in Russia were set up to implement the "special tasks" of the Reich Leader of the SS in the Frontier Police Academy in Pretzsch on Elbe and in the neighboring towns Dueben and Schmiedeberg. These included a number of extermination squads (Einsatzkommandos, Sonderkommandos), recruited from members of the SD, the Kripo and the Waffen SS.
Their general assignment was to combat "potential enemies" in the rear areas behind the advancing troops. This principally entailed the rounding up and executing of all Jews. The Einsatzgruppen performed this task, and liquidated hundreds of thousands of Jews, without regard for age and sex of their victims. Details on this are reported in "Ereignismeldungen UDSSR" (Field Reports USSR), assembled by the RSHA for selected distribution. Beginning in October/November 1941, Jews from the Reich deported East for extermination also fell victim to the Einsatzgruppen.
However, the SS leadership soon recognized that the goal of physical extermination of all Jews in Europe could not be achieved in this manner. A plan was devised to establish extermination camps in order to kill Jews in large numbers, hidden from the eyes of the public. Such camps were set up in Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec and Chelmno. An extermination camp was built adjacent to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Extermination operations began in Chelmno, 60 km northwest of Lodz, in December 1941. The other camps were set up later on. In order to transport all Jews to such camps, it was necessary to develop an extensive technical bureaucracy and system. The SS, and in particular the Security Police, had no such system at their disposal. Thus, government organizations - especially municipal administrations, registry and employment offices, customs, tax and railway authorities - had to be mobilized for the job. In order to give this whole operation a semblance of legality, a corresponding directive was necessary, on the basis of which government institutions might then be able to act. Goering issued this directive in a communication dated July 31, 1941 to the Chief of Security Police and the SD, Reinhard Heydrich. Goering wrote:
Supplementary to the duties assigned you by virtue of the decree of January 24, 1939 to facilitate the most favorable possible solution to the Jewish question, in keeping with circumstances, in the form of emigration or evacuation, I hereby order you to carry out all necessary preparations organizationally and materially for a total solution of the Jewish question in German-controlled areas of Europe. Insofar as the authority of other central organizations and institutions is affected, they should also be included in the plan. I also instruct you to present me in near future with a complete draft plan of organizational and material preliminary measures to be taken in order to implement the desired final solution of the Jewish question.
A conference was held under Heydrich in the framework of this order on January 20, 1942 in the building of the International Commission of Criminal Police at Lake Wannsee in Berlin. Heydrich's official in charge of the Judenreferat, Adolf Eichmann, presented plans for the so-called "final solution" of the Jewish question, which were then discussed by conference participants. Heydrich himself stated:
Under corresponding supervision and within the framework of the final solution, Jews should be sent in a suitable manner for conscripted labor to the East. Able-bodied Jews will be transported to these areas in large labor gangs, separated by -sex, for work in road construction. There will undoubtedly be heavy attrition due to natural causes. The remainder, doubtlessly the most hardy and resistant segment, will have to be dealt with by appropriate means, since this segment, representing a natural selection, could conceivably serve upon release as the nucleus for a new Jewish reconstruction.
This meeting later became known as the >Wannsee Conference<. Soon thereafter, the last phase of the "final solution" was put into operation through the large-scale extermination of European Jewry in the extermination camps. Of the three camps of the Lublin District, Belzec began operations in mid-March 1942, Sobibor in May 1942 and Treblinka - located only 20 km from the western boundary of Bialystok District and some 100 km from the city of Bialystok itself - in July 1942. Mass exterminations in Auschwitz were also initiated at about this time. Jews from throughout Germany and all areas of Europe occupied by German troops were subsequently murdered in these camps. They were transported by the thousands in freight cars to the extermination camps, generally crowded together in an extremely confined space, and often with little or no water, food or heat.
Himmler, Reich Fuehrer of the SS, praised these mass killings of European Jews in a speech on October 4, 1943 on the occasion of a convention of SS Major Generals in Posen, calling them a "glorious page in our history":
• I wish to speak to you here publicly, and for all to hear, about a very difficult subject. It should be discussed among our own ranks very openly, though we shall never speak about it in public. Just as little as we hesitated on June 30, 1934 to do what duty commanded, and line comrades who had transgressed up against the wall to be shot, we have never spoken about these matters. Nor will you ever speak about them. It was, thank God, a natural tactfulness deep within us which has motivated us to keep our silence on these topics in conversation, never to speak about them. Each and every one of us has shuddered at their thought, yet each of us was certain that he would do it again, if necessity so demanded and orders so required. What I am referring to is the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. This is one of those things that are so easily said. 'The Jewish people is being exterminated,' says every Party member. 'Of course, it's in our Party programme - excluding the Jews, extermination. We're taking care of it.' And then there they are, those good, upstanding 80 million Germans. And each one of them has a fine, decent Jew whom he knows well. Of course, it's obvious, the others are all pigs - but this Jew, he's OK, a great guy. All those who talk like this - none of them has looked on and watched, none has endured it. Most of you will know what it means if a hundred bodies are piled high, five hundred or a thousand. To have endured this and yet to have remained decent in the process, aside from those exceptions of human weakness - that is what has steeled and hardened us. This is an unwritten, and a never to be written page of glory in our history. Because we know how difficult the situation for us would be today if in that city - given all the air raids, the burdens and deprivations of the war - we were still saddled with the Jews: as secret saboteurs, agitators and rabble-rousers. By now, we would probably be back facing a situation similar to that of 1916/1917 - if the Jews were still lodged within the body of the German people. We took from them the assets and riches they possessed. We had the moral right, we had the duty toward our own Volk, to destroy that people which wished to destroy us. In general, however, we can say that - out of a feeling of love for our people - we have fulfilled this most arduous of tasks. And that we have suffered no damage or harm as a result - in our inner being, our souls, our character.
It is not possible to give an exact figure for the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis. On the basis of the present state of knowledge, it can be assumed that a total of approximately six million Jews were killed.
B. National Socialist Extermination Policy in Bialystok District and its Second Largest Town Grodno
1. General Remarks on Bialystok District
Bialystok District (Bezirk), in which Grodno was included, had surface area of ca. 32,000 sq. km, corresponding approximately to the size of Belgium. The district bordered in the north and east on the General Commissariat of the Baltic Region (Reichskommissariat Ostland), to the northwest on the province of East Prussia, expanded by inclusion of the Government District Zichenau. It bordered to the southwest on the Government-General, to the southeast on the Ukraine Region. Towns along the border with East Prussia included Augustowo, Grajewo and Kolno, the boundary with the Government-General ran southeastward from Kolno toward Brest-Litowsk, turning to the east some 30 km from Brest in the direction of Pruzana. From there, it continued on to the north between Wolkowysk (Bialystok District) and Slonim (Baltic Region) to the former Lithuanian boundary, extending then in a westerly direction toward the town of Augustowo.
A segment of the northwestern and western boundary of the district with East Prussia came under the authority of the State Frontier Police posts Tilsit in the north, with the Frontier Police Inspector in Sudauen (Suwalki), Allenstein (Frontier-Police Inspector in Lyck), and Zichenau-Schroettersburg to the south.
Bialystok District was almost completely made up of agricultural land. In the northeast section of the district, and NE of the town of Grodno, there was a large area of forests and swamps; the large, dense forest of Bialowieza was located to the southeast. This forest had served Russian czars as a hunting grounds. After being taken over by German troops, Goering appointed a special supervisor to administer the forest as a hunting preserves. The forest was thus a kind of "extra-territorial area" inside the district.
District population numbered some 1,130,000. The population was ethnically diverse, consisting mainly of Poles in the west, Lithuanians in the northeast, Ukrainians in the southeast and Byelorussians in the east. It is not possible to determine the exact percentage of Jews in the population. The minutes of the Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942 mention a figure of some 400,000 Jews for the Bialystok District. Probably about one-third of the total population was Jewish. The majority of Jews lived in the towns and cities, playing a significant role there, since Jews were concentrated in the higher occupational strata and constituted a majority of qualified artisans and skilled workers. There were some 40,000 Jews in Bialystok, 30,000 in Grodno, 33,000 in Bielsk, 18,000 in Wolkowysk, 16,000 in Lomza and 14,000 in Sokolka.
The capital Bialystok was situated in the center of the district. It had just under 100,000 inhabitants. The most important industrial plants in the district were in Bialystok, and the town was also an important railway junction.
2. Occupation and Administration of Bialystok District
Bialystok District had experienced a varied history. As a border region between Poles, Lithuanians, Russians and Ukrainians, it was often subject to military attack. In 1939, in the framework of the Polish campaign, it was conquered by German troops; however, these troops later withdrew from much of the region after arranging a demarcation line between the Soviet Union and Germany in the autumn of 1939. Immediately after the outbreak of hostilities between Germany and the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, German troops regained control of the area and reoccupied it. It was initially administered by the military authorities.
Soon thereafter, a civil administration was set up for Bialystok. Hitler, in a decree of July 17, 1941, ordered that the District Governor (Regierungspraesident) of the province of East Prussia should take over civil administration in Bialystok, effective August 1, 1941 (cf. Field Report, No. 39, 31 July 1941). Later the plan was to incorporate the district into the Reich as part of East Prussia. On August 15, 1941, the "Fuehrer's Decree on the Provisional Administration of Bialystok District" stipulated more detailed directives. In accordance with these, the Governor and Gauleiter of East Prussia, Erich Koch, headed civil administration in the district. He was responsible directly to Hitler, and could enact law by decree. Koch appointed the head of the Chamber of Artisans in East Prussia and District Chief of the German Labor Front (DAF), Magunia, as his deputy, giving him the title "Deputy of the Head of Civil Administration for Bialystok District." Beginning August 1, 1941, Magunia became administrative head directly in Bialystok.
The administration was organized in Bialystok along lines similar to those of a Prussian governmental district. The representative of the head of civil administration for Bialystok District was given a post comparable to that of Local Governor (Regierungspraesident) in the Prussian administration. Bialystok District was divided into regions (Kreiskommissariate), equivalent to Prussian districts, and local subdistricts (Amtskommissariate), equivalent to Prussian administrative subdistricts. The district was divided into the regions (counties) of Lomza, Bielsk, Wolkowysk, Grodno, Grajewo, Sokolka and Bialystok countryside. The city of Bialystok was administered similar to an urban area which is an administrative district in its own right. East Prussian civil servants were appointed to head the individual administrative regions. Thus, a Landrat (District Council Head) in Tilsit, Dr. Brix, was assigned to Magunia. The Kreiskommissare (Regional Commissioners) in Bialystok District were also East Prussian Landraete, who retained their posts in the East Prussian civil service and were given additional duties in Bialystok District.
The NSDAP was represented in Bialystok by a subdistrict Party chief (Kreisleiter). In addition, Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe units were stationed in both Bialystok as well as at the nearby airport. Bialystok District, especially the capital city, was likewise of considerable importance for armament inspection of the Wehrmacht.
3. Police and Security Service in Particular
Like in the Reich, there was Regular Police (Ordnungspolizei) and Security Police in Bialystok District as well. The Regular Police consisted of the National Police (Schutzpolizei) and Rural Police (Gendarmerie). It was headed in the district by the Chief of Regular Police (KdO). While the National Police was only stationed in the towns due to its small numbers, the Gendarmerie was active especially in rural areas.
The Security Police and the SD were organized along different lines in Bialystok District from those prevailing in the other occupied areas. The posts of the Security Police and the SD had been set up operating out of East Prussia. Consequently, as in the case of the civil administration, there were close ties structurally and in terms of personnel to East Prussia.
After the German combat troops moved on through, the direction of the State Police in the district was delegated in August 1941 (at the latest) to the head of the Gestapo post in Allenstein, Dr. Altenloh. Gestapo officials transferred to Bialystok came mainly from the Gestapo regional HQ in Koenigsberg and the Gestapo border posts in Tilsit and Allenstein. During the initial months, Inspector Macholl was the local head of the Gestapo in Bialystok. The Gestapo in Bialystok then was organized as an outstation under the Gestapo in Allenstein.
The Criminal Police and SD in Bialystok were also set up along structural lines similar to those of the Gestapo. Members of the Kripo and the SD in Koenigsberg were transferred to Bialystok. They initially organized as an outstation of the Kripo and a main outstation of the SD under the command of the post in Koenigsberg.
The post of KdS was established in Bialystok sometime about April 1942. Dr. Altenloh, who remained head of the Gestapo in Allenstein, became Commander. Dr. Paeffgen was ordered to Bialystok as Deputy Commander, and was briefed there by Dr. Altenloh. He assumed the duties of the local direction of the post. It was structured along lines similar to a KdS post in the occupied areas, encompassing Gestapo, Kripo and SD. The Gestapo became Section IV, the Criminal Police Section V and the SD Section III.
The KdS post received its final form in October 1942. Dr. Altenloh relocated to Bialystok on October 1, 1942, and remained KdS until May 1943. The Gestapo post in Allenstein lost its independence and became an outstation of the Gestapo regional HQ in Koenigsberg. Dr. Altenloh now limited his activities to being commander in Bialystok. There were substantial additions in personnel to the KdS post, particularly drawn from the ranks of officers in the Gestapo in Allenstein. Among these was Detective 1st Lieutenant (Kriminalinspektor) Friedel , who headed the Judenreferat within Section IV. Around February 1943, the witness Heimbach was transferred to Bialystok. He was given the direction of Section IV. Section IV (Gestapo) included the Judenreferat, sections for sabotage, counterintelligence, reconnaissance and combatting of partisan bands, protective custody, summary court-martial (Standgericht), churches and sects.
Unlike the commanders in the occupied territories, the witness Dr. Altenloh did not have a Commander of the Security Police above him. He had to report directly to the Inspector of Security Police and the SD in Koenigsberg, who served as his superior officer. However, he was not obliged as commander to go through channels via the IdS in Koenigsberg in communications with the central office, the RSHA in Berlin. Ra ther, the KdS in Bialystok received direct instructions from the RSHA and also had to report directly to that central office. In such cases, copies were generally sent to the IdS Dr. Canaris in Koenigsberg for his information.
As in the occupied territories, all members of the post of the KdS in Bialystok District wore SS uniforms. Nonetheless, not all members of the post were required to belong to the SS. Members of the Security Police who had retained their civil service posts and who then joined the SS, became members of the SD, though without exercising any SD function. In contrast with genuine SD officers, they wore the diamond-shaped sleeve insignia of the SD in a silver frame. The officers who joined the SS received the equivalent SS ranking corresponding to their civil service rank. There were a certain number of individual Security Police officers who were not SS members. They likewise wore SS uniforms on duty, but only as so-called 'non-SS in uniform'. They were allowed to display the rank insignia of the SS corresponding to their civil service rank.
Along with the KdS and KdO, there was also an SS and Police Leader in Bialystok. He was under the command of the Higher SS and Police Leader in the office of the Governor of East Prussia in Koenigsberg. This SS and Police Leader in Bialystok had no command authority over the KdS in Bialystok except in emergencies.
The posts of the KdS and SSPF were also involved in punishing criminal offenses in Bialystok District. There was a special court procedure in cases of criminal offenses involving the local population. The basis for this was the ordinance issued on December 19, 1941 by the Governor pertaining to the introduction of criminal justice in Bialystok District. It was published in the "Amtsblatt des Oberpraesidenten fuer den Bezirk Bialystok" of January 20, 1942. This ordinance was given its subsequent final form by the supplementary ordinance of April 12, 1942, published in the "Amtsblatt" on April 28, 1942. In accordance with - 1 of the ordinance, serious offenses by Poles, Jews and other members of non-German ethnic groups against Germans, as well as other crimes by such ethnic groups constituting a danger to the German program of reconstruction, were tried and sentenced by Standgericht (summary court-martial). In cases of doubt, the SS and Police Leader in Bialystok decided whether such a crime had indeed been committed. In accordance with - 8 of this ordinance, the Kreiskommissare or Amtskommissare were given authority for pronouncing judgment in the case of other crimes.
The Standgericht issued a verdict of the death penalty, acquittal or remanding to the custody of the police post with authority in the particular case. The chief judge of the court, to which two other members were appointed, was the KdS (- 3), i.e., a trained lawyer. There were several minimal requirements only when it came to the written verdict. Otherwise, the court determined according to its own judgment how proceedings should be conducted. The accused were normally only allowed to testify for a very short period of time. The court met in session outside of Bialystok as well. According to - 5 and 6, verdicts handed down by the court could not be challenged. However, the Leader of the SS and Police had the right to confirm or rescind the verdict. In the case of death sentences against partisans, he generally forewent his perogative of confirmation.
The anti-partisan operations in Bialystok District were placed beginning in the summer of 1942 under the direction of the IdS Dr. Canaris in Koenigsberg. The local Security Police and the Standgericht were not involved in this particular >Operation Wisent<. The activity of the local Security Police was limited after this to gathering intelligence on partisan formations.
4. The Destruction of the Jews in Bialystok District
As in the area of other advancing Army groups on the Eastern Front, the Einsatz squads followed combat troops in Bialystok District in order to carry out their "special duties" within the framework of the plan for annihilation of the Jews. Numerous "Field Reports USSR" contain references to the activities of the Einsatz units in Bialystok District.
In addition to the Einsatz squads, police units in action and stationed in Bialystok District also participated in actions aimed at annihilation of the Jewish civilian population.
With the replacement of police units and of Einsatz squads which were passing through or were only temporarily deployed in the area by police units regularly stationed there, senior responsibility for directing the continuation of Nazi annihilation policies in Bialystok District was transferred to the post of the Security Police.
Irmnediately after occupying the district, the German authorities had issued an order that the Jewish communities (Gemeinden) in the larger cities should elect a Judenrat (Jewish Council) to represent them; this body was also to be reponsible to the German authorities for implementation of all directives. In the town of Bialystok, the Judenrat began its activities as early as July 8, 1941. It was made up of a large number of members, ultimately reduced to 24.
Among the first German measures which spelled a significant change in the life of the Jewish population, and in which the Judenrat was compelled to participate, was the ghettoization of the Jewish population in the various towns of the district. The Jews were assigned one specific section of the town as an exclusive compulsory residential area. All Jews from a given town were concentrated here in an extremely crowded area. The ghetto in Bialystok was formed already at the end of July 1941. Many large and small ghettos were created throughout the district. Their exact number is not known. Jews in the sparsely settled countryside were allowed to continue to live in comparative freedom until October 1942.
A vivid picture of life in the Bialystok ghetto is provided by the partially preserved declarations, reports and session minutes of the local Judenrat for the period until November 1942 or March 1943. The general conditions prevailing in the Bialystok ghetto are largely similar to those in other ghettos in the district. It should be pointed out more generally that all Jews were compelled to wear the Star of David, were allowed to leave the ghetto only with a proper pass, were subject to numerous requisitions and forced contributions, suffered from inadequate supply of food and medicines and were conscripted for various kinds of work within and outside the ghetto. In the "Judenratsmeldungen" (Judenrat Reports, JRM), Jews were threatened with stiff penalties by the German authorities for nonadherence to prohibitions and failure to perform orders. Thus, the smuggling of food into the ghetto was punishable by death (JRM, No. 113, p. 281), as was the failure to wear a Star of David (JRM, No. 7), unauthorized absence from the ghetto (JRM, No. 15), failure to report for work (JRM, No. 136) or insufficient work discipline. It is still uncertain whether these penalty threats were always based on orders issued by German authorities, or whether on occasion they were introduced by the Judenrat acting on its own authority as a means of pressure in pursuit of its own policies. Order within the ghetto was maintained by a Jewish police force (Juedische Ordnungspolizei).
Initially, the sole duties of the Security Police in the ghetto were those which involved its area of authority. The German civil administration was responsible for basic provisions for ghettoized Jews until October 1942. During this period, the task of guarding the ghetto was in the hands of the local National Police.
This period of relative quiet came to an end in October/November 1942. Efforts had already begun on July 22, 1942 in Warsaw to deport Jews from the massive ghetto there to the Treblinka extermination camp by means of five trains daily. The witness Dr. Altenloh received the order from RSHA in Berlin in October 1942 to gather together the Jews from his district at a small number of assembly points and to assume, together with the Security Police, full responsibility for all Jewish affairs, including provisions for the ghetto and the guarding of its perimeters. The order was officially explained using the argument that it would be possible in this way to institute a more effective system of protection against Jewish spies and saboteurs. The actual purpose of concentrating Jews at assembly points, however, was to facilitate the smooth and rapid deportation and transport of Jews to the camps, even if details such as numbers of deportees, sequencing and destinations had not as yet been finally determined. These factors were dependent on several general circumstances, not yet decided upon in the case of the Jews in the district: e.g., the purpose and ultimate destination of the transports, how Jews were to be utilized, procurement of means of transport, coordination of the various deportation plans, and ability of the camps to absorb deportees.
The forces of the Security Police were insufficient to implement the measures adopted. This is why the Gestapo had only supervisory capacity in connection with concentration at assembly points. Principal responsibility lay with the Judenreferent Friedel. Implementation was to be handled by the Kreiskommissare. At the request of the Gestapo, details were discussed in an organizational meeting together with these commissioners in the offices of Dr Brix. Assisted by the Rural Police, they carried out the concentration at assembly points in lightning speed throughout the entire district on November 2, 1942.
The smaller ghettos in the district were liquidated, and the Jews were gathered together in transit camps and in the ghettos in the larger towns.
The ghettos and camps were sealed and turned into closed areas, and it was prohibited to Jews - in Bialystok demonstrably under penalty of death (cf. JRM, No. 356/357, 2 November 1942) - to leave the ghettos. The guard units of the National Police were under the command of the Security Police. The Gestapo also took over supervision of conscripted labor as well as provisions for the ghettos.
The camps and ghettos were subsequently completely liquidated by August 1943, and the Jewish population was shipped to the extermination camps to be slaughtered. Only a small number of Jews managed, in particular by fleeing, to save their lives.
C. The Fate of Jews in Grodno
1. General Remarks on Grodno
After Bialystok, Grodno was the second largest city in the district. It is located approximately 80 km northeast of Bialystok on the railroad line to Vilna. At that time, Grodno had a population of some 50,000 inhabitants, about 50% of whom were Jews.
The Grodno area had originally been included in the Baltic Reichskommissariat, but was transferred to Bialystok District by a decree of the Fuehrer on September 18, 1941.
National Police and Wehrmacht units were also stationed in Grodno, including a medical company, among whose tasks was the operation of a delousing center.
In the period of time of interest in the present proceedings i.e., up until March 1943 - the Grodno region was militarily pacified.
2. The Security Police in Grodno
When the area around Grodno was incorporated into Bialystok District in September 1941, a subpost of the Gestapo outstation at Bialystok was set up in Grodno. This subpost was initially headed by Detective 2nd Lieutenant (Kriminalsekretaer) Gross. He later probably committed suicide. In December 1941, direction of the subpost was transferred to the defendant Errelis, who up until that time had served as a department head in the Gestapo post in Allenstein.
The Grodno subpost was elevated to the category of an outstation when the position of a KdS was created in Bialystok around April 1942. The defendant Errelis had approximately 12 staff members under his supervision at that time and subsequently. These subordinates were as follows: the above-mentioned Gross, Detective Lieutenant (Kriminalobersekretaer) and SS Untersturmfuehrer (2nd Lieutenant) Schott, the defendant Wiese, Detective Staff Sergeant and SS Scharfuehrer (Staff Sergeant) Streblow, Detective Staff Sergeant Sandhop, the witness Niestroj, likewise Detective Staff Sergeant as well as officers Best and Schulz. In addition, staff included the translators Ringner, Lottermoser and von Dobbert, the drivers Fuchs and Zyga and two female typists, Bachler and Koschorke.
The post in Grodno was not divided into various sections normally associated with the KdS. Tasks were assigned as they came up. There was a daily briefing for this purpose. Matters affecting Jews, however, had been largely assigned by Errelis to Schott. Supervision of the two ghettos in Grodno had been delegated to Streblow and the defendant Wiese. Schott was likewise the regular representative deputy of the defendant Errelis.
Schott was some 12 years older than the defendant Errelis, who was at that time about 30. He also had more experience as a detective in the Kripo. After the defendant Errelis was transferred to Bialystok the end of March 1943, he took over as his successor. Schott is described as having been brutal and ruthless. After the war, Schott (who had been promoted in 1944 to the rank of Detective lst Lieutenant), was found guilty of crimes against humanity by jury trial in Dortmund. He was charged with crimes in connection with the obtaining of forced confession in 53 cases and bodily injury on 56 counts while on duty. In a verdict handed down on February 1, 1950 (10 Ks 13/49 District Attorney Dortmund), he was sentenced to six years in prison. While working with the Gestapo in Dortmund in 1935, Schott brutally mistreated prisoners during the course of interrogation. After the war, Schott strangled his wife to death and then committed suicide.
The duties of the post in Grodno, in addition to matters affecting Jews, involved surveillance and observation by Security Police of the Germans living in Grodno. The post was also responsible for gathering intelligence on the activities of Polish resistance fighters, whose groups were then in the process of formation, as well as remaining units of Russian soldiers, though the latter were not yet active. Partisan activity in the Grodno area did not develop until the spring of 1943.
Finally, the post was responsible for carrying out death sentences handed down by the Standgericht. That court had also sat in session in Grodno headed by the witness Dr. Altenloh or his assistant Dr. Paeffgen. The defendants Errelis and Schott attended as members of the panel . The accused were brought before the tribunal in jail and they were allowed to make a brief statement. The verdict was also given to them at that time. The executions were carried out in a fort located outside of town. The witness Dr. Altenloh had given an oral order regarding the manner in which such executions had to be conducted: a squad of the National Police was assigned as firing squad; members of the Security Police were themselves enjoined from shooting; spectators were not allowed.
3. The Grodno Ghettos
Like elsewhere in Bialystok District, Jews in the town of Grodno were also rounded up into ghettos at the command of the German authorities. This was carried out on November 1, 1941. Two ghettos were set up, one in the old section of Grodno and a second at the edge of town on the road to Skidel.
Ghetto 1 was located in the neighborhood around the large synagogue in the vicinity of the castle, an area which had been populated largely by Jews even before the establishment of the ghetto. Some 15,000 Jews were now herded together here in a small space. The ghetto was surrounded by a fence two meters high. A section of that fence ran through the backyards of houses along Dominikanska Street (later renamed Hindenburg St.), one of the main thoroughfares in Grodno. The entrance to the ghetto was in Zamkowa (Castle St.), at the point where Chasna (Butchers' Lane, later called Schuster St.) led into the ghetto. The fence on Zankowa was set up between the sidewalk and the street. It was prohibited to use the front entrances to houses on this street. The row of houses on the opposite side had been partially destroyed.
Ghetto 2 was located beyond the railroad tracks on the right side of the road to Skidel in Slobotka, a large and more open section of town with fewer houses. Some 10,000 Jews were confined there in a ghetto that was spatially larger than Ghetto 1. This ghetto was also surrounded by a fence, which ran along Skidel Road parallel to the main surface of the road. The entrance to the ghetto was at Artillery St. (later renamed Kraemer St.). Directly opposite the ghetto were a marketplace square and the Grodno barracks.
The Grodno Judenrat was located in Ghetto 1 directly on the right near the entrance. There was a branch of the Judenrat in the Skidel Rd. ghetto. The Judenrat had been set up by order of the German authorities even before the establishment of the ghettos. It was headed by the high school principal Dr. Brawer until his execution in early 1943. Another member of the Judenrat was the witness and attorney Shulkes. He and Bass, who now lives in the United States, were the liaison of the Judenrat with the Gestapo. The Judenrat was composed of members from all groups within the Jewish population.
The Judenrat set up special offices to deal with its various tasks. Thus, there was an office in charge of handling provisions for the population. This had originally been dealt with on the German side as part of municipal administration. Another section of the Judenrat was in charge of Jewish labor conscription. Polish and German employers could report here and request a certain number of workers. The office then put together the work brigades and appointed the so-called brigadiers, whose job it was (until November 2, 1942) to supervise the columns while Jews were conducted to their places of work outside the ghetto. In addition, the Judenrat kept a registry of all inhabitants in the ghetto. Another task of the Judenrat was to fill the requisition requests submitted by the German authorities, in particular the Security Police. These demands involved requisitioning of furniture, sheets and towels, fur coats, shoes, boots, alcoholic beverages and money. The witness Shulkes, together with the Jewish merchant Sarnacki, had the job of procuring the articles requested and, in certain cases, giving those contributing the articles a cash reimbursement.
A Jewish police force was responsible for maintaining law and order inside the ghetto. It was headed by the Jew Rubinczyk. He was dismissed shortly after the ghetto was taken over by the Gestapo (November 2, 1942). Members of this Jewish police force could be recognized by their special cap and armband.
External guarding of the ghetto was the responsibility of the Municipal Police until November 2, 1942. It was under the command of the witness Osterode, at that time a captain in the police force. The Municipal Police also conducted the inspection checks at the entrance to the ghetto.
The checks involved examination of the passes issued to ghetto residents, since one needed special permission (or a general permit) in order to leave the ghetto. Members of the Municipal Police checked Jews returning from work, and were in particular on the lookout for food, which Jews attempted to smuggle in against regulations in order to supplement the meager provisions allotted to their families. Whenever the policemen discovered any food, they would take it from the Jews. However, since they were rather generous in their approach to this task, members of the Gestapo also conducted food checks at the gate. While the Municipal Police normally let work brigades march on through the main gate, Gestapo members checked Jews by having them file into the ghetto, one after the other, through the small guardhouse room located in a house next to the entrance gate.
The defendant Wiese was especially feared in Ghetto 1 in connection with such body searches. As soon as the approaching Jewish work brigades learned that Wiese was among those carrying out checks, they quickly got rid of any food or ate it themselves. They were afraid that Wiese would shoot them if he discovered any food concealed on their person. This matter will be dealt with in greater detail below.
The defendant Wiese was in charge of supervision in Ghetto 1. Streblow had similar duties in Ghetto 2. Wiese set up his guard room in a former fruit store at the corner of Zamkowa and Chasna directly on the left after entering the ghetto gate. This is where he usually sat. Whenever he entered the ghetto, Jews would rush in fear to their houses. According to the statements of Jewish witnesses, every person fled from the place fearing for his or her life, and everyone trembled in his sight. He was regarded by the Jews as the 'spectre' of the ghetto and master over life and death. In contrast, his fellow officers and superiors considered Wiese, at that time 28, to be a smart and dashing young man.
Jews who had been caught outside the ghetto without a proper permit were also brought to Wiese, as well as Jews who had permanently fled the ghetto and had been taken into custody by the German or Polish police. Leaving the ghetto without a permit was not a particularly difficult task in view of the rather flimsy barbed-wire fence surrounding the ghetto. But there were very few who dared to flee the ghetto and attempt to live illegally longer-term on the outside. Harboring Jews was an offense punishable by death. Moreover, Jews had very few friends among the Polish population. Their chances of survival were thus minimal. Consequently, there was initially no larger-scale movement among Jews to flee from the ghetto. Only after the January 1943 deportation did Jews begin to leave the ghetto in larger numbers. Those who did not find a place to hide in town or with Polish farmers, fled into the forests. There some of them later sought contact with groups of partisans and resistance fighters. Aside from that, however, no serious thought was given to the idea of active resistance among Jews in the Grodno ghetto.
4. The Deportation of Jews from Grodno
The history of the deportation of Jews from the Grodno area also begins on November 2, 1942. This was the date on which the Security Police, under the command of the defendant Errelis, took over full responsibility for the two ghettos in Grodno. The ghettos were sealed, and no work brigades were allowed to leave that day. Work arrangements were checked in regard to their urgency, and new passes were then issued. After this, groups of workers had to be accompanied to their place of work by their employers or by persons specially appointed for this purpose by their employers. The guard duties along the ghetto perimeter and the checks at the gate were no longer performed by the Municipal Police, but rather by a police battalion stationed at this time in Grodno.
The Rural Police, under the supervision of the Security Police, carried out the assembling and concentration of Jews from the Grodno area on November 2, 1942. These Jews were gathered together in the transit camp Kelbasin located some 10 km from Gradno near the train station Losossna.
The Kelbasin camp had served the Russian and later the Polish army as a base camp during manoeuvers. Trenches had been dug with enough room to hold about a company of men. These trenches were fitted inside with wood and covered over with a wooden roof. After German troops had occupied the Grodno area, Russian POWs were interned in the camp. In the meantime, the camp had been vacated, and was then placed at the disposal of the Gestapo for concentrating Jews from the Grodno area.
A short time after the concentration on November 2, 1942, deportation transports were initiated in Kelbasin and in Ghetto 2 in Grodno. Jews were loaded onto passenger and freight trains and brought to the Auschwitz camp, where nearly all were subsequently murdered. By December 1942, Ghetto 2 in Grodno and the Kelbasin camp had been completely evacuated and liquidated.
Prior to this, approximately 1,000 Jews had been transferred from Ghetto 2 to Ghetto 1. These were Jews regarded as especially useful workers, as well as some who had influential family members or friends in Ghetto 1, who had helped them arrange for a transfer. In order to accomodate these 1,000 Jews from Ghetto 2, some 1,000 other Jews in Ghetto 1 were selected, gathered together in the main synagogue and in the marketplace, and then marched under police guard to the Kelbasin camp. A small number of these Jews were able to return to Ghetto 1 by means of bribery, intercession or escape.
Jews from Ghetto 1 in Grodno were subsequently transported to the extermination camps in two large-scale operations undertaken in January and February 1943. The first operation, known among Jews as >Operation 10,000<, began on January 18, 1943; over the course of five days, a total of some 10,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. The second operation, dubbed by the Jews >Operation 5,000<, included at least three transports. The first such transport took place on February 13, 1943, bringing Jews to the camp at Treblinka.
In the first operation, the defendant Wiese, together with the witness Shulkes, put together the lists of those to be sent on the transport. The basic arrangement in assembling Jews for deportation was according to streets in the ghetto, so that the inhabited section of the ghetto was successively reduced in size. For each of the transport trains (which sometimes left during the day, sometimes at night), Jews were taken from their homes, if necessary by force, and brought to the main synagogue by members of the Jewish police and the Gestapo, including the defendant Wiese. They were then gathered together at the synagogue and held there until the last of those on the lists had arrived. Jewish police officers and Gestapo subsequently combed the houses in search of anyone who had tried to hide. During such searches, members of the Security Police fired their submachine guns on occasion. They also fired into the synagogue in order to intimidate the Jews herded together there, and perhaps cause them to crowd together even more closely. Their bullets hit not only the synagogue light fixtures and clock decorated with holy texts, but also struck Jews massed in the synagogue. Shots were also fired during the subsequent march by foot to the train station, during which Jews were accompanied by officers of the Municipal Police. There were injuries and deaths as a result of this shooting. Jews who were ill or unable to walk were transported to the station by cart and truck. The defendant Errelis was himself from time to time in the ghetto and supervised the transports.
After the second operation in mid-February 1943, there were still some 1,000 Jews living in Ghetto 1. These included several hundred artisans and other so-called 'useful' Jews, as well as some who had fled or hidden during the deportation operations and now had returned from their hiding places to the ghetto. They now lived in the drastically reduced ghetto, which consisted only of a small number of houses at the entrance to the ghetto.
In mid-March 1943, these Jews were transferred to the Bialystok ghetto. At this point, the Grodno Ghetto I was completely empty - in the language of the Gestapo, Grodno was "judenrein" (free of Jews). However, the Security Police had kept 12-15 skilled artisans for its own needs, and had housed them in a back courtyard of their building. There are only rumors about their ultimate fate. Except for one, the others are reported to have been shot during the Russian offensive.
III. Crimes of the Defendants
A. Charges Against the Defendant Errelis 1. Case No. 7
(Numbering corresponds here to that in the indictment)
The defendant Errelis is accused - together with the defendant Wiese and three other, unidentified members of his post - of having murdered three to five Jews, including a young woman and her child, by pistol shot on November 17 or 18, 1942, shortly after the final sealing of the ghettos. The Jews had reportedly been caught the day before while trying to escape, and had been brought to the Grodno prison. It is charged that the defendant Errelis and his subordinates took these Jews, who were barefoot, to the marketplace of Ghetto 1, and lined them up against a wall there. The other ghetto inhabitants were ordered to witness the executions.
The defendant Errelis denies having committed this offense. He was not convicted of this crime.
The sole witness to describe this case in the preliminary proceedings and preinvestigation, Ely Gornick, did not appear at the main trial, although a summons had been issued. A reading into the record of the transcript of his testimony on March 25, 1966 before the German Consul in Kansas City (Vol. V, pp. 192 ff.) was out of the question, although the interrogation conducted is equivalent to a judicial interrogation in accordance with - 20 of the Law on the Organization of Consulates as well as the Rights and Duties of Consuls (November 8, 1867).
The preconditions of - 252, para. I sec. 3, Code of Criminal Procedure had not been fulfilled. Despite the great distance involved, it was reasonable to expect that the witness Gornick might come from St. Louis to testify at the trial. This judgment is based here, as in other cases where the sole witness failed to appear, on the importance accorded such testimony. On the basis of the testimony of these witnesses, who had not travelled to Germany only because they were not prepared to do so, it might indeed have been possible to convict the defendants of murder and sentence them to life in prison.
For that same reason, the court did not decide to have the witness Gornick interrogated formally and judicially, either by means of a new interrogation procedure by the Consul in St. Louis, in the presence of one or more members of the court, or (if permissible under local regulations) by an interrogation conducted directly by judicial members of the court. Reading aloud of the transcript of such a judicial interrogation according to - 223 Code of Criminal Procedure would not have been permissible. Here too, the decisive factor is that it could be reasonably expected of the witness to make an appearance at court, given the significance of his testimony (- 223, para. 11, Code of Criminal Procedure).
Yet even if, in the case of Gornick and other sole witnesses to specific cases who failed to testify, there was a reason for their failure to appear (in the sense of - 223 and 251, Code of Criminal Procedure), the court would not be able to accept a mere reading of the transcript of such an interrogation. In view of the significant consequences which the statements of a sole witness might have for the accused - and often did indeed have, as was reflected by the remarks of several witnesses who appeared for testimony - a statement that was simply read aloud into the record as a deposition would not have been sufficient. All members of the court, as well as all other parties to the preceedings, including the defendants, would have to have an opportunity to see the witness in person, follow the testimony word by word and be able themselves to ask questions. They would have been deprived of this possibility if - 223 or - 251 had been applied.
There was another consideration in connection with the decision on whether the witness Gornick should be interrogated by judicial hearing. None of the other numerous witnesses has testified to a group execution by shooting, which ghetto residents were forced to witness, a short time after concentration and assembly of Jews for deportation, as reported by Gornick. This is all the more astonishing since another public execution from the first period shortly after sealing of the ghetto was reported by an unusually large number of witnesses, even if their statements at times are only based on hearsay.
The doubt that the witness Gornick may have been mistaken, and the suspicion that a renewed interrogation of this sole witness for Case No. 7 would, in any case, not have been sufficient evidence for a conviction of the defendant, were strengthened in the case of Errelis by the circumstance that Gornick did not mention the name of Errelis in his original letter to the Jewish World Congress in New York in early 1961. In that letter, he made mention only of Wiese, Streblow and Rinzner.
Given all these circumstances, Errelis was acquitted of charges in Case No. 7.
2. Case No. 39
The defendant Errelis - together with Wiese and other not identified members of his post - is accused in this case of having brought a group consisting of at least 20 Jews to Ghetto 1 after a large-scale evacuation operation in the winter of 1942/43. The Jews, among whom were women and children, had been captured outside the ghetto while attempting to escape. It is charged that these victims were lined up against a wall in the ghetto and then shot. Errelis is accused of having taken part in the shooting.
The defendant Errelis stated that the description of this act, insofar as it concerned his person, was incorrect in all respects. The defendant Errelis was not convicted.
Two witnesses - Trachtenberg and Golub - did testify that Errelis had participated in the shooting of a group of Jews who had tried to escape shortly before the ghetto was liquidated, i.e., in late February or early March 1943. The witness Trachtenberg described the event in a credible fashion, and this will be dealt with below in connection with crimes committed by the accused Wiese. While Trachtenberg testified on March 8, 1966 in the German Consulate General in New York (Vol. V, p. 115) that he was certain that Errelis had taken part in the shooting, the witness did not state this at the main trial proceedings. There, he said that although he was certain about this point, he could not be 100% sure. Since the witness Trachtenberg stated in the above-mentioned proceedings at Bielefeld (5 Ks 1/65 Bielefeld District Attorney) that he had doubts as to whether Errelis had been present, his testimony was unable to provide the necessary convincing evidence for a conviction.
As far as the testimony by the witness Golub is concerned, there were certain doubts as to whether its utilization was at all permissible, since the questioning of the witness had been halted without having given the defense a final opportunity for requestioning. This had been done out of consideration for his agitated state of mind as a result of protracted interrogation over a period of many hours.
However, there were also substantial doubts in respect to the credibility of the witness Golub. At the main trial, he testified that he had secretly gone from Bialystok to Grodno during the autumn and had clandestinely entered Ghetto 1. He had then remained there until the last transport in March 1943. This is also what he had stated in his application for indemnification. In the papers pertaining to his restitution request, however, he in fact made no mention of any period of stay in Grodno. Rather, he stated in three places in these papers (once in sworn testimony), that he had been in the Bialystok ghetto from August 1941 to August 1943.
Finally, it also appears questionable whether the witness Golub had described the same incident as the witness Trachtenberg, whose description then became the basis for the charge. Golub gives the number of Jews involved at 25, including two families from the United States who had been detained in Grodno after the outbreak of the war. In contrast, Trachtenberg mentions a figure of 10-15 victims, and cannot recall these American families among the dead.
Accordingly, Errelis was also acquitted in Case No. 39. It also had not been proven that, without having been present, he had ordered the shooting. Perhaps it was Schott who had given the order.
Both in this instance and in Case No. 7, there is considerable suspicion that the accused Errelis indeed committed the acts he is charged with or at least was aware of these acts, and did not actively oppose them.
His claim that - with the exception of the execution of Dr. Brawer - he did not even know anything about the killing of Jews in the ghetto prior to the initiation of legal proceedings would hardly appear credible in the light of the findings of the main trial of the defendant Wiese, as detailed below, taking the small size of the Grodno post into consideration. However, the possible charge against Errelis derivable from this circumstance was not dealt with by that trial.
B. Crimes Allegedly Committed by the Defendant Wiese
a. Shootings for various reasons.
1. Case No. 2
After the sealing of the ghetto on November 2, 1942, a group of Jews who were unable to go to work gathered at the entrance gate to Ghetto 2. The defendant Wiese approached the ghetto entrance together with Streblow. At the gate, they both fired several salvos at the group gathered there. A number of Jews were killed by the shots, including Chaim Chomol. It cannot be ruled out that Wiese had been ordered to fire into the crowd by one of his superiors.
The defendant Wiese has stated that such a shooting must have taken place shortly after the ghetto was sealed. He had heard about it in conversations with comrades; he claimed he was unaware who had done the shooting.
This testimony was disproven by evidence presented. The witnesses Freilichmann, Zaruches and Broide gave testimony which convinced the court that the accused Wiese, as charged, participated in the shooting at the gate of Ghetto 2.
The witness Freilichmann made his statement in a relaxed and composed manner, and with an obvious determination to remain objective. There was no reason to doubt the correctness of his statements. Although his testimony in Israel on January 31, 1966 (Vol. V, p. 44), in the presence of the investigating magistrate and the witness Neumann, differed from his testimony at the trial, in that he stated that Wiese and Streblow had first passed through the gate and had only afterward opened fire, this does not affect the credibility of his testimony as a whole.
The exact location of those who perpetrated a particular incident of shooting is one of those marginal details that leaves a less indelible impression on the memory of an observer whose own life is endangered by the event. For this reason, such details tend to fade away much more readily, or be altered in a person's memory, than the event of the shooting itself. Marginal details here also include a fixing of the exact time of the incident. Probably the witness Freilichmann is mistaken in his statement that the work brigades waited about a quarter of an hour after having met, as usual, at about 6:30 a.m., and that this is when Wiese and Streblow arrived. The two other witnesses, namely, state that it was bright daylight.
The witness Zaruches, whose testimony is credible, confirms the statement by Freilichmann that Wiese came to the ghetto gate after the ghetto had been sealed, fired with his submachine gun into a waiting crowd, killing and wounding a number of people; a figure of 18-20 dead was mentioned. However, Zaruches is uncertain as regards the exact time. He thinks the incident may have taken place in the afternoon, and possibly not the same day as the sealing of the ghetto, but rather the following day. Zaruches cannot recall exactly whether Streblow or anyone else also fired his gun. Along with the fact that a long period of time has passed since this incident, it should be born in mind that the witness Zaruches, according to his testimony, was standing further on down in Kraemer St., and that when shooting broke out, he sought cover in another gate passageway. Yet the witness can clearly recall that Wiese fired from the ghetto entrance gate into the crowd, which is the main aspect of the incident. This was Zaruches' first encounter with such killings, though he had many such experiences after that.
Finally, the witness Broide gave credible testimony that Wiese and Streblow, who were often together, had come to the gate of Ghetto 2 on a morning in November 1942 and that Wiese had fired from there through the fence into a waiting crowd, killing 20-25 Jews. The witness, who had been in the vicinity of the gate and had sought cover behind a house at the corner when the first shots were fired, was unable to say whether Streblow had also fired his gun. Even if the shooting reported by Broide was a second incident of this kind, as is assumed by the prosecution (the court decided that Case No. 4 should not be regarded as proven, due to its similarity with Case No. 2; this will be discussed in detail below), Broide's testimony is, in any event, evidence that such acts were committed, with the participation of the defendant Wiese.
It is not possible to utilize testimony given by Orbach in the Bielefeld proceedings to discredit the credibility of the testimony of these witnesses. Contrary to the statements made by the defense attorney Dr. Unger in his plea, Orbach did not state in Bielefeld that Wiese had been in Ghetto 1 at 6:30 a.m. on the morning of the sealing; this was the time, according to Freilichmann, that the shooting took place at the gate of Ghetto 2. Orbach only gave testimony that on the day of the sealing, about 10 or 10:30 a.m., five Gestapo men, with Errelis at their head, had entered Ghetto 1. Even if Wiese was a member of that group, this does not rule out that he was in Ghetto 2 at an earlier or later point in time that same day.
In evaluating the testimony of the witnesses, consideration also had to be given to the fact that the defendant himself, when questioned by the magistrate on April 8, 1965 (Vol. I, p. 267, No. 30) in connection with the charge, did not state that he had not fired his weapon, or that the charges were false, as he had done in regard to almost all other charges against him. Rather, he said that he would respond at a later date. If his present testimony were correct, namely that he had only heard about the shooting, and nothing else, then he most certainly could have stated this at that time.
In the defendant Wiese's favor, and considering that the witnesses only had knowledge about the total number of dead largely from hearsay sources, the court proceeded on the assumption that shots fired by the defendant Wiese and by Streblow killed a number of Jews i.e., at least two. In this connection, it remains an open question whether the shots were fired by Wiese or Streblow, since both, men acted together, cooperating in a conscious and intentional manner.
Moreover, the court was unable to determine whether the incident was based on a decision taken by the defendant Wiese. It is possible that such an action was ordered by superiors, such as Schott or Errelis, in order to disperse the crowd of Jews, while at the same time inculcating a new respect for the Gestapo - which had just assumed control of the ghettos.
2. Case No. 5
After the shooting at the gate of Ghetto 2 in November 1942, the defendant Wiese discovered a member of the Jewish ghetto police who had been wounded in the leg by the shots. He had sat down on the stoop of a small kiosk, close by and located immediately to the right of the ghetto gate, and had removed his boot. Wiese walked over to him, exchanged a few words and then killed him with a bullet fired into the brain. It cannot be ruled out that Wiese had been authorized to kill wounded persons according to his own discretion.
Wiese claims that he did not kill the Jewish policeman and that he was never in Ghetto 2.
The defendant Wiese was convicted as a result of testimony given by Broide. Broide described this incident as presented above at the main trial proceedings, and did not deviate from the content of his testimony in Israel of January 25, 1966 (Vol. V, pp. 32 ff.).
The witness Broide, who left an impression of high reliability, was, in the view of the court, not mistaken about the identity of the individual who did the shooting. He knew Wiese well. He saw him in broad daylight in profile from a distance of 15-20 meters. He had seen him frequently, as he credibly testified, together with Streblow. The witnesses Freilichmann, Zaruches and Utianski also confirm that Wiese, contrary to his own statement, had in fact been in Ghetto 2. Wiese himself admitted before the investigating magistrate on July 14, 1966 (Vol . IV, p. 101) that he had been in Ghetto 2 several times. His statement in the main trial that he meant he had been at the gate of Ghetto 2, and that the sentry room was just inside the ghetto area, cannot be given credence in the light of the clear statement made by the defendant to the investigating magistrate. All the more, since the incident under investigation in that interrogation was the shooting of a six-year-old girl in front of the building of the Judenrat (Case No. 6), which was located well inside Ghetto 2. It would have been likely for Wiese at that time to have contended precisely what he now claims, namely that he had only been at the gate to Ghetto 2, and had never been inside.
The credibility of Broide's testimony is likewise not diminished by the fact that in connection with the shooting of Ruwen Kimche (Case No. 24), his description deviates from that given by numerous other witnesses, in that he contends that Kimche was first brought by Wiese into the duty room.
This was, however, one point in which the testimony of the witness in the main trial deviated from that given by him in Israel. In Israel, he testified that he had only heard from others that Wiese had taken Kimche into the duty room. Then as now, the witness stated that he had not seen the shot fired in Case No. 24 with his own eyes. Moreover, during the course of the protracted interrogation of this witness, there was never the slightest doubt about his excellent recall abilities.
A motion to hear evidence submitted by Errelis' lawyers likewise failed to yield any differing results. Broide described in detail an incident in which Errelis gave the order to kill a Jew. The witness interrogated in accordance with the motion, Witte, an official of the District Court, stated that Broide had also described the incident in a similar manner in the Bielefeld trial, giving the same numerous details. This had been disputed by Errelis' attorneys in order to cast doubts on the credibility of the witness Broide.
There was no substantiating basis shown for the suspicion advanced in the plea by Dr. Unger that Case No. 5 had developed from the detail of a foot injury incurred by the witness Ash, described by Leib Reizer in his letter to the Jewish World Congress of July 7, 1960 (Vol. I, p. 13). In Broide's description, Ash had been given a final coup de grace. However, in the same communication, Reizer does describe the shooting of a 12-year-old boy, likewise wounded in the foot. That supposedly took place while Reizer was helping the boy on the way to the clinic. This, therefore, is another incident, quite different from the one observed by Broide.
The credibility of witness testimony in this case, as in Case No. 2, is strengthened by the fact that Wiese, when questioned by the magistrate on April 8, 1965 (Vol. I, p. 266 R, No. 18), stated that he would testify at a later date in regard to the shooting of a wounded Jewish policeman. In his interrogation by the investigating magistrate on September 22, 1965 (Vol. II, pp. 133-134), he stated then as now in respect to Case No. 2: namely, that he was aware a Jewish policeman had been killed, and that this had been in connection with the shooting at the gate to Ghetto 2.
The court ruled out that Wiese had been ordered to kill this man. A superior was not present at the time. The circumstance that even in the subsequent deportations, Jews who were sick or unable to walk were transported to the train station as the two defendants and the witness Kotler have all testified makes it impossible, in the opinion of the court, to assume that there was already at that time a general standing order to kill all wounded Jews. This does not conflict with the fact that according to various witnesses, persons in the hospital or sick bay in Ghetto 1 were killed by the Gestapo during later evacuation operations. These persons may have been seriously ill, or it may have involved cases where a concrete order to kill them had been given.
However, the possibility remains open that the defendant Wiese had - at least tacitly - been given the authority to shoot wounded persons at his discretion.
In this connection, the witness Heimbach, at that time a Hauptsturmfuehrer (Captain) in the SS, stated that a Gestapo member had to have the impression that he was covered by his superiors. This had been Heydrich's approach: "Jump in the water, but don't get wet!" Heimbach, in testimony given at preliminary proceedings on October 18, 1963 (Vol . 1, p. 194), stated (as he later admitted during the main trial) something similar when it came to the question of the shooting of Jews who were ill or unable to travel: the implementation of this measure had been more than simply condoned, he emphasized, because such action led to an immediate and practicable solution to the problem, and was in keeping with the thinking of the upper echelon. By killing such persons in need of special care, difficulties during transport could be avoided. However, at the time of the shooting of the Jewish policeman by Wiese, a deportation transport was not yet ready, and the Jewish clinic was still operating.
3. Case 13
Sometime toward the end of 1942, the defendant Wiese entered the courtyard of the Judenrat building in Ghetto 1. The janitor of the Judenrat - who had previously been a poor, itinerant cobbler - was busy sweeping the courtyard. There were also several other persons there. When they saw Wiese, they fled the courtyard in a panic. Only the janitor stayed on, and he continued to sweep the yard quietly. This angered the defendant Wiese. He walked over to the janitor and gave him a shove; then, without uttering a word, he summarily fired a shot at him from his submachine gun. The janitor fell to the ground and began to scream terribly. Wiese thereupon fired four or five more shots into him until he was dead.
The defendant denies any guilt. He stated in the main proceedings that the witness Shulkes wished to avenge himself, since Wiese had once punched him hard in the face. Before the February 1943 deportation operation, the chief of the Jewish police, the successor of Rubinczyk, had come to Wiese (according to him) and told him that they had someone who had gone stark raving mad. Wiese told him they should deal with the matter on their own. At that point, the witness Shulkes approached Wiese and suggested that he - Wiese - could shoot the madman. But Wiese rejected the idea. When Shulkes persisted, he finally punched Shulkes in the face several times, knocking off Shulkes' eyeglasses. The chief of the Jewish police then picked up the glasses.
The statement made by the defendant was refuted. The court accepted the testimony given by Shulkes; his statement is undoubtedly credible.
The court was unable to establish the alleged feelings of revenge supposedly harbored by the witness Shulkes. On the contrary: the witness was clearly trying to report only what he definitely recalled with certitude. Thus, in connection with, Case No. 3 and Case No. 14, as will be discussed below, he even limited his statements regarding the defendant Wiese. The shootings by the Gestapo in the synagogue, reported by several witnesses, which resulted in charges against Wiese in three cases (16, 29 and 38), were not confirmed by Shulkes in the form testified to by other witnesses. It would have been easy for Shulkes to state that during his visits to the synagogue, he had seen bodies of persons who had been shot. However, his testimony was that he had only seen the bodies of older persons, probably ill, and of children in the synagogue. He therefore concluded that Wiese and Errelis had shot over the heads of the crowd inside the synagogue. Shulkes likewise did not accuse Errelis on certain points where it would have been very easy for him to do so. Thus, he clearly denied that Errelis had been present at the hanging of Lena Prenski (Case No. 17), although other witnesses had testified against Errelis in this regard. When asked about specific orders to kill given by Errelis, Shulkes answered that he had never witnessed such orders, and could only give circumstantial evidence in that connection.
As far as the story which Wiese told to explain a supposed wish for revenge on the part of Shulkes after a clash with the witness, Shulkes called this a tale based on pure fantasy; it had no basis in reality and had been concocted for this special purpose. In actual fact, Wiese had never mentioned the alleged incident until the main proceedings, during the questioning of Shulkes in connection with Case No. 13. His comment that he had already wanted to make a statement on this during the questioning of the witness Shulkes on April 30, 1966 (Vol. VI, pp. 287 ff), but that one of Errelis' attorneys had advised him not to - since there was still time and the witness would appear during the main proceedings - is not credible. The interrogation of the witness at that time was very thorough. In addition, the comments of the defendant Wiese on each point, in some instances quite lengthy, were all recorded in the official transcript. It thus would appear unlikely that a statement by the defendant which was of such importance for the credibility of the witness had simply been brushed aside at that time.
Moreover, one cannot impugn Shulkes' credibility by arguing that he failed to mention the present case in his letter to the Jewish World Congress dated October 10, 1960 (Vol. I, pp. 23 ff.). In this regard, Shulkes gave a convincing explanation that the letter did not intend to be exhaustive.
Moreover, the details given by Shulkes on the shooting of the janitor fit in with the picture of Wiese formed on the basis of statements by other witnesses.
Thus, Freilichmann and Loren characterized Wiese as the master over life and death in the ghetto. This likewise was the characterization given by the witness Grau, who was stationed at that time as a soldier in Grodno. If other Germans did not hear anything about Wiese, this does not conflict with Grau's statement that he had heard this about Wiese, and that Wiese "was killing Jews." The witness Lisa Dermann gave credible testimony that the very mention of Wiese's name caused people to tremble with fear. The witness Gold called Wiese the 'bogey' of the ghetto. The witness Winicki likewise stated that Wiese was like a bogey, a monster for the ghetto residents. Whenever he came, everyone would run away. The witness Kresh stated that everyone trembled when Wiese was nearby; people would all run off to hide. Anna Schiff also testified that everyone ran to seek cover whenever Wiese showed up. The witness Furje also said that people would all run away from Wiese because they were frightened.
Likewise, in the case dealt with here, all the Jews except for Shulkes, who, as a member of the Judenrat, was less afraid fled from the courtyard of the Judenrat when Wiese would enter the premises. The simple-minded janitor, who failed to pay proper attention to the "ghetto commandant," as the Jews called Wiese, and who continued to go about his work undisturbed, got on Wiese's nerves. Moreover, this man did not die after being shot once; so, Wiese - as if "in defiance" - according to the witness Shulkes, proceeded to fire several more shots into him. The fact that Wiese was furious because he had not killed the janitor with the first bullet is in keeping with descriptions furnished by other witnesses. They, like Broide, for example, emphasized that the defendant generally only needed,one shot.
The fact that Shulkes testified earlier that the magazine used by Wiese's submachine gun was a dish-shaped drum magazine - although such a type was not in standard use either with Russian or German submachine guns - is an unimportant marginal detail. It cannot cast doubts on Shulkes' testimony as a whole, especially since Shulkes himself had no knowledge about weapons.
In respect to motives for the shooting, and its implementation, the court rejected the notion that Wiese had received an order or a general authorization to kill, although there is no doubt that he was not, subsequently reprimanded by his superiors for such action.
b. Shootings of persons who had attempted to flee
1. Case No. 26
In January 1943, the defendant Wiese led a young Jew, aged about 16, up through Chasna St. to an open square in Ghetto 1. The young man had left the ghetto without permission, and had been apprehended on the outside. Wiese shot the boy from behind with his submachine gun. The Jew fell to the ground lifeless. It is feasible that Wiese was acting on orders when he carried out this shooting.
Wiese denies having committed the act. Furthermore, he has stated that he was suffering from a bad cold in January 1943 and spent five to six weeks in bed.
This statement has been disproven. The defendant Errelis has no recollection of Wiese's having been sick. He can only recall that one of his subordinates was ill at that time. However, the witness Niestroj also stated that Wiese had been sick several times. In any case, testimony by witnesses indicating they saw him at "Operation 10,000" (Kulik, Kersh, Sulkies, Notes, Weber, Bell, Sisun, Shulkes and Genia Kotler) suggests that Wiese was not ill and bed-ridden for the entire month of January 1943. According to testimony by Furjes, the shooting of this young man occurred prior to "Operation 10,000," which was carried out from January 18 to January 22, 1943.
The court accepts the credibility of the statements made by the witness Furje, who clearly recognized the defendant. Furje stated that he observed the events in question from the first floor of his house, at a distance of approximately 50 meters. However, he was quite familiar with Wiese, and could not have mistaken him for other Gestapo members. Furje had worked for a year as a car mechanic in the garages of the Gestapo. When questioned, he was able without any trouble to recall names of certain members of the post which were completely unknown to many other witnesses. In addition, the house of the witness was located at the entrance to Chasna St., so that Wiese must have been coming toward him in the incident dealt with here, and the witness was thus able to see Wiese's face, as he credibly stated. The witness had learned from people who lived near the gate that the young man had been caught outside the ghetto, probably by Polish police, and had been brought to Wiese and handed over.
In disagreement with the prosecution's argument, there is no doubt in the opinion of the court that the Jew was in fact killed. In the main proceedings, Furje did testify that he had looked at the body only in one of the two incidents of this kind which he had observed. According to his testimony, however, it was Wiese's habit to fire from the bottom in an upward motion with his submachine gun, "as though he were cutting the man in two." Consequently, the court does not doubt that Wiese indeed killed his victim. This was also in keeping with his intention. If his victim had not been killed immediately, Wiese would have fired several more shots, as in other cases on record.
It was impossible to rule out that the killing of this Jew was in accordance with a specific concrete order to shoot him. The young Jew had acted illegally by leaving the ghetto without a permit, and the Gestapo was resolved that no one should escape the imminent deportation operation.
2. Case No. 27
Likewise in the month of January 1943, though on another day, the defendant Wiese brought in another Jewish man who had left the ghetto illegally. He took him from the ghetto gate to an open area in Ghetto 1. This Jewish male was approximately 30 years old. Wiese also shot him from behind with his submachine gun. It is possible that this shooting had been ordered by one of Wiese's superiors.
Wiese likewise contends in this instance that he was sick the entire month of January, and therefore did not shoot this Jew.
That statement has been disproven. The facts as ascertained in this case are based on testimony by the witness Furje. Furje, in his credible description of the incident, observed events from the same vantage point at a distance of 50 meters, namely from his own apartment. Once again, he clearly recognized Wiese as the man who fired the shots.
Here too, there is a possibility that the shooting of this individual was also on specific concrete orders from his superiors.
C. Shootings during checks at the gate
1. Case No. 18
The end of 1942, Wiese was busy at the gate of Ghetto 1 checking whether Jews returning from work were attempting to smuggle in food. He discovered a piece of butter in the back pocket of Gerszon Finkelstein. Finkelstein was forced to surrender the butter. Wiese then ordered him into the ghetto. After Finkelstein had taken a few steps, Wiese shot him with his pistol in the back of the head. The man collapsed and died.
In this case and the following, in which Wiese shot Jews during inspection at the gate, it is feasible that Wiese did in fact have formal authorization to shoot Jews at his own discretion.
Wiese denies the charge. He contends that he was never alone when he carried out body searches for food; Untersturmfuehrer (2nd Lieutenant) Schott was always present. In the afternoon when the Jews returned from work, Schott would take three or four men aside. Then the Jewish police searched them. If anything was found, such as a loaf of bread or a piece of meat, the Jew had to surrender this, and then he was allowed to go on. Only in two cases had Schott ordered Streblow to shoot the Jews. He was unable to say what had been found on them. According to Wiese, Streblow took them down the street a certain distance and then shot them there. Perhaps, Wiese contended, he had been mistaken for Streblow.
This veracity of this statement by Wiese was disproven. The witness Gold testified with high credibility that Finkelstein had been shot at a distance of 6-7 meters. He had recognized Wiese very clearly in the light at the ghetto gate.
The court had no doubts regarding the credibility of the testimony given by the witness Gold. The witness was visibly agitated when he saw the defendant Wiese. At one point in his testimony, he indicated emotionally that he was capable of killing Wiese. This reaction by the witness was comprehensible, and does not contradict the correctness of his statements. On the contrary: one could even say (and this is the opinion of the court) that the reaction of the obviously emotional witness underscores the veracity of his charges against the defendant. According to his credible statement, Gerszon Finkelstein was his best friend. He and Finkelstein's father buried him together.
The witness Gold did not confuse Wiese with Streblow. The witness has a clear picture of Streblow's appearance in his memory. According to this, Streblow was a bit smaller and stockier than Wiese. This was also reported by the witnesses Kulik, Loren, Aron Derman, Jelgin and Furje.
Two other witnesses described cases where Jews were shot during checks at the gate. These cases have a number of similarities with that described by Gold. The witness Baruch Kotler testified that he had observed Wiese during a food search asking a Jew: "So you want to eat butter?" After this he took him to one side and shot him. This description is too general to be able to say that Kotler in fact had witnessed the shooting of Finkelstein. Butter was at that time undoubtedly a quite frequently smuggled item.
The testimony given by Ely Gordon is also only of very limited value as a proof in this particular concrete case. The witness recalls the shooting of a Jew named Finkelstein who had tried to smuggle an egg into the ghetto. Gordon may be mistaken about the item of food which Wiese found during his search. On the other hand, the name Finkelstein was fairly common in Grodno, as the witness Gordon stated himself. In any event, the credible testimony presented by these two witnesses indicates that Wiese was undoubtedly capable of such a deed.
The earlier testimony given by the defendant Wiese also confirms to a certain extent the statement made by Gold. It is impossible to accept Wiese's contention that he never shot anyone during a food check. On October 24, 1963, during interrogation by State Prosecutor Schaplow (Vol. I, pp. 22 f.), Wiese stated the following: in reply to the question whether the statement of a witness could be true that in mid-January 1943 Wiese had shot the carpenter Goldschmidt because he had had a liter of milk on his person when he returned to the ghetto from work, he said he was not able to remember exactly, but that he considered that to be quite possible (the Goldschmidt shooting is not a part of the present proceedings).
In the main proceedings, the defendant Wiese asserted that he had not gotten along with the prosecutor Schaplow. He contended that the interrogation had been "improperly recorded," which is why he refused to sign the protocol of the second day of testimony. That particular statement on his part had been falsely formulated in the transcript. Wiese contends he stated then that someone had shot the man - but not that he, Wiese, had shot him. He had complained about these incorrect formulations. Schaplow initially revised the record, but later did not deal with the matter any further. The court was unable to give credence to this statement.
Schaplow testified with credibility that he had been surprised at the time that Wiese, who was familiar to him from a great deal of testimony, had stated quite openly in his interrogation what was contained in the record. It was new to him to hear that Wiese had supposedly protested during the dictation that Schaplow had been talking continuously into the microphone during every question and answer, or that Wiese had subsequently declined to sign the protocol. In view of Wiese's willingness to testify, Schaplow stated that he would have been prepared to formulate the protocol as Wiese wished to have it. The only explanation for the lack of a signature by Wiese on the second protocol was, Schaplow contended, because the signature had been forgotten. At that time, Schaplow explained, he had been working on 13 different parallel cases from the central office. If Wiese had refused to sign, Schaplow would have made a note of this. But from his final notes, Schaplow stated, it was clear that Wiese had been willing to sign the document. His note reads: "The accused has been informed that the original copy of the interrogation protocol will be presented to him for approval and his signature after the dictation has been recorded." Apparently there was a technical oversight, and that had not been done.
In any case, it is improbable that Wiese stated 'someone' had done the shooting, and that the state prosecutor then said Wiese was that person - since the central issue here was precisely in which specific cases Wiese himself admitted to having carried out the shootings.
If Wiese said it was "quite possible" that he had shot Goldschmidt at the gate because he had tried to smuggle food into the ghetto - and the court is convinced that Wiese did make such a statement - then that constitutes a concrete admission that in cases of this kind he himself had on occasion pulled the trigger. This is indeed what the witnesses Gold, Kotler and Gordon, as well as many others, have testified.
A specific concrete order to shoot Gerszon Finkelstein - as in other cases to be dealt with below where smugglers of food were shot must be ruled out here. None of the witnesses ever noticed that Wiese had been given such an order by one of his superiors in their presence. In the case under consideration, the witness Gold has indicated that Wiese was not alone; there were two other Gestapo men nearby. But they had nothing to do with the checking procedure at the gate. As far as Gold can recall, they were busy with something else. The course of development of events also suggests that Wiese had not been given a specific order. Wiese told Finkelstein to walk on into the ghetto immediately after the butter had been discovered and taken away from him. The fatal shot was fired right after that.
Moreover, there was also no general standing order to shoot Jews caught trying to smuggle food into the ghetto. This is corroborated by Wiese's own behavior: by no means is it the case that he shot each and every Jew caught smuggling food. In many instances, he let the person off without any punishment. If Wiese had in fact had any such standing order, the court is convinced that, given his attitude and personality, he would have acted in accordance with that order.
Various witnesses indicated that, in a number of instances, the defendant Wiese had not killed Jews caught smuggling. Kremer testified that he had seen Wiese force a Jew caught trying to smuggle in some cooking oil spill out the contents of the bottle. Furje reported on two instances in which Wiese, as a punishment, compelled Jews to eat their 'smuggled' food on the spot: one time a kilo of raw fish was involved, on another occasion a bottle of whiskey. In the second case, Wiese is also reported to have beaten the man. The witness Bell stated that if a person was caught smuggling by the Municipal Police, he was lucky. But if you were discovered by the Gestapo, you were as good as dead, or nearly so. Kowienski testified he had been checked twice by Wiese. Once he had found some bread, and had taken it away from him. There was no shooting. Wiese had found some charcoal on the person of the witness Freilichmann. He threw the charcoal away, and then punched the witness in the face several times. Gordon reported that Wiese had found a piece of bread in his - Gordon's - barber's bag, but had let him keep it, remarking that he was a barber too. Wiese took his scissors and cut off some of Gordon's hair. Shulkes also described an instance when Wiese had not shot the person: he had caught a 14-yearold girl trying to smuggle something, had taken her into the duty room, forced her to lie down, and then had struck her with a heavy whip. Afterward, Dr. Brawer was also forced to whip the girl. Furje summed up his knowledge about these matters by saying that it had been in Wiese's discretion to do as he saw fit with persons caught at the gate smuggling small amounts of food.
Even if there was no order in respect to shooting, it is possible that Wiese was authorized to act at his discretion, including execution in the case of individuals caught trying to smuggle food items. The number of instances of reported shootings - there were a total of 5 cases - and the fact that these shootings took place before the eyes of the Municipal Police (who might conceivably have reported the matter, though that is not probable), suggest the possibility that there was some sort of authorization of this kind, possibly only tacit in nature. The court is of the opinion - and this is supported by historical evidence - that Wiese, as well as other members of the Gestapo, were largely given a free hand in the ghetto in dealing with cases of so-called "transgressions" by Jews. In that regard, the life of a Jew was worth nothing.
2. Case No. 20
At the end of 1942, Fannia Klezel returned one evening to Ghetto 1 with a shopping bag in her hand. After she had passed the ghetto gate and the police guard standing there, she was stopped by Wiese, who discovered some food in her bag. He exchanged a few words with her and then let her go on. After she had taken a few steps, he shot her in the back of the head. She collapsed to the ground and died.
It cannot be ruled out that this Jewish woman expected to be shot, even though Wiese had not taken the food away from her and had let her continue on.
The defendant denies the charge, but was convicted on the basis of credible testimony given by the witness Bell. Bell, who testified in a quiet, composed and confident manner, had observed the shooting of this woman at close range. According to his statement, Bell - at that time a boy of 14 - had pressed himself tightly up against the wall of a house so that Wiese was unable to see him directly. The victim was a cousin of Bell by the name of Fannia. It is true that the witness stated in testimony given in the German Consulate General in New York on February 25, 1966 (Vol. 5, p. 97) that the woman shot was named Renja. However, this does not lessen the credibility of his statement. The witness explained that he had been mistaken in his earlier testimony, he had mixed up the first names of Fannia and her four sisters. All these cousins had been killed. After his deposition in New York, he said he had remembered that Renja had been sent to Auschwitz with the "Operation 10,000" in January 1943, and had been killed there. For this intelligent witness, it would have been quite simple to avoid the contradiction by using the name Renja in the main trial as well. The fact that he did not do so indicates that the witness reported about an event which had really occurred. He had no concern to make sure that his statement contained no contradictions. His testimony convinced the court that the defendant Wiese had indeed committed this act.
Contrary to the argument of the defense counsel for Wiese, doubt cannot be cast on the description given by the witness because he stated that later on they had had to pull apart his cousin's hands by force, since in death she was clutching her shopping bag. This was supposedly some 15 minutes after the shooting, after Wiese had left the scene. Now it is true that rigor mortis could not yet have set in at this point so soon after the shooting. But the fact that she was holding the bag so tightly can be explained by assuming that this Jewish woman had clutched the food - so important for her and her family - as she walked away from Wiese, and was thus clinging tightly to it at the moment of her death. This spasmodic contraction had not been released, even after she died. At least, that is how it appeared to the witness at the time.
Proof that Fannia Klezel was indeed killed by the shot is contained in the testimony of the witness that his cousin had been shot in the head, as the Jewish police who were at the scene told him, and that he - the witness - himself accompanied the body of his cousin to the cemetery and took part in the burial.
The witness Bell did not mistake someone else for Wiese. He knew Wiese well. He testified credibly that members of the Gestapo had frequented the shop of a shoemaker with whom he was friendly to be fitted for shoes, and he often visited there as well. In this particular case, Wiese had been alone, standing in the light of the lamps at the ghetto entrance.
The court was unable to establish that Fannia Klezel no longer feared she might be shot after Wiese had allowed her to walk on. Such a finding would have contradicted the fact that in other cases as well, Wiese had first told his victims that they could continue on, and then had shot them nonetheless in the same manner - by a bullet in the back of the head.
This, for example, was reported by the witness Gold in Case No. 18. The witness Kulik described the shooting of Kimche (Case No. 24) in similar terms. One can assume that the Jews were familiar with this behavior on Wiese's part. The witness Ness testified that after he had been caught, Wiese recognized him as a Jew and sent him back to the ghetto - after beating him with his fist and the butt of his gun. Ness thought that he was done for, but Wiese then let him off with a kick in the pants after the intervention of the chief of the Jewish police. Wiese, the witness stated, was known for his having killed a number of people at the gate. The witness Hess at that time was about 13 years old. Thus, the woman Klezel, who was perhaps between 25 and 30 years of age, may well have thought that Wiese would go ahead and shoot her - even though he had told her to move on.
3. Case No. 23
Sometime in the winter 1942/43, in any event before January 18, 1943, the defendant Wiese was supervising searches for food by the Municipal Police at the gate of Ghetto 1. Jews returning from work had to pass through the entrance in groups of seven, and were checked by a police officer. Wiese discovered that the Jew Rogowski had concealed a loaf of white bread. The Jew came up very close to Wiese in order to cut off the angle for a possible shot. He said the bread was for his two children. The defendant Wiese pushed Rogowski back and then fired a round from his submachine gun. Rogowski collapsed to the ground, and Wiese then shot him in the head, after which Rogowski died.
The defendant denies having committed this act. He was convicted on the basis of testimony by the witness Jelgin. The witness gave credible testimony describing the incident as outlined above.
There were no serious doubts about Jelgin's credibility. In his restitution papers, the witness indicated that he had been in the Grodno ghetto until August 1944, and was then in hiding until 1945 after escaping from the ghetto. However, the ghetto was actually vacated completely in March 1943, and the Russian offensive had reached Bialystok District by the summer of 1944. The witness Jelgin stated immediately in response that some error he could not explain must be involved. He did not attempt to make any excuses for this discrepancy. Despite these discrepancies in his restitution claims papers, the court gives credence to the accuracy of his description of the events under consideration.
Nor is the credibility of his testimony damaged by the fact that his statements in the main proceedings contain a contradiction to his testimony before the German Consul General in Boston on March 11, 1966 (Vol . V, p. 156). At that time, Jelgin stated that the name of the victim was Nomki Rogowski. Now he contends that Nomki was the brother of the man shot. However, the witness made this change in his testimony at his own wish, quite consciously, in order to correct his previous mistake. The witness stated with credibility that he now clearly recalled that they had talked for weeks in his work brigade about the incident, and in those discussions the name of the victim's brother, Nomki, had also been mentioned.
Jelgin's testimony has considerable value as evidence due to the peculiar details of the events described by the witness - namely, that the victim had used a special ploy in order to try to avoid being shot on the spot, as he expected and feared. Rogowski moved very close to Wiese, cutting off the angle, so that it would be difficult for the defendant to fire a shot. This circumstance had served to imprint the event on the memory of the witness.
It is impossible that the witness confused another Gestapo member for Wiese. According to his credible testimony, he had known Wiese for a long time. Wiese had been well-known even before the hanging of Lena Prenska (Case No. 17), which occurred about mid-November 1942, but after that time he became notorious. The present incident, according to the witness, took place under the light of the lamps at the ghetto entrance. There was no other member of the Gestapo in the vicinity. The witness had "had no choice" but to look Wiese straight in the face, since he was standing in the same group of seven men together with Rogowski. The witness observed the first and second shot from close range.
The court has no doubts that, based on the available testimony, Rogowski was killed by the shots fired. However, the witness also stated, with credibility, that the workers later talked about Rogowski's burial.
4. Case No. 33
Likewise in the winter 1942/43, before January 18, the defendant discovered a bottle of whiskey on the person of a Jewish male about 30 years of age returning from work during a search at the ghetto gate. Wiese ordered the man to drink the contents of the bottle. He added that this would save his life. After the Jewish man had almost emptied the bottle, he collapsed to the ground. Wiese then fired a shot into the man, as he lay with his face to the ground. He subsequently issued an order that the body should be left where it was so that Jews returning through the gate could see it.
It is quite feasible that the death of the emaciated Jew was a result of the alcohol he had imbibed. But Wiese had counted on this right from the start, and had anticipated such a possibility.
The defendant, who denies the charge, was convicted on the basis of testimony by Jelgin. According to him, Wiese suddenly appeared at the gate, so that Jews standing in line no longer had any chance to get rid of food items they were carrying. The witness on this occasion was also in the direct vicinity of events. He stated that the Jew had drunk approximately the quantity of one water glass from the bottle, which contained the equivalent of about four glasses of whiskey, when he collapsed.
The court could not definitely determine whether the Jew had died as a result of drinking the alcohol. Possibly an amount equivalent to three glasses would have been sufficient to cause a collapse of circulation, because the Jews were all physically weakened due to their inadequate diet. This circumstance, and the fact that the Jew had just finished a hard day's work, were known to the defendant. He also knew that in such a case, a large amount of alcohol could lead to a complete fatal collapse. If even then he gave the order to drink, he must have anticipated the possibility of a fatal outcome to the incident.
In any event, the shot caused the definite death of the victim. This can be assumed on the basis of Wiese's order to leave the body lying as a warning to other Jews. His death can also be assumed on the basis of the statement by the witness that people spoke the next day about the fact that the body had been taken to the cemetery for burial.
According to Jelgin's credible testimony, in this instance as well, there was no other member of the Gestapo present at the gate aside from Wiese.
The court was unable to determine whether the victim had trusted the assurance given by Wiese that he would let him live. As mentioned, it was popular knowledge among Jews that Wiese behaved in just the opposite manner, they were familiar with his bullying attitude.
5. Case No. 24
In the winter 1942/43, while Wiese was checking brigades of Jews returning from work for possible hidden food together with an officer of the Municipal Police at the entrance to Ghetto 1, an item was found on the person of a Jew named Kimche - probably a chicken. The defendant ordered Kimche to run on into the ghetto. When Kimche obeyed, Wiese then shot him in the back of the head.
The defendant denies having committed this act. He was convicted on the basis of testimony by a number of witnesses.
It is true that there are a number of discrepancies in testimony between the various witnesses. However, in contrast with the argument of the defence, this is no proof that the incident did not take place. The contradictions involve marginal aspects. In respect to one central point, all witnesses say the same thing: namely that Kimche, a middleaged man who ran a flour business before the war, was shot by Wiese during a check at the entrance gate.
The witness Shulkes stated that the shooting of Kimche had horrified ghetto residents. It was the subject of conversation throughout the ghetto, and each person identified himself with what had happened. This could mean, however, that some witnesses might describe the incident as something they themselves saw, yet only know about it from hearsay.
It is fairly certain that such is the case in regard to the testimony of Orbach. This witness stated during the main trial that he had observed events from close range: Wiese had gone over to Kimche, taken some food from him, told him to turn around, and then proceeded to shoot him in the back of the neck. In his testimony before the investigating magistrate on May 12, 1966 (Vol. VI, pp. 319 f.), Orbach said, in contrast, that he had heard a shot while he was standing at the gate. The Jewish police officers had told them that those waiting in line had better get rid of any food they had. Wiese found some food item on Kimche and then shot him. The witness said that he had seen Kimche lying on the ground dead, not far from Wiese, when he walked on past them.
Orbach was also a poor witness in other respects. Yet even when it came to such a reliable witness as Broide, the court was unable to give credence to his testimony that the incident he had described was in fact the shooting of Kimche - even though Broide was completely convinced of this. According to Broide's testimony, Kimche was supposedly searched by Wiese in his washroom, and was heard to have shouted: "Jews, he wants to kill me." No other witness gave such a description. In the opinion of the court, Broide here is somewhat confused in his recollections, due to the long period of time that had lapsed since the event.
The witness Sulkies probably also did not observe Ruwen Kimche's shooting directly. According to his version, Wiese shot a Jew who was trying to smuggle a chicken into the ghetto. Probably, this was not the only time an attempt was made to smuggle a chicken into the ghetto. Sulkies could no longer remember the name of the Jew shot. Someone in New York told him that the man's first name was Kewe, and that his father had been a baker. Kimche's first name was Ruwen, and his father had a flour business, as most of the witnesses knew.
The witness Baruch Kotler likewise testified as follows: sitting on his manure cart, he had observed from a great distance that Wiese had discovered a Jew smuggling a chicken into the ghetto, and had then shot the Jew. It was not possible to determine with certainty whether the witness Kotler had seen Kimche being shot. In any event, this testimony, and that of other witnesses, indicates that this killing was an act Wiese was clearly capable of committing.
Rosianski's testimony is based on hearsay. According to his credible statement, he was in one of the groups waiting to be let in. He then learned that Wiese had shot the Jew Kimche, who had been hiding a chicken on his person.
The witness Kowienski stated that he was told one evening while returning from work that Wiese had killed Kimche at the ghetto entrance by a shot in the back of the neck, because Kimche had tried to smuggle something into the ghetto. The witness Kowienski, who was about 20 years old at the time, added that Kimche had been a middleaged man and a friend of his father, and had had a flour shop before the war.
Finally, the witness Ely Gordon also heard that Wiese had shot Ruwen Kimche. He said the Jewish policeman Lomm had told him this. According to his testimony, Gordon also saw Kimche's body.
Trachtenberg, an intelligent and reflective witness, who had the ability to describe in vivid terms many details of ghetto life, was working in construction at the Gestapo post, and therefore was able to identify the defendant Wiese with absolute certainty. According to his credible testimony, he had seen Wiese coming toward him immediately after a shot was fired, and had seen Kimche's body lying on the ground a bit further on up in the narrow street (Chasna St.). There was no other member of the Gestapo present except for Wiese.
Dr. Zandman, likewise an especially intelligent witness, at that time a boy of 14, was, according to his testimony, standing further down on Chasna St., and had seen Kimche walking toward him. The defendant Wiese was behind Kimche, and then shot him. He testified that he had not seen any other German there except for Wiese. Later he learned that Kimche, a man of perhaps 45-50 years of age, who was in the flour trade, had wanted to smuggle a loaf of bread into the ghetto.
Kulik and Winicki were direct witnesses. Kulik described the incident with credibility. Standing in close proximity, some 5-6 meters from Wiese's washroom, he had seen that Wiese or the police officer had found a chicken hidden on the person of Kimche, a man he was familiar with. Wiese, after ordering him to run into the ghetto, had shot him in the back of the head. According to Kulik's credible statement, there was no other member of the Gestapo present aside from Wiese.
Winicki also gave a similar credible description of the shooting of Kimche, which he had observed at close hand. It is true that Winicki testified on December 19, 1960 (Vol. 1, pp. 40 f.) that Kimche had been shot by Streblow. In the main trial, Winicki stated that there must have been an error in recording his words, because he had said the name "Wiese" at the time. Even if this statement is not correct, the circumstance that Winicki at that time had identified Streblow as the person who did the shooting would not be sufficient to cast doubt on the evidence implicating Wiese as the killer, since no other witness ever accused Streblow in this connection.
d. Shootings in the synagogue
Case No. 29
During the evacuation operation in January 1943, Wiese appeared very early one morning together with Streblow at the entrance to the large synagogue in which Jews had been gathered together the night before for deportation. The defendant Wiese and Streblow then proceeded to fire their submachine guns into the closely packed crowd of people. Just as Wiese wished, several persons were killed. It is possible that Wiese and Streblow were acting on the order of one of their superiors. They acted together, and with conscious intent.
Wiese denies ever having fired into the synagogue. Moreover, he claims that due to his illness, he did not participate in the January operation.
This contention has been refuted. The witness Notes, who described the incident, stated that despite the poor lighting in the synagogue, he recognized Wiese from the side at a distance of some 10 meters. Wiese was firing salvos straight out in front of him, with a slight sweeping motion. Before that, people had shouted. "Wiese, Wiese, Wiese!" When he started firing, everyone moved back and ducked down for cover. When he left the synagogue, he - Notes - had had to climb over the bodies of men, women and children. More than ten people had been killed.
The credibility of this testimony is not lessened by the fact that Notes later stated he had even observed Wiese's finger pull the trigger. If that was in fact hardly possible to discern given the poor lighting conditions, then the witness unconsciously had added a detail which fit in consistently with the rest of the picture. The witness saw Wiese enter, raise his submachine gun and then begin firing, sweeping back and forth. There is no reason to assume that this serious, and in general rather slow witness, had consciously added a detail which he had not actually observed.
This also holds when it comes to the statements of the witness on identifying the defendant. The witness mentions the defendant's glaring eyes and striking nose. While numerous witnesses Freilichmann, Broide, Kulik, Loren, Sisun and Jezierski - have mentioned Wiese's deep-set and striking eyes, which were difficult to forget, Lisa Derman was the only witness other than Notes to make mention of Wiese's nose as a special feature. The deep-set eyes, even today still a feature of the defendant's appearance, made his nose appear even longer back at that time, when his face was somewhat thinner. It is thus not surprising that the witness Notes stated that Wiese had a long nose. Nor can it be considered damaging to the witness and his credibility that he once testified he had seen Wiese limping. Wiese's leg injury occurred in the summer of 1944, and only after that did he have a limp. Yet Notes did not state that Wiese had a constant limp. In his recollection, he only saw Wiese limping once.
Other witnesses confirm that Wiese did fire into the synagogue during the January operations, and was thus not bed-ridden at home at the time. However, several of these witnesses state that Wiese only fired at the chandelier, the clock decorated with holy lettering, the altar and the holy scrolls. Thus, Sulkies reported that Wiese had suddenly appeared in the synagogue and had fired with his submachine gun at the chandelier and the clock. Both of these had been broken even before this incident. In reply to the question whether Wiese had also shot Jews in the synagogue, he stated that he did not know. Kremer testified he had seen Wiese firing into the altar during an evacuation operation. It was unclear in the case of this witness whether he had made the observation during the January or the February operation. The witness Shulkes has also stated that he knew Wiese had fired into the synagogue where people had been assembled. Since he had not seen any bodies there of people who had been shot, but rather only those who had died in other ways, he had concluded that on this occasion Wiese had fired over the heads of the crowd.
The discrepant observations can be explained by the fact that the January 1943 operations extended over a period of five days. The people were assembled in the synagogue before each transport prior to being marched to the station. Wiese or other Gestapo members did not fire on each such occasion into the crowd.
For this reason, the content of the earlier testimony of the witnesses Topow, Jacob Beren and Max Beren (not heard in the main proceeding) does not cast doubt on the credibility of Notes' testimony. The court assumed the truth of the statements of these three witnesses, which were partially read into the record at the request of the defense counsel Dr. Unger in so far as they involved the synagogue shooting.
The witness Topow gave a deposition before the German Consul in Philadelphia on March 16, 1966 (Vol. V, pp. 164 ff.), stating that Wiese had appeared together with other Gestapo men in the synagogue and had then fired at the clock which was suspended from the ceiling by chains. The clock had shattered and its glass face had fallen off. Topow did not, according to his own statement, see that anyone had been killed in the synagogue. He had only stayed in the synagogue for about an hour.
In his testimony in the German Consulate General in New York on May 25, 1966 (Vol. VI, pp. 339 f.), Jacob Beren likewise stated that Wiese had fired with his submachine gun at the synagogue clock, so that its glass face had been shattered. During this shooting, his father had received a head injury, probably caused by a glass splinter. He stated that he did not know whether others had been injured or killed during the shooting. People were packed together tightly in a very small space, and he had not been able to observe exactly what was happening.
The brother of this witness, Max Beren, stated in testimony on June 8, 1966 (Vol. VI, pp. 377 f.) that he had heard about the shots Wiese fired at the clock, and about the injury suffered by his father. He then went to the synagogue, and found his father, who had been injured on his forehead. He stated that he had not seen whether Wiese had killed anyone.
In addition to Notes, other witnesses also reported having observed Wiese fire at the Jews gathered in the synagogue during the January 1943 operations. However, Orbach should not be included in this group of witnesses. Aside from the fact that Orbach's testimony could not be used, and that he had contradicted himself in many points and had not given a plausible explanation for the contradictions, he was unable to say anything about the identity of those who had fired into the synagogue, "a number of times, into the densely packed crowd." This also holds true of the witness Lazar, who left an extremely unreliable impression. He stated in the main proceedings that he had been told several people up front had been struck by the shots fired by Wiese and Streblow. Moreover, he had heard these shots. In his testimony in the German Consulate General in New York on March 1, 1966 (Vol . V, p. 108), he stated that he had neither noticed himself nor heard from others that anyone had been killed. Finally, the testimony of Genia Kotler that she was hit by a stray bullet on her arm while leaving the synagogue is unconvincing. That same shot supposedly killed a man standing behind her. The scar shown by the witness did not look like one that had been inflicted by such an injury.
Baruch Kotler testified with credibility that his comrades - who like him were normally involved in transporting garbage and sewage waste from the ghetto, and who had transported bodies during the two evacuation operations at the order of the Judenrat - had told him that among the bodies in the synagogue were some of people who had been shot, along with persons who had died due to suffocation or were crushed to death. The witness Sisun stated he had seen Wiese shoot at the clock in the synagogue. He had also seen Wiese lower his gun and then fire into the crowd. But he had not noticed whether those killed had been hit by these shots, or by others that were fired. The witness Bell also testified that he had seen Wiese shooting in the synagogue. According to his credible testimony, however, he saw Wiese shooting from outside at people gathered in the synagogue. The witness Kersh stated that she had seen Wiese fire first at the lighting fixture, and then into the crowd. A man standing next to her was hit in the shoulder. A woman with a child had also been struck. When they left the synagogue, she stated that many persons had shouted that their father or mother was dead. As far as she could now recall, this had been in the late afternoon.
These observations may not relate to the same case described by Notes. But they confirm his statement, in that all witnesses agreed that they saw Wiese firing into the crowd. Finally, Wiese incriminated himself by his contention denying that he was ever implicated in any shooting incident at all inside the synagogue, even one involving building fixtures.
Regarding the number of persons shot by Wiese and Streblow in the incident described by Notes, the court was unable to reach a definite conclusion as to whether ten or more people were killed. According to his own statement, Notes had no opportunity to count the bodies. The recollection of more than 10 dead is possibly based on nothing but an inaccurate impression. The court was thus able to conclude only that several persons had been killed, i.e., at least two.
In keeping with the circumstances, it is feasible that one of the superiors of Wiese and Streblow gave the order to fire into the crowd, either in order to intimidate the Jews or to force them to crowd together even tighter, so that more Jews could be concentrated inside the synagogue.
e. Killing of groups
1. Case No. 17
On a day sometime in mid-November 1942, three Jews were hanged at a corner house in Pereca St. at the vegetable market in Ghetto 1. The three were (a) a young Jewish woman named Lena Prenska, who had left the ghetto without permission, staying on in town, and had been apprehended there; (b) a Jew who was not a native of Grodno, whose name perhaps was Drucker, and who likewise had been outside the ghetto without a proper permit; and (c) the Jew Moses Spindler, who formerly had had a button store and was now responsible for the registry of residents, but who had not reported the absence of Lena Prenska.
The hanging, which was carried out at the order of one of the Gestapo leaders, Errelis and Schott, was observed by Wiese, other members of the Gestapo, a group of Municipal Police, members of the Jewish police, with their chief Rubinczyk, as well, on specific order, by members of the Judenrat, including its chairman Dr. Brawer and the witness Shulkes. Many other Jews were standing as onlookers further in the back. The Jewish police was charged with the task of carrying out the hanging. Since Wiese was dissatisfied with a Jewish policeman, who was apparently going about matters too slowly to suit Wiese's taste, he shoved him away, placed the noose himself around Lena Prenska's neck, and then kicked aside the stool on which she was standing. Beforehand, he gave a few words of explanation as to why these three Jews were being hanged. He stated that the hanging was being carried out "at the order of the Kommissar."
The bodies of the three were left hanging several days as a warning.
The defendant Wiese, contrary to his earlier statement, now no longer denies that he took part in the hanging. He maintains that Schott took him, Streblow, Rinzler and others (he can no longer recall who) over to the jail and told them that three Jews had been condemned to death by the Standgericht. The three Jews were standing bound in the courtyard, guarded by a police unit numbering 18-20 men. The Jews were then brought to the ghetto. The execution there had been ordered by someone. In the ghetto, Wiese contends, the nooses were already prepared, suspended from a house. A large number of Jews were also already present. Wiese stated he assumes that Schott had ordered their presence via the Judenrat.
Wiese stated that he believed the three Jews had been condemned to death for having escaped the ghetto, or for stealing. He did not know any more than that.
A police officer, Streblow and himself had then proceeded to hang the three. He had been forced to do this by Schott. Before this, he had stood off to one side, talking with a Jewish policeman, because he did not wish to "get involved" in the execution. Schott took out his pistol and said to him: "Well, how about it?" He then hanged the woman; he climbed up the ladder with her and placed the noose around her neck. As far as he could recall, there had not been any chairs, nor had he pushed away any stool.
He was certain that Errelis was not at the hanging. He did not speak with Errelis about this incident.
Schott told the head of the Jewish police force that the three bodies should remain hanging there until evening. A verdict by the Standgericht was not read aloud.
The court follows the description of external events largely as presented in the credible account given by the witness Shulkes, who observed events at far closer range than the numerous other witnesses. It was not possible on this basis to determine whether the defendant had hanged the two other victims himself as well, as several other witnesses testified. Shulkes could only definitely recall that Wiese had hanged Prenska. It could not be determined with certainty whether she had said to Wiese that he would pay for this, or that she had spit in his face, or that he went about her hanging in an especially cruel and brutal manner - as the witnesses Kulik, Jelgin, Sulkies, Sisun, Kremer, Genia Kotler and Rabinowicz report they heard or, in some cases, report to have seen. Shulkes observed none of this. As in the case (No. 24) of the later shooting of Kimche, the hanging of Lena Prenska prompted a great deal of discussion in the ghetto. The blending together of hearsay and what actually took place is particularly pronounced in this instance.
The claim made by Wiese that he was forced at gunpoint by Schott to hang Lena Prenska has been disproven. Shulkes calls that contention by Wiese pure fantasy. As far as he recalls, Errelis and Schott were not even present. None of the other witnesses - one of whom, Krem, I testified to having seen Errelis and Schott at the scene of the crime - noticed that any force was exerted by a member of the Gestapo on Wiese. It is likewise totally improbable that Schott - assuming he was actually present - gave added emphasis to his order by pulling his pistol or making any other threatening gestures, no matter how brutal he may have been otherwise. Within the SS, there was a principle of total and complete obedience to orders. In accordance with this, in early interrogation, Wiese referred only very generally to orders of his superiors. Given his attitude and personality, Wiese did not need to be threatened to perform an order.
He denied any participation in the hanging of the three Jews in his first interrogation by State Prosecutor Schaplow on October 23, 1963 (Vol. I, p. 124). In his interrogation by the magistrate on April 8, 1965 (Vol. I., P. 267, No. 24), he admitted being present at the hanging because of an "official order" given him by Schott. But he continued to deny that he had carried out the hanging by his own hand. If it were true that Schott had actually compelled him to do this, Wiese would certainly have mentioned this point in these earlier interrogations. Wiese alluded to the alleged threat made by Schott using his pistol for the first time while being questioned before the investigating magistrate on September 22, 1965 (Vol. II, P. 139).
The contention of Wiese that these three Jews had been sentenced by a Standgericht court-martial, or that this is what he assumed, has been disproven. It is clear, based on the credible statements of Dr. Altenloh and the defendant Errelis, that what was objectively involved here was not the implementation of a sentence handed down by a Standgericht. Errelis has testified, with credibility in this connection, that the attempt by a Jew to escape from the ghetto was a minor offense, and not considered a matter worth bringing before a summary tribunal. Moreover, if there had been such a judgment, he - Errelis would have had to hear about it, because Standgericht proceedings involved considerable correspondence. He himself had never considered initiating Standgericht proceedings in the case of an attempt to flee the ghetto. Moreover, the circumstance that the Jews were hanged, and that this took place within the ghetto, speaks against the assumption that a judgment by summary tribunal was involved here. The witness Dr. Altenloh and the defendant Errelis both agreed in their statement that sentences of a Standgericht were to be carried out by a unit of the Municipal Police according to instructions given by Altenloh, without any participation by the Gestapo. In addition, Errelis stated credibly that sentences handed down by the Standgericht were not carried out in Grodno in the ghetto, but rather outside of town in an old fort, Fort V. Only in one case were Polish plunderers executed by hanging in Grodno itself, as a warning - but this execution had also been carried out outside the perimeter of the ghetto.
Nor did Wiese assume that the three Jews had been condemned by a Standgericht. Schott did not need to tell Wiese such fabrications. When it came to the killing of a Jew, Schott had a free hand, just like Wiese. Such a killing was, in the words of the witness Heimbach, "more than acceptable." Both men were clearly aware of this. According to the two defendants and various witnesses, Schott had good connections with higher SS officers. Wiese, by his own behavior in the ghetto, had demonstrated that he knew full well what little value the life of a Jew was considered to have. This is demonstrated by the preceding shooting in Ghetto 2 as well as the shooting of a Jewish police officer (Case No. 2, Case No. 5).
Thus, even if Schott had actually maintained - possibly out of consideration for the members of the Municipal Police present there that the hanging was the carrying out of a sentence handed down by the Standgericht, Wiese would have recognized this as nothing but a fabricated justification. Wiese was familiar with procedures in Standgericht decisions. That court also sat in session in Grodno, and the witness Sandhop - who committed suicide during the course of the main proceedings - testified in his statements (October 6, 1965, Vol. II, p. 190; July 4, 1966, Vol. IV, p. 62) read aloud into the record that Wiese had been present on the occasion of at least one execution in the fort.
However, Wiese did not make any reference to any Standgericht verdicts either in his interrogation by State Prosecutor Schaplow or in questioning before the magistrate - this although he was undoubtedly well-aware of the institution and importance of such judgments in his capacity as a former Gestapo official. Thus, if his present contention were correct, he could have been able even earlier to have admitted the present case under consideration, and have referred to judgments handed down by a Standgericht. In any event, he could have done so in those other cases of group killings which he has admitted involvement in.
Contrary to his view, there was enough reason and occasion to make such a reference in earlier interrogations. State Prosecutor Schaplow most certainly raised the matter of the legal basis for the shootings which Wiese admitted to having carried out. However, Wiese repeatedly spoke only about the binding nature of the order he had been given. At one point (Vol. I, pp. 128 f.), he stated then that Schott had told him these people (two Jews, one Russian paratrooper caught in civilian clothing) were to be shot. He, Rinzler and Streblow had then taken the three men from the jail and had killed them by pistol-shot in the back of the neck in the open square (in Ghetto 1). Their burial had been taken care of by the Jewish police force. Wiese claims he did not dare ask why the prisoners were to be shot. He also did not know whether there had been any legal basis for this shooting. He stated that he had carried out the order because he believed it was necessary for him to do so.
Even if Wiese made no mention of a verdict handed down by a Standgericht in this particular instance involving the execution of a partisan or spy, he nonetheless most probably would have mentioned the supposed Standgericht judgments in those killings where only Jews were involved.
It is clear from the external circumstances that Wiese did not carry out the hanging on his own, but rather was acting on the order of a superior. The numerous spectators, the official character of the event due to the presence of the regular police and members of the Judenrat, for example, and the clear objective to serve as a deterrent and warning to the population, point to the existence of a specific, concrete order to perform the execution.
2. Case No. 39
Sometime during the period between the evacuation operation in February 1943 and the deportation of the last Jews from Grodno in March 1943, the defendant Wiese and other members of the Gestapo acting together cooperatively and with conscious intent - fired with their submachine guns at a group of at least ten Jews standing in a courtyard in Ghetto 1. This ghetto had, in the meantime, been considerably reduced in size. Among these Jews was the Andorski family, consisting of father, mother, daughter, son-in-law and a young boy aged about 8-10. These Jews had fled into the Kredowe Gory hills located near Grodno, and had been seized there. The execution by shooting was carried out on the order of one of Wiese's superiors.
The defendant has stated in regard to this case, as well as the following cases of group shootings, that he participated in a total of four; Schott, he claims, had said that these involved the carrying out of sentences handed down by Standgericht. Schott, Wiese stated, had given the order for the execution. However, Wiese said he had to assume that someone above Schott had given him an order. There must have been an order from a higher authority. Members of the police batallion were present at the execution. Special weapons were not distributed; rather, the weapons available were used for the purpose. A special firing squad was not formed. The Jews were brought in several groups to the place of execution.
Wiese contended he thought the Jews were being executed because they had attempted to escape from the ghetto. A reason for the execution was not given to him at the time. On one occasion, he recalls, there had been a child aged 4 or 5 among those to be shot. Perhaps the child was 6 or 7 years old. That child was in the largest group executed, consisting of 15-18 persons. Wiese claims that he himself did not shoot this child.
These persons who had escaped the ghetto had gone into the forests, fleeing up into the Kredowe Gory hills. That was partisan territory. There had been reports that Jews who had fled the ghetto had formed contacts with partisans. The Jews had become partisans. But Jews who were partisans were shot. Wiese maintains he was of the view then that there was at least a fair suspicion that these Jews may have been partisans.
Wiese claims he cannot recall that Errelis took part in these executions. In that connection, however, all he was basing this on was the statement by Errelis that he had not been in Grodno after the February operation.
Regarding the involvement of Errelis in Case No. 39, note the remarks above on pp. 35 f.
Defendant Wiese's participation in the shootings in this case is considered as having been proven on the basis of his general confession and the credible testimony of the witness Trachtenberg.Trachtenberg has testified that there was a boy of 6-10 years in this group, although Wiese claims he cannot recall the presence of such a child.
Mention was also made above (p. 36) that the testimony given by Golub cannot, for various reasons, be used as evidence in Case No. 39. A comparison of the testimony given by the witnesses Trachtenberg and Jezierski indicates that Case No. 39 is not identical with Case No. 41. In the former case, the fiancee of Osher or Julian Trachtenberg was among the victims, and according to Jezierski's credible testimony, Trachtenberg then arrived and wanted to search through his fiancee's clothing for possible cash. The witness Leon Trachtenberg testified that his brother Julian's fiancee had been killed at such a shooting, and that he had seen her body, but that this had been on another occasion.
Trachtenberg indicated a figure of 10-15 for the number of victims shot. In addition to the five members of the Andorski family, there had been perhaps 8 to 10 others; he had known them, but could not recall their names. The court established the minimum number of persons shot in this instance to have been ten. Such a minimum figure is certainly correct, even if the witness was mistaken that eight persons in addition to the Andorski family had been shot.
The contention of the defendant that this involved the carrying out a sentence handed down by Standgericht - or at least that this is what he assumed at the time - has been disproven. In this connection, one should refer to remarks made in connection with Case No. 17. One would also have to ask how the defendant could possibly believe that a boy aged 8-10 could have been sentenced to death by a Standgericht.
Wiese's statement that he thought the Jews might have been suspected of being partisans should be seen as nothing more than subterfuge: an attempt on his part to protect himself. The first time the defendant made any statement to this effect was in the main trial; he had not mentioned this in any of his earlier interrogations.
This statement had little initial credibility, but was proven to be totally false in the light of testimony by Errelis and the witness Grau. The defendant Errelis stated, in agreement with what has been said by Jewish witnesses, such as Loren and Bell, that Jews outside the ghetto had found themselves in a very hostile environment, and were given a place to hide only after paying a large sum of money. Errelis testified that initially the partisans had been unwilling to help the Jews. In any case, it was not until the spring of 1943, after the ghettos in Grodno had been liquidated, that the partisan bands started to become more active. Errelis stuck to his testimony even after the witness Heimbach, head of Dept. IV with the KdS in Bialystok beginning in early 1943, stated that there had been a number of Jews from the Grodno area among the partisans captured. Heimbach said that the runways and railroad tracks were controlled by the Germans only during the day. Here, the witness Heimbach apparently has a recollection of a later period in which partisan activity and countermeasures had taken on a special importance. Thus, even the defendant Wiese was himself wounded during anti-partisan operations in 1944. This does not conflict with the circumstance that, according to Heimbach's testimony, Himmler had issued an order as early as August 1942 regarding measures to combat the activity of partisan bands in Bialystok District. This operation, under the code name >Wisent<, was carried out under the supervision of the IdS, Dr. Canaris. Errelis testified that they had had nothing to do with Operation Wisent, and that he could not recall a single incident where a captured member of the partisans had been brought to them for interrogation. The credible testimony of the witness Grau substantiates the claim that partisans indeed played no role in the Grodno area during the time period of interest here. The witness was stationed as a soldier in Grodno until March 1943. He stated that he had gone hunting frequently in the forests around Grodno, and said in summary that life there had been quite peaceful.
Thus, no one thought of the possibility of partisans when Jewish families - men, women and children who had avoided deportation - were discovered living in the forest and apprehended. Even the witness Heimbach asserted that should he have come across an unarmed Jewish family that had fled into the forest, it would never have occurred to him that these people might in fact be partisans.
3. Case No. 40
One morning in late February or early March 1943, Wiese, Streblow and other Gestapo members, acting together cooperatively and with conscious intent under orders, executed a group of at least ten Jews who had escaped from the ghetto and been captured. The execution took place in a courtyard in what was left of Ghetto 1. The group included the married couple Weinstein and their approx. 20-year-old daughter, as well as a Jewish woman by the name of Jawlowa. There were no children in the group. They were forced to stand with their backs to a wall. Their bodies were left there for a time as a warning. When Wiese and Streblow walked away from the scene, they were laughing, as if one of them had just told a joke.
This description is based on the general confession of the defendant Wiese and credible testimony by the witnesses Loren, Kowienski, Lisa and Aron Derman. The witness Kowienski reported, with credibility, on the jocular exchange between Wiese and Streblow after the shooting. He had observed these events from a short distance, while hidden in a rickety wooden shack.
The witnesses indicated the total number of victims was approximately 14 to 18. In this case too, the court reached a determination that the minimum number of those shot was at least ten.
4. Case No. 41
On another day during this same period, Wiese and other Gestapo members, acting together cooperatively and with conscious intent, under orders, executed a group consisting of at least ten Jews. The execution took place in the remaining section of Ghetto 1. The Jews, who had fled the ghetto, had been captured in the nearby Kredowe Gory hills. Some were barefoot and exhausted. The group included the pharmacist Bellach, the wife of a dentist from Grodno and the fiancee of Julian Trachtenberg. Two of the women had small children: one carried a child in her arms, the other was leading a little girl of four or five years by the hand. The Gestapo members fired salvos with their submachine guns back and forth in a sweeping motion, shooting at the legs of the victims and slowly raising their guns. Then the defendant Wiese stepped over to the victims and gave them a final coup de grace from his pistol. He ordered the Jewish police to let the bodies lie until the afternoon to serve as a warning to others. After the Gestapo had left, a woman who had only been shot in her legs was still alive and managed to lift herself up.
This description is based on the general confession made by the defendant Wiese and the credible testimony of the witnesses Winicki, Jezierski, Bella Srugo and Judith Kornfeld.
Not all witnesses testified regarding each and every detail of this incident; this, however, is understandable, since the witnesses did not pay attention to everything, or were not able to recall everything they had observed. However, similarities in their testimony made it possible for the court to determine that the four witnesses had indeed seen the same execution. Except for the witness Strugo, all of them saw the injured woman stand up. All witnesses testified that the Gestapo had fired first at the legs of the victims, and then higher. The witnesses Winicki and Kornfeld observed the final coup de grace shots in the head. Only Jezierski is unable to recall any children. He described the above-mentioned incident involving a Trachtenberg - named, as far as he could remember, either Osher or Julian - who had found his fiancee among the victims, but had been unable to search through her clothing for possible cash.
In respect to the number of victims, the witness Kornfeld could only recall a large group. The other witnesses named a figure of 18-20, or about 20. Even in the case of this probably largest group, the court was only able to establish with certainty the minimum figure of ten dead. It cannot be ruled out that the witnesses were unconsciously mistaken as regards their recollection of the exact number of victims. This is also true in the case of the defendant Wiese, who indicated that the largest group of Jews executed numbered 15 to 18.
The court was unable to determine with certainty that Wiese in this incident had acted in an especially cruel and brutal manner. The witness Strugo testified to the following: before the execution, she had seen the woman leading a small girl aged four or five by the hand go up to the defendant Wiese and beg him to shoot her first and then her daughter - probably because she did not wish to witness the death of her child. But Wiese shot the child first anyhow.
The truth of this statement was not established. It should be born in mind that the witness at the time was a girl of thirteen, and that the horrible event had made an especially strong impression on her. At the wish of her father, the witness Winicki, she had been asked to go and see whether her missing sister Pola was among the group. According to her own words, she herself felt "almost dead" when she saw this woman she knew together with her small daughter. Thus, her ability to perceive events was already impaired as a result. Likewise important for the court was the fact that this witness was unable to describe in detail how the defendant Wiese had gone about the shooting of the small girl. It was thus feasible that the small girl had been shot by someone else. Finally, a slight doubt derived from the circumstance that the witness Srugo had accused Wiese of shooting her schoolmate Schatzki, while her sister Pola Solnicki named Streblow as the one who had shot him (Case No. 32; there has been no main trial as yet). It is even possible that Srugo mistook Wiese for Streblow.
5. Case No. 42
A few days before the deportation of the final remaining Jews to Bialystok, Wiese, Streblow and Lottermosse, acting together cooperatively and with conscious intent, under orders, executed a group of at least six Jews, aged 17-20, who had been hiding in the vacated area of Ghetto 1. The execution took place in the above-mentioned courtyard, or in a similar one, in the remaining section of the ghetto. Among the victims, who had been brought barefoot and with signs of having been maltreated and abused that morning to the courtyard, there were two or three girls. The young Jews were shot with submachine guns. When a few continued to scream, the defendant Wiese shot them in the head with his pistol. At Wiese's order, the bodies were left lying until the next morning.
This execution was demonstrated to have taken place on the basis of the general confession made by Wiese and the testimony by the witness Rosianski.
It is certain that this shooting is not identical with any of the other group executions reported. The witness Rosianski described the shooting with credibility. He is one of the best witnesses, with an outstanding power of recollection as regards the locale of incidents, conditions in the ghetto and his own experiences at the time. He is the only witness to report on a case where young people exclusively were executed. The witness was certain that this group contained no children; he was also certain that there had not been more than eight persons shot. However, in the preceding cases, there had been some children among the victims, and the groups all involved a larger number of Jews.
6. Case No. 43
A few days after this, the defendant Wiese - along with Streblow, and possibly Lottermoser - acting together cooperatively and with conscious intent, under orders, executed three Jews at the same place: the pharmacist Bellach, aged 27-28, his wife, some 6-7 years younger, and a third Jew. They had all been captured in the nearby Kredowe Gory hills. The Jews were brought barefoot to the place of execution. The young woman was injured in her eye; her husband's arm looked as if it had been dislocated. At Wiese's order, the bodies of those shot were left lying for a period of time.
The truth of this charge was established on the basis of the credible testimony of the witness Rosianski. Wiese denied his involvement in the specific incident. In interrogation before the investigating magistrate on July 12, 1966 (Vol. IV, p. 87), he supported this denial by contending that he was no longer taking part in the shooting of Jews in March 1943. He stated that Jews caught after the February operation were taken to jail, and later sent to Bialystok. To his knowledge, none had been shot.
The defendant Wiese was convicted based on the testimony given by Rosianski.