The eighth day of the trial
Presiding Judge: I would like to call Witness Maślanko to the stand. With the consent of the parties, the witness is exempt from taking the oath.
The witness is advised of the criminal liability for making false accusations. Mieczysław Maślanko, 43 years old, residing in Warsaw at Pierackiego Street 15, attorney, unrelated to the parties.
Presiding Judge: Please present your observations about the ghetto to the Tribunal.
Witness: Your Honor, in order to present all my observations made over a span of several years, Your Honor will allow me to stick to the chronological order, according to the events of the occupation, starting with the outbreak of the war.
After the German army had entered Warsaw, after about three weeks, the German authorities failed for the first time to comply with international law by violating the Hague Convention. Namely, they brought all of their police forces and their civilian, social and municipal authorities onto the territory of Warsaw – occupied by the military authorities in accordance with the rules of the Hague Convention – as if it had already been part of the Reich. The implementation of such a complicated administration has resulted in the fact that each defendant in every case hides behind the lack of competence, the fact that some other authority was in charge of this or that.
I have to admit that the National-Socialist administration was multifaceted, but when it comes to the subject of my testimony, the ghetto or, strictly speaking, the subject of the Jews during the war on the territory of Warsaw – the administration was completely unanimous and cooperative. The plan was coordinated between all of the authorities represented here in the dock – between the civil administration, the municipal administration, the police and even the military, not represented among the defendants. I regret that the army from the first occupation period is not represented in the dock – the first military commandants of Warsaw, Generals Cochenhausen and Neumann-Neurode. The moment the war began, following the army’s advance in the east, some SS units or the Sicherheitspolizei [Security Police] were formed right away. These units would not have been positioned according to territory yet, as the war was in progress and the front was moving; they came after the occupying army, or rather – with that army. I remember precisely the first and the second day of Warsaw being occupied by the army. I was a member of the vigilantes at that time and I was on duty near the Blank Palace on Teatralny Square. What was characteristic – the first German divisions that showed up were not the regular army but the so-called Order Police, Ordnungspolizei. Next, before the staff of the 8th Army – which occupied Warsaw – appeared, about thirty SS men arrived at the Blank Palace on Teatralny Square, all of them with the rank of pilot officers SS-Untersturmführers. These men, before all others, judged the condition of the entire Blank Palace. Then, after the special control of the SS men, the 8th Army staff appeared and positioned itself next to the pillars. The captor of Warsaw, General Johann Blaskowitz, received a military parade. That’s what’s characteristic, the fact that Warsaw was occupied by the police authorities, whether it was the Order Police, Secret Police, Security Police, or the SS.
One of such groups, called by the Germans the Einsatzkommando … I must explain, Your Honor, that the word Einsatz is not a new word in the German language, but it had different meanings in the Nazi terminology during the war: Einsatz can mean action, and Einsatzkommando could be characterized as an SS operational group of the army. And so, one such operational group of General Blaskowitz’s 8th Army was led by Defendant Meisinger. It is a fact: I saw a pass signed by Defendant Meisinger as the head of the Einsatzkommando of the 6th or 4th Army. I saw it in December 1939 and the pass was from the first days of October, and had been issued for the members of the Judenrat so they could move about freely on the streets of Warsaw. The signature was legible, I remember it precisely. That was in the first days of October, before the so-called Sicherheitspolizei at Aleja Szucha had established itself as the Gestapo of the Warsaw district. Nothing was fixed, the administration in the territory of Warsaw was military until 26 October, and that’s when the pass was signed by the head of the Einsatzkommando of the 6th or 4th Army, Meinsinger.
Your Honor, before the civil administration was established (from 26 October, it is said), military units were in power, with the cooperation of the SS groups, the Sicherheitspolizei. The practices aiming at the physical annihilation of the Jews in Warsaw began right away.
I wouldn’t be completely objective with regard to the defendants if I didn’t emphasize once again that during this initial period the responsibility was placed on the military units, as well as the police, especially because those units were the auxiliary authorities of the German armies.
The moment the German army entered Warsaw, when two military groups were joined – the northern group led by Beck and the southern group led by Rundstedt – General Rundstedt became commander-in-chief of the army in the east and, he was responsible for all the unlawful operations performed by the German army and the police in Warsaw up until 26 October. General Lieutenant Manstein was General Rundstedt’s Chief of Staff. Formerly, it was Lewinski, who later became the marshal and leader of the southern front against the Soviet Union. Those two men handled the military administration until 26 October.
Your Honor, the Nazi legislature and practices are known in detail on the basis of two facts. The first fact, of an international character, not questioned by anybody, and not even the defendants were notified about who [probably missing from the typescript] the essential verdict of the International Tribunal in Nuremburg, where the laws issued by the Nazis were judged to be contrary not only to international law but to any human law.
I would like to emphasize one thing, the German administrations in the territory of Warsaw were characterized by the implementation of all those practices before they were regulated by law, before the General Government and the SS and police commander-in-chief, with headquarters in Kraków, gave their orders.
And so, before Warsaw was occupied – which took place on 1 October – the general command in the east, Oberkommando Ost, issued the following order: “A Jew cannot carry more than two thousand zlotys with him; A Jew is not allowed to withdraw more than five thousand zlotys; all transactions and legal acts concluded after 1 September 1939 by Jews are invalid. Jews, who are known to predominantly occupy themselves with trade, cannot perform jobs concerning trade, manufacture or leather.” Breaking those rules was punishable by death.
Before the principal orders of the civil authorities were issued, which happened on 26 October – I won’t repeat all the details, which can be summarized in the following points, of how the German authorities organized the life of everyone of Jewish origin before the general governor and the governors who substituted for him came into power.
First of all, from the very beginning they tried to separate the Jewish population (comprising nearly nine percent of all residents of the country and twenty-five to thirty percent of city residents) from other civilians of the occupied territory, by depriving them of the means to meet their basic needs. This was done by openly or secretly confiscating some part or the entirety of their wealth, or by completely constricting their rights to manage their wealth and by forcing them into slave labor.
I must emphasize that from the first days of the occupation, the Jews could not move around the city. If they were seen, they could be taken for labor, even though there was no labor. They were caught so they couldn’t move around the city, take care of their most important affairs or buy food.
The ability to earn money was limited, the ability to satisfy alimentary and sanitary needs was significantly limited, religious practice was limited or made impossible. Łódź was occupied by the German army on 9 September. 14 September 1939 was the time of the Jewish fall celebrations. Before Warsaw was occupied, the military authorities in the territory of Łódź – probably coordinated by the police – issued an order forbidding the celebration of worship services under the threat of death.
I must emphasize that during the fighting, more or less in the middle of September, between 14 and 17 – when Warsaw was already besieged, but the electric lighting was still working and city residents could use the radio – I heard the commander-in-chief of the German army, General von Brauchitsch, express his astonishment that some of the people were leaving their dwellings and heading for the east. He stressed that “it especially applies to the Jewish community.” General Brauchitsch then assured the civilians, regardless of their origin, that unless they interfered with the warfare, they were not in any danger and could work in peace.
Today, an important question arises: why was a larger number of Jews kept within the territory that was later occupied, and what did it have to do with the war strategy from the perspective of Mr. Brauchitsch’s interests? What was the purpose of that? Now it is clear that there was a single goal: to concentrate the largest number of Jews within the Polish territory, as the goal to exterminate all Jews in Europe, especially in Poland, had already been set.
I must also emphasize something Your Honor probably already knows, as I don’t doubt the investigation has established that on 21 September in Berlin, a briefing was held by Himmler or Heidrich for all the heads of the Einsatzkommando SS or the operational groups of the Sicherheitspolizei. During the briefing, the program of exterminating the whole Jewish population in Poland was discussed. It was also decided that the Jews must be primarily concentrated in bigger cities, isolated in the cities with railway junctions. It becomes clear to us now, in light of the final act that took place later, beginning in 1942. If I recall the contents of the document which I saw, and which probably is and remains at the disposal of the Supreme Tribunal, it was an instruction issued on that day, already signed by Heidrich, to all heads of SS Einsatzkommando. The instruction referred to the briefing that took place in Berlin on that day. I remind you once again that the whole plan of action was to be kept secret. Moreover, people were to be concentrated in bigger cities. It was even detailed how to justify such actions taken against the Jewish population. It becomes clear that the military authorities had already been informed at that time, especially because the letter implies that a duplicate was communicated to the military and civil authorities, that is, the later administration of the General Government.
When General Governor Frank came into power in Poland, on 26 October, and issued an appeal to the people in the General Government – which we all know – the question of the Jews left no doubts. When he used the phrase “we will relieve you of the Jewish exploiters,” all Jews, with no exception, were labeled under one term: exploiter. On that day, the respective district representatives started governing in Warsaw, most importantly District Governor Fischer.
The period of occupation up until 1942, which interests us in this case, can be divided into the following parts: the military government, up to 26 October 1939; from 26 October 1939 until 15 November 1940, when sealed ghettos were being created; and from 15 November 1940 until 22 November 1942, when the governor completely lost control of the Jewish district. During these periods, the cooperation between the respective authorities was impeccable, but sometimes the civil authority was dominant in one period, while the police was dominant in another period. The first example of this marvelous coordination, this marvelous cooperation between the police and the general administration – Fischer’s first transgression in the territory of Warsaw, the first blatant transgression with regards to the Jewish population – was the order concerning the armbands, issued by the governor. I don’t want to talk about the fact that Governor Fischer was especially diligent, that he began issuing orders when no general regulation had been given by the general governor. I don’t want to talk about the fact that, in the district governed by Mr. Fischer, the armbands had to be two centimeters wider than stated by the general regulation. I don’t want to talk about the fact that, in the governorate [district] governed by Mr. Fischer the armbands had to be worn by children from ten years old and not twelve, as stated by the general regulation. These are particularities. But the first transgression indicating full agreement, solidarity of action of the police and the general administration, was the way the order about the armbands was promulgated. The authorities didn’t officially announce it to the public in the form of a proclamation or regulation – what they would call Bekanntmachung – stating that from this day onward, Jews were to wear armbands. That didn’t happen. The Jews, including the district government, learned about it from a newspaper issued in Polish at that time – the Nowy Kurier Warszawski – that came out on 30 November. The newspaper was issued in the afternoon, around three or four o’clock. In that newspaper, it was said that from the following day, that is, from 1 December, all Jews were to be supplied with armbands and were only to show themselves in town with them.
I don’t want to say that it was issued so that the majority of people could not comply with it – they needed fabric and, above all, information about the width of the armbands. I don’t want to say that it was done so that people could be held criminally liable. It was done because, in the same issue of the newspaper, there was information, which undoubtedly came from Mr. Meisinger’s milieu, about the shooting of 53 Jews arrested as hostages on Nalewki Street 9, by virtue of some assault made by a criminal whose name had been known and made public.
So that’s why the two pieces of information were included in one newspaper: above all, to terrorize the public – which was their permanent method – so that people, threatened in this way, would comply with the regulation. Speaking of the 53 unfortunate victims, I must…
Prosecutor Sawicki: Due to a very important telegram which has arrived, I would like to order a break.
Presiding Judge: Perhaps the witness would like to finish discussing this case.
Witness: With regards to this fact, I must recount the following. At the beginning of October 1939, the Blue Police found a known criminal in a tenement house at Nalewki Street 9. He resisted and, if my memory serves me right, as I don’t remember the details, he killed one of the policemen. A few days later, several cars arrived at the tenement house and whoever was found inside the building and in the backyard (53 people) was taken to the cars.
Then the Gestapo summoned the head of the district again and announced that, because the Jews were arrogant toward the representatives of authority, the police had decided to impose a tribute of three hundred thousand zlotys on the Jewish community. Unless it was paid by a given deadline, all those who had been arrested at Nalewki Street 9 would be shot. The tribute was paid within 48 hours. Two days later, the head of the district went to the police command at Aleja Szucha to ask when the hostages would be released, since the full sum had been paid. He received no answer. It was not until 30 November that the newspapers gave information that the fifty-three people mentioned above, taken hostage so the payment could be collected, had been executed.
Presiding Judge: I’m ordering a short break.
(after the break)
Presiding Judge: We will continue the interview of Witness Maślanko.
Witness: I stopped after saying that the public, as well as the Judenrat, found out from a newspaper from 30 November 1939 that the 53 Jews taken hostage had been shot. The news was so improbable that even the people who had been better informed didn’t want to believe it could have happened, as the payment had been regulated within the deadline set by the Gestapo. They came to believe it after several weeks, when the Gestapo summoned the representatives of the Judenrat in order to give them the clothes and shoes of those executed. If I remember correctly, the corpses were also given out and the unfortunate victims were buried in one place. The 53 graves were situated in the Jewish cemetery in Praga. The police later saw that as a sort of a demonstration, they said that a mausoleum was being created. They were told that the bodies were being buried according to the arrangement of places. I have the impression that a larger bribe was needed – bribes were notorious – to ease the situation around the funeral, which was such a quiet ceremony that people didn’t know when it took place or where the bodies were buried.
The next great accomplishment, which was the doing of the Gestapo alone, was the so- called Kot affair, which took place not long afterward, in January 1940. The Blue Police representative unmasked a broadcasting station managed by a conspiracy member named Kot. During the arrest, the young combatant managed to escape. Since the authorities established that Kot was of Jewish origin, it was decided that the Jewish population should be repressed as a result. In the middle of January, the then president of the Judenrat was summoned by the Gestapo at eight o’clock in the morning. He was asked to wait a few minutes and so he waited seven hours. After that, he was told that everything was all right. It turned out that during those seven hours, mass arrests had begun in the city, mostly among the intelligentsia of Jewish origin. I don’t remember the exact number, but about four hundred people were arrested, mostly attorneys, doctors, engineers, teachers, rabbis and other intelligentsia representatives. For the next two days, the arrests continued, people were stopped in the streets – by then, the Jews were wearing their armbands in public. They were identified by being asked about their occupation. If they were bookkeepers, engineers or attorneys, they were arrested and walked off to the Gestapo. No information about those people made it past the walls of the Gestapo headquarters, it couldn’t even be established whether they were on the Gestapo premises at Aleja Szucha, in the Pawiak Prison territory, at the prison in Mokotów, or in some other place of isolation. No information on the subject could be obtained. That was the first precedent. Usually, when a larger group of people is arrested, we know perfectly well that some information will get through, that someone will manage to send out a letter, someone else will manage to pass a message through some prison functionary. In this case, there were no messages. The unfortunate families of those arrested were coming to seek information from the Judenrat, which was sending its representatives to find out what had happened to them. Absolutely no news. It was only at the beginning of July that the chief of the Gestapo had a humorous idea. He summoned a representative of the Judenrat, had him receive the list of the arrested, commonly known as “kotowcy,” then looked through the list, glanced over his papers and proceeded to dictate: “Mark a cross where I tell you.” The crosses appeared next to some sixty percent of names. He then declared that the crosses stood for the people who had been shot, the rest had been sent to a concentration camp. Which camp, he didn’t want to say. “It’s an official secret.” Right away, the Judenrat informed the families of those who apparently remained alive and had been sent to concentration camps. However, it turned out that all those people, with no exception, were shot in Warsaw by the order of the Gestapo a few days after 20 January. The order to shoot, without going through a court, must have been issued by the chief of the Gestapo, as such a regulation could be issued by the Reichsführer-SS only after 1941.
The Reichsführer-SS could, however, delegate his powers to the Heeresoffizier SS und Polizeiführer in the district, but only later, or to the Gestapo commandant, the Sicherheitspolizei commandant. The knowledge and orders of the chief of the Gestapo were necessary. Defendant Meisinger was undoubtedly chief of the Gestapo until the end of November 1940. These things are not part of the subject of my testimony, but, Your Honor, I do not doubt [even] for a moment that the massacre in Palmiry in June 1940 could also not have taken place without the knowledge and participation of Defendant Meisinger.
Your Honor, when it comes to the activity of the civil administration at that time, during the first winter of 1939/1940, the head of the district, Mr. Fischer, was always quick with everything, and so he was also quick to remove all attorneys of Jewish origin. If Jewish attorneys could be seen in courts in Kraków until April 1940, in Warsaw – as a result of the orders of Mr. Fischer, who was so quick – from the very moment the courts were initiated there was an order saying that no Jewish attorney could be admitted to the court. Moreover, Jews were deprived of the right to benefit from hospital services, state officials of Jewish origin were deprived of their salary, they were deprived of their retirement pension, the right to earn money, the funds of the Judenrat were confiscated by the police right after the invasion of the German army, any sort of taxation was made impossible. The people of the liberal professions could not earn money, tradesmen could not trade legally under pain of death, property owners could not collect rent, as an appointed administration was created in the summer of 1940, there were no people who could be taxed. The Jews were deprived of the right to benefit from hospital services and all municipal facilities. That’s what the situation looked like before the ghetto was sealed on 15 November 1940.
But I wouldn’t be accounting for all of what Defendant Meisinger must have been informed about if I didn’t talk about one thing. As we know, ambulances and German limousines were running around the whole city of Warsaw, and there was an SS unit with its headquarters at Filtrowa Street in Warsaw. Two men from that unit occupied themselves with a kind of hunt – they caught women with armbands and took them to Filtrowa Street, where sadistic orgies took place. When the number of victims grew larger, there were some naïve people in the city who thought there was some kind of authority they could deal with. They turned to the German authorities to explain what was going on. They were asked to present reports of those victims’ testimonies. When the material is here, [they were told,] it will be possible to order an investigation.
Presiding Judge: Where was that intervention?
Witness: At the Gestapo headquarters. I cannot say where exactly. I suppose that the intervention must have taken place in the Gestapo department for Jewish affairs, but I don’t know for sure. There was a naïve man, a Polish citizen and resident of Bielsko, who spoke German and worked at the Judenrat. He committed himself to collecting the testimonies of those victims from Warsaw. The reports were presented to the Gestapo. What was the result? Five days later, after the reports were submitted, the man was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. After three weeks, a telegram, the contents of which are known, arrived from there. His name was Karol Singer, a Polish citizen and resident of Bielsko.
I mention this because some serious efforts had been made to release him and, from what I heard, I know that one of the senior dignitaries, the chief of the Gestapo, wanted to release him, but another one wanted to send him to a camp. I’m speaking of the first defendant, Meisinger, and the other one was supposed to be Moder, who was the head of the SS and the police in the Warsaw district at that time. I think that Defendant Meisinger should remember this detail and I don’t doubt that he will explain it.
In November 1940, we learned that there was a change on the position of the chief of the Gestapo and it was said that Mr. Meisinger would be sent on a diplomatic mission to the Far East, while his place as the chief of the Gestapo was taken by Müller. He was the chief until the early spring of 1941, until the post was taken by Hahn. On 15 November 1940, the order to seal the ghetto was issued. Not long before, walls started to be built in certain places in the city. The German authorities justified the building of the wall by saying that it was necessary due to sanitary reasons, for the safety of the German army. There had already been signboards with the inscription “ Seuchengefahr – danger of epidemic,” but no one would have guessed that it was about creating a sealed Jewish district, as the German authorities constantly gave assurances that creating any sealed Jewish district was out of the question. It was the sealing of the district that would result in the danger of epidemic. But on 15 November the regulation concerning the closing of the ghetto was issued. It was signed by Leist, the co-defendant in this case, but I must stress, to be precise, that his conduct in this case was of a formal character. He was the city mayor, after all. It was about dividing Warsaw in two and establishing which part belonged to the ghetto and which part belonged to the rest of the community. Why? Because the whole displacement operation and the direct rule over the Jewish population was being taken over by a special department situated in the district, the district department with the conspiratorial name U (Abteilung Umsiedlung). That was a department of the head of the district, under Governor Fischer’s direct control. Defendant Leist had nothing to do with it. If I remember correctly, the leaders of that department, subordinate to Defendant Fischer, were: Bilfinger, Steiert, Fabisch and others. Those officials were directly subordinate to the governor and the heads of the Abteilung Umsiedlung, that is, the displacement departments. They managed the displacement of the Jewish community from the part of town they couldn’t inhabit and vice versa, the displacement of the Christian community – or as they called it, the Aryan community – which was to be removed from the district which was to be Jewish. It must be said that the Gestapo’s interference decreased in the period from 15 November 1940. Obviously, the department immediately implemented the familiar methods to deal with all familiar problems. There came the question of food – how to deliver food to the sealed district. And so the two [three?] men had an idea and created a company, half state and half private – GmbH (Gesellschaft mit beschraenkter Haftung) – the Transferstelle. The institution was headed by a Volksdeutscher, who [was active] in Warsaw before the war – Mr. Bischof. These people were to regulate food deliveries to the Jewish district.
I will not talk about the commonly known fact that the food rations were far smaller in the Jewish district. Basically, the deliveries were calculated in such a way that people could live and that their deaths would be hard, but the Transferstelle was a commercial institution and it had to make profit. With these conditions taken into account, one gets a clear image of what those deliveries may have looked like.
Defendant Fischer changed the mode of administration of the Jewish district in April 1941. A new regulation was implemented roughly at the end of May. From that point onward, the Jewish district in Warsaw was not to be ruled by the Abteilung Umsiedlung of the district, but by a special commissary for the Jewish district in Warsaw and for all Jewish districts situated in the cities of the entire district. And so this department for the Jewish district was a special department of the governor, and roughly at the end of May, Auerswald became the commissary for the Jewish district on behalf of the governor. The governor’s rule was more direct at the time, as it was Auerswald who was the governor of the Jewish district. The governor – if he didn’t give any special orders to the commissary, who was his subordinate – had to know what was happening in the district and he had to know about all the regulations made by the commissary. That was the period in which the German authorities in the territory of the whole Government – implementing the plan of the German State to exterminate all the Jews in Europe – began to rapidly concentrate the Jewish community only in certain places. First, they were removed from the territories joined to the Reich, then they started to be removed from the cities – even some of the smaller ones in the Warsaw district – and those people were displaced to the Jewish district in Warsaw.
The evacuation took place in the following way: the families were only given five minutes to prepare for the journey, they were not allowed to bring even the smallest suitcase, food, or clothes. People who were sent to Warsaw could only bring whatever that they were wearing at the time of being caught. Ultimately, within the territory of the sealed, crowded ghetto, they had to cause the outbreak of some epidemic. They had no underwear, no clothes, no food and, above all, no money, as they had been previously robbed. Just as during the Warsaw Uprising we found out that there was Geibel’s special command, the Westerfassung, there were also small commands and small “geibels” during every other normal displacement. They looked for value. The more valuable things were taken away, while 100,000 people were brought in with no means and no opportunity to earn money. They were placed in special houses, also unheated, and they were at the mercy of the society. Given a quarter of a liter of soup per day, those people increased the risk of an epidemic.
What’s more, Your Honor, the mortality rate among the Jewish community increased during that time. While before the war, the average monthly mortality in Warsaw was two hundred and fifty to three hundred people, in May 1941, the mortality was at four thousand and reached seven thousand in the following months. That number does not include all. The religious Jews who were dying at the time wanted to be buried according to the ritual. Since it couldn’t be done in that way, they were buried in secret and those numbers remained outside the official statistics of the cemetery authorities.
During that time, the Gestapo and the district sent a circular to the Judenrat in order to give weekly information (because monthly information was not enough) about the mortality in the Jewish district. Every week it had to be communicated that the mortality was such and such. If there was no growth, there would be questions about that.
During that time, Your Honor, due to carelessness or some typo, Mr. Göbbels, while writing about the ghetto in one of his articles, called it a Todeskiste – yes, it was a death box. Whoever got placed in that box was destined to die.
It was a period of great concentration of armies in Warsaw and in the whole territory of the General Government. It was the time of preparation for the German attack on the Soviet Union. Some divisions traversed Warsaw, stopping for an hour or two. Those soldiers were enlisted, therefore they were non-partisan. They were not the SS; they represented the whole German nation. Those soldiers, during their one- or two-hour stay in Warsaw, had nothing better to see than the Jewish cemetery. They wanted to see the piles of corpses, the morgues and stables with hundreds of people lying there each day. The body of someone who died from hunger has a characteristic look, this will no doubt be established by Expert Witness Professor Dąbrowski, or some other expert witness, if it hasn’t already been.
The question arises, who informed the soldiers coming to the front that there was something especially interesting to be seen at the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw? I suppose there must have been some such agency, and it must have been located at the institution that was in charge of the Warsaw ghetto. At that time, that institution was the department for the Jewish district. It was a department of the district office headed by Defendant Fischer.
These practices were not enough for the government when the ghetto was sealed. Not only were they insufficient, but it seems that the laurels won by the Gestapo in this field apparently worried the gentlemen from the Brühl Palace.
From 1941, the department for the Jewish district started giving orders to have a certain number of people brought to them – a hundred, a hundred and fifty, two hundred. For what purpose? That was unknown. Those people were sometimes even brought out of the prison, the one which was situated in the Jewish district. Only when they were caught was the department kind enough to announce that it had reached their attention that the Jews were not as submissive as expected. Food smuggling was especially practiced on a large scale, and because of that two hundred people were shot.
It wasn’t the Gestapo anymore, it was a department directly subordinate to the governor. Such things could not pass unnoticed by the governor. Even according to the law of the Reich after 1934, and even after the assassination attempt from July 1944, when Himmler was given dictatorial powers in Germany, the head of the civil administration had no right to give the order to shoot. However, Your Honor, everything was allowed here. And that was based on the principle that the Jewish population was outside the law, and whoever is an outlaw is not protected by the law, just as animals are not protected by the law.
Living in the Jewish district, as everyone understands, wasn’t pleasurable. Staying in that territory drove some people to madness. There were mass suicides. Some despicable people played a role in this, those who established contacts within the ghetto, those who made money and thrived off that. The suicide of an ordinary, reliable man was often to the advantage of such scum.
Your Honor, my occupational career did not end in 1942. I have been to Auschwitz, I have been to Oranienburg, I have been to Majdanek, and I must say that I felt morally better in Auschwitz than in the district managed by Mr. Fischer. Everyone knew what terrible things happened to people at that camp. In Auschwitz, at any given moment, everyone was at the risk of death, or of being sent to the Gaskammer [gas chamber]. Moreover, everyone knew that they were prisoners, and a prisoner is a human being. On the other hand, in the district managed by Mr. Fischer, people lost the sense of humanity and became animals. This Todeskiste, as Göbbels called it, was a cage for wild animals. Besides, the same applied to other places in Europe, where the same activities were organized, based on the same rules, as for example in Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia.
Presiding Judge: I’m ordering a break until 4.00 p.m.
(After the break)
Presiding Judge: We continue the interview of Witness Maślanko.
Witness: A separate chapter of torment combined with extreme cruelty was the judicial practice, created under the governor’s regulation and controlled by him. In 1941 an order was issued, which forbade leaving the Jewish district, even for a moment, under pain of death. The order was issued by Governor Fischer. Due to the terrible famine in the district, mostly beggars and small children, who easily managed to trick the guards, got through to the other part of Warsaw in order to beg. Small children, twelve- or thirteen-year-olds, went out to the so-called Aryan district and brought back the money they had collected, sometimes some food. Those were the ones who breached that law. Because of that, the order was given that everyone, with no exception, who left the Jewish district – even temporarily, with the intention to return immediately after handling their affairs or collecting food – would be judged by the so-called special court, Sondergericht, which came to the prison located on the ghetto premises. The trial was obviously short and I haven’t heard about verdicts other than the death sentence. Not even once did it occur to the governor – who had the right to pardon those who received the death sentence, which immediately became legally binding – to use this right at the individual request of the convict, regardless of whether it was a twelve-year-old child or an old beggar.
Presiding Judge: So there was no instance where the governor used the right of pardon?
Witness: I haven’t heard of one. And I would have heard, because I worked at the law department of the Jewish district throughout the period of its existence.
Speaking of the executions on the grounds of those sentences, I must mention the fact that they were performed where the ghetto prison was situated. The so-called Gęsiówka was adjacent to the military prison at Zamenhofa Street. The sentences were carried out in public, in front of all the prisoners, in the presence of the administration. Other prisoners or functionaries of that prison, obviously Jews, were forced, under pain of death, not only to be present during the execution, but to perform some symbolic acts accompanying the execution, such as blindfolding the convict or tying their hands.
I can now recall an incident, one that was talked about in the Jewish district at that time, which will illustrate the famine that plagued the ghetto. While an execution was being performed – when twenty-something or thirty convicts had been walked into the prison hallway, the first batch of convicts had been shot and the shots from the rifle could be heard in the hallway – two old beggars sentenced to death had a row about the fact that one of them stole a piece of bread from the other while they were leaving the cell. One of the functionaries asked them to calm down, to which one of them replied: “Sir, she stole a piece of bread from me!” “Quiet!” “But she must give it back. If she doesn’t give it back to me, I won’t go to the execution.” This may be funny but, at the same time, it illustrates the famine brought upon the Jewish district by the leadership of Mr. Fischer.
It wasn’t a hunger that only touched the poorest classes; it concerned ninety percent of the population, deprived of their capacity to lead an existence. So many people were without their funds or property, ninety-five percent were torn away from the professions they had practiced before the war. I must say that I was often forced to eat the soup given out by the Judenrat and I must say that the soup in Auschwitz often tasted better than the one in the ghetto. Such food was delivered by the Transferstelle and the authorities subordinate to Mr. Fischer.
The next category of torment was the Arbeitsamt [employment office], which was divided into departments. There was a special department for Jewish affairs, the so-called Jüdischer Arbeitensatz.
When it comes to forced labor, the cooperation and coordination between the general administration and the safety police can be seen vividly. Announced only in the German newspapers issued at that time, in the Krakauer Zeitung and the Warschauer Zeitung, the general regulation about forced labor for Jews reached the public for the first time. It was ordered by the SS and Krüger, the Polizeiführer for the entire General Government and later the State Secretary for Safety. It was clear that the occupier didn’t care about work that would facilitate military production or some other activities connected with the war. It was about tormenting and terrorizing people and forcing them into a far-reaching conspiracy. According to the regulation, every Jew from twelve to sixty years old, with no exception, was required to work. The work would take place in closed camps. People had to stay in such camps for at least two years and it was stated bluntly that staying at the camp was not about purposeful work, but about disciplining the loafers and freeloaders that all Jews were. And if this period of two years was ineffective from the point of view of German pedagogy, it could be prolonged. As with all German pedantry, it was determined at what time people were to show up, what items they were to bring with them, what number of blankets.
The announcement reached the public after being published in the German papers on 13 January 1940. A hurricane of registrations followed, which they called by their favorite word – Erfassung. Men from twelve to sixty years old were registered, then women from twelve to sixty years old. Then people were thinking about how they could evade the work, they went to the doctors, whose number was small in the Jewish district. Those with heart defects or tuberculosis were forced to deliver photograms to the Erfassung office. Genuine nightmare. In the late spring, the so-called Arbeitsamt was created, attached to the civil board and subordinate to the head of the district. In reality, it was a subdivision responsible for forcing the Jews to work. A senior official named Foemeller was the leader of this subdivision. Authorized by the governor, he began organizing forced labor. He began his work by demanding a contingent of five thousand people; after two days he demanded ten thousand; after a week – thirty thousand. The German police and the Blue Police started to carry out roundups of adolescents of recruitment age, so to speak. Tens of thousands of adolescents were caught. What happened to them? They were not sent to any German company or any company in the territory of the General Government – they were sent straight to the German SS institutions, where they had to deal with the hardest work. When someone fell ill – and it wasn’t hard to catch a cold – even if they had a low-grade fever, they were shot on the spot. After five – six months, only three or four percent of those people made it back to the ghetto, sick and invalids for the rest of their life. That was the Jüdischer Einsatzkommando, headed by Foemeller and later by Hoffman himself, it seems, after Foemeller had been transferred to Lwów (where he wished to occupy himself with his own pedagogical work).
On 25 December 1941, on the first day of Christmas – a festive day for all Christians, Germans, Catholics, Evangelists, etc. – the deputy for the general of the Jewish district, Mr. Auerswald, gave an order of the utmost urgency, to be carried out within two days. All residents of the ghetto were to give up their fur coats under pain of death. If caught in possession of a fur, they would be shot on the spot.
The order was carried out. The Judenrat urged people to give up their furs, which were first accumulated in the district’s storehouse and then moved to the German storehouses, situated near Dworzec Gdański in Warsaw. I won’t say how many and what kind of practices accompanied the giving up of the furs. Perhaps it best illustrated to what degree professional criminals were represented among the German administration in the General Government territory when you saw each dignitary from those storehouses steal the fur coats. They were probably at the storehouses near Dworzec Gdański at that time. The thefts became so common that the authoritative units decided to cause a fire at those storehouses, the famous fire that took place near Dworzec Gdański at the beginning of 1942, on 3 or 4 January. Obviously, the fur coats entailed a number of victims, many people were caught red-handed, throwing the furs from the Jewish district over to the Aryan side. They were shot or sent to the camp in Treblinka.
Before I forget, I must stress that the world-famous death camp in Treblinka was created as a result of Governor Fischer’s order. I read about it in the daily German newspapers in Warsaw. The SS took charge of it later, but until the end of July 1942 the camp was directly under Governor Fischer’s rule. The so-called criminal and administrative department, controlled by the head of the district, was sending people to Treblinka through administrative channels. And if for whatever reason the governor does not remember, I may remind him that a Bavarian by the name of Golube was the judge who was sending people over there.
Many people, even the distinguished ones, lost their lives because of the furs, either in the Warsaw ghetto or at the camp in Treblinka.
A permanent practice of Mr. Fischer’s government, through the agency of Auerswald, was to continuously shrink the ghetto’s territory. There were some changes every two or three weeks and people had to leave an entire street within twenty four hours, regardless of whether they had found other rooms in the remaining part of the district or not. There wasn’t a month during which there would be no territorial changes in the Jewish district. Mr. Auerswald cynically justified it by saying: “Well, the mortality rate is higher and higher and next month the number of residents will fall by some ten thousand again.” It was justified in a clear and cynical way.
It is obvious that before Governor Fischer had taken charge of the Jewish district, as well as during his leadership, as I noticed, people were outside the law in all respects. Every German, uniformed or not, Reichsdeutscher or Volksdeutscher, had the right to enter any flat and take whatever he liked the most. They especially took a liking to grand pianos, pianos, typewriters, the better paintings – of course – carpets, sometimes furniture, etc. People couldn’t feel safe about their life, their property or their freedom. Neither during the day nor at night.
The cooperation with the Gestapo increased during the period that might be of interest to Governor Fischer, beginning in the spring of 1942. On 17 April at night, several cars with Gestapo and SS representatives arrived in the territory of the Jewish district for the first time and – according to some criteria, which remains unknown to this day – went into several dozen flats, took people out onto the street and shot them. It probably wasn’t about any offence those people may have committed; it was about the fact that a certain number of people had to be killed in order to further terrorize the community. The authorities would justify it by saying that these were people who occupied themselves with smuggling or distributing leaflets, but – to prove that that’s not what it was about – I remember that they went into a flat on Nowolipki Street in Warsaw that night. They took out a father and a son. The son had participated in a conspiracy, he had distributed an underground newspaper. They were taken to the corner of Karmelicka Street and they were both shot in the back. The son was killed immediately, but the father was only slightly injured. He kept a level head, enough to simulate death. Supposing that he was dead, they left him alone and continued the operation. On the following day, the father was dealing with the funeral formalities for his son, he visited the cemetery department, he lived in the district under his old address and name, and nobody touched him. Why? Because people were not executed for their offences or the suspicion of disloyalty toward the German authorities. They were executed because they were Jewish and they could be shot without any verdict or order of the higher authorities. It was about the shooting.
After 17 April, such nights occurred more often, until 22 July 1942, when – in practice – the Höhere SS-und Polizeiführer for the Warsaw district, Dr. von Sammern, took charge of the Warsaw district. I’m emphasizing: in practice. He had a double surname, but I don’t remember the other part. He was of Austrian origin.
Prosecutor Sawicki: Franken.
Witness: Exactly. I say “in practice,” because in theory, under the law issued by the General Government in June, the SS was directly in charge of many administrative issues. The law, which was issued in June 1942, so a few weeks before 22 July, as I recall now, precisely enumerated the issues that formerly belonged to the general administration and which were now under the direct control of the SS. Point eighteen included the Jewish affairs, which would be handled by the Gestapo from that point onward, but in practice, the SS regained the Jewish district on 22 July 1942. When Sammern took charge – I don’t know if there had been any agreement with Governor Fischer in that case, but he should know more about that – anyway, the administrative authority, especially Sammern’s deputy, Attorney Auerswald, pretended to be surprised. He pretended he didn’t know what was going on, he even suggested that there were a few pretenders from the SS that had come, disturbed the discipline and walked into the Jewish district. Those were the leaders of the so-called Einsatz Reinhardt – that was the name of the formation led by Major Höfle. He declared that he was the Reich’s proxy for displacement affairs and thus began the general, definitive and fast extermination, which had been anticipated since the beginning of the war.
The fact that the method of slow starvation – which increased the mortality to a hundred thousand – was insufficient at that time, does not result from the higher authority being dissatisfied with Mr. Fischer’s proceedings but from the general political situation.
Your Honor, this mass extermination by the means of the Gaskammer began earlier in the provinces than in Warsaw. News came from the towns in the west that the expeditions to the gas chambers began as early as January 1942. The Jewish ghetto in Lublin was completely liquidated by sending people to the gas chambers in Bełżec.
The question arises, why the German government, which had decided in advance to eliminate the whole Jewish population, came to the conclusion at that precise moment that they should change the method and employ one that was unforeseen but fast. The situation on the eastern front became complicated. On 2 October 1941, the “apostle” himself announced that the offensive was beginning on the Russian front – the offensive whose goal was to gain Moscow. The offensive broke down in December 1941 and the German announcement from 7 December came as a response. After some time, one of the bigger heroes of that offensive, Brauchitsch, resigned from his post, which also indicated failure. That’s why the prudent specialists must have started to fear that the war would be lost and that Mr. Fischer’s method would not be enough to annihilate all the Jews. With the extermination of a hundred thousand at the current speed, even with some growth, it would have to take two to three years, and since the offensive had failed, there may not have been enough time for that. And that’s where the top specialists started to wonder whether to proceed to a rapid action.
That’s how it’s explained, why the method was changed at that time, from killing to killing quickly, mechanically, with the help of gas chambers.
We all know now that the annihilation of the entire Jewish population was decided upon before the war. On 30 January 1939, in his speech on the anniversary of his gaining power, Hitler said: “If the international Jewish population once again manages to mobilize the whole world against the Germans, the war will not result in destroying Germany but in completely destroying the Jews in Europe.” That was the announcement.
The first step was the briefing in Berlin in 1939. I would be very curious to know who represented the SS during that briefing. Mr. Meisinger should know about that, since he was present during that briefing as the head of the Einsatzkommando. All of the defendants, especially Mr. Fischer and Mr. Meisinger, knew in advance about the decision to annihilate all Jews. Fischer and Meinsinger were aware that, sealing the ghetto, they were closing off the people sentenced to death. I believe that they were not the ones who made the decision, they were only carrying out the order. But since they knew about it, if they hadn’t been criminals, they wouldn’t have been inflicting such suffering on those people on their own. Such practices are not applied to people with death sentences. That is why they are criminals.
Your Honor, in case I should omit anything, please ask questions.
Presiding Judge: Perhaps you would like to have a break?
Witness: If Your Honor allows.
Presiding Judge: I would like to order a short break.
(After the break)
Presiding Judge: Mr. Maślanko, when did you leave the ghetto?
Witness: On 19 April 1943, I was transported to the camp in Majdanek.
Presiding Judge: This means that you are familiar with the first [round of] extermination. I would like you to say what you know about this case.
Witness: On 22 July, Sturmbannführer Höfle and his entourage came to the Judenrat. He arrested at least fifty percent of its members as hostages and had them transported to Pawiak. At the same time, larger SS units entered the district, looking for the more well- known people, as they were saying, prominente Juden. More than a hundred people were arrested on Chłodna Street, who were immediately transported to Pawiak. Shooting on the spot could not be avoided; among others, an old man was shot in the yard on Chłodna Street, 75-year-old Fabian Zilber, father of Attorney Wacław Zilber. In a flat at Chłodna Street 26, a medical consultation was taking place, with the participation of a known specialist, Professor Raszeja. The group that started arresting people on Chłodna Street came into the flat, and it seems that everyone who was there at that time was killed or arrested.
Höfle and his people left the Judenrat without giving any details or reasons for their visit.
At night, the Jewish district was surrounded. Not only the exits were guarded; every ten meters along the walls the military police – but also Ukrainians, Latvians, Szaulis, etc. – kept watch. On the following day at twelve o’clock, Mr. Höfle and his companions came to the Judenrat again and read the list of orders to the president of the commune. Above all, that day marked the beginning of displacing the Jewish community from Warsaw. Six thousand people had to be displaced every day. Obviously, as per usual, certain exceptions –people who were not subject to the displacement – were included. Namely, those employed at manufactures, commissary boards, etc. All people subject to displacement, successively, six thousand of them every day, were to show up at the loading point created for the Transferstelle. That’s where a railway line was built and those people were loaded onto the train cars. Officially, it was obviously said that these people were being moved to the east for productive labor. And two or three days later I would read in a German newspaper, the Berlin Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, that the Jews had finally decided to be productive, that the Jewish community board had asked the German authorities to facilitate that process. The German authorities readily responded by providing the Ostbahn, which carried out the displacements.
During the initial period, people were so disoriented that they sometimes volunteered. Characteristically, the German authorities saw to it that the families, after ten days, would receive two to three letters from some place near Wołkowysk or territories further east. In the letters, obviously delivered alongside other correspondence, people would write that they were placed in some manor and that they worked on a farm. It was about keeping up the conviction that they really had been displaced.
The first suspicion arose when, after two weeks, it was noticed that the whole displacement was carried out with the use of a hundred freight cars, and that the cars with the same numbers kept coming back. Since people were being displaced every day and the transports often left twice a day, people figured out that the distance wasn’t so long.
A small number of people escaped from the transports, especially the stronger ones, who were not gassed right away in Treblinka but used to sort clothes and shoes – they could hide under the clothes in the returning cars. Only when they appeared in the Jewish district was it possible to find out what that “productiveness” was and where they were being deported to.
I don’t know anything about the process of extermination in Treblinka. I wasn’t in Treblinka, but I suppose that it wasn’t much different than the methods used in Auschwitz and Birkenau. I was in Auschwitz and I know what that looked like. In Treblinka, the process was more brutal. A hundred and fifty people were transported in one train car, with no water and no food. In every car, after unloading, there were three or four people who had suffocated or starved to death. When the train cars were being unloaded, a column of SS men immediately lunged at the people and rushed them forward.
Eyewitnesses from Treblinka told me that they were brought straight onto the street, which was named, it seems, the death street, and they were rushed to the barracks. The tactics were switched in front of the barracks. A speaker in an SS uniform appeared, he welcomed them to the new place, said that they were beginning work now, but above all, they had to change clothes and wash themselves. But it was done in a brutal way. There were thousands of people. They were told to throw their shoes onto the pile, sloppily. In Auschwitz, it was done in a more perfidious way – they were told to tie the shoes together so that they could be used again more easily. Here, it was done in a less careful way. People were then led to the bath. In front of the baths, there was a kind of a lobby, where people had to completely undress. They entered the barrack, which looked like a bathroom. The barrack was sealed, then opened after fifteen minutes and there were eight hundred to nine hundred corpses. The floor was flipped over, the bodies were doused in calcium and set alight. There were no crematorium furnaces yet, like the ones created later in Auschwitz and Birkenau. All valuables were taken away on the spot, on the way to the camp, in the bath. People had to enter with their hands held up and their mouths open, but they always managed to hide something and even today some scum goes there and finds hidden treasures from time to time.
That’s what the final extermination looked like, beginning on 22 July and lasting until 18 August. Then there was a break from 18 until 25 August, because the Vernichtung Gruppe with Mr. Höfle was taking care of the towns near Warsaw: Otwock, Garwolin, Siedlce. On 25 August the operation was renewed and it lasted until 12 September. There was a break from 12 September and then there was an additional day on 21 September. At that point the operation was ceased. Officially, thirty thousand people remained in the ghetto and unofficially – over forty thousand.
The operation was renewed on 18 January, when mass roundups were completed on the Aryan side on 15, 16, 17 and 18 January. The displacement operation started on 18 January and lasted three days. It was especially bloody, as people were more careful this time and they knew how to hide. There were some first signs of resistance – five thousand people were loaded onto the train cars and six thousand corpses from the streets of Warsaw were buried in the Jewish cemetery. Dr. Brandstätter, the long-term director of a junior high school in Łódź, died in this way, along with the director of the Joint – Sistermann organization, Attorney Szymon Rundstein, a world-famous scholar in the field of international law, deported to the ghetto with his entire family. On 19 January, the operation ended.
People then started building shelters and hiding places, they started arming themselves. On 19 April in the morning, the operation started for the third time – this time led personally by the senior SS and police officer, Dr. von Sammern, together with SS General Stroop, who came to Warsaw for the occasion. Those two men led the operation from the vicinity of the prison on Gęsia Street. I saw this in person, as I was arrested then. Tables were set out, maps were laid out and the big operation was led according to tradition and according to the teachings of the apostle of the military arts – Schlieffen.
The resistance began on Zamenhofa Street 21, where people started shooting from machine guns. The second resistance point was situated on the corner of Nalewki Street and Gęsia Street.
[The Germans] grouped the Jews in threes, every half an hour they took several groups and executed them in front of the generals. We kept retreating so that we would be somewhere at the back. It lasted until four o’clock. There was a battle at those two points I talked about. At four o’clock an SS man came with an order, rode his motorcycle through the middle of our column, parted it in two and I ended up in a different column. One of the generals ordered: “ Diese Column zum Transport,” to the transport with this column. This way, I ended up at the loading point and from there I was first transported to Majdanek.
The resistance lasted for a long time. On 21 May, in order to complete the act of destruction, symbolically – as fancied by the sentimental, German soul – the synagogue at Tłomackie Street was blown up. These facts are similar to those described by Józef Flawiusz after Jerusalem had been demolished, that not even a bird passed through there for fifty-two years. Such is the history of the Warsaw ghetto.
Presiding Judge: You have not mentioned any of your personal experiences in the ghetto.
Witness: Your Honor, it is completely true that what is experienced by an individual is always more dreadful than what is experienced by the society as a whole. When some calamity concerns the entire society, it is not as difficult to bear for an individual as a personal calamity. But given the situation in the ghetto, there was no one who wouldn’t be personally touched by this, in the most painful way. If they couldn’t go out onto the street at any given moment or go to the doctor, they only thought about surviving the day. When I went to the doctor, I was arrested and sent to labor in Falenty, where a branch office of Mr. Meisinger’s workers was situated and where people were buried alive.
My personal experiences in the Warsaw ghetto were more or less similar to those of an average resident – hunger, fear, no means of support (excluding the two hundred zlotys of pay for my work at the criminal department in the Judenrat), family problems, disease, lack of treatment – and that’s all. Obviously, I was arrested once, [I was] at Pawiak for a few days, then I was released. I don’t know what the accusation was to this day, but that happened very often. And then the moment came when I was transported to Majdanek. Of course, what I experienced at the concentration camp was more personal.
Presiding Judge: (To the prosecution.) Are there any questions to the witness? (No questions.) Are there any questions from the defense?
Attorney Chmurski: You testified that the operation against the Jews stemmed from the German National-Socialist program and that it was restricted to the Warsaw district. My question concerns this subject. What did the anti-Jewish operation look like in other districts?
Witness: Your Honor, first of all, the attorney makes an inaccurate reference to my answer. I am well aware of the question which is being raised at the moment. I didn’t say that the anti-Jewish operation stemmed from the National-Socialist program, but I said that it resulted from the resolution made by the German state, not only the National-Socialist party. I would like you to cite my answers precisely. It is all the same to me whether Mr. Fischer was a member of the party or not, he was the German state authority in the territory of Warsaw.
What did the operation look like in other districts? More or less the same it looked in Warsaw. It looked the same in the territory governed by Mr. Rundstedt, when he occupied the whole of Ukraine; it looked the same in Latvia and Lithuania. The operation was the same everywhere, but when it comes to the districts, since the attorney has asked me to make a comparison, then it wouldn’t be nonsense for me to testify about my impressions based on talking to my friends and sometimes even to the people working at the communal boards of the districts. I can state, with complete awareness and sense of responsibility for what I’m saying, that the situation in Warsaw was the worst.
Your Honor, there were four districts and later one more was created in Galicia. Only in the Warsaw district was the governor the same from the moment the occupation began until it ended, while there were changes in other districts. If we know the National-Socialist mentality well, then why was it that way? Because Frank, Krüger and Eichmann, head of the Jewish department, were the most content with Dr. Fischer. In the Kraków district, Jewish attorneys were in practice until April 1940, in Warsaw – when the first German issue appeared, they had no access to the courts. Furthermore, there was an incident – Dr. Fischer should be familiar with it and it would be very interesting if he could be honest about it – when his friend in Radom, Dr. Rasch, was removed. They claimed that he had committed some offences, but other people from Radom said that he sometimes walked away from the National-Socialist line, something which Dr. Fischer could never be accused of. Mr. Fischer stayed on duty until the end, not only when the front was approaching, but also when Warsaw was directly in the war zone. It is something unheard of in history for the civil authority to stay in power and give orders when not only the military staff were in charge but also the direct front-line departments. That proves that the higher military authorities such as Guderian, and the police authorities such as Himmler, absolutely trusted Dr. Fischer. Some other heads of the district did not earn such trust.
Attorney Chmurski: Your Honor, I am going to go much further than the witness – namely, if one says “program,” it means more than “resolution.” According to the famous Nazi theory, the National-Socialist program is a commandment, not a resolution, as the Nazi question is not only a political question, but also a question of a certain faith. So if I said “program,” I said more than “resolution” – a commandment. I treat them as commandments, which necessarily apply not only to reason but also to emotion, and hence the question – if the witness takes the position, rightfully so, that it is a Europe-wide matter – how does this matter look compared to other European countries? And I mean statistical data, easy to collect and present, which appear the most convincing.
Witness: Your Honor, if I am to take a position on this digression on a purely theoretical subject of whether it stemmed from a program or a resolution, then I must emphasize that everyone is a slave to their profession and education. As I understand it, if this resulted from a decision made by the German state, then there is a wider responsibility. A party is responsible for its program and the entire German nation is responsible for the German state – in the free election of 1932 it gave the majority to the National-Socialist program. Regardless of whether Mr. Fischer is a member of the NSDAP [National Socialist German Workers’ Party] or not, he is German and, as a German, he represented the state authorities. That is a wider responsibility, Your Honor, because it is not accidental that Defendant Meisinger is battling to prove that he was not part of the SS organization. He thinks that if he’s clear of that – since the Tribunal in Nuremberg has recognized it as a crime – then his situation will be greatly improved. It isn’t [about] who belonged to what unit but about what they did on behalf of the state. The German state occupied Poland and takes the responsibility, and whether that stemmed from the party program is another thing. Whether the whole German nation accepted it or not, let the Germans argue among themselves. Anyway, the state responsibility includes wider spheres of the German society than the responsibility that comes with party membership.
Attorney Śliwowski: You have testified that you regard Defendant Leist’s responsibility for creating the ghetto as formal. Defendant Leist also signed other orders, among them – the order to create the Transferstelle.
Witness: I haven’t heard anything regarding Defendant Leist in connection to that order. I only heard about him from the workers who were linked to the Municipal Council. When it comes to the Transferstelle, I’ve never heard about Leist having a connection to it, but I’ve always heard about Bischof.
Attorney Śliwowski: Was Leist in charge of the Transferstelle?
Witness: No, the commissary for the Jewish district was directly in charge of it.
Attorney Śliwowski: Had you ever talked to the former president of the Judenrat, Mr. Czerniaków, about Leist?
Witness: Your Honor. I have to testify about one circumstance concerning Leist. Dr. Dengel was his predecessor, if I’m correct. The president of the Judenrat told me that the new mayor had a better attitude toward the Judenrat representatives. He displayed some humane treatment, e.g. he greeted them, whereas the others had not. Those great professors and scholars, who were in contact with the Jewish scholars, from the point of view of the National-Socialist principles, had no right to greet the Jews. As a substitute, saying their official goodbyes, they said: “ Na, also!” When it comes to Leist, Czerniaków stressed that his attitude was more humane.
Attorney Węgliński: Do you know who owned the limited liability company Transferstelle?
Witness: I cannot answer this question as I’m not familiar with the case.
Lay Judge Jodłowski: To finish with the case of the entire anti-Jewish operation, perhaps you would like to go back to the year 1939 and tell us if you’re familiar with the order to label Jewish enterprises? Who issued the order, when, and with what results?
Witness: That order was issued more or less at the same time as the order concerning the armbands. Just a little bit later. It was issued by the district.
Lay Judge Jodłowski: Did it have any negative effects on the Jewish population?
Witness: Of course, in the districts not occupied by the Jewish population it resulted in the necessity to immediately abandon and liquidate enterprises, and then it also resulted in robbery on the part of the German army and the SS units. They entered such enterprises and took whatever they could.
Lay Judge Jodłowski: When were the Jews deprived of their right to manage property and on what grounds?
Witness: In July 1940.
Lay Judge Jodłowski: On what grounds and by whose orders?
Witness: I don’t remember. It seems that it was the execution of Göring’s four-year plan. I don’t know who was carrying out that plan on the territory of the General Government.
Lay Judge Jodłowski: Who was in charge of the department for Jewish properties?
Witness: Many people were employed at the department for Jewish properties. They were said to cooperate with the Gestapo. Such people had one function in the Gestapo and they were members of the appointed administration at the same time. I don’t remember the names, I never came into contact with this department and I wasn’t too interested in that.
Lay Judge Jodłowski: Was this administration subordinate to the district?
Witness: I cannot answer this question, because I don’t know.
Judge Grudziński: I would like you to go back to the year 1939 – 1940, when there were two more prominent instances of the Judenrat coming into contact with the Gestapo. Perhaps you would like to tell us who undertook the interventions regarding those affairs on behalf of the Judenrat, and with whom?
Witness: The president intervened in person and, if I remember correctly, one more member of the board.
Judge Grudziński: With whom? Was the name Meisinger mentioned?
Witness: More than once.
Judge Grudziński: With regards to what function?
Witness: Police commandant.
Judge Grudziński: Does that mean that the interventions were made with him?
Witness: If you’re asking about the Jewish affairs, I don’t know. I know that Untersturmführer Brand was widely known. He was probably involved.
Judge Grudziński: You have mentioned the right of pardon, regarding those leaving the Jewish district. What did it look like? Was it a right of pardon, were there interventions about such cases?
Witness: Undoubtedly, there were interventions. Every person sentenced to death – when advised about their options – sent such petitions, but they were not taken into consideration. Sometimes the sentence was carried out after two hours, sometimes after two weeks, depending on the number of convicts.
Judge Grudziński: What were Governor Fischer’s proceedings with regards to the right of pardon?
Witness: He had the power to reduce the penalty.
Judge Grudziński: Were there such instances?
Witness: I haven’t heard of any.
Prosecutor Sawicki: At the beginning, you talked about the first resolution to exterminate the Jews. Do you know anything about the second conference that took place in December 1941 and in January 1942 at Heinrich’s, with the participation of Fischer, where decisions were made about a quicker extermination of Jews in Poland? I’m asking about the General Government’s connection to that issue.
Witness: Indeed, I’ve heard that it was in December 1941, that it was a conference at Heydrich’s, with the participation of Ollendorff, senior SS dignitaries from the General Government and Bühler, representing the General Government administration. As a result of that conference, at the very end, a further briefing took place on the General Government territory in Lublin. Besides Himmler, Krüger, Globocnik and Fritsch participated in that briefing. Fritsch was supposed to have declared then that he, personally, could not go that far.
Prosecutor Sawicki: Do you know that the General Government authorities provided special train cars and that, due to the lack of train cars, it was postponed for a month?
Witness: The General Government authorities provided the train cars because they themselves wrote in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung that the Deutche Ostbahn was providing the train cars. Besides that, the government, especially Bühler, assumed the responsibility for the entire operation. It was still calm in Warsaw when the ghetto was being liquidated in Lublin, and there was an article in the Deutsche Warschauer Zeitund about Governor Frank and Bühler visiting the district abandoned by the Jews.
Prosecutor Sawicki: Did the district officials, I’m not specifically asking about Fischer, traverse the ghetto when you were staying there? Was that commonly known?
Witness: I suppose they did. I had a deal with them – whenever they showed up, I wasn’t there. (laughter)
Attorney Wagner: Do you remember precisely if the name Meisinger was mentioned in relation to Kot’s case and the Nalewki Street case?
Witness: I suppose you should remember that too, since he changed the address five times when there were round-ups. (laughter)
Attorney Wagner: I must ask the question again: was the name Meisinger mentioned in connection with Nalewki Street and Kot’s operation? If so, then in what context? Do you suspect that Meisinger could have had anything to do with it, and since he was the police Kommandeur, can you establish whether the name was mentioned?
Witness: The name was mentioned. I have no right to suspect anything, I’m only a witness. The court and the defense are the ones who may suspect, and they will if they wish to.
Attorney Wagner: So would you like to tell me what was associated with Meisinger’s name in the context of those operations?
Witness: That he was the head of the Gestapo. He was Kommandeur Sicherheitspolizei, Gestapo, Sicherheitsdienst, Kriminalpolizei, he was the head of the entire institution that signed every decision of the Gestapo about sending people from Pawiak to Auschwitz, and he should have been signing them if everything was in order there. And it should be assumed that the German precision was in place, and people were being sent to kingdom come.
Attorney Wagner: So on the condition that everything was in order.
Defendant Fischer: Your Honor, the witness accuses the whole German nation for the crimes committed against the Jewish population in Warsaw. I admit that a terrible crime was committed, but as a German, I ask you to believe me that the entire German nation cannot be made responsible for that. The German nation didn’t know anything about those matters.
Presiding Judge: I warn the defendant to speak on his own behalf and not on behalf of the German nation.
Defendant Fischer: Yes, sir. The witness declared that I had been informed about the plan to destroy the Jews since the first conference at Heydrich’s in September 1939. At that time, I was in the west as an ordinary soldier and, for God’s sake, I had no idea about what was going on in Heydrich’s office.
Witness: I emphasize that the duplicate of that instruction, based on the briefing of 21 September 1939 in Berlin, was delivered to the commandant-in-chief and the administrative authorities. That’s why I claim that the instruction duplicate must have been in the district files. If the Kalisz Regierungspräsident Uebelhoer writes, with reference to the creation of the ghetto in Łódź at the beginning of 1940, that closing off the Jews cine vorübergehende Maßnahme ist, is a means leading to the final goal of exterminating all Jews – if Fischer’s friend from Kalisz writes about it, then I think that the leader of the biggest district and the biggest ghetto in Europe, in a city with the largest concentration of the Jewish population in Europe, had to know about it.
Defendant Fischer: That’s the conclusion of the witness, not evidence. I declare that I wasn’t informed about Heydrich’s decision at all. It follows that the Warsaw ghetto was created much later than the ghetto in the so-called Wartheland and other districts.
The witness himself divides the whole complex into three parts: the first part includes the period from the capture of Warsaw until the sealing of the ghetto in November 1940, the second – the situation in the ghetto until its evacuation in July 1942.
In the first part, if I understand the translation correctly, the witness makes me responsible for the following – issuing the regulation about wearing the armbands. That is probably correct, since the armbands were to be worn throughout the entire General Government. It is possible that I was too careful with the government in this regard. The second accusation is that I removed the Jewish attorneys from the list. It was stated during one of the recent hearings that this was ordered by the Gestapo, by virtue of the orders issued in Berlin. The third accusation is that officials of Jewish origin did not receive any retirement pensions. The fourth accusation – that I appointed the administration for managing property.
These are things that followed from central orders of the government. These are the accusations made by the witness in relation to the first part, if I have understood correctly.
Witness: Your Honor! From what the defendant has just said, it is difficult to work out what the district was doing at all. It would mean that it had no power whatsoever. The defendant claims that it wasn’t he who ordered the Jewish attorneys to be removed from the list but the General Government.
The question arises, why did it concern the Warsaw district and not Kraków, where the General Government was situated? The defendant forgets that there was an Abteilung Justiz in the district subordinate to the defendant and that the head of that Abteilung Justis, Foeller, was in charge of all affairs connected to the courts and attorneys. How can he claim that the Gestapo was responsible for the attorneys while there was an Abteilung Justiz in his department?
Defendant Fischer: It seems that the witness is not well informed about the structure of the General Government administrative apparatus. The Warsaw district did not function by itself next to the General Government, it was merely a secondary level, obliged to execute the orders of the General Government. The justice department did not function on its own, it could function by the orders of the general justice department. And as to the removing of the Jewish attorneys, it has already been established on Meisinger’s part that it was ordered by the central safety department. It cannot be denied that the district cannot take action against the central safety department of the Reich.
Presiding Judge: There is no need for the witness to respond. That is the statement and clarification of the defendant.
Witness: Defendant Fischer is undoubtedly better informed and there are many things we don’t know, which Defendant Fischer could clarify if only he wished to represent his own interests and not those of the entire German nation. All in all, I declare once more that if the defendant claims that his Justiz department was subordinate to the Justiz department of the General Government, that the finance department was subordinate to the finance department of the General Government, then we could arrive at the conclusion that the head of the district was some sort of a puppet. Meanwhile, the head of the district issued orders that cost many people’s lives.
Presiding Judge: (To the defense) Are there any more questions to the witness? (There are no questions.)
Witness: Due to the explanations made by Defendant Fischer, I must return to certain issues. Obviously, I’m not interested in the defendant’s confessions about his worldview since 1923 up until the present moment. I’m only obligated to establish the facts.
Your Honor, when Defendant Fischer spoke and when he finally confessed that he had at least participated in the initiative to create the ghetto in Warsaw, he invoked that the order to seal the ghetto was issued by the military authorities, the Wehrmacht, because the typhus epidemic had spread significantly. Here I must emphasize that the defendant has confused the cause with the result. I said at the very beginning of my testimony that in 1939, when the first bricks were only beginning to be laid in certain points of the city, boards bearing the inscription Seuchengefahr were put up, when there was no epidemic. In 1940, when the ghetto was being sealed, there was no epidemic, as shown by the mortality statistics from that period. It was the sealing of the ghetto and the bringing in of a hundred thousand more people, in the conditions that I’ve described, that caused the epidemic. The typhus epidemic has this tendency to always coincide with the arrival of the German armies in Poland, as during the first occupation in 1917.
Your Honor, those means, sealing the ghetto and isolating people in one place, were what led to the outbreak of the epidemic. It wasn’t the epidemic that necessitated sealing the ghetto.
I testified at the very beginning that the German authorities, including the army, cooperated with each other to exterminate the Jewish population. I claim that in both the first and the second period, the military authorities undoubtedly cooperated with each other, but if Defendant Fischer argues that the ghetto was sealed in 1940 by the order of the military authorities, then I would like to strongly object to that. Defendant Fischer probably knows very well the name of Warsaw’s deputy war commandant, Colonel Kammnach. During the first occupation, he was a military command officer in Warsaw and because of that he had certain personal contacts. He used those contacts to inform the president of the Judenrat about the details of creating and sealing the ghetto. Kammnach, as well as Schön, mentioned by Defendant Fischer – I’m glad that the defendant reminded me about that name – announced that the Wehrmacht had no objections, but were opposed to another thing. As we know, Warsaw’s Jewish population lived on that bank of Warsaw and in Praga, so in order to avoid more deportations, the Judenrat made efforts to create another ghetto in Praga and, thus, to avoid displacing sixty thousand people from Praga to Warsaw.
The Wehrmacht opposed that due to military reasons. That’s when Mr. Schön announced to the Judenrat representative: “Do I have to remind you of the importance of Praga from the military point of view? The army cannot agree to that.” They were already preparing an attack on the Soviet Union.
When it comes to methods regarding family life, the way the ghetto was sealed, Defendant Fischer says that he only cared about facilitating control. How to reconcile that with the fact that, in the Kraków ghetto, several hundred – sometimes up to a thousand – passes were issued per day on average so that people could leave and come back? And under Fischer’s rule, only fifteen members of the Judenrat had passes, plus maybe some hundred agents subordinate to Fischer and Meisinger, but an ordinary person didn’t have a pass, even though they were allowed to in other districts.
Presiding Judge: Are there any more questions?
Defendant Meisinger: I would like to ask the witness if I understood him correctly, as the translation was so quick that I couldn’t grasp the contents. Did he say indeed that on 31 September 1939 I allegedly participated in a conference organized by Himmler, where the extermination of Jews was discussed?
Witness: Yes, I did. I did say that, on the grounds that the defendant was the head of Einsatzkommando IV at the time, and all heads of those units participated in that conference.
Defendant Meisinger: I suppose that the Supreme Tribunal and the prosecutor’s office are informed about who was the head of the fourth operational group and who were his two subordinates. Police General Beutel, who was also the SS Brigadeführer for all heads of operational groups, was the head. I suppose that this fact is known to the Supreme Tribunal, as well as the prosecutor’s office.
Witness: In this respect, I would like to declare that the document I talked about at the beginning, the “pass for the Judenrat members” which I saw, issued in October 1939, was signed: Chef Einsatzkommando IV Meisinger.
Defendant Meisinger: I signed a number of such passes, but I wasn’t in charge of the Einsatzkommando; I wasn’t in charge of any operational group. I signed, but always with the heading: i.a. – on behalf of.
Witness: I declare that I didn’t see those letters.
Presiding Judge: Are there any more questions?
Defendant Meisinger: Yes, I would like to repeat my question: Does the witness know that I participated in that conference or does he deduce that from the pass he saw, allegedly signed by me as the head of the operational group?
Witness: I said clearly that only the participants of that conference can say for sure who the other participants were. Because I suspect that the defendant, who was undoubtedly in charge of such a group, [was a participant,] and not only because he wasn’t an SS- Brigadeführer – because I’m well familiar with the relations in the SS due to my stay in Auschwitz and Oranienburg and I know that an SS-Sturmbannführer (two ranks below the defendant) was the commandant of the world-famous camp. On the other hand, as I know from other sources, the defendant – regardless of his rank – was thought to be an outstanding member of the clandestine investigation service. It is also well known that he wasn’t sent to Japan to study Japanese. We are well aware that SS members were used in counter-intelligence work. That’s why the defendant could not be tattooed as other SS members, in order not to be unmasked in case of betrayal by some foreign counter- intelligence.
If the defendant had been among the people initiated into such activity and trusted in this way – as in the instance of clearing up the affair concerning the bomb attack on Hitler in November 1939, when it was a delicate matter, whether it was a real or simulated attack – then such a high official in the German safety service must have participated in the conference; if he had been the leader of the unit mentioned in the instruction concerning that conference.
Defendant Meisinger: I have the impression, as I was able to understand, that the witness has declared that he saw an order – signed by me – concerning sending people to a concentration camp or shooting.
Witness: Your Honor! Defendant Meisinger has listed an entire hierarchy of names in Einsatzkommando IV, omitting his assignment, however I do admit that he could have been signing as the deputy head. He doesn’t mention his role in this situation, but that’s his business. It’s also his business that he declared today – and expects me to believe – that as a member of the Gestapo Secret Police he did nothing but fight against anti-Semitic movements (laughter among the public). But I think that no one could be sent to a concentration camp by the order of the Gestapo or – as stated officially – Sicherheitspolizei without the knowledge of the Kommandeur, as I saw this type of documents in the personal files in the concentration camps in Majdenek, Auschwitz and Oranienburg. So if anyone had been taken hostage and shot without the court’s participation or sent to an extermination camp, then it couldn’t have taken place without the order or the knowledge of the Sicherheitspolizei and Sicherheitsdienst commandant.
Defendant Meisinger: I don’t know if I have to respond to these accusations again. I already said a few days ago and also provided evidence that the Gestapo was responsible for sending people to concentration camps, summary court proceedings and everything related to that.
Witness: In regard to that, Your Honor, I would like to make the following statement, which will serve to illustrate the power of the Kommandeur Sicherheitspolizei, although the defendant was absent from Warsaw at that time. In 1942, Dr. Miron Orzech stood before the Sondergericht for having failed to register as an officer of the reserve, and for illegally crossing the border of the General Government. Due to formal obstacles, the Sondergericht ordered an acquittal. It can be verified, since the advocate resides in Poland. In spite of that, the defendant wasn’t released. As officially shown to the advocate, the annotation das die Sicherheitspolizei on the file cover is not without significance, and despite being released by the court on 18 July 1942, as ordered by Hahn, who was the SS Kommandeur at the time, the acquitted was shot. Such were the powers of the Sicherheitspolizei compared to those of the court and such powers were wielded by Josef Meisinger when he was the Kommandeur Sicherheitspolizei.
Presiding Judge: Due to the late hour, I must suspend the hearing. Will there be any more questions to the witness tomorrow? I’m not thinking about testimonies but questions.
Defendant Meisinger: I have no questions. I suppose that Your Honor will hear me regarding the accusations that were made against me.
Presiding Judge: The defendant will have the opportunity tomorrow. The witness is free. The hearing is suspended until tomorrow.
(The hearing is ended at 7.30 p.m.)