On 20 August 1947 in Skoczów, the Municipal Court in Skoczów, Third Branch, with Judge Kazimierz Cholewka, director of the Municipal Court, presiding and with the participation of court reporter Tadeusz Kozioł, heard the person named below as a witness, without taking an oath. Having been advised of the criminal liability for making false declarations and of the wording of Article 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the witness testified as follows:
|Name and surname||Józef Kret|
|Parents’ names||Michał and Katarzyna Szwagiel|
|Place of residence||Nierodzim|
|Religious affiliation||Roman Catholic|
|Relationship to the parties||none|
On 2 May 1941, I was arrested by the Gestapo in Staromieście near Rzeszów on charges of conducting a secret teaching program, of belonging to the Grey Ranks (a scouting organization during the war) and [that] before the war I worked in Silesia as a teacher. After being arrested, I was sent to prison in Rzeszów and then transported to Montelupich prison in Kraków, [from where] on 12 August 1941 I was transported to the concentration camp in Auschwitz.
At the beginning of 1942, the accused Hans Aumeier, whose photograph is in the files shown to me, arrived in the Auschwitz camp as Lagerführer [head of the camp]. On 13 May 1942, during a period of indescribable hunger in the camp, four of us political prisoners working in the field on land reclamation work, picked up the bundle that had been left for us under a tree by a passing lady. It contained four pieces of bread. This was noticed by the SS men watching over us, so they took our bread from us and they herded us, kicking and beating us, together with this lady to the camp. Here, we were beaten again and sent to block 11 (“the death block”), to the bunker – i.e. to the dark basements. At the entrance to block 11, we came across Aumeier, who, having heard what we had been sentenced to the bunker for, began to beat and kick us. Then he ordered us to count out 25 lashes, which two SS men meted out in his presence, and then with cut skin, half-conscious, we were locked up in the cellars of block 11.
On 27 May 1942, sitting in those cellars, we heard some shots in the courtyard of block 11. Four prisoners at a time were brought out of this block and executed. I counted 172 shots. Aumeier assisted in the shooting, sitting on the wall covering the small opening of my cell from the side of the courtyard and speaking to two other SS men. One of them was Grabner, the head of the Political Department of the camp. We caught some snippets of their conversations. A political prisoner named Jan Dudzik (no. 303), from Dąbrowa Górnicza, was sitting in the cell with me.
As I later found out, on 27 May 1942, 500 political prisoners were selected from among the prisoners of the Auschwitz camp, whose political crimes were classified by the Gestapo as very serious. Of these, 172 were shot immediately – as I described above – and over 300 were sent to the punitive unit (SK, [Strafkompanie]) in Birkenau on the same day. From there, every day several of them were called in for interrogation to Auschwitz, from where they didn’t return, because they were shot.
On 28 May 1942, the four of us, who had been sitting in the bunker since 13 May 1942, were sent to the punitive unit in Birkenau. The tally of [company] on this day was about 560 prisoners.
On 10 June 1942, after the day’s work was over, some of the prisoners in the punitive unit made an escape attempt. A few of those fleeing were shot and about 20 escaped. Those who remained were abused for a long time in a terrible way. Many were killed with sticks on the spot. We were tortured for the larger part of the night.
On 11 June 1942, about 300 prisoners marked with red circles (indicating political crimes of a more dangerous nature) who were sent to the punitive unit on 27 May 1942 were detained at the SK block in Birkenau. The rest of the company, about 200 prisoners including myself, marked with black circles (camp crimes), were herded off to work. At noon we were transferred from work to the SK block in Birkenau, [where] we found 20 people who had been shot. The rest, about 300 [people], squatted down. Stanisław Buczyński, designated camp number 2233, currently residing in Warsaw (I don’t know the exact address), and many other eyewitnesses told me the following: on 11 June 1942 at approximately 9 [in the morning], Aumeier arrived from Auschwitz to the punitive unit in Birkenau and started shouting, asking those approximately 300 prisoners about who had organized the escape the previous day. When there was no answer, he ordered the first ten prisoners to step forward and shot them in person in the back of the head. After that, he repeated the question, and when no-one answered this time, he took another ten prisoners from the line-up and shot seven of them himself, while the other three were shot dead by SS man Hössler, who was accompanying Aumeier. As I was told, after shooting those 20 prisoners Aumeier, while leaving the courtyard of the punitive unit, told the remaining prisoners to have a think until 2.00 p.m. after which they could tell him who organized the escape, because otherwise he would shoot everyone.
Around 3.00 p.m. on 11 June 1942 I was an eyewitness to the remaining prisoners numbering around 300 being put into fives, amongst a lot of shouting but no more questions, and ordered to bring out from the hospital anyone who had been sent there over the last few days, seriously ill, from the punitive unit. All of them were tied up with wires and sent to their death. Witnesses to the last event, apart from myself, were all the prisoners numbering about 200, among them Kędziora, who currently lives in Upper Silesia (I think that his address will be known to the District Union of Former Political Prisoners in Katowice).
What happened later in the punitive unit, this ordinary pen cannot describe. Amongst elaborate forms of torture, prisoners were murdered at work and in the block. I think there was an order to kill 10% of the SK tally every day, because one day (just after 11 June 1942) we took only nine corpses from work (the SK tally on that day was about 160 prisoners), and at the entrance gate the SS men started arguing with the kapos and SS men escorting us. “Zu wenig!” [“Not enough!”], shouted the SS man at the gate who took down the work groups returning to the camp. After this, about 10% of prisoners were murdered every day in the punitive unit and that lasted until the end of July 1942, and there were new arrivals in the SK every day. At the end of July 1942, the regime [in relation to] the SK slackened significantly, as well as in the whole camp.
In the camp, Aumeier made the impression of a degenerate. Beating prisoners clearly gave him pleasure, which he didn’t refute. He was particularly pleased when he could knock a prisoner off his feet, or otherwise he would fall into a rage. Prisoners, knowing this to be his liking, when they were beaten by Aumeier just fell to the ground to avoid any further abuse.
Many depictions of the horror of life in the punitive unit in Birkenau could be presented at the hearing, but these cannot be described concisely.
The report was read out before signing.